Cosmic Critiques: How & Why Ten Science Fiction Stories Work

The ten stories collected here are so compelling they’ll immediately pull you into the worlds they create. And after reading them, you’ll learn exactly why and how they do it…

These stories were chosen by Isaac Asimov and Martin Greenberg as representative of the major subgenres within science fiction, including unabashed space opera, future history, if-this-goes-on, and cyberpunk. The stories illustrate the spectrum of major topics found in science fiction as it is today.

Each story begins with an introduction by Asimov, where he provides background on the story, defines the genre of which it is a part, and examines why it is representative of that genre. Then, following each story, you’ll find specific nuts-and-bolts commentary about the craft each author used in creating the story.

These stories in themselves offer quite a “good read.” Taken together with the explanations and analyses, these stories offer insight and inspiration that you can apply to your own writing.

If you love science fiction, whether as a reader or a writer, you’ll finish this book with a new understanding of the science fiction genre.

I enjoy this anthology immensely. The fact that it includes “The Last Question” in it—Asimov’s favorite of his own short fiction, my favorite of his short fiction, and one of the best goll durn sf stories ever written—helps, of course. And the fact that most of the other stories are very, very good helps, too (Larry Niven’s “Neutron Star,” J.G. Ballard’s “Billenium,” and Norman Spinrad’s “Carcinoma Angels” most notably).

What makes the difference here is the literary analyses of the stories which follow them. Asimov wrote headnotes, and the style of the analyses isn’t recognizably his so it may well be Greenberg who is their author. It doesn’t matter. They‘re very good and very insightful—why, I even learned some things about “The Last Question” which I hadn’t (gasp!) ever noticed.

Some of the stories, most notably Raymond Banks’ “Transstar” aren’t all that good in and of themselves, but Greenberg’s analyses nonetheless help the reader gain some good out of them and arms the reader with tools to use not only to write sf better (the ostensible purpose of the book), but to enjoy it all the more.

Definitely recommended.

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