Nearly twenty years ago Robert Silverberg began writing a monthly column of opinion and commentary, for Galileo Magazine, Amazing Stories, and then for Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. Now he has chosen the liveliest and most relevant of his hundreds of magazine columns for the present collection. They constitute a vivid chronicle of events both in science fiction and the world in general over the past two decades.
Robert Silverberg is one of the great veterans of fantasy and science fiction. During the course of a career that has now stretched across more than forty years, he has written dozens of novels and hundreds of short stories, many of them considered classics of the genre. He has won more major award nominations than any other writer in his field, and no less than nine Hugo and Nebula awards, the key s-f/fantasy trophies. His books have been translated into some eighteen languages and his short stories have appeared in every science-fiction and fantasy magazine in the world, as well as in Omni, Playboy, and Penthouse.
In 1978, Silverberg, who's won nine Hugo and Nebula Awards for his science fiction, began contributing essays to the short-lived magazine Galileo. He moved to the long-lived Amazing Stories in 1981, then to Asimov's in 1994 after Amazing's demise and Asimov's death. Here, he collects 88 brief essays from these periods, most harvested from Amazing and Asimov's, plus a handful of introductions written for SF classic reprints and a few pieces from other sources. A few essays include updates. The material is divided into six sections, two on SF specifically, one on writing generally, two about science and public affairs and a final one encompassing autobiographical writings. The pieces on SF are likely to appeal mostly to aficionados. Silverberg, like other critics, sees a steep decline in the average quality of today's SF, which he believes is driven more by media or marketing considerations than by ideas. Perhaps that is why he recently said that his future writings would be mostly fantasy. Readers who enjoyed Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World (1996) will see similar sentiments here, deploring pseudoscience and anti-science diatribes. The pieces on writing and on autobiographical topics will have the widest appeal. Silverberg is more sanguine than his senior, Frederik Pohl, who has written about many of the same topics, and less acerbic than fellow writer/critic Thomas Disch. Though few of the essays develop their points at length, they're well written, often provocative and should find a broad and receptive audience.