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American Science Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, And Beyond by Jan Johnson-Smith
Review by Edward Carmien
Wesleyan University Press Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 0819567388
Date: 31 January, 2005 List Price $22.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

This text begins dry and livens up only a little as it progresses through a wealth of detail about the surprisingly numerous science fiction television shows that have been broadcast during the past half-century. Part of this book began life as a doctoral dissertation?sadly, most academic writing isn?t much fun to read for most people, even those with an interest in the subject matter. That?s not Johnson-Smith?s fault, but the end result is a text that few non-academics will easily appreciate.

The strengths of this volume, then, are in the blizzard of detail and the comprehensive critical approach brought to the table by Johnson-Smith. The last three decades have seen the beginning of real academic interest in science fiction and associated issues?and this author appears to have referred to it all. This is a heavily endnoted text and an extensive bibliography and index make this book of great use as it is searchable?no need to flip aimlessly through the pages to find that reference to ER docs in space, just check the index and flip to page 190.

Readers unused to the academic perspective might be put off by a number of givens that stand behind this text: John Wayne, bad; early Star Trek, sometimes bad; American attitudes about most things, hopelessly idealistic (and often bad). Johnson-Smith is unapologetic in expressing her perspective, and her British English (which is no impediment to comprehension here) serves as a continual reminder that this is a look at American science fiction on TV from outside the box.

Wesleyan?s press release people have failed to endear themselves to this reviewer once again?this is far from the ?first? book to discuss science fiction television. A search (ably abetted by colleague Mike Levy of the SFRA?thanks Mike!) reveals some half-dozen texts that roam some of the same prairie as American Science Fiction TV. Even so, Johnson-Smith has accomplished something remarkable here, and there is little doubt his work will be regarded as a ?must read? when it comes to discussing science fiction television programs.

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