Science fiction is one of the twentieth century's most characteristic - and dominant - literary forms. Despite critical disparagement and misunderstanding it has established itself at the heart of popular literary culture and its readers are now numbered in millions worldwide. In all its many variations, science fiction can be seen as a prominent example of 'fabril' literature - urban, disruptive, future-oriented, eager for novelty - whose central image is the 'faber' (the smith or blacksmith in older usage), extended in science fiction to mean the creator of artefacts in general: metallic, crystalline, genetic, or even social. In the quest for a respectable ancestry for SF, commentators have pointed to a range of precursors from More's Utopia of 1516 to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818). But the critical historical moment came in the late nineteenth century, when the early stories of H. G. Wells began to appear against a recent background of popular 'scientific romances'. Beginning with Wells's story 'The Land Ironclads' of 1903, Tom Shippey's selection charts the development of science fiction in the twentieth century through a wide range of practitioners - well-known figures (Rudyard Kipling, Arthur C. Clarke, Frederik Pohl, Brian Aldiss, Ursula Le Guin, J. G. Ballard, and Harry Harrison) as well as less familiar writers, and also the most recent arrivals of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Bruce Sterling, Paul McAuley, and David Brin. Taken together, the 30 stories assembled here offer a potent blend of familiar landmarks juxtaposed with more elusive examples that even devotees may have missed. In a stimulating introduction, Professor Shippey analyses the main lines of thematic and technical development of SF over the last 90 years. The result is an outstanding anthology that will appeal to established science fiction readers as well as to students and other readers coming to the form for the first time.
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Used availability for Tom Shippey's The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories
February 2003 : UK Paperback