Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Gateway Essentials: Walter Tevis

30 June 2016

Welcome back to our ongoing tour of the Gateway Essentials. Today . . . Walter Tevis.

While a student at the University of Kentucky, Tevis worked in a pool hall and published a story about the game for an English class. He would later revisit his love for pool in the novels The Hustler and The Color of Money, both of which would be adapted into multiple award-winning films starring Paul Newman.

He is best known to SF fans, of course, for his cult novels The Man Who Fell to Earth and Mockingbird, both of which are available in our SF Masterworks series:

If you’re keen to read more Tevis after the classics above (and who could blame you?!), then we recommend you move on to our Gateway Essentials choice, The Steps of the Sun:

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You can find more of Walter Tevis’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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Masterworks Spotlight: The Man Who Fell to Earth

29 June 2016

Our second SF Masterwork spotlight this week, is Walter Tevis’s remarkable novel that was the basis for Nicolas Roeg‘s cult film, starring the late David Bowie.

Thomas Jerome Newton is an extraterrestrial from the planet Anthea, which has been devastated by a series of nuclear wars, and whose inhabitants are twice as intelligent as human beings. When he lands on Earth – in Kentucky, disguised as a human – it’s with the intention of saving his own people from extinction. Newton patents some very advanced Anthean technology, which he uses to amass a fortune. He begins to build a spaceship to help the last 300 Antheans migrate to Earth. Meanwhile, Nathan Bryce, a chemistry professor in Iowa, is intrigued by some of the new products Newton’s company brings to the market, and already suspects Newton of being an alien. As Bryce and the FBI close in, Newton finds his own clarity and sense of purpose diminishing.

 

The Man Who Fell to Earth is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook.

You can find more of Walter Tevis’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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Masterworks Spotlight: The Chrysalids

27 June 2016

Nothing at all should be read into the fact that our two current SF Masterworks spotlights are a post apocalyptic tale driven by fear and hatred of those that are different, and the story of an alien visitor to Earth who brings knowledge but is greeted with fear and suspicion. That’s just how the publishing schedule worked out, honest . . .

And we start with the disturbing post-apocalyptic masterpiece from the author of The Day of the Triffids.

David’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. And blasphemies, as everyone knows, should be burned: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.

Little does he realise that his own son – and his son’s cousin Rosalind and their friends – have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. And mutants, as everyone knows, should be burned.

But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery – and death – or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands . . .

The Chrysalids is available as an SF Masterworks hardback, as is John Wyndham‘s best-known novel, The Day of the Triffids. We will also publish The Midwich Cuckoos in September.

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Gateway Essentials: Time is the Simplest Thing

22 June 2016

For some time now, we have been singing the praises of the interpid Time Traveller from the excellent Galactic Journey site (he who reviews the SF of 55 years ago as if it were coming out new).

And just last week, we announced the Gateway Essentials programme, designed to help guide readers through the intimidating number of titles we have available.

So, imagine our pleasure to discover that that very same Time Traveller decided to review one of our Essentials just last week!  The story in question is a four-part Clifford D. Simak novel, serialised in Analog in the April – July 1961 issues. The story was called The Fisherman, but we know it better by its novel title: Time is the Simplest Thing.

Without setting foot on another planet, people like Shep Blaine were reaching out to the stars with their minds, telepathically contacting strange beings on other worlds. But even Blaine was unprepared for what happened when he communed with the soul of an utterly alien being light years from Earth. After recovering from his experience, he becomes a dangerous man: not only has he gained startling new powers – but he now understands that humankind must share the stars.

Hunted through time and space by those who he used to trust, Blaine undergoes a unique odyssey that takes him through a nightmarish version of small-town America as he seeks to find others who share his vision of a humane future. Blaine has mastered death and time. Now he must master the fear and ignorance that threatened to destroy him!

If you want to find out what Clifford D. Simak is all about, you could do a lot worse than read Time is the Simplest Thing, a book of which the Time Traveller said:

Still, it’s an unique book, one that I suspect will contend for a Hugo this year.

Was he right?

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

And, of course, you should add Galactic Journey to your RSS reader for an as-it-happened eye’s view of the best (and, to be honest, worst) SFF of 55 years ago . . .

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Gateway Essentials: Clifford D. Simak

20 June 2016

A regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction throughout the influential John W. Campbell era, Clifford Donald Simak produced a body of highly regarded work, winning the Nebula and three Hugo Awards, and is best known for his story suite of future histories: City.

We have had City available as an SF Masterworks paperback for some time and recently added it as an SF Gateway eBook, and it remains the best starting point for readers wanting to explore Simak’s works. And now, we can flesh out that map even more with the addition of several Gateway Essentials, so those who want to know where to go once they (we’re really sorry about this) leave the City:

You can find more of Clifford D. Simak’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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Gateway Essentials: James Tiptree, Jr

16 June 2016

So maybe you’ve heard about this James Tiptree, Jr fellow but apart from the fact that ‘he’ is actually a ‘she’, the only thing you know about her is that there’s an award in her honour. Certainly an excellent reason to dive in to Tiptree’s oeuvre, but where to start?

In the best example yet of why we choose the titles we do for the SF Masterworks series, the best place to start with James Tiptree, Jr is the collection widely regarded to be her finest (and one of the finest in all SF) is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.

SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook

For a decade, Alice Sheldon produced an extraordinary body of work under the pseudonym James Tiptree Jr, until her identity was exposed in 1977. Her Smoke Rose Up Forever presents the finest of these stories and contains the Nebula Award-winning ‘Love is the Plan the Plan is Death’; Hugo Award-winning novella ‘The Girl Who Was Plugged In’; ‘Houston, Houston, Do You Read’? – winner of both the Hugo and Nebula – and of course the story for which she is best known: ‘The Women Men Don’t See’.

This is a true masterwork – an overview of one of SF’s true greats at the very height of her powers.

 

Tiptree’s reputation rests largely on her short fiction. In fact, she only published two novels, but it’s these we’ve chosen as her Essentials, to be enjoyed after experiencing the wonders of her short stories:

As is customary, we end by pointing out that . . .

You can find more of James Tiptree, Jr’s work via her Author page on the Gateway website, and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

. . . and in this case, we really recommend that you do read about her.  It’s a fascinating story – from her childhood as a ‘character’ in one of her mother’s books, to her time at the Pentagon and in the CIA, to the controversy over whether ‘James Tiptree, Jr’ could possibly be a woman (categorically not, stated one very famous SF writer) and the effect Sheldon’s ‘unmasking would have on her writing, to her tragic death. In many ways, Alice Sheldon’s life was as remarkable as her work.

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Gateway Essentials: Richard Cowper

15 June 2016

So, now that we know how this works, here’s your Essential introduction to one of the unique voices of British science fiction: John Middleton Murry, Jr, who wrote his best work under the pen name Richard Cowper . . .

The son of the famous critic John Middleton Murry, Cowper announced himself to the science fiction world in 1967 with Breakthrough, which found favour for a subtlety and richness of characterisation not seen in most contemporary SF. But it was the idea of a transformed future England became his signature leitmotif and it is this theme that is explored in what is generally considered his best stand-alone work, The Twilight of Briareus and which informs his crowning achievement, the Corlay sequence: the introductory novella ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and the novels The Road to Corlay, A Dream of Kinship and A Tapestry of Time.

You can find more of Richard Cowper’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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Gateway Essentials: James Blish

14 June 2016

As we’re sure you know, yesterday we announced the creation of the Gateway Essentials list. Its continuing mission: to make it easier for us to make it easier for you to find your way through the 3,000-plus titles and  300-plus authors currently on the Gateway. By identifying the key titles for each author, we hope to eliminate (or, at least, greatly reduce) the dilemma of ‘overchoice‘ and provide you with an accessible *ahem* gateway to our authors’ works.

Yesterday, we explained the theory; today, we start to illustrate the practice. Here’s how it works for James Blish:

We have two James Blish works in the SF Masterworks series:

We’ve select our SF Masterworks to be the major touchpoint works of (predominantly) post-war SF, so, if you’re interested in James Blish, we think these two books are the best places to start. But if you want to go deeper into his oeuvre, you’ll be wanting the Gateway Essentials.

First up for the James Blish Essentials, we’ve selected the four linked short novels that make up Cities in Flight, so if you want to read them individually (or even only want to read one of them, for some mad reason), you can find them in the Gateway Essentials:

 

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And once you’re done exploring the spindizzies, you can take stroll through the linked stories telling of mankind’s spread throughout the stars in The Seedling Stars (an important early text in SF’s treatment of genetic engineering, which includes one of the all-time great SF stories, ‘Suface Tension’) or enjoy some of Blish’s more metaphysyical work in Black Easter and The Day After Judgement, in which he treats one of Fantasy’s central tropes – black magic – as science.

And if you still want more James Blish (and who could blame you?) we hope that by this stage, with eight of his books secure in your temporal lobe, you’ll be able to make your way through the rest of his titles on your own cognizance.

And there we have it: your pathway to personal Blish.*

 

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

 

* We’re really sorry.

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Announcing: The Gateway Essentials!

13 June 2016

You’ll have seen some new cover styles popping up wherever you buy your eBooks and you might have wondered what, if anything, they meant?

We’re glad you asked! This week, we launch a new initiative on the SF Gateway: the Gateway Essentials.

There are now more than 3,000 titles in the SF Gateway.  Our aim – which was to build the most comprehensive backlist library of sf and fantasy ever assembled – has in large part been achieved.  Of course, there are authors we would love to feature who are unavailable because the rights are held elsewhere, or because we haven’t yet been able to finalise an agreement, but we’ve achieved more than we could have hoped for when we launched Gateway in 2011.

It was always part of our promise to authors that if we included their work we would include all of their available work (provided they were happy for it to be republished).  Often an author’s favourite among their backlist is not their bestselling or most famous book.

But that very success has created its own problem of discoverability within those 3,000 titles, and to help with this we are launching Gateway Essentials – around 500 of the 3,000 titles which we would recommend as the first titles to try from a wide variety of the authors.

If you have never read Robert Silverberg (say) and want to sample his work, the first port of call should probably be his titles in our SF Masterworks collection.  But there are only three titles (so far) – The Book of Skulls, Dying Inside and Downward to the Earth – and excellent as they all are, Silverberg has been at the top of his profession for more than half a century and there are more than 80 of his titles in Gateway.

Where to go next?  The Silverberg titles in the Gateway Essentials list are one answer.  There are twenty of them, which we have selected for initial inclusion, any of which should potentially appeal to any reader.  We have given them all new and distinctive covers.

Once you’ve raced your way through those, there are still plenty of Silverberg novels and collections left to try, but we’d hope that, by then, you’ll know his work well enough to read the descriptions of the others and decide which to enjoy next.  And if you want to try other authors, their Gateway Essentials titles (and Masterworks, if any) provide a tried and tested first experience.

To begin with, we’ve chosen to spotlight on our homepage four titles whose covers have received a face lift, marking them out as books we think make good introductions to the authors in question:

Over the coming weeks we’ll be spotlighting more Gateway Essentials on the blog, and you should see the covers update on the Gateway website. These new editons are already available via all of your favourite retail sites. We’ll be working away to add the Gateway Essentials to the authors’ pages with the goal of making it easier than ever for you to discover accessible entry points to our authors and to navigate the bewildering array of titles we publish.

Happy reading!

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But Will I Like It: Earthlight

10 June 2016

With the front pages currently obsessed with whether or not Britain should stay in the European Union and the back pages obsessed with how long England, Wales and Northern Ireland can remain in the European Championships, Gateway calls for some perspective. And you don’t get better perspective than viewing things from the Moon! With that in mind, we thought we’d send you into the weekend with another of our mini-reviews; this one features Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 novel of political tensions between the Earth and the Moon . . .

Arthur C. Clarke was the master of the near-future exploration of the Solar System novel. Earthlight has two of the most interesting ideas in this territory – how do you rescue a lot of people from a spacecraft when they have no spacesuits and no airlock, and how do you get around the inverse-square law with a beam weapon. Earthlight is set on a 2001-like moon, two hundred years hence when humans have spread throughout the inner solar system and the colonies have started to resent the economic control exerted over them by the Earth, while the Earth resents the drain on resources they represent. War looms inevitable. The technology is a curious mix of 1940s naivety about atomic power and weapons, 1950s electronics and IT, 1960s monorails, current oil-well drilling techniques and futuristic space drives. Read, think, and then find and read A Fall of Moondust.

Arthur C Clarke is famous for his 1945 Wireless World paper, ‘Extra-Terrestrial Relays’, proposing the use of geostationary satellites for global communications. The idea was unpatentable because of its impossibility. 20 years later Intelsat 1 was launched.

You can find more of Arthur C. Clarke’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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