University of Illinois Press

Modern Masters of Science Fiction

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Modern Masters of Science Fiction

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Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester's classic short stories and the canonical novel The Stars My Destination made him a science fiction legend. Fans and scholars praise him as a genre-bending pioneer and cyberpunk forefather. Writers like Neil Gaiman and William Gibson celebrate his prophetic vision and stylistic innovations. Jad Smith traces the career of the unlikeliest of SF icons. Winner of the first Hugo Award for The Demolished Man , Bester also worked in comics, radio, and TV, and his intermittent SF writing led some critics to brand him a dabbler. In the 1960s, however, New Wave writers championed his work, and his reputation grew. Smith follows Bester's journey from consummate outsider to an artist venerated for foundational works that influenced the New Wave and cyberpunk revolutions. He also explores the little-known roots of a wayward journey fueled by curiosity, disappointment with the SF mainstream, and an artist's determination to go his own way.

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Frederik Pohl

Michael R. Page

One of science fiction's undisputed grandmasters, Frederik Pohl built an astonishing career that spanned more than seven decades. In publishing novels, short stories, and essays, Pohl won millions of readers and seemingly as many awards while leaving a lasting mark on the genre. Michael R. Page traces Pohl's extraordinary journey from discovering books as a boy at the Brooklyn Public Library to publishing the novel All the Lives He Led at age 91. A first-of-its-kind study, Frederik Pohl delves into the iconic works of fiction like The Space Merchants , Jem , and the tales of the Gateway universe, as well as Pohl's creative alliances with the likes of Kornbluth, Clarke, and Asimov. But Page also examines Pohl's as-essential contributions in other areas. He represented many of the major SF writers as a literary agent in the 1940s and 1950s. He helped professionalize the field by midwifing SF publishing at Ballantine and Ace Books. Finally, while working at Galaxy and If , he aided countless careers as, in Gardner Dozois' words, "quite probably the best SF magazine editor who ever lived."

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Greg Egan

Karen Burnham

Greg Egan (1961- ) publishes works that challenge readers with rigorous, deeply-informed scientific speculation. He unapologetically delves into mathematics, physics, and other disciplines in his prose, putting him in the vanguard of the hard science fiction renaissance of the 1990s.A working physicist and engineer, Karen Burnham is uniquely positioned to provide an in-depth study of Egan's science-heavy oeuvre. Her survey of the author's career covers novels like Permutation City and Schild's Ladder and the Hugo Award-winning novella "Oceanic," analyzing how Egan used cutting-edge scientific theory to explore ethical questions and the nature of humanity. As Burnham shows, Egan's collected works constitute a bold artistic statement: that narratives of science are equal to those of poetry and drama, and that science holds a place in the human condition as exalted as religion or art.The volume includes a rare interview with the famously press-shy Egan covering his works, themes, intellectual interests, and thought processes.

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Gregory Benford

George Slusser

Gregory Benford is perhaps best known as the author of Benford's law of controversy: "Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available." That maxim is a quotation from Timescape, Benford's Nebula and Campbell Award-winning 1980 novel, which established his work as an exemplar of "hard science fiction," dedicated to working out the consequences of modern science rather than substituting pseudoscience for fantasy. An astrophysicist by training and profession, Benford has published more than twenty novels, over one hundred short stories, some fifty essays, and myriad articles that display both his scientific rigor as well as a recognition of literary traditions.In this study, George Slusser explores the extraordinary, seemingly inexhaustible display of creative energy in Gregory Benford's life and work. By identifying direct sources and making parallels with other works and writers, Slusser reveals the vast scope of Benford's knowledge, both of literature and of the major scientific and philosophical issues of our time. Slusser also discusses Benford's numerous scientific articles and nonfiction books and includes a new interview with Benford.

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Iain M. Banks

The 1987 publication of Iain M. Banks's Consider Phlebas helped trigger the British renaissance of radical hard science fiction and influenced a generation of New Space Opera masters. The thirteen SF novels that followed inspired an avid fandom and intense intellectual engagement while Banks's mainstream books vaulted him to the top of the Scottish literary scene. Paul Kincaid has written the first study of Iain M. Banks to explore the confluence of his SF and literary techniques and sensibilities. As Kincaid shows, the two powerful aspects of Banks's work flowed into each other, blurring a line that critics too often treat as clear-cut. Banks's gift for black humor and a honed skepticism regarding politics and religion found expression even as he orchestrated the vast, galaxy-spanning vistas in his novels of the Culture. In examining Banks's entire SF oeuvre, Kincaid unlocks the set of ideas Banks drew upon, ideas that spoke to an unusually varied readership that praised him as a visionary and reveled in the distinctive character of his works. Entertaining and broad in scope, Iain M. Banks offers new insights on one of the most admired figures in contemporary science fiction.

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John Brunner

Jad Smith

Under his own name and numerous pseudonyms, John Brunner (1934-1995) was one of the most prolific and influential science fiction authors of the late twentieth century. During his exemplary career, the British author wrote with a stamina matched by only a few other great science fiction writers and with a literary quality of even fewer, importing modernist techniques into his novels and stories and probing every major theme of his generation: robotics, racism, drugs, space exploration, technological warfare, and ecology._x000B__x000B_In this first intensive review of Brunner's life and works, Jad Smith carefully demonstrates how Brunner's much-neglected early fiction laid the foundation for his classic Stand on Zanzibar and other major works such as The Jagged Orbit, The Sheep Look Up, and The Shockwave Rider. Making extensive use of Brunner's letters, columns, speeches, and interviews published in fanzines, Smith approaches Brunner in the context of markets and trends that affected many writers of the time, including Brunner's uneasy association with the "New Wave" of science fiction in the 1960s and '70s. This landmark study shows how Brunner's attempts to cross-fertilize the American pulp tradition with British scientific romance complicated the distinctions between genre and mainstream fiction and between hard and soft science fiction and helped carve out space for emerging modes such as cyberpunk, slipstream, and biopunk. _x000B_

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Lois McMaster Bujold

Edward James

Readers have awarded Lois McMaster Bujold four Hugo Awards for Best Novel, a number matched only by Robert Heinlein. Her Vorkosigan series redefined space opera with its emotional depth and explorations of themes such as bias against the disabled, economic exploitation, and the role of women in society. Acclaimed science fiction scholar Edward James traces Bujold's career, showing how Bujold emerged from fanzine culture to win devoted male and female readers despite working in genres--military SF, space opera--perceived as solely by and for males. Devoted to old-school ideas such as faith in humanity and the desire to probe and do good in the universe, Bujold simultaneously subverted genre conventions and experimented with forms that led her in bold creative directions. As James shows, her iconic hero Miles Vorkosigan--unimposing, physically impaired, self-conscious to a fault--embodied Bujold's thematic concerns. The sheer humanity of her characters, meanwhile, gained her a legion of fans eager to provide her with feedback, expand her vision through fan fiction, and follow her into fantasy.

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Octavia E. Butler

I began writing about power because I had so little, Octavia E. Butler once said. Butler's life as an African American woman--an alien in American society and among science fiction writers--informed the powerful works that earned her an ardent readership and acclaim both inside and outside science fiction. Gerry Canavan offers a critical and holistic consideration of Butler's career. Drawing on Butler's personal papers, Canavan tracks the false starts, abandoned drafts, tireless rewrites, and real-life obstacles that fed Butler's frustrations and launched her triumphs. Canavan departs from other studies to approach Butler first and foremost as a science fiction writer working within, responding to, and reacting against the genre's particular canon. The result is an illuminating study of how an essential SF figure shaped themes, unconventional ideas, and an unflagging creative urge into brilliant works of fiction.

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Ray Bradbury

David Seed

As much as any individual, Ray Bradbury brought science fiction's ideas into the mainstream. Yet he transcended the genre in both form and popularity, using its trappings to explore timely social concerns and the kaleidoscope of human experience while in the process becoming one of America's most beloved authors. David Seed follows Bradbury's long career from the early short story masterpieces through his work in a wide variety of broadcast and film genres to the influential cultural commentary he spread via essays, speeches, and interviews. Mining Bradbury's classics and hard-to-find archival, literary, and cultural materials, Seed analyzes how the author's views on technology, authoritarianism, and censorship affected his art; how his Midwest of dream and dread brought his work to life; and the ways film and television influenced his creative process and visually oriented prose style. The result is a passionate statement on Bradbury's status as an essential literary writer deserving of a place in the cultural history of his time.

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William Gibson

Gary Westfahl

The leading figure in the development of cyberpunk, William Gibson (born in 1948) crafted works in which isolated humans explored near-future worlds of ubiquitous and intrusive computer technology and cybernetics. This volume is the first comprehensive examination of the award-winning author of the seminal novel Neuromancer (and the other books in the Sprawl trilogy, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive), as well as other acclaimed novels including recent bestsellers Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Renowned scholar Gary Westfahl draws upon extensive research to provide a compelling account of Gibson's writing career and his lasting influence in the science fiction world. Delving into numerous science fiction fanzines that the young Gibson contributed to and edited, Westfahl delivers new information about his childhood and adolescence. He describes for the first time more than eighty virtually unknown Gibson publications from his early years, including articles, reviews, poems, cartoons, letters, and a collaborative story. The book also documents the poems, articles, and introductions that Gibson has written for various books, and its discussions are enriched by illuminating comments from various print and online interviews. The works that made Gibson famous are also featured, as Westfahl performs extended analyses of Gibson's ten novels and nineteen short stories. Lastly, the book presents a new interview with Gibson in which the author discusses his correspondence with author Fritz Leiber, his relationship with the late scholar Susan Wood, his attitudes toward critics, his overall impact on the field of science fiction, and his recently completed screenplay and forthcoming novel.

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