General · reading · science fiction

Random Quotes from Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction

I am reading Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, edited by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn. I am nowhere near done with it yet. The book is dense and very, very interesting. But figured I would share some quotes that made go: Ohhh, really?!!!

What may be significant, but has been largely overlooked, is that virtually all of the pulp magazines have disappeared except the science-fiction magazines. My conclusion from this (influenced, no doubt, by my early recognition that the science-fiction magazines were different from the other pulps) is that science fiction only seemed to be a part of the pulp-magazine tradition.

– from the Foreward by James Gunn

I think this is an interesting rebuttal of the pulp origins of science fiction. Though he is right; only the science fiction pulp magazines are still around.

If sf were a genre, we would know the rough outline of every book that we picked up. If it were a mystery, we would know that there was ‘something to be found out’; if a romance, that two people would meet, make conflict and fall in love; if horror, that there would be an intrusion of the unnatural into the world that would eventually be tamed or destroyed.

– from the Introduction: Reading Science Fiction by Farah Mendlesohn

I don’t think the plot is what makes a story SF.

Fontenelle’s adaptation of the classical dialogue into a casual and flippant ‘conversation’ was calculated to defuse criticism, but it helped pave the way for the development of more naturalistic speculative fictions. Throughout the eighteenth century, however, such fictions were handicapped by the lack of any plausible narrative devices capable of opening up the imaginative frontiers of space and time.

– from Science fiction Before the Genre by Brian Stableford

I hadn’t heard of Fontenelle before I read this, but I this is lack is very, very odd. But on a second reading, it seems more reasonable.

He hoped that such stories would ‘supply knowledge that we might not otherwise obtain – and . . . supply it in a very palatable form’. In other words, sf, as he envisioned it, was primarily a teaching tool, but one that did not make its teaching obvious.

– from The magazine Era: 1926–1960 by Brian Attebery

He is Hugo Gernsback (founder of Amazing Stories) and I really really don’t think you can learn science from science fiction. Gain an interest in it, maybe, and want to figure how to make all that stuff real. But not actually learn science. At least, I never have.

Nor is the distinction between NewWave and Old as simple as pessimism versus triumphalism. Several sets of coordinates overlap, to some extent by accident. It is true that much of the ‘experimental’ sf of the 1960s took a gloomy cast, while the continuing mainstream of commercial sf was distinctly upbeat, constructing a universe in which technological salvation arrives through virtuous human efforts.Was that distinction necessarily echoed in the contrast between a disruptive textuality seeking to enact its ideas in richly modernist symbol and vocabulary, versus traditional sf’s adherence to a ‘clear windowpane’ theory of writing? It is more likely that stylistic differences derived from the filiations (and education) of its writers.

– from New Wave and Backwash: 1960–1980 by Damien Broderick

I don’t quite know what to make of this.

The genre which differed from the world in order to advocate a better one – or the genre which spanielled at heel the sensationalist virtual reality world we will now arguably inhabit till the planet dies – had become by 2000, in triumph or defeat or both, an institution for the telling of story.

– from Science Fiction from 1980 to the Present by John Clute.

I think it is triumph, myself.


6 thoughts on “Random Quotes from Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction

  1. Which scifi magazines do they classify as pulp? Asimov’s? The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy? Because these seem to have a high bar to me.

Say something and make my day!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s