The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction

The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction

The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction

The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction


Science fiction is at the intersection of numerous fields. It is literature which draws on popular culture, and engages in speculation about science, history, and all varieties of social relations. This volume brings together essays by scholars and practitioners of science fiction, which look at the genre from different angles. It examines science fiction from Thomas More to the present day; and introduces important critical approaches (including Marxism, postmodernism, feminism and queer theory).


We met in a bedroom of the Royal York Hotel in Toronto in 1971, at the First meeting of the Science Fiction Research Association. There had been an earlier, organizing meeting in New York; it is remembered, in part, for the blackboard exhortation by Dena Brown (then married to Charles Brown, who not long before had started publishing Locus, still the main news and reviews magazine of the science Fiction Field): 'Let's take science Fiction out of the classroom and put it back in the gutter where it belongs.' In those days, some fans considered the embrace of academia next to the kiss of death.

That was where we were, in Toronto, caught between our pulp traditions, our love for Edgar Rice Burroughs and A. Merritt and E. E. 'Doc' Smith, and the realization that science Fiction was capable of greater sophistication and that it was worthy of study, of scholarship, even of being taught to students. We had already seen evidence that it could be literature in the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, of Galaxy, even of Astounding; Kurt Vonnegut Jr was showing that science Fiction could break out of the backwaters of general expectations into the eddies of the mainstream, even into best-seller lists, and earn critical acclaim as well, even if it meant taking the label off the books.

The writer and editor Judith Merril was there in Toronto; and the critic Leslie Fiedler, a symbol of the new academic acceptance of science Fiction; and Gerald Jonas, who was working on an article for New Yorker, had published a science-Fiction story himself and later would become the scienceFiction book-review editor of the New York Times. Robert Scholes showed up at a later meeting, I think. He was another academic convert who would present a series of insightful lectures three years later at Notre Dame (and get them published under the title of Structural Fabulation, just as Kingsley Amis had broken the critical ice in a series of lectures at Princeton a decade earlier, published as New Maps of Hell).

I do not remember who else was in the hotel room in Toronto, but Phil Klass was there. He had been one of those authors, writing as William Tenn . . .

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