As a boy I read in the Eagle comic about the adventures of Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future. I worked my way through the local public library’s collection of science fiction. The authors I read included Robert Heinlein, who wrote a series of first class SF stories for teenagers. I also lapped up authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke (both of whom I later met).
The books I read were science fiction. The science was futuristic, but it followed physical laws. The stories were not about the science, though, but about people. The science was a backdrop against which human dramas took place and character developed. It is a genre no longer much in evidence. The bookshops have shelves labelled Fantasy and SF in both adult and children’s section, but the books are overwhelmingly set in the realms of fantasy, of magic swords, of princesses and warlocks, of incantations and spirits and spells.
My children’s books are not like that. My worlds follow scientific laws, but the young people on them have to show courage, ingenuity and resolution to overcome adversity. They do not win through by casting bigger spells than their opponents, and dead people stay dead.
In The Waters of Andros, Mikal, who has lived and played with his plesiosaur friend, Starfin, in the idyllic waters of his beautiful blue planet, discovers through a series of hair-raising brushes with danger that something is draining the life from the planet’s delicately balanced ecology. He is swept into momentous events as he struggles to save his world.
Children of the Night is science fiction wearing the clothes of fantasy. Mark, the lowly orphan cathedral boy, teams up with Gene, the rich merchant’s daughter and dragonfly pilot. With them goes Calvin, the talented young engineer and Quicksilver, the telepathic rat. They learn of a plot to unleash unimaginable destruction and embark on a journey to thwart it.
In Dark Visitor the phantom ship pulls into the station on Laurel’s watch, bearing Van, its solitary sleeping occupant. His memory has been erased, along with the ship’s records. All he knows is that “something is going to happen; it always does.” He and Laurel strike up a friendship that tests them through the cataclysm which his arrival portends.
In Tree Boy, young Theo is the only survivor of a crash upon a forest world. He befriends the forest creatures and learns their ways. Back in human civilization he has to use those skills to combat attempts on his life and to thwart a treacherous threat to interstellar peace.
The Emerald Warriors features Sam, the village boy who dreams of things that might happen, and Jamie, the dark prince trained in the deadly martial art of Tymenko and the mental disciplines of Asensis. The two boys join forces to combat the alien Emerald Warriors who are set upon enslaving the empire.
Silver Dawn, sequel to Children of the Night, sees the cathedral boy Mark in combat with a sinister cardinal. With the dragonfly pilot Gene and the dwarf engineer Calvin, they must wrest the strange crystal tiles from the Church’s grasp in order to bring Silver Dawn, the day when the world will change forever.