Modern Science Fiction: A Critical Analysis

The Seminal 1951 Thesis, with a New Introduction and Commentary


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About the Book

James Gunn—one of the founding figures of science fiction scholarship and teaching—wrote in 1951 what is likely the first master’s thesis on modern science fiction. Portions were in the short-lived pulp magazine Dynamic but it has otherwise remained unavailable. Here in its first full publication, the thesis explores many of the classic Golden Age stories of the 1940s and the critical perspective that informed Gunn’s essential genre history Alternate Worlds and his anthology series The Road to Science Fiction. The editor’s introduction and commentary show the historical significance of Gunn’s work and its relevance to today’s science fiction studies.

About the Author(s)

The late James Gunn was emeritus professor of English at the University of Kansas and the author or editor of 45 books and 100+ short stories. A former president of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Science Fiction Research Association, he received their lifetime awards and induction into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. He lived in Lawrence, Kansas.

Michael R. Page is a lecturer in the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Bibliographic Details

James Gunn

Edited by Michael R. Page

Foreword by Gary K. Wolfe

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7319-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3237-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword  Gary K. Wolfe 1
Preface: “When Modern Science Fiction Was Modern”  James Gunn 5
Editor’s Introduction  Michael R. Page 9
Modern Science Fiction: A Critical Analysis by James Gunn

Introduction 34
Part One—“Some of Us Are Looking at the Stars”: The Philosophy of Science Fiction 37
Part Two: “Through Caverns Measureless to Man”: The Plot Forms of Science Fiction 60

Section One: Plots of Circumstance 65
Chapter One: A Being in an Alien Environment 66
Chapter Two: Modern Man in the Modern World 91
Chapter Three: A Past Being in the Past 111
Chapter Four: A Future Being in a Future World 114
Chapter Five: Mutations 121
Conclusion to Plots of Circumstance 133

Section Two: Plots of Creation 134
Chapter One: The Creation of New Life or New Forms Thereof 137
Chapter Two: Experimentation in Other Fields 157
Conclusion 163

Appendix: Distribution Chart 167
Chapter Notes  Michael R. Page 169
Bibliography 183
Fiction Works Cited  James Gunn 183
Critical Works Cited  James Gunn 188
Works Cited in Editor’s Introduction  Michael R. Page 188
Index 197