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Who Else Writes Like...?: A Readers' Guide…
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Who Else Writes Like...?: A Readers' Guide to Fiction Authors (1993)

by Roy Huse

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This book (billed as a sequel to A Readers' Guide to Fiction Authors) is not without a few mistakes.
Fair enough, I used the internet to double check my findings, twenty years ago Mr. Huse may not have had the same access to information at the tip of his fingers; but, as editor these are still unforgivable mistakes!

For example, there appears to be great discrepincy between the Authors' Club First Novel Award winners list (dated 1980-1992) on page 206 and the true winners.
In general the dates provided by the book are three years out of synch.
For example: 1977s winner Barbara Beson is credited as being 1980s winner, and so on; up to 1990. The next two winners in chronilogical order Gilbert Adair (1988) and Lindsey Davis (1989) are skipped entirely.
1990s winner Alan Brownjohn is then credited as being 1991s winner, and 1991s winner Zina Rohan is credited as 1992s winner - a title that was actualy won by David Park for his book The Healing.

Apart from the obvious errors and omissions, it is still a useful book to have on the bookshelf; however, I would have been happier with a short biography to accompany the authors listed, even if this would have made it a far thicker tome. Without this additional information, the pages simply resemble those of a names directory. In any case, there would certainly have been ample room to include the dates of birth and death (where applicable) which would have offered a bit more value for no extra cost in materials.

This book was compiled with statistics taken from the Register of Public Lending Right which provided the names of authors whose works were most often borrowed from Public Libraries during the period the book was being compiled; thus many influential writers of fiction are notably absent: Edgar Rice Burroughs, M.R. James, etc. the writings of whom have formed templates for countless authors over the years who have been greatly influenced by these writing styles. This is why between the eight years from when the original book was published to this 'sequel' the author lists has changed almost entirely.

In conclusion, this book is more like a time capsule of popular fiction authors from 1993. Like a telephone directory, the book was out of date practically the moment it was published. The only way it could have maintained credibility would have been if it was honest with itself and titled A Reader's Guide to Fiction Authors 1993. ( )
  Sylak | Feb 24, 2014 |
The main section of the book is an author list, each author entry annotated with years of birth/death, nationality, pseudonyms used, genre and sub-genre classifications, and notable fictional characters created. Authors come from a list of those most borrowed according to PLR records, and these are supplemented by authors chosen 'by a small team of volunteer advisors'. For inclusion, authors must have published a minimum of three novels. For each author a list of no more than nine other authors who write like that author is given: for popular authors this list can have up to twelve entries. Literary prizes won and websites are also given for authors that have them. A new feature is the labelling of some authors as 'bridge' writers, writing fiction suitable for youngsters crossing over (hence the 'bridge') into adult fiction. Following the author entries are listings of authors by genre/sub-genre. Three new genres have been included since the last edition: historical romance, paranormal and mature chick lit. Finally, the book contains literary prize winner listings from 2000 on, a useful character/family/series index linked to owning author and websites for more author information.

Not being an expert in all genres, but knowing a lot about science fiction it makes sense for me to approach this book through what I know. Inclusiveness is good for active British science fiction authors, much less so for American authors. There are around a dozen authors whose inclusion seems to come from writing media-tie ins. Coverage of 'classic' science fiction authors is extremely weak but then this guide is intended for currently available books.

How useful are individual author entries in leading to similar writers? I found all those that I looked at did indeed link to some strongly similar authors but that strong links were usually outnumbered by weakly ones. To a certain extent, this was a result of having a reduced pool of science fiction authors to use. Take Brian Aldiss, who came to the fore in the 1960s 'New Wave'. There are three strong links to Harlan Ellison, Kurt Vonnegut and John Wyndham and seven weak links. Potential strong links would be to J.G.Ballard,Michael Moorcock, Robert Silverberg, Tom Disch, John Sladek, Samuel Delany, M. John Harrison and Barrington J. Bayley. The last five authors are not included in this book. Brian Aldiss is also listed as a 'bridge' author. He certainly deals (in graphic detail) with adolescence and growing up in certain works but generally though he writes for an adult audience.

The final thing I noticed about the author entries was the paucity of links leading to science fiction authors from mainstream authors who had used science fiction themes and vice versa. It is a shame though that a 'who writes like' guide does not try harder to make genre boundaries more porous. ( )
1 vote AlanPoulter | Mar 15, 2009 |
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