Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Beyond 2000!

28 June 2013

Hearty cheers resound throughout the futuristic-yet-comfortingly-retro corridors of Gateway Towers at the news that we have just published our 2,000th eBook! And our 2,001st.  and 2,002nd. And . . . well, you get the picture. We’re very pleased. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – we’ve got another hundred titles coming in July (see below) and will be aiming at a similar level each month from now on. If you ever run out of books to read, it won’t be our fault!

And, as we did last month, here’s a run-down of July’s new releases . . . Read more…

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Spaceships!

27 June 2013

Arthur C. Clarke and Philip K. Dick Award-winning author – and friend of SF Gateway – the excellent Paul McAuley has just posted a collection of covers from 1970s British SF paperbacks depicting spaceships. And as anyone reading SF in the ’70s and early ’80s will tell you, that can mean only one name: Chris Foss.

We recommend you go have a look at Paul’s post – and also stop by Alastair Reynoldsblog for his take on the importance of Chris Foss to British SF in general and to Al’s induction into it, in particular. I’d agree with Al on both the allure of a Foss cover and the fact that knowing what was depicted on the cover was vanishingly unlikely to appear between the covers was so much less important than the sheer sense of wonder Foss evoked.

I’ve mentioned The Testament of Andros and its stunning cover before – classic Foss – but the cover that burns brightest in my mind is probably still Foundation. Do any of the scenes depicted on Foss’s wonderful triptych of covers for the Foundation trilogy actually happen in the books? No. No, they don’t. Does that matter? No, it doesn’t. Did those covers with their magnificent spaceships – all rivets and visible panels and patches of colour – hanging suspended in glorious disbelief in the aether make my pick up a book whether I’d heard of the author or not? Hell, yes!

Chris Foss will be one of the guests of honour at next year’s London Worldcon, and while I’m sad beyond words that Iain Banks won’t be there as he should, I’m more than a little excited at the prospect of encountering a living legend of SF art. Who knows, I might even make my first ever purchase from the art auction . . .

*****

POST SCRIPT: It would be terribly remiss of me not to point out that Paul McAuley has a new book out in a few weeks – Evening’s Empires is the fourth in his superb Quiet War series and is available in hardback, trade paperback and as an eBook – and Alastair Reynolds also has a new book imminent: On the Steel Breeze, set in the same future as 2012’s Blue Remembered Earth, will be published later this year, also in hardback and as an eBook.

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Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

26 June 2013

As noted by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ‘Another of the genre’s grand old men has gone’. Richard Matheson died on 23rd June, in Los Angeles. As befits a writer of his influence, obituaries can be found in The Guardian, The Telegraph, on the BBC, and many other sources.

SF Gateway would like to extend our sympathies to his family, and our thanks for the wonderful stories.

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New Releases for June: an Explanation

25 June 2013

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed a large number of new books appearing on the SF Gateway today – 76 of them, in fact, and you can find them here. However, if you click through to any of them, you’ll find that the retailer you’ve chosen says the book is not on sale until Thursday 27th June.

This is correct, we’re afraid. The database system that produces the feed to power our website and send bibliographic information out into the world, is down for a few days for essential work, so in order to ensure that the information was actually sent to the website, we triggered the feed two days early.

Apologies for any inconvenience but at least you can pre-order them – and you’ll only have to wait another two days to read them.

Normal service will be resumed for July, just as soon as we are sure what is normal anyway.*

* in the words of the late, great Douglas Adams.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: Cities in Flight

24 June 2013

Our current SF Masterwork of the Week is James Blish‘s epic Cities in Flight is available as a Gollancz paperback, and the four books that make up the sequences are available as individual SF Gateway eBooks: They Shall Have StarsA Life For The StarsEarthman, Come Home and The Triumph Of Time.

To introduce you to this extraordinary work, we’re delighted that our good friends at SFX, the UK’s premier SF entertainment magazine, have kindly allowed us to republish this article from their excellent SFX Book Club feature.  This view of Cities in Flight is from one of our finest writers of politically-savvy science fiction, the wonderful Ken MacLeod . . . Read more…

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The Man of Steel?

21 June 2013

So, the Gollancz/Gateway team was sitting round a table recently, trying to work out the coming weeks’ blog posts (yes, these things really are planned. Mostly) and someone mentioned the new Superman move, Man of Steel, which opened last week.

‘OK, so who’s  our resident Superman expert?’ came the leading question.

Silence. We’re all too experienced to get caught out that way.

‘Come on! This is a room full of geeks – someone must be a Superman fan!’

Cue a series of head shakes or ‘I’ve only read Red Son‘ or ‘Only really seen the movies’ as your brave editorial staff desperately tried to back away from this clearly hazardous mission into No (Super)man’s Land.

‘How about you, Darren?’

‘Me? No! Well, I’ve read a bit, but wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. I’ve read John Byrne‘s post-Crisis reboot and the series that followed after – Byrne’s Superman, Jerry Ordway’s The Adventures of Superman, Action Comics Weekly. I kind of drifted away for a while, then, but Geoff Johns’ and Gary Frank’s pre-New 52 version was good – particularly his Legion of Superheroes story arc. Of course, the problem is that Superman, himself, isn’t really a very interesting character – his power set is too vast. There’s so little he can’t do that you end up with either wildly over-powered villains or ridiculously contrived situations to negate his almost unbeatable advantage that the stories inevitably suffer. The best writers have recognised that Clark Kent is a much more interesting character than Superman because he faces a constant battle to keep himself from tipping his hand and displaying his abilities. That’s why Smallville and Lois & Clark worked so much better than most of the movies, because they recognise . . . why is everyone looking at me like that? . . . d’oh!’

And thus was a digital publisher undone by his own hubris.

So, it looks like I’m our resident Superman expert – and you know what? I’m really looking forward to Man of Steel. From what I’ve seen of trailers, it looks very good. Or maybe I’m just mentally comparing it with Superman Returns, which would be . . . now how does one put this politely? . . . setting the bar low. Let’s face it, Superman Returns was dreadful – a fatal mix of dull story, poor script and actors who, with the notable exception of Kevin Spacey, were simply not able to bring sufficient charisma to their roles. And now we await a new Superman film with the sort of once-bitten-twice-shy sense of dread that must be all too familiar to Star Wars fans after the debacle of the three prequels.

At the time of writing this, I still haven’t seen Man of Steel yet, so I’m not sure whether this latest episode of the great Superman story is an Empire Strikes Back or a Phantom Menace. I hope it’s the former, but if it’s the latter, it won’t be the end of the world. Because the thing about Superman is that he’s not really a character; he’s a symbol. And as such he can reinterpreted in new ways for new generations. Some have said this new film is too dark. Well, take a look around. Global recession, illegal surveillance, civil wars, catastrophic climate change, rapidly mutating viruses, species-jumping diseases – a real barrel of laughs, isn’t it?

If we want a return to light-hearted four-colour hi-jinks, we may have to wait until the world around us is in better shape than it is now. They say every generation gets the leaders it deserves; maybe that’s true of superheroes, too.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: The Gods Themselves

20 June 2013

What to say about The Gods Themselves?

Written by one of the greatest science fiction writers ever? Check.

Won the Hugo Award for best novel? Check.

Won the Nebula Award for best novel? Check.

Highly praised by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction? Check.

Given added gravitas by virtue of inclusion in Gollancz‘s prestigious SF Masterworks series? Check.

OK, that last one might have been biased but the others are totally significant! Certainly, there’s no doubting Isaac Asimov‘s credentials and The Gods Themselves was seen as major return to the genre. But don’t take our word for it – ask Ken MacLeod:

From 1958 to 1972, even readers familiar with the works that made his name – the Robot and Foundation books, a handful of other novels from the 1950s, and various short-story collections – would have seen little new science fiction by Asimov. Instead, there was a sustained monthly output of popular science columns . . . and full-length popularizations of current knowledge in fields as diverse as biochemistry, astronomy, and (later in Asimov’s career) Shakespeare studies and Biblical scholarship.

We who grew up in those years loved these books – often sparkling, always sound – and we (and our children, if they’re lucky) can still learn a lot from them. But we missed Asimov, the science fiction writer. In 1972 that Asimov came back, and gave us this book. The Gods Themselves won the 1973 Hugo and the 1972 Nebula Awards for Best Novel, against shortlists that included major works by Robert Silverberg, John Brunner, and Norman Spinrad…

As Ken’s wonderful introduction goes on to outline, The Gods Themselves marked the return of a giant to the SF world. Put simply: this was an important book from a very important writer. And it fully deserves its place as an SF Masterwork.

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Dangerous Visions (No, Not Those Ones)

18 June 2013

Over the weekend, Radio 4 started its Dangerous Visions season – a series of dramas exploring contemporary takes on future dystopias.

Saturday 15th kicked off with ‘The Sleeper’ by Michael Symmons Roberts, while Sunday 16th saw adaptations of Lord of the Flies by William Golding and The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard. Over the coming days there will be more dystopian goodness (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) including more J.G. Ballard, an adaptation of Jane Rogers‘ 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, and ‘Invasion’ by friend-of-SF Gateway and SF author extraordinaire, Philip Palmer.

You can find the programme here; and we remind you that the Dangerous Visions series of radio plays is unrelated to Harlan Ellison‘s groundbreaking New Wave anthology of the same name, which is available as a recently reprinted SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook.

 
 
 

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Entirely Random Friday

14 June 2013

It’s possible that we may have mentioned, on occasion, in passing, our huge respect and admiration for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

The SFE is, as every right-thinking sentient being should know by now, the indispensable resource for anyone interested in all aspects of science fiction and related fields. But did you know there are a host of added extras that turn it from being ‘merely’ the most authoritative SF reference work on the planet to a source of surprise and discovery. Take, for instance,  the Random Entry buttons: there’s one to choose an entry at random from the entire database and another to choose randomly from only the recent updates.

We just clicked on the Random button and it brought up Ernest Bramah‘s entry. Who, you may well ask, is Ernest Bramah? I have no idea. Never heard of him – but I now know that he was a British writer of the first half of the twentieth century, ‘best-known for two series, the Max Carrados books about a blind detective, all of whose perceptions (except sight) are enormously enhanced [Daredevil! – Gateway Ed.], and a series of tales in which the Chinese Kai Lung tells stories – often to stave off some unpleasant fate, like Scheherazade.’

Cool isn’t it?

So, what are you waiting for? Go be random . . .

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Introducing . . . the new Fantasy Masterworks!

13 June 2013

The World Fantasy Convention comes to the UK in October and – in an act of synchronicity so dazzling one might almost suspect it was premeditated – we will be re-launching the Fantasy Masterworks at the same time, with – if we do say so ourselves – an absolutely stunning new cover style.

Behold!
 

[flagallery gid=1 name=Gallery]

 
The Fantasy Masterworks series will relaunch five titles this year, beginning in October with Tim PowersLast Call, John Crowley‘s Aegypt and Lucius Shepard‘s The Dragon Griaule. November will see the publication of Pat Murphy‘s The Falling Woman and December’s release will be Avram Davidson‘s The Phoenix and the Mirror.

More titles will follow in 2014 – a mix of new books and existing Fantasy Masterworks given the new cover treatment. Enjoy!
 

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