Andrew Benedict-Nelson's Reviews > The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World

The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of by Thomas M. Disch
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Apr 12, 09

Read in April, 2009

Really 3.5 stars. I don't know if I've ever read a critical work on science fiction before, so that in itself is refreshing. At first I thought Disch would just be another fanboy set out to prove that SF is Important with a capital I. Instead, he merely takes it seriously, treating it as a real literary genre while also acknowledging its limitations (for example, he explores the real implications of the old joke about the golden age of science fiction being 15).

I was impressed by his efforts to find a literary pedigree for SF that doesn't over-reach; he comes to the conclusion that the true ancestor of the genre is Edgar Allan Poe, which makes one think about the genre in a different way. He also does a good job of parsing the political meanings in various SF books and films without reducing them to allegories. But a few chapters seemed dated (the book is a little over 10 years old now) or disappointing. I was left cold by his analysis of "SF as religion" because it seemed entirely negative -- to me, it seems as if the wonder evoked by SF has to be a part of any plausible religion.

That lack of wonder would in fact be my main beef with Disch. Though I know it is a feeling he must surely share -- he's the guy who wrote The Brave Little Toaster, after all -- it doesn't seem like an analytical lens he employed in this volume. Therefore, certain writers who to me seem essential, like Ray Bradbury, are discussed as having achieved their successes through a perpetual adolescence. There is some truth to this, but simply because much of Bradbury's work forces us to adopt a childlike perspective doesn't mean he doesn't have anything interesting to say.

Overall, this is a book I enjoyed and learned a lot from, but I'm not sure it helped me better understand what I like about SF and what I don't.
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