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The Mechanics of Wonder:  The Creation of the Idea in Science Fiction

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The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea in Science Fiction

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Author: Gary Westfahl
Publisher: Liverpool University Press, 1998
Series: Liverpool SF Studies: Book 15

1. Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future
2. Anticipations
3. Utopian and Science Fiction by Women
4. The Detached Retina
5. Charlotte Perkins Gilman
6. Shadows of the Future
7. Tales of the Next Great War, 1871-1914
9. Female Rule in Chinese and English Literary Utopias
10. Look at the Evidence
11. The Angle Between Two Walls
12. The Great War with Germany, 1890-1914
13. View From Another Shore
14. Very Different Story
15. The Mechanics of Wonder
16. Deconstructing the Starships
17. Learning from Other Worlds
18. Demand My Writing
19. Narrating Utopia
20. Jules Verne
21. Speaking Science Fiction
22. Alien Plots
23. Ramsey Campbell and Modern Horror Fiction
24. The Time Machines
25. Communities of the Heart
26. Philip K Dick
27. A Dreamer and a Visionary
28. Rumors of War and Infernal Machines
29. Attending Daedalus
30. Transformations
31. The Country You Have Never Seen
32. Visions and Revisions
33. Shadows of the New Sun
34. Gateways To Forever
35. Science Fiction and Empire
36. H. G. Wells, Modernity and the Movies
37. Queer Universes
38. Plan for Chaos
39. Animal Alterity
40. Race, Ethnicity and Nuclear War
41. Gothic Science Fiction
42. Future Wars
43. Solar Flares
44. Locating Science Fiction
45. Singularities
46. Stanislaw Lem
47. The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film
48. Irish Science Fiction
49. Lemography
50. Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics
51. Stanislaw Lem
52. Science Fiction Double Feature
53. Science Fiction Rebels
54. Hard Reading
55. Terraforming
56. Biopunk Dystopias
57. Excavating the Future
58. Sport and Monstrosity in Science Fiction
59. Sideways in Time
60. Dread Trident
61. Final Frontiers
62. Science Fiction and Psychology
63. Science Fiction and Climate Change
64. Biology and Manners
66. Futuristic Cars and Space Bicycles
67. Fighting for the Future

Book Type: Non-Fiction
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

This is a sustained argument about the idea of science fiction by a renowned critic. Overturning many received opinions, it is both controversial and stimulating

Much of the controversy arises from Westfahl's resurrection of Hugo Gernsback - for decades a largely derided figure - as the true creator of science fiction. Following an initial demolition of earlier critics, Westfahl argues for Gernsback's importance. His argument is fully documented, showing a much greater familiarity with early American science fiction, particularly magazine fiction, than previous academic critics or historians. After his initial chapters on Gernsback, he examines the way in which the Gernsback tradition was adopted and modified by later magazine editors and early critics. This involves a re-evaluation of the importance of John W. Campbell to the history of science fiction as well as a very interesting critique of Robert Heinlein's Beyond the Horizon, one the seminal texts of American science fiction. In conclusion, Westfahl uses the theories of Gernsback and Campbell to develop a descriptive definition of science fiction and he explores the ramifications of that definition.

The Mechanics of Wonder will arouse debate and force the questioning of presuppositions. No other book so closely examines the origins and development of the idea of science fiction, and it will stand among a small number of crucial texts with which every science fiction scholar or prospective science fiction scholar will have to read.


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