The Popular Tradition of Science Fiction Criticism, 1926-1980

  • Westfahl G
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The extensive commentaries produced by members of the science fiction community, called here the popular tradition of science fiction criticism, were launched by the editorial pronouncements and theories of Hugo Gernsback, beginning in 1926 with the first issue of Amazing Stories. In the 1930s, new editorial voices added little to Gernsback's ideas, though writers for the growing numbers of amateur magazines, called fanzines, were offering some distinctive contributions. In the 1940s, editor John W. Campbell, Jr. significantly expanded and deepened Gernsback's theories to articulate a satisfying, mature vision of science fiction. In the decades that followed, many important new commentators emerged: new magazine editors, book reviewers, anthologists, and editors and authors of books about science fiction. In the 1960s, Michael Moorcock and Harlan Ellison led a major effort to reform the genre, the New Wave movement. Though academic critics often outshone their untrained counterparts in examinations of particular works, the thoroughness, sense of focus, and dedication of the popular commentaries ensured that they would remain valuable resources for science fiction scholars, then and now.

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  • Gary Westfahl

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