Science Fiction Studies

# 18 = Volume 6, Part 2 = July 1979


BOOKS IN REVIEW

 The Space Flight Revolution

William Sims Bainbridge. The Space Flight Revolution. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1976. 294p. $18.00.

Based on a rich array of data, this book sets out to prove that astronautics is not a result of the superpowers using elaborate technology to conquer space. Rather, it is an unintended effect of various colliding state interests which a mere handful of space-travel enthusiasts patiently and skillfully exploited for their own ends. The first phase of this "big step for mankind" began in Hitler's Germany, when Wernher von Braun and his team of experts built V-2 rockets under the pretext of realizing Hitler's idée fixe of vengeance weapons (To call it a pretext is justified, insofar as the forces and the means employed could not possibly have made sense from a military or political point of view.) These same fanatics of space travel were after the war ready to serve anyone able to further their dreams or hobbies. The peak of the space travel development was reached with the first landing on the Moon. In the first phase of their efforts, they used a global "hot war" as their draught-horse, in the second phase, the same technologists and engineers exploited the "cold war" rivalry between East and West to push their satellite and lunar projects. The succeeding generations of booster rockets were first built as German "vengeance rockets" and subsequently as American and Russian ICBM's. On both sides ideologists of space travel went along with this, following the maxim that makes a virtue of necessity. In the beginning, therefore, was a weapon that could be used as a prototype of a spaceship; afterwards, in the course of the specialization that is the fate of any technology, the spaceship separated from the bomb-carrying missile. In this way, the use of extraterrestrial space for peaceful purposes came about as a pursuit in its own right, no longer subject to total military control. But even this peaceful branch of astronautics has not been able to shake off its "vulgar" motivations: the rivalry between East and West continues to govern the order of magnitude of the means available for astronautics. (And following the laws of this compartmentalized specialization the weapon-producing function of astronautics has also become an independent branch, e.g. in the form of "killer satellites.")

Bainbridge -- a sociologist -- presents this line of argument convincingly. Of course, the restriction should be offered that his observations cannot be generalized to include other directions of technological progress. Aviation, railways, or cybernetics have not arisen in a similar unintentional manner, as achievements of a "Faustian" mankind maneuvered by some individuals. Astronautics is an exception among all branches of modern technology. It occupies a special place among them because it cannot be put to any immediately apparent use. The "conquest of the Moon" (which is, by the way, so far only symbolical, since humans had to leave it, and nobody knows when they will be able to return) and the exploration of the planets were begun with probes that led to no profits in the economic sense. Further, we cannot predict when there will be some profit in space travel. For that reason, astronautics is permanently very much in need of defense in the face of quite sensible arguments against it, most prominently economic ones. Whatever its far future will be like, it has already, according to Bainbridge, irrevocably crossed the threshold of the "space flight revolution."

This book contains a chapter on "The Science Fiction Subculture" (pp. 198-234) that is of special interest to readers of SFS. Understandably, Bainbridge has refrained from evaluating the artistic aspects of SF. His goal was to find out whether and how the SF subculture contributed to the "spaceflight revolution" by having presented for several decades the conquest of space as a necessary phase of history and popularized it as the inevitable continuation of civilizatory trends, until such notions became part and parcel of present-day mass culture. Furthermore, Bainbridge tried to find out whether SF and its fandom were factors of technological inspiration and innovation. His answer to these questions is a clear "No." With the help of numerical charts, he proves that even the big SF boom in the l 950's should not be connected with the first sputnik launchings. This boom was part of a much larger boom, the availability of cheap comic books, so that when the first satellites went into orbit, the first peak of SF (indicated most of all by the number of publications) was already tumescent. The general enthusiasm in the wake of the US moon landings had quite marginal effects on SF and fandom -- e.g. the bragging of the self-appointed speakers from SF who tried to attribute prophetic properties to the genre.

Bainbridge also denies the claim that SF furthers technological progress. Compared to technology and science as they really are and how they develop, anything that SF has to say in the areas of technological-social and scientific cognitive change, is either watered-down and secondary or else fairytale-like and false. According to Bainbridge, not even the "break-out" of astronautics was able to tear down the walls of the ghetto in which SF keeps struggling on. (For example, one might compare the relationship between SF and real science to that between the mystery novel and criminology. Mystery novels have contributed nothing to the elucidation of crime; with very few exceptions, they have merely strait-jacketed those problems into a few dozen plot clichés and thereby falsified them.)

There will be people who consider Bainbridge's sociological diagnosis of SF questionable. Regrettably, I am not among them. For years, I have made no bones about the fact that I consider SF to be a great but also a wasted chance to be the literature of our age.

Stanislaw Lem

Translated by Franz Rottensteiner


Description by a Master; Enumeration by an Apprentice

George Locke. Science Fiction First Editions: A Select Bibliography with Notes for the Collector. London: Ferret Fantasy Ltd., 1978. 96p. (plus unbound errata leaf), wraps.3.00 or $7.50.

Stuart W. Wells III. The Science Fiction and Heroic Fantasy Index. Duluth: Purple Unicorn Books, 1978. xxi+185 p. cloth $14.95, paper $9.95

The book that has been longest in my possession is a copy of the first edition of Death in the Afternoon. My confidence in its being a first edition derives primarily from the memory that in 1932, having developed an overwhelming enthusiasm for Hemingway, I bought the book on the first day it was available. Also, the letter A appears all by itself as the seventh line on the title-page verve. To be sure, I could consult a descriptive bibliography of Hemingway first editions and compare my copy point for point with the book described there -- but how could I be certain that the copy described was actually a first edition especially if the bibliographer was a young fellow not even born in 1932?

Let me now confess that, unless there is a textual question involved, I don't give a damn for first editions, having neither the collector's lust for rare and precious objects nor the speculator's lust for a killing in the rare-book market. Nonetheless, since textual questions do sometimes arise, I have over the years consulted a good many descriptive bibliographies, and have even, fascinated by the detail, read some all the way through. George Locke's book is the most interesting descriptive bibliography I have ever read, a perfect delight for the mere bibliophile, and doubtless of the greatest value for such readers of SF as are possessed by either the collector's or the speculator's lust.

Mr. Locke's original purpose was to "elucidate the first edition points" of about 200 books selected by two criteria: that each was listed in Barron's Anatomy of Wonder and that a copy of each (though not necessarily a first edition) was available for sale in his shop, but since he had found some books not currently in stock of special interest, he dropped the second criterion in a few cases. Academics, when first looking into this book, may be put off by Locke's failing to follow any of the received models in his descriptions, but if they persist they will find the information given extensive enough for his purposes -- often more extensive than that called for by the orthodox models.

Was it the practice of Charles Scribner's Sons in 1932 to mark first printings with an A and subsequent printings with B-C-D? Locke has been asking and finding answers to such questions for many years. He understands that a phrase like "First Edition" can appear on a title-page verve through oversight or fraud -- understands, in sum, that in anything as complex as the printing and publishing of books there are no easy answers and no absolute certainties. Since he knows what to look for, he can drive straight to the decisive points, ignoring routine detail when it is not significant; And since he demonstrates his competence in innumerable ways, he wins our faith and trust in the proposition that what he doesn't tell us we don't need to know.

In addition to the 200 entries there are some even more fascinating sections on the practices of various publishers and on books of special difficulty, the latter in a series of dialogues called "The Bookcase of Morlock Tomes." If you imagine that all the bibliographical problems raised by The Time Machine have already been resolved, you are in for a surprise -- a pleasant surprise if you are or can be fascinated with the book as a physical object.

In comparison to Locke's book, Mr. Wells's enumerative bibliography is mere journeyman's work by a not fully qualified enthusiast who has "1300 hardcover and 3000 paperbacks in my own collection" and who has "seen countless others on dealer's shelves" (p. vii). It claims to list, with certain exceptions, all novels and one-author collections of the eponymous types published or reprinted in the US from 1945 to the middle of 1978: 5000 titles by 1000 authors. Pseudonyms are cross-indexed, title-changes and (for collections) changes in content are noted, and older books are included when necessary to the completeness of the listing for a prominent author. For each author for whom it is appropriate the listing is divided into sections: one for each series of related works, with the titles arranged by "internal chronology (reading order)" and one for other books in alphabetical order. All editions are purportedly listed, with paperback editions identified by code number, e.g. "VIRGIN PLANET (N) Avalon 1959; Galaxy 270; PBL 63-333; Warn 75462; 88-334;" "each entry ends with a semicolon or with ";+" to indicate that the book has been "reprinted so many times that I gave up keeping track" (p. xii).

I find myself troubled by questions on the significance, completeness, and value of the code-number listings. The same code number may be used for several or even many printings; when it is changed the reason may be a new price, a new cover design, a new overall format, or even a revision of the text. Since a mere listing of the numbers does not indicate these things, and since even a complete listing would not tell us how many printings there have been, I do not understand what purposes the listing serves. And is the listing complete? Although Mr. Wells gives credit to "various reference works in my collection, dealers' catalogues, magazines and fanzines" (p. vii), the final claim is that "this index is primarily based upon original sources i.e., the books themselves" (p. 182). This leaves us with the mind-boggling vision of Mr. Wells haunting for over thirty years for an ideal bookstore (one receiving every printing of every SF and HF book) and day by day noting down each change in code number. If this is absurd, then Mr. Wells can win promotion from apprentice to journeyman only with a detailed explanation of his methodology.

--R.D. Mullen


New Books on Jules Verne

Peter Costello. Jules Verne, Inventor of Science Fiction. London, Toronto: Hodder & Stoughton, 1978. 239p., ill. Can. $17.95.

Studies on Jules Verne are not in short supply. Without counting those works out of print, I believe that there are, just in French and English, 19 or 20 on the market. A new study, essentially centered on biography and on a thematic description of the stories, would have to be exceptionally original to be fully justified in 1978.

The work of Mr. Peter Costello has its merits: it gives some little-known facts, it demonstrates a critical spirit before certain commonplaces and clichéd repetitions, it is written in an alert and agreeable style and occasionally ventures new points of view. But as a whole, it is simply a good classical monograph, integrating various recently-developed theses on the author. It might be recommendable for a larger public, but does not have much to offer the scholar (who will regret that no quotation, even the most obscure, is accompanied by a complete reference).

Costello has informative things to say (p. 61) on the Musée des Families, one of the first French youth magazines (1836-) as a documentary source for Jules Verne. Elsewhere, he presents various facts about the scientific publications, the blueprints and the "inventors" from which Jules Verne could have taken his inspiration, and speaks perceptively of the influence of Edgar Allan Poe (pp. 78-79, 82). Mr. Costello is not the first to point out that behind Phileas Fogg there is a real William Percy Fogg, American traveller and author of Around the World (1872). Unfortunately, he mixes up the printing statistics of Verne's works and even contradicts himself (p. 145, ~ 2 vs p. 161,~34) concerning the loss of success which Verne is supposed to have suffered after 1879. The "influence" of Eugène Dubois, discoverer of Pithecanthropus erectus, on the Village aérien (1901) seems to me useless to postulate in those times of wholesale speculation on the missing link. Page 208, Le Mystère plane by Georges Montignac should be translated: A Mystery Is Hovering, and not The Mysterious Plane. The Bibliography contains a number of mistakes and misprints.

Walter James Miller, ed. The Annotated Jules Verne. Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. The Only Completely Restored and Annotated Edition. New York and Scarborough, Ont.: New American Library/Meridian, 1976. U.S. $7.95

English translations of Jules Verne are as a rule a sheer catastrophe . Even recent reprints usually rely on 19th-Century "translations" that are in fact clumsy, inaccurate and bowdlerized versions. Long passages are regularly cut out, either because they displayed some political boldness or simply because the translator did not understand technical elaborations. As far as language and style are concerned, same censorship and same impoverishment: subtleties are transformed into platitudes; puns and double meanings are overlooked; levels of language are mixed up. I can offer here a personal testimony: whenever writing a paper on Verne, I have tried to locate in English versions a quotation that seemed to me aesthetically, politically, or scientifically significant in French, I never manage to find it: either there was a gap, or a mistranslation. It is true that some of these flaws are simply due to the fact that the translators did not know French (or for that matter their mother tongue) too well. But there is more, as Walter J. Miller points out in his critical edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues: a deliberate censorship that infallibly eliminates everything that may be interesting. "These cuts -- often subtracting 30 percent to 40 percent of Verne's text from the English edition -- naturally weaken his story line, his characterization, his humor, and the integrity of his ideas." (Miller, p. ix) Obviously such a situation accounts for the only moderately good opinion English critics have always shown for "the Father of Science Fiction". If they read such recent books like those of Michel Serres, J. Chesneaux, Marc Soriano -- where Verne is equaled to the greatest 19th Century writers -- they have reasons to believe that a form of literary jingoism is blinding the French critics' minds. Walter J. Miller has therefore been well inspired to work out an annotated edition, restoring Verne's original text.

Unfortunately, what seems to me a basic error of judgement weakens his whole endeavour. Walter J. Miller's point of the departure is the standard "translation" of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) by Lewis Page Mercier, a British parson who also translated other important novels of Verne (ca. 1874). Miller's goal is at the same time, to show the "crimes" committed against Verne's reputation by such clumsy censors as Mercier and others but also, I believe, to try to rehabilitate Verne's literary memory. This would require his making available at last, a faithful and complete translation of the novel. Instead, Miller publishes in large types Mercier's version, he inserts between brackets the omitted passages but reestablishes the innumerable mistranslations only in smaller-type notes. Why the hell not change it in the very text? This means that one has to shift constantly from the text to those marginal notes to get a sense of what Verne actually wrote. Miller proves beyond any doubt that Mercier (still the main source for revised translations published in the sixties) was a shameless literary pirate -- and I should add that the same can be said of all standard English translators. But poor Verne -- and his readers -- deserved to get for the first time an accurate and easily readable translation.

Walter Miller provides in his marginal notes a lot of data on scientific facts and concepts alluded to in the novel. He even managed to find in l9th Century handbooks, engravings of almost all the fishes, cetacians, and molluscs that appear in this submarine epic. One would still like to get more details about Verne's scientific and political sources and presuppositions. Despite the basic technical mistake I had to point out, Walter J. Miller's book renders SF criticism a major service and should open up on a new era for Verne's literary fortune in English-speaking countries. But who will undertake now the first actual translation of Verne's eighty novels or so?

Marc Soriano. Jules Verne (Le cas Verne). Paris: Julliard, 1978, 412p.

Marc Soriano. Portrait de I'artiste jeune, suivi des quatre premiers textes publiés de Jules Verne. With a "Postface" by Ray Bradbury. Paris: Gallimard, 1978. 227p.

Biographies of Jules Verne have not been lacking, from that of Madame Allotte de la Fuÿe in 1924 to the most recent, that of his grandson Jean Jules-Verne (1973, in English: 1976. See: SFS No. 8: 46 and No. 10: 311). This last voluminous work brought to light previously unpublished documents but, for lack of higher standards than common sense, sympathy and family loyalty, failed to make these documents say something lasting or to convey forcefully any synthesis between Verne's life and his work. Despite the best intentions, Jean Jules Verne emerged as a prisoner of silences and secrets concerning his patriarchal family, which, as Marc Soriano shows, was the source of unconscious psychological conflicts which spanned the life and writings of the author.

Marc Soriano is known for his extremely subtle and original treatment of the life and work of Charles Perrault (Les Contes de Perrault. Culture savant et tradition populaire. Paris: Gallimard, 1968). His two recent works, devoted to Jules Verne, have been influenced by psychoanalytic anthropology and marked by a vast knowledge of folklore and oral tradition; they forward knowledge of Verne the man while shedding new light on his work. The biographical approach does not have a good image in contemporary French criticism. Marc Soriano chose to defy this prejudice. He reminds us that those skeletons which bourgeois families try to hide from others and to forget themselves have in reality long fled from their closets. Latent homosexuality, sublimated pederasty, misogyny in confrontation with the phallic woman, obsessions about twins, longing for the mother's breast -- these are not the elements of a unique neurosis but rather traits found in more or less every bourgeois family as a result of the repressive relationships and constraints which developed in nineteenth century society. However, one can go on from here to reintroduce in a consistent fashion the intricate network of the individual unconscious and the social imagination. The great writer gives form, power, and depth to this flux of obsessional images. This is what Verne has done, and this is what makes him according to Marc Soriano a "fundamental writer."

One appreciates the analytical talent with which Marc Soriano tries to find reason behind several well-known traits of Jules Verne, traits generally dismissed as eccentricities or isolated problems: the importance of the cryptogram and the pun in certain novels, the ambivalent relationship between Verne and his Publisher-friend Jules Hetzel, the curious collaboration at the end of his career with his son Michel Verne, the place of the sexist joke in his books. The contradictory political views of the novelist (the spirit of 1848 and colonialism, the odd blend of liberal capitalism and libertarian sympathies . . . ) are shown in relation to the psychic determinants of the individual. Although Marc Soriano, contrary to most biographers, does not use the author's life to "clarify" his work but instead tries to establish a dialectic between the two, it is regrettable that the subtlety of psychoanalytic anthropology does not extend to a more elaborate synthesis of individual experience and the social and historical "unconscious." Although Marc Soriano attempts to move in this direction, two critical theories -- that of psychoanalytic biography (M. Moré, C.N. Martin, Soriano) and that of a social criticism of ideology (P. Macherey, J. Chesneaux, D. Suvin) -- are still growing side by side without seeming able to sustain or draw sustenance from each other.

Soriano's other work, published in the same year, can be seen as an appendix to the biography. Portrait de I'artiste jeune (Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) tries, from Verne's example, to answer the question "How does one become a writer?" and to address an even more complex auxiliary question which transforms the existential problem into an institutional and historical one: how is this "vocation" realized and inserted into the social and communication structures which exist at a given epoch? An important question which goes beyond the specific instance without losing sight of it.

Soriano studies the four first "mediocre" texts of young Verne -- Voyage in a Balloon, Californian Castles (a comedy-proverb in one act), Martin Paz, and a piece of historical reportage entitled "The First Sailors of the Mexican Navy" (1851-1852) -- to deduce a paradigm for his entire opus. A constant scheme is extracted from the narrative structure: the wicked come to grief, but the good go unrewarded. The four texts revolve around obsessional images -- gold, madness, and America -- and present an antisemitic aspect related to the pessimistic structure of these narratives of failure and disaster. Without detailing Soriano's procedure, it seems to me to succeed more here than previously to integrate sociohistorical facts with representations of individual psyches. Vernian antisemitism, regarded as a censorship or screen mechanism, is thereby subordinated to personal traumas, parental complexes, denied attraction for the homosexual couple, and substitution of the machine for the inaccessible woman.

Marc Soriano succeeds with flair in constructing a structural-genetic explanation seen as a convergence of multiple casual vectors: libidinal investments and the psychic function of writing, development of technics and science, economic determinations, ideological conflicts and institutional status of literary genres.

[Jean-Michel Margot, Compil.] Bibliographie documentaire sur Jules Verne. Catalogue par mots-clés et par auteurs. Paris: Société Jules Verne, 1977. 30+ 14+90+8 p. (being presently reprinted: Ostermundingen (Switzerland): Margot [P.O. Box 53, CH. 3072 Ostermundingen], 1979)

This is a computerized analysis (ATMS program) of 903 documents - reviews, notes, articles, books -published about Jules Verne from 1864 to 1977, in French, English, Italian, German and some other Western languages. It provides: a) A main chronological list, each entry being followed by a number of key-words (Verne's texts quoted, and themes such as: "Cryptogram," "Electricity," "Saint-Simonianism," "Esoterism," "Englishmen," etc.); b) An alphabetical list of those key-words with reference to (a); c) An alphabetical list of authors; d) An alphabetical list of Verne's own texts (199 items: articles, speeches, dramas, novels and short stories) also cross-referring to the main catalogue. (This section contains just a list of titles, not complete bibliographical information.) In short, the volume is a useful research tool of the sort that should be made available for other major SF writers.

--Marc Angenot


Isaac Asimov. In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1979. 732 p. $15.95

We customarily read the biography or autobiography of a novelist or poet either because he has led an interesting life or because by reading about the man we hope to gain some insight into the works. Since Isaac Asimov admits in his Introduction that "nothing of any importance has ever happened" to him, readers of In Memory Yet Green might reasonably expect that his 200th book will tell them something about how, and why, he wrote the volumes that preceded it. Unfortunately, Asimov devotes most of his energies to churning out undigested trivia and seldom gives us more than a superficial commentary on his fiction.

Of course there may be people somewhere who want to know what Isaac Asimov wants to tell them - like how much he was paid for each of his stories (and when the check arrived), or when and by whom his son was circumcised, or what he ate when he was taken to lunch by an editor from Little, Brown. Others may want to hear Asimov tell them about his brilliance (a subject which finds its way into almost every chapter). For that matter, some of the anecdotes are quite funny - like this exchange from a meeting with Frederick Pohl just after Asimov was drafted:

[Pohl] said, "My AGCT score was 156. What was yours?"

I reddened (I know I did, because I felt myself redden) and said, "I got 160, Fred."

"Shit! " he said.

To my mind, though, the one potentially redeeming feature of the book is the description of Asimov's relationship to John W. Campbell, Jr. Here we get an insider's view of one of the most important figures in the history of American science fiction. The portrait is not always flattering -- Asimov, a New Deal liberal, places Campbell's politics "somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun" -- but it is clear that the high standards set by Campbell's Astounding, and the interest Campbell showed in Asimov's early stories, were major factors in launching Asimov's career as a science-fiction writer. Campbell's influence was sometimes more direct, as when he suggested the idea for "Nightfall" or formulated the Three Laws of Robotics. Even Campbell's faults, like his chauvinistic refusal to believe that extraterrestrials could be superior to human beings, had their impact on Asimov's fiction.

The passages dealing with Campbell show how good this book could have been, but they are not really enough by themselves to make this book very valuable. Despite its more than seven hundred pages, this is a lightweight volume and Asimov is threatening to send another in its wake. There is always a chance that the second volume will be better than the first, but it would be better still if Asimov would turn his attention to a new novel and leave the telling of his life to someone else.

--Patrick A. McCarthy


Bernard Blanc. Pourquoi j'ai tué Jules Verne. Paris: Stock, 1978, 358p.

Last year Gérard Klein published his study of "discontent" in American SF (Malaise dans la SF, reviewed in SFS 17). Meanwhile, contemporary French SF has obviously been undergoing a similar process of political pessimism and depression. However, what seems specific to the state of affairs in France is the self-proclaimed ideological unity of that "new school of SF," made up of a group of younger writers who appear to share a common world view and, henceforth, a common stock of themes and political assumptions.

Bernard Blanc's polemical essay Pourquoi j'ai tué Jules Verne (Why I killed Jules Verne) can be seen as the manifesto of that new SF and, as could be expected, it tends to present the break between the group of writers of which he makes himself the spokesman and "older SF" as a radical rejection of worn out narrative recipes and reactionary concepts. On the one hand, traditional SF: "dream factory, reactionary fantasies, bawdiness of public entertainers"; on the other hand, a new SF, radically political, politically radical and revolutionary, that "breaks myths and burns down the rocketry," talks about military repression, economical exploitation, and concentration camps. Enough with corny anticipation, long-term conjecture, utopian longing. Let us focus on the Eighties with their nuclear fall-outs, torture, prisons, ecological exhaustion, sexual despair. But paradoxically such a dystopian view is not meant to be taken as satirical extrapolation or "ethical warning." This dark future is already present in everyday life: SF is seen as direct political action because there is no gap any longer between empirical life and conjecture; hence, SF fantasy becomes, in the strictest meaning of the word, realistic. It is even the only way to deal with contemporary everyday life: no need to extrapolate, for gulags, mass murders, nuclear catastrophes, genetic manipulations, ubiquitous propaganda, universal repression, eradication of what is left of human freedom -- all this is to be found in our daily newpapers.

Even if Blanc presents imagination as a "political device," he limits at the same time the role of fantasy nowadays to a "deepening of the present situation": the darkest paranoid nightmare cannot be worse than the empirical state of affairs. The reader will have recognized in these statements the type of political obsessions representative of post-1968 European "gauchisme." And it is true that if one compares the Parisian leftist newspaper Libération with Blanc's and his friends' short-stories, the tone, the style, the presuppositions and even the very events related are analogous: their fiction is just slightly more horrible than what they read in their favorite paper. Even if, for the sake of his pamphlet, Blanc reinforces the common ideological vectors of a group that is probably less interdependent and monolithic, it is true that for the first time a generation of SF writers can plausibly be related to one rather specific and explicit political ideology. Bernard Blanc, Yves Frémion, Pierre Pelot, Dominique Douay as well as "older" SF writers such as Jean-Pierre Andrevon, Daniel Walther and, above all, Michel Jeury are presented as the most representative spokesmen of this leftist SF, sharing the concerns of divers radical groups, antimilitarists, ecologists, antipsychiatrists, anarchists, variegated avatars of Maoism, either partisans of terrorist action or of antiviolence. An equal hatred for capitalist societies and for "socialist" states with their gulags and psychiatric wards leads them to an irreversible catastrophic vision of the future. Interestingly enough, the most pessimistic anthology published by Kesselring, the group's publisher, bears the title Planète socialiste (1978).

Blanc's book is not a systematic essay: it is a deliberate patchwork made of fragments of narrative, newspaper cuttings, political debates, tape recorded dialogues, polemical attacks, literary slashing, jokes, etc. His friends' writings, novels, anthologies and Alerte!, their journal (Yverdon: Kesselring, 1977) are astutely advertised and praised: as far as ingroup narcissism is concerned, they have nothing here to envy the conventional fandom.

En passant, Gérard Klein's hypothesis about the petty-bourgeois character of SF tradition is rejected as a form of deceitful and base "reductionism." There would be however, I believe, a lot to say about Blanc's and his friends' "radical" ideology and the type of political confusion and delusion it illustrates.1 Nonetheless, with its brisk, fierce and often ambiguous attacks, its fireworks of images, catch-phrases, insults and political slogans, its aggressively slangy language, Blanc's pamphlet illustrates in a very significant fashion the mixture of authentic political critique and doubtful political gesticulation, of instinctive rejection of an unbreathable society and intoxication with a counter mythology, that makes this important part of contemporary French SF fascinating and irritating.

NOTE

1. Such an ambiguity can be summarized in a theme that is truly "obsessional" not only in Blanc's essay but in everything published by the group: the abhorrence for nuclear energy under all its forms, and the apocalyptic conjectures engendered by such a view. Although it would be stupid to reduce this reaction to a kind of group psychosis, one cannot deal with such a configuration of highly emotional images, without criticizing the indistinction, the ambiguity, the irrational components that impair their soundness.

Marc Angenot


Arthur C. Clarke. The View From Serendip. New York: Random House, 1977. 273p. $8.95.

Arthur Clarke's pot-pourri of essays has a passage saying: "From Ceylon to Paradise according to a native tradition is forty miles, and there may be heard the sounds of the fountains of Paradise" (p. 118). It is in this Paradise that Arthur Clarke has lived and worked for the past 20 years, following his own advice that one should not commute but communicate. The reason that Mr. Clarke is able to live in paradise and communicate rather than commute may be found in the commercial success of ca. 50 books, innumerable shorter pieces, and a number of cooperative ventures, including 2001 with Stanley Kubrick.

It is not surprising, therefore, that his book begins in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and ends at the M.I.T. celebration of the 100th birthday of the telephone (there is an afterword, but the Bell piece is the obvious conclusion). In fact, futurology, SF, an "Advanced" neo-colonialist attitude, and a love for technocracy are benchmarks of Clarke's career. The only essay entitled "2001" refers to futurology rather than to his collaboration with Kubrick; together with the essay on Bell and those on technology, it confers to the book an uncritical stance towards technology as a means to salvation. In fact, Clarke is so committed to this approach that when Bell Telephone Co. invested as a sponsor in an expensive, historically oriented, high culture, made-for-TV remake of Dumas's The Man in the Iron Mask, Arthur Clarke was enlisted to be narrator of a carefully worked out sequence of ads. Those ads moved from Clarke as a media personality who was both an associate of Kubrick in 2001 and the narrator of the real-life "Moon Odyssey," to Arthur Clarke as the SF reincarnation of Kenneth Clarke demonstrating the artistic and cultural wonders of the ancient world in Sri Lanka.

Living 30 seconds from his office, Clarke follows just one of his predictions on what the future is to hold for those who live in the world of 2001 and after. In A View from Serendip, Clarke symbolically brings us through the filter of his neo-colonial mentality (as revealed in the tone and attitude of essays such as "Servant Problem - Oriental Style" or "The Sea of Sinbad") into his Sri Lanka livingroom, sits us down on the sofa, and proceeds to open up his scrap-book of memories and bits of previously written or presented pieces. Starting with autobiographical details of his earlier years and eventual transmission to paradise on Ceylon, Clarke -- with little twists of wit somewhat reminiscent of McLuhan -- details facts about that island's infinite variety of climate and social groupings and then brings us back to his domicile to meet Appuhamy and Jinadasa, who number among the more than 50 servants and paid associates who are now or have been in the past attached to the Clarke household. An amusing but devastatingly self-revealing essay is developed around a Servant's Pocket Register -- a book indispensable for the economic survival of a large number of Ceylonese servants on an island whose unemployment runs to 25% -- and the necessity for would-be employers to interpret ambiguous references:

"Good, plain cook" (You'll need plenty of magnesia).

"Appears honest" (We could never prove anything, but you've been warned).

"Not overfond of work" (Time-lapse photography might reveal signs of movement). (p.21)

In true democratic spirit Clarke points out that it is not pretentious to have servants, it is a necessity since an English-speaking person would soon find himself in very bad straits trying to survive the local markets, let alone the primitive cooking facilities and the intricacies of house management.

For anyone fascinated by the futurological predictions of the Future Shock kind, Clarke provides a treasure chest of gems. In fact, he sounds more than a little like a "scientistically" rather than humanistically oriented version of McLuhan as media guru. His pithy and apocalyptic style even includes such transformations of clichés as "the future isn't what it used to be" (p.60) which he employs in the introduction of his own "The World of 2001" (originally published in Vogue 1966). In that essay, "the prototype of the future city is not Manhattan but Disneyworld," (p.100) since people will travel only for pleasure when they can communicate via living room console instead of commuting to the office downtown, at which time oil will be made into food instead of fuel for the ubiquitous automobile. Social reservations about the wired city or the ways it might be developed do not complicate his technocratic vision. For students of SF as a para-literary activity, the details about the Clarke-Asimov relationship will also be of interest. The book includes Clarke's four-page "Introducing Isaac Asimov" together with Asimov's even more delightful one-page response. Clarke's last short story, "When the Twerms Came," is a 400-word description of the conquest of Earth, not by nuclear blast, but by the fact that: "Before breakfast time, they [the Twerms] knew the owners of every numbered bank account in Switzerland . . . by first post Monday morning, the conquest of Earth was complete." (p. 181).

The overall impression of Clarke, though, remains that of a potentially interesting mind hypnotized by technocracy, lured by the pleasure of the capitalist exploitations of the colonial fact, and possibly incapable of reflecting on any social problems arising from either of these. He is not only a technological determinist but a technocratic optimist, whose fundamentally anti-intellectual attitude constantly reveals itself in the way he deals with other modes of thought. His approach to humanism in the essay "The World of 2001" downgrades the classic period of Greece and Rome, complaining that if their insight had been as great as their ingenuity, the Industrial Revolution could have happened 1000 years earlier. Such an opinion is historically very questionable. Joined to a dismissal of Hegel -- "I have never taken Hegel seriously and have thus saved myself a great deal of trouble" (p. 191) -- it suggests a basic misunderstanding, or if not that, a distortion of western cultural history. Just because Hegel's astronomy was not as informed as it might have been, it seems arrogant to dismiss his role in historical theory, phenomenology, and the growth of dialectic.

In spite of these criticisms, the essays in this book are often interesting, informative, and entertaining. But we should hardly let Clarke get by on his obvious skill as a writer and effectiveness as a scientific journalist: in particular not in view of the authority which he has obtained from the media. Clarke argues in his book that man is primarily an information- processing animal and human communication is of key importance, yet in his enchantment with technology he stands a great chance of overlooking the important contributions to knowledge made by the human sciences.

--Donald F. Theall and Joan Benedict


Marie-Francoise Dispa. Héros de la science-fiction (with a Preface by Gabriel Thoveron). Brussels: De Boeck, 1976. 160p. Price unknown.

This study draws from the reading of 36 volumes of one of the oldest French SF series: "Présence du futur" (Editions Denoèl). The 36 titles comprise about two-thirds English and American writers (from Asimov to Wyndham) and the rest French (from Barjavel to Wul). It attempts a thematic description of the main character of these stories -- classed in four categories: the superman, the man marked by a sign of destiny, the man on the street and the journalist-witness. The work analyzes various constant features: the birth and career of the heroes, their desires and goals, their relations to other people (to women particularly). The SF hero, whether he be feeble or epic in dimension, always appears as an object in a game whose stake rapidly outgrows him. Ms. Dispa compares him with the heroes of medieval epic and of the romances of chivalry -- which may well be suggestive, but posed in vacuo, without historical mediation, it is essentially debatable. She also likens the stereotyped and conventional character of the SF hero to the features of the central character in popular fiction, Western novels, and detective stories. Fine; but this is a point of departure, and not the end of a critical analysis.

The work concludes with a comparison between the SF hero and the heroes of classical novels, as interpreted by Georg Lukàcs and Lucien Goldmann. "SF heroes", Ms Dispa avers, "have something in common with the heroes of novels," but "rarely do they fail as completely" as the latter. All the weaknesses of the work come together in this statement: impreciseness of critical categories, vague boundaries, equivocal generalities, determined by a corpus at once too narrow and incoherent, ignorance of SF research outside of what is available in French: the book is sympathetic and conscientious but belongs to that species of "archaic" SF criticism that should, in all truth, have gone the way of the dodo. In his preface, G. Thoveron declares that it is time to take SF, and mass literature in general, "seriously": however, "gae deeds take maire than gae sayings". The author takes some steps in the right direction, but there remains a long way yet to go along the critical path.

--Marc Angenot


George S. Elrick. Science Fiction Handbook for Readers and Writers. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1978. 315p. $8.95pb

A reader or potential author of SF might find the third section of this book, "Dictionary/ Encyclopedia/Glossary," useful. It is 261 pages of definitions, explanations and concepts found in the sources of SF, i.e. science, technology, futurology, literature, etc., and in the fiction itself, from "ablating materials (astronautics)" through "inerton (fiction)" and "ray repellor screen (fiction)" to "zodiacal light (astronomy)." The explanations are often accompanied by the author's own illustrations (in addition to those from "NASA and early Buck Rogers comic strips"), some of which are helpful, some absolutely useless. (The last illustration in this section is a black and white sketch entitled "The lovely green lady from Perelandra." One is simply baffled by its purpose.) The first two sections of the book, "An Orbital View of Science Fiction" and "Basic Ingredients of Science Fiction," should be ignored altogether. These sections are a feeble attempt to define the nature of the genre, its audience and its basic structural elements. They are written in a maddening, cutesy style that is guaranteed to offend all but the most naive and mindless. For example, Elrick defines utopia: "Count Leo Tolstoy, as a grown man, would dream -- and day-dream -- of the mother he couldn't consciously remember, since she died before he was three. This intellectual giant would mentally cry out 'Mama!' and long to be cuddled in her arms. That's what the concept of utopia is all about: the psyche's yearning for a security blanket; a 'Golden Age'; a time when everything was supposedly warm and wonderful, orderly and cozy; or a place where everything is supposedly warm and wonderful, orderly and cozy" (pp. 7-8). What possible response is there to this simpleminded rot? The following section on "The Basic Ingredients of Science Fiction" is equally childish. (For some reason, the author adopts a basic five-part dramatic structure as his own discovery and calls it "Elrick Basic Science Fiction Plot Pattern"!) Following the dictionary section is a very strange short section entitled "A Line-up of Genuine Space Ship 'Originals' " which consists of poor photographs of model space ships built by a Mr. James Stark. Elrick claims that his models shaped the layman's conception of rockets in the 30's and 40's. For a budding author trying to find a title for his manuscript, there is a section on "Science Fiction Titles" complete with a word frequency list based on the study of 1020 titles. The handbook concludes with a list of science fiction publishers (without addresses), a list of SF and fantasy organizations and a final section, "Bibliography and Information Sources." From the bizarre categories and selections, one concludes that this is not for the reader but simply the sources upon which Elrick drew to write his book.

--Charles Elkins


Bernard Goorden, ed. S.F., fantastique et ateliers créatifs, with a "Bibliography" by San Tewen. Brussels: (Direction générale de la jeunesse et des loisirs) JEB, 1978. 221 p. Free circulation.

The present work begins with the description of an experiment, begun in 1974, on the dissemination of SF through community services. It primarily attempts to relate the development of those particularly successful aspects of the experiment, including a circulating library, a creative writing workshop, various theatrical experiments and a journal entitled Ides et Autres. Originally a fanzine, this journal turned to publishing informative articles and anthologies of translations and critical works, and did so with a scientific rigor which distinguished it from other sympathetic but amateur works of its kind.

The book offers a critical survey of SF from different places and cultures (Latin America, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Luxemburg, Scandinavia, the Balkans and the German-speaking countries). More specifically, these surveys usually encompass - as the title indicates - "science fiction and the fantastic." It is a stubborn and unfortunate trait of European works to lump together SF and fantasy into a single category of literature, in which "the imagination roams free from the restraints of ordinary reality." This jumbling of two distinct genres is carried out with no sense of unease, as if the two were indeed identical.

--Marc Angenot


Colin Lester, ed. The International Science Fiction Yearbook. New York/ London/Tokyo: Quick Fox [division of Music Sales Corp., 33 West 60th St., New York 10023], 1978. 394p. illus. $7.95 pb.

This. volume contains a wealth of information for the general reader, fan and scholar. While its system of data classification is complex and, at times, simply incomprehensible, the overall structure of the work is relatively simple. There are 29 major sections, each beginning with a short introduction, sometimes followed by a "Guest Introduction" or a "Guest Report," and concluding with "Notes." It is in the "Notes" section that one can find facts relating to almost every aspect of SF.

Section l/ Introduction

This is the weakest section. With his misquoting of Yeats and his lack of critical distance, Ben Bova's remarks are sheer fluff. It's an unnecessary pep talk to an audience already convinced.

Section 2/ The Year in Fantasy Fiction Ramsey Campbell reviews the year's output.

Section 3/ New Works, New Worlds: A Survey of SF in Latin America

This section includes a short history and survey of the most important productions from Latin America; the survey is based on an article in Belgian fanzine publisher Bernard Goorden's periodical, Ides et Autres.

Section 4/ The State of the Art in Determining and Delimiting SF

This section excerpts Darko Suvin's essay, "The State of the Art in Science Fiction Theory: Determining and Delimiting the Genre," Science-Fiction Studies, 18(1979): 32-45. (The reference in ISFY is incorrect.) Thirty-eight items are entered and discussed.

Section 5/ Obituaries

Malcolm Edwards writes at least a short paragraph on recently deceased persons who are somehow related to SF and who have made significant contributions to the field.

Section 6/ Book Publishing

An unsigned "Guest Introduction" discusses some of the more notable works to appear (e.g. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Fred Pohl's Gateway, Michael Moorcock's The Condition of Musak, etc.); this discussion is confined almost entirely to the USA and UK. "Notes" include information on obtaining information on publishing generally as well as the names, addresses, telephone numbers, specialities, preferred approaches, length limitations, where to send mss., usual response time, type(s) of contracts of the most known publishers of SF in the world.

Section 7/ Magazines

This section reviews new SF magazines and discusses the year's activity in the established outlets. The "Notes" provide information on sources of information on SF magazines as well as an international list of SF magazines complete with publisher, address, staff members, size, number of pages, frequency of issue, etc.

Section 8/ Organization

Under this rubric come clubs, fan organizations and professional organizations. Frederick Patten writes a short "Report" on the history and activities of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. The "Notes" give an extensive list of organizations from all over the world (including name, address, officials, pertinent history, description, aims, dues, frequency of meetings, etc.), such as the ARBEITSGEMEINSCHAFT SPEKULATIVE THEMATIK (West Germany), NAMELESS ORDER OF R'LYEH (USA), SOCIEDAD DE FICCION CIENCIA DE GUADALAJARA (Mexico), etc.

Section 9/ Fanzines

Guiseppe Caimni, contributor to the Italian prozine, Robot, writes a "Report" on fanzines, and the "Notes" give extensive information of fanzines around the world (incl. title, editor/publisher's address and telephone, home country price, circulation, frequency of publication, history, note for contributors, advertising details, etc.).

Section 10/ Agents

The "Notes" include name of agency or agent, address and telephone number, specialities, contract terms, interest in new writers, best methods of approach, list of writers handled, etc.

Section 11/ Anthologies

The "Notes" provide titles, editors, country of first publication, other publishers, type of anthology, nature of non-fictional contents if any, etc.

Section 12/ Criticism, Commentary, Bibliography

Malcolm Edwards writes the "Guest Introduction." The "Notes" include sources of information on SF criticism, pre-1977 critical works, works published since January 1977 or in preparation, and journals of "academic/scholastic critical approach."

Section 13/ Translators

The "Notes" include a list of translators, their country, their translation specialty, and some (but not many) addresses where they can be reached.

Section 14/ Libraries

Section "Notes" provide sources of information on library (public and private collections) holdings, names of libraries and private collectors, name and description of collection. American readers may be interested to know that there is one "fully public specialist SF library in the world," the Spaced Out Library in Toronto, Ontario.

Section 15/ Book Clubs

Included in the "Notes" are the names, addresses, details of membership, and the types of books offered from eleven SF book clubs in several countries.

Section 16/ Booksellers

The "Notes" list sources of information on booksellers, provides an alphabetical, international list, with name of seller, store, address, scope of offerings, extent of stock, date opened, services offered, etc.

Section 17/ Pseudonyms

These section "Notes" Barry McGhan's Science Fiction and Fantasy Pseudonyms (1976; 2nd ed., 1978).

Section 18/ Conferences and Workshops

Kathryn Buckley writes a "Report" on the Milford (UK) Writers' Conference. The "Notes" include names of conferences or workshops, sponsoring body, place held, organizer, address, aim/design/scope of conference, frequency, history, details of current and planned activities.

Section 19/ Conventions

Listed in the "Notes" are all conventions held in 1977-78 and those planned for 1978-79; the details include: names, addresses, locations, times, organizer(s)/ sponsor(s), historical details, awards given, announced changes.

Section 20/ Awards

The "Notes" name the award, give a history of the award, frequency of presentation, person or organization making award, where presented, date of origin of award, aims of award, physical nature, method of choosing recipient, categories of award(s), 1977-78 recipients.

Section 21/ Artists

This section lists sources of information on SF illustration and artists and includes a list of "leading artists" (original list was cut 90%).

Section 22/ Films

The "Notes" contain sources of information of SF films, film festivals, films released in 1977 (with name of film, nation, notes of background and contents, selected credits, production studio, producer, director, screen writers, director of photography, music composer, special effects director, actors).

Section 23/ TV

The section "Notes" provide sources of information on SF on television, list of series with organized fan following, lists of series shown, cancelled, continued, filmed, planned (with name of series, nation, discussion and details of series, content /background, production and filming companies, producer, director, special effects, etc.).

Section 24/ Radio and Drama

This section highlights ongoing and planned projects.

Section 25/ Music and Recording

Included in the "Notes" are sources of information of SF music, a list of groups/ individuals using SF and F, with the name of group surname(s) of performer(s), notes on music and background, albums, name of recording company, address, description of services, list of prose recordings, record companies/musical services.

Section 26/ APAS (Amateur Publishing Associations)

This section gives the name of the APA, the qualifications for joining, a history/ description of the organization, frequency of mailing, date of origin, examples of fanzine titles, etc.

Section 27/ Miscellaneous Services

Included here are lists of editing services, services for creating fanzine, quizbooks of SF, SF jigsaw puzzles, cards, buttons, SF and F iron-ons, jewelry, games, kits, etc.

Section 28/ Name-Interests

This section describes authors who have some organized following of readers: Marion Zimmer Bradley (Friends of Darkhover), Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, Perry Rhodan, Robert E. Howard (Conan), and some of the activities of these groups.

Section 29/ Fringe Interests

This category is devoted to describing activities which overlap SF. There are six sub-sections: (1) pseudo-science, with a "Guest Introduction" by John Sladek, and "Notes" on a few publications and organizations, (2) frontier science, with special subsection on artificial intelligence (with "Notes"), futurology with "Notes", space research, with a list of relevant books, (3) gaming, with "Notes" on organizations and manufacturers, and (4) comics, with "Notes" including sources of information and suppliers.

The Yearbook ends with an appeal for information, criticism and participation, acknowledgements, and a "Stop the Press" section which adds materials received too late for full integration. Depending upon one's interest, some sections of this book will be more valuable than others; moreover, some sections are weaker than others. Ultimately, one must applaud the herculean effort that went into assembling this volume and appreciate its genuine usefulness.

--Charles Elkins


Sam Lundwall. Science Fiction: An Illustrated History. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. First American Edition 1978 (actually 1979). 8 1/2 x 11, 208p. Hardback price not given; paperback: US $7.95, Canada $8.95.

We have already had all the books of this kind we need, and this one adds very little, even in its argument that the development of SF in many continental countries is coeval with or even prior to that in the English-speaking world. So far as it is true, that case has already been made in Franz Rottensteiner's The Science Book, albeit with more modesty and less rancor. There is much that is wrong with this book as a serious study of the history of SF, but then it is published primarily for a popular audience. Suffice it to say that the time is past when such works have any value for the serious student.

--R.D. Mullen


Jacques Prévot. Cyrano de Bergerac romancier. Paris: Belin, 1977. 158 p. FF 35.00 -

This work is a brief study of Cyrano's two interplanetary voyage novels, the "Voyage to the Moon" (Les estats et empires de la lune) and the "Voyage to the Sun" (Les estats et empires du soleil) - usually published together as L'autre monde - a study which accompanies Prévot's edition (also published in 1977 by Belin) of Cyrano's Oeuvres complètes.

The purpose of this study is, first of all, to correct what Prévot considers the reductive and frequently mistaken readings of earlier critics who have over stressed or overlooked one or another of the multiple determinations which must be taken into account for a complete and accurate interpretation of L'autre monde and which include: Cyrano's life and intentions, the intellectual and philosophical debates of the early 17th Century, literary sources and influences, and the fictional structure and characteristics of this work as a novel.

The author begins with the question of the genesis of this work and answers with the fanciful and dubious hypothesis, based solely on Dyrcona's account of a dream of flying in the "Voyage to the Sun," that Cyrano himself frequently dreamed of flying - an act which was denied him in reality, but one which he could realize through writing (pp. 16-18).

The first main part of the book is an examination of the philosophical themes of L'autre monde. In this, "the first and perhaps the only example of an epistemological novel," Cyrano confronts, according to Prévot, "the important questions asked of Reason: Who am I? What am I? What is the universe?. . ." (p. 19). In a series of very brief chapters, Prévot examines Cyrano's answers to some of the more specific questions which the l7th Century Rationalists attempted to answer concerning the world and man's place in it, particularly the question of knowledge and of the scientific method. But, as Prévot points out at the beginning of his second part, L'autre monde is not simply the optimistic affirmation of the scientific method some critics have claimed it to be: "The scientific adventure becomes in the end a philosophical one; the voyage becomes a quest, an allegory, a symbol" (p. 74). An understanding of his work, then, must take into account its interruptions and contradictions as well as its humour and irony, its fictional characteristics and "poetic force" (p. 141): "The lesson of L'autre monde is one of skepticism," but not simply a skepticism which challenges accepted "Christian truths" - as is so often claimed in writing about this work - but "the totalizing optimism of science" as well (p. 148).

Prévot's work is an adequate and illuminating study, but not a very exciting one; and despite the author's claim that he is also concerned with L'autre monde as a novel, this study is a fairly traditional exposition of the work's philosophical themes and meaning.

--Peter Fitting


Jasia Reichardt. Robots: Fact, Fiction and Prediction. Harmondsworth, England/New York: Penguin Books, 1978. 168 p.

The Star Wars robots, R2-D2 and C-3PO delighted the general public and perhaps drew some attention to the sophistication of machine intelligence today. Jasia Reichardt's Robots is one of several recent books aimed at capitalizing on the layman's interest in robots. Her book outlines in nontechnical text and pictures the history of robots in literature, film, and technology. Reichardt is presently a tutor at a London school of architecture and she has written, among other works, The Computer in Art. Clearly knowledgeable in the field of computers, she has assembled a substantial amount of material on robots from around the world, focusing particularly on England, the United States, and Japan. The twenty-six short chapters survey a wide range of topics: robots in art, film, fiction, comics, industry, the home. About half the pages are photographs of robots, largely in black and white, and these pictures are one of the most worthwhile parts of the book. They begin with early Greek automata and continue through clockwork devices of the Renaissance, l8th century music box figures, Charles Babbage's 19th century Difference Engine, to 20th century robots of film, pulp magazine, and exhibition hall. The history of automata given in the first and final chapters of the book is also excellent. More a list than an expository text, it begins with citations from Greek legends and ends with research currently underway at the Stanford U. and MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratories. The history is accurate in providing names and dates of the men and inventions involved in developing machine intelligence over the centuries.

Robots is also comprehensive and accurate in describing the present state of robot technology. Robots are an important part of industry today, with at least ten manufacturers producing robots to be used in welding, painting, assembling, loading. Prototype domestic robots are now being built. Excellent photographs and brief texts outline these recent developments.

Reichardt's treatment of robots in fiction is, in contrast to her presentation of robots in fact, disappointing. The short chapter, "Robots in Fiction," briefly notes Samuel Butler's Erewhon, moves on to discuss Asimov's robots in some details, then cites fiction by Zamyatin, Lem, Dick, and ends with Shelley's Frankenstein. That order - or rather disorder - demonstrates the lack of chronology marring her treatment of fiction about robots. While she seems well aware of the evolutionary process moving actual robot technology from the simple to the complex, she fails to note the same process at work in the writer's imagination. Asimov's Andrew in "Bicentennial Man" (1976) has come a long way from his first robot, "Robbie" (1940). In other chapters Reichardt cites Capek's R.U.R., Bernard Wolfe's Limbo, Ambrose Bierce's "Moxon's Master," and a few additional works of fiction about robots. The reader looking for a comprehensive treatment of machine intelligence in literature will not find it in this book.

Robots assembles but does not synthesize a large amount of material about robots. It lists accurately; it does not discuss thoughtfully. Its lack of clear definitions to differentiate terms like automata, servomechanism, artificial intelligence, and cybernetics is also irritating. For a substantial collection of essays on the subject, Robots, Robots, Robots, ed. by Harry M. Geduld & Ronald Gottesman (Boston: N.Y. Graphic Society, 1978) is superior. But Reichardt's book does accurately collect more material than does a very similar work, Robert Malone's Robot (New York: Jove Publications, 1978). Reichardt is also to be commended for a global awareness leading her beyond England and the United States to include robot fact and fiction from France, Germany, Sweden, India, and Japan.

--Patricia Warrick


Journals

Pierre Ferran. "La Science-fiction," B.T.2, 49: May 1973. pp. 1-36. Sold by subscription only - The journal BT2 is published by "L'Ecole Moderne," i.e. the disciples of the well-known French scholar Célestin Freinet. This special issue is a collection of articles intended for teachers of high school. Modest in aim and clear in execution, it does not seek to reduce SF to mere futurology or entertainment, as happens so often when SF is considered academically, and commendably avoids the most worn-out clichés.

Futurs. Le Magazine de la science-fiction. . Paris, June 1978. Monthly. FF 12.00 per issue (ca. 96 p.) - I would like to bring to the reader's attention the appearance in France, since June 1978, of a new monthly SF magazine, edited by Gérard Klein, Philippe Curval, G. & I. Bogdanoff and J.-C. Mézières. This magazine offers numerous original and translated stories, but also several regular columns of criticism, book reviews, and surveys at a quality level.

Vega. Fantascienza-Arte-Cultura. Naples, August 1978 - Monthly. LI, 700 per issue - Here is another new monthly containing SF pieces, book reports and other informative items, published in Italy this time, by Aurelio Pellegrino and Gaetano Sorrestino. The first issue is, however, devoid of interest. The editorial defines SF as a form of "precognition" which "transports the essence of the universal life that is in us beyond the tangible." Enough said.  -MA


Two French Bibliographies

Claude-Marie Gagnon and Sylvie Provost. "Bibliographie sélective et indicative de la paralittérature,- Cahiers de l'institut supérieur des sciences humaines Cahiers de l'institut supérieur des sciences humaines (Université Laval, Québec), 24: October 1978. 88+3p. - This work is offered as a select bibliography of critical works on all non-canonic mass literature, which traditionally is identified as "paraliterature"; spy novels, detective stories, popular novels, Gothic tales, fantasy, SF, Western romance, comic strips: these are the categories presented. The book includes 659 entries, each of which is followed by brief annotations dealing almost exclusively with the content, and giving no clue as to method or thesis. An index is found at the end of the work. While the bibliographical data themselves seem correct, books and articles in French dominate - sometimes by a proportion of 90% - and even in the "Western Romance" section, where 15 out of 22 listings are French. In the section on SF, the bibliography, though covering texts available in French, is erratic and arbitrary for other languages. The annotations in this section, on the other hand, are in many cases so terse that they lose all interest. Despite these shortcomings, this is the first extensive bibliographical effort to come to grips with the totality of research on non-canonic literary forms.

Alain M. Villemur. 63 Auteurs: Bibliographie de science-fiction. Paris: Temps futurs, 3 rue Perronet, [1976?1. 195 [+5] p. Price not given - This mimeographed bibliography deals exclusively with SF texts published in French, either in magazines or in book form, up to December 1975. (The terminus a quo is not given - but presumably it is ca. 1950.) 63 SF writers, both French and foreign, are selected from A, Aldiss to Z, Zelazny. Each entry provides the original title, date of first publication, translations and republications. At the end of each author's section, some secondary bibliographical information about criticism in French is provided. The book seems to be reliable and exhaustive.

--Marc Angenot


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