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Gateways edited by Elizabeth Anne Hull

1/09/2011. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Gateways edited in the USA - or Buy Gateways edited in the UK

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pub: TOR. 416 page enlarged paperback. Price: $15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2663-8.

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Looking at the title ‘Gateways’ and the sub-title ‘A Feast Of Great New Science Fiction Honoring Grand Master Frederick Pohl’, I thought for a while that the stories within this book were going to relate and continue Pohl’s ‘Heechee Saga’. It’s not. Essentially, editor Elizabeth Anne Hull, the wife of Fred Pohl, rang around twenty-six authors who’ve worked with her husband for their memories and chip in some new fiction to flesh it out for us punters and give him something to read. I should point out all fiction involved was written last year so you won’t have seen it in any other anthology. Some of it, like with James Gunn’s ‘Tales From Spaceship Geoffrey’ are part of a book he’s working on. I love the way he depicts his aliens and with one, how it describes a human.

As with any anthology, not all stories are for all people, so excuse me if I only pick out those of particular interest. Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein’s ‘Von Neumann’s Bug’ about an alien insect invading a man’s garage. Joe Haldeman’s ‘Sleeping Dogs’ about an elderly man on a pilgrimage to a planet with tablets to restore his memories of torture there.

Verner Vinge must have one of the longest story titles with ‘A Preliminary Assessment Of The Drake Equation, Being An Excerpt From The Memories Of Star Captain Y.-T Lee’. The story is set in the future and there’s a reassessment of said equation in light of mankind’s colonisation of the galaxy.

‘The Errand Boy’ by Frank M. Robinson follows the life of a child picked for his looks to attract people for a wandering evangelist who ultimately believes he’s doing God’s work. I’m not entirely sure if this is SF but again, it is only an excerpt of some other work in the pipeline.

Harry Harrison contributed an instalment of a new Stainless Steel Rat story about the ‘Pernicious Porcuswine’, a delightful animal that is a cross between a pig and a porcupine. We also meet one of the Rat’s relatives which is a delight in characterisation.

I don’t always think Ben Bova hits the mark but his delightful parody ‘Scheherazade And The StoryTellers’ where her dad arranges for her to have stories to tell the sultan and prevent her head being chopped off each morning is fun. It’s also a reflection on how much professional writers were paid many decades ago and how they got a raise. A good reminder how becoming a necessity gives you a power base.

Mike Resnick’s ‘On Safari’ where two people who have won a competition for a safari on an alien planet find themselves in the hands of an AI land vehicle who does its best to protect them and the wildlife. Of course, things don’t go to plan but you don’t want to see the percentages on that. Read the story instead.

The comments that they all raise about Fred Pohl vary and many are terse comments that gave the various writers pause for thought in their careers. As one of them also points out, he is just as much likely to laugh about it afterwards as themselves. One thing that is nearly unanimous between them is that Pohl’s collaboration with CM Kornbluth on ‘The Space Merchants’ as being his best novel. As much as I love the book myself, I wish they’d also categorised his solo work for more than the occasional mention and outside of ‘Heechee’, that apart from the wooden ending, ‘Man-Plus’, is also a delight.

An interesting study of getting a book released quickly with something for everyone in there. One can only hope that Fred Pohl gets as much pleasure from reading the book.

GF Willmetts

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