The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

The big critical work on the Masterclass reading list, this. so as you can see from that schedule I’m taking it chapter by chapter; the aim not to review it so much as to annotate it with my thoughts. Per the comments, I’m going to post about the first and last sections, and get through as much of the rest as possible. But first: as the book itself has a preface, so I give you a prefatory post.

(1) What the book does and does not attempt, as set out in its preface: “The main purpose of this book is to inspire better ones, not to have the last word” may be fairly standard boilerplate, but we also get:

  • “My greatest challenge has been to design arguments that will account for both refined artistic examples of sf and the popular commodity forms of “sci-fi”.”
  • “My goal is to understand science fictionality as a way of thinking about the world, made concrete in many different media and styles, rather than as a particular market niche or genre category”

We also get this: “My ‘beauties’ … are perhaps cognitive attractions, intellectual gravitational fields that draw our attention. They are perhaps mental schemes, through which we organize our thinking. They are perhaps tools for thought, so well made that we admire their design at the very moment we are using them.” And I’ll try to take them in that spirit.

(2) The table of contents:

  • Preface
  • Science Fiction and This Moment
  • First Beauty: Fictive Neology
  • Second Beauty: Fictive Novums
  • Third Beauty: Future History
  • Fourth Beauty: Imaginary Science
  • Fifth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Sublime
  • Sixth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Grotesque
  • Seventh Beauty: The Technologiade
  • Concluding Unscientific Postscript: The Singularity and Beyond

I should also note, perhaps, that if you want to play along at home it looks like you can read a decent chunk of the book via Google Books. And there’s what looks like a very early version of some of the thinking that went into the book in this SFS article, from 1996.

(3) Resources. Or, mostly, reviews.

(Roger Luckhurst also has a review in SFS, but that won’t be online for another seven months or so. Curses!)

8 thoughts on “The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

  1. Hi Niall, I’m thrilled that you are doing this, and that you’ll be in the seminar. But you really don’t need to go through the whole of 7 Beauties… I mean it. I’ve asked that only the first chapter and the postscript be included among the readings. Life is short.


  2. Well, I’ve started now, so I might as well try to finish … serves me right for misreading the list. (Plus, it’s not exactly a chore, I wanted to do this when the book came out and never got around to it.) But I’ll rejig my schedule to make sure I get through the other articles first, now that we’ve got copies of those.

  3. True, we only have two bits of the book on the reading list. But for me it’s a great push to read what everyone is saying one of the most significant recent books of sf criticism, just as the last Masterclass made me read the whole of the Cambridge Companion, not just the chapters Gary Wolfe set us.

  4. I have to confess I’ve already read it once! But there’s enough in there that I do want to go through it again, and will try to.

Leave a Reply

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