South Park Self

strength in your stride and hope in those squeaky-clean eyes

This month's Ansible reminded me that John Christopher died early in February. Along with my grandfather's collection of Tolkien and Silver Age sf, John Christopher's YA science fiction novels are probably guilty of conditioning me into the dedicated sf/fantasy fangirl I am today. I remember finding the first book in the Tripods triology in a school library, and the twitchy, frustrated wait until I unearthed the rest of the series in second-hand shops years later. I re-read them a couple of years ago; they stand up remarkably well to adult insight.

The great thing about John Christopher's writing is that he didn't pull any punches. His work was often dark, post-apocalyptic; he did not scruple to throw death, threat, corruption, loss and really nasty people at you. I loved the Tripods trilogy, which is probably the best-known of his works: the alien overlords who have taken over Earth owe a lot to H G Wells, but they're a properly horrible and richly satisfying creation. The scrabble for existence in a shattered world in the Prince in Waiting series is also compelling: Christopher seems to have a thing with post-apocalyptic regression to pre-industrial lifestyles. The dark/gritty/lost feel of the novels reminds me a lot of Peter Dickinson's Changes series.

The Ansible paragraph was interesting, because there's really a lot I didn't know about him, oddly given that he's a favourite writer. John Christopher was a pen name; the author's name was apparently Sam Youd. I've always thought of him as leading that separate, John-Wyndhamesque existence outside of sf fandom structures, but in fact he published in the pulp magazines of the 40s, and was apparently part of early British fandom, at least for a while. I need to track down his adult novels, too. I think I may have read The Death of Grass at some stage, but I don't remember it at all.

RIP John Christopher. Integral to my sf experience and growth.
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Wow, quite a few losses recently. RIP Richard Carpenter too, for his excellent Catweazle and The Ghosts of Motley Hall, which I remember loving as a kid.
RIP Jan Berenstain, creator of the children's series, the Berenstein Bears. And RIP Ian Abercrombie, for being Elaine's hilarious boss Mr Pitt in Seinfeld.

My childhood is slowly dying off, it seems.

The Diana Wynne Jones celebration looks interesting too. If only I was down in Bristol.
I have to say, the Diana Wynne Jones loss is the one I most feel. John Christopher novels were formative; Diana Wynne Jones is intrinsic. I, too, wish I was near Bristol.
I remember devouring the Tripods while sitting in my parent's baby poo coloured poof listening to Midnight Oil records with giant panasonic headphones...blast from the past :-)
Wow. I had totally forgotten about him. The Tripods were a bif thing for me in those days.