Robert Silverberg’s Reflections: May 2015


‘Where Silverberg goes today, the rest of science fiction will follow tomorrow’

Isaac Asimov



Reflections is a regular column by multi-award-winning SFWA Grandmaster Robert Silverberg, in which he will offer his thoughts on science fiction, literature and the world at large.

This month: Praising or Banning

John Updike was not only a splendid writer of novels and short stories — he even dabbled in science fiction, with two of his stories getting into the Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology — but was also a first-rate critic. For many years his lengthy essays on other writers’ books appeared in The New Yorker, discursive and penetrating pieces in which, more often than not, he fastened upon the work of some fairly obscure writer and brought it forward into well-deserved attention.

The one thing he never did, in these elegant and carefully considered critiques, is hold a book up to scorn. With one very conspicuous exception, Updike’s reviews were always positive ones. In his introduction to Picked-Up Pieces (1975), one of his books of collected essays, he set forth his philosophy of reviewing in a few brief maxims (“Review the book, not the reputation” and “Better to praise and share than blame and ban”), and proposed that critics not accept for review books that they were “predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like.” . . .

You can read the rest of the column here, and find Robert Silverberg’s eBooks here – including Reflections and Refractions, a collection of his non-fiction columns. Please note: each column will remain on the site for one month only.