“For sheer inventiveness and intellectual brilliance, Ian Watson has already established a place in the front rank of contemporary writers.” – Sunday Times.
Today I’d like to give a shout out to someone who was a big influence on not only the creation of the Tales From Beyond Tomorrow series, but also one of the people who first inspired me to become a writer of speculative fiction.
When the third year of my degree at Leicester University’s Nene College campus began, there was an announcement that Ian Watson would that year’s Writer-In=Residence for that year. I immediately did my happy dance and rushed down to the Students Union bar to buy drinks for everyone (okay, on a student grant that’s not possible, but I did think about it) because I had already read three novels by Watson, and loved them.
Ian Watson’s first novel, “The Embedding”, won the Prix Apollo in 1975 and put him on the map as a startling new voice in modern literature. He appeared as the New Wave of Science Fiction – led by writers such as Michael Moorcock, J. G. Ballard and Brian Aldiss – had destroyed the old stereotypes and left the field wide open for experimentation. What was so different about “The Embedding” is that it connected cutting edge theories – in this case, linguistics and generative grammar – to a well-structured plot with realistic, believable characters. Not the first time that’s been done, of course, but it was done extremely well and made a lot of people sit up and take notice.
In the years to come, a string of bold and innovative novels followed, marrying tight, action-filled plots with explorations of themes such as whale and dolphin intelligence, the possible colonization of Mars, UFO abductions, shamanism, a scientific rationale for the existence of the soul after death, time travel, genetic manipulation, alchemy, quantum computing and so much more.
I met Ian Watson for the second time when I applied for a residential writer’s workshop in Nottingham, run by him and Lisa Tuttle. Since then we have kept in touch, and met whenever we have a chance to. He’s travelled extensively, at one point holding a lecturing post in Tokyo, and as that’s where I currently live we often exchange comments on how Japan has changed over the years. He currently lives in Gijon, northern Spain.
Ian, thank you for the inspiration – you showed me that apparently outrageous ideas could make engrossing, page-turning stories!
This article first appeared in the May 14th Excalibur Books newsletter.
“A phenomenon, a national resource to be conserved. Ian Watson resembles H.G. Wells in both invention and impatience.” – Times Literary Supplement.
“Ian Watson is perhaps the most impressive synthesiser of ideas in modern sf.” –
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.