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:
- 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.
- Review by Adam Roberts at Strange Horizons
- Review by Paul Kincaid at SF Site
- Review by Farah Mendlesohn
- Review by Eugene Thacker at Leonardo Online
- Interview with Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr by Matt Cheney, at Rain Taxi
(Roger Luckhurst also has a review in SFS, but that won’t be online for another seven months or so. Curses!)