Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
The DREAMS OUR STUFF IS MADE OF: How Science Fiction Conquered the World Paperback – July 5, 2000
This month's Book With Buzz: "Stranger in the House" by Shari Lapena
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A thriller packed full of secrets and a twisty story that never stops - from the bestselling author of "The Couple Next Door." See more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
In The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, Thomas Disch does for science fiction what he did for poetry in The Castle of Indolence. First, he treats it not as a playground for idle dreamers, but as a branch of serious literature with significant cultural impact. Second, he brings the perspective of a seasoned practitioner to bear in separating the wheat from the chaff.
For example, if you ever wanted to know why L. Ron Hubbard managed to start a cult but Philip K. Dick didn't, Disch is your man. Beginning with Edgar Allan Poe, Disch elaborates a vision of science fiction as one of the twentieth century's most influential manifestations of America as a culture of liars. Among the frauds are the alien abduction stories of Whitley Strieber, the sadomasochistic dominance fantasies of John Norman, and the co-opting of cyberpunk by postmodern academics and avant-gardists trying to stay hip.
Disch plays very few favorites, and when ideology gets in the way of good writing, it doesn't matter what side you're on. Subliterary feminist fantasies of matriarchial utopias get slammed just as hard as subliterary conservative militaristic wet dreams. Not even one of sci-fi's most beloved Grand Masters, Robert Heinlein, is unimpeachable; Disch correctly nails Heinlein on his consistent sexism and racism, as well as his gradual descent into solipsism. One of Heinlein's last novels, The Number of the Beast, is described as "the freakout to which [Heinlein]'s entitled as a good American, whose right to lie is protected by the Constitution."
What does Disch like? For starters: Philip K. Dick, the British New Wave as exemplified by J. G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, and Joe Haldeman's Hugo- and Nebula-winning The Forever War, described as being "to the Vietnam War what Catch-22 was to World War II," and which he believes deserved a Pulitzer as well.
Disch may confirm your suspicions, or he may raise every last one of your hackles. But one thing this book will definitely not do is bore you. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
With pungency and wit, Disch (The Castle of Indolence) explores the enormous cultural impact that SF has had over the past century, placing it in the tradition of tall tales and lying, arguing that SF "has a special claim to be our national literature, as the art form best adapted to telling the lies we like to hear and to pretend we believe." He argues for Edgar Allan Poe as the father of SF and devotes a chapter to what he calls "our embarrassing ancestor," whose many stories anticipate themes common in later SF. Space travel, nuclear holocausts, Star Trek, drugs, sex and feminism, religion, politics, imperialism in space, and race relations are among the topics Disch trenchantly investigates in stories by many of the field's best-known figures, past and present. Their admirers are likely to be uncomfortable or enraged by some of his comments, which reflect a thorough knowledge of SF both as an insider and an outsider (Disch largely ceased writing SF two decades ago) and of the wider world in which it developed. His concluding chapter, "The Future of an Illusion?SF Beyond the Year 2000," offers a bleak perspective. More than half the top 10 grossing films of all time have been SF, but the economics of filmmaking dictate action-adventure and dumb plots, contends Disch. Similarly, the economics of book publishing favor undemanding series. Retailers should encourage SF buffs to buy this provocative account but should also encourage them to supplement it with two valuable companions: Brian Aldiss's Trillion Year Spree (1986) and Edward James's Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (1996).
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
Well... this isn't the best book for my purpose, but I learned far more than I expected. "Dreams" reads like a well-written textbook study of the field. I had hoped to gleam a bit more personal insight from Disch, considering he's one of the vanguard of the New Wave, but a lot of the text reads like a graduate-level thesis, albeit a very well-informed one. Clearly Disch has an insider's knowledge, since he's worked alongside most of the contemporary authors, and it's the moments where he allows personal stories into the greater framework that I found most interesting. There's a conscious decision being made to keep this out of memoir territory, but for readability sake, that might have made this a more interesting volume.
As much as this book is advertised for "taking on the masters", he keeps a clear and level head about it at all times, never quite dealing out any literary low-blows. Heinlein, Le Guin, Poe, and many others fall before his pen, but for as much as he might poo-poo upon Heinlein's fascist bent, he dishes out an equal amount of respect and admiration when it is due. Actually, by the end of the book, I was itching to read some of these texts which are "exposed", which is as good a sign as any that you're getting a fair treatment of the subject. One caveat: even though the book was published in 1999, it feels dated. Much of the book seems to have been written in the mid '90s, and even after so short a time, it feels out of touch at times. The only time it really becomes an issue is in the final chapter, which is a prediction for the future of the field. That shouldn't prevent you from picking this up, though.
Alas, i've begun to wander. All in all, a comprehensive book... well worth reading by anyone with a deep interest in the genre. For someone like me? Next time I'll pick up a short story anthology and learn what / what not to write that way.
PS. It's about time someone reduced Star Trek to the steaming pile of populist stew that it is... kudos to that.
Despite this, "The Dreams" is the best critical assessment of the genre I've read, placing SF firmly in the larger context of the national literatures and cultures that nourished and helped to create it.
It is also lots of fun to read. Tom's classic assaults on the genre's sacred cows extend from Heinlein on the Right to Le Guin on the Left, with additional pointed stabs at cultural icons ranging from Mary Baker Eddy to Tom Wolfe. There is a wonderfully precise and acid take-down on SF Fandom too. In sum, an enjoyable, informing book, seriously marred by that egregiously bad editing. Not only is the text rife with distracting repetitions, but there are too many misspellings that any word-processor spellchecker should have caught. And crucial footnotes are missing for some of Disch's most far-out historical assertions.
The book deserved a much better presentation. Read it anyway.
This is the most illuminating work of SF criticism I have read in 20 years, and perhaps the most entertaining such work I have ever read. Your development of fresh positions on hoary old genre issues is most welcome. In discussing the origins and ancestors of SF your unequivocating focus on Poe was strongly supported -- and your aside showing his similarities to John Belushi was delightful. Your examination of religion in SF used the careers of Dick and Hubbard to good effect, and provided a revealing contrast of the characters and egos of the two men.
Your discussion of why crewed spaceflight does not stimulate the imaginations of this generation (compared to the addictively false portrayals of it in visual media) was quite convincing and thoroughly depressing. Your many insights on feminism, militarism, and the role of pajamas in Star Trek also engaged me.
Finally, I applaud your ability to acknowledge the importance, and even reveal the merit! s, of SF authors with whom you obviously disagree on artistic and social grounds. You applied a fair and rational metric throughout this book, and revealed much; thank you.