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Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  177 ratings  ·  9 reviews
Mass Market Paperback, 339 pages
Published 1974 by Schocken Books Inc (first published 1973)
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The subtitle is fairly self-explanatory. Aldiss lays out the history of science fiction as a literary genre in a non-chronological format. For instance, the exploration of some ancient Roman fantasies often mistaken for science fiction occurs in chapter three, after Aldiss describes some eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature. Aldiss's main contention is that science fiction started as a "lively sub-genre of the Gothic," beginning with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Intriguingly, he added ...more
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Even though it's dated and needs a thorough revision to cover the field from the 70s where the book left off, Aldiss' true history of science fiction makes some amazing claims and arguments regarding the field's beginnings, big names, historical books, and the context. At times, I find him on the elitist end of the spectrum, especially the way he dismisses the early Gernsbeckian gadget fiction as juvenile and ghetto, his analyses are very important.

This book was very instrumental in its
Nov 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
surprisingly erudite and literate, just a shame it was published before the children of the New Wave started writing.
Terence Park
A hugely important work. Brian began the process of pulling together the history of SF which, required a level of analysis and categorisation that we take for granted today. He defines the early literary strands that grow, thicken and mutate into the genre, going up to 1973 in my edition. His reasoning behind his narrative is clear and his coverage of inputs to the genre is fairly comprehensive. I might weight some of those early inputs differently but this is only a matter of degree.
In the
Chris Duval
Mar 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: about_sff
This is an easy read; it's pleasing to have an author as literary critic. It's also informative (up to the time it was written), though sometimes Mr. Aldiss's opinions--particularly his condemnations--differ considerably from my more accepting tastes.

The book picks an Anglo-centric definition of SF, moderated when applied to more recent years(relative to the time of writing). When applied to earlier eras it excludes books that, for example, a French speaker would include. I didn't find this a
Dec 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? This book is a history, so it is as it must be: droll and full of long lists that are only informative to those who have a full knowledge of the books and authors listed already. Of course, it illuminates several interesting trends, occurrences, and definitions that I was not familiar with. That's a given. It is just not really the sort of light reading that most science fiction fans are looking for, ironically. I think the author was a bit bombastic, but overall, it was ...more
May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After putting this down, I wanted to find much of what Aldiss mentioned. Many of the titles are no longer in print.
With our portable digital guides, I can run a search and find electronic versions, irony-of-ironies.
Inevitably, I must wipe the tears and stutter past sputtering lips: "It's not the same..."
Dec 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reference
the text book for a college SF class. i was reading the night Lenon was killed
Anthony Faber
Oct 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
His "Trillion Year Spree" is an updated version of this. I just skimmed to make sure it was pretty much the same and read the last chapter, because that was somewhat different.
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Pseudonyms: Jael Cracken, Peter Pica, John Runciman, C.C. Shackleton, Arch Mendicant, & "Doc" Peristyle.

Brian Wilson Aldiss was one of the most important voices in science fiction writing today. He wrote his first novel while working as a bookseller in Oxford. Shortly afterwards he wrote his first work of science fiction and soon gained international recognition. Adored for his innovative