By Adam Roberts | January 4, 2008
Categories: Lit Crit
Start a post title with an abbreviation + the-word-History, end it palindromically, with the-word-History + an abbreviation, that's my motto. This is courtesy of Stephen Baxter, a giant of contemporary sf (to my Lilliputianiarity) and a friend to boot: he is, I'm guessing, a subscriber to BBC History Magazine, and he spotted this in the January 08 issue. The reviewer is Paul Parsons:
Science Fiction author Brian Aldiss once commented that the genre began in 1818 with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein -- a cautionary tale of science gone hellishly wrong. Now Adam Roberts takes Aldiss to task arguing that the roots of SF writing go back much further, stemming from the fantastic-voyage tales of Grecian antiquity.
Roberts is well-qualified: professor of 19th-century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. he's also author of over a dozen SF novels and short-form collections. Accordingly, this is a thoroughly researched, very well-informed piece of writing, that charts a convincing course from the Odyssey of Homer through to that of Clarke and Kubrick. There's exhaustively referenced commentary on science fiction from virtuallyu every era, culture and sub-genre. Biographies of the SF greats sit together with musings on the cross-media influence of their work, from video games to Radiohead.
Make no mistake: this isn't a book to meander through in the bath. Roberts has given us a heavyweight critical history of SF literature, television and cinema. Afficionados will relish the detail and give it pride of place on their bookshelves.