The Inter-Galactic Playground

A Critical Study of Children’s and Teens’ Science Fiction


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About the Book

Science fiction is often considered the genre of ideas and imagination, which would seem to make it ideal for juveniles and young adults; however, the ideas are often dispensed by adults. This book considers the development of science fiction for children and teens between 1950 and 2010, exploring why it differs from science fiction aimed at adults. In a broader sense, this critical examination of 400 texts sheds light on changing attitudes toward children and teenagers, toward science education, and toward the authors’ expectations and sociological views of their audience.

About the Author(s)

Farah Mendlesohn teaches science fiction and fantasy literature at Middlesex University in London.

Bibliographic Details

Farah Mendlesohn. Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 283
Bibliographic Info: appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3503-6
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii

Introduction      1

1. What Do We Mean When We Say “Science Fiction”?      9

2. Red Herrings and Living-Room Elephants: How We Understand Children and Children’s Reading      22

3. Science, Information Density and the SF Reader      49

4. Trajectories and Periodicity: Expectations of the Child in Science Fiction      83

5. Socialization and the Gendered (Future) Society      112

6. You Gotta Have a Theme; or, the Paucity of Plots      135

7. Best Practice Now      175

Appendix A. Index to Out of this World      199

Appendix B. The Survey Questionnaire      203

Appendix C. Analysis of the Survey, by Zara Baxter and Farah Mendlesohn      205

Appendix D. The Golden Age of Science Fiction Is Three: Science Fiction Picture Books      228

Chapter Notes      243

Bibliography      249

Index      263

Book Reviews & Awards

“an important evaluation of a mostly overlooked aspect of science fiction…recommended”—Choice; “there is so much to like about Farah Mendlesohn”s new book on science fiction for children and teens that it is hard to know where to begin: with her thesis (which is original and important), her research (which is well-informed and extensive)…(which are timely and necessary)…a valuable contribution to the field”—Science Fiction Studies; “Very extensive range of books discussed…essential…the treatment of gender is particularly interesting…very readable, combining critical flair with individual and often original perceptions”—Pat Pinsent, National Centre for Research in Children’s Literature, Roehampton University; “Following the recent resurgence in quality science fiction for young people, The Inter-Galactic Playground is a timely re-evaluation of a misunderstood sub-genre…passionately argued and jargon-free.”—Stephen Baxter, author of H-Bomb Girl; “If there’s anything you want to know about science fiction for children and young adults, you will find it here. Mendlesohn is a tireless researcher and an engaging writer.”—Pat Cadigan, winner of Arthur C. Clarke Award; “Thoughtful and carefully detailed…reveals how culturally powerful assumptions about children and about the nature and purpose of their literature have led writers of science fiction for young audiences over the last half-century to reshape, undermine, and subvert the key themes, structures and ideological biases most often found in science fiction intended for adults…has much to teach anyone interested in the conventions of children’s and young adult literature.”—Perry Nodelman; author of The Pleasures of Children’s Literature; “Combines reader surveys, extensive literature review, and a distillation of the fights waged on kids-literature mailing lists, synthesizing them into a deep, intelligent, and engrossing read.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother.