7 Books That Explore the History Of Science Fiction and Fantasy

gygaxScience Fiction has a long and varied history, but along with the fantastic adventures, the stories of the people who create the stories in the first place are also worth exploring.

Here are seven fascinating books that examine SF/F history.

Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!: A Memoir, by Harry Harrison
Harry Harrison died in 2012, but his memoir, posthumously published, keeps his spirit alive (well, that and his fantastic fiction). It’s a funny, irreverent look at  his life and work—a breezy, confessional, and quick read about one of the genre’s most beloved authors. In addition to his own words, the book includes a detailed timeline of his life, as well as a number of photos.

Lois McMaster Bujold, by Edward James
This latest entry in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series focuses a critical examination on the works of Lois McMaster Bujold, best known as the author of the Vorkosigan novels. Like other entries in the series (William Gibson, John Brunner, Gregory Benford, Greg Egan and Ray Bradbury have received similar treatment), it’s detailed and interesting examination of a gifted artist’s career.

The Man From Mars: Ray Palmer’s Amazing Pulp Journey, by Fred Nadis
Atlantic contributor Fred Nandis has put together an entertaining biography of Ray Palmer, an editor who worked for magazines like Amazing Stories and founded others, including Other Worlds, Imagination, Fate, Mystic, Search, Flying Saucers, Hidden World, and Space Age. Palmer helped to popularize myths about such cultural phenomenons as UFO and governmental conspiracies, and this book helps to highlight his career and accomplishments.

Robert A. Heinlein: The Man Who Learned Better, 1948-1988, by William H. Patterson Jr.
This is the second and final installment of William H. Patterson Jr.’s comprehensive biography legendary science fiction author Robert Heinlein. Sadly, Patterson passed away shortly before its release, but his books have received no small amount of acclaim for their detail and comprehensive nature.

How Star Wars Conquered The Universe: The Past, Present and Future of A Multibillion Dollar Franchise, by Chris Taylor
With The Force Awakens coming to theaters later this year, there’s no better time to brush up on the history of the franchise to date. Chris Taylor dives deep into the world of George Lucas, from his earliest days to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, revealing how the affable director came up with the idea for a galaxy far, far away and turned it into a global phenomenon that has entranced hundreds of millions of people.

Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragonsby Michael Witwer
Few people can claim to have had as much an impact on the fantasy genre as Gary Gygax. In the 1970s, he created the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, and led countless players into their own fantastic worlds of imagination. This biography covers Gygax’s life, exploring the impact of his creation and the company he founded, TSR.

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives Of The Inklings, by Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski
Innumerable books have been written about J.R.R. Tolkien, but this one approaches the life of the master fantasist from a different angle, examining the creation of the Inklings, a loose literary group that met in Oxford and also included C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Owen Barfield. It considers their lives and careers, and explores how their interactions helped form the stories that would make them famous.

What’s your favorite non-fiction look at our favorites genres?

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