Science Fiction Studies

# 5 = Volume 2, Part 1 = March 1975


Notes, Reports, and Correspondence

Our Review Policy. It is the intention of Science-Fiction Studies to review, or at least report on, all new critical, historical, bibliographical, and biographical works concerned with SF or SF writers, as well as new editions of older fictions such as the Hyperion reprints reported on in our last issue or the Avon reprints discussed in one of the following notes. We will not attempt to review the general run of new SF or even attempt to make a selection of the best of such books for review. But this is not an ironclad policy of exclusion: if any of our present or potential contributors is moved by some new SF novel, collection, or anthology to say something which he or she believes would interest our readers, we would certainly be pleased to consider it for publication. Finally, SFS is a journal of literary scholarship rather than of pedagogics, so that we are not automatically interested in anthologies intended for the classroom or in books or booklets on how SF may best be taught in this situation or that. While I would certainly recommend Beverly Friend's Science Fiction: The Classroom in Orbit ($3.75 from Educational Impact, Box 548, Glassboro, NJ 08028) to any teacher wondering what to do with an SF course, its suitability as text or guide would be better discussed in College English or The English Journal than in SFS. But again this is not an ironclad policy of exclusion: a review of such a book that moved from pedagogics to the nature of SF might well find a place in our pages. —RDM.

 

A Response to Dr. Lem (see p. 55 above). I'm sorry that Stanislaw Lem misread my letter in SFS #3, I'm often accused of being cryptic, but in this case I don't see how I could have said more plainly what I meant. I said, "...it doesn't take much critical intelligence to notice that a lot of Farmer's work is crude, etc. What would be really interesting, and much more difficult, would be to try to find out why these crude efforts are so popular." I neither said nor meant that whatever is popular is good (I am a little wounded that Lem, whom I respect, should have believed this of me). But it is equally simplistic to dismiss the problem by saying that popular works are popular works because they are bad. In this field alone, thousands of bad works are published every year, and most of them sink into instant oblivion. What is it about certain bad works that makes them immensely popular? The answer which I suggested in the case of van Vogt is that his early works contain a powerful dreamlike element—some of them, in fact, are nothing but dreams embedded in superficial pseudo-stories. In the case of Farmer (who is not always crude), I think there are equally powerful archetypal elements. I don't propose any general solution. I haven't read the Perry Rhodan novels (and since I understand there are about 300, am not about to), but I think their international success requires some explanation. I would find that more interesting than a disquisition on the Aristotelean ideas in Cyrano. —Damon Knight.

 

The "English Jules Verne." I believe that the answer to Alex Eisenstein's query in SFS #4, p. 305 ("I hope that somewhere I may find who it was that first christened Wells the 'English Jules Verne'") is disappointingly banal. Wells was compared to Verne, as to Poe, Jeffries, Samuel Butler, and Bulwer Lytton, by reviewers of The Time Machine, but the epithet itself appears to be the invention of Arthur H. Lawrence, an English journalist who interviewed Wells in the Young Man magazine (11[Aug 1897]:253-54). The earliest American reference I know is to the "Jules Verne of England" (US Bookman 6[Sept 1897]:69). But perhaps another reader can come up with something prior to these? —Patrick Parrinder.

 

The Early Science Journalism of H.G. Wells (see SFS 1:98-114): Addenda. Subsequent research has turned up 5 "new" Wells items which to our knowledge are previously unrecorded (though all are signed except for the transcript of a lecture by Wells). These belong by and large under the rubric "Education and Popularization" and provide additional confirmation for our remarks under that heading in SFS #2. Together with the other essays and reviews on this subject, they are resource material for possible articles on the connection between Wells's pedagogical concerns and his SF (and/or his later polemical writings). Three of the 5 pieces are in the Educational Times (ET). (An erratum detected in our article occurs in item #9, where Sept 3 should be Sept 30.)

#9A. The Teaching of Geography. ET 46(Oct 1 1893):435-36. [Signed]. Ranged in ascending order of complexity, the pedagogical approaches to geography proceed from "where is A?" through "what kind of place is A?" to "why is A what it is?" They proceed, that is, towards a "descriptive"—"inductive" or scientific—view of the subject. Ideally, with a proper sequence of studies (see ## 51 and 55A), the study of geography can become "something altogether wider, a great and orderly body of knowledge centering about man in his relations to space." (See also #31A).

#11A. The Making of Mountain Chains. Knowledge 16(Nov 1 1893):204-06. [Signed]. An account of various contemporary hypotheses—which Wells illustrates with homely examples—about how mountains are formed, concluding with his own synthesis of these ideas.

#31A. Geology in Relation to Geography. ET 47(July 1 1894):288-89. [Signed]. Using England as an example, Wells points out that "all the chief facts in the geography of a country may be obtained in a quasi-inductive fashion from its geological structure." Thus "a few elementary geological considerations...bind together what are otherwise disconnected facts in a singularly powerful manner." (The argument here anticipates Wells's position in #51; see also #9A.)

#55A. Science Teaching—an Ideal and Some Realities. ET 48(Jan 1 1895):23-29. [Identified in ET as a transcript of Wells's lecture before the Royal College of Preceptors, Dec 12, 1894]. The fullest expression of notions Wells brings up in ## 9A, 36, and 51. Ideally, education should be primarily and fundamentally scientific: there should be an overall sequence of studies, emphasizing the interrelatedness of various disciplines. Structurally also, within any given area of study, "generalizations" should be arrived at "inductively" on the basis of "object lessons and physical measurements" which enable the student to "see certain visible facts as connected with certain other visible facts." In practice, on the other hand, school curricula are unorganized and chaotic. Rather than providing "an ample background of inductive study"—the prerequisite for "exact thinking" and consequently for exactness of expression—schools instead offer a bewildering array of courses in which facts—purveyed as dogma—are presented in isolation from one another and without regard to any experiential or experimental basis.

#88A. J.F.N. Academy 56(May 6 1899):502-04. [Signed]. A tribute to the philosopher J.F. Nisbet and his "quest—that perpetual quest!—of the unassailable truths of being." "It has a touch of the heroic" that Nisbet, "feeling, as he certainly did, a strong attraction towards certain aspects of devotion...would defile himself with no helpful self-deceptions...but remained, as he was meant to remain, outside, amid his riddles." (Compare the conclusions of #88, where Wells defines his own, similar position in regard to the "imperative to believe"). —David Y. Hughes and Robert M. Philmus.

 

Conferences. An SF Conference will be held April 11-13 at the University of Colorado at Denver, co-sponsored by the University and the SFRA. The featured speakers will be Ursula K. Le Guin, Edward Bryant, Robert Silverberg, and Thomas D. Clareson. Further information may be obtained from Bureau of Conferences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80302. The 1975 SFRA Conference will be at Florida International University, Miami, Fla 33144. Queries on papers, panels, etc. may be addressed either to Martin H. Greensberg, Dept. of International Relations, or to Joseph D. Olander, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences.


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