The Science Fiction Novel



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by Robert A. Heinlein, C. M. Kornbluth, Alfred Bester, and Robert Bloch

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Imagination and Social Criticism

introduction by Basil Davenport

Based on a 1957 lecture series at the University of Chicago.

Does science fiction have any real effect as a force of social criticism? This question has been given much thought and discussion, but until the publication of this volume there was no definitive inquiry available in book form. Here are four sharply different analyses of the question: a positive "yes," a positive "no," a literate "maybe," and perhaps most surprising, a revealing look at the inner workings of an author.

These four broadly ranging essays by Robert A. Heinlein, C. M. Kornbluth, Alfred Bester, and Robert Bloch illuminate the successes and failures of science fiction considered as social criticism and as education for social change. Kornbluth's essay includes his famous explication of Orwell's 1984.

Above all, The Science Fiction Novel is entertaining as well as informative and useful. As Basil Davenport says in his introduction, "This book has given me the pleasure, all too rare since my college days, of being a book that I could argue with. No one can agree with all these papers, since they do not agree with each other; but where you disagree you will find yourself wanting to say exactly how far and why. That is my idea of a really stimulating and enjoyable book."

Table of Contents

  • Introduction by Basil Davenport "
  • Science Fiction: Its Nature, Faults and Virtues" by Robert A. Heinlein "
  • The Failure of the Science Fiction Novel as Social Criticism" by C. M. Kornbluth "
  • Science Fiction and the Renaissance Man" by Alfred Bester "
  • Imagination and Social Criticism" by Robert Bloch


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