Thoughts from the SF Gateway

SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: Tarzan’s Quest and Other Tales

28 January 2015

From the vaults of the SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes this fourth and final volume of the collected tales of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.

hardback | eBook

The son of a Civil War veteran, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a prolific writer for the early pulp magazines. Famous the world over as the creator of Tarzan – and in SF circles for his Martian tales featuring John Carter – Burroughs is a household name. This omnibus collects the final six tales of Tarzan of the Apes – the greatest pulp hero of all time: Tarzan’s Quest, Tarzan the Magnificent, Tarzan and the Forbidden City, Tarzan and the Foreign Legion, Tarzan and the Madman and Tarzan and the Castaways.

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Happy Birthday, Michaela Roessner!

27 January 2015

Thanks to the wonders of the On This Day function on the essential Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, we see that today is Michaela Roessner‘s birthday. And what better way to celebrate than to republish Kev McVeigh‘s fascinating article about Michaela, and – in particular – her 1993 opus, Vanishing Point . . .

 

Like most of you reading this, I do have a penchant for recommending books I’ve enjoyed and that I sometimes think of as my pet discoveries. One author I am particularly keen to draw attention to is Michaela Roessner, and especially her remarkable second novel Vanishing Point.

I enjoyed Roessner’s unusual debut, Walkabout Woman which pits a young aboriginal woman against both dangers within her tribe and the attempts to ‘civilise’ her by a white teacher. I’d be interested to hear how native Australians view Roessner’s depictions of their culture, the Dreamtime and their lives, but the author appears sympathetic to my uninformed eye. It is certainly an unusual work, with two strong female characters in competitive alliance.

More recently Roessner has published a pair of Florentine historical fantasies, The Stars Dispose and The Stars Compel, involving Catherine de Medici which are rich in detail (especially the food) and subtle magic. It’s been fifteen years since the second of these, but there may be a third in the works which I know will please many.

Good as these books are, Vanishing Point is something else again. I defy you to come up with a post-apocalyptic scenario like Roessner’s. Overnight, without warning, 90% of the human race vanished. Nobody knows why – or where – they went, and why some were left but not others. Now, thirty years later, the remnants of society have settled into enclaves and roving fanatics. Communities struggle to make sense of the disappearances and to ensure both their survival and some feeling of hope should their families ever return. One such community has colonised a real-life setting as remarkable as any in SF: The Winchester House in San Jose. Originally a 19th century house, the owner became convinced that spirits were directing her to maintain building work night and day, non-stop, for the rest of her life. Stairways going nowhere, rooms that are incomplete, stained glass windows that get no direct light and other building eccentricities have inspired several authors including Tim Powers, Alastair Reynolds, Alan Moore and others. I particularly thought of Heinlein’s short classic ‘…And He Built a Crooked House…’ but Michaela Roessner has taken on the house and expanded on it offering up a genuinely science fictional ‘explanation’ for the house’ mysteries.

The story itself begins with a loner setting fire to houses he considers ‘tainted’ by the post-Vanishing changes. At the House, a young woman, Renzie, is part of teams rebuilding society and researching the Vanishing. From across country the elderly woman scientist Nesta arrives with new theories and new approaches. These two strong female leads offer leadership through physical strength and morality in Renzie’s case, and intellectual rigour and willingness to face the challenge from Nesta.

As Nesta explains:

“So you think all of the research of the last thirty years is pointless?” said Pax.

“No! I believe it’s vital. But as I said before, I think it’s been misdirected.”

“The Vanishing didn’t just happen and stop. We’re so overwhelmed and distracted by its psychological consequences that we can’t see its actual, physical effects. It started chains of events that continue, have maybe accelerated, that haven’t been examined except as possible clues to the Vanishing’s source. We’ve got our heads buried in the sand and don’t even know it.”

Later in the same speech, “The effect is endemic on every level of reality.” Most post-apocalyptic fiction defines one, maybe two, significant changes in society and environment. Roessner recognises and insists on the bigger, more nuanced, picture. The survivors of the Vanishing display myriad reactions to events, the range of symptoms associated with grief, guilt and anger. Their relationships with their environment, friends, lovers and colleagues are not uniform. Society has changed but the past has not been discarded, some vehicles and technology remain, there are computers and communication tools though these are limited. Roessner sharply contrasts those who live and work together around the House with the more cultish groups who they interact with, particularly the Heaven Bounders who view the Vanishing as the Rapture.

Nesta’s research and her conversations with others also incorporate depths often missing in similar works. Theories are discussed, revised, disproved, and evolve. Through Nesta and the others Roessner draws on multi-disciplinary approaches both social and scientific to bring up questions as well as answers. For me that makes Vanishing Point an important work of SF. Her thoughtful characters make it a fun, immensely readable and meaningful novel too. And the scientific answers she comes up with? Well, no spoilers but Roessner’s speculation is grounded in knowledge of contemporary theories and contains enough detail to step beyond hand waving abstractions. The House is explained with reference to, amongst other things, quantum physics, The Muppets, and Jorge Luis Borges.

It is, as Chery Morgan says “wonderful stuff”.

Happy Birthday, Michaela Roessner!

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SF Gateway Omnibuses: the Complete List

26 January 2015

With 2015 now well underway, we thought it was long past time we gave you a full list of the SF Gateway Omnibuses. So here they are:

 

Pub Date Title Binding
25/07/2013 Sheri S Tepper SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
25/07/2013 Gordon R Dickson SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
25/07/2013 Frank Herbert SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
15/08/2013 Bob Shaw SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
22/08/2013 Joe Haldeman SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
22/08/2013 Robert Silverberg SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
26/09/2013 James Blish SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
26/09/2013 Kate Wilhelm SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
26/09/2013 James Blaylock SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
26/09/2013 Keith Roberts SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
31/10/2013 Jack Vance SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
31/10/2013 E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
31/10/2013 The Pellucidar SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
28/11/2013 Robert Holdstock SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
28/11/2013 Poul Anderson SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
16/01/2014 C.L. Moore SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
16/01/2014 Garry Kilworth SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
16/01/2014 Algis Budrys SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/01/2014 Henry Kuttner SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/01/2014 Clifford Simak SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/01/2014 John Sladek SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/01/2014 Pat Cadigan SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/01/2014 E.C. Tubb SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
06/02/2014 Edmund Cooper SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
27/02/2014 L. Sprague de Camp SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
27/02/2014 The Past Through Tomorrow TPB
06/03/2014 Barrington Bayley SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
06/03/2014 Connie Willis SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
27/03/2014 D.G. Compton SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
03/04/2014 Tarzan the Untamed and Other Tales HB
22/05/2014 Gregory Benford SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
29/05/2014 Carson of Venus SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
29/05/2014 Theodore Sturgeon SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
29/05/2014 Edmond Hamilton SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
26/06/2014 Jack Williamson SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
17/07/2014 Tarzan at the Earth’s Core and Other Tales HB
17/07/2014 John Brunner SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
14/08/2014 Damon Knight SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
14/08/2014 Hal Clement SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
14/08/2014 Philip Jose Farmer SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
18/09/2014 The Land That Time Forgot SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
18/09/2014 Richard Cowper SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
18/09/2014 Berserker SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/10/2014 Charles Sheffield SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
30/10/2014 Tarzan’s Quest and Other Tales HB
13/11/2014 Michael G Coney SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
11/12/2014 Jack L. Chalker SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
22/01/2015 Patricia McKillip SF Gateway Omnibus Volume One TPB
22/01/2015 Edgar Pangborn SF Gateway Omnibus TPB
19/02/2015 Patricia McKillip SF Gateway Omnibus Volume Two TPB
19/03/2015 Lucius Shepard SF Gateway Omnibus TPB

 

ENJOY!

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On This Day: Walter M. Miller Jr

23 January 2015

On this day, in 1923, Walter Michael Miller, Jr was born, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

In August of this year, we will be publishing his wonderful story collection, Dark Benediction, as an SF masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, with a new introduction by none other than Hugo and Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning author Pat Cadigan. This is something to look forward to, of course, but there is one work that is synonymous with Miller’s name: the extraordinary post-apocalyptic religious SF epic A Canticle for Leibowitz, winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for best novel.

Available in our SF Masterworks list in hardback, with a stunning new cover by the wonderful Dominic Harman A Canticle for Leibowitz – described by The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as ‘one of the relatively few attempts in US sf to deal with formal religion, and one of the very few to do so successfully’ – is an acknowledged masterpiece of modern SF.

In the depths of the Utah desert, long after the Flame Deluge has scoured the earth clean, the rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of knowledge.

By studying the Holy Relics of the past, the Order of St Leibowitz hopes to raise humanity from its fallen state to one of grace.

But is such knowledge the key to salvation? Or the certain sign that we are doomed to repeat our most grievous mistakes…?

You could do much worse than read Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s insightful analysis, which we published last March (with thanks to our friends at SFX magazine). Of course, if you really want to know what everyone’s raving about, you could always rea the book itself. We can promise you it’s time well spent.

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SF Gateway & Gollancz: Proud Sponsors of the Edge Lit Festival

22 January 2015

SF Gateway is delighted to announce that, along with sister imprint, Gollancz, we will be sponsoring Edge Lit 4, to be held on Saturday 11th July, in Derby.

SF Gateway and Gollancz also sponsored last year’s Edge Lit festival, which featured no less august personages than Joe Abercrombie and Charles Stross as Guests of Honour, and an enviable roster of their fellow authors appearing on panels and in workshops. It is a fresh, vibrant recent addition to the British convention calendar, and the perfect way for SFF fans to start their summer.

Guests of Honour and attending authors are yet to be announced, but if you keep an eye on their website, we’re sure you’ll see some brilliant names popping up before long.

Enjoy!

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SF Gateway Omnibus of the Week: Jack L. Chalker

21 January 2015

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 modern SF and Fantasy’s great storytellers, Jack L. Chalker.

 

A fan from an early age, Chalker was also active as an editor, founding a small press in his early 20s, but it is as a writer that he is best known. Although his earliest novels were singletons, he soon turned his attention to the sequences that would dominate his career: most notably, The Well of Souls series.

This omnibus collects the first volume of that series, Midnight at the Well of Souls; book one of his Soul Rider series, Spirits of Flux and Anchor; and standalone novel, The Identity Matrix.

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Happy Birthday, Buzz Aldrin!

20 January 2015

Having suffered the indignity of overlooking a milestone birthday of one great figure, we have no intention of making it two-for-two so early in the year. As one of the most intellectually limited figures ever to hold high office (in)famously said: ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice . . . I won’t get fooled again’.

Today is the 85th birthday of a very famous man. Author, engineer, war veteran, fighter pilot, astronaut . .  and the second human being to set foot on another world, Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr – forever known to the world as ‘Buzz’ – Happy 85th Birthday!

Enjoy some footage of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, featuring Buzz Aldrin and, of course, Neil Armstrong. Just don’t read the comments on YouTube unless you have a high tolerance for the idiocy of conspiracy theorists . . .

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We Are Full of Shame: We Missed Robert Silverberg’s Birthday

19 January 2015

Although there are mitigating circumstances – the end of 2014 saw illness rampaging through Gateway Towers like the proverbial bull in the (now that we stop to think about it, extremely unlikely) china shop, and thus 2015 has had a slower start than usual – we stand with heads bowed in shame. Last Thursday was Robert Silverberg‘s birthday, and we missed it.

To make matters worse, not only was January 15th the great man’s birthday – it was his 80th birthday! We can’t tell you how embarrassed we are to have missed such a landmark, but we can tell you how we mean to make amends:

Firstly, the Gateway Elves have been soundly thrashed and sent to bed without any Gernsback (no, we don’t know what that means, either, but they seemed very upset).

Secondly, we have declared this Robert Silverberg week on the SF Gateway website, with all four spotlights carrying one of his amazing works. To be honest, we could easily have filled twice as many slots. For the next week, we offer up for your reading pleasure:

The Nebula Award-winning masterpiece, A Time of Changes, not one but two novels shortlisted for both Hugo and Nebula awards in the same year (talk about competing against yourself!) – The Book of Skulls and Dying Inside – and the nearest we suspect Robert Silverberg ever got to epic fantasy, the first of his majestic Majipoor series, Hugo-shortlisted Lord Valentine’s Castle.

Read, enjoy, and please join us in saying (however tardily!):

Happy Birthday, Robert Silverberg!

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Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: January 2015

5 January 2015

 

‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov

 

 

Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: Richard Hakluyt of Space

In an essay in her collection The Common Reader (1925), Virginia Woolf has this to say about her encounter with Richard Hakluyt’s enormous compilation of Elizabethan narratives of travel and exploration, The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffics and Discoveries of the English Nation:

“These magnificent volumes are not often, perhaps, read through. Part of their charm consists in the fact that Hakluyt is not so much a book as a great bundle of commodities loosely tied together, an emporium, a lumber room strewn with ancient sacks, obsolete nautical instruments, huge bales of wool, and little bags of rubies and emeralds. One is forever untying this packet here, sampling that heap over there, wiping the dust off some vast map of the world, and sitting down in semi-darkness to snuff the strange smells of silks and leathers and ambergris. . . . For this jumble of seeds, silks, unicorns’ horns, elephants’ teeth, wool, common stones, turbans, and bars of gold, these odds and ends of priceless value and complete worthlessness, were the fruit of innumerable voyages, traffics, and discoveries to unknown lands in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.” And she goes on to express the delights that wandering through this immense, centuries-old compendium of geographies offers.

 

 

You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.

 

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