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The Norton Book of Science Fiction Paperback – 22 Jul 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 872 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (22 July 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393972410
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393972412
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 4.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 832,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin has written over fifty books of prose and poetry. Winner of many prizes including a National Book Award, she is perhaps best known for her six Books of Earthsea which have sold millions of copies and been translated into sixteen languages.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Runmentionable on 1 Nov. 2012
Format: Paperback
There's a big problem with this book. It's claiming to be something it isn't. It's using the heft of Norton's academic reputation to present itself as a canonical selection of North American SF for the period in question, but in fact it's a big selection of what the editors would like SF to be, which is, in essence, with more women and more ethnic diversity among the authors.

I don't have a problem with that as an aim. I'm not one of those clowns who screams about political correctness every time they feel their sense of entitlement and privilege is being challenged, and my own political views are more at the le Guin end of SF than at the Heinlein/Pournelle end. And as a selection of stories to convey le Guin's vision of what she'd like SF to be, it's pretty good, if, predictably enough, it's a bit worthy and humourless.

I do however have a problem with the fundamental dishonesty of the project. This is not a definitive overview of American SF in the period, but it uses the Norton reputation, and its sheer size, to pass itself off as such. This means that it deliberately misrepresents the genre. Too many (usually male) writers of real stature and importance are represented by either atypical work that fits le Guin's political agenda or very short pieces which conveniently free up room for lesser work by the writers le Guin wants to champion. Thomas Disch, one of the best writers of the era, isn't here at all, because he objected to being "represented" by a story he didn't think was good enough, and because le Guin wouldn't accept his suggestions for alternatives.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Oct. 2002
Format: Paperback
As the book is likely to be used as a class reader for Science Fiction Studies I had hoped for a classic selection of the Great Science Fiction. I found that the parameters of the book had been set to exclude All the 'Golden Age' SF all the British 'New Wave' SF and All 'World SF' No Verne No Wells, But it did include a large pro feminist selection. A sad disapointment
A long time SF Fan
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Flawed, but worthwhile 14 Feb. 2007
By Jonathan Tu - Published on
Format: Paperback
As other reviewers mention this anthology fails as an introduction to science fiction. It somewhat succeeds as an introduction to the different moods, tones and flavors of science fiction, and it could be considered worthy in terms of its difference from other "greatest/most influential" collections, of which there are many.

After reading this very large collection I didn't know what to think. Many of the stories are good enough, but not great. Only a handful are the kind I find myself rereading willingly. In the end I was glad I made my way through because there are some genuinely fine pieces in here, and it was interesting to read a collection that was very obviously put together in defiance of the incredibly male-dominated statistics of sci-fi.

In the end this collection is worth picking up if only for one story: Cordwainer Smith's "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard". I am serious in this. The only other place you can find it, I think, is Smith's collection of shorts "The Rediscovery of Man". I was entertained by a lot of the stories (from memory: "For the Sake of Grace", "Speech Sounds" and "The Women Men Don't See") but this is hardly a representative collection of science fiction. I'd call it a hopeful presentation, showing what Le Guin believes science fiction is capable of.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
An interesting anthology that illustrates genre tensions 2 May 2012
By Merricat Franklin - Published on
Format: Paperback
As you can see from the various reviews, this is a rather polarizing anthology. I think it's terrific, but it's misleadingly titled (perhaps for sales reasons?) - this is an anthology of North American science fiction from approximately 1960 onward which foregrounds "New Wave" and character driven stories. If that's not what you enjoy, you won't like this book. You probably won't like it if your politics are conservative, either, since although there are several conservative stories in the book the general trend is left.

When I encountered this book in my early twenties, it introduced me to many writers whose work I've enjoyed, from Cordwainer Smith to Zenna Henderson to Joanna Russ. These are writers who are directly concerned with the social, with language and with experiments in content and form. Again, if you are looking for hard science fiction (or for rocket ships, lasers and space babes, for that matter) you won't like this book. If you are looking for a book which traces the change in SF which occurred between the fifties and the eighties, this is an excellent place to start.

Deficiencies? Some of the stories are extremely sentimental ("Lucky Strike", an alternate history of the bombing of Hiroshima, which frankly makes me tear up but is very heavy-handed). Some of the stories are inexplicably orientalizing/racist ("For The Sake of Grace" and the one with the Fanatic!Arab!Assassin!)- which is weird in a book that is obviously intended as progressive/left. There aren't many stories by writers of color (which were being written - check out Dark Matter if you don't believe me).

But honestly, the thing came out sixteen years ago and, I think, consolidated a lot of interest in New Wave and character-driven science fiction. It seems like today you can find many more anthologies of stories by and about women, people of color and GLBTQ folks. This anthology has some deficiencies, but I think it served its purpose.

When I was a young women who had trouble finding non-conservative SF and stories by women, this book was a godsend. It opened a lot of doors for me.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A college instructor's report 7 Aug. 2012
By John L Murphy - Published on
Format: Paperback
Having taught at a technical college from this assigned anthology a course in SF, I found a wide range of reactions. When I used it in the late '90s and early '00s, my students--all majoring in non-liberal arts--did not note as much its inclusion of "soft" SF aimed, as co-editor Ursula LeGuin champions in her spirited, quirky introduction, to challenge the canon of "hard" SF with its spacecraft, battles, gadgets, and stoic or sexist men. I was able to balance its editorial tilt with another collection featuring older stories, and an international array of tales. This time, I had no option but to use this text; a decade later, I noticed a far more polarized reaction to its intentions

Six-sevenths of my class were male, and a couple of my female students told me that it was suited for those who didn't like, or didn't think they'd like, science fiction. One liked it more for precisely that reason, and others may have too. But many students vociferously reacted to the thick book's relative dearth of machines, concepts, and inventions. Too much fiction, not enough science?

The strongest of the dozen stories I used seemed those able to enchant or challenge expectations. Octavia Butler's "Speech Sounds" worked well for a class filled with those who knew inner-city Los Angeles well. John Kessel's "Invaders" perplexed with three storylines, but those with Latin American roots welcomed its reversal of New World conquest. Bruce Sterling's "We See Things Differently" for a story from 1989 anticipates post-9/11 attitudes and a sort of Tea Party-meets-Occupy grassroots movement eerily well. These, full of conflict in a weakened America, met with most enthusiasm.

James Tiptree Jr.'s "The Women Men Don't See," Margaret Atwood's "Homelanding," Joe Haldeman's "The Private War of Private Jacob," and Cordwainer Smith's "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard" sparked imaginations. "Day Million" by Frederik Pohl's very much part of its 1966 air of condescending hipness, but it shows how a writer assumed from his audience what a writer later on would not. Greg Bear's "Schrodinger's Plague" caused many to give up as it was too clever; Michael Swanwick's "The Midwinter's Tale" showed mythic power, while Michael Blumlein's "The Brains of Rats" met with lots of dismissal for its disturbing gender excursions. Post-modernism does not appear to be a favorite among many students more linear-minded.

Other stories are far weaker, or sentimental, frankly. (While neither weak nor sentimental, I don't think Philip K. Dick is best represented by "Frozen Journey," as an aside.) Still, one advantage is that I can test selections in the classroom, and the 850 pages allow enough room for choice. Many stories do seem dated, 1960-1990, all American or Canadian, as the technological shifts towards dystopian apps and pocket or installed devices tracking our every move evident in post-millennial fiction as gathered in John Joseph Adams' great anthology "Brave New Worlds" (reviewed by me in Jan. 2011) seem more appropriate for younger students now then the coke-addled (more than one story!), landline and often pre-PC-toting folks of the pre-Net era found in these pages often, more holdovers from the Aquarian Age than Gen X's children!

However, for showing the shift from the Golden Age's patriarchy to the Me Generation's concerns with ecology, Vietnam, feminism, gender, and conflict among class and race, this broadminded, anthropologically intended anthology appropriately stands for its era, even if it's receding for most of those in college classrooms today. So, if I had the choice, I'd supplement it with more recent stories arching out from newer innovations, and with older stories reflecting the founding fathers (mostly) of the genre. The strict chronology and the geographical limits of writers limit its use for many students in love with SF, although those who are less enamored may welcome its more humanistic preoccupations.
Good Book! 4 Jun. 2015
By Carlos D Stewart - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book with numerous Science Fiction stories.
33 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Dreadful. Just really awful. 5 Nov. 2004
By Yadda 2x - Published on
Format: Paperback
The problem with this book is that it's a "Norton Book" and will be used as a teaching tool. Due to the prominence of Norton's stuff on college campuses, it's easy to imagine students who don't have much experience with written science fiction taking classes from professors who don't have much experience with written science fiction, using this book as a resource. They're going end up being very confused about the subject of science fiction.

There's an element of political correctness to the story selection, an element of pure feminism, and as element of weirdness and mystery. What can she possibly have been thinking? How can anyone be said to know anything about science fiction without going back a little further, to the so-called "golden age" of science fiction which a lot of these stories are reactions against? How can a study of science fiction not include Asimov, Heinlein, or Clarke? The most likely audience of this book is not well served by the story selection.

If none of the above bothers you, you'll find a mixed collection of stories, of which you're bound to enjoy a few. Do not pass judgement on any of the authors whose work seems crappy after a first reading from this book: some of the selections are not fair representations of the author's work in any way. All, or almost all, of the authors represented in the book have written very good stories, but the stories in this volume were chosen because of a mission of the author's which is articulated in the introduction. A simple, perhaps chronological collection of really good stories isn't on the menu, unfortunately.
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