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The dreams our stuff is made of : how science fiction conquered the world
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684859785, Paperback)In The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, Thomas Disch does for science fiction what he did for poetry in The Castle of Indolence. First, he treats it not as a playground for idle dreamers, but as a branch of serious literature with significant cultural impact. Second, he brings the perspective of a seasoned practitioner to bear in separating the wheat from the chaff.
For example, if you ever wanted to know why L. Ron Hubbard managed to start a cult but Philip K. Dick didn't, Disch is your man. Beginning with Edgar Allan Poe, Disch elaborates a vision of science fiction as one of the twentieth century's most influential manifestations of America as a culture of liars. Among the frauds are the alien abduction stories of Whitley Strieber, the sadomasochistic dominance fantasies of John Norman, and the co-opting of cyberpunk by postmodern academics and avant-gardists trying to stay hip.
Disch plays very few favorites, and when ideology gets in the way of good writing, it doesn't matter what side you're on. Subliterary feminist fantasies of matriarchial utopias get slammed just as hard as subliterary conservative militaristic wet dreams. Not even one of sci-fi's most beloved Grand Masters, Robert Heinlein, is unimpeachable; Disch correctly nails Heinlein on his consistent sexism and racism, as well as his gradual descent into solipsism. One of Heinlein's last novels, The Number of the Beast, is described as "the freakout to which [Heinlein]'s entitled as a good American, whose right to lie is protected by the Constitution."
What does Disch like? For starters: Philip K. Dick, the British New Wave as exemplified by J. G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, and Joe Haldeman's Hugo- and Nebula-winning The Forever War, described as being "to the Vietnam War what Catch-22 was to World War II," and which he believes deserved a Pulitzer as well.
Disch may confirm your suspicions, or he may raise every last one of your hackles. But one thing this book will definitely not do is bore you.
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 17 Jan 2013 12:30:48 -0500)
From science fiction writer Thomas M. Disch comes The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a perceptive account of the impact science fiction has had on American culture. Disch provides a view of this world and its inhabitants, tracing science fiction's phenomenal growth into the multibillion-dollar global entertainment industry it is today. From the protoscience-fiction tales of Edgar Allen Poe, to the utopian dreams and technological nightmares of European writers H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and J. G. Ballard, to American conservatives Robert Heinlein and Jerry Pournelle, liberals Joe Haldemann and Ursula le Guin, flakes William Burroughs and Philip K. Dick, and outright charlatans Ignatius Donnelly and various UFO "witnesses," Disch emphasizes science fiction's cultural role as both a lens and a medium for the very rapid changes driven by modern technology, highlighting its powers of prediction and prevarication.
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