The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction. By Gary
Westfahl. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1998. 344 pp.
is the book that effectively defined my early career as a science fiction
critic. Its basic argument, and much of its information, first appeared as my
dissertation, The Mote in Gernsback's Eye: A History of the Idea of Science
Fiction (Claremont Graduate University, 1986). Much of that material was then
reworked into a series of six journal articles, four of them published in Foundation:
The Review of Science Fiction. These articles, further revised and
accompanied by six additional chapters, became The Mechanics of Wonder.
Due to its length, it took a while to find a publisher, but Liverpool
University Press finally agreed to publish the book in 1998.
it appears that Liverpool University Press is no longer actively selling the
book, but the last time I checked, copies were available from Amazon and eBay.
Here is the book's Table of Contents:
|The True History of Science Fiction Introduction|
|"An Idea of Tremendous Import":|
Hugo Gernsback's Theory of Science Fiction
|"The Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe Type of Story":|
Hugo Gernsback's History of Science Fiction
|"This Unique Document": Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+|
|"A Lot of Rays and Bloodshed":|
Hugo Gernsback's Career as a Science Fiction Editor
|"Carefully Projected Scientific Thought":|
Critical Voices between Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell, Jr.
|"A Convenient Analog System":|
John W. Campbell, Jr.'s Theory of Science Fiction
|"A Characteristic Symptom of This Stage of Evolution":|
John W. Campbell, Jr.'s History of Science Fiction
|"A Full-View Picture of the World That Would Result":|
Robert A. Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon
|"Can Openers, Clichés and Case Studies":|
John W. Campbell, Jr.'s Career as a Science Fiction Editor
|"Slow Sculpture": Conclusion|
An early version of one
chapter is available online at the Science Fiction Studies website:
"'The Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe
Type of Story': Hugo Gernsback's History of Science Fiction."
Science-Fiction Studies, 19 (November 1992),
Finally, after I completed
this manuscript, I continued to research the career of Hugo Gernsback,
resulting in some additional articles which, accompanied by other new material,
were eventually published as Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science
Fiction (2007), effectively a continuation of The Mechanics of Wonder.