Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996 by Algis Budrys
Included in the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2020, nonfiction category.
Michael Dirda in The Washington Post Books department, 15 April 2020: “Back in 1985 – my, where does the time go? – I reviewed Benchmarks, a collection of Algis Budrys’s lively columns from the science fiction magazine Galaxy. Budrys, who died in 2008, once neatly characterized H.P. Lovecraft’s narrative style as First Person Delirious. Since 2012, David Langford has edited four additional volumes of Budrys’s criticism, the most recent being Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996. I’ve only just begun to dip into this huge book, but I can say one thing with firm conviction: Anyone even faintly interested in the development of science fiction since the 1960s will find Beyond the Outposts, and its predecessors, to be indispensable – and lots of fun.”
Paul Di Filippo on the Locus website, 24 May 2020: “This meaty volume assembles nearly four dozen essays that range from personal memoirs to instructive how-to lessons; from insightful reviews of individual books to cogent analyses of the entire yearly output of the field; from Pauline-Kael-level observations on films to editorial and printerly considerations of the practical side of manufacturing a book. Throughout all of these pieces, there is one constant: Budrys’s distinctive voice, which is affable, inviting, non-haughty, erudite yet down-to-earth, companionable and yet insistent on the maintenance of high standards and unlimited aspirations for SF.
“[...] Like many people, Budrys was a master of cognitive dissonance, a composite personality. He could advocate for a utilitarian nuts-and-bolts approach to writing SF, and then demand the presence of numinous inspiration. He labeled himself just another worker in the trenches, but insisted his novel Rogue Moon was the apex of SF. Resident at the beating heart of a much smaller field than exists today, he was on first-name comradely terms with giants like Asimov and Heinlein, and yet did not hesitate to call out their failings.
“[...] This volume, while perhaps not quite so essential as the other collections of his essays, provides the most fun and wisdom pertaining to science fiction that you can buy this year, and Langford and Ansible deserve to sell thousands of copies.”
Russell Letson in Locus, September 2020: “Budrys’s prose, like the thinking it outlines, is meticulous, concentrated, often ironic, and always relentless. Confronting such a concentrated solution of analytical thinking and insight, formulated with such fierce precision, is both exhilarating and exhausting – the writing is allusive and playful and hyperaware and reflexive and reflective. And it’s funny. This is not, however, a book that you sit down and read straight through – it is not only long (378 pages) but miscellaneous, unified not by structure but by repeated attempts to organize and map and make sense of significant reaches of critical and literary territory, to ask, ‘What is science fiction, that we should be mindful of it?’”
“[...] From all this emerges a kind of literary-vocational autobiography, distributed out of order across the book’s bits and pieces. I suppose the e-book version would allow one to cut and paste together a sequential account, but there’s a kind of pleasure in watching Budrys reveal this or that aspect of himself as he treats the materials that are the official topics of discussion – books and stories and movies and other writers and the machineries of imagination and industry, all of which are amenable to disassembly and analysis. AJ is gone now, as is much of the publishing world that shaped him and the field that he clearly loved. Beyond the Outposts might not be an official memoir, but I’m keeping it shelved next to Damon Knight’s The Futurians, Frederik Pohl’s The Way the Future Was, Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!, and the rest of the accounts of those shaggy magazine days.”