Science Fiction Studies

#100 =  Volume 33, Part 3 = November, 2006



Less Than the Sum of Its Parts.

Lou Anders, ed. Projections: Science Fiction in Literature and Film. Austin, TX: Monkeybrain Books, 2004. 333 pp. $15.95 pbk.

Some day, when enough perspective is available, there’s an important study to be written on the effect that new printing technologies and distribution channels have had on fantastic literature since, say, 1990. Sf has always, of course, had a thriving small-press scene. But the economies from digital printing and the ways in which the Internet allows writer and reader to identify common tastes have resulted in a boom in small-press work over the last fifteen years with far-reaching consequences. The fraying of the edges of sf—certainly at short-story level—has almost entirely happened through small-press ‘zines, and collections of such work (no matter how small the potential constituency) have popped up all over the place. Monkeybrain is one such small press, and they’ve now started to provide for that most minority of interests, those who read sf criticism.

Lou Anders, the editor of this book, is a former editor at Argosy Magazine, has edited fine anthologies such as Live Without A Net (2003), and currently runs a literate and interesting trade publishing imprint, Pyr. Projections collects twenty-nine non-fiction pieces about sf and related fields, all by authors who are to some extent known for fiction writing in the field. The pieces themselves range between dull-but-competent and extremely interesting; but the book as a whole is rather less than the sum of its parts. The reasons for this may be worth examining.

Anders contributes a three-page introduction called "Spectacles and Speculations." He begins by talking about the recent success of the Lord of the Rings films (2001-2003), and about the successful work of filmmakers such as Stephen Spielberg and James Cameron. He draws a distinction between the pleasures of written sf and filmed sf: "in science fiction literature (also referred to as ‘speculative fiction’), the reward is often the thrill of intellectual stimulation. In ‘sci-fi’ cinema, the thrill is a visceral one, delivered via ‘special effects’" (11). One can quibble with details of this: "speculative fiction" is not always used as a synonym for "science fiction"—see, for starters, Harlan Ellison’s introduction to Dangerous Visions (1967); and Anders’s point about sf cinema is true for all the cases except where it’s not: just considering recent films, think of the intellectual stimulation of Solaris (2002) and Primer (2004). But let’s allow the distinction for the moment. Anders goes on to talk about the history of the science fiction/speculative fiction genre, and suggests that because of the advance of special effects, "there is cause to hope that we may stand on the threshold of a new Golden Age of speculative cinema" (12). He then gives himself a remit for the book: "Here, then is a selection of those gifted mythmakers who helped bring [sf’s past history] about and who now carry its torch, sharing their thoughts on their own field—on the literature of science fiction and on how their genre fairs [sic] at the hands of Hollywood studios" (12). So we might expect a book, as he says, "about science fiction by science fiction, the genre turned inward on itself" (13). What we get is rather different.

The first two essays, by Michael Swanwick and John Clute, say similar things in rather different terms, setting out the case for science fiction. Swanwick’s piece, "Growing Up in the Future" (1997), makes the argument—not uniquely—that many of sf’s dreams have already come true but that this makes the need for it more urgent. It’s couched in terms that are both bullish and somewhat sentimental:

That which we [science fiction readers and writers] push against, react to and oppose, journey away from and return home to, is the future. It’s our bedrock. It’s our home port. Sometimes in our imaginations we travel far, far afield. But it’s always there, waiting for us. So long as we keep our faith in it, we’ll do just fine. (23)

The word faith is the key: this is the sort of persuasion that the already-faithful hear from the pulpit every Sunday. Perhaps my personal reaction against Swanwick’s tone is unfair, as the body of his essay has an energetic historical sweep and neatly conveys a sense of what it feels like to think like an sf writer. Clute’s essay, "In Defence of Science Fiction" (1999), by contrast, is clearly aimed at an audience outside the corral (it was originally published by the web-magazine It has only four pages to get a run at its subject, the historical narrative of how genres became separated off from, and unjustly disparaged in relation to, "real" literature. Within that narrow compass it makes its points as densely and punchily as one expects from Clute.

The next pair of essays is by David Brin and James Gunn, the first a 1999 polemic against the then-newly-released Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), the latter a more general canter through the history of sf film—though it dwells perhaps too long on the filming of Gunn’s own The Immortals (1962). Moving on, there’s then a brief appreciation of Edgar Rice Burroughs by Mike Resnick, a long and provocative discussion of the Matrix films (1999-2003) by Adam Roberts, a piece on sf-as-futurology by Howard Hendrix, and a three-page piece on horror fiction by Tim Lebbon. At which point, the reader starts saying: Hang on, wasn’t this book about science fiction and the movies? Shortly thereafter, we get an overview of 1990s Australian sf by Sean McMullen, an appreciation of Mervyn Peake by Michael Moorcock, and a piece on Harry Potter by Mark Finn. You have to wonder whether the book Anders pitched in his introduction has slipped out into some parallel universe.

That, in the end, is the problem with Projections: lack of focus. If it had stuck to Anders’s stated remit of writing about the crossover between written and filmed science fiction, that’d be an ambitious goal for a 330-page book. But Anders seems to have extended the remit to pretty much any writing about sf, fantasy, or horror, on print or on film, that took his fancy. And he manages, in addition, to include quite a bit of repetition: the Howard Hendrix piece mentioned above covers quite a lot of the same ground as Swanwick’s "Growing Up in the Future" and Robert J. Sawyer’s "The Future is Already Here." Fairly or unfairly, the impression is of an editor who grabbed the pieces of good copy that were close to hand and that had obvious headlines attached ("Science fiction is good!," "George Lucas is bad!," "Australian sf is cool!").

Arguing about the omissions from a book like this is always pretty unhelpful: one has to accept that the editor has different sensibilities from the reviewer, and so long as those sensibilities justify themselves in the course of the book, that’s the editor’s prerogative. I’ll limit myself, then, to two comments. First, if in a book of 29 representative essays on the history of sf by practicing writers dating back to as early as 1984, the editor can find room for only one by a woman, it’s not immediately clear that the author should be Catherine Asaro. Within her chosen niche of hard sf, Asaro is an interesting writer of the moment; but given that—just to take the obvious names—Joanna Russ, Ursula Le Guin, and James Tiptree, Jr. are among the dozen finest and most influential writers about sf of any period, their omission is simply baffling. (It doesn’t really help that Asaro’s piece is largely about a male writer, Greg Egan; I suppose one could find a sort of compensation in the inclusion of a Michael Moorcock appreciation of Leigh Brackett.) This isn’t just politically-correct point-scoring: one suspects that many women writers would have significantly different views of the technophile bullishness present in many of the pieces Anders does select. Second, if one is going to provide an anthology of writing about sf by sf writers, then omitting James Blish and Damon Knight, who pretty much created that arena of discourse, is as big a gap as one could imagine. Anders might argue back that he was trying to capture a present-tense sense of what sf is like now: but in that case, why the pieces on Burroughs, Peake, and Brackett? I’d note also that in the context of these omissions, it’s grating to see that some writers are represented twice in Anders’s 29 essays: Michael Swanwick, Adam Roberts, Michael Moorcock, Howard V. Hendrix, Mike Resnick, David Brin, Robert Silverberg, and Lucius Shepard. Many of these are fine and influential writers, but that’s not the point.

Almost all of the essays here fall outside the protocols of academic writing: the pieces by Clute and Roberts, each in a different way, are probably closest to the kind of work that might be published in SFS. (Roberts’s second essay here, a detailed and unusually careful analysis of Delany’s "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones" [1969], is probably the best piece in the book.) I don’t have a problem with that: indeed, I’m in agreement with Anders that the tradition of sf writers talking about sf is a rich one and worth celebrating. And, to repeat, several of the pieces here are very good indeed: of those I’ve not so far mentioned, Jonathan Lethem’s "The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction" (1998) remains, in effect, a manifesto for all the literary hybridization we’re seeing on the edges of the genre. But for every courageous choice like that, there’s another that tells the audience just what they want to hear. The last piece in the book, again by Michael Swanwick, is a "Letter to a Young Science Fiction Writer"—in fact, his not-yet-born grandchild. In this case, one can exempt Swanwick from the charge of sentimentality I leveled at him earlier: everyone’s entitled to be sentimental when talking to their grandchildren. But it says nothing substantively different from Swanwick’s first essay here: sf is a unique form of literature, it demands rigor and faith, it doesn’t have to be narrowly predictive, and so forth. It exemplifies, in short, the whole book. On its own, it might be more persuasive: Anders has managed to give these essays a context that diminishes them.

Graham Sleight, London

More Timely Than Ever.

Karel Čapek. The Absolute at Large. Trans. anon. Intro. Stephen Baxter. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln, NE: U Nebraska P, 2005. xvi + 248 pp. $16.95 pbk.

Továrna na absolutno ("The Factory of/for the Absolute") began appearing serially on September 21, 1921, in the pages of Lidové noviny, a Prague newspaper to which Čapek was a regular contributor. The last of 30 installments, on October 4, 1922, was presently followed by a book version. In a brief and chatty preface to the second edition (1926), Čapek says that the idea for the fiction came to him just as he was finishing his rewrite of the 1920 text of R.U.R. He also reports that, at some point, Lidové’s editor persuaded him to go beyond the 13 chapters he’d submitted and expand Továrna to more than twice the length that Čapek had originally had in mind. Each of these facts about Továrna’s composition is conducive to an understanding of what he is up to in this roman feuilleton.

The first of them, inasmuch as it involves chronology, suggests a link not only with R.U.R., but also with a third work dating from 1922: Věc Makropulos The Makropulos Case). What connects the three is alchemy. Each of their "inventions" (in H.G. Wells’s sense of the word) corresponds to some one of the ultimate objectives of the magus. Makropulos, as anyone familiar with the play (or Janáček’s operatic version of it) knows, deals with the Elixir of Life. In R.U.R., the Robot is a science-fictionalized homunculus (Čapek himself says as much in "The Meaning of R.U.R.," a short essay that came out in the July 21, 1923, issue of the Saturday Review). And Továrna’s "Karburator" is an atomic-theory-based equivalent of the Philosopher’s Stone, except that it turns matter into God rather than gold.

Strange to say, Továrna exhibits the fairly neat conceptual ambivalence typical of Čapek precisely because of—rather than despite—his having belatedly more than doubled the length of his initial manuscript. His original draft must have ended, summarily, with the antepenultimate paragraph of chapter 13. Up to that point the fiction, while amenable to being read as a satiric exploration of the utopian and anti-utopian possibilities of letting the spirit of Love Thy Neighbor (LTN) loose upon the world, so perpetually changes its focus as to have none. The subsequent narrative, on the other hand, is relatively single-minded in its reportage of "the Greatest War," a worldwide conflict that ensues once a host of religio-national(ist) factions become aggressively territorial, each of them claiming exclusive proprietorship of The Absolute (Truth) as it understands that. From the perspective of such a development, the very diffuseness of the previous chronicle bespeaks a diversity that is quite compatible with the unifying power that the literal deus ex machina otherwise demonstrates by virtue of its LTN effect.

The translation under review is, so far as I know, the only one available in English. In this case, however, that is not a problem. Indeed, it’s a pity that the translator remains anonymous and probably is by now unidentifiable, for she or he has done a rather good job of conveying the sense of the original Czech, if not always of rendering the typically Čapekian shifts in tonality and lexical register. As for the discrepancy between the Czech and English titles, The Absolute at Large is much more informative and comprehensive as an advertisement of the actual contents of the book (inclusive of its structural duality) than is the name that Čapek came up with.

The one point where the English version egregiously mistakes the Czech’s meaning comes toward the book’s conclusion: when a certain Mr. Kuzenda is reported as often saying "the truth can never be defeated" (240). That rewording of the platitudinous sentiment about truth’s prevailing in the end is, at best, compatible with what the Czech actually means—viz., "the truth can never be maintained through fighting" (i.e., armed conflict). Nor is that a minor translatorial lapse: the passage in question, brief though it is, epitomizes the moral point of Továrna as a whole and expresses as well Čapek’s most characteristic precept.

The Absolute at Large was originally issued by Macmillan in 1927. Since then, at least four other publishers have reproduced it, Nebraska UP being the latest; but none of them has troubled about instating Čapek’s 1926 preface or, for that matter, his brother’s illustrations.

Nebraska’s introduction, by sf writer Stephen Baxter, is better, for example, than the one that Czech specialist William Harkins did for the Hyperion reprint (1975). That is most of all true by reason of Baxter’s insistence that Továrna is contextually Czech at and to its core (ix-x; he might have added that it is the most Czechoslovakian of Čapek’s fictions). Baxter is also right, I think, in saying that "[The] Absolute recalls works such as H.G. Wells’s ‘The Man Who Could Work Miracles’ and ... Food of the Gods" (viii), though he might have added "The Lord of the Dynamos" (1894) and The Time Machine (1895) to the list. Whether he is also correct in situating Továrna between the Wells of those titles and Robert Sheckley (as the author of "Something for Nothing" [1954]) is more than I can say. Surely, however, the Lem of Futurological Congress (1971) owes something to Továrna. Baxter, though somewhat ambivalent as to how conversant Čapek was with science (see vi versus x), supposes that he was "well aware of Ernest Rutherford’s ... experiments in atom-splitting" (vi). I find that proposition rather dubious, given that the Karburator in itself is surely somewhat retrospective (as the very term suggests) and all the more so in its use as a kind of coal furnace. Nor do I think that Baxter makes a strong enough case for The Absolute as having "deep resonance for our times" (ix). In his singularly awkward one-sentence paragraph on that subject (offset by his twice insisting before and afterwards that the fiction is a satire on "human nature": ix, xi), he barely hints that the fiction probably is more pertinent now than ever, given a world terrorized by two Great Satans (their chief point of agreement), each of them claiming to be the sole possessor of Absolute Truth.

Robert M. Philmus, Montreal (with thanks to Milada Vlach)

Let’s Get Small!

Ray Cummings. The Girl in the Golden Atom. Intro. Jack Williamson. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2005. xi + 341 pp. $14.95 pbk.

The University of Nebraska Press’s series of "classic" sf reprints, of which this title appears to be the forty-second volume, has leaned rather heavily toward early pulp material, with some ten Edgar Rice Burroughs titles (including a reprint of Richard Lupoff’s biography) compared, for example, to five by Wells. While some of these choices may have to do with marketability, the series has nevertheless brought back into print several little-read but much-cited early classics by John Jacob Astor, Ludvig Holberg, Edwin Arnold, J.D. Beresford, Karel Čapek, and Jack London, along with some quirkier selections such as David Lindsay’s A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), and no fewer than three novels by Philip Wylie. This, along with the inclusion of such titles as Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+ (1911-12; 1925), is enough to suggest that the editors are more interested in providing access to works that have generated some measurable influence or controversy, than to works of unusual literary merit. By these measures, and by the measure of pulp fiction as a form (because one can readily argue that the aesthetics of pulp and the aesthetics of sf aren’t the same thing), Ray Cummings’s early microcosmic adventure The Girl in the Golden Atom is an entirely reasonable choice. On the one hand, it clearly looks backward to earlier sources, such as Fitz-James O’Brien’s 1858 story "The Diamond Lens," Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland (1865), the late nineteenth-century utopian tradition, and Wells’s The Time Machine (1895)—a posthumous 1999 essay in this journal by R.D. Mullen ("Two Early Works by Ray Commings." SFS #78: 295-302) documented the close narrative parallels between this novel and Wells’s. On the other hand, it also popularized the worlds-within-worlds theme that later became a staple of pulp stories (most of them, it sometimes seems, written by Cummings himself), survived into a few far better-written novels than this one (such as Richard Matheson’s The Shrinking Man [1956]), and inevitably became a staple of Hollywood special effects movies (The Incredible Shrinking Man [1957], based on the Matheson novel, Fantastic Voyage [1966], Innerspace [1987], Honey I Shrunk the Kids [1989], etc.)

The Cummings story itself, originally published in All-Story Weekly in 1919 and combined with its 1920 sequel "The People of the Golden Atom" to form the present novel, was hugely popular at the time and was never very far from the awareness of sf readers—and not only because Cummings continued flogging the theme for the rest of his career. It gained the attention of major publishers, first appearing as a book from Methuen in England in 1922 and then from Harper in the US in 1923. When Munsey launched its reprint magazine Famous Fantastic Mysteries in 1939, "The Girl in the Golden Atom" was included in the very first issue and beat out A. Merritt’s "The Moon Pool" as the readers’ poll favorite story of that issue (Mullen 297). Fifteen years later it resurfaced in Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend’s Giant Anthology of Science Fiction (1954), and sixteen years after that it showed up in Sam Moskowitz’s Under the Moons of Mars (1970). The full novel itself was reprinted by Hyperion in 1974 as part of a series of classic sf texts. It seems fair to guess that any habitual sf reader over a period of some seven decades would at least be aware of the story or its basic premise, if only from the profligacy with which Cummings himself revisited the theme.

Only a bit of this bibliographical history shows up in Jack Williamson’s patient and affectionate introduction to this volume, and there is no scholarly apparatus to address the reported textual discrepancies alluded to in Mullen’s article (that the opening of the story differs somewhat from the novel, for example, or that the American edition revised the ending to leave open the possibility for a sequel). In acknowledging the spectacular scientific inconsistencies of the tale—the introduction says that Cummings "makes an effort to deal with such technical matters as the conservation of energy," but in context this is almost certainly a misprint for "makes no effort" (vii)—Williamson notes that Cummings simply provides the characters with one pill to make you larger and one pill to make you small, with both pills magically having the property of affecting clothing and any articles carried by the adventurers. He’s being a good deal more generous than I could be, however, in claiming that "Cummings’s writing has survived the test of time" (ix)—the writing is pulp-serviceable at best—and he suggests that the description of laboratory work in devising the two drugs "may reflect the author’s own experience in Edison’s lab," promulgating the implication, also repeated in the current edition’s publicity, that Cummings was some sort of personal research assistant to Edison (a claim originally made in a 1930 Argosy blurb), whereas as far as we know he merely worked as editor of a house organ at the already massive Edison labs in New Jersey (Mullen 297), built in 1887, the same year Cummings was born.

And yet—despite the scientific howlers that were howlers already in 1919, despite the pointedly stereotypical characters (identified as the Chemist, the Doctor, the Very Young Man, the Banker,and the Big Business Man, directly echoing Wells’s the Time Traveler, the Medical Man, the Rector, the Psychologist, the Provincial Mayor, and the other Very Young Man), despite the mahogany dialogue and the swooning descriptions of the luscious micro-princess Lylda—there’s something irresistible about the notion of getting really small, climbing down inside a scratch in your mother’s wedding ring, and finding whole new kingdoms there. And surprisingly, there’s a good deal more sf tradition imbedded in the tale than its initial Wells-by-way-of-Merritt adventure plot might suggest. As Sam Moskowitz noted in one of the few critical essays on the novel, the tone shifts noticeably at the point in the narrative in which the original 1919 story gives way to its 1920 sequel "The People in the Golden Atom" (Survey of Science Fiction Literature, ed. Frank N. McGill, NJ: Salem P, 1979. 878-82). The original story, following the structure of Wells’s The Time Machine, is a club tale: the various characters are gathered in their club to hear of the Chemist’s remarkable experience of constructing a radically powerful new microscope, testing it by viewing a tiny scratch in his mother’s wedding ring, and discovering there a beautiful young woman in a microcosmic world. He’s fallen so completely in love with her that in a jiffy he invents a drug that will shrink him to her dimensions and another that will bring him back. He persuades his companions to wait two days while he sets out on his expedition, and upon his return, bloodied and filthy, he tells of his adventures in the microscopic kingdom, where he helped vanquish an enemy army by increasing his size and—well, stomping on it. Unable to leave his beloved Lylda, however, he returns to the microworld and this time remains gone for years.

Apart from the microcosmic adventure, there are a couple of allusions in this tale to other proto-sf themes—the Gulliver-like experience of aiding the micro-society with his size and some discussion of the size-altering pills as a potential super-weapon which at all costs must be kept out of the wrong hands (Germany in particular is mentioned, since this first part of the narrative is set before World War I had ended). The second part of the novel, however, becomes a veritable catalog of such themes. The club members gather again five years later, in 1923, at the behest of the Doctor, who reveals that the Chemist had entrusted him with a letter containing the size-altering formula and asking that they attempt to follow him into the ring if he hasn’t returned in five years. Again the superweapon theme is discussed, and in a scene that could be borrowed from Wells’s The Food of the Gods (1904), a cockroach that accidentally ingests some of the growth drug grows to an enormous size and is beaten to a pulp in a particularly revolting scene (linking the tale to the Big Bug theme popular in the l920s). Once the adventurers shrink themselves and clamber down into the micro-world (of course there’s no explanation of how they enter another universe without traversing empty space), they learn that the city of Arite, where the Chemist has become a hero following his wartime exploits (and where he’s married Lylda and has had a son) is a kind of utopia, where women "have identical rights with men in everything" (173), marriages are renewable contracts, "kings" are elected for twenty-year terms, and in place of currency is an elaborate exchange system monitored by the government. Crime is virtually unknown—largely because of the liberal use of the death penalty for even minor infractions such as lying. But following the war, a period of disillusionment has set in—perhaps echoing the post-World War I malaise of Cummings’s own era—and this discontent is exacerbated by the arrival of the visitors with their apparent superpowers (the superweapon theme again). Much of the rest of the narrative consists of the visitors and their hosts trying to crush (in some cases literally) a rebellion led by a power-hungry demagogue named Targo.

So about halfway through, The Girl in the Golden Atom, which comes to us with a reputation as one of the pulpiest of one-note adventure tales, turns itself into something quite a bit more complex, if not quite coherent, with its themes of superweapons, postwar malaise, women’s rights, social control, anti-capitalist economies, and revolutions. One of the potential benefits of a series such as the Bison Frontiers of Imagination is that it provides us with an opportunity to re-examine—or perhaps to read for the first time—early works we thought we knew and to test these works against their reputations. It’s doubtful that this reissue will do much to rehabilitate Cummings’s overall reputation, since he famously rehashed his favorite theme for decades (with occasional forays into space opera), enjoying a brief revival in the 1950s and 1960s (he died in 1957) when early pulp stories were recycled in Ace and Avon paperbacks. But for a while, at the very beginning of his long career, he seems to have at least given some thought to ideas that would later come to play significant roles in the intellectual history of the genre, as well as in its pulp-adventure tradition.

Gary K. Wolfe, Roosevelt University

Polymorphously Penetrating/ Perversely Provocative.

Alice Mills. Stuckness in the Fiction of Mervyn Peake. Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2005. ix + 239 pp. €50; US$63 pbk.

"Stuckness," if the word puzzled you as much as it did my spell checker just now, refers to the condition of a fictional character who is stuck in place, unable to move or to develop physically or psychologically. To consider how Peake’s characters find themselves at such an impasse, Mills shifts among the theories of Freud, Jung, Kristeva, Hillman, and Lacan as they best fit what’s going on in aspects of a particular work.

Two personal considerations: since Mills finds my own analysis of Peake’s work simplistic, I may have a grudge here. That’s unlikely, though, since she dismisses my essay late in the book, well after I’d formed an opinion of how well her own analysis was working.

Second, and much more seriously, a fair share of my own critical writing has involved psychological analysis of fictional characters’ actions and thinking. I understand how necessary—and how much fun—that can be, but also how difficult it is to distinguish insight from wishful imagination. We critics can find ourselves unwittingly in the position of Iago, insisting to Othello that Desdemona’s handkerchief is the final proof of her guilt when it’s part of an elaborate structure of misinterpretations. It’s also true, though, that a strong first reaction against some critical reading isn’t necessarily proof that the critic is wrong. As we try to understand more fully what we read, after all, we are apt to bump into matters that a writer might not be fully aware of and might even be more or less consciously concealing. Going under the surface, therefore, may be discombobulating. But readers’ bursts of startled laughter at some outrageous interpretation may indicate not that the critic has gone too far but merely that we’re startled to discover how far this new direction can go.

All this said, it’s still flabbergasting to see what Mills does with Mervyn Peake. It probably is impossible not to speculate on how the early, unfinished manuscript "Mr. Slaughterbound" (prepared for Peake’s first children’s book, Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor [1945], but transferring concerns from the abandoned story for grownups to the published book) encourages Mills to speculate on how "the abundance of sexually perverse and homosexual images in Captain Slaughterboard point [sic] to that form of psychological stuckness that Freud terms fixation" (38). As proof of this, she uses one of Peake’s illustrations of the captain striding along his ship’s deck, viewed from below in order to display the decrepit condition of his shoe. As she notes, "Captain Slaughterboard’s other leg is shown down to the knee, with the lower leg presumably bent back and invisible from this perspective." She goes on, however, to opine that "Looked at again, though, this ‘second leg’ can be seen as more like a penis with wrinkled foreskin and smooth glans, dangling and gigantic. The choice of viewing angle, up the man’s leg, now appears sexually charged" (39). And this allows her, on the next page, to interpret a picture of the Yellow Creature dancing atop a cannon as a display of "masturbation as well as exhibitionism," since "both cannon and Creature, as well as Captain, have already been strongly associated with the erect penis" (40). Unfortunately, a penis isn’t "erect" when it’s "dangling"; we’re in the company of Iago here. Elsewhere, Mills observes that "Some [emphasis added] of the crew’s noses, the erectile equivalent of the penis in a Freudian reading, are remarkably enlarged, bulbous, or elongated" (38), so it’s also worth noting that Captain Slaughterboard has a remarkably small pug nose. (Although she finds homosexual sadism so prevalent in the book and singles out Peter Poop, ship’s cook, for special attention ["his name ‘poop’ is both nautical and, as a slang term for faeces, disgustingly excretory, given his profession of cook" (45)], it’s surprising that she doesn’t comment on his nose having been replaced with a cork and so go on to speculate about strap-on dildos and butt plugs. But there I go again.)

And yet.... Despite laughing hysterically while reading this chapter, I must admit that Mills has at least part of a genuine point. Captain Slaughterboard does give an unmistakably fey impression, even apart from the earlier story that Peake abandoned. Perhaps, realizing that there was no way the grim materials of "Mr. Slaughterboard" could be shaped to a satisfactory conclusion, Peake retreated into a more innocent or at least more infantilized world in which a bloody-handed pirate could simply retire to a tropical island, cuddling his little chum under a tree in blissful polymorphous perversity. Thus, Stuckness’s reading, however exaggerated, at least points in interesting directions and makes a careful reader think about Peake’s writing.

Perhaps the real problem is that Mills doesn’t appreciate the characters in Peake’s later fiction whose natures or circumstances push them into motion that could possibly result in their becoming unstuck. On Mr. Pye (1953), for example, she is good at listing details of the eponymous character’s simple-minded efforts to do "good," making him sprout wings—which he tries to get rid of by being "bad," leading to his growing a set of horns. She recognizes that the novel resists a Christian interpretation, so she tries to give it a pagan framework (Mr. Pye’s naive conception of God as his "Great Pal" being replaced by Pan), then realizes that Mr. Pye’s plight doesn’t fit any pre-existing system. There is no way that Mr Pye or a reader can reduce what happens to him to a tidy formula. It would appear, then, that Mr. Pye is indeed stuck and needs to escape. Yet when he abandons his little life on Sark and soars away on his new wings at the story’s conclusion, Mills is disappointed because, "Metaphorically, airy inflation that knows no limits is the opposite of earth-bound stuckness, but it replaces one form of stuckness with another rather than liberating the psyche" (145).

What Mills wants is for Peake’s characters to stay (or return) home, face their mothers (embodied in the sea or the castle of Gormenghast), and become fully-integrated adults. When that doesn’t happen, she is mightily upset. She does not appreciate what an effort it takes to shake oneself free from suffocating belief-systems, let alone take the next steps toward maturity. This demand for more than the characters can give leads her to see the conclusion of "Boy in Darkness" (1956) as "inconsequential" (191) or "illusory" (192), not only because she wants to see the Lamb and Titus as morally equivalent but also because, since Titus does not remember his triumph over the Lamb when he returns to Gormenghast, he doesn’t achieve a clear system to guide his subsequent behavior. She cannot imagine that preserving one’s freedom to act on impulse may be vital simply because it preserves the possibility of development.

In fact, Mills has trouble relating the details she focuses on to an overall evaluation of Mervyn Peake’s writing. She initially claims that "Peake’s fiction is magnificently deviant in its memorably expanding architecture, its caricatures and sexual innuendo, but it holds back from probing the depths of the psyche and does not touch the heart" (7-8); she even concludes her discussion of Titus Alone (1959, 1970) by claiming that the novel transforms "ethical structures to moral sludge" (217). She backpedals a bit toward the end of her last chapter, perhaps to justify her spending so much effort on a failed writer, when she says that "The achievement of Peake’s fiction in terms of the trope of stuckness is ... to remain balanced between despair and resolution, not taking the path of either transcendence or individuation and not sinking into metaphysical despondency, but simultaneously celebrating the quirks and representing the repetitious nature of stuckness itself" (226).

Peake admirers will be dissatisfied with this exercise in damning with faint praise, but they’ll have to appreciate Mills’s diligence and intelligence—even when those gifts ultimately seem misapplied. This book deserves a careful reading, with genuine respect but much caution.

Joe Sanders, Blissfully Retired

The Culture Wars from Genesis to Buffy.

Andrew Milner. Literature, Culture, and Society. 1996. 2nd. ed. New York: Routledge, 2005. xi + 336 pp. $26.95 pbk.

Milner’s Literature, Culture, and Society traces the emergence of cultural studies as a discipline and provides an illustration of how its techniques might be used to read any text, high or low, through the example of following the motif of "the fall" through a number of texts, beginning with the story in Genesis and concluding with the Adam story arc in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1999-2000). In only six chapters, Milner lucidly covers the debates about the canon and literary studies as a discipline, the rise of cultural studies, a range of analytical strategies used in cultural and literary studies, and a history of the forces of production and distribution that shape the way cultural texts are created and experienced under late capitalism. This book is the second edition of a text originally published in 1996, but it has been revised extensively and includes a last chapter that is almost entirely new. For the most part, it covers background material with which those of us working within the field of cultural studies are already familiar, but nonetheless Milner’s book is a valuable resource both for its elegantly concise presentation of a wealth of material and also for its extensive data on material production, an area often overlooked in more semiotic readings of popular culture. Its clear and accessible prose makes this book an excellent resource for students—I have already ordered a copy for my school’s library—but at the same time there are new things for the seasoned scholar to discover in this book as well.

Chapter 1, "Literature, Culture and the Canon," outlines the familiar debates about the canon and other literatures. Milner’s treatment of this topic is impressive: he traces not only the expansion of the canon to include previously marginalized voices and genres as a result of "the linguistic turn" of literary studies but also the original development of an English literary canon, beginning in the nineteenth century. This strategy allows us to see more continuity than rupture in the ways that our departments are currently changing to include courses on minority literatures, women’s literature, and even popular genres such as science fiction. Milner also distinguishes cultural studies from the sociological study of culture and introduces the class-based struggles at the heart of canon formation which began with critics such as Arnold, the Leavises, and Raymond Williams. The "two sides" of this debate are explored through an extensive discussion of Harold Bloom, the most active proponent of the "quality" defense of the canon, and Tony Bennett, who takes the Marxist cultural theory position that canon construction is an exercise in class power. Milner is careful never to make either figure into a "straw opponent," which is one of the things that makes this book such an excellent resource for students. Here and elsewhere, Milner carefully traces debate, allowing the reader to see arguments in dialogue. Thus he avoids the twin pitfalls either of being entirely dismissive of any position or of failing to critique arguments.

The second chapter presents "Analytical strategies" for reading cultural texts organized around three broad topics: hermeneutics, cultural materialism, and new historicism. For each approach, Milner traces its emergence through key thinkers, once again taking care to explain not only the ideas associated with each figure but also the relationships among them. The chapter includes discussion of ideology and the turn toward semiotics in literary and cultural studies, considering Adorno, Horkheimer, Barthes, and Foucault. Finally, he outlines psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, and postmodernist schools of thought and explains their impact on literary and cultural studies. Drawing largely on the work of the Frankfurt School, the next chapter—"Mechanical Reproduction: The Forces of Production"—outlines a Marxist approach to literary and cultural criticism, emphasizing the crucial relationship between ideas and their material modes of production. The chapter outlines Benjamin’s work on "mechanical reproduction" and adds a materialist dimension to analyses of the high/low cultural divide in terms of how changing material culture shaped the production and distribution of art. The book presents an impressively well-researched and documented history of the rise and changing form of print and audiovisual media. Milner is careful to note divergent developments in the UK, the US, and Australia where pertinent. The chapter ends with a discussion of the relationship between dominant cultural form and historical/national context, raising the possibility of a "world literature" in our age of mechanical production.

Chapter 4, "Commodity Culture: The Relations of Production," looks at the status of art across the history of Western culture, arguing that bourgeois art under capitalism has led to specific modes of producing and consuming texts. This chapter contains an important summary of the control of media in the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries via a discussion of ownership and mergers. Milner argues for the importance of the shift "from national publishing empires to international media conglomerates" (148) as part of late capitalism. The chapter also discusses shifts in the culture of writing and writers from early models of support under the patronage system through the rise of copyright and the emergence of the royalty system. This chapter and the previous one demonstrate what is vital about Milner’s approach to the field of cultural studies: he provides essential information that allows us to see the history of literary studies, as outlined in the first chapter, through another lens, to see literary culture as part of a wider political, social, and economic context rather than isolated in a separate realm of aesthetic struggles. The fourth chapter also provides a similar historical overview of reading and readership.

The last two chapters trace the motif of "the Fall" through a variety of texts, high and low, emphasizing the relationship between text and context, the changed literary fortunes of a number of texts as they are assessed by different standards in different historical moments, and the idea that creative culture is an ongoing conversation among a variety of texts without respect to the boundaries erected by the academic study of such culture (nation, period, high/low). The first of these chapters, Chapter 5,"Texts and contexts: from Genesis to Frankenstein," discusses intertextual connections from the Genesis story of the Fall, through Paradise Lost (1667), and on to Frankenstein (novel [1818] and film adaptations). The following and final chapter, "Texts and contexts: from Rossum’s Universal Robots to Buffy the Vampire Slayer," continues the focus on intertextuality, arguing that with Frankenstein the "fall" moves toward a consideration of the posthuman, a motif that is taken up in science fiction through the trope of the android or cyborg. This chapter looks at the emergence and evolution of such figures in science fiction, discussing Čapek’s play (1920), Metropolis (1927), Blade Runner (1989), "The Postmodern Prometheus" episode of the X-Files (1997),and the Adam storyline in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (spanning four episodes). Both of the final chapters demonstrate how meaning and emphasis change depending upon historical context and mode of production, reinforcing the need for contextual analysis in cultural studies and also demonstrating (through specific examples) the value of the theoretical framework outlined in the preceding chapters. The specific readings are insightful and linked to detailed examination of the production of each text. For those texts not originally in English, Milner provides all quotations in both the original language and in translation and, where relevant, considers the consequences of various translations.

This book is enormously useful and provides one of the most accessible yet thorough introductions to the discipline of cultural studies that I have read. If I have any complaint, it would be that given the breadth of Milner’s engagement with the field—from poststructuralist semiotics to detailed statistics about reading preferences by class or the educational background of authors by period—it is difficult to imagine a course for which I might assign this book as a text. In my experience, the institutional structure of course offerings does not yet envision our work sufficiently broadly to imagine a single course that would cast its net as widely as Milner’s book. Literature, Culture, and Society is, however, of particular interest to those teaching in science fiction, since Milner develops his arguments about text and context by using science fiction texts that are themselves becoming canonical. Milner’s book is essential in bringing together varieties of analyses too often kept apart.

Sherryl Vint, St. Francis Xavier University

Transgressing Dualism.

Dunja M. Mohr. Worlds Apart? Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005. xii + 312 pp. $39.95 pbk.

This ambitious volume, the first in McFarland’s Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy series, centers on three works of dystopian fiction, Suzette Haden Elgin’s Native Tongue trilogy (Native Tongue [1984], The Judas Rose [1987], Earthsong [1994]), Suzy McKee Charnas’s Holdfast tetrology (Walk to the End of the World [1974], Motherlines [1978], The Furies [1994], The Conqueror’s Child [1999]), and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Mohr provides far and away the most detailed critical treatment we have seen to date of Elgin’s and Charnas’s series, paying particular and valuable attention to the last of the Native Tongue novels, Earthsong (1994), and the two late Holdfast novels, The Furies and The Conqueror’s Child, and she also finds very worthwhile things to say about Atwood’s much more widely discussed novel. In fact, upon its original publication in essay form, Chapter 5 of Mohr’s study received the annual award of the Margaret Atwood Society. The book, however, is not without its shortcomings, most of which, fortunately or unfortunately, are contained in the volume’s Introduction and opening chapters.

Mohr’s central concern, as her subtitle implies, is to argue that all three writers—and she believes them to be typical of contemporary authors of feminist utopian and dystopian fiction—move beyond the tendency toward dualism which is at the core of most classical examples of these two genres. From More’s Utopia (1515, 1551) to Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888), from Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) to Orwell’s 1984 (1949), both traditional utopian and dystopian works have tended to portray static societies. There is no change in utopia because it has achieved perfection and there is no change in dystopia because the world has attained the worst possible state imaginable. These works, Mohr argues, see virtually everything in terms of dualities and opposites—black and white, male and female, self and other. With Lucy Sargisson’s fine Contemporary Feminist Utopianism (1996) as her starting point and touchstone, however, Mohr argues that Elgin, Charnas, and to a lesser (or perhaps more subtle) extent Atwood, avoid this trap. Mohr states that her book "analyzes in depth transgressive aspects of contemporary feminist utopian/dystopian literature and argues that these texts form a new subgenre: that of feminist ‘transgressive utopian dystopias’" (3). Her use of the hybrid term "utopian dystopias" is of considerable interest. Basically, she is saying that all of these works—although her case for Atwood’s novel is less obvious—contain a utopian impulse built into them that gradually emerges as the books (or, in the case of Elgin and Charnas, the series) continue. Her use of the term "transgressive," however, is a bit problematic because it takes far too long for her to define what she means. In fact we never get a definition of the term. It’s clear that on some level "transgressive" is seen as in opposition to "dualistic," but, perhaps because she finds opposites so troublesome, Mohr has difficulty saying this in a straightforward manner. This leads to some confusion early in the book.

Chapter 1, "The Classical Vision: Utopia, Dystopia, and Science Fiction," begins with a good basic survey of utopian and dystopian literature (with a natural emphasis on feminist works) from More through Wells to Gilman to Russ to Sally Miller Gearhart and Marge Piercy. Where Mohr begins to go wrong, however, is when she attempts to generalize about science fiction, a field she knows less about. She makes a series of errors, some of them factual, some of them matters of emphasis, that slow the book down considerably. For example, Mohr appears to be under the mistaken impression that John W. Campbell founded Astounding Stories (41). She also states that Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon (1942) and Asimov’s Caves of Steel (1954) were part of the "‘Golden Age’ of juvenile sf" (42). It isn’t clear whether she actually believes that these novels were published as juvenile fiction (as, for example, was Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones [1952]) or if she is merely dissing two of the finest adult sf novels of their era, but neither interpretation of her statement shows her in a good light. Then there is Mohr’s belief that the inhabitants of the planet Gethen in The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) are aliens (76). Sorry, but they aren’t. Although they’ve been tampered with genetically, the inhabitants of Gethen come from the same biological stock as we do. That human beings have been seeded across the galaxy by some ancient advanced species is one of the basic mysteries of Le Guin’s Hainish universe. There are other errors of this sort, but perhaps the most aggravating is her repeated misspelling of Samuel R. Delany’s name as "Delaney" (41). Also annoying is Mohr’s tendency to repeatedly misuse "[sic]" whenever a writer uses the word "man" or "mankind" where we more enlightened feminist critics would use the words "human" or "humanity" (32 and elsewhere). Reading through these repeated mistakes is a bit of a trial, but Mohr’s ultimate point is worth noting, namely that as innovative as most feminist sf is, much of it is still caught up in dualism. Where traditional, masculinist sf puts man at the center and woman on the periphery, more often than not the work of Sheri Tepper, James Tiptree, Jr., and others merely reverses things, marginalizing male characters and redefining them as other.

In Chapter 2, "Demanding the Possible? The Artificiality of Boundaries," critical theory takes center stage. Mohr is obviously familiar with the major figures in utopian studies and presents the reader with a solid survey of their work. From the Manuels to Kumar to Sargent to Moylan, everyone of importance in the field gets a mention, as do most of the major postmodernist, feminist, and postcolonial critics, from Derrida to Irigaray to Cixous to Bhaba, whose writings have clear bearing on utopian studies. Lucy Sargisson’s ideas, however, are central throughout. Mohr focuses on Sargisson’s belief that a key feature of contemporary feminist utopian fiction is "generic blurring, a resistance to closure, and a movement towards the dynamic process of a pragmatic utopia" (54). Quoting Sargisson she also, finally, defines "transgression" as "the critique and displacement of meaning ‘constructed by a complex and hierarchical system of binary opposition,’" along with "the suggestion of an alternative approach that values difference and multiplicity" (54). This important point, really, is the heart of Mohr’s argument; everything else is elaboration.

Chapter 3, "Rewriting the Colonization of Physical and Mental Space," argues that Elgin’s Native Tongue trilogy is a "postmodern counter-narrative" that "re-positions the colonial object (Aliens) as subject and the Earth/center as peripheral to the universe" (71). Elgin, Mohr suggests, is combining a postcolonial criticism of "masculine space imperialism/colonialism" with a feminist critique of "the patriarchal exploitation of women and the colonization of women’s minds." She argues further, however, that the entire series includes an ongoing utopian impulse, as demonstrated first through the development of Láadan, the secret language of the women linguists, which allows for "a mental decolonization process," and then, in the third volume of the trilogy, through the creation of Audiosynthesis, a way of using music to provide nourishment, thus bypassing a primary control mechanism of both patriarchy and imperialism (72). Elgin is a linguistics professor by training and Mohr devotes considerable space to the author’s use of language as a tool of both repression and liberation. She concludes that the trilogy:

can be summarized as a plea for the allowance of transgression and progression. By rejecting the imperial masculine discourse and by inventing their own discourse as well as eliminating the very basis for competitive exclusion and violence, women, and eventually men, can move towards a global progressivity that, in turn, will allow an exchange with the alien/other on terms of equality and difference. (144, emphases in original)

Turning to Charnas’s Holdfast series, Mohr describes the books as "a hard (eco) feminist comment on extreme dualism, hierarchical patriarchy/matriarchy and colonialism" (145), and she clearly differentiates Charnas’s work from Elgin’s, pointing out that, unlike the Native Tongue books, the Holdfast series makes no attempt to envision utopia. Charnas’s matriarchal societies, although less horrific than the patriarchal Holdfast, have a full complement of shortcomings. Mohr also makes the point that Charnas is doing interesting things with inter-generational attitudes as well and she praises the early books in the series both for envisioning "hybridity long before Bhabha analyzed these issues" and for anticipating Haraway’s concept of the cyborg (146). Although Mohr has interesting things to say about Walk to the End of the World and Motherlines, the first two books in the tetrology, she is particularly good on The Furies and The Conqueror’s Child. These last books were written long after the first two, giving Charnas the breathing room necessary to ask the next set of questions: "How can men undo their past deeds? How can men recreate masculinity to acquire full human subject status?" (147). Charnas’s ultimate intent, Mohr tells us, is not to present a blueprint for the perfect society, but merely (and more practically) to show the beginning of "negotiations between fems and men towards a society of parity" (227).

In her award-winning chapter on The Handmaid’s Tale, Mohr describes Atwood’s novel as the least obviously transgressive of the works under consideration because it is much closer in form to the classical dystopia than are Elgin’s and Charnas’s books. Further, Atwood’s use of duality throughout her fiction has been much discussed by critics, including those writing on The Handmaid’s Tale. Mohr argues, however, that the book "can be read as a transgressive utopian dystopia, since a utopian subtext is interwoven into the dystopian narrative ... and because there are various hints in the novel pointing towards a transgression of binarisms that critics have so far overlooked" (232). The most obvious of these transgressions, perhaps, can be found in the way in which the novel resists closure. We never actually discover how Offred’s story ends. The Historical Notes at the end of the book, which at first seem likely to explicate the tale, ultimately do nothing but confuse it, and the far-future society of the Notes, although decidedly different from that of the main narrative, is itself hardly utopian. Ultimately, several different perspectives on the truth of Offred’s story are given voice and none is substantiated as the ultimate truth. This "polyperspectivism" (269) is the chief source of the novel’s subtle transgressivity.

In a brief concluding chapter, Mohr summarizes her points and compares the works more closely. She argues persuasively that "contemporary feminist dystopias constitute ... a new genre, one characterized by the interweaving of dystopian and utopian narrative strands bound by the distinctive feature of transgression" (270). She does, however, differentiate Elgin’s and Charnas’s work from Atwood’s by noting that the former writers end their tales on a positive note that is missing in The Handmaid’s Tale, and she then explores possible reasons for this difference. Mohr also suggests, and I think that this is an important point, that Charnas’s "demand that men must participate in and contribute to the imagining and the creation of utopia renders The Conqueror’s Child simultaneously the most transgressive utopia and the most realistic among the novels discussed" (277, emphasis in original).

Ultimately, Dunja M. Mohr’s Worlds Apart? is a valuable book. The author’s cogent analysis of three major works of dystopian fiction, including several novels that have heretofore received very little serious attention, is a significant contribution to the field that far outweighs the factual errors of her book’s early chapters. One can wish that those mistakes hadn’t been made, but they shouldn’t be seen as in any way negating the valuable insights contained in the rest of the volume

.—Michael Levy, University of Wisconsin at Stout

Wondering about Wonder Shows.

Fred Nadis. Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2005. xiv + 318 pp. $26.95 hc.

For more information than you thought you needed to know about traveling scientists, electro-therapy, hypnotists, mesmerists, and UFO "scientists," pick up Fred Nadis’s book Wonder Shows. Nadis provides a cultural history of the "wonder show," which he loosely defines as anything from a traveling program to a corporate-sponsored expo that exhibits the wonders of science, parascience, religion, sleight of hand, and trickery. The text is presented more or less chronologically, with an initial focus on burgeoning science, mainly through the uses of electricity (dramatized in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by scientists such as Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla); followed by a look at hypnotists, spiritualists, and other para-scientific exploiters who exemplify the pre- and post- World War I environment; and then finally, in the third section, a consideration of the combination of rising capitalism and religious fervor, and (with some UFOs thrown in) demonstrating post-World War II culture.

Nadis’s terminology and vocabulary, using freely and without pretension terms such as "performing" that are often associated with heavily-loaded theoretical backgrounds, is startling, but his style is relaxed and his presentation is organized and free-flowing. Nadis points out in the introduction that he equates science with technology and religion with magic. And indeed, more often than not, all four are inextricably intermingled. He explains that this practice coincides with the general assumptions made by the public from the 1890s to the 1950s. Often he will refer to "science magic," the "science wizard," or doctors and magicians who employ identical techniques to cure people; but those who find this offensive should look more to the American mainstream audience of these wonder shows rather than to Nadis himself. His goal is to present the mainstream American view of science, magic, and religion. He argues that his text "emphasizes that a parallel vein of gee-whiz science promotions continually has surfaced to address the paradox of scientific progress as both wonder-erasing and wonderful" (20). His text does just that: it shows how the American public needed these wonder shows to make science and technology palatable and understandable and how many have used science and technology to try to explain what science still deems unexplainable: para-science, UFOs, and other still mysterious phenomena.

Nadis presents the history of wonder shows within the broader scope of the American history of religion, culture, scientific discovery, and technological progress. This history is told through the various audience reactions and the presentation of cultural artifacts: posters, advertisements, letters, and newspaper headlines, among others. Nadis’s choice to emphasize the audience reception of these wonder shows is undermined, however, by a lack of sufficient consideration for the socio-economic and gender differences in audience reception.

The text is split into three sections—science, magic, and religion—but demonstrates that the three sections are interchangeable. For example, Nadis discusses how many of the wonder showmen used electricity as proof of the technological superiority of science, as a way to cure diseases, as a way to communicate with the dead, and as a way to demonstrate social progress. He uses similar vocabulary to discuss various members of the wonder show community—for example, equating the various scientific and magic performers to "shamen." The text can seem repetitive when read straight through, especially when Nadis repeats information and the biographies of the various performers, but the reiteration of various important persons and events can be helpful if one is only looking at particular chapters.

Nadis tempers the dry historical facts of the wonder show with sentimental personal anecdotes about the various performers and their lives on the road or in the limelight. Often, Nadis provides an in-depth look at scientists, preachers, and businessmen that is both interesting and touching. He includes several letters from Charles Came, a traveling scientist/doctor/wonder showman who misses his family and does not hesitate to give them medical advice from the road, telling his wife to have the doctor "let their daughter’s blood" (36). Nadis describes how Tesla was the model of an erudite, European scientist but also details Tesla’s obsession with pigeons and the "religious" fervor with which he cared for them (222). These insights make the wonder showmen more than just performers or hucksters. Nadis gives each an individual personality that most history books would not have provided.

The last chapter of the text brings the wonder show to the present. Nadis discusses a trip in 2001 to the "Whole Life Expo" in Dallas. His personal narrative succeeds in emphasizing how the wonder show of the 1880s is still alive today in the booths of expos, where vendors selling the benefits of electricity to New Age consumers. The final chapter cements Nadis’s main points: the wonder show reflects the political, religious, and cultural fads and fashions of the American populace. Americans don’t want hard-boiled science; we want flash, bang, and wow. In a text that lacks the excitement of a wonder show, Nadis shows us just how far back into our past this predilection stretches and how inextricably bound it is with America’s finicky present.

Holly Savage, University of Iowa

Making a Choice between Knowledge and Extinction.

John S. Partington. Building Cosmopolis: The Political Thought of H.G. Wells. Aldershot, UK/Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003. xii + 196 pp. $69.95 hc.

It took H.G. Wells about five years right at the end of the nineteenth century to save himself by the power of his pen, incidentally founding the literary genre later to be known as sf. For the remainder of his writing career, his priority was to save the world—"in a lack of better saviors" (1) as he put it in 1903, more than a decade before the world became aware that it needed saving. Wells’s view of the human animal as an evolutionary work in progress—a view for which he was indebted to T.H. Huxley—enabled him to compute the trajectory of human history with exceptional accuracy. As a scientifically-trained man of letters who was also an engaged political thinker and probably the first fully qualified futurologist, Wells was a true original. His originality alone is a cause for celebration, even had he been consistently wrong about how humanity was to be saved from itself. As it is, hindsight suggests that Wells was not only right that civilization needed salvaging but that he also had some pretty good ideas about how best to go about it. But his advice was largely ignored by those in positions of power, and the race between education and catastrophe remains too close to call. In this context John S. Partington’s determination to give Wells full credit for forty-five years of inventive political thought and indefatigable activism is highly commendable. Building Cosmopolis serves as a salutary reminder that during what was hitherto the ugliest and most inhumane epoch in history, Wells persisted with his loud, consistent, and urgent appeal on behalf of human values. For this alone his tomb deserves the best wreath that we can afford.

Partington’s thesis is clear, his argument is based on thorough research, and he deploys his evidence rigorously and convincingly. His Wells, with the occasional misstep inevitable in a man of multifarious interests, passionate temperament, and prolific output, remained true to the central Huxleyan idea that human beings have a responsibility to apply humane ethics to their decision-making, thereby tempering the blind amoral process of cosmic evolution. In the heavily-armed and rapidly-moving modern world, nationalism fostered division, division led to conflict, and conflict led to catastrophe: the chief lesson of 1914-18 could hardly be clearer. Wells believed that people needed to be educated to understand that their membership in one biological species overruled their ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences. He sought to encourage the growth of cosmopolitanism at the level of the individual in the belief that once this expressed itself at the societal level it would promote the formation of supranational entities that would then slowly take over the roles formerly held by national governments. This evolutionary (i.e., gradual, non-revolutionary) process would take the form of an "Open Conspiracy" (166) in which a "competent receiver" (39) would assume the burden of global governance and the World State, set up to benefit all mankind, would come into being.

Early in his Introduction, Partington establishes his own critical space with a thorough review of all the existing literature on the subject. He is frankly aware that his estimate of Wells’s achievements as a political visionary seriously conflicts with that of Marxist critics such as Christopher Caudwell and A.L. Morton, for whom Wells was a petty bourgeois dilettante; with that of the Tory anarchist George Orwell, who in 1941 accused Wells of a naïve idealism that actually helped nurture totalitarianism; and with that of Brad Leithauser, who in 1986 dismissed Wells’s political thinking as entirely futile in that it had had no effect at all on the existing geopolitical dispensation. Partington efficiently dismisses each of these objections. As his subject overlaps with the late W. Warren Wagar’s highly regarded H.G. Wells and the World State (1961), Partington gives due credit to his most eminent predecessor, but enumerates five aspects of Wells’s political thought insufficiently covered by Wagar and which, taken together, justify this new survey: the adherence to Huxleyan values, the Edwardian campaign for social and educational reform, the consistent anti-elitism, the human rights campaign of 1939-44, and the influence on later internationalists. It should be noted that, in his intellectual biography H.G. Wells: Traversing Time (2004), Wagar largely accedes to Partington’s views on Wells’s lifelong fidelity to Huxley, even while raising in a long footnote (284-85, n. 38) the interesting philosophical question about whether the cosmic and ethical evolutionary processes are truly distinct, the former having given rise to the latter.

Building Cosmopolis is undoubtedly a major contribution to Wellsian studies. True, it is written in a rather undemonstrative style, in contrast to which the many inserted quotations from obscure Wellsian tracts fizz with energy. It nevertheless deserves to become the first port of call for those seriously interested in exploring the origin, development, and influence of Wells’s political thought. I will register only two minor quibbles. First, while Wells’s "groundbreaking advocacy of the functionalist model of global governance" (2) is referred to frequently, "functionalism" is not actually defined until the end of the last chapter (164-73). Here Partington belatedly (but very effectively) explains why Wells should be credited for originating the idea that functional bodies serving global needs should replace national governments. (Briefly, this is because Wells laid out the functionalist theory in The World of William Clissold [1926] long before David Mitrany’s A Working Peace System [1944].) I point this out chiefly for the benefit of sf readers who might otherwise confuse this Wellsian "functionalism" with its Heinleinian homonym, the elitist ideology that in "The Roads Must Roll" (1940) endangers the modern technocratic state.

Second, I wish Partington had found room for the occasional strategically-placed polemical paragraph nailing down why the political views of H.G. Wells are of continuing importance. After all, this is not self-evident: Wells is a writer sixty years dead and one apparently thought too inconsequential to be accorded a single mention in the current Norton Anthology of English Literature. Partington reveals that Wells in the 1920s referred to the USA as a model for a future European federation (111); it would have been delightful to have heard his opinion on exactly how clairvoyant (and how ironic) that seems today. He also tells us that Wells in 1926 described his putative global functional body as a "world business organisation" (116); it might have been helpful to have had a pithy reminder at this point as to why we should not mistake Cosmopolis for globalization. But perhaps such topical matters should be left to a less scrupulous author than John S. Partington to elaborate in a future blockbuster subtitled How a Short Fat Science-Fiction Writer Invented the Modern World.

Nicholas Ruddick, University of Regina

An Explosive Biography.

George Pendle. Strange Angel: The Otherworldly Life of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons. New York: Harcourt, 2005. 350 pp. $25 hc.

If any book illustrates the thesis—ascribed to H.L. Mencken and Frank Lloyd Wright, among others—that the North American continent is tilted and everything loose rolls to California, George Pendle’s Strange Angel, a biography of John Whiteside (a.k.a. "Jack") Parsons, is definitely it. Parsons was, during the 1930s, one of a handful of pioneers of practical rocketry at a time when the science was scorned as Buck Rogers nonsense. Working with a small cadre of outlaw engineers on the fringes of the CalTech campus in Pasadena, Parsons revolutionized solid-fuel propulsion, helping to invent the Jet-Assisted Take-Off (JATO) system widely used by the American armed forces during World War II. He was also a co-founder of the Aerojet Engineering Corporation, which would go on to build the Titan and Minuteman missiles and the engine for the Apollo Command Module used during the lunar landings, thus realizing the dreams of pulp-era sf. Unfortunately, Parsons would not live to see these triumphs since he clumsily blew himself up while mixing explosives at his home in 1952.

If that was all there were to his tale, then Strange Angel would be just another neglected-hero-of-modern-science biography along the lines of Thomas Streissguth’s Rocket Man: The Story of Robert Goddard (Carolrhoda, 1995). But Parsons was an altogether weirder individual than even that reclusive eccentric. Experimenting with rocket engines in the Pasadena arroyos by day, by night he worshipped Pan and conjured spirits as head priest of the Agape Lodge, the California chapter of Aleister Crowley’s notorious crypto-pagan Church of Thelema. As Pendle points out, Parsons’s streak of wild imagination was "a valuable commodity to have" in "a nascent science" like rocketry (83), where risk-taking was often more important than professional discipline (it’s not for nothing that his CalTech cohort was dubbed the "Suicide Squad"); at the same time, Parsons always approached his "magick" rituals (Crowley’s preferred spelling) "as a strictly literal branch of learning, one that could be mastered by concentrated scientific application" (148). Of course, as Pendle makes abundantly clear, Parsons was attracted to Crowley’s half-baked ceremonials in large measure because they provided license for dissipations he already had a strong taste for, such as free love, bad poetry, and narcotics. It boggles the mind to imagine this dapper engineer racing home from his pioneering experiments to whip up a batch of homemade absinthe, compose avid doggerel celebrating the wonders of cocaine and peyote, and perform a lengthy divination requiring focused chanting and ritual masturbation. No wonder such an incendiary life ended in such an explosive death.

The interest of this book to readers of SFS lies less in its revelation of the kinky "night thoughts" of a far-from-classical physicist (to adapt the title of Russell McCormmach’s 1991 novel), than in the fact that Parsons was not only a follower of both science and magic but also an enthusiastic fan of a genre that often fuses (if not confuses) these two realms: science fiction. His abiding fannish interests, combined with his budding local celebrity as a rocketeer, drew him into the orbit of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, where he hobnobbed with Ray Bradbury and "number one fan" Forrest J. Ackermann. He was also befriended by Robert A. Heinlein, whose own pecadillos included a taste for casual nudism and whose association with Parsons (as Pendle points out) likely influenced the stories "Waldo" and "Magic, Inc." (both 1942). Parsons invited Heinlein to his freewheeling bohemian boarding house for lively fencing matches and Heinlein invited Parsons to meetings of the Mañana Literary Society, boozy gatherings held at the author’s home in Laurel Canyon. The Society, immortalized in Anthony Boucher’s 1942 murder-mystery-à-clef Rocket to the Morgue, was frequented by genre stalwarts such as Cleve Cartmill and Jack Williamson (whose 1940 werewolf tale Darker Than You Think quite fascinated Parsons), not to mention German ex-pats including Fritz Lang and Willy Ley (the latter had worked in the Nazi rocket program under Wernher von Braun and would go on to pen a long-running science column in Galaxy magazine). It was likely here that Parsons met inveterate pulp hack L. Ron Hubbard and that’s where the story really starts to get weird.

Parsons fell immediately under the glib spell of Hubbard, a charming con-man who would, as Pendle observes, go on to achieve Crowley’s life-long dream: to found a thriving cash-cow religion. Hubbard moved in with the sprawling menagerie of oddballs—waggishly dubbed the Parsonage—and soon convinced the credulous household of his brilliant magical gifts, which Parsons eagerly recounted in letters to Crowley (then in the process of killing himself with heroin in an English seaside resort). Hubbard gamely joined in an epic "magical working" designed to summon "an Elemental mate" for Parsons (259-60), whose corporeal girlfriend, Betty, Hubbard had recently stolen. When this plan petered out, Hubbard talked Parsons into funneling his savings into a venture to buy a fleet of yachts in Florida, then sail them through the Panama Canal to sell at a profit in California. As was immediately clear to his friends and associates (including Crowley), but only gradually to Parsons himself, this proposal was a massive rip-off, and a frantic Parsons was forced to chase down Hubbard and Betty in Miami before they sailed off around the world. As Parsons explained in another letter to Crowley, the pair almost did escape, but the resourceful magician managed to invoke the demon Bartzabel in a hasty hotel-room ceremony, whereupon Hubbard’s "ship was struck by a sudden squall off the coast, which ripped off his sails and forced him back to port" (270). I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

Strange Angel is an engagingly written and well-researched biography that I can recommend to anyone who cares to know more about the lifestyles of the nerdy and perverted who made up the fringe-science/sf scene in 1930s-40s Southern California. I have only one complaint. Pendle’s book is not the first biography of Parsons, following as it does in the footsteps of Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons, a 1999 Feral House title authored by the pseudonymous John Carter (named for a famous pulp hero the youthful Parsons worshipped). Yet Pendle never once mentions this obscure small-press title, which I must admit to finding ungenerous, if not high-handed, since he essentially reproduces its basic narrative and a good portion of its core research. For those who might be interested, Sex and Rockets has even more detail about Crowleyan sex magick than Pendle provides, and it has conveniently just been returned to print. Either book is jaw-dropping fun to read.—RL

High Science Fiction.

Robert M. Philmus. Visions and Re-Visions: [Re]constructing Science Fiction. Liverpool Science Fiction Texts & Studies 32. Liverpool: Liverpool UP/Chicago UP, 2006. xiv + 411 pp. $85 hc.

I was particularly interested in reviewing this volume because I began reading science fiction criticism at the same time Robert Philmus started writing it: his was one of the critical voices that shaped my approach to the genre. A longtime editor of and contributor to Science-Fiction Studies (in the days when this journal still insisted on its hyphen) and winner of the Science Fiction Research Association’s Pilgrim Award for his study of sf’s early history, Into the Unknown (1970), Philmus has always given science fiction serious attention as a literature of ideas and a vehicle for social thought. In this volume, which collects and recasts essays from four decades of investigation into the genre, Philmus traces its evolution from the 1890s onward, concentrating on acknowledged masterworks such as Zamyatin’s We (1920), Lem’s The Futurological Congress (1971), and Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974). He paints a generic landscape that is all mountaintops: the low-lying regions of pulp sf and the dismal swamps of movie sci-fi are barely acknowledged. Hugo Gernsback gets two mentions in the text and one footnote: John W. Campbell doesn’t show up in the index at all. As a result, the genre described here is not science fiction per se, but a smaller and more ambitious subset that we might call high sf, by analogy to the term high fantasy that is often used to distinguish Tolkienesque romances from formulaic Swords and Sorcery.

High science fiction is mostly European in origin, philosophical in orientation, and satirical in tone. Its exemplars include Wells, Zamyatin, Swift, Orwell, Lem, Čapek, Stapledon, Calvino, Borges, and three US writers: Vonnegut, Le Guin, and Dick. All these are listed in chapter titles. The table of contents also includes one writer of anti-science fiction, C.S. Lewis, whose Perelandra books (1938-45) fit the criteria of Eurocentrism and serious philosophical intent but construct scientism as heresy and Wells as the Antichrist. Philmus offers extended readings of major works, focusing especially on linguistic play and utopian or dystopian social visions. Readers interested in any of these writers would be well advised to work through Philmus’s analyses. It can be hard work. As one might anticipate from his acknowledgments to Fredric Jameson and Darko Suvin, Philmus’s writing tends toward crabbed prose and a high degree of abstraction. It can also be very rewarding, not only because he comes armed with decades of thought and research but also because of flashes of illumination such as his suggestion that we read certain book titles as definitions of genre: sf novels are time machines; the field as a whole operates as a futurological congress.

Some of the analyses seem a bit dated, although Philmus has reworked the earliest essays. He acknowledges only at the very end of the afterword what might seem obvious from the table of contents: that this is not a contemporary portrait of sf but a slice of its history. The only active writer of sf he considers is Le Guin, and one would think from this study that her career stopped in 1974. I wish Philmus had taken his analysis into the 1980s and beyond: the analytical tools he develops would work well with Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (1985) and some of her recent stories, and I think he would have interesting insights about Big Social Idea writers such as Kim Stanley Robinson and China Miéville. I’m not sure what he would have to say about writers whose work is more concerned with psychology, technology, colonial adventure, or myth—important sf concerns that are largely missing from this volume.

As to the book’s central ideas, Philmus deliberately postpones explanation until the final chapter, though he names them right up front: genericity, re-vision, and governing conception. He wishes, he says, to draw the thesis from the examples rather than "fit[ting] my authors to a procrustean thesis" (xii). This withholding of thesis can be a bit frustrating but it also gives the book something of the feel of a mystery novel. We get all the clues but we have to wait for the detective to tell us whether our guesses were correct. We know that the answers must have something to do with language, with utopian thought, and with time, for those concerns run throughout the discussions. Further, we know that Philmus’s interest in language is, first, as a form of political action (as in the deformation of meaning in 1984 [1949]) and, second, as something that can be tested to its limits by sf (as in Calvino’s ironic wordplay, which Philmus impressively pursues across the translation barrier to investigate puns and quibbles in the original Italian). He is interested in utopias not as societal blueprints but as linguistic constructions and critical tools. He also combines these first two themes: Chapter One focuses on the effects of language on utopia and vice versa.

Both utopia and language are often studied as if they were immune to the effects of time. Linguists tend to follow Saussure’s emphasis on the synchronic aspects of language over the diachronic, which can give the impression that languages are static systems. Similarly, utopian writers imply that the closer societies come to perfection, the less they will be open to change. As Philmus says, "A society pretending to ultimacy requires closure" (26). Yet the generic constraints on sf and its immersion in history mean that change is built into the form. The result is that sf continually dismantles static systems of meaning and society even as it invokes them. Writers rework other writers’ ideas and rework their own; texts deconstruct themselves. That is the nature of the genre, according to Philmus; his examples indicate that re-vision is not just an occasional by-product of storytelling but the heart of science-fictional thinking.

Skipping to the end of the story (spoiler alert!), I will try to summarize the theoretical discussion at which Philmus arrives in his afterword. I think that even readers who are not particularly interested in his examples will want to take a look at what he says about sf as genre. On genre in general, he wants to steer a course between Todorov and Derrida. He argues with Todorov’s attempt, in The Fantastic (1970, trans. 1973), to define genre as prior to text, as a determiner of meaning. Instead, he goes along with Derrida in "The Law of Genre," in saying that "a text cannot belong to any genre"—or, as he re-translates the French more literally, "a text wouldn’t know how to belong [to a single genre]" (290). In other words, even though the reader needs a generic horizon to make sense of any text, no text is fully contained within its category: "Genre, in short, always comes with a question mark, even if there be no disagreement as to which genre is at issue" (291).

Regarding the genre at hand, he says that sf is unique in the way each text rewrites its predecessors—not the fact of revision, but the degree and manner of it. Philmus makes the somewhat paradoxical claim that "An engagement of some other text(s)—sometimes in a fashion now associated with postmodernism—is a pronounced feature of science fiction’s literary history from the start" (302). That may explain why it is so difficult to locate the genre’s beginning point: whether one picks Gernsback’s magazines, Wells’s scientific romances, Shelley’s gotho-Promethean novel, or Lucian’s True History (Second century C.E.), the originary work always depends on a pre-text that is also its pretext: both backdrop and rationale. More interestingly, Philmus identifies the principle at work in sf as a Borgesian/Le Guinian operation of Causal Reversibility: the present transforms the past (300). Just as, in The Dispossessed, "successive chapters make their predecessors precursors in Borges’s sense of the word" (300), each new science-fictional text alters the history of the genre and the nature and significance of any previous sf. Hence his selection of the fiction of H.G. Wells as the epitome of the genre: every sf story is a time machine, transforming the past while carrying us forward into the future.

I am not certain that I have stated Philmus’s argument accurately: even after three re-readings I find the afterword tough going. But each time I go back I find myself trying out new and interesting applications of the meanings I think I am getting out of it. It’s worth the effort, for anyone who is interested in linking sf to important philosophical ideas or in pondering its masterworks.

I still have reservations about approaching the genre from above, as it were. I don’t think it is possible to understand Dick or Vonnegut without acknowledging not only their engagement with philosophical and literary pre-texts but also with their immersion in popular storytelling and Gosh-Wow science-fictional culture. High science fiction is, in some ways, a superstructure that could not exist without the substratum of popular culture. Interestingly, Philmus demonstrates an awareness of this fact not only in the final pages of his text but also in the extensive footnotes, which I found generally more engaging, wider-ranging, and more user-friendly than the main text. In notes, Philmus qualifies his pronouncements, talks back to other critics, and reveals himself as a personality and a reader. Only in the notes do we find a mention of a term that I think is implied throughout: mega-text. Philmus could have used Philippe Hamon’s term (adopted for sf criticism by Christine Brooke-Rose and Damien Broderick) to summarize his understanding of sf’s continual revising and re-envisioning of earlier fictions and of scientific ideas and ways of thinking. As in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (2004), the real story is often hidden in the annotations.

Brian Attebery, Idaho State University

Mars Needs Anthropologists.

Miles Russell, ed. Digging Holes in Popular Culture. Oxford, UK: Oxbow Books, 2002. xv + 174 pp. $29.95 pbk.

Michael Klossner. Prehistoric Humans in Film and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. 322 pp. $39.95 pbk.

According to the late Carl Sagan, we inhabit a "demon-haunted world" riven with superstition and ignorance masquerading as legitimate knowledge. One response to the proliferation of pseudo-science has been phlegmatic debunking, something that you would certainly expect of the scientist. The other reaction to a world where, as Douglas Adams writes in a decidedly pun-free preface to Digging Holes, "Cartoon science means more to people than real science" (ix), is to engage seriously the popular, intervening, as it were, at the source. These two books adopt the second strategy from the perspectives of archaeology and physical anthropology, respectively, following, perhaps, on versions of cultural and social anthropology long sensitive to popular conceptions of the future. And yet the two books suggest the importance of both strategies to futures we imagine, an inversion of the Nietzschean dictum where history is castigated as a stumbling block to revolutionary change. There is in these two books an acknowledgment that popular and mass-media images of anthropologists have had a profound effect on both fields in the present. But despite the gravity of the topic, both books strike a mostly jocular tone, with contributors alternating between critique and guilty confessions of nostalgia for even the kitschiest episodes of Dr. Who.

Digging Holes in Popular Culture is a collection of essays based on a 1997 Theoretical Archaeologists Conference held at Bournemouth University in the UK. It is divided into three parts: popular representations of archaeologists, sf influences on archaeology, and extrapolations of archaeological practice into the future. Part 1 excavates the sources of these popular images of archaeologists, those "celluloid archaeologists" that present pith-helmeted variations on the general theme of the eccentric scientist-misanthrope (Steven Membury), as well as related representations in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94; Lynette Russell) and Dr. Who (1963 ; Brian Boyd). Russell’s essay in particular, although echoing themes from the corpus of Star Trek scholarship, handily demonstrates the tendentious uses to which archaeology is put in the series, where Picard’s archaeological investigations (particularly in "The Chase" 1993) serve to legitimate the species/racial domination of the galaxy by the Federation. Yet as Miles Russell points out in his overview of popular representations of archaeologists, these images do have some historical precursors in adventurer/tomb raiders such as Howard Carter and Hiram Bingham, as well as in militaristic patriot-archaeologists such as Augustus Pitt Rovers and Mortimer Wheeler.

Part 2 of the collection covers ground more familiar to SFS readers, i.e., fictional deployments of archaeology and material culture, both in obvious choices such as Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear (1982; Julia Murphy) and rather less obvious sf works such as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series (1983-) and in Cordwainer Smith’s universe (Alasdair Brooks). A propos of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), these essays point out the centrality of material culture to the future; clearly, aliens meant us to excavate! Brooks’s essay, in particular, suggests how material culture is appropriated in the service of nationalism and myth. Inevitably, perhaps, in the final essay in this section, Philip Rahtz tries his hand at archaeologically relevant sf with a dialogue taking place on "Computus" in the "Sirius star system" (88), underlining, for me, anyway, that the proper place of academics is decidedly on the "reception" side of sf studies.

Part 3 of the collection—the extension of archaeology into future sites—contains the most promising essays in the collection. Two of the essays (John Hodgson’s and Rob Haslam’s) are archaeologies in reverse, examinations of the ways in which the past is interred in the future. For example, Hodgson examines the generic conventions for illustrating futuristic spacecraft, all derived from our own earth-bound conceptions of ocean-going vessels, while Haslam illustrates how future or alien scapes owe their form to past architectural styles, especially modernism (e.g., Frank Lloyd Wright). Fewer, Walsh, and Matthews, on the other hand, project their archaeologies into space, laying the groundwork for an "exo-archaeology." Further, an "exo-archaeology" can be used to debunk tenacious, tabloid images of the "face" on Mars or the Blair Cuspids through remote sensing methodologies. With adequate pixel resolution and some trigonometry (using the angle of the sun and length of shadows to calculate height), many of, say, the "cities" and "pyramids" of the Cydonia mensae are un-masked as quotidian erosion patterns and impact craters. Nevertheless, these same techniques can be used to identify the genuinely alien, although, as Walsh points out, we will need to "de-anthropomorphize" our understanding of the built environment if we want to recognize the alien. Of course, how these objective "automatic pattern recognition algorithms" will avoid being anthropocentric is a vexing question, since other efforts (e.g., SETI) have been obdurately grounded in late-twentieth-century US and European conceptions of what "civilized" beings will be like.

I approached the second book, Prehistoric Humans, with some trepidation, since I have an almost visceral disgust for "caveman films," which, to be fair, represent some of the worst films ever made—remember "Encino Man" (1992)?. Michael Klossner, on the other hand, is a fan, albeit a critical one, and his wide-ranging, richly annotated guide to the "caveman" genre (both in fiction and in documentary) is in many ways a paean to kitsch, with lovingly detailed entries for what I would regard as B movies (One Million Years B.C. [1966], Caveman [1981]) and an abiding appreciation for cavegirl bikinis. As such, some of the weakest parts of the book are its more fannish commentaries. For example, given that dinosaurs, Homo erectus, and Raquel Welch all seem to co-exist in One Million Years B.C., does it really matter that Welch "is barefoot in most shots" but is "wearing boots in one shot" (111)? Additionally—and again attributable to the fannish tone—some of the lengthy synopses of these films are labored. On the other hand, Klossner is quite aware that nothing is more ideologically overdetermined than these images of our evolutionary forebears; his entries for D.W. Griffith’s Brute Force (1914) and Man’s Genesis (1912) demonstrate the myriad ways that discourses on evolution are imbricated in racism and pernicious social Darwinism.

The final section of Klossner’s work (also organized along a tripartite scheme) looks to representations of the prehistoric in sf film, including more-or-less predictable entries for films such as Altered States (1980) and Iceman (1984). As before, these discussions come with ample fan baggage, including a thematic typology (extraterrestrial, fake, fantasy, lost worlds, etc.) that is neither really needed nor particularly helpful (hmm, do I rent a "throwback" or a "timeshift" tonight?). Nevertheless, though, pace earlier sections on prehistory, incursions of Hominidae into the future are symptomatic of racial and gender coding as well as of a profound ambivalence about a future that seems simply to extend the present into an endless horizon. And, à propos of race and nationalism, one strength of Klossner’s work is his attention to film outside English-speaking countries; courtesy of his work on film and television, Italian and French movies are well-represented, as are some Japanese, in particular his incisive discussion of the 1997 film Peking Man and its touching (in today’s climate of hypertrophic nationalism) anti-national sentiments.

Ultimately, Klossner’s work is undermined by its shifting registers, alternately scholarly and fannish. And yet it’s doubtful that an actual physical anthropologist (Klossner is a librarian) would have had the constitution to slog through films like Eegah! (1962). Physical anthropologists as well as scholars of sf may find this guide useful for their own serious explorations of popular representations, in particular those of a twentieth century riddled with eugenics, Cold War paranoia, and naturalizations of postwar patriarchy. Of course, there are lingering concerns: can I overcome my own distaste long enough to write an article on Encino Man and its even more execrable sequel, Encino Woman (1996)?

Samuel Gerald Collins, Towson University

Brainwashing Narratives.

David Seed. Brainwashing: The Fictions of Mind Control, A Study of Novels and Films Since World War II. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 2004. xxvi + 325 pp. $54.95 hc.

This book is a continuation of the scholarly interests sketched out in David Seed’s American Science Fiction and the Cold War (Edinburgh UP, 1999), offering a well-researched and fine-grained historical analysis of postwar treatments of mind control in fiction and film. The overarching context is the Cold War struggle between the forces of Communism and the "free" world, especially the emergence of "Red China" in 1949 and the subsequent war on the Korean peninsula (1950-1953). The term "brainwashing," coined by journalist Edward Hunter and disseminated through works such as his Brain-Washing in Red China (1951), surfaces during this tense period to refer to the insidious creation of "a living puppet—a human robot … a mechanism in flesh and blood, with new beliefs and new thought processes inserted into a captive body" (qtd. 29). As the language here suggests, the concept is radically mechanistic, and Seed efficiently tracks its underlying assumptions to the behaviorist psychology of Pavlov and Watson. He also explores how the concept came to inform official ideologies guiding what CIA director Allen Dulles called the "brain warfare" needed to combat the Communist threat (31): if the Red Chinese were, as Hunter and others alleged, re-programming native dissidents and captured enemies with powerful new techniques of propagandistic persuasion, then the US and its allies needed to mount similarly sophisticated counter-measures. The pioneering of experimental drug therapies by the CIA—including the administration of LSD via the clandestine project Artichoke—had its roots in this competition between global superpowers for ideological dominance. Moreover, as Seed shows, the public clamor over Communist indoctrination fused with debates about the influence of "hidden persuaders" such as advertising, which also sought to mold dutiful subjects responsive to behavioral signals. By the mid-1950s this nascent discourse had crystallized in a series of "brainwashing narratives" that collectively staged "an encounter between subject and ideology and between an individual and different kinds of authoritarian structures" (xvii).

In ten densely-packed chapters, Seed offers consistently illuminating readings of major and minor texts in this tradition, beginning with precursor works such as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932), with its critique of normative mechanisms of hypnotic suggestion and pharmacological manipulation, and culminating with cyberpunk treatments of personality modification via wetware implants during the 1980s and 1990s. As Seed convincingly demonstrates, a persistent concern for the limits of subjective autonomy and external control, rooted in the postwar debates surrounding brainwashing, links 1950s tales of body-snatching and aliens-among-us with 1960s visions of valiant resistance to mental regulation (especially by Beat writers such as William Burroughs and Ken Kesey) and satirical stories of state-sponsored experimental modification (e.g., Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange [1963], Thomas M. Disch’s Camp Concentration [1968]). Science fiction emerges as a privileged corpus in Seed’s analysis because it pushes anxieties about unwilling deconstructions of self, especially through technological means, in particularly nightmarish directions, as the chapter on cyberpunk demonstrates. Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (1953) provides something of a paradigm for postwar depictions of the concerted breakdown and remolding of identity. At the same time, sf writers have on occasion been centrally involved in the development of brainwashing discourses, from Cordwainer Smith’s research for US army intelligence on methods of Psychological Warfare (title of a 1948 manual by his alter ego Paul Linebarger) to A.E. Van Vogt’s work as a Dianetics counselor during the 1950s, helping to "clear" troubling "engrams" programmed into the subconscious. Van Vogt’s interest in brainwashing was even more overt than this, since he also authored a 1962 novel about Chinese-Communist mind control, The Violent Man, which Seed examines insightfully.

Indeed, what is most impressive about this study is the sheer wealth of texts Seed discusses. These include not merely obvious classics on the topic, such as Richard Condon’s 1958 novel The Manchurian Candidate and the 1962 film based upon it, but also important neglected works (e.g., Bernard Wolfe’s Limbo [1952]), significant cult titles (e.g., the British television program The Prisoner [1967-1968]), and a host of second- and third-rate efforts (techno-thrillers, medical melodramas, pop memoirs with titles like I Was Brainwashed in Peking) that provided the cultural background noise keeping the theme alive during the postwar decades. Seed’s coverage is virtually encyclopedic, the result of diligent and wide-ranging research. My only complaints are that provocative theoretical conjunctures—linking notions of brainwashing with, for example, Althusser’s theory of interpellation or Foucault’s Panopticism—are not as developed as they might be, and that the book lacks a conclusion sorting and synthesizing the various strands of the argument. All in all, though, this is a wonderfully rich and incisive literary/cultural study that I can strongly recommend to anyone interested in the literature of the Cold War period, including relevant works of sf.—RL

Myth Maker.

Don G. Smith. H.P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture: The Works and Their Adaptations in Film, Television, Comics, Music and Games. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. ix + 173 pp. $32.00 pbk.

Jason Colavito. The Cult of Alien Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and Extraterrestrial Pop Culture. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005. 398 pp. $19.00 pbk.

A few years into the twenty-first century, there is no doubt that H.P. Lovecraft persists as one of the most prominent figures in horror and sf. Taken together, these two recent books complement one another in making a case for his work as a continuing influence in contemporary popular culture.

Beginning with an overview of Lovecraft’s fiction, Smith outlines its defining characteristics and traces their influence in a variety of popular-cultural forms. With an extensive range of lively plot synopses and a selected bibliography to point the reader towards further works, his book serves as an entertaining and accessible introduction to this most florid of authors. Moving on from the first chapter, which details the plots and publication details of the short stories, the author continues with an examination of Lovecraft’s wider impact on popular weird fiction in the form of the Cthulhu Mythos. Chapters concerned with the various filmic depictions of Lovecraft’s work strive to give detailed accounts of all genuinely faithful adaptations as well as of those films such as Alien (1979) in which his trademark anti-humanist, cosmic world-view can also be noted. Similarly, the chapter on television tackles programs directly taken from his fiction and also examines the Lovecraftian references in more mainstream programming, such as Star Trek. The later chapters, encompassing such diverse topics as comic books, music, and role-playing games, serve further to bolster Smith’s portrayal of Lovecraft as an author whose characters and ideas have become deeply embedded in popular culture.

By its very nature, this work is narrative and descriptive rather than critical: it provides summaries rather than offering fresh insights. As a result, the evaluative ratings assigned to the films appear somewhat arbitrary and fail to really convince. For scholarly purposes, it would have been helpful if Smith had been able to include a chapter on critical works. There are, of course, a range of books, journal articles, and critical pieces that have been published both on Lovecraft himself and on his fiction over the years. More extensive inclusion of these works in some fashion, even if simply as a bibliography, would round the book out as an even more valuable research tool. Nevertheless, this text clearly achieves the goals laid out in its title by providing descriptions of Lovecraft’s original fiction and insights into its continuing legacy for popular culture. When read from cover to cover, it makes an engaging and informative introduction to a key figure in twentieth-century horror fiction: Smith’s case for the significance of Lovecraft in this field is clear, particularly in the final chapter on "The Lovecraft Legacy." Scholars of the subject may find the book useful chiefly as a fact-filled overview of Lovecraft’s work. It works best as a reference, useful for checking Lovecraftian facts and sketching Lovecraftian influences.

By way of contrast, Colavito’s book offers an extensive argument for Lovecraft as originator of the twentieth-century fascination with extraterrestrial life-forms. To support this claim, Colavito makes connections between Lovecraft’s life and a variety of views ranging from a belief in lost civilizations to the assertion that ancient alien astronauts were responsible for the genetic engineering of the human race. Colavito does this via explication of such landmark texts as Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? (1973), Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods (1975), and Räel’s The Message Given by Extra-Terrestrials (1998). Examining the reasoning and evidence (or, more typically, lack of such) behind their theories, he explains how they interconnect, the manner in which they came to be discredited, and how they can be traced back to the fiction of Lovecraft.

The observations about the place for a pseudo-scientific belief in extraterrestrials in an increasingly-decadent Western world sit nicely with existing Lovecraft scholarship, perhaps most notably with S.T. Joshi’s work on Lovecraft’s fears about the decline of Western civilization. In arguing that modern society is only too ready to embrace the scientifically-unfounded possibility of aliens having played a significant part in the evolution of humanity, Colavito points to Lovecraft’s "compelling and terrifying vision of a society in terminal decay and living on the brink of destruction" (339).

Overall then, these books work well to place Lovecraft in the forefront of not only popular fiction but also popular culture. The authors show that his legacy of sf depicting intelligent alien entities and ancient civilizations continues to fascinate both fans and the wider public, leaving its imprint on the popular psyche.

—Rebecca Janicker, University of Nottingham

Belated Cyborgs.

Lisa Yaszek. The Self Wired: Technology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Narrative. Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory: Outstanding Dissertations. New York: Routledge, 2002. vii + 209 pp. $85.00 hc.

Toward the end of James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) a great scene occurs. After Ripley, Newt, Bishop, and Hicks have returned safely to the mothership, Cameron re-ratchets the tension with the dramatic reappearance of the alien queen, who promptly severs Bishop in half and goes after Newt. Distracting the queen and docking into the loading bay, Ripley reemerges, suited up in a garish yellow fork-lift loader, complete with rotating, head-mounted warning light, hissing hydraulics, and swivelling fork-lift hands. Up to this point, Ripley has been, in cyberpunk parlance, all meat—all sweat-soaked, running, gun-toting body—but here, in the carapace of the loader, she is the technologically-enhanced figure of the cyborg, who, after she dispatches the alien queen, earns the patently ironic praise of the incapacitated android, Bishop: "Not bad, for a human." Ripley in the loader seems, in many respects, the techno-embodiment of the sublime and grotesque cyborg Donna Haraway celebrated in her famous "Manifesto for Cyborgs," which was published in Socialist Review in 1985, the year before Cameron’s film appeared.

Aliens does not feature at all in Lisa Yaszek’s The Self Wired. This is odd, because Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) does—despite the fact that those "cyborg" dinosaurs are considerably less convincing examples of "technologically-mediated subjectivity" (15) than is a character like Ripley. Yet predictably, Haraway figures large in Yaszek’s book, given that its stated project is to "contribute to the development of a new narrative genre: ‘cyborg writing’" (3). Taking Haraway to task for proposing a "cyborg canon" that is "surprisingly limited" and "fails to extend ... much beyond" such writers as Samuel Delany, Octavia Butler, and Vonda McIntyre, and for "linking cyborg writing to a select group of authors who began publishing in a relatively specialized field in a relatively narrow time period (extending only from the late 1960s to the 1970s)," Yaszek argues that "Haraway seems to re-entrench conventional narrative boundaries in problematic ways" (15).

Just as the opening of this review might strike some as unnecessarily retro—there have, after all, been many representations of the cyborg since 1986—so too does Yaszek’s fashioning of a polemic around Haraway’s "surprisingly limited" cyborg canon strike me as belated. Offering a corrective to Haraway’s manifesto, which is now twenty years old and was, no doubt, written in the early 1980s when texts "extending only from the late 1960s and 1970s" were pretty well the only ones available, Yaszek herself chooses only one text from the 1950s—Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (1952)—and hardly strays from the "relatively specialized field" of sf. To provide the "foundation for a more comprehensive cyborg canon" (15), she examines Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975), Octavia Butler’s Kindred (1979), William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984), Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992), Pat Cadigan’s Synners (1991), Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

What her analysis of Ellison and Pynchon’s novels affords—and neither writer really participates in the realist genre, even if neither writes sf, strictly speaking—is an expanded consideration of the postwar emergence of technology, via the usual technocritic suspects: Marshall McLuhan, Herbert Marcuse, Norbert Wiener. But this expansiveness, like the establishment of a polemic with Haraway, is rather unnecessary, given how well tracked that history was throughout the 1990s, with such books as Mark Poster’s The Mode of Information: Poststructuralism and Social Context (1990) or Andrew Ross’s Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits (1991). Despite making large statements about the new cybernetic citizen-subject in the context of the much-reviled "culture industries" and the "electronic wasteland" (37) they produced, Yaszek does not generate a very convincing argument for Invisible Man’s or The Crying of Lot 49’s participation in a more inclusive cyborg canon, mostly because neither the Invisible Man nor Oedipa Maas really presents even a proto-cybernetic citizen subject. As if in recognition of their uneasy position in relation to the other works in The Self Wired, Yaszek offers a vague disclaimer at the chapter’s end, suggesting that the Invisible Man and Oedipa Maas "seem to be waiting on the verge of a new relationship with a new America," waiting to "enact a ‘new (cybernetic) humanism’" (47); but the parenthesis does not make it so.

Yaszek is on much firmer ground with her subsequent sf chapters and the question of technologically-mediated subjectivity. Russ’s Jael in The Female Man is a fairly obvious cyborg identity, who "embodies the form of identity and agency most appropriate to life in the contemporary high-tech world" (73) and thus enables the utopic Whileaway to exist. Butler’s Dana in Kindred is less obvious, but Yaszek fruitfully uses bell hooks’s notion of the commercially produced black consumer, the black replicant subject, to argue for Dana’s progression to cyborg subjectivity through a re-encounter with history. Probably the strongest chapter in The Self Wired focuses on what Yaszek calls the ‘literally hybrid or cyborg other" (95), whom she conceives smartly as, above all, a worker. Gibson’s Cyberspace Trilogy (1984-1988) trilogy, Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and Cadigan’s Synners offer examples of Haraway’s figure of the "ironic cyborg," who is "always connected to multiple narratives of work and identity" (104). Yaszek argues that, as laborers, Gibson’s Case and Molly are ultimately circumscribed by postindustrial capitalism, whereas the Rastafarians in Neuromancer and the voodoo practitioners in Count Zero (1986) offer the possibility of alternative narratives of work and identity. Although Gibson might "simplify and romanticize ‘blackness’" in order to "suggest subaltern narratives of resistance," Stephenson explores "how ‘race’ itself may be commodified in the high-tech era" (111): Enki, Hiro, Raven, and Enzo are racialized cyborg subjects who, in their very commodification, are opposed to or coopted by late capitalism. For Cadigan’s, Gibson’s and Stephenson’s cyborgs are yoked explicitly to "‘masculine’ grand narratives of technological progress," while the ironic cyborg subject is connected to "‘feminine’ narratives of everyday history" (119): the commodified Virtual Mark is superceded by the embodied, female cyborgs, Gator and Sam, whose labor reorganizes the net to usher in Markt, the new sentience who "represents the newly revised socioeconomic system ... indicated by the way that his very name revises the word ‘market’ itself" (125).

From communication technologies, The Self Wired moves, with spotty results, to consider new reproductive technologies. In the same way that she could have used Katherine Hayles more fully and earlier on to avoid the redundancies of retracing technohistory, Yaszek could have used Kathleen Woodward to arrive much more economically at her readings of Jurassic Park and Blade Runner. Instead, she wades through Freud’s "oedipal theories" (131), making no reference to any actual writings by Freud, before arguing that Scott disrupts the normative oedipal accounts of sexual development; and she reviews other critics’ examinations of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), before arguing that Spielberg "highlight[s] the excesses of unnatural reproduction" (137). Although Yaszek is a sensitive reader of Jurassic Park in particular, there is something a bit off about ascribing, however implicitly, (cyborg?) subjectivity to the "unnatural female" dinosaurs who "have breached the security of patriarchal authority" (138). And it is unfortunate that she chooses the director’s cut of Blade Runner (1992) to speculate, again rather implicitly, on the subjectivity of the Nexus-6 cyborgs, because, without Deckard’s voice-over introjection of possible subjectivities for Roy and Pris in particular—without the tension between their dialogue and his constant need to attribute his own, putatively normal, human responses to them—there is considerably less to go on in determining their subject positions. Technology plays an unquestionably major role in both films and cybernetic types abound, but the wired self seems rather absent as a crucial component in either film. Such an absence is odd, given the overall focus of the book on cyborg subjectivity.

Published in Routledge’s Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory: Outstanding Dissertations series, The Self Wired has the hallmarks of a pretty good dissertation—a promising subject, fluid and engaging writing, and smart critical interventions in interesting and timely debates; it also has a rather plodding review of historical and critical precursors, a somewhat dated polemic, and, I’m afraid, a poor index and an unfortunate number of typos, with missing, doubled, or misspelled words. It may be an outstanding dissertation, but The Self Wired is not an outstanding book.

Nicola Nixon, Concordia University

Centennial Scholarship on Jules Verne. I have been remiss in not writing reviews on the many excellent books on/by Jules Verne published during his centenary in 2005. There has, in fact, been a veritable flood of them—more than fifty titles in all—first appearing on the market in late 2004 and continuing into 2006. For a comprehensive listing, see Norbert Spehner’s "Verne: publications autour d’un centenaire" (Solaris 156 [automne 2005]: 95-102) and his periodic bibliographical bulletin Marginalia 46 (septembre 2005), 47 (décembre 2005), and 48 (mars 2006). To receive a free digital copy of the latter, one need only write to him at <> and ask to be added to his mailing list. In this review, I shall identify and briefly comment on several of these Verne-related works that I consider to be important additions to the existing scholarship in the field. A more detailed review of certain titles may be forthcoming in a future issue of SFS.

1. Biographies and biography-related:

Butcher, William. Jules Verne: The Definitive Biography. Intro. by Arthur C. Clarke. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2006. xxxii + 369 pp. $28.00 hc.

Dumas, Olivier, Volker Dehs, and Piero Gondolo della Riva, eds. Correspondance inédite de Jules et Michel Verne avec l’éditeur Louis-Jules Hetzel (1886-1914). Tome I (1886-1896).Geneva: Slatkine, 2004. €44 hc.

Dusseau, Joëlle. Jules Verne. Paris: Perrin, 2005. 562 pp. €24 pbk.

Margot, Jean-Michel, ed. Jules Verne en son temps. Amiens: Encrage, 2004. 254 pages. €28 pbk.

Although, to my mind, no biography can ever be truly "definitive," the two new biographies on Verne by Butcher (in English) and Dusseau (in French) far surpass previous efforts—such as those by Jean Jules-Verne (1973) or Herbert Lottman (1996)—by their accuracy, balance, and familiarity with the latest discoveries about the personal life of this sometimes secretive author. Both are highly recommended. Many such secrets pertaining to Verne’s complex relationship with his publisher and "spiritual father" Pierre-Jules Hetzel have been brought to light during the past few years by the publication (in three volumes) of their voluminous correspondence by Dumas, Dehs, and Gondolo della Riva (see my review in SFS 28.1 [March 2001]: 97-106). The above-listed book by the same trio of Vernian researchers is the first of two more volumes in this richly revelatory series that will now reprint all Verne’s correspondence with Hetzel’s son after the latter took over the business following his father’s death in 1886. The final volume of the series should be especially fascinating: the letters exchanged between Verne’s son Michel and Hetzel fils throughout the period when Jules’s posthumous works were being published—works that have triggered great controversy when found to be as much by Michel’s hand as by his father’s. Finally, Margot’s book is a wonderful anthology of book and theater reviews, newspaper stories, magazine articles, entries from literary journals, short book chapters, and obituaries that were published on Verne in France from 1863—the date of publication of his first novel—to his death in 1905. These many nineteenth-century témoignages [eyewitness testimonies/evidence] clearly show to what extent, during his lifetime and among his own countrymen, Verne was a well-loved celebrity but recognized mostly (and erroneously) as a writer for children and a prophet of science and technology.

2. Critical studies and monographs:

Boia, Lucian. Jules Verne: les paradoxes d’un mythe. Paris: Belles Lettres, 2005. 304 pp. €19 pbk.

Guillaud, Lauric. Jules Verne face au rêve américain. Paris: Houdiard, 2005. 90 pp. €13 pbk.

Picot, Jean-Pierre, and Christian Robin, eds. Jules Verne: cent ans après. Actes du Colloque de Cerisy. Rennes: Terre de Brume, 2005. 494 pp. €25 pbk.

Unwin, Timothy. Jules Verne: Journeys in Writing. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2005. xi + 242 pp. 50.00 hardcover, 20 paper.

Several important critical studies of Verne were published last year, the most impressive of which was by Unwin, whose scholarly monograph treating Verne as a writer "who renews and revitalises the genre" (6) offers a refreshingly new, text-based approach to understanding Verne’s oeuvre and literary legacy. Consistently intelligent and insightful, Unwin’s book is a worthy successor to (and rival of) Daniel Compère’s magisterial Jules Verne, écrivain (1991), the acknowledged gold standard for this type of analysis of Verne’s style. Picot and Robin’s hefty volume contains over two dozen scholarly papers that were presented at the prestigious ten-day conference on Verne at the chateau of Cerisy-la-Salle on August 2-12, 2004. As with most conference volumes of this sort, the quality of the contributions is somewhat uneven. Yet collecting together as it does a broad selection of essays by some of the field’s top scholars such as Jean Chesneaux, Butcher, Compère, Dumas, Gondolo della Riva, and Picot and Robin themselves, this book must be considered as one of the more noteworthy publications of 2005. Boia’s breezily deconstructionist study investigates the many paradoxes of Verne’s "mythical" life and works—his conflicted personality (both clown and pedagogue, optimist and pessimist), ambiguous sexuality (woman-chaser and closet homosexual), contradictory political views (extreme right and extreme left, idealist and racist), and even the problematic question of his authorship (Hetzel’s input, Grousset’s manuscripts, son Michel’s rewrites). Guillaud’s short and concise book also seeks to explore an apparent paradox: Verne’s simultaneously pro-American and anti-American attitudes as expressed in his public persona and/versus his Voyages extraordinaires (a particularly relevant topic today as strained political relations between France and the USA continue to be fraught with misunderstanding and knee-jerk ethnocentrism).

3. General reference and large-format, coffee-table books:

Angelier, François. Dictionnaire Jules Verne, Paris: Pygmalion, 2005. 1000 pp. €29.90 hc.

De la Cotardière, Philippe, and Jean-Paul Dekiss, eds. Jules Verne: de la science à l’imaginaire. Preface Michel Serres. Paris: Larousse, 2004. 192 pp. €35 hc.

Mellot, Philippe, and Jean-Marie Embs. Le Guide Jules Verne. Paris: Ed. de l’Amateur, 2005. 320 pp. €38 pbk.

Weissenberg, Eric. Jules Verne: un univers fabuleux. Lausanne: Favre, 2004. 320 pp. €39 hc.

Centennial celebrations tend to generate "guide" books on the commemorated subject as well as a host of handsome "souvenir" coffee-table books. The Verne fête of 2005 was no exception to this rule. The very best of the former include Angelier’s Dictionnaire and Mellot/Embs’s Guide; the very best of the latter—published in oversized (9½" x 11½") format and magnificently illustrated—are the Weissenberg and Cotardière/Dekiss. All four closely resemble encyclopedias of Verniana with their overviews of biographical and bibliographical information, detailed inventories of Verne’s fictional characters and plot locales, descriptive discussions of the dominant themes in his works (travel, food, cannibalism, race, volcanoes, colonialism, electricity, etc.), listings of the film and TV adaptations of his novels, reproductions of Hetzel’s advertising posters and the famous red/gold covers of the octavo luxury editions, etc. Of the four, the Weissenberg stands out as the most authoritative and has the additional advantage of offering the most in-depth coverage of Verne’s love life (pre-marital, marital, and extra-marital) that I have read anywhere.

4. Special issues of scholarly journals:

Europe #909-910 (janvier-février 2005). "Jules Verne." 384 pp. €20.

IRIS 28 (2005). "Jules Verne entre Science et Mythe." 260 pp. €15.

Revue Jules Verne #19-20 (septembre 2005). "Mondial Jules Verne." 240 pp. €8 .

SFS 32.1 #95 (March 2005). "A Jules Verne Centenary." 224 pp. $5.00.

In the periodical scholarship sector, 2005 witnessed a number of special issues devoted to Jules Verne. In addition to the one published in March by SFS, the eminent French literary/arts journal Europe (which had earlier produced special issues on Verne in 1955 and 1978, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the author’s death and the 150th anniversary of his birth, respectively) contributed yet another containing nearly two dozen analytical essays by the most respected French scholars in Verne studies—Robin, Picot, Chesneaux, Butcher, Marc Soriano, Roger Bozzetto, Robert Pourvoyeur, Dumas, Gondolo della Riva, Volker Dehs, Weissenberg, Guillaud, et al. The Revue Jules Verne (funded by the Centre International Jules Verne in Amiens and the Bibliothèque municipale and Centre d’études verniennes in Nantes) published a special double-issue covering the "Mondial Jules Verne," an international conference and celebration held in Amiens on March 20-24, 2005. It includes papers presented there by several members the North American Jules Verne Society such as Jean-Michel Margot, Andrew Nash, Terry Harpold, Peter Schulman, Norman Wolcott, Brian Taves, and others. Finally, the academic journal IRIS (sponsored by the University of Grenoble) published a special issue that features essays on Verne by veteran French experts such as Picot, Margot, and Simone Vierne and also a variety of other international scholars such as Harpold (USA), Ian Thompson (Scotland), Boia (Romania), Dimitri Roboly (Greece), and Gianni Crippa (Italy).

5. New Verne translations and critical editions:

(published in 2005)

Jules Verne. The Adventures of Captain Hatteras. Trans. and ed. William Butcher. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. xliii + 402 pp. $15.95 pbk.

Jules Verne. The Begum’s Millions. Trans. Stanford L. Luce. Ed. Arthur B. Evans. Introduction and notes Peter Schulman. Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. xxxix + 262 pp. $29.95 hc.

Jules Verne. The Mighty Orinoco. Trans. Stanford L. Luce. Ed. Arthur B. Evans Introduction and notes Walter James Miller. Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2005. xvii + 426 pp. $19.95 pbk.

Jules Verne. Underground City. Trans. Sarah Crozier. Foreword by Ian Thompson. Edinburgh: Luath P, 2005. xvii + 220 pp. 13.95 pbk.

(published in 2006 or after)

Jules Verne. The Kip Brothers. Trans. Stanford L. Luce. Ed. Arthur B. Evans. Introduction and notes Jean-Michel Margot. Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP (forthcoming 2007).

Jules Verne. The Lighthouse at the End of the World. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Trans. and ed. William Butcher. Lincoln, NE: U Nebraska P (forthcoming 2007).

Jules Verne. Mathias Sandorf. Trans. Edward Brumgnach. Ed. Arthur B. Evans. Introduction and notes Timothy Unwin. Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP (forthcoming 2008 or 2009).

Jules Verne. The Meteor Hunt. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Trans. and ed. Frederick Paul Walter and Walter James Miller. Lincoln, NE: U Nebraska P, 2006.

Jules Verne. The Secret of Wilhelm Storitz. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Trans. and ed. Peter Schulman. Lincoln, NE: U Nebraska P (forthcoming 2008).

Jules Verne. Travel Scholarships. Trans. and notes Terisita Hernández. Ed. and introduction Arthur B. Evans. Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP (forthcoming 2008).

Lastly, brief mention should be made of the growing number of new English translations and critical editions of Verne’s works that were published during 2005 or are scheduled to be published over the next few years. Much credit should be given to Oxford UP, Wesleyan UP, and the U Nebraska P for their pioneering efforts to provide accurate modern translations of Verne’s texts in affordable, scholarly editions. These new editions are helping to restore Verne’s reputation in the Anglophone world and constitute an important milestone in the recent "Verne renaissance" in contemporary literary studies.—ABE


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