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Palgrave Macmillan

Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination

A Critical Companion

  • Book
  • © 2022


  • Makes a case for this iconic novel’s distinction
  • Suggests different approaches to Stars, especially in terms of its dominant tropes
  • Examines the turn from Golden Age science fiction to postmodern science fiction and subgenres of science fiction

Part of the book series: Palgrave Science Fiction and Fantasy: A New Canon (PSFFNC)

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About this book

In this comprehensive study of The Stars My Destination, D. Harlan Wilson makes a case for the continued significance of Alfred Bester’s SF masterwork, exploring its distinctive style, influences, intertextuality, affect, and innovation as well as its extensive metafictional properties. In Stars, Bester established himself as a son of the pulp-SF and high-modernist writers that preceded him and a forefather to the New Wave and cyberpunk movements that followed his lead. Wilson’s study depicts Bester as an SF insider as much as an outlier, writing in the spirit of the genre but breaking with the fixation on hard science in favor of psychological interiority, literary experimentation, and adult themes. The book combines close-readings of the novel with broader concerns about contemporary media, technoculture, and the current state of SF itself. In Wilson’s view, SF is a moribund artform, and Stars foresaw the inevitable science fictionalization of our benighted world. With scholarly lucidity and precision, Wilson shows us that Stars pointed the way to what we have (un)become. 

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Table of contents (7 chapters)


“D. Harlan Wilson has written an indispensable guide to Alfred Bester’s most celebrated novel. Portraying Bester as a consummate mad scientist of science fiction (SF) craft, Wilson examines parallels between The Stars My Destination and classic texts such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, as well as shows how—and why—the novel became a touchstone for later writers on the cutting edge of the SF field. Wilson never hesitates to tackle tough questions about Bester’s legacy. This is a smart, engaging, and at times provocative introduction to Bester, one that will appeal to scholars and fans alike.” (Jad Smith, Professor of English, Eastern Illinois University, USA, and author of Alfred Bester (2016) 

“This book is a lively, erudite, and delightfully opinionated introduction to Alfred Bester’s legendary novel, the literary Big Bang that created the universe of New Wave and cyberpunk SF." (Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., Emeritus Professor of English and World Literature, DePauw University, USA, and author of The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (2008))

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wright State University-Lake Campus, Celina, USA

    D. Harlan Wilson

About the author

D. Harlan Wilson is an American novelist, playwright, editor, critic, and Professor of English at the Lake Campus of Wright State University, USA. He is the author of over 30 book-length works of fiction and nonfiction. 

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