>Forgotten books emerge from slow glass

>Just discovered a heap of Bob Shaw books buried in a forgotten corner. Ah, the joyful anticipation of rereading some old favourites!

Bob’s concept of slow glass is still one of those ideas from heaven – a dream of an idea that gets right under your skin and just wriggles there. In case you don’t know, slow glass simply transmits light at a slower rate than usual. The thicker the glass, the slower the transmission. Bob teases a wealth of material from this apparently simple concept, from streetlights that use 12-hour slow glass to store up sunlight and let it out at night, to a piece of glass through which a murder may be observed … when the light finally comes through.

Another of his ideas that always tickled me (I think it was in Who Goes Here?) was his FTL drive that involved a teleportation transmitter at the back of the ship and a receiver at the front. The ship teleports itself in a series of jumps, each one exactly the length of its own hull. Like a cosmic inchworm. And since each individual jump is pretty much instantaneous, so’s the whole journey. That story was played for laughs but Bob was mostly a serious writer. And without doubt the master of the high concept from left field.

Finding these books again is a bit like watching something come through slow glass. Nice to have them in the light again. Orbitsville here I come!

Comments

  1. >Ah yes, slow glass, a classic concept! I also like his Wooden Spaceships trilogy: subtle messages about living in harmony with your environment all mashed up with some stunning storytelling and fairly bonkers SF settings.

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