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Decoding Gender in Science Fiction Hardcover – Sep 20 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 222 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (Sept. 20 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415939496
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415939492
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 2 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 549 g
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Product Description


"Brian Attebery is wonderfully fitted by nature, training, and experience to take on the complex subject of this book. Fair-minded and vastly tolerant, knowledgeable in every field of science fiction and fantasy, writing with vitality, clarity, and humor--he has given us a work that will engage and reward both the scholar and the interested lay reader." Ursula K. Le Guin

"Decoding Gender addresses [Science Fiction] issues in powerful ways through its nuanced exploration of both masculine and feminine SF writing traditions. Attebery's wide-ranging but judicious use of feminist theory balances especially nicely with his detailed analyses of individual SF texts; both, in turn, provide fresh perspectives on SF history--or, more accurately, on SF's multiple histories. The concluding chapters convincingly demonstrate why these multiple histories matter...he has given us a way to see them more clearly. Highly recommended." Lisa Yaszek, Extrapolation

"Decoding Gender's greatest strength is its methodology. Attebery uses cultural theory to play the kind of "what if" game so near and dear to the collective heart of the SF community. This framing technique is more than just a useful device for decoding gender and genre; it's also quite fun. The "what if" game also enables Attebery to tell dynamic SF histories that complicate their smooth evolutionary predecessors. Elsewhere, feminist theory provides Attebery with the means to generate new histories across conventional SF periodization. Rather than giving readers a Darwinian tale of the triumph of a single literary species, Attebery depicts the development of SF as a series of complex and sometimes contradictory processes." Lisa Yaszek, Extrapolation

"This is a thorough examination of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the history of gender representations in science fiction." Regina Cross, Journal of the Fantastic of the Arts

"Decoding Gender in Science Fiction is a commendable work, a pleasure to read and a source of new insights into the political minefield that gender studies have become over the years." Donna Spalding Andreolle, Utopian Studies

"Brian Atterby's Decoding Gender in Science Fiction is a welcome addition tot he list of key texts...that address science fiction's problematic relationship with gender. [I]t is vital precisely because it theorizes gender as a dual system rather than conflating the study of gender with the study of the female." Science Fiction Studies

"Attebury approaches science fiction as a literary scholar; his book reads like a series of lectures, and it would make an excellent course book." Robin Roberts, Modern Fiction Studies

"I heartily recommend the entire book both to experienced sf readers and to those for whom fantasy and science fiction are a huge, hostile terra incognital." Susanna J. Sturgis, Women Review of Books

"Overall, Decoding Gender is a pleasure to read, not least because of Attebery's wide-ranging samplings of sf. One of the book's greatest virtues is its exploration of the fringes of sf without neglecting the center." Joe Milicia, The New York Review of Science Fiction

"Decoding Gender in Science Fiction is vital precisely because it theorizes gender as a dual system rather than conflating the study of gender with the study of the female." Sherryl Vint, St. Francis Xavier University, Science Fiction Studies

"I heartily recommend the entire book." Susanna J. Sturgis, Women Review of Books

"Attebury approaches science fiction as a literary would make an excellent course book." Robin Roberts, Modern Fiction Studies

"The presentation is so clearly written and expertly researched, belying the breadth and depth of knowledge of a true master of the subject, that it is often easy to forget that Attebery has presented us with quite a complex argument for the role and use of gender in science fiction. This is the book we all should have written, but I'm glad we didn't because he did it better." J. Jason Smith

About the Author

Brian Attebery is Professor of English and Director of American Studies at Idaho State University. He is author of Strategies of Fantasy and The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature, and co-editor, with Ursula K. Le Guin, of The Norton Book of Science Fiction.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa77d2504) out of 5 stars 1 review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa77d2db0) out of 5 stars One of the finest critical discussions of SF that I have read Oct. 17 2009
By Robert Moore - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is one of the half dozen best books that I have ever read on SF (along with books like those by Darko Suvin, Tom Moylan, Brian Aldiss, Scott Bukatman, and Fredric Jameson), so the lack of previous reviews for this superb book is inexplicable. There are so many reasons to read this book. Increasingly over the past several decades questions of gender have more and more pressing. Even in the years prior to the publication of THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS issues of gender arose even in books that did not consciously address it. No attentive reader of Robert Heinlein could miss the homosocial assumptions undergirding Heinlein's world (even a nonfeminist would have to confess that Heinlein is, to coin a phrase, a sexist porcine). But gender is a more subtle issue than Heinlein's crudities. It is present as an issue even when it is apparently absent. Attebery does as good a job of teasing out the various issues raised by gender as one could wish.

The book does not contained a sustained argument, but instead is a string of tightly connected essays dealing with one or another aspect of gender. And what wonderful essays they are! I value these essays both for the brilliant insights each one shows about SF as a whole but for the in depth discussion of the more specific issue addressed by that particular essay. They proceed roughly in chronological order of the SF being discussed. For instance, the first two essays deal with proto-SF works of the 19th century and many of the SF stories that came out of the pulp era, especially those produced under the editorship of John W. Campbell. Subsequent essays deal with Campbell's obsession with "super men," which most definitely excluded women, and what Attebery terms "wonder women," focusing in the latter especially on the writings of one of my favorite pulp age writers, C. L. Moore. One of my favorite essays explored utopias based upon the exclusion of one gender in favor of the other. Most collections of essays usually have a few that are of less interest than others, but I was impressed by the consistent excellence of these essays.

Like any good book, this one caused me to add a substantial number of new titles to my ever-expanding list of books that I would like to read. But what Attebery had to say both on SF in general and the function of gender coding within it in particular will certainly inform all of my future SF reading. Certainly it is a book that anyone interested in the academic study of SF (though as Attebery quite correctly points out, there are many SF fans who most decidedly do not want to study the genre academically) will want to read and study. As I said, this is without question one of the finest studies of SF published in the past couple of decades.