Tuesday, 23 May 2017

SF Books: CHRISTOPHER PRIEST 'INDOCTRINAIRE'



CHRISTOPHER PRIEST: 
BEYOND ‘INDOCTRINAIRE’ 


 ‘Indoctrinaire’ was Christopher Priest’s debut novel. 
And there’s an intriguing story about how it was written, 
 how it first appeared in print form… 
 and how it was then revised… 




THE CONCENTRATION 

‘Violent, like the furious breath of an ice-dragon, the gale howled across the frozen plateau,’ it first begins. The revised edition pares it down to just ‘the gale howled across the frozen plateau.’ Dr Elias Wentik is a scientist stationed at the Advanced Technique Concentration, a complex of research units located beneath the Antarctic ice-sheet. He experiments on tame rats – which die, and self-medicates himself with the same drug, producing lysergic acid hallucinogenic effects. But that’s not entirely the story. Instead, he’s promptly requisitioned by a mysterious American agent called Clive V Astourde, who beguiles him with film-frames of a strange unidentified aircraft. Then Wentik is in Brazil, accompanied by Astourde and a swarthy minder called Musgrave who – in a later deleted line, is ‘doing the heavy as Bogart used to.’ And he finds himself the subject of tight security.

Had Christopher Priest ever been to Pôrto Velho? Or did he just trace the journey with a finger on a map? He was born in Cheadle, an area of Greater Manchester – 14 July 1943, so it’s highly unlikely he’d been there. There was no Wikipedia back then to assist his research, and he admits to having ‘a limited fund of internal experience on which to draw’, yet the ‘muggy heat’ of his journey gives every impression of authenticity. A kind of Graham Greene dustiness, with the Kafka conundrum of a guiltless prisoner unaware of his supposed offence. Key words here are ‘disorientation’, ‘apprehension’, ‘unease’ and ‘displacement’. Now he’s being taken from his initial stay in a hotel – originally a ‘medium-sized’ hotel before this slight detail was omitted, on a long uncomfortable journey inland, in a truck escorted by twelve uniformed men, towards a place called the Planalto District. In response to his question he’s told ‘it’s a region of the Mato Grosso. In English it means ‘high plateau’.’ And what’s special about this destination? ‘You’ll see. It’s a part of the world where you can see in one direction but not in the other. A place you can walk into, but not out of.’


Christopher Priest writes about how ‘Indoctrinaire’ (1970) ‘was my first novel, and for this reason I am disproportionately fond of it.’ It tells of a zone in the Brazilian jungle mysteriously existing two-hundred years in the future. The novel started life as a short story – “The Interrogator”, submitted to editor and literary agent John ‘Ted’ Carnell who ‘said it was wonderful but that he didn’t understand it. He asked me to expand it and so I made it twice the length’ (a Christopher Priest interview with John Brosnan in ‘Science Fiction Monthly’ December 1974). The resulting 10,000-word novelette duly appeared in ‘New Writings In SF no.15’ in a June 1969 Dobson Books hardback, followed by the Corgi paperback edition in October. Carnell’s editorial welcomes ‘two more new authors to our pages’ – Michael G Coney, and ‘Londoner Christopher Priest, who plans to become a professional writer soon.’ According to this ‘Foreword’, Priest ‘presents a psychological study of a group of men trapped in an environment from which there is no escape. In “The Interrogator” he asks, who is the jailor, and who is the jailed under such circumstances?’ This unconsciously attunes with the volume’s ‘theme pattern’, which turns on psychology.

This original novelette text – which constitutes, roughly, the novel’s first six chapters, is more pronouncedly Kafkaesque in that it omits the novel’s later scene-setting completely. There’s only fleeting reference to Wentik being snatched from the Concentration ‘under the ice-cap of the Hollick Kenyon Plateau in Antarctica.’ Instead, it opens up decisively with the two-way interrogation games between Astourde and Wentik. In the novel, by the opening of chapter four – page nineteen, it’s already explained that the perfectly-circular Planalto District of Brazil’s Serra de Norte exists on two separate planes – the rain forests of 1979 (or 1989 in the revision), and the endless plain of 2189’s brittle stubble. And that it’s within this slice of futurity that the strange aircraft was seen.

The ‘New Writings’ text further specifies the location as ‘a high plain between two tributaries of the Amazon, the Aripuana and the Juruena rivers.’ Discovered by the American Government – or the CIA in the 1979 revision, ‘beyond an abrupt terminator in one of the densest jungles in the world’ there is ‘a plain of mown stubble that stretched beyond the horizon.’ In the novel it was Astourde himself who took the photo of the aircraft, not an Air Force Captain ‘at a time when no-one had been inside the District’, as in ‘New Writings’. There’s also a curious incident at the windmill, and then the interrogation-centre itself which is ‘a huge black-and grey cube standing in dereliction on the lonely windswept plain.’



REAL-TIME WORLD 

Despite John Carnell’s assertion, Priest was not entirely a new name, indeed, Harry Harrison had already called him ‘a young man well-known in British SF (fan-)circles’. In the more informal guise of Chris Priest he was a protégé on the late-sixties SF scene, appearing in the BSFA journal ‘Vector’ – with occasional letters of comment, as early as winter 1962, when he was aged around eighteen. He began contributing essays and book reviews soon after, reviewing novels by Lan Wright, Dan Morgan, Philip K Dick, and magazine issues of ‘New Worlds’ and ‘Science Fantasy’. There was also prose in ‘Zenith’, in Graham Charnock’s fanzine ‘Phile’, and in ‘SF Commentary’.

His earliest traceable fiction shot – “The Ersatz Wine” started out in November 1963, but remained unpublished until some considerable time later – in ‘New Worlds’ (no.171, March 1967). His debut proper had to wait until Kyril Bonfiglioni selected “The Run” for ‘Impulse’ (no.3, May 1966). A suitably-doomy Cold War metaphor, it parallels Senator Robbins’ role in the escalating nuclear conflict against the Pan-Asians, with hordes of Juvies who deliberately court death in their mass ‘chicken run’ onto the filter-strip road he’s using, ‘testing their bravery against his.’ Their menacing presence, and the tense plot-momentum predictably climaxes in atomic inferno. By coincidence Judith Meril has a story – “Homecalling”, in the same magazine issue, which perhaps helps when she collects “The Run” into the excellent ‘England Swings SF’ (1968) anthology that she edits.

“The Run” is also part of a selection of his short stories from this period that can be found in ‘Real-Time World’ (1974). Priest’s “Conjunction” followed in Michael Moorcock’s ‘New Worlds’ (no.169, December 1966). Leading inexorably towards his first ‘New Writings In SF’ contribution. ‘It came out of a very unhappy period in my life when I was living in a flat in London and, due to rather mundane circumstances, I was getting more and more paranoid’ he confides to John Brosnan. ‘I hadn’t written much at the time but I had heard that writing was therapeutic and that to write about a problem was a way of solving it, and so quite coldly and objectively I sat down and said – okay, I’m going to write a short story about a man in totally paranoid circumstances and see if it gets me out of this mess I’m in. Well, it didn’t.’ But it did result in planting the seed for his transition from the short form, to novels. Fulfilling Carnell’s other prediction, the former accountant and audit clerk turned full-time freelance pro a short time later, in 1968.


The New English Library paperback edition of ‘Indoctrinaire’ has Bruce Pennington cover-art to provide the edge of Cold War angst with the atomic mushroom erupting in the background, plus the predatory birdlike image of the glimpsed future-plane, yet bottom right is the surreal intrusion of a human hand apparently growing from the smooth-wood table-top. It gives the art the haunting quality of a Giorgio de Chirico or a Magritte. Yet the hand is very much central to all versions of the text. The interrogation, the vulnerable victim of seemingly omnipotent totalitarian forces is very much part of twentieth-century literature, from Arthur Koestler’s ‘Darkness At Noon’ (1940), through George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ (1949). There are even touches of Ian Fleming at play, as Wentik repeatedly faces the circularity of Astourde’s questions across the table from which the hand sprouts – ‘your name, Doctor Wentik. Give me your name’. As well as the surreal contradictions of TVs ‘The Prisoner’ when he muses ‘I am a free man’, then ‘I am a prisoner’. That Wentik’s predicament, especially subject to sonic ‘psychotherapeutic’ irritants in his cell, has been carried over into the Guantanamo Bay detention camp adds a further unsettling twist.

Priest’s later revision of the novel updates the late-1970 references to the late-1980s. It strips the prose. ‘Now he stood with his arms apart, silhouetted by a light brighter than that which normally filtered down through the overhead foliage of the forest’ becomes ‘now he stood with his arms apart, silhouetted against brightness ahead.’ In the same way that ‘the guards stood round the perimeter and loaded their rifles with ammunition that looked decidedly live’ becomes ‘the guards stood round the perimeter and loaded their rifles with live ammunition.’ He tightens up the prose, razors down the descriptions and removes ambiguities. Although sometimes, the real world holds its own degree of pleasing ambiguity. He deletes some of the pauses, the pacing, the reflection – ‘his mental sluggishness extended to his movements, and he found himself content to lie still for a moment or two’, is gone. And the line about the fingers of the bizarre hand drumming on the tabletop ‘like those of a man kept waiting for an appointment’ survives the transfer for the ‘New Writings In SF’ text to the novel, but not to the subsequent revision.

This first novel section closes as the novelette does, with Wentik finally losing control, attacking one of his guards, and violently confronting Astourde across the interrogation table. There’s a tacked-on dénouement in the novelette’s very final paragraph to the effect that it was the results of Wentik’s Concentration research that had unwittingly infected ‘a whole continent’. He was not entirely the innocent victim he appears, and Astourde’s interrogation was based in some kind of moral legitimacy. But that to ‘reverse what he had inadvertently caused’ he had to return to the Time-past section of the world, even if that means killing Astourde. According to Priest, John Carnell ‘published it but still didn’t understand the ending… the last page was rewritten three times by Ted and I over the ‘phone, and he kept saying he felt there was more to come. And that’s how the novel came to be written. I solved the problems set up in the story.’


The second section of the novel began as a follow-up 10,000-word novelette called “The Maze”, documenting further complications in the maze-shack leading to Astourde’s death, but ‘Carnell saw through me at last, because he swiftly rejected it.’ Re-submitted to ‘New Worlds’, Michael Moorcock also returned it, which ‘was a blow… in those days, it sometimes seemed that the only way to publish in ‘New Worlds’ was to baffle everybody, but Mike Moorcock was actually more cunning than I had guessed.’ Despite these setbacks the 20,000-words of ‘wilfully obscure fiction’ came to the attention of Charles Monteith at Faber & Faber, who encouraged Priest to rework and reshape it into a novel, dangling the incentive of a waiting contract.

It’s a novel of interiors, circling and re-circling the prison. ‘A hand grows from a table, and an ear from a wall. A maze is constructed to sophisticated mathematical formula, yet is housed in a tumbledown shack. A minor official terrorizes me, and a man tries to fly a helicopter without vanes. Land exists in future time, though I feel and believe instinctively that I am in the present. Irrational behaviour creates a reaction pattern of its own. What else will this place do to me?’ Even when Wentik uses the restored helicopter to fly free, beyond the zone, he ends up similarly confined in a São Paulo hospital, albeit with nurses rather than guards. Once there he’s able to use a book to access the – for him, future history bridging the two time-zones, the nuclear war that left South America largely unscathed while devastating much of the world. With Brazil repopulated by refugee immigration during the ‘disturbances’ that follow.


The final section of the novel is concerned with solving ‘the problems set up in the story,’ with every question meticulously explained. Angling back to Wentik’s original project at the Concentration, and elaborating the hastily tacked-on closing paragraph from the ‘New Writings’ novelette. Snatched by the novel’s very machinations, Wentik’s research – completed by his tall Nigerian assistant Abu N’Goko, has been perverted into a weapon of disorientation, a gas responsible for the strange behavior inside the Planalto District, beyond ‘the chemistry of sanity’. As late as the short story “Whores” (in Robert Silverberg’s ‘New Dimensions: Science Fiction 8’, April 1978) the narrator suffers from the similar effects of ‘the enemy’s synaesthetic gas’, causing him to ‘taste the music of pain, feel the gay dancing colours of sound.’ To Wentik ‘it was all part of the permanent gulf between theory and practice, between the cold clinical light of a research-bench and the blinding heat of an interrogation-room. A scientist may develop a principle and produce something which is eventually used to ends totally abhorrent to the original scientist.’ He quotes Stalin’s misuse of Pavlov’s theories. Now he’s been summoned through time to ‘sort out the damage’ he’d ‘inadvertently caused’.

But if there’s a pattern to time-travel stories, Priest confounds each one of them. Travelling back to the Concentration to retrieve N’Goko, he finds the centre abandoned. Diverting to rescue his wife from the second wave of nuclear bombing that lays Western Europe waste, he arrives in England too late to save her. He fails to both un-invent the disturbance gas, or return to São Paulo to work on its elimination. There’s a degree of heroic adventure and resourcefulness, but the final resolution is a bleak kind of JG Ballard acceptance that ‘as time itself is unalterable, so is the progress of events’. There can be no triumph over adversity, no happy ending.

The novel was followed by ‘Fugue For A Darkening Island’ (1972), an account of three-way racial tension and civil war in a future Britain, a right-wing government is assailed by rising prices and unemployment, complicated by the arrival of refugees from an Africa destroyed by nuclear war. His third novel, what critic John Clute calls ‘his masterpiece’ – ‘Inverted World’ (1974), is a well-handled ‘slow perception of reality’ story also developed from a novelette first appearing in ‘New Writings In SF no.22’, although he explains ‘beyond a slight duplication of background and the inclusion of a few similarly named characters, there is not much between the two that is common.’ On reaching the age of six-hundred-and-fifty-miles Helward Mann is ready for initiation as a Future Surveyor, and to learn the secrets of the City into which he was born and grew up in. He discovers the City is constantly on the move to keep pace with the backward motion of the world. ‘The hyperboloid world on which the action takes place is perhaps the strangest planet invented since Mesklin in Hal Clement’s ‘Mission Of Gravity’ (1954)’ says Peter Nicholls (in ‘The Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction’).


OF SCIENCE AND CONSCIENCE 

But already he was growing further away from direct genre-SF, into his own identity. ‘The Space Machine’ (1976) is a deliberate pastiche of Wellsian proto-SF. Set in 1893 it takes full advantage of Priest’s developing facility for a kind of considered formal prose, sensitively skirting its way around the moral sensitivities of the age. In meticulously detailed set pieces commercial traveler Edward Turnbull meets and romances the emancipated Miss Amelia Fitzgibbon, bicycling through Richmond Park to meet her inventor guardian Sir William Reynolds, who just happens to have built a Time Machine, which owes as much to George Pal’s 1960 movie as it does to Wells’ great Scientific Romance. Mildly intoxicated on port and dry wine their playful experiments lead to a terrifying vision of Amelia’s death in a 1903 war. Fleeing ‘through the attenuated dimensions of space and time’, they arrive in a bleakness they first assume to be Tibet, only gradually realizing that they’ve reached the planet Mars, absorbed into the human slave-population harvesting the writhing red tentacular weed-banks that sustain Desolation City.

Seen through the narrator’s eyes, without subplots or contrasting viewpoint, with little conversation – particularly once Amelia has been snatched by Martian war-machines, Edward is isolated by language as well as distance, only emphasizing the bleakness of his plight. Although the space-gun that carries him across hemispheres to the embattled Martian city seems to owe as much to Jules Verne, it does furnish the apparatus by which the Martian projectiles will land on what they term ‘the warm world’, proposing links and plot-explanations for some of the narrative gaps left between Wells’ two seminal works.


There’s only a sideways glance at Mars in the 1898 ‘The War Of The Worlds’ novel, enhanced by Sir Cedric Hardwicke’s dramatic voice-over to Chesley Bonestell’s visionary art for George Pal’s 1953 movie. Priest fills in the background to the invasion, with the resourceful Amelia acting as the spark that ignites the human-Martian rebellion against the vampiric squid-like monster-creatures they’d genetically created, and then become enslaved by. Returned – not only to Earth but to Woking, smuggled inside the first of the invasion projectiles, HG Wells himself joins them as they row their way through the ensuing scorched desolation down through Walton-on-Thames. Weaving events from ‘The Time Machine’ novella into the narrative of the novel, Mr Wells with his ‘startling blue eyes’ that ‘shone like optimistic beacons’, constructs a flying bed-frame based on the time-travel principle to strike back at the already-doomed invaders. This time, by neatly avoiding the terrible fate that Edward had glimpsed for Amelia during their first time-trip to 1903, it seems that – unlike for Dr Elias Wentik, destiny can be circumvented. There can be triumph over adversity, and a happy ending.

‘A Dream Of Wessex’ (1977) is set in a twenty-second century where earthquake has sheared England apart, a consensus-imagination vision of a half-submerged future-England with Dorchester a tourist centre with mosques and casinos in a Wessex separated from the mainland. By 1979 – and ‘The Infinite Summer’ short-story collection, the Pan Books revision of ‘Indoctrinaire’ had appeared, tidying the text. ‘There are a number of dangers facing a writer who revises his earlier work’ Priest admits, ‘not the least among them the risk that while removing what he sees as the bad he might, in the process, also remove what other people see as the good.’ Understandably the reference to the ‘finding of fissionable ores in the dead crust of the Moon’ is excised, Cape Kennedy reverts to Cape Canaveral, and ‘in an effort to recatch a glimpse of it’ becomes a simpler ‘in an effort to see it’. ‘I was taking the compound intravenously’ reduces down to ‘I was injecting myself.’ And if Astourde’s middle name is Victor, the sly in-joke that ‘that would have been inappropriate’ is deleted. But there’s even a very minor shuffling of words, Wentik being taken ‘to a destination unknown’ switches ‘to an unknown destination’.

The later ‘The Affirmation’ (1981) revisits Priest’s hauntingly sensitive ‘Dream Archipelago’ in a novel-form that is both wistfully nostalgic and infused by an affecting sense of loss, as Peter Sinclair becomes caught up in an ambiguity of what is real and what is fiction. Before moving into more edge-of-definition books with ‘The Quiet Woman’ (1990) and ‘The Prestige’ (1995).

Long-haired, part of the New Wave culture… but not quite of it, out of the SF field, but with a love-hate relationship with the genre that saw him gradually growing away from it, Christopher Priest nonetheless carries the New Wave impatience with established forms, conventional tropes and old verities into the next decade, and beyond. Disclaiming SF completely – he tells ‘The Observer’ ‘these days, I fear that SF is fast becoming a played-out, bankrupt form’ (16 April 1989), he continues expanding and pleasingly blurring its boundaries. Like the cult Indie-band which scores an unexpected Pop hit, and hence loses its subculture credibility, SF-fandom resents those who betray its tight restrictions by achieving mainstream acceptance. They’re no longer tribal property, no longer exclusively part of the extended fan-family. Christopher Priest not so much suffers from the backlash, as playfully rides it.

In the ‘Author’s Note’ appendaged to the 1979 Pan Books revision he writes that ‘if I had to write a first novel again, I don’t think that it would be ‘Indoctrinaire’ all over again, but I do think it might be a book rather like it.’ Needless to say, I prefer the raw energy of the original rough-cut version over the more streamlined focused revision. But that’s just me. That’s probably why Christopher Priest is a famous published novelist, and I’m not.



CHRISTOPHER PRIEST: 
BEFORE AND 
AFTER ‘INDOCTRINAIRE’ 


1963 – ERSATZ WINES: INSTRUCTIVE SHORT STORIES’ (GrimGrin Studios) published in November 2008, this volume collects his earliest, primarily unpublished fiction, with introduction and afterword. With ‘Going Native’ from November 1963, ‘Stranglehold’ and ‘Star Child’ from March and November 1964, ‘The Witch Burners’ (January), ‘Nicholson’s Repentances’ (October), ‘Combined Operation’ and ‘The Ostrich Seed’ both November 1965, and ‘Chance’ from April 1967

January 1966 – SCIENCE FANTASY no.80, editor Kyril Bonfiglioni devotes his editorial to debating a long letter from Mr Chris Priest about what Priest describes as the ‘eternally-lost golden moment when SF clicks and we’re sold for the rest of our life. In that infinite moment there is no need to rationalize the why’s and wherefore’s, it’s like converting to a new religion, you don’t need convincing’

January 1966 – VECTOR no.37 in the BSFA magazine Priest reviews the current issue of ‘Science Fantasy’, noting that ‘there is a wide gulf in this magazine at present, between the best and the worst’

May 1966 – IMPULSE SF no.3, edited by Kyril Bonfiglioni, includes ‘The Run’ as by Chris Priest, a relatively sophisticated fiction-debut, with genuine symbolist menace in its Juvie-horde, subsequently picked up by Judith Meril for her ‘England Swings SF’ (1968) anthology (Doubleday, 1968), and in the ‘Real-Time World’ collection (New English Library, 1974)

December 1966 – NEW WORLDS SF no.169, edited by Michael Moorcock, including ‘Conjugation’ as by Chris Priest, untypical compressed, fragmentary, cut-up style experimental piece around thread of spaceship ‘Outwarder II’ wreck, with diversion into the apostrophe in ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ as ‘The Wake Of Finnegan’, and extract from ‘unfinished novel by Kenneth G Robbs’, collected into ‘Ersatz Wines’


February 1967 – SF IMPULSE no.12, edited by Harry Harrison, includes ‘Impasse’ as by Chris Priest, rare traditional SF-themed flash-fiction length ‘mordant and satirical glimpse of a future’ as a Denebian intruder makes ultimatums to the Earth Field-Marshal who makes a counter-ultimatum, then shoots him! collected into ‘Ersatz Wines’

March 1967 – NEW WORLDS SF no.171, edited by Michael Moorcock, includes ‘The Ersatz Wine’ as by Chris Priest, Hawkins is pursued through a dark 1960s city haunted by random voices – a preacher, a Pop Singer (Gene Piney!), and advertising jingles, he has sex with a girl with a room warmed by a fan-heater. The last voice is the Surgeon saying ‘what right have we to keep this man alive?’

June 1969 – NEW WRITINGS IN SF no.15, edited by John Carnell, includes ‘The Interrogator’

January 1970 – VISION OF TOMORROW no.4, ‘Breeding Ground’ with art by Dick Howett, ‘Tentacular BEMS, weird monsters, and the like, are all part and parcel of the hoary traditions of SF to scarify the reader. Most of them have been happily laid to rest, but Mr Priest here gives us a fresh slant on the Things From Outer Space…’ Space-salvage pilot Luke Caston discovers the 200-year-old wreck of ‘Merchant Princess’ with its invaluable cargo of Procyon IV diamonds, but it’s crawling with horrible Space-mites! 

June 1970 – INDOCTRINAIRE (Faber and Faber, New English Library paperback November 1971, Pan Books revision, 1979) 


July 1970 – VISION OF TOMORROW no.10, edited by Philip Harbottle, short story ‘Nothing Like The Sun’, art by Eddie Jones. Frontier encounter on wind-swept Taranth between four lost soldiers led by sick Lieutenant Gracer, and the previously-unseen enemy Ghouls who at first give aid. Stripping a dead alien they discover that, due to short-sighted birdlike eyes, they steal human eyes and surgically graft them into their foreheads. Another regular SF story, untypical for Priest 

February 1972 – FUGUE FOR A DARKENING ISLAND (Faber and Faber, New English Library paperback, September 1973) novel 

May 1974 – INVERTED WORLD (Faber and Faber, New English Library paperback June 1975), Priest explains how the idea of the novel ‘first came to me in 1965’ and how he ‘talked out the idea to many of my friends’, including Graham Charnock who suggested the Guilds, Brian Aldiss ‘who wanted the city to go the other way’, plus Kenneth Bulmer and Christine Priest. An early version published as ‘The Inverted World’ in ‘New Writings In SF no.22’ in April 1973 

October 1974 – STOPWATCHedited by George Hay (New English Library), with ‘The Invisible Men’ in which Prime Minister Harold Murdoch, on the brink of his resignation, has a clandestine meeting with Charles Greystone of the Anglo-American Economic Recovery Program (AMERP) in Blakeney on the Norfolk coast as Britain severs its last ties with Europe and the Commonwealth, to become the fifty-first US State. Meticulous background detail of other, apparently casual characters, are the ‘invisible men’ of security. Anthology also includes Robert Holdstock (‘Ash, Ash’), Ian Watson (‘EA5000: Report On The Effects Of A Riot Gas’) and Andrew Darlington (‘When The Music’s Over’)


October 1974 – REAL-TIME WORLD(New English Libraries) collection includes: 
The Run’ (from ‘SF Impulse no.3’, May 1966) 
The Perihelion Man’ (from ‘New Writings In SF no.16’, 1969), almost traditional SF-thriller, when aliens from Venus retrieve former Cold War orbital nuclear warheads to use against Earth, it’s left to washed-up astronaut Jason Farrell – who’d been in closer to the Sun than any other human, to save the day 
Breeding Ground’ (‘Vision Of Tomorrow no.4’, January 1970) 
Double Consummation’ (from George Hay’s ‘The Disappearing Future: A Symposium Of Speculation’, June 1970) 
Fire Storm’ (from anthology ‘Quark no.1’, November 1970), to David Wingrove in ‘Legerdemain: The Fiction Of Christopher Priest’ is is ‘a study of the controlled destruction of a city by a man obsessed with his job and, ultimately, driven to a spectacular suicide. It reads like power fantasy’
Real-Time World’ (from ‘New Writings In SF no.19’, June 1971), although the Observatory looks outwards, the story turns inwards on the psychology and news-management of its crew, ‘what was observed at the observatory was the observer’, is it on an alien planet time-phased one nanosecond by the elocation-field? is it a closed experiment on a nuked Earth? or in the Joliot-Curie crater on the lunar line of libration? Intelligent mature speculative fiction 
Sentence In Binary Code’ (from ‘Fantastic vol.20 no.6’, August 1971) 
The Head And The Hand’ (from ‘New Worlds Quarterly no.3’, 1972), ‘a powerful tale of obsession, and its impact is considerable. It is a genuine horror story, with its own cool, implacable logic. Unlike anything in Priest’s work preceding it, the story is densely written, each image crucial to the overall effect. It concerns Todd Alborne, the ‘Master’, a man suffering from some deep psychological blight. He hates all signs of life and visits his hatred upon both his own body and upon all that surrounds him’ (David Wingrove) 
A Woman Naked’ (from ‘Science Fiction Monthly no.1’, January 1974), a future society imposes a system of rigid morality upon women – who are, incidentally, outnumbered by men in a ratio of four to one, and punishes offenders by making them ‘a woman naked’ and made to go unclothed and unprotected in public. The ‘trial’ here is not to ascertain a woman’s guilt or innocence, but to provide vicarious pleasure for the male ‘audience’. ‘The rape had begun’ Priest ends, in a brutally effective conclusion 
Transplant’ (from ‘Worlds Of If no.170’ January 1974), a man’s brain, kept alive artificially after his death, creates for itself a kind of pleasurable dream world. ‘His mind is liberated, you see. Anything he imagines, wishes or expects would be entirely real to him. He could build a whole world, I suppose, and it would be totally real and have substance and existence. In some ways, it’s man’s oldest dream. But in others… it’s a hell we cannot conceive.’ In ‘Vector no.93’ (May/June 1979) David Wingrove uses the idea as a metaphor for the writer who also builds imaginary worlds purely from imagination 

August 1975 – NEW WRITING IN SF no.26 edited by Kenneth Bulmer (Sidgwick and Jackson) short story ‘Men Of Good Value’, in a teasing fiction-autobiography blend Priest is writer and writer-protagonist in Cornish village inveigled by TV-producer Frank Mattinson, right-wing but subject to Partiality Agreement 


March 1976 – THE SPACE MACHINE (Faber and Faber, Orbit/Futura, September 1977) novel, in 1893 the workaday life of a young commercial traveler is enlivened only by his fervent – if somewhat distant, interest in the new sport of motoring. It’s through this that he meets his ladyfriend, a chance encounter in a dingy hotel and a compromising incident in a bedroom that lead to an unexpected adventure in Time and Space. She takes him to Sir William Reynolds’ laboratory, where the most eminent English scientist is building a Time Machine, and from this discovery it’s but a small step into futurity. As the young couple emerge into the Twentieth Century, they find a ferocious war devastating England. But the 1903 world war is only the start of a series of adventures that culminate in a violent confrontation with the universe’s most ruthless intellect… 

May 1976 – ANDROMEDA 1 edited by Peter Weston (Futura Publications) includes ‘An Infinite Summer’, in hauntingly beautiful immaculately-wrought Jane Austen precision of formal prose, Thomas James Lloyd is time-locked in Edwardian June 1903 Richmond on the point of proposing to younger sister Sarah Carrington – to unfreeze in August 1940, endlessly awaiting her to ‘erode’. Freezers from ‘some unknown period of the future’ take living tableaux as we take art-photography, regardless of the separation and aching loss it causes. Vivid images include the German aviator parachuting into the Thames 

October 1977 – A DREAM OF WESSEX(Faber and Faber, Pan Books paperback novel, November 1978). Dorset in the near and no-so-near future. Through the government-sponsored Ridpath projector, thirty-nine scientist-members of the Wessex Project engage in communal dreaming from large metal drawers beneath Maiden Castle, in order to create an alternate fantasy-future. Both Dorset’s are convincingly detailed, the grim ‘real’ world of 1987, with army checkpoints and urban terrorism, and the ‘unreal’ island of 2137 Wessex where Dorchester is a fishing port and beach resort, the Soviets rule and Islam is the major religion. Julia Stretton is given the task of retrieving project-member David Harkham, but their fantasy-world personas fall in love 

April 1978 – NEW DIMENSIONS: SCIENCE FICTION no.8edited by Robert Silverberg (Harper and Row) includes “Whores”, a richly-detailed prose-poem with the SF-elements – the enemy’s synaesthetic gas he’s convalescing from which causes him to ‘to taste the music of pain, feel the gay dancing colours of sound’, an excuse for surreal perception. He searches for the whore Slenje, but takes Elva instead 

April 1978 – THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SF Vol.54 no.4 (all-British issue with Keith Roberts, Kenneth Bulmer and Brian W Aldiss) includes the voyeuristic-novella ‘The Watched’, on the Dream Archipelago island of Tumo Yvann Ordier is the inventor who then rejected the tiny scintilla spy-lenses used during the ongoing war. From his folly on the Tumoit Mountain ridge he watches an erotic ritual enacted by the secretive Qataari refugee-community in their valley. Are they also watching him, seeding their own scintilla? The enigmatic close in which he becomes observer and also the watched in the narcotic sweetness of rose-petals is vastly effective 

September 1978 – ANTICIPATIONS (Faber and Faber, Pan Books paperback, 1980) anthology edited by Christopher Priest including his introduction and ‘The Negation’ a bleak Eastern European totalitarian Dream Archipelago story, with conscripted Border Constable Dik meeting his idolized Moylita Kaine, author of ‘The Affirmation’ (title of a 1981 Priest novel!). With Trump-prescience she tells him ‘There have always been walls, Dik!’ Also Ian Watson (‘The Very Slow Time Machine’), Robert Sheckley (‘Is This What People Do?’), Bob Shaw (‘Amphitheatre’), Harry Harrison (‘The Greening Of The Green’), Thomas M Disch (‘Mutability’), JG Ballard (‘One Afternoon At Utah Beach’), Brian W Aldiss (‘A Chinese Perspective’) 

January 1979 – THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SF Vol.56 no.1, “Palely Loitering” an elaborately convoluted romance around the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bridges of the Flux Channel Park which lead Mykle in an endless quest for a glimpsed Estyll, meeting numerous selves on the way. An answer to the question ‘what advice would you give to your younger self?’ 

October 1979 – AN INFINITE SUMMER (Faber and Faber, Pan Books paperback, June 1980) collection with ‘Introduction’, ‘An Infinite Summer’ and ‘Palely Loitering’ (‘Magazine Of Fantasy And SF’, January 1979) plus the Dream Archipelago tales ‘Whores’, ‘The Negation’ (‘Anticipations’, 1978) and ‘The Watched’ (‘Magazine Of Fantasy And SF’ April 1978)


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