Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Gateway Essentials: Michael G. Coney

18 January 2017

Michael Greatrex Coney was a British-born author who spent the last three decades of his life in Canada – including 16 years in the British Colombia Forest Service. His early work carried a sense of Cold War-inspired paranoia, but his repertoire was wide and perhaps his best novel, Hello Summer, Goodbye, is a wistful story of adolescent love on a far-distant planet.

Sadly, we didn’t manage to acquire the rights to Hello Summer, Goodbye, but you shouldn’t let that stop you exploring Michael G. Coney’s work. We recommend Mirror Image (the first in his ‘Amorphs’ duology, the second of which, Brontomek!, won the BSFA Award), over-population novel Friends Come in Boxes, or Cat Karina, the first novel in his ‘Song of the Earth’ sequence.

You can find more of Michael G Coney’s work via his Author page on the SF Gateway, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Posted in Authors, Essentials
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Gateway Essentials: Greg Bear

17 January 2017

It could be argued that, if you are the recipient of five Nebula Awards, and two Hugos, and have been nominated for, or won, SF awards a staggering eighty-seven times, that all of your works are essential, but as that argument would rather undercut the subject of this post, we’re going to ignore it like a politician with an inconvenient fact.

So. You want to know where to start with Greg Bear, huh? Very wise. Well, as ever, we recommend starting with the SF Masterworks – in this instance, the seminal Big Dumb Object novel, Eon, or the extraordinary bio-thriller Blood Music.

And, since once you’re finished them, you’ll definitely want more, we heartily endorse moving on through the Eon sequence with Gateway Essentials Eternity and Legacy, and then branching out into future thriller Queen of Angels.

You should also keep an eye out for the extraordinary The Forge of God, which may or may not (but probably will) be appearing before long as an SF Masterwork.

You can find these and more of Greg Bear’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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Masterworks Spotlight: The Invisible Man

16 January 2017

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered into the Coach and Horses more dead than alive, and flung his portmanteau down. ‘A fire,’ he cried, ‘in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!’ He stamped and shook the snow from off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs Hall into her guest parlour to strike his bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a couple of sovereigns flung upon the table, he took up his quarters in the inn.

Thus arrives, in the unsuspecting village of Iping in West Sussex, a brilliant but unhinged scientist, who will stop at nothing to pursue his aims, no matter the innocent lives he ruins in the process.

These days, the mad scientist’s ruthless pursuit of his (usually equally mad) scheme is a trope of fiction so well-worn as to have become a cliché.  But in 1897, in the hands of the Father of Science Fiction, it was a new and terrifying plot. Indeed, Wells’ depiction of The Invisible Man has clearly resonated down the generations, having been filmed countless times in countless guises for cinema and television, and made *ahem* appearances in other media – most notably Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

We are delighted to be publishing The Invisible Man as an SF masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, alongside H. G. Wells’ other major works, which we’ll feature over the coming weeks.

You can find more of H. G. Wells’ 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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What Book Was That?

13 January 2017

We’ve had a reader post over on the forum, looking for information on a couple of books they read many years ago. We thought we’d help them out by consulting the Hive Mind. If any readers can help with the titles and/or authors of the following books, please leave a comment:

Book One
Ok first one
Guy goes to an old estate/chateau where they are selling books at an auction. He buys a job lot and gets them shipped home. He gets home and finds this strange book, as he begins to read it strange things start to happen. People being torn apart in locked rooms, he starts developing powers . . . strange dreams and lots of other odd things. The book is a pathway to a higher state of being left behind by those that have gone before. Only problem is that this journey leaves a dark residue behind and it is not nice. Last part: the Earth is empty, Man has gone beyond, a wind is blowing as an ape/creature is doing something, climbing stone steps! or something. It reaches out and touchs the book! The end … I have an image of a very thick book with a solid light blue colour, there were two novels in it?

Book Two
Ok second one
An organism so deadly that they blockade a whole planet to contain it. Nothing is allowed to land or leave and will be destroyed no matter what to contain this creature. This creature is so deadly that it scours planets clean of life, one touch and that’s it. Creature is blob-like, anyway a ship lands, the creature gets aboard and gets away, aliens go a bit mental. This creature has scoured many systems of life.

Creature lands on Earth, underwater. Aliens finally track the ship, set down and hide, covert operation to try and locate the creature. Creature meets and touches a human … nothing happens except the human changes, becomes better … all the good is magnified. The creature has no idea of what it has done, it has lost its partner another race and has been looking for a new partner. Man is that new partner. They form a symbiotic relationship, as more and more people come in contact with it, the better things become.

Thats about the gist of it …

Can any of the wise and wonderful Gateway readers help?

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Happy Birthday, Geoffrey Hoyle!

12 January 2017

Geoffrey Hoyle was born in Scunthorpe in 1941, the son of renowned astronomer and science fiction writer, Sir Fred Hoyle.  He read economics at Cambridge and then worked in a variety of fields including theatre, advertising and television – he was scientific adviser on the ITV children’s SF programme Timeslip – but will be best known to Gateway readers as co-author, with his father, of a number of classic SF novels.

The Hoyles collaborated on eight novels between 1963 and 1978.  All are available in eBook via Geoffrey Hoyle’s Gateway Author page, and Fifth Planet is also available in print in the omnibus Three Classic Novels.

You can read more about Geoffrey Hoyle in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Posted in Anniversaries, Authors
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On This Day: Walter M. Miller, Jr. Died

11 January 2017

On this day, in 1996, the body of Walter M. Miller, Jr was discovered, at his home in Florida (according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction; other sources place the date earlier). He took his own life, shortly after the death of his wife, Anna.

Miller was never prolific, publishing only about  three dozen stories – the best of which are collected in Dark Benediction (available as an SF masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, with a new introduction by none other than Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Pat Cadigan) – and a single novel in his lifetime (and a sequel published posthumously).  But what a novel: the extraordinary post-apocalyptic religious SF epic A Canticle for Leibowitz, winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for best novel.

Available in our SF Masterworks list in hardback, with a stunning new cover by the wonderful Dominic Harman and a typically fascinating introduction from Ken MacLeodA Canticle for Leibowitz – described by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as ‘one of the relatively few attempts in US sf to deal with formal religion, and one of the very few to do so successfully’ – is an acknowledged masterpiece of modern SF.



In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, the rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of knowledge.

By studying the Holy Relics of the past, the Order of St Leibowitz hopes to raise humanity from its fallen state to one of grace.

But is such knowledge the key to salvation? Or the certain sign that we are doomed to repeat our most grievous mistakes…?



You could do much worse than read Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s insightful analysis, which we published last March (with thanks to our friends at SFX magazine). Of course, if you really want to know what everyone’s raving about, you could always read the book itself. We can promise you it’s time well spent.

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It Can’t Happen Here

10 January 2017

On this day in 1951, American writer and playwright Harry Sinclair Lewis died in Rome, Italy.

Sinclair Lewis was well regarded for his satirical novels and, in 1930, became the first US winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is probably best-known, now, though, for his 1935 satirical political novel It Can’t Happen Here, which depicts the rise of a US senator to the presidency, after a campaign that stirs up  fear and promises drastic economic and social reform under the guise of a return to patriotic ‘traditional’ values. After the election he takes total control of the government and imposes an authoritarian rule.

Science fiction, eh?  Crazy stuff.  Just crazy . . .

 

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On This Day: Karel Capek & Algis Budrys

9 January 2017

On this day, separated by a scant forty-one years and about four hundred miles, two important figures in the history of SF were born.

Karel Čapek, born in 1890, was a Czech writer and playwright, whose chief contribution to science fiction was the not-inconsiderable introduction of the word ‘robot‘ to the international lexicon (it is derived from the word ‘robota’, which translates as ‘work’ or ‘labour’) in his 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). If one can judge a person by the quality of their enemies, the Čapek scores very highly indeed: the Gestapo named him ‘public enemy number two’ in advance of the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Born in 1931, in what was then East Prussia, Algis Budrys moved to the United States at the age of five.

Although best-known these days for his 1960 classic Rogue Moon and his early support for L. Ron Hubbard‘s Writers of the Future programme, perhaps just as important a contribution to the field is his perceptive critical writing. His early book reviews, written for the no-longer-extant Galaxy Science Fiction magazine, are collected in Benchmarks.

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Gateway Essentials: Leigh Kennedy

6 January 2017

Leigh Kennedy was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1951. After gaining her degree in history, she lived in Austin, Texas, for five years, before emigrating to England in 1985. She has been writing constantly from her early years and has been short-listed for both the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Faces, a short story collection, appeared in 1986, followed by two novels, The Journal of Nicholas the American (1986) and Saint Hiroshima (1990).

We recommend starting with the Nebula Award-nominated The Journal of Nicholas the American:

You can find Leigh Kennedy’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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From the Archives: In Praise of . . . Good Show Sir

5 January 2017

No man is an island, Entire of itself

John Donne

The internet is, among many other things, an ecosystem. No site exists in isolation; articles are written, responses posted, rebuttals made, points elaborated upon, and so it goes: the endless conversation of the interwebs.

The SF Gateway is no different to any other site. We rely on some sites for authoritative information, on others for inspiration and still others for entertainment. In what will have to pass for a New Year’s resolution (in the absence of anything else that remotely resembles a commitment requiring willpower or abstinence), we have decided that the right thing to do is to pay tribute, over the coming months, to the sites that help inform, inspire and amuse us. The first of these sites that we’d like to both publicly thank and heartily recommend is the excellent Good Show Sir, which we’ve previously praised on Twitter.

Your daily dose of bad* sci-fi books covers from yesteryear, Good Show Sir is a treasure trove of ‘What were they thinking?!’ goodness, which manages to blend amusement, mickey-taking and nostalgia without ever losing respect and affection for these old classics – the titles of many of which visitors to this blog might well recognise. Yesterday’s offering, for example, was Kenneth Bulmer‘s City Under the Sea (we break for a quick word from our sponsor: City Under the Sea is also available as an SF Gateway eBook). Behold the cover in all its glory!

Marvellous. You can visit the website at goodshowsir.co.uk, follow them on Twitter and/or like their Facebook page. Thank you, GoodShowSir – long may you continue bringing us the best of the worst!

 

 

* Sometimes so-bad-they’re-good; other times … you know … just bad.

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Posted in In Praise of, Whimsy
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