This article, an excerpt of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, is copyright 1993 by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, and is available here under the "fair use" provisions of US copyright law.


UK writer, active as a freelance under various names for many years, author of juvenile stories, picture-strips and features as well as sf, which he began to publish with "Combat's End" for Vargo Statten Science Fiction Magazine in 1954. His sf pseudonyms include P.F. Woods (at least 10 stories), Alan Aumbry (1 story), John Diamond (1 story), and (with Michael Moorcock) Michael Barrington (1 story). Some early tales appear in The Seed of Evil (coll 1979). All his sf novels have been as BJB, beginning with Star Virus (1964 NW; exp 1970 dos US). This complex and somewhat gloomy space epic, along with some of its successors, has had a strong though not broadly recognized influence on such UK writers as M. John Harrison; perhaps because BJB's style is sometimes laboured and his lack of cheerful endings is alien to the expectations of readers of conventional space opera, he has yet to receive due recognition for the hard-edged control he exercises over plots whose intricate dealings in time paradoxes and insistent metaphysical drive make them some of the most formidable works of their type. Though Annihilation Factor (1964 as "The Patch" in NW as by Peter Woods; exp 1972 dos US), Empire of Two Worlds (1972 US) and Collision Course (1973 US; vt Collision with Chronos 1977 UK) - which utilizes the time theories of J.W. Dunne - are all variously succesful, probably the most fully realized time-paradox space opera from his pen is The Fall of Chronopolis (1974 US; vt Chronopolis 1979 UK), in which the Chronotic Empire jousts against a terrifying adversary in doomed attempts to maintain a stable reality; at the crux of the book it becomes evident that the conflict is eternal, and that the same forces will oppose one another through time forever.

The Soul of the Robot (1974 US; rev 1976 UK), along with its sequel The Rod of Light (1985), marked a change of pace in its treatment of such robot themes as the nature of self-consciousness; the book makes complex play with a number of philosophical paradoxes, though BJB's touch here is uncharacteristically light. The Garments of Caean (1976 US; text restored 1978 UK) utilizes some fairly sophisticated cultural anthropology in a space-opera tale of sentient clothing which owns the man. But perhaps the most significant work BJB produced in the 1970s was in short fiction, most of it collected in The Knights of the Limits (coll 1978), a remarkable (though astonishingly bleak) assembly of experiments in the carrying of story ideas to the end of their tether. Later space operas - The Grand Wheel (1977), Star Winds (1978 US), The Pillars of Eternity (1982 US), The Zen Gun (1983 US) and The Forest of Peldain (1985 US) - continued to take an orrery joy in the galaxies. BJB continues to be seriously underestimated, perhaps because of his almost total restriction to pulp formats.

- John Clute, 1992

with thanks to Mr. Clute
check out his Excessive Candour column at
SF Weekly