Type Book
Date 2005
Pages 612
Tags science fiction, nonfiction

A Companion to Science Fiction

1: Hard Reading: The Challenges of Science Fiction

Shippey argues that SF requires more effort to read, due to the density of nova in SF. He shows that fully interpreting a passage of SF requires calling on more background knowledge and making bigger intuitive leaps.

He argues, further, that in addition to being intellectually challenging, SF is ideologically challenging. SF has no sacred cows: not contemporary society, not books, not art.

2: The Origins of Science Fiction

Slusser posits that the emergence of SF is due to a combination of scientific and social factors, and that it might be fruitfut to consider it as a gradual process, rather than starting suddenly with Frankenstein, the oft-cited progenitor.

Slusser examine's E. T. A. Hoffmann's "The Sandman", a fairy tale, as an example of something that might have been known as science fiction. The finer details of the argument are lost to me--probably I need to read the story and then revisit this segment.

Slusser discusses Wells' "The Stolen Bacillus", a story which in which an anarchist threatens to spread a deadly cholera in London, and "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid", a sort of plant vampire story.

Research

What were the first sf plague stories? The SF encyclopedia can probably answer this.

3: Science Fiction/Criticism

  • Cheap Truth, a zine edited by Bruce Sterling
  • Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology
  • Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction

4: Science Fiction Magazines: The Crucibles of Change

Gernsback created his zines with the goal of interesting young people in science, but the focus on adventure stories led to the science being left by the wayside.

  • Dangerous Visions
  • Camp Concentration
  • Bug Jack Barron

This history isn't easy to read. It jumps around and names a bunch of names, but it doesn't give me a solid understanding of what changes were in fact occurring, nor am I likely to remember most of the details in a few weeks or months. At best, a note for the future: look here for some names involved in certain changes in SF.

5: Utopia

Utopian stories are common, and elements of the Utopian appear everywhere. To narrow our focus, a definition by Darko Suvin is offered:

Suvin defines the literary Utopian in this way: “Utopia is the verbal construction of a particular quasihuman community where sociopolitical institutions, norms, and individual relationships are organized according to a more perfect principle than in the author’s community, this construction based on estrangement arising out of an alternative historical hypothesis” (Suvin 1979: 49).

Then, a somewhat broader definition by Lyman Tower Sargent:

Sargent begins by defining the Utopian most broadly as “a nonexistent society described in considerable detail and located in time and space.”

This is elaborated upon by delineating several kinds of Utopian story, according to the intentions of the author.

The eutopian or positive Utopian story describes a society that the author intends "a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably better than the society in which that reader lived."

In a dystopian or negative Utopian story, the author intends the reader to view the society "as considerably worse than the society in which that reader lived."

In a Utopian satire, the society is meant "as a criticism of that contemporar society."

In an anti-Utopian story, it is meant "as a criticism of Utopianism or of some particular eutopian."

Finally, in a critical Utopian, the society is "better than contemporary society but with difficult problems that the described society may or may not be able to solve and which takes a critical view of the Utopian genre."

Bellamy's Looking Backward was hugely influential, inspiring a torrent of replies and imitators, and effecting some real-world social change.

Utopian works mentioned:

  • News From Nowhere / Morris
  • Looking Backward / Bellamy
  • Triton / Delany
  • The Dispossessed / Le Guin
  • Christianopolis / Andreae
  • City of the Sun / Campenella
  • The New Atlantis / Bacon
  • A Description of the Famous Kingdom of Macaria / Platt
  • The Law of Freedom in a Platform / Winstanley
  • The Commonwealth of Oceana / Harrington
  • The Inventory of Jdgements Commonwealth, the Author Cares not in what World it is established / Cavendish
  • The Description of a New World, call'd The Blazing-world / Cavendish
  • Gulliver's Travels / Swift
  • Erewhon / Butler
  • The Year 2440: A Dream if There Ever Was One / Mercier
  • Voyage in Icaria / Cabet
  • A Traveler in Altruria / Howells
  • Equality / Bellamy
  • Looking Beyond / Geissler
  • Looking Further Backward / Vinton
  • A Modern Utopia / Wells
  • Men Like Gods / Wells
  • The Shape of Things to Come / Wells
  • What is to be Done? / Chernyshevsky
  • Notes from the Underground / Doestoevsky
  • Red Star / Bogdanov
  • Engineer Menni / Bogdanov
  • A Woman's Utopia / Gilman
  • Herland / Gilman
  • With Her in Ourland / Gilman
  • Lost Horizon / Hilton
  • Walden Two / Skinner
  • Island / Huxley
  • The Machine Stops / Forster
  • R. U. R. / Capek
  • The War With the Newts / Capek
  • We / Zamyatin
  • Metropolis (film) / Lang
  • Brave New World / Huxley
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four / Orwell
  • The Iron Heel / London
  • Bend Sinister / Nabokov
  • Player Piano / Vonnegut
  • Fahrenheit 451 / Bradbury
  • Clockwork Orange / Burgess
  • Martian Time-Slip / Dick
  • Dr. Bloodmoney / Dick
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? / Dick
  • Make Room! Make Room! / Harrison
  • Stand on Zanzibar; The Jagged Orbit; The Sheep Look Up; The Shockwave Rider / Brunner
  • Dhalgren / Delany
  • Walk to the End of the World / Charnas
  • Motherlines / Charnas
  • The Furies / Charnas
  • The Handmaid's Tale / Atwood
  • Past Master / Lafferty
  • Les Guerilleres / Wittig
  • Gold Coast / Robinson
  • He, She and It / Piercy
  • Parable of the Sower / Butler
  • Parable of the Talents / Butler
  • the Mars trilogy / Robinson
  • the Fall Revolution quartet / MacLeod
  • Empire / Hardt and Negri
  • A History Maker / Gray
  • Kirinyaga: A Fble of Utopia / Resnick
  • Midnight Robber / Hopkinson
  • ...more
Name Role
Blackwell Publishing Publisher
David Seed Editor