An incomplete bibliography of worthwhile science fiction and genre criticism

It’s probably obvious to any regulars here that I’m trying hard to ‘raise my game’ with this whole reviewing/criticism gig. Luckily, a resource that may be of great use to me (and maybe to you too, if you’re of a like mind) has come to light.

The occasionally vitriolic but always lucid Gabe Chouinard has gone and set up an internet forum for discussing just such matters as these, which I have gone and joined – despite being a little in awe of some of the other members. I mean, Adam bloody Roberts is on there! But they seem to be quite tolerant of my n00bishness, and I think I’ll be learning a lot. Why not drop by yourself? After all, the internet might as well have been designed to allow disparate persons seperated geographically but linked by shared interests to discuss and argue over the minutae of their chosen field – and that’s a good enough excuse for anyone.

One valuable outcome that has appeared already (in response to my Oliver twist-esque plea for more data) is a list of works of genre criticism worth reading, which I shall repeat here. First of all, Niall pitched in with this selection (mostly reposted here with his comments verbatim):

  • Gary Wolfe’s Soundings (, plus anything else by him [cited as a great example of howe to write good reviews];
  • Trillion Year Spree by Aldiss/Wingrove (I gather there’s some debate as to whether this is better or worse than the earlier Billion Year Spree — haven’t read that, though);
  • In Search of Wonder by Damon Knight (none more canonical, and you should be able to find a copy easily enough at Eastercon);
  • The Issue at Hand and More Issues at Hand by William Atheling Jr (aka James Blish, and highly recommended);
  • Deconstructing the Starships by Gwyneth Jones (been a while since I read it, but I remember good stuff);
  • In the Chinks of the World-Machine by Sarah Lefanu (again, pretty canonical; might be a bit harder to track down than Knight);
  • The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of by Thomas Disch (idiosyncratic, but interesting);
  • Look at the Evidence and Scores by John Clute (aside from just containing lots of reviews, the former develops the theory of first sf, the latter tries out various ideas that either did or did not make it into the Encyclopedia of Fantasy);
  • the two Encyclopedias themselves [Clute and Nicholls] (indispensible, although a subscription-based online Third Edition is in the works);
  • Speculations on Speculation ed. James Gunn and some other guy I have temporarily forgotten the name of (mostly reprints of classic essays, e.g. a bit of Suvin, Hartwell’s “The Golden Age of SF is Twelve”).

There goes my overdraft – I’ll be taking a big empty bag to Eastercon this year, methinks.

After Niall’s post, the good Gabe himself chimed in with a further selection (which seems to lean more toward the fantastic end of things):

  • Microworlds – Stanislaw Lem
  • Imaginary Worlds – Lin Carter
  • Many Futures, Many Worlds – ed. Thomas Clareson
  • The Creation of Tomorrow – Paul A. Carter
  • Fantasy – Lucy Sussex
  • Strategies of Fantasy – Brian Attenbury
  • The Fantastic In Literature – Eric S. Rabkin
  • The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre – Tsvetan Todorov
  • Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion – Rosemary Jackson
  • Anatomy of Wonder (whatever edition) – Neil Barrett
  • Wizardry & Wild Romance – Michael Moorcock
  • Samuel R. Delany [no title listed]
  • Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism – Fredric Jameson
  • Archaeologies of the Future – Fredric Jameson

Blimey. It’d take me the best part of a year to read all of those titles, assuming I can actually get my hands on more than half of them.

So; I know there are a few writers and reviewers among VCTB’s regulars. What would you add to (or remove from) these lists? What has been missed, and what should be stricken from the roster? And most of all (because there seems to be a notable dearth of such things) does anyone know of any good online resources other than the better-known webzines that carry genre crit? Pipe up and share, if you would be so kind, and I’ll update this post as an ongoing resource – all suggestions will be fully credited, naturally!

Leave a Reply