Reclaiming Sci-Fi’s Lost History
In her new book Lost Transmissions, Desirina Boskovich explores dozens of examples of lost, overlooked, or uncompleted works of science fiction and fantasy that deserve more attention from fans.
“I hope that reading the book will inspire more secret histories, and readers to come up with their own taxonomies of the foundational works that define the genre for them, without necessarily being those big blockbuster bestsellers,” Boskovich says in Episode 380 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.
Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts, wrote an essay for Lost Transmissions on the obscure 1970s horror movie Phase IV. He hopes the book will foster a greater appreciation for the rich history of cosmic horror.
“I think most of my colleagues who write cosmic horror chafe at the idea that all cosmic horror is Lovecraftian,” he says. “That that was the birthplace of cosmic horror, which is clearly not the case. And actually if you read Lost Transmissions, you get to read Des’ wonderful article on Robert W. Chambers.”
Horror author Grady Hendrix, who also contributed an essay to the book, agrees that it’s important to highlight works from outside the traditional science fiction and fantasy canon. “This is the important work of coming in later, and looking back, and pulling in people who straddled genres, and pulling in people who weren’t just white dudes,” he says. “To understand a genre’s history, you have to remember the people who weren’t included in that history, who are usually people of color and are usually women.”
And while Lost Transmissions focuses on science fiction and fantasy in books and movies, it also explores less familiar subjects such as science fiction fashion. Boskovich feels it’s important to highlight art forms that have often been neglected by science fiction critics.
“I think that by bringing science fiction fashion back into the fold of this story, it’s a way to center something that women—or maybe just more feminine people in general—are more interested in, and put it back on the same level as this other stuff, and say, ‘It’s an equally important and crucial art form,'” she says.
Listen to the complete interview with Desirina Boskovich, Paul Tremblay, and Grady Hendrix in Episode 380 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Grady Hendrix on post-apocalyptic fiction:
“The Walking Dead is a post-apocalyptic men’s adventure novel that’s ‘woke.’ You know what I mean? There are women in it, and people have conversations, and they don’t just blow each other away, and they ponder big issues, and the cast is very diverse. Which are all great things, but are toxic to the men’s adventure post-apocalyptic novels. So that’s a more modern rendition of the same kind of trope. Thinking about a world that’s been destroyed, where you don’t have to punch a clock, but somehow you magically survived and can kill as many people as you want—because they’re either radioactive mutants, communist scum, or zombies—that’s always been popular, and always will be.”
Paul Tremblay on writing horror:
“When you go to a convention that’s not just a genre convention, that’s a general literary convention, so many times, when people ask what I write, if I tell them I write horror, their eyes glaze over, or the only writer they know of is maybe Stephen King, and if you bring up another writer they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, they wrote horror?’ So it’s interesting. It almost feels like the conversations that we have, only small groups of people are allowed to have them, but that doesn’t mean that they’re less important, because at the same time [the authors] that we’re talking about in this book, Lost Transmissions, have had such a large impact on our culture, even if most people don’t realize it.”
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Desirina Boskovich on genre snobs:
“As I was working on this book, I was like, ‘I’m well acquainted with how nerds act’—being a nerd myself, and having been to many conventions, so I knew there would be a specific audience for this book that would enjoy the book but would also just constantly be scoffing at the idea that these things are obscure. You know, sort of like, ‘Oh, everyone’s heard of blah blah blah. How could you say that’s secret or overlooked?’ So I just kind of had to let that little voice go. I knew that for some people who are truly experts in the genre, these things will not be secret or overlooked, but for many people they will be, and they will be reading something new when they read this. And to just realize that not everything can be the right thing for all people.”
Grady Hendrix on Angela Carter:
“She’s someone who fantasy doesn’t claim, and she’s huge. The Bloody Chamber is one of the all-time great fantasy novels—period, full stop—and you don’t see the genre claiming it as much as I wish they would, especially in the States. In the UK I think she’s a bigger deal. … But I just don’t see her getting the praise in the States that she does overseas. And I get it. She thought of herself as a literary fiction writer, the literary fiction genre really embraced her and celebrated her, that’s where her awards came from, that’s where her sales came from. And it sticks in the craw, I think, when you’re [a fantasy writer], to embrace someone like that, but she’s huge. Her retelling of fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber is one of the most astonishing things you’ll ever read.”
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