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To be published by The Canal Press, August 2024
(Book launch at World Science Fiction Convention, Glasgow)

"I heard a story once," George said, a melancholy look forming in his eye, "about a man who was almost marooned in space by his own beard."


This seemed to me to have little or no relevance to the list I had made, but I was sufficiently taken aback by the discovery that I would not be permitted bacon to break my fast while aboard the ship that I made no protest.


Harris's hand went to his moustache, in a kind of protective way. "However did that occur, George?"


"This chap," George said, "went up to space with a full beard, but for some reason while he was on one of the stations, he bought himself a safety-razor as a souvenir."


"A safety-razor?"


"You can buy almost anything as a souvenir on an orbital station," George explained. "It's like Paris. But this man decided on a safety-razor rather than a pair of nutcrackers, or a money-box in the shape of the satellite, -- I don't know why. But buy it he did. And after leaving the station, finding time hanging slowly on the trip, he thought he’d try the razor out, and shaved his beard right off, there in his sphere."


George paused at this moment, and shook his head, as though to wonder at the folly of this formerly bearded traveller.


I still failed to see George's point. "But how could that maroon him?"


"He had enough of a beard," George said, "that the trimmings from it floated everywhere, because of there being no gravity, don't you see? And some of them got into the controls and jammed the gears that operated the Cavorite panels, so he couldn't steer the thing properly, and he was stranded for days until they found him, and then they had to come and tow him back into the station, before he drifted off into the ecliptic never to be seen again."


"By the time he'd paid for the tow and the repairs to his controls," said Harris, "I should expect he wished he'd bought the nutcrackers instead."


"Wouldn't the pieces of nut-shell get into the controls?" I asked. Harris gave me an exasperated look; I can't say why.


"But we sha'n't have to worry," said George, "for we are none of us beavers."


"We soon shall be," I pointed out, "if we are forbidden to shave in space."


"Oh," said George, "I don't think it matters if it's just your daily toilet. The man I was talking of had a beard like Lord Salisbury."

(Extract from Chapter 3)

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