Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Golden Age of Science Fiction edited by Kingsely Amis

Amis in 1960, by Terence Donnovan.
Next up is this impressive anthology, first published in 1981. Amis contends in his introduction that SF-proper ended in 1960, and everything since then has been without merit. That’s obviously not quite right – Philip K Dick! – but he’s not necessarily wrong, given his own frame of reference about what counts as SF. And certainly by the mid-70s things were looking a bit tired. The battering ram of Star Wars seemed to drive all serious SF out of the market, while the cutting edge of the genre were heading off into the fringes of main stream post-modernism.

What Amis didn’t know, of course, is cyberpunk. This volume’s publication corresponds with the first publication of Willaim Gibson’s story ‘The Gernsback Continuum’, the first story in the Mirrorshades anthology. While Amis despairs about the end of the genre in his introduction, the genre was about to get one of its most important and enduring kicks up the arse from Bruce Sterling and co. Far from disappearing, the genre was about to enter one of its most influential phases.

So, that’s got to be a fair warning that anyone who declares science fiction a dead end should be prepared to be proved wrong pretty quickly. If so then I’ll happily eat my words. I think you’ll find, though, that when it comes I will have defined all the terms carefully enough to ensure that argument is impossible without addressing the veracity of fundamental physical laws and historical fact.

In the meantime, I’m going to read and review the stories before I write about the introduction. I realise I also owe you final words on the History of the Science Fiction vol 3. That might have to wait for my quarterly review, which is coming up soon. So sit tight and enjoy the stories. 

You can buy this volume quite cheaply on amazon if you want to read along:

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