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Science Fiction 101

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  213 ratings  ·  28 reviews
If you read or write science fiction, here is the best introduction to the secrets, the craft and the art of science fiction. Included are thirteen classic works of modern sf; wondrous stories by Alfred Bester, Philip K. Dick, Jack Vance, Frederick Pohl and many others. If you love science fiction, read how a young fan grew up to become one of the most honored masters in t ...more
Paperback, 555 pages
Published March 1st 2001 by iBooks (first published 1987)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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Allan Dyen-Shapiro
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was recommended to me by a science fiction writer as having useful essays dissecting why science fiction works. They are useful. Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors, so I was happy to listen to anything he said.

However, some of the stories are real gems that I would not have otherwise come across. Silverberg culled the period from the mid-40s through early 60s--the "Pulp Era"--and found some that stand out as exceptional for that time period. My favorite was Alfred Bester's
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Published as Worlds of Wonder in 1987, Science Fiction 101 still works on several levels: as an autobiography of "one of the most honored Masters in the history of the field" (and you thought Asimov immodest), as an introduction to classic SF short stories mostly from the 1950s, and as entertaining and insightful essays on just what SF is and how it works.

Unlike many current authorities, Silverberg places SF inside the fantasy genre. In fact, ignoring the obvious vampires, elves and magic, he ar
Marc Goldstein
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
9 “Four in One” by Damon Knight
Recon party get ingested by an amoeba-like organism. Their brains and nervous systems remain intact in a symbiotic state with the amoeba. The narrator, an unflappable scientist, is the first ingested and the first to begin to work out their predicament. One of others is a political officer who orders them to return to camp. The scientist understands this will be suicide, and a power struggle begins. The four minds compete for dominance of the amoeba organism. The
Dec 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthologies, library
The premise of this collection is, to someone like me who aspires to sell stories to SFF magazines, a compelling one. Much-awarded writer Silverberg collects stories that were influential on him as a young writer, that he learned from, along with essays on each story analysing what he learned from it, and an overall essay about the start of his career in general.

The main drawback is that this is an almost-30-year-old book in which a writer whose fiction I've never really liked analyses stories t
Michael Burnam-Fink
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, sci-fi
Robert Silverberg is one of the grand masters of science-fiction, with a distinguished career as an author and editor behind him. But in the early 1950s, he was an ambitious student at Columbia, teaching himself the craft with a stack of pump magazines in one hand, and books of structural criticism and classic rhetoric in the others. This is grand master Silverberg's letter in a bottle to uncertain fledgling writer Bob, thirteen stories with brief appreciative/critical essays.

What you have are w
Catherine Fitzsimmons
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I wasn't quite as enamored with at least some of the stories as Silverberg was, and certainly some of it seems a little dated at this point, but the observations on the stories were for the most part interesting, and there were a few I truly enjoyed. ...more
This starts with an introductory, autobiographical essay by Robert Silverberg. This essay was interesting, and it held my attention, but it's full of a lot of garbage. There's a lot of elitism about learning the Proper way to write a Good story. For instance he recalls learning, as a young man, that all good stories have conflict; this is a very western notion. I've read enough fanfiction where the entire plot involves hanging out in coffee shops, falling in love, or taking a bath, or some other ...more
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I'd give this a 3.5 were it an option. Not perfect but Silverberg is a craftsmanlike writer who shows a surprising amount of humility in this volume. If nothing else he's an excellent anthologist and the majority of these stories are very enjoyable to read and fairly diverse in their style. Most date from the 50s and 60s so while its hard to fault Silverberg personally for it, as a contemporary guide to the form this may not be the most helpful. That said, Silverberg goes over the basics pretty ...more
Oct 21, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this b/c one of the short stories was recommended by Connie Willis - now I don't even remember which one ;) Robert Silverberg takes you through his genesis as a sci fi writer and critically praises 13 stories that came out around the time (1950-53 or so) that he was beginning to have some success getting stories into magazines.

It was OK for me - the stories are (for the most part) REALLY good - I think there were only two that I just plain old didn't like. As for his commentary - I disagr
Bill FromPA
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Silverberg has read a lot of SF and here gets to pick the creme de la creme from stories he read and learned from during his journeyman years. It's a very good selection - even casual fans who have dipped into stories from the 1940s through the 1960s are likely to have read more than one before. But even for the familiar stories, Silverberg's added commentary adds a new dimension to the encounter.

Silverberg mainly looks at how the mechanics of story-telling is handled by each author and doesn't
Thomas Becker
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This came into my posession through an anonymous benefactor who donated their copy to a local library book sale, and I feel their selfless genersoity is worth noting here.
I had the benefit of Mr. Silverberg's editing not long after this was published, and while The Arbor House Treasury of Great Science Fiction Short Novels was one of the more interesting "textbooks" I read in college, I wish the good professor had chosen this one instead. Perhaps I would be much further along in my own writing
Apr 15, 2021 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
I don't like Silverberg's stories (and am not interested in his memoirs nor in writing SF), so am not excited to read his favorite stories by others. But my brother gave this five stars....
2/3 done:

Yup, these are clearly exemplary of what has influenced Silverberg. I do agree with him that they are very well written. In my very own personal opinion, they are only mildly interesting, though, and mostly they are a bit too show-offy for me, also. Some I've most def. seen before but didn't rememb
Mark Cofta
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I picked this up as a remainder, and was pleasantly surprised to find an unparalleled informal text about the craft of writing science fiction short stories. Silverberg returns to his youth with 13 stories that influenced his own developing craft. The stories are great, and the commentary is incisive and practical. Any writer would find his theories about storytelling inspiring, and his description of competing in the now-gone SF world of pulp magazines entertaining and illuminating. What a trea ...more
Sean Callaghan
There were some nuggets in here that made reading it worthwhile. Mostly the value came from the selection of stories rather than the commentary itself.
May 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of good to excellent sf stories, framed in an interesting way: Silverberg's goal is to explore the craft of science fiction writing through the chosen stories. In the intro he gives a brief bio of how he became a sf writer (especially good for the sketches it gives of the editors who shaped him), and then follows each story with an analysis of what makes the story work. There's some decent variety in the stories, too - some lean more towards 'cool exploration of scientific idea', othe ...more
Aug 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3. Read a collection of essays (2016 read harder challenge)
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't (Around the year in 52 books: 2016)

'Four in one' Damon Knight, 4.5 stars
'Fondly Fahrenheit' Alfred Bester, 4.5 stars
'No Woman born' C. L. Moore, 1.5 stars
'Home is the hunter' Henry Kuttner, 4.5 stars
'The Monsters' Robert Sheckley, 5 stars
'Common Time' James Blish, 3 stars
'Scanners live in vain' Cordwainer Smith, 4 stars
'Hothouse' Brian W. Albiss, 1 star
'The New Prime' Jack Vance, 5 stars
Nathan Boole
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This was an awesome collection of short stories, even if it had just been a collection. It was added to a great deal, I think, by Silverberg's commentary and breakdown of each story, and some of the things he has to say about writing are very good to know.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more about writing techniques in the book, but it was still an awesome book, and I think that several of the stories are now among my top ten favorite short stories of all time.

Specifically Slow Gla
Dec 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting concept - one of the great scifi writers has put together a combination memoir, anthology of the best short stories in science fiction and then a commentary on each story. My only quibble with it is that it is so old - all the stories in it were written in the 50s and 60s -which is hardly the fault of the author! So if you enjoy science fiction, if you would like to know how to write it, or if you just want to know how someone of the standing of Robert Silverberg becam ...more
Jon Mountjoy
May 24, 2014 rated it liked it
This book, which covers "Where to start reading and writing science fiction," starts with an autobiographical section from Robert Silverberg. Yes, I understand this is a decorated science fiction author, but the pomposity borders on arrogance. It really took me two attempts at this book to get through his grandiloquent description of his own self. After that, a series of really lovely short stories - each accompanied by relatively useful descriptions by Silverberg. ...more
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anthology, fiction, sci-fi
A nice collection of sf short stories chosen for their quality and their aptness for illustrating pertinent points about the craft of writing sf. Silverberg has a good eye for a story and his analyses are enlightening. I enjoyed them all (except perhaps for "No Woman Born"), but the highlight, I think, is "The Little Black Bag" by Cyril Kornbluth. ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An excellent assortment of classic sci fi from classic sci fi authors, WITH commentary about the best and worst bits of each, for the aspiring writer. Lots of other resources and suggestions too. A big win for sci fi lovers - great stories! - and a really big win for aspiring writers. I'll be buying this one, and I don't say that often! ...more
Fredrick Danysh
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
A blend of personal memoir, skills necessary to write good science fiction, and a collection of older science fiction short stories stories. Silverberg includes an analysis for each story, thus making them learning tools. I found the book educational.
Aug 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent introduction to the genre for both writers and readers.
John Otte
Nov 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good collection of classic sci fi stories. Well worth the read (although some of them were sort of "meh") ...more
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-fiction
This was great fun. I remember most of these stories and it was interesting to get Silverberg's perspective on them as a young reader, and a developing writer. For rereading. ...more
Frank Taranto
Oct 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
Silverberg uses other writers stories to show how he learned his craft. Very good stories and Silverberg info.
Victor Couwenbergh
rated it it was amazing
Dec 03, 2015
Laurel Brenner
rated it it was ok
Jul 09, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Dec 06, 2018
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Robert Silverberg is one of science fiction’s most beloved writers, and the author of such contemporary classics as Dying Inside, Downward to the Earth and Lord Valentine’s Castle, as well as At Winter’s End, also available in a Bison Books edition. He is a past president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the winner of f

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