Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Everything you wanted to know about the upcoming book "The Anthology at the end of the Universe"

US independent publisher BenBella Books is going to publish at the end of april a book called "the anthology at the end of the Universe", a collection of essays about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. You can already pre-order this book on Amazon.com


Nicolas Botti : what is the philosophy beyond "the anthology..."

Glenn Yefeth : The philosophy behind “The Anthology at the End of the Universe” is to create a book about the Hitchhikers series that is as smart and insightful as the conversations that fans have among themselves. Many of science fiction’s greats are big fans of the works, and this series is their chance to discuss any aspect of the work that caught their fancy. The essays are primarily by science fiction and fantasy authors, but we have a few other types – computer scientists, psychologists, humor expert – thrown in for good measure. The essays range from hilarious to insightful to moving (a few are all three).

The book is completely unauthorized, and is a work of literary criticism, so contributors are free to criticize as well as celebrate Hitchhikers. But the tone overall is very much of celebration.
I can say that the volume is coming together brilliantly. Here are some of the highlights:
Cory Doctorow on the Wikipedia as the genuine Hitchhiker’s Guide

Jacqueline Carey on Hitchhikers, British humor, and a personal story on her time in London
Lawrence Watt-Evans’s very funny essay on Vogon poetry, and the history of the truly inept in art
Stephen Baxter on the use of science fiction tropes in Hitchikers

Don DeBrandt, writing an hysterical essay that only he can describe: "I intend to prove that God not only exists in Adams' universe, but identify who he is, explain what his plans are, and reveal once and for all why he seems to be obsessed with fish. The explanation I've cleverly worked out involves time-travel, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, Eddies in the space-time continuum and how he got there. The number forty-two turns out to be surprisingly relevant in a very real way, not so much as an answer but as a way of pointing out interesting questions....Oh yes, and Marvin turns out to be Christ."

If you can't actually wait for the essay, I suppose I can reveal now that God is the Hitchhiker's Guide itself--the Mark Two, which not only claimed to be omniscient and omnipotent, but actually is. How it got to be that way and why the universe is so screwed up is more complicated, but it has to do with the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Vogons, and a robot in love with herring sandwiches.
Mike Byrne (psychologist and expert on human factors) writing a very funny and insightful essay on Adam’s brilliant foresight into the future of computer design (and mis-design)

Adam Roberts (SF author and literature professor at the University of London) writing a brilliant essay that combines humor deconstruction, philosophy, and 42, and finally answers that pesky question about the meaning of life

NB : Can you tell us more about Benbellabooks?

GY : BenBella Books is an independent press based in Dallas. BenBella Books, among other things, develops a non-fiction anthology series called "smart pop." This series takes a smart, fun, but thoroughly non-academic look at pop culture topics - usually film, television or books. Books that we've published or are developing include works on The Matrix, Buffy, Stargate, War of the Worlds, and NYPD Blue. Depending on the topic, our contributors include scientists, philosophers, religious scholars, psychologists and, of course, science fiction writers. Some of our anthologies (e.g. Seven Seasons of Buffy) are almost entirely made up of contributions from SF writers. Science fiction writers that have agreed to participate in Smart Pop books so far include Robert Charles Wilson, Robert Silverberg, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Jacqueline Carey, David Gerrold, Rob Sawyer, Charlaine Harris, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Misty Lackey, Michelle West, Lawrence Watt-Evans, and Tanya Huff. These books, so far, have all done very well. Our first smart pop book, for example, was the best-selling Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix. Red Pill includes essays from computer scientist and entrepreneur Ray Kurzweil, Yale philosopher Nick Bostrom, science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer, Buddhist scholar Jay Ford, Sun Chief Scientist Bill Joy and other notables. Red Pill has gotten mentions in The New Yorker, Premiere, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and dozens of other publications. I’ve left out a lot, including Selina Rosen’s essay on the Hitchhiker’s Guide as religious text, Adam Troy-Castro’s essay on the two-guys-in-a-spaceship stories, etc. But I’ll get you the complete list when it’s ready.

NB : When did you get the idea of this book and why?

GY : I always thought that Hitchhikers would be a great smart pop book, but when I heard that the movie was coming out I wanted to make sure I got the book out in time for the movie.
NB : When did you discover douglas adams’ work?

GY : I first read the books (at least some of them) years ago. I always thought they were among the smartest, funniest books in science fiction. Unlike many books I loved when I was younger, I found that these books were as strong on re-reading as they were when I first fell in love with them.

NB : How did you chose the contributors?

GY : I started with leaders in the science fiction field, folks like Jacqueline Carey, and Stephen Baxter, added some science fiction authors that I knew from other anthologies were first rate essayists, and threw in a computer scientist and psychologist for good measure!

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