FREE Delivery in the UK.
Only 5 left in stock.
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.
Gift-wrap available.
Quantity:1
Secret History of Science... has been added to your Basket
+ £2.80 UK delivery
Used: Good | Details
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Dispatched from the US -- Expect delivery in 2-3 weeks. Former Library books. Shows some signs of wear, and may have some markings on the inside. 100% Money Back Guarantee. Shipped to over one million happy customers. Your purchase benefits world literacy!
Trade in your item
Get a £0.34
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Secret History of Science Fiction Paperback – 24 Nov 2009


See all 3 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
£12.50
£6.91 £1.75
£12.50 FREE Delivery in the UK. Only 5 left in stock. Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.


Trade In this Item for up to £0.34
Trade in Secret History of Science Fiction for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £0.34, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Tachyon Publications (24 Nov. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1892391937
  • ISBN-13: 978-1892391933
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 2.6 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 557,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

Review

"These stories are good enough to make The New Yorker's Eustace Tilley pop his cartoon monocle." --io9.com "A compelling collection...very unique and thought provoking." --Sacramento Book Review "All I really want to do, at the moment, is embrace the unsuspecting editors in a massive, spine-crunching bear hug" --Los Angeles Times "If you're interested in reading a bunch of stories written by some of the best contemporary writers out there, you'll like this anthology. If you also want to read some of the best science-fiction stories since the '70s, you'll love this anthology." --Tor.com

About the Author

James Patrick Kelly is the Hugo, Nebula, and Italia award--winning author of Burn, Think Like a Dinosaur, and Wildlife. He is a member of the faculty of the Stonecoast Creative Writing MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. He has co-edited a series of anthologies with John Kessel, described by the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as "each surveying with balance and care a potentially disputed territory within the field." Kelly is the technology columnist for Asimov's Science Fiction magazine and the publisher of the e-book 'zine Strangeways. John Kessel is a Nebula, Sturgeon, and Locus award winner and the author of Corrupting Dr. Nice, Good News From Outer Space, and The Pure Product. He teaches courses in science fiction, fantasy, and fiction writing at North Carolina State University. His criticism has appeared in Foundation, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, the New York Review of Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Age.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
0
4 star
2
3 star
0
2 star
1
1 star
0
See all 3 customer reviews
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Runmentionable on 6 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
Kelly and Kessel's unusual, stimulating anthology sets out to demonstrate that the literary ambitions of New Wave SF haven't totally disappeared since that movement became less prominent from the mid-seventies onward, even if the rapprochement with mainstream literature that some hoped for way back when has been indefinitely deferred.

To that end, they've assembled a mix of ambitious writing from within the genre and also some stories from mainstream writers working in what those writers themselves may or may not feel to be science fiction. I may be a philistine, but I think the genre writers come off better here: Don De Lillo's story is as boring as most of his novels (though thankfully it's a great deal shorter), Michael Chabon's much-lauded "The Martian Agent" lacks focus, and T.C. Boyle's "Descent of Man" is insufferably pleased with itself. On the other hand, Margaret Atwood's "Homelanding" is a decent effort that wouldn't be out of place in one of the better New Wave-y anthology series of yesteryear like Orbit or Universe. Jonathan Lethem's "The Hardened Criminals" is brilliant, but then he has a foot in both camps.

The stories from both mainstream and genre writers cover a huge variety of styles, concerns and subject matter. The editors' introduction explains this more eloquently than I could, but rest assured the book isn't lacking in variety, though there's not much here for the traditional hard SF/space opera fan, who may well find the whole thing frustrating.

The writing is, for the most part, excellent, though I found some stories (like the De Lillo, the Boyle and the Millhauser) rather hard work.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel want us to know about the respectable, literary side of science fiction. Although by no means ashamed of the hard science fiction, space opera, and center-of-genre stories of prototypical science fiction, they feel we should acknowledge the "li-fi" or literary efforts that blur the field's boundaries. To educate our reading palates, they have assembled these nineteen stories. They all qualify as science fiction, but that isn't the most important thing about any of them.

My favorite five of the nineteen:

Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" reminds us of the almost-hidden price we pay for our happy lives. We have choices about accepting the unacceptable.

Kate Wilhem's "Ladies and Gentleman, This is Your Crisis" is a Russian-doll story in which we watch two people spend a weekend watching a reality show. What could be less interesting?

Carter Scholz's retelling of "The Nine Billion Names of God" makes me even more tired of parlor-trick postmodernism than I was already. Impressive...

Molly Glass' "Interlocking Pieces" takes place just before an organ transplant. Despite legal restrictions, the recipient is driven to know the mind of the donor.

George Saunders' "93990" objectively reports a ten-day drug trial conducted using disposable lab animals. Such studies are necessary before drugs are used to alleviate the suffering of human beings.

The collection is recommended to science fiction fans and mainstream fans of good, thought-provoking stories. Although I like most of the stories, there are a couple that leave me cold. After a second reading, I still wonder why Gene Wolfe's "The Ziggurat" is so widely praised. Perhaps another reader will educate my sensibilities about this story--I am willing to admit I am missing something. Perhaps such a collection should contain a story or two that readers have to worry over. It's worth the time.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on 25 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Scifi that aspires to literature? This suffers from being all-American (and Canadian), so Aldiss, Lem, Priest, Zivkovic - and no Carol Emshwiller or Kit Reed either. But let's give it a shufti..

The lead story is over-written and not scifi; it gets in because it's by Thomas Disch
The Le Guin is OK sub-Kafka, I suppose
The Kate Wilhelm is about a TV programme, and as boring as one
The clumsily annotated (we are told Don Giovanni is an 'opera (1787) by Mozart' without being told who Mozart was or, indeed, what opera is) T. Coraghessan Boyle, despite the occasional genuflection towards style ('I'm getting tired of smelling like a coupon in a detergent box') and oddly Wellsian touches ("Stuff," I said; "A fig for your experiments," I shouted) could almost have been written by a monkey [read Love in Infant Monkeys for that species interface]
Next? 'I try not to think big thoughts.' No danger of that, Don. (DeLillo!) Astronauts orbit the earth. I felt the same. There's even nostalgia for - get this - WW2, 'Grape-Nuts Flakes' and all! But so far the whole caboodle feels so old-fashioned and linear. Pace Boyle ('I detest genre') the boundaries remain securely in place. The Margaret Atwood is not bad - it's by Margaret Atwood, after all - but it's three pages. Three pages! The Carter Scholz wants to have its cake and eat it; it masquerades as serious postmodern fiction while cannibalizing off of it and at the same time sending it up. It's seriously schizoid and the worst so far - by far - in a profoundly depressing bunch, while the Molly Gloss and Connie Willis that follow, interspersed by an inordinately long Lucius Shepard, are by far the best - beautifully written, if utterly forgettable. And that's the first hundred pages. Want literary speculative fiction?
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A Wonderful Collection 3 Mar. 2010
By Douglas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall, I'm impressed by The Secret History of Science Fiction. The editors have done a good job of selecting stories that touch on the border between genre science fiction and "literary" fiction. Of the nineteen stories included, five were truly impressive works of brilliance, ten were well written and entertaining, two were confusing, and two were disappointing. I should add that the ten I describe as "entertaining" would appear more impressive in a more common collection. Their light is only dimmed slightly by the incredible creativity of the five standouts in the collection.

The most impressive in the collection:
"The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas", by Ursula K. Le Guin, is a story set in a utopia with a dark secret. Le Guin draws us to question the price of our happiness.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Crisis", by Kate Wilhelm, presents the future of "reality" television and the role it and other media may (or has) come to play in shaping human interaction in our safely cushioned civilization.

"The Nine Billion Names of God", by Carter Scholz, is a game of symbol and meaning played between a "writer" and an editor.

"Interlocking Pieces", by Molly Gloss, is a beautiful story about personal disaster, understanding, and acceptance.

"Buddha Nostril Bird", by John Kessel, is an adventure and a koan on identify and what it means to know.

I should add that I've only just finished the collection so it is more than likely that my understanding of these stories will grow as they continue to unfold in my mind. Several stories in this collection are truly works of genius and I probably don't do them justice with the descriptions above. I hope I've said enough that you'll give the collection a chance. If you're looking for stories that take risks and follow creativity wherever it leads, you won't be disappointed.

Two stories I found to be confusing:
"Standing Room Only", by Karen Joy Fowler, seems to be a simple story centering on a background character to Lincoln's assassination. I don't see anything in it that would cause me to label it "science fiction". It's well written but I just don't understand its inclusion in the collection. If you can tell me what I've missed I would be very grateful.

"93990", by George Saunders, is also well told but also left me suspecting I'd missed something. The author definitely succeeds at making me feel something and I think I understand the comment he's making about certain kinds of experiments. I'm just wondering if there's more to it, maybe something I'm missing.

The rest:
Most of the other stories in the collection are very well written but seem to lack that indescribable element that elevates the merely creative and clever to something more meaningful. For instance, "1016 to 1", by James Patrick Kelly, is well written and fun but reminds me too much of a childhood fantasy. Don't get me wrong, my interest did not waiver for a second as I read it. It's just that the ending left me wanting the something more that I found in the stories listed above. It's a fun story but looks less impressive beside "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" and "Interlocking Pieces".

I hope you'll get yourself a copy of this wonderful collection of some of the best fiction I've read in quite a while. I also hope Kelly and Kessel put together a second volume (they could start with something by Nancy Kress and go from there).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Hey, you got literary fiction in my SF!" -- "You got SF in my literary fiction!" 16 April 2013
By K. Bunker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What if there was no boundary between the lands of literary fiction and science fiction? The premise of this anthology is to collect stories that straddle that frontier, and that perhaps stand as evidence that the line separating the two lands is fading out of existence. Thus, some of the authors in the volume are mainstream writers who have ventured into science fiction, while others are generally identified as SF writers even though their work has those qualities more often found in literary fiction: concentration on character and a graceful, sophisticated writing style.

This isn't an altogether new idea. Judith Merril's Year's Best SF series, which ran (under varying titles) from 1956 to 1968, was noted for including stories from writers outside traditional SF circles: John Steinbeck, Bernard Malamud, James T. Farrell, Isaac Bashevis Singer, to name a few.

Likewise, the hope that "the walls that separate the mainstream from science fiction are, in fact, crumbling" (to quote this book's introduction), is a hope with a long lineage. But whether or not that hope is finally coming true, the real "point" of this anthology is simply that it contains some darned-well-written SF.

Some notes on a few selected stories:

"The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. LeGuin is something of a classic, and has been reprinted in high profile mainstream collections such as The Art of the Short Story. And it's deservedly a classic; bold in style and chilling in content.

"Ladies and Gentlemen This Is Your Crisis" by Kate Wilhelm presents an interesting question: Can absolutely stellar writing -- up to the best standards of any literary fiction -- make a good story out of a tired old SF idea? The tired old idea here is reality TV in which contestants fight for their lives, and for me, the answer to the question is a reluctant "no".

"Standing Room Only" by Karen Joy Fowler is a story about some of the people involved in the assasination of Abraham Lincoln, with whisper-subtle hints of time-traveling tourists. So that's an example of one way that literary fiction can blend with SF: turn down the volume on the SF elements and let the human story come to the foreground. It's a workable plan, though in this case I found the human story rather unengaging.

George Saunders (recently a resident of best-seller lists with his Tenth of December) is a mainstream literary writer whose short stories are often unabashed SF. "93990" is one such story, and is typical for him in its excellent writing and its brutal, even repellent, darkness.

"Frankenstein's Daughter" by Maureen F. McHugh was the real "find" in this anthology for me. A story that at first seems a straightforward piece of modern SF, as it goes along it soars into realms of sensitivity and hard-hitting emotional honesty that are rarely, if ever, seen in the work of any other SF writer. After reading this I sought out more of McHugh's work, and my opinion of her has only increased.

"Schwarzschild Radius" by Connie Willis is, on the surface, simply a piece of historical fiction, obliquely touching on a few moments in the life of the physicist of the title. But in reality it's a work of intelligence, power, and stunning artistry; a story of gem-like perfection.

"The Ziggurat" by Gene Wolfe strikes me as an example of how mixing SF and literary fiction can go wrong. A man is going through an acrimonious divorce when his life is further complicated by some trigger-happy time travelers. Thanks to clumsy writing, the "mix" works out something like stirring paint into cake batter -- the two things have nothing to do with each other and the result is a mess.

So as you can see, there were some hits and some misses in this anthology for me. But overall I thought the book was an eminently worthwhile read. It provides a fascinating view of this mingling-point between two branches of literature, and it contains some darn good stories too.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The High Road to Science Fiction 14 Feb. 2011
By John M. Ford - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel want us to know about the respectable, literary side of science fiction. Although by no means ashamed of the hard science fiction, space opera, and center-of-genre stories of prototypical science fiction, they feel we should acknowledge the "li-fi" or literary efforts that blur the field's boundaries. To educate our reading palates, they have assembled these nineteen stories. They all qualify as science fiction, but that isn't the most important thing about any of them.

My favorite five of the nineteen:

Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" reminds us of the almost-hidden price we pay for our happy lives. We have choices about accepting the unacceptable.

Kate Wilhem's "Ladies and Gentleman, This is Your Crisis" is a Russian-doll story in which we watch two people spend a weekend watching a reality show. What could be less interesting?

Carter Scholz's retelling of "The Nine Billion Names of God" makes me even more tired of parlor-trick postmodernism than I was already. Impressive...

Molly Glass' "Interlocking Pieces" takes place just before an organ transplant. Despite legal restrictions, the recipient is driven to know the mind of the donor.

George Saunders' "93990" objectively reports a ten-day drug trial conducted using disposable lab animals. Such studies are necessary before drugs are used to alleviate the suffering of human beings.

The collection is recommended to science fiction fans and mainstream fans of good, thought-provoking stories. Although I like most of the stories, there are a couple that leave me cold. After a second reading, I still wonder why Gene Wolfe's "The Ziggurat" is so widely praised. Perhaps another reader will educate my sensibilities about this story--I am willing to admit I am missing something. Perhaps such a collection should contain a story or two that readers have to worry over. It's worth the time.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing. 9 April 2013
By Louisa Lu - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Instead of truly crossing genres, the stories are mostly not science fiction at all. They are stories with small fantastical elements to them. The bulk of these are mired in descriptive imagery with little plot or character development or any redeeming qualities. Basically, a bunch of flowery fluff and no meat to the story. "Short" stories isn't supposed to mean underdeveloped. There are many famous authors in this book, but none of these are on par with their more famous work. Skip this collection.
Great Intro to Sci Fi Authors, Very Good 13 Nov. 2014
By Bradley Bevers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I received this book as a gift, did not know anything about it before picking it up. I am an avid reader, but science fiction is one of the areas I have read the least in. This collection convinced me to change that . . .

Some things I really like about this collection:

Before each story, there are two quotes talking about science fiction and genre. These were really great insights into the writers. In many collections, these quotes are worthless throwaways. Not so here, much of it was thought provoking and new to me.

Out of the 19 stories, I've read works by only one of the authors before - so a true newcomer. This is a great introduction to works of authors. Here are my two favorites, by far:

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, Le Guin: By far, my favorite. Worth the price of the book, the shortest story of the bunch. Can't wait to put this in front of more people, just a great take on life, storytelling, and layers of truth. Stands out as one of my favorite short stories ever now and one that I will return to.

The Ziggurat, Wolfe: This is an odd story involving a custody dispute and . . . some science fiction. I'm not sure if I can point to exactly what it is, but its awesome. Some of the best writing and storytelling I have come across. Many Gene Wolfe books are now on their way to my house . . .

One more of honorable mention: Angouleme, Disch: Bizarre, interesting, mysterious. I didn't love this story, the first in the collection, but I think might eventually. It's stuck with me and there is definitely more beneath the surface.

All in all, a great collection, a great intro to some modern science fiction authors. Highly Recommended.
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback