Happy birthday to the Book Group

I just realised today that this month’s meeting of the Edinburgh SF Book Group will mark the fourth birthday. My former colleague Alex and I thought it up back in the summer of 2003 and decided a good start date would be after the busy circus of the Festival left town, so we opted for September. And for our initial discussion it seemed fitting to pick a debut novel, so we opted for one of the best debuts novels of recent SF by one of our favourite writers, Glasgow-based Richard Morgan, the Philip K Dick award-winning Altered Carbon (which also introduced Richard’s character Takeshi Kovacs and also made headlines when it was the subject of a large film rights deal via Joel Silver. I remember the Guardian running an article on that and unable to reach Richard who was on holiday at the time they nicely pilfered quotes from our interview on the Alien Online without asking or crediting the site).

The book group has gone on over those four years, surviving the debacle of the Bloggergate nonsense between me and my former employers at the Bookstore Who Shall Not Be Named (where it had driven sales of backlist titles and boosted the company’s profile, but no more – that’s their loss) and trying to find a new regular venue after that. We’ve got a good core of different folks who come regularly and we’ve had more folks join us since then. We take turn about getting to choose books for the month which means we get a good, diverse range of material.

We’ve taken in graphic novels like the Sandman, classic SF from Alfred Bester and HG Wells, contemporary political SF like Ken MacLeod, horror from James Herbert, fantasy like the Lies of Locke Lamora and also more mainstream material with touches of SF like David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas or Michel Faber’s Under the Skin (which the literati can read, safe in the knowledge that they aren’t really part of that ‘SF nonsense’, they’re literature). Ursula le Guin has rubbed shoulders with Margaret Atwood, Charles Burns, Aldous Huxley, James Lovegrove, Kazuo Ishiguro, Jeff VanderMeer, Sheri S Tepper, Neal Stephenson and Robert Louis Stevenson among many others. Because each of us gets to take a turn picking a book we get exposed to more diverse material and so more to discuss, more to think about, more to enjoy. One of the few pleasures better than reading a good book is being able to share it with others and talk about it. And if that also means enjoying some trips to the pub too, so much the better (since there is a very welcome social aspect to the group too).

We started with an author who now lives in Glasgow and this fourth anniversary month sees us discussing a recent novel from an Edinburgh-based scribe, Charlie Stross as we discuss his novel Glasshouse. In a lovely bit of coincidence Glasshouse won the Prometheus award (given by the Libertarian SF group) last week just after it was picked for our September meeting, so congrats to Charlie. We normally meet on the last Tuesday of the month in Henderson’s on Hanover Street and anyone is welcome to come along – meeting details usually go up on the Book Group blog.