The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction


The Routledge Companion to Science Fictionis a comprehensive overview of the history and study of science fiction. It outlines major writers, movements, and texts in the genre, established critical approaches and areas for future study. Fifty-six entries by a team of renowned international contributors are divided into four parts which look, in turn, at:

  • history - an integrated chronological narrative of the genre's development
  • theory - detailed accounts of major theoretical approaches including feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, postcolonialism, posthumanism and utopian studies
  • issues and challenges - anticipates future directions for study in areas as diverse as science studies, music, design, environmentalism, ethics and alterity
  • subgenres - a prismatic view of the genre, tracing themes and developments within specific subgenres.

Bringing into dialogue the many perspectives on the genre The Routledge Companion to Science Fictionis essential reading for anyone interested in the history and the future of science fiction and the way it is taught and studied.


Many different stories have been told about science fiction (sf), and this book retells, interrogates, contests, and revises some of them. For example, the origins of the genre have been argued about for decades. While some contend it was inaugurated by US pulp magazine editor Hugo Gernsback in 1926 (e.g., Westfahl 1998), others trace it back to writers from classical antiquity or the first century AD, such as Euripides, Cicero, Plutarch, Diogenes, and Lucian (e.g., Roberts 2006). Brian Aldiss (1973) influentially suggested Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) as the first ever sf text, while others have championed the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe in the 1830s and 1840s, Jules Verne from the 1860s onwards, and H.G. Wells from the 1890s onwards. A similar debate has raged over how to define the genre. The dozen main contenders identified by Clute and Nicholls (1993) and the 30 listed by Wikipedia represent a mere fraction of the attempts to delineate what sf is and to prescribe what it should be.

Such activities, while tremendously productive in some respects – including being a kind of phatic touchstone in fannish and academic circles – are incapable of producing definitive results or universal consensus. As John Rieder argues, “a genre consists of a web of resemblances established by repetition across a large number of texts” and therefore “the very notion of the founding instance or origin of a genre is self-contradictory, because the work in question is in an important way not an example of the genre it establishes, but rather a peculiarly influential violation of some pre-existing set of generic expectations” (Rieder 2008: 18–19). Moreover, genres do not have fixed identities. They “are not inert categories shared by all … but discursive claims made by real speakers for particular purposes in specific situations” (Altman 1999: 101). They are ongoing, and by definition irresolvable, fields of contention between myriad discursive agents (between writers, readers, editors, directors, producers, viewers, players, fans, critics, detractors; between institutions of production, distribution, and consumption), many of whom may well be more interested in establishing, maintaining, and expanding markets for commodities and in promulgating ideologies than in the particular genre itself. And in an appropriately science-fictional manner, these discursive agents are not even necessarily human. Consequently, the origin stories, the bracketing off of ur-texts, prototypes, and precursors, the arguments over boundaries, margins, and hybrids, and definitions of any genre arise from myriad . . .

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