The commonplace within the fantastic : Terry Bisson's art in the diversified science fiction genre.

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Campbell, Jane
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Middle Tennessee State University
More than seventy years after modern science fiction rose from the less respected pulp magazines, the genre today has respectability and increased popularity. The genre is not easily defined because it contains many sub-genres, and each decade ushers in new forms. This study is about Terry Bisson, a contemporary writer whose work in its diversified nature defines the genre. His five novels and collection of short stories exemplify many of science fiction's subgenres--hard-core, space travel, alternate history, slipstream and fantasy. Moreover, he adds a new dimension with his uncanny juxtaposing of the ordinary within the fantastic.
Chapter One introduces Bisson and his work as it details his philosophy of writing and his writing process. Chapter Two gives a definition of the science fiction genre both historically and from different perspectives. Once the diversity of the genre is given, Bisson's place as a writer of the many forms of the genre is exampled by his works.
Chapter Three studies his collection of short stories, Bears Discover Fire and Other Stories. His stories offer some of the best examples of the diverse range of the science fiction genre as he develops creative conceits of the commonplace within the fantastic. The stories also provide social criticism on several concerns including encroachment of technology and mass media, the environment, and racism.
Chapter Four takes a look at Bisson's first two novels, Wyrldmaker and Talking Man. While both novels follow certain conventions of the fantasy category, each differs in plot and character development. Wyrldmaker is a type of heroic fantasy with a sword and sorcery plot. Talking Man is a fantasy set in Kentucky about a wizard.
One of the forms derived from the New Wave movement within the genre is the alternate history novel. Chapter Five investigates Bisson's third novel, Fire on the Mountain, which follows this tradition and is an alternate account of John Brown's raid in 1859.
Chapter Six discusses Bisson's fourth and fifth novels, Voyage to the Red Planet and Pirates of the Universe, which have space travel at their heart. However, like the diversified genre in which they belong, they are totally different. The first is about a trip to Mars while the second has a protagonist who travels in three worlds--earth, outer space and virtual reality.
Chapter Seven concludes that Bisson's versatile forms within the genre, his individual voice and imagination, and his social criticism show his mastery of an art which both entertains and informs.