Science Fiction Studies

#62 = Volume 21, Part 1 = March 1994


Notes and Correspondences

Another Necroscopic Brain-Scan. I much enjoyed Arthur B. Evans’ account of the segueing of the photo-in-a-dead-man’s-eye motif into that of the necroscopic brain-scan in "Optograms and Fiction" (SFS #61). Since the 1940s and 50s are blank in Evans’ historical reconstruction, students of SF may be interested in the following plot summary (taken from my Imprisoned in a Tesseract: The Life and Work of James Blish, page 115) of one particularly effective necroscopic brain-scan story from the 1950s:

"Tomb Tapper" ([Astounding Science Fiction] July 1956) is one of Blish’s most powerful and deeply felt works. As a member of the voluntary Civil Air Patrol some time in the near future, McDonough’s job is to pick the brains of enemy corpses by means of a new EEG technique. After locating what is presumed to be a downed Russian bomber that crashlanded inside a railway tunnel bored into a mountain, McDonough activates his equipment inside the fuselage and sees a scene in his "toposcope goggles" which corresponds to a line he simultaneously "hears" from "A Child’s Christmas in Wales," by Dylan Thomas: "And still the dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds. . ." (139). Because the sheep have kittenlike heads and the birds look like nothing on Earth, McDonough figures he must be picking up images from the dead or dying mind of an extraterrestrial. But eventually McDonough realizes that the bizarre image comes from a coloring book:

Of course the sheeplike animals did not look much like sheep, which the pilot could never have seen except in pictures. Of course the sheep’s heads looked like the heads of kittens; everyone has seen kittens. Of course the brain was powerful out of all proportion to its survival drive and its knowledge of death; it was the brain of a genius, but a genius without experience. And of course, this way, the USSR could get a rocket fighter to the United States on a one-way trip. (147)

The dead pilot of this guided missile, whose fading memory of a picture McDonough sees, is then discovered to be an eight-year old girl.

Internal page references are to James Blish, The Testament of Andros (London: Arrow Books, 1977).—David Ketterer, Concordia University.

 

UK Copyrights. A letter from Patrick Parrinder brings the news that, effective January 1, 1995, just in time to cover the works of H.G. Wells, UK copyrights will be extended to 70 years after the death of the author. In a note in The European English Messenger (2.2:35-36, 1993), Parrinder discusses briefly the disastrous effects that the new law will have on projects under way to publish scholarly editions in Britain. In a way the UK law would seem to benefit US publishers, whose scholarly editions will have no UK competition in Canada, Australia, India, New Zealand, and so on. But US scholars, on the other hand, will be unhappy if their work is not available to British readers. We have urged Professor Parrinder to discuss this matter at greater length in a future issue of SFS.

 

The Hughes War of the Worlds. Among the works affected by the new UK law will be the forthcoming Oxford UP World Classics edition of The War of the Worlds with text as edited by David Y. Hughes for the Indiana UP edition reviewed in our last issue, for it will not be distributed in the UK. On the "back/black" question raised in the review in SFS #61 (20:440-433), Hughes has written us as follows:

After some thought I am sticking with "black streets" for OUP. Even though I have only ms. authority for "black," I prefer it and I believe Wells intended it because it "estranges" the commonplace: it "defamiliarizes" the streets these little clerks skedaddle over. I see "back" as outside the territory of these clerks but "black" as invading their territory, like the Martians. On the other hand, I am saying that the typist made a slip, even though she did that very seldom.

I wrote in the review that I could not recall ever seeing "black streets" used to mean "dark streets" (443). I have now seen it so used: "[Dickens] wept and laughed and one day walked ‘15 or 20 miles about the black streets of London ... when all good folks had gone to bed"’ (John Mortimer, "Poor Houses, Pamphlets, and Marley’s Ghost," The New York Times, national edition, Dec 24, 1993, A13; Mortimer does not cite the source of the words he quotes).—RDM.

 

A Time Machine Text for Italian Students. I read with interest Professor Mullen’s comment in SFS #61 that "it is to be hoped that Indiana UP will issue a new edition with the text improved" of Geduld’s The Definitive Time Machine. I’ll second that, and perhaps he should also remove his disparaging remarks about other editors’ efforts! Some SFS readers may be interested to know of a new edition of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine that I am currently preparing for publication here in Italy. It is an edition intended for use in schools and universities by non-native speakers of English and its main additional features will be a considerable number of footnotes glossing difficult words (e.g., "recondite" in the first sentence) and giving cultural or scientific information (Little-Go, Burslem), a series of text-based activities, a bibliography and chronology and an introduction.

More significantly, it is based on the 1895 Heinemann edition, which may well not be readily available in other inexpensive editions. Like Philmus, I do not agree with the principle that "a definitive text should reflect the author’s final judgment" (SFS 61, p. 442), especially in the case of a writer like Wells, who developed a contemptuous attitude towards those early works of his that nowadays are generally considered to mark his peak as an SF writer. The changes he made for the Atlantic edition of The Time Machine create a work with a rather different "feel" to it (more in keeping with a mainstream and late-Wellsian sense of self-importance), while increasing the trivial inconsistencies of the text. (Its perplexing non-compliance with expectations is, if anything, reduced by changes such as the substitution of "Overworlders" with "Upperworlders," and cognates, in all but a couple of cases—why not those too?)

I have not the resources to produce a properly researched and justified version of the text. Comparing the editions that are available to me, I have tried to retain the period flavor (to-night, by the bye) but also to eliminate confusing inconsistencies. In some cases I have adopted the later changes for the sake of expediency, e.g., in the Epilogue, "saline lakes" not "seas." I adopt the later reading simply because the passage is frequently quoted from the later editions generally in use and the variation, although entirely understandable, bears no real significance: I have no access to galley proofs and such like, so I am unable to check whether it was already a mistake in the 1895 edition. In general, though, my policy has been to make as few changes as possible. The fact is this edition is not exactly intended as a scholarly one, and certainly not as a definitive one. I found the new Everyman edition (London, 1993) to be a very reliable copy-text (although it is of course, based on the post-1924 format). For example, it corrected the sentence at the end of Chapter 10, as the Time Traveler, struggling to get off on his time machine, tries to replace the levers: "One, indeed, they almost got away from me," which was wrongly given as "Once, indeed...." by Geduld, Benn (1927) and Penguin editions.

Accompanying The Time Machine in the volume are three representative and forever fresh short stories chosen by me for various reasons, some completely personal: "The Star," "The Valley of Spiders," and "The Door in the Wall." The volume will be published by CIDEB Editrice, Piazza Garibaldi 11/2, 16035 Rapallo (Genova) in mid-1994, in their "Reading Classics" series, which also includes Huxley’s Brave New World (1991: ISBN 88-7754-033 8) also edited by me.—Jonathan K. Benison, University of Padua.

 

A Correction. In Muriel Becker’s otherwise cogent and even-handed review of my Science Fiction for Young Readers she makes a curious comment regarding "the many ellipses" in certain articles "making the writing disjointed" (SFS 20: 481, #61, Nov 1993). It might be worthwhile to note, for the sake of accuracy, that those asterisks are not ellipses but, rather, marks which separate the sections of the articles included at the authors’ requests. There was no editorial decision to keep all articles under fifteen pages, and no material was left out.—C.W. Sullivan III, East Carolina University.

 

The Weinbaum Papers. The family archives of Stanley G. Weinbaum have been acquired for the Temple University Libraries’ Science Fiction and Fantasy Collection (13th and Berks Sts, Philadelphia, PA 10122; 215-787-8230). A register of the collection will be sent upon request.

Weinbaum’s first published SF story appeared in the June 1934 issue of Wonder Stories; he died in December 1935. In the interim, or earlier, he wrote 23 stories that had appeared or were to appear in the SF magazines. Reader response to his stories was extraordinarily enthusiastic, and there are still those who believe that "A Martian Odyssey" is the greatest SF short story ever written. The bulk of his SF appears A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales, ed. Sam Moskowitz (Hyperion Press, 1974). Now that his papers are available, a scholarly assessment of his work, his career, and the extraordinary reader response to his work should be possible.

Growing Old Without Yugoslavia

Dein leben wird dir entrissen

Deine leistung wird dir gestrichen

Du stirbst für dich.

—Badener Lehrstück

 

I would like to consent to my non-being

Usually called death

To make my peace i need a lot of good being

In the nature of Buck’s anti-gravity belt

Or maybe an airport runway:

Well-kept, durable, solid

Making possible a glad & safe ascent

Into the giddy lightness of non-being

Alas! the being around me is ill-kept

The keepers are corrupt & absolutely shameless

Their only integrity is the muddy massiness of hate

Spewing out black lava,

burning up gnarled olive-trees small kakadu

Yugoslavia disintegrates into dwarf malignancies

Gun-sighting each other with simulacra mantic

Slaughters romantic relics of saints

Byzantine & Roman antics

How can i consent to easeful non-being

When being for all i hold beloved

Becomes heavier & heavier? who can unclutch let go,

When assassins stick a bayonet into her entrails?

Ascensions drop bombs rip up lungs & eyes

Even if we find anti-gravity it will be for blowing up babies

Even if i die old in my bed, this system

Makes it impossible to die gladly

With no Tito, bombers & warring angels

Recolonize the blissful anti-gravity skies.

Where nobody can consent to dying

The economics of life are all wrong.

Those who cannot die

Also are dying:

O Apollo, help us to change, to make a head

On the torso of our bank-ridden life!

—Darko R. Suvin, 11-12-93.

Millennium’s End as Story and Motif. David Ketterer is compiling a list (with view to assembling and editing an anthology) of stories that focus on this century’s and this millennium’s end (i.e., on the years 1999, 2000, or 2001), such as James Blish’s "Turn of a Century" (Dynamic Science Fiction, March 1953), or novels in which the topic constitutes a significant motif, such as Robert Silverberg’s The Stochastic Man (1975). He would be grateful for any title suggestions. If you have any, please write to David Ketterer, Department of English, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1M6. All correspondents on this subject will be acknowledged in any consequent publication.

 

Paper Calls.

The Society for Utopian Studies will hold its 19th conference in Toronto, October 13-16, 1994. SUS is an international, interdisciplinary organization devoted to the study of literary, social, and communal expressions of utopianism. Send one-to-two-page abstracts of proposed papers or panels before May 15, 1984 to Kenneth Roemer, English Department, University of Texas—Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019-0035. Phone 817-273-2692.

SHAW: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies plans a special volume for 1997 called Shaw and Speculative Fiction. It will contain articles on various aspects of relationship to, influence by, and influence on utopian literature, fantasy, science fiction, and other genres with an eye to the future, both generally and in terms of individual writers. Articles that address relationships and influences (either way) or that examine Shaw’s works as speculative fiction are appropriate submissions. There is a "Preliminary Bibliography" available listing works by Shaw that have some bearing on speculative fiction. Inquiries regarding submissions should be addressed to Milton T. Wolf, University Library, University of Nevada, Reno NV 89557-0044.

Star-Spangled SF. Submissions are invited for a proposed collection of essays on the theory, history, and practice of American science fiction. The working title is Star-Spangled Science Fiction: Histories, Traditions, and Definitions of the American Genre. Proposals are particularly encouraged for essays which address the distinctive qualities of American SF, major historical periods of SF production (SF before 1900, the "Golden Age," the "New Wave," Cyberpunk, etc.), the role of cultural forces in shaping American SF, and studies of individual careers and their impact on American SF. Interested scholars should submit 2-3 page proposals by April 15, 1994 to either Robert Donahoo, Department of English, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341 or Chuck Etheridge, Department of English, Box 608, McMurray University, Abilene, TX 79697.

STSF ‘94. An international workshop on Science and Technology through Science Fiction will be held June 22-23 in Barcelona. The program committee includes Miquel Barceló, Joe Haldeman, Elizabeth A. Hull, Frederik Pohl, and Vernor Vinge. The announcement reached us only after our November issue had gone to press; the deadlines for submitting papers will have already passed by the time this issue reaches its readers. Further information may be obtained from Miquel Barceló, Facultat d’Informática, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Pau Gargallo 5, E 08028 Barcelona, Spain.

SFRA ‘94. The Science Fiction Research Association will hold its 1994 annual conference July 7-10 at the Arlington Park Hilton, Arlington Heights, Illinois. Special guests: Sheri S. Tepper, Octavia Butler. Also attending: Gene Wolfe, Jack Williamson, Joan Vinge, Frederik Pohl, James E. Gunn, Philip Jose Farmer, Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein. Reservations: $115 before June 10. Info: Dr. Elizabeth Anne Hull, Liberal Arts Division, William Rainey Harper College, Palatine, IL 60067, 708-925-6323.

 


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