Albert I. Berger
Love, Death, and the Atomic Bomb: Sexuality and
Community in Science Fiction, 1935-55
Abstract .--"Golden Age'' SF from the 30s, 40s, and 50s is often
criticized for its inability to adequately and sufficiently portray complex characters,
interpersonal relationships (particularly sexual), and the political, economic, and social
contexts in which the futuristic technology was developed. This study attempts to
demonstrate how these three insufficiencies in classic SF are necessarily related, given
the historical era in which these texts were written.
Samuel R. Delany
Some Reflections on SF Criticism
Abstract .--SF traditionally appropriates its critical terminology
from a literary discourse foreign to its "paraliterary" position in the
constellation of discourses that constitutes the contemporary cultural array. This essay
examines the origins of certain phrases typical of SF--e.g., "sense of wonder,''
"a literature of ideas,'' "New Wave,'' "cognition and estrangement,'' etc.--and
demonstrates how these terms are often appropriated from the literary field to the SF
field. This critical terminology, because it is appropriated, suggests that similarities
between the two are much more pervasive than they actually are.
A more fruitful way to characterize the distinction between genres is to view it as a
set of distinctions between reading protocols, between ways of reading, between ways of
responding to sentences, between ways of making various sentences and various texts make
sense. The genre is not a set of texts or of rhetorical figures but rather a reading
protocol complex: different genres involve different complexes. The texts central to the
genre become those texts that were clearly written to exploit a particular protocol
complex--texts which yield a particularly rich reading experience when read according to
one complex rather than another.
The essay concludes with a discussion of the author's book of SF criticism The
American Shore and remarks made on this text by P. Parrinder in SFS (Nov. 1979).
[A response by Damon Knight, and Samuel R. Delany's
reply, appear in SFS 26 (March 1982).]
Thinking by Opposition: The "Two-World"
Structure in H.G. Wells's Short Fiction
Abstract.--The co-existence of opposites is a fundamental structural
element in all of Wells's early fiction. It is particularly apparent in narratives like
"The Remarkable Case of Davidson's Eyes,'' "The Plattner Story,'' "The
Crystal Egg,'' and The Wonderful Visit. In all these stories, Wells makes use of
the presence of two opposing, discordant worlds for the creation of ironic rather than
satiric effects. It also allows Wells to meditate on the deep contradictions that he finds
in human experience--as in "The Flowering of the Strange Orchid,'' "The Stolen
Bacillus,'' and "The Lord of the Dynamos''--and more generally on the opposition
between civilization and nature. But at the edge of the two-world structure inevitably
lurks the question of deception and fraud--i.e., the narrator discovers that the
extraordinary truth is impossible to prove to his peers--and raises interesting questions
about the status of fiction itself.
Patrick A. McCarthy
Star Maker: Olaf Stapledon's
Abstract .--Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker (1937) is without
doubt an unusual work of SF, but it follows the pattern of other extraordinary voyages
like Dante's Divine Comedy and Swift's Gulliver's Travels in that the
anonymous traveller's cosmic voyage is a metaphor for his journey toward spiritual
discovery. The narrator crosses space and time in a metaphysical quest to find answers to
fundamental questions about human existence and humanity's place in a seemingly
The White Sphinx and The Time Machine
Abstract .--This essay is a detailed analysis of the episode in The
Time Machine where the Time Traveler attempts to free his time machine from the
White Sphinx. This episode is interpreted in the light of Francis Bacon's essay entitled
"Sphinx: or Science'' and is seen as a paradigm for the transformations the human
spirit must traverse when using knowledge for practical purposes instead of strictly for
contemplative ends. In examining Wells' hero from this perspective, a greater
understanding is achieved of how Wells viewed the role of science in the modern world.
Jeanne Murray Walker
Reciprocity and Exchange in William Golding's The
Abstract .--It is one of the literary oddities of the age that William
Golding's second novel, The Inheritors, has been so neglected. Astonishing in its
sensuousness, stunning in its economy, desperate in its intensity of focus, glittering in
its irony, the novel has nevertheless been a commercial failure. Golding's novel uses the
common SF device of alien contact to make the reader explore the conditions necessary for
social exchange. To do this Golding depicts two equally untenable societies. The first is
devoid of possessions but absolutely dependent for survival on its communal life. Against
that society Golding sets a band of New Men, brilliant in their ability to conceive
objects of beauty and utility, but almost devoid of communal exchange. By becoming
involved in the powerfully emotional conflict which results--a conflict between two groups
clearly defined as opposites--the reader is compelled to carry out the intellectual task
which the narrative requires.
In this essay the author wishes first to propose a working definition of SF, then to
define more clearly the differences between the two social systems The Inheritors opposes.
Finally the author will show how the reader's close and sometimes painful involvement in
the text leads ultimately to his conception of a social system more tenable than either in
the novel, combining the best characteristics of both.
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