Science Fiction Studies

#33 = Volume 11, Part 2 = July 1984


BOOKS IN REVIEW

Cockeyed Optimist

John Hollow. Against the Night, the Stars: The Science Fiction of Arthur C. Clarke. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. 197pp. $14.95

According to John Hollow, 2010: Odyssey Two teaches us "what we learn from all of Clarke's novels: that the ancient legends of the race are in some sense true" (p. 178), confirming, as does Childhood's End, "our ancient view of ourselves as somehow important, as somehow capable of coming to grips with a larger part of the universe" (p. 104). Hollow's book focuses more single-mindedly than does any other sustained treatment on Clarke's fundamental optimism about the ultimate worth of the human endeavor. The results are mixed.

The book's nine chapters take up an of Clarke's long fiction and about a quarter of his short fiction in roughly chronological order; however, this is no vade mecum. The frequent reorderings attempt to give each chapter its own thematic flow within the larger (bio)critical essay. The chapter entitled "Against the Night" argues that the young Clarke began his writing career largely in reaction to H.G. Wells the "despairer" (p. 6). "Time's Arrow" (chapter 2) shows Clarke's understanding that the physical and biological laws of nature dictate humanity's inevitable extinction. Nonetheless, our greatest danger lies not in change but in the changelessness of "The Lotus-Eaters" (chapter 3). If we will change, we can become a collective "Prometheus" (chapter 4) "carrying fire back to the heavens" (p. 47). Hollow very interestingly observes in his (5th) chapter called "Childhood's End" that in that book, which he considers Clarke's best, "The ultimate indicator of humanity's inclination to evolve. . . is. . . nothing less than humanity's seemingly innate desire to self-destruct" (p. 81). By turning a serious ear (in chapter 6) to the voice of "Harry Purvis," narrator of the barroom Tales from the White Hart (sic), Hollow rightly discovers "a hope that draws its power, oddly enough, from the very idea of the great silence" (p. 99) such as that following "The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch." "Not Yet the Stars," a thematically weak chapter (7), discusses five novels separately in an attempt to show how each reveals Clarke's optimism. "2001" (chapter 8) argues that in "the novel the potential humans are taught; in the [Kubrick] film they self-discover" (p. 136). Here Hollow asserts that for Clarke "evolution goes from flesh to machine to spirit, and each of the steps is both necessary and legitimized by the result" (p. 146), although in his next (and last) chapter, ". . .the Stars," he writes "that Clarke's sympathies are not fully engaged by the idea that evolution's next step is the machine" (p. 169). This shift reflects the purpose of the last chapter, to show by separate analyses of Clarke's post-1970 novels humanity inhabiting "the stars" (p. 187).

While all this is certainly worth consideration for those who already know Clarke's work, it is also--in at least two senses--quite partial. First, much is left out. As a handbook, Against the Night is nearly useless because there is no index or citation of page or chapter numbers, and also because the fiction bibliography gives no dates, the non-fiction bibliography is limited, and the selected criticism bibliography is unannotated. As a critical essay, Hollow's partiality in effect misrepresents Clarke's work: nowhere does he treat the exuberant intellectual puzzling of A Fall of Moondust or Rendezvous with Rama; nowhere does he address the profoundly anti- (or trans-) scientific élan that many believe undercuts Childhood's End (with its "memories" of the future) and Imperial Earth (with its anti-Darwinian consequences of cloning).

Second, the book is biased. For example, Wells is "represented by the moment in The Time Machine when the time traveller. . . stands on the deserted beach" (p. 2) at the end of the book's reported time. Although Clarke's usual optimism does show up nicely against that background, so do Wells's own social warnings that occupy the bulk of The Time Machine and Wells's own portrait of human caring incarnate in the Time Traveler returning to help the Eloi--even after he reports the desolate beach scene. Wells's later utopian works, such as Men Like Gods (1923), also antedate Clarke, yet Hollow virtually ignores them. Similarly, he sees Clarke reacting against a Stapledon who "sees the human drama as finally tragic" (p. 161) despite the evidence of Stapledon's selfless narrators, the significance he accords "community," and, as in the end of Odd John, the applauded urge to selflessly self-destruct. It seems as if Hollow wants to say something unique even when much of what has already been said is quite adequate.

On the other hand, some of what Hollow says really is new. In addition to the example of Harry Purvis, I think of such insights as he shows in his treatment of Commander Doyle in Islands in the Sky. By paying careful attention to a work usually dismissed as a potboiler for teen-agers, Hollow shows how Doyle is fundamentally a recostumed terrestrial explorer and therefore how space, in Clarke's novel, is fearsome, yes, but no more so than the environment humanity has already evolved to inhabit. As a relatively compact review and for such insights, this smoothly written book will repay the attention of those already familiar with the SF of Arthur C. Clarke.

--Eric S. Rabkin


Silverberg

Thomas D. Clareson. Robert Silverberg. [Starmont Reader's Guide No. 18.] Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1983. 96pp. $5.95 paper; and Robert Silverberg: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1983. 321pp. $50.00 cloth

The appearance within a few months of each other of Clareson's two volumes on Silverberg provides a rare opportunity to compare what are emerging as the two most familiar strategies of SF scholarship: the concise "reader's guide," suitable as a general introduction to an author and accessible to undergraduates, and the near-definitive bibliography, useful for the most detailed kind of research and affordable only by libraries with special collections. Both volumes come to us from perhaps the most familiar name in SF scholarship, Thomas D. Clareson, and together they illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

It must be said up front that the G.K. Hall volume is easily the most impressive this series has yet produced. A bibliography of Silverberg is a daunting task to begin with, even when one focuses on SF and de-emphasizes such prolific ephemera as the 70 or so volumes of pornography the author wrote early in his career. (Silverberg requested that this material be de-emphasized, and I believe Clareson was right in agreeing with him; only a few collectors or a biographer might ever need to know the details of such unavailable books.) Still, Clareson provides a short-title list of over 230 books, and lists in the bibliography proper some 400 SF and fantasy works, 67 anthologies, and 91 non-fiction works. Two sections of annotated criticism, by and about Silverberg, take up more than two-thirds of the volume, and these alone are worth a good chunk of the $50 price tag. They not only provide a very thorough summary of Silverberg's own comments about himself and SF, but give a picture of the evolution of critical commentary on the genre from early capsule reviews to more recent academic treatises. I can think of few authors besides Silverberg more appropriate for such treatment.

Reviewing a bibliography is almost by definition an act of nitpicking, however, and there are a few minor problems that potential users of this book should watch out for. In Clareson's excellent introduction, for example, he cites quotations from Silverberg according to entry number in the bibliography, and for some reason all the citations to the "Silverberg on Science Fiction" section are wrong. In some of his annotations, Clareson makes minor errors, such as referring to Colin Wilson's The Outsider as a "novel." Perhaps most bothersome is that there is no clear cutoff date for the bibliography entries, and one has no way of knowing the last year for which entries are more or less complete. The reviews and criticism section contains only one entry from 1981, for example, and while Clareson is detailed enough to include even passing mentions of Silverberg in earlier critical works, he does not include such items as Frederick Yuan's essay "Immortality and Robert Siverberg" (it's in Tolley and Singh's Stellar Gauge, 1980), the entry on Silverberg in Baird Searles' 1979 Reader's Guide to Science Fiction, or (I hesitantly add) my own discussion of The World Inside in The Known and the Unknown (1979).

Such matters aside, Silverberg is an excellent choice for the G.K. Hall series--a major author whose career and bibliography have long seemed a nightmare of confusion and prolixity--and Clareson has done a masterful job of imposing order on the chaos. It is less clear, however, that Silverberg is the kind of author best served by the Starmont series of pocket guides. His early works were far too numerous and his later works far too complex to yield easily to short analyses, and Clareson often depends heavily on plot summary to deal with works that simply cannot be treated in so short a space.

If Clareson has a single thesis in the Starmont volume, it is that the conventionally accepted notion of the "two Silverbergs" is a myth. Partly encouraged by Silverberg himself, this myth asserts that after a promising start winning a Hugo as the best new author of 1955, Silverberg proceeded to become the genre's quintessential hack, suddenly abandoning SF around 1960 and returning to it a few years later as one of its major authors of the century. Clareson's argument is that Silverberg in fact retained his ties with the field, but found a new kind of success in the juvenile nonfiction market beginning in early 1962. This work enabled him to earn greater self-respect, so that when he returned to a heavier output of SF, it was with increased confidence in the kind of "serious" stories he had not been able to find a market for earlier.

Myths die hard, however, and Clareson's own bibliography calls into question this simple an explanation. It shows, for example, that Silverberg's SF output dropped from an astonishing 85 works in 1957 to only three in 1961--the year before his discovery of the juvenile non-fiction market. Furthermore, Clareson himself argues, as other Silverberg critics such as Russell Letson have argued, that elements of the "new Silverberg" may be found in earlier stories such as "The Road to Nightfall" or "Warm Man." Although Clareson does not emphasize it, one cannot help but suspect that changing editorial policies, and in particular Frederick Pohl's editorship of Galaxy, may have helped give Silverberg a kind of artistic freedom he had not had before.

Clareson divides Silverberg's career into four stages: the "fiction factory" of 1955-59, a transitional period from 1960-67, the major period from 1969-1976, and the current "Majipoor" period. Overlapping two of these is a "dark" period of cynicism and depression from 1957-1968, although it isn't quite accurate to label that a period--it's more of an ongoing aspect of his work. Clareson provides a good concise overview of the earlier periods--for which I, at least, certainly needed some guidance--but the single 30-page chapter devoted to 11 major novels from Nightwings to Shadrach in the Furnace is simply not adequate to give these works the attention they deserve. The chapter provides an impressive catalogue of Silverberg's achievements during the '70s, but it lacks a clear overview of his place as a modern novelist.

Much of this, as I suggested, is due to the limitations of the Starmont format. A longer critical study of Silverberg is needed and probably inevitable, and Clareson implicitly acknowledges this. Until such a study becomes available, however, this volume will be invaluable to students of Silverberg. Like the Hall bibliography, it goes a long way towards bringing some order to the vastness of Silverberg's career; and it does so at a fraction of the cost of the Hall volume.

--Gary K. Wolfe


Introducing Piers Anthony

Michael R. Collings. Piers Anthony. [Starmont Reader's Guide No. 20.] Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1983. 96pp. $5.95 paper

There is a particular dilemma in writing short introductory books about very prolific authors: the critic must choose between selecting works to talk about at some reasonable length, at the risk of being accused of failing to cover the canon, or treating everything, but so briefly that the comments offered cannot even be said to comprise a critical overview. When dealing with a writer like Piers Anthony an additional difficulty is the nagging need to assert and justify the claim that he is a writer of importance. For notwithstanding Anthony's vivid imagination, his concern for real and interesting issues (such as power, freedom, and humankind's very right to control its own destiny), and his clear ability to write at times with great power and considerable grace, the plain fact is that he has written too much too fast and that a lot of his output is--to mince no words--bad (or at least marred by very bad stretches). This did not seem to be such a notable sin 25 years ago, when writers of speculative fiction struggled for their daily bread in the ghettos of the publishing world; but it is a revealing gauge of the field today that a writer like Anthony--or Herbert, or even Asimov in his "sequels twilight"--is no longer allowed to plead hardship for work of less than high technical quality.

Michael Collings manages to communicate a balanced view of Anthony's achievement, but he leaves the serious student wishing that the format of the Starmont Guides allowed for more than plot summary and brief comments on many of the works. These limitations are especially unfortunate in dealing with Anthony, for plot summaries of his works are trivializing and short excerpts, because they inevitably come either from "purple passages" or flat spots, tend to be non-representative. As a way out of this peculiar dichotomy, Collings falls back on mapping the patterns of ideas behind the fictions, and these are interesting. Like Herbert, with whose output and variety his bears comparison, Anthony is a gifted experimenter in ways of putting issues into the imaginative contexts of speculative fiction, often posing basically the same problems in different ways in succeeding novels. Collings correctly assesses these approaches as varied in success. In some novels, the ideas are buried in rough and tumble SF adventure, while in others, such as Macroscope, it has to be admired that there is an awful lot of story-slowing explaining being done.

Piers Anthony is a good introduction to its subject--also because Collings is not afraid to let readers know the comparative merits of Anthony's books and warn them against those that stack up poorly. If I have any complaint against the volume apart from its usual typos (e.g., Andrew J. Offutt becomes Andrew J. Moffutt on p. 80), it is for its failure to communicate the curious tone of Chthon, Anthony's first published novel and a book which stands aside from all other speculative fiction in its sheer strangeness. Nonetheless, Collings' is a sound, if brief, monograph on a puzzling writer who may yet live up to his potential; and as such, it is very welcome indeed.

--Peter A. Brigg


Hybrid Vigor

Hazel Beasley Pierce. A Literary Symbiosis: Science Fiction/Fantasy/ Mystery. ["Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy" No. 6.] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983. viii + 255pp. $29.95

Genres are promiscuous things, mating indiscriminately with one another and producing offspring that upset the neat categories critics attempt to set up. Hazel Beasley Pierce, in A Literary Symbiosis, surveys the results of innumerable liaisons between SF and mystery. The result is a useful compendium but lacks analytical and theoretical substance.

Pierce considers scores of novels, novelettes, and short stories from the early 19th century to the 1980s. Her method is first to set up classifications and then to describe the stories that fit under each rubric, emphasizing story elements which reflect the traditions of SF and mystery. Since mystery, in particular, is defined largely by plot, most of the discussion of each work is plot summary, with some attention to milieu.

Pierce defines both parent genres broadly, including under SF also science fantasy (itself a hybrid) and classing detective stories, crime stories, spy stories, and gothic romances as forms of mystery. Strictly speaking, Pierce does not deal with generic classifications at all. She refers to both SF and mystery as modes rather than genres, implying that their essential characteristics are not so much matters of structure as of outlook and emphasis. The SF mode characteristically asks "What if?" while mystery asks "Who done it and why?" These are defensible uses of the terms, and Pierce backs them up with the obligatory histories, taking mystery back to William Godwin and Poe and SF back to Mary Shelley.

Criticism of SF suffers all too often from either an overabundance or a lack of theory, never touching earth or never leaving it. Despite its inclusiveness, this work of Pierce's is earthbound. The many examples are described briefly and then abandoned, with no significant insight gained. Occasionally Pierce makes observations in passing that would seem worth following up. In discussing a work by Lloyd Biggle, for example, she points out that when the hard-boiled detective is placed in an alien culture, his code of ethics is called into question. Since it is this personal code that sets the private eye apart from his seamy surroundings, challenging it challenges the rationale of the hard-boiled mystery. However, Pierce does not pursue this idea through the rest of her chapter of private-eye SF. Instead she shifts in rapid succession first to the Greek ideal of moderation, then to Northrop Frye's classification of heroes, and finally to the nature of parody, while summarizing another dozen or so plots. One wishes she would select and linger, so that the more intriguing ideas could be developed and the more profound works considered at length. Pierce is too democratic: Mack Reynolds gets as much attention as Stanislaw Lem. She cites Robert Louis Stevenson's concern with the insincerity, shallowness, and artificiality of mystery-writing, but she fails to deal adequately with the works that might answer him.

Nonetheless, it is good to see attention paid to the fusion of modes and genres. By revealing the multitude and variety of SF mysteries, Pierce demonstrates that literature, like agriculture, benefits from hybrid vigor.

--Brian Attebery


Strangers to Fiction

Peter Nichols, ed. The Science in Science Fiction. NY: Knopf, 1983. 208pp. Illustrated. $14.95;

Eugene M. Emme, ed. Science Fiction and Space Futures Past and Present. San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1982. 270pp.$35.00, $25.00 (paper)

Rex Malik, ed. Future Imperfect. Science Fact and Science Fiction. London: Frances Pinter, 1980. 219pp. $25.00

The appetite for rich red fact may drive scientists, bureaucrats, and businessmen to demand more solid fare than the stuff whipped up by lunatics, lovers, and poets; but the invited guests of imaginative literature will always linger for the trifle. Good as they are in parts, the three books considered here all ask things of fiction that are ultimately alien to its nature. Not to embark on the wrong foot, however, it must be said that none ever descends to the level of the comic book Lumpenkritik whose correspondence complains of minor lapses, errors, and anachronisms. But all are tinged with apology for the failure of SF to predict with accuracy and fully assimilate current states of knowledge.

As might be expected, Peter Nicholls' effort is excellent. Having won the 1979 Hugo award for his Encyclopedia of Science Fiction as the best non-fiction book in its field, he teams up here with trained scientists to assemble a fine popular survey of the science in SF. About half of the chapters are given to extrapolated science and the stories it generates about such topics as space travel, energy sources, holocaust and catastrophe, intelligent machines and robotics, and the lesser dreams and nightmares of leisure and crime control. A second kind of discussion pursues the speculations of imaginary science in stories about aliens, hyperspace and antimatter, time travel and alternative universes. Two chapters on controversial science take up the powers of the mind and mysteries of the past and present. And a unique final chapter discusses "science" that is just plain wrong. Here are analyses of those misinterpretations of gravity, vacuums, and relativistic effects that deserve the purist's junkheap as much as do whooshing meteor storms in space and alien lobsters lusting after our women.

The exposition moves back and forth between clear and well informed articulations of the scientific issues and their place in SF. And the fiction ranges from early pulp, and its gaudy covers, to recent and "intellectual" varieties. Excluded are fantasy and purely sociological speculation, but that leaves room for mention of some 400 stories and a smaller number of works of non-fiction--all conveniently listed in the bibliography. Useful acknowledgments of artwork and an excellent index follow.

Eugene Emme edits the proceedings of the Third American Astronautical Society History Symposium, held at Pentagon City, Virginia, in March 1981. The participants were mostly government and establishment people connected with the space program. The papers and discussion are very informative and professional, while their slant is uniformly pro-government and pro-space exploration. The first part of the volume surveys developments, sometimes from way back, in the cosmic voyage in SF, film and space art, and in popular attitudes towards technology. Of these offerings, the best are two by Frederick Ordway: on "Space Fiction in Film: Eight Decades from Mlis to Lucas" and on "2001: A Space Odyssey in Retrospect." Ordway was an advisor on Kubrick's film, and this is a fascinating account of ten million dollars worth of interdigitation between the film and aerospace industries. Following Ordway's contributions are statistical studies of the three readerships of SF--Hard Science, New Wave, and Sword-and-Sorcery--from which W.S. Bainbridge concludes that while the first type are the most committed to space exploration, even the social commentary and neobarbarian buffs do not condemn it. This part of Space Futures ends with some reflections on the links between science and SF by Jesco van Puttkamer, of the Office of Space Transportation Systems.

The shorter second and third parts of the volume comprise a panel discussion of the question, "Are we deluding ourselves if we believe that private investors are likely to do anything significant in space in, say, the next 10 to 20 years?" You can imagine their basic answer, but the discussion moves curiously from economics to religion. The last section, "Beyond Science Fiction," features Bainbridge's paper on appropriate future religions (e.g., the Church of God Galactic). While he finds lessons for tomorrow in the Mormon colonization of Utah, Jesco von Puttkamer's "Space: A Matter of Ethics--Toward a New Humanism," originally written for the centenary of the birth of Teilhard de Chardin, sees our species evolving outwards to fulfill a manifest interplanetary destiny. The book ends with a good 30-page annotated bibliography on the history of space futures and an index.

The weakest volume, edited by Rex Malik, is the result of a conference sponsored by the Sperry Univac Executive Centre at St. Paul de Vence, France, and held in July 1979. It brought together technical specialists, mostly in computers, and some journalists and SF writers. It amounted to a private sector occasion for peering over the leading edge of technology at the price/performance possibilities of the future. Of the 14 contributions, seven may be of interest to students of SF, but the hearts of the conference participants were clearly in the final section: on real technology. Where Emme's government-inspired volume emphasized space flight, Malik's business-oriented one bristles with artificial intelligence.

The paper by I.F. Clarke looks at writings prophesying war around the turn of the century, and assessing their accuracy, reveals them to be a blend of the psychopolitically canny and the technologically nave. John Barter's survey of attitudes towards SF is not as thorough as Bainbridge's, and a confessional piece by A.E. Van Vogt and an interview with Arthur C. Clarke do not show them at their best. But there is a lively anti-academic spied by Harry Harrison on SF as fun:

It has to be entertaining because it's the thinking man's garbage, the thinking man's entertainment. Paul [sic] Anderson said that when he writes a book, he is fighting for a six-pack of beer. A guy goes out, money in his pocket. Will he buy a six-pack or a paperback? I'd buy the six-pack of beer, myself. (pp. 76-77)

Also in this breezy vein are the pieces about film. Suzanne Landa's has such moments as, "We will start with 'Flesh Gordon' where Flesh and Dale Artur fall down a toilet and end up in the evil Emperor Wang's palace. Wang turns three rapist robots loose on them but Flesh manages to, and I do quote, 'blow their circuits"' (p. 109). A section called "Brain Storm: or How Not to Write a Sci-Fi Movie" is an understandably anonymous revelation of the tasteless sessions in which TV hacks grind out series. But the progressive bias shared by the bureaucratic and business types comes out in such criticism as:

I much prefer that to a really negative, destructive picture like 'Close Encounters,' which is just pure madness. This is anti-science of the worst kind. Everybody, the public thinks that science is made up of flashing lights and strange sounds...It's really frightening. It's cargo cult. They built these planes out of bamboo so that the Americans would come back. 'Close Encounters' is a cargo cult for the intellectual. We can't do it in earth ways, we're so stupid, we're morons, it's so hard to work politically, we're going to go out there and flash lights and sounds and these guys are going to come down and save mankind. Which is absolutely anti-science. It's a destructive picture. (P. 99)

As you can see, the anxieties of scientists, government bureaucrats, and businessmen can get quite high in the presence of art. But while SF may be the genre in which a technological society speculates about itself, its primary function cannot be to predict the future, nor to employ every new fact, nor even to soothe an industrious citizenry. Indeed, as Arthur C. Clarke has said before, and repeats on one of these occasions, SF attempts more often to prevent some futures. More importantly, the major use of SF, as of other fiction, is surely to make the truth less strange, more human, making of the beast not meat but metaphor.

--Richard Dwyer


A Bibliographical Survey of "Conjectural Genres"

Henri Delmas & Alain Julian. Le rayon SF. Catalogue bibliographique de science- fiction, utopies, voyages extraordinaires. Toulouse: Editions Milan [1983]. 331pp. illus. $33.50.--

This bibliographical catalogue, detailed and easy to consult, is specially intended for collectors and French booksellers. Parcelling out its field of "conjectural genres" under the rubrics "Collections," "Magazines," and "Authors," it aims at covering everything--including works "hors série"--ever published in francophone countries. The reader will also find in the volume a list of prices current for SF, a critical bibliography, and the results of a survey of French publishers on the situation of SF in 1983.

The two compilers do not concern themselves with rigorously circumscribing their field of study. They understand it to comprise utopian fiction, fantastic journey, and prehistorical novel, but also stretch it to take in spy and detective stories. What is perhaps most surprising is the inclusion, in the "Authors" section, of some "mainstream" literature--e.g., a work by Paul Claudel.

Delmas and Julian become a little more serious in organizing and classifying their data. Accom- panying each entry for a magazine or collection is a facetiously didactic commentary on the history and organization of the collection or magazine, its directions and social orientation. Also specified in the bibliographical analyses are years of publication, the names of translators and illustrators, and a price list in French francs.

Using the Second World War as their line of demarcation, Delmas and Julian subdivide each of their three principal sections into "The Ancestors" and "The Contemporary." The first French SF collection dates from the 18th century: Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques ("Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions and Cabalistic Novels," 1787-89). The first magazine, the Journal des Voyages ("Travel Diaries"), was launched in the 19th century (1877-1949). The dividing line between the two groups is blurred, however: certain "ancestors" ceased publication only in the '50s, and among the "contemporary" magazines Hypemondes, for example, goes back as far as 1935.

The desire to encompass all aspects of publication does not, unfortunately, preclude a few lapses under "Collections" and "Magazines"--e.g., the series "Anticipations" (from Stock publishers) is omitted. It is also regrettable that certain French collections published outside of France are ignored (though some non-French collections are not): after all, a book mainly aimed at French collectors should survey the entire French output.

The "Authors" section, with 3,000 names (including pseudonyms, identified as such), takes up more than half the volume. Listed here, usually in chronological order of French publication and usually with an indication of the French publisher, are all the SF books of French writers and those works in other languages (principally English) which have been translated into French (but the titles of the latter are not stipulated by author if they appeared as part of a French publisher's series; in those cases, Delmas and Julian provide only a collection reference number, which the user must look up in a previous section of the volume). The "Ancestors" appear with more than 50 titles before 1800; but of particular interest is the entry for Verne, which specifies the various editions of his books, especially those put out by his original publisher, Hetzel. All of this information would have been more accessible if it had been comprehensively indexed by author; but as it is, the catalogue offers only an alphabetical table of the titles of collections and magazines and the abbreviations therefor.

The bibliography of books about SF is rather complete--within certain limits. It, too, is restricted to publications in French (induding translations). Of far less interest is Yves Frémion's superficial survey of French publishers. It merely confirms the "pop" orientation of the "Fleuve Noir" series and the hardships of French SF writers: too few serious SF magazines, base working conditions, publishers like Opta mainly interested in Anglo-American literature. For good measure, an appendix lists (by author) the winners of European or American SF awards; and subjoined to this are the names of the other nominees.

What Le rayon SF amounts to, then, is an amateur textbook intended for the fan of conjectural genres. Yet despite some mysterious lapses and a rather vague delineation of what it is dealing with, it is still full of pertinent information--much of it newly discovered--conveyed in a humorous fashion.

--Sophie Beaulé  


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