Academic journal article Extrapolation

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

Academic journal article Extrapolation

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

Article excerpt

Genre Wars, Game On, Galactic Empire. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sheryl Vint, eds. The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2009. 554 pp. ISBN 9780415453783. $51.95 he.

Reviewed by Donald M. Hassler

The Futurians, John Campbell of Astounding, Jack Williamson, C. L. Moore, Henry Kuttner, and James Gunn, were all too young, along with many others, to view world sf as essentially anything other than the American Revolution of twentieth-century storytelling. Many of us here in the colonies know in our bones that they were right-and Campbell, with Asimov's Galactic Empire fighting for him, has won all genre wars. But many were just too young to have experienced the singularity of the Great War and, great as their generation of writers with their generation of works were, what China Mieville in the final essay in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction calls "an awareness of total crisis" never quite hit home (514). The Futurians toyed with Marxist ideas and with using story to effect social change. In the long run, however, they were most interested in hacking out American sf at the frontier. This was their world, and it was a new and good world, but much of the task of defining and describing sf in the twenty-first century has been undertaken in the UK. With the exception of Vint (a Canadian), the editors here are British and take their place with John Clute and Peter Nicholls (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) and Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn {The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction) in the production of useful reference volumes. The battle is not just for categorization, reference, and details. It is a battle for the genre and what we used to call a "history of ideas." In fact, I think that together these essays ought not to be marketed as a reference volume. One reason this review is so late in coming is that The Routledge Companion resists labeling itself. If it is a "companion," it is a very contentious one. The countries involved are not just nation states but the larger territory of ideas.

One of the essays in Part III, "Issues and Challenges," carries the huge title "Empire" and is subtly written by the brilliant Hungarian now working in Indiana, Istvan Csicsery Ronay, Jr. And yet it is a strange essay that seems more concerned with history and politics than with story. Readers will see that each of the four editors have also contributed well-written essays that push the boundaries of genre to the extreme-from some vague concept that Vint calls "science studies" to "psychoanalysis" for Butler. Clearly the editors seem to have accepted the American Revolution in modern literature totally, so that sf can now include virtually every interest in our complex culture. My hunch is that this takes the discussion a long way from the frontier and, to the point of this review, it takes the nature of The Routledge Companion from reference book to essay collection. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.