Thoughts from the SF Gateway

SF Masterwork of the Week: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

1 February 2013


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

is our SF Masterwork of the Week!


Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral Arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.


Thus begins Douglas Adams‘ international bestseller The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a book adapted from a radio show, which went on to spawn a television series, a movie, comics, a video game, a stage show and – to complete the circle – an LP.

So much has been written in appreciation of what many (us included) consider to be the funniest book of all time that it would be almost redundant to attempt to add to the praise. Instead, we thought we’d take a tour through our favourite lines and the words and phrases that have become part of the cultural zeitgeist:

Don’t panic!

He really knows where his towel is


Life, the universe and everything

The best bang since the big one

Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so

Mostly harmless

So long and thanks for all the fish

First up against the wall when the revolution comes

and lastly – not necessarily a cultural meme, but certainly a personal favourite – this lovely bit of dialogue, which perfectly illustrates Douglas Adams‘ extraordinary gift for comedy:

‘So this is it,’ said Arthur, ‘we are going to die.’
‘Yes,’ said Ford, ‘except . . . no! Wait a minute!’ He suddenly lunged across the chamber at something behind Arthur’s line of vision. ‘What’s this switch?’ he cried.
‘What? Where?’ cried Arthur, twisting round.
‘No, I was only fooling,’ said Ford, ‘we are going to die after all.’
He slumped against the wall again and carried on the tune from where he had left off.
‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.’
‘Why, what did she tell you?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t listen.’


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001): writer, gentleman, comic genius.


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New Book of the Week: To Your Scattered Bodies Go

31 January 2013

Announcing the news you’ve all been waiting for: we have at last published To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the first book in Philip José Farmer‘s acclaimed Riverworld series. Hurrah!

For reasons we laid out right at the beginning in the site’s FAQs, we knew we would have to publish some series out of order, and that would mean, inevitably, that we’d occasionally have series missing the opening books. We took the decision to publish as and when a file became available because the alternative was not to have the books available at all until we could present them from the start. We reasoned that, given most of Gateway’s books were out of print, there could well be people out there who had tracked down some of a series but had gaps that needed filling, and we’d be doing those people a service. For those who hadn’t read a series yet and wanted to start it, we reasoned that, had we held the books back until the entire series was ready, they couldn’t have read the books, anyway. It seemed to us that publishing ‘as and when’ would be of service to readers who had incomplete series in print editions and were trying to plug gaps, whereas the other approach would be of service to no one.

Anyway, that’s our story and we’re stickin’ to it.

We hope that all those who have heard amazing things about Philip José Farmer‘s Riverworld sequence will be pleased that they can now start it at the beginning. We do still have books 3 and 6 to publish and we’ll be working to get those files ready for publication as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, enjoy the adventures of Sir Richard Burton, Alice Liddell, Samuel Clemens and a host of other famous names from history, as they explore their mysterious resurrection along the banks of a mighty river that seemingly has no end.

At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go

John Donne


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Happy Birthday, Gregory Benford

30 January 2013

Dr Gregory Benford, Professor of Plasma Physics and Astrophysics at the University of California and one of the world’s leading writers of ‘Hard SF‘, was born on this day in 1941.

He is perhaps best known for his 1979 novel Timescape – which won the Nebula, John W. Campbell Memorial and BSFA Awards for best novel and the Ditmar Award for best international novel – but has also undertaken collaborations with David Brin and Arthur C. Clarke among others and, as one of the ‘Killer Bs’ (with Brin and Greg Bear), wrote one of three authorised sequels to Isaac Asimov‘s Foundation series.

In addition to his celebrated literary works – he has been shortlisted for the Hugo Award four times and the Nebula thirteen times, winning twice – he has also written for television and served as a scientific consultant on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

SF Gateway currently has fifteen of his books available, including the ‘Galactic Center Saga: Ocean’ series and The Heart of the Comet, co-written with David Brin. We are working to make the ‘Galactic Center Saga: Family Bishop’ books available as soon as possible.



Happy Birthday, Dr Benford!


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Adventures in Ice by Michael Scott Rohan

29 January 2013

SF Gateway is delighted to present a guest post from acclaimed fantasy author Michael Scott Rohan, author of the award-winning Winter of the World series.

Everyone said what a good idea it was making Ice the evil force in my Winter of the World books, but it seemed quite natural to me. I grew up slithering up and down neckbreaking Edinburgh hills and across glassy winter parade grounds, where the slightest slip sends your kilt flaring out, leaving you a very direct landing on what lies beneath. No wonder Ice seemed like a primal force. But that’s always given it a terrible fascination, one reason why Deb and I, young sixtysomethings in less than perfect health, recently decided to set off for the wilds of Spitzbergen, now called Svalbard, the last land before the North Pole.

But it only goes to show that you should be very careful about what enemies you make…

Read more…

Comments: 6

Classic SF Anagrams: The Solutions

28 January 2013

For those of you still scratching your heads over Friday’s anagrams (or, indeed, over why allegedly grown adults would spend their time creating such a thing), here are the answers:

Mash the Demon! Die! is an anagram of the very first Hugo-winner, Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man Edit: No, it isn’t. As pointed our by the eagle-eyed Robin Chapman (thank you, Robin. We’re glad somebody’s reading this blog!), there’s the small matter of THIS BEING COMPLETELY WRONG!  Sorry.

Shame the Lid Demon is an anagram of the very first Hugo-winner, Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man

Wet near herd is Fritz Leiber‘s The Wanderer
Lo! Rude bats! is the little-known working title for Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Nude is the most transparent of all classic SF anagrams; Frank Herbert‘s Dune, of course
I can go dreams, rather appropriately, is Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods
Deranges me is an anagram of Ender’s Game
Hone new quest rearranges into The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
The ghost of no gin today is what you get from shaking up Connie Willis‘s 1990 Hugo-winner To Say Nothing of the Dog

So now you know. And we bet your lives are richer for it. Or . . . you know . . . not.


Posted in Authors, Awards, Whimsy
Comments: 2

Classic SF Anagrams

25 January 2013

In what future SF historians will no doubt refer to, Spinal Tap-style, as ‘the saddest of all posts‘, we have decided to mark the last Friday of the first month of 2013 with a series of classic SF anagrams. All of the below are anagrams formed from Hugo Award-winning novels. Some are available from SF Gateway, some are not.

We hope you’ll enjoy* deciphering these anagrams, and maybe even feel moved to add a few of your own to the comments or to Twitter (please tweet us @SFGateway, using the hashtag #classicSFanagrams).  Without further ado, we present our work. And may God have mercy on our souls . . .

Mash the Demon! Die! Edit: Shame the Lid Demon
Wet near herd
Lo! Rude bats!
I can go dreams
Deranges me
Hone new quest
The ghost of no gin today

Some clues: One of the above is an SF Masterwork but not an SF Gateway eBook. One is an SF Gateway eBook but not a Masterwork. One is both an SF Masterwork and an SF Gateway eBook. Two are forthcoming SF Masterworks and SF Gateway eBooks. And three are not published by Gollancz or Gateway in any shape or form. And one final clue: two of the anagrams above are particularly appropriate . . .

Remember, they’re all Hugo winners. Good luck!




* The suspicion persists that we use the word ‘enjoy’ quite wrongly.

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Editors’ Choice: Darwinia by Robert Charles Wilson

24 January 2013

Nothing reminds me that we’re living in the future quite as much as writing a sentence like ‘I read Darwinia towards the end of last century’.  Sure, I know the 21st century is only a dozen years old but it still sounds kind of . . . epochal.  And I don’t want to hear any millennial dissent about it being thirteen years old.  A century is one hundred years long and, since there was no Year Zero, the last year of the 1st century was 100 AD; it therefore follows that the last year of the 20th century was 2000 AD, and that the 21st century began on 1st January, 2001. So there.

Sorry about that: pet peeve</rant>.

So. I read Darwinia towards the end of last century (don’t start with me). I didn’t set out to read it – had seen no reviews, heard no word of mouth – but the cover looked interesting, and the copy intrigued me:

In 1912 the world changes overnight. Europe and all its inhabitants disappear, replaced by a primeval continent which becomes known as Darwinia: a strange land in which evolution has followed a different path.

To some this event is an act of divine retribution; to others it is an opportunity to carve out a new empire. Leaving a USA now ruled by religious fundamentalists, young photographer Guilford Law joins an expedition to Darwinia, a mission of discovery which uncovers extraordinary revelations about the whole nature of the universe.

What begins as an expertly executed Edgar Rice Burroughs or Arthur Conan Doyle-style expedition into the unknown becomes something much more. At the heart of the mystery is an uncanny spiritualist, whose talents reflect the credence given such practices at the time (not least by Doyle, himself) and lead us eventually into a far greater mystery than the ‘mere’ disappearance of an entire continent.

I thought the story more than lived up to the packaging – as, evidently, did a good number of other people as it was shortlisted for the Hugo Award for best novel.   Wilson was shortlisted again three years later with The Chronoliths (which won the John W Campbell Award) and went on to win the coveted rocket ship trophy in 2006 with Spin. Anyone looking for the sort of high concept SF that used to be the lifeblood of the genre could do a lot worse than explore the works of Robert Charles Wilson.


1912: MARCH.  Guilford Law turned fourteen the night the world changed.




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SF Gateway Author of the Week: James P. Blaylock

23 January 2013

James P. Blaylock won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1987.  He has two World Fantasy Awards for short fiction and has been shortlisted for best novel five times. Along with fellow Californians, Tim Powers and K. W. Jeter, he has as good a claim as any to be regarded as the father of Steampunk. His World Fantasy Award-nominated novel The Last Coin mined the rich seam of Biblical-artefacts-in-the-modern world a decade and a half before the world had even heard of The Da Vinci Code. He was mentored by Philip K. Dick.



By any measure you wish to apply, the fact of the matter is that James Paul Blaylock should be much better known than he is.  Which is why he’s our current Author of the Week.

James P. Blaylock, ladies and gentlemen. Read. Enjoy. Discuss.


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Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

22 January 2013

Robert Ervin Howard was born 22nd January, 1906. Although a published writer for little more than a decade, his influence on the sword & sorcery genre is enormous. He was the creator of a bewildering array of pulp heroes including the puritan adventurer Solomon Kane, the Pictish king Bran Mac Morn, Celtic chieftain Cormac Mac Art, King Kull of Atlantis and, of course, the barbarian warrior in whose shadow all barbarian warriors have since walked: Conan the Cimmerian.

Like fellow-pulp writer Edgar Rice BurroughsTarzan, Howard’s Conan has spawned a huge number of pale imitations, but it is a mark of the enduring appeal of the character that these imposters are quickly forgotten – if they’re even noticed in the first place – while Conan continues to exert a hold over popular culture some eighty years after he first appeared in Weird Tales.

Read more…

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21 January 2013

I beg your pardon. Are you accusing us of a club-fisted David Bowie reference in a shameless attempt to attract traffic and move ourselves up the search results? We’ve never been so insulted in all our life . . . but in the words of one Bilbo Baggins of Hobbiton (via New Zealand): ‘Fair enough.’

However, we assure you, this news is worth the eyeballs! Some changes are coming to the SF Gateway website in terms of the way we  draw attention to titles and authors, using our four spotlight fields:

Read more…

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