Stephen Baxter (author)

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Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter 2005.jpg
Stephen Baxter at the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention, 2005.
Born (1957-11-13) 13 November 1957 (age 64)
Liverpool, England
Occupation Writer
Nationality British
Genre Hard SF, Alternate history

Stephen Baxter (born 13 November 1957) is a prolific British hard science fiction author. He has degrees in mathematics and engineering.

Writing style

Strongly influenced by SF pioneer H. G. Wells, Baxter has been a distinguished Vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society since 2006. His fiction falls into three main categories of original work plus a fourth category of working extending other authors' writing; each has a different basis, style and tone.

Baxter's "Future History"[1] mode is based on research into hard science. It encompasses the monumental Xeelee Sequence, which as of September 2015 is composed of seven novels (including the Destiny's Children series), plus five novellas and 47 short pieces, all of which fit into a single timeline stretching from the Big Bang singularity of the past to his Timelike Infinity singularity of the future.[2] These stories begin in the present day and end when the Milky Way galaxy collides with Andromeda five billion years in the future.[2] The central narrative is that of Humanity rising and evolving to become the second most powerful race in the universe, next to the god-like Xeelee. Character development tends to take second place to the depiction of advanced theories and ideas, such as the true nature of the Great Attractor, naked singularities and the great battle between Baryonic and Dark Matter lifeforms. The Manifold Trilogy is another example of Baxter's future history mode, even more conceptual than the Xeelee sequence – each novel is focused on a potential explanation of the Fermi Paradox. The two-part disaster series Flood and Ark (followed by three additional stories, "Earth III," "Earth II," and "Earth I") which also fits into this category, where catastrophic events unfold in the near future and Humanity must adapt to survive in three radically different planetary environments. In 2013, Baxter will release his short story collection entitled Universes which will feature stories set in Flood/Ark, Jones & Bennet and Anti-Ice universes.[3] Baxter has signed a contract for two new books due in 2013 and 2014, titled Proxima and Ultima, both of which are names of planets.[4]

Stephen Baxter at the Science-Fiction-Tage NRW in Dortmund, Germany, March 1997

A second category in Baxter's work is based on readings in evolutionary biology and human/animal behaviour. Elements of this appear in his future histories (especially later works like the Destiny's Children series and Flood/Ark), but here it is the focus. The major work in this category is Evolution, which imagines the evolution of humanity in the Earth's past and future. The Mammoth Trilogy, written for young adults, shares similar themes and concerns as it explores the present, past, and future of a small herd of mammoths found surviving on an island in the Arctic Ocean.

A third category of Baxter's fiction is alternate history, based on research into history. These stories are more human, with characters portrayed with greater depth and care. This includes his NASA Trilogy, which incorporates a great deal of research into NASA and its history, and the Time's Tapestry series, which features science-fictional interventions into our past from an alternate-history future. The novel Anti-Ice is an earlier example of Baxter's blending of alternate history with science fiction. His most recent work in this direction is the Northland Trilogy, an alternate prehistory that begins with Stone Spring, set ten thousand years ago in the Stone Age, followed by Bronze Summer and Iron Winter, set in alternate versions of the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. In 2009, Baxter became a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, the first former winner among the panel.[5]

Another category, outside of the main body of Baxter's independent work, is sequels and installments of science-fiction classics. His first novel to achieve wide recognition (winning three literary awards) was The Time Ships, an authorised sequel to H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. The Time Odyssey series, a trilogy co-authored with Arthur C. Clarke, is connected to Clarke's four Space Odyssey novels. Another novel is based on a synopsis written by Clarke, The Light of Other Days. Baxter has also published a Doctor Who novel, The Wheel of Ice.

In 2010, Baxter began working on a new series with Terry Pratchett.[6] This collaboration has produced four books, The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, and The Long Utopia.

Baxter has also written non-fiction essays and columns for such publications as Critical Wave and the British SF Association's Matrix.

Literary awards

Award Name Year For book Short stories printed in
BSFA Award SF Novel 1995[7] The Time Ships  
Sidewise Award for Best Short Form Alternate History 1995 Brigantia's Angels Traces
John W. Campbell Award 1996[8] The Time Ships  
Philip K. Dick Award 1996[8] The Time Ships  
Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis for Best Foreign Language Novel 1996 The Time Ships  
Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History 1996 Voyage  
BSFA Award Short Fiction 1997 War Birds Phase Space
Premio Gigamesh 1997 The Time Ships
SF Chronicle Award Best Novelette 1998 Moon Six Traces
Analog Award Best Short Story 1998 Moon-Calf Phase Space
Philip K. Dick Award 1999[9] Vacuum Diagrams  
Seiun Award for Best Foreign Language Novel 1999 The Time Ships  
Analog Award Best Short Story 2000 Sheena 5 Phase Space
Locus Poll Award Best Novelette 2000 Huddle Phase Space
Asimov's Readers' Poll Novelette 2001 On the Orion Line Resplendent
BSFA Award Non-Fiction 2001 Omegatropic  
Analog Award Best Short Story 2002 The Hunters of Pangaea Evolution & The Hunters of Pangaea
BSFA Award Short Fiction 2004 Mayflower II Resplendent

Baxter's story Last Contact was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for best short story.

Personal life

Baxter was born 13 November 1957 in Liverpool, England and studied mathematics at Cambridge University, obtained a doctorate in engineering at Southampton University, and received an MBA from Henley Management College. Baxter taught maths, physics, and information technology before becoming a full-time author in 1995. He is also a chartered engineer and fellow of the British Interplanetary Society.[10]



  1. Baxter uses this term in the foreword of Vacuum Diagrams.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "The Xeelee Sequence – Timeline". Retrieved 29 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Stephen Baxter – Universes cover art and synopsis". Retrieved 12 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Stephen Baxter: News". Retrieved 6 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Stephen Baxter". Index of Judges and Jurors. 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "The Long Earth". SFX Article. 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "1995 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 15 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "1996 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 15 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "1999 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 15 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links