Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Gateway Essentials: Tanith Lee

28 July 2016

Hey, Gateway! So far your Essentials posts have been all about the SF – how ’bout some Fantasy for a change?

Your wish is our cooperation!  We present, for your reading pleasure, Britain’s very own Grand Master of Horror and winner of the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, Tanith Lee . . .

Tanith Lee was born in London in 1947. She is the author of more than 70 novels and almost 300 short stories, and has also written radio plays for the BBC and two scripts for the cult television series Blake’s 7. Her first short story, ‘Eustace’, was published in 1968, and her first children’s novel The Dragon Hoard was published in 1971. In 1975 her adult fantasy epic The Birthgrave was published to international acclaim, and Lee maintained a prolific output in popular genre writing throughout her life.

She twice won the World Fantasy Award, and was a Guest of Honour at numerous science fiction and fantasy conventions including the 1984 World Fantasy Convention in Ottawa, Canada. In 2009 she was awarded the prestigious title of Grand Master of Horror, and in 2013 she was given the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Tanith Lee was married to fellow author and artist John Kaiine. She died in May, 2015.

 

You can find more of Tanith Lee’s work via her Author page on the SF Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Masterworks Spotlight: Always Coming Home

25 July 2016

Neglected masterpiece. Unsung classic. Unjustly-overlooked genius.

We live in a time of ridiculous hyperbole. A time when terms such as ‘classic’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘genius’ have become so overused as to be almost meaningless. A time when films garner four stars for being competent and five for being better than average. A time when politicians demand standing ovations simply for not kicking themselves in the face while walking.

It’s a hard time, then, for an actual genius to receive just praise for a work of brilliance. But, in our own small way, we’d like to try to set that right for just one work of brilliance by just one genius. That genius is, of course, the great Ursula K. Le Guin, and her brilliant study of a people who don’t yet exist: Always Coming Home.

An unsung masterpiece from one of fantastic literature’s greatest writers.

A long, long time from now, in the valleys of what will no longer be called Northern California, might be going to have lived a people called the Kesh.

But Always Coming Home is not the story of the Kesh. Rather it is the stories of the Kesh – stories, poems, songs, recipes – Always Coming Home is no less than an anthropological account of a community that does not yet exist, a tour de force of imaginative fiction by one of modern literature’s great voices.

With a new introduction by Hugo Award-winning author, John Scalzi.

It is a remarkable book.  But don’t take our word for it; this is the view of the Oxford Times:

Sometimes you open a book and find in a dozen pages the world inside more solid than the room where you sit . . . surely destined to become a classic. It is, perhaps, a work of genius

Amen.


You can find details of available print titles at Ursula Le Guin’s page on the Orion website, explore her available eBooks on the SF Gateway and read more about the author in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Masterworks Spotlight: A Deepness in the Sky

22 July 2016

Back in January, we opened 2016 by welcoming Vernor Vinge‘s Hugo Award-winning space opera epic A Fire Upon the Deep to the SF Masterworks list.

Now, we’re delighted to add Vinge’s prequel, set thirty millennia earlier, A Deepness in the Sky, which went its predecessor one better, winning the Hugo Award for best novel and adding the John W. Campbell Memorial Award!

The Hugo and John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winning prequel to the magnificent A Fire Upon the Deep.

A Deepness In the Sky is the story of Pham Nuwen, a small cog in the interstellar trading fleet of the Queng Ho. Both they and the Emergents are orbiting Arachna, a dormant planet which will shortly wake up when its On/Off star relights after decades of darkness. Both groups hope to exploit the coming age of technology and commerce on Arachna. But while the Queng Ho seek only to trade aggressively, the Emergents plans are far more sinister, amounting to little short of genocide . . .

This is science fiction on the grandest of scales – a cast of thousands set across hundreds of years and in the farthest reaches of Human Space. 

 

A Deepness In the Sky is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and a Gateway eBook (which will be updated very soon with the Masterworks cover and Graham Sleight’s excellent new introduction).

You can read more about Vernor Vinge in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.


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Two Score and Seven Years Ago . . .

21 July 2016

So just short of four dozen years ago, this happened:

A great day in human history, which  – it could be argued –  has never been bettered. Millions of kids around the world watched Neil Armstrong take these famous steps and dared to dream that they, too, might one day walk on another world. **

Of course, now we know that only another ten human beings walkesd on the Moon after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and the once-seemingly-certain future of Moon bases and trips to Mars can be filed under ‘Where’s my jetpack?’ and ‘I want my flying car!’.

But [WARNING: Tacky plug coming up! Abandon integrity all ye who enter here!] that doesn’t mean you can’t experience the Moon – just that you’ll have to do it through the power of imagination. There are any number of books that explore what life might be like on the Moon, and here a just a few of them . . .


So there’s a start for you. OK, it’s hardly ‘One small step for man . . .’ but the chances of dying because of equipment failure are much, much lower!




** The pedantically inclined should note that we refer to the Moon as a ‘world’, but not a ‘planet’. The latter it most certainly is not; the former it can be reasonably considered to be.

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Gateway Essentials: Pat Cadigan

19 July 2016

Today, we direct your attention to one of the great forces for good in modern SF, the one and only Pat Cadigan.

Twice winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award: in 1992 for Synners and then again in 1995 for Fools, Pat has also been shortlisted multiple times for the Hugo, Nebula, Philip K. Dick, BSFA, World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Awards, among many others. In 2013, she won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for ‘The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi’.

Many are the good and great of the field who have lined up to praise her.  Can Neil Gaiman, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling all be wrong?  We think not. Nor could fellow Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Paul McAuley, who wrote an astute review of Fools in the early days of this very blog.

OK, we’re sure by now that you’re champing at the bit to sample some of Pat’s extraordinary work – but where to begin? We’re glad you asked!

As ever, the SF Masterworks series is the best place to start, where you’ll find the Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning Synners in paperback and eBook:

What happens when (not ‘if’!) you’ve raced through Synners and are still hungry for more? Again: glad you asked – honestly, it’s like you’re following a script designed to help us point out cool books.

As ever, once you’ve finished with an author’s Masterworks, your next port of call should be the Gateway Essentials; in this instance:


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


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Happy Birthday, Paul Cornell!

18 July 2016

Some of you might know him from his comics, including Saucer Country and Demon Knights, and arcs on Wolverine and Captain Britain.

Others might know him from his books, such as British Summertime and London Falling.

Many of you will know him from his long-standing association with a certain Time Lord; he’s written quite a number of Dr Who books, comics and audio adventures – creating the intrepid Bernice Summerfield along the way – and the screenplays ‘Father’s Day‘ (for Christopher Eccleston’s ninth Doctor) and the two-part ‘Human Nature‘/’The Family of Blood‘ (for David Tennant’s tenth Doctor).

He is, of course, the absurdly talented Paul Cornell, and today is his birthday!  And to celebrate, let us unveil our brand new cover to The Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide, which Paul wrote with Martin Day and Keith Topping:

The classic guide to the original Doctor Who series returns! One of the most influential and fondly-remembered guides to the longest running SF series in the world.

When it was originally published, the Discontinuity Guide was the first attempt to bring together all of the various fictional information seen in BBC TV’s DOCTOR WHO, and then present it in a coherent narrative. Often copied but never matched, this is the perfect guide to the ‘classic’ Doctors.

Fulffs, goofs, double entendres, fashion victims, technobabble, dialogue disasters: these are just some of the headings under which every story in the Doctor’s first twenty-seven years of his career is analysed.

Despite its humorous tone, the book has a serious purpose. Apart from drawing attention to the errors and absurdities that are among the most loveable features of Doctor Who, this reference book provides a complete analysis of the story-by-story creation of the Doctor Who Universe.

One sample story, Pyramids of Mars, yields the following gems:

TECHNOBABBLE: a crytonic particle accelerator, a relative continuum stabiliser, and triobiphysics.

DIALOGUE TRIUMPHS: ‘I’m a Time Lord… You don’t understand the implications. I’m not a human being. I walk in eternity.’

CONTINUITY: the doctor is about 750 years old at this point, and has apparently aged 300 years since Tomb of the Cybermen. He ages about another 300 years between this story and the seventh’ Doctor’s Time and the Rani.

An absolute must for every Doctor Who fan, this new edition of the classic reference guide has not been updated at all for the 50th anniversary.



And to celebrate Paul Cornell‘s birthday, every copy of The Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide sold today comes with a free TARDIS and sonic screwdriver.**

 



** Offer open only to residents of Gallifrey, Skaro or Metabelis III.

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21 Brilliant Books You’ve Never Heard Of

15 July 2016

GQ magazine recently published a list of 21 Brilliant Books You’ve Never Heard Of, asking

Ever come across a book – on a nightstand in an Airbnb, in a box of your mom’s college junk, on a shelf at a friend’s Bachelor viewing party – that’s so energizingly rip-roaring, so envelopingly world-building, that you can’t really believe you’ve never heard of it before?

It’s an interesting list and, despite the allegation explicit in the title, contains some names – if not books – that we’re sure will be familair to SF Gateway readers.

Pulitzer Prize-wining author Junot Diaz, for instance, picks the great Samuel R. Delany – although not for any of his groundbreaking SF; rather Diaz nominates Delany’s autobiography, The Motion of Light on Water.

Russel Hoban’s Riddley Walker (SF Masterworks hardback) is the choice of 2015 Booker Prize-winner Marlon James.

And the father of Cyberpunk, William Gibson, chose Jack Womack‘s Random Acts of Senseless Violence (SF Masterworks paperback | Gateway eBook), a book of which he’s said in the past ‘If you dropped the characters from Neuromancer into Womack’s Manhattan, they’d fall down screaming and have nervous breakdowns.’

So, how did you score on those three?

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Happy Birthday, Christopher Priest!

14 July 2016

Today, we wish a very Happy Birthday to one of Britain’s great post-war novelists – in any genre – the one and only Christopher Priest.

You don’t need us to tell you that Christopher Priest is a multi-award-winning author, with a World Fantasy Award, an Arthur C. Clarke Award, 5 BSFA Awards, a John W. Campbell Award and a James Tait Black Memorial Prize to his name (among many others).

You don’t need us to tell you that he was named as one of the twenty best young British writers by Granta magazine in 1983, alongside such luminaries as Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, Pat Barker, Ian McEwan and Graham Swift.

You don’t need us to tell you that his World Fantasy Award-winning novel, The Prestige, was turned into a hugely successful film by Christopher Nolan.

And you don’t need us to tell you that he is an extraordinary writer who effortlessly straddles the worlds of SF and literary fiction, placing him in the excellent company of writers such as Brian Aldiss, J.G. BallardIain Banks, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Moorcock and Kurt Vonnegut.

You know all that.

Just like you know that you can find Christopher Priest’s work via his Author pages on the SF Gateway and Orion websites, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Happy Birthday, Chris!


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But Will I Like It: Blood Heritage

13 July 2016

Continuing our series of mini-reviews from enthusiastic Gateway readers, here’s a second (or, indeed, third, if one wants to be pedantic) reader’s take on Sheri S. Tepper . . .

Blood Heritage by Sheri S. Tepper
When Badger Ettison’s cold but beautiful wife Carolyn and young son Robby drown in a boating accident, he spends almost a year struggling to accept that they’ve died. Then just as he realizes he needs to come to terms with it, he meets Mahlia Waiwela at a dinner, a student housesitting for his sister’s neighbour. The talk turns to magic and demon possession, and Mahlia struggles to explain how she has always had visions and instincts about things that have happened or will happen. When Badger’s son is mentioned, Mahlia blurts out “But your son’s not dead!” and sets them both on the path to discover what horror did cause Carolyn and Robbie to vanish, and whether somehow there’s a way to get them back.

 

You can find Blood Heritage, and more of Sheri S. Tepper’s work via her Author page on the Gateway website, and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Robert Silverberg’s Reflection: July 2016

12 July 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: ‘Persons From Porlock’

In the summer of 1798 (he later said it was 1797, but he was always bad about dates) the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in poor health and living just then near the village of Porlock near Somerset, was browsing through one of the ponderous folios of Samuel Purchas’ great seventeenth-century compilation of explorers’ narratives, Purchas His Pilgrimes, when sleep overtook him just as he was reading these lines: “In Xandu did Cublai Can build a stately Palace, encompassing sixteene miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant springs, delightful Streams, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure, which may be removed from place to place” . . .

 

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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