The Stuff of Science Fiction

Hardware, Settings, Characters

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About the Book

While students and general readers typically cannot relate to esoteric definitions of science fiction, they readily understand the genre as a literature that characteristically deals with subjects such as new inventions, space, robot and aliens. This book looks at science fiction in precisely this manner, with twenty-one chapters that each deal with a subject that is repeatedly addressed in science fiction of recent centuries. Based on a packet of original essays that the author assembled for his classes, the book could serve as a supplemental textbook in science fiction classes, but also contains material of interest to science fiction scholars and others devoted to the genre.
In some cases, chapters offer thorough surveys of numerous works involving certain subjects, such as imagined vehicles, journeys beneath the Earth and undersea adventures, discovering intriguing patterns in the ways that various writers developed their ideas. When comprehensive coverage of ubiquitous topics such as robots, aliens and the planet Mars is impossible, chapters focus on major themes referencing selected texts. A conclusion discusses other science fiction subjects that were omitted for various reasons, and a bibliography lists additional resources for the study of science fiction in general and the topics of each chapter.

About the Author(s)

Gary Westfahl, a professor emeritus at the University of La Verne, California, has authored, edited, or co-edited 31 books about science fiction and fantasy, and hundreds of articles and reviews. In 2003, he received the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for his lifetime contributions to science fiction and fantasy scholarship.

Bibliographic Details

Gary Westfahl
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 297
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8659-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4695-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Introduction 1

The Hardware of Science Fiction

Machines—Our Machines, Ourselves: The Objects of Science Fiction 3
Weapons—Fifty Ways to Kill Your Lover: The Weapons of Science Fiction 11
Vehicles—Going Mobile: Advanced Vehicles in Science Fiction 22
Spaceships—Rockets to Ride: The Spaceships of Science Fiction 41
Monuments and Memorabilia—Messages to the Future, Intended and Unintended, in Fact and Fiction 51

The Settings of Science Fiction

Under the Earth—Homes, Horrors, and History: Subterranean Science Fiction 63
Under the Sea—Water, Water, Only Occasionally Everywhere: Aquatic Science Fiction 74
The Past and Future—Time Out of Mind: Journeys through Time in Science Fiction 86
Future Earths—The (Mostly Unpleasant) Fate of the Earth 96
Outer Space—The Frightful Frontier: Space as a Setting in Science Fiction 113
Space Stations—Space Stations, in Fact and Fiction 129
The Moon—Humanity’s Inviting, and Forbidding, Nearest Neighbor 134
Mars—Reading Mars: Changing Images of the Red Planet 146
Venus—Venus of Dreams … and Nightmares: Changing Images of Earth’s Sister Planet 164

The Characters of Science Fiction

Children—The Boys (and Girls) Who Would Be King: The Children of Wonder 175
Scientists—Alchemists, Athletes, and Achievers: Three Images of Scientists in Science Fiction 181
Superheroes—The Gods Next Door: Superheroes as Reflections of American Values 189
Animals and Plants—Our Alien Neighbors and Their DisTable of Contents 195
Future Humans—The Way We Will Be, and the Way We Are: Tomorrow’s Humanity
and Today’s Humanity 211
Robots—Eying Robots: A Discussion of the Literature of Artificial Intelligence 217
Aliens—The Company We Seek: Aliens in Fact and Fiction 227

Conclusion 235
Bibliography 239
Index 255

Book Reviews & Awards

“Fascinating and thought-provoking…unreservedly recommended”—Midwest Book Review