In his Culture novels, Iain Banks’ alter ego lain M Banks has created a universe in which civilisation: have risen and fallen, space has been colonised and multi-specles socialism is the order of the day. Science fiction has its detractors, but if you’re looking for new worlds you really shouldn’t be looking anywhere else.

1 Dune Frank Herbert’s books centre around a desert world where spice. produced by worms that can grow to hundreds of metres in length, is the greatest resource. It sounds silly, but Herbert engages productively with both geopolitics and artificial intelligence, and the series has spawned a host of computer games, a David Lynch movie and various spin-off novels. 2 Stemming" Tired of faded Tolkien photocopies? Michael Moorcock’s novels revolve around Elric, a drug-fuelled, magic-using albino with a demonic sword and a hatred for the empire his ancestors founded. His colourful world is overhung by a strong, brutal sense of fate. Heavy metallers. needless to say, are big fans.

3 Foundation Fuelled by a diet of pulp magazines after his family moved from Russia to the US, Isaac Asimov began his definitive sci-fi series. set in the dark ages of a future civilisation, in the 19403. The books tailed off, but the early volumes’ success, and Asimov's intellectual approach fundamentally changed the genre.

4 The Man in the High Castle Philip K Dick's fiction has been made into films like Blade Runner and Minority Report and this 1962 novel, a dark picture of a post-war w0rld dominated by the Axis powers, is both a interesting novel of ideas and a hugely readable book of sci-fl that helped define the alternative history genre.

5 Ills Dark Materials Philip Pullman's trilogy is a great adventure story and a fascinating, self-conscious act of creation. Pullman reacted against the pious attitude to childhood and heavy- handed religious allegory of CS Lewis’ Narnia series, and his novels brilliantly negotiate myth and puberty. The hard-as-nails talking bears are pretty cool too. Hollywood's version is due in 2007. I Iain Banks, 19 Aug, 8pm, £8 (£6).



South African legend builds an alternative history

Among the many coups pulled off by the organisers of this year’s Book Festival, the most exciting is a rare appearance by Andre P Brink, South African author of A Dry White Season and Rumours of Rain and regular contender for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Brink’s latest novel, Praying Mantis, deals with the origins of racial tension in South Africa through the neglected historical figure of Cupido Cockroach, the first member of the Khoi (or ‘Hottentot’) South African bushmen tribe to be ordained a priest at the Cape of Good Hope. The book has been some 20 years in the making.

‘My fascination with the character began when, in the early 805, | first read an article on Cupido Cokroach in a historical journal,’ Brink explains. ‘What struck me particularly was that, as far as historians were concerned, Cupido only became of interest when he was baptised - that is, when he entered “white” history. Naturally, that meant I had to start imagining the character before he was drawn into that history. And inevitably it had to foreground the crucial question about the whole world Cupido came from.’

Brink has a reputation as a perfectionist, and is


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rumoured to spend years revisiting and rewriting his work before submitting it for publication. lntriguingly, the author claims to have finally completed Praying Mantis as a present to himself for his 70th birthday.

‘Seventy as a milestone seemed to me so daunting that I had to invent a means of easing the rites of passage,’ he says. ‘I do spend a long time revising, but I almost never revisit books already published. The next one is always more interesting than the previous and every time the process has its share of heaven and hell. Every time I remember Eliot - “Every attempt is a wholly new start/ and a different kind of failure.” This said, I think I enjoyed the writing of Praying Mantis more than anything I’ve experienced before.’

Now, having experienced censorship several times in the 19705, Brink excitedly embraces the literary freedoms brought by post-Apartheid South Africa. ‘There was, undoubtedly, a certain exhilaration about trying to outwit the censors, to stay one step ahead of the security police all the time. But the feeling of being able to write about anything and everything is enthralling. Especially as I feel there are enough stories lying around in this country clamouring to be written, to keep me busy for at least another 70 years.’ (Allan Radcliffe)

I 20 Aug. 7 7.30am. £7 {£5}. 27 Aug, 7. 30pm, £8 ([6).

other values. be they enVironmental, sooal or worker safety. all of these things must be means to the end of

Do you work for a psychopath’? That was the question posed by Joel Bakan and his fellow filmmakers in the frighteningly perSuasive documentary The Corporation. Two years on from the film's release. Bakan, a law professor in Canada and author of the accompanying book on the pathological pursun of profit and power. says that big busniess' humanitarian disregard has actually increased. “There has been a deepening embrace of the idea of corporate SOClal responSibility.' he argues. ‘Maior companies are presenting themselves as sooally and enVironmentally responSIble. yet Without any genuine commitment to those values.

'As a legal entity. the corporation has an obligation to always put its shareholders interest first. So any

creating wealth; they can never be ends in themselves. It's illegal for them to operate otherWise. And this is somehow seen as a Justification for greater deregulation of government.‘ In Cochabamba, BOIIVla. the government even went so far as to privatise the rain water to International Water Ltd. which charged the poor a quarter of their income for this most basic necessny. And though Bakan believes there is now greater awareness of the problem. he maintains that 'we're movmg in the wrong direction if we trust them to police themselves. Recommended reading: The Corporation, Bakan's accessible but damning critique of multinationals. iGiacomo Ribisi) I 79Aug, 7.30pm, [‘7 $5).