Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature

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Historical Context

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Science Fiction has its original roots in the nineteenth century, a time when the world experienced an explosion in new inventions and an appreciation of science and scientific methods as a means of progress. With the advent of the daguerreotype (the precursor to photography) in the first half of the century, humans harnessed the power to record images quickly and accurately. This technology is further explored with the advent of motion pictures at the end of the nineteenth century.

As science and technology grew in popularity, its practitioners challenged established thought. With the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species in 1859, the idea of man as a being of singular importance in the universe is shattered. With the help of geologists who date the Earth as much older than suggested by the Bible, Darwin’s theories propose that humans and apes share an ancestry.

The early years of the twentieth century introduced new transportation technologies both on land in the form of gasoline-powered automobiles and in the sky in the form of airplanes. World War I introduced new weapons technologies, including tanks that are first used on battlefields in 1917. These new technologies helped fuel the ideas behind Science Fiction and Fantasy literature, which exploded in the 1920s with Hugo Gernsback’s publication of several Science Fiction and Fantasy pulp magazines—named for the cheap wood pulp on which they were printed, although some used the term to indicate a lack of quality.

In 1926, American scientist Robert H. Goddard tested the world’s first liquid-fuel rocket, the advent of which eventually triggered a race in the 1950s and 1960s between the United States and the Soviet Union to develop rockets for propelling weapons and space shuttles. On October 31, 1938, Orson Welles made media and literary history by dramatizing H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds on the radio. Told in the style of a newscast, hundreds of thousands of listeners mistook the story of a Martian invasion as real, and widespread panic ensued as Americans believed they were under attack.

Also in 1938, John W. Campbell, an American editor, took the reigns of the Science Fiction magazine Astounding Stories, which he later renamed Astounding Science Fiction. The magazine, which placed more emphasis on quality than other pulps, quickly distinguished itself and helped to nurture the careers of many talented, new Science Fiction writers. It effectively launched the golden age of Science Fiction, a period that lasted until a few years after the end of World War II.

When World War II began in 1939, the world experienced paper shortages that affected the publication of Science Fiction and Fantasy magazines. Publishers cut magazines that did not have strong circulations. Astounding Stories was one of the few that survived, and its issues, which contained stories from such heavyweights as Heinlein and Asimov, helped to define modern Science Fiction. In 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Japanese cities, effectively ending World War II.

In the 1960s and 1970s, amidst the New Wave of Science Fiction and Fantasy, a period marked by experimental writing in the field, more female Science Fiction writers began to publish under their own names. The predominantly male readership of Science Fiction works had not allowed for many works by women writers previous to this time. Those women who were published often wrote under male pseudonyms or used intentionally genderambiguous pen names, such as C. J. Cherryh or Leigh Brackett. The publication of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969 was a direct response...

(This entire section contains 713 words.)

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to the bias of the genre. In the story, a human ambassador visits a far world that has ideologically and biologically evolved to the point where gender issues are nonexistent.

The advent of the first computer, ENIAC, in 1946, had the greatest effect on modern society. Although Science Fiction writers had predicted that robots would become the most important technology in future societies, it was the computer that won out in the end. At the beginning of the twentyfirst century, as new technologies—most of them based on computer technology—are introduced, Science Fiction and Fantasy writers continue to react to them in their works, reworking themes that have been used in Science Fiction since the nineteenth century.

Literary Style

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Utopia and Dystopia
A utopia is a literary form that features an idealistic imaginary society. In most cases, these ideals are unattainable. The author writes about this imaginary place not because he or she hopes to achieve this ideal but because the author hopes to inspire debate about the issues expressed in the work and so bring about social change. In Science Fiction, writers have in turn commented on the unattainable quality of utopias by writing dystopias—visions of a future society that, in striving to achieve an ideal, instead becomes a nightmare. The two most famous Science Fiction examples of dystopias are Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984.

In Huxley’s bleak future, the dystopian society has achieved its goal of eliminating sickness, disease, and war, but in the process it has sacrificed much of what makes humanity human. People are genetically engineered to fit into a certain social class and follow a uniform way of life, and any abnormal or creative behavior is suppressed through drugs. In one of the final scenes, after a human born of natural means attempts to stage a revolt against the system, he meets with one of the world government leaders, who explains why they have sacrificed many human interests, including religion, for technological progress: “Call it the fault of civ- ilization. God isn’t compatible with machinery and scientific medicine and universal happiness. You must make your choice.”

At least in Huxley’s vision, the brainwashed citizens themselves are happy. Not so in 1984. In this society, fear and paranoia are what motivate the citizens to conform to the government’s demands. Politics rule, and people are wise to remember, as many posters in the society state, “Big Brother Is Watching You.” The book’s protagonist, Winston Smith, is unfortunate enough to attempt a revolt against Big Brother, which results in Smith’s being mentally and physically destroyed by the totalitarian regime.

Description
Science Fiction by its very nature incorporates some form of scientific description in its tales. In some works, such as Asimov’s I, Robot stories that examine the use of robots in human society, the science is meticulously explained as an integral part of the plot. Asimov writes, “Inside the thin platinum- plated ‘skin’ of the globe was a positronic brain, in whose delicately unstable structure were enforced calculated neuronic paths.” This robot brain, like a human’s, fits “snugly into the cavity in the skull of the robot.” Throughout the stories, the robots’ “thinking” processes feature prominently in the plot.

Other Science Fiction stories, however, incorporate minor descriptions of technologies that are not central to the story’s plot. For example, in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, the human ambassador sent to the planet Gethen, which is light years away from his planet, demonstrates how he can communicate across the distance nearly instantaneously with his ansible communicator. “The principle it works on . . . is analogous in some ways to gravity. . . . What it does . . . is produce a message at any two points simultaneously.” The king to whom the ambassador shows the device is not impressed and does not pay much attention to this technology. Nor do Le Guin’s readers. Although the communicator is an interesting device, the real story in the book is the lack of gender bias due to unique biology that Le Guin creates for her alien society.

Setting
One of the most important choices Science Fiction and Fantasy authors make when creating stories is the setting. Because most Science Fiction and Fantasy works involve “rules” established through generations of other writers—such as Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics”—the choice of a setting can introduce potential constraints. While writers sometimes bend or break those rules, deviating from them requires the formulation of a convincing and compelling alternative.

The choice of a setting is also one of the indicators of the type of tale the story is intended to be—Science Fiction or Fantasy. Although there is much debate over what distinguishes the two genres, Card, in his book How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, offers one possible definition based on his own experiences as a Science Fiction and Fantasy writer: “A rustic setting always suggests fantasy; to suggest Science Fiction, you need sheet metal and plastic. You need rivets.” Especially since the New Wave of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which appeared in the 1960’s with seminal authors such Heinlein and Harlan Ellison, a definition of Science Fiction and Fantasy by their settings is no longer so easily applied.

Movement Variations

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Science fiction had a profound effect on the development of motion pictures. From almost the very beginnings of film, Science Fiction movies have pushed the envelope of special effects, starting with the first real Science Fiction film, George Méliès’s, A Trip to the Moon in 1902.

Since then, Science Fiction films have had a hit-or-miss history, and many literary classics have been made into highly inaccurate adaptations that sacrificed plot for special effects. In 1926, Fritz Lang released his monumental Metropolis, a nightmarish vision of a potential future in which the city is large and impersonal and the working-class is intended to be replaced by a new race of robots.

In 1963, the British Science Fiction television series Dr. Who began its unprecedented, 26-season, 695-episode run. In 1966, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek debuted in the United States to little fanfare. Eventually, Roddenberry’s characters and ideas inspired several related television series, a host of movies, countless book tie-ins, and a widespread cultural movement of sorts. The terms Trekkie and Trekker continue to be used to refer to ardent Star Trek fans. The 1999 film Galaxy Quest is a goodnatured parody of Star Trek fandom.

With Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 criticallyacclaimed adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Science Fiction films gained new respect. The release of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy in the 1970s and early 1980s helped to further revitalize the Science Fiction film and inspired widespread devotion reminiscent of the Star Trek phenomenon. Lucas has gone on in the early twenty-first century to create a popular trilogy prequel to the original Star Wars films.

In the 1980s and 1990s, several influential films were released. Blade Runner, a film loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is one of few literary adaptations to film at that time. Both the film and author acquired a cult following as a result of the film. Original Science Fiction films of note during the last two decades of the twentieth century include Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster E. T. (rereleased in an updated version in 2002), James Cameron’s Terminator movies, and the Science Fiction comedy film series Back to the Future. In the early years of the twenty-first century, Science Fiction films and television shows—many of which continue to create groundbreaking new special effects— are alive and well.

Compare and Contrast

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1900s: The Wright Brothers make their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, proving to the world that humans can fly.

1940s: German-born scientist Wernher von Braun develops the V-2 rocket for Adolph Hitler, envisioning it as a means for space travel. Hitler, however, uses the rocket as a weapon during World War II, so von Braun defects to America, where he shares his knowledge with American scientists—who follow von Braun’s lead and begin to apply it to space exploration.

Today: Having experienced both extraordinary success and tragic failure, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) continues to plan and send exploratory missions into space.

1900s: Einstein proves the existence of atoms.

1940s: The United States is the first to harness the power of the atom and demonstrates the awesome, destructive power of nuclear warfare when it drops atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II.

Today: After the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, many of the nuclear weapons from the world’s former superpower fall into the hands of independent terrorist groups. In 2001, after an attack on the World Trade Center in New York City that launched a war on terrorism, the American public’s fear shifts to biological weapons and suicide bombings.

1900s: In 1901, Italian physicist and inventor Guglielmo Marconi receives the first longdistance wireless message in Morse Code, which traveled from England to Newfoundland almost instantaneously.

1940s: Bell Labs makes the first demonstration of its transistor, which amplifies electric current in an efficient and cheap manner. The first transistors are used in telephones.

Today: With the advent of modern wireless technology, digital data from telephones and computers can be transmitted instantly to and from anywhere in the world by increasingly smaller devices that rely on microprocessors— computer chips that contain millions of microscopic transistors.

Representative Works

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Brave New World
Huxley’s internationally acclaimed work, Brave New World, first published in 1932, is a nightmarish vision of what could happen in the future if politics and technology supersedes humanity. Huxley’s novel depicts a futuristic, “ideal” world where there is no sickness, disease, or war. However, to achieve this ideal, people are massproduced in test tubes; social classes are created through genetic manipulations that predetermine a person’s intelligence and body type; and unwanted emotions are suppressed with soma, a hallucinogenic drug. In this inhuman system, an outsider born of natural means is considered a savage. Critics have noted Huxley’s cynicism in the work, and have examined it in context of life during the post- World War I era, when governments sought scientific and technological progress at all costs. The novel ranks with George Orwell’s equally disturbing 1984 as one of the great dystopian works of Science Fiction literature.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Lewis’s sevenvolume Fantasy series, was originally published between 1950 and 1956. The series (which followed a different order than current editions) started with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a story about four English schoolchildren who find a portal to Narnia—a parallel Fantasy world—through a wardrobe. In Narnia, they learn they are there to fulfill a prophecy. In the process, they meet fantastical creatures, battle a witch, and witness the Christlike death and resurrection of a lion named Aslan. Christian themes permeate the series. Since their publication, “The Chronicles of Narnia” have found a wide acceptance, especially among young readers. Some critics, however, do not care for the violence in the series, in which might sometimes makes right. Like the works of his contemporary and friend Tolkien, Lewis’s books created a new world that inspired later writers.

Frankenstein
Shelley wrote her novel Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus when she was in her late teens. The story was her entry in a writing contest between herself; her lover, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; the infamous poet Lord Byron; and John Polidori, who was Byron’s doctor. Shelley’s work, commonly referred to simply as Frankenstein, was published in 1818, and is widely regarded as the first true Science Fiction work for its reliance on scientific, rather than supernatural, methods. The original novel differs greatly from the screen adaptations, which focus on the horrific aspects of the tale. The story details Dr. Frankenstein’s scientific experiments to galvanize a mismatched corpse into life. The unnamed monster, lacking a soul, becomes an outcast of society and goes on a vengeful killing spree, finally fleeing to the Arctic North. When Shelley first published the novel in 1818, critics treated it as just another Gothic novel and failed to recognize the depth of the work. Since then, the work has enjoyed a strong critical and popular reception.

The Hobbit
Tolkien’s The Hobbit was first published in 1937. The story details the adventures of Bilbo, a hobbit (an imaginary creature that exists in Middle- Earth, Tolkien’s mythical past world), who has a number of adventures involving other fantastical beings, including dragons, goblins, wizards, elves, and talking animals. The story also introduces a magical ring, which Bilbo finds and which features prominently in Tolkien’s sequel trilogy “The Lord of the Rings.” Since the publication of the four-volume series, critics and popular readers alike have been fascinated by Tolkien’s imaginative tales and literary artistry. The four-volume epic influenced many later Science Fiction and Fantasy writers and also inspired a cult following.

I, Robot Although Asimov was not the first to write about robots, he revolutionized the method of writing about them. In his early robot short stories, originally published in Science Fiction magazines in the 1940s, Asimov defined and demonstrated the Three Laws of Robotics:

One, a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. . . . Two . . . a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. . . . Three, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Asimov’s robot stories were collected in 1950 in one volume, I, Robot, which brought him widespread critical acclaim, mainly for the “Three Laws,” which were accepted and used by many other Science Fiction writers. Critics praised the ethical example that Asimov set with the laws, which were so influential that many assumed they would be used as a basis for future robotics design and production.

The Martian ChroniclesThe Martian Chronicles, a short story collection first published in 1950, made Bradbury famous, and was one of the first Science Fiction works to garner positive critical attention. Although many critics regard Bradbury as one of the best living Science Fiction writers, Science Fiction purists note that much of his “Science Fiction” work, including The Martian Chronicles—which features a Mars blatantly different than what science has revealed— is really Fantasy. The stories detail repeated efforts made by humans to colonize Mars, and feature space travel, robots, and other scientific scenarios. However, it is the emotional depth, not the scientific setting or plot, that distinguishes the work. The chilling blend of future reality and Fantasy in the story collection earned Bradbury respect from critics and popular readers alike. Unlike many of his pro-science contemporaries, Bradbury is against too much scientific and technological development at the expense of humanity, a fear that he expresses in The Martian Chronicles.

Slaughterhouse Five
Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five draws on his experiences as a witness to the 1945 firebombing of the German city of Dresden. Vonnegut’s main character, Billy Pilgrim, escapes the horror of these memories by traveling through time and space to visit the planet Tralfamadore. It is here that he relives the good moments in his life. Whenever he is faced with the horrors of war, Pilgrim remarks, “so it goes,” a seemingly impartial phrase that resounds in the reader’s mind, creating a feeling that death is inevitable. Originally published in 1969, the book was a hit with its Vietnam-era audience, who identified with the war issues the novel raised. The novel was well-received by critics, which was rare for a Science Fiction novel at the time. Although Vonnegut does not like to be called a Science Fiction writer, novels like Slaughterhouse Five have helped bring positive critical attention to the Science Fiction field.

Stranger in a Strange Land
Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, first published in 1961, was Science Fiction’s first bestseller. With its controversial exploration of human philosophy, religion, and sociology—as opposed to technology—it was a striking departure from his previous novels and from other Science Fiction novels. In the book, Valentine Michael Smith, a human raised by Martians, returns to Earth and experiences human culture as an outsider. With demonstrations of his paranormal powers given to him by the Martians, he becomes a messiah-like figure and inspires the establishment of a religious movement. The novel embraces the supernatural and so is perhaps Fantasy, but it caused a major upheaval in the Science Fiction world, and greatly influenced future Science Fiction writers. It was received with enthusiasm by members of the 1960s counterculture, who recognized and emulated its message of free love. It was not loved by early critics, many of whom labeled Heinlein a fascist for his radical ideas.

The Time Machine: An Invention The first of many Science Fiction novels that would make him famous, Wells’s The Time Machine: An Invention, commonly referred to simply as The Time Machine, was published in 1895. Wells drew on the evolutionary theory he had studied to tell of a future, more than 800,000 years hence, in which humans have evolved into two separate species. The attractive and ignorant Eloi, descended from humanity’s upper class, become food for the working-class, ape-like Morlocks, who live underground. The time traveler who witnesses this then travels thirty million years into the future, witnessing the death of the Sun and the subsequent death of life on Earth. Critics in Wells’s time regarded The Time Machine as a brilliant work, and later critics and popular audiences agree. Although both Wells and Jules Verne are considered fathers of modern Science Fiction, Wells and his unique literary inventions like time travel have generally been considered more influential.

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
Verne’s novels in his “Extraordinary Journeys” series, particularly Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, have delighted international audiences for more than a century. First published in 1870 in serial form in a French magazine, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea details the adventures of Captain Nemo on the submarine Nautilus. Although many regard Verne as a predictor of scientific inventions, most of his futuristic ideas—like the submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea—were extrapolated either from history or from reading current scientific research. Many of Jules Verne’s books, including Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, were inaccurately translated into English from Verne’s native French. Consequently many outside of the Science Fiction field regarded Verne as just a children’s writer until more recent translations revealed the literary depth of his works.

Media Adaptations

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Brave New World was released as an audio book in 1998. It was published by Audio Partners and read by Michael York.

Four of the books from Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” series were made into awardwinning television shows by BBC Television. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1988) was directed by Marilyn Fox. Prince Caspian (1989), The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” (1989), and The Silver Chair (1990) were all directed by Alex Kirby. The series is also available as a boxed set.

Director James Whale’s classic, Frankenstein, was released as a film in 1931 by Universal Studios, and starred Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as his monster. The movie is available on VHS or DVD from Universal Studios Home Video. The DVD contains many special features, including the original theatrical trailer, commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer, production notes, a documentary (The Frankenstein Files: How Hollywood Made a Monster), and archival photos.

Frankenstein has seen many permutations on film, including Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, released in 1994 and starring Branagh and Robert De Niro. Humorous adaptations of the Frankenstein story include Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein (1974) with Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, and Marty Feldman.

The Hobbit was released as an audio book from Recorded Books in 2001, and was read by Rob Inglis. The work was also adapted as an animated film in 1978.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, was made into a blockbuster hit movie and released in December 2001. It was directed by Peter Jackson and stars Elijah Wood as Frodo The Hobbit. Jackson actually filmed the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy at once with each of the three movies scheduled to be released a year apart from each other.

The Martian Chronicles, adapted as a television miniseries in 1980, was directed by Michael Anderson, and featured Roddy McDowell as Father Stone, Darren McGavin as Sam Parkhill, and Bernie Casey as Major Jeff Spender. It is available on video from USA Video.

Slaughterhouse Five was released as a film in 1972 by Universal Pictures. Directed by George Roy Hill, it featured Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim. It is available on VHS or DVD from Image Entertainment.

The Time Machine, which was released as a film in 1960 by Galaxy Films and Metro-Goldwyn- Mayer (MGM), was directed by George Pal and featured Rod Taylor as the time traveler. It is available on VHS or DVD from Warner Home Video. The DVD contains a behind-the-scenes documentary, The Time Machine: The Journey Back, hosted by Taylor, along with co-stars Alan Young and Whit Bissell.

Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea was released as a silent film in 1916. It was directed by Stuart Paton and featured Allen Holubar as Captain Nemo. It is available on DVD from Image Entertainment. Walt Disney Pictures produced a movie version in 1954, starring Kirk Douglas as Ned Land and James Mason as Captain Nemo.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Aldiss, Brian W., with David Wingrove, Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction, Atheneum, 1986, pp. 39–40, 75, 118.

Asimov, Isaac, I, Robot, Bantam Books, 1991, pp. 44–45, 73.

Card, Orson Scott, Ender’s Game, Tor Books, 1977, p. 208.

—, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Writer’s Digest Books, 1990, pp. 4, 21.

Haldeman, Joe, The Forever War, Avon Books, 1974, pp. 225, 229.

Harrison, Harry, “The Term Defined,” in Science Fiction: The Academic Awakening, College English Association, 1974, p. 39.

Heinlein, Robert A., Stranger in a Strange Land, Ace Books, 1987, p. 115.

Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World, HarperPerennial, 1989, p. 240.

Kagarlitski, Julius, “Realism and Fantasy,” in SF: The Other Side of Realism, edited by Thomas D. Clareson, Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1971, p. 29.

Le Guin, Ursula K., The Left Hand of Darkness, 25th Anniversary ed., Walker and Company, 1994, pp. 40–41.

Lerner, Frederick Andrew, Modern Science Fiction and the American Literary Community, The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1985, pp. xiv–xvi.

Orwell, George, 1984, Signet Classic, 1950, p. 5.

Tolkien, J. R. R., The Hobbit, Ballantine Books, 1965, pp. 4, 18–19, 60, 62, 85, 248.

Wells, H. G., The Time Machine, Bantam Books, 1991, pp. 4, 21, 29.

Williamson, Jack, “SF in the Classroom,” in Science Fiction: The Academic Awakening, College English Association, 1974, p. 11.

Wood, Michael, “Tolkien’s Fictions,” in New Society, March 27, 1969.

Further Reading
Alkon, Paul K., Science Fiction before 1900: Imagination Discovers Technology, Twayne Publishers, 1994. This book gives information on early Science Fiction works and how they were important in the beginning stages of the movement. The works are then placed in comparison with other literary works from their time period.

Asimov, Isaac, I. Asimov: A Memoir, Bantam Spectra, 1995. Asimov’s final collection of autobiographical essays contains many of his personal opinions and life stories. He discusses his views on such wide-ranging topics as science, society, other Science Fiction writers, and religion.

Disch, Thomas M., The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World, Touchstone Books, 2000. This work contains historical information and critiques of various works and styles of Science Fiction literature. It gives an in-depth explanation of the different types of literature and gives blunt assessments of the work of the major authors from the field.

Hartwell, David G., Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction, Tor Books, 1996. Hartwell’s book is a great primer for anyone interested in learning more about Science Fiction. The book, written by a noted editor in the Science Fiction field, includes a critical overview of the field, recommended readings, and even a section on the business of Science Fiction publishing.

Roberts, Adam, and John Drakakis, Science Fiction, New Critical Idiom series, Routledge, 2000. Roberts provides a great reference for Science Fiction novices, offering a brief history of the Science Fiction field, an explanation of the critical terminology, and an overview of the key concepts in Science Fiction criticism and theory.

Toffler, Alvin, Future Shock, Bantam Books, 1991. Originally published in 1970, Toffler’s classic book about how people either do or do not adapt to technological changes in a fast-paced, industrial society, is still relevant in today’s information age.

Tolkien, J. R. R., The Silmarillion, Ballantine Books, 1990. The Silmarillion is a good book for anyone interested in examining the origins of Tolkien’s The Hobbit and “The Lord of the Rings” series. It gives background and historical information of this Fantasy world, as well as events that take place long before the beginning of Tolkien’s four-volume Middle-Earth saga.

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