Thoughts from the SF Gateway

From the Archives: Phillip Mann on The Disestablishment of Paradise

31 December 2015

To mark his return to the Gollancz list after a far-too-long absence, we asked author Phillip Mann a few questions about his new novel, The Disestablishment of Paradise, which was released on Thursday 21st February. The first part of the interview is on the Gollancz blog here, the second part is here, and this is the final part, which deals more with Phillip’s remarkable backlist, all of which are now available as ebooks and can be found on the SF Gateway.

The Disestablishment of Paradise tells of the final days of human involvement on a lush and welcoming colony world. Despite the planet’s remarkable scientific possibilities, the decision has been made. The finances don’t work, there is no benefit to human civilisation, and so Paradise is to be Disestablished. All human trace will be removed. But Dr Hera Melhuish, the scientific leader of the colony, has other plans . . .

What brought you back to prose writing? Do you have any plans for the future?

I have had three careers which have sometimes existed simultaneously : as a theatre director, as a teacher of drama and as a writer. My four books Escape to the Wild Wood, Stand Alone Stan, The Dragon Wakes and The Burning Forest which are episodes in a tetralogy called A Land Fit for Heroes** had emptied me of ideas. I actually felt empty when I finished the last one. All my knowledge and feelings had somehow been poured into those books. For a while, I thought I had nothing more to say. I was also saddened that those books had not do not been widely read even though they were well reviewed. Perhaps their day will come. If readers enjoy The Disestablishment of Paradise, then I am very sure they would enjoy A Land Fit for Heroes.

Anyway . . . it took a while before I felt the urge to write again. I went back to working in the theatre. At the same time, I read widely and voraciously. Wrote some poems. Taught creative drama. Fiddled in the garden… and was on the whole, happy. But then, little by little, ideas started to come to me. I was worried about climate change and the seeming inability of out governments to deal with it effectively. I was horrified at what was happening to our wild-life especially the wanton killing of animals such as elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns. I thought about the death of species. I remembered the image of a lonely creature blundering into the desert, leaving only its footprints… And then one day I simply started to write again. It just happened. I probably thought it was another short story starting up – but the writing took off. I actually began at what is now Chapter 2 of the present ms. at the point where Hera is on Paradise and planting at sea.

Quickly the story became complex, and the voices of the characters became clear. The story outline developed. I decided to use a story teller as I had done in The Eye of the Queen and Wulfsyarn, A Mosaic and this seemed to make the telling easier. I also had the idea that I wanted to write special ‘documents’ to make the story more plausible.

Almost without knowing it, I was writing again and very happy to be doing so. Simple really . . . well not quite. But that is another story.

For the future: I have found that the ideas I developed in The D of P remain very strong in me. As a result, I have written a version of the story for younger readers called The Paradise Mission. The story is told by a young woman called Hetty, who is an Explorer. She has arrived on Paradise to look for a young man called Crispin. He was the first human to reach Paradise, but and has now gone missing. It is her mission to find out what has happened to him and to rescue him if possible. In fulfilling her mission, she encounters Paradise in all its wonder, danger and exuberance. What happens to them is, for the time being, a secret – but I hope the story will be published soon.

I am also at work on a new novel – a dark comedy called The Headman – but there is not much I can tell you about that except that it is quite different to anything I have written before.

Phillip Mann, Feb 2nd 2013

You can read more about Phillip Mann in his author entry at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and find his books at SF Gateway.

 

 

First published 22nd February 2013.

** Editor’s Note: A Land Fit for Heroes was originally envisaged by Phillip Mann as a trilogy, although it was originally published in four parts. For the SF gateway editions, it has been restored in accordance with the author’s instructions, and now comprises three books: Escape to the Wild Wood, Stand Alone Stan and The Burning Forest.

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From the Archives: Why Should I Read Geodesica by Sean Williams & Shane Dix?

30 December 2015

You need to read Geodesica because there’s only one thing better than a good romance, and that’s a good romance set in space.

‘But wait!’ you cry. ‘How about a good romance in space that lasts one million years?’ Well, you’re right. That is better! And that’s why you really need to read Geodesica.

Williams and Dix have a flair for combining slam-bang adventures, intriguing characters and cutting-edge scientific and philosophical speculations, resulting in books that elevate your adrenaline and your intellect. This latest series is no exception to their reign.

That’s Paul di Filippo. Later he name-checks Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross and Cordwainer Smith (the list of greats just keeps on getting longer). Good Reading raises Vernor Vinge. Locus references Robert Silverberg, E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith and Olaf Stapledon, and concludes:

These are not writers who are content to let us curl up with a cosy tale of exploding suns or galactic empire-busters. They know that the winds between the stars probably blow cold and that the significant half of ‘post-human’ comes in front of the hyphen. It makes for an astringent kind of entertainment, but one that sticks in the head after the bubbles of lesser brands have evaporated. Read more…

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From the Archives: Why Should I Read Orphans by Sean Williams & Shane Dix?

29 December 2015

You need to read Orphans because you’re a fan of new space opera and you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.

How many space operas start with a guy taking a bath? How many create an entirely new set of standard units of measurement? How many feature no less than ten versions of one of the lead characters? How many contain aliens that don’t only come from another universe, but have a backward arrow of time as well?

‘Spoilers!’ you say. Yes, but only mild ones, honest, compared to some of the big ones we could mention. As Locus says:

[T]he book can’t be discussed or even described without spoiling some of the surprises, which are mutually reinforcing as well as juicy in themselves. I will, however, give in to the temptation to drop a few more of the names that came to mind as I was reading: the Three Gregs (Bear, Benford, Egan), Linda Nagata, and Frederik Pohl.

That’s another terrific check-list of greats (and not even late ones, this time). You want more? Says VOYA:

This book is true hard science fiction . . . [which] places the novel within the long tradition of Anderson, Asimov, Brin, and Clarke

When Paul di Filippo declares the authors the ‘Niven & Pournelle for the 21st century’, you’re know they’re really onto something.

Read more…

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From the Archives: Why Should I Read Evergence by Sean Williams & Shane Dix?

28 December 2015

You need to read Evergence because you’re either a space opera fan or a Star Wars fan, or both (you can be both, it’s okay).

Here’s a review in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction that explains why:

George Lucas missed a sure bet when he chose to film his own Big-Dumb-Object-filled script for The Phantom Menace (1999) rather than open up his precious project to outside sources. He could have turned, for instance, to Sean Williams and Shane Dix, adapting their new space opera Evergence: The Prodigal Sun . . . into his beloved Star Wars mythos. He would have started with a book that is genre-savvy and capably written, full of adventure and Asimovian imperial vistas.

‘Asimovian’ speaks volumes, doesn’t it? It gets better: Read more…

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Merry Christmas!

25 December 2015

Mulled wine! Roast Turkey! Bing Crosby! Human sacrifice!

OK, maybe not that last one.

The point is it’s the Festive Season and SF Gateway is now closed for the duration. You’ll still be able to buy all of your favourite classic SF&F from your preferred retailer, but we won’t be talking about them here until January. However, we wouldn’t leave you high and dry, with nothing to distract you over the holidays, so for the week between Christmas and New Year, we’ll be re-pulishing a few of our favourite posts from the archive. Maybe you missed them first time round? If so, here’s looking at you, kid . . .

We’d also like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to our many readers for supporting us over the year and helping to keep great classic SF alive and read! We wish you all a Merry Christmas or whichever religious of secular end-of-year festival you choose to observe, and hope you have a happy and safe holiday – full of lots of awesome spaceships and robots, of course.

See you in 2016.

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J T McIntosh: 200 Years to Christmas

24 December 2015

Look what we found in the SF Gateway archives:

For almost two centuries the huge spaceship had speared its way through the stars, bound for another two hundred years of travel before it would put down on a new planet, a new home for the Earth people.

On board the metal-enclosed worldlet were four hundred people: the last survivors of Earth. It was up to them to start life anew, to correct the mistakes their ancestors made.

But as the tenth generation neared maturity, the idle passengers found themselves face to face with these same problems – and this time there was no place to run and hide or to postpone their answers. For their miniature society was changing faster and faster. An the spaceship suddenly seemed destined to end as a star-bound coffin.

200 Years to Christmas?  Nope. Just the one . . .

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New Title Spotlight: The Blood of Roses

23 December 2015

SF Gateway is delighted to present another haunting and elegant dark fantasy from the late, great Tanith Lee: The Blood of Roses.

Love, history or blood…which is the strongest?

In childhood something black settled on Mechail Korhlen and drank from his throat. And later somebody pitied him enough to kill his poor deformed body when he became an adult. But then Mechail chose to return from beyond the veil to enact revenge – and to follow Anjelen, ruler of the sinister monastery sited deep in the forest.

The fulfilment of his destiny had begun . . .

You can find more of Tanith Lee’s work via her Author page on the SF Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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New Title Spotlight: Flatland

22 December 2015

Q: When is a new title not a new title?

A: When it was first published almost 130 years ago!

We are delighted to present an SF Gateway edition of Edwin A. Abbott‘s Flatland, the 1884 classic tale of life in a two-dimensional realm.

Flatland follows the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women – thin, straight lines – are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status.

Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions) and ultimately entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions-a revolutionary idea for which he is returned to his two-dimensional world.

While perhaps of limited value as a stright narrative, Flatland is invaluable as thought experiment. Not because we need help to understand the two-dimensional world, but because, by stepping down into that state and appreciating that our taken-for-granted three-dimensional world would seem uncanny to the two-dimensional beings therein, we can start to envisage the otherwise-unimaginable fourth dimension.

One of SF’s greatest explainers of scientific concepts, Sir Arthur C. Clarke uses the example of Abbott’s Flatland in just such a manner in his fascinating Profiles of the Future.

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Masterworks Spotlight: Elleander Morning

21 December 2015

Jerry Yulsman (1924-1999) was a writer and photographer, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the Second World War, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross. He returned to New York as a freelance photographer, chronicling the cultural rebellion and renaissance of post-war America in Greenwich Village. His photography appeared in Colliers, Pageant, Look, LIFE and Playboy, among others, and his 1957 image of Jack Kerouac, posed in the glow of a neighbourhood bar sign, has become one of 20th century photography’s iconic images.

Yulsman began writing in the early ’80s, producing a number of novels across different genres; his best-known work is the alternative history, Elleander Morning:

When the mysterious, beautiful Elleander Morning, travels through time to Vienna in 1913, her aim is not to visit the birthplace of Schubert and Strauss. Instead, she has come to assassinate a struggling young artist. His name: Adolf Hitler.

But 60 years on, long after Elleander has changed the path of the world, a mysterious book – the history of a terrible, global war that never was – threatens to unravel reality. As the horrific past – a past that never happened – begins to reassert itself, billions of lives lie in the balance . . .

Elleander Morning is a seductive, compelling alternate history in the tradition of The Man in the High Castle. It is available as a Fantasy Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can read more about Jerry Yulsman in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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ICYMI: From the Attic VI: The 2014 Nebula Award for Best Novel

18 December 2015

As previously noted, we will be republishing noted critic and reviewer Kev McVeigh’s ‘From the Attic’ columns over the coming weeks, to give new readers the opportunity to encounter his sage observations on some very important and all-too-often overlooked authors. This post looked forward to the 2014 Nebula Awards, whcih have obviously now been presented; in the interests of maintaining Kev’s original points, we’ve left the text as written  . . .

 

The Nebula Awards are presented annually by the SF Writers of America in four categories, Novel, Novella, Novellette and Short Story. This year’s awards will be announced on the weekend of 16-17th May. I know some people place more value on such awards than others, but I certainly find the shortlists for the major SF awards (Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Tiptree & Clarke) often point out works I’ve missed or lead to interesting discussions of trends in SFF.

This year’s Best Novel category is particularly interesting, not just on its own but in context of recent years. There are eight nominees for novels published in 2013, and six are by women. That isn’t the whole story though. Looking back over the past five years we see that of the 32 novels shortlisted a remarkable 65% (21 books) were written by women. Eighteen different women compared to nine men were recognised in this period. Across the four categories 71 of 128 nominees were by women in that 5 year span. Pretty impressive huh? There are also a very significant number of non-white or queer (or both) authors on those lists, but that’s for another day.

So who is up for this year’s award?

Read more…

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