Cosmic Critiques – How&Why ten science fiction stories work

(except this book doesn’t)

Cosmic Critiques is the first “how to write” book I had real, recognizable problems with. Go no further, I do not repeat do not recommend this book to people wanting to learn the craft of writing.

However, this book is a gem if you’re a literary historian; the included stories were all written when science fiction was undergoing a major transition from authors schooled in literature to authors schooled in technology.

My first problem was that none of the stories worked (my opinion). They were all droll, trite, rather meaningless, uneventful, unengaging, and blow-offs. Some, if I remember correctly, were praised in their day.

That brings us to problem 2; these stories are very much of their time (1950s-1980s). Wells, Verne, Burroughs, and Baum’s stories endure because the stories are about people doing things and the human condition endures. Stories written in the 1950s-1980s tended to be about people dealing with technology doing things and any story with technology as its focus can’t endure (except, as noted, with historians, anthropologists, any and all folk interested in time periods, not literature).

Specific to Cosmic Critiques, the earlier included stories signaled the move from interesting character driven stories to temporally interesting gadget stories. The United States had become the technology giant of the world and popular culture – which science fiction is a part of – followed suit.

The most interesting part of the book (to me) Is contained in a paragraph of Isaac Asimov’s introduction:

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