Tangent Online

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Myths, Metaphors, and Science Fiction: Ancient Roots of the Literature of the Future by Sheila Finch

E-mail Print

Myths, Metaphors, and Science Fiction:

Ancient Roots of the Literature of the Future

By Sheila Finch

(Aqueduct Press, April 2014, 138 pp.)

Reviewed by Alicia Cole

When reading Sheila Finch’s Myths, Metaphors and Science Fiction: Ancient Roots of the Literature of the Future, one wonders if she underwent her own Heroine’s Journey during the writing. There is a progression of knowledge within this book that takes the reader deeper and deeper into the labyrinthine maze of the vast body of science fiction. Finch is not complacent in her work: she pulls from classical science fiction literature, modern film, religious texts and mythic commentary.

Each chapter tackles, through in-depth analysis, a subsection of universal mythos. Ranging from Odysseus’ journey as portrayed in Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) to metaphors of the story of Demeter and Persephone in Joan Vinge’s The Snow Queen (1980); from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) – and his birth as light-bringer, sired by Victor Frankenstein’s dark creation/destruction God-self – to evolutionary horror in Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) – self hailed as “an exercise in youthful blasphemy”; to Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (2009), a modern Faustian apocryphon on the carnival stage to Kij Johnson’s The Fox Woman (2000), a tackling of the animal-spouse figure caged in the misogynist socio-sexual dynamics of Heian Japan, Finch’s nonfiction stands as notable scholarship at the intersection of science fiction and myth.

The reference page gives testament to the wealth of knowledge to be found in this book. While not exhaustive, Finch has done an extensive job of scouring the field of science fiction to illustrate the cogent points of each of her chapters. Her writing is deft and intelligent, but easily decipherable by those new to the subject of myth and metaphor. For those well versed in the subject matter, this is a joyful reference book: choose the chapter that suits your interest, research area or writing pleasure, and dive in.

As a writer, I found several jumping-off points referenced in this book that beg further exploration. As a reader, the list of must-reads this book has generated for me is extensive. I’d recommend this book to those first approaching the idea of myth and metaphor within science fiction, those well versed in it, those who want an intelligent, well-researched read, and those who are looking for artistic exploration. A highly enjoyable, thought-provoking read.