Over at the TLS, the always insightful Roz Kaveney looks at The Library of America’s new edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Orsinia, which collectes the stories in Orsinian Tales and the novel Malafrena – all set in Le Guin’s imaginary central European country of Orsinia.
Malafrena, though, deserves to be ranked alongside The Dispossessed (1974) as one of Le Guin’s most serious works, and has not been discussed nearly enough as an intelligent political fiction – it is possible that it will find its readership now, in an era of hopes frustrated and betrayed. Malafrena is about as far as one can get from a Ruritanian romance – it is a book about the generation that came to maturity in the late 1820s, fought for liberation and lost.
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, we know we’ve posted this before, but . . . come on: it’s not every day it’s William Shatner‘s birthday! On stardate 8879.58 (22nd March, 1931 to you) William Shatner entered the world – Montreal, Quebec, to be precise – 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.
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.
Second star to the right and straight on till morning.
Karl Edward Wagner (pronounced ‘WAG-nuh’, not ‘VARG-nuh’) was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He earned a degree in history from Kenyon College in 1967 and a degree in psychiatry from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Despite this training, Wagner disliked the medical profession and abandoned it upon establishing himself as a writer; his disillusionment with the medical profession can be seen in the stories ‘The Fourth Seal’ and ‘Into Whose Hands’.
As well as being a multi-award winning author, Wagner was a highly successful editor and publisher of horror, science fiction and heroic fantasy, creating a definitive three-volume set of Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian fiction, and editing the long-running and genre-defining Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy series.
Wagner is perhaps best known for his creation of the long-running series of stories featuring Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, and it is these classics of sword-and-sorcery that we have selected as Wagner’s Gateway Essentials:
An important voice in feminist SF, Pamela Sargent came to prominence as an editor with the ‘Women of Wonder’ SF anthologies, beginning in the mid-seventies, and she has continued to edit works of genre interest. An award-winning short fiction and novel writer, her works include the ‘Earthminds’, ‘Seed’ and ‘Venus’ trilogies, all available as SF Gateway eBooks.
. . . and today, we wish Pamela a very Happy Birthday – and it’s a birthday we’re sure will be made all the more special by the news that Pamela’s acclaimed The Shore of Women has been optioned for development as a TV series by Super Deluxe Films, a division of Turner Broadcasting. That’s all we know for now, but we’ll be sure to update you with more details as we learn them. Exciting stuff!
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.
Gollancz is delighted to have welcomed William Gibson’s Neuromancer books back home to Gollancz (where they were originally published by our very own Malcolm Edwards), and we are proud and pleased to be publishing new editions of Neuromancer, its follow-up novels Count Zero andMona Lisa Overdrive and story collection Burning Chrome in stunning new editions.
Today is the future’s birthday. 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 Reynolds‘ blog 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!
Reposted almost unchanged from 2016. Why? Because it’s Chris Foss’s birthday again and we REALLY love his artwork!
J. T. McIntosh was the pseudonym used by Scottish writer and journalist James Murdoch MacGregor, under which all of his SF writing appeared (with the exception of a single story). Born in Paisley, Scotland, in 1925, he began publishing science fiction in 1950 with ‘The Curfew Tolls’, which appeared in John W. Campbell‘s Astounding Science Fiction magazine. His first novel, World Out of Mind, appeared three years later, and he continued to write novels of interest over the next decade and a half, but ceased publishing work after 1980. He died in 2008.
If you’re looking for a place to start, we recommend you start where he did, with debut novel World Out of Mind:
They had conquered Mars. Earth was next.
And in the council chambers at Washington, Earth’s leaders gathered to face the peril.
Mars had gone down to defeat in one hour and thirty-four minutes. And now a fleet of creatures from outer space was headed towards Earth.
All eyes turned to Eldin Raigmore, President of the United States – the one man to be trusted above all others. One by one the elite were dispatched on missions of last-minute strategy. They went with confidence, inspired by the swift, sure mind of Raigmore.
Civilization rested in his hands. And he was a secret member of the invader race!
Today we wish a very happy birthday to one of the greats of modern space opera, Alastair Reynolds.
As well as being a marvellous writer in his own right, Al is also a great champion of classic SF. His debut novel, Revelation Space recently joined the SF Masterworks list, and he wrote the introductions to both volumes of our Masterworks editions of Gene Wolfe‘s masterpiece The Book of the New Sun (Shadow & Claw | Sword & Citadel). Here is talking about the series as part of Gollancz’s 50th anniversary celebrations:
But she is also the author of a well-regarded body of work, going back over forty years to her first published story ‘No Mother Near’, which appeared in the October 1975 issue of Galaxy. Some of Murphy’s best short fiction is collected in Points of Departure, and those interested in exploring her work further would also be well advised to read her post-apocalyptic SF novel, The City, Not Long After.