Science Fiction in the Real World

Science Fiction in the Real World

Science Fiction in the Real World

Science Fiction in the Real World


No ordinary critic, Norman Spinrad explicates, celebrates, and sometimes excoriates science fiction from the privileged perspective of an artist armed with intimate knowledge of the craft of fiction and even of the writers themselves.

In these 13 essays, Spinrad urges science fiction as a genre to reach its potential. He divides the essays- new works written specifically for this book combined with those that appeared in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine- intofive sections: "Literature and Genre: A Critical Overview," in which Spinrad establishes his critical standards; "Alternate Media: Visual Translations," a discussion of comic books and books made into movies; "Modes of Content: Hard SF, Cyberpunk, and the Space Visionaries"; "Psychopolitics and Science Fiction: Heroes- True and Otherwise"; and "Masters of the Form: Careers in Profile," discussions of Sturgeon, Vonnegut, Ballard, and Dick.


For a period in the early 1970s, I was a film critic for the Los Angeles Free Press. Among the films I reviewed was Stanley Kubrick A Clockwork Orange, and I said in a rather long and detailed piece that the film struck me, as had just about everything of Kubrick's since Dr. Strangelove, as a technically brilliant but essentially soulless and mechanical exercise--that is, that A Clockwork Orange was a clockwork orange.

A week or two after the review was published, I got a late-night long-distance phone call from Warren Beatty, who was in New York at the time. He had read the review and had gone to the not inconsiderable trouble of ferreting out my Los Angeles phone number because he had to tell me that, in his opinion, my review of A Clockwork Orange had gotten to the essence of Stanley Kubrick's strengths and weaknesses as a film maker as had nothing else he had previously read.

Well, there aren't many better conversational ice-breakers than that, and we had a rather long and interesting talk about the film, Kubrick, and film in general, during which it became clear that Beatty knew only my film criticism, indeed perhaps only this one review, and had no idea that I had published half a dozen novels.

But toward the end of the conversation, Beatty paused, then said to me in a strange, guarded voice, "You don't write criticism for a living, do you? I mean, you're a creative artist of some kind yourself, aren't you?"

"Well yeah, I write novels. How did you know that?"

"Because," Beatty said with no little vehemence, "someone who is not a creative artist himself couldn't have written the kind of criticism . . .

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