Thoughts from the SF Gateway

On This Day: Joanna Russ

22 February 2017

Joanna Russ, radical feminist author and scholar, was born on this day in 1937. An entertaining and challenging novelist, Russ began her writing career in the 1950s, although her feminist concerns only really emerged through her work with the publication of her Alyx stories in the 1960s. She was an out lesbian in a time when very few women dared and was one of the most outspoken authors to challenge male dominance of SF.

Her best known work, The Female Man, is a landmark book in the fields of science fiction and feminism. Despite not winning the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1975, The Female Man won one of the three Retrospective Tiptree Awards in 1996. Samuel R. Delany describes it as being “modelled with art, honesty and intelligence” and of being “accusing, astonishing, unsettling and very much alive”.

SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook

The Female Man is a tale of four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other’s worlds each woman’s preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged. Acclaimed as one of the essential works of science fiction, it takes a look at gender roles in society and remains a work of great power.

 

You can find more about Joanna Russ’ work via her Author page on the Gateway website and read about her in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

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Gateway Essentials: Richard A. Lupoff

21 February 2017

Richard Allen Lupoff was born in New York, on this day, in 1935. In common with many of his contemporaries, he entered science fiction as a fan – indeed, his fanzine ‘Xero’ featured a stellar list of contributors including James Blish, Lin Carter, Avram Davidson, L. Sprague de Camp, Harlan Ellison and Frederik Pohl, and won a Hugo Award for best amateur publication. He is the author of some two dozen novels and over one hundred short stories across the fields of SF, mystery, humour, and satire, as well as a great deal of genre-related non-fiction. He has edited numerous SF and Fantasy anthologies and is an expert on the writing of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

If you’re interested in exploring his work, we recommend his 1978 novel Space War Blues, based on the Nebula-shortlisted satirical novella ‘With the Bentfin Boomer Boys on Little Old New Alabama’ (originally puiblished in Harlan Ellison‘s Again, Dangerous Visions).

 

You can find more of Richard A. Lupoff’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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On This Day: Richard Matheson

20 February 2017

On this day in 1926, Richard Burton Matheson was born, in Allendale, New Jersey. Although a script writer of some note – including credits on Rod Serling‘s The Twilight Zone and Steven Spielberg‘s Duel (based on his own short story) – Matheson is now primarily remembered for his novels – in particular I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man.

I Am Legend, of course, has been filmed a number of times – as The Last Man on Earth in 1964; as The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, in 1971; and under its own title in 2007, with Will Smith in the lead role. The Shrinking Man was filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man. Matheson wrote the screenplay himself, and the film won a Hugo Award in 1958.

For more about Richard Matheson, we recommend his Author entry in the indispensable, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 
 

First posted in 2015.

Posted in Anniversaries, Authors
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Masterworks Spotlight: The Island of Doctor Moreau

17 February 2017

It seems classic SF novels by the Father of Science Fiction are a bit like buses . . .

Following on from Wednesday’s post about The Food of the Gods we are delighted to present our new edition of The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells’ terrifying tale of science run amok, with an introduction by Adam Roberts.

Edward Prendick is shipwrecked and finds himself stranded on an island in the Pacific. Here he meets the sinister Dr Moreau, a vivisectionst driven out of Britain in disgrace. And soon strange events cause Prendick to uncover the full horror of Dr Moreau’s activities on the island.

The Island of Doctor Moreau mixes discussion on the divide between humans and the animal kingdom and chilling macabre horror in an unrivalled fashion. Its question on how far science should go is one that rings true today as it did when it was first published.

 

The Island of Doctor Moreau is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of H G Wells’ 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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On This Day: Iain M. Banks

16 February 2017

On this day in 1954, Iain Menzies Banks was born in Dunfermline, Scotland. Do we need to explain who Iain M. Banks is? No, we do not. For many years he was Britain’s bestselling SF writer, a literary novelist of distinction, named by The Times as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945 and – as noted in The Guardian in a piece written by his close friend and fellow SF writer, Ken MacLeod – a poet.

If the fates had been kinder, Iain Banks would be celebrating his 63rd birthday today – with a fine malt whisky, no doubt. He was taken from us far too soon, but we still have his books through which to remember him. Pick one up, read the first line and then try to put it down again – go on, just try:

This is the story of a man who went far away for a long time, just to play a game.

or

A little more than one hundred days into the fortieth year of her confinement, Dajeil Gelian was visited in her lonely tower overlooking the sea by an avatar of the great ship that was her home.

or

Near the time we both knew I would have to leave him, it was hard to tell which flashes were lightning and which came from the energy weapons of the Invisibles.

or especially

It was the day my grandmother exploded.

 

Did you manage to put the book down again? No. Nor did we.

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Masterworks Spotlight: The Food of the Gods

15 February 2017

We have to more of H G Wells’ science fiction masterpieces on the Gateway Home Page this week, and the first of them is his classicstory of unchecked scientific progress and unforseen consequences, The Food of the Gods.

Two scientists develop a foodstuff that causes unparalleled growth in animals and humans. The results of their experimentation lead to chaos and unforseen consequences throughout the land.

The Food of the Gods deals with many issues which are still present in science today and is a both witty and disturbing tale.

 

The Food of the Gods is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can find more of H G Wells’ work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Posted in Authors, Masterworks
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In Lieu of Valentine’s Day: Spam of the Month!

14 February 2017

Actually, potentially Spam of the Year!

As with most blogs, we get a lot of spam in our comments. Luckily, our filter catches almost all of it and quarantines the rogue comments until we can dispose of them in an environmentally-friendly manner. Usually, it is semi-coherent rubbish and blatant attempts to harvest email addresses or sell . . . horrible things. But sometimes . . .  sometimes, it approaches poetic brilliance. We’d like to share just such an instance with you.

It’s like someone put a haiku, a holiday brochure and a business card into the Cern supercollider and this is what came out:

1 ⅼife sized herons rᥱlocate amongst the online maples,
palmettоs, sea cerealѕ, and meadow bright lawn in this scene coming from the entrance gates to tһe Ocan Area at The Shrine” great bistro at the Kiawah Island Sea Resort. John Boyd Johnson Metal Studios at.

I think there’s something there for all for us.

Posted in Whimsy
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Happy Birthday, Maureen F. McHugh!

13 February 2017

Today is Maureen F. McHugh’s birthday. Nominated for an impressive sixty-one awards, she’s best-known for the extraordinary debut novel, China Mountain Zhang, which was shortlisted  for the Hugo and Nebula Awards and wonof the James Tiptree Memorial Award, the Locus Award for best first novel, the Gaylactic Spectrum Award and the Lambda Award. It is a stunning piece of science fiction.

‘I am Zhang, alone with my light, and in that light I think for a moment that I am free.’

Imagine a world where Chinese Marxism has vanquished the values of capitalism and Lenin is the prophet of choice. A cybernetic world where the new charioteers are flyers, human-powered kites dancing in the skies over New York in a brief grab at glory. A world where the opulence of Beijing marks a new cultural imperialism, as wealthy urbanites flirt with interactive death in illegal speakeasies, and where Arctic research stations and communes on Mars are haunted by their own fragile dangers.

A world of fear and hope, of global disaster and slow healing, where progress can only be found in the cracks of a crumbling hegemony. This is the world of Zhang. An anti-hero who’s still finding his way, treading a path through a totalitarian order – a path that just might make a difference.

 

China Mountain Zhang is available as an SF Masterworks paperback and an SF Gateway eBook. You can read about Maureen F. McHugh in her entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Happy Birthday, Maureen!

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Gateway Essentials: Jack L. Chalker

11 February 2017

Today marks twelve years since we lost one of modern SF and Fantasy’s great storytellers: Jack Laurence Chalker.

A fan from an early age, Chalker was also active as an editor, founding a small press in his early 20s, but it is as a writer that he is best known. Although his earliest novels were singletons, he soon turned his attention to the sequences that would dominate his career.

Having so many different series to choose from means there are many entry points to Jack L. Chalker’s work. For his Gateway Essentials, we’ve selected the first volumes of some of the best.

Midnight at the Well of Souls kicks off his signature series: The Well of Souls, which continues with Exiles at the Well of Souls, Quest for the Well of Souls, The Return of Nathan Brazil, Twilight at the Well of Souls: The Legacy of Nathan Brazil, Echoes of the Well of Souls, Shadow of the Well of Souls, Gods of the Well of Souls, The Sea Is Full of Stars and Ghost of the Well of Souls.

Spirits of Flux and Anchor begins the Soul Rider series, while River of the Dancing Gods is the first of The Dancing Gods books. The Rings of the Master sequence starts with Lords of the Middle Dark and When the Changewinds Blow is volume one of the Changewinds trilogy.

 

You can find these and more of Jack L. Chalker’s work via his author page on the SF Gateway website, and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

 

Posted in Authors, Essentials
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Remembering Frank Frazetta

9 February 2017

Frank Frazetta, one of the most influential artists in the fantasy field, was born on this day, in New York, in 1928.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes:

A native New Yorker, he studied at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts and, at the age of sixteen, began drawing professionally for Comics. He worked on the comic strips Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Flash Gordon, and (for nine years) Li’l Abner, and briefly drew his own comic strip, Johnny Comet. He also contributed to comic books published by DC Comics, EC Comics, and other companies; ironically, the most popular Superhero that he drew, DC’s the Shining Knight, had his body almost completely covered by armour, in stark contrast to the loinclothed barbarians that would come to define his popular image.

Although he would continue to work in comics until the ’60s, Frazetta will forever be identified with book covers. Beginning with cover and interior art for Ace‘s reissues of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ Tarzan books, he practically invented the now-clichéd bare-chested, loin-clothed barbarian warrior. It has been said that the definition of an intellectual is someone who can listen to the William Tell Overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger; if that’s so, then surely fantasy art’s equivalent is the person who can hear the words ‘Conan the barbarian’ without thinking of Frank Frazetta.

Frazetta was fantasy art’s first superstar. By the end of the ’60s he was in demand to paint movie posters and album covers (ask your parents, kids!) as well as book covers, and his style gave rise to a myriad imitators. If a publisher couldn’t get Frazetta, their art directors would be instructed to find someone who could imitate his style. In the ’80s he worked with Ralph Bakshi to produce fantasy film Fire and Ice. But for your humble correspondent, he will forever be inked with the Hyborean Age:

Truly, Frank Frazetta was the first giant to bestride the SFF art world, destined to tread the jewelled kingdoms of lesser artists beneath his sandled feet.

 

Reposted from 2015.

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