JL Merrow and Josephine Myles’s sci fi top five
JL Merrow and Josephine Myles are here today to talk about their all-time sci fi favourites, in celebration of their latest Mad About the Brit Boys anthology, Help, My Boyfriend’s an Alien!
Jamie: The first problem here (apart from getting the two of us to agree on a single top 5!) has to be: do we count books only? Include films and tv? What about cases where there’s been both, but one or the other format has been, shall we say, disappointing?
I’d like to propose as one contender, though, Isaac Asimov’s book I, Robot. Yes, the good doctor’s treatment of character (particularly female character) was flawed, but he did give the world the Three Laws of Robotics:
A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I Robot has had a profound influence on the way robots are viewed in popular culture, and you canfind numerous references to it from Star Trek to The Simpsons – and even in real-life technology.
Jo: Hmm, this is where I have to admit I’ve neither seen the film or read the book! But it is amazing when science fiction writers manage to make a contribution to our engagement with technology.
I’ve always been particularly fascinated by cyborgs (humans augmented with inbuilt machinery, or androids containing biological components), and so I’d have to put forward Bladerunner as being one of the very best science fiction films. The rooftop scene where Rutger Hauer’s character reveals his soul still moves me. And yes, I read the original story by sf legend Philip K Dick too (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), but I think the film went more interesting places with the idea.
I think science fiction is one of the few genres where the short story reigns supreme, as there are so many groundbreaking and famous examples. What’s your favourite?
Jamie: A short story I’ve banged on about before (and will probably do so again) that has to make it into my top 5 is EM Forster’s The Machine Stops. The man predicted the internet in 1909! Nineteen. Oh. Nine, people. It blew me away the first time I read it, which if you ask me, is the benchmark for good sci-fi.
Jo: I remember that feeling of being blown away when I first read Marge Piercy’s novel, Woman on the Edge of Time. It’s part of that comparatively rare science fiction subgenre of utopian fiction. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a gritty near-future dystopia as much as the next woman, but it takes a really special writer to dramatise a perfect world and give it some dramatic tension. Many writers have tried and failed, but Piercy manages by showing is this world through the viewpoint of Connie, a woman in a mental institution who begins to time travel there involuntarily–or is it just a symptom of her illness? The future world isn’t completely perfect either: people are still flawed and tragedy still occurs, but the model of society she lays out makes me long to live there every time I read it.
Jamie: I’ll have to look out for that one. It must be incredibly hard to imagine a perfect society – after all, political thinkers have been trying to do that for centuries, and I don’t think I need to tell anyone how well that’s gone. My reading (and viewing) has been more on the dystopian side, and a stand-out for me is another oldie: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It was written in 1931, and yet when Iread it all I could think about was how modern it is, with its shallow, drugged-up society, the breakdown of the family and the horrifying engineering of babies to fulfill certain roles.
But… Out of this top five, I’ve chosen three of them, which doesn’t seem fair! Jo, would you agree on Brave New World as our final choice? Or would you like to nominate an alternative?
Jo: Yep, I think we’ve been getting far too literary and high-falutin. I’d like to nominate a television series, Red Dwarf, as being possibly the very best science fiction series EVER. It’s a sit com set in deep space–what’s not to like? And really, television is where popular sf has thrived. There are so many fantastic series out there. But for some reason Red Dwarf stands out to me as one of the best, probably because of the oh-so-very flawed and human (despite only one of them being an actual live human) characters marooned on that little space craft. And the laughs. And the fact they called myfavourite character Arnold Judas Rimmer. You’ve got to love a good rimming joke, after all…
Jamie: OMG! How could I forget the boys from the Dwarf? Fabulous series! Who would ever have thought you could take something that starts with “Everybody’s dead, Dave” and make something so wonderfully, outrageously funny? *starts humming theme tune* Yep, sorry Aldous, Red Dwarf gets the final spot.
I don’t know if you have a fave episode, Jo, but for me, it’s got to be one involving Ace Rimmer, the heroic and implausibly good-looking alternate universe version of Arnold Judas. Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast. 😉
Jo: Oh, he is a genius character! But for me the best episode ever is “Rimmerworld,” the one where they end up on a planet populated entirely by versions of Rimmer, who he created using his own DNA using some terraforming equipment while waiting for the others to follow him through the black hole (a journey that only takes a few hours for them, but centuries for him). There’s something so profoundly unsettling about seeing his “concubines” reveal their Rimmer-like features!
Let’s face it, Rimmer is the best anti-hero ever. How can you not love such a weasely, cheating, cowardly, two-faced smeghead?
Jamie: Yes, “Rimmerworld” was a classic. But how about “Back to Reality”, the one where… But no, we’d better wind this up before we end up going through the entire ten series episode by episode! I think we have a winner! 😉
Readers, we’d love to hear about your favourite sci fi books/films/TV etc. Why not let us know in a comment?
Giveaway: one lucky commenter will win a book of their choice from both Jo and Jamie’s backlists!
Help, My Boyfriend’s an Alien!
A Mad About the Brit Boys collection
Love—and desire—that’s out of this world…
It’s time to suit up, take those protein pills, and boldly come
where no man has come before. Take a trip to the future, or do
your bit for inter-planetary relations with some close encounters
of a very unusual kind.
In this erotic science fiction triple feature you’ll meet a cat that’s
anything but cute and cuddly, take a pill that’ll make you fall in
love—for a night—and discover desire that transcends the
limitations of a human body. It’s a brave new world as you
explore the unknown in three short stories that push the
boundaries of love in ways both thoughtful and tongue-in-cheek.
These stories have all been previously published, but are now available exclusively in this anthology.
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and her novella Muscling Through and novel Relief Valve were both EPIC Awards finalists.
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English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo publishes regularly with Samhain, and now has over ten novels and novellas under her belt. Her novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She has also been known to edit anthologies and self-publish on occasion, although she prefers to leave the “boring bits” of the ebook creation process to someone else. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and a soon-to-be toddler.