Sure, reading fiction stories are fun. Especially science-fiction stories, where readers get to experience space travel, alternate histories, thought-provoking premises regarding technology and how it affects society, and a host of other high-concept ideas. But take a step back. Science fiction as a literary field is interesting, too, as evidenced by the following nonfiction books about different aspects of the genre.

Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder edited by Kristen L. Geaman

Is there any comic book character more beloved than Batman? Often the anchor of any comic book spotlight, the Dark Knight of Gotham is the go-to hero of our generation. That can't sit well with Dick Grayson, aka. Robin, Batman's young sidekick. He's been around nearly as long as the caped crusader but rarely sees any media attention. That is, until now, with this collection of scholarly essays. Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing and Batman is an interesting collection that features critical analyses and essays about the most overshadowed sidekick in comics. Also included are interviews with the Boy Wonder's past and current creators Chuck Dixon, Devin Grayson and Marv Wolfman. Collectively, these essays examine Robin's place in comics and his evolution across the decades—all within various contexts like trauma, friendship, feminism and masculinity.

Endangering Science Fiction Film edited by Sean Redmond and Leon Marvell

Continue reading >


Literature does not own science fiction. In fact, film and television media account for more science fiction fans and dollars than literary forms. Science-fiction film is the focus of Endangering Science Fiction Film by Sean Redmond and Leon Marvell, so named because it poses the idea that sci-fi films are both a dangerous and endangering genre. This collection of interdisciplinary essays explores the way cinematic depictions of "The Other" force us to question our own reality. Published in cooperation with the American Film Institute, it uses several films as examples to demonstrate its premise: classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris; modern blockbusters like World War Z and Gravity; as well as international films. It deals with cinematic themes such as dangerous encounters, liminal experiences, sublime aesthetics, and questions about the very nature of human existence.

Adapting Science Fiction to Television by Max Sexton and Malcolm Cook

Science fiction was born in books, but soon afterward found a comfortable niche in comic books and film. It wasn't until later that it came to television. The small screen posed new challenges for theAdapting SciFi genre, most prominently how to translate the grand sense of wonder that was portrayed in books, comics and film to the lower budget afforded television production. Adapting Science Fiction to Television examines these challenges, as well as unique opportunities. Namely, the serial nature of television allowed for longer, more complex stories and a wider canvas on which to tell stories and evolve characters. The authors look at early and more modern British and American television productions like Walt Disney's acclaimed "Man in Space" in the 1950s and the BBC's re-imagined Day of the Triffids in the 1990s. Flash Gordon, Captain Nemo, Superman and Professor Quatermass all played a role in this evolution of television history.

Lois McMaster Bujold by Edward James

For those who are unaware, University of Illinois Press routinely publishes a series of books in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series, each of which highlights one of science fiction's prominent authors. The latest edition to this in-depth series focuses on the author Lois McMaster Bujold, the writer behind the popular Vorkosigan series. Winner of four Hugo Awards for Best Novel, Bujold's Vorkosigan series redefined space opera by showing that it can have emotional depth in addition to grand scale theatrics. Her space opera series consistently examined weighty themes like bias against the disabled, economic exploitation, and the role of women in society. Science-fiction scholar Edward James traces Bujold's career from fanzine culture to genre superstar and shows how she overcame old-school ideas that military science fiction and space opera were exclusively a boys' playground.

Science Fiction Theology by Alan P.R. Gregory

Science fiction and religion are seemingly at odds, mostly because of differences in understanding of the relationship between humans and Gods. Subtitled "Beauty and the Transformation of the Sublime," Gregory aims to explore the theological tussle between science fiction and religion, particularly Christianity. Religious sublimity emerged in the 17th-century and informed the imagining of God. Science fiction, meanwhile, often critiques religion or altogether reinvents it, thus sparking a dialogue of sorts (what Gregory calls "a literary guerrilla war") over what is truly sublime. Of concern for sci-fi readers and fans, the book explores the sublime as it appeared in early American pulps, in the horror writing of H. P. Lovecraft, in science-fiction narratives of evolution and apocalypse, and in the work of science-fiction author Philip K. Dick. Gregory ultimately tries to show that with a slight change in focus, Christianity and science fiction may yet discover a new and surprising conversation.

John DeNardo is the editor of SF Signal, the Hugo Award-winning group science-fiction and fantasy blog featuring news, reviews and interviews. You can follow him on Twitter as @sfsignal.