Entry updated 23 August 2019. Tagged: Theme.
A term first used by A E van Vogt to describe a book made up of previously published stories fitted together – usually with the addition of newly written or published cementing material – so that they read as a novel. Aware that fixups are immensely more common in Genre SF than in any other literature in the world, we borrowed the term for the 1979 edition of this encyclopedia, and continue to use it now; an example is van Vogt's own The Weapon Shops of Isher (July 1941 and December 1942 Astounding; February 1949 Thrilling Wonder; fixup 1951). We do, however, recognize that it is not always an easy description to apply with accuracy. It is, for instance, sometimes impossible to know whether or not a series of connected stories has in fact been extracted from an already-written book, which for some would make it impossible to describe that book as a fixup. Some readers and authors, in other words, feel that the term can be applied only to novels assembled from previously existing work.
We disagree. A book which is written so as to be broken up for prior magazine publication may well, in our view, constitute a perfectly legitimate example of the form, though we do recognize that when we call such a text a fixup we are making a critical judgment as to the internal nature – the feel – of that text. An example is Joe Haldeman's episodic The Forever War (June 1972-January 1975 Analog; fixup 1974), whose description has been disputed. We should perhaps emphasize, therefore, that the term is not, for us, derogatory. In fact, the fixup form may arguably be ideal for tales of epic sweep through time and space. It is perhaps no accident that Robert A Heinlein's seminal Generation-Starship tale, "Universe" (May 1941 Astounding), ultimately became part of Orphans of the Sky (fixup 1963).
Algis Budrys used the alternative term "pasteup" in his Galaxy review column (October 1965), referring in this case to Clifford D Simak's assembly of short stories into City (May 1944-December 1947 Astounding, January 1951 Fantastic Adventures; fixup 1952; exp 1981). Ursula K Le Guin long advocated the term "mosaic" or "mosaic novel" for works similar to what we continued to call fixups, though in common usage "mosaics" tend to feature multiple protagonists, a condition not inherent to our application of the term fixup.
In this encyclopedia, a Braid is a work whose individual parts make a continuous narrative composed by more than one author. A Tale of Circulation, which may be constructed as a fixup, may convey regardless of its narrative structure a similar sense of intimacy and estrangement as scene follows scene and illuminates a complex world. [JC/DRL]
- Michael Swanwick. "A Nettlesome Term that has Long Outlived its Welcome" (July 2007 The New York Review of Science Fiction) [mag/]
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