Thoughts from the SF Gateway

On This Day: Christopher Riche Evans

29 May 2015

On this day in 1931, Christopher Evans was born in Aberdovey, Wales. A psychologist and computer scientist, he was the author of a small number of non-fiction books, including Cults of Unreason – a lighthearted look at various  peudosciences, in particular UFO cults and that-religion-that-isn’t-really-a-religion-but-lots-of-Hollywood-stars-seem-to-think-it-is (you know the one).

He was also a contributing editor to Omni magazine, but his greatest influence on the SF world was probably as scientific consultant on the 1970s Thames Television series The Tomorrow People. Essentially a children’s wish-fulfilment fantasy, the series followed the adventures of a small group of mutant children – the next step in human evolution – who cassified themselves as homo superior and possessed telepathic abilities.  Stilted dialogue, poor acting and dodgy sets were a staple of the show; nevertheless, there was a heart and soul to the series and it is remembered fondly by many people, your humble Gateway correspondent included.

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Masterworks Spotlight: Expiration Date

28 May 2015

Our current Masterworks Spotlight is World Fantasy Award-winner Tim Powers’ second volume in the Fault Lines trilogy, Expiration Date.

A word of warning, though: if you can’t conceive of fantasy that doesn’t involve magic swords, rings of power, perilous quests and farm-boys-with-a-destiny, then look away now; Tim Powers doesn’t do elves or dwarves that read like they’ve just stepped out of a D&D players’ manual. However, if you want myths and legends updated for the modern age and woven seamlessly into a contemporary setting, if you want to lift the curtain and peek behind the scenes into the secret history of the world, if you want to read fantasy written with power and insight and a complete command of the written word, then step right up, good people – have we got a book for you!

EXPIRATION DATE is the second book in the acclaimed Fault Lines trilogy from the  World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Anubis Gates and Declare.

Twelve-year-old Koot Hoomie Parganas’s parents prepared him for a career as a metaphysical holy man – but after they’re brutally murdered one night he finds himself a fugitive in the darkest corners of Los Angeles, pursued by denizens of a dark underworld who want what Kootie’s parents have been hiding for 40 years – the ghost of Thomas Edison contained in a bust of Dante.

But Kootie has broken the bust and inhaled the ghost, and now has in his head the lively personality of Edison himself – and together Kootie and Edison must learn the harsh rules of the occult world existing behind the glitter of modern Los Angeles, and find a way to save Kootie’s life and free Edison’s ghost from its earthly Purgatory.

 

Expiration Date is available as a Fantasy Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of Tim Powers’ eBooks at his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

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RIP Tanith Lee

27 May 2015

We were saddened to learn yesterday that beloved fantasy author, Tanith Lee has passed away.  A World Horror Grandmaster, winner of the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy Awards for lifetime achievement, she was also the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award, in 1980, for Death’s Master, the second of her Flat Earth novels.

Obituaries have already appeared at The Guardian, Locus, Tor.com, io9, The Bookseller and many other sites, and the great and good of fantastic literature expressing their dsmay on Twitter. More than one has noted that we’ve lost too many good people of late, and as we contemplate adding Tanith Lee’s name to that of Sir Terry Pratchett, Leonard Nimoy, Graham Joyce, Kirby McCauley, Daniel Keyes and Jay Lake – just to name a few – it’s hard to disagree.

Tanith Lee Kaiine (1947-2015). Rest in Peace.

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On This Day: Robert W. Chambers

26 May 2015

A little over a year ago, a new television show imprinted itself on the collective consciousness: HBO’s True Detective. Series One starred Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, and was hailed as ‘the best detective show since the Wire’ (reasonably high praise, we’re sure you’d agree).

The Twittersphere was full of excitement at the quality of the show – and equally fascinated by an osbcure old book that seemed central to the show’s mythology: The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, a (sometimes linked) collection of short stories published in 1895 and a huge influence on H. P. Lovecraft and many others.  It’s a chilling series of shorts, the first four of which reference ‘The King in Yellow’, a play which will drive anyone who reads beyond the first act mad. They’re a little dated now, but then so much fiction is, but the worlds the stories show us – some an imagined America of the future (well, 1920) and some set in Paris – is a recognisable and well-depicted one, and there are some lovely chills and creepy moments.

True Detective leaned heavily on The King in Yellow, with multiple references to the book scattered throughout the first series’ episodes, and Gateway published an edition to tie-in with the show’s screening. As well as the ten short stories, we included a short story by Ambrose Bierce, from which Chambers took the name of his fictional city of Carcosa and which was clearly an influence on The King in Yellow, and Chambers’ entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

And today – yes, this very day – is the 150th anniversary of Robert W. Chambers’ birth. Happy Birthday, Mr Chambers. Cohle and Hart say ‘Hi’.

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Masterworks Spotlight: Downward to the Earth

22 May 2015

In the period between 1967 and 1972 there’s a very good argument for declaring Robert Silverberg the best science fiction writer in the world. In half a dozen years of extraordinary creative output, Silverberg produced thirteen Hugo-nominated novels, novellas and stories, winning twice; thirteen Nebula-nominated novels, novellas and stories, winning three times; and a John W. Campbell Award-winner.

The works he produced in this period are still some of the stand-out books of the genre: Thorns, Nightwings, A Time of Changes, Dying Inside and The Book of Skulls, to name just a few. And, of course, Downward to the Earth . . .

 

One man alone in an alien landscape – SF’s Heart of Darkness by one of the field’s acknowledged greats.

One man must make a journey across a once colonised alien planet. Abandoned by man when it was discovered that the species there were actually sentient, the planet is now a place of mystery. A mystery that obsesses the lone traveller Gundersen and takes him on a long trek to attempt to share the religious rebirthing of the aliens. A journey that offers redemption from guilt and sin.

This is one of Robert Silverberg’s most intense novels and draws heavily on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness . It puts the reader at the heart of the experience and forces them to ask what they would do in the circumstances.

Downward to the Earth is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and a Gateway eBook. You can read more about Robert Silverberg in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Title Spotlight: Childhood’s End

21 May 2015

Our current Title Spotlight comes with a short visual presentation for your entertainment!

Childhood’s End is Arthur C. Clarke‘s transcendent masterpiece, the book that shows most clerly the influence of Olaf Stapledon on his writing.  This book took the top of my head off when I first read it as a callow teenager. Beginning as an alien invasion story (of a sort) and containing one of the all-time great set pieces in written SF – an image so striking and irresistible that the producers of Independence Day should pay Clarke’s estate a royalty every time their movie is shown – it then moves off, via a poignant coming-of-age vignette, to cover no less a canvas than the ultimate destiny of the human race. And all in under 250 pages.

I look forward to SyFy’s upcoming adaptation with a peculiar mix of excitement and trepidation.

Childhood’s End is available as an SF Masterworks hardback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of Arthur C. Clarke’s books at 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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Madness or Genius?

20 May 2015

In this fast-moving, modern world we inhabit, there is an ever-increasing amount of information to sort through and process. Broadcast media, newspapers, magazines, social media, online news, mobile devices – all bombarding us with information at a dizzying rate.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we’re subjected to an equally-daunting torrent of advertising, with every retailer we’ve ever looked up even once on Google hurling invocations to buy their products into our inboxes, feeds and timelines; through our letter boxes, on our voicemail, intruding on our mobiles via SMS.

And then – yet another layer – the spam: automated, semi-literate garbage, spewed by bots to fill up any miniscule corner of our lives that aren’t already reeling from informational and retail overload.  Or is it?  Cory Doctorow once metioned to me that he felt the world’s first emergent AI would come not from the lab of some big-brained computer scientists but would derive from spambots’ ever-evolving quest to produce word salad that can defeat your computer’s spam filter.

I don’t know whether that’s (a) true, (b) impossible or (c) has already happened, but I do know that if one takes a step back and looks at some spam without viewing it through the grumpy you’re-wasting-my-time filter, some of it is quite lyrical. Look:

A person necessarily help to make seriously posts I’d state.
This is the first time I frequented your website page and so far?
I amazed with the analysis you made to make this
actual submit amazing. Excellent task!

Not quite a haiku, but there’s a certain mad poetry to it.

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On This Day: James Tiptree, Jr

19 May 2015

On this day, in 1987, Alice Hastings Bradley Sheldon – better known to the wider world as James Tiptree, Jr – died in tragic circumstances.

Alice Sheldon wrote most of her fiction as James Tiptree, Jr, making a point about sexist assumptions and also keeping her US government employers from knowing her business. Most of her books are collections of short stories, of which Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is considered to be definitive. Sheldon’s best stories combine radical feminism with a tough-minded tragic view of life; even virtuous characters are exposed as unwitting beneficiaries of disgusting socio-economic systems. Even good men are complicit in women’s oppression, as in her most famous stories ‘The Women Men Don’t See’ and ‘Houston, Houston, Do you Read?’ or in ecocide. Much of her work, even at its most tragic, has an attractively ironic tone which sometimes becomes straightforwardly comedy – it is important to stress that Tiptree’s deep seriousness never becomes sombre or pompous. Her two novels Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air are both remarkable transfigurations of stock space opera material – the former deals with a vast destroying being, sympathetic aliens at risk of destruction by it and human telepaths trying to make contact across the gulf of stars.

To chart the end of her life, we can do no better than to refer to her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

Alice Sheldon’s life, whose dramas had so visibly shaped the ten years of her prime as a writer, also ended in drama. She had been married to Huntington Sheldon since 1945. For some time it was believed that he contracted Alzheimer’s Disease in the early 1980s. This seems not to have been true. Whatever the case, in 1987, herself in precarious health, she shot him (in apparent accordance with a pact they had much earlier agreed upon), telephoned his son and told him what she had done, and then killed herself. She was honoured with a posthumous Solstice Award (see SFWA Grand Master Award) in 2010 and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2012.

And, of course, the James Tiptree, Jr Memorial Award was established in her honour, in 1991.

You can read more about James Tiptree, Jr in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook, and contains: 

The Last Flight of Doctor Ain
The Screwfly Solution
And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side
The Girl Who Was Plugged In
The Man Who Walked Home
And I Have Come upon This Place by Lost Ways
The Women Men Don’t See
Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled of Light!
Houston, Houston, Do You Read?
With Delicate Mad Hands
A Momentary Taste of Being
We Who Stole the Dream
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
Love Is the Plan the Plan Is Death
On the Last Afternoon
She Waits for All Men Born
Slow Music
And So On, and So On

 


 

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Gollancz’s Malcolm Edwards

15 May 2015

News was recently released to the book trade concerning upcoming changes to Gollancz. From the official press release:

MALCOLM EDWARDS APPOINTED CHAIRMAN OF GOLLANCZ AND CONSULTANT PUBLISHER OF ORION

David Young, CEO of The Orion Publishing Group announces today that Malcolm Edwards will be standing down as Deputy CEO and Publisher of Orion at the end of 2015 and will become Chairman of Gollancz and Consultant Publisher at Orion.

David Young says: ”Malcolm and I have been discussing for some time his desire to work a flexible week which will give him the freedom to work on fewer projects close to his heart and so, at the end of this year, he will move to become Chairman of Gollancz and Consultant Publisher at Orion.  I am delighted that we have been able to accommodate Malcolm’s wishes in a way that ensures that he remains at the heart of Orion’s publishing. 

“Malcolm is a remarkable publisher.  He is a formidable judge of publishing talent: during his career at Orion and HarperCollins he has worked with many bestselling writers including Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Anthony Horowitz, Ursula Le Guin, Michael Moorcock, and Kate Mosse, and has had particularly strong and long-lasting relationships with such writers as J.G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick and Alan Furst.  He has been a generous guide and mentor to many of the brightest editors and publishers in the industry.  We owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his enormous contribution to Orion so far and in the years to come.”

Malcolm’s publishing career began at Gollancz in the 1970s. Having worked in a freelance capacity for three years, he became their general in-house editor in 1976, working across the entire range of their adult list.  He was appointed their sf editor in 1982, and quickly rose to Publishing Director and member of the board.  Among the writers he edited were Arthur C. Clarke, William Gibson, Frank Herbert and Terry Pratchett. In 1989, he left to work at HarperCollins, where he became Deputy Managing Director of their Trade Division.  Among many other titles he was the editor for both Michael Dobbs’s House of Cards series and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, and he conceived the idea of reviving serial publishing which led to Stephen King’s The Green Mile.  He was named Editor of the Year at the 1995 British Book Awards.

He moved to Orion in 1998 to the newly created position of Managing Director and, in 2003, becoming Deputy Chief Executive and Publisher. Since then, Malcolm has had ultimate responsibility for all publishing and creative activities across the Orion Group. The digital initiatives – The Murder Room and The SF Gateway – are his brainchild.

Malcolm says:  “It’s particularly difficult to find a way of stepping off the management roundabout, and I’m grateful to David and Tim for devising an elegant formula which allows me to stay involved with those parts of publishing I still love, while stepping aside to allow some of my very talented colleagues to take on further responsibilities.”

Tim Hely Hutchinson says:” As Publisher and Deputy CEO, Malcolm is central to much of Orion’s success and I know I speak for his colleagues and for Orion’s authors when I say how pleased we are that this new arrangement ensures that he continues in a pivotal role at Orion while focusing, once again, on the house where he began his career.  Gollancz, already the pre-eminent list in sf publishing, is destined for even greater things under Malcolm’s Chairmanship. The SF Gateway and the Gollancz Festival (in its second year) are just recent two initiatives that embellish its reputation.  I often turn to Malcolm for his wise advice on a wide variety of subjects and I want to thank him warmly for his enormous contribution to Orion, to Hachette UK and for his ongoing commitment to the company.”

We’re sure you’ll join with us in congratulating Malcolm on extricating himself from all of those meetings!  But what does this mean for Gollancz and for the SF Gateway?  The answer is, we’re happy to say: a win!

While we’ll all miss Malcolm’s presence as Deputy CEO on a day-to-day basis, the fact that he’s going to be devoting more of his formidable publishing brain to Gollancz is an enormous benefit to us. He is, after all, the man who published Neuromancer and Mythago Wood within a few months of each other; who was a founder of Interzone; who published Terry Pratchett before he was … well, TERRY PRATCHETT; who has spent decades working with the finest authors and most influential agents in the publishing world; and who – for those looking for more recent achievements – conceived the SF Gateway project and acquired George R. R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series for HarperVoyager.

And if that still doesn’t convey just how remarkable an influence Malcolm has had on SF publishing in general and Gollancz in particular, just pop over to his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and see for yourself!

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New Book Spotlight: Mockingbird

14 May 2015

Walter Tevis is the acclaimed author of The Hustler and The Colour of Money, both made into Oscar-winning films, and The Man Who Fell to Earthfilmed by Nicholas Roeg and featuring David Bowie in his first film role. One would think having penned three cult novels woudl be enough for anyone, Tevis is also the author of the SF classic Mockingbird, nominated for a Nebula Award and published in paperback in the SF Masterworks series. Gateway is delighted, now, to add an eBook edition . . .

The future is a grim place in which the declining human population wanders, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss. It’s a world without art, reading and children, a world where people would rather burn themselves alive than endure.

Even Spofforth, the most perfect machine ever created, cannot bear it and seeks only that which he cannot have – to cease to be. But there is hope for the future in the passion and joy that a man and woman discover in love and in books, hope even for Spofforth.

A haunting novel, reverberating with anguish but also celebrating love and the magic of a dream.

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