Thoughts from the SF Gateway

Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan

9 November 2012

 

Seventy-eight years ago, today, the great Carl Sagan was born.  Author of just the one SF novel, Contact, Sagan is nonetheless rightly revered by science fiction fans for his tireless evangelizing on behalf of science in general, but astronomy and the space sciences in particular.

 

Pulitzer Prize-winner, co-founder of the Planetary Society, prime mover behind the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, and voice of the cosmos to a generation, Carl Sagan died, far too young, in 1996. The torch he lit has been passed on to a new generation of science popularisers, now – most notably Professor Brian Cox, on this side of the Atlantic, and Doctor Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other – but we still miss the original.

 

“A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars – billions upon billions of stars.”

 

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Death Watch: The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe

8 November 2012

This week saw the release of Bertrand Tavernier’s Death Watch on DVD and Blu-Ray. Death Watch is, course, based on D G Compton’s acclaimed novel The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe, and to mark the occasion, the author dropped us a line telling us about an article he’s written on Scottish cinema site Reel Scotland, reminiscing about the writing of the novel, and the time he spent on the movie set, in Glasgow.

You can find D G Compton’s Reel Scotland article here.

The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe is available as an SF Gateway eBook and an SF Masterworks paperback from Gollancz.

 

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SF Masterwork of the Week: The Forever War

7 November 2012

Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War won the Hugo and Nebula Awards when it was first published – and deservedly so. Greatly influenced by the author’s time in Vietnam, it is in many ways a scathing indictment of the military-industrial complex and a riposte to that other great work of military SF, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Making clever use of relativistic phenomena to highlight the absurdity of engaging in interstellar warfare, The Forever War is a tour de force of modern science fiction and a book no one serious about SF can afford to ignore.

The Forever War is available as an SF Gateway eBook and an SF Masterworks paperback.

 

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On This Day . . .

6 November 2012

Once more, thanks are due to our friends at the excellent Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, for it is thanks to their wonderful On This Day function that we can relate an amazing coincidence for 6th November.

It was on this day, in that noted author, editor and critic – and mainstay of the Golden AgeL. Sprague de Camp died, in 2000. de Camp’s claims to fame are many (too many to list here – see his author entry on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) and the fact that he is probably best-known these days for editing and adding to Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales should not detract from an extraordinary body of work.

But as interesting as that is, it’s not really a coincidence, is it?  No, the coincidence comes with another event that took place on 6th November, this time in the year 1907, when one Catherine Adelaide Crook was born. In 1939, Ms Crook would marry Lyon Sprague de Camp, with whom she would collaborate until her death in April 2000.  So, L. Sprague de Camp died some seven months after his wife of over 60 years, on the day she would have turned 93. Sad, but true.

 

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SF Gateway Author of the Week: Pamela Sargent

5 November 2012

 

November’s first Author of the Week is the multi-talented, Pamela Sargent.

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.

You can find her books at her Gateway Author page, here, and read more about her in her at The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, here.

 

 

 

UPDATE: Check out Pamela’s story on the latest podcast from the ever excellent Starship Sofa!

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Spread the Word!

5 November 2012

As part of the ongoing effort to make SF Gateway more useful and relevant, we’ve recently installed social networking buttons to the blog. We’re still tweaking and refining (because what could be more science fictional than experimenting on people?!) so please bear with us while we work out the best way forward. And if there’s a social network we haven’t covered that you think we should incorporate, please let us know.

Meanwhile, we hope this will help you spread the word and make SF Gateway central to the discussion of classic SF & fantasy.

Second star to the right, and straight on ’til morning . . .

 

Posted in Housekeeping
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Surreal Spam of the Week

2 November 2012

 

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
Lovely Spam
Wonderful Spam
Superlative Spam . . .

So, every day when we log in to the Gateway blog, we find that we’re the recipient of numerous comments. In most instances, sadly, these turn out to be automatically generated spam. At least, we hope they’re automatically generated – we’d hate think there are are people out there whose minds actually work that way.

Occasionally, though, there’s a comment the surreal nature of which approaches mystical insight; like this gem from Monday:

She intends to make teaching her profession.He has a large income.I lost the door key about here.I was wondering if you were doing anything this weekendMake up your mind.I would like to talk to you for a minuteI would like to talk to you for a minuteI want to see the film again.They praised him highly.If you don’t work, you will fail to pass the exam.

I think there’s something in that for all of us, don’t you . . . ?

Posted in Housekeeping, Whimsy
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SF Gateway Friday Haiku

2 November 2012

So, it’s Friday again. Another working week successfully negotiated and time to begin to wind down for the weekend and some quality classic SF reading. And just to make it clear – in case anybody was in any doubt – that there’s no form of poetry we’re unwilling to butcher in pursuit of a cheap laugh: it’s the inaugural SF Gateway Friday Haiku!

With apologies to . . . well, pretty much everyone . . .

We reach for the stars
With all the strength of our dreams
A spaceship would help

Or, maybe . . .

A parsec from Earth
Dawns nagging suspicion
I’ve left the light on

No? OK, one more try:

Skynet came online
But humans found a defence
Control alt delete

We’re very, very sorry . . .

 

Posted in Whimsy
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Robert Silverberg’s Reflections

1 November 2012

SF Gateway is delighted to announce a new regular feature by one of the all-time greats of science fiction: a multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster of whom Isaac Asimov once said ‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’. Of course, it’s the great Robert Silverberg, with the first of what will be an ongoing series of monthly columns, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large. 

This month: the Roman Empire . . .
 

It’s no secret that Isaac Asimov‘s classic Foundation series was a recasting of Roman history in science fictional form. The Roman Empire, by the time of Constantine the Great in the early fourth century, reached from Britain to the borders of Persia, and had become too unwieldy to govern from a single capital city in Italy. Recognizing this, Constantine founded a second capital for the Empire in Asia Minor – Constantinople, now known as Istanbul. Drawing heavily on Edward Gibbon’s great eighteenth-century work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Isaac invented a galactic equivalent for Constantine’s creation of a second capital, and built his books around the quest, in some far-off galactic future, for that distant Second Foundation.

He was not, of course, the only SF writer to mine Roman history for story ideas. A.E. van Vogt‘s Linn series (Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn), which attracted some attention when it appeared in the 1940s and 1950s, was a retelling of the early years of the Empire, the time of Augustus and Tiberius, set in a future age that followed a devastating galactic war. The basic sources for this material were the first-century Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus, though van Vogt seems to have drawn much of his material from Robert Graves’ historical novel I, Claudius rather than going, as Graveshad done, to the original sources.

You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.

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A Gateway Hollowe’en Read

31 October 2012

Oooooh . . . Hallowe’en . . . A time for vampires and werewolves and ghosts and monsters . . . oooooh . . .

Except, not really. I mean, not if you want to actually be scared.  The classic monsterVictor Frankenstein’s creation – has pretty much lost all power to frighten; it’s more a focus of pity than anything else. Vampires have been morphing from figures of fear to objects of desire – arguably since Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, maybe longer – and now that they sparkle in the daylight and go to high school, their teeth have been more or less pulled (pun very much intended). Werewolves? Well . . . nice as metaphors but again, they tend to work more as objects of sympathy than terror. I’ll give you ghosts, though. There are some really atmospheric and scary ghost stories around.

So where does the SF Gateway go for a good dose of the scares?  Well, apart from the 10 O’Clock News, which always seems to have a full quota of horrors, it seems that all the best monsters are human, these days.  Or, at least, that’s how they appear . . .

Come back with us to 1938 and one of the most terrifying novellas in SF’s history: John W. Campbell‘s Who Goes There?. Filmed as The Thing – in 1951 (bad) and 1982 (good) – Who Goes There? features an isolated group of scientific researchers in the Antarctic, who stumble across an alien spaceship buried in the ice. They transport the creature back to their base only to find they’ve unleashed a predatory shapeshifter into their claustrophobic, fragile world. The sense of tension and paranoia induced by Campbell – who would go on to become arguably the most influentical editor in the history of SF – is almost unbearable, and certainly more terrifying than an army of sparkly vampires.

So, if anyone wants to know: that’s what we’ll be reading this Hallowe’en, before going to sleep. With the light on.

What? It’s a perfectly valid precaution . . .

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