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10 thoughts on “New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction

  1. says:

    I could barely put down this wonderful essay by the late Kingsley Amis, who turns out to have had exactly the same prejudices about science fiction as I do From the identity of the first known SF story Plato s Critias, what else , glancing at The Tempest with its astonishingly durable mad scientist and beautiful daughter combo, through the inexplicably addictive quality of Jules Verne s horrible prose, past the weirdness of 30s pulps and up to the delights of what was then the cutting edge New Maps came out in 1960 there s hardly a sentence I d want to disagree with I ve read a good three quarters of his favorites and have the same high opinion of them Brave New World, check Fahrenheit 451, check Wyndham s Consider Her Ways, check Clifford Simak folksiness, check The Pohl and Kornbluth advertising stories, check And OMG, he s even a fan of Robert Sheckley s Pilgrimage to Earth If, like me, you love both Golden Age SF and mainstream literature, you simply have to get this It only takes a couple of hours to read and will charm your socks off.


  2. says:

    If you re into stuff like this, you can read the full review.There Are no Golden Ages New Maps of Hell by Kingsley Amis No wife who finds her husband addicting himself to science fiction need fear that he is in search of an erotic outlet, anyway not an overt one In New Maps of Hell by Kingsley Amis To put it in another context, imagine I d be teaching F Scott Fitzgerald to undergraduates, some of whom would be of African descent Do we look at the casual racism found in the books and say that s wrong No, we assume that everyone gets that it s wrong But we look at the fact that this was considered normal acceptable in F Scott s day He s still a magnificent writer, but he reflects his own era Scott s similar to Amis His attitude to women is a reflection of the times We can t shy away from that and pretend it isn t so, and we can t negate him as a writer, because of it Imagine yourself living in Lisbon as a young woman wouldn t you dread the endless comments, abuse, physical assaults that were part of your everyday experience Maybe this young woman dreamt of buying an electric cattle prod and zapping those who threatened her But it was the times in which they lived back then Women had no rights in the 60s The literature of the times, reflected that Shall we zap Amis with a cattle prod for being a man of his time No First of all, I believe that all good books, whether niche or mainstream or somewhere in between, must have an implicit message they are trying to put across, which should stick out almost like a sore thumb That said, I in no way think this should make books programmatic Writing a novel with the sole purpose of creating a text politically correct than anything that has ever been written might take away, all at once, all the drama and conflict that all good novels needless to say, I am merely expressing my own point of view here play with to a certain extent Secondly, SF fantasy and science fiction , possibly so than any other genre, and even at their most mechanically chlich d, are written and read not simply for idle entertainment , but as a platform for escapism And entertainment and escapism are definitely not the same thing Sure, escapism includes enjoyment, but there are many other elements to it as well If you re into SF Criticism, read on.


  3. says:

    This has been possibly one of the hardest books to categorise that I have read in recent times Let me explain.The book is based around a series of lectures Amis gave in the early 60s He himself a fan of science fiction, although openly admitting he is neither an expert not a professional in this field chose to give his views on the subject.Now on first glance you would assume this would the source of major consternation after all someone who does not know the subject putting it under scrutiny This is not the case Many of his opinions are well explained and justified and it is quickly demonstrated that he does know the subject just he is not claiming all knowledge is his.Then there is the rather antiquated and at times extreme views often dismissing certain sub genres and even certain authors as at best not really science fiction authors and at worst those who are simply retelling old stories but simply substituting people and places for exotic sounding versions for example his explanation of Space Operas.Now all of this should have got me ranting but no, after all this was written in 1961 where science fiction like much of popular fiction was coming out of the pulp era and learning to join the mains stream Yes there were many who looked and for many years after as well down their noses at science fiction relegating it to pubescent youths mainly boys or pipe smoking intellectuals who used to to express ideas they were incapable of expressing in any other way As Amis explains this is not the way just for some reason we try and dismiss it as such.Then there is also the fact that through out the book for all its criticisms it is a positive tone he takes, this is a genres that is here to stay and not only that has growth and potential Unlike many other styles and stories who really only try and find new ways of retelling the same story, science fiction is limited only by us, as new discoveries and ideas come to the front so this genre will be there to explore them.So I will admit if I could have my rating rise and fall like a pendulum I think I would do, at one moment wanting to max it out and then another to dismiss it This is a classic bit of science fiction history although at the time I am sure these were explosive words.One aspect I did enjoy was the determination that Amis tried to link Science fiction to jazz I will say no but I will give him full marks for his determination and creativity.


  4. says:

    anybody that likes Lit Crit and that s everybody, right hs got to read this Then read the books he touches on, then read his own novels.


  5. says:

    The first truly critical analysis of science fiction by an author better known for his work outside the science fiction field Amis begins with a brief history of science fiction and its origins in the pulp magazines and brings the reader up to date for the time Along the way he gives synopsis of science fiction stories he approves of, and often than not ones he does not approve of He then differentiates the types of science fiction stories, one of which is the universal my term science fiction story that deals with a science fiction phenomenon primarily rather than with the people it might affect the danger of such stories, as Amis points out, is that the synopsis is often better than the actual stories themselves He shows his disapproval of the BEM bug eyed monster story, that is the story most non science fiction readers commonly associate with science fiction, in which some Jocks In Space do battle with an ugly intergalactic army of cephalopods bent on universal domination Amis argument isn t so much that science fiction can be better than most other types of fiction, but that in most cases it can be just as good, that just as there is bad literature and good literature, there is good science fiction and bad science fiction much of the same argument is being made nowadays about comic books and graphic novels He comes off as a bit of an apologist in that way, but he knows his stuff and never appears to be a literary figure slumming in pop culture like just about every literary or cinema figure seems to be doing nowadays He never makes any qualms that science fiction is the best sort of fiction even though it can be the most entertaining and he stresses that is has a long way to go before it can be respected by outside audiences He values the fan base of science fiction, which is probably the strongest fan base of anything outside of sports, and shows how the fan base s interaction and criticisms of the genre is integral to the flourish and growth of the genre He pays little attention to science fiction novels, believing science fiction is better fitted for the short story form.Often as I have just been above Amis can dwell too much on summary and synopsis of different stories and histories, and not offer enough of his own analysis This book is very dated, but it is an excellent primer for those not yet associated with the merits of science fiction.


  6. says:

    This was hard to rate On the one hand, it is very dated ironically, perhaps, a 50 year old critique of SF suffers from some of the same stale dating that 50 year old SF itself suffers from Further,despite its overall pro SF agenda, it is perhaps just a shade too eager to adopt a semi apologetic tone for treating such generally puerile and stylistically sterile work seriously On the other hand, it is probably the first serious book length critique of SF, certainly the first such by someone from outside the genre IIRC, the first academic journal devoted to SF studies began only the year before this book came out , when there was virtually no audience for such a study as its publication by Ballantine, one of the better SF houses in the 1960s complete with a typical Ballantine SF cover perhaps attests As such, it is a trail blazing work And it does show insight and critical discrimination, albeit not always in ways I quite agree with Amis doesn t seem to see much room in SF for than satire or didacticism To be sure, SF can be both satiric and didactic often at the same time , but I would have thought that even by 1960 the potential, at least, for would have been evident to an avid and discrminating reader He does make clear, however, that the best SF writers are at least comparable to decent non SF writers, and he is at some pains to point out that the specifics of the genre ight mean it does not do certain things, but that neither ought it try to do them his conclusion that there areperhaps a dozen or so SF authors that could reasonably be viewed as minor writers of some merit is on the face of it perhaps insulting, but it is perhaps also not as far from the truth as one might hope Anyway, perhaps unsurprisingly given the absence of a critical tradition and of anything like a clearly identifiable audience other than SF fans , the book tends towards the general and the summative, but Amis writes with verve and dry wit, and he generally selects excellent examples to demonstrate his points He also, especially early on, provides fascinating information about the development of fan communities, the sales figures of various SF magazines, the relative status of different magazines, etc valuable information easily lost in time Anyone interested in the genesis of SF criticism should read this book, but any SF fan, generally, should find this an illuminating time capsule.


  7. says:

    Kingsley Amis 1922 1995 wrote in 1960 i think is the first serious essay on the world of science fiction,ovously it is outdated but yet it contains some gems.The book beguins with the primitive history with the names between others anciet of Jules Verne,H.G Wells and Edgar Rice Haggard and , then follows with the less serious writes in pulp magazines and finally when the sf became a mature and serious genre of mass diffusion ,the autor focusses on the sociological and political aspects and sees the genre in its distopic novels and tales as a critic ,satire or warning for the human society,here appears names as James Blish,Ray Bradbury,Arthur Clarke,Robert Sheckley,Frederick Pohl,Van Vogt,Clifford Simak,L.Sprague de Camps,Kornbluth ,Brian Aldiss and others.Then makes a length discussion on the works THe Space Merchants,The Midas Plague and Farenheith 451 but makes alusi n to other many Works as Silent Brother by Algis Budris,World Withut Men by Charles Eric Maine,Consider Her Ways by John Wynham,,Unhuman Sacrifice by Katherine MacLean,The Helping Hand by Poul Anderson,Drop Dead by Clifford Simak,The Demolished Man BY Alfred Bester,Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell,The Academy by Robert Sheckley,What to do till the Analist comes by Pohl where satirices the use of tranquilicers,Pictures Dont Lie by Katherine MacLean,The Tunel Under the World by Pohl,the classic Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy,the utopics Works by Bulwer Lytton,Samuel Buttler,W.H Hudson,Willian Morris,Dean Howells and many othersI would rate it 4.5


  8. says:

    Dated Yes Is it a brave subject to tackle and defend at the close of the 1950s unlike a certain, albeit wonderful author who in 2015 still shuffles behind the spec word absolutely And once again, this supposedly awful misogynist I ve been reading about flays my expectations by citing two feminist rants in pulp SF magazines as proof of the genre s value OK, not because they re feminist exactly, but because a reader of westerns wouldn t take to the same amount of digression on frontier ethics, but still I find myself liking Mr Amis and .


  9. says:

    It has taken me 30 years to get round to taking this out of my to be read plies but it still holds up as pretty much the definitive starting point for anyone wanting to analyse SF as a literary phenomenon There are some places where it is dated For instance a tendency to seek to require a clear technology element to separate SF from fantasy, or where he welcomes a move away from aliens being stereotypical bad guy BEMS to being often sympathetically portrayed whereas since that time many authors have moved a step beyond that to try and show the alien as being truly alien in outlook However in much of the rest Amis remains spot on For instance SF used as a mechanism for current issues or which simply reflects the culture in which it was created, the use of What If as a core story element, the tendency of some SF to turn characters into mere cyphers, the difficulty and rareness of humour in SF remember Amis would count Pratchett as fantasy not SF , and its similarity to other genre forms.Even if you disagree with his analysis the wide selection of SF books name checked in this text would make an ideal recommended reading list for any fan of the genre.


  10. says:

    I read this many, many years ago I had the 1961 mmpb edition and might even still have it Anyway, for a real review, I refer you to Manny s, which fits my golden memories better and to Manuel Ant o s critical review, should look to see if I still have it Love that period cover art