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Evaporating Genres [Hardcover]

Gary K. Wolfe

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Book Description

3 Jan 2011
In this wide-ranging series of essays, an award-winning science fiction critic explores how the related genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror evolve, merge, and finally """"evaporate"""" into new and more dynamic forms. Beginning with a discussion of how literary readers """"unlearned"""" how to read the fantastic during the heyday of realistic fiction, Gary K. Wolfe goes on to show how the fantastic reasserted itself in popular genre literature, and how these genres themselves grew increasingly unstable in terms of both narrative form and the worlds they portray. More detailed discussions of how specific contemporary writers have promoted this evolution are followed by a final essay examining how the competing discourses have led toward an emerging synthesis of critical approaches and vocabularies. The essays cover a vast range of authors and texts, and include substantial discussions of very current fiction published within the last few years.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press (3 Jan 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819569364
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819569363
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm

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Product Description


"There is much to admire in Evaporating Genres." Matthew Cheney, Strange Horizons

About the Author

GARY K. WOLFE is a professor of humanities and English at Roosevelt University. He is the author of several books, most recently Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 (2005), as well as hundreds of essays and reviews. In addition to his scholarly work, he is contributing editor and lead reviewer for Locus magazine.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent (and funny) criticism that's jargon free. 1 April 2013
By Dennis E. Henley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Recently I've been reading science fiction literary criticism. Gary K. Wolfe's offering, Evaporating Genres, is one of the best I've encountered. Not only are the topics very interesting and thought provoking, the text is nearly jargon-free. And Wolfe can be hilarious at times, as illustrated by his take on Asimov's Foundation series:

"Despite his reputation, Asimov was never one of science fiction's great inventors, but he was its single greatest apostle of management, and his dream of managing history, of reducing millennia of chaos to a few centuries through the science of statistics and a handful of strategically placed public service announcements..."

I never considered Hari Seldon in those terms before, but Wolfe is absolutely correct.

This book is highly recommended. If you have the same experience as I had, you'll probably be jotting down many of the titles that Wolfe mentions and adding them to your reading list.
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book looking at science fiction, related genres, and "genre" in general 25 July 2014
By K. Bunker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
As Author Gary K. Wolfe notes in this book's preface, the eleven essays it contains were written over many years and without any overarching theme in mind. However, there is nevertheless a degree of unity to the book, and even apart from that issue, it's one of the most engaging books of science fiction scholarship I've read in a long while.

The general topic of the book is the issue of genre, specifically as it relates to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. A few chapters examine in some depth the ways in which many books, and more broadly, the works of many authors, defy any simple genre classification. Other chapters look within single genres or sub-genres, analyzing how different genres are defined, how divisions are formed within a genre, how related genres such as science fiction and fantasy distinguish themselves from each other, influence one another, and sometimes blend at their boundaries.

Some of the chapters I found most interesting were the following:

Chapter 2, which has the same title as the book and which is its central essay, starts with a look at how genres such as science fiction became defined and developed their "specific market identities." It then goes on to look at how writers within those genres have begun to "subvert or transform the genre expectations that largely derived from those market identities."

Chapter 6 focuses on the post-apocalypse sub-genre of science fiction and has some interesting insights, for example the fact that the "apocalypse" of such stories is almost never absolute, and indeed is often represented as a point of rebirth for humanity and civilization, thus presenting the paradox that "fictions that begin with cataclysm often include some of the most strangely luminous visions of affirmation in the whole of fantastic literature."

Similarly to chapter 2, Chapter 10 looks at "twenty-first-century stories" -- a range of recent fiction that makes use of the tropes of various fantastic genres but is not controlled by those tropes. Thus these stories may include elements that seem clearly "science fictional," and yet ultimately will diverge from the conventions and expectations of SF.

Chapter 11 presents an engaging examination of the field of science fiction scholarship itself; its history, the distinction between theory-based academic study and more reader- and fan-directed criticism and reviews, and other issues. This chapter focuses largely on SF critic and encyclopedist John Clute, and I found it both informative and fun reading.

The writing of this book is excellent, presenting interesting and sometimes complex ideas without slipping into unnecessary jargon or overly convoluted sentence structure. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in science fiction studies or genre studies in general.

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book in return for a review.
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