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Burning Brightly: 50 Years of Novacon

by Ian Whates (Editor)

Other authors: Iain M. Banks (Contributor), Stephen Baxter (Contributor), Eric Brown (Contributor), Jaine Fenn (Contributor), Peter F. Hamilton (Contributor)11 more, David A. Hardy (Cover artist), Iain R. MacLeod (Contributor), Paul McAuley (Contributor), Juliet E. McKenna (Contributor), Anne Nicholls (Contributor), Rog Peyton (Introduction), Justina Robson (Contributor), Geoff Ryman (Contributor), Martin Sketchley (Contributor), Kari Sperring (Contributor), Adrian Tchaikovsky (Contributor)

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2812760,611 (3.7)5
An anthology featuring some of the biggest names in British genre fiction, including rare, previously uncollected stories by Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Justina Robson, Paul McAuley, Juliet E McKenna, Anne Nicholls, and Geoff Ryman, alongside original stories by Eric Brown, Ian R. MacLeod, Martin Sketchley, Kari Sperring, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The rare reprints all appeared originally in souvenir booklets given to attendees of the Novacon convention and featuring original work by that year's Guest of Honour. The very best of British Science Fiction. Table of Contents: Burning Brightly: Introduction by Rog Peyton Chiron - Stephen Baxter The Spheres - Iain M. Banks Acts of Defiance - Eric Brown Heatwave - Anne Nicholls Alien TV - Paul McAuley Canary Girls - Kari Sperring Softlight Sins - Peter F. Hamilton Erie Lackawana Song - Justina Robson Through the Veil - Juliet E. McKenna The Coming of Enkidu - Geoff Ryman Red Sky in the Morning - Adrian Tchaikovsky The God of Nothing - Ian R. MacLeod The Ships of Aleph - Jaine Fenn Bloodbirds - Martin Sketchley About the Authors… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Novacon is a British science fiction convention that first occurred in 1971. Since 1980, most of the guests of honor at the convention have supplied original works of fiction to be distributed at the convention. This anthology collects many of them, alongside some original fiction (though I think all the suppliers of original fiction were also Novagon GOHs). As a result, this anthology features fiction from many luminaries of British sf: Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Geoff Ryman, Adrian Tchaikovsky, and the late Iain M. Banks all have stories here, among many others.

It's the kind of sf anthology that one might cruelly describe as "perfectly competent." There are few terrible stories here; I found Iain Banks's "The Spheres" (2010) fairly inscrutable and Peter Hamilton's "Softlight Sins" (1997) a somewhat unlikely implementation of a plausible idea, but on the whole the stories here are well put together and certainly not terrible.

On the other hand, there wasn't much here that jumped out to me, nothing that really grabbed me or wowed me the way the best sf does. Everything here is... just fine. One kind of wonders if that's because if there's a story a big-name author if willing to give an sf convention for free, it's because it's not their best work.

The big exception was Ian R. MacLeod's "The God of Nothing" (original to this volume), a neat story about a government functionary forced to invent things like counting in order to satisfy the increasing demands of his king. Neat idea, well done, about technologies we take for granted. I did also like Jaine Fenn's "The Ships of Aleph" (2012), though it was one of those stories where one wants to know what happens next! (It's set in the world of Fenn's Hidden Empire series but I don't think it has any narrative links to any other stories.)

So an okay anthology, but you've almost certainly read better, and you've almost certainly read worse.
  Stevil2001 | Jul 29, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Not a bad collection. There's a couple of great stories here and a couple of stinkers, but overall a fun read. The good: Stephen Baxter's Chiron, Paul McAuley's Alien TV, Peter Hamilton's Softlight Sins, Justina Robson's great Erie Lackawanna Song, Adrian Tchaikovsky's Red Sky In The Morning, Ian Maclead's The God of Nothing, andmy personal favourite The Ships of Aleph by Jaine Fenn. The stinkers are Anne Nicholls' Acts of Defiance, which felt rushed and the dialogue was stilted and the whole thing was basically like a talented teenage piece, Juliet McKenna's Through The Veil, which was just boring, ditto Geoff Ryman's The Coming of Enkidu, and Martin Sketchley's Bloodbirds, which led me to believe that the author had never met a woman or a depressed person before and was relying on second hand information to try and create that character. Decent plot twist though! The others were kind of ok, weren't bad or good or owt. ( )
  elahrairah | Apr 4, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Burning Brightly: 50 Years of Novacon - edited by Ian Whates

Introduction by Rog Peyton

New cover art by David A. Hardy

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UK-based science fiction convention, Novacon, editor Ian Whates has created an anthology, curating various works associated with the convention and combining them with a handful of other science fiction stories to help round out the collection.

In 1979, Rog Peyton chaired Novacon 9 and landed on the idea to publish a souvenir booklet (for free!) containing a short work by the Guest of Honor that year. This idea ultimately took off and became a tradition within Novacon, resulting in each Guest of Honor producing some sort of fiction or non-fiction work to be published in the Special, a souvenir booklet for fans to take home.

First and foremost, Burning Brightly: 50 Years of Novacon is an historical record of selected short works published in these Novacon souvenir booklets going back to 1989. As such, this anthology will likely be of greatest interest to those who attended Novacon over the years (or wish that they had) and historians who like to keep reference materials close at hand.

At nine pieces spanning nearly 30 years, this is hardly a comprehensive collection of Novacon-published works. And Whates clearly experienced editorial limitations associated with this project - after all, the decisions regarding which works would be published in the Novacon souvenir booklets each year had already been made. In a mostly successful effort to create a cohesive, readable collection, Whates opted to get a bit creative with order, rather than stick with a more obvious chronological layout. Additionally, he also elected to sprinkle in a handful of newer works not previously associated with Novacon.

Not too surprisingly given their provenance, the Novacon-originating works are a bit of a mixed bag, however one does come away with a sense of the evolution of these works, even though there are gaps and they are not arranged chronologically. The later stories, once it had become a more established and expected practice to intentionally include a piece from the Guest of Honor in the Special, tend to be more accessible reading. The earlier works - sometimes drafts and fragments of other works - feel more in keeping with the experimental nature of the practice of publishing writing from the Guest of Honor as part of the Novacon experience.

Interestingly, the additional stories included here don’t necessarily help the anthology hang together any better but they do still serve an important purpose in making the collection more readable as a whole. These stories are also far more consistently enjoyable to read.

There certainly are crisper, more compelling, collections of science fiction short works in existence, however Burning Brightly has its own reasons to exist and it is a sufficiently enjoyable anthology to warrant space on a science fiction lover’s physical or virtual shelf.

Review based on Advanced Reader Copy provided through LibraryThing Early Reviewers program

Authors included
Stephen Baxter
Iain M. Banks
Eric Brown
Anne Nicholls
Paul McAuley
Kerri Sperring
Peter F. Hamilton
Justina Robson
Juliet E. McKenna
Geoff Ryman
Adrian Tchaikovsky
Iain R. MacLeod
Jaine Fenn
Martin Sketchley ( )
1 vote KimmViebrock | Jan 27, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this particular collection of short stories. While I didn't necessarily enjoy every story, most were really awesome. Among my favorites were: Softlight Sins, Heatwave, The Ships of Aleph and Alien TV. I would love to see more volumes in this collection! ( )
  Nicole_Russell | Jan 20, 2022 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
[Disclaimer: I got this book via LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program]

Tradition wants that the special guests at Novacon - the annual gathering of UK science fictions fans - offer a short story to the attendees. This book collects some of these stories. There's a catch, of course: writers' income usually comes from their works, so it's difficult to expect to find some hidden gems. In general the level of the stories varies a lot: especially the first ones are weaker. Here there is a one-line comment about each of them:
▪ Chiron (Stephen Baxter): Good old hard SF.
▪ The Spheres (Iain M. Banks): The intro explains the genesis of the story, but I think the text does not really stand on its own.
▪ Acts of Defiance (Eric Brown): A variation on Fahrenheit 451, but not much more.
▪ Heatwave (Anne Nicholls): Nice idea, but there are some holes in the plot.
▪ Alien TV (Paul McAuley): The idea was nice, but I did not see where the author wanted to take us.
▪ Canary Girls (Kari Sperring): I did not understand it at all.
▪ Softlight Sins (Peter F. Hamilton): this one is just marvellous.
▪ Erie Lackawanna Song (Justina Robson): its ending is an anticlimax.
▪ Through the Veil (Juliet E. McKenna): Ghosts can become very real. Nice!
▪ The Coming Of Enkidu (Geoff Ryman): Evocative, but I did not understand the ending.
▪ Red Sky in the Morning (Adrian Tchaikovsky): Maybe a bit towards fantasy, but nice nevertheless.
▪ The God of Nothing (Ian R. MacLeod): the final is nice, but the plot is tiring.
▪ The Ships of Aleph (Jaine Fenn) That's fantastic!
▪ Bloodbirds (Martin Sketchley): a sad story, not my kind. ( )
  .mau. | Jan 19, 2022 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Whates, IanEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Banks, Iain M.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baxter, StephenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, EricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fenn, JaineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hamilton, Peter F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hardy, David A.Cover artistsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
MacLeod, Iain R.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McAuley, PaulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKenna, Juliet E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nicholls, AnneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peyton, RogIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Robson, JustinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ryman, GeoffContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sketchley, MartinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sperring, KariContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tchaikovsky, AdrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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An anthology featuring some of the biggest names in British genre fiction, including rare, previously uncollected stories by Iain M. Banks, Stephen Baxter, Peter F. Hamilton, Justina Robson, Paul McAuley, Juliet E McKenna, Anne Nicholls, and Geoff Ryman, alongside original stories by Eric Brown, Ian R. MacLeod, Martin Sketchley, Kari Sperring, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. The rare reprints all appeared originally in souvenir booklets given to attendees of the Novacon convention and featuring original work by that year's Guest of Honour. The very best of British Science Fiction. Table of Contents: Burning Brightly: Introduction by Rog Peyton Chiron - Stephen Baxter The Spheres - Iain M. Banks Acts of Defiance - Eric Brown Heatwave - Anne Nicholls Alien TV - Paul McAuley Canary Girls - Kari Sperring Softlight Sins - Peter F. Hamilton Erie Lackawana Song - Justina Robson Through the Veil - Juliet E. McKenna The Coming of Enkidu - Geoff Ryman Red Sky in the Morning - Adrian Tchaikovsky The God of Nothing - Ian R. MacLeod The Ships of Aleph - Jaine Fenn Bloodbirds - Martin Sketchley About the Authors

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