Thoughts from the SF Gateway

SF Masterwork of the Week: The Fifth Head of Cerberus

31 July 2013

‘Wolfe is so good he leaves me speechless’
~ Ursula Le Guin

‘A truly extraordinary work . . . a masterpiece’
~ Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels

‘A richly imaginative exploration of the nature of identity and individuality’
~ The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

 

In case it’s escaped anyone’s attention, Gene Wolfe is rather special. He’s the winner of four World Fantasy Awards, two Nebulas, a John W. Campbell Award, a BSFA Award and a British Fantasy Award, as well as being an inductee into the SF Hall of Fame and the recipient of the SFWA Grand Master and World Fantasy Life Achievement Awards. Many people (your humble correspondent included) would point to his magnificent tetralogy The Book of the New Sun as being his best work, but there’s a significant case to be made for The Fifth Head of Cerberus.

Far from Earth two sister planets, Sainte Anne and Sainte Croix, circle each other. It is said that a race of shapeshifting aliens once lived here, only to become extinct when human colonists arrived. But one man believes they still exist, somewhere out in the wilderness.

In The Fifth Head of Cerberus, Gene Wolfe brilliantly interweaves three tales: a scientist’s son gradual discovery of the bizarre secret of his heritage; a young man’s mythic dreamquest for his darker half; the mystifying chronicle of an anthropologist’s seemingly-arbitrary imprisonment. Gradually, a mesmerising pattern emerges.

 

As BSFA and John W. Campbell Award-winning writer Adam Roberts says in his introduction:

There is something uniquely haunting about this this novel and what haunts is this something extra, this something that is spectrally supererogatory, something hard precisely to place or pin down. The novel, once read, preys on your mind . . . It is pure Gene Wolfe.

The Fifth Head of Cerberus is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, and is the perfect introduction to the work of one of SF greatest writers.

And, as ever, you can fins more of Gene Wolfe‘s novels at his SF Gateway author page and read more about him in his entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Announcing the SF Gateway Omnibuses

30 July 2013

Enter the SF Gateway . . .

Towards the end of 2011, in conjunction with the celebration of fifty years of coherent, continuous science fiction and fantasy publishing, Gollancz launched the SF Gateway with a view to utilising the technology that now exists to make available, for the first time, the entire backlists of an incredibly wide range of classic and modern SF and fantasy authors. Embracing the future even as we honour the past, our plan, at its simplest, was – and still is – to use this technology to build on the success of the SF and Fantasy Masterworks series and to go even further.

The SF Gateway was designed to be the new home of classic Science Fiction & Fantasy – the most comprehensive electronic library of classic SFF titles ever assembled. Almost two years down the line, the programme has been extremely well received and we’ve been very happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that we’ve decided to complete the circle and return a selection of our titles to print, in these omnibus editions, designed to showcase the range of the chosen authors.

We start proceedings with omnibuses from Frank Herbert, Gordon R. Dickson and Sheri S. Tepper, which are available now, and continue next month with Bob Shaw, Robert Silverberg and Joe Haldeman. We’ll post the rest of the year’s schedule in the next week or so.

We hope you enjoy this selection; these are wonderful books – which include some amazing novels that should never, ever have been allowed to go out of print – and we’re delighted to be able to return them to the shelves.  And we hope that after you’ve finished, you’ll want to explore more of the classic SF and fantasy we have available.

You’ll find all of these titles and much, much more . . . through the SF Gateway.

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Read ‘Lost Girls’ by Pat Cadigan

29 July 2013

Psst! Hey you! Yeah, you! Wanna read some terrific SF?

What? No! It stands for ‘science fiction’! What the hell is wrong with you?

Anyway, like I said: wanna read some great science fiction? For free? Yeah, course you do. So here’s what you need to do. Point your web browser at Pat Cadigan’s Facebook pagespecifically here, and start reading her James Tiptree Award-longlisted story ‘Lost Girls’.  Look, we’ll even start you off:

Well, I tried to tell him there was going to be trouble. I really did. I really thought that as the female who had been closest to him the longest, I’d have had some major influence, that he would listen. But it’s the same old story – it’s just about impossible to get anyone to take you seriously when you’re only a few inches high and covered with fairy dust. And you’re cursed with tinkling bells for a voice. After all that, the frivolous name is practically anticlimax. Can’t say I haven’t contributed to my own predicament, though. For time out of mind, I’ve played the role of the party girl with gusto. I was, after all, the one who always got everybody high – literally. You wanted to fly, I was the girl to see, I had the stuff. Still am. You can’t help what you are, after all. But, as I maintained to Peter, you can help what you do with it.

Pat Cadigan Read the rest of the story here.

 

You can find more of two-time Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Pat Cadigan’s work at her author page on the SF Gateway – including the collection Dirty Work, which contains the story above – and read about the author herself in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Now, go on –  get outta here!

 

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There Must Be Something in the Water

26 July 2013

As has been noted a number of times, we’re big fans of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and especially its excellent On This Day feature. If you want an instant run-down of births, deaths and anniversaries in the SF world, there’s simply no substitute. The SF Gateway is a regular visitor, and we almost always come away with at least one interesting nugget of information. And every now and then, we find a day that seems to have been sprinkled with a little bit of stardust.

July 26th seems to have been one of those days. How about this for a roll call of births:

1856: George Bernard Shaw
1894: Aldous Huxley
1919: James Lovelock
1928: Stanley Kubrick
1945: M. John Harrison

So, are there any conclusions we can draw from this? Well . . . not really. But if you ever want to film a dystopian play based on a beautifully-written novel about the Gaia Theory, we can say without a shadow of a doubt that the 26th July has you covered.

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New Book of the Week: Tanith Lee’s THE SILVER METAL LOVER

25 July 2013

This week’s new book is The Silver Metal Lover, by World Horror Grandmaster and World Fantasy Award-winner Tanith Lee.

For sixteen-year-old Jane, life is a mystery she despairs of ever mastering. She and her friends are the idle, pampered children of the privileged class, living in luxury on an Earth remade by natural disaster. Until Jane’s life is changed forever by a chance encounter with a robot minstrel with auburn hair and silver skin, whose songs ignite in her a desperate and inexplicable passion.

Jane is certain that Silver is more than just a machine built to please. And she will give up everything to prove it. So she escapes into the city’s violent, decaying slums to embrace a love bordering on madness. Or is it something more? Has Jane glimpsed in Silver something no one else has dared to see – not even the robot or his creators? A love so perfect it must be destroyed, for no human could ever compete?

SF Gateway is in the process of preparing much of Tanith Lee‘s backlist for eBook publication, incorporating the author’s corrections.  Keep an eye on the SF Gateway website for details, and read more about Tanith Lee in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Re-Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation

24 July 2013

Space: the final frontier . . .
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise . . .
Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds . . .
To seek out new life and new civilisations . . .
To boldly go where no man has gone before.

It was with these words, first heard almost four dozen years ago, that one of the greatest SF television series of all time announced itself to the world. Through three years of network television and, more importantly, decades of syndication, Gene Roddenberry‘s Star Trek would give us one of the defining friendships of modern entertainment, audacious storytelling  courtesy of some of the finest writers in the business, American television’s first inter-racial kiss and a plethora of catchphrases, which would permeate pop culture to an incredible degree.

Beam me up, Scotty.

That is illogical, Captain.

I cannae change the laws of physics.

Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker!

Me engines cannae take much more o’ this, Cap’n.

You green-blooded hobgoblin!

Live long and prosper.

I could go on – trust me, your patience for snippets of dialogue will be up long before my reservoir of Star Trek sayings – stop me now before I kill again! Read more…

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In Praise of . . . The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

23 July 2013

SF Gateway’s respect and admiration for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction should be obvious – we did have the site built for them, after all – but we really couldn’t let our series of ‘In Praise of …’ posts go on any longer without featuring this most authoritative of all SF resources.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is an essential reference for us in compiling bibliographies, writing biographies, researching blog posts, gathering cover quotes, generating ideas for blog posts – and now the evil geniuses at the SFE have developed a classic SF cover gallery. Largely comprised of images scanned from the libraries of John Clute, Judith Clute and Roger Robinson, and coded by the SFE’s master of technology, David Langford, it launched on 15th May with over 1,800 covers and is now up to a staggering 5,142! Truly, it is a mix of nostalgia and wonder and a treasure trove of classic SF imagery.

You can read some explanatory notes here and visit the gallery itself here. And if you can do so without losing yourself for hours in the nostalgic glow of sense of wonder, you’re a better sentient being than we are.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: The Deep

22 July 2013

John Crowley is probably best known for his fantasy – most notably his Aegypt sequence and the career-defining Little, Big, for which he won the World Fantasy Award. However, he started his career writing science fiction: Engine Summer, Beasts and, of course, The Deep, our current SF Masterwork of the Week.

For many generations the Just have been at war with the Protectors. In their strange world, supported by a huge pillar poised in the vast and mysterious Deep, ritual bloodshed and sorcery have obsessed the inhabitants since the beginning of time.

Half human, half machine, sexless and hairless, the Visitor from the skies enters the world on a mission unknown even to himself. Is he a peacemaker between the warrior clans, an observer, or, with his phenomenal qualities, a warrior himself, the likes of which this planet has never seen before?

Only time can tell, and time is something that his makers have not allowed for . . .

 

The Deep, a strange and compelling tale of alien warfare from the World Fantasy Award-wining author of Little, Big is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook.

Read more about John Crowley at his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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That’s One Small Step For Man …

19 July 2013

Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. A day later Neil Armstrong took the first steps taken by a human on another world.

From this . . .

 

 

. . . to this . . .

 

 

. . . inside seven years.

 

Remarkable. Just remarkable.

 

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New Book of the Week: Harry Harrison’s WINTER IN EDEN

18 July 2013

Our New Book of the Week is one that has been eagerly awaited by many people: Winter in Eden, the middle book of Harry Harrison‘s extraordinary Eden trilogy.

The Eden series – West of Eden (1984), Winter in Eden (1986) and Return to Eden (1988) – [is] an ambitiously conceived Alternate-History sequence based on the assumption that the Dinosaurs did not suffer extinction and, in the due course of time, have evolved into saurians skilled at biotechnology. Their encounter with a savage humanity, and the irreconcilable differences between two intelligent species warring for Lebensraum, is an intrinsically interesting variation on the Prehistoric SF mode; the tales are tightly and informatively told, and dramatically gripping as the slowly approaching Ice Age adds intensity to the strife and the sense of peril. Along with his earliest sf adventures and Make Room! Make Room!, the Eden books are by a considerable margin Harrison’s best work.

~ The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

We’re delighted to be able to make this book available and complete the trilogy. Although we have addressed the reasons why we sometimes publish series out of order, it is nevertheless frustrating to us, as well as to our readers, when we have a gaping hole in the middle of series. As per the FAQ, in some cases it’s because we haven’t been able to locate a source file from which to produce our eBook, but in this case it was an issue of quality control – Winter in Eden is a huge book, full of non-standard language, names and punctuation and it just took us a lot longer than usual to check it.

But it’s here, now, and we hope you enjoy it.

 

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