Classics of science fiction and fantasy literature [electronic resource]

Summary: I evaluate this resource on 9 criteria, noting pros and cons. For a larger research library, I would recommend getting the unabridged 1996 version because of its significantly greater coverage: 791 vs. 180 articles. Also, because a larger library could likely negotiate a good lease, I'd recommend the electronic version of that 1996 edition through NetLibrary. However, for a smaller library - especially for a school library, this would be an excellent resource at a reasonable price, if they purchased the print version.

Kelleghan, Fiona, editor. Classics of science fiction and fantasy literature [electronic resource] / Magill's guide to science fiction and fantasy literature. Salem Press, Inc.: NetLibrary, 2002.


AUTHORS: According to the biographies in Contemporary Authors, Contemporary Literary Criticism Select, Dictionary of Literary Biography, the editor - Fiona Kelleghan - has written bios for contemporary authors in this field and T. A. Shippey - writer of the introduction - has edited numerous works in this field.

PUBLISHERS: According to Books in Print, Salem Press, Inc. is active and has been publishing since 1946. In addition, their website indicates a focus on reference book publishing.

PREVIOUS EDITION: According to the preface, all but 8 of the 180 essays in this set are taken from a prior 4-volume edition (1996), which contained 791 essays (according to an LSU subject guide). This is a slightly more current, abridged edition.


According to the Preface, the selective criteria for these 180 "major books and series in the fields of science fiction and fantasy" are "among the most frequently taught books in their fields in high school and undergraduate literature and cultural history courses (ix)." I am not sure how to corroborate this claim. However, according to a brief scan of the timeline and authors index for included works, it spans 1726-2000 and includes a number of authors who are ethnic minorities and women. On the other hand, according to a review from Books in Print, the contributors "work mainly in the US," so the international scope of this work seems limited, especially as it only exists in the English language.


The preface gives an accurate description of the layout of the material - saying - "each article discusses an individual book or series and often comments on other works by the same author. Individual articles open with basic reference information in a ready-reference format: author's name, his or her birth and death dates, identification of the work as either science fiction or fantasy, subgenre, type of work (such as drama, novel, novella, series, or story), time and location of plot, and date of first publication. The main body of each essay contains two sections of nearly equal length. The first section is entitled "The Story" and the second "Analysis." The first section offers a brief summary of the work's plot and identifies major characters. The "Analysis" section offers a critical interpretation of the title. This section also identifies the literary devices and themes used in the work. (ix)" A cursory look at an entry with whose work I am familiar indicates that the plot summary is very accurate, the analysis is relatively objective and the writing style is well-suited for a high school or college level reader.


The articles are arranged alphabetically by the title of original work, but I am unsure of the rationale behind this arrangement. Happily, there are also indexes by author, subject, genre, publication date, as well as a full-text keyword search that increase access points for the reader.


The bulk of the essays are from the 1996 unabridged edition and, since the claimed scope is largely historical and aimed at classics in the field, that seems acceptable. However, this newest edition contains additional currency (as of 2002), with a survey of the science-fiction and fantasy fields, 8 additional essays, a list of recent science fiction and fantasy award winners, and an annotated Web site list that contains some excellent online resources for further exploration of the topic.


Available in electronic format through NetLibrary. Although the inside cover on NetLibrary notes that "some images in the original version of this book are not available for inclusion in the eBook," there still seem to be plenty of author images. And, despite being an electronic version, the font is very clear, the whitespace is abundant, and the ability to zoom in is helpful for visually-challenged users. There is a clear visual division of articles from each other, and the use of 2 dividing sections - story and analysis - is equally clear. Having both volumes be searchable by full-text keyword and browseable by contents was very helpful in finding evaluative points.


Very stable because it's through NetLibrary (a large, for-fee service). However, the limit on the number of simultaneous users could be problematic if this text were referenced for a course.


The main distinguishing features of this electronic version are the expandable table of contents on the left-hand side, which makes it easy to scan the overall structure and find a specific title; its full-text searchability by keyword; and the ability to zoom in and out for increased visibility (if needed) on an individual page.


New - for around $120 ( Not sure of the annual leasing cost hrough NetLibrary.