Science Fiction Studies

#24 = Volume 8, Part 2 = July 1981


John Robert Colombo

Science Fiction in Bulgaria

Abstract .--This essay is an overview of the development and evolution of SF in Bulgaria. It highlights the works of certain Bulgarian SF writers such as Pavel Vezinov, Ljuben Dilov, Gerov, Konstantinova, Koralov, Minkov, Nakovski, Raditchkov and others. Further, it describes the active SF fandom in Bulgaria.

J.A. Dautzenberg

A Survey of Dutch and Flemish Science Fiction

Abstract.--This essay gives a brief account of Dutch and Flemish SF fandom, a survey of the market of translated SF in Holland and Belgium, and a history of original Dutch and Flemish SF.

John L. Grigsby

Asimov's FOUNDATION Trilogy and Herbert's DUNETrilogy: A Vision Reversed

Abstract .--Asimov's FOUNDATION trilogy and Herbert's DUNE series have enjoyed world-wide success. But if they have been often studied and analyzed individually, it is rare that they have been directly compared one with the other. The comparative structure of these works suggests that Herbert used Asimov as one of his principal sources. In both cases, for example, one finds the same dynamic theme as the central plot device: a movement from the center--a decadent civilization--to the periphery where civilization is renewed. Within these large similarities of movement and design, there are also numerous specific similarities of action, setting, and character, all of which point to Herbert's adaptation of ideas from Asimov.

David J. Lake

Le Guin's Twofold Vision: Contrary Image-Sets in The Left Hand of Darkness

Abstract .--A large part of the effectiveness of Ursula Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness depends on the use of two series of images in opposition to each other. The "cold team" (cold, light, white, ice, pale liquids, left hand) corresponds to the yang of the Chinese tradition whereas the "warm team" (warmth, darkness, red, earth, blood, right hand) corresponds to the yin.

On the whole, the "cold team" images correlate with each other and symbolize rationalism, certain knowledge, tyranny, isolation, betrayal, death; and the "warm team" images correlate with each other and symbolize intuition, ignorance, freedom, relationship, fidelity, life. The "cold team" images mostly correlate also with the nation of Orgoreyn, the "warm team" with the nation of Karhide.

The philosophy of William Blake is very useful for a comprehension of Le Guin's novel since it too concerns a balance of opposites similar to those of Le Guin's taoism.

E.D. Mackerness

Zola, Wells, and "The Coming Beast"

Abstract .--In this essay, the author argues that although it would not be strictly appropriate to cite Zola as a significant and immediate "influence" on Wells, there is one instance at least in which a parallel between the two novelists may be drawn. Both men were powerfully affected by notions originating in the general fin de sicle concept of Social Darwinism, and their work is best appreciated against the broad spectrum of ideas deriving from the study of "scientific sociology." Wells offers nothing quite comparable with the prolonged illustration of "la question d'hrdit" so pervasive in Zola's writings; yet in certain respects the conception of The Time Machine (1895) appears to owe something to motifs which had already been worked upon in the 19th Rougon-Macquart novel, Germinal (1885).

Mark Rose

Filling the Void: Verne, Wells, and Lem

Abstract.--Concerned with the human in relation to the non-human, SF could only emerge in the context of a culture that articulates crucial aspects of its experience in those terms. Moreover, because it represents a secular transformation of religious concerns, SF could only emerge in a context in which the claims of traditional religion were still felt but in which belief was at best problematic.

The Victorian situation of urban man disconnected from God, cut off from nature, separated from other men, is of course our own; it is in the 19th century that the modern age of alienation begins. SF can be understood in the context of 19th and 20th-century spiritual loneliness as a manifestation of our culture's longing to escape the prison-house of the merely human. It might be considered as an attempt to reestablish, in some way that will sustain conviction even in our technological and post-Christian culture, the channels of communication with the non-human world.

Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth can be taken as representative of all those narratives in which the non-human is inanimate and projected as existing "out there." There is a logical continuity between these stories of the exploration of Nature and tales of alien contact, exemplified by Wells' The War of the Worlds, where Nature is animated with other living beings. This latter work also demonstrates how difficult it is for fictional narratives to portray the radically non-human, a problem directly addressed by Lem's Solaris. By making the alien planet Solaris unyieldingly problematic, Lem shifts the narrative emphasis from the exterior object to the process of inquiry itself--i.e., an exploration of the limits of human understanding when faced with the inscrutably non-human.

Richard Alan Schwartz

Thomas Pynchon and the Evolution of Fiction

Abstract .--This essay studies the reasons why Pynchon, Barth, Coover and other contemporary authors felt the need to abandon traditional realist techniques in order to remain faithful to certain views of the 20th century concerning the dismissal of absolute truths, dichotomized thinking, and belief in the unlimited potential of human reason. This quest for non-realist or "irrealist" literary forms led these canonical writers in different directions. Several of Pynchon's works in particular, like Gravity's Rainbow and The Crying of Lot 49, reflect definite SF qualities in that they are a meditation on the human condition while avoiding the constraints and contradictions implicit in realism. Such works could provide a bridge between SF and "high" literature.

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