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The Secret History of Science Fiction Paperback – October 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Genre-bending anthologists Kelly and Kessel (Rewired) select a wide range of post-1970 stories by authors who occupy the nebulous land between literary and genre. Offerings like Margaret Atwood's Homelanding, a vignette about alien life, and Steven Millhauser's The Wizard of West Orange, which conclusively demonstrates that any story centering around a new science is science fiction, make it clear that nongenre authors have been writing stories that appropriate many genre tropes. But while the title will attract genre fans, li-fi readers who might otherwise be drawn in by T.C. Boyle and Don DeLillo may well be put off by the Tachyon imprint and the words science fiction, undermining the editors' assertion that the walls that separate the mainstream from science fiction are, in fact, crumbling. (Nov.)
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his cartoon monocle.”
A compelling collection...very unique and thought provoking.”
Sacramento Book Review
All I really want to do, at the moment, is embrace the unsuspecting editors in a massive, spine-crunching bear hug”
Los Angeles Times
If you’re interested in reading a bunch of stories written by some of the best contemporary writers out there, you’ll like this anthology. If you also want to read some of the best science-fiction stories since the ’70s, you’ll love this anthology.”
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Top Customer Reviews
The most impressive in the collection:
"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", by Ursula K. Le Guin, is a story set in a utopia with a dark secret. Le Guin draws us to question the price of our happiness.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Crisis", by Kate Wilhelm, presents the future of "reality" television and the role it and other media may (or has) come to play in shaping human interaction in our safely cushioned civilization.
"The Nine Billion Names of God", by Carter Scholz, is a game of symbol and meaning played between a "writer" and an editor.
"Interlocking Pieces", by Molly Gloss, is a beautiful story about personal disaster, understanding, and acceptance.
"Buddha Nostril Bird", by John Kessel, is an adventure and a koan on identify and what it means to know.
I should add that I've only just finished the collection so it is more than likely that my understanding of these stories will grow as they continue to unfold in my mind. Several stories in this collection are truly works of genius and I probably don't do them justice with the descriptions above. I hope I've said enough that you'll give the collection a chance. If you're looking for stories that take risks and follow creativity wherever it leads, you won't be disappointed.
Two stories I found to be confusing:
"Standing Room Only", by Karen Joy Fowler, seems to be a simple story centering on a background character to Lincoln's assassination. I don't see anything in it that would cause me to label it "science fiction". It's well written but I just don't understand its inclusion in the collection. If you can tell me what I've missed I would be very grateful.
"93990", by George Saunders, is also well told but also left me suspecting I'd missed something. The author definitely succeeds at making me feel something and I think I understand the comment he's making about certain kinds of experiments. I'm just wondering if there's more to it, maybe something I'm missing.
Most of the other stories in the collection are very well written but seem to lack that indescribable element that elevates the merely creative and clever to something more meaningful. For instance, "1016 to 1", by James Patrick Kelly, is well written and fun but reminds me too much of a childhood fantasy. Don't get me wrong, my interest did not waiver for a second as I read it. It's just that the ending left me wanting the something more that I found in the stories listed above. It's a fun story but looks less impressive beside "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" and "Interlocking Pieces".
I hope you'll get yourself a copy of this wonderful collection of some of the best fiction I've read in quite a while. I also hope Kelly and Kessel put together a second volume (they could start with something by Nancy Kress and go from there).
This collection of scifi with literary aspirations consists in practice of writers in other fields who've dipped a toe into genre or of genre writers either piching for intellectual respectability, sometimes embarrassingly so, or whom the editors deem to be doing so. By confining themselves to (what one must presume to be) living, though mainly quite elderly, North American writers, the editors exclude JG Ballard, on two counts. But the literati must be presumed to have discovered him on their own
For the record, the two best-written stories here (sadly, not otherwise memorable) are by women, Molly Gloss, misprinted Glass(!), and Connie Willis. For the rest, stylistically the stories are pitifully thin and several galaxies away from serious writing; I confess I was bored out of my skull. But honestly, well-written genre? It stands tall on its own terms - we don't read it for its prose but precisely for its generic qualities, which strictly literary values have a tendency anyway to neutralise
Not convinced? Peter Swirski's tawdry polemic From Lowbrow to Nobrow might persuade you. But given these underlying editorial assumptions, were the moral concerns of Carol Emshwiller insufficiently literary to merit her inclusion? (I have just discovered her. She is a Tachyon author. And she writes like an angel.) More pertinently still, maverick - self-styled 'crossgenred' - Kit Reed, 'too fantastical for most literati and too literary for most fans of the fantastic' (Financial Times) is, surely, a prima facie a perfect fit for a collection such as this. Would Connie Willis not agree?