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Science Fiction Quotations
edited by Gary Westfahl
Yale University Press, 461 pages

Gary Westfahl
Gary Westfahl is best known for writing provocative and opinionated commentaries on science fiction literature and film. Since 1998, he has served as a regular columnist for the science fiction magazine Interzone, and he has more served as an occasional film reviewer for the Locus Online website. His other books include Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction (1969), Islands in the Sky: The Space Station Theme in Science Fiction Literature (1996), The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction (1998), and Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture: Coming of Age in Fantasyland (2000). Westfahl earned a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, now teaches at the University of California, Riverside, and lives in Claremont, California, with his wife Lynne and children.

ISFDB Bibliography
Gary Westfahl's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

Science Fiction Quotations Science Fiction Quotations is the kind of book that is both easy and hard to review. Easy in that its virtues are obvious; it's a comprehensive, far-ranging collection of quotes from writers both famous and obscure, compiled from source material ranging from short stories to novels, movies, and plays. The difficult part is what to say next. For anyone with enough interest in science fiction and fantasy to enjoy browsing through a collection of quotes from many of the most thoughtful, insightful, and witty figures in the field, Science Fiction Quotations is a must-have. There's not a lot more that needs to be said.

You could quibble over specific choices, whether certain memorable lines were included or not. But Science Fiction Quotation's length and the evident care that was taken to consult a wide range of source material make that seem like, well, quibbling. The one thing that does set Science Fiction Quotations apart from famous reference works such as Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is a direct result of the fact these are quotations from the science fiction community. Critics and reviewers often like to refer to SF as a giant conversation, in which artistic works and their authors speak to each other and their readers. That conversation plays out wonderfully in Science Fiction Quotations. Quotes are arranged by subject, not author, so that a section titled "Progress," for example, contains quotes from H.G. Wells, Yevgeny Zamiatin, Charles Fort, Katherine MacLean, Harlan Ellison, Robert Reed and many others. It's like reading a conversation taking place not just between individuals but also between generations, as new voices comment on and respond to the thoughts of those who came before.

Gary Westfahl's introduction cites this view of science fiction as a continuing conversation while recounting the process by which Science Fiction Quotations took shape as a book. He also speculates that there may be something about the form and artistic demands of science fiction that lead writers to greater heights of eloquence than they might have achieved in any other form of literature. It's an argument that, as Westfahl acknowledges, is outside the scope of Science Fiction Quotations. But for anyone who wants to assert such an idea at either their next graduate school seminar or heated bar-stool argument, Science Fiction Quotations provides over four hundred pages of solid, entertaining evidence.

Copyright © 2005 by Greg L. Johnson

At first, reviewer Greg L Johnson contemplated submitting a review of Science Fiction Quotations that consisted of nothing but quotes, but decided that would be a bit too meta. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction.

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