Different Kinds of Darkness

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Different Kinds of Darkness -- 1st hc and pb cover

Different Kinds of Darkness collects 36 "straight" sf/fantasy/horror stories, complementing the parodies and pastiches in He Do the Time Police in Different Voices -- there is no overlap. The stories range from the first Langford professional appearance in (gulp) 1975 to my latest piece of fiction at the time of delivery in October 2003.

  • Publication Date: January 2004
  • Publisher: Cosmos Books (an imprint of Wildside Press), USA
  • Format: Hardback
  • ISBN: 1592241212
  • Page Count: 288
  • Cover Artist: Juha Lindroos
  • Availability: Amazon.co.ukAmazon.comBook Depository UK


Paul Di Filippo in Asimov's SF (March 2005)

Reading the award-winning fiction of David Langford is like getting a guided tour of the history of fantastical literature with a witty and knowledgeable guide who embroiders his own whimsies on the tapestry being displayed. In his new collection [...] Langford proves himself adept at everything from New Wave experimentalism (his first story, "Heatwave," from 1975, stands up remarkably well) to cyberpunk ideation (the four "blit" stories, about brain-eating ideograms, including the Hugo-winning title piece, have been widely hailed by everyone from Sterling to Egan). Langford also turns his hand to pure fantasy and horror, and while he's generally regarded as a humorist and there are plenty of comedic bits in this volume, he can nonetheless convincingly craft a grim tale of apocalypse such as "Cube Root." And his witty afterwords to each story are further inducement to purchase this anti-blit, brain-enhancing book.

John Toon in Infinity Plus (7 August 2004)

There is humour to be found in Darkness [...] However, the more serious stories are the more noteworthy, because ... well, because they're just damn fine. The title piece, a Hugo winner, is one of four built around the idea of cognitively lethal images, which get their own section in 'Darkness'. It's interesting to chart the development of a remarkable idea through this quartet of stories. [...]

There's thirty-six stories here spanning nearly thirty years of writing, and everyone should find something -- several somethings, in fact -- to please them. Well worth the cover price.

Dave Clements in Diverse Books (12 July 2004)

... excellent collection. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in short SF stories, and in seeing how a major SF talent has developed over the years.

Darryl Sloan in The Alien Online (3 June 2004)

I have never before read so much variety of original thought packed into 280 pages. [...] All in all then, a witty, wacky, intelligent and highly original collection of short fiction.

Gary Dalkin in Vector 235 (May/June 2004)

The typical Langford tale is built on a solid foundation of either an ingeniously original idea, or a refreshingly new spin on a familiar notion. [...] Langford's knowledge is wide-ranging, and the way he weaves it into the fabric of his stories constantly impresses.

Some stories will make you laugh out loud, others conjure pleasurable ironies, even the most serious contain wit in the truest sense.

Reading so many stories together by one author is never the best way to appreciate each tale individually, but it does bring out the common themes. Here satire of institutions and the mindsets they inflict is never far away, and if Langford is often concerned about the dangers of new technology it is not because he is a reactionary, but because he knows how flawed human beings are. There's also a regular questioning of the nature of reality, and again humour, often counterbalancing a melancholy poetic cosmic-metaphysical romantic angst. Read the book, it will entertain you, make you think and laugh as the world falls apart. There are different kinds of darkness.

Locus New and Notable Books (May 2004)

Langford may be best known for his humor and fan writing in the multiple-Hugo-winning fanzine Ansible, but his short fiction is also worth noting. This collection of 36 stories -- including the Hugo-winning title story -- spans Langford's fiction-writing career from 1975 to the present.

Publishers Weekly (3 May 2004)

Even the most serious of these 36 tales of fantasy, horror and science fiction are charged with a subversive wit and spirit of playfulness that show Langford's determination to turn genre clichés on their heads. [...] A physicist by profession, Langford laces his stories with teasing references to particle theory, fractals and higher mathematics, and often finds ingenious fictional analogs for them [...] The author is particularly fond of closed-room mysteries, which he wreaks variations on with the vigor of a math prodigy unraveling insoluble problems. Vampires, Lovecraftian horrors and virtual reality simulations all make appearances, but Langford's deft and clever touch makes them seem refreshingly original themes.

Paul Skevington in SFCrowsnest (4 May 2004)

'Different Kinds Of Darkness' is a collection of short stories that includes most of his important tales from the last twenty years or so. It is an eclectic collection with more variety in it than a fetish club on cheap drinks night. The pieces range from the trouser-dampeningly funny to the fascinatingly serious, with the occasional odd experimental job thrown in for good measure. Wonderfully, all of the pieces sparkle with an in-built humanity, believability and realism missing from other SF authors who would attempt to write in such a range of literary modes (cough, Greg, cough, Bear, cough). [...]

This is a terrific book. Which is great, as it means I can keep reading Langford's column, and I don't have to hunt him down with a harpoon gun for betraying me.

On individual stories

Michael Haulica in Observatorul Cultural (The Cultural Observer, Bucharest, Romania) May 2007:

"A Different Kind of Darkness", translated by Alexandru Maniu, a short story, maybe too short to allow further character development, but still perfectly illustrative for the science fiction genre. [...] It's hard to recount, the story has a sort of aura that protects it.[...] A sincere "BRAVO" to the editors for publishing this text. The young (and not so young) romanian writers need such kind of stories for inspiration. [...] David Langford is well known for his newsletter Ansible, and for holding no less then 27 Hugo Awards -- fan writer and for Ansible -- and will be a pleasent surprise for Romanian readers."

[The above was also translated by Alexandru Maniu -- my thanks to him for what must be a fine story translation in Helion magazine....]

Dr Mark Powlson on The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases in The Lancet (21 February 2004)

David Langford has produced well written, yet offensively amusing, gibberish about Edward Lear's penile bioluminescence, along with a rather troubling picture of those who write nonsense verse for children.

Faren Miller on The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases in Locus (2003)

Such a pathologically extensive trove has room for more subtle, psychological, and amusingly surreal material as well ... Dave Langford's deliberately dyslexic "Logrolling Ephesus" may be the funniest.

"Different Kinds of Darkness" won the 2001 Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

David G. Hartwell selected "Different Kinds of Darkness" for Year's Best SF 6 (2001).

James S. Reichert on "Different Kinds of Darkness" in Tangent

This is a wonderful tale with a fresh idea, and an odd point of view that is just right.

Greg Beatty on "Different Kinds of Darkness" in Strange Horizons

... a perfect example of what a short science fiction story should be: a single daringly original concept for which Langford has fully and lovingly worked out the implications.

Nick Gevers on "comp.basilisk FAQ" in SF Site

An agreeably savage vignette expressing the Dangers of Beholding the Unthinkable.

David G. Hartwell selected "A Game of Consequences" for Year's Best SF 4 (1999).

Gwyneth Jones on "A Game of Consequences" in The New York Review of Science Fiction

... shows us scientific curiosity as a burning glass, in a small tour de force with every detail contributing to the generation of both heat and light.

Gregory Feeley on "Leaks" in The Washington Post (1996)

An extremely good short story writer, whose work is too little known in this country ... one of the funniest things I have read in years.

John Clute on "Blit" in Interzone: The 4th Anthology (1989)

Stunning ... gives off a steely medusoid glare ... it hurts the eyes.

"Cube Root" won the 1986 British SF Association Award for Best Short Story.

"3.47 AM" was selected by Karl Edward Wagner for The Year's Best Horror: Series XII (1984).