Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret History of Science Fiction” as Want to Read:
The Secret History of Science Fiction
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret History of Science Fiction

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  136 ratings  ·  31 reviews
This ingeniously conceived anthology raises the intriguing question, If Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow had won the Nebula award in 1973, would the future distinction between literary fiction and science fiction have been erased? Exploring the possibility of an alternate history of speculative fiction, this literary collection reveals that the lines between genres have ...more
Paperback, 380 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Tachyon Publications
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret History of Science Fiction, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Secret History of Science Fiction

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 971)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Kelly, and John Kessel, pull together a collection of stories by both writers associated with SF--Kelly and Kessel for instance--with other writers more associated with the mainstream--T. C. Boyle or Margaret Atwood.

The ordering is more or less chronological and I would consider the selection very good.

I think the hard and fast division between the literary ghetto and the mainstream has been breaking down for some time anyway. Writers like Michael Chabon or Joy Williams, widely respected, use
I got this book for my birthday in May, 2013 but I set it aside initially because I had expected it to be an non-fiction historical account of the literary development of science fiction. Instead, it's a collection of short stories that bridge the gap between science fiction and literary fiction. Which, actually, is a really cool collection. So pretty soon I picked it up and gave it a read.

Now, I'm an avid defender of genre fiction as a general rule. Part of this reflects weakness of character o
This is one wonderful anthology. If you are into science fiction: read it. If you are not into sf but into literary fiction: read it.

It stands exactly on the edge there, show-casting all the things that New Wave and its heirs have introduced into sf and let slip from sf into mainstream, navigating the sea gate between genre and literary, where the most interesting things grow, though often either overlooked (because people who read literary will not read anything with an sf label and keep insist
Jan 29, 2011 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
This is a collection interesting short fiction. The co-editors created it to illustrate how SF might have been seen had the genre been "absorbed" into the mainstream - at least for literary critics, reviewers, and devotees. To that end, most of these tales are different from the "classic" space opera, hard science, and even the SF-fantasy crossover stories that are so common.

Personally, I liked the individual tales and the snippets of interviews with authors (cut up and scattered throughout the
Despite the awful title, this collection is full of great short stories. One of the goals of the collection is to question our conventional understandings of science fiction as a "genre," challenging the traditional division between literature, mainstream fiction, and science fiction, and many of the stories do an exemplary job of demonstrating the power and artistry of well-written science fiction. The introductory essay is also one of the best I have read about the status of science fiction as ...more
The authors' contention is that there is a neglected but important middle-ground between the SF genre and mainstream literature. SF writers should be able to break out of the SF ghetto, receive some literary recognition, and not risk losing their fanbase. At the same time, in order to remain relevant to 20th and 21st century life, literature needs to stop avoiding speculative concepts. This cross-over was in strong development in the 1970s, but fell away perhaps due to lack of commercial success ...more
Bonnie Stufflebeam
Originally posted on Short Story Review:

After reading John Kessel and Jim Kelly’s The Slipstream Anthology, I was sold on their taste in stories, so when I found The Secret History of Science Fiction, I picked it up with the expectation that their taste in science fiction would also mesh well with mine. I was mostly right.

There are nineteen stories included in this collection as well as an introduction by the editors in which they discuss the “genrefication” of science fiction and its status as
John Orman
Stories that crossover from science fiction to mainstream, these writing defy trends and cross genres. LeGuin, Wilhelm, Willis, Atwood, and Greg Wolfe are represented.

In The Descent of Man, T.C. Boyle writes of a weird researcher at a Primate Center who goes ape for a resident, bringing him lice in her navel. Then the ape goes wild and the relationship ends badly.

In the poem Homelanding, Margaret Atwood describes and alien who does not believe in the "take me to your leader" cliche:
No, take me t
I'm probably the ideal reader for this kind of anthology, since a lot of my favorite fiction is stylistically interesting, intelligent, and a little weird (more is always better). While it's not quite perfect (exclusions of certain influential writers for inclusions of the editors?), and the introductory essay brings up some contentious issues (which it clearlymeans to do), overall quality was high. All the stories were new to me, though I imagine they are familiar to those who read anthologies ...more
Frank Taranto
Science Fiction as literature. The idea always sounds good, but I read for pleasure more than literary tricks or denseness.
A very good group of short stories nevertheless.
LeGuinn's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas", which I've read often and still leaves me somewhat confused.
Kate Wilhem's "Descent of Man", which I found amusing.
Jonathan Lethem's "The Hardened Criminals" which was an interesting tale set in a prison made of prisoner's bodies who still have their memories and the abil
Stephen Shapiro
An excellent selection of SF stories, both from inside and outside the usual genre boundaries, but a slightly dodgy editorial introduction.
Sandal Press
Should be called "The Secret History of NORTH AMERICAN Science Fiction...Did you hear that? NORTH AMERICAN! Got it?" Yawn.
I think I liked the point of the book more than I liked the book. Yes, science fiction can be so much more than what most people who don't read it believe it to be. Yes, to label a story as science fiction is restrictive and these stories cross genres over and over again and each author is clearly trying to make the reader feel something or relate to something rather than trying to fit a story into a predetermined library shelf. But in the end, I feel as if I should have liked more of them. I di ...more
This was a collection of stories that set out to examine the boundaries between "literature" and "genre". What makes a story science fiction? Why does that label automatically devalue the story in some circles? The authors chosen for the anthology are mostly not generally associated with scifi, so it may be an eye-opener for a lot of serious lit folks. Overall, the collection is very solid and highly recommended.
Christopher Stormer
Great collection of Science Fiction stories that confound, extend, and ultimately bring to question ideas about Sci-Fi as a genre that is necessarily separate from mainstream literature. All are good-- my favorites are "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" by Ursula K. Le Guin, "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Carter Scholz, and "The Hardened Criminals" by Jonathan Lethem.
This anthology offers twenty stories from well-known authors to show the progression of "genre" fiction since the 70s. I enjoyed roughly about half of the stories included, which is really the most I expect from an anthology. As rewarding as the stories themselves were the quotes from the authors about their beliefs and philosophies about writing.
Emily Cait
I wish they'd bothered to edit this... For example: it's Molly GlOss (not GlAss) who wrote "Interlocking Pieces" and Kate WilheLm who wrote "Ladies and Gentlemen, This is Your Crisis".

There are some gems in here ("The Hardened Criminals" - Jonathan Lethem) and some really bad (and stupidly long) pieces ("The Ziggurat" - Gene Wolfe).
Jan 15, 2011 Richard marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by:
(Borderlands Bookstore's Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club met on Sunday, 15 May, 2011, at 6 pm to discuss The Secret History of Science Fiction by James Patrick Kelly, et al.)
This was an interesting book. Each story was framed with quotations from contributing authors reflecting on the genre of SF, its contributions to literature and how it is perceived in the broader literary community. This juxtaposition provided the stories with an added depth that I enjoyed exploring.
So, my own idiocy led me to be disappointed with this book. I'd hoped it would be an anthology of secret history stories, and instead it is a collection of stories on the boundary of genre and "literary" fiction.

It was still pretty good, overall.
Sep 16, 2012 James rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: tpb, sf
Thought-provoking collection of shorts from the bleeding edge of science fiction. The short stories are great, but it's the foreword, quotations and philosophy that really grab you.
I struggled with the rating. I enjoyed the bulk of stories immensely, but there were a couple I was wholly indifferent to and one in particular I loathed. Overall, quite compelling.
This is more of a speculative fiction rather than science fiction anthology. Some of the stories tilt towards fantasy or surrealism.
Really decent Sci-Fi Anthology. Lots of good short stories. Some leave you wanting more. Others are fantastic.
Kristen Nace
Not the best anthology I've ever read....some interesting selections, but on the whole my reaction was mostly "Meh"
Sara Q
Jun 19, 2011 Sara Q marked it as to-read
Mentioned in this blog post:
Imagine an alternate universe in which sci-fi isn't in a genre ghetto. Dark, trippy short stories.
Even if the TC Boyle selection is drivel and drench. The collection is superior.
Philip Hollenback
Absolutely excellent colletion of 'alternative' sci fi stories. Enjoyed thoroughly.
Great collection of thought-provoking stories.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction: Sixtieth Anniversary Anthology
  • The Secret History of Fantasy
  • The Year's Best Science Fiction: Eighteenth Annual Collection
  • The Power of Film
  • Lightspeed: Year One
  • Eclipse 1: New Science Fiction and Fantasy
  • Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing
  • Twenty-First Century Science Fiction
  • Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 (Nebula Awards, #12)
  • Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology
  • The Apex Book of World SF
  • Endangered Species
  • Her Smoke Rose Up Forever
James Patrick Kelly (please, call him Jim) has had an eclectic writing career. He has written novels, short stories, essays, reviews, poetry, plays and planetarium shows. His short novel Burn won the Science Fiction Writers of America's Nebula Award in 2007. He has won the World Science Fiction Society’s Hugo Award twice: in 1996, for his novelette “Think Like A Dinosaur” and in 2000, for his nove ...more
More about James Patrick Kelly...
Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology Burn Think Like a Dinosaur and Other Stories Nebula Awards Showcase 2012

Share This Book