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I don’t read as much non-fiction as I’d like to, as reading for research has to take priority over reading for pleasure. And I very rarely read any works of scholarly criticism, despite knowing a few scholars and critics; not because I’m not interested, but because other things seem to end up nearer the top of the pile.

However, I’ve just finished the BSFA’s Survey of British Science Fiction and Fantasy, which I went straight to without letting it get near my groaning ‘to read’ shelf. It’s actually two surveys, one from 1989 and one from 2009. The two editors, Paul Kincaid in 1989 and Niall Harrison ion 2009, have done an excellent job of collating the answers from over a hundred writers. The questions they ask range from the generic – such as what people’s influences are – to specific questions about British, as opposed to American, SFF. (And yes, the rest of the world produces some fine SFF too, as several 2009 respondents pointed out).

Some of the most interesting responses were the 2009 ones regarding what has and hasn’t changed in the field. I found it obscurely reassuring that the 1989 answers were often pessimistic, yet here we are two decades on, still reading and writing about possible futures and other worlds.

Overall I was amazed at the variety of opinions and perspectives, and impressed at how articulately many of them were expressed (I rather wish I’d given more attention to my own answers). I found much food for thought in this book, both as a reader and as a writer, and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in fantastical literature.

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@JaineFenn

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