Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy

by Gary Westfahl, George Slusser


Expert contributors discuss the marginalization of science fiction by literary critics and the tendency to exclude science fiction from the canon.

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January 2002


Pages 192
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics The Arts/General
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Science fiction occupies a peculiar place in the academic study of literature. For decades, scholars have looked at science fiction with disdain and have criticized it for being inferior to other types of literature. But despite the sentiments of these traditionalists, many works of science fiction engage recognized canonical texts, such as the Odyssey, and many traditionally canonical works contain elements of science fiction. More recently, the canon has been subject to revision, as scholars have deliberately sought to include works that reflect diversity and have participated in the serious study of popular culture. But these attempts to create a more inclusive canon have nonetheless continued to marginalize science fiction. This book examines the treatment of science fiction within the academy.

The expert contributors to this volume explore a wide range of topics related to the place of science fiction in literary studies. These include academic attitudes toward science fiction, the role of journals and cultural gatekeepers in canon formation, and the marginalization of specific works and authors by literary critics. In addition, the volume gives special attention to multicultural and feminist concerns. In discussing these topics, the book sheds considerable light on much broader issues related to the politics of literary studies and academic inquiry.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Gary WestfahlOverviews: Science Fiction and the AcademyLiterary Gatekeepers and the Fabril Tradition by Tom ShippeySeven Types of Chopped Liver: My Adventures in the Genre Wars by Frank McConnellThe Things Women Don't Say by Susan KrayWhy the Academy Is Afraid of Dragons: The Suppression of the Marvelous in Theories of the Fantastic by Jonathan LangfordMechanisms of CanonizationThe Arthur C. Clarke Award and Its Reception in Britain by Edward JamesPopes or Tropes: Defining the Grails of Science Fiction by Joseph D. MillerScience Fiction Eye and the Rebellion Against Recursion by Stephen P. BrownAuthority, Canons, and Scholarship: The Role of Academic Journals by Arthur B. EvansCase Studies in MarginalizationMulticulturalism and the Cultural Dynamics of Classic American Science Fiction by George SlusserScience Fiction in the Academies of History and Literature; Or, History and the Use of Science Fiction by Farah Mendlesohn(E)raced Visions: Women of Color and Science Fiction in the United States by Elyce Rae HelfordHard Magic, Soft Science: The Marginalization of Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason's Assemblers of Infinity and Bruce Boston's Stained Glass Rain by Howard V. HendrixWhite Men Can't...:(De)centering Authority and Jacking into Phallic Economies in William Gibson's Count Zero by Joseph Childers, Townsend Carr, and Regna Meenk



4 STARS—The Zone

This collection will be useful for anyone teaching or writing about science fiction. It could also offer food for thought to those who dismiss science fiction, but of course they are the people least likely to read it....[T]hese essays, taken together, form a genuine dialogue, with all the irriation involved in actually having to listen to the other side. No one will like more than half of them. But as collections go, that is not a bad average. Theeditors are to be commended for creating the space for a genuine exchange, something all too rare.—SFRA Review

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