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Science Fiction Culture [Paperback]

Camille Bacon-Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 27 2002 Feminist Cultural Studies, the Media, and Political Culture
In a century that has taken us from the horse and buggy to the world wide web, science fiction has established itself as the literature to explore the ways in which technology transforms society while its counterpart, genre fantasy, insistently reminds us of the magical transformations of the individual in response to the demands of the social. So it should come as no surprise that the fans and producers of these genres come together to create the culture of the future around the ideal that tales of wonder about the future and the imaginary past can be shared as both symbolic communication and social capital.In "Science Fiction Culture", Camille Bacon-Smith explores the science fiction community and its relationships with the industries that sustain it, including the publishing, computer, and hotel/convention industries, and explores the issue of power in those relationships: Who seems to have it? Who does have it? How do they use it? What are the results of that use? In the process, Bacon-Smith rejects the two major theoretical perspectives on mass culture reception. Consumers are not passive receivers of popular culture produced by the hegemonic ideology machine that is the mass media industry, nor are they rebels valiantly resisting that machine by reading against the grain of the interpretation designed into the products they consume.Bacon-Smith argues that the relationship between consumers of science fiction and producers is much more complex than either of these theories suggests. Using a wide range of theoretical perspectives, she shows that this relationship is based on a series of continuing negotiations across a broad spectrum of cultural interests.

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"[An] inside look at this wonderfully strange universe."-ForeWord "Complex yet easy-to-read, Science Fiction Culture will appeal to the SF fans who cut their teeth on Azimov's I, Robot to the pre-teens picking up their first copy of a book starring Xena, Warrior Princess. Both such readers will enjoy the author's inside look at this wonderfully strange universe."-ForeWord "A milestone work that brings sf studies into conversation with cultural studies."-Science Fiction Studies

About the Author

Camille Bacon-Smith is the author of several books, including Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press, The Face of Time, and Eyes of the Empress.

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A journalist who wants to know what the future will look like usually asks a science fiction writer. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars An Anthropological Trek Through SF Fandom Sept. 8 2001
Camille Bacon-Smith, an academic folklore specialist, has spent almost two decades applying the methods of ethnographical research to the subculture that has grown up around science fiction literature, movies and artwork. She regularly attends SF conventions, reads fanzines, interviews both leaders and rank-and-file of the science fiction community and otherwise investigates Fandom in much the same way that Margaret Mead studied Samoa. "Science Fiction Culture" is the summation of her efforts. As one of the natives under scrutiny (being a long-time science fiction fan and past chairman of the World Science Fiction Convention), I read it with interest. Unhappily, though, it is one of those books that tries to do far too much and therefore accomplishes almost nothing.
If I wished to be denigratory, it would be easy to utilize "insider" knowledge to catalogue the book's numerous errors of fact. On the one page that mentions my own name, I found five mistakes. None of them is serious (two surnames are misspelled, two people are assigned to the wrong home towns, one very well-known fan - universally referred to as "Peggy Rae" - is called "Peggy"), but they do suggest that the author is not in total command of her material. She is particularly weak on the development of Fandom before her own contact with it. To take an important example, she guesses that the sudden growth in the size of the World Science Fiction Convention in the 1960's resulted from the entry into Fandom of the "counterculture", whereas the initial spurt (from 850 members in 1966 to over 1,500 in 1967) is readily explained by the advent of the original "Star Trek" television series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sound and Engaging Examination of SF Culture Sept. 4 2000
This is, in many ways, an excellent work on a oft-overlooked facet of American culture and society. Yes, there have been many volumes written on SF, but not much on the *culture* that has coalesced around the genre. This is in some ways a pioneering work, especially in its attempts to describe how subgroups within the larger culture are shaping that culture and also making it their own. Bacon-Smith's writing is very clear and to the point, and she interweaves the voices of her subjects into her analysis fairly smoothly. Whether you are a long-time fan or a curious outsider, you will learn a lot from this book.
As both a fan and an anthropologist interested in studying this culture (in essence, kinda studying myself as well!), I recommend this book highly. I gave it four stars rather than five, however, because there were areas where I wished that the author had tightened up her theoretical argument, or had done more work on linkages between what she has bounded as SF culture and inter-related subcultures. I also think more historical background would have enriched her study. Finally, I wanted a stronger sense of what brought the author into this study, and what she gets (besides academic material) from this work.
I will be using the book for a course on the anthropology of "escapist" subcultures, and I think that my students will find at as interesting as I have.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Think of it as a First Contact Experience March 15 2000
I hesitated -- as briefly as possible -- before writing this review because I watched the process of SF CULTURE'S making and was interviewed for it myself and quoted extensively. So I can say that the author is a fine and dispassionate interviewer -- not an easy task considering her own kin-structures within the SF community -- and that she has written a book that empathetically and provocatively describes a culture that came together over books and has made the choice to remain together as a"~ community."~ arguments are logical to me, as indicated by Kit Kerr's reference to Spock's "fascinating, Captain." I only wish we could get half the books written that this book, ideally, should generate.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, Captain . . . Feb. 29 2000
Finding a book that combines solid scholarship with good writing is rare enough to celebrate. Bacon-Smith has meticulously researched the sometimes strange, sometimes all-American community of SF fandom, then presented her findings in clear, enjoyable English. Her discussion of the role of women in this community is worth the price of the book all by itself. I should add, I suppose, that this is a community that I personally know well.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A great read Sept. 7 2001
By A Customer
This book is a very candid, if scholarly, look at life in science fiction fandom. It contains, among other things, a lovely treatment on the world of publishing - foibles and all. Highly recommended.
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