Poul Anderson is a seriously under-rated sf writer. If you want aliens, spaceships, intergalactic adventures, then he’s your man. He wrote a great deal of fantasy (including a pretty decent Conan the Rebel story in 1980), having been born in 1926 just as the Golden Age of pulp magazines began to influence a generations of school kids. He wrote dozens of enthralling short stories, novels and novellas, was wreathed in awards (7 Hugos, 3 Nebulas, 4 Prometheus) and honoured by his peers as a friend and influence: Heinlein, Bradbury, Campbell and many others.
And yet, where are the movies? The re-issues? the TV shows based in his stories? It’s true, he doesn’t have the light, inventive touch of a Philip K. Dick’s or Bradbury’s gravid profundity but as a weaver of worlds, his work is intriguing and his tales move swiftly forward. For the modern taste, perhaps his work sits too squarely in the institutional, conservative-with-a-small-c sf of the 1950s, and the plot-lines are a little complex for the unravelling of a movie, but they’re a damn good read.
The Mysterious Mr Anderson
As an impressionable young sf and fantasy enthusiast I remember asking my local SF store for any of his work, only to be told, unforgivably, that he was just a figment of Robert Heinlein’s imagination. I still remember finding this particular book, a couple of years later, on a visit to Foyles in London. Embarrassingly I yelped and laughed simultaneously (I’m English, these things don’t come so easily, especially in public), so it remains one of my own favourite finds.
The Rebel Worlds is the third in Anderson’s Michael Flandry series, focusing on the Terran empire, and it offers Anderson’s usual mix of physics flavoured fantasy, romance and colonial conflict, all tightly rolled into spy-thrilling page turner. It’s probably the best of the series because it offers more emotional detail in the adversarial heroes, Flandry and Admiral McCormac, but I can also detect elements of Han Solo here too. Perhaps George Lucas was a fan too! Thoroughly recommended.
- Top 100 SF & F Books. Stranger in a Strange Land.
- Top 100 SF & F Books. American Gods.
- Virgil Finlay: Master of Dark Fantasy Illustration
- H.P. Lovecraft created some incredible monsters in space and time.
Front cover photograph by Elise Wells, 2016