Science-fiction and Glasgow

LAST week we looked at some of the many fictional detectives Glasgow has given rise to over the years.

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But the city has been active in areas other than crime fiction.

Tobias Smollett was born in Dunbartonshire and was apprenticed to an apothecary in the Saltmarket.

His unloved employers, Drs Gordon and Crawford, were lampooned in The Adventures Of Roderick Random, written in 1748.

Perhaps the first appearance of Glasgow in science fiction was in an anonymous book entitled, How Glasgow Ceased To Flourish: A Tale Of 1890. Its year of publication? 1884.

The magazine Nebula Science Fiction was produced in Glasgow from 1952 to 1959, and was the first to publish Brian W Aldiss, Robert Silverberg and Bob Shaw, all of whom became giants of the genre.

More recent Glasgow-based sci-fi can be found in the anthology Starfield, edited by Duncan Lunan.

Mr Lunan is a member of the Glasgow Science Fiction Writers' Circle, which has produced several published authors in the field.

Professor Archie E Roy, not content with merely being a famous astronomer and former president of the Scottish Society For Psychical Research, wrote six novels with supernatural or occult themes, including Devil In The Darkness (1978) and All Evil Shed Away (1970).

The latter book includes a scene in Nazi-occupied Glasgow!

The Devil turns up in person in Fergus Blythwood's Satan On Holiday (1903) – he even manages to fit in a visit to the 1901 Exhibition at Kelvingrove Park.

Another well-known character – Cyrano de Bergerac, the French dramatis and duellist – turns up in So I Am Glad (1995), by West End-based A L Kennedy.

More specifically, he finds himself, at the age of 357, in a bedsit in Partick.

The book, which earned lots of critical praise and won the Saltire Scottish Book Of The Year award, centres on a reserved young woman who lives in a flat in Glasgow and suddenly finds her life transformed by her new flatmate – de Bergerac.

An interviewer visiting Kennedy's flat in 1994 spotted a framed picture postcard of de Bergerac on the wall. "He's a good guy," said Kennedy, who went on to reveal she herself liked fencing. "Fencing is very good for your head. You discover very quickly you don't like hurting people."


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