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Hard Reading:  Learning from Science Fiction

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Hard Reading: Learning from Science Fiction

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Author: Tom Shippey
Publisher: Liverpool University Press, 2016
Series: Liverpool SF Studies: Book 54

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

The fifteen essays collected in Hard Reading argue, first, that science fiction has its own internal rhetoric, relying on devices such as neologism, dialogism, semantic shifts, the use of unreliable narrators. It is a "high-information" genre which does not follow the Flaubertian ideal of le mot juste, "the right word", preferring le mot imprévisible, "the unpredictable word". Both ideals shun the facilior lectio, the "easy reading", but for different reasons and with different effects.

The essays argue further that science fiction derives much of its energy from engagement with vital intellectual issues in the "soft sciences", especially history, anthropology, the study of different cultures, with a strong bearing on politics. Both the rhetoric and the issues deserve to be taken much more seriously than they have been in academia, and in the wider world. Each essay is further prefaced by an autobiographical introduction. These explain how the essays came to be written and in what ways they (often) proved controversial. They, and the autobiographical introduction to the whole book, create between them a memoir of what it was like to be a committed fan, from teenage years, and also an academic struggling to find a place, at a time when a declared interest in science fiction and fantasy was the kiss of death for a career in the humanities.


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