Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Science Fiction Theatre Double Bill!

16 September 2014

Regular readers of the SF Gateway blog will know we’re big fans of online classic SF dealer The Space Merchants and their fantastic monthly film show, Science Fiction Theatre.  In recent months, featured films have included Fahrenheit 451, Rollerball, Nineteen Eighty-Four and a micro-to-macro double bill of The Amazing Colossal Man and The Incredible Shrinking Man. Now, a matter of days away, comes another double bill – this one a science fact/science fiction pairing, featuring Project Nim and the original Planet of the Apes.

 

 

The screening takes place at the Genesis Cinema this Friday 19th September; doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 7:30. See the Science Fiction Theatre website for more details.

 

Now, take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

 

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Happy Birthday, Norman Spinrad!

15 September 2014

Today we wish a very Happy Birthday to one of SF’s most original and uncompromising voices, a stalwart of the New Wave and the man whose best-known novel, Bug Jack Barron, led to Michael Moorcock‘s New Worlds magazine being banned from WH Smith: Norman Spinrad.

Spinrad’s razor-sharp satires have seen him nominated for most of the major SF awards. Bug Jack Barron was shortlisted for both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and he also has Nebula nominations for The Void Captain’s Tale and the biting alternate history The Iron Dream, of which The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says:

The Alternate History frame of the tale features a version of Adolf Hitler who, thwarted as a politician, migrates to New York, where it is easy for him to translate his spite and envy into popular fiction, becoming a well-known Pulp author in the process. Framed within this New York context, the heart of The Iron Dream is “Lord of the Swastika”, a novel-length sf story from Hitler’s feverish pen through which Spinrad is able to mock – effectively if at times unrelentingly – some of the less attractive tendencies of right-wing sf, its fetish with gear, its fascist love of hierarchical display, its philistinism, its brutishness, its racism, its not entirely secret contempt for the people its Heroes or Messiah-figures defend.

In addition to his prose fiction, Norman Spinrad scripted Star Trek episode ‘The Doomsday Machine’ and has written regular reviews and essays over his career and currently writes the book review column for Asimov’s Science Fiction.

Happy Birthday, Norman!

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Author of the Month: Pat Murphy

12 September 2014

September’s Author of the Month is the multi-award-winning author of Fantasy Masterwork The Falling Woman, Pat Murphy!

 

Pat Murphy has won the Nebula, World Fantasy, Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial awards in a glittering career that spans almost four decades, and has proved impossible to pin down to easily-labelled subgenres.  This is normally the point, in our Author of the Month post, at which we would wax lyrical about the author’s career highlights attempt to give a bit of interesting background. But this time . . . well, we almost feel redundant, to be honest. At the end of last year, the redoubtable Kev McVeigh wrote a fascinating and insightful piece about Pat Murphy and her work that, frankly, we simply can’t compete with. Look:

Pat Murphy says her favourite bird is the mockingbird because ‘it never sings the same song twice.’  So far the same can be said of Murphy herself.  Some writers find a genre seam and mine it successfully (and some exhaust it sooner than they realise) but Pat Murphy has spent her career questing around the edges of genres often probing in multiple directions at once.  It’s an approach made explicit in the title of her first collection Points Of Departure, but most obvious in her strange, brilliant novel Adventures In Time & Space With Max Merriwell.  Along the way she has picked up a string of Hugo, Nebula, Locus and Philip K Dick Award nominations.  Despite this variation, there are consistent aspects to her fiction that reward her fans richly.

We would advise, for a fuller understanding of Pat Murphy’s writing, as well as a handy guide on where might be the best place to start, that you go and check out Kev’s piece. After you’ve read it, we’re sure you’ll be inspired to go and try some of Pat’s books – which you can purchase this month at a discounted price!

 

You can find Pat Murphy’s work via her Author Page at the SF Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Please note that we only have influence over UK pricing. This promotion may be taken up by our colleagues in other markets, but that is at the discretion of the local distributor.

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Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: September 2014

11 September 2014

 

‘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, a fascinating column from the very month SF Gateway launched, three years ago: The Reign of the Retired Emperor

A few years ago I went to Japan to attend the World Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama, and, on the same trip, visiting a museum in Kyoto, I came upon a collection of artifacts that were described as dating “from the time of the reign of the retired Emperor Go-Saga.” Dating an era from the time of a retired emperor seemed to me an odd thing to do, and I filed the notion away in my mind as one of the many unusual aspects of the culture of that far-off island nation. Last month I was reminded of it while writing a new short story – more about that below – and I consulted Sir George Sansom’s classic and estimable three-volume history of Japan to see if I could find out what was so important about the Emperor Go-Saga that caused such chronological emphasis to be placed on him, thus discovering one of the most curious monarchical systems human beings have ever devised. It was a system, I learned, in which the emperor became more important by retiring from the throne than he had ever been while possessing it.

 

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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Happy Birthday, Pat Cadigan!

10 September 2014

Today we wish a very Happy Birthday to our two-time Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning, Hugo Award for Best Novelette-snaffling Queen of Cyberpunk, and all-round SF legend, Pat Cadigan!

Pat is the author of numerous outstanding SF novels, such as Synners and Fools – winners of the two aforementioned Arthur C. Clarke Awards – and has been praised by such luminaries as Neil Gaiman, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. She is also a tireless champion of the genre, in general, and SF Gateway in particular, and has written some lovely and insightful introductions to our SF Masterworks series.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Pat, from all at Gollancz and the SF Gateway!

 

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SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: James Blish

9 September 2014

From the vaults of The SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes an ideal introduction to the work of the acclaimed author and critic James Blish.

 

trade paperback | eBook

 

Best known for his Hugo Award-winning classic A Case of Conscience, Blish was one of the first serious SF writers to involve themselves with tie-in novels, writing eleven Star Trek adaptations as well as the first original adult Star Trek novel, Spock Must Die. This omnibus contains three of his long out-of-print works: Black Easter, The Day After Judgement and The Seedling Stars.

 

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

 

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SF Masterwork of the Week: Last and First Men

8 September 2014

One of the most extraordinary, imaginative and ambitious novels of the century: a history of the evolution of humankind over the next 2 billion years.

Among all science fiction writers Olaf Stapledon stands alone for the sheer scope and ambition of his work. First published in 1930, Last and First Men is full of pioneering speculations about evolution, terraforming, genetic engineering and many other subjects.

 

This book changed my life . . . His future scenarios still remain awe-inspiring

~ Arthur C. Clarke

 

 His influence is probably second only to that of H.G. Wells

~ The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

 

Last and First Men is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of Olaf Stapledon’s books at his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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From the Archives: In Praise of . . . the Locus Guide to Science Fiction Awards

5 September 2014

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve published a lot of books over the year-and-a-half SF Gateway has been live. We’ve certainly noticed it – you don’t publish 1,800 books by more than 150 authors without becoming intimately aware of the scale of the task you’ve taken on!

This is not to say it’s a chore – it isn’t; we love what we’re doing and we’re very proud to be involved in making so much great work easily available once again – but it does present certain challenges that more traditional publishing models don’t. For instance, most editors might take on two or three new authors in a year (alongside negotiating new contracts for existing authors), which means that they have to originate a handful of author biographies – and many of those can be easily adapted from the authors’ CVs or their agents’ covering letters.

We’ve had to write 150. OK, we were able to put together a good number by updating existing biographies – if you can’t find something online for the likes of Robert Silverberg or Ursula LeGuin, you’re just not trying – but many have had to be written from scratch, using such sources as the venerable Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, the ubiquitous Wikipedia and . . .

. . . the extraordinary (and, to our mind, criminally under-appreciated) Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards. Curated by Mark R. Kelly, it’s clearly a labour of love and is an utterly invaluable resource for us when writing author biographies, putting together copy for SF Gateway eBooks and SF Masterworks and looking for candidates for future Masterworks just to name a few. It’s one of our first ports of call when collating information and we felt it was long past time to say ‘thank you’ to Mark and to recommend the fruits of his hard work to any and all who might be interested in the history of the field as told by the books we’ve seen fit to honour.

 

 

Ever wondered who won the Hugo Award in 1963? (Philip K. Dick‘s The Man in the High Castle) Or how many Nebula Awards Connie Willis has won? (Seven) Or whether Ursula K. LeGuin ever won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award? (Yes, in 1995 with novella ‘Forgiveness Day’) Then you need to visit the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards. We do. Every week.

STOP PRESS: Having just finished writing this paean to the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards, we’ve just taken a closer look at the home page and seen these words:

This site has been superseded by the Science Fiction Awards Database

We could have gone back and slightly re-written this post to reflect the change, but it’s the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards incarnation that has been so helpful to us over the last couple of years, so we felt it important to pay tribute under it’s original name. We will of course be changing our browser’s bookmark to point to the SFADB for future reference, but for now: Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards, we salute you!

 

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From the Archives: Phillip Mann on The Disestablishment of Paradise

4 September 2014

Phillip Mann has written a post on his blog about how new book, The Disestablishment of Paradise, came to be published (and how pleased he is about it).

Today is rather special for me.

Today Victor Gollancz have published my latest novel The Disestablishment of Paradise. It has been a long journey for me – indeed: it is 12 years since I published my last book, The Burning Forest, and that is a long time in any writer’s life.

Also featuring is a lovely a bit about how he came to be published by Gollancz:

At my mother’s suggestion, I nipped down to Scarborough library to borrow a copy of The Writer and Artist’s Handbook. The Library building has a lot of history for me as it was here that I had first encountered the Theatre in the Round under the direction of Stephen Joseph. I was also reminded as I strolled beside the shelves of the times my mother had come home, staggering under the weight of books she had borrowed, many of which had a bright yellow cover. Indeed, that yellow dust-jacket, the trademark of Victor Gollancz books, had figured prominently in my youth as a symbol of excellence. I had never read a disappointing book with that cover and I associated it with SF writers such as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Clifford Simak.

And a mention of the SF Gateway and Phillip’s backlist:

One day, I received a message from, of all people, Malcolm Edwards. He had left Gollancz in the late 1980s, but was now involved again in a management role. He had heard that I had died – from whom or from what I had no idea – but was glad to know that this news was ‘greatly exaggerated’. He told me about SF Gateway and wondered if I would be interested. I certainly was as I had been thinking about e publishing for some time, and we agreed to meet when next I was in London.

For reasons deeply mired in narcissism and self-interest, those are our favourite bits, but we recommend you read the whole post – it’s very illuminating on an author’s view of the publishing process, both back in the ’80s and now.

 

The Disestablishment of Paradise is available as a trade paperback and eBook.

You can find all of Phillip Mann’s backlist on the SF Gateway, and read all about him at his author entry on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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From the Archives: Profiles of the Future

3 September 2014

If you consult The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction – and, of course, you DO, don’t you? On a regular basis – you will find the following in the Titles check-list at the bottom of the entry on Arthur C. Clarke:

Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry into the Limits of the Possible (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) [nonfiction: hb/]

So. A 51-year-old non-fiction book about the future. Even at the time I read it (circa 1980 – in the Pan paperback edition shown to the left, if I recall correctly) it was old enough to vote. What – given that we’re living in its future – could a half-century-old book possibly have to teach us? Well, if the author of that book is one Arthur Charles Clarke, the answer is: plenty. Take a look at some of the essays contained in the book:

Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Nerve
Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination
Beyond Gravity
Rocket to the Renaissance
Space, the Unconquerable
About Time
The Road to Lilliput
Brain and Body
The Obsolescence of Man

The first two are explorations of Clarke’s take on the two great mistakes open to the would-be prophet or futurist and he expounds at length about both (this is the man who foresaw the telecommunications satellite, remember – he knows whereof he speaks). In others, you have his thoughts on space travel – both the pursuit itself and the mechanics of how to get there – and the approaching singularity (although that term is not used to the best of my memory). While we have certainly added to the sum of human knowledge in all of these areas, we are distinctly short of writers able to convey the ideas in an accessible and interesting manner – something at which Clarke excelled.

Personally, I think it’s a book worth re-reading just for Clarke’s take on the future that awaited the world of 1962 and to see how his short-term predictions panned out – but there’s also the vision of the medium-to-far future, which seems to me to be more Clarke’s natural territory. What he thought might happen is less interesting than why he thought it. There’s still wisdom to be gained from examining the cognitive processes of such an intelligent thinker, even 50 years after the fact.

And then, of course, this is the book that gave us Clarke’s Laws. The third is the most often quoted (and misquoted!) but all three are worth revisiting:

1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Distilled wisdom in three bites. So what other gems lurk in this time capsule from half a century ago? You’ll have to read Profiles of the Future and decide for yourself . . .

 

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