By Adam Roberts | December 15, 2005
Categories: Book News
After many years of anxious labour, the Palgrave History of Science Fiction is delivered. And what a bonny big bouncing baby it is: so many close printed pages, half a dozen half-tone illustrations, footnotes, timeline, index, the whole kit and caboodle. Naturally the first page I open, at random, has a typo right in the middle (page 81 since you ask). But one typo out of one hundred and fifty thousand words, many many hundreds of individual SF texts and works of criticism, not to mention films, tv, video games, pop music, fan culture … maybe it’s not so bad.
Why not come right out and say it: I’m proud of this big book; proud in the good sense of the word, rather than the bad sense. It’s not even a fat book, for the people at Palgrave have managed to squeeze its eighth-of-a-million words into a mere 368 handsomely-proportioned tiny-printed pages. But it really does represent a whole lot of work. A whole lot.
Labour of love, you see.
The idea of this history is to cover everything, not just twentieth century literary sf. And there’s a thesis here too; a fairly original one I think. After much thought I decided I disagreed with the opinions of other learned scholars in the field of SF studies: that, for instance, that SF as a genre dates back to Hugo Gernsback, or to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In fact there was plenty of science fiction, in novel form, in the world of Ancient Greece; and from about 1600 to the present there’s an unbroken river of SF writing. Why there was a millennial hiatus in SF, and what happened in 1600 to give birth to the modern form of the genre, is what I argue in my study. Why not check it out for yourself?