Science Fiction Studies

#24 = Volume 8, Part 2 = July 1981


The Dynamics of Genre: A New Theoretical Approach

Andrzej Zgorzelski. Fantastyka. Utopia. Science Fiction. Ze studiów nad rozwojem gatunków. Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1980. 205p

Utopia. Fantastyka. Science Fiction proposes a radically new approach to the study of "fantastic" genres and a practical application of contemporary genre theory. Drawing on genological ideas of Ireneusz Opacki, the author defines the literary genre as a "diachronic system which manifests itself in a sequence of synchronic structures that differ from one another very little when only contiguous ones are observed" (p. 189).* The principal literary-historical task of the book consists in a "study of the way in which the fantastic evolved through utopian writings into the modern shape of science fiction" (p. 188). This evolution is illustrated with examples from English and American literature.The expressed aims of the book are also literary-theoretical, as the author attempts to work out a conceptual framework and methodology that can be extended to the study of other genres. These general considerations are presented in the introductory section, entitled "Establishing Perspective."

Chapter 2, "In the Maze of Terms," introduces a major contribution to literary theory and SF study: the differentiation between the fantastic (fantastyka) and "fantasticness" (fantastycznosé). The fantastic is defined as a textual phenomenon which consists in the breaching of the genre laws governing the construction of the fictional world after they have already been established in the text. "It usually results in the confrontation of two different shapes of the fictional world in the same text and in the characteristic reactions of the characters the narrator, and the addressee to the changes in their world. The reactions are usually those of awe, teror, astonishment, surprise, fear, etc." (p. 1891. These reactions

should be distinguished from those of the real reader who often feels the presence of the 'fantastic' while comparing the fictional reality to his own universe. But such a feeling is primarily the result of the process of reception and not the effect of the recognition of text internal relationships. It is the text phenomenon itself that seems more singificant in genre evolution than the changing variety of the reader's reactions. (p. 189)

Thus the concept of "fantasticness" is identified with the process of concretization or semiotization of the literary work by a particular reader. However, it seems that its location in the process of semiotization of the work by the implied reader would be more appropriate here. This "implied" semiotization has an intersubjective character and as such transcends the whimsical character of a single reader's response. What is regarded as fantastic is determined not so much by a comparison with objective reality but by a confrontation of a given phenomenon with the culturally determined image of the world shared by the community of readers to whom the work is addressed.

As Zgorzelski leaves out of his discussion the category of the implied reader, some of the suggestions advanced in this section seem doubtful. After all, the elimination of the confrontation of the two worlds does not lead to the disappearance of the fantastic, which is connected with the shape of the fictional world rather than with the responses of the narrator or character. In Zgorzelski's formulation, the concept of the fantastic as used in the first part of the book becomes so narrow as to refer practically only to those works in which direct signals of the fantastic appear. The inadequacies of this formulation illustrate the difficulties of any approach that attempts to concentrate exclusively on textual relations. Within structural-semiotic theory an interesting solution to this problem was offered by Lotman, who introduced the concepts of "minus-devices" and "extra-textual relations."**

Furthermore, Zgorzelski demonstrates that the long process of evolution of "fantastic" genres has led to the elimination of the fantastic as a textual element. Nevertheless, throughout this long evolution "fantasticness" has remained constant. This raises the question of whether the differentia specifica of the fantastic are not to be looked for precisely in the process of semiotization. Zgorzelski regards "fantasticness" as the stabilizing factor in genre evolution. The fantastic which appears in the process of semiotization is that factor which explains the generally accepted intuition about the fundamental similarity of both utopia and anti-utopia, Gothic novel and SF. Moreover, the sense of the fantastic is an intersubjectively verifiable phenomenon rather than an idiosyncratic response of a particular reader.

Chapter 3, "At the Sources," is the longest in the book. It traces the evolution of utopia on the basis of a discussion of major utopian writings (T. More, F. Bacon, S. Butler, W. Morris, H.G. Wells, and A. Huxley) in which the main tendencies in the evolution of the genre are best seen. Zgorzelski views this evolution in terms of a "constant strife to get free from its traditional roots in the non-literary writings" (p. 190) because at first the genre shared many features with non-literary, non-belletristic works (as in the case of More's Utopia or Bacon's New Atlantis). However, this suggestion does not seem to hold true even of More's Utopia, the first text of the new genre. Non-literary structures are indeed used extensively in utopias but what matters is not so much their origin as their function. In most cases, these non-literary structures--e.g. the travel narrative convention--are used to increase the verisimilitude of the story--which, in turn, is connected with the appearance of the fantastic.

Zgorzelski's reliance on secondary sources, unavoidable in a work of this scope, leads him to the acceptance of certain misleading and sometimes erroneous views of other critics: for example, Mumford's opinion that the 18th century, the Age of Reason, was not the time for writing utopias and so only a few appeared. In fact the number of utopias written and published in that century surpasses that of the 16th and 17th centuries combined. Hence, the suggestion that utopia reached the peak of its popularity in the 17th century seems imprecise. What is more, the Age of Enlightenment witnessed several reprints and new editions of More's Utopia and other earlier texts, not to mention numerous translations from other languages, mainly French. It is also not quite exact to say that in the 18th century, utopian treatises predominated over fictional utopias because "the epoch of neoclassicism, rationalism, moderation and first of all the period of conventionalization of literature did not favour the fantastic" (p. 62). This had also been the case in previous centuries.

The synthetic ambitions of the book result in certain oversimplifications which occasionally produce a distorted image of the particular stages of the genre evolution. For instance, the author mentions action, events and the presentation of the narrator's general feelings and emotions when discussing the 19th-century utopia. This gives the false impression that these developments occurred during that period of the evolution of the genre whereas in fact these features appear as early as the 17th-century (e.g.. Nova Solyma, The History of the Sevarambians) and are quite common in the 18th-century utopias (e.g., Gulliver's Travels, S. Scott's A Description of Millenium Hall, S. Berington's Memoirs of Gaudentio di Lucca). Likewise, the emphasis on the fictionality of the text is not a 19th-century innovation but a traditional utopian device first introduced in More's Utopia and used extensively thereafter (e.g., Lupton's Siuqila, Barnes's Gerania, and Godwin's The Man in the Moone). Fantastic characters (dwarfs, giants) and language also appear early in the history of the genre (e.g., Gerania, Man in the Moone). The introduction of pseudo-autobiographical methods of narration has little to do with the popularity of autobiography in the 19th century: rather it is a natural development of the traditional first person narrator-character. Pseudo-autobiographical elements come to the fore in such early utopias as A Voyage to Tartary or The Man in the Moone as well as in Gullivers Travels and other 18th-century works. On the other hand the author is right when he observes that the popularity of autobiography in the 19th century was favorable to the preservation of this convention.

All these are in fact minor failings, unavoidable when the perspective adopted encompasses two literary genres and nearly five centuries of their development. Moreover, these shortcomings may be ascribed to an acute lack of reliable secondary sources. especially detailed studies of the particular stages of the history of the two genres.

A brilliant discussion of Brave New World concludes the analytical part of the chapter devoted to utopia. Huxley's work is viewed as a text introducing a new genre convention--anti-utopia. Special attention is paid to temporal relations and the dialectic of the fantastic and "fantasticness." Here Zgorzelski proposes another key theoretical concept, "the equivalent," understood as the replacement of the system of an automatized tradition by a single sign referring to that tradition. The concept is then used to demonstrate the structural continuity in the evolution of utopia. While in traditional utopian fiction the underlying contrast consists in the explicitly articulated opposition between the world modelled upon the author's own and the fantastic world, in the 20th century this opposition is replaced by its equivalent sign--e.g., the title of the work, as in Orwell's 1984. Thus the underlying contrast is removed from the text to the process of its concretization by the reader. Nevertheless, the equivalent, being a sign of the whole system, introduces into the text the dominant structural principle of the genre (the confrontation of the two worlds), thus preserving the continuity of the tradition. This seems to validate arguments against the radical version of the dynamic genre theory, which posits a complete replacement and restructuring of all features of a given genre. After all, a total elimination of the principle of the confrontation of the two worlds would lead to the disappearance of utopia. What is more, the concept of the equivalent makes it possible to transcend the limitations of the fantastic/"fantasticness" dichotomy.

Chapter 4, on the function of the fantastic in narrative prose genres of 1900-1939, provides a general synchronic survey of what has traditionally been called SF. Discussing various definitions of SF, Zgorzelski questions those which rely on thematic criteria. The majority of such definitions simply provide a list of static features shared by many different works over a 60 year period, even though narrative prose which made use of the fantastic had undergone a number of major transformations before the first genre structure of SF was established. Since static definitions are incapable of accounting for the complexity of the first two stages of SF formation, an attempt is made to pinpoint the principal evolutionary tendencies of those literary genres which employ the fantastic.

The author stresses the importance of the tradition of the utopia and its crisscrossing with other genres, which gave rise to SF. In the same context, he mentions imaginary history, the catastrophic-adventure novel, and new variants of the Gothic novel. All of them employ new motifs and techniques, but none stands "in dynamic opposition to the traditionally accepted canon of genre hierarchy and to the conventional functions of established genres which might justify the thesis about the appearance of a new genre" (p. 191). Nevertheless, these developments prepare the ground for the future emergence of a new genre. Particularly important is the tendency towards eliminating the confrontation of two worlds accompanied by the disappearance of the fantastic as an intratextual phenomenon. Another important factor contributing to the appearance of the new genre can be found in an ever-increasing intermixing of various genres characteristic of 20th-century literature on a whole.

Chapter 5, "Along the Beaten Path," presents a synchronic survey of the genre convention of SF and its major features, such as the elimination of the confrontation of the two worlds from the text. Already the title and the first paragraphs of the text introduce the basic temporal and spatial characteristics of the fictional world, which though "new" from the point of view of the reader, is perfectly rational and normal in the eyes of the narrator and characters. SF, which grew out of the genre conventions of popular literature (utopia, novel of adventure, Gothic romance), becomes a new genre when it begins to employ the conventions of the psychological novel and other "higher" genres.

Three categories of texts from 1939 to 1944 are distinguished: "(1) the works continuing the tradition of various genres preceding the SF convention, (2) the works of the SF convention, and (3) the works manifesting some features of the later development of the SF convention" (p. 191). It is the second group that receives the most thorough treatment, involving an enumeration of the main determinants of SF convention: the unification of the fictional world and the methods of making it look common and usual. This latter phenomenon can be seen as an equivalent of the confrontation of two worlds in earlier utopian fiction. .

Zgorzelski's concluding remarks, entitled appropriately "Broadening the Horizon," offer a comparison between the evolution of utopia and of SF. In the case of utopia, a single text (More's Utopia) functions as a model of the genre until the appearance of anti-utopia (the second genre variant). On the other hand, the original SF convention is the result of diverse structures of a series of works which violate different conventions of many literary genres. This illustrates two general patterns of genre evolution; the pattern followed by SF seems to be more common in the history of literature.

The law of cyclic development manifests itself not only in the automatization and dynamization of genre structures or disappearances and reappearances of paragenological factors (the fantastic), but also in frequent revivals of "old" forgotten genre structures-- e.g., Huxley's Island follows the general pattern of More's Utopia. This apparent reappearance of automatized structures leads Zgorzelski to a significant modification of the general scheme of genre evolution as proposed by Opacki: beside the evolving genre structure, there are texts which follow the traditional structures and variants formed during the earlier stages of the genre s evolution. These texts constitute something like a "genre memory treasury." In a sense, this treasury of automatized genre structures is one of the factors determining the redynamization of automatized genre structures. Similar "genre memory" can be observed even in new structures; and here again the concept of equivalence proves its usefulness. The use of this concept enables Zgorzelski to reformulate and expand his earlier suggestions concerning the fantastic: in the texts where the fantastic does not appear as a factor shaping the fictional world, its equivalent may be used (a sign of the system of the fantastic): and this would validate the reader's reception of the text as "fantastic."

On the whole, the strength of Zgorzelski's book lies in its theoretical and analytical sections, where the author relies primarily on the results of his own research and insights. The principal theoretical achievement consists in the formulation of precise methodology for the study of SF and other fantastic genres, a methodology which can successfully be applied also to other genres. Moreover, despite some inaccuracies in the presentation of the particular stages of the development of utopia, the book gives a correct account of the general tendencies in the development of that genre; and as such, it is also a valuable contribution to our understanding of the evolution of utopia. In comparison to these major achievements, all of the above objections turn out to be relatively small and insignificant. There is an urgent need to make this book available in English. Its publication in English translation would certainly provoke new discussions and controversies concerning methodological problems in the study of SF, utopian fiction, and other genres. What is more, it would be an important step towards bridging the gap between the separate literary-theoretical traditions of Eastern Europe and those of the English-speaking countries.


* All quotations, with one exception (from p. 62), are from an English summary appended to the book.

**Cf. Y.M. Lotman, The Structure of the Artistic Text. trans. R. Vroon (Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Slavic Contributions, 1977); and the same author's Analysis of the Poetic Text. ed. & trans. D. Barton Johnson (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1976).

--Artur Blaim

Science and Science Fiction

Patricia S. Warrick. The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1980. 282p. $15.00

Cybernetics, a field where social and scientific concerns merge in a rather unique way, has been of specific interest to SF writers, and a study exploring its function in a large number of SF texts--225 short stories and novels written between 1930 and 1977, Warrick informs us (pp. xv 95.)--is most welcome. It is a clearly-written, well-organized book; computers have helped to achieve an objective perspective on classification and distribution of problems connected with the role of robots and computers in SF. We are given an extensive useful bibliography of fictional and non-fictional texts and a reliable index. The book deals informatively with cybernetics, but not with the "imagination," not, that is, with how cybernetics works in literary texts, not with the specific problems, central to SF criticism, of how different modes of discourse merge. It fails, then, in what it set out to do, but in the process raises a host of questions highly important to SF and its (professional) readers.

Warrick, stating that "no consensus has been reached about the proper criteria" for SF criticism (p. xiv), understands the S-F imagination to be a "specialized form of the literary imagination": it uses theoretical science and technology as the source for its catalytic idea or image," it is acting out its drama "in a time other than the present, customarily the future," and it adds a dimension of the unknown. SF, according to Warrick, "creates an image that does not exist in reality as reality is currently perceived. This creative act has a quality of transcendence." But so does the literary text if one holds such views on its privileged status, and the sentence immediately following is no more successful in making a specific statement on SF: "It represents a struggle to overcome man's present limitation in time, space and awareness; to transport himself at least mentally to places he has never been, to gain a new world for himself" (pp. 7ff.). All this can be done by acts of the imagination--where is the cybernetic component?

As far as the reality of SF texts is concerned, the cybernetic component seems to have been a hindrance in this struggle rather than a help. Warrick is disappointed about her findings:

The study demonstrates that much of the fiction written since world War II is reactionary in its attitude towards computers and artificial intelligence. It is often ill informed about information theory and computer technology and lags behind present developments instead of anticipating the future. Only a small number of the later works demonstrate the sound grounding in science that is characteristic of writers during the golden age of SF in the 1930s and 1940s. (p. xvii)

Throughout her study Warrick asks too much from the SF writer in terms of scientific knowledge, and too little in terms of literary achievement. Significantly she juxtaposes "humanistic values" and "scientific knowledge," lamenting that SF had "seemed to offer the first really workable mediation" (p. 235). But it is, apart from the scientific knowledge, less "humanistic values" that make for a successful mediation, than social-psychological shrewdness and imagination and the talent to use language in ways which facilitate access to those "new worlds." It may just be unrealistic to expect all these qualities in one writer. There are writers like Lem who indeed filter a great deal of sound information through a highly sophisticated, fully developed literary imagination and who also ask a great deal of the writers of SF and dismiss most of them. Warrick, curiously, does not really deal with Lem. For praise she singles out Asimov, who may have sound science but is a mediocre writer, and Dick, who is a very interesting writer but is frequently diffident about the science component. It would be hard to argue that Dick is consistently informed or even interested in technological developments; the idea of the robot interests him as a metaphor for questions of interpersonal relations, of freedom and determinism.

Warrick likes Asimov because he is very positive about the potential of the man-machine relationship. Her support for this attitude enables her to perceive and communicate certain interesting aspects of our difficult, complex environment. She observes, for instance, that it is precisely its man-made quality that makes the frightening potential particularly frustrating, because we are dealing here with not understanding the understandable (p. 20). It is important, then, to understand, not simply to reject, and she insists that positive images, dreams of the future, are a cultural necessity (pp. 159 ff.). In her account of Asimov's achievement she stresses his emphasis on the fact that the omniscient machines are man-made, not created by gods, and that this should give man confidence; but neither she nor Asimov go on to ask how indeed man and machine could cooperate in any larger, meaningful sense, taking into consideration that man is a product of his cultural history in a different way and to a different extent than the machine is.

Asimov may have kept abreast of developments in robot technology, but his view of the social-psychological significance of such developments is rather simplistic. Warrick's reading of Bicentennial Man (1976), Asimov's "finest fictional work" (pp. 71ff), is a good case in point. Here a robot decides to have his positronic brain transplanted into an android body after he has, with the help of a human friend, achieved legal status as a robot. Only the construction of his brain, which is the basis of his immortality, separates him from being human. He submits to an operation which makes him mortal, that is, fully human. This is, of course, an old human myth: the mermaid who falls in love with the human and, in order to love him fully, has to acquire a human soul, that is, the experience of pain and mortality. Neither the myth nor Asimov explain how the immortal knows that it is worth it to be human, to be able to love, if they don't know what is "human," what is "love"--understandable in a myth, but not really in an SF text. Warrick sees the novel's profoundest message not in the narration of the robot's urge toward the human, but "foremost" in "what Asimov leaves unsaid" (p. 73). Here she finds--implied--Asimov's interest in showing the impossibility of drawing a line between machine and human intelligence, the inanimate and the animate, his insistence on the fact that man is not unique: "This view implies that ethical behavior should extend to all systems because any organizational pattern--human or nonhuman, organic or inorganic--represents intelligence. A sacred view of the universe, the result not of religious mysticism but of pure logic, emerges from this reading of The Bicentennial Man" (p. 74)

This is the explicit theme of many of Lem's texts--not the result of "pure logic," it is true, but of social logic, not propagating a "sacred view" of the universe, but suggesting the universe be seen as potentially accessible and certainly a matter of man's responsibility. Lem, it seems, is too ambivalent and ironical, too literary for Warrick's taste. Otherwise, I can't explain why she takes the trouble to read into a fairly simple text allusions to issues that interest her and why she is content to give rather meaningless plot summaries of Lem's texts (pp. 191ff.) which use sophisticated narrative strategies in their attempt to deal consistently with those same issues.

For Warrick, Asimov and Philip K. Dick are the "two American giants whose imaginations create more abundant and brilliant models of life in an electronic future than any others" (p. 206.). But if she does not deal critically with the fiction component in Asimov's, she is religiously gushy about the achievement of Dick's "terminal metaphor" (p. 207). It is, of course, her privilege to appreciate Dick as a writer who "constantly struggles against capitulation to despair," throwing "torches of possibility into his dark future" (p. 208); but such assertions are not very useful to the reader who is promised a "moment of new awareness" if he is able to "re-create and reinvent the alternative reallies" sketched by Dick (p. 215). How this is to be achieved she does not say. Her attempt to sum up the difference between Asimov and Dick seems to me marred by conceptual vacuity:

Asimov's metaphor is the reality defined by the contemporary scientific paradigm. It assumes the objective existence of this reality. Dick's starting point is a fictional reality, since he assumes reality to be a subjective construct. Thus Asimov' moving into the future models a fictional alternative to present reality; Dick's future model is a fictional alternative to the current fiction, or, if you will, a metafiction. (p. 215)

Such a simplistic view of concepts like "objectivity" and "fiction"--does she mean to say that Dick's fictions differ from other fictions in terms of their fictionality? Is fiction simply to be seen as any kind of authorial construct? Does it not involve an addressee who supports the specific (logical) status of fiction?--are in no way helpful in trying to understand, and evaluate, SF. With all her insistence on rigor where scientific knowledge is concerned, Warrick herself is insufficiently rigorous in dealing with fiction. Her own approach documents very clearly that the merging of different modes of discourse is as difficult a task for the critic as it is for the writer of SF.

Chapter Four, "An Aesthetics and an Approach," is meant to articulate the "theoretical," basis of her critical evaluation of SF texts. She mentions the work of Suvin and Russ, but she is clearly more influenced by the latter's emphasis on scientific rigor and consistency in SF texts than by Suvin's comfortably vague "cognitive estrangement." Russ in her own work certainly does not show much of what she asks of SF in "Towards an Aesthetic of Science Fiction" (SFS 2 [1975]:112-19); she has as little science as does Dick, or less. Warrick quotes her: "Science is to science fiction (by analogy) what medieval Christianity was to deliberately didactic medieval fiction"; and "Without knowledge of or appreciation of the 'theology' of SF--that is, science--what kind of criticism will be practiced on particular SF works?" (p. 81) Perfectly adequate criticism on much of her work, on Dick's, Le Guin's, Tiptree's, Piercy's--to name just a few of the most interesting contemporary SF writers--is possible with virtually no reference to science. There probably ought to be "some science" in the cases of Delany (to sort out his over-eager application of particular "scientific" hypotheses) and Watson. But it usually does not take more than a rather general interest and level of information that one could expect to find among generally educated professional readers anyway.

It is significant that Warrick is uncritical of Russ's analogy: medieval Christianity, being a system of doctrines informed by socio-psychological considerations of power and control, in its relationship to didactic fictions expounding those doctrines, cannot fruitfully be compared to science and its articulation in SF, precisely because the didactic element is already built into Christianity (the evangelism, the message), but not, of course, into science. Popularization of science, no matter how intelligently and imaginatively done, has little to do with science. Exploration of the social impact of science is another matter, and it is here that the potentiality of SF is centrally located. We are, in SF, in the realm of the social, articulated in a socially, historically constituted medium, language; and scientific rigor in the narrow sense in which Warrick uses the term, is alien in this realm, more alien than a Martian. What is SF? Many things, and many different things. Perhaps one ought to reconsider the usefulness of the term; its components, it seems, are separated to an extent which makes the mediation it calls for a premature, forced, ultimately counterproductive enterprise. Warrick's study certainly reinforces this view.

--Dagmar Barnouw

"Conjectural Fiction" in the 18th Century

Modules et moyens de la réflexion politique au XVIIIe siècle. I, Récits de voyages et découvertes du monde; Moyens de diffusion: gazettes, brochures, chansons, discours, bibliothéques. Villeneuve d'Ascq: Publications de l'Université de Lille III [1978].(= Actes du Colloque international des Lumières.... October 16-19, 1973). 461p. Price (Vol. 1): FF.115,00. (Vols. II and 111 are also available.)

One of the sessions of this international conference, dealing with major aspects of political reflection during the Enlightenment, was dedicated to "Travel Accounts, Travelogues and World Discovery in the 18th Century." It should be regretted that none of the communications printed here deal with extraordinary-voyage tales and utopian fiction in so far as these two genres, typical of 18th-century genological landscape, both draw from authentic travel accounts and seem to provide a "philosophical" frame of interpretation for exotic mores and customs. Nonetheless, each of these studies of erudite synthesis retains the reader's attention by providing a significant background for the evolution of genres of conjectural fictions.

It would be difficult to over-estimate the importance of travel accounts in the development of 18th-century European civilization. R. Mercier deals with the Utopian image of the American colonies found in many travel stories, diaries and collections of letters, such as those of Saint-John de Crèvecoeur (1782). Roland Mortier shows that after 1760 the "Italian voyage" becomes a distinct discursive type, the locus of a critical reflection about social institutions, usually serving to "illustrate" Montesquieu's basic theses. In the same way as political pamphlets and philosophical treatises "but probably more efficiently, Coyer's, Duclos' and Dupaty's Voyages institute a frame for the critical analysis of the Old Regime." Another kind of travel account, dealing with the Turkish Regencies in North Africa, is presented by Denise Brahimi as a sort of "poetic construct" betraying in fact some basic political obsessions of pre- Revolutionary philosophers regarding despotism and absolutism. This interference of documentary information and ideological fanstasies or "myth" should be considered by anyone dealing with the transposition of alleged "factual data" or cognitive paradigms into fiction. Most of the time, utopian romances, Robinsonades and extraordinary-travels are but making manifest forms of deceitful fictionalization already at work in so-called non-fictional discourse.


Reinterpreting Frankenstein

David Ketterer. Frankenstein's Creation: The Book, The Monster, and Human Reality. Victoria. BC: Univ. of Victoria [English Literary Studies series]. 1979. 124p

The current fashionableness of Mary Shelley and particularly Frankenstein can be unsettling. We pick up still one more book or article on Frankenstein with reluctance and suspicion, wondering what we'll find this time: what new and offbeat thesis, what startling insight into the work or the women? The reader who picks up David Ketterer's Frankenstein's Creation will, therefore, be more than a little relieved to find it a thoughtful, careful study of the novel. This is not to say that it offers a conventional or unprovocative reading of Frankenstein: Ketterer is at some pains to argue with traditional readings and is not always able to resist the temptation to stretch a point, but the strength of the book lies in his judicious evaluation of existing scholarship and, especially, in his close and imaginative reading of the novel.

Since Ketterer's thesis, as implied by the somewhat ambiguous title of the book, is that Shelley's creation, Frankenstein's creation, and the "construct of human reality" are analogous (ranging from rough parallels to a virtual identity), he devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 2) to an examination of background for Shelley's arriving at the concept and realization of her novel. Ketterer acknowledges the work of other scholars here and simply summarizes their results, pointing out the evidence of her reading as well as the influence of her father (William Godwin) and her famous husband on her thought. In this chapter also, Ketterer summarizes some standard interpretations of the novel, and particularly the Monster--Freudian readings, Marxist readings, and others. In general, his approach is to suggest the value of these interpretations and then their shortcomings. For example, while he grants that Mary Shelley was more politically conservative than her husband and uneasy about grand schemes, he sees any reading of Frankenstein as a critique of Percy Shelley's idealism as interesting but "radically incomplete."

Ketterer's analysis of the novel (primarily, but not exclusively, the 1831 edition) is developed in Chapters 3 and 4 through a detailed study of the relationship between metaphor and structure. After admitting the overall sense of disjointedness and the absence of completely logical organization in the novel. Ketterer demonstrates quite convincingiv in these chapters the interweaving of several dominant image patterns. He argues that these images (incest, dreams, spiritual power, and sublimity) permeate the text and link Frankenstein with the Monster, the landscape, Walton, and Mary Shelley herself.

Ketterer takes up the question of the Monster as Doppelganger, but argues against the traditional readings which treat the Monster as the dark and destructive side of Frankenstein. Ketterer sees the Monster and Frankenstein as "ambiguously differentiated aspects of a single being" and argues that the Monster exists both as a psychological double of his creator and as a separate and independent character.

This argument develops in such a way that it leads Ketterer in Chapter 5 to conclude that Frankenstein has as its subject knowledge and the problematic nature of knowledge (the nameless monster with the vague and outlandish form is a symbol for this). Ketterer is to a large degree successful in showing that metaphoric patterns argue throughout the novel for a blurring of distinctions between exterior and interior realities, for the unreliability of evidence, and for the relativity of experienced reality. Even the noted disjointedness is no real flaw, according to this reading, since the novel offers no pilosophical answers but only suggests some possible positions. Ketterer sees Frankenstein as a work which dramatizes the "sliding relationship between the self and the Other."

He uses the same method to address the issue of Frankenstein's classification as SF. He points out that when Frankenstein is considered SF, it is generally because of Shelley's use of contemporary science and knowledge about electricity and magnetism. He concedes that electricity "animates" the Monster and that it played a role in Shelley's conception of the novel, but he argues that the electricity and magnetism are both contemporary science. Ketterer, not surprisingly, would prefer to classify Frankenstein as "Apocalyptic" literature, a term readers of his earlier work will certainly recognize; here he defines an Apocalyptic writer as one who "creates other worlds which, by virtue of a reading convention, exist (on a literal level) in a credible relationship with the real world as commonly understood."

One need not agree with every point Ketterer makes in this slim volume, nor follow him to the limits his arguments suggest (and do not always convincingly demonstrate) with respect to Mary Shelley's creative processes to find the approach to the novel and Ketterer's sensitive reading of it both stimulating and useful.

--Mary J. Elkins

Rediscovering Jean Ray

Christian Delcourt. Jean Ray, ou les choses dont on fait les histoires Paris. Nizet, 1980. 117p. FF. 50.00

Jean Ray's work occupies almost alone the position of a French counterpart to the American "pulp" production of the 1920-1950 period. An indefatigable dime-novelist, writing both in French (under the pseudonym Jean Ray) and in Flemish (under the pseudonym John Flanders)--his actual name is Raymond de Kremer (1887-1964)--he is the only representative of an SF-oriented popular production for that period. Being for all his career a jailbird in the realm of literary hard labor, he wrote hundreds of novels, short stories, and tales, not counting dozens of contributions to the popular and juvenile press. Today Ray is considered to be the most fascinating popular novelist of the "Entre Deux-Guerres" period, a writer whose frenzied imagination has suscitated a host of fans who, in the early 1960s, began collecting and republishing his work.

From a different point of view, Ray epitomizes the inability of the SF paradigm to gain autonomy in French popular culture before the 1950s. This is to say, if there is almost always an S-F component in his narrative, this component, hegemonic in some of his tales, is most of the time subordinated to "formulaic" types of fantasy, gothic plots, tales of the supernatural and of rationalized terror, and conventions of detective stories à la Conan Doyle. His major and most famous series, "Harry Dickson," partly reprinted by Marabout in the 1960s, is an explicit avatar and even a plagiarism of Conan Doyle's formula (Dickson being "the American Sherlock Holmes," although the action is always set in Britain), but with both strong S-F and gothic additives. Leaving aside the outstanding imaginative gifts Ray is endowed with, his work can be taken as a significant symptom of French cultural axiomatics: where American and English culture early in the century tended to distinguish and clearly differentiate SF ("scientific romance") from other genres of fantasy (mysteries, thrillers, fairy tales) and even, in the very realm of rational conjecture, tended to fix and set specialized formulae such as future war stories, post-catastrophe tales, cavemen stories, etc., both French canonic and popular literatures constantly tended to reconstitute a mongrelized or bastardized type of "non-denominational" fantasy, engendering a continuum of rational and irrational themes. From Maurice Renard to Jean Ray, SF data always seems to have to be complemented by elements of mystery (and its decipherment) and of horror (and its eventual rationalization). One can contend that after Jules Verne's death, with some reservation and significant exceptions, utopian and scientific elements in fiction are constantly hybridized with themes of the uncanny, topoi of terror and wonder, and the fetishism of mystery.

Mr Delcourt's monograph is mainly a first attempt at disentangling Ray's sources and showing his tales to be a remarkably effective blend--or hodge-podge--of elements and narrative conventions borrowed from a wide spectrum of 19th-century writers, from Dickens to Jules Verne, Conan Doyle and Gaston Leroux; from Hoffmann and Edgar Allan Poe to Maeterlinck and Gabriel de Lautrec. One should certainly add other dime-novelists such as Marcel Allain and Léon Sazie to this list. It is a commonplace of criticism dealing with non-mimetic genres and literary fantasy: research always shows that whatever had been thought of as being very original at the outset in a given plot should finally be seen as a clever pirating of one (or two, or three) previous writers. On that account, "pure imagination" in literature is always synonymous with skillful tinkering, "bricolage" as Lévi-Strauss says of scientific imagination. Mr Delcourt's work belongs to the disregarded academic genre of "source studies," a genre even more despised in the field of popular culture. His approach. however, proves very helpful. His monograph is precise, systematic, and well-informed. It is also pleasant to read and insightful. Jean Ray is at the same time a perfect plagiarist and a remarkably original writer of fiction, who shows a demonic ability to transmute his literary knowledge and revitalize it.


Andre Norton Reprinted

Andre Norton. Catseye [1961] 192p. Star Man's Son 2250 A.D. [1952]. 253p. Storm Over Warlock [1960]. 251p. Ordeal in Otherwhere [1964]. 191p. Boston: Gregg Press, 1980. $9.95 each vol

The Gregg Press Science-Fiction Series, edited by David G. Hartwell and L.W. Currey, has been providing a major service to libraries, collectors, and scholars since its inception in 1975. Among the numerous titles that have been rescued from oblivion are four groups of Andre Norton's fiction: The Witch World Novels (7 vols., 1977: with an introduction by Sandra Miesel), The Space Adventure Novels (6 vols., 1978: with an introduction by Sandra Miesel), The Time Trader Novels (4 vols., 1979; with an introduction by Thomas T. Beeler), and the four novels examined here.

The success of the Gregg Press Norton reprints is one among a number of indications that, despite the scholarly neglect of her writing (to date, this reviewer's Andre Norton: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography [G.K. Hall, 1980] and Carl Yoke's rare Roger Zelazny and Andre Norton: Proponents of Individualism [State Library of Ohio, 1979] are the only substantial studies), she is one of the most popular and most read of the modern SF and fantasy authors and one of the most influential of the women writers. Thus, as a people's author and an important figure in the development of the two speculative genres, Norton's works merit the permanent place that these durable reprints offer.

While the four novels at issue here do not form as coherent a package as the earlier Norton reprints, they are important for the places they occupy in the Norton canon and the themes and characters they contain. Star Man's Son 2250 A.D. is Norton's first SF novel (following two short stories: "People of the Crater," 1947, and "The Gifts of Asti," 1948). Having sold over one million copies in the Ace paperback edition alone, it is probably her most read novel. It is set in Cleveland (Norton's home city), 200 years after a nuclear holocaust, and focuses on Fors, a mutant who is in search of his birthright and is the prototype for the alienated, questing protagonist that is a major aspect of Norton's fiction. Storm Over Warlock and its sequel, Ordeal in Otherwhere, feature two important themes in Norton's fiction: sentient, benevolent, and telepathetic animals and the profound value of empathy and cooperation. Shann Lantee, another isolated protagonist and a central figure in both novels, allies himself with two specially trained wolverines and interacts with a race of matriarchical aliens, the Wyverns, who govern through dreams. Their cooperation illustrates yet another major stance: Norton's extreme distaste for prejudice of any sort. Catseye is another example of the same themes and characters that are in the Lantee volumes. Troy, a young clerk in an exotic pet shop, discovers that he is in mental contact with a group of caged animals and suddenly is embroiled in interplanetary cold war and espionage when he goes to their aid.

It is to be hoped that these reprints will draw increased scholarly attention to Norton. At worst, they continue to make the works of a fine author available to yet another generation of readers.

--Roger Schlobin

Annotating José Farmer

Mary T. Brizzi. Philip José Farmer. Starmont Reader's Guides to Contemporary Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors, ed. Roger C. Schlobin. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1980. 80p. $3.95 (paper)

Though labelled "Starmont Reader's Guide 3," Mary Brizzi's Philip José Farmer is apparently the first release of an extended series of studies of SF and fantasy authors. (39 titles are already listed, and "additional titles are steadily being added.") I recommend this book but with a caution. While the series purports to be "comprehensive,...appealing to both beginners and sophisticates," this first effort is far from an all-inclusive study of its subject, and "beginners" are likely to be buried under a welter of references.

Farmer is an excellent topic for a serious study. His work often has been underrated because his intellectual profundity tends to be obscured by his more obvious irreverence, sexuality, and violence and because of his appropriation of superheroes like Tarzan and Doc Savage. On the other hand, his work abounds with literary, linguistic, mythological, religious, and historical references with which very few readers are likely to possess comprehensive familiarity. At its best, the Starmont Philip José Farmer can be seen, like Southam's well-known Readers Guide to T.S. Eliot, as a very useful annotation of Farmer's major works--and then some. Mary Brizzi exhibits an admirable erudition in explicating a variety of Farmer's countless referents. Unfortunately, while Brizzi herself is fairly conscious that the length of her project (about 30,000 words) must necessarily limit her scope, she sometimes does a questionable job of deciding what to say and what to leave unsaid.

This book seems to be a somewhat rambling "investigation," rather than a carefully organized extrapolation of Farmer's works. Brizzi offers numerous worthwhile insights, but rarely rounds off her discussions into fully integrated explications of these works. Her chapter "Mimesis and Reality in The Lovers" seems the most complete, while conclusions in any other chapters are not always well-substantiated by her discussions. One is grateful for her remarks about Farmer's obsession with religious symbolism, for example:

he sees religion as an inherent property of the human mind, not an artifact, but a dimension relevant of real truth, however masked in symbol. It is this quality of Farmer's art--the ability to take totally seriously a subject others handle as entertainment or even a joke--that causes readers to be uneasy in the presence of what may seem blasphemy. His attitude toward sex is similarly serious, and for this reason he comes nearer to blasphemy and obscenity than may a less serious writer.

On the other hand, her truncated discussions of works like Venus on the Half-Shell, which she calls "brilliant,...a serious book and quite likely an important innovative document," remain unconvincing and her supportive discussions downright misleading. If Venus is an important work, it is so probably because, as Claudia Jannone has remarked, it "shows that science is no panacea; instead [Farmer] reveals how science is the product of man's rational naivete, since he views science as reason instead of imagination" (see "Venus on the Half-Shell as Structuralist Activity," Extrapolation, 17 [1976]:110). It would not have been difficult to summarize Jannone's argument in a couple of sentences, and her final point is very much appropriate to a theme that Brizzi identifies elsewhere as basic to Farmer's work: to give life meaning, man must play Creator. Instead, she merely mentions Jannone as having noted that "the structuralist theme of process-overgoal is evident in the plot and methodology of the novel," and then expends 2,000 words extrapolating Farmer's rather obvious and, in the manner in which Brizzi presents them, apparently pointless satiric puns

Mary Brizzi's Philip José Farmer sports a good bibliography and index as well as her very intelligent perceptions. Furthermore, she is able to refer to specific conversations with Farmer himself to support many of these perceptions. Finally. however, the greatest use this book is likely to serve is as an inspiration to and source guide for future Farmer scholars who will reconstruct these often brilliant fragments into the well-structured crystal buildings of comprehensive extrapolation.

--Mark Siegel

A Variety of Voices

Science Fiction Voices No. 1: Interviews with Science Fiction Writers, conducted by Darrell Schweitzer. The Milford Series: Popular Writers of Today, vol. 23. 63p. Science Fiction Voices No. 2: Interviews with Science Fiction Writers, conducted by Jeffrey M. Elliot with an introduction by Richard A. Lupoff. The Milford Series: Popular Writers of Today. vol. 25. San Bernardino: The Borgo Press. 1979. 62p. $8.95 ($2.95 paper)

It would be hard to determine exactly where the form came from (radio, TV, Boswell), but the published interview is a popular element in the apparatus of commentary on the SF genre in fan publications and in professional magazines. Borgo Press has undertaken to collect published interviews in a series of books of which the first two have now appeared. The expectations from the form are not clear. Despite the truth of Darrell Schweitzer's comment in the brief introduction to his interviews that the interviewer "does as little of the talking as possible," I find the difference between these two collections to be exactly in the voice of the interviewer. The writers are there dutifully saying what we have come to know them for--Sturgeon, Bester, Pohl, Gunn, Leiber, Clement, Sprague de Camp in the Schweitzer volume and Bradbury, Niven, van Vogt, Anderson, Silverberg in the collection gathered by Jeffrey M. Elliot. The problem is that Elliot's voice comes across as monotonous, sometimes pompous, and pure hype--especially in the uniformly overwritten short introductions to each of his interviews. The effect is to produce a characterless book and even, what is worse, to flatten his writers to a sameness that betrays their own individual characters. The first collection here is by far the most successful because it contains variety and character. In his planning and organization of the interviews and in his own voice, Schweitzer seems the more interesting Boswell.

--Donald M. Hassler

Science Fiction in Popular Culture

Thomas M. Inge, ed. Handbook of American Popular Culture. 2 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978. Vol. 1: 404p. Vol Ill: 423p. $54.95

The stated purpose of this Handbook is that of consolidating, within a single reference work, the historical and bibliographical information generated by several decades of research into 30 different aspects of American popular culture. As the preface, by Thomas Inge, suggests, the Handbook appears at a time when the study of popular culture is finding a secure place for itself within academic institutions, and when the need for bibliographical guides, of the sort available to older, more-established disciplines, is increasingly felt. Each of the 30 entries in this two-volume set contains a definition and history of the topic under discussion; this is followed by a summary of scholarly treatments to date, a description of major reference works and research collections, and an extensive bibliography of secondary literature.

The Handbook is at its most useful when dealing with those domains which have been researched outside the boundaries of established academic disciplines, such as sports, "Death in Popular Culture," "Popular Religion and Theories of Self Help," and editorial cartoons. The section devoted to SF, on the other hand, like those on the various mass media, is less ground-breaking, in that each of these domains has, within the last several years, emerged as the focus of specialized university courses, scholarly journals, and academic associations. The chapters dealing with these fields are thus of use primarily in so far as they direct the researcher to other, more comprehensive reference sources.

Given these limitations, Marshall B. Tymn's treatment of SF succeeds at outlining the various contexts within which SF has been studied, and the major achievements of each. Tymn is sufficiently aware of the semi-professional publishing undertaken on the fringes of SF random to include the major fan-directed index and reprint projects which are less likely to be covered by more academic surveys. His brief introduction and "History Outline" make no attempt to deal with questions of generic definition, and concentrate primarily on the dissemination of SF through the pulp magazines. (The Handbook contains a separate entry on pulp magazines, by Bill Blackbeard, a leading authority. It provides information useful to those investigating this aspect of SF publishing history.)

Tymn's bibliography lists some 65 books on SF, including bibliographical indexes, genre studies, and works dealing with individual authors or schools. (It does not include articles published in periodicals.) Many of the entries deal with fantastic and supernatural literature, and only a few may be said to concentrate exclusively on American SF. The immediately notable omissions, Todorov's work on the fantastic and Suvin's study of the SF genre, may presumably be accounted for by, respectively, a policy of omitting foreign-language authors, and the date of the Handbook's publication.

The strengths of the Handbook's treatment of SF lie in its run-down of existing research collections, and its lengthy description of publishing houses involved in the reprinting of historically important works of SF. Coming as it does amidst entries on pulp magazines and sports as popular entertainment, this guide to SF scholarship suggests that the field is one of the more firmly based within the larger domain of cultural studies.

--Will Straw

Nebulous Awards (1978)

Isaac Asimov et al. Nebula Winners Fourteen, ed. Frederik Pohl. NY: Harper & Row and Toronto: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1980. xi + 259p. $11.95 hardcover

It is one of the talents of SF publishers--a talent that connects them to milliners and dressmakers--to make new out of old, to fabricate, for instance, anthologies by several hands which are both redundant (since almost all of the texts published have already appeared elsewhere) and uninteresting (since the few unpublished papers should never have left the authors' drawers). The only challenge offered by such endeavors seems to be that one has to find a subject or a theme common to the contributors, or some other link between them.

The Science Fiction Writers Association (SFWA) publishes annually an anthology of US Nebula Award winners. Here, after all, the anthology receives a semblance of justification in the SFWA desire to set up a memorial for all its awarders, and also since the selection of stories and novels is the result of a careful collective examination of that year's production. This anthology, edited by Frederik Pohl, features award-winning narratives by John Varley, Edward Bryant, Charles L. Grant, Vonda McIntyre, C.J. Cherryh, and Gene Wolfe (the last two authors being no 1978 award winners, but simply considered by the editor as having published "other outstanding stories" in 1978). Pohl has also added, for good measure, three essays by Asimov, Spinrad, and Sprague De Camp. This hardly reinforces the whole. In his preface, Pohl expounds his philosophy about what justifies SF awards: they prevent average readers and potential SF converts from being discouraged by the poor level of SF texts if they happen to pick them up indiscriminately. SF awards are "safeguards." You can be sure that there is something about selected texts that is "special," even if you disagree with the award voters' taste. I should like to challenge this philosophy, which has of course nothing to envy in the logic of mainstream literary awards: one cannot read everything and yet there is a need for literary and social consensus. Traditionally, "high literature" awards serve to confirm and reinforce a deceitfully biased concept of the "readable" for a given time and place. l would hope that SF readers know better, and that they are less sensitive to this system of awards, whose mercantile ambiguity has been often denounced.

Since it is SFS policy to review only secondary "critical" texts, l shall concentrate on the three essays interpsersed in the volume. "SF 1938" by Asimov is, as expected, a sequence of nostalgic variations on the good-old-days theme. It gives a strong feeling of déjà-vu. Spinrad's "The Future of SF" is a rather nebulous composition on the themes of SF as big business, SF as cultural fast food, SF as vanguard of popular culture, and SF and its future. Spinrad seems convinced that one can speculate on the near future of SF on the basis of the late 1970s boom in the book market and in the movies. Extrapolation at that level would seem to me quite risqué. But let me quote Spinrad's final prediction: "in the near future.... SF will no longer be the preserve of....a subculture.... SF is becoming part--and perhaps ultimately a dominant part--of the mainstream of popular and literary cultures" (p. 140). I am not so sure this is to be wished; however I am ready to challenge such a prediction. Changes in the older fandom, changes in readership, in attitudes, and in socio-cultural status are occurring. This is not tantamount to saying that SF is (re-) integrating with the mainstream (even if its fetishism for literary awards make SF-dom mimic canonic institutions). After all, the concept of mainstream itself is probably becoming a worn-out idea.

There is only one interesting paper in the non-fiction section of this book, namely, Sprague De Camp's "Little Green Men from Afar " in which SF is examined together with its disquieting neighbors Pseudo-science and Cultism. De Camp has interesting suggestions to make about types of circular reasoning typical of UFO-ology and also about processes of reproduction of the same irrational themes through modern history. His comparison between Von D”niken's preaching and Mrs Blavatsky's theosophical doctrine and career is indeed illuminating. It is only to be regretted that De Camp's essay is too short (pp. 172-85) to allow for an adequate elaboration of his point.


SF Bibliographies from G.K. Hall

Muriel R. Becker. Clifford D. Simak: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. xliii + 149p. $18.00. Lahna F. Diskin. Theodore Sturgeon: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. xxvii+ 105p. $16.00. Robert E. Myers. Jack Williamson: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. xiii+93p. $16.00. Roger C. Schlobin. Andre Norton. A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. xxxii+68p. $12.00. All of the above: Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1980.

When I showed these new G.K. Hall bibliographies to a librarian friend of mine, she expressed some astonishment that still-active SF writers should be receiving the sort of minute bibliographical attention that has not yet caught up with even some classic 19th-century authors of "mainstream" fiction. Her reaction confirmed my own suscipicion that SF, not long ago invisible in all but the most arcane reference works, now is out to be the most indexed, bibliographied, collated, and cross-referenced body of literature since the Pentateuch.

The present series, handsomely bound in uniform hardback volumes and scheduled to go on and on, is undoubtedly going to be useful to scholars of SF in general and, in the case of the Norton volume, to scholars of modern juvenile literature as well. Those working with individual authors will find some of the volumes indispensable, but it must be cautioned that some of them are not as thorough and error-free as their imposing appearance would suggest.

Nor is the format quite uniform; and some of the volumes bear evidence of padding to make a book, even to the extent of confusing the reader on occasion. Apparently Hall's standard format consists of a preface, introduction, listings of fiction, miscellaneous media, nonfiction, and criticism, and primary and secondary indexes. Only the criticism sections are annotated in all volumes, though Schlobin is kind enough to annotate his endless listing of the book reviews Norton wrote for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to the extent of letting us know what books she was reviewing. Diskin, on the other hand, tantalizingly lists all the review columns Sturgeon wrote for Venture and Galaxy without giving us a hint of what books he was writing about.

Beyond this basic format, the authors apparently were given leeway to add whatever they saw fit, and this is where some material of questionable value comes in. Becker's book on Simak--which in general is by far the most thorough in providing primary material--adds an interview which only marginally touches on bibliographical issues, and five appendixes, two of which are unnecessary since they merely repeat material in the bibliography itself. Diskin provides us with no less than six indexes, taking up over a fifth of the volume and testing our ingenuity, since the same story is apt to appear in three separate indexes or more. Why not have just one primary index as in the other volumes? But Diskin about makes up for this clumsiness by providing an innovation that is unique to her volume and that should be continued in future volumes in the series: a subject-index to criticism, enabling us to locate easily all the critical commentary about a given Sturgeon work. This is extremely useful, and remedies a flaw in the standard primary and secondary indexing format. When I tried to find critical material on Norton's Catseye in the Schlobin volume, for example. I had to read through the entire criticism section, looking for mentions of the book (Schlobin's book, by the way, appears to stay closer to the basic format of the series than the other volumes). Myers also adds a useful section not in the other volumes: a selected list of foreign editions of Williamson's works.

Most of these volumes also give the impression that more criticism has been written on the author than actually exists. With the exception of the volume on Norton (who apparently has been more consistently reviewed in library journals than in SF magazines), the criticism bibliographies tend to depend heavily on reviews from popular SF magazines. This yields a plethora of annotations quoting such useful critical judgments as "a swell story" or "a good space adventure yarn" and raises the question of whether the reviews selected for inclusion actually give a fair picture of the reception of the book being reviewed. No doubt these authors were for much of their careers discussed only in the popular magazines, but I nevertheless find faintly ominous Diskin's introductory comment that focusing on magazine reviews was necessary because "the literary types" associated with general periodicals ignored Sturgeon--especially since she then proceeds to exclude from her listing a negative New York Times Book Review review of The Dreaming Jewels (written by "literary type" Fletcher Pratt) and a Spectator review of More Than Human.

Nor are even the citations of the popular magazine reviews always complete. On more than a dozen occasions Myers lists signed reviews of Williamson's works as "anonymous," including several of P. Schuyler Miller's Astounding reviews and a couple by Robert W. Lowndes (who on occasion also gets listed simply as "The Editor" or "R.W.L." Sometimes he signed his name this way in magazines he was editing, but this is what interpolating brackets areforin bibliographies). Another of Myers' "anonymous" reviews is Damon Knight's important review of The Humanoids in Worlds Beyond. Myers makes no mention of the more accessible reprint of this in In Search of Wonder. Nor does he list Brian Aldiss's fairly important discussion of The Legion of Time in SF Horizons in 1964.

While these problems appear to be peculiar to the Myers volume, there were enough errors and ambiguities in other volumes to suggest that, as a series, these books might warrant some caution, though most of the problems are quite minor. There are several typos in the Sturgeon volume, for example, most of them minor ("Wolheim" for Wollheim, "Philip Strong" for Philip Stong, etc.)--although it does list a review for A Touch of Strange in 1956, two years before the book appeared! In all but the Norton volume (which lists no dramatic adaptations at all), the "Miscellaneous Media" sections fail to indicate whether the authors adapted their own works for the media or whether the adaptations were done by others. This makes a difference in cases such as the 1974 TV film Killdozer!, which alters the original story in important ways.

One could argue, of course, that none of these criticisms address the central purpose of these volumes--which, it seems to me, lies in their primary bibliographies. These seem to me to be uniformly excellent and absolutely thorough, providing an instant overview of the author's career and productivity. Becker and Schlobin go the added step of identifying which of their author's works are SF and which are not, and Schlobin even provides an appendix categorizing Norton's works by genre and another listing series. It probably would be too much to ask for annotations (even partial) of primary material, but such timesaving devices as these by Schlobin and Becker, together with Diskin's subject index to criticism and Myers's listing of foreign imprints, would be worth keeping in mind by anyone preparing future volumes in this series.

--Gary K. Wolfe

First Edition(s)

L.W. Currey. Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors. A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Fiction and Selected Nonfiction. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1979. 571 + xxix p. $48.00 (+ 15% outside the US).

The value of this labor of love will not be lost for students of SF. In the pages of this handsomely produced tome, bibliologue and book dealer Lloyd Currey ("with the editorial assistance of David G. Hartwell") has undertaken to assemble the information necessary for "identify[ing] both first printings and any other significant printings and editions" of "all fiction and selected nonfiction published in book, pamphlet, or broadside format" by 215 English-language authors of SF and/or fantasy (p. xxi). He also attempts to establish the probable order of priority of first editions or printings found in more than one format. The authors make their appearance alphabetically; and, where applicable, sections on "Collected Works," "Autobiography and Letters," books they have edited, literary adaptations of their fictions by other hands, and a selective bibliography of critical books (but not articles) about them follow the alphabetical listing of fiction and nonfiction titles. The result is a reference work that every "collector, bookseller, and scholar" of SF will want to have access to.

Like all such projects, however, Currey's has its limitations--and eccentricities--not all of which are acknowledged in his Introduction; and these make his volume relatively less useful to the scholar than to the bookseller and most useful to the collector. The latter will undoubtedly be pleased to have a guide to first editions that is as free as possible from technical cant and bibliographical pedantry. Currey does not encumber his descriptions with data concerning the size of the book or a full citation of its title-page and so forth; he conscientiously records only the essential characteristics of "first...and any other significant printings." Yet even the bibliophile may find something to regret in an austerity one consequence of which is that the reader not otherwise knowledgeable will discover in this volume no basis for determining the scarcity of any given title. For Currey, understandably reluctant to divulge "trade secrets," employs no system of rarity factors; and as he offers no information on the number of printings or editions the original publisher issued, he makes it impossible to hazard a guess about how rare a particular work might be. The absence of information about editions other than the first and those Currey deems "significant" is all the more regrettable from the point of view of anyone concerned with the authority of texts, who will wish that Currey had provided himself with further occasions for remarks of this sort: "All U.S. editions [of Samuel R. Delany's Einstein Intersection] lack one chapter" (p. 139; not numbered).

The most obvious limitation of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors is chronological. The survey extends to 1977, but goes only as far back as the 1890s. "The choice of subject authors," Currey explains, "was not the result of arbitrary selection. Every name represents a writer whose works influenced the science fiction and fantasy field are being read and/or collected" (p. xxvi). This rule seems unobjectionable; and to quarrel with his application of it would at any rate be pointless, since the principle of "more is better" should operate in an endeavor of this kind. Yet one wonders why, to Currey's way of thinking, not only Robert Cromie and William Golding but also Aldous Huxley and George Orwell do not qualify under his criteria for inclusion while Fred T. Jane, say, does.

There are also some notable omissions among nonfiction titles. Olaf Stapledon's are not mentioned at all: and works such as C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man and H.G. Wells's Anatomy of Frustration--both of them as useful if not crucial for understanding their author's fiction as Stapledon's are--also pass unnoticed.

The nonfiction listings underline a problem that novices, especially, will have with this compilation and its disregard for categorical distinctions. Currey's refusal to discriminate SF from fantasy can readily be excused, given the widespread disagreement as to what, if anything, differentiates the two. Surely, however, it is no parlous task to demarcate fiction and nonfiction. Yet on the whole--though not with perfect consistency (i.e., some entries do have nonfiction under a separate rubric)--Currey fails to do so.

Despite these objections, Currey's remains an important--and heroic--effort. Students of SF tend to be far too cavalier in regard to the texts that they, often haphazardly, rely on. It is therefore to be hoped that this compilation of his may serve as the nucleus for gathering together data on authoritative (and bastardized) editions as well as corrected and expanded in ways he himself already envisions. It is also to be hoped that Lloyd Currey, with his indisputable expertise in these matters. will direct, or at least assist in, that undertaking.


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