There’s an academic term: monograph. Basically it means a study of one particular subject. Where that subject is a science fiction writer, we’ve been pretty poorly served up to now. There have been occasional biographies, though these have usually been restricted to the very best known authors and haven’t always been that good. And let’s face it, a writer’s job is to sit at a desk and write, which doesn’t always make for the most exciting biography. But if you want a critical study of your favourite writer, something that analyses their work, that puts it in context, that draws out what is quirky or particular or special about the work, then with very few exceptions you have had to scour through the academic journals like Science Fiction Studies or Extrapolation or Foundation for the occasional essay.
But now University of Illinois Press have put together a series of monographs under the overall title of Modern Masters of Science Fiction. Each one matches an expert with a leading science fiction writer (and not always the writers who have received the most critical attention). The books all follow the same basic pattern: the bulk of the book is made up of a critical overview of the author’s work that considers everything they have written and generally puts it in the context of their biography; in addition most of the books include an interview with the author, and a bibliography so you can check whether or not you are missing any of their books.
The series is still growing (hopefully in future it will include more writers whose names do not begin with B, and more women, both as contributors and as subjects), but this is a list of the books currently in the series. If you want to know more about the work of any particular author, this really is an invaluable series.
J.G. Ballard by D. Harlan Wilson
Iain M. Banks by Paul Kincaid
Gregory Benford by George Slusser
Alfred Bester by Jad Smith
Ray Bradbury by David Seed
John Brunner by Jad Smith
Lois McMaster Bujold by Edward James
Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan
Greg Egan by Karen Burnham
William Gibson by Gary Westfahl
Frederik Pohl by Michael R. Page
From Nebula and Hugo Award–nominated Carolyn Ives Gilman comes Dark Orbit, a compelling novel featuring alien contact, mystery, and murder.
Reports of a strange, new habitable planet have reached the Twenty Planets of human civilization. When a team of scientists is assembled to investigate this world, exoethnologist Sara Callicot is recruited to keep an eye on an unstable crewmate.