fjm (fjm) wrote in nonficawards,

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction (part one).

2009. ed. Bould, Butler, Roberts, Vint.

The problem with this book is that most of the potential reviewers are actually in it. The few people who aren't have been snaffled by Proper review sites. Given that, I decided to blog it, but it's a big book, and a quick perusal of it suggests I may well end up responding to each of its four sections very differently. So I'm going to post it section by section. As I go away next week, and it’s a heavy book, there may be a big gap between 2 and 3. Feel free to step in and relieve me of my task :-)

Part One is "History" and it does what it says on the tin. Each of the chapters, take us through some aspect of the history of the genre working from the seventeenth century up to the present day (and I will permit myself a small smirk of the irony of this section beginning with Adam Roberts and ending with Paul Kincaid, given that neither is keen on the other's take on sf-but that eclecticism of approach is one of the section's strengths).

Things I liked:

a) the chapters alternate between "fiction" (which given the rest of the categories might have been better labelled "written word" but I accept that is pretentious) film, tv and comics. This renders the omission of radio odder than it might. I'm well aware of the space issue of any book but it does leave a couple of historical gaps: Journey Into Space is not mentioned, and if you trusted this book you'd think Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy began life as a paperback (it isn't listed as radio even in the index). But despite that omission the divisions work very well indeed and solve a number of major problems about modes of criticism. It also enables the editors and authors to use different periodicities. The comics time-line periods do not have to match those of the films for example.

b) the editors have allowed authors to keep their voice. Maybe I'm feeling a bit more sensitive about this than usual, having had a couple of bad experiences last year, but it's nice to hear individual crankinesses, and it prevents a book which has the potential to become a bit exhausting from being too relentless.

c). I particularly liked Brooks Landon on SF tourism and Jim Casey on Silver Age comics.

Things I wasn’t so happy about:

a)the usual sense of needing a cattle prod where the issue of women was concerned. The editors have done a good job of making sure that the likes of Helen Merrick are issuing correctives, but I’m really tired of hearing people fixated on the innovations of the New wave telling me that the 1970s were dull. Only if one was ignoring all the feminists and the queer writers and the writers of colour m’lud.

b) The decision not to list primary texts in the works cited. I know it’s standard, but in a work of this kind where people might go to look up primary texts, it’s disempowering.

c) Lincoln Geraghty’s chapter on Television since 1980 which is dominated by Star trek both in terms of content, and as a filter through which everything else is strained. It's a good chapter in terms of what it does, but what it does isn't what I wanted from that chapter.

d) the tendency of too many of the chapters to forget that there is more to sf than English language sf. There isn't very much about French sf cinema after the early chapters, just for example. Peter Wright's chapter on film and tv, 1960-80 waits until the last page and a half to get through Japan, Mexico, Western Europe and Eastern Europe. I know it's tough given the space, but this was a bit extreme. (ps. tip to writers generally, do not leave what you know least about to the end, it means the article will always feel it's tailing off. Put the weak stuff early and them move on.)

Part Two is "Theory"... I have my anthihistamine ready [g].

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