Science Fiction: History-Science-Vision

Authors: Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin
Published: 1977
Website: Amazon page

First Post!!I picked up this book at the Reg book sale last quarter thinking that it would be a history of science fiction, and it is, in some ways. The book generally suffers from trying to be too much at once. The first third, as might be expected, did detail a history of science fiction. It began well, eschewing an overly broad construction of the genre and starting the history at Frankenstein (1818), and then continued through several eras and epochs of the genre. I appreciated the way in which the authors tried to keep me connected to the conceptual underpinnings of the varying ages of sci-fi, but I still felt like I was hit by a train of information. It might have been better if I’d read all these books, but even then, I’d either have to reread this section multiple times or keep it as a reference. Also, there was a lot of jarringly abrupt transitions between saccharine praise for a work of inevitably deep significance to the genre and unnecessarily bitter criticism. That might have been a function of having two authors, but it was a little frustrating.

The second section was better, but for me suffered from the opposite problem of being a list of fairly obvious tropes in science with a decent explanation of how they play into various works. Again, though, that might just be because I’m familiar with the science. The best part was definitely the very beginning, where the authors give an analysis of the importance of science, and in particular the history of science to science fiction, and how it is that the authors’ comprehension of those fields at the time they were writing informed their stories. There’s also a good understanding of the variety of sci-fi, and how it can be imbedded in science, dance with science, or simply exist under a veneer of it.

The last section was a list of ten books and a fairly in-depth analysis of each and their importance. It felt a little like there was all this literary criticism bottled up in the authors’ heads that wasn’t long enough for a book and couldn’t be randomly published in a journal, so it was all put here. It was solid, though, most of it, and it made me want to read the books to find the scientific, moral and philosophical themes and motifs described so lovingly by the authors.

 

 

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