He was introduced to science fiction as a pre-teen by reading an A. E. van Vogt short story in Astounding. He later described the experience as being more significant and long-lasting than taking LSD. In 1950 he joined the group Irish Fandom which met at James White's house. The group was very influential in fandom and produced the fanzines Hyphen (with his fanzine column called "The Glass Bushel") and Slant (to which he contributed a large part of the artwork). He acquired the nickname "BoSh" during this period. He also was one of the editors on the one-shot 'Our 'Zine. He was a world-champion Ghoodminton player, always ranking in the top 3-4 worldwide.
Originally trained as a structural engineer, he worked as an aircraft designer for Short and Harland, then as science correspondent for The Belfast Telegraph and then as publicity officer for Vickers Shipbuilding before starting to write full-time. During the Troubles, Shaw and his family moved from Northern Ireland to England, where he produced the majority of his work. Sadie died suddenly in 1991.
He had nearly lost his sight through illness and suffered migraine-induced visual disturbances throughout his life. He married Nancy Tucker in 1995 and went to the US to live with her, then returned to England in the last months of his life. Shaw died of cancer on 11 February 1996.
Following his early membership of Irish Fandom, he formed the Belfast Triangle, living in Oblique House with Walt Willis, and James White, he always remained a keen reader of and contributor to fanzines. For many years, at Eastercon, he would deliver a humorous speech (often one of his Serious Scientific Talks (which weren't)); these were eventually collected in The Eastercon Speeches (1979) and A Load of Old Bosh (1995), which included a similar talk from the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton. (Serious Science was a smaller collection published by Eve Harvey and Marc Ortleib.)
With Walt Willis, he co-wrote The Enchanted Duplicator in 1954. He was the world's greatest practitioner of Fansmanship and did the drafting for the design of the Tucker Hotel. He received the Doc Weir Award in 1980 and three FAAN Awards for Best Fan Writer.
He was well-loved and sought after wearing both his fan and pro hats. The BoSh Fund was created to bring him to Noreascon and The Shaw Fund to bring him to Aussiecon 2. See also Bob Shaw Appreciation Magazine.
Professionally, he published his first story in 1951, and is best known for "Light of Other Days" (ASF, Aug 1966), the story that introduced the concept of slow glass. Orbitsville and its two sequels deal with the discovery of a habitable shell completely surrounding a star, and the consequences for humanity. The first in this trilogy won him the 1976 British SF Association Award.
Other Awards, Honors and GoHships:
- 1974 — Tynecon
- 1976 — SfanCon 7, British SF Association Award
- 1977 — SfanCon 8, Faan Award for Best Fan Writer
- 1978 — Windycon V, Faan Award for Best Fan Writer
- 1979 — Novacon 9 West, toastmaster for Seacon '79, the 1979 Worldcon, Faan Award for Best Fan Writer
- 1980 — Doc Weir Award
- 1981 — Novacon 11, DeepSouthCon 19
- 1982 — Norwescon V, Plergbcon, Shoestringcon 4
- 1986 — Not-Anokon 8, toastmaster for Confederation, the 1986 Worldcon
- 1987 — RiverCon XII
- 1989 — Picocon 7, Swancon 14, toastmaster at Swancon 14 and VCON 17
- 1990 — DeepSouthCon 28
- 1994 — DeepSouthCon 32, Rebel Award
- 1995 — Confabulation, Novacon 25, Loscon 22, President, fwa
- 1996 — Nova Award for Best Fan