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Science fiction, literature of ideas and popular culture, has come into its own in the twentieth century. Often quite radical in its visions, it provides imaginative interpretations of science and technology and disseminates potentially influential ideologies. In this book, sociologist William Bainbridge gives us the first comprehensive, quantitative study of science fiction’s creators, audience, methods, and effects.
Using data from hundreds of questionnaires, the author examines the attitudes and beliefs of members of the science fiction subculture—writers, readers, and critics—and shows that their views can be grouped into three competing ideologies, each taking a different perspective on the relation between science, technology, society, and the individual personality and each urging a different course for the future of humankind. His findings are vividly illustrated by the words of many of the best writers in the field. Bainbridge seeks not only to define science fiction but also to discover its social meaning, its possible impact on our future. It is a literature of persuasion and debate, of questioning and exploration. What novel concepts, explanations, and values does it convey? What are the logical consequences for society? What futures might be in store for us?
This book will interest all serious students of science and technology and of popular culture, as well as those readers interested in science fiction for its own sake. It describes a fascinating intellectual subculture and illuminates society’s deeply ambivalent attitude toward science and technology—one of the most perplexing problems of our age.