Sagan, Carl: Contact
(researched by Jennifer Spence)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Simon and Schuster, New York, 1985 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020 Copyright 1985 by Carl Sagan

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition was published in cloth and in paper. The hardcover copy came out in October 1985 and the paperback in 1986.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

216 leaves, 1-8 9-10 11-13 14-23 24-25 26-47 48-49 50-67 68-
70-81 82-83 84-95 96-97 98-113 114-115 116-129 130-131 132-147 148-149 150-159 160-163 164-179 180-181 182-201 202-203 204-215 216-217 218-233 234-235 236-255 256- 257 258-277 278-279 280-293 294-295 296-307 308-309 310-323 324-327 328-341 342-343 344-371 372-373 374-391 392-393 394-399 400-401 402-421 422-423 424-432

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?

Not edited or introduced

6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The serif typography is both attractive and easy to read. The printing ink is not smudged, and the margins are wide. This particular copy shows some abuse: every corner of the cover is damaged, the cloth binding is frayed in several places, and some of the lettering on the spine has worn off.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper appears to be thick and of good quality. No pages are torn, but a number are stained or creased.

11 Description of binding(s)

The book is quarter-bound in black cloth with black paper leaves. The binding is beginning to split approximately 1/4 into the book. Silver gilt lettering on the spine gives the title and author's name.

12 Transcription of title page

Double-page title
Page 4: CARL SAGAN | [rule 135mm]
Page 5: CONTACT | A NOVEL | [woodcut] | SIMON AND SCHUSTER | New York

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

Unable to locate manuscript at this time

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The novel originally came with a dust jacket. The text is 8vo (approximately 9x6 in). The 18th-century woodcut on the title page is by
Thomas Wright and is meant to depict the center of the galaxy. The table of contents is on the first two numbered pages. The novel is divided into three parts with a total of 24 chapters. The Simon & Schuster colophon is located on the first page.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

Simon & Schuster (BOMC edition), 1986
Pocket Books, a division of S&S (mass-market paper edition), October 1986
*The first two editions featured pictures of a galaxy and a partially-eclipsed Earth on the cover.
Pocket Books (trade paper edition), September 1989
Pocket Books (mass-market paper), July 1997
*The cover of the most recent edition is almost identical to one of the movie posters, with a picture of Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey before a radio telescope.

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

At least eight printings of the first edition. First printing (October 1985)-- 265,000 copies

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Thorndike Press (Large-print edition), October 1985
Arrow Books, London, 1985
Century, London, 1985
Macmillan Library Reference (Large-print edition, part of the Americana Series), February 1986
Orbit, London, 1986
Hutchinson of Australia, 1986
Doubleday Direct (Trade cloth edition), August 1997

6 Last date in print?

Currently in print.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Unable to locate information at present.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

1985-- 454,000 copies
1986-- 1,257,000 copies

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

"Experience the most fateful encounter in human history.... In Cosmos, Carl Sagan explained the universe. In Contact, he illuminates its future-- and our own." --Simon & Schuster ad in The New York Times Book Review section October 13, 1985
The book cover was also featured prominently in Book of the Month Club advertisements --The New York Times and Publishers Weekly, October 1985

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion


12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

Feature film-- "Contact", a 1997 Warner Bros. release. Starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Produced by Robert Zemeckis and Steve Starkey. Screenplay (based on the novel) by Michael Goldenberg.
Audio recording-- "Contact", an abridged version of the novel. Released by Simon & Schuster in 1997. Read by Jodie Foster.

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Spanish-- Contacto. Barcelona, Plaza & Janes: 1989
Polish-- Kontakt. Poznan, Zyski S-ka: 1997
Chinese-- Ch'ao shih k'ung chieh ch'u. Hsiang-kang, Huang Kuan Ch'u Pan She: 1997
Hebrew-- Kontakt. Tel Aviv, Modan: 1997
Italian-- Contact. Milan, Bompiani: 1990
German-- Contact. Munich, Droemer Knaur: 1986
Japanese-- Contact. Tokyo, Shinchosa: 1986
Portuguese-- Contacto. Lisbon, Gradiva: 1986

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

Discover Magazine, October 1985. Volume 6, page 49(24)

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Carl Edward Sagan was born on November 9, 1934 in Brooklyn, New York. His father, an Ukrainian immigrant, cut fabric in a garment factory and ushered at movie theaters, while Sagan's American-born Austro-Hungaria
n mother raised him and his sister, Cari. His formal education began in New York City public schools, and he decided, while in high school in Rahway, New Jersey, to parlay his childhood fascination with astronomy into a career. At the age of sixteen, he
won a scholarship to the University of Chicago, where he received his first bachelor's degree in liberal arts. Sagan went on to earn a master's degree in physics and a doctorate in astrophysics by the time he was twenty-five. His postdoctoral work in bi
ology at the University of California at Berkeley was followed by stints as assistant professor of genetics at Stanford and astronomy at Harvard and on the staff of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In 1968, He became a full professor at Cornell
and director of its Laboratory for Planetary Studies, positions he held for the rest of his life. Sagan began making a name for himself in the 1960's with landmark research on the atmospheres of Venus and Saturn's moon and on the windstorms of Mars. Be
coming a consultant to NASA, he eventually played leading roles in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo expeditions, and he was responsible for the interstellar messages affixed to the Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager I and II space probes. Sagan wrote
the "Life" entry in the Encyclopaedia Britannica as well as the earliest of his more than 700 articles for publications such as National Geographic. He co-wrote his first book, Intelligent Life in the Universe, in 1966 with Russian
astronomer I. S. Shklovsky. In the 1970's, Sagan became one of science's foremost popularizers and made the first of his twenty-five appearances on "The Tonight Show". He also cultivated an interest in radio astronomy, which would play a large role in <
i>Contact. Sagan, previously divorced from biologist Lynn Margulis and artist Linda Salzman, wed Ann Druyan, a co-worker on the Voyager probe message, in 1978. A year later, he won a Pulitzer Prize for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evo
lution of Human Intelligence
. In 1980, he formed his own production company in order to create "Cosmos", a public television series which garnered him Emmy and Peabody awards. The same year, he and Druyan wrote a treatment called "First Contact" tha
t eventually came to be 1985's Contact. Sagan became an avid opponent of the Reagan administration's Star Wars program, and his protests of nuclear testing led to an arrest in Nevada. He received much criticism for helping to put forth the not-co
mpletely-correct "nuclear winter" theory. In the mid-1990's, while working on the movie version of Contact, Sagan was diagnosed with a bone marrow disorder, myelodysplasia, which necessitated chemotherapy and a marrow transplant from his sister.
He wrote, in 1995, his thirtieth and final book, Pale Blue Dot, for which he won a Grammy for his audiocassette reading. His condition worsened again, and he died of pneumonia at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on December 21, 199
6. He was buried near his home in Ithaca, New York, at Lakeview Cemetery. He was survived by Druyan, five children, and a grandson. At the time of his death, Sagan chaired sections in the American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, a
nd the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was a contributing editor of Parade magazine. His many awards included twenty-two honorary degrees from colleges and universities, the Oersted Medal, the Mazursky Award, the National A
cademy of Sciences' Public Welfare Medal, and the NASA medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and Distinguished Public Service.

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Because the popularity and sales of Contact peaked and declined early, the majority of reviews appeared within a few months of the novel's October 1985 release. There exists a remarkable consensus among re
viewers of literary and of scientific backgrounds.
Even though the reviews are generally positive, reviewers devote more space to pointing out Contact's shortcomings. At the top of the list is Sagan's lack of literary finesse. Peter Nicholls writes in The Washington Post, "Sagan is certain
ly a better scientist than a novelist." His style is described as "artless" (Library Journal) and "hamfisted" (The New York Times), and the pace of the story is "slow" (Wall Street Journal) and "ponderous" (Washington Post).
Further, the characters are flat and perfunctory, "credible without being memorable" (Publishers Weekly). Time even calls the novel's aliens "stereotypical". "Characterization proceeds by the dossier method. . . . The narrative comes to a
complete stop while an expository lump cajoles us into finding this person interesting. . . . Characters speak in stiff-necked academic lingo, with little nuance of personal style" (New York Times). Sagan's "impeccably liberal sociology" (Washi
ngton Post
) is obvious and sounds "like pi in the sky" (Library Journal). His "politics are distracting. . . . He takes hackneyed, disjointed jabs at commercial civilization, nationalism, sexism, and other standard liberal bogeymen" (Wall S
treet Journal
Despite the novel's faults, every review describes Contact as interesting or entertaining. "[T]he book is an engaging pastiche of science and speculation" (Time), and it exhibits "imaginative flair" (Wall Street Journal). Its intell
igence is much-lauded: "One thing it isn't is a sell-out to the lowest common denominator; the scientific content requires some thought to digest" (Washington Post). "[T]he range and depth of ideas here. . . reward the considerable labor needed" (
New York Times) to finish reading the book. "The authorial voice has clearly done its homework, piling on detail (New York Times), yet Contact remains "surprisingly readable" (Newsweek). Sagan's "informed and dramatically ena
cted speculations into the mysteries of the universe. . . make his story an exciting intellectual adventure and science fiction of a high order" (Publishers Weekly), and his "solution to the problem of transporting extra-terrestrial beings into a f
airly realistic novel is ingenious and satisfying" (Newsweek). Several reviewers also compare Contact to the 1962 sci-fi novel A for Andromeda, which featured a similar plot.
Library Journal, December 1985
Newsweek, November 11, 1985
New York Times, November 3, 1985
Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1985
Time, October 28, 1985
Wall Street Journal, December 5, 1985
Washington Post, October 13, 1985

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

There has been very little subsequent review of Contact. It enjoyed a brief resurgence of sales after the film version's release in July 1997, but most reviews of "Contact" merely state that it is based o
n the novel. Critiques of Sagan's more recent books rarely mention Contact at all.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

Carl Sagan's success as a popularizer of science is undeniable. Few scientists in this century have enjoyed the same level of media attention or name-recognition. Sagan managed to raise public awareness of a myr
iad of issues ranging from the space program to environmental protection. The late 1970's were his heyday, when he often appeared on television programs such as "The Tonight Show" and "The Dick Cavett Show". Sagan also did variously well in the medium o
f print during the 1970's and 1980's. Among his most glowing accomplishments were winning a Pulitzer Prize for The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence and having Cosmos, which was based on his PBS miniseries
viewed by more than 500 million people worldwide, become the best-selling science book ever published in the English language. Further, Contact's sales placed it among the top ten books released in this country in 1985.
Set slightly in the future, Contactis the story of Earth's reception of an extra-terrestrial message. Sagan's protagonist, Dr. Ellie Arroway, detects the radio signal which contains coded instructions for building a Machine to convey passengers t
o the signal's source in the Vega system. Contact occupies a special place among Sagan's works and not simply because it is his only foray into the realm of fiction. The novel was a commercial success for the same reasons that Sagan himself was a
broad and commercial success.
Perhaps most importantly, Sagan made science accessible. In his keynote address at the 1994 CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) Conference, he said, "Science is still one of my chief joys. The popularization o
f science that Isaac Asimov did so well?the communication not just of the findings but of the methods of science?seems as natural to me as breathing. After all, when you're in love, you want to tell the world. The idea that scientists shouldn't talk abo
ut their science to the public seems to me bizarre." Sagan's writing of theories and mechanics is simple but not simplistic, and because he took such care in his explanations, Sagan made science interesting. He truly imbues Contact with his own e
nthusiasm. Publishers Weekly noted that his "informed and dramatically enacted speculations into the mysteries of the universe. . . make his story an exciting intellectual adventure".
On another level, Sagan made science a highly personal thing?for his audience and for himself. He always tried to demonstrate how science impacted everyone's life. His method was to relate it to other facets of human existence, namely politics and relig
ion. Contact delves into subjects reaching from economics to gender. In the book, as in real life, scientists are dependent upon public funds to continue their work, while the masses quite often are not informed about or are in opposition to the
research. Those working on Ellie's interstellar radio project and who want to build the Machine face such a situation. One of Sagan's pet themes, particularly evidenced in Contact, is "Who speaks for Earth?" Who makes and carries out the decisio
n to construct the Machine? Who chooses its passengers? The solution, according to Sagan, is the cessation of the nationalism that produces petty factions. Also explored are the roles of women in science and in general society, as Ellie must struggle t
o make herself heard in the boys' club that is her field. One aspect of the novel which received particular attention is Sagan's non-theistic treatment of the relationship between science and religion. His dealings in Contact with scientific fait
h and religious faith, which reach a truce in the ending, incited much discussion in society. It remained a topic often mentioned in reference to the movie "Contact", an example of how indelible is the mark of Carl Sagan.
Part of Sagan's appeal is his combination of earnestness and unflagging optimism, though both qualities are easy targets for critics of his brand of liberalism. Sagan envisions a future where America has a female president, the world's smartest man is a
Nigerian, and the prospect of communicating with extra-terrestrials brings together people everywhere and puts an end to war. To a Washington Post book reviewer, Sagan's tone "is very much that of a youngish university lecturer talking about the s
tate of the world after a few drinks". Though he may sound cockeyed at times, he speaks from the heart. In fact, it requires no stretch of the imagination to see the parallels between Sagan and his heroine. Both are gifted astrophysicists whose unconve
ntional theories are not easily accepted by their peers. Sagan had even worked with the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) radio project for a time. Further, both had three major and similar romantic relationships during their lives. Elli
e is involved with a free-spirited musician and later with a biologist; Sagan's first wife was an artist, and his second was a biologist. These details illuminate the extent to which he had invested himself in this book. Contact was a large part
of Sagan and vice versa.

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