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By Noel Perrin

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Surely the science will get contaminated. In theory and sometimes in fact I'd say yes, it will indeed. For example, it's clear to me that science fiction descends to mere space opera the minute the author begins to sneak in magic clad in scientific terms. A common piece of magic is the "space warp," which enables starships to travel faster than the speed of light. There is no scientific theory Page 15 of space warps. None. They're just handy for getting short-lived human beings across the galaxy.

Nesbit? You really think she's obscure enough? I don't. Anyway, we ran a piece about her just a couple of years ago. " So it went. In the end I wrote down the titles of seventeen books. He accepted nine and rejected eight. The problem was never that he didn't think a book good enough; it was always that he considered it too famous, too obvious, too predictable a choice. Why run a piece recommending a book everyone knows already? That night, on the train going home to Vermont, I naturally told my wife about the lunch and the list.

That night, on the train going home to Vermont, I naturally told my wife about the lunch and the list. " I asked. " she said. "You've got a lot of students. " I do have a lot of students. I teach American literature at Dartmouth College. That very term I had a course with fifty-four students enrolled. Two, days later I gave them an extra quiz, one for which they needed to prepare not at all. The quiz simply listed nineteen authors in alphabetical order, and named one book for each author. These were the seventeen books the editor and I had talked about, plus a tiny control group.

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