This book began from a feeling which must be common to many readers of science fiction. With the story read and a whole new world of images lived in and explored, there is a sense of mystery and power about these works which no mere dismissal in terms of 'well thought-out story', 'interesting twist', 'subtle intellectual argument' or 'superb imagination' will suffice. All these phrases are true, in their place, yet one feels that what has been explored by the minds that made these works needs for adequate response an exploration on the part of the reader also. We have to try to find out why these strange worlds and events are as they are. We have to journey into the interior of the text and discover in the end that actually all the details can be part of patterns and the whole work become rich with unity and unsuspected significance. This has been one of the primary pleasures of writing this book; and the communication of that pleasure is its first object.
Most of the chapter on Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun originally appeared as an article in Kansas Quarterly for summer 1984. I am grateful to the editors for permission to reprint.
I owe a considerable debt to Edinburgh University Library for its ready acquisition of large numbers of books making possible essential research into current criticism of science fiction. My thanks also to my colleague Ian Campbell for kindly lending me his collection of journals on science fiction. And I am grateful once more to Sheila Campbell for typing the manuscript so well: no-one could ask for more care and diligence than she has given. To the dedicatee of this book I have felt perhaps less a sense of obligation than of renewed kinship with a mind which while sternly scientific also liked to speculate among the interstellar spaces.