Science Fiction Studies

#33 = Volume 11, Part 2 = July 1984


John L. Grigsby

Herbert's Reversal of Asimov's Vision Reassessed: Foundation's Edge and God Emperor of Dune

Abstract.--The disparity which I previously identified (in SFS. No. 24) between the personal vision that informs Asimov's FOUNDATION  books and that underlying Frank Herbert's DUNE books carries over into those series as tetralogies. In Foundation's Edge, Asimov has not repudiated his faith in mental science and technology; he has simply shifted it from the psychohistorians of the Second Foundation and the physical scientists of the First to the ideal world of Gaia, a utopia of ultimate harmony guided either by robots (i.e., technology) or by a Skinnerian universal determinism à la Walden II (which in effect updates mental science, or psychological control theory, to replace psychohistoricism). By contrast, in the latest addition to his DUNE series, God Emperor of Dune, Herbert's Leto II deliberately resorts to psychological and technological means of oppression to provoke revolt against his psychological manipulation and machine control. His aim is to teach his people the why and how of freeing themselves from such control: that they might live as humankind should, without the set limits of Skinnerian determinism and/or machine domination.

Clayton Koelb

The Language of Presence in Varley's "The Persistence of Vision"

Abstract.--John Varley's "The Persistence of Vision " proposes a linguistic utopia in which ordinary speech, which is composed of signs inevitably possessing an element of distance and "absence," is replaced by a language (or set of languages) in which the process of signification is set aside in favor of the direct "reading" of the world. Since Varley is fully aware that such a language of presence is incompatible with the structure of the world we live in, he separates his utopia from this world. The separation is at first relatively slight, and the story stays close to the margins of credibility; but at the end Varley leaves no doubt that his tale is a magical fantasy treating a world very different from the one we inhabit. What happens in Varley's story is impossible and not to be believed. This impossibility and this incredibility are precisely the point, for if we were to suppose that Varley meant to solicit the reader's belief, either directly or allegorically, his story would appear either curiously self-destructive on the one hand or emptily pretentious on the other. Neither is the case. This story that at first gives every appearance of expressing absolute faith in the possibility of a perfect form of communication unmasks itself at the end by showing decisively that this dream-language can exist only in the realm of outright, incredible fantasy. The language of this fantasy world is shown to be most powerful precisely when it is most incredible.

Marie Maclean

Metamorphoses of the Signifier in "Unnatural" Languages

Abstract.--The extent and force of metafiction, and especially of modern SF--of that intellectual adventure which could be called "cognitive subversion"--owes much to an increasing understanding of language. The construction of artificial languages, the exploration of knowledge systems and of cybernetics, and information theory generally all lead to a literature which exploits the connections between human, or "natural," semiotic systems and others which are artificial, or "unnatural." To facilitate our comprehension of the latter, I would propose a preliminary scheme of classification based in two large groupings: leximatic and non-leximatic. The leximatic group composes the following categories: (1) the signifier whose signified is absent (missing, empty); (2) the signifier having a single signified (as in computer language, at least ideally); (3) the signifier whose signified obeys logical rules (as in cybernetics); and (4) the signifier whose signified is re-evaluated by its context (future, parallel, or whatnot). The non-leximatic group includes these categories: (5) the compact signifier (as in portmanteau words, techno-neologisms, etc.); (6) the modified signifier (derived through extrapolation from future languages); and (7) the "arbitrary," or exolinguistic, signifier, for the most part a sign or icon whose motivation is, say, phonetic, visual, or anagrammatic. (The use of the arbitrary signifier usually depends on the insertion of a "motivated" sign into a semiotic system peculiar to the world of the text--depends, that is, on what Marc Angenot calls the "absent paradigm.") How these diverse signifers function and what they can tell us about the relationships between "natural" and "unnatural" languages as they figure in SF texts are questions best approached through Roland Barthes' concepts of connotation and metalanguage, from the standpoint of which the capacity of fiction to transform and reinterpret chains of signification is most apparent.

Patrick A. McCarthy

Zamyatin and the Nightmare of Technology

Abstract.--Yevgeny Zamyatin's anti-utopian novel We relies on a Romantic conception of politics and technology that is consistent with attitudes developed in essays Zamyatin wrote during the early years of the Bolshevik state. In the novel, both the machine images and the adaptation of the Prometheus myth demonstrate the capacity of the products of the imagination to become inhibitors of imaginative activity: thus the machine and the state are at once man's potential liberators and his actual masters. The drama is played out in the mind of D-503, whose instinctive desire for freedom and individuality is eventually destroyed, leaving him in the perfectly mechanical state towards which he has always consciously aspired. In this sense, D-503 comes to represent the failure of the imagination to retain its ascendancy over its creations.


Science Fiction in Chile

Abstract.--Chile could not lay claim to any indigenous SF until 1959. That year, however, marked the appearance in print of Hugo Correa, who remains the most prolific as well as the best writer of SF that Chile has so far produced. Los Altissimos (The Superiors, 1959), his first book (of five, to date) is something of a classic, certainly an auspicious beginning to a "Golden Age" of Chilean SF.

Second to Correa is Antonio Montero Abt, with three SF titles to his credit--most notably, Acá del tiempo (This Side of Time, 1969). But Montero apparently ceased writing after 1970, and no one else of talent among his compatriots has since devoted her or himself to writing SF exclusively and in quantity.

There is, perhaps predictably, one renowned "mainstream" author, Miguel Arteche, who momentarily condescended to an S-F future history, El Cristo hueco (The Empty Christ, 1969). And among the SF books of the '60s, those of Armando Menedin, Elena Aldunate Bezanilla, and Ilda Cádiz Avila deserve mention, even though they have written little and that little entirely in the form of short fictions. So, too, among '70s' writers, Carlos Ruiz-Tagle and José Bohr can be singled out, especially the latter for his Mañana hacia el ayer (Tomorrow Towards Yesterday, 1975). And finally, just for the record, there also exist some execrable SF stories by Roberto van Bennewitz and Renč Peri Fagerstrom.

Chile's "Golden Age" has proved to be short-lived: it lasted until about the time of Allende's overthrow--until 1975, to be precise--since which time SF activity in the country has virtually come to a complete halt.

Franz Rottensteiner

Paul Scheerbart, Fantast of "Otherness"

Abstract.--Paul Scheerbart (1863-1915) is a most singular phenomenon among fantasts: a Prussian gifted with a sense of humor, he created a cosmos of the most colorful continuous transformations and alterations--a cosmos that is without parallel in literary history.

Despite being evidently preoccupied with new contents--with curious alien beings, including sentient stars, with landscapes in the far universe, with other architectures (especially of glass), and with new art forms--Scheerbart was most interested in aesthetic problems. Accepted literary forms and genres in his hands undergo a condensation, an uttermost simplification, which has the effect of ironizing them.

Nor do the conventional laws of physics rule his monstrously bizarre cosmos. Indeed, he held such laws in ridicule, claiming that they were nothing more than what the poor imagination of "earthworms" imposed upon higher, astral beings inaccessible to human reason--beings whose sympathies and ultimately aimless metamorphoses serve no goal other than to produce ever "new" and "other" vistas of the incredibly wide cosmic spaces.

Scheerbart proclaimed that he was in love with the "world spirit." That is no doubt true enough, but his attachment to it gives his aesthetic universe of surface form a curiously soulless and static quality. His cosmos is in fact a purely literary construct. Pacifist and free from the drudgery of work, the necessity for food, and the pains of sexual conflicts and disappointments, it stands as a counter-world, implicitly invoking the real world, Earth bound in the fetters of terrestrial gravity, only as its absolute antithesis.

Nancy Steffen-Fluhr

Women and the Inner Game of Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Abstract.--Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is not primarily a political allegory but a complex psychomachia written by and for beleaguered males of the 1950s. The inner game of Invasion is a very traditional version of the War Between the Sexes in which overt antagonism has been suppressed and re-projected as a War of the Worlds. Miles's fear of surrendering to the alien pods--and all they represent-- is precisely parallel to, and comments upon, his unarticulated fear of other surrenders: to Becky, his androgynous "other half"; to his own uncontrollable passion; and, most importantly, to his (and Siegel's) hidden desire for forbidden surcease. Surrender, passivity, receptivity, deemed by the patriarchic culture of the '50s to be mere womanish weakness, are projected onto the alien pods and ultimately rejected as inconsistent with manly emotion--indeed, inconsistent with survival itself.

The ambivalent meaning of the pods follows a general rule for SF plots: "anything alien is inhuman to me." That is, in Invasion, as in male SF in general, the threatening aliens represent distorted projections of anima--not women qua women but women as estranged components of the psyches of the male authors, auteurs (Jack Finney, on whose novel Invasion is based; the late Daniel Mainwaring, the scriptwriter; and Don Siegel, the director).

Siegel, a chronic insomniac, apparently driven by a strong need for conscious control, has intended the pods to represent depression, conformity, "other-directedness"--all that is inimical to a thrusting, flight-or-flight definition of the intensely lived life. And so they do--in his text. But in his subtext, in his imagery, the pods also simultaneously convey deep yearnings for surrender, for release, for genderless intimacy and androgynous psychic wholeness.

The film flirts with this vision of surcease, of a life beyond macho role-playing. But in the end, it reasserts the simplistic, bi-polar values of the American patriarchy. Miles's beloved Becky, his passionate "other half, " is revealed as a Judas who betrays her lord with a kiss, leaving him to be rescued by J. Edgar Hoover and his cohorts. Back to the raft again, Huck honey.

[A response by Ellen M. Pedersen, and Nancy Steffen-Fluhr's reply, appear in SFS 35 (March 1985).]

Louis Tremaine

Historical Consciousness in Stapledon and Malraux

Abstract.--A comparison of Olaf Stapledon's fictions (especially Last and First Men and Star Maker) with Andre Malraux's Man's Fate discloses an essentially narrative consciousness at work in both writers. Central to this historical consciousness is a dialectical awareness of the relationship between human actuality and human potentiality--an awareness that present events are meaningful only as they are measured against a larger vision of what human beings have been and what they can become. Malraux accordingly steeps his novel in a particular historical moment to suggest that the appropriate response to the eternal condition humaine of inevitable suffering and death lies not in the mythic innocence of ideology or in a passive resignation to human tragedy, but in an ever greater lucidity on the part of humanity about what it is capable of within the natural limits that constrain it. So, too--but using an incomparably larger canvas than Malraux--Stapledon tests this same human capability for giving significance to human history. Indeed, it is Stapledon's historical consciousness that accounts, in part, for such characteristic elements of his fiction as the distancing narrator, the extreme-situation plot device, and the personality-in-community theme.

John Bell

The Persistence of Division: Further Examples of English-Language Science Fiction Concerning Canadian Separatist Conflicts*

Canadian national disunity continues to prompt the writing of near-future scenarios portraying the separation or attempted separation of disaffected sections of the country. In fact, since the publication of "Uneasy Union: A Checklist of English-Language SF Concerning Canadian Separatist Conflicts" in SFS No. 26 (March 1982), one of the genre's major writers, Robert A. Heinlein, has contributed to the sub-genre. The latest novel by Hugh MacLennan, a leading Canadian novelist, also utilizes SF to explore some of the issues raised by separatism. Furthermore, as the addendum which follows documents, a number of early examples of this political SF have come to light.

Of particular interest are E.A. Partridge's A War on Poverty, which includes the first English-language separation scenario, and Les Croutch's "The Immigrant," the earliest piece in this vein by a genre writer. It could almost be argued, of course, that the first example of the sub-genre was Jules Verne's Famille-sans-nom (Paris: J. Hetzel, 1889—translated in the same year as A Family Without a Name [NY, J.W. Lovell]). Based on the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada, the novel deals with the struggle to establish an independent and democratic Québec. However, while not entirely accurate as history, neither does it depart sufficiently from reality to qualify as SF. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the persistence of separatist conflict in Canada has led to the recent appearance of the first English Canadian edition of the work, newly translated by Edward Baxter: Family Without a Name (Toronto: NC Press, 1982)....

Berton, Pierre; Pamela Horton, Betty Kennedy, Gordon Gates, Gary Lautens, Cliff Tait, John Robert Colombo, Terri Favro, Sylvia Fraser, Jeremy Gauthier, Richard Rohmer, & Sister Mary Buckley. "The Great Toronto Mystery," Toronto Star, (March 8, 1982):A4; (March 15, 1982):A5; (March 22, 1982):A9; (March 29, 1982):A15; (April 5, 1982):A18; (April 12, 1982):A15; (April 19, 1982):A13; (April 26, 1982):A17; (May 3, 1982):A8; (May 10, 1982):Al9; (May 17, 1982):A15; (May 24,1982):A5.—Ace shoe salesman, Harvey J. Grebe, and his resourceful mistress, Alicia Von Porterhaus, find themselves embroiled in a farcical terrorist campaign by the Committee for an Independent Toronto Island (CITI), involving a 119-year-old criminal mastermind, a longevity potion, and reverse neutron bombs, all of which are part of a desperate bid by Harold Ballard to launch a new, winning hockey team, the Toronto Islanders.

—————. The Great Toronto Mystery. Toronto: The Toronto Star, 1982. A book publication of the 12-part serial of the same title.

Bishop, Percy W. & Anna M. McIntyre. The Quislings. Etobicoke, Ont.: Libmag Publishing, 1974.—As David Richards, a partner in Canada's largest financial institution, tries to block an American takeover of the Canadian Pacific Railway, resentment against Central Canada's sell-out policies and economic domination results in an armed uprising in Alberta by the Western Freedom Federation and the emergence of the Northern Alliance; which seeks to turn northern Ontario into the province of Iroquois.

Broderick, Pat. See Conway, Gerry.

Buckley, Sister Mary. See Berton, Pierre.

Colombo, John Robert. See Berton, Pierre & Croutch, Leslie A.

Conway, Gerry & Pat Broderick. "Plastique is Another Word for Fear!" The Fury of Firestorm, 1, no.7 (Dec. 1982): 1-23.—After defeating a Québec terrorist who threatens to blow up a New Jersey gas storage tank, the American comic book superhero, Firestorm, humiliates a second terrorist, Plastique, before her explosive costume can destroy the New York News Express Building.

Croutch, Leslie A. "The Immigrant," Light, no. 44 (Feb. 1950):5-7.—In the not-too-distant future, the Québec of Duplessis (premier from 1936-39 & 1944-59), which has become a virtual sovereign state, demands the extradition of a family which illegally left Québec for Ontario.

Croutch, Leslie A. & John Robert Colombo. Years of Light; A Celebration of Leslie A. Croutch. Compiled with a Commentary by John Robert Colombo. Toronto: Hounslow, 1982.—Reprints Croutch's "The Immigrant."

Cussler, Clive. Night Probe! London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1981; NY: Bantam 1982; London: Sphere, 1982.—See "Uneasy Union," loc. cit., p. 84.

Cussler, Clive. Pacific Vortex! NY: Bantam, 1983.—This edition includes an excerpt from Night Probe!

Favro, Terri. See Berton, Pierre.

Fraser, Sylvia. See Berton, Pierre.

Gates, Gordon. See Berton, Pierre.

Gauthier, Jeremy. See Berton, Pierre.

Heinlein, Robert A. Friday. NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982, London: New English Library, 1982, 1983; NY: Ballantine/Del Rey, 1983.—Friday, an artificial person operating as a courier for a powerful multi-national, comes to realize that off-planet migration represents the only escape from the decay of terrestrial civilization following the balkanization of North America into at least eight separate countries: the Chicago Imperium, the California Confederacy, the Lone Star Republic, the Atlantic Union, Alaska Free State, the Mexican Kingdom, British Canada, and Québec. Although not focusing exclusively on Canadian disunity, the novel is partly set in British Canada, involves Canadian and Québecois characters, and obviously extrapolates from the separatist struggles that have divided Canada ideologically for the past 20 years.

—————. "Friday," Science Fiction Digest, 1, no. 4 (Sept.-Oct. 1982):28-51.—An excerpt from Friday.

Horton, Pamela. See Berton, Pierre.

Kalina, Jon. "The Diary of Ian Frank; A Ghost Story for Refugee Children," in The Anglo Guide to Survival in Quebec, ed. Josh Freed & Jon Kalina. Montreal: Eden Press, 1983:77-82.—In 1984, linguistic totalitarianism leads to the arrest of Québec Anglophones by the dreaded language police.

Kennedy, Betty. See Berton, Pierre.

Kilgore, Axel. Canadian Killing Ground. NY: Zebra, 1981; Don Mills: General, 1981.—The fifth blood-spattered adventure of the one-eyed mercenary captain, Hank Frost, is set in Québec, where he foils a plot by the Baader-Meihnhof gang and their separatist cohorts to steal a new Canadian-American plane, the Wraith, which is invisible to radar, in order to bomb the Soviet Union and provoke World War III.

Kilian, Michael. Northern Exposure. NY: St Martin's, 1983.—Pierre Trudeau is succeeded by Harry York, a francophobe Saskatchewan academic whose efforts at reducing Québec's power within Confederation to placate Alberta autonomists leads to the re-emergence of Québec separatist violence.

Lautens, Gary. See Berton, Pierre.

MacKinnon, Paul. [Untitled], Old Trout Funnies, no. 1 (1975):1-17.—Led by a comic book super hero, General Peyton, the Cape Breton Liberation Army (CBLA) hijacks a beer truck before escaping to Prince Edward Island.

—————. [Untitled], Old Trout Funnies, no.3 (1977): 1-4,8-18.—Returning to Cape Breton from exile, the CBLA kidnaps a phony OPEC minister and fights a government force based in earth orbit.

—————. "A Summer Adventure of Lucifer Bludd," Old Trout Funnies, no.3, (1977): 19-21.—A prehistoric man revived from suspended animation saves two CBLA guerillas from a bear.

MacLennan, Hugh. Voices in Time. Toronto: MacMillan, 1980; Markham, Hammondsworth, NY, Ringwood, & Auckland: Penguin, 1981, 1982.—Years after a world-wide nuclear holocaust, a cache of documents unearthed in the ruins of Montreal prompts an old man, John Wellfleet, to piece together the stories of both Timothy Wellfleet, an opportunist TV celebrity at the time of the October Crisis, and Conrad Dehmel, a German professor under the Nazi regime.

McIntyre, Anna M. See Bishop, Percy W.

Partridge, Edward Alexander. A War on Poverty; The One War That Can End War by "Partridge of Sintaluta. " Winnipeg: Wallingford Press, [1926].—This anti-capitalist critique of Canadian Confederation includes a 26-page section entitled, "Coalsamao," which purports to be an insider's description of a new future eutopian state, the world's first Co-operative Commonwealth, formed from a merger of the Canadian western provinces and a portion of Ontario.

"Partridge of Sintaluta." See Partridge, Edward Alexander.

Rohmer, Richard. See Berton, Pierre.

Ross, Alexander. "The Day Quebec Quit Canada...," Maclean's, 80, no. 12 (Dec. 1967): 16-17, 80-84.—The republic of Québec, declared by Premier Jean Noël Tremblay on Feb. 3, 1971, collapses after eight months of chaotic independence when nationalization measures result in a general strike and the threat of an American invasion.
Tait, Cliff. See Berton, Pierre.

Van Dusen, Thomas. The Power Brokers. Toronto: Collins, 1976.—When Jacques Clément of the Constitutional Party—the next federal Leader of the Opposition and prospective Prime Minister—is kidnapped by separatist terrorists, the government calls out the army.

Wilson, Rob. Escape From Marrakesh. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1983.—A prominent Liberal, Senator Marlowe, hires international terrorists to kill Canada's unpopular Prime Minister in order to forestall the election of the Conservatives, who are prepared to grant Québec independence so as to destroy the Liberal Party's power base.

*Robert Runte, John Robert Colombo, Paul MacKinnon, and the staff of the Spaced Out Library in Toronto all assisted in the compilation of this checklist.

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