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Friday Reads: Introducing Adventure Rocketship!

front cover00 Gollancz is delighted to bring you a special guest post from Jonathan Wright. 

The blast-off date for the first-ever flight of Adventure Rocketship! is here. As the exhausted editor of a new anthology that’s been steeping in speculative fiction for some months now, it’s hard to imagine that anybody in the whole world anywhere might not be fully conversant with its contents. Then again my perspective is, I have to admit, uniquely skewed.

So best take a step back and set out some basics. For a start, it’s the first offering in what’s planned to be an ongoing series that mixes up fiction, essays and interviews. Each issue is themed, with the opening offering – Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco – devoted to the intersection between SF, music and the counterculture.

So why the choice of subject? At least in part, it’s down to Jarvis Cocker. Sometime last millennium when I was scraping a living as a music journalist, I received a Pulp press release bemoaning – and what follows is from unreliable memory, but it’s the spirit that counts – life not turning out more like Space: 1999. By which I don’t think Sheffield’s finest were calling for the Moon to be torn from Earth’s orbit, it was more to do with disappointment over the lack of silver suits, domestic robots and flying cars in late 20th-century Britain.

I connected strongly with this sense of longing for a future denied. Having been raised on War Of The Worlds and Doctor Who, I clearly wasn’t alone in taking inspiration from SF even if, ridiculously worried about appearing naff and nerdy, this wasn’t something I would lightly have admitted back then.

I’d love to say this was a revelatory moment, that I immediately began researching and writing about the ways in which SF and music play off each other. In truth, I might never have had any further thoughts whatsoever about all of this, except that as the years went by I (rather accidentally and fortuitously) moved into writing about science fiction, primarily for SFX magazine.

At first glance, the worlds of music and SF couldn’t be more different, especially when it comes to their audiences. Music fans – and forgive the generalisations here – prefer a studied nonchalance. Within SF, people are far more open about their enthusiasms. Except, get past the surface details, the Tom Baker scarf vs cool band t-shirt subculture markers, and the behaviour of these branches of fandom really isn’t so different. Both communities are full of knowledgeable and funny people passionately engaged with their subjects – geeks.

It was in seeing these parallels within fandom, I think, that Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco started to fall into place. If I was fascinated by the worlds of both SF and music, surely other people were too?

Luckily, as the book came together, it seemed my hunch was right. The likes of Lavie Tidhar, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Liz Williams, Martin Millar, NK Jemisin, David Quantick and Minister Faust all readily agreed to contribute. China Miéville, The Orb, Bill Nelson, Michael Moorcock and Mick Farren were kind enough to spare the time for interviews.

The result is an anthology where the subjects range from how JG Ballard overcame being “literally tone deaf” to invent post-punk (sort of…) to why Janelle Monáe is the antidote to the deeply spooky Jetsons, from MP3 markets in Mauritania to Bristol streets daubed with digital graffiti art, and much more besides.

As for the cover art, it’s by Stanley Donwood, famed for crafting Radiohead’s album sleeves. Ever the contrarian, he also contributes a story, an eerie reflection on a near future of silence, the end of music – forever. Jonathan Wright

This is an edited version of the editor’s introduction to Adventure Rocketship! Let’s All Go To The Science Fiction Disco. There will be launch events for Adventure Rocketship! in Forbidden Planet Bristol on Saturday 18 May. You can order the book direct from Tangent Books and read a sample essay, Minister Faust on George Clinton at IO9.