Peter Nicholls’ “Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years” Available from Ansible Editions

Peter Nicholls (1939-2018) was an important science fiction critic and commentator for four decades starting in the Seventies. He published reviews and essays in Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction (which he edited 1974-1978), The New York Review of Science FictionVector and many other magazines, newspapers, anthologies, sf convention publications and reference works. He is best known as founding editor of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979; 1993; 2011-current online). All three editions of this major genre reference won Hugo awards. He was the first administrator of the Science Fiction Foundation (1971-1977). He received the 1980 Pilgrim Award for services to sf scholarship. His other books include Fantastic Cinema: An Illustrated Survey (1984).

Ansible Editions presents the first edition of the critical collection he had long planned but owing to failing health was unable to complete: Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years by Peter Nicholls.

In contrast to other Ansible Editions publicized here, this volume is offered for sale, with all proceeds going to support the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, of which he was the founding editor in 1979 – writing much of the text himself – and co-editor for the second (1993) and third (2011 online) editions.

Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years comprises 60 witty and insightful pieces by Peter Nicholls, including a long, previously unpublished speech and the new introduction he wrote in 2012. His long-time Encyclopedia colleague John Clute contributes a foreword. The collection was compiled by David Langford with the support and assistance of Peter’s family, and runs to more than 220,000 words of vintage Nicholls.


Neil Gaiman: “Peter Nicholls was a unique voice in science fiction and fantasy criticism, able to speak as easily and fluently to an audience inside the genre as to the world at large and to academia. He loved fiction and words and used them in a way that was all his own, splurging on the joy and the wit and, where necessary, the snark, but always with an evangelical determination to make SF and Fantasy (and thus the world) a better place.”

Malcolm Edwards, former Deputy CEO and Group Publisher at Orion Books: “I think that at his best Peter was the most brilliant writer about sf I ever knew (and I’ve known John Clute for 50 years or so). This will be an essential volume.”

The complete Table of Contents is here.

A brief sample: “Big Dumb Objects and Cosmic Enigmas: The Love Affair between Space Fiction and the Transcendental” by Peter Nicholls.

… Not everyone, even if they are writers or academics, is familiar with the word “bathos”. Not “pathos” but “bathos”, with a B. “Bathos” means, according to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a “ludicrous descent from the elevated to the commonplace” (192) and according to me “a combination of the sublime and the ridiculous”. I attempted to include in my title the bathos I found (and continue to find) to be science fiction’s tragic if lovable flaw by linking the elevated terms “infinity and eternity” with the dismissive term “pulp magazines”. The phrase “Big Dumb Objects” has deliberate bathos also, with its focus on the word “dumb”. and is therefore equally appropriate….

Genre Fiction: The Roaring Years by Peter Nicholls. Paperback: $22.50 [Lulu print on demand]; Ebook: £5.50

[Based on a press release.]

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