Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

Westfahl, Gary

Entry updated 20 June 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

Icon made by Freepik from


(1951-    ) American academic and critic. After receiving a PhD in English from Claremont Graduate University in 1986, he worked until 2011 at the University of California, Riverside, then taught at the University at La Verne before retiring in 2017 and receiving the title of professor emeritus. His first major project was a series of contentious articles in Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction, based on research from his dissertation, which were eventually revised and expanded as The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction (1998). Its argument that the true origins of science fiction lie in the writings and editorial career of Hugo Gernsback, expanded upon in a later book, Hugo Gernsback and the Century of Science Fiction (2007), is usually regarded as his most noteworthy contribution to sf scholarship, though he has also written extensively on such subjects as Hard SF, Space-Opera, Space Stations, and sf Cinema. His numerous articles and reviews have appeared in Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, Science Fiction Eye, SFRA Newsletter, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Monad: Essays on Science Fiction, and other magazines, critical anthologies, and reference works.

Early in his career, while writing two other books, Cosmic Engineers: A Study of Hard Science Fiction (1996) and Islands in the Sky: The Space Station Theme in Science Fiction Literature (1996; rev 2009), Westfahl also began serving as one coordinator of Riverside's annual Eaton Conferences, associated with its the J Lloyd Eaton Collection, and eventually co-edited nine volumes of conference essays, beginning with Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (anth 1996) [see Checklist for further volumes]. He has edited one volume of essays from an Eaton-related conference, Space and Beyond: The Frontier Theme in Science Fiction (anth 2000); co-edited two others, World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution (anth 2005) and Science Fiction and the Prediction of the Future: Essays on Foresight and Fallacy (anth 2011), both with Wong Kin Yuen and Amy Kit-sze Chan; and edited a volume of Eaton essays by Frank McConnell, The Science of Fiction and the Fiction of Science: Collected Essays on SF Storytelling and the Gnostic Imagination (coll 2009).

In the late 1990s, Westfahl became a regular columnist for Interzone, producing thirty-six columns (one in collaboration with David Pringle) until its change in editorship; wrote another book, Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture: Coming of Age in Fantasyland (2000); and served as a Consultant Editor for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. He then edited two massive projects: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders (2005 3vols), with an editorial board that included John Clute and David Langford; and Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (anth 2005). In 2001 he began to contribute film reviews and essays to the website Locus Online (see Locus); one commentary, written in the wake of the Columbia disaster, which lambasted science fiction for inappropriately promoting space travel, aroused a brief storm of controversy. He has also published online essays for other websites like The Internet Review of Science Fiction, Salon Futura, and Strange Horizons. Recent books include The Other Side of the Sky: An Annotated Bibliography of Space Stations in Science Fiction, 1869-1993 (2009), which examines examples of artefacts that – for pragmatic reasons – are dealt with in this Encyclopedia under two headings: Space Habitats and Space Stations; a Cinema study, The Spacesuit Film: A History, 1918-1969 (2012) (see Spacesuit Films); and the author study William Gibson (2013).

Westfahl received the Pilgrim Award in 2003 for lifetime contributions to sf and fantasy scholarship. Voluminous, contrarian, methodical and learned, he is a central figure in sf criticism. [GW/JC]

Gary Wesley Westfahl

born Washington, District of Columbia: 7 May 1951



works as editor


Eaton Conference Papers

individual titles as editor


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies