The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science

Collected Essays on SF Storytelling and the Gnostic Imagination


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About the Book

A member of the Pulitzer Prize jury, the late Frank McConnell helped science fiction gain standing as serious literature. His 16 essays herein were first presented as papers at the prestigious Eaton Conferences. Initially believing that science fiction is primarily one of many forms of storytelling, McConnell gradually recognized science fiction as a modern expression of Gnosticism, rejecting bodily concerns for an emphasis on spirituality.

About the Author(s)

Frank McConnell (1942–1999) was a professor of English at Northwestern University and the University of California, Santa Barbara. He wrote a regular column on the media for Commonweal magazine, and his voluminous body of work included four detective novels and a number of academic books.

Gary Westfahl retired from the University of California, Riverside, is an adjunct professor at the University of La Verne. He earned the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for his lifetime contributions to science fiction and fantasy scholarship and is the author, editor, or coeditor of more than 20 books about science fiction and fantasy.

Bibliographic Details

Frank McConnell

Edited by Gary Westfahl

Foreword by Neil Gaiman

Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3722-1
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Foreword by Neil Gaiman      1
Introduction by Gary Westfahl      5

I. Frank McConnell B.C.E. (Before Coming to Eaton)      9
1. Born in Fire: The Ontology of the Monster      11
2. Song of Innocence: The Creature from the Black Lagoon      18
3. H.G. Wells: Utopia and Doomsday      29
4. Realist of the Fantastic: H.G. Wells about/in/on the Movies      37

II. Slouching Toward Bedlam: The Early Eaton Essays      47
5. Sturgeon’s Law: First Corollary      48
6. Boring Dates: Reflections on the Apocalypse Game      57
7. Frames in Search of a Genre      63
8. From Astarte to Barbie and Beyond: The Serious History of Dolls      74
9. The Playing Fields of Eden      82
10. It’s Only a Paper Moon: Fantasy and the Professors      91
11. “Turn That Shit Down!” Or, How to Market an Underground      102

III. Gnostic Lunch: The Later Eaton Essays      111
12. Alimentary, My Dear Watson: Food and Eating in Scientific and Mystery Fiction      112
13. You Bet Your Life: Death and the Storyteller      124
14. Seven Types of Chopped Liver: My Adventures in the Genre Wars      132
15. The Missionary Physician, from Asclepius to Kervorkian      146
16. The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science: A Storytelling Animal in an Inhospitable World      155

Epilogue: Memories of Frank      164
Paul Alkon      164
Gregory Benford      166
Harold Bloom      167
Sheila Finch      167
Carl Freedman      168
Howard V. Hendrix      169
Bruce Kawin      172
Joseph D. Miller      173
Eric S. Rabkin      175
Mark Rose      177
George Slusser      178

Chapter Notes      181
A Bibliography of the Works of Frank McConnell      187
A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Works Cited in the Text      201
Index      213

Book Reviews & Awards

“excellent”—Science Fiction Studies.