The Secret History of Science Fiction
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This ingeniously conceived anthology raises the intriguing question, If Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow had won the Nebula award in 1973, would the future distinction between literary fiction and science fiction have been erased? Exploring the possibility of an alternate history of speculative fiction, this literary collection reveals that the lines between genres have already been obscured. Don DeLillo's "Human Moments in World War III" follows the strange detachment of two astronauts who are orbiting in a skylab while a third world war rages on earth. "The Ziggurat" by Gene Wolfe traverses a dissolving marriage, a custody dispute, and the visit of time travelers from the future. T. C. Boyle's "Descent of Man" is the subversively funny tale of a man who suspects that his primatologist lover is having an affair with one of her charges. In "Schwarzschild Radius," Connie Willis draws an allegorical parallel between the horrors of trench warfare and the speculative physics of black holes. Artfully crafted and offering a wealth of esteemed authorsfrom writers within the genre to those normally associated with mainstream fiction, as well as those with a crossover reputationthis volume aptly demonstrates that great science fiction appears in many guises.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #120679 in Books
- Published on: 2009-10-01
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 1.01" h x 6.52" w x 9.04" l, 1.01 pounds
- Binding: Paperback
- 424 pages
- ISBN13: 9781892391933
- Condition: New
- Notes: BRAND NEW FROM PUBLISHER! 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
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From Publishers Weekly
Genre-bending anthologists Kelly and Kessel (Rewired) select a wide range of post-1970 stories by authors who occupy the nebulous land between literary and genre. Offerings like Margaret Atwood's Homelanding, a vignette about alien life, and Steven Millhauser's The Wizard of West Orange, which conclusively demonstrates that any story centering around a new science is science fiction, make it clear that nongenre authors have been writing stories that appropriate many genre tropes. But while the title will attract genre fans, li-fi readers who might otherwise be drawn in by T.C. Boyle and Don DeLillo may well be put off by the Tachyon imprint and the words science fiction, undermining the editors' assertion that the walls that separate the mainstream from science fiction are, in fact, crumbling. (Nov.)
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"These stories are good enough to make The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley pop his cartoon monocle." —io9
"All I really want to do, at the moment, is embrace the unsuspecting editors in a massive, spine-crunching bear hug." —Los Angeles Times
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful.
A Wonderful Collection
Overall, I'm impressed by The Secret History of Science Fiction. The editors have done a good job of selecting stories that touch on the border between genre science fiction and "literary" fiction. Of the nineteen stories included, five were truly impressive works of brilliance, ten were well written and entertaining, two were confusing, and two were disappointing. I should add that the ten I describe as "entertaining" would appear more impressive in a more common collection. Their light is only dimmed slightly by the incredible creativity of the five standouts in the collection.
The most impressive in the collection:
"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", by Ursula K. Le Guin, is a story set in a utopia with a dark secret. Le Guin draws us to question the price of our happiness.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Crisis", by Kate Wilhelm, presents the future of "reality" television and the role it and other media may (or has) come to play in shaping human interaction in our safely cushioned civilization.
"The Nine Billion Names of God", by Carter Scholz, is a game of symbol and meaning played between a "writer" and an editor.
"Interlocking Pieces", by Molly Gloss, is a beautiful story about personal disaster, understanding, and acceptance.
"Buddha Nostril Bird", by John Kessel, is an adventure and a koan on identify and what it means to know.
I should add that I've only just finished the collection so it is more than likely that my understanding of these stories will grow as they continue to unfold in my mind. Several stories in this collection are truly works of genius and I probably don't do them justice with the descriptions above. I hope I've said enough that you'll give the collection a chance. If you're looking for stories that take risks and follow creativity wherever it leads, you won't be disappointed.
Two stories I found to be confusing:
"Standing Room Only", by Karen Joy Fowler, seems to be a simple story centering on a background character to Lincoln's assassination. I don't see anything in it that would cause me to label it "science fiction". It's well written but I just don't understand its inclusion in the collection. If you can tell me what I've missed I would be very grateful.
"93990", by George Saunders, is also well told but also left me suspecting I'd missed something. The author definitely succeeds at making me feel something and I think I understand the comment he's making about certain kinds of experiments. I'm just wondering if there's more to it, maybe something I'm missing.
Most of the other stories in the collection are very well written but seem to lack that indescribable element that elevates the merely creative and clever to something more meaningful. For instance, "1016 to 1", by James Patrick Kelly, is well written and fun but reminds me too much of a childhood fantasy. Don't get me wrong, my interest did not waiver for a second as I read it. It's just that the ending left me wanting the something more that I found in the stories listed above. It's a fun story but looks less impressive beside "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" and "Interlocking Pieces".
I hope you'll get yourself a copy of this wonderful collection of some of the best fiction I've read in quite a while. I also hope Kelly and Kessel put together a second volume (they could start with something by Nancy Kress and go from there).
0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
The High Road to Science Fiction
By John M. Ford
James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel want us to know about the respectable, literary side of science fiction. Although by no means ashamed of the hard science fiction, space opera, and center-of-genre stories of prototypical science fiction, they feel we should acknowledge the "li-fi" or literary efforts that blur the field's boundaries. To educate our reading palates, they have assembled these nineteen stories. They all qualify as science fiction, but that isn't the most important thing about any of them.
My favorite five of the nineteen:
Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" reminds us of the almost-hidden price we pay for our happy lives. We have choices about accepting the unacceptable.
Kate Wilhem's "Ladies and Gentleman, This is Your Crisis" is a Russian-doll story in which we watch two people spend a weekend watching a reality show. What could be less interesting?
Carter Scholz's retelling of "The Nine Billion Names of God" makes me even more tired of parlor-trick postmodernism than I was already. Impressive...
Molly Glass' "Interlocking Pieces" takes place just before an organ transplant. Despite legal restrictions, the recipient is driven to know the mind of the donor.
George Saunders' "93990" objectively reports a ten-day drug trial conducted using disposable lab animals. Such studies are necessary before drugs are used to alleviate the suffering of human beings.
The collection is recommended to science fiction fans and mainstream fans of good, thought-provoking stories. Although I like most of the stories, there are a couple that leave me cold. After a second reading, I still wonder why Gene Wolfe's "The Ziggurat" is so widely praised. Perhaps another reader will educate my sensibilities about this story--I am willing to admit I am missing something. Perhaps such a collection should contain a story or two that readers have to worry over. It's worth the time.