Books : reviews

Gary Westfahl.
Science Fiction Quotations: from the inner mind to the outer limits.
Yale University Press. 2005

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 5 February 2006

This is a collection of quotations from and about science fiction, both from books, and, to a much lesser extent from films and TV shows. I spent quite a while skimming through it, and found it rather disappointingly uneven. For example, there are 10 quotations from Dick's Clans of the Alphane Moon, 17 from Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, and 34 from Le Guin's The Dispossessed, yet other works get only one or two or are missing completely, and an author like Asimov gets only 27 entries in total. The film and TV are similarly uneven: they form only a small selection of the total, and most of the TV quotations are from Babylon 5 and Star Trek. I get the feeling that this is a personal selection, rather than a more even-handed attempt to produce a book covering the breadth of genre.

I have another (albeit personal) peeve. There are two kinds of books of quotations: scholarly ones that arrange them by author and have decent indexes of the quotations themselves, and more popular ones that arrange them in thematic categories, with lesser indexes. This is an example of the latter: the categories range from Actions and Aliens, via topics like Humanity, Music, Pain, Space, and Violence, to Work, with an index of authors and another index of titles. I have to admit that I don't like this second style: it makes particular quotations hard to find, and the categorisation can seem pretty arbitrary (where do you put a quote about Violent Music, or Alien Pain, for example?). And there's a danger of putting in a quotation simply because it fits a category, rather than it being an interesting quotation in its own right.

Gary Westfahl.
William Gibson.
University of Illinois Press. 2013

The leading figure in the development of cyberpunk, William Gibson (bom in 1948) crafted works in which isolated humans explored near-future worlds of ubiquitous and intrusive computer technology and cybernetics. This volume is the first comprehensive examination of the award-winning author of the seminal novel Neuromancer (and the other books in the Sprawl trilogy, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive), as well as other acclaimed novels including recent bestsellers Pattern Recognition, Spook Country, and Zero History. Renowned scholar Gary Westfahl draws upon extensive research to provide a compelling account of Gibson’s writing career and his lasting influence in the science fiction world.

Delving into numerous science fiction fanzines that the young Gibson contributed to and edited, Westfahl delivers new information about Gibson’s childhood and adolescence. He describes for the first time more than eighty virtually unknown Gibson publications from his early years, including articles, reviews, poems, cartoons, letters, and a collaborative story. The book also documents the poems, articles, and introductions that Gibson has written for various books, and its discussions are enriched by illuminating comments from various print and online interviews. The works that made Gibson famous are also featured, as Westfahl performs extended analyses of Gibson’s ten novels and nineteen short stories. Lastly, the book presents a new interview with Gibson in which the author discusses his correspondence with author Fritz Leiber, his relationship with the late scholar Susan Wood, his attitudes toward critics, his overall impact on the field of science fiction, and his recently completed screenplay and forthcoming novel.