Heterocosms and other essays on fantastic literature by Brian Stableford – I realised, reading this often interesting often infuriating collection of essays that Brian and I approach the criticism of sf from totally different directions, I believe in starting from the edges and working in, he believes in starting from the centre and working out. It means that we can often seem to be in irreconcilable disagreement, but in fact there is a surprising amount of concurrence in our views. The central essay here is the one that comes second in the collection in which he discusses how an sf story should end. The point is that certain genres impose a structure on the story, this structure may be subverted or not by the individual writer, but there are still certain expectations in the mind of the reader. The reader of a crime story, for instance, expects the crime to be solved at the end, that is how the story should end. But with sf there is no expected end because sf does not impose generic expectations in this way. This leads to some very interesting discussions about the nature of sf as genre which Stableford keeps returning to throughout the book. (Actually, while I would agree with the broad point, I do think there are sub-genres of sf which do have expected endings, and in fact I riffed off this idea in my review of Cowboy Angels for Foundation.)

First published at LiveJournal, 2 November 2007.