In what N. Katherine Hayles describes as "this enormously ambitious posthumous volume," renowned scholar George Slusser offers a definitive version of the argument about the history of science fiction that he developed throughout his career: that several important ideas and texts, routinely overlooked in other critical studies, made significant contributions to the creation of modern science fiction as it developed into a truly global literature. He explores how key thinkers like René Descartes, Benjamin Constant, Thomas DeQuincey, Guy du Maupassant, J.D. Bernal, and Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced and are reflected in twentieth-century science fiction stories from the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Poland, and Russia. The conclusion begins with Slusser’s overview of global science fiction in the twenty-first century and discusses recent developments in countries like China, Romania, and Israel. Hayles’s foreword provides a useful summation of the book’s contents, while science fiction writer Gregory Benford contributes an afterword providing a personal perspective on the life and thoughts of his longtime friend. The book was edited by Slusser’s former colleague Gary Westfahl, a distinguished scholar in his own right.
George Slusser was professor of comparative literature and curator of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, at the University of California, Riverside.
Gary Westfahl is professor emeritus at the University of La Verne.
Foreword: A Novel Method for Constructing Science Fiction’s Origins
by N. Katherine Hayles
Notes on the Text
by Gary Westfahl
Introduction: Science Fiction:
Toward a World Literature
The Paradigms of Science Fiction
Fraternal Frontiers: Defining a Space for Literature
Future Liberty: Nineteenth Century Horizons
Extending the Mind Circle: DeQuincey’s English Mail Coach
Genre at the Crossroads: Cultural Readings of Maupassant’s “Le Horla”
Bernal’s Masterplot and the Transhuman Promise
Each Man Is an Island: The Legacy of Emerson’s Golden Age
The Fortunes of Science Fiction
Afterword: Knowing George
by Gregory Benford
A Brief Bibliography of the Works of George Slusser
I applaud George Slusser’s expansive efforts to see outside the generic box in terms of broadening science fiction to encompass world literature. Science Fiction: Toward a World Literature is newly remarkable because Gary Westfahl rescued his deceased mentor’s work and infused it with life. Slusser’s bold vision of science fiction as rightfully global literature currently underscores that every science fiction scholar is present on the planet for a limited time. Westfahl addresses the science fiction scholarly community’s cohesiveness. He assures us that when we are no longer on Earth our books will be remembered—and our memory will be cherished.
Who but George Slusser would have had the command of languages, literature, and theory to attempt this book’s audacious project? Using the concept of ‘paradigm shifts’ that Thomas Kuhn applied to revolutions in science, Slusser explores the origins and global significance of that modern cultural phenomenon we call ‘science fiction.’ You may argue with the overarching theory, but you will marvel at, and enjoy, his deep and provocative readings of the texts.
George Slusser’s posthumously published volume is a remarkable and ambitious attempt to trace the development of science fiction, undertaken with an impressively wide familiarity with many different texts and literary traditions. Both those who agree with Slusser’s general viewpoint and those who do not will find it an informative and challenging work. Edited from Slusser’s unpublished material by his longtime colleague Gary Westfahl, and graced with a penetrating critical introduction by N. Katherine Hayles and a personal memoir by Gregory Benford, this book deserves a place on the shelves of everyone seriously interested in science fiction.
George Slusser’s book is a very welcome and uniquely ambitious contribution to science-fiction studies. It offers not only a valuable corrective to the traditional Anglophone histories, but also stretches out intellectually to consider the nature of fiction, and the impact of science on modern mentality. This is a book which can be read with profit by all critics of literature, whatever the genre.
Online supplemental text available to view for Science Fiction: Toward a World Literature by George Slusser.
A Bibliography of the Works of George Slusser