Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
All right. So.
The only true way to tackle a book like this is to write a book on the book and then bring up ALL the books that are booked about in this book and then book it right up to heaven so I can complain about all the injustices Aldiss booked on some of my favorite books and then complain that he didn't stay consistent but when he's being mean he's actually being funny and then I turn around and go back to liking this book and then after I come back to life I'm going to have to sip my tea and start wondering when the hell I'm going to start writing this theoretical book on books in a way that won't kill me because there are SO MANY BOOKS.
Or I could just say that if I were to begin a class on the history of science fiction, I could do much, much worse than to start with this, work chapter by chapter through it, and have massive discussions on what Aldis got right and what is HEAVILY SUSPECT and what is just plain dismissive fantasy.
That's probably the best way to tackle this one.
Consider this: he does a very credible job breaking down the origins of science fiction including the obvious titles that are science fiction without having this sobriquet of science fiction attached to it. Like Frankenstein. That's an obvious one that deserves all the praise. Moving on through Verne and Wells and a ton of other tomes like Gulliver's Travels is also a no-brainer. It's generally when we get to the later chapters about the Gernsbeckian ghettos that he makes a fairly valid case that it's all trash that I want to hem and haw. And then there are the Campbellians and the push to bring real science to the stage which is definitely a step up but tended to stifle creativity. Also a fairly valid case. And then there was New Wave and New Worlds eras of counter-revolution and counter-counter revolution SF and I don't really mind that so much, but when Aldis shits on Dune, only to later praise hit heavily, and then shit on it some more, then I start setting up my lasgun remotely to fire upon his shield.
And then there was the Asimov discussion/poopbucket. Or the Heinlein discussion/poopbucket. Or the Clarkain discussion/poopbucket.
Let me say this. I appreciate the discussion. I appreciate the wonderful effort put into really laying it all out and then coming back for second and third helpings, showing us so much of the good along with the bad, and I want to thank Professor Aldis for giving this masterwork class on SF, but respectfully, professor, you totally half-assed some of these greats and you absolutely half-assed the 80s and I'm even more pissed that there was never a Quadrillion Year Spree or a Googleplex Year Spree because all of this discussion is a GOOD THING and we need a really good breakdown of the gaints of the 80s, too, and the 90s. And the oughts. And the teens.
I've read almost every book (not all that much of the golden age SF stories, because they're mostly trash) in this book so I can really keep up a really good conversation about this, but here's the thing: most of the old and middle guard are gone now. It's only people like me who actively go back to try to fill in his knowledge of the old ones that keep them alive.
This makes me unutterably sad. There's so much greatness still out there and Aldis MAY have been a bit harsh on a few of them. Or maybe he was a bit too soft on others. The fact is, this is a discussion we should all still be having. Not everything old is crap. Indeed, a lot of it is still much, much greater than a lot of the crap we have now. :)
I know, because I keep reading both.
Worth taking as gospel?
But the alternative is death to my favorite genre, folks... warts and all.
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