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Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Hardcover – August 22, 1979
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But this largely forgotten book from 1977, which falls between the two I cited in its mix of the scholarly and the pictorial, really deserves some recognition, and is still very much a worthwhile addition to any serious fan's library. Ash's book is divided into 31 thematic chapters covering both the major kinds of plot elements common to the genre (time travel, space travel, aliens, etc) and the representation of science fiction in various media - books, magazines, comic, movies - over the decades. It does a better job than many similar overviews in covering European work, and also delves fairly deeply into the past - this isn't a work that pretends that Jules Verne invented the genre, and in fact in one of the most provocative essays in the longer-form "Deep Probes" section, author George Turner argues that Thomas More's UTOPIA (1516) is in fact the only "great" work of science fiction literature to date.
The chronology of the genre at the beginning of the book is excellent and quite thorough, charting the history of the genre in books, magazines, film and fandom from the pre-history of the 19th century through 1976. The 19 "Thematics" chapters following each take a basic genre trope or two and explore its history; "Deep Probes" offer slightly longer and more in-depth approaches to how the genre fits in with the rest of culture, it's qualities and concerns, it's potential future; and rounding out the book are the chapters on "Fandom and Media".
Obviously much has changed since the publication of the book - STAR WARS in particularly really blew science fiction into a whole new area of popularity; but this remains valuable the coverage of an awful lot of more obscure nooks and crannies in the history of the field, some of which are covered more thoroughly here than in Nicholls' and Clute's later work - itself now 15 years out of date. I should also note that the large number of illustrations, taken from book and magazine covers, interior illos, comics, etc, are particularly well-chosen.
Because there is precious little information available on the book on the Internet, here's a brief rundown of the contents:
01. Program (chronology from 1805-1976)
02. Thematics - each section introduced by a different writer
02.01 Spacecraft and Star Drives (Poul Anderson)
02.02 Exploration and Colonies (Jack Williamson)
02.03 Biologies and Environments (James White)
02.04 Warfare and Weaponry (Harry Harrison)
02.05 Galactic Empires (Lester del Rey)
02.06 Future and Alternative Histories (Brian Aldiss)
02.07 Utopias and Nightmares (John Brunner)
02.08 Cataclysms and Dooms (J.G. Ballard)
02.09 Lost and Parallel Worlds (Robert Sheckley)
02.10 Time and Nth Dimensions (Fritz Leiber)
02.11 Technologies and Artifacts (Ken Bulmer)
02.12 Cities and Cultures (Frederick Pohl)
02.13 Robots and Androids (Isaac Asimov)
02.14 Computers and Cybernetics (Arthur C. Clarke)
02.15 Mutants and Symbiotes (Josephine Sexton)
02.16 Telepathy, Psionics and ESP (Larry Niven)
02.17 Sex and Taboos (Keith Roberts)
02.18 Religion and Myths (Philip José Farmer)
02.19 Inner Space (A.E. van Vogt)
03. Deep Probes
03.01 Interface (by Brian Ash and Edmund Cooper)
03.02 Science Fiction As Literature (by George Turner)
03.03 Recurrent Concepts (by Damon Knight and L. Sprague de Camp)
04. Fandom and Media
04.02 Science Fiction Art
04.03 Science Fiction in the Cinema
04.04 Science Fiction on Television
04.05 Science Fiction Magazines
04.06 Books and Anthologies
04.07 Juveniles, Comics and Strips
04.08 Commentators and Courses
04.09 Fringe Cults
Index and Acknowledgements
NOTE ON THE PHYSICAL BOOK ITSELF - I have the softcover version, but would very much recommend that prospective buyers shell out for the hardcover; the very thick card stock used for the pages has held up well over three decades, but the binding is giving way, as it will on any book that one returns to often. The hardcover seems better-constructed and more durable, for the lifetime that you'll want to keep this.