Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Happy Birthday, Nicola Griffith

30 September 2013

Today is the birthday of multi-award-winning author and editor, and friend of the SF Gateway, Nicola Griffith.

Nicola Griffith‘s first novel, Ammonite, won the James Tiptree Jr and the Lambda Awards and was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke and BSFA Awards. Her second novel, Slow River, won the NebulaLambda and Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. Both are available as SF Masterworks paperbacks and SF Gateway eBooks.

In addition to her decorations as an author, Nicola Griffith has also won the World Fantasy Award, two Lambdas and two Gaylactic Spectrum Awards for her work as an editor, for the three Bending the Landscape anthologies – SF, Fantasy & Horror – edited with Stephen Pagel.

We wish Nicola Griffith a very Happy Birthday and look forward to seeing her in Brighton later in the year for the World Fantasy Convention!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From the SFX Book Club: RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA

27 September 2013

As regular readers of the SF Gateway blog will know, our good friends at SFX have kindly agreed to allow us to republish those articles from their SFX Book Club that relate to our SF Masterworks and/or SF Gateway titles. Gollancz‘s resident master of hard SF, Stephen Baxter, multi-award-winning author, BSFA president and collaborator with Sir Arthur C. Clarke and Sir Terry Pratchett, is our guide as we explore one of science fiction’s great mysteries . . .

Read more…

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The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

26 September 2013

I didn’t read the second Thomas Covenant trilogy when I was a teenager (see my ramblings about the first books here). I’m not sure why – perhaps I just didn’t have them, and couldn’t find anyone to lend them to me? Anyway, it wasn’t until I started rereading the series in preparation for The Runes of the Earth, the first volume of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (and breathe) back in 2003 that I read the second trilogy. And, therefore, encountered Linden Avery, the series’ second main character. Read more…

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The Glasswright Quintet by Mindy Klasky

25 September 2013

Last week on the excellent E-Reads blog, Richard Curtis – agent, author, publisher, gentleman – posted  a piece about Mindy Klasky’s Glasswright quintet. As SF Gateway has licensed a large number of titles from E-Reads and because anything Richard says is worth listening to, we thought we’d shamelessly steal point you in the direction of his post. So, here it is.

And readers from the UK or Commonwealth countries who like what they read should feel free to visit Mindy Klasky’s author page on the SF Gateway and check out her books (excluding readers from Canada, who should go to E-reads).

Read and enjoy!

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Happy Birthday John Brunner

24 September 2013

HIPCRIME: You committed one when you opened this book. Keep it up. It’s our only hope.
~ The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad Mulligan

If you recognise the above quote, then chances are you’re one of the enlightened souls who’ve read  Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner‘s brilliantly fractured 1968 novel, which won the Hugo Award and the BSFA Award. The creation of Stand on Zanzibar alone would be enough to ensure John Brunner entry into the pantheon of SF greats, but he produced many other fine and worthy works (which, coincidentally, you can find via his author page on the SF Gateway) such as The Shockwave Rider, in which he predicted the computer virus.

COINCIDENCE: You weren’t paying attention to the other half of what was happening.
~ The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad Mulligan

Sadly, John Brunner passed away during the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon. Had he not, he would have been celebrating his 79th birthday today. Having read and enjoyed Stand on Zanzibar – albeit many moons ago – we can’t help but winder what he would make of the world we’ve inherited. . . ?

PATRIOTISM: A great British writer once said that if he had to choose between betraying his country and betraying a friend he hoped he would have the decency to betray his country.
(Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!)
~ The Hipcrime Vocab by Chad Mulligan

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SF Masterwork of the Week: DOUBLE STAR

23 September 2013

Robert A. Heinlein – ‘the Dean of science fiction’ – won an impressive four Hugo Awards for Best Novel. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress won in 1967; his best-known books, Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land, in 1960 and ’62, respectively; but the first to pick up the coveted rocket-shaped trophy was Double Star.

If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he’s a spaceman.

One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe was – as usual – in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake – failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line – for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

 

Introduced with customary wit and perspicacity by the wonderful BSFA Award-winning author Ken MacLeod, Double Star is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook.

You can read more about Robert A. Heinlein and Ken MacLeod in their entries in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Something in the Water Part III

20 September 2013

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we continue to lavish praise on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and particularly its excellent On This Day feature. If you’re looking for an instant run-down of births, deaths and anniversaries in the SF world – and, let’s face it, who isn’t? – 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.

The 20th September Looks to us to have been one of those days. How about this for a roll call of births:

1951: AA Attanasio
1950: James P. Blaylock [SF Gateway author page]
1948: George R.R. Martin [SF Gateway author page]
1935: Keith Roberts [SF Gateway author page]

Or sometimes even two days, because look at yesterday . . .

1933: Jack Cohen
1911: William Golding
1922: Damon Knight  [SF Gateway author page]
1947: Tanith Lee [SF Gateway author page]

Are there any conclusions we can draw from this? No. Not really. Let’s just say that some days are just really, really good for literature.

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The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever

19 September 2013

I can’t remember how I first came across Stephen Donaldson’s writing. I have a vague image of my godmother – a wonderful woman who introduced me to SF/F and let me borrow anything I wanted from her shelves, and hang the inappropriate content – passing me something when I was about 11. Mordant’s Need, perhaps? Daughter of Regals? Anyway, I enjoyed it and on my next visit asked for some more. That’s how I first read Lord Foul’s Bane, when I was 12ish, an experience which has stayed with me ever since (can I just take a moment to say how upset that title still makes me? It’s so redolent of the type of fantasy the book really really isn’t. Covenant the Unbeliever would have worked for me, although I accept that it probably did its job and pulled in the fantasy readers. But more on naming later).

Read more…

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New Book of the Week: The Visitor

18 September 2013

Sheri S. Tepper, SF and Fantasy writer extraordinaire, gives us an exciting, evocative and thought-provoking tale where science and magic meet head-on.

 

The “magic” that once was America died horribly along with most of the Earth’s inhabitants when an asteroid crashed into the planet sometime during the twenty-first century. Hundreds of years have passed, and all that remains of the time before are fragmented memories distorted by superstition – as a tragically reduced populace suffers greatly under the tyranny of a repressive ruling order. But destiny has chosen Dismé Latimer to lead a wasted world out of the darkness … with a book.

Written by a courageous scientist ancestor, the book is a sacred, unsettling tome rife with disturbing ideas and revelations – and an impossible hope that compels a gentle, troubled young woman to abandon her abusive home in search of truth and her true self. But common “wisdom” and lore warn of grave dangers out in the world. Evil is there, a malevolence beyond imagining.

And in the depths of the Earth, a gargantuan beast asleep for centuries has begun to stir …

 

Available in eBook for the first time, The Visitor is a tour de force of post-apocalyptic SF.

 

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The Founding Fathers of Rocket Science

17 September 2013

The name most frequently associated with modern rocketry is that of Wernher von Braun (1912-1977), the German rocket scientist who moved to the United States at the end of the Second World War, known to many as  ‘the Father of Rocket Science’.  And, to be fair, when one considers that his career is more or less bookended by the creation of the V-2, the world’s first long-range ballistic missile, and leadership of the team that developed the Saturn V booster rocket for the Apollo space programme, it’s hard to argue with his pre-eminence in the pantheon. But there were at least three other men with a reasonable claim to the title.

Robert Goddard (1882-1945), for whom NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Centre is named, is one. He patented both the liquid-fuelled rocket and the multi-stage rocket – both vital to the eventual success of the Apollo programme. He certainly had some influence on von Braun as it’s known that German scientists contacted him directly (before 1939, of course) with technical questions.

Speaking of Germany, Hermann Oberth (1894-1989), who independently arrived at the concept of the multi-stage rocket, was known to have encountered a young Wernher von Braun. Indeed, von Braun himself acknowledged Oberth’s influence on him and importance to the field of rocketry.

And the fourth name to complete the quartet that did so much to advance the science, the giant upon whose shoulders von Braun, Oberth and Goddard stood, was born 156 years ago, today: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935). Inspired by the romances of Jules Verne, Tsiolkovsky conceived almost all of the key elements of astronautics and rocket science that later generations would bring to fruition – among them steering thrusters, multi-stage boosters, space stations and airlocks. He also originated the concept of the space elevator, a consistent trope of Arthur C. Clarke‘s works from The Fountains of Paradise onward. Wernher von Braun was known to have read Tsiolkovsky’s work in translation, and the two principle architects of the Soviet space programme studied his work in their youth.

It is not fanciful to draw a direct line from Tsiolkovsky’s work to the launch of Sputnik and, therefore, the beginning of the Space Age. And as science fiction fans, that makes us very grateful. Happy Birthday, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky!

 

 

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