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Williams, Raymond

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1921-1988) Welsh author, Professor of Drama at Cambridge University, literary and cultural critic, famous for incisive studies of the interconnections between literature and society. His 1956 essay "Science Fiction" (December 1956 The Highway), republished in Science Fiction Studies in November 1988, distinguishes three main kinds of contemporary sf: Utopia, doomsday (see Disaster; End of the World) and space Anthropology. It concludes with a very positive treatment of James Blish's A Case of Conscience (part 1 September 1953 If; 1958) as an example of the latter. A later essay, "Utopia and Science Fiction" (November 1978 Science Fiction Studies), stresses the affinities between the two genres, but unlike Darko Suvin, Williams does not reduce either to the other. The essay cites Ursula K Le Guin's The Dispossessed (1974) as a crucial contemporary instance of "the wary questioning of the utopian impulse itself, even within its basic acceptance". Culture and Society (1958) (see Communications; Media Landscape) includes chapters on William Morris and George Orwell; The Long Revolution (1961) includes an analysis of the future story as a literary form; and The Country and the City (1973) has a chapter on literary and cinematic "Cities of the Future" (see Cities). George Orwell (1971; exp vt Orwell 1984) includes extensive analyses of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

Of Williams's fiction, The Volunteers (1978), is a Near Future tale, set in 1988 when political conflict in the UK has come to a violent head, and describes the conversion of a right-wing politician to secret activism on behalf of the left (see Politics); set only marginally into the future, The Fight for Manod (1979) confronts some of the continuing characters from Williams's nonfantastic novels with an international conspiracy focused on an ostensibly innocent residential/industrial project that threatens to transform Wales. Williams's sf criticism and extracts from the two sf novels are collected together in the posthumously published Tenses of Imagination: Raymond Williams on Science Fiction, Utopia and Dystopia (coll 2010). [JC/DRL/AMi]

see also: Proto SF.

Raymond Henry Williams

born Llanfihangel, near Abergavenny, Wales: 31 August 1921

died Saffron Walden, Essex: 26 January 1988


nonfiction (selected)

about the author


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