Science Fiction Literature Through History: An Encyclopedia

Greenwood. 2 vols. Jul. 2021. 766p. ISBN 9781440866166. $204. REF
Westfahl (literature, Univ. of La Verne, CA; editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy) has written widely on science fiction, but his new guide consists of totally new content, beginning with a series of historical essays putting the genre in perspective—from “Science Fiction in the Ancient World and the Middle Ages” to “Science Fiction in the Twenty-First Century.” These are followed by thematic essays about the natural sciences and science fiction; literature, films, and television; fine art and graphic novels; gender and sexuality; racial issues in the genre; global science fiction; and more. Alphabetical entries, which comprise the bulk of the two-volume set, discuss authors of science fiction (Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler, Olaf Stapledon, Roger Zelazny); writers outside the genre who significantly influenced the form (Aristophanes, Franz Kafka, William Shakespeare); subgenres (Black science fiction, gay and lesbian science fiction, space opera, steampunk); particular motifs (androids, extraterrestrial worlds, virtual reality, zombies); and major works (novels Flatland and A Canticle for Leibowitz, TV program Doctor Who, and sci-fi predecessors The Divine Comedy, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and The Odyssey). Entries often include boxed sidebars and brief interviews with many of the living authors.
VERDICT Although there are other similar guides to science fiction (from Routledge and Cambridge, for example), Westfahl’s clear and lively presentation and comprehensive knowledge and background will appeal to fans of the genre, as well as students (middle school through college) who are researching specific sci-fi authors, works, or themes.
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