Bayley, Barrington J(ohn) (UK, 1937- )
Pseudonyms: P(eter).F. Woods, Alan Aumbry, John Diamond, Michael Barrington (when writing with Michael Moorcock), Simon Barclay
English Science fiction author, who apparently never made it into
the mainstream (or perhaps he did, and I'm too young). Author of
several novels and numerous short stories, as well as juveniles and
non SF work. As far as I know, all of his SF novels play in the far
future; several of them are space operas.
Bayley's SF is idea-driven. Novels with interesting ways to treat
time travel, or about robots that have no consciousness but could get
it from human souls, or about clothes that "make the man" in a
very direct way. His endings aren't always cheerful
Fanatics of hard SF will sometimes have to shut their eyes; hard
science doesn't play a big role in BJB's books, but sometimes he's just
being weird - in The Grand Wheel, a book about gambling and
other games, there are people who study "randomatics", a science
beyond our own statistics. Nowadays people cannot find a pattern in the
sequence of numbers of, say, a roulette table, but...
But that was before the advent of randomatics, the
modern science of chance and number, had rendered all such devices
obsolete. They were now regarded as primitive, almost
prehistoric. Scarne could have walked into any old-style casino or
gambling arcade and, armed with the randomatic equations, would have
been guaranteed to win, moderately but consistently, over the space of
an hour or two.
Randomatics rested on certain unexpected discoveries that had
been made in the essential mystery of number. It had been discovered
that, below a certain very high number, permutating a set of
independent elements did not produce a sequence that was strictly
random. Preferred sub-structures appeared in any 'chance' run, and
these could be predicted. Only when the number of independent elements
entered the billions - the so-called 'billion bracket' - did
predictability vanish. This was the realm of 'second-order chance',
distinguished from first-order chance in that it was chance in the old
sense: pure probability, unadulterated by calculable runs and
(from The Grand Wheel, p. 8)
That doesn't sound like someone who knows what he's talking
about. But then - it doesn't matter, it's a good book! The book is
about the tricks and cheats involved in cards gambling with a superior
alien race, and how to work out what sort of ideal game to play in the
first place, the randomatics bit isn't actually important for the
plot. Other original ideas are. It's a bit unfair to be quoting only
this, but showing a flaw is easy in a quote, showing a good idea would
mean too many spoilers.
What I like about BJB's books - he can avoid the cliches, write a
good story with an interesting premise. This is even true of the time
travel books (Collision Course and Fall of Chronopolis).
Bibliography (only novels for now):
Sources: the bibliography and pseudonyms were copies from
Astounding Worlds of Barrington Bayley!, at
. The rest is my own opinion.
*: So how did I get to know BJB? I was an Angband addict,
and saw The Rod of Light for 2 Dutch guilders, at the book
market in Deventer. And rods of light are very useful in Angband, so
I had to have it...