Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Gateway Essentials: Time is the Simplest Thing

22 June 2016

For some time now, we have been singing the praises of the interpid Time Traveller from the excellent Galactic Journey site (he who reviews the SF of 55 years ago as if it were coming out new).

And just last week, we announced the Gateway Essentials programme, designed to help guide readers through the intimidating number of titles we have available.

So, imagine our pleasure to discover that that very same Time Traveller decided to review one of our Essentials just last week!  The story in question is a four-part Clifford D. Simak novel, serialised in Analog in the April – July 1961 issues. The story was called The Fisherman, but we know it better by its novel title: Time is the Simplest Thing.

Without setting foot on another planet, people like Shep Blaine were reaching out to the stars with their minds, telepathically contacting strange beings on other worlds. But even Blaine was unprepared for what happened when he communed with the soul of an utterly alien being light years from Earth. After recovering from his experience, he becomes a dangerous man: not only has he gained startling new powers – but he now understands that humankind must share the stars.

Hunted through time and space by those who he used to trust, Blaine undergoes a unique odyssey that takes him through a nightmarish version of small-town America as he seeks to find others who share his vision of a humane future. Blaine has mastered death and time. Now he must master the fear and ignorance that threatened to destroy him!

If you want to find out what Clifford D. Simak is all about, you could do a lot worse than read Time is the Simplest Thing, a book of which the Time Traveller said:

Still, it’s an unique book, one that I suspect will contend for a Hugo this year.

Was he right?


You can find more of Clifford D. Simak’s work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

And, of course, you should add Galactic Journey to your RSS reader for an as-it-happened eye’s view of the best (and, to be honest, worst) SFF of 55 years ago . . .


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Gateway Essentials: Clifford D. Simak

20 June 2016

A regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction throughout the influential John W. Campbell era, Clifford Donald Simak produced a body of highly regarded work, winning the Nebula and three Hugo Awards, and is best known for his story suite of future histories: City.

We have had City available as an SF Masterworks paperback for some time and recently added it as an SF Gateway eBook, and it remains the best starting point for readers wanting to explore Simak’s works. And now, we can flesh out that map even more with the addition of several Gateway Essentials, so those who want to know where to go once they (we’re really sorry about this) leave the City:

You can find more of Clifford D. Simak’s 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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Gateway Essentials: James Tiptree, Jr

16 June 2016

So maybe you’ve heard about this James Tiptree, Jr fellow but apart from the fact that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’, the only thing you know about her is that there’s an award in her honour. Certainly an excellent reason to dive in to Tiptree’s oeuvre, but where to start?

In the best example yet of why we choose the titles we do for the SF Masterworks series, the best place to start with James Tiptree, Jr is the collection widely regarded to be her finest (and one of the finest in all SF) is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook

For a decade, Alice Sheldon produced an extraordinary body of work under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr, until her identity was exposed in 1977. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever presents the finest of these stories and contains the Nebula Award-winning ‘Love is the Plan the Plan is Death’; Hugo Award-winning novella ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’; ‘Houston, Houston, Do You Read’? – winner of both the Hugo and Nebula – and of course the story for which she is best known: ‘The Women Men Don’t See’.

This is a true masterwork – an overview of one of SF’s true greats at the very height of her powers.

 

Tiptree’s reputation rests largely on her short fiction. In fact, she only published two novels, but it’s these we’ve chosen as her Essentials, to be enjoyed after experiencing the wonders of her short stories:

As is customary, we end by pointing out that . . .

You can find more of James Tiptree, Jr’s work via her Author page on the Gateway website, and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

. . . and in this case, we really recommend that you do read about her.  It’s a fascinating story – from her childhood as a ‘character’ in one of her mother’s books, to her time at the Pentagon and in the CIA, to the controversy over whether ‘James Tiptree, Jr’ could possibly be a woman (categorically not, stated one very famous SF writer) and the effect Sheldon’s ‘unmasking would have on her writing, to her tragic death. In many ways, Alice Sheldon’s life was as remarkable as her work.

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Gateway Essentials: Richard Cowper

15 June 2016

So, now that we know how this works, here’s your Essential introduction to one of the unique voices of British science fiction: John Middleton Murry, Jr, who wrote his best work under the pen name Richard Cowper . . .

The son of the famous critic John Middleton Murry, Cowper announced himself to the science fiction world in 1967 with Breakthrough, which found favour for a subtlety and richness of characterisation not seen in most contemporary SF. But it was the idea of a transformed future England became his signature leitmotif and it is this theme that is explored in what is generally considered his best stand-alone work, The Twilight of Briareus and which informs his crowning achievement, the Corlay sequence: the introductory novella ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and the novels The Road to Corlay, A Dream of Kinship and A Tapestry of Time.

You can find more of Richard Cowper’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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Gateway Essentials: James Blish

14 June 2016

As we’re sure you know, yesterday we announced the creation of the Gateway Essentials list. Its continuing mission: to make it easier for us to make it easier for you to find your way through the 3,000-plus titles and  300-plus authors currently on the Gateway. By identifying the key titles for each author, we hope to eliminate (or, at least, greatly reduce) the dilemma of ‘overchoice‘ and provide you with an accessible *ahem* gateway to our authors’ works.

Yesterday, we explained the theory; today, we start to illustrate the practice. Here’s how it works for James Blish:

We have two James Blish works in the SF Masterworks series:

We’ve select our SF Masterworks to be the major touchpoint works of (predominantly) post-war SF, so, if you’re interested in James Blish, we think these two books are the best places to start. But if you want to go deeper into his oeuvre, you’ll be wanting the Gateway Essentials.

First up for the James Blish Essentials, we’ve selected the four linked short novels that make up Cities in Flight, so if you want to read them individually (or even only want to read one of them, for some mad reason), you can find them in the Gateway Essentials:

 

eBook
 
eBook
 
eBook

eBook

And once you’re done exploring the spindizzies, you can take stroll through the linked stories telling of mankind’s spread throughout the stars in The Seedling Stars (an important early text in SF’s treatment of genetic engineering, which includes one of the all-time great SF stories, ‘Suface Tension’) or enjoy some of Blish’s more metaphysyical work in Black Easter and The Day After Judgement, in which he treats one of Fantasy’s central tropes – black magic – as science.

And if you still want more James Blish (and who could blame you?) we hope that by this stage, with eight of his books secure in your temporal lobe, you’ll be able to make your way through the rest of his titles on your own cognizance.

And there we have it: your pathway to personal Blish.*

 

You can find more of James Blish’s work via his Author page on the Gateway website, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

* We’re really sorry.

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Announcing: The Gateway Essentials!

13 June 2016

You’ll have seen some new cover styles popping up wherever you buy your eBooks and you might have wondered what, if anything, they meant?

We’re glad you asked! This week, we launch a new initiative on the SF Gateway: the Gateway Essentials.

There are now more than 3,000 titles in the SF Gateway.  Our aim – which was to build the most comprehensive backlist library of sf and fantasy ever assembled – has in large part been achieved.  Of course, there are authors we would love to feature who are unavailable because the rights are held elsewhere, or because we haven’t yet been able to finalise an agreement, but we’ve achieved more than we could have hoped for when we launched Gateway in 2011.

It was always part of our promise to authors that if we included their work we would include all of their available work (provided they were happy for it to be republished).  Often an author’s favourite among their backlist is not their bestselling or most famous book.

But that very success has created its own problem of discoverability within those 3,000 titles, and to help with this we are launching Gateway Essentials – around 500 of the 3,000 titles which we would recommend as the first titles to try from a wide variety of the authors.

If you have never read Robert Silverberg (say) and want to sample his work, the first port of call should probably be his titles in our SF Masterworks collection.  But there are only three titles (so far) – The Book of Skulls, Dying Inside and Downward to the Earth – and excellent as they all are, Silverberg has been at the top of his profession for more than half a century and there are more than 80 of his titles in Gateway.

Where to go next?  The Silverberg titles in the Gateway Essentials list are one answer.  There are twenty of them, which we have selected for initial inclusion, any of which should potentially appeal to any reader.  We have given them all new and distinctive covers.

Once you’ve raced your way through those, there are still plenty of Silverberg novels and collections left to try, but we’d hope that, by then, you’ll know his work well enough to read the descriptions of the others and decide which to enjoy next.  And if you want to try other authors, their Gateway Essentials titles (and Masterworks, if any) provide a tried and tested first experience.

To begin with, we’ve chosen to spotlight on our homepage four titles whose covers have received a face lift, marking them out as books we think make good introductions to the authors in question:

Over the coming weeks we’ll be spotlighting more Gateway Essentials on the blog, and you should see the covers update on the Gateway website. These new editons are already available via all of your favourite retail sites. We’ll be working away to add the Gateway Essentials to the authors’ pages with the goal of making it easier than ever for you to discover accessible entry points to our authors and to navigate the bewildering array of titles we publish.

Happy reading!

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But Will I Like It: Earthlight

10 June 2016

With the front pages currently obsessed with whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union and the back pages obsessed with how long England, Wales and Northern Ireland can remain in the European Championships, Gateway calls for some perspective. And you don’t get better perspective than viewing things from the Moon! With that in mind, we thought we’d send you into the weekend with another of our mini-reviews; this one features Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel of political tensions between the Earth and the Moon . . .

Arthur C. Clarke was the master of the near-future exploration of the Solar System novel. Earthlight has two of the most interesting ideas in this territory – how do you rescue a lot of people from a spacecraft when they have no spacesuits and no airlock, and how do you get around the inverse-square law with a beam weapon. Earthlight is set on a 2001-like moon, two hundred years hence when humans have spread throughout the inner solar system and the colonies have started to resent the economic control exerted over them by the Earth, while the Earth resents the drain on resources they represent. War looms inevitable. The technology is a curious mix of 1940s naivety about atomic power and weapons, 1950s electronics and IT, 1960s monorails, current oil-well drilling techniques and futuristic space drives. Read, think, and then find and read A Fall of Moondust.

Arthur C Clarke is famous for his 1945 Wireless World paper, ‘Extra-Terrestrial Relays’, proposing the use of geostationary satellites for global communications. The idea was unpatentable because of its impossibility. 20 years later Intelsat 1 was launched.


You can find more of Arthur C. Clarke’s 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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Happy Birthday, Joe Haldeman!

9 June 2016

Only a handful of writers have won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for the same novel, twice.  Today we wish a very Happy Birthday to one of those writers: the winner of the 1976 Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Forever War and, two decades later, the 1998 Hugo and the 1999 Nebula Awards with Forever Peace.

It is, of course, the great Joe Haldeman, winner of five Hugo Awards (three for best novel), five Nebulas (three for best novel), a World Fantasy, a James Tiptree Jr Memorial and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, among many others.

Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (SF Masterwork paperback | SF Gateway eBook) was the book chosen, back in the dim, barely-remembered years of the 20th century, to launch the SF Masterworks series, Gollancz’s collection of the great milestone novels of 20th science fiction, which is a fitting indication of the high regard in which it’s held. It’s a wonderful book – very much the antithesis to the prevailing wind of pro-war, gung-ho military SF that preceded it – and very much informed by the author’s experiences during his tour of duty in Vietnam.

In The Forever War interstellar travel is effected by “collapsar jumps”, which are subjectively instantaneous but which in fact take many years to accomplish (> Relativity), so that they work as a kind of one-way Time Travel; propelled by this cruel device to temporally distant battle theatres on planet after planet, soldiers are doomed to total alienation from the civilization for which they are fighting, and if they make too large a jump face the risk of coming into battle with antiquated Weapons. Their deracination is savage, their camaraderie cynically manipulated. As a portrait of the experience of Vietnam the book is remarkable; as Military SF it is seminal.

~ from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

But Joe Haldeman is far more than ‘the guy who wrote The Forever War‘ – there’s Mindbridge (Hugo nominated), All My Sins Remembered, The Hemingway Hoax, Camouflage (Nebula and Tiptree winner), The Accidental Time Machine (Nebula nominated), the Carmen Dula sequence (Marsbound, Starbound, Earthbound – handily collected in our Joe Haldeman SF Gateway Omnibus), and a host of short fiction.


Happy Birthday, Joe!


You can read about Joe Haldeman in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and find his work via his Author page on the SF Gateway website.


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Happy Birthday, Kate Wilhelm!

8 June 2016

Today we wish a very happy birthday to one of modern science fiction’s most influential figures: Kate Wilhelm.

Kate Wilhelm has been nominated for the John W. Campbell, James Tiptree, Jr and World Fantasy Awards, won the Nebula Award three times, the Hugo Award twice – including the best novel Hugo for her most famous work Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang – and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003.

In addition to her impeccable credentials as a writer, Kate Wilhelm was one of the prime movers behind the famed Clarion Writers’ Workshop and its progenitor, the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference, along with her late husband, the author and critic Damon Knight.


Happy Birthday, Kate!


Kate Wilhelm’s SF work is available via her author page on the SF Gateway and you can read about her in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.


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Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: June 2016

7 June 2016

 

 

‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov

 

Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: ‘The Ruin’

Many great works of science fiction, from Wells’s The Time Machine onward, have attempted to portray the far future, and in reading them we look backward by the brilliant light of those distant epochs to see our own era, outlined with the vividness that surrounds something very strange, something utterly unfamiliar. Viewing the ruins of our own culture through the eyes of the denizens of the future creates a powerful effect. Thus the famous final shot of Planet of the Apes, the Statue of Liberty buried neck-deep in the sands of what we had thought was an alien world . . .

 

You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.

 

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