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Book Note: Farah Mendlesohn, The Inter-Galactic Playground

I read this book about 22-Jun-2017. [an error occurred while processing this directive] I've read this book before. The book is copyright 2009. This note was last modified Wednesday, 12-Jul-2017 13:52:07 PDT.

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This is book (none) of the "" series.

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This note contains spoilers for the book.

[an error occurred while processing this directive] I'm still in the process of reading this book.

Non-fiction, by an academic (teaches at Middlesex University, and this is nothing like her first book) who is also a fan. (Closely enough connected in fandom to be a friend of a friend, probably a friend of several friends, though I've never met her myself.)

Full title is The Inter-Galactic Playground: A Critical Study of Children's and Teens' Science Fiction .

I had to get this through inter-library loan, and ended up skimming some rather than being able to read everything because I couldn't renew it when I was running out of time. But a lot of her detailed arguments are based on books I haven't read, so skimming those parts didn't cost me that much. I probably should have made a list of books to check out though.

I will certainly not make any attempt to summarize this. The introduction does that fairly well, if you need a summary in the author's own words. And these "book notes" aren't reviews, either, or attempts at serious criticisms; they are my personal immediate reactions to books I have read. At bottom they are about me rather than actually being about the work. That's an especially important distinction with this kind of non-fiction, so I'm pointing it out again here.

So. Lots of what I see about books for teens or young adults (categories whose names and boundaries and existence all change over time) strikes me as wrong. Much modern SF (since we took over all the blockbuster movies) has struck me as SF made for non-SF-readers; for people not literate in existing SF, and for people who don't think about SF the way SF readers think about SF. This is especially bad in film and TV (though not universal even there), perhaps for the combination of reasons that it must appeal to a wider audience to pay the huge costs of those media, and that the collaborative process involved in such hugely complex projects inherently dillutes whatever single clear vision the project may have started with. And one of the big things this book is about is how written SF for younger readers has gone astray and is not appealing to the people who will like real SF. So naturally I'm pre-disposed to like it ;-)

I'm puzzled by the relative lack of references to J. K. Rowling (not SF, no, but points are made in the book by comparing Tolkien's fantasy to C. S. Lewis' fantasy), and by the complete absence of Diane Duane's Young Wizards series (which is not so much fantasy, as SF with a new science and set in a world with not just aliens, but god-level powers of aliens who communicate directly with humans on occasion). .

 


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David Dyer-Bennet