"An unbelievably wonderful book" —Isaac Asimov
"This IS the history of science fiction...My only real complaint is that it ended too soon"—Science Fiction Chronicle
"Painstaking research and wealth of fascinating detail."—The Washington Post
The World Beyond the Hill is a unique book—a story about stories. It tells not only where science fiction came from and how it got that way, but what science fiction means.
Science fiction has been the myth of modern times. The World Beyond the Hill is the tale of that myth from Frankenstein to Galactic Empire.
By setting forth this evolving story, The World Beyond the Hill sheds light not only on what modern culture has been thinking and doing, but where we are going next and what we need to become.
The World Beyond the Hill won a non-fiction Hugo Award in competition with books by Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Ursula LeGuin and Robert Heinlein
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Read an Excerpt
For as long as we humans have existed in our present intermediate state as creatures more than merely animal but also less human than we can be and will be, there have been mythic storytellers. These are men and women who have taken the best knowledge of their time and place and combined it with a sense of the incompleteness of mankind and the fundamental mystery of existence, and then told stories of higher possibility: Stories of fear and wonder. Stories of quest into unknown lands and return with magical gifts which transform the world. Stories of the beginning and the end of all things.
The myths that we learn as we are growing up provide us with guidance in life. In their conservative aspect, myths confirm us in our localness. They teach us how to be a citizen of Rome, a Huichol Indian, or a contemporary American. But far more important is that in their radical aspect, myths alert us to the limitations of how we presently live and who we take ourselves to be, and lead us on toward what we are not yet.
By the manner in which we conduct ourselves and the goals for which we strive, we attempt to make our myths come true in the world. The efforts we make change the world and alter our knowledge. Then new myths become necessary.
The myth of the modern Western world has been science fiction. The ability of this literature to guide our efforts and set our goals can be seen all around us.
The submarine that first traveled to the North Pole--the first nuclear-powered ship--was named the Nautilus after the superscientific submarine of Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. And its commander would later say that he had been inspired to become asubmariner by reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea as a youngster.
The idea that an atomic bomb might actually be made first came to a physicist who had originally encountered the concept of atomic weapons in a story by H. G. Wells.
An orbital shuttle--an almost-spaceship--has been named the Enterprise after the galaxy-exploring spaceship imagined in the television series Star Trek.
The world that we live in has been formed in the image of the myth of science fiction. Anything we use today may have been made by a robot. Children play interactive games with household computers, and thinking machines play championship-level chess. Men in rockets have traveled to the moon, and we have even sent off greetings to the stars.
The story of the complete life cycle of this myth is presented in this book, beginning with the first faint glimmerings that "science" might be a new name for higher possibility, and ending with modern mythmakers able to imagine that mankind might assume control of its own destiny, establish a galaxy-wide stellar empire, and evolve into a higher order of being.
For those who are interested in the dynamics of myth, this book tells how a new myth comes into being, how the makers of myth conceive and produce their stories, how myth both responds to worldly change and anticipates it, and how one myth at the conclusion of its usefulness may evolve into another.
For those who have love for the myth of science fiction, this book shows where its central ideas and images came from and how they developed, from a time prior to the point when this literature even had a name up until the moment of crisis and opportunity when mythmakers came to the realization that their sense of higher human potential could no longer be contained by the name "science" and began to use another.
And for those with dreams of a sounder, more holistic, more human way of life beyond the fragmentation and purposelessness which presently dominate our society, this book indicates not only how our myths change us, but how we change our myths. It shows how the storytellers of SF, having come to recognize the limitations of a world built upon scientific materialism, altered their myth and laid down the basis for a new age of higher consciousness.