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Record Type: Review   ID: 382

The World Beyond the Hill: Science Fiction and the Quest for Transcendence

Panshin, Alexei, & Panshin, Cory

The authors take the position that "science fiction is a literature of the mythic imagination" (p. 1). The essence of science fiction is in "symbols of transcendent possibility" (p. 1). But whereas the transcendent symbols of ancient myths were "magical" in nature, in science fiction they are "scientific." Science fiction is an outgrowth of Western culture, and it canserve as a mythic vehicle for modern Western civilization alone. Science fiction contains the West's "best knowledge . . Active myth always presents the transcendent in terms which reflect current best knowledge and then reach beyond its bounds" (p. 4). Science fiction writers take 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" (p. x). About this book they write: "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. . 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" (p. x).

There are 18 chapters in this fat paperback which is in three parts: "Before Science Fiction," "Science Fiction Emerges," and "Modern Science Fiction." Of course some of the stories referred to in this history deal with exceptional human experiences--psychic phenomena in particular. But the primary relevance of this work to parapsychology may not lie so much in what it says about psi but in what it says about how modern myths are shaped and what makes them take hold in our psyches. For if psi were to become realistically embedded in modern myths, then parapsychology's problem with acceptance would be over--without producing a single p value.

Publisher Information:Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1989. 685p. Bibl: 676; Chap. bibl: 655-675; Index: 677-685
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