The Secret History of Science Fiction. (James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel eds, Tachyon 2009)

There are a couple of anthologies I’ve bought of late with the intention of reading quite quickly, and which are slipping further and further down my priority list. Not on account of the quality of the stories therein, but primarily that most of the stories in them are reprints, and I want to prioritise new stories.

The first of these has a very interesting premise behind the selection of stories for it – an essay by Jonathan Lethem in 1998 which pondered the impact of Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘Rendezvous with Rama’ winning the Nebula ahead of Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’. Had the latter won, might the SF landscape be a more literary one than it is now, more mainstream rather than being perceived as nerdy? So Kelly and Kessel have put together a collection of unashamedly literary SF, and the collection features:

Thomas M. Disch – ‘Angouelme’

Ursula K. Le Guin – ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omelas’

Kate Wilhelm – ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Crisis’

T.C. Boyle – ‘Descent of Man’

Don DeLillo – ‘Human Moments in World War III’

Margaret Atwood – ‘Homelanding’

Carter Scholz – ‘The Nine Billion Names of God’

Molly Gloss – ‘Interlocking Pieces’

Lucius Shepard – ‘Salvador’

Connie Willis – ‘Schwarzchild Radius’

John Kessel ‘ ‘Buddha Nostril Bird’

Gene Wolfe – ‘The Ziggurat’

Jonathan Lethem – ‘The Hardened Criminals’

Karen Joy Fowler – ‘Standing Room Only’

James Patrick Kelly – ’10(16) to 1′

George Saunders – ‘93990’

Michael Chabon – ‘The Martian Agent, a Planetary Romance’

Maureen F. McHugh – ‘Frankenstein’s Daughter’

Steven Millhauser – ‘The Wizard of West Orange’.

I’ve read a number of these stories, and have strong memoroies of them being of high quality, but I’m going to save this volume for a leisurely, thoughtful read. Check back in 2025 when I retire…

In the meantime of course, get a hold of a copy yourself!

amazon.com | amazon.co.uk

One thought on “The Secret History of Science Fiction. (James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel eds, Tachyon 2009)

  • July 25, 2010 at 8:49 am
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    This is indeed an intriguing premise for an anthology, and I picked up an electronic copy, but mine has also ended up on the backburner, with a torrent of new books coming in.

    I did read the opening story by Thomas M. Disch, which is set in a future New York, and it’s quite interesting, with a typically “literary” enigmatic, open-ended closure.

    And the next story, by Ursula K. Le Guin, is quite famous, though probably fantasy rather than SF. One or two other stories are also quite well known, but on the whole, there’s an enticing mix of relatively unknown stories for which one really ought to make time someday …

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