(CLASSIC: from The Knights of the Limits in Barrington Bayley SF Gateway Omnibus, Gollancz)
Does “classic” signify “from the good old days” or “well known and often anthologised”? If the latter, that’s boring. Speaking of boring—through rock—I nominate one of the wittiest, most idiosyncratic, and lesser known of British SF authors, Barrington Bayley. Imagine a solid universe containing only one cavern of a world; and then continue imagining… Here’s where the spirit of H.G. Wells’ scientific romances meets a logical rather than a dreamlike surrealism. Distilled in this tale is the “sense of wonder” which epitomises the best produce from the huge district of science fiction within the city of the Fantastik.
(MODERN: from Last and First Contacts, NewCon Press)
This achingly beautiful story by one of Britain’s leading SF novelists blends immensity and the domestically human as all matter in our universe flies apart over a period of a few months due to dark energy—first distant galaxies, then nearby stars, then the Sun, then the Earth, then our bodies too. Actually, our universe already exists in a ‘false vacuum’ state, which theoretically could collapse at any moment to a lower energy state, although we’d know nothing about this, or only for a fraction of a second—no possible story there. Most of the time most people are oblivious to our universe, to the how, why, and what of our very existence. What science fiction does wonderfully is heighten our awareness of what is actually reality, as Baxter does here on a very humane level.
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