Visions and Revisions: (Re)Constructing Science Fiction

Visions and Revisions: (Re)Constructing Science Fiction

Visions and Revisions: (Re)Constructing Science Fiction

Visions and Revisions: (Re)Constructing Science Fiction


The former editor of Science Fiction Studies, Robert M. Philmus now casts his expert eye on a diverse range of short stories and novels by the premier creators of science fiction, including George Orwell, C. S. Lewis, and Ursula LeGuin. With essays on such masters of the genre as Stanislaw Lem, Kurt Vonnegut, and Philip K. Dick, the volume provides an in-depth textual examination of science fiction as a truly "revisionary" genre. Visions and Revisions will be of immense value to scholars of literature and science fiction studies.


"B"ooks are real to me … they link me not just with other minds
but with the vision of other minds, what those minds understand
and see.

Philip K. Dick, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer (9:148)

Before you can deconstruct a text … you have to be able to construe it.

Samuel R. Delany

Each of the next twelve chapters should be intelligible from a conversance with the text(s) being analyzed. But while readable as independent essays, those same chapters co-operate in making a case for science fiction as a 'revisionary' genre. Visions and Re-visions, in other words, proposes a kind of megatextual construction on the basis of a series of close readings; and it would thereby reconcile New Criticism with many of its post-Modern opponents.

According to post-New Critical theorizing, texts are the products of diverse pre-scriptive contexts, and their meaning varies from one community of readers to another. Neither of those propositions is deniable. Nor is either of them readily compatible with Angel Archer's faith in the power of books to put one in touch 'with the vision of other minds.' Quite the contrary: each promotes a truth about textual construction that leaves no room for immanent meaning – which is also to say that each refuses Angel's unstated premise and hence in effect preemptively dismisses her belief in books, and with it, the Le Guinian possibility of communicating with an Other. Yet every capable reader knows that Angel's view, naïve though it be, is not entirely delusional. Moreover, it certainly has enough truth in it to warrant my working assumption: that any given text may in fact have a mind of its own.

The mind which I have just posited as a textual attribute, or presence, manifests itself, above all, in – and is therefore most readily ascertainable from – what I call the text's governing conception. That term names the most fundamental of the three theory-components of this book as such. But like its two companions – genericity and re-vision – I theorize (about) governing conception only in the Afterword, the one section of this volume which, by reason of its references to all of the chapters preceding it, may not be wholly comprehensible by itself. My deferral to its end of this . . .

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