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SF Signal’s Mind Meld – Non-Genre Reading Suggestions

March 4, 2009

For the first time in a while, I have been invited to participate in one of SF Signal‘s regular Mind Meld features.  Karen Burnham’s question is :

SF conventions often have panels on “What sf books would you recommend to someone who hadn’t encountered the field before?” Let’s turn that around: “What non-sf/fantasy books would you recommend to someone whose reading was predominantly in sf/fantasy?”

My Answer is about halfway down but there are a number of other interesting sets of suggestions.

Cheryl Morgan’s suggestion that fans of military history might enjoy Bernard Cornwell reminds me of the time I was standing in the old Pan bookshop on the Fulham road when the Sunday Times‘ TV and restaurant reviewer A. A. Gill wandered in.  Gill was wearing a flat cap and was accompanied by the kind of shivering rat dog that Paris Hilton keeps in her hand bag.  He then proceeded to demand in a loud braying voice that the staff suggest some historical fiction that was ‘not so historical as to get in the way of the plot’.  Cornwell’s name was mentioned in glowing terms.

I took this encounter as an object lesson : review for long enough and you risk becoming so wedded to the manifest superiority of your own tastes that you a) wander around central London with a flat cap and a rat-dog and think yourself dashing and b) think fondness for Bernard Cornwell is something worth bellowing across a bookshop.

  1. March 6, 2009 9:57 am

    It is worth pointing out that there is nothing inherently wrong with wearing a flat cap, it is only on the creosote-coloured head of a member of the Range Rover brigade like Gill that it becomes a crime.


  2. March 6, 2009 10:32 am


    You have to take the whole package into account when judging the appropriateness of a hat. Orson Welles wore a wide-brimmed hat with a cloak and looked hugely cool. Gill wore a flat cap with a rat dog and a braying voice. I suspect he could have worn a dead badger on his head and still looked a camp and pompous fool.


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