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These eleven essays originated as a lecture series at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, part of what must have been (judging by the present volume) one of the most rousing science fiction festivals in the history of such events. Perhaps the most eloquent contribution is Ursula K. Le Guin's case for a sci-fi that will consider itself responsible for and to Virginia Woolf's ""Mrs. Brown""--the irreducible, elusive human creature who is so easily lost among gadgets and galaxies. John Brunner vigorously charts the wilderness of parascientific fads, pseudo-facts, and downright misinformation from which the sci-fi community--and the rest of us--must labor to construct a view of our world. Alan Garner movingly locates the mythic impulse of sci-fi in our booby-trapped inner reaches. Both Nicholls and Tom Disch suggest that sci-fi shed its adolescent self-congratulation and develop more of a capacity for detached self-critical perspective. Robert Sheckley delivers a charming personal account of the search for just what it is, in these relevance-hungry times, that sci-fi is supposed to be relevant to. From Philip K. Dick comes the least satisfying but most deeply ambitious of all these efforts: a hectic, far-ranging, defiantly incoherent attempt to link our experience of time and space, self and enemy in what we are now learning of the bilateral brain. Some of these essays are slighter than others, and Nicholls' original intent--to survey the major ""interface areas"" between sci-fi and modern realities--is some distance away from the actual result. One suspects that the first plan couldn't have been half as much fun as this untidy, contentious collection.

Pub Date: April 6th, 1977
Publisher: Harper & Row