Vortex Books

If you lived in Brighton in the 1970s and 80s and were into sci-fi then there was only one place to hang out – Vortex Books not far from Preston Circus. This was a shop that sold both comics and books and only sci-fi/fantasy. This was in the days before CDs / VHS /DVDs so what you had was a shop stacked high with all sorts of material, some of it imported from the states the rest the staple fare of the genre at the time – Asimov, Pohl and Moorcock being amongst my most common purchases (I won’t mention the Perry Rhodan series if you don’t mind!).

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Spaceship design

Just a quick one; noticed this in The Register today, an article about how sci-fi spaceships should look. This reminded me that the Beeb did something along these lines that I mentioned in this piece here. Anyway, really just an excuse to say (again) that the real answer is look at the work of Chris Foss (here).

Merry Christmas!

Psycho History Killer

Snappy title but…

As anyone who wanders around this tiny corner of cyberspace (remember when it was called that!) knows I worry about things like time travel and thermodynamics.  This all means that whilst I enjoy my sci-fi, I have to suspend a lot of belief to do so. One case that brings this together well is the brilliant (yet badly flawed) Foundation Series by the equally brilliant (and probably not at all flawed) Isaac Asimov. Yes we are back in old school classic twentieth century science fiction territory. The same flaw also exists in the great yet trashy Lensmen series by E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith. There’s a name I haven’t conjured with for years! I even touch on another doctor at the end!

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So how does that work?

I didn’t know it did that!

In an increasingly complex world of smart phones, pads, home computers, software for everything more and more people are using less and less of the capability of things that they have.

Some of this is the sheer versatility of technology, but I suspect more is sheer ignorance or even fear. This puts me in mind of Arthur C Clarke…

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How I got into Hawkwind

In some respects I was always meant to be a Hawkfan. In my teens I used to lap up the many fantasy books of Michael Moorcock and realised that he was tangentially at times involved with the Hawks; I also, inevitably, was aware of Silver Machine which frequented the school disco many a time as I was growing up (and also Anne Nightingale’s Sunday afternoon Radio 1 show – who remembers that!?)

It wasn’t until 1984 (22nd April) that I finally got to see Hawkwind in action and that entirely by chance (or was it.)

I was in Brighton (see how all these themes mix together in my life) for a science-fiction convention (another theme!) and glancing through the programme for Sunday noticed an hour’s slot featuring the Hawklords (I later learnt that they weren’t performing under their normal name for legal reasons) – a friend of mine when asked suggested that there was no way that Hawkwind would be turning up at a sci-fi convention, but that didn’t stop me making my way to a small room in the Hotel Metropole later afternoon to sit through a synthesiser demo then wait for what would arise.

And Lo! Hawkwind did appear, and play through guitar / lights / sound for an hour that completely captivated me, and has to this day (interestingly in a book Dave Brock claims this was one of their worst gigs!). The line up was Dave Brock, Harvey Bainbridge, Huw Lloyd Langton and Bob Calvert – I learnt all this from the excellent Starfarer web site. I also now know this was almost the last time Bob Calvert would play with the band before his tragic early death.

As to the set, all I know is they played an incredible version of Sonic Attack – if anyone knows the full set list (or even has a bootleg?) do let me know.

As to me I try and see the Hawks at least once a year, most recently on the Christmas Tour when they get to London. I’ve probably seen them almost 30 times, which may sound a lot but is peanuts compared to serious fans who see them as often as possible, even consecutive nights on the same tour.

As to Silver Machine, I didn’t get to hear that for almost 20 years, and it is far from a favourite (I will do a list at some point).

Until the next gig, thanks for reading this far, and remember ‘This was Reality, however grim!’ (Robert Calvert, The Awakening).