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Malzberg's spectacular swan song,
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This review is from: Galaxies (Paperback)
Malzberg is nothing if not irreverent, and no doubt shocked some of his erstwhile colleagues of the time with this book in which the author takes us behind the scenes to give us the process, or at least his process, of writing a Science Fiction novel.
The author, in loquacious detail, gives us his notes on a posited novel, to be entitled `Galaxies' in which Starship Captain Lena Thomas, on a mission to discover new Earth-type worlds for colonisation, is trapped within a `black galaxy' (i.e., the event horizon of an enormous neutron star which has also trapped the light of an entire galaxy) with a cargo of dead passengers, who may or may not be revived when she reaches her destination. (Their money has paid for the mission).
Whether this story is important or not is one of the issues the disillusioned author agonises over as he lectures us on the predictability of Science Fiction readers and the fallibility of his fellow authors.
In one sense this is Malzberg himself raging at the complacency of SF writers of the Nineteen Seventies.
`There are a few among us who know science. and a few more who understand fiction, but there is not a single science fiction writer who can do both.' (p 13)
And so Malzberg tells us that he has decided to rise to the challenge and write `Galaxies' which was inspired by two articles by John W Campbell in `Analog'
It is in turns, witty, despairing, charming, sometimes even pleading to readers and writers of the genre to take a good hard look at themselves and what they are reading and writing.
It may be that the dead in Lena's ship are a metaphor for Malzberg's readers. They after all, are the ones who paid for the trip, but in the end, despite everything that is said to them, they do not listen. How can they? They are dead. The prostheses (who are computerised personalities installed in the ship to offer somewhat limited advice) may be metaphors for other SF writers. And if Lena is a metaphor for the writer himself then the black galaxy is SF itself and Malzberg can only escape by risking everything and leaving.
Despite its perhaps misplaced nihilism (They may be few but there are contemporary scientists who write very good SF) `Galaxies' is a tour-de-force of public rebellion.
Shortly after this novel was published, Malzberg announced that he was giving up writing SF, and abandoned the genre.