Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

‘‘‘If I Forget Thee, O Earth . . . ’’’ was published in 1951, when most mainstream and literary critics thought science fiction had little literary value. This view persisted despite the fact that English authors from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, had written critically acclaimed science fiction works. Still, science fiction readers were hungry for short stories by their favorite authors, which they often read in science fiction magazines like Future, where ‘‘‘If I Forget Thee, O Earth . . . ’’’ was first published. In fact, science fiction’s many pulp magazines helped give science fiction a negative image with critics, even while the cheap magazines attracted popular readers. When the story was collected in Clarke’s Expedition to Earth in 1953, it did not receive much critical attention.

However, in the second half of the twentieth century, as the science fiction publishing trend started to shift from magazines to books, critical focus shifted as well. This change was initially due to the literary quality of books by science fiction writers such as Clarke, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ray Bradbury. More critics started to review science fiction works, and more teachers started to use science fiction stories in their classrooms. Overall, Clarke has fared well with the critics since this shift, although it is his novels, such as Childhood’s End, published in...

(The entire section is 573 words.)