Mechanics of Wonder
The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction
Distributed for Liverpool University Press
Much of the controversy arises from Westfahl's resurrection of Hugo Gernsback - for decades a largely derided figure - as the true creator of science fiction. Following an initial demolition of earlier critics, Westfahl argues for Gernsback's importance. His argument is fully documented, showing a much greater familiarity with early American science fiction, particularly magazine fiction, than previous academic critics or historians. After his initial chapters on Gernsback, he examines the way in which the Gernsback tradition was adopted and modified by later magazine editors and early critics. This involves a re-evaluation of the importance of John W. Campbell to the history of science fiction as well as a very interesting critique of Robert Heinlein's Beyond the Horizon, one the seminal texts of American science fiction. In conclusion, Westfahl uses the theories of Gernsback and Campbell to develop a descriptive definition of science fiction and he explores the ramifications of that definition.
The Mechanics of Wonder will arouse debate and force the questioning of presuppositions. No other book so closely examines the origins and development of the idea of science fiction, and it will stand among a small number of crucial texts with which every science fiction scholar or prospective science fiction scholar will have to read.
The True History of Science Fiction: Introduction
1. 'An Idea of Tremendous Import': Hugo Gernsback's Theory of Science Fiction
2. 'The Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe Type of Story': Hugo Gernsback's History of Science Fiction
3. 'This Unique Document': Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+
4. 'A Lot of Rays and Bloodshed': Hugo Gernsback's Career as a Science Fiction Editor
5. 'Carefully Projected Scientific Thought': Critical Voices between Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell, Jr.
6. 'A Convenient Analog System': John W. Campbell, Jr's Theory of Science Fiction
7. 'A Characteristic Symptom of This Stage of Evolution': John W. Campbell, Jr's History of Science Fiction
8. 'A Full-View Picture of the World That Would Result': Robert A. Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon
9. 'Can Openers, Clichés and Case Studies': John W. Campbell, Jr's Career as a Science Fiction Editor
'Slow Sculpture': Conclusion