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The Caltraps of Time

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David I. Masson
About the Author

David I. Masson – click for larger image

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Ansible E-ditions must sadly add to this page the fact that David Masson died on 25 February 2007, in his adopted home town of Leeds. He was 91. We very much enjoyed working with him on the new edition of his one sf collection. As a memorial tribute, his essay "Some Thoughts on Language in Science Fiction" (1970) has been added to this site.

David I. Masson, author of The Caltraps of Time, was born in Edinburgh on 6 November 1915. He was at Merton College, Oxford, from 1934 to 1938, where he read English Language & Literature. During World War 2 he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Mediterranean areas, chiefly North Africa and Italy. His career was as a university librarian, first at Leeds, then in charge of rare-book (and mss) collections, at Liverpool, then Leeds. He married in 1950: one daughter, three grandchildren. Between 1951 and 1991 he published many articles on the functions and effects of phonetic sound-patterning in poetry (especially in the work of Rilke). His published works include three articles with the Princeton University Press publication Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (1965). Also notable is his Poetic Sound-Patterning Reconsidered (Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, May 1976).

During the 1960s he published seven short stories in New Worlds SF, beginning with the truly remarkable Traveller's Rest in 1965. All seven were collected in the now rare first edition of The Caltraps of Time (Faber & Faber, 1968). The three later stories added to Ansible's expanded edition appeared in original SF anthologies early in the 1970s.

Masson is keenly interested in the sciences, and until recent years was an amateur stoneware potter. He describes himself as an environmentalist, with hopes for the Gaia mechanism.

David Masson's highly individual narrative voice (or voices – his gift for pastiche is shown to perfection in the 17th-century narration of his story A Two-Timer) has made him that unusual figure, a noted SF author whose fame rests on a single collection of short fiction: The Caltraps of Time.

Caltraps Author's Foreword

Now, when the frontiers of strict scientific hypothesis read like science fiction, but the conduct of global affairs reads like a set of fifth-rate films dreamt up by moronic scriptwriters, and humanity gets on with the business of running the Sixth Major Extermination of Species, I invite you to relax with the imaginations of a slightly more innocent decade.

The White Queen enjoyed believing in six impossible things before breakfast; here you can believe in a dozen, a few of which may be possible, or at least secrete a truth: the chaos at the heart of language; the fires beneath us; the dimensional complexities of time; parallel universes; the fragility of civilization.

David I. Masson, December 2002

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