Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Ursula K. Le Guin: the Masterworks

21 April 2017

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of Science Fiction & Fantasy authors** whose brilliance is acknowledged by critics and readers within the SF field and by critics and readers within the Literary community, you would not require an abacus to keep count of those who appear in the middle.

You’d find J.G. Ballard, of course, and his friend Michael Moorcock. You’d find Brian Aldiss, Christopher Priest, Iain (M.) Banks and – now, at least, though not during his lifetime – Philip K. Dick.  You’d find China Miéville, Karen Joy Fowler and Jeff VanderMeer and a handful of others. And without question, you would find Ursula Kroeber Le Guin.

On Monday, we re-posted Ursula Le Guin’s wonderful acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters – a clear indication of the esteem in which she is held by the literary mainstream. Now, we’d like to celebrate her triumphs in the field of science fiction, as illustrated by her titles in the SF Masterworks series.

For lovers of short fiction, there’s the omnibus of two of her finest collections: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters and The Compass Rose, which contains such classics as Hugo Award-winner ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’, the Nebula Award-winning ‘The Day Before the Revolution’, and the Hugo-nominated ‘Winter’s King’. The omnibus is available as an SF Masterworks paperback with The Wind’s Twelve Quarters (1975) and The Compass Rose (1982) available as separate eBooks.

Then there are two great exemplars of anthropological SF: Hugo Award-winner The Word for World is Forest (1972) and the astonishing Always Coming Home (1985).

If anthropology isn’t your thing, you could do a lot worse than try Le Guin’s 1971 novel about a man whose dreams can change reality, The Lathe of Heaven (1971) – shortlisted for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. Or you could enter her acclaimed Hainish universe with the novel that went one better than Lathe, and won both the Hugo and the Nebula: The Dispossessed (1974).

And, as of this very month, you can find a serious candidate for the title of greatest SF novel ever written: the extraordinary Hugo and Nebula Award-winner, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), which we’re delighted to welcome into the SF Masterworks list.

Looking back over those incredible titles it’s impossible not to be stunned by the range and calibre of Ursula Le Guin’s work. Arguably, from the late ’60s to mid-’70s only Robert Silverberg could claim to rival her for quality and quantity. And remarkably, this is only half the story!  It can’t have escaped your atention that we’ve only covered (some of) Le Guin’s SF. What about her Fantasy?

Ah! Stay tuned . . .


** For the avoidance of doubt, I’m referring to writers who came from within the SFF field, not those who made their names as literary writers but are also well-received by SFF readers and critics. Thus: no Margaret Atwood or Michael Chabon or Kazuo Ishiguro, et al.

Posted in Authors, Awards, Masterworks
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Announcing a New SF Masterwork!

20 April 2017

Today is Ian Watson’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Ian!), which seems as good a reason as any to devote today’s post to his Gateway Essentials titles, don’t you think?

First, some background: Ian Watson was born in St Albans, Hertfordshire, on April 20th, 1943 and graduated from Balliol College, Oxford, with a first class Honours degree in English Literature (not right away, of course, you’ll be relieved to learn that he did spend some time growing up and going to school, first).He lectured in English in Tanzania (1965-1967) and Tokyo (1967-1970) before beginning to publish SF with ‘Roof Garden Under Saturn’ for the influential New Worlds magazine in 1969.

Watson became a full-time writer in 1976, following the success of his debut novel The Embedding. His work has been frequently shortlisted for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and he has won the BSFA Award twice. From 1990 to 1991 he worked full-time with Stanley Kubrick on story development for the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence (directed after Kubrick’s death by Steven Spielberg), for which he is acknowledged in the credits for Screen Story. In the April 2001 edition of Interzone, he published the astonishingly prescient story ‘Hijack Holiday’ in which terrorists crashed a commercial flight into the Eiffel Tower.

As you might gather from the above, Ian Watson is quite a writer!  But with some thirty novels and over 200 stories spread across twenty collections, where does one start?  Well, there’s always the Gateway Essentials, designed to solve just such a conundrum:

And, of course, we’ve carefully selected our SF Masterworks to represent not just the best examples of the genre, but the best entry points. Which seems as good place as any to announce that Ian Watson’s debut novel, The Embedding, is to be published as an SF Masterwork in September!

The Embedding is already available as an SF Gateway eBook, and will be published as an SF Masterworks paperback on 14th September.

We can’t wait.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IAN!


You can find more of Ian Watson’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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Celebrating Ursula K. Le Guin

17 April 2017

We are, over the next few weeks, going to be celebrating the great Ursula K. Le Guin. Why?  Well, why not? She is a giant of modern literature – both within genre and without – and she’s won a staggering five Hugos, six Nebulas, two World Fantasy Awards, three James Tiptree Jr Memorial Awards, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award and more Locus Awards than you could count even if you took your shoes and socks off. Also, we’ve recently added the jewel in Ursula Le Guin’s SF crown to our Masterworks series (but more of that later). That’s why.

To kick off proceedings, we can’t think of a better way to showcase the passion, humanity, intellect and spirit that inhabits Ursula K. Le Guin‘s work than to enjoy, once again, the utterly brilliant acceptance speech, she  gave upon receiving the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, in November, three years ago:



It is, we’re sure you’ll agree, a wonderful speech – as one would expect from the first author ever to win both Hugo and Nebula awards for the same novel on two separate occasions. It is also, we’re sure you’ll agree, worth celebrating.

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The Titanic: 105 Years On

14 April 2017

105 years ago today, the most famous of all maritime disasters occurred: the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg south of Newfoundland. The Titanic’s hull containing sixteen separate airtight compartments, causing some to refer to it as ‘unsinkable’, but the iceberg opened five of these compartments to the ocean and the rest is history: it sank, five days into its maiden voyage, resulting in the loss of over 1,500 lives.

The Titanic has fascinated explorers, historians and writers for over a century, now, prompting salvage expeditions, films and, of course, novels. All very interesting and timely, but none of this would usually be considered fodder for a site dedicated to classic SF – unless one of those novels was written by one of the all-time greats of science fiction, Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

It is 2010. In two years’ time it will be the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. Two of the world’s most powerful corporations race to raise the vessel but there are other powers at work, and chaos theory comes into play as plans progress – and six preserved bodies are found.

This novel incorporates two of Arthur C.Clarke’s passions – deep sea exploration and future technology – in a fast-moving tale of mystery and adventure. As operations proceed, the perfectly preserved body of a beautiful girl is found. She was not on the ship’s passenger lists.

The quest to uncover the secrets of the wreck and reclaim her becomes an obsession . . . and for some, a fatal one.


The Ghost From the Grand Banks was written in 1990, when the Titanic centenary was still a dozen years in the future, and Clarke approaches it with the rigour and imagination we’ve come to expect from a Hugo Award-winning Grand Master. It’s a book that is often overlooked among the more straightforwardly SFnal of his works, but we think it’s stood the test of time – as, indeed, has the strange allure of the tragic event that inspired it.

The Ghost From the Grand Banks is available as a Gollancz paperback and an SF Gateway eBook.

Posted in Anniversaries, Authors
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Gateway Essentials: Sir Fred Hoyle

12 April 2017

Born in 1915 in Yorkshire, Sir Fred Hoyle was one of Britian’s most renowned astronomers, noted primarily for the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis (for which many think he ought to have won the Nobel Prize for Physics) and his often controversial stances on other scientific matters – in particular his rejection of the Big Bang Theory, a term coined by him on BBC radio. He has authored hundreds of technical articles, as well as textbooks, popular accounts of science and two autobiographies. In addition to his work as an astronomer, Hoyle was a writer of science fiction, including a number of books co-written with his son Geoffrey Hoyle. Hoyle spent most of his working life at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge and served as its director for a number of years. He was knighted in 1972 and died in Bournemouth, England, after a series of strokes.

If you’re looking for a place to start with Fred Hoyle’s fiction, we recommend his Gateway Essentials: a966’s  timeslip novel October the First is Too Late or storu collection Element 79 (1967).


You can find more of Fred Hoyle’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: Terry Carr

7 April 2017

Terry Gene Carr was born in Oregon in 1937. An enthusiastic publisher of fanzines since his early teens, Carr was nominated for the Hugo for Best Fanzine five times, winning in 1959, and for Best Fan Writer three times, winning in 1973. Despite a distinguished career in professional publishing, he continued to participate in fandom throughout his life. He produced three novels but it is as an editor that he made his reputation – first at Ace and then in a freelance capacity. He initiated the long-running and influential ‘Universe‘ series of original anthologies and, from 1972 to 1987, produced The Best Science Fiction of the Year compilations, widely regarded as being the best of the annual showcase collections. He was nominated thirteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Editor, winning twice. He died on this day in April 1987, of congestive heart failure.

Obviously, the best way to appreciate such an influential editor is to track down and read some of the anthologies for which he was responsible. As we can’t help you with that, we offer the next best thing: his best novel, Cirque: A Novel of the Far Future (1977), a religious allegory set in the Far Future.

Millennia in the future, Earth has become a backwater planet, ignored by others in the galaxy. Its one jewel is Cirque – the city on the Abyss, a city of love and harmony, with inspiring religious rites.

But in the Abyss there lives the Beast, formed from the castoff hates of the Cirquians: a beast whose body is refuse, whose mind is black as sin. Feeble weapons are no match for the Beast.

And now, after centuries, it’s climbing out of the Abyss to claim its own . . .


You can find Terry Carr’s novels 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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On This Day: Isaac Asimov

6 April 2017

The great Isaac Asimov died twenty-five years ago today, in New York.

He was a compelling science writer and a hugely important science fiction writer. Along with fellow greats Arthur C. Clarke and Robert A. Heinlein, he was one of The Big Three, to whom so many modern writers owe at least a smidgen of influence.

He wrote The Gods Themselves, which appears on the SF Masterworks list, as well as countless classics whcih . . . well . .  don’t, such as the Foundation sequence, I Robot, The Caves of Steel, Nightfall – the list goes on.

If you’d like to know more – and we’re sure you do! – then we heartily recommend reading The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction‘s entry on the great man. And then, of course, reading some of his books.

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Gateway Essentials: Douglas Hill

5 April 2017

Douglas Arthur Hill was a Canadian science fiction author, editor and reviewer. Born in Brandon, Manitoba, in 1935, the son of a railroad engineer, he was raised in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. He studied English at the University of Saskatchewan, where he earned an Honours BA in 1957, and at the University of Toronto. Hill moved to Britain with his wife, Gail Robinson, in 1959, where he worked as a freelance writer and editor for Aldus Books. From 1967 to 1968 he served as Assistant Editor of the controversial New Worlds science fiction magazine under Michael Moorcock.

Most of Hill’s output fell into the area of of Children’s SF and what we might now call Young Adult, and we have selected the best of these as his Gateway Essentials:


You can find these and more of Douglas Hill’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: Michael Scott Rohan

4 April 2017

In the middle of last week, we let you know about the exciting news that a roleplaying game of Michael Scott Rohan’s Winter of the World series had been develeoped and is now available. That is, of course, excellent news for those of you who know and love the Winter of the World series, but what about everyone else?

In a rhetorical manoeuvre that hitherto undiscovered tribes in the Peruvian Andes will have seen coming: we’re glad you asked!

Born in Edinburgh in 1951, Michael Scott Rohan has written both fantasy and science fiction. Whilst studying law at Oxford, Rohan joined the SF group and met the president, Allan J Scott, who started him writing for the group’s semi-professional magazine SFinx alongside names such as Robert Holdstock and Ian Watson. His first novel, Run to the Stars, was published in 1983 and he collaborated with Allan J Scott on The Hammer and the Cross, a non-fiction account of how Christianity arrived in Viking lands. Rohan is best known for his acclaimed The Winter of the World sequence, an epic fantasy set in an ice-bound world.

Volume one of The Winter of the World is the acclaimed The Anvil of Ice, which available as a Fantasy Masterworks paperback and a Gateway eBook.

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 series continues across another five titles – all available as Gateway eBooks – which we’ve selected as Michael Scott Rohan’s Gateway Essentials:


You can find more of Michael Scott Rohan’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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Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: April 2017

3 April 2017



‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov


Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: ‘Two Cheers for Piltdown Man’

Science used to be a lot simpler when I was a boy, back in the days when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. The atom was made up of just three particles – the proton, the electron, and the neutron – plus the neutron was a ghostly particle that existed in theory but which nobody seemed able to find. As for the evolution of the human race, the story began with Java Man, Pithecanthropus erectus, the first primitive hominid that was more like a man than an ape, and continued on through a handful of other fossil species – basically, just Peking Man, Heidelberg Man, and Piltdown Man – to our extinct cousin, Neanderthal Man, and eventually down to us, Homo sapiens, the only extant human species . . .


You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.

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