REVIEW SUMMARY: Bring on the Li-Fi!
19 stories and one introduction attempting to reconcile mainstream
literature that’s science fiction and science fiction that’s accepted
by the mainstream.
PROS: A lot of well-written reprint stories, 5 of which were outstanding.
CONS: No outright bad story, but there were 3 which didn’t really entertain me as much as the others.
BOTTOM LINE: Terrific collection of stories featuring authors both the genre and non-genre readers wouldn’t have otherwise read.
In light of last week’s Mind Meld, nothing seems more apt than reviewing The Secret History of Science Fiction
edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. At first glance, the
selection of authors seem contrary: T.C. Boyle and Margaret Atwood for
example are authors whom we associate with the “we don’t write science
fiction” crowd. And then there’s the science fiction writers who’ve
been accepted by the mainstream (and by mainstream, I really mean the
literary): Ursula K. Le Guin, Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler. This
is, in many ways, the anthology that presents the best of both worlds:
the mainstream stories that are science fiction, and the science
fiction stories that have been accepted as literary.
We also shouldn’t forget the “History” is The Secret History of Science Fiction
as the book features stories from the past few decades, and are easily
some of the best stories from the included authors, such as “The Ones
Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Le Guin or “The Hardened Criminals” by
Jonathan Lethem. I really enjoyed a lot of the stories here, perhaps
because I’m the perfect target audience: someone who wants to reconcile
literary writing with genre (or tear down those borders as the case may
be). There’s less focus here on adventure and space opera elements, or
hard science fiction for that matter, but more on the human condition,
and how we see the world. Having said that, there’s a lot of enjoyable
stories here, but my personal favorites include:
- “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
- “Ladies and Gentlemen, This is your Crisis” by Kate Wilhelm
- “Homelanding” by Margaret Atwood
- “Interlocking Pieces” by Molly Gloss
- “The Ziggurat” by Gene Wolfe
Individual story reviews follow…