Thoughts from the SF Gateway

SF Gateway at Eastercon

29 March 2013

There will be an SF Gateway presence at the 64th Eastercon this weekend. I will be accompanying my excellent Gollancz colleagues, Gillian Redfearn and Marcus Gipps (and possibly Jon Weir, although his attendance quantum waveform remains tantalisingly uncollapsed at the time of writing this) to the <ahem> sunny climes of Bradford for EightSquaredCon. In addition to haunting the Dealers’ Room, the panels and (let’s face it) the bar, I will be moderating a panel on Sunday at 13:00 (that’s 13 o’clock for those of you who . . . never mind).

The topic is Advice for Writers: Setting and Environment, and I have the privilege of being joined by Aliette de Bodard, Chris Beckett, Simon Morden and Gaie Sebold, who have between them won or been nominated for the BSFA Award, Edge Hill Prize, John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, Philip K. Dick Award, World Fantasy Award, the Hugo and the Nebula Award. They are all very talented and very clever and you should come along and listen to them, if you’re (a) at Eastercon and (b) in anyway interested in the craft of writing.

Also in attendance, barring last-minute changes of plans, will be Stephen Baxter, Paul McAuley and Christopher Priest – all current frontlist authors for Gollancz, but also denizens of planet Gateway by virtue of their rich backlists.

So whether you’re attending EightSquaredCon or not, enjoy your Easter; after all: a rabbit that lays chocolate eggs – what could be more science fictional than that?

 

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SF Gateway Welcomes Michael Moorcock!

28 March 2013

After what seems a lifetime (waiting to publish a living legend is worse than relativity for messing with your perception of time!) but is in fact only about six months ago, we announced a comprehensive deal with Michael Moorcock to publish all of his SF & fantasy works in new, definitive editions.

Today, we are delighted to say, is the day it all begins! Publishing today will be Gollancz paperback editions of Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe and the three novels make up the Elric: The Moonbeam Roads sequence: Daughter of Dreams, Destiny’s Brother and Son of the Wolf.

Also publishing as SF Gateway eBooks are Daughter of Dreams, Destiny’s Brother and Son of the Wolf, as well as the two Jerry Cornell novels, The Chinese Agent and The Russian Intelligence; these last two will only be available as eBooks.

Unfortunately, owing to differences in the eBook editions and the printed omnibus, the three books comprising Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe (The Knight of the SwordsThe Queen of the Swords and The King of the Swords) will not be published until May. This will also be the case for the books published in April. We’re confident that the processes will speed up once our suppliers have a few more eBooks under their belt but, for the first few months, the eBooks will lag a little behind the print editions. We’re sorry for this delay, but these are the definitive editions of Michael Moorcock’s work and we want to make sure we’ve got them just right.

And to add some context to this new iteration of Michael Moorcock’s extraordinary body of work, we direct your attention to a fascinating interview with the man himself, in the Los Angeles Review of Books. Enjoy!

Happy reading!

 

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Readers’ Choice: Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge

27 March 2013

This week’s Readers’ Choice is Mindbridge by Joe Haldeman, which was recommended by one of SF Gateway‘s stalwart Twitter correspondents, @tanj666. It was he, you might remember, got out of the blocks quicker than anyone else to give us our first Readers’ ChoiceAlan Dean Foster‘s Icerigger – back at the start of February.

It’s an excellent choice for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it does exactly what we’d hoped Readers’ Choice would do when we instigated it: spotlight interesting books that aren’t necessarily thought of as the author in question’s milestone works. Secondly, because it gives us an excellent excuse to sing the praises of a multi-award-winning writer. ‘How many awards?’ you say? We’re glad you asked. Joe Haldeman has won five Hugo Awards, five Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a James Tiptree, Jr Award and  a John W. Campbell Memorial Award as well as well as sixteen others that the SFADB doesn’t classify as ‘major awards’.

The Forever War won both the Hugo and Nebula, as did loose sequel Forever Peace (which also won the Campbell); Camouflage won the Nebula and the Tiptree; and Mindbridge was nominated for the Hugo but lost out to Kate Wilhelm‘s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which – we’re sure you’ll agree – is no disgrace.

So. Joe Haldeman: this week’s Readers’ Choice – and frequently the judges’ and voters’ choice when it comes to award time.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: Grass

26 March 2013

GRASS by Sheri S. Tepper
SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback

What could be more commonplace than grass, or a world covered over all its surface with a wind-whipped ocean of grass?

But the planet Grass conceals horrifying secrets within its endless pastures. And as an incurable plague attacks all inhabited planets but this one, the prairie-like Grass begins to reveal these secrets – and nothing will ever be the same again . . .

 

The wonderful Sheri S. Tepper is March’s Author of the Month. Having previously featured The Gate to Women’s Country and been treated to yesterday’s quite remarkable autobiographical note, we thought we’d round out Ms Tepper’s Author of the Month tenure by featuring the Hugo-nominated Grass as SF Masterwork of the Week, and linking to two very perceptive reviews on Ian Sales‘ excellent SF Mistressworks site.

Cara Murphy‘s review looks at Grass‘s protagonist, Marjorie Westriding, through the prism of her religious upbringing:

Marjorie Westriding Yrarier is the central character. She arrives on Grass from a future Terra (Earth) dominated by Sanctity, an oppressive world religion. Her family relationships, her religion, ‘Old Catholicism’ and her faith in the very existence of God are constant themes in her life. Throughout the book, revelations about Grass, its culture and the nature of the native inhabitants, serve to undermine and challenge her entire belief system.

Michaela Staton‘s review emphasises the sociological aspect of the novel:

It is also a story about classism. The bons look down on pretty much everyone else. They tolerate the ‘commoners’ more than they do Marjory and her family because the Yrariers are intruders, or ‘fragras’ as they are called. However, the bons’ power is superficial. The commoners have a thriving community and do very well in trade with the rest of human civilization. They are not as ignorant of technology and medicine as the bons are. Though the bons see them only as servants, the commoners are in fact far freer to seek their own happiness than their masters.

Both, of course, cover much more than just the elements picked out above, but if we detailed every nuance of each review you’d have no reason to go and read them – and you should. They’re both insightful looks at a fine novel as well as a pertinent reminder that each of us reads a slightly book, and by taking on board the interpretations of other readers we can enrich our own experience of a narrative. And in the case of Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass there’s clearly a wealth of material to interpret.

 

SF Gateway wishes to extend thanks and appreciation to Cara Murphy, Michaela Staton and Ian Sales for allowing us to republish the extracts above. Read the full reviews – and more – at SF Mistressworks.

 

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Reflections on Feminism, Ecology and Life from Sheri S. Tepper

25 March 2013

We recently sent Sheri S. Tepper the proposed Introduction to her forthcoming SF Gateway omnibus for her comments and thoughts. Accompanying Ms Tepper’s gracious reply was an autobiographical note so extraordinary that we asked her for permission to post it here.  From first paragraph to last, we were transfixed; we’re sure you will be, too.

 

When I was four, I was told by my grandmother, who was my main caregiver(?) that I had a baby brother. I said, innocently, “I’ll still be your grandbaby, won’t I Nana?” To which she replied, with great satisfaction, “I have a grandson now, I don’t need you girls anymore.” The girls referred to were my cousins and I. I have never forgotten it. This is my earliest memory. It was also my introduction to the worth of females in my world. In the family of grandparents, parents, uncles, a great aunt, later events were similar.

On the farm where we lived there were no other children anywhere near. When I went to school at six, I was the only girl there who did not know how to play jump-rope, hop-scotch, or jacks. (I was also the only girl able to identify ten kinds of snakes which gave me a little street cred with a couple of boys who had not yet decided to hate girls.) I asked the girls where they learned. “the girls on the block.” It was obvious they weren’t going to interrupt their game to teach me. I asked Mother if she could do those things, and she said, ‘of course.’ She didn’t offer to teach me, either. Mother belonged to two bridge clubs, (one for couples, one for women only) one sorority, and two other women’s clubs. She was very busy. I spent most of my time alone writing very bad poetry. It rhymed and scanned well. It was still very bad, though I didn’t know it at the time.

On graduating high school, I wanted to go to a university that was known to have a good creative writing course. My parents told me it was too far away ‘for a girl.” . I therefore did the equivalent of repeating a couple of years of high school in a local two year college for girls: a kind of holding-tank for girls between high school and marriage. It had no creative writing course or anything else helpful. My brother, four years later, asked to go to the university I had chosen and was sent there without question.

Therefore, I can honestly attribute any success I may have had in writing to four years of high school English with a remarkable English Teacher named Dorothea Benkleman. Dorothea was older, gray haired, rotund, had a raspy voice, and was the butt of many jokes behind her back, mostly by boys who saw no sense in Chaucer or Shakespeare, punctuation or spelling, except that they had to get a passing grade in order to be on the football and basketball teams. Nonetheless, she was a fine teacher who loved what she taught, and any skill I may have was learned at her instigation and through her encouragement. That is the sum and total of my writing education: I usually don’t read critics. Too many of them say I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m sure they’re perfectly right. Mostly I don’t. Or if I do it right, I don’t know the right literary name for what I did.

It was in the two year holding tank, however, that I was introduced to the ideas of Malthus, and for the first time considered what overpopulation was doing to our planet—perhaps re-discovered, for much of the wild area around the farm where I had grown up was by that time already covered in houses, and the wildlife there had been displaced or killed. The farm had been my home, my friend, my family. I grieved over it more than I grieved at the death of any member of my family because I was closer to it than I was to any of them—or they to me.

I married. I can admit now, over half a century later, that I did it simply to get away from a home that had never been at all nourishing or kind, though it was not abusive by the standard of that time. Hitting children wasn’t called abusive unless you did it with a knife or heavy stick. I was, however, the only one hit. I never saw anyone hit my brother. Maybe it wasn’t nice for grown up women to hit little boys. I worked throughout my marriage in between having the requisite girl child and boy child. Except for peeing standing up, the boy-child never got to do anything the girl-child didn’t. To my astonishment, after five years of marriage, my then husband, in order to avoid service in the military, suddenly chose a new career which would have required my lifetime, full time assistance in a field in which I could make no genuine or willing contribution. We divorced and I subsequently supported the children through a varied job career, with no time left over for writing.

When the position of director of the local Planned Parenthood became vacant, I applied, took the job, and worked as the director for some twenty years. I believed in that job and did it out of conviction. When my children went off to college, I started writing once more, dibs and dabs., then settled into a year long dedication to work on The Revenants all my off-work time. When I had finished the book, I sent it to a publisher. They kept it forever. I phoned to ask that it be returned—700 pages, typewritten, not on computer, and I didn’t have a copy! They said they rather liked it, but it was too long to publish by a beginning writer, would I give the publisher something more “accessible.” I put a junior high kid in the front of my mind as the probable reader and King’s Blood Four was written by the end of the month. So? It was a short book. “Give us another one like that, we’ll publish the first one.” I gave them a dozen all told, nine in the True Game series and three in the Mariannes. They did publish The Revenants.

So—it is from my tap-root that I come by both feminism and concern for ecology (also racial prejudice, which is another true story about a lonely little girl who was not allowed to play with the children of the farmer who rented our land because he was ‘a darky.’) All those talking animals and ETs in my books are just different races.

I am eighty-three and I remember the whys.

 

Sheri S. Tepper is our Author of the Month for March, and we’re sure you can see from the words above why Gollancz and SF Gateway are delighted and proud to be her publishers.

 

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Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

22 March 2013

Stardate 8879.58: A new life form has entered the world. Although there are … no signs of any … irregularities, I sense a … strange destiny … for this child. This … boy they call … Bill.

Yes, 82 years ago, today, the one and only William Shatner entered the world and, little did anybody realise at the time, a legend was born. Even with the success of the recently re-booted Star Trek universe, and the excellent job Chris Pine has done, it’s still impossible to hear the name ‘Captain Kirk’ and not think of William Shatner. His name should be made a byword for the ultimate in typecasting – ‘sure Barry Humphries has created lots of great characters, but he’s been absolutely Shatnered as Dame Edna’.

Many choose to mock his unique delivery style (and, to be fair, we’ve done it ourselves at the beginning of this post) – all dramatic pauses and portentous intonation – but what these people either forget or never knew is that that style was once a new and very distinctive delivery method. It was his USP, the point of difference he brought to the table; it was novel, it was exciting and it was pioneered by … William Shatner. For an actor to have such an impact that his own signature style becomes part of popular culture is an extraordinary testament to his skill. And to mock him for it is akin to poking fun at Muhammad Ali for his footwork or Elvis for his hip-swivel. Not cool, people, not cool.

Of course, Shatner doesn’t care – more: he revels in his status as a pop cultural oddity. He’s poked fun at himself and (let’s be honest) at us with his famous Saturday Night Live ‘Get A Life’ Sketch, lampooned his Kirk persona in films Airplane II: The Sequel and National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon, and lampooned himself in indie proto-Big Bang Theory film Free Enterprise (if you haven’t seen it yet, do so at once!).

He seems to be wilfully – joyfully – immune to his critics and more than happy to poke fun at himself, usually with more panache than anyone else could muster. We salute him for it. It’s not entirely clear whether his activities are knowing self-parodies or genuine attempts to tread new artistic ground . . . and, frankly, we couldn’t care less. As long as we get to marvel at performances like this, we’re in:

 

 

Happy Birthday, Bill. Long may your journey continue.

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A Special Readers’ Choice: Shambleau and Others

21 March 2013

This week’s Readers’ Choice is Shambleau and Others by C. L. Moore, one of the greats of early days of modern science fiction and, along with Leigh Brackett, one of the first women to break into the male-dominated world of the SF pulps.

‘A worthy choice’, we hear you say, ‘but what qualifies it as “special”?’

‘Well,’ we answer, our chest swelling with pride, ‘It’s only been suggested by Pat Cadigan!

If you didn’t already know that two-time Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner, Pat Cadigan is a big fan of the SF Gateway, then you do now! We are proud and delighted to publish almost all of Pat’s books on Gateway – as well as having Synners as an SF Masterwork – but it’s not self-interest that powers her enthusiasm. Pat Cadigan has a long history of supporting the genre and the genre’s writers, from volunteering on Worldcon committees to teaching at the famous Clarion West writing workshop to running the (much-missed) Borders SF evenings in the early 2000’s.

Pat Cadigan the Writer is well-known (as well she should be!) but Pat Cadigan the Reader, perhaps less so. But we know how insightful a reader Pat is because we’ve read the introduction she wrote for the forthcoming SF Masterwork edition of Connie Willis‘s To Say Nothing of the Dog, and sat in on many an interview and event where Pat has directed conversations like an orchestra conductor.

And now you can share Pat’s expertise, too. Take a look at Shambleau and Others and you’ll see why Pat says of C. L. Moore ‘one of the most remarkable women from the early days of modern SF; her work is still powerful’.

 

As ever, you can read more about C. L. Moore and Pat Cadigan in their entries in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and you can follow Pat Cadigan on Twitter at @cadigan.

 

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SF Masterwork of the Week: The Sea and Summer

20 March 2013

One of the arguments used to denigrate science fiction regularly employed by the sort of people who were going to denigrate science fiction anyway, is that it dates far more quickly than other genres. We could argue about (a) whether this is true and (b) whether it matters until the Booker Prize shortlists a genre author or the heat death of the universe, whichever comes first*. But if we were to argue the former, then this week’s SF Masterwork of the Week would be exhibit A.

George Turner‘s The Sea and Summer, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1988 and runner up in the John W. Campbell Memorial Award the same year, is a twenty-five-year-old novel that couldn’t be more current or pertinent.

Francis Conway is Swill – one of the millions in the year 2041 who must subsist on the inadequate charities of the state. Life, already difficult, is rapidly becoming impossible for Francis and others like him, as government corruption, official blindness and nature have conspired to turn Swill homes into watery tombs. And now the young boy must find a way to escape the approaching tide of disaster. 

That description could easily be from one of today’s newspapers, rather than a book written when Al Gore was still a serving senator and An Inconvenient Truth lay eighteen years in the future.

Science fiction – good science fiction, at least – doesn’t attempt to predict the future, but it may attempt to warn us of it. By depicting what might happen as a result of natural catastrophe, political inaction, social injustice, rampant prejudice – or any type of political, scientific, commercial or cultural trend – running out of control, good science fiction can force us to upon the possible results of our actions (or inaction). Good science fiction confronts us and compels us to think the unthinkable. And The Sea and Summer is very good science fiction.

Food shortages and crop failures, tsunamis, earthquakes and blizzards are occurring more and more frequently. Not so long ago, in George Turner‘s native Australia one end of the country was fighting floods while another end burned. It’s human nature to shy away from such disasters but George Turner makes us confront them. It’s a sobering thought that the most important book Gollancz publishes this year could well be a reprint from a quarter of a century ago . . .

 


* William Hill has the heat death of the universe a slightly more likely occurrence at 135/1, with a genre author being Booker-shortlisted way out at 1,000/1 – not quite as remote as an investment banker showing contrition over crashing the economy (1,500/1), but less likely than a politician accidentally telling the truth at 800/1.

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Reflections on Arthur C. Clarke: 16th December 1917 – 19th March 2008

19 March 2013

Five years ago today, we lost one of our greats. The last of The Big Three. The man who conceived the telecommunications satellite. The creator of one of the only two novels whose dates have become cultural touchstones. The writer whose ‘Third Law‘ is amongst the most quoted (and most misattributed!) in all of modern culture.

Upon hearing the news of Sir Arthur C. Clarke‘s passing, half a decade ago, my first reaction was a kind of numbness. I knew he was 90 years old, I knew he was not in the rudest of health and I knew of course that, to be blunt, people die. But this was different;  this was the writer who flipped the switch in my head and opened my eyes to the wonders of science fiction. In many ways, and with all due respect to some wonderful teachers I’ve been lucky enough to learn from over the years, it was Arthur C. Clarke who taught me to think. I devoured his novels and short stories – like we all do when we discover a new favourite – but with Clarke that wasn’t enough; I had to hunt down and read his non-fiction, too: the likes of Profiles of the Future, The View from Serendip, The Lost Worlds of 2001 and Report on Planet Three.

Read more…

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So, You Mentioned Something About Michael Moorcock …

18 March 2013

Why yes we did. Last autumn we announced the very exciting news that we would be publishing the legendary Michael Moorcock‘s complete SF/Fantasy oeuvre. And the time is fast approaching when we’ll see the first of The Michael Moorcock Collection – in print omnibus editions from Gollancz and individual eBooks from SF Gateway – and if our Inbox is anything to go by, quite a few of you are anxious to know the schedule.

Never let it be said that we let the anguished cries of the multiverse-starved go unanswered! Here, without further ado, is what the next few months should look like, eBook-wise:

28th March 2013
The Chinese Agent
The Russian Intelligence

Daughter of Dreams: Elric: The Moonbeam Roads Book One
Destiny’s Brother: Elric: The Moonbeam Roads Book Two
Son of the Wolf: Elric: The Moonbeam Roads Book Three

 

11th April 2013
The Distant Suns
The Golden Barge
Sojan the Swordsman

Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe: Book One: The Knight of the Swords
Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe: Book Two: The Queen of the Swords
Corum: The Prince in the Scarlet Robe: Book Three: The King of the Swords

Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand: Book One: The Bull and the Spear
Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand: Book Two: The Oak and the Ram
Corum: The Prince with the Silver Hand: Book Three: The Sword and the Stallion

Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff: Book One: The Jewel In The Skull
Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff: Book Two: The Mad God’s Amulet
Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff: Book Three: The Sword of the Dawn
Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff: Book Four: The Runestaff

 

9th May 2013
Gloriana; or, The Unfulfill’d Queen

Elric of Melniboné

Hawkmoon: Count Brass: Book One: Count Brass
Hawkmoon: Count Brass: Book Two: The Champion of Garathorm
Hawkmoon: Count Brass: Book Three: The Quest for Tanelorn

This is the planned schedule and we’ll do everything we can to stick to it, but we may need to delay titles at the last minute if the eBook doesn’t pass quality control. At the moment, everything is on track to meet the above schedule but who knows when the Lords of Chaos are going to strike . . .

N.B. The above differs slightly from the print schedule because the first three Corum books didn’t pass inspection and had to be sent back for correction. We apologise for the delay but we’re sure that, like us, you’d rather wait an extra couple of weeks than have inferior quality eBooks.

 

Welcome back to the Multiverse . . .

 

 

 

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