Science Fiction: A Very Short Introduction
By David Seed
David Seed knows the field of science fiction well, and is fully qualified to helm this volume in the Oxford Very Short Introduction series. It does read, however, a bit more like a course outline than an introduction, providing a sort of annotated reading list organized around various themes in SF: space voyages, aliens, utopias and dystopias, technology, and time travel.
The book covers this ground nicely, though it has some limitations. In the first place, it deals almost exclusively with British and American SF. In the second, it remains vague when it comes to the difficult but necessary business of defining terms, beginning by describing “science fiction” itself as not a genre but a “mode” of writing constituting “an embodied thought experiment whereby aspects of our familiar reality are transformed or suspended.” Such conceptual broadness occasionally leads into deeper waters, as when Seed concludes that “because social estrangement is central to African American writing, and because those narratives tend to articulate a utopian desire for freedom, it is scarcely an exaggeration to argue that all African American writing is science fiction.”
Well, we could argue about that one. Leaving such topics for debate aside, however, this is an excellent brief guide to a complex subject and one that will be easy to fit on every SF lover’s shelf.