Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Masterworks Spotlight: The Island of Doctor Moreau

17 February 2017

It seems classic SF novels by the Father of Science Fiction are a bit like buses . . .

Following on from Wednesday’s post about The Food of the Gods we are delighted to present our new edition of The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells’ terrifying tale of science run amok, with an introduction by Adam Roberts.

Edward Prendick is shipwrecked and finds himself stranded on an island in the Pacific. Here he meets the sinister Dr Moreau, a vivisectionst driven out of Britain in disgrace. And soon strange events cause Prendick to uncover the full horror of Dr Moreau’s activities on the island.

The Island of Doctor Moreau mixes discussion on the divide between humans and the animal kingdom and chilling macabre horror in an unrivalled fashion. Its question on how far science should go is one that rings true today as it did when it was first published.

 

The Island of Doctor Moreau is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of H G Wells’ work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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On This Day: Iain M. Banks

16 February 2017

On this day in 1954, Iain Menzies Banks was born in Dunfermline, Scotland. Do we need to explain who Iain M. Banks is? No, we do not. For many years he was Britain’s bestselling SF writer, a literary novelist of distinction, named by The Times as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 and – as noted in The Guardian in a piece written by his close friend and fellow SF writer, Ken MacLeod – a poet.

If the fates had been kinder, Iain Banks would be celebrating his 63rd birthday today – with a fine malt whisky, no doubt. He was taken from us far too soon, but we still have his books through which to remember him. Pick one up, read the first line and then try to put it down again – go on, just try:

This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game.

or

A little more than one hundred days into the fortieth year of her confinement, Dajeil Gelian was visited in her lonely tower overlooking the sea by an avatar of the great ship that was her home.

or

Near the time we both knew I would have to leave him, it was hard to tell which flashes were lightning and which came from the energy weapons of the Invisibles.

or especially

It was the day my grandmother exploded.

 

Did you manage to put the book down again? No. Nor did we.

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Masterworks Spotlight: The Food of the Gods

15 February 2017

We have to more of H G Wells’ science fiction masterpieces on the Gateway Home Page this week, and the first of them is his classicstory of unchecked scientific progress and unforseen consequences, The Food of the Gods.

Two scientists develop a foodstuff that causes unparalleled growth in animals and humans. The results of their experimentation lead to chaos and unforseen consequences throughout the land.

The Food of the Gods deals with many issues which are still present in science today and is a both witty and disturbing tale.

 

The Food of the Gods is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of H G Wells’ work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Posted in Authors, Masterworks
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In Lieu of Valentine’s Day: Spam of the Month!

14 February 2017

Actually, potentially Spam of the Year!

As with most blogs, we get a lot of spam in our comments. Luckily, our filter catches almost all of it and quarantines the rogue comments until we can dispose of them in an environmentally-friendly manner. Usually, it is semi-coherent rubbish and blatant attempts to harvest email addresses or sell . . . horrible things. But sometimes . . .  sometimes, it approaches poetic brilliance. We’d like to share just such an instance with you.

It’s like someone put a haiku, a holiday brochure and a business card into the Cern supercollider and this is what came out:

1 ⅼife sized herons rᥱlocate amongst the online maples,
palmettоs, sea cerealѕ, and meadow bright lawn in this scene coming from the entrance gates to tһe Ocan Area at The Shrine” great bistro at the Kiawah Island Sea Resort. John Boyd Johnson Metal Studios at.

I think there’s something there for all for us.

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Posted in Whimsy
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Happy Birthday, Maureen F. McHugh!

13 February 2017

Today is Maureen F. McHugh’s birthday. Nominated for an impressive sixty-one awards, she’s best-known for the extraordinary debut novel, China Mountain Zhang, which was shortlisted  for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and wonof the James Tiptree Memorial Award, the Locus Award for best first novel, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and the Lambda Award. It is a stunning piece of science fiction.

‘I am Zhang, alone with my light, and in that light I think for a moment that I am free.’

Imagine a world where Chinese Marxism has vanquished the values of capitalism and Lenin is the prophet of choice. A cybernetic world where the new charioteers are flyers, human-powered kites dancing in the skies over New York in a brief grab at glory. A world where the opulence of Beijing marks a new cultural imperialism, as wealthy urbanites flirt with interactive death in illegal speakeasies, and where Arctic research stations and communes on Mars are haunted by their own fragile dangers.

A world of fear and hope, of global disaster and slow healing, where progress can only be found in the cracks of a crumbling hegemony. This is the world of Zhang. An anti-hero who’s still finding his way, treading a path through a totalitarian order – a path that just might make a difference.

 

China Mountain Zhang is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can read about Maureen F. McHugh in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Happy Birthday, Maureen!

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Gateway Essentials: Jack L. Chalker

11 February 2017

Today marks twelve years since we lost one of modern SF and Fantasy’s great storytellers: Jack Laurence Chalker.

A fan from an early age, Chalker was also active as an editor, founding a small press in his early 20s, but it is as a writer that he is best known. Although his earliest novels were singletons, he soon turned his attention to the sequences that would dominate his career.

Having so many different series to choose from means there are many entry points to Jack L. Chalker’s work. For his Gateway Essentials, we’ve selected the first volumes of some of the best.

Midnight at the Well of Souls kicks off his signature series: The Well of Souls, which continues with Exiles at the Well of Souls, Quest for the Well of Souls, The Return of Nathan Brazil, Twilight at the Well of Souls: The Legacy of Nathan Brazil, Echoes of the Well of Souls, Shadow of the Well of Souls, Gods of the Well of Souls, The Sea Is Full of Stars and Ghost of the Well of Souls.

Spirits of Flux and Anchor begins the Soul Rider series, while River of the Dancing Gods is the first of The Dancing Gods books. The Rings of the Master sequence starts with Lords of the Middle Dark and When the Changewinds Blow is volume one of the Changewinds trilogy.

 

You can find these and more of Jack L. Chalker’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Remembering Frank Frazetta

9 February 2017

Frank Frazetta, one of the most influential artists in the fantasy field, was born on this day, in New York, in 1928.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes:

A native New Yorker, he studied at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts and, at the age of sixteen, began drawing professionally for Comics. He worked on the comic strips Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Flash Gordon, and (for nine years) Li’l Abner, and briefly drew his own comic strip, Johnny Comet. He also contributed to comic books published by DC Comics, EC Comics, and other companies; ironically, the most popular Superhero that he drew, DC’s the Shining Knight, had his body almost completely covered by armour, in stark contrast to the loinclothed barbarians that would come to define his popular image.

Although he would continue to work in comics until the ’60s, Frazetta will forever be identified with book covers. Beginning with cover and interior art for Ace‘s reissues of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan books, he practically invented the now-clichéd bare-chested, loin-clothed barbarian warrior. It has been said that the definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger; if that’s so, then surely fantasy art’s equivalent is the person who can hear the words ‘Conan the barbarian’ without thinking of Frank Frazetta.

Frazetta was fantasy art’s first superstar. By the end of the ’60s he was in demand to paint movie posters and album covers (ask your parents, kids!) as well as book covers, and his style gave rise to a myriad imitators. If a publisher couldn’t get Frazetta, their art directors would be instructed to find someone who could imitate his style. In the ’80s he worked with Ralph Bakshi to produce fantasy film Fire and Ice. But for your humble correspondent, he will forever be inked with the Hyborean Age:

Truly, Frank Frazetta was the first giant to bestride the SFF art world, destined to tread the jewelled kingdoms of lesser artists beneath his sandled feet.

 

Reposted from 2015.

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On This Day: Jerry Yulsman

8 February 2017

Writer and photographer Jerome (Jerry) Yulsman was born on this day in 1924. Beginning his career as a military photographer, Yulsman served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the Second World War, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to New York as a freelance photographer, chronicling the cultural rebellion and renaissance of post-war America in Greenwich Village. His photography appeared in Colliers, Pageant, Look, LIFE and Playboy, among others, and his 1957 image of Jack Kerouac, posed in the glow of a neighbourhood bar sign, has become one of 20th century photography’s iconic images.

Yulsman began writing in the early ’80s, producing a number of novels across different genres; his best-known work is the alternative history, Elleander Morning:

When the mysterious, beautiful Elleander Morning, travels through time to Vienna in 1913, her aim is not to visit the birthplace of Schubert and Strauss. Instead, she has come to assassinate a struggling young artist. His name: Adolf Hitler.

But 60 years on, long after Elleander has changed the path of the world, a mysterious book – the history of a terrible, global war that never was – threatens to unravel reality. As the horrific past – a past that never happened – begins to reassert itself, billions of lives lie in the balance . . .

 

Elleander Morning is a seductive, compelling alternate history in the tradition of The Man in the High Castle. It is available as a Fantasy Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can read more about Jerry Yulsman in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Happy Birthday, Karen Joy Fowler!

7 February 2017

The list of authors who are equally acclaimed from within the genre and by the mainstream literary establishment is a short one (an oversight that is almost – but not entirely – a one-sided affair). There’s J.G. Ballard, of course, and his friend Michael Moorcock; there’s Ursula K. Le Guin and Doris Lessing; Iain (M.) Banks and Brian Aldiss; Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, Susanna Clarke, Margaret Atwood and . . . well, we’re struggling now.

But one name that certainly belongs on that list – all the more so, following her shortlisting for the 2014 Man Booker Prize – is Karen Joy Fowler, to whom we wish a very Happy birthday, today.

Her genre credentials are impeccable, beginning with a Philip K. Dick Award shortlisting for her first collection, Artificial Things, followed by the 1987 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, moving through Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree and Sturgeon nominations for short fiction and her début novel Sarah Canary, and crowned by Nebula and World Fantasy Award wins for various pieces of short fiction and for her collection Black Glass. Her work continues to attract genre award shortlistings.

And on the mainstream side, her novel The Jane Austen Book Club was a New York Times bestseller and the basis for a well-received film of the same title, she has won and been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction and, of course, her most recent novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, was shortlisted for the Booker.

If all that wasn’t enough, Fowler was co-founder, with Pat Murphy, of the James Tiptree Jr Memorial Award.

If you’re new to Karen Joy Fowler’s work, we recommend starting with her SF Masterwork Sarah Canary (paperback | eBook) and then progressing to our selected Gateway Essentials title: the collection Black Glass.

You can find Karen Joy Fowler’s work via her Author page on the Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Happy Birthday, Karen!

 

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Remembering Jack Kirby

6 February 2017

Psst! Hey you! Yeah, you. You like comic books? Yeah? Then you should be sayin’ a big ‘thank you’ to the King.

Twenty-three years ago today, the man who was arguably the single greatest creative influence on modern comics (with apologies and a nod to Stan the Man), passed away in Thousand Oaks, California, at the age of 76.

Jacob Kurtzberg – known to the comics world as Jack Kirby – was responsible for the creation of most of the bedrock characters of the Marvel universe. With Stan Lee he created The Fantastic Four (and adversaries Doctor Doom and Galactus), The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor, The Avengers, Iron Man, the X-Men, the Silver Surfer and many more; with Joe Simon he created the moral lodestone of the Marvel Universe, Captain America.

Later, after a contractual dispute led to his leaving Marvel, he crossed New York to the DC offices, where he created such fan favourites as the Forever People and the New Gods – including DC‘s ultimate Big Bad, Darkseid. He had already created the Guardian and the Newsboy Legion, with Joe Simon, for the company, which was known at that time as National Comics. After some five years at DC, Kirby returned to Marvel where, among other projects, he worked on Marvel‘s adaptation (and expansion) of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jack Kirby was known to the comics community as ‘The King’, and if there was a list of contemporary comics creators who count him as a formative influence, then it would be longer than the collected back issues of The Avengers. He was that good and he was that important. The clue is in the nickname.

 

Jack Kirby (1917-1994). Long live the King.

 

Re-posted from 2015.

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