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Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction (Routledge Key Guides) [Paperback]

Mark Bould , Andrew Butler , Adam Roberts , Sherryl Vint
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

29 July 2009 0415439507 978-0415439503 1

Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction is a collection of engaging essays on some of the most significant figures who have shaped and defined the genre. Diverse groups within the science fiction community are represented, from novelists and film makers to comic book and television writers. Important and influential names discussed include:

Octavia Butler

George Lucas

Robert Heinlein

Gene Roddenberry

Stan Lee

Ursula K. Le Guin

H.G. Wells

This outstanding reference guide charts the rich and varied landscape of science fiction and includes helpful and up-to-date lists of further reading at the end of each entry. Available in an easy to use A-Z format, Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction will be of interest to students of Literature, Film Studies, and Cultural Studies.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (29 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415439507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415439503
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,085,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

Mark Bould is Reader in Film and Literature at the University of the West of England, UK. He is the author of Film Noir: From Berlin to Sin City and The Cinema of John Sayles.

Andrew M Butler is Senior Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University, UK. He is the author of Pocket Essential volumes on Cyberpunk, Film Studies, Postmodernism and Philip K Dick.

Adam Roberts is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. He is the author of many science fiction novels and has published widely on nineteenth-century literature and science fiction studies.

Sherryl Vint is Assistant Professor of English at Brock University, Canada. She is the author of Bodies of Tomorrow.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd Choices 9 Jan 2011
I bought this book expecting essays about important figures in science fiction. It delivered to a certain extent but some of the "key figures" are decidedly strange choices. Including critics is perverse: I would prefer more about people who write SF and less about people who write about SF. It is probably no coincidence that the book was compiled by critics.

The book consists of 50 essays each exploring the work of a single figure. On the plus side most of the articles are interesting but some I found simply boring.

Overall, I am happy to have bought this book but I feel that it failed to live up to its title.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who said an academic book can't be a ton of fun? 5 Nov 2009
By Robert Moore - Published on
I am hard-pressed to remember the last time I had so much fun with an academic book. This collection articles on fifty key people within science fiction written by several leading literary critics provides an outstanding introduction to the current situation of the field as well as the most important figures in its development. They achieve this despite the inherent silliness of restricting the field to only fifty figures. Silly, yes; but that's where the fun comes in. The enjoyment of such a book comes from arguing with the editors and their choices. I had so much joy coming up with my own lists, seeing if my candidates made theirs, examining their list, debating why some of their choices were wrong, delighting in learning of some people I had not previously known, and just basically having a grand time.

Although I passionately disagree with some of their selections, by and large they did a pretty good job. For instance, I decided to create a list of the female figures that I would place on such a list. I came up with (in rough chronological order): Mary Shelley, C. L. Moore, James Tiptree Jr., Ursula K. LeGuin, Joana Russ, Octavia Butler, and Gwyneth Jones. I hoped that Marge Piercy would make the list, but feared that she would be considered too mainstream and therefore not a candidate for inclusion. I also was pulling for Connie Willis, but thought she might be too recent to make the cut. All of those (though not Piercy and Willis) did in fact make their list. The four women I missed were Leigh Brackett, Sheri Tepper, feminist academic Donna J. Haraway, and Nalo Hopkinson. I personally think Brackett is of more historical interest than interesting in terms of today's SF. Tepper is certainly major, though one could question whether she is sufficiently SF (most of her best work was not in SF, the own towering exception being THE GATE TO WOMEN'S COUNTRY. Haraway is no doubt a huge figure, with her "A Cyborg Manifesto" ranking as the most important essay written on artificial beings since John Turing famous essay published in MIND (which introduced the Turing Test). And kudos for including Nalo Hopkinson, who has done important work introducing SF in 3rd world settings.

There are a lot of choices that you can debate. I can see the inclusion of Hugo Gernsback as an editor, but the exclusion of John W. Campbell is utterly inexplicable. I'm not a fan of Campbell's preferences, but his influence on SF is staggering, arguably as large as any single figure in the field. I would have thought he would have been one of the 7 or 8 first figures to have placed on a list. Although Gernsback was the first SF editor, all in all I believe Campbell's influence was greater. And there were a number of very important writers who were omitted, a short list being Frederik Pohl, Stanley Weinbaum, Henry Kuttner (who certainly published as many important works as his wife, C. L. Moore, who did make the list, and who co-wrote many classic stories together), Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, and Poul Anderson. The omission of Kurt Vonnegut is also tough to take. I was really upset at the inclusion of Steven Spielberg. Sure, Spielberg has made some hugely successful SF movies, but I think his influence on SF has been close to nonexistent, just as his influence on cinema has been close to nonexistent. In fact, Spielberg's lone influence has been to make studios strive to produce box office blockbusters. But aesthetically Spielberg's influence has been negligible or nonexistent. Contrast this with Ridley Scott, who has exerted extensive influence on SF through his blending of film noir, art deco, and SF in BLADE RUNNER. That film in turn exerted enormous influence on cyberpunk and the television series BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which seems likely to be the space opera that all future SF series set in space will have to come to terms with (note how STARGATE UNIVERSE seems to owe more to BSG than to SG-1 or SG ATLANTIS). His ALIEN completely raised the level of threat with alien species. This dwarfs anything that Spielberg has achieved in SF. I don't debate the inclusion of George Lucas, even though I'm not a fan of his films. I liked THX 1138, but I agree completely with Orson Scott Card that the STAR WARS films are not actually SF at all, but closer to fantasy. What influence Lucas has had on SF has, in my opinion, largely been negative. But see, this kind of argument and debate is what makes this fun.

One other figure whose insertion utterly baffles me was Gerry Anderson. His inclusion strikes me as a British thing. Most, though not all, of the editors are British and that is the only way I can explain his inclusion. I mean, seriously. THUNDERBIRDS? SPACE: 1999? I could come up with 20 television producers should have been considered before him. His place is so weird that I can't really get my mind around it. The brute fact is that he probably shouldn't make a list of 500 Key Figures. Like I said, must be a British thing, like actors who perform skits in drag.

The articles are really interesting, though they vary considerably from one to another. Some are critical, some are biographical, some a blend. Some have bibliographies of the figures while others mention them in the text. Some are tremendously informative and fascinating, some of them are kind of flat (that is, I am still not sold on Gerry Anderson - like I said, British thing). But this should definitely be part of the library of anyone who engages the study of SF from within academia or any SF fan who just wants to have a good argument with some people it is fun to argue with. And on top of all that, you'll get a lot of great reading ideas. You'll find a host of books you'll want to read. In other words, this is just a great book on multiple levels.
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