The Engines of the Night
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by Barry N. Malzberg
Category: General Nonfiction Hugo Award Nominee, Locus Poll Award Winner
Description: Aspiring science fiction writers, take heed! If you want to understand where the field has been and where it's going--if you want a career--you need this book. In The Engines of the Night, Malzberg reviews his own ambivalent relationship with science fiction up to 1980 and gauges its past and future potentials. Would science fiction have been better off without Hugo Gernsback and the pulp-literature stigma with which he cursed it? What are the seminal works of science fiction? Can science fiction kill you? His answers are brilliant, unequivocal, and surprising. Updated with a 2001 introduction, this award-winning collection remains an essential and enduring history and critique of a fascinating and problematic genre.
eBook Publisher: Electricstory.com, 1984
eBookwise Release Date: January 2002
16 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [303 KB]
Reading time: 184-258 min.
Introduction to the Original Edition
These essays were written by a man whose first science fiction story appeared in the late nineteen-sixties, who rose to minor prominence in the early to mid-seventies, watched his career suddenly (and not entirely on his own responsibility) plummet in the middle of the decade, and who spent the last of the seventies lurching toward the Bethlehem of 1980, not so much trying to be born again, as to assess the roughness of the beast. The career in many ways paralleled the arc of political and social consciousness through that period: the questioning of institutions and institutionally propounded insight, the rocking of those institutions, and then, after Nixon's eviction in the middle of the period, a speedy and effective counterrevolution which got some of us out of the temple right quick.
I have not had (I raise my right hand) the most successful or prominent career in science fiction in the seventies but I have had, I think, the most clearly symptomatic--the career which did indeed most survive in reaction to the larger political and social developments of that time. The perspective is peculiarly mine, of course; I make no claims for its universality. If anything, I argue the other way: for its particularity. No one right now could regard science fiction in quite this way.
Any of us who read or write in the field can make that statement, of course. We behold what we have become. But if there is any particular cachet to my perspective it comes because my career is, perhaps more than some, metaphoric.
And then, maybe it is not. My career is no way for a young science fiction writer; I am no model of a Modern Major General. Reading and writing a lot of science fiction over a long period (and long it has been) will if nothing else grant humility: modestly garbed in sackcloth and cosmeticized with ashes, I sally beyond the mirror at my own risk now and in only a modestly adventurous spirit.
But I never, as I kept on reminding myself through the decade, had possessed ambitions which were initially large-scale. Science fiction had not been much more than an experiment. How far could I go ... what could I get done ... what could I say ... how much could I get through, before they caught on or caught up? was the basic question. What would science fiction do--not so much to the world, but to me?
I found out. Surely did.
1980: New Jersey