By Michael Dunford
MBR (Midwest Book Review)
Synopsis: Much has been written about the “long Sixties”, the era of the late 1950s through the early 1970s. It was a period of major social change, most graphically illustrated by the emergence of liberation and resistance movements focused on inequalities of class, race, gender, sexuality, and beyond, whose challenge represented a major shock to the political and social status quo. With its focus on speculation, alternate worlds and the future, science fiction became an ideal vessel for this upsurge of radical protest.
“Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 to 1985” details, celebrates, and evaluates how science fiction novels and authors depicted, interacted with, and were inspired by these cultural and political movements in America and Great Britain.
It starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes.
This original study then moves through the 1960s, when writers, including those in what has been termed the New Wave, shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power.
It was in the 1970s when the genre reflected the end of various dreams of the long Sixties and the faltering of the postwar boom. This is also explored along with the first half of the 1980s, which gave rise to new subgenres, such as cyberpunk.
Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by the team of Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre, “Dangerous Visions and New Worlds” contains over twenty chapters written by contemporary authors and critics, and hundreds of full-color cover images, including thirteen thematically organised cover selections. New perspectives on key novels and authors, such as Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, John Wyndham, Samuel Delany, J.G. Ballard, John Brunner, Judith Merril, Barry Malzberg, Joanna Russ, and many others are presented alongside excavations of topics, works, and writers who have been largely forgotten or undeservedly ignored.
Critique: An inherently fascinating and unique literary, social, and cultural analysis of the science fiction genre in the last half of the 20th Century, “Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 – 1985” is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Profusely illustrated throughout and highly recommended for personal, professional, community, college, and university library 20th Century Popular Culture collections in general, and Science Fiction History & Literary Criticism collections in particular, it should be also be noted for personal reading lists that “Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950 – 1985” is also available in a paperback edition (9781629638836, $29.95) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note #1: Andrew Nette is a writer of fiction and nonfiction based in Melbourne, Australia. He is also the co-editor of Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 (2017) and Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1956 to 1980 (2019), as well as the author of a monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction film Rollerball, published by the independent film and media studies publisher Auteur in 2018. He has contributed reviews and nonfiction to the Los Angeles Review of Books, Sight and Sound, Australian Book Review, the British Film Institute, and Australian Centre for the Moving Image. He is the author of Ghost Money (2012) and Gunshine State (2016). His short fiction has appeared in numerous print and online publications.
Editorial Note #2: Iain McIntyre is a Melbourne-based author, musician, and community radio broadcaster who has written a variety of books on activism, history, and music. Previous publications include Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1956 to 1980 (2019); On the Fly! Hobo Literature and Songs, 1879 – 1941 (2018); Girl Gangs, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980 (2017); How to Make Trouble and Influence People: Pranks, Protest, Graffiti & Political Mischief-Making from across Australia (2013); Wild About You: The Sixties Beat Explosion in Australia and New Zealand (2010); and Tomorrow Is Today: Australia in the Psychedelic Era, 1966 – 70 (2006).