James Blish Thomas D. Clareson - Essay

Thomas D. Clareson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

James Blish leads a double role. As Blish he is one of the most accomplished sf novelists now writing, as attested by such titles as Black Easter, Cities in Flight, and the recently published And All the Stars a Stage. As William Atheling, he has equal importance as one of the most provocative critics now writing of the genre.

More Issues at Hand confirms this importance. He is one of the few popular critics who has always measured sf by its artistic merit and who explicitly shows himself aware of its relationship to a literary tradition that stretches back beyond Wells and Verne. In his first essay, dated 1965–1966, "Science Fiction as a Movement," he sets forth a basic theme: "The process of gradual re-assimilation of science fiction into the mainstream of literature … is bound to be painful for fans who want to claim some special superiority for the genre (as well as writers who would much prefer not to have the usual standards of criticism applied to what they do)…." In his introduction he calls for "a technical critic" whose work "usually takes the form of explication du texte, or what used to be called New Criticism."

If the academic critic who has weathered the tornado of the New Criticism smiles at this, he betrays his own naivete as to the history and present state of sf criticism and fails to recognize that to have a popular critic call for such criticism is indeed an indication of how far the genre has swung from its earlier interest in...

(The entire section is 636 words.)