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by Kingsley Amis

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Download New Maps of Hell epub
ISBN: 0141198621
ISBN13: 978-0141198620
Category: No category
Author: Kingsley Amis
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin PressClassics (June 7, 2012)
ePUB size: 1146 kb
FB2 size: 1944 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 162
Other Formats: lrf azw docx lrf

classic text
It seems that almost everything Kingsley Amis loved was moribund in his prime.

When he wrote this survey of S/F, the genre was already in decline, though it was still far from the infantile nonsense of the present.

He also loved the "golden age" mystery, particularly the intricate locked-room masterpieces of John Dickson Carr, but when he wrote his essay "Imaginary Policemen", the whodunit was giving way to the "crime novel", a dubious hybrid which manages to be neither a good crime story nor a good novel (you can't write both, to paraphrase an Amis title).

As for his beloved jazz ... well, Charlie Parker and bebop had already made mock of Pee Wee Russell, Louis Armstrong, and Billy Banks long before Lucky Jim made the scene. (Philip Larkin's description of Charlie Parker playing a riff from the "Woody Woodpecker" song after every few bars is the best short jazz review ever.)

Too bad Kingsley didn't like a few other older genres--like the Victorian novel and opera, e.g.--which still had some life left while his favored blasts from the past were fizzling out.

In any case, if you're interested in an intelligent survey of S/F from the 1940s-50s, this is a good read.
Legend 33
This 1960 book is an interesting and engaging work in the history of science fiction studies. Kingsley Amis (1922 - 1995) was a noted English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher; he was the author of Lucky Jim ,The Green Man, and much more. A life-long science fiction fan, he decided with this book to act as something of an emissary, attempting to bring a better understanding and appreciation of science fiction to mainstream readers. "Science fiction is not tomfool sensationalism," he says early in the book.

While praising its virtues, Amis never claims that SF is for all tastes, nor does he entirely reject all of the usual criticisms of the genre (which have remained largely unchanged since this book's writing). He notes an "incuriosity about human character" is common in SF, and states that this is something of a necessity in the genre: "treating character conservatively and limiting interest in it," he says, shows the reader "that the familiar categories of human behaviour persist in an unfamiliar environment." "Science fiction shows us human beings in their relations not with one another, but with a thing, a monster, an alien, a plague, or a form of society..."

Almost needless to say, there are many in the SF field who disagree that this limitation is inherent to SF, and who will happily site many counter-examples. Amis also states at one point that "any notion" of a science-fiction love story "will certainly not do"; another opinion that drew the ire of Damon Knight, for one. Knight also pointed out that Amis, a writer of satires himself, seems to over-value satires compared to other forms of SF, notably Pohl and Kornbluth's The Space Merchants, which he refers to often and to which he gives a place of honor in his book's opening chapter.

But none of this diminishes the value of Amis' book in the least. his opinions are always interesting and articulate, and it's quite fascinating to see this noted mainstream author -- writing in 1960 -- lamenting science fiction's lack of respect among educated readers. (A lament that of course continues to be voiced today, and no doubt will still be voiced into the distant, science-fictional future.)

Amis later went on to review science fiction books for the London Times Literary Supplement, and also to co-edit a series of SF anthologies: Spectrum 1 through Spectrum 5. I highly recommended these books as a source for some of the best examples of short SF in the 1961- 1966 time period.