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Masters of Recursive SF (Book Review)

Fans of self-referential science fiction (or scientifiction as it was originally known) will not want to miss this latest anthology from Del Rey books.  The grandmasters of the field are all represented here as they took their forays into science fiction that took itself as a subject.  Readers will find A.E.Van Vogt’s “The Vowel Masters of Far Ptah”, a thrilling tale of a science fiction writer who becomes involved with a mind-control cult which forces him to write its doctrines upon pain of madness as well L. Ron Hubbard’s “Assignment: Space Robot!” , a galactic tale of intrigue in which a cult-leader discovers that his theological epiphanies are channeling the lucubrations of a pulp science fiction writer.    Barry Maltzberg’s “The Cancer Astronauts” explores the theme that the turning of science fiction inward from considerations of man’s conquest of the universe to pessimistic reflections upon the narcissistic results of the media landscape is itself the result of an inexorable law of oscillation between inwardness and outwardness which is in turn caused by the oscillations of a nearby neutron star, while Larry Niven’s “The Amazing Quark Engine” is a delightful romp dealing with the notion that our very notion of the distinction between hard and soft sf is a consequence of quantum indeterminacy, as is discovered by a science fiction writer whose body is no larger than an electron.  Finally the distinction between science and fiction is itself explored in a pair of stories/papers on quantum physics  co-written by Werner Heisenberg and Samuel R. Delaney during a brief furious summer when the two were lovers.  As an interesting bibliographical note the anthology itself has an interesting publishing history, having been edited by a  hive mind that resulted when a genetically-altered cocker spaniel ate the brain of the deceased Isaac Asimov and was possessed by his spirit. B+

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4 thoughts on “Masters of Recursive SF (Book Review)

  1. Mikey says:

    Interestingly, this comment has been written by the time-independent consciousness that has developed from this comment and the replies it receives in the future. The development will take tens of thousands of years, starting now (although the indexical nature of the word ‘now’ is superfluous to the consciousness, it is advanced enough to be able to understand and use it in context), but though this comment is causally and temporally primary, it will be produced as a byproduct, or even waste product, of a different process. The consciousness views this comment ambivalently, as both crucial and useless.

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