Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction

Tagged: Publication

UK semi-Academic Journal, published by the Science Fiction Foundation of North East London Polytechnic (now known as the University of East London) from March 1972, and more recently, since 1993 when the SFF moved, of the University of Liverpool, current, nominally three issues a year. #1-#4 edited by Charles Barren, #5-#13 edited by Peter Nicholls, #14-#19 edited by Malcolm Edwards, #20-#36 edited by David Pringle, #37-#83 edited by Edward James, #84-#100 edited by Farah Mendlesohn – the last of these jointly with Graham Sleight – #101-#115 edited by Sleight; the editor from #116 is Paul March-Russell. Much of the journal's tone in its first two decades resulted from the work of long-running features editor Ian Watson, who held that position from #10 (1976) to #51 (1991). The most influential reviews editors have perhaps been John Clute (#20-#47) followed by Colin Greenland (#47-#65) and Andy Sawyer (#65-current, his first issue jointly with Greenland). Other members of the editorial board have included Kenneth Bulmer, George Hay and Christopher Priest. The subtitle changed from "The Review of Science Fiction" to "The International Review of Science Fiction" with issue #68, Autumn 1996

For many years Foundation had a distinctive flavour regarded by US readers as typically UK, though in fact some of its editors have been foreigners. After a shaky beginning, it soon became perhaps the liveliest and indeed the most critical of the big three critical journals – the others being Extrapolation in the USA and Science Fiction Studies in Canada – though lacking the academic authority of at least the latter. Since when Foundation began and for many years thereafter there was very little formal use of sf in UK universities, there was no academic base to provide a rigidly scholarly features section. The real strengths of the old Foundation were its book reviews and its willingness to publish articles about current sf; it was somewhat weaker in theoretical and historical studies. Nevertheless, it provided a platform for serious sf criticism in the UK. Its contributors – often professional writers of fiction rather than academics – have tended to be more aggressively judgmental, and more intent upon defining a critical canon for sf, than their politer US colleagues. All of this may explain why its readership appeared to be less academic than that of the other scholarly journals, consisting more of fans and sf writers. The US scholar Gary K Wolfe sees Foundation, not wholly unadmiringly (and only in part incorrectly), as partaking of "certain traditions of fan scholarship". A later shift to a more academic tone can be discerned under the editorial reigns of Edward James, Farah Mendlesohn and Graham Sleight (under whose editorship the traditional "Features" section was renamed "Papers"), though Andy Sawyer continues to encourage an element of fannish liveliness in book reviews. Issue #100 (Summer 2007) uniquely broke with tradition as Foundation 100: The Anthology, containing ten original sf stories by authors including Greg Egan, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Nalo Hopkinson, John Kessel, Tricia Sullivan and Karen Traviss.

From the beginning a feature of Foundation was the Profession of Science Fiction series (64 to date) of autobiographical pieces by sf writers; a selection of Profession essays appeared later as The Profession of Science Fiction (anth 1992) edited by Edward James and Maxim Jakubowski. The first eight issues of Foundation were republished in book form as Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, Numbers 1-8, March 1972 - March 1975 (anth 1978) edited and with an introduction by Peter Nicholls. [PN/DRL]

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