Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Happy Bank Holiday!

31 August 2015

What’s that? A long weekend, you say? Excellent. At the end of a busy summer, there’s only one way enjoy a Bank Holiday Monday . . .

Still not clear?  OK, then, to hell with subtlety:

Are we clear now? Good. So, if you’ll excuse me . . .

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On This Day: Jack Vance

28 August 2015

On this day, ninety-nine years ago, John Holbrook ‘Jack’ Vance was born in San Francisco, California. Winner of three Hugos, a Nebula and a World Fantasy Award, he was given the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984, named a SFWA Grand Master in 1997 and inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2001.

Trying to list all of the authors Jack Vance has influenced would be a fool’s errand – he’s been published since 1945 and has had an effect on countless writers – but we can perhaps single out two for special mention:

A clear line can be drawn between Gene Wolfe‘s epic Book of the New Sun and Vance’s marvellous Dying Earth stories. Although given a very different treatment and written in very different styles, Wolfe’s magnum opus – which was voted one of the Top Ten books from Gollancz’s 50 Years of SF publishing, two years ago – owes a huge debt to Vance in terms of atmosphere and setting. And where would Robert Silverberg‘s Majipoor be without the big planet trope first developed on Jack Vance‘s … er … Big Planet?

Vance’s influence on the Planetary Romance and Dying Earth subgenres is profound and lasting. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says:

Within the broad remit of the Planetary Romance, Vance created two subgenres, the first being the Dying Earth . . . tales set on Earth in the Far Future at a time, long after the wasting away of science, when Magic has become the operating principle . . . Before 1950 and The Dying Earth, the planetary romance had been generally restricted either to tales which replicated, palely, the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs or to Pulp-magazine sf adventures set on worlds which might be colourful but which were at the same time conceived with a fatal thinness. What was lacking was a properly conceived venue sufficient to the needs of romance. In Big Planet Vance provided an sf model for the planetary romance which has been of significant use for forty years. The planet of this novel is a huge though Earthlike world, with enough landmass to provide realistic venues in which a wide range of social systems can operate, and is significantly low in heavy-metal resources (a fact that both explains its relatively low gravity and requires the wide range of societies that flourish to be low-tech).

You can read Robert Silverberg‘s appreciation of Jack Vance, written not long after Vance passed away in May 2013, elsewhere on this blog. It’s very much worth reading for one great writer’s perspective on another’s life and career.

All of SF Gateway’s Jack Vance eBooks are based on the Vance Integral Editions, and can be found via his author page on the SF Gateway website.

You can read more about Jack Vance at his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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On This Day: Mariner 2 Was Launched

27 August 2015

On this day, in 1962, Mariner 2 was launched by NASA.  In December of the same year it flew past Venus, becoming the first space probe to make a successful fly-by encounter with another planet.

Designed and built by the famous Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech, the probe carried a variety of scientific instruments designed to gather magnetic, temperature and radiation data and transmit it back to Earth.  It passed within 35,000 kilometres of Venus, continuiing on towards the Sun, where it remains in a heliocentric orbit.

This illustration from the NASA website shows the Mariner 2 probe and identifies its main components:

 

 

You can read more about the Mariner 2 mission at the JPL section of the NASA website.

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New Title: The Starry Rift

26 August 2015

Last summer we had the privilege of publishing James Tiptree Jr‘s extraordinary collection, Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.  We have a number of other Tiptree titles coming from SF Gateway, the first of which is The Starry Rift, which we published in eBook at the end of July.

 

 

These are the heroes of the Starry Rift, a dark river of night that flows between the arms of our galaxy: a headstrong teenaged runaway who makes first contact with a strange alien race; a young officer on a deep-space salvage mission who discovers an exact double of a woman he thought he’d lost; and the crew of an exploration ship who must plead for the human race to avert an interstellar war.

The Starry Rift is a collection of linked stories that take place in the same universe as her acclaimed novel, Brightness Falls from the Air (coming in November this year in paperback omnibus and eBook editions).

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On This Day: John Brunner Died

25 August 2015

On this day, twenty years ago, John Brunner passed away during the 1995 Glasgow Worldcon.  Brunner was a remarkable writer, whose career seems to divide neatly into two very different streams. To quote The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

In the end, his name depends on two strands of his output: on his significant contributions to the space-opera redoubt, which he came to look down upon; and the immensely formidable tract-novels about the state of the world published between 1968 and 1975.

But it was not just the content but the style of the books written in this second portion of his career that made his name, someof them written with a Dos Passos-like flair . . .

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

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

If you recognise the above quotes, then chances are you’re one of the enlightened souls who’ve read Stand on Zanzibar, his 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 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.

Having read and enjoyed Stand on Zanzibar – albeit many moons ago – we can’t help but winder what John Brunner would make of this 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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The Lathe of Heaven: Now in eBook!

24 August 2015

As we never tire of reminding you, we recently completed a comprehensive agreement to publish almost all of Ursula K. Le Guin’s SF & Fantasy work, including eBook editions of the great Earthsea cycle and adding eBook rights to our existing SF Masterworks The Dispossessed and The Lathe of Heaven.

We’re delighted to announce that the eBook edition of the latter is now available – so get thee to thy ereader and enjoy!

Shortlisted for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1972, our current SFMasterwork of the Week is Grand Master Ursula K. Le Guin‘s The Lathe of Heaven.

Through his dreams, George Orr can make alternate realities real

George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams dreams which do in fact change reality ? and he has no means of controlling this extraordinary power.

Psychiatrist Dr William Haber offers to help. At first sceptical of George?s powers, he comes to astonished belief. When he allows ambition to get the better of ethics, George finds himself caught up in a situation of alarming peril.

 

The Lathe of Heaven is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and – now! – a Gateway eBook.  You can find more of Ursula K. Le Guin’s work via her Author page on the Gateway website and  read more about her in her entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Masterworks Spotlight: The Riddlemaster’s Game

21 August 2015

One of modern fantasy’s most assured and original trilogies – comparable to The Lord of the Rings and The Book of the New Sun in scope and grandeur.

Morgon, Prince of Hed, wants only to rule and work the land of his birth as best he can, but he is faced by a very different challenge from that of his ancestors. The stars have marked him out and he must wander strange, foreign lands full of untamed magic, and confront riddling wraiths and mysterious harpists at the behest of the all-knowing High One. But his is a perilous quest, involving grave danger, to himself, his promised bride, his land and his people.

This volume contains The Riddle-Master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire and Hugo and World Fantasy Award-shortlisted Harpist in the Wind – all available as individual eBooks – the complete Riddle-Master trilogy, which is among the most respected and popular fantasies of recent years.

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Happy Birthday, Greg Bear!

20 August 2015

Multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Greg Bear turns 64 today. The author of such seminal Big Dumb Object novels as The Forge of God and Eon, bio-thriller Blood Music, claustrophobic space adventure Hull Zero Three and Stapledonian epic The City at the End of Time was born on this day in 1951.

Bear has moved Mars, tuned in to Darwin’s Radio, built on Asimov’s Foundations and pretty much mastered every subgenre he set out to explore. He is very much a giant of the modern field and we at Gollancz and SF Gateway are delighted to be his publishers.

And in addition to his own prodigious and decorated output, Greg Bear has another connection to SF Gateway: he is the son-in-law of the late great Poul Anderson, author of such SF classics as the Flandry of Terra novels, The High Crusade, the Psychotechnic League, the Time Patrol . . . we could go on but this post is supposed to be about Greg Bear not Poul Anderson, so we’ll keep that powder dry for another day.

Happy Birthday, Greg Bear – may you keep us in great books for many years to come!

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On This Day: Hugo Gernsback Died

19 August 2015

 On this day in 1967, Hugo Gernsback, one of the most influential figures in the history of science fiction, passed away in New York.

How influential? Well, he launched the first fully-dedicated SF magazine, Amazing Stories, first coined the phrase ‘scientifiction‘, which later became the term we know and love; he appended ‘PhD’ to the end of a young Edwin Elmer Smith‘s by line to give us ‘Doc’ Smith, and the premier award of the science fiction field is named after him. Influential enough for ya?

His various SF magazines gave us ‘Doc’ Smith, Jack Williamson and Stanley Weinbaum, and it could be argued that he began the tradition – perhaps unique to the SF field – of the editor as curator and shaper of literature. Certainly, other fields have had their major editorial figures, but we’d argue that there is no lineage in any other area of fiction to match the likes of Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Donald Wollheim, Judith Merril, Michael Moorcock, Judy-Lynn del Rey, Damon Knight, Cele Goldsmith . . .

Influential enough for ya?

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Happy Birthday, Brian Aldiss!

18 August 2015

Two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, five BSFA Awards, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame living inductee.

SFWA Grand Master.

The IAFA Award for distinguished scholarship.

World Fantasy Special Award.

The Prix Utopia Award for lifetime achievement.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Author of the most widely-respected, critically acclaimed history of SF.

Writer of the short story behind Steven Spielberg‘s AI: Artificial Intelligence.

Not a bad CV, by anyone’s standards, but those are only selected highlights from the glittering career of the great Brian W. Aldiss, who turns ninety today.

Brian Aldiss’s extraordinary body of work, stretching back some sixty years, encompasses a wide range of writing, from the fantastic to the literary, via non-fiction and poetry. He was an important figure in SF’s New Wave and stands alongside fellow Britons  Michael Moorcock and J G Ballard as writers accepted and praised equally by the genre and literary worlds.

We are lucky enough to publish three of his books in the SF Masterworks series: Non-Stop, Greybeard and the epic Helliconia trilogy. We recommend them all.

 

Happy ninetieth birthday, Brian!

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