Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Now on Your Television Screens: Childhood’s End

29 March 2016

Our current Masterworks 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 clearly the influence of Olaf Stapledon on his writing. 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.

SyFy’s television adaptation is now live on UK television. We look forward to it 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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New Title Spotlight: Terrors

25 March 2016

Ranging from the mysterious to pulp action to the Lovecraftian, this vivid collection of short fiction explores a world of radio heroes, masterful villains, and creatures from places unknown . . .

You can find more of Richard A. Lupoff’s work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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The Mind Thing!

24 March 2016

Have we mentioned before how much we love Galactic Journey? Regular readers will recognise this site is the journal of an intrepid time traveller, reviewing the 1960′s SF magazines as if they were new.  Go. Read. Be amazed.

While it’s really the great classic SF mags that concern the time traveller – the likes of Analog, Asimov’s, F&SF, Galaxy and If – he still finds time to update us on the tense competition of the space race – and to review the odd novel. One such is Fredric Brown‘s The Mind Thing . . .

There are many kinds of books.  There are important books, the kind that will be remembered and discussed for decades to come, like Harper Lee’s recent To Kill a Mockingbird.  There are progressive books that skirt the edge of convention, like Ted Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X.

And then there are the just plain good reads, neither subtle nor ingenious, but worthy nonetheless–like Fredric Brown’s latest novel, The Mind Thing.

You can read the rest of the review at Galactic Journey. Enjoy!

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New Title Spotlight: Past Master

23 March 2016

As noted last Friday, R. A. Lafferty is ‘the most important science-fiction writer you’ve never heard of’.And here is the book that set him on the path to greatness . . .

The golden planet of Astrobe, made in the image of Utopia, now faced a crisis which could destroy it forever; and yet, no one could understand it: In a world where wealth & comfort were free to everyone, why did so many desert the golden cities for the slums of Cathead and the Barrio? Why did they turn away from the Astrobe dream and seek lives of bone-crushing work, squalor and disease?

The rulers of Astrobe didn’t know, so they sought in humankind’s past for a leader who could give them the answers. They brought to life the one man out of history who would most want to destroy Astrobe!

 

You can find more of R A Lafferty’s work  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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Happy Birthday, William Shatner!

22 March 2016

Stardate 8879.58: A new life form has entered the world. Although there are … no signs of any … irregularities, I sense a … strange destiny … for this child. This … boy they call … Bill.

Yes, the one and only William Shatner entered the world eighty-five years ago today and, little did anybody realise at the time, a legend was born. Even with the success of the recently re-booted Star Trek universe, and the excellent job Chris Pine has done, it’s still impossible to hear the name ‘Captain Kirk’ and not think of William Shatner. His name should be made a byword for the ultimate in typecasting – ‘sure Barry Humphries has created lots of great characters, but he’s been absolutely Shatnered as Dame Edna’.

Many choose to mock his unique delivery style (and, to be fair, we’ve done it ourselves at the beginning of this post) – all dramatic pauses and portentous intonation – but what these people either forget or never knew is that that style was once a new and very distinctive delivery method. It was his USP, the point of difference he brought to the table; it was novel, it was exciting and it was pioneered by … William Shatner. For an actor to have such an impact that his own signature style becomes part of popular culture is an extraordinary testament to his skill. And to mock him for it is akin to poking fun at Muhammad Ali for his footwork or Elvis for his hip-swivel. Not cool, people, not cool.

Of course, Shatner doesn’t care – more: he revels in his status as a pop cultural oddity. He’s poked fun at himself and (let’s be honest) at us with his famous Saturday Night Live ‘Get A Life’ Sketch, lampooned his Kirk persona in films Airplane II: The Sequel and National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon, and lampooned himself in indie proto-Big Bang Theory film Free Enterprise (if you haven’t seen it yet, do so at once!).

He seems to be wilfully – joyfully – immune to his critics and more than happy to poke fun at himself, usually with more panache than anyone else could muster. We salute him for it. It’s not entirely clear whether his activities are knowing self-parodies or genuine attempts to tread new artistic ground . . . and, frankly, we couldn’t care less. As long as we get to marvel at performances like this, we’re in:

 

 

Happy Birthday, Bill. Long may your journey continue.

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On This Day: Edwin Balmer Died

21 March 2016

On this day in 1959, Edwin Balmer died in Chicago, Illinois. Although he wrote a number of SF novels and stories – some of which were published in Hugo Gernsback‘s Amazing Stories – his main claim to fame is as co-author, with Philip Wylie, of When Worlds Collide.

When Worlds Collide was published in 1933 and, eighteen years later, the magnificent George Pal film production was released to cinemas – at a time when it was still a major selling point to announce that it was in ‘color by Technicolor!’

 

If you haven’t seen this wonderful piece of celluloid, we heartily recommend that you do so as soon as possible.

After all, who knows how much time we have left . . .

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On This Day: R A Lafferty Died

18 March 2016

On this day in 2002, Raphael Aloysius Rafferty passed away in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, at the age of 87.

Described by The Guardian as ‘the most important science-fiction writer you’ve never heard of’, R. A. Lafferty has influenced and inspired some of the genre’s finest modern writers – not least, Neil Gaiman.

In keeping with Gateway’s mission statement, to return the classics of SF and Fantasy to availability for a modern audience, we are delighted to be publishing eBook editions of this past master (that’s a really good pun. BTW).

You can find R.A. Lafferty’s works 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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Happy Birthday, William Gibson!

17 March 2016

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Thus, with this iconic opening line from his debut novel, Neuromancer, did William Ford Gibson announce himself to the wider SF world, in 1984, and light the blue touch paper on the nascent sub-genre known as Cyberpunk.

Although Gibson did not invent Cyberpunk (that honour goes to Bruce Bethke in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Stories), he did coin the term ‘cyberspace’ in the title story of his 1986 collection Burning Chrome. And Neuromancer was clearly a book that  SF readers were ready for. It won the Hugo, Nebula and Philip K. Dick Awards, and has been regularly picked as one of the twentieth century’s most important works of fiction.

Regular readers of this blog will know that Gollancz recently concluded a deal to bring Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive and Burning Chrome back home to Gollancz (where they were originally published by our very own Malcolm Edwards).  As soon as we have covers for our new editions, we’ll share them in this very place, but meanwhile, we content ourselves with saying:

 

Happy Birthday, William Gibson!

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Happy Birthday, Chris Foss!

16 March 2016

Today the future turns seventy. Well, not quite, but for SF fans of a certain vintage, one name is synonymous with the look of the future – at least, the look of the spaceships of the future – and that name is Chris Foss.

We recommend you go have a look at Paul McAuley’s post about spaceships on 1970s British SF Paperback covers for an erudite view of the art of Chris Foss (and others!). You should also stop by Alastair Reynoldsblog for his take on the importance of Chris Foss to British SF in general and to Al’s induction into it, in particular. As a card-carrying Chris Foss fanboy, I’d agree with Al on both the allure of a Foss cover and the fact that knowing what was depicted on the cover was vanishingly unlikely to appear between the covers was so much less important than the sheer sense of wonder Foss evoked.

On numerous occasions I’ve written about James Blish’s The Testament of Andros and its stunning cover – classic Foss – but the cover that burns brightest in my mind is probably still Foundation. Do any of the scenes depicted on Foss’s wonderful triptych of covers for the Foundation trilogy actually happen in the books? No. No, they don’t. Does that matter? No. No, it doesn’t. Did those covers with their magnificent spaceships – all rivets and visible panels and patches of colour – hanging suspended in glorious disbelief in the aether make my pick up a book whether I’d heard of the author or not? Hell, yes!

It’s now almost two years since Chris Foss was Artist Guest of Honour at London’s Worldcon, and where I was lucky enough to meet him and enjoy a brief conversation. And I do not care even a jot if it marks me out as an incredible nerd that, having purchased a print of his classic Foundation Trilogy triptych – upon which he added an original pencil sketch and a signature – I then bounced back to the Gollancz table, babbling semi-coherently and showing off my new purchase like a schoolboy.

Yes, of course I’m supposed to be a grown man and a publishing professional BUT IT’S CHRIS FOSS!  The day I stop being excited to meet a living legend is the day I have no place calling myself an SF fan.

Happy birthday, Chris – and thanks for the future!

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New Title Spotlight: The Echoing Worlds

15 March 2016

Because he was bored with life on a world that had become a museum, Paul Hilder answered a mysterious advertisement, and found himself plunged into a life that was different, dangerous and far from boring.

This is the story of an Earth that existed alongside the one that Paul Hilder knew, and with which he became so involved that the bitter struggle waged on one world threatened to encroach on the other.

And it is the story of Ruth, daughter of the powerful Controller Orstey, and her longing for a peace and happiness that did not exist in her own space and time – a peace she tried to find by passing through the cosmic junction of The Echoing Worlds.

You can read more of Jonathan Burke’s work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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