Science Fiction Studies

#42 = Volume 14, Part 2 = July 1987


American Science Fiction Summarily Treated

Thomas D. Clareson. Some Kind of Paradise: The Emergence of American Science Fiction. ["Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy," No. 16.] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985. xiv + 248pp. $29.95; Science Fiction in America, 1870s-1930s: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources. ["Bibliographies and Indexes in American Literature," No. 1.] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1984. xiv + 305pp. $35.00

These two books provide important source material for the study of SF, particularly as it developed in popular American fiction during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The annotated bibliography includes basic publication information and plot summaries for 838 books, arranged alphabetically from Abbott's Flatland to Zamiatin's We. Most of the entries are by American writers, but as these opening and concluding items indicate, British and (less often) Continental writers are listed when they had a significant impact on the field. This principle--which Clareson follows in Some Kind of Paradise as well--seems to me eminently sane, but the Abbott and Zamiatin entries reveal deficiencies in the bibliography: "Abbott" is erroneously cited as "Abbot," and the description of We omits the translator's name. (Indeed, aside from the statement that We is an "attack upon the U.S.S.R. [that] has never been published in Russia," there is no indication that the book was originally written in Russian, although it was first published in English translation.) A spot check of other entries, however, reveals only a few minor errors, so these problems with the first and last entries may be atypical. Two indices--one each for authors and for titles--help to make the bibliography easy to use, especially for those of us who want a quick plot summary of an out-of-the-way novel whose author we cannot recall.

I would find the bibliography annotations more helpful if they included frequent cross-references between entries, but for connections among various SF works of this period we can always turn to Some Kind of Paradise, a sort of critical history of American SF (with, again, consideration of significant non-American contributors to the field). Here, as in the bibliography, Clareson casts a wide net, including discussions of many works that seem to me to belong to the realms of fantasy, horror, or adventure fiction; but the focus is certainly on fiction that is related to the development of SF in America. Within the given period and genre, few works of undeniable significance are omitted, although in the description of the Gothic tradition from The Castle of Otranto on, it seems curious that there is no discussion of James Hogg's Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), one of the most complex and intriguing Doppelganger novels ever written. Again, I would have expected at least a brief mention of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race (1871), either in the part of the utopia chapter dealing with societies ruled by women or in the chapter on voyages to lost or previously undiscovered lands. The references to hundreds of other works, however, compensate for the places where Clareson has missed an obviously important novel or story.

Because few readers will be familiar with more than a small fraction of the many narratives that Clareson discusses, Some Kind of Paradise necessarily includes a great deal of plot summary. The summaries are, in fact, the strong point of the volume: although on occasion Clareson provides us with real insights into the works, his critical interpretations and evaluations are generally perfunctory. There is also much less background material than I would have expected in a critical study of this sort: after the first chapter, which includes an overview of technological, demographic, and economic developments in late 19th and early 20th-century America, the book concentrates on plot elements, showing how various authors used a narrative formula like the journey to an unknown land or the description of a utopian society. The relative paucity of critical commentary is especially annoying because the materials dealt with here are so rich in political, economic, and psychological implications. Hence, while the book describes many plots dealing with racial matters--"yellow peril" stories of Asian invasions of America, for example, and tales involving a hero's relationship to an exotic non-Caucasian woman--there is little analysis of the implications of these motifs or of the forces that caused them to be so popular, so that we are left with little more than the raw materials for a real critical study.

One final problem with Some Kind of Paradise is that the paragraph development is sometimes confusing. In the Acknowledgments, for example, Clareson writes that he "put aside" SF "until I needed a dissertation topic. Professor Harold Whitehall and others at Indiana University encouraged my early suggestions for a topic, but it was such teachers as Robert Spiller, Thomas Haviland, Maurice Johnson, and Allen Chester who conducted the final oral examination in 1955" (p. ix). I thought I understood from this that Clareson was a PhD candidate at Indiana, where Whitehall encouraged his work and Spiller and the others mentioned above formed his dissertation committee; but two pages later, in the Introduction, I came across the statement that Clareson "began [his] formal study of the emergence of American science fiction at the University of Pennsylvania under Professor Robert E. Spiller" (p. xi). A check with The Directory of American Scholars reveals that Clareson took his M.A. at Indiana and his PhD at Penn; had he taken more time to indicate that sequence of events in the Acknowledgments, I would have followed him without having to consult a reference book.

It seems petty to quibble about the front material, but similar problems appear in the main text, where the lack of coherence can be distracting. Take, for instance, these sentences dealing with Edgar Rice Burroughs:

For more than thirty years something about him and his adventures appealed to a wide, popular audience. Supposedly that audience was predominantly adolescent males. (Such a judgment ignores a basic fact, one which pairs him with the indomitable hero of the 1930s, Doc Savage. In the 1960s Ballantine Books reissued both Tarzan and the Doc Savage titles, never letting either go out of print.) (p. 188)

The "judgment" that "ignores a basic fact" is apparently the idea that Tarzan's devotees were mainly teenaged males, but what the "basic fact" might be, and how the rest of the quoted material bears on the appeal of Tarzan for adolescent boys, is far from clear.

Despite their shortcomings, both books contain important material on a significant aspect of American popular culture. No one who plans serious work on early American SF can afford to ignore Clareson's contributions to the study of this field.

--Patrick A. McCarthy  University of Miami, Florida

Zelazny Deserves Better

Theodore Krulik. Roger Zelazny. NY: Ungar, 1986. xiv + 178pp. $15.95

The first thing to say about Theodore Krulik's Roger Zelazny is that it's a hell of a lot better than the only other volume in Ungar's Recognition Series on Science Fiction and Fantasy which I have seen--the truly awful Samuel R. Delany by Seth McEvoy. This may not be saying much, but Krulik has at least done his "homework," reading all the texts and interviewing Zelazny, at great length, on a number of thematic concerns. Of course, McEvoy had corresponded with Delany, which meant that he had at least a few pages of intelligent writing in his book--the few pages of Delany's letters or original texts he quoted. Actually, "homework" may be the telling word here, for Krulik is a highschool teacher, and the (now) two examples of Ungar's criticism I have perused appear to be aimed at high school students, if indeed they are aimed at anyone.

Krulik's approach is breezy and off-hand, which leads to more than a few awkward sentences. It is also determinedly biographical and thematic, as such chapter titles as "Wondrous Wordsmith," "Immortality and Interstellar Relations," "Flawed Knights," and "Visions and Deities" demonstrates. Very early on, Krulik describes Zelazny, whom he visited for a week of interviews, and points to what he perceives as the physical, emotional, and mental similarities between the author and his various protagonists. Throughout, he is given to redundant and simplified plot summaries, always brought forward in the service of a thematic reading of each text. The plot summaries are especially annoying. Whom are they for? Certainly not anyone who has read the books. My guess is that they are part of the general strategy of this series, nobly offering young readers who have not read a particular author a chance to discover why he or she is really worth reading. But I must say I can't quite see the value of such an approach, since those who tend not to pick up fiction on their own are highly unlikely to pick up a non-fiction book which has no other purpose than to entice them towards the fiction they refuse to read.

And of course there are definite critical problems with the breezy, "tell-the-story" approach, as Krulik's reading of the Pei'an religion in To Die in Italbar and Isle of the Dead shows. Krulik first tells us that Francis Sandow "has control of an alien god" (p. 38), only to say a few pages later that "two deities rip and tear up [a] planet in their battle, oblivious to the endangerment of their human hosts" (p. 40). Ignoring the ugliness of a word like "endangerment," this is simply poor reading on the most superficial level; and it's also the kind of thing a good copy-editor would have caught and checked. Other infelicities I think good editing would have saved readers from include an immense amount of unnecessary repetition over and above the redundant plot summaries: such as the four references to the narrator's lack of a name in My Name is Legion. A number of dumb typos don't help matters. The lack of such editing, here and in the Delany volume, suggests that Ungar thinks it has a sure market for books on SF and simply isn't bothering to take the trouble to provide that market with anything of real value. The ghetto lives on.

Nevertheless, Krulik is an enthusiastic reader of Zelazny, and it is clear that he really enjoys the man's writing. Moreover, within his limitations he is willing to judge, and does suggest that some books are better than others. But the thematic approach obstructs any really interesting critical thinking at every turn (I speak as someone who knows just how dangerous such an approach can be, since it has done great damage to the study of Canadian Literature over the past few decades). Krulik keeps coming back to certain texts as he shifts from theme to theme, but the problem is clear. The stories appear to be interesting only insofar as the themes are. Nowhere are the textural qualities that mark Zelazny's best writing as unique and memorable ever explored. Four times, for example, Krulik refers to Delany's brilliant essay, "Faust and Archimedes: Disch, Zelazny," yet he never elicits anything more out of it than that the twined themes of immortality and suicide are to be found in Zelazny's work. If SF's version of Virginia Woolf's "Common Reader" couldn't figure that out on her own, nobody could, for the dedicated fans are among the more sophisticated readers of genre.

Actually, what's really disappointing about this little book is how far short of its subject it falls. It would be mean to expect anyone to approach a Delany's brilliance, but Krulik never even tries to approach Delany's comprehension of the complex network of style, form, and energy of performance in Zelazny. If you want to learn something about Zelazny's writing, Delany's few pages offers more solid information than Krulik's nearly 200 pages do. Zelazny's comments in the interviews are occasionally intriguing, but as they are mostly autobiographical, they do little to add to our sense of what the writing is really about, what it does. I return to certain Zelazny texts because they offer me a particular kind of delight, a delight which can only be found in texts. The most interesting criticism I know helps me to understand how texts engage a reader, or they at least register for me some of the complexities of a text's texture. Krulik's book told me nothing I could not or had not figured out for myself, and I believe the same could be said for any fairly well-read SF reader. Certainly, as far as the readers of SFS are concerned, it would only be a waste of time and money to invest in this book.

--Douglas Barbour  University of Alberta

Deviant Delights

William Sims Bainbridge. Dimensions of Science Fiction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1986. 278pp. $20.00

Bainbridge is a Harvard sociologist who has looked into delinquency, Satanic and other cults, the Shakers and other Utopian communities. About time, some would say, that he turned his analytical techniques on the readership of SF. Actually, he is also a third-generation reader of SF and has contributed an article on the "shape" of it to this journal (see SFS, 5 [1978]: 165-71). It is his clear affection for the genre, if anything, that compromises the objectivity of his study...and greatly increases its value for the common reader.

Bainbridge sees the SF subculture of writers, editors, and fans as a tangle of social movements promulgating radical "ideologies." He separates these into three varieties:

each urging a different course for the human future, each proposing its own plan as the most rewarding choice and warning that the alternatives would impose undesirable costs. Hard science is the traditional form of SF, based on speculations about technology and the physical sciences. New wave is more concerned with literary technique, the psychology of characters, and the social sciences. The fantasy cluster is a collection of subgenres more concerned with magic than with the sciences, its largest province being sword-and-sorcery, a form of literature that rejects the modern world and most of contemporary culture. (p. 7)

As a sociologist, Bainbridge is much concerned with his research method, which is statistical. His primary data base is a set of 595 responses to a questionnaire distributed at the 1978 Iguanacon World SF Convention held in Phoenix, Arizona. Among other things, he asked respondents to rate 140 authors (including two fake ones with whose non-existent works 46 conventioneers claimed familiarity!), and from their answers he constructs, or reproduces from other surveys, 10 sets of figures and 25 tables. Some readers may agree with Bainbridge that these quantitative displays form the firm core of his contribution to knowledge. I cannot say whether the sociology subculture will find his uses of such concepts as "ideology," "radicality," and even "deviance" sufficiently orthodox.

I prefer the rest of the book, which emanates from Bainbridge's wide reading of SF and its students, and harks back in its way to an earlier "arm-chair" kind of analysis, at once more literate and philosophical. It is this aspect of Bainbridge's exposition that produces the many story summaries and speculative extrapolations on the power of imagination, women in SF, and enlightenment and transcendence, as well as moments like this:

At the time of Iguanacon, editor Ted White explained, 'The phrase most commonly linked with that of SF over the past thirty or more years is "sense of wonder." A[n] SF reader cannot help but have this sense, this almost mystical awe at the grandiose wonders of our vast universe, and the magical delight in exploring those wonders.' For decades fans have lamented the loss of wonder in the most recent SF. In the old days, some say, there was a sense of wonder, but no longer. To some thoughtful critics, like Alva Rogers, this sense of wonder lay not in the stories themselves but in the shock of first contact with SF experienced by young readers: 'In the final analysis a Sense of Wonder is the priceless possession of the youthful discoverer of SF; it may last for a short fleeting instant, or it may stay with him for a number of years. At any rate, it is sooner or later lost, seldom to be recovered.' (pp. 24-25)

Let us hope some such feeling continues to sustain the social scientist as he toils at his log-linear analyses of the inexhaustible modes of deviance.

--Richard Dwyer  Florida International University

Visual and Verbal Expressions of Sexuality

Donald Palumbo, ed. Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature. ["Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy," No. 18.] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986. xviiii + 305pp. $35.00; Eros in the Mind's Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film. ["Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy," No. 21.] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986. xxxvi + 290pp., illus. $35.00

There is much to be learned about the genres of SF and fantasy and their relationship to our understanding and expressions of sexuality. Donald Palumbo's two editions of essays on this subject (compiled from papers given at the 1982 and 1983 International Conferences on the Fantastic in the Arts and National Popular Culture Association Meetings) certainly make one aware of this, both in the realm of literature (Erotic Universe) and in the visual arts (Eros in the Mind's Eye).

In his preface to Erotic Universe, Palumbo correctly claims that this volume "identifies the most salient concerns, themes, viewpoints, and motifs evident in a broad spectrum of the literature itself" (p. xvi). The same claim can be made for Eros in the Mind's Eye, and anyone seeking points of departure in this area might find the essays and the appended bibliographies of use. However, anyone looking for fresh ways to examine the nature of, and the relationships among, sexuality, SF, fantasy, psychosexual theory, and feminist issues, will have to look very hard. Although the essays of Erotic Universe are categorized under "Theory," "Themes," and "Feminist Views," in actuality they are mostly thematic studies which analyze specific novels according to appropriate motifs and ideas. For example, Judith Bogert's "Survival: The Search for an Ethic in a Changing World" begins with an assertion that a society is often caught between the need to establish moral codes in order to ensure stability and the need to challenge those codes to allow for change. This then becomes the theme which she traces in a number of SF novels, essentially abandoning theoretical considerations for textual illumination.

The nature of content in SF poses interesting and problematic issues in theorizing about sexuality. William M. Schuyler, Jr, in "Sexes, Genders, and Discrimination," believes that philosophers (and I assume theoreticians) would do well to listen to SF writers:

What philosophers have needed is a stock of examples already worked out in great detail, and some have realized that for many problems, such a stock can be found in science fiction. Specifically, science fiction provides a remarkable range of closely analyzed approaches to human sexuality. (p. 46)

This statement provokes certain questions about relying on the content of SF for authoritative evidence (a reliance motivated by the resemblance between SF and scientific method). Virginia Allen and Terri Paul argue, in "Science and Fiction: Ways of Theorizing about Women," that "good science fiction has a mandate to explore ideas that do not fit within the prevailing paradigm" (p. 170). The problem arises when a social or psychological theorizing is attempted on the basis of literary content. Many of the essays in the two volumes under review made me realize that students of SF must be clearly aware of the source and nature of a novel's content-- its value and limitations as a source of authority. Can literary analysis of SF enter into and contribute to the discourse of other speculative disciplines? Perhaps; not, however, by the analytical methodology of some of these essays, not through the content of a novel or film, but possibly through the discourse, the means by which the content is created, as literary (not scientific, philosophical, or sociological) discourse.

Brooks Landon's essay "Eve at the End of the World: Sexuality and the Reversal of Expectations in Novels by Joanna Russ, Angela Carter, and Thomas Berger" is the best of the lot, because he understands the above issue. Landon is the only one who clearly differentiates a novel's content and its discourse, taking into consideration post-structuralist theory (he is the only one to mention Eric Rabkin's very important The Fantastic in Literature). It is no coincidence that Landon chooses three authors who assume the images of women to be the product of patriarchal discourse, who "attempt to recast or re-energize images of women in formula literature..." (p. 62) within that discourse. Landon clearly knows the literature which he writes about and, as he points out, his "discussion of these three novels, although it need not be too theoretical, raises a number of theoretical issues" (p. 63). He is responsibly provocative, and so are the authors he chose.

The feminist readings of SF in both volumes yield few new insights into the issues of feminism, although someone not fully "consciousness-raised" will become sensitized to the reality that we live in a patriarchal society characterized by a sadomasochistic pattern of dominance and submission, which has become gender-aligned (to put it simply, women lack power). That perception, Palumbo's feminist essayists indicate, is what many SF and fantasy writers have taken as the basis for further--fictionalized--speculation. Probably the most intriguing concept in this regard--one that feminists tend to ignore--is that there is power in submission. That is a point Schuyler makes ("this masochism arises not from a desire to submit but from an urge to dominate"); but he then cavalierly dismisses the whole issue with "so much for the dominance-submission theory of gender difference" (p. 54).

The Freudian readings yield about as much as the feminist ones. Andrew Gordon's "The Power of the Force: Sex in the Star Wars Trilogy" (in Eros...) is one of the better examples of this approach, accurately identifying the psychosexual dimensions of the relationships between the protagonists of the trilogy.

The best analyses of single works are Patricia Frazer Lamb and Diana L. Veith's "Again, The Left Hand of Darkness: Androgyny or Homophobia?" (in Erotic Universe); and Anthony Ambrogio's "Alien: In Space, No One Can Hear Your Primal Scream" and John Kilgore's "Sexuality and Identity in The Rocky Horror Picture Show " (both in Eros...). Anyone wishing to understand this popular cultural phenomenon must read Kilgore's essay. He accurately identifies Rocky Horror as a post-modernist text, one which parodies the themes and conventions of our sexual discourse, "but with an affectionate touch, striving less for ridicule than for illumination. It prefers to make the sexual subtext explicit" (p. 155)--a subtext that reveals our fears of the transsexual dimensions of our sexuality.

Eros in the Mind's Eye proposes the same thorough treatment of "the depiction of sexuality in fantastic artworks employing visual media, primarily two-dimensional art and film" (p. xv), as was proposed for literature in the companion volume Erotic Universe. Essays in this volume focus on visual arts, high and popular, from Medieval through contemporary. Actually, this volume deals with two very different genres--the purely visual of the plastic arts and the visual narrative of film. The essays on the plastic arts are predominantly informative and are addressed to anyone interested in knowing what exists iconically. The essays on film focus exclusively on narrative content; and since none deals with the cinematic dimension of film, they could have easily been included in the volume on literature.

Finally, I would like to observe that publishing conference papers is fine, but that there is a difference between hearing a paper and reading that same paper. Clever rhetoric and cute expressions which enliven a reading become annoying when seen in print. Apparently Palumbo did not take this into account when he asked contributors for revision.

--Kenneth E. Johnson Florida International University

A Utopian Synthesis

Guy Bouchard, Laurent Giroux, & Gilbert Leclerc. L'Utopie aujourd'hui. Montréal & Sherbrooke: Presses de l'Université de Montréal & Éditions de l'Université de Sherbrooke, 1985. 272pp. $23.50

As its title indicates, the object of this work is twofold. First of all, its authors give an up-to-date account of theoretical research on the concept of utopia. And, as the second meaning of the title implies, they analyze the point which the utopian imagination is at in our contemporary world, and use it as a source of social criticism.

In effect, utopia has always lain at the heart of historical progression; it fills ideological lacunae in that it represents a human aspiration towards the Ideal City. The resurgence of related studies since the 1960s is proof of its importance today. The authors provide a minute account of theoretical knowledge of their subject as they analyze the connections between utopia and philosophy, sociology, and literature. They further expand their study by presenting their own hypotheses on utopia and the possible directions such thinking might take. Despite a certain long-windedness, this book can be considered a rigorous tool with which to approach the phenomenon of utopia.

In the lead essay, "L'Utopie: naissance, croissance, résurrection" ("Utopia: Birth, Growth, Death...and Resurrection"), Laurent Giroux analyzes different philosophies as utopian, from Plato to Callenbach. He examines the possible ways one might go beyond both ideological anchoring in a social context and linkage to the future of contemporary humankind. Giroux's diachronic study follows a dialectic movement. Utopia was born in the very foundations of the Platonic City, which is voluntarily utopian and oriented towards an ideal of rationality. But, Giroux says, this type of rationality, which was later stripped of wisdom and confiscated by power, has rendered inoperable all other utopias which tried to overthrow this resulting tyrannical rationality. Utopia, then, had become an illusion by which one can conquer political power and its legitimation.

Retracing the growth of the philosophical utopias from Kant and Hegel to Marcuse, the author emphasizes that Platonic tyranny has taken the form of technocracy. On the other hand, he notes that the resolutions to realize utopia throughout history were paradoxically thwarted by economic, technological, and political powers.

Utopia finds itself, therefore, confronted by a kind of death or impasse rather than its potential liberator. In Heidegger's philosophy, Giroux looks for the explanation of the nature of humankind's rapport with technology and the possibility of a utopian path. In contemporary times, the interaction of human beings and nature has been warped to make profit a way of life. The essence of humanity has been left by the wayside. Heideggerian philosophy proposes entry into freedom over our destiny by not using plan or forethought. There are, though, backroads (chemins de chantier ) which Giroux considers to be utopian in essence. The actual realization of these openings finally brings us, according to the author, back to the Platonic dream of Good, which cannot be realized voluntarily, without imposition and therefore without self-destruction. Consequently, he feels that the utopian dream of Good is part of the essence of humanity, and therein lies our freedom.

Gilbert Leclerc's contribution to the volume, "L'Éducation permanente comme modèle utopique" ("Continuing Education as Utopian Model"), is interesting in that it examines the actualization of a utopian idea. Continuing education, by virtue of its rapid development and consecration as well as, most especially, its universality, strikes Leclerc as being utopian in its essence: having become synonymous with complete educational reform, it is also a means of recasting society in an Educational City. He defines utopia and continuing education according to the Weberian notion of ideal types, and then puts the utopian models for education in a historical context which shows them engendering social praxis and thereby forwarding the process of social development. Bulking largest in the volume is Guy Bouchard's "Eutopie, dystopie, para-utopie et péri-utopie" and its lengthy continuation "L'Hétéropolitique de l'histoire" ("The Heteropolitics of History"). In the first of these essays, Bouchard describes utopia as standing "at the confluence of the novel and theory, where idealized sociopolitical themes are integrated into an eidetic fiction" (p. 165), and thence as being an integral part of SF, especially in its eutopian and dystopian manifestations. The latter Bouchard distinguishes from two other less familiar concepts: para-utopia, designating non-fiction texts with idealized socio-political contents, and peri-utopia, signifying fictional texts with non-idealized socio-political contents. With reference to works by Orwell, Boulle, Bruss, and others, Bouchard then concentrates on dystopian writings in an effort to determine the function of utopia: to awaken the political conscience of readers, to criticize the present and thus provide an insight into the future. Alluding to a large range of utopian ideologies (millenarianism, Marxism, anarchism, etc.), he demonstrates in his own way the link between utopia and history. Largely influenced by Ernst Bloch, he points to the alliance between utopian and revolutionary impulses and makes a case for the urgency of inaugurating a utopian "heteropolitics" within the context of human development and evolution. In the face of expanding theoretical research on utopia, L'Utopie aujourd'hui offers a synthesis of already-recognized ideas which also opens up new ways of exploring its subject.

--Sophie Beaulé McGill University

A Bibliography of the Fantastic

Norbert Spehner. Écrits sur le fantastique: bibliographie analytique des études & essais sur le fantastique publiés entre 1900 et 1985 (littérature/cinéma/art fantastique). [Collection "Paralittératures."] Longueuil: Editions du Préamble, 1986. 352pp. $18.95 (paper)

This volume, an updated and expanded version of Norbert Spehner's M.A. thesis (Université de Montréal, 1977), is the first publication in a series that will also include a bibliography of SF studies. In the present volume, Spehner, the former editor of Solaris, has catalogued over 2,000 articles and books that study the fantastic in the fields of literature, art, and cinema.

The volume is divided into two main parts. The first lists alphabetically by author-critic studies of fantastic literature, art, and cinema. Spehner has subdivided this first part into six sections: (1) special numbers of periodicals; (2) reference works, including bibliographies of the fantastic, encyclopedias, and dictionaries of authors; (3) articles and longer works on fantastic literature; (4) a selection of unpublished theses dealing with fantastic literature; (5) a sampling of studies of fantastic art; and (6) studies of fantastic cinema. A brief description accompanies many of the longer works catalogued in the third section. The second part of Spehner's bibliography provides a sampling of studies on such varied "auteurs fantastiques" as Nodier and Poe, Conan Doyle and Dostoyevsky, listing the entries alphabetically according to the author whose work is examined. Most of the works cited in both of these parts are in French or English, and all were written between 1900 and 1985.

Despite the undeniable merit of Spehner's accomplishment in assembling a large number of references, taken from such diverse publications as Fiction and fanzines, the usefulness of this bibliography is unfortunately lessened by a certain vagueness in the criteria used in selecting entries and by a lack of attention to detail. In the introduction to the bibliography, Spehner states that scholars have yet to formulate an entirely satisfactory definition of le fantastique. This statement is quite correct. In fact, Spehner makes no apology for his failure to define precisely what he means by fantastic art or cinema. As for la littérature fantastique, rather than formulating a definition, he elects to describe what constitutes a fantastic event. He concludes that such an event involves the violation of at least one of the physical laws that govern our universe. Thus the fantastic event implies a conflict between what is possible and impossible, real and unreal, natural and supernatural. Spehner also states that the English-language term "fantasy" designates a body of literature quite distinct from that covered by his own use of le fantastique.

Although these preliminary distinctions are probably defendable, they are not always reflected in the body of references Spehner includes in this bibliography. Despite his exclusion of fantasy from the ranks of le fantastique, Spehner has included, without further explanation, some references to works studying fantasy, such as W.R. Irwin's The Game of the Impossible: A Rhetoric of Fantasy. Works written by other English-language critics on fantasy (e.g., C.N. Manlove's), are nonetheless omitted. The section that lists theses dealing with fantastic literature draws heavily on Dissertation Abstracts International (DIA). This occasionally backfires: Spehner has found Sydney L.W. Lea's PhD thesis in a reference culled from DIA, but seems unaware that this thesis is available in published form (Gothic to Fantastic: Readings in Supernatural Fiction [NY: Arno Press, 1980]).

Although some typographical mistakes are inevitable in a work of this length, those found in this volume seem unnecessarily numerous. Some are minor, such as the misspelling of Christine Brooke-Rose's surname, which appears as "Brooks-Rose" (entry C29). Le Conte fantastique du XIXe siècle (entry C79) should read Le Conte fantastique au XIXe siècle. In successive references to one periodical, Spehner gives its title first as Delap's SF and Fantasy Review, then as Delap's Fantasy and Science Fiction Review (entries A4 and A5). A third, slightly different version of the same title appears in the index of periodical titles: Delap's Fantasy and S.F. Review (p. 345).

The index of authors of books and articles on the fantastic contains a number of errors, among them the absence of any reference to Marcel Schneider's La Littérature fantastique en France, which Spehner has listed on page 87 of the bibliography (entry C173). The index of fantastic writers reveals a somewhat erratic alphabetization: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's work appears under M in the actual bibliography (entries G553 and 554), but under G in the index (p. 340). Although all these errors may seem trivial, they might very well tax the patience and test the ingenuity of a reader using Spehner's bibliography as a guide in library research.

The merit of a bibliography lies largely in its accuracy and completeness. While Spehner's work will doubtless be useful, improvements in both these areas would increase its value.

--Mary Ellen Ross University of Toronto

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