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Thoughts on Science Fiction, Science, and Other Matters

by Robert Silverberg

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-887424-24-5

 A collection of magazine columns by a leading science fiction writer. The prolific Silverberg (Starborne, 1996, etc.) can trace his career as a columnist back to his days as a fanzine writer and editor. More recently, he has been the columnist--the keynote speaker, as it were--for such science fiction magazines as Galileo and Amazing Stories. This volume collects the cream of the crop; predictably, many of his columns address science fiction from the point of view of a longtime professional writer. Silverberg's critical comments focus on such matters as the unfortunate dumbing-down of the genre in the wake of Star Wars and Star Trek, which brought in huge numbers of new readers who cared more about slam-bang action than about the play of ideas characteristic of the best science fiction. While there was of course plenty of action-oriented science fiction in the pulp era, Silverberg believes that current publishers have aggressively promoted mindless work at the expense of more thoughtful fiction. Meanwhile, the audience for quality science fiction inevitably grows older, as few newer readers are attracted to today's bland, predictable offerings. Similar concerns mark his columns on genetic engineering and other controversial scientific advances to which the public has responded with what Silverberg sees as baseless and ill-informed hysteria. Silverberg is a perceptive critic and an appreciative reader, and his essays on fellow writers, including Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Phillip Dick, Harlan Ellison, and Jack Vance, offer excellent insights into their work. Perhaps the major shortcoming of these essays is a stylistic flatness; for all his experience, Silverberg lacks the popular touch and unpredictable wit that made Asimov's many magazine columns so delightful. Sophisticated, well-expressed, and often controversial, these essays are more for Silverberg's longtime fans than for new readers.