Thoughts from the SF Gateway

ICYMI: On the Blog This Week

7 February 2016

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from the SF Gateway blog this week!

 

Vintage Cover Lucky Dip - Kilworth, Chalker, Bulmer

Six Twisty Time-Travel Novels –   Where does all the time go? We can’t guarantee these six brilliantly twisty time-travel novels will give you the answer, but reading them would definitely be time well spent!

 

New Title Spotlight: The Devil Is Dead - This month we are welcoming R. A. Lafferty to the SF Gateway!

 

Masterwork Spotlight: The Circus Of Dr Lao – Charles G. Finney’s first and most famous novel is a dazzling and macabre masterpiece of dark fantasy.

 

Vintage Cover Lucky Dip – Featuring twitchy noses, a stylish hat and some very strange horses…

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Vintage Cover Lucky Dip

6 February 2016

Come with us on a journey to the past as we delve into the Magical Mystery Box of Magnificence!

Magical Mystery Box of Covers
Today’s featured covers are titles by the World Fantasy Award-winning Garry Kilworth, the Hugo Award-nominated Jack L. Chalker and the unbelievably prolific Kenneth Bulmer.*

 

House of Tribes - Garry Kilworth

HOUSE OF TRIBES

In every mouse’s long life, there comes a time when ancestral voices tell him to move on. Pedlar, a yellow-necked mouse, has reached that point. Told to leave the Hedgerow and go on a long journey, the adventurous mouse says his farewells and sets out for a far-distant country knows as The House. Reaching his destination, Pedlar enters a strange new world inhabited by many warring tribes: the Stinkhorns of the cellar, the great Savage Tribe in the kitchen, the library Bookeaters, the Invisibles, the Deathshead and the rebellious 13-K Gang.

I had to scan the whole image for this – it’s so cute! Like Disney’s Ratatouille meets Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester. Look at their little faces!

Riders of the Winds - Jack C Chalker

 

RIDERS OF THE WINDS

With their people dominated for centuries by the Ahkbreed, a power-hungry band of sorcerers whose mastery over physical laws has made slaves of countless worlds, two brave young women find themselves swept up by the Changewinds.

The knight riding a dragon through space appears to be wearing a very stylish hat. Neville Longbottom’s grandmother would definitely want in on that bird headgear action.

 

 

The Chariots of Ra - Kenneth Bulmer

 

THE CHARIOTS OF RA

The chariots came on at great speed and there was no mistaking their purpose. Tulley wondered if they were using this place as a base . . . Then an arrow plunked into the parapet of his chariot. Oolou lashed the reins. The nageres sprang forward. With suicidal speed the two chariot groups closed on each other. Tulley swallowed down, feeling the dryness in his throat, loosed a shaft at the oncoming mass. There must be twenty chariots out there . . .

He glanced at Oolou, shouting. She stared back at him with a ghastly grin, the blood pouring from her neck above the corselet where an arrow stood, stark and brutal.

I could do a whole series of posts dedicated to the strange steeds featured on old covers. This novel seems to include the unholy Pokémon fusion of Goodra and Rapidash.

 

*Please click on the images for a higher resolution.

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Masterwork Spotlight: The Circus of Dr Lao

5 February 2016

This month we’re featuring The Circus of Dr Lao, Charles G. Finney’s first and most famous novel, and winner of one of the inaugural National Book Awards in 1935. It was filmed by George Pal as The 7 Faces of Dr Lao.

The Circus of Dr Lao

A dazzling and macabre masterpiece of dark fantasy in the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

To the residents of Abalone, Arizona, a sleepy southwestern town whose chief concern is surviving the Great Depression, the arrival of a circus in town is a chance to forget their woes for a while. But this is the circus of Dr. Lao and instead of relief, the townsfolk are confronted with an array creature seemingly straight out of mythology: a chimera, a Medusa, a sphinx, a sea serpent and, of course, the elusive, ever-changing Dr. Lao. As the circus unfolds, it spins events towards a climactic final act that will change the lives of Abalone’s residents for ever.

 

The Circus of Dr Lao is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and a Gateway eBook

You can read more about Charles G. Finney in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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New Title Spotlight: The Devil is Dead

3 February 2016

This month we are welcoming R. A. Lafferty to the SF Gateway! We understand that finding a starting point with a prolific author can be quite a challenge and with thirty-two novels and more than two hundred short stories to his name Lafferty is no exception. This month’s new title spotlight is the perfect introduction his work!

The Devil is Dead

The Devil is Dead tells of an astonishing band of adventurers seeking the Devil himself. It is a tale of demons and changelings, monsters and mermaids – and of how it is not always serious to die, the first time it happens…

 

You can find The Devil is Dead and more of R. A. Lafferty’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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Six Twisty Time-Travel Novels

1 February 2016

Wondering how on Earth it could already be February? Where does all the time go? We can’t guarantee these six brilliantly twisty time-travel novels will give you the answer, but reading them would definitely be time well spent!

 

Lest Darkness Fall by L. Sprague de Camp

The Roman Empire had spread order, knowledge, and civilisation throughout the ancient world. When Rome fell, the light of reason flickered out across the Empire. The Dark Ages had begun. Could a man from the 20th century prevent the fall of Rome? When lightning struck and he was hurled backward into the sixth century, the question became anything but academic to Martin Padway…

Time and AgainTime and Again by Jack Finney

Si Morley, bored with his job as a commercial illustrator, doesn’t hesitate when he is approached by the government to take part in a top-secret programme. And so one day Si steps out of his twentieth-century, New York apartment and finds himself back in January 1882. There are no cars, no planes, no computers, no television and the word ‘nuclear’ appears in no dictionaries. For Si, it’s very like Eden, somewhere he could find happiness. But has he really been back in time? The portfolio of tintype photographs and sketches that he brings back convince the government. But all Si wants is to return…

Although better known for The Body Snatchers, Finney’s Time and Again is described as ‘one of the most important, and most moving, timeslip texts yet composed’.

Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg

In the mid-21st century, time travel is used to send political prisoners to Hawksbill Station, a prison camp in the late Cambrian Era. When the latest arrival suspiciously deflects questions about his crimes and knowledge of ‘Up Front’, the inmates decide to find out his secret.

The Anubis GatesThe Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

Brendan Doyle is a twentieth-century English professor who travels back to 1810 London to attend a lecture given by English romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. This is a London filled with deformed clowns, organised beggar societies, insane homunculi and magic, and it all goes wrong when he is kidnapped by gypsies and consequently misses his return trip to 1983.

The Technicolour Time Machine by Harry Harrison

L.M. Greenspan, the head of ailing Climactic Studios, gave producer Barney Hendrickson five days to get a major movie in the can – and Climactic out of it. Impossible? Not with Professor Hewett’s miraculous presto chango time machine, the answer to Hollywood producer’s prayer. Nipping back to AD 1,000 with a whole film crew and two glam stars, Barney sets out to prove that the Vikings discovered America five hundred years before Columbus – and to film the event in glorious Technicolour. But it’s not as easy as it sounds…

To Say Nothing of the DogTo Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Ned Henry is a time-travelling historian who specialises in the mid-20th century – currently engaged in researching the bombed-out Coventry Cathedral. He’s also made so many drops into the past that he’s suffering from a dangerously advanced case of ‘time-lag’. Unfortunately for Ned, an emergency dash to Victorian England is required and he’s the only available historian. But Ned’s time-lag is so bad that he’s not sure what the errand is – which is bad news since, if he fails, history could unravel around him…

To Say Nothing of the Dog won the Hugo Award for best novel, 1999.

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ICYMI: On the Blog This Week

31 January 2016

In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights from the SF Gateway blog this week!

 

Five of the Best…Moon Novels! – Always dreamed of going to the moon? Well look no further with these five moon-based novels.

 

Vintage Cover Lucky Dip – Delve into the Magical Mystery Box of Magnificence for some delightfully vintage illustrations.

 

On This Day: Lewis Carroll – The birthday of an author with an unexpected and underappreciated influence on the SF genre.

 

Gender in Science Fiction, a BBC Radio 4 Documentary – Although Herland, the Radio 4 documentary exploring how SF tackles issues of gender, has already aired (you might be able to listen on catch-up!), the accompanying BBC article highlights 10 brilliant and influential women SF authors.

 

The Solar System and Beyond: Nine Fantastic Novels! – The news that scientists have discovered evidence of a mysterious tenth planet is the perfect opportunity to read some brilliant novels set in our friendly – or not-so-friendly in some cases! – planetary neighbourhood.

 

Publication Day! – This month the SF Gateway brings you 27 exciting new reads.

 

Happy Birthday, Gregory Benford! – Both professor and world-leading writer of Hard SF, this is the birthday of a very talented man.

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Happy Birthday, Gregory Benford!

30 January 2016

Timescape

Dr Gregory Benford, born on this day in 1941, is a man of many talents. A Professor of Plasma Physics and Astrophysics at the University of California, he is also one of the world’s leading writers of Hard SF and a contributing editor of Reason magazine.

He is perhaps best known for his 1979 novel Timescape – which won the NebulaJohn W. Campbell Memorial and BSFA Awards for best novel and the Ditmar Award for best international novel – but has also undertaken collaborations with David Brin and Arthur C. Clarke among others and, as one of the ‘Killer Bs’ (with Brin and Greg Bear), wrote one of three authorised sequels to Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series.

SF Gateway currently has 27 of his books available, including both ‘Galactic Center Saga’ series and The Heart of the Comet, co-written with David Brin. In addition to his celebrated literary works – he has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award four times and the Nebula thirteen times, winning twice – he has also written for television and served as a scientific consultant on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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Publication Day!

29 January 2016

The SF Gateway is off to a cracking start this year, with January bringing you 27 exciting new* titles to read! Including a hilarious Hugo Award-nominated comedy adventure by Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer, a macabre masterpiece of dark fantasy by Charles G. Finney, a whole host of brilliant titles by R.A. Lafferty and A. Bertram Chandler and many more besides, we’re sure you can find something to keep you busy!

 

Matilda’s Stepchildren A. Bertram Chandler
To Keep The Ship A. Bertram Chandler
The Gateway to Never A. Bertram Chandler
Kelly Country A. Bertram Chandler
The Anarch Lords A. Bertram Chandler
Contraband from Otherspace A. Bertram Chandler
The Circus of Dr Lao Charles G. Finney
Out of the Everywhere and Other Extraordinary Visions James Tiptree, Jr.
Does Anyone Else Have Something Further to Add? R. A. Lafferty
Sindbad, The Thirteenth Voyage R. A. Lafferty
East of Laughter R. A. Lafferty
Past Master R. A. Lafferty
Nine Hundred Grandmothers R. A. Lafferty
Apocalypses R. A. Lafferty
Serpent’s Egg R. A. Lafferty
Fourth Mansions R. A. Lafferty
The Reefs of Earth R. A. Lafferty
The Devil Is Dead R. A. Lafferty
Arrive at Easterwine R. A. Lafferty
Annals of Klepsis R. A. Lafferty
Space Chantey R. A. Lafferty
Not To Mention Camels R. A. Lafferty
That Sweet Little Old Lady Randall Garrett, Laurence M. Janifer
Return to Eddarta Randall Garrett, Vicki Ann Heydron
The Forever City Richard A. Lupoff
Terrors Richard A. Lupoff
The White Serpent Tanith Lee

 

* Well, technically not new, as such…

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The Solar System and Beyond: Nine Fantastic Novels!

28 January 2016

For those of us that are still sad about the downgrading of Pluto’s planet status (shh, I watched Sailor Moon when I was younger and held much fondness for Sailor Pluto) and the subsequent shrinking of the solar system from nine “true” planets to eight, the news that Caltech researchers have found evidence of a ninth planet, another gas giant, lurking out there beyond Pluto is quite exciting. Rather less exciting is the name it’s been given: Planet Nine. It’s been over 150 years since we discovered Neptune and the idea that we may yet have more to find closer to home than the next star system is fantastic and mildly terrifying at the same time – what else might we have missed?

Planet Nine - Artist's Representation (Credit: Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

Unsurprisingly, the solar system has played a key role in many a science fiction novel. Here are some wonderfully engrossing reads that take you from our home here on Earth to the edge of the solar system and beyond!

If the Stars Are Gods by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund

Expanded from a Nebula Award-winning short story, If the Stars Are Gods tells the unforgettable story of the century-long search of a scientist-monk for the secret of alien intelligent life – a quest which leads him from the time-scoured deserts of Mars to the vast holes in the raging cloud-cover of Jupiter; from the radio winds of Titan to the true centre of a universe where Beings are collected like songs…

 

Floating Worlds

Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland

 

The resourceful and unpredictable Paula Mendoza, part of Earth Committee for Revolution, is tasked with negotiating a truce between the Middle Planets and the powerful and aggressive Syth race from the Gas Planets, Uranus and Saturn. When her unconventional approach has unexpected consequences, she finds herself on those very same Gas Planets, the only tenuous link between Earth and the Syth Empire…

 

Imperial Earth by Arthur C. Clarke

Colonists from the entire solar system converge on the mother planet for the 2276 celebrations. Among the influx of humanity is Duncan Makenzie, scientist-administrator from the underground colony of Titan, one of the outer moons of Saturn. Makenzie is not just on Earth for the celebrations, though; he has a delicate mission to perform – for his

world, his family and himself …

Last and First Men

 

Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon

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

 

The Tenth Planet by Edmund Cooper

The Dag Hammarskjold takes off from Woomera, Australia for the new human settlement on Mars. Planet Earth is being eaten away by uncontrollable pollution, starvation and disease. Its life expectancy is nil. This is the last spaceship, its passengers the last people on Earth with any hope. But it is never to reach its objective. Five thousand years later its captain wakes up to a new world undiscovered in his time and to a bitter experience he must fight alone.

 

When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer

A runaway planet hurtles toward Earth. As it draws near, massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions wrack our planet, devastating continents, drowning cities, and wiping out millions. In central North America a team of scientists race to build a spacecraft powerful enough to escape the doomed earth. Their greatest threat, they soon discover, comes not from the skies but from other humans.

 

The Forever War

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Private William Mandella is a reluctant hero in an interstellar war against an unknowable and unconquerable alien enemy. But his greatest test will be when he returns home. Relativity means that for every few months’ tour of duty centuries have passed on Earth, isolating the combatants ever more from the world for whose future they are fighting. The Forever War, winner of both the Hugh and Nebula awards, is one of the very best must-read SF novels of all time.

 

Cosmic Engineers by Clifford D. Simak

“Upon you and you alone must rest the fate of the universe. You are the only ones to save it.” Thus spoke the mysterious Cosmic Engineers to a small group of human beings on the rim of the solar system. Somewhere out there in the vastness of the galaxies lurked the greatest challenge they would ever face…

Cities in Flight

 

 

James Blish’s galaxy-spanning masterwork, originally published in four volumes, explores a future in which two crucial discoveries – antigravity devices which enable whole cities to be lifted from the Earth to become giant spaceships, and longevity drugs which enable their inhabitants to live for thousands of years – lead to the establishment of a unique Galactic empire.

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Gender in Science Fiction, a BBC Radio 4 Documentary

27 January 2016

Mary ShelleyTomorrow BBC Radio 4 is airing a documentary that explores how science fiction tackles issues of gender. This accompanying article from the BBC highlights ten brilliant and influential female SF authors. From Mary Shelley, often credited with founding the science fiction genre with Frankenstein (1818), and Ursula K. Le Guin, who has “nourished the sci-fi and fantasy genre with piercing visions of race, gender, ecology and politics”, to Connie Willis – one of the most decorated SF writers of all time – and James Tiptree, Jr., who was “explosively influential” and has a literary prize named in her honour. These women have left – and, indeed, continue to leave – a substantial mark on the landscape of genre fiction.

 

Herland airs on BBC Radio 4 on 28 January 2016 at 11.30am. We’ll certainly be listening in!

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