By Ashley R. Pollard
This month’s theme is anticipation.
For instance, the anticipation of the coming spring that will soon relieve the winter blues, signaled by the mornings and evenings getting lighter. I no longer get up in total darkness and leave work as darkness descends because now the winter sun sets around five. Instead, I now walk over Westminster Bridge in the gathering twilight. The gloam of the day brightened as Elizabeth Tower illuminates, and the sound of Big Ben asserts the official time with all the authority that its chimes can muster.
However, it’s still too cold for my liking, with the winds from the East chilling one to the bone.
As I write this piece, I’m also anticipating another birthday, which I will have celebrated by the time this article is published. Not a significant number this time round as that was last year. But I’ve taken another step into the future, a future that is bright with the possibilities of exciting new things to wonder at. I am confident that tomorrow, despite the series of postponements, America will launch John Glenn in his Friendship 7 capsule. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have the weight of expectations on one’s shoulders combined with the feeling of disappointment from having to wait yet another day or more before being able to go into space.
However, the anticipation of success is palpable. The future is bright, and mankind will one day go to the stars, where no one has gone before. These are, in my mind, the most exciting of times to be alive in. Of course I say no one has gone before, but perhaps aliens are already travelling among the stars. Perhaps they’ve already visited us, though I think that’s unlikely, despite the recent profusion of “saucer stories.”
Speaking of unlikely things, while meandering up Charring Cross Road, perusing the secondhand bookshops for science fiction books, I found a copy of Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. This fanciful (but seriously presented) account of the formation of our solar system, has acquired a strong cult following of late. It had been shelved in the science fiction and fantasy section, next to a copy of George Adamski’s the Flying Saucers Have Landed.
This I believe says a lot about how members of the book trade or general public view science fiction and fantasy fans. I will not rant on about society’s inability to keep up with the changes going on all around us. It is, arguably, human nature to find change unsettling. Here in the twentieth century our old ways and beliefs are being challenged by new discoveries, and our understanding of the cosmos expands. Nevertheless, we fans can tell the difference between science, science fiction, and works like Velikovsky’s and Adamski’s, which best belong with the fairy tales.
Still, as a follower of Fortean apocrypha, I find Velikovsky’s ideas a fertile ground for strange and whacky ideas. So much so, I wrote a short story inspired by them. Whether the story will ever see the light of day is another matter. Perhaps in future, say in fifty years or so, it will bring a smile or even a chuckle or two to those that get to read it.
Back to anticipation — I’m anticipating the coming weekend. Not for the usual reason of shooting arrows (the literal kind; I am an archer – for fun, not profit), even though I have new limbs for my bow that my partner bought me for my birthday. Instead we are attending a one day convention run by the students of The Imperial College science fiction and fantasy society. I understand from my partner that several authors have been invited to speak and be on panels. It will be a chance for fans old and new to mingle, chat. Also, there are book dealers in attendance. So I’m looking forward to going to the convention and who knows what I might find? Stay tuned.
And, as a sort of end to an anticipation, there are news reports of a shocking discovery made on the 14th of February. A French patrol of troops found the mummified remains of William N. ‘Bill’ Lancaster in the Sahara desert. He disappeared in April 1933 while attempting to beat the world speed record for a flight between Britain and South Africa. His mummified body was found near the wreckage of his aeroplane, an Avro Mark VIA Avian called Southern Cross. They found his journal, and the reports say he lived for seven days after the crash before dying of thirst while waiting to rescued. There’s a story in there for sure.
So that is it for another month. March will bring more news of science fiction in Britain, and I hope you will join me again.