Log in

Recent Entries Friends Archive Profile Tags Jeamland
From here (and emailed, as per the associated instructions, to <sfquestions@gmail.com>).

1. Name

Niall Harrison.

2. Current Age


3. Country or Countries in which you spent your first eighteen years. (give breakdown if appropriate)

UK (England).

4. Mother tongue.

English (UK).

The following three questions are *not* for statistical purposes. If you wish to answer them, they provide interesting insights for me or they may not. No truenames will be revealed. Elaborate as you see fit.

5. Sex at birth


6. Sex now.


7. Sexuality.


To the books. Comics count. Fantasy does not (if it's borderline, that's up to you). Fill in as much as you can. Don't worry if the answer is "don't remember".

8. When did you start reading science fiction?

Sometime between the age of 11 and 13.

9. Did you read sf written specifically for children? (ie. age 0-16yrs)

Only a little.

10. Name up to five authors of sf for children you liked.

- Nicholas Fisk (Trillions and A Rag, A Bone, and a Hank of Hair)
- John Christopher (The Tripods).

11. Name up to five authors of sf for children you did not like.

I don't remember any.

12. Name up to five authors of sf for children with the same nationality as the country in which you experienced the bulk of your reading childhood.

- John Christopher.
- Nicholas Fisk (but I had to look him up to check).

13. If you started reading sf meant for the adult audience before the age of 16, who were your favourite sf writers at that time? (Name up to five).

Oh, that's much easier--

- Isaac Asimov
- Stephen Baxter
- Arthur C Clarke
- Kim Stanley Robinson
- John Wyndham

14. List up to five qualities that you think you looked for in science fiction when you read it as a child (under 13).

I don't remember. I think I just read anything that was put in front of me at that point.

15. List up to five qualities that you think you looked for in science fiction when you read it as a teenager (13 and over).

- Narrative puzzles (I went from Sherlock Holmes to Asimov's Robot stories)
- Worldbuilding puzzles (in the sense of different worlds I had to work to understand)
- Plot
- Really cool widescreen things happening. The space elevator falling at the end of Red Mars, that sort of thing.

16. List up to five qualities that you look for in science fiction now. (NB: these can be negative qualities in the sense of what sf doesn't do, that other forms of fiction do).

- Reflections of the real world
- A certain degree of facility with language (I'm getting gradually more demanding about this)
- Plot (but I'm getting less demanding about this)
- Speculative ideas taken to their logical conclusions
- Really cool widescreen things happening

17. Do you define yourself as a genre reader?


18. What proportion of your reading as a teenager was outside of the genre?

Maybe 10%, mostly things like Swallows and Amazons.

19. What proportion of your reading as a teenager was non-fiction? (what subjects or genres?)

Maybe 5% or 10%; pretty much all popular science books. Things like In Search of Schrodinger's Cat by John Gribbin.

20. How much of your reading outside of the genre was set by others? (and who were they?).

Maybe a fifth of it was things I read because of school; either specifically for English, or books recommended by other teachers.

That said, it was my English teacher who introduced me to John Wyndham (we did The Chrysalids).

21. Did science fiction influence your political views? In what ways? What books were most important to you?

Hard to say. I have a certain base-level faith in technology as a solution to many (although by no means all) problems, and I sometimes find myself taking a utilitarian stance on some issues; I'd guess both of those came from sf in some way. I can't think of any specifically relevant books, though.

22. Did science fiction influence your religious views? In what ways? What books were most important to you?

In this case, probably yes. I'm an atheist, and I think part of the reason for that is that sf trained me to expect a rational, understandable universe.

I read lots of Asimov before I read any quantum mechanics. :)

23. Taking no more than 100 words, describe briefly how you chose books between the ages of 13 and 18, and how those books were acquired (ie libraries, friends, second hand books, new books).

The library did feature, but I didn't systematically read my through it. I got Asimov and Clarke and Wyndham largely from my Dad's sf collection. Other book recommendations came from SFX and, later, Interzone; I didn't really have any nearby sf-reading friends, and I wasn't online until university. Some reading was school-prescribed, or the result of teacher recommendations, as mentioned above. I also went through a period of reading every Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms book I could get my hand on, as well as a fair few Trek novelisations. Most of these I bought, or had bought for me, new.
Gah, Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms ... in my recent bookstack shift, I have identified many that are due for purging! ;-)
I didn't want to read your answers until I'd completed mine... The difference that tens years makes is really interesting. Although, Nicholas Fisk just keeps on keeping on, and I'm amazed I never ran into any John Christopher. Although, I never ran into Dr Seuss either in my childhood, which most people think is very unusual (at least here in Australia).

I wonder if having a dad who is an SF reader helps the transition to adult science fiction earlier. My dad isn't much of a book reader -- he prefers non-fiction and newspapers -- but he loved humour, and was the reason I read Douglas Adams _Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy_ as one of my first adult SF books. I've never been interested in space, and didn't really think of the science fiction section as at all intersting. Post-apocalyptic stuff was always interesting, though, and that plus the feminist-themed SF writers I read at university (Sheri S Tepper...) finally led me back to science fiction as a genre.