columns, essays, reviews and more

Ebook edition published May 2016Ebook sales page

Starcombing -- trade paperback cover

A Locus Recommended Reading List nonfiction selection for 2009.

This is all newly collected 21st-century work: 85 pieces with added annotations, occasional updates and a detailed index. More information can be found in the jacket blurb and preface below. As indicated on the trade paperback cover to the left, there is an introduction kindly contributed by the very erudite Adam Roberts.

Cosmos/Wildside press release (PDF)


Starcombing contains eighty-five newly collected pieces of David Langford's witty commentary on the SF/fantasy scene - columns, articles, reviews, essays, even a few short-short stories from the famous 'Futures' page in Nature. Compulsive reading, crammed with insights and laughs.

What they said about his previous nonfiction collections:

Adam Roberts on The SEX Column (2006 Hugo nominee for Best Related Book): '... this is as good an overview of SF, publishing, fandom and myriad related topics through the 90s and the beginning of the noughties as I can think of, and its writing is consistently on the Chesterton/Wodehouse side of things, not only in its inherent likeability, but in its sheer technical excellence. Nobody I can think of in genre, and few writers working today, writes comic prose as well as Langford.'

Michael Dirda of The Washington Post on Up Through an Empty House of Stars: 'Langford has been for years science fiction's chief critical gadfly, reading vast numbers of books and writing about them with authority, almost unimaginable zest and a lively blend of sass and sympathy.'

Gary K. Wolfe of Locus on Up Through an Empty House of Stars: ?Langford is a consistently entertaining stylist who takes his material seriously, but not too seriously, and who after nearly three decades remains a valuable and eminently sane voice in the field.'

The Alien Online: 'Anybody interested in recent sf would do better reading The Complete Critical Assembly and Up Through An Empty House of Stars than any of the literary critical histories of the genre currently available.'

Buy this book. and win 28 Hugos as its author did! (Caution: You may also need to invest in a time machine and change your name to David Langford.)

From the "Author's Note" preface

Once again, here's a mass of Langford nonfiction. This time around I'm imitating the example of the great Tim Powers, who confused a good many readers and critics by making his urban fantasy Earthquake Weather (1997) a double sequel, following on from both Last Call (1992) and the seemingly unrelated Expiration Date (1995). Thus the book you hold is the sequel to both the essay/review collection Up Through an Empty House of Stars (2003) and the SFX magazine column collection The SEX Column (2005) ... with a few bonus items thrown in for a total of 85.

My SFX columns, still appearing in every issue – thirteen times a year, with occasional extras – continue directly from that previous collection with number 129 dated April 2005. Longer essays and reviews not collected in Up Through an Empty House of Stars naturally start somewhat earlier, thanks to the two-year gap between collections and, indeed, the fact that I mislaid a few items that should really have been in House of Stars. Just for fun I've also included four very short stories from the ‘Futures' fiction slot of Nature and Nature Physics.

As for the title, Starcombing is a more or less inevitable homage to one of my favourite shorts by the great Alfred Bester: ‘The Starcomber', first published in F&SF in 1954 as ‘5,271,009'. [...]


Charles de Lint, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December 2009

Langford writes with a wry humor ...

I have to say that his prose is addictive. Most of the pieces are so short that it seems nothing to read just one more and then find that a couple of hours have gone by and you're well into the book. And of course, having been involved in the field for as long as he has, Langford's a well-informed writer and always has something interesting to say, whether he's writing an essay on James Branch Cabell or the experience of speaking at a Harry Potter convention.

Adam Roberts, Punkadiddle, 5 June 2009

Not a review of David Langford's Starcombing (2009)

There's been such a kerfuffle, recently, about the venality and rank corruption of the world of SF book reviewing that I may not review this title. Full disclosure is not covered by 'Langford is a friend of mine', not least because Langford's many friends are so ubiquitous throughout SF&F. More, praising words from a review I wrote of an earlier item of Langfordiana are quoted on the back cover of this book. More more, I am the author of the book's 500-word preface, in which I discourse admiringly upon the Length of David's, uh, Ford. This trio of facts perfectly disqualifies me from commenting upon the volume.

It's shame, because it means I won't be able to set down here how enormously enjoyable the whole book is; how the old prose is as lively as ever, the coverage of topics (these are collected reviews, columns and other pieces) as widely spread, the critical intelligence as acute. I won't say that everybody seriously interested in the current state of the genre will want to have this on their shelves. I am not recommending this volume to you. You ought to buy a copy, but I'm not telling you to.