Science fiction has taken a long journey to get where it is today. From the pioneering days of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells in the 19th century to the introduction of the pulps in the early 20th, from the blossoming of full, quality novels in the mid-20 th to the anything-goes milieu of the late 20th and early 21st century, we have seen a wide variety of sf. But there is one very meaningful bump/explosion/event that occurred along the way: the New Wave. The point in any artistic movement when it achieves the complexity of self-awareness and can therefore explore itself along lines from intra to meta, for a few years in the genre’s history works of unparalleled artistry appeared. Utilizing a never before seen variety of techniques, New Wave writers took disregarded genre norms and struck out in many complex literary directions. One was metafiction, and there may be no greater example of such a science fiction text than Barry Malzberg’s 1975 masterpiece Galaxies. It just ain’t your grandpappy’s sf.
“To define terms at the outset, this will not be a novel so much as a series of notes toward one. Nevertheless pay attention.” So states Malzberg at the opening of Galaxies. Simultaneously a story and self-consciousness of the story, the reader is taken on a trip through the philosophies and ideologies underpinning science fiction and the experiences of Lena, captain of a starship loaded with cryosleep corpses, as she pilots toward a black hole. The cover capturing more of the pulp sentimentality than the novel’s New Wav(iness), the image at least leaves the door open enough to let in the wider implications beyond Lena’s ‘story’.