Thoughts from the SF Gateway

SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: Garry Kilworth

31 January 2014

Our SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week comes from a World Fantasy and BSFA Award-winning author of SF, Fantasy, Children’s books, YA and historical fiction: Garry Kilworth.

 

From the vaults of the SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes a republication of the complete Navigator Kings trilogy, by award-winning author, Garry Kilworth.

 

In addition to a decorated career in SF and fantasy, Garry Kilworth has been twice shortlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal for his children’s writing and is a highly regarded writer of historical military adventure novels. This omnibus collects his critically acclaimed Navigator Kings trilogy, The Roof of Voyaging, The Princely Flower and Land-of-Mists.

 

You can find more of Garry Kilworth’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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New Book of the Week: The Jewel in the Skull

29 January 2014

You might notice something familiar about our current New Book of the Week. I mean besides the fact that it’s one of the most best-known books from one of the most famous fantasy authors of all time.

The Jewel in the Skull, Book One of Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff should be extra familiar because it was also our New Book of the Week last week. The reason it’s still New Book of the Week is  that, because of the downtime and various other impediments last week, we didn’t get a chance to highlight it on the blog – and for a book as good as The Jewel in the Skull by an author as important as Michael Moorcock, that was quite simply unacceptable. So here we are.

The Hawkmoon books hold a special place in my heart as they were among the first of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion books I encountered.  My first exposure to Michael Moorcock actually came, back in what we are contractually obliged to refer to as ‘The Day’, via a graphic novel adaptation. It was, from memory, Roy Thomas and P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Elric: The Dreaming City, in Marvel’s Epic Illustrated No.4**.  I loved the story, so the next time I was in the vicinity of a good bookshop (there used to be lots of these, you know), I made straight for the SF section to see if I could find anything by this Moorcock chap.

Brooding albinos with vampiric swords were nowhere to be seen on that first foray, but there was n enticingly baroque future fantasy series about a young duke with a mind-controlling jewel embedded in his skull . . .

 

Dorian Hawkmoon, the last Duke of Koln, swore to destroy the Dark Empire of Granbretan. But after his defeat and capture at the hands of the vast forces of the Empire, Hawkmoon becomes a puppet, co-opted by his arch nemesis, the ruthless Baron Meliadus, to infiltrate the last stronghold of rebellion against Granbretan: the small but powerful city of the Kamarg.

He has been implanted with a black jewel, through which the Dark Empire can control his every decision. But in the stronghold of the Kamarg, Hawkmoon discovers the power inside him to overcome any control, and his vengeance against the Dark Empire is filled with an unrelenting fury.

 

The Jewel in the Skull is followed by The Mad God’s Amulet, The Sword of the Dawn and The Runestaff, all of which are available as SF Gateway eBooks and in the collected print edition Hawkmoon: The History of the Runestaff, which is available as part of Gollancz’s Michael Moorcock Collection.

 

 

You can find more of Michael Moorcock’s work via his author pages at the SF Gateway and Orion websites, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 
 

** Close. Just checked my facts and it was Issue 3 in which the first part appeared; Issue 4 contained part two.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: A Fall of Moondust

28 January 2014

Arthur C. Clarke was renowned for his Big Ideas.  From the aeon-spanning future history of The City and the Stars to the transcendent glory of 2001: A Space Odyssey via nothing less than the destiny of the human race in Childhood’s End, it sometimes felt like Clarke’s canvas was as large as the universe itself. But some of his best work was done on a quieter, much more human scale,  like the future political Earthlight – and our current Masterwork of the Week . . .

Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. On the surface, her rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the mercilessly unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment.

A brilliantly imagined story of human ingenuity and survival, A Fall of Moondust is a tour-de-force of psychological suspense and sustained dramatic tension by the field’s foremost author.

 

A Fall of Moondust is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Hellos and Goodbyes

27 January 2014

A couple of changes are coming up for the SF Gateway website from next month: one presaged last year and one a response to circumstances.

So, as noted when the Xmas Sale started last year, it’s ‘hello again’ to the Author of the Month slot, which will continue much as it left off in December, attempting in some small way to highlight the many fine authors who now call SF Gateway home for their backlists. We’re also making the SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week a regular feature for the foreseeable future. We’ve got a full programme of omnibuses coming this year and it we thought they deserve a spot of their own on the homepage.

However, in order to fit those two spots in, we’ll have to say goodbye to one of the other spotlights. So it’s a fond farewell – for now, at least –  to the Readers’ Choice slot. We’ve really enjoyed seeing what you’ve been reading and recommending over the last twelve months, and we thank each and every one of you who submitted your favourites. But it is starting to be the same keen people recommending over and again, and that – coupled with the fact that we still have SF and Fantasy Masterworks and new SF Gateway eBooks coming throughout the year, which we feel we need to highlight – has led us, reluctantly, to decide to retire the Readers’ Choice spotlight.

We may bring it back in the future – and just because it’s not on the home page anymore doesn’t mean you should stop recommending books to each other. If there’s enough interest on the forum and on Twitter, we’ll run the odd blog post sharing your selections.

Thanks again to everyone who submitted books to the Readers’ Choice promotion. It certainly pointed us in the way of a few new discoveries and we hope it did the same for others.

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SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: Algis Budrys

24 January 2014

Our SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week comes from the author of the Hugo-shortlisted Rogue Moon: editor, author, critic – it must be . . .

 

From the vaults of the SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes an ideal introduction to acclaimed author, editor and reviewer, Algis Budrys.

 

 

Algis Budrys was one of the few writers who managed to carve out a successful role as an influential critic and editor alongside his fiction writing. Benchmarks, his collection of reviews from the pages of Galaxy Science Fiction, is extremely well-regarded, and for almost two decades he was a judge of the Writers of the Future programme, but it is for his fiction that he is best known. This omnibus collects three of his later works: The Iron Thorn, Michaelmas and Hard Landing.

 

You can find more of Algis Budrys’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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E C Tubb SF Gateway Omnibus

23 January 2014

We have not one, but two omnibuses to tell you about this week – and this one contains a treat for fans of classic British SF: a previously unpublished novel . . .

 

From the vaults of the SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes an ideal introduction to one of the greats of British adventure SF: E. C. Tubb.

 

A prolific author of hundreds of stories in the fields of SF, fantasy and westerns, E. C. Tubb, was best-known for his epic 33-volume Dumarest saga, a galaxy-spanning adventure series. Also active for many years in Fandom, he was both a founder member of the British Science Fiction Association and the first editor of its critical journal Vector. This omnibus collects two of his out of print classics, The Extra Man and The Space-Born, and posthumous novel, Fires of Satan, completed before his death and published now for the first time.

 

You can find more of E. C. Tubb’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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Scheduled Down-Time Tomorrow

22 January 2014

Apologies for the inconvenience but both the SF Gateway and Encyclopedia of Science Fiction websites are going to be offline tomorrow, from 10:30am until about 1:30pm, for essential server maintenance.

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SF Masterwork of the Week: Flowers for Algernon

21 January 2014

This week’s SF Masterwork of the Week is Daniel Keyes’ 1966 Nebula Award-winning masterpiece  Flowers for Algernon, a novel expanded from the Hugo-winning story of the same name, which originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1959. And thanks to our good friends at SFX , we can offer you an assessment of this most powerful and moving of classics from one of modern SF’s most subtle and ingenious writers: author of the acclaimed and award-winning Ashraf Bey and Assassini trilogies, Jon Courtenay Grimwood . . .

 

A handful of the greatest SF novels were written by people who wrote nothing else. Although that should probably be almost nothing else. Walter M Miller’s stunning A Canticle for Leibowitz is one. Flowers for Algernon another. And both began as short stories that were stretched into the novels people remember.

Daniel Keyes’s story is about a mouse and a moron (we’ll get back to that description later). The novel has been banned from public libraries in the US and Canada because of its sexual content. It’s been turned into an Oscar-winning film, a West End musical starring Michael Crawford, and provided the title for a Japanese rock album. It’s also been adapted for TV, theatre and radio, translated into 27 languages, published in 30 countries and sold over five million copies. It has never been out of print.

Daniel Keyes joined the US Maritime Service at 17, became associate editor of Marvel Science Fiction at the age of 24, and published his first short fiction a year later in 1953. His most successful story, published in April 1959 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, won the 1960 Hugo for best short story. Having been extended by the author, it won the 1966 Nebula Award for Best Novel.

So let me rephrase that first sentence. Flowers for Algernon is the story of a mouse, and a man with an IQ of 68, who doesn’t realise his friends are laughing at him. The mouse is Algernon. Charlie Gordon is the happy-go-lucky floor sweeper in a run-down bakery. Algernon is the more intelligent. As Charlie says, “I dint know mice were so smart.”

Animal-like, Charlie lives in the present, unaware of time and unable to remember his childhood beatings or understand the mockery of those around him. Because of this he is never really unhappy (his boyhood, revealed in flashbacks, makes most misery memoirs – Me, I grew up in a cupboard, drank only ditch water and wore bin liners – look like idyllic episodes from Enid Blyton). It is, obviously enough, a novel about prejudice.

If that was all, Flowers for Algernon would never have had the impact it did or become one of the great SF novels, proof that genre goes places the mainstream doesn’t dare. Because Daniel Keyes also wrote about science’s responsibility to the world and the price of being human.

Having been offered groundbreaking neurosurgery (originally carried out on Algernon the mouse), Charlie the simpleton becomes Charlie the genius. And with his rising intelligence comes a sense of time, and then a sense of mortality and doubt, sexual need and all the things that make us miserable.

As his IQ increases, Charlie outpaces his doctors; until they’re the morons, while he speed-reads scientific papers, picks holes in equations and makes discoveries only he can understand. All looks well, until Algernon begins to lose his own intelligence, falls ill and dies. Suddenly Charlie needs to save himself before it is too late.

He fails.

Saying that isn’t a spoiler. Because 1) you can’t read anything about this novel without discovering that, and 2) Flowers for Algernon only works because Daniel Keyes is ruthlessly faithful to the story and refuses to give it the happy ending everyone kept demanding.

As a short story, it was sent first to Galaxy. The editor demanded that Charlie keep his super intelligence, marry the girl and live happily ever after… Doubleday wanted to publish the novel. But Keyes gave back its advance rather than change his ending. Five publishers rejected it for similar reasons.

Other novelists have used broken English, most famously Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange, and Russell Hoban in Riddley Walker. Adam Roberts has also used spelling changes to suggest passing decades. But Daniel Keyes makes his language and spelling reflect the changes in Charlie’s intelligence.

Even now, I wonder how many editors would buy Flowers for Algernon if it hit their desks tomorrow. After all, it breaks every law in the book. Daniel Keyes uses notes and monologues, jumbles time and invents his own spelling. He writes whole chapters with no punctuation (except full stops). His ending is ruthlessly bleak.

But it’s impossible to imagine Flowers for Algernon being any different – Keyes has  created a work of lasting genius. If Algernon had lived to a ripe old age, inventing his own mazes, and Charlie had got the girl, and collected a Nobel or two on the way, no-one would remember the original story as anything more than an interesting ’50s curiosity.

 

Flowers for Algernon is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can read about Daniel Keyes in his entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood is the author of the acclaimed Ashraf Bey trilogy of alternate history SF novels and the Assassini books, remixing Renaissance Venetian history, vampire lore and Shakespeare. His latest novel is The Last Banquet, under the name Jonathan Grimwood, which is available in hardback, and as an eBook. Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s website is www.j-cg.co.uk and you can read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

 

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SF Masterwork of the Week: Dr Bloodmoney

17 January 2014

Philip K. Dick‘s 1965 post-apocalyptic classic Dr Bloodmoney returns to the SF Masterworks list, with a brand new cover and an introduction from Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winner Pat Cadigan. Enjoy!

Seven years after the day of the bombs, Point Reyes was luckier than most places. Its people were reasonably normal – except for the girl with her twin brother growing inside her, and talking to her. Their barter economy was working. Their resident genius could fix almost anything that broke down. But they didn’t know they were harbouring the one man who almost everyone left alive wanted killed…

Shortlisted for the 1966 Nebula Award.

New introduction by Pat Cadigan.

 

Dr Bloodmoney is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of Philip K. Dick’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website and read more about him at his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: Poul Anderson

16 January 2014

Well, they’re here to stay so you’d better get used to them – the SF Gateway omnibus programme is up and running, and will be almost two dozen volumes strong by the end of the month (we’d give you that statistic in weight only we can’t lift all of them . . .). So for the foreseeable future, the SF Gateway homepage will spotlight some of these wonderful omnibuses and celebrate the return to print (and eBook) of some terrific classic SF & fantasy books.

This week: Poul Anderson . . .

 

From The SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic science fiction and fantasy titles ever assembled, comes an ideal sample introduction to Poul Anderson, one of the great figures in the genre.

 

Anderson served as President of the Science Fiction Writers of America and won multiple Hugo and Nebula Awards. He was named a SFWA Grand Master in 1998. This omnibus showcases some of the best of his galaxy-spanning science fiction, containing the acclaimed novels Brain Wave, The Boat of a Million Years and The Guardians of Time.

 

You can find more of Poul Anderson’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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