Thoughts from the SF Gateway

On This Day: Alfred Bester Died

30 September 2015

On this day in 1987, Alfred Bester passed away and the SF world lost one its brightest stars.

From The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

Educated in both humanities and sciences – including Psychology, perhaps the most important “science” in his sf – at the University of Pennsylvania, Bester entered sf when he submitted a story to Thrilling Wonder Stories. Mort Weisinger, the editor, helped Bester to polish it, and then suggested he submit it for an amateur story competition that Thrilling Wonder Stories was running. Bester did so and won. The story was “The Broken Axiom” (April 1939 Thrilling Wonder).

Bester published another thirteen sf stories to 1942, and then followed his friend Weisinger, along with Otto Binder, Manly Wade Wellman and others, into the field of Comic books, working on such DC Comics titles as Superman, The Green Lantern and Batman. He worked successfully for four years on comics outlines and dialogue, later working on Captain Marvel, and then moved into radio, scripting for such serials as Charlie Chan and The Shadow (see The Shadow). After the intensive course in action plotting this career had given him, Bester returned (part-time) to the sf magazines in 1950, by now more mature as a writer. (His main job at the time was scripting the new television series Tom Corbett: Space Cadet.) There ensued over the next six years a series of stories and novels which are considered to be among the greatest creations of genre sf . . .

You can the rest of Alfred Bester’s entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. His two most famous works – The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination – are available as SF Masterworks paperbacks.

Alfred Bester (1913 – 1987)

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Masterworks Spotlight: Dying of the Light

29 September 2015

An HBO television series has been garnering critical acclaim, racking up awards by the dozen and viewers by the millions, of late. Nothing unusual in that, of course; HBO is a byword for quality television. What’s notable about this series is that it’s adapted from a series of . . . *shudder* . . . Fantasy books. Hey! Maybe you’ve heard of it: it’s called Game of Thrones.

But we jest! Of course you’ve heard of Game of Thrones – who hasn’t?!  Based on the bestselling series A Song of Ice and Fire, it’s been the standout success of the last half decade, made millions of people realise that Fantasy can be a grown-up medium and made author George R. R. Martin a household name.

But what you might not know is that, before Game of Thrones made him the biggest name in 21st century Fantasy, George R. R. Martin wrote science fiction.

A whisperjewel from Gwen Delvano calls Dirk t’Larien across space and beyond the Tempter’s Veil to Worlorn, a dying Festival planet of rock and ice. Warlorn is slowly drifting through twilight to neverending night; as the planet sinks into darkness, so its inhabitants face annihilation.

Seven years ago, on Avalon, Gwen was Dirk’s lover, his Guenevere; now she wears the jade-and-silver bond of Jaantony Riv Wolf high-Ironjade Vikary, a barbarian visionary, an outcast from his own people for his acts of violence. And Garse Janacek, Jaan’s *teyn*, his shieldmate, is also bound to Gwen – in hatred. Dirk, a rogue and a wanderer, is called to be saviour of the three who are bonded together in love and hate.

But in breaking their triangle, he could lose all …

Dying of the Light is currently available as an SF Masterworks paperback. You can find more of George R. R. Martin’s work via 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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On This Day: Michael G. Coney

28 September 2015

Michael Greatrex Coney was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire, on this day in 1932.

Coney moved to Canada from 1973, serving with the British Columbia Forest Service until his retirement in 1989. His early work carried a sense of Cold War-inspired paranoia, but his repertoire was wide and perhaps his best novel, Hello Summer, Goodbye, is a wistful story of adolescent love on a far-distant planet. He was shortlisted for the Nebula Award once, the Aurora five times, and the BSFA Award twice, winning in 1977 for Brontomek! He died in British Columbia in 2005.

You can read more about Michael G. Coney in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and most of his work is available via his Author page on the SF Gateway website.

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On This Day: William M. Sloane Died

25 September 2015

On this day in 1974, William Milligan Sloane III died, in New York. An author, publisher and playwright, he is best known to SF fans as the author of To Walk the Night and The Edge of Running Water, and for editing two well-received anthologies in the ’50s: Space, Space, Space: Stories About the Time When Men Will be Adventuring to the Stars (1953) and Stories for Tomorrow: An Anthology of Modern Science Fiction (1954).

You can read more about him at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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On This Day: the USS Enterprise

24 September 2015

On this day in 1960, the USS Enterprise – the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – was launched. Its famous name has been shared by many ships before and after – only some of which sailed on water. Probably the most famous vessel to bear that name is, of course, science fictional, which is partly why we decided to mark this particular anniversary.

But mostly it’s an excuse to watch this:

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On This Day: John Glasby

23 September 2015

On this day in 1928, John Stephen Glasby was born in Nottinghamshire. A hugely prolific writer for ther British pulps in the ’50s and ’60s, Glasby’s name is likley to be relatively unknown to a modern audience because, like his contemporary R L Fanthorpe, Glasby wrote under a bewildering array of house names.  Names like . . .

Karl Zeigfreid A. J. Merak Rand Le Page

And many more! Happy Birthday, John Glasby – to all of you! You can find John Glasby’s books via his Author page on the Gateway website and read more about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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New Title Spotlight: A Star Above It

22 September 2015

If we had to single out one aspect of establishing the SF Gateway that makes us happiest it would probably be the knowledge that we’ve returned so many readers’ favourite books and authors to availability. But riding a close second is the enormous potential we’ve opened up for people to find new favourite authors among the great and good of classic SF. Authors, perhaps, like Chad Oliver . . .

 

A Star Above It and Other Stories is volume 1 of Chad Oliver‘s Selected Stories, containing the following:

Blood’s a Rover
The Land of Lost Content
The Ant and the Eye
Artifact
Any More At Home Like You?
Rewrite Man
The Edge of Forever
The Boy Next Door
A Star Above It
The Mother of Necessity
Night
Technical Advisor
Between the Thunder and the Sun
The One That Got Away
Transfusion
Guardian Spirit
The Gift
To Whom It May Concern
A Stick for Harry Eddington
Old Four-Eyes

The perfect introduction to your next favourite classic SF author – even if we do say so ourselves!

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New Title Spotlight: The Classic British Telefantasy Guide

21 September 2015

It’s been a while coming – we released the other cult TV guides by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping last year – but we’re thrilled to be presenting The Classic British Telefantasy Guide at last! This is what the authors have to say of it:

The text that follows is derived from the second edition of The Guinness Book of Classic British TV, published by Guinness Publishing in 1996, specifically the ‘BBC Telefantasy’ and ‘ITV Telefantasy’ chapters. It was written when the Internet barely existed, and at a time when few books had been published on the subject, especially in the style that we tended to adopt – a fan’s view of television, with an emphasis on what is seen on screen.

Various errors in the original text have been corrected, and Classic British Telefantasy features a revised introduction that combines, and brings up to date, the equivalent passages for both chapters. However, this eBook must not be considered a new or completely revised version of the original material. Too much time has passed, and if we were to start reworking and correcting the text now, we’d probably never finish. Instead, Classic British Telefantasy is an electronic reprint of some of our earliest work, repacked for a new format and, perhaps, a new age.

The Classic British Telefantasy Guide  publishes this Thursday, 30th July, and is available from all good eBook retailers!

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Masterworks Spotlight: the Anvil of Ice

18 September 2015

It seems like only yesterday, that Gollancz editor Marcus Gipps shared his thoughts on Michael Scott Rohan‘s much-loved fantasy series The Winter of the World.

Now, we’re delighted to announce the publication of the first volume, The Anvil of Ice, as a Fantasy Masterwork!

The chronicles of The Winter of the World echo down the ages in half-remembered myth and song – tales of mysterious powers of the Mastersmiths, of the forging of great weapons, of the subterranean kingdoms of the duergar, of Gods who walked abroad, and of the Powers that struggled endlessly for dominion.

In the Northlands, beleaguered by the ever-encroaching Ice and the marauding Ekwesh, a young cowherd, saved from the raiders by the mysterious Mastersmith, discovers in himself an uncanny power to shape metal – but it is a power that may easily be turned to evil ends, and on a dreadful night he flees his new home, and embarks on the quest to find both his own destiny, and a weapon that will let him stand against the Power of the Ice.

His wanderings will bring him great friends but earn him greater enemies, and eventually they will transform him from lowly cowherd to a mastersmith fit to stand with the greatest of all men.

The Anvil of Ice is available as a Fantasy Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. It is the first volume of Michael Scott Rohan’s acclaimed The Winter of the World sequence.  The full series is available in eBook from from SF Gateway:

1. The Anvil of Ice

2. The Forge in the Forest

3. The Hammer of the Sun

4. The Castle in the Winds

5. The Singer and the Sea

6. Shadow of the Seer

You can find more of Michael Scott Rohan’s work via 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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On This Day: Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

17 September 2015

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 158 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!

 

 

This post originally published 17 September, 2013.

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