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The Angels of Life and Death, An Introduction

The received wisdom is that short story collections don’t sell. Publishers are reluctant to put them out because, they say, readers don’t want collections. And yet hundreds of collections are published every year, and hundreds of thousands of readers buy them. Perhaps what it is that publishers don’t make as much money out of collections as they do from fat novels, as novels sell better than collections.

This collection brings together eleven of my tales dating from 1992 through to 2009. Some of the stories appeared in obscure, short-lived venues, while others came out in magazines without a wide distribution in either the UK or the US. They’re collected here for the first time.

The first six stories are what I call core SF – stories set in the future (with one exception) and featuring the staple tropes of aliens, telepathy, star-travel, futuristic sports, etc. The last five tales are more contemporary and more character-oriented, while still rooted firmly in the science fiction genre. My favourite among them all is the title story, which pre-dates, and foreshadows, the Kéthani sequences of stories. An alien race comes to Earth bearing a gift from the stars...

Perhaps I should insert a word or two here about the type of science fiction I write. Or rather, perhaps, the type of SF I don’t write. I don’t write Hard SF. I have nothing against Hard SF. (Well, perhaps I do – in my opinion it dates terribly, and if it isn’t underpinned by decent characterisation then, in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time, when the science is outmoded, it has little to commend it.) I write Soft SF, even Squishy SF; SF about how technology and science change people – and I like to think that I write about people. So the stories gathered here are principally about people, and plot, and story – that vital ingredient of the writer’s craft.

The new edition of this collection contains the never-before-published story, “Seleema and the Spheretrix”, which nearly saw print in an anthology, many years ago, but which never appeared. It was one of those stories which, once I’d finished it, cried out for more to be written about the characters and the setting. That was about five years ago now, and one day I hope to get round to writing more about the feisty Seleema and her love-interest, Mitch. It’s a very light-hearted story on a serious subject.

My thanks to the editors of the magazines where these stories originally appeared and to Keith Brooke for allowing me the opportunity to assemble the tales under the aegis of Infinity Plus.

Eric Brown
East Lothian

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