If you’re still looking for a reading strategy for the new year, might I suggest reading a science fiction story a week? The best way to do this is to get “The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction” ( Wesleyan University Press: 767 pp., $39.95 paper), which conveniently offers 52 stories for your 2011 self-improvement regimen. It’s more than just an ideal survey of the genre, reaching from the 19th century (Hawthorne, Verne, Wells) through the pulps, new wave, cyberpunk and the too-soon-to-classify morsels of the decade that just ended. This big book is both a thrilling entertainment and a convincing argument for the way SF can refresh the mind, play boldly with form and reflect its era creatively — in other words, what all good literature should do.
Put together by the editors of the academic journal Science Fiction Studies, the Wesleyan anthology has a hand-holding function, beckoning those who might still sniff at the genre to take a closer look. (Hey, E.M. Forster’s in here — nothing to be afraid of!) Individual introductions give useful biographical information and connect each story to what’s called the “sf megatext,” a “fictive universe that includes all the sf stories that have ever been told … a place of shared images, situations, plots, characters, settings, and themes generated across a multiplicity of media.”
But for maximum enjoyment, just jump in. You might hit Kate Wilhelm’s “Forever Yours, Anna” (1987) or Robert A. Heinlein’s “All You Zombies — “(1959), two extremely satisfying time-travel excursions; or Frederick Pohl’s “Day Million” (1966), which levels a weirdly withering (yet exciting) tone at the modern reader: “Oh, I can see you now, you eaters of charcoal-broiled steak, scratching an incipient bunion with one hand and holding this story with the other.… You don’t believe a word of it, do you?” There are gems from giants…
THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST
— Ed Park
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