From the Launching Pad

Extrapolation (2019), 60, (2), 95–96.


From the Launching Pad From the Launching Pad Andrew M. Butler I suspect I saw my first copy of Extrapolation thirty years ago. My university subscribed, along with Foundation and Science Fiction Studies, and I would dip into them as new issues appeared. If we were to go back thirty more years, to December 1959, we would find Thomas D. Clareson and Edward S. Lauterbach launching a biannual newsletter for the Modern Language Association. That was the year that saw The Sirens of Titan, Starship Troopers, Time Out of Joint, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Return of the Fly, Teenagers from Outer Space, and On the Beach. Extrapolation’s first editorial listed the problems facing the science fiction researcher: First, the lack of accurate, cumulative bibliographies of both science-fiction works themselves and articles about s-f. Second, the lack of generally accepted criteria by which to judge the effectiveness of the individual work (The view that one judges s-f by the same standard as one judges any fiction has merit as far as it goes, but it also seems to dodge the essential question, doesn’t it?). Third, the need for a comprehensive history of the genre—British, Continental, American—with studies of sources and influences. (At best such a history exists only piecemeal at this time, being particularly, perhaps, in certain periods of English literature.) Fourth, the need for extensive study of the relationship between science-fiction and the science of its own period; that is, the need for study of the popular concepts of science and the scientist of any one period as reflected through science-fiction. (Lauterbach and Clareson 1) How have we done in sixty years? We have come a long way from the card catalog indexes, microfiches, and indexes of citations I had access to in the 1990s—even CD-ROMs and Web of Science seem old-fashioned these days. We now have access to an incredible number of academic articles from a hundred years of research, although we still get articles where we wonder if these have been consulted. (Every couple of years we get a new paper on John Wyndham not really being cozy or Katherine Burdekin being entirely ignored.) I doubt that we are any closer to generally accepted criteria, nor will we get there. There is a loose canon of Dick, Le Guin, Gibson, Butler, among others, but too many authors are still neglected. When I was researching my Solar Flares (2010), I was constantly struck how often mine was the first Extrapolation, vol. 60, no. 2 (2019) https://doi.org/10.3828/extr.2019.7

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Work Cited

Lauterbach, Edward S., and Thomas D. Clareson. “From the Launching Pad.” Extrapolation, vol. 1, no. 1, 1959, p. 1. Google Scholar

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Author details

Butler, Andrew M.