Science Fiction Studies

#53 = Volume 18, Part 1 = March 1991


Promoting Harry Harrison

Leon Stover. Harry Harrison. Boston: Twayne, 1990. viii+141. $18.95.

Leon Stover is to be congratulated for persuading editor Warren French of the Twayne's "United States Authors Series" to take a chance on an author much less widely celebrated than previous SF authors treated in this series. There can be no argument that Harrison has not come in for the kind of critical attention accorded Dick, Heinlein, Herbert, or Le Guin; but I was a bit surprised to read Stover's flat declaration that "no academic literature exists" on Harrison (134) other than a fanzine, a fan bibliography, an interview with Charles Platt, and a brief reference in an essay by Jerry Pournelle. Stover further cites the Pournelle essay as "the single specimen of previous criticism relating to anything done by [Harrison]" (105). This unfortunately suggests that Stover, who has pulled together a great deal of helpful information from his various interviews with Harrison, hasn't entirely done his library work. It took me less than an hour to uncover a 1980 essay by Stephen Carter in Extrapolation, a 1985 essay by Brian Aldiss, five essays on Harrison works in the 1979 Salem Press Survey, a 1988 Norman Spinrad essay in Asimov's (which in fairness may have been too recent for Stover to include), an entry in The Dictionary of Literary Biography, 19 references in Brian Ash's Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and brief discussions of specific works in books by Paul Carter, Sam Lundwall, and myself. Harrison may not have achieved the recognition he deserves, but he hasn't been completely ignored, either.

I mention Stover's comment about previous criticism because it represents the kind of global generalization one has to watch out for in what is in most ways a very informative and provocative book--one that is often as interesting for what it tells us of Stover's view of SF as for what it tells us about Harrison's fiction. Stover is an anthropologist who collaborated with Harrison on an anthology of anthropological SF in 1968 (as well as on a novel about Stonehenge), and he makes it clear from the outset that his interest lies primarily with the scientific and social undergirding of Harrison's work rather than with its style, structure, or relation to other literature. Not surprisingly, he praises Captive Universe, with its ingeniously worked-out anthropological solution to the problem of social stability on a generation starship, as Harrison's masterpiece. But while he acknowledges the importance of Heinlein's "Universe" in setting up this problem for later SF writers, he mentions no other treatments of this theme to support his claim that Harrison has been able to do what no other author had.

Similarly, background material dominates the discussion of Harrison's "West of Eden" trilogy, which I suspect would be Harrison's own justifiable claim for his masterwork. The chapter gives a brief background on "prehistoric" SF, followed by a lengthy lecture on paleo-biology, leaving room for only two brief paragraphs on the books themselves. Stover tells us up front he is going to do this, arguing that "the real narrative subject of the trilogy is that world" of alternate evolution (119); but in so doing he fails to give Harrison's major epic the attention it deserves, virtually ignoring Harrison's use of the captivity narrative theme and slighting the fact that it is an example of the alternate history subgenre on the grandest possible scale. Surely these books are of more value than as a mere exercise in hypothetical evolution.

What Stover really seems to have in mind is not so much initiating a critical dialogue as developing new readers for Harrison--no doubt a worthwhile goal, but one that ignores the fact that most readers picking up a book on Harrison are likely to already be familiar with his work. At several points, Stover seems hesitant to "give away the ending" of a particular novel, as though he is lecturing us in preparation for the discussion of an assigned text. But the discussion of the text itself doesn't always follow. An account of how Harrison thought through the character of the Stainless Steel Rat, for example, ends before it begins with the abrupt comment that all this is "detailed elsewhere" (91)--and sends us off via a footnote to an article in a relatively inaccessible fanzine! Surely one of the purposes of a critical book is to bring such material to the attention of a wider audience.

Stover's first chapter, "Science Fiction and the Research Revolution," doesn't have much to do with Harrison at all, and in fact is a slightly rewritten version of an essay that Stover wrote for Jack Williamson's Teaching Science Fiction in 1980. This is followed by a useful and fascinating account of Harrison's career and friendship with Stover and nine chapters detailing aspects of Harrison's work and philosophy. Of these, the strongest deal with Harrison's liberal and often idealistic social philosophy (centered around an insightful discussion of the story "Rescue Operation"--the most sustained piece of critical writing in the book), and the most disappointing (if only because of their brevity) deal with his parodies and his non-SF works. Harrison acknowledges his own reputation as a humorist, and it is a reputation as respectable as any other; but Stover seems uncomfortable discussing it and too often resorts to explaining Harrison's jokes. Stover is more at home with what he forthrightly calls Harrison's "didactic" fiction, and his own book is full of didactic asides explaining everything from Danish social policy to Tom Clancy's popularity.

In the end, however, Stover achieves his aim as he proclaims it in his final paragraph: "I hope this book will awaken further interest...from a crittical community that has ignored [Harrison] far too long" (121). While Harrison has probably been ignored no more or less than many other thoughtful and talented SF writers, he is fortunate to have a champion in Stover. There is little doubt that those who read this will be forced to take Harrison a bit more seriously, and Stover succeeds in pointing a number of directions for future work. His book is hardly meant to be definitive, but it is a useful start and a worthwhile guide for the beginning reader of Harrison.

--Gary K Wolfe  Roosevelt University


Do We Really Need Another Utopian Count?

Lyman Tower Sargent. British and American Utopian Literature, 1516-1985: An Annotated, Chronological Bibliography. NY: Garland, 1988. xxii+559. $77.00

During the early 1970s, one of the common pastimes among students of utopia was passing along complaints about the dearth of good bibliographies. That form of academic discourse is now obsolete. Utopographers begin the 1990s with the assistance of several general bibliographies, including those compiled by Michael Winter, Glenn Negley, Arthur O. Lewis, and Lyman Tower Sargent, and a variety of more specific listings concentrating on periods and nationalities (e.g., Kenneth Roemer), utopias by women (e.g., Daphne Patai and Carol Farley Kessler), and authors (e.g., Nancy Snell Griffith's and Richard Toby Widdicombe's Bellamy bibliographies). Instead of asking, "Where are the bibliographies?," the appropriate question today might be, "Do we really need another edition of Lyman Tower Sargent's 1979 annotated, chronological listing of utopias first appearing in English?"

Yes, we do. We needed the new edition especially because so many titles have been added to the original 1516-1975 list. The 1979 edition included approximately 1,900 titles; the 1988 edition lists approximately 3,200. In order to cover the 1976-85 period, Sargent uses about 60 pages (373-433). But the additions aren't limited to works published after Sargent's earlier 1975 cutoff date. He adds hundreds of "newly discovered" pre-1975 titles and adds other titles that he knew about during the early 1970s but decided to omit in the first edition. Several of the latter have been added at the urgings of Topographers and reviewers who questioned some of the omissions in the 1979 edition--e.g., Edward Everett Hale's How They Lived in Hampton, 1888.

A greater number of additions have resulted from Sargent's changed attitude about short fiction. Formerly he was hesitant to include works that lacked detailed descriptions of many aspects of utopian cultures. Now, in his new introduction, he argues that there are many significant utopian stories, and they should be listed "on the principle that we can still determine either the author's intent to produce a utopia or that a utopia has been written whatever the author's primary purpose was" (xiii). Although his justification is rather fuzzy, I applaud his decision. Carol Farley Kessler's past and forthcoming (in Utopian Studies) bibliographies of utopias written by women clearly demonstrate the importance of utopian short fiction. Furthermore, some of the best contemporary writers (e.g., Ursula K. Le Guin) have produced fascinating, genre-stretching works of utopian short fiction. I hope the inclusion of so many short stories will encourage scholars to ask both sociological and literary questions--questions such as: Why have so many women chosen short stories as a medium of utopian expression? What does this tell us about the writing outlets for women utopists? How does the condensed form of the short story affect author and reader expectations? How do the magazine or anthology contexts influence the readers' responses?

"More" in the 1988 edition is not only a matter of more titles. Sargent provides much more information about initial serial publication of books and stories. (For example, compare the entries for Heinlein, 1970, and Jonas, 1970, in the two editions.) This added information should help us to determine characteristics of readers that constituted the first audience for numerous works. The indexes are also more complete. Each author entry indudes a short title and date of publication; each title entry includes the author's last name and date of publication. These additions make Sargent's huge bibliography user friendly. Finally, Sargent was evidently allowed more time for and/or more authority over proofreading. Several minor errors in dating and spelling in the 1979 edition have been corrected (e.g., Welcome, 1894, not 1895; Petersilea, 1889, not 1899; Wellman, 1898, not Wellmen).

Of course, better is not always a matter of more. Less can be better. Sargent has omitted several English translations that he had mistakenly identified as English-language utopias. More significantly, he has dropped the "Secondary Works" section, which was more than one-third of the 1979 edition. Certainly, that was a useful bibliography. Nonetheless, an equivalent listing in 1988 would probably run to 1,000 pages, and still be selective. Furthermore, such a general secondary bibliography may not be as urgently needed today as it was in the early 1970s. The Humanities and Social Science Citations Indexes and the MLA bibliographies now routinely include "utopia" subject sections available for computer searches, and journals and newsletters such as Utopian Studies, Communal Studies, SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES, Extrapolation, and Utopus Discovered include relevant bibliographies and reviews.

No utopian bibliography can be ideal for every reader. This reader is sometimes bothered by the unevenness of the annotating. Turn, for example, to pages 388-89 that list 17 titles in 1978. As is the case throughout the book, the annotations are, of necessity, brief and employ, with consistency, terms defined in the introduction (e.g., utopia, eutopia, dystopia) with appropriate qualifiers (e.g., authoritarian). A few of the annotations offer insights into the narrative situation; for example, beneath the Payes entry we find: "Dystopia--New York City cut off from the suburbs. All black and Hispanic in the city." But other annotations are so brief that they may be misleading or baffling. For instance, Sargent follows the Rimmer entry with "Standard Rimmer" and the Stableford entry with "Campanella." If readers expect Rimmer's Love Me Tomorrow to be a Harrad II, they will be quite surprised by Rimmer's tale of Bellamy's reincarnation; and I frankly don't know if "Campanella" indicates a positive rewriting or a negative satire of City of the Sun. Also very few of the annotations suggest anything about literary form. This is an aspect of utopian literature that is attracting increasing attention, as Sargent himself indicates in his introductory comments about form and his decision to include a few non-fictional works. In several cases, the annotations do indeed indicate a work of non-fiction (e.g., Wheeler 107-08; Giles 109; Gillette 175-76), but in others there is no indication (e.g., Griffin 81; Gilpin 85; Longley 85-86; Gillette 102, 148).

In his introductory comments, Sargent acknowledges the limits of the annotations and longs for "that eutopian day" when he will have the time to write fuller annotations (xvi). I hope in that time he will also add a paragraph to his introduction that will help novices to understand the chronological distribution of the bibliography. Sargent covers 1516-1920 in 168 pages. It takes more pages (168-433) to cover the remainder of the 20th century. Considering these numbers, a newcomer to the field might conclude that the impact of five centuries of pre-World War I utopian literature in English was less than the impact of mid- and late-20th-century utopian literature. A brief paragraph that placed the figures within relevant intellectual, social, and publishing contexts would help readers to avoid that misunderstanding.

A decade ago, I concluded a review of the 1979 edition by saying that students of utopia owed Sargent a "substantial debt of gratitude." Now, with the 1988 edition in hand, I realize that I understated the case. We owe him an immense debt of gratitude, and I hope that at the turn of the century I will be writing another review congratulating Sargent on the 1516-1995 bibliography.

--Kenneth M. Roemer  University of Texas at Arlington


A Study of Superweapon Stories

Martha A. Bartter. The Way to Ground Zero: The Atomic Bomb in American Science Fiction. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy #33. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. xii+278. $39.95.

Acknowledging her concern about nuclear war as one impetus for her writing, Martha Bartter has marshaled knowledge of SF, supported by an exhaustive search of the literature, to produce an analysis of American SF's persistent and important subgenre of atomic and "superweapon" stories and novels. She has combined a number of approaches--chronological development, thematic clustering, and parallel analysis of important authors (in this case, Heinlein and Sturgeon)--with insights into both the social and the publishing milieus dominant in various periods of the 20th century. If there is a single major flaw in the work, it is Bartter's attempt to get too much in: too many insights, too heavily-freighted meaning derived from single events or stories, too many detailed plot summaries. At the same time, however, much of the richness of the book comes from the obvious parallels in story after story across a long stretch of years.

At times, Bartter's various conceptual schemes overlap, so that themes that would benefit by being brought together are scattered in various sections and subsections throughout the book. One example of this is her very useful discussion of the images of the scientist. Bartter describes--and supports with multiple examples--the often-used image of the scientist as "lone inventor," a stock figure of SF stories dealing with atomic bombs and other superweapons. She contrasts this portrayal with the work and culture of science as it takes place in the real world, showing how the fictional creation is more technologist or engineer than scientist. To follow Bartter's various examples and discussions centered on this single theme--one of many treated in the book--a reader has to range across 200 pages, finding a paragraph in one place, a subsection in another, an entire section in a third. Here, as in some other areas, the framework of the book hinders, rather than assists, and some valuable and interesting insights could easily be overlooked.

Bartter has done an admirable job in laying out the various plot-types associated with American atomic SF. Her book abounds with examples of such types: awful warnings, wars planned, averted, aborted, or carried out; populations lost and saved; mutants and other byproducts of technology gone astray. Bartter also shows how SF writers have used these variations in plot to ring all the changes on worries about politicians and the role they take in war; on military personnel unable or unwilling to see the implications of new technology; on potential social dangers, such as loss of freedom of speech during wartime; and on wars taking on their own rhythm in repeating cycles, whether earthbound or in space, over decades or millennia. In the sections analyzing recent atomic fiction, Bartter makes a point of showing that there is an emerging subgenre, the blend of SF and action-adventure usually based on a thriller-style threat of weapons gone astray in the hands of groups or individuals representing one or another variety of contemporary radicalism.

The extended plot descriptions show the early stories, particularly, as studded with a Tom Swiftian cornucopia of technology and discovery, substances and inventions: "radioactive corpuscles"; "contra-terrene matter"; "X, the unknown metal"; "ultron" and "inertron"; "vacite"; "uranite"; kryptonite; "radite bombs" and "feroxite bombs"; "sterio rays," "dis rays," and other rays, violet and otherwise; "instantaneous motors"; radioplanes, aero-destroyers, and flying rings; 400-mile-per-hour automatic subway diggers; thermic induction; and plans for exploring the "sidereal ether." Accompanying these wonders are breathless statements made by excited characters, such as "'That meant gamma rays! And gamma rays meant Atomic Power!"' (59).

Less useful are Bartter's attempts to link the themes and plot details of the various stories to the standard rota of criticisms aimed at 20th-century American society. Some of these approaches, such as trying to plot the social status of women as reflected in the degree of passivity or heroines and other female characters in pulp fiction, seem to raise questions of analytic validity: if genre author X has an active female character in one story, and author Y a passive one in another ten years later, such evidence may show that the social status of women has altered, but it may show any of several other things, or not much at all.

Another attempt, invoking racism as the mode of several stories dealing with international conflict, is equally flawed. Bartter is clear in her supposition, if not in her evidence: "Each of these works involves racial prejudice. Sometimes it shows up only in the confident assumption of American superiority....Often it shows up as fear of German militarism...." (37).

Somehow, fear of German militarism and the assumption of American superiority do not seem to fit into the category of overt racial prejudice, especially since the batch of stories under consideration includes conflicts involving most of the major powers of the West. Bartter seems to have overstated her case. The anti-Japanese and anti-Chinese tenor of some of the pre-World War I stories provides a better fit for Bartter's charge of racial fear.

In other instances, Bartter's attempts to link popular SF to current events also lead to debatable statements, or overstatements, such as seeing America in the 1930s "struggling with the psychological aftermath of World War I" (2) along with the Great Depression. This seems like an unfortunate hyperextension of Paul Fussell's thesis in The Great War and Modern Memory. Similarly, it is clearly a distortion to say that the anticommunism scare in the 1950s "gave Senator Joe McCarthy virtually dictatorial power" (128), regardless of the damage he may have caused.

Often, Bartter makes such a generalization, or even a series of sweeping generalizations, and then proceeds without offering any evidence, as if the reader would necessarily agree with her stated and implied assumptions. For example:

Our single-minded opposition to communism has had some interesting consequences. For one thing, we have virtually ignored triumphs achieved by our own democratic capitalist system: the Marshall Plan in Europe and the highly successful occupation of Japan. (We now resent their economic success and suggest various ways to punish them for following our own example.) (130)

As the above quotation illustrates, Bartter also couches her generalizations about America in coziness--with as many as a dozen uses of "we/us/our" on a single page. Repeatedly, she tells the reader what "we" think and feel: "[A]s a nation we cannot rejoice over these achievements; we are too busy opposing communism" (130-31).

These criticisms indicate minor annoyances, however, rather than fatal flaws. The Way to Ground Zero has much to recommend it. Bartter's sustained analysis of the way Robert Heinlein approached the themes of atomic bombs and superweapons in 20 stories and novels, contrasted with Theodore Sturgeon's approach in 27 stories, is a valuable contribution. Similarly, she has provided other models for analysis, either sketched or examined in detail. Varying views of the nature of human beings; various approaches to the problem of control--of weapons and material, of the potential for destruction, of time, of human nature itself--each of these provides at least an outline for viewing other subgenres within the field.

Even the criticism that Bartter lets her personal feelings about nuclear weapons drive her writing and set her agenda ("We talked our way into our nuclear nightmare, word by word and story by story" [v]) is obviated by the very forthrightness with which she acknowledges this motive from the beginning, giving the reader due notice of her conviction.

--Alexander H. McIntire, Jr.  University of Miami


Insults and Jargon

Kingsley Widmer. Counterings: Utopian Dialectics in Contemporary Contexts. Studies in Speculative Fiction #17. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988. vii+196. $44.95.

Should a bad book be reviewed or ignored? Kingsley Widmer's Counterings forces a reviewer to ask this question. I do not recall ever previously reading a purportedly scholarly work with less to offer a reader. It is a self-indulgent work in which Widmer invents an array of useless new terms and insults a number of scholars, particularly Tom Moylan, and authors of utopias, particularly Joanna Russ but including most of the feminist authors. He is very weak on the recent literature on utopianism, and does not understand what is happening in utopian fiction. He disapproves of much of what he sees, particularly in feminist utopias, and attacks writers for writing as they do. He also has a political agenda, which is perfectly appropriate, but I find that this agenda--libertarianism, with which I am sympathetic in some versions--rarely fits his analysis of particular texts. In fact I found myself constantly in the position of trying to figure out how he managed to find his interpretation in the texts. His reading and my reading differ in some cases subtly and in other cases profoundly. Those differences are not important. What is important is that fields of scholarship advance not through insults and dismissals of approaches but through attempts to understand and create dialogue. Having said this, it is my duty as a reviewer to justify my statements and indicate what, if anything, there is of value in the book.

"Diatopianism"..."Revtopianism"..."Femtopianism"..."Primatopianism"... "Entopianism"...and many others. If I were to conclude that these words stemmed from a sense of humor, I might find them diverting. Since I see no evidence of such an intention on the part of the author, it is necessary to take them as serious attempts to invent words that will be useful to other scholars. In addition to being embued with a hearty dislike of jargon in scholarship, I can find no useful purpose served by inventing terms whose meanings, with one exception, are not dear from the words themselves. There are numerous errors. Of course, there is no way for a reviewer to know if the errors in citation are the fault of the author or the press. But to mention just a few, the book refers to Dolores Hayden as Haylorand to Carol McGuirk as McGicirk. Lee Khanna is Khanne. Mary Staton is Straton. Frederick Kirchoff is Kurchoff. Daphne Patai is Patae.

Substantive errors are another matter. Widmer calls Sir Herbert Read a "libertarian" (162, n28), a word that, given its contemporary associations with anarcho-capitalism, would horrify the anarchist Read. (To be fair, he later calls Read an "anarchist" [163, n41].) He is very weak on Morris and Bellamy and seems generally unfamiliar with the vast controversial literature on these thinkers, literature that would have enriched his analysis. Lipow's book on Bellamy and Rosemont's totally different approach that places Bellamy close to Morris are minimally needed for an intelligent discussion today. Widmer has an excellent discussion of the utopian elements in the work of D.H. Lawrence but does not refer to the one book on the subject, Eugene Goodheart's The Utopian Vision of D.H. Lawrence.

He is unfamiliar with Carol Parley Kessler's well-known Daring to Dream, which would have enriched his understanding of the history of both feminist eutopias and eutopias written by women. And it is in the chapter on feminist utopianism that his analysis completely falls apart. He attacks Joanna Russ, Suzy McKee Charnas, Sally Miller Gearhart, and almost all the few feminist literary critics he has read.

It is unclear whether or not he realizes that "sci-fi" is considered demeaning by both scholars and writers, but he uses it. Some of his other insults can only be deliberate and are found most consistently in the footnotes. See, for example, his comments on Tom Moylan at 164, nnS455, 165, n20, and 169, nil; on Gary Saul Morson at 170, nl3 (where most current scholarship would argue that Morson is more right than Widmer); and on Joanna Russ at 165, n29 and in the text. Strikingly, for an his attacks on Moylan, chapter 1 could well have been written by Moylan. To me this verifies how badly Widmer has misunderstood Moylan.

Scholarship on utopianism has generally been characterized by a collective search for understanding. Widmer brings little understanding and has produced a book that would have been better left unpublished.

--Lyman Tower Sargent  University of Missouri-St Louis


Worthy of Improvement

Robert A. Collins & Robert Latham, eds. Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual 1988. Westport & London: Meckler, 1988. ix+486. $65.00.

About four-fifths of this volume is given over to book reviews of SF, fantasy, and horror titles and critical works on those genres. The Introduction speaks of "roughly six hundred" such entries (vii), but Hal W. Hall (in his notice of this book in the SFRA Newsletter #166 [April 1989]: 19-21) reports a count of 547, of which 72 (by my count) are non-fiction. Reviews of the latter take up 72 pages and are, on average, three times the length of the reviews of the fiction (which generally run in the neighborhood of 250 words apiece and occupy about 300 pages, 20 of them reserved for "Young Adult" titles).

If Hal Hall's reckoning of the number of titles covered is correct, then roughly 25% of all the reviews in this volume apparently come verbatim from the SFRA Newsletter (assuming, of course, that the half-dozen entries I compared with the Newsletter's are representative). That figure, however, is misleading since such reprints constitute a considerably higher percentage of the entries devoted to primary and secondary SF works. (How much higher I cannot say for sure because all entries are arranged alphabetically by author in three series [under the rubrics "Fiction," "Young Adult Fiction," and "Non-Fiction"] but are not segregated by genre; still, without spending hours investigating the matter, it is a safe guess that reprint reviews from the Newsletter make up at least 85% of the SF entries.)

The problem this overlap points to has less to do with the substance of the volume than with its ethics. The Newsletter's reviews, after all, are generally informative and reliable; and certainly it is useful to have them collected (and rearranged for greater accessibility, also in the computerological sense of that last word) in a single volume (which offers much else besides). The question, however, is why there is no real acknowledgment of this debt to the SFRA Newsletter in the SF&F Book Review Annual. To be sure, the Introduction concludes by "thank[ing] the Science Fiction Research Association and the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts for encouraging their members to review for us," adding to that particular thanks to "those who answered out call for reviewers and thus provided the substance of our book" (ix). But those words convey an impression that is virtually the reverse of the truth (and of a truth that presumably applies as well to the connection between the reviews of fantasy titles in this volume and the now-defunct Fantasy Review).

Ethics aside, the point is that readers of the Newsletter will already (have had the opportunity to) be familiar with most, if not all, of this Annuals reviews pertaining to SF. That does not mean, however, that those readers will find this volume redundant; for apart from the consideration of accessibility I've already touched upon, this book offers other things of (possible) interest. Following an interview with Orson Scott Card (whom the Annual singles out as "Writer of the Year") appear four surveys: of Fantasy (Charles de Lint), Horror (Michael Morrison), SF (Michael Levy), and Research and Criticism (Neil Barron). Each of the four in effect identifies (the) pertinent titles from the reviews section(s)--both by discussing those titles in some kind of order and by appending a "Recommended Reading List" or "Bibliography." But the four also go beyond that in one way or another. Levy, for instance, offers an overview of SF trends which is especially notable for a couple of pages (46-47) critical of the US publishing scene (and are all the more informative when put in the context of Cristine Sedgewick's essay in this issue of SFS). Barron, for his part, while repeating the substance of the reviews of SF-related "Non-Fiction," arranges the titles under such heads as "History and Criticism" and "Author Studies" and concludes with a bibliography which exceeds the total number of "Non-Fiction" reviews by 32, primarily because he takes into account 1987 and 1986 imprints (though for some reason the typo "1686" seems to haunt all the latter).

In its general conception, this project is certainly laudable. Yet for that very reason, its execution leaves one wishing for improvements. The (title) index, for one thing--meticulous as it is--would definitely profit from a scheme differentiating reviews from mere mentions of a work (a distinction that could easily be made by means of boldface numbers). Any user of the Annual might also wish for a plurality of (re)views of a title (on the model, say, of the Book Review Digest [1905-]) as well as for more comprehensive coverage of (SF) translations and criticism. (It is hard to believe that the only relevant foreign-language fictions appearing in English in 1988 were one title each by Lem and Calvino; and the Annual's non-fiction listings certainly overlook a good many titles noticed in SFS. The Collins-Latham Introduction dwells on both the former limitation and others which I have not rehearsed.)

It should be noted, however, that more would be involved in implementing those last three suggestions than mere (extra) labor. Though the editors say nothing about the need for timeliness, that must (have) be(en) a major consideration for a volume such as this, given the present "shelf-life" (which to all intents and purposes means print-life) of new SF&F titles these days (again, see Sedgewick for more information). For that reason, any guide to fiction titles that are supposed to be readily available has to come out as soon as possible, and preferably by the end of the year surveyed (this Annual was issued in December 1988). On the other hand, the same urgency does not (yet) apply to works of criticism; so that these could be hived off from the fiction as a separate and later volume, which could perhaps accommodate reviews appearing as late as this one (whose tardiness, by the way, is mainly the consequence of the Annual's having been originally assigned to someone who kept the book for almost a year before deciding that he couldn't deal with it).

--RMP


In Praise of Science Fiction

John J. Pierce. IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION. 3 vols. 1. Foundations of Science Fiction. 2. Great Themes of Science Fiction. 3. When World Views Collide. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy ## 25, 29, 36. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987-89. xv+290, xv+250, xvii+238. $39.95 each volume.

With the publication of the third volume of John Jeremy Pierce's trilogy (originally intended to be a one-volume work with the title here given to series), it is now clear that he has written an extremely thorough study of SF, one which is both accessible to the general reader and also useful to the SF specialist. Pierce notes in one of his prefaces that his study is neither "relentlessly academic" (Darko Suvin's Metamorphoses) nor "relentlessly popular" (David Kyle's A Pictorial History of Science Fiction), and claims that his study has not deliberately limited itself, as has Brian Aldiss's Billion Year Spree, "with its assumption that gothic sf is the only real sf (1:xiv). And obviously IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION is not hit and miss, as it appeared to Professor Parrinder when he had only the first volume to review in SFS #48, July 1989 (16:231-33). To the contrary, IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION, when taken in its entirety, is remarkably complete. The trilogy has some claim to be the most comprehensive work about SF yet published. It is also fascinating reading.

Part One of Foundations opens with Lucian and Plato, proceeds to the voyages imaginaires, early utopias, and then on to an especially illuminating discussion of gothic SF, to cite most of its chief topics. Among the subjects with which Part Two deals are Verne and the "Verneans," stories of future wars (beginning, of course with Sir George Tomkyus Chesney's "The Battle of Dorking"), Victorian voyages to Mars and Venus, the works of Albert Robida, the fiction of J.H. Rosny aîné and Kurd Lasswitz's Auf Zwei Planeten and other writings (for Lasswitz, Pierce draws on William B. Fischer's recent The Empire Strikes Out). This second part concludes with an intelligent discussion of H.G. Wells's scientific romances, utopias, and future histories (mixed with brief discussion of other writers).

Part Three of Foundations consists of only two chapters. The first is an excellent treatment of "created" (or imaginary) worlds, such as those of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Otis Adelbert Kline, the Flash Gordon comics and movies, and Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles). The chapter culminates with an enlightened discussion of Frank Herbert's Dune series as the ultimate created world. "Created Universes," the second chapter of Part Three, presents a detailed explanation of the relationship of George Lucas' Star Wars movie saga to space opera, particularly to E.E. ("Doc") Smith's Lensman series (Pierce relies on Dale Pollock's 1983 Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas). Along the way in this section, Pierce frames a remarkably good definition of "space opera." He also analyzes the work of other writers of space opera, including John W. Campbell, Jack Williamson, and Edmond Hamilton. Never again, after reading this chapter, will the reader find it easy to look down his nose at SF! The chapter then turns to a brief look at the television and movie versions of STAR TREK, which are also space opera, and ends with an analysis of the work of Olaf Stapledon, whose Last and First Men and Star Maker offer a cosmic mythology not unlike space opera's.

It has been suggested that Part Four exists only to give a sense of completeness to the volumes (and hence unnecessary if the trilogy had been published as a single book, as Pierce originally intended). There may well be some validity to this criticism, though I find that the final section has several redeeming discussions. In it, for example, Pierce makes a valid distinction between "dystopia" and "anti-utopia." In it he also offers an intelligent chapter on "satiric extrapolation" (the "Pohl-Kornbluth" school, which he convincingly sets off from the "Tenn-Sheckley" school). He brings the volume to a close with the future histories of Robert Heinlein, the Brothers Strugatsky, Isaac Asimov, H. Beam Piper, Poul Anderson, CJ. Cherryh, and finally Ursula K. Le Guin (the Hainish Cycle).

Great Themes, the second volume, is devoted to major themes of SF aliens and alien worlds, supermen and other mutations, eternal life, god like men and gods like men, robots and artificial intelligence (SF pretty much missed out on computers), future cities, future wars (without duplicating much of the material in the first volume), and cosmic disasters. The concluding chapter of the volume deals with stories at the boundaries of SF, such as those involving parallel universes and those that are maim' satire, fantasy, or allegory.

In this second volume I especially liked such discussions as those of Hal Clement's Mission of Gravity, Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, and Stapledon's Odd John. I also liked the treatment of Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series And I found useful the discussion of "cities in flight": Larry Niven's Ringworld (based on the Dyson sphere), as well as other versions of journey involving multi-generation ships, such as Heinlein's "Universe" and Arthu Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama.

The third volume, When World Views Collide, is my favorite. It begin with thoughtful discussions of Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov and end with an extended treatment of Le Guin (works of hers not previously discussed), followed by a brief epilogue on Star Wars, STAR TREK, and cyberpunk. In between it offers intelligent analyses of C.S. Lewis, Waite M. Miller, Jr, the New Wave, Brian Aldiss, feminist SF, plus other school and writers. It makes works the reader may not know about seem worth looking into. A case in point is his discussion of Joan Slonczewski's recent A Door into Ocean, an "epic of utopian feminism." His presentation of Slonczewski's alternative civilization makes it sound intriguing.

In this third volume Pierce explains his own world-view. He is essentially "a revisionist Wellsian humanist and a pluralistic libertarian" (3:xviii). Ant he does not accept Shelley's crackpot idea that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" or the idea common among English Professors that "literary people are necessarily more rational, virtuous, or wise than the rest of mankind" (3:7). He also makes an important distinction between Wellsian SF, which he finds congenial, and gothic SF, which is not to his liking. (He goes far beyond my Future as Nightmare [1967] in tracing the impact of H.G. Wells.) Pierce sees the Wellsian world view as "virtually what Christian fundamentalists denounce as secular humanism" (3:15).

IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION reinforced my conviction that SF, though different from mainstream literature, is nevertheless a uniquely important kind of literature whose potential is enormous. As a sophisticated fan ant former editor of Galaxy, Pierce was uniquely qualified to argue this idea. My problem with this intelligent work is its extremely high cost. At nearly $120, only libraries will be able to afford it, and not all of them at that. It is a shame that IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION was not published in a one-volume edition at a much lower price. A less expensive (and also more attractive edition would reach a wider audience. The three separate indexes, notes, and bibliographies could be combined, and any now existing redundacies could be eliminated. I can see shelling out $27.95 for it, but not $119.85.

--Mark R. Hillegas Southern Illinois University


Petunias In the Crabgrass

Olena H. Saciuk, ed. The Shape of the Fantastic. Selected Essays, from the Seventh International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy #39. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990. xiv+270. $42.95. Michele K. Langford, ed. Contours of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Eighth Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Same series #41. Same publisher, 1990. xiii+232. $45.00.

Much of what Donald M. Hassler had to say about the fifth and sixth books of this on-going series (SFS #46, 15:381-3) remains highly pertinent for these, the seventh and eighth publications of selected essays from the annual Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (held in 1986 and 1987 respectively). Heterogeneous and eclectic by nature, these collections contain a vast array of essays on fantasy, horror, SF, critical theory, and film from a variety of countries and reflect a multitude of critical perspectives and methodologies. The generic and thematic scope of the yearly conference itself seems to be purposely all-inclusive (as the title of each book suggests), and it is difficult to find a common denominator among the many papers chosen for publication. Such lack of focus is regrettable. But be that as it may, a limited number of them might be of some interest to SF scholars and therefore warrant being singled out from the others for special attention. For example, in the first volume (and in chronological order): Jill Milling's "The Ambiguous Animal: Evolution of the Beast-Man in Scientific Creation Myths" (103-16), Carl Schaffer's "Exegeses on Stand on Zanzibar's Digressions into Genesis" (193-99), Brian Aldiss's "What Should an SF Novel Be About?" (221-34), Leo Daughertys "The Response of Wonder: Science Fiction and Literary Theory"(235-48), and Brooks Landon's "The Insistence of Fantasy in Contemporary Science Fiction Film" (249-56). In the second volume: William Lomax's "Epic Reversal in Mary Shelleys The Last Man: Romantic Irony and the Roots of Science Fiction" (7-18), Peter Malekin's "The Self, the Referent, and the Real in Science Fiction and the Fantastic: Lem, Pynchon, Kubin, and Delany' (29-36), Brian Stableford's "The British and American Traditions of Speculative Fiction" (39-47), Vivian Sobchack's "Terminal Culture: Science Fiction Cinema in the Age of the Microchip" (101-12), Lisa M. Heilbronn's "Natural Man, Unnatural Science: Rejection of Science in Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Film" (113-19), and Gregory L. Zentz's "Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction: Shifting Paradigms for Science Fiction" (173-84). Several of these conference papers targeting SF (and perhaps others, but I am in no position to judge) are of top-notch quality. It seems somehow a shame that they are buried in the nebulous generic crabgrass of such collections.

--ABE


Nouvelle Anthologie of Old Science Fiction

Monique Lebailly, ed. La Science Fiction avant la SF: Anthologie de l'imaginaire scientifique française du Romantisme à la Pataphysique. Paris: Editions de l'Instant, 1989. 226pp. 98FF.

This delightful collection of 19th century French SF, published in oversized softcover format, contains a wide selection of short stories and excerpts from the works of many "mainstream" authors in France who, while not known as having written SF, nevertheless dabbled occasionally in the genre. And some of the entries are quite surprising. For example, included are not only certain novelists who have often been associated with SF, like Robida and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, but also unexpected ones, like Théophile Gautier, Alphonse Daudet, Guy de Maupassant, and Alfred Jarry. Certain famous poets of the French canon find their way into this collection as well: Alfred de Musset, Alphonse de Lamartine, Victor Hugo, and even Stéphane Mallarmé. The renowned philosopher Ernest Renan makes an appearance, as do a variety of other lesser-known novelists, journalists, and historians of 19th-century France: Erckmann-Chatrian, Samuel-Henri Berthoud, Auguste Franklin, Marie-Ernest d'Hervilly, Eugene Mouton (Mérinos), Charles Cros, Alphonse Allais, and Jean Richepin.

Not surprisingly, in her introduction to this unusual anthology, Monique Lebailly states her preference for a more broadly inclusive definition of SF--one that is thematically less restrictive and historically less straitjacketed: Did Homer need...cybernetics in order to imagine, in Book 18 of the Iliad, that Hephaestos had in his service golden androids who could think...?

This is why I believe that there are SF texts long before the advent of technology. But don't expect me to define the word 'science fiction'; numerous specialists of the genre have already worked up a great many definitions for it ....I instinctively distrust definitions:

maybe because of that final period which concludes them--which encloses the defined object in a tight net from which it cannot escape. I prefer images, and I would say simply that conjecture and hypothesis are the two driving motors of SF, and that 'if...' is the roadway upon which it travels... (8)

Explaining why she has chosen to include a selection of (admittedly atypical) texts from some of the most respected names in the history of French literature, Lebailly says:

Here then are some hilarious, serious, and disturbing examples of SF taken from this extremely fertile period of conjectural literature known as the 19th century....I hope that this anthology will please fans of SF, and that some of the famous names cited herein will serve as a lure to those individuals who still hesitate buying a book which carries this infmante label of SF. (9)

But what is interesting here is that, while openly and humorously describing her editorial tactics, Lebailly has also (perhaps inadvertently) identified a serious and continuing problem for the SF genre itself in France: its uphill fight for social legitimacy in the rigid, tradition-bound, and hierarchical world of French Belles-Lettres.

Be that as it may, La Science Fiction avant la SF does contain some fascinating texts--despite the fact that the SF purist might find a number of them too utopian and/or fantastic in nature. For example, the four excerpts of poetry from Musset, Lamartine, Hugo, and Mallarmé which begin the anthology are all grouped under the heading ''Lyrical Futurology'' [Futurologie lyrique]. Musset's, a passage from his Dupont et Durand (1838), is a biting satire of the utopian genre itself--which he sees as inherently repressive. A portion of Lamartine's La Chute d'un ange (1837) describes the flying machines of a technologically-advanced yet decadent civilization thriving in the pre-dawn of history. In the poem called "Vingtième siècle" in his opus La Légende des siècles (1883), Hugo, too, sings the praises of hypothetical human flight, evoking its mystical implications. And Mallarmé's prose poem titled Le Phénomène futur (1864) paints a gloomy end-of-the-world scenario where Beauty is a long-forgotten remnant of the past.

Although a bit too taxonomic and quite superfluous to the volume as a whole, each of the remaining authors in this collection is assigned a separate rubric: e.g., the two short stories by Erckmann-Chatrian are classified as "Scientific Fantastic," that of Auguste Franklin as "Futuristic Archeology," those of Charles Cros as "Humor and Science," that of Maupassant as "The Presence of the Other," those of Jarry as "The Science of Imaginary Solutions," and so forth.

But the texts themselves are most often well chosen and do indeed give an idea of the virtual kaleidoscope of (non-Vernian) speculative fiction written in France during this period. For example, in the fantastic vein, one finds Erckmann-Chatrian's rather Hoffmannesque tale of L'Oreille de la chouette (1860), Alphonse Daudet's brooding, sentient forest in Woodstown (1870), and Jean Richepin's horrifying La Machine métaphysique (1876), which prefigures a similar machine later imagined by Kaflka. As for utopias and dystopias of the future, one finds Samuel-Henri Berthoud's L'An deux mille huit cent soixante-cinq (1865)--an interesting and technologically-updated derivation of Mercier's earlier work on the subject--and Auguste Franklin's wryly comical Les Ruines de Paris en 4875 (1875), which features several post-cataclysm archeologists poring over ancient monuments (the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, etc.) and conjecturing--in Samuel Madden fashion-- about how their ancestors must have lived 3000 years earlier. Time travel and anachronistic comedy are fused in Robida's Jadis chez Aujourd'hui (1890), as an eccentric scientist manages to resuscitate Louis XIV and his entire Versailles court into the Third Republic world of fin-de-siècle Paris. An excerpt of Renan's Dialogues philosophiques (1876) predicts--in somewhat Flammarion fashion--the evolution of the human species into a single, omniscient intellect expanding into the universe, whereas Eugène Mouton (Mérinos) in his more pessimistic Fantaisies (1883) imagines the total cessation of life on Earth as a result of progressive spontaneous combustion. Alien life-forms are the subject of Guy de Maupassant's UFO tale called L'Homme de Mars (1865) and of Charles Cros' fancifully humorous Le Caillou mort d'amour (1886). Extrapolated technology is the central theme of Théophile Gauthier's Une Visite nocturne (1848), which presents a unique flying machine (one of the first to include an oxygen headmask); of Cros' wildly satirical Le Joumal de l'avenir (1880), where newspapers outbid each other to purchase the best metallic brains to write their columns; of Alphonse Allais' sardonic cadaver-dryers in Une idée lumineuse (1888); of Villier's sadly pervasive sky advertising in L'Affichage céleste (1873); and of Marie-Ernest d'Hervillys lighthearted parody of Edison's inventiveness in Josuah Electricmann (1883). And, lastly, the absurdist science of Alfred Jarry's Pataphysique completes the collection with excerpts from his Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, Pataphysicien (1911)--in particular, his "Commentaire pour servir la construction pratique d'une machine explorer le temps"--along with a tongue-in-cheek short story titled L'Aviation resolue (1901), which proposes the common umbrella as a means to conquer the skies.

Monique Lebailly's anthology La Science Fiction avant la SF chooses to take the less-traveled road. It does so in two ways: by eschewing the SF "greats" of 19th-century France like Jules Verne, Camille Flammarion, J.H. Rosny, et al. in favor of more unknown (yet just as imaginative) SF writers, and by reminding us that even the most highly consecrated authors of the French literary tradition dabbled in SF from time to time. In this respect, Labailly's collection resembles somewhat H. Bruce Franklin's study of 19th-century American SF titled Future Perfect (1966, 1978)--although it lacks the critical depth and incisive commentary of this justly well-known and seminal work. But La Science Fiction avant la SF does succeed (perhaps even more than Franklin's book) in underscoring to what extent SF was (and is) a supremely polyvalent narrative form--how it can span the generic boundaries of poetry and prose, commingle the disciplines of philosophy and science, and supersede the artificial distinctions of "high" versus "popular" literature.

--ABE


Lester Dent and Doc Savage

Marilyn Cannaday. Bigger Than Life: The Creator of Doc Savage. Bowling Green, OH: BGSU Popular Press, 1990. 198pp. $34.95 cloth, $17.95 paper.

Lester Dent wrote some 160 Doc Savage novels for Street and Smith's Doc Savage Magazine between 1934 and 1949. In the chronicles of the scientific genius, Clark Savage, Jr, and his five companions--ranging from a lawyer to an archaeologist and a chemist--Dent drew heavily on the "lost-race" tradition established by H. Rider Haggard, although like Arthur B. Reeve's Craig Kennedy, Doc used many super-scientific devices. Dent, however, emphasized adventure, not detection. Doc often fought villains who threatened civilization itself. Second in popularity only to Street and Smith's Lamont Cranston, a.k.a. The Shadow, he remains the most enduring of the pulp heroes of the 1930s; in 1964 Bentam began reissuing the novels in a series continuing through the 1980s. Collectors pay top money for the original magazines. In the Preface to this "biography [which] attempts to capture the essence of Lester Dent" (4), Marilyn Cannaday acknowledges that although in her high-school days during the 1940s in LaPlata, Missouri she hand-colored "photos for Dent's aerial photography business," and saw him on the street, she never worked "directly with him" and, apparently, did not actually know him personally (1). Yet her enthusiasm for the writer who shared her hometown led her to this project, for his name "deserves a place in the history of popular culture" (1).

Regrettably that enthusiasm may well be the chief merit of a study which skips back and forth--often repetitively, even in its phrasing--between talk about some of the high points of Dent's life and a cursory account of the rise of American pulp magazines. On the one hand, she seems uncertain as to who makes up her audience, for she certainly does not aim this book at the serious student of American popular fiction. On the other hand, the reader puzzles over her use (and presentation) of material. For example, her account of both Dent's earliest years and his marriage ( 3, 6) relies heavily on his wife Norma, whom Cannaday visited in 1986 (70); since Norma is frequently quoted directly, one assumes that Cannaday made good use of notes or tapes.

At one point she explains that "Information about Dent's early childhood is sketchy. He didn't really tell Norma much about it except to say that he had been terribly lonely..." (38). From such a remark grows the dominant image of Lester Dent: that of a lonely, isolated individual who sought refuge in the works of his imagination.

Cannaday fleshes out those chapters taking Dent from a rural elementary school through LaPlata High School (4-5) by drawing on her personal memories and those of her family. In like manner her discussion of LaPlata during the 1940s and 1950s after the Dents made it their permanent home (9) makes use of a mixture her memories, generalized descriptions of the town and its people, and quick summaries of Dent's activities. All books reveal something of the subjectivity of the author, but at times one feels that Bigger Than Life is the story of Cannaday and her brother instead of Dent.

In the present mood of the academy some readers may not react unfavorably to her intrusiveness, but two other consistent practices do raise questions about her portrayal of Lester Dent, especially during those years before he went to New York in December 1930. First, she assigns feelings and attitudes to him which may not have been his: "It seems likely..." (35); "It is easy to imagine the thoughts..." (40); "Maybe Lester preferred his imaginary adventures..." (49); "To a teen-age boy...and Lester was no exception..." (55); "[he] was sure to have felt the wave of patriotism..." (63). Such examples may suffice. They are supplemented by such remarks as "It is hard to verify whether a teacher called him 'hopeless'..." (61). Second, throughout the book she directly quotes him, often asserting that the brief statements are something he said "later," although she never acknowledges any source whatsoever. Her speculations may produce a typical midwestern farm boy growing up in a small town, but they do not vividly individualize Dent.

At times her account becomes confusing. In a fragmented report of his love for animals and his supposed hunting, she seems to contradict herself before she concludes: "Lester Dent loved animals, and as an adult admitted that he did not like to hunt because he hated to kill them. But he was exposed to some of the hard realities of farm life in the twenties when the farmer did everything for himself. It was the milieu..." (59-60).

On May 2, 1985, Norma Dent gave a "massive accumulation of papers" to the Joint Collection, University of Missouri Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia and the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscripts (75). For the chapters chronicling Dent's literary career ( 1, 2, 8), Cannaday consulted those papers--"92 boxes containing a total of 2,156 folders plus 234 volumes of publications--magazines, newspapers and novels..." (191). "Correspondence" and "personal papers" made up two of its nine series. Although she waxes eloquent about the Collection itself, one cannot be certain how extensively she made use of it, for she cites it explicitly only once (61), referring specifically more often to Will Murray's Doc Savage Supreme Adventurer (1980), Margaret Gwinn's 1979 M A. thesis, and Philip José Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973). One may infer that her few references to some "unpublished manuscript" draw on the Collection, but no specific data is given. Indeed, the most frequent citations are to the texts of Dent's Doc Savage novels--often limited to a single sentence--though she does not give either chapter or page references so that one would have to search for most of the quotes to find the contexts in which they occur. Those readers for whom pulp magazines are part of prehistory may be satisfied with the information she gives. She does include a chronological listing of all Dent's published fiction (182-90). She sketches his early career so that the reader knows that he published before Dell Publishing Company invited him to New York late in 1930 and that Street and Smith solicited a novel for The Shadow from him before conferring with him about the projected Doc Savage Magazine. In "The Fiction Factory' (8) she discusses the six major categories into which his fiction falls--from his early contributions to the pulps through his six novels published only in book form (194S-54) as well as the few stories he placed after 1948 in the "slicks." From the outset of his career Dent wanted to be something more than a writer for the pulps and considered his brief relationship with Joseph Shaw, the renowned editor of Black Mask, a major influence on his writing.

Earlier (7) Cannaday introduces Paul Zweig's The Adventurer (1974) as a point of departure for the distinction between heroes and adventurers, but she becomes ensnarled in a debate as to whether or not Doc and his five friends fought crime "for kicks and thrills" or did indeed have a "moral purpose" (86-87). In her discussion of irresponsible adventurers and moral heroes, she seems, at times, to identify the writer Dent with his creation Doc Savage. For example, she remarks, "Drawing parallels between Doc and Dent's attitude toward women is difficult--but there are similarities," although she goes go to acknowledge that the "adventure story in the thirties was a man's domain" (93).

Toward the end of "The Fiction Factory" she points out that Dent also wrote non-fiction articles and an occasional television script as well as "a series of boys' books for Grosset and Dunlap (1947-58) under the name John Blaine" (123). At this point the reader senses something of Cannaday's anguish; just before dismissing these--by implication--minor categories, she exclaims, "How can anyone possibly summarize such a vast body of work?" And there, one infers, lies the central problem of Larger Than Life. For assertion and brief summaries govern Cannaday's presentation of material.

Some 45 pages of the volume make up a three-part appendix: "Doe Savage, Supreme Adventurer," an essay presumably written by Henry Ralston and John Nanovic and copyrighted by Street and Smith in 1932, months before they began negotiations with Dent; two articles, "The Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot" and "Tag 'Em," written by Dent himself and published in the Writers Digest Yearbook (1936, 1940 respectively); and "Lester Dent's Published Fiction," already referred to.

If this "vast body" of Dent's fiction presents a problem in organization and presentation, then something of an underlying philosophical problem surfaces when Cannaday reports that during Dent's childhood on a Wyoming ranch, "he claimed that his reading material had been severely limited until he discovered pulp magazines." Then she adds: "In school he discovered real fiction; Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Booth Tarkington's Penrod and others further whetted his appetite for reading" (41). For reading real fiction? She nevertheless concludes, "Doc Savage lives on" (145).

--Thomas D. Clareson. College of Wooster


On the Weird

S.T. Joshi. The Weird Tale. Austin: Texas UP, 1990. xii+292. $27.50 cloth, $12.95 paper

Since Texas has sent us this splendid book for review, we will allow it space consistent with the policy on supernatural or mythological fantasy stated on an inside cover page of each issue since our first. Mr. Joshi deals with six authors: Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Ambrose Bierce, and H.P. Lovecraft. His thesis is that "the weird tale, in the period covered by this volume (generally 1880-1940), did not (and perhaps does not now) exist as a genre but as the consequence of a world view." Among them only Lovecraft was "conscious of working in a weird tradition. The others...regarded themselves (and were regarded by contemporary reviewers) as not intrinsically different from their fellow novelists and short-story writers" (1). The thesis stated, he proceeds with an examination of all the literary and critical writing of each author, bringing to bear a wealth of references. Lovecraft's stories of the so-called Cthulhu mythos are called "quasi science fiction" on the basis of their rejection of the supernatural, the aliens coming from outer space, other dimensions, or the past or future. While this is not a new concept, it is presented here more clearly and fully than anywhere else that I am aware of. All in all, this book is remarkably persuasive and rewarding.

--RDM


On Romantic Fantasy and Postmodern Fiction

Karl Kroeber. Romantic Fantasy and Science Fiction. New Haven: Yale UP, 1988. vii+ 188. $20.00

This is also a splendid book, albeit one with a misleading title: the adjective applying only to the first noun, and SF being discussed only for contrast. The author's opening paragraphs present an admirably clear and succinct statement of his thesis and procedure:

Romantic fantasy emerges out of Enlightenment culture, which excluded anything fantastic from civilized life. Romantic fantasy celebrates the magical in a society for which magic had become only a benighted superstition. The essential mode of Romantic fantastic discourse, therefore, derives from the trope of oxymoron-- an impossible possibility. Use of this mode necessarily involves the fantasist in an art of intense self-reflexivity, enchanting himself so that he may enchant others. This inwardness distinguishes fantasy from its non-identical twin, science fiction. Science fiction also appears when the supernatural has been driven out of enlightened society, but instead of seeking to recover otherness and magicality, science fiction extrapolates consequences of the scientific-technological progress that destroyed superstition.

In the chapter following this introductory one, centered on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the prototypical work of science fiction, I explore implications of the distinction between science fiction and fantasy. I then [in chapter 31 focus on Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and Keats's 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci.' In chapter 4 I contrast Keats's poem to both other literary ballads and 'authentic' popular ballads to illuminate how Romantic fantasy uncovers qualities obscured or elided in genuine balladry and undesired by later nineteenth century and Modern poets. Chapter 5 juxtaposes 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' with Robert Browning's 'Childe Harold to the Dark Tower Came' to deepen understanding of how and why Romantic fantasy was exorcised from the mainstream of nineteenth and twentieth-century literature, an exorcism culminating in Freud's essay on 'The Uncanny.'

In chapter 6 I describe the un-Freudian psychology that made possible creations of Romantic fantasy, analyzing Keats's 'Ode to Psyche,' with special attention to one of the poem's sources, The Golden Ass of Apuleius, a work having good claim to being the premier fantasy of classical antiquity. Through discussion Heinrich von Kleist's Michael Kohlhaas, the final chapter demonstrates the necessity for stylistic radicalism in fantasy's self-challenging forms, suggesting that the recent revival of critical interest in fantasy reflects postmodern literature's concern with self-contesting structures, as is illustrated by Gabriel Garcia Marquez's 'The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship.' (1-2).

Chapter 2 discusses "The Beowulfian Monster" as a lead-in to what is the best brief discussion of Frankenstein known to me, and then continues with SF as "desocialized narrative" in "plain style" and with "depersonalized characterization," with one section devoted to The Time Machine. It is all quite sensible but none of it would be new to most readers of SFS. The book concludes with two appendices in order to contrast SF and postmodern fantasy, the one reprinting Wells's "Æpyornis Island," the other Garcia Marquez's "The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship." The Wells story is reprinted from an 1894 issue of the Pall Mall Budget, and is said to be a "fine though little-known story" and to have been "out of print for more than seventy-five years" (26), whereas it has actually been continuously in print, except perhaps for a few brief intervals, for nearly a century.

In sum, Romantic Fantasy and Science Fiction is devoted almost entirely to interesting and persuasive interpretations of 19th-century poetry, leading up to a discussion of fantasy in postmodern fiction. The title of this notice would have been a more accurate title for the book.

--RDM


Justification by Faith In Archetypes

Ronald Foust. A. Merritt. Starmont Readers' Guide #43. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989. v+104

Between 1917 and 1934 A. Merritt published two short stories, two novelettes, and eight serials in All-Story and Argosy. Judged by the enthusiasm of reader response, as expressed in letters in the magazines and in favorite-author or favorite-story polls, Merritt was the foremost SF-and-fantasy author of his time. His popularity with the general SF-and-fantasy readership lasted for decades, as attested to by the reprinting of his stories in various pulp-paper magazines between 1939 and 1950, and by their success as paperbacks. The blurbs of reissues circa 1980 proclaim "Over 5,000,000 Copies of A. Merritt's Books Sold In Avon Editions." But that was the end of it.

In 1974 I wrote that while Brian Aldiss was surely correct in saying that "Merritt could not write--could not plot, could not draw character, had a beastly style--could only confect," still "any SF writer who aroused so much enthusiasm over so long a period deserves at least some attention from students of SF" (SFS #4, 1:304). Now, 15 years later, Professor Foust has provided the first book-length study of Merritt's fiction.

For Foust, Merritt's fiction is worthy of study because his protagonists, unlike those of most adventure-story writers, are "victims of moral and psychological ambivalence" and thus are "more complex and more interesting than most fantasy heroes" (9). In support of this claim Professor Foust adduces Freud on four occasions and Jung on eight--e.g.:

The successful completion of this quest should result in what C.G. Jung called 'individuation,' the pleasing integration of the various parts of the hero's unconscious into a psychic whole. This act of individuation, in which the protagonist's ego masters the 'dragon' of his libidinal drives, is the true meaning of the victory of Good over Evil that is so common in Heroic Fantasy. This victory creates pleasing psychological concords for the reader and is probably the reason that this novel was so popular with its original audience. (36-37)

Foust's case for Merritt is made by going through the books one by one and justifying their plots, characterizations, and marvels by reference to myths and archetypes, Freud and Jung, Frye and Campbell, and numerous other workers in the field, and so is quite in tune with much present-day criticism of fantasy and other forms of popular fiction.

Merritt's masterpiece is said by Faust and other Merritt fans to be Dwellers in the Mirage, a work that "'caps' and exhausts the lost-civilization theme" (55). For Foust a "lost civilization bears the same relation to the modern world with which it co-exists as that of the unconscious to consciousness in psychoanalytic theory," it being the function of the novel "to immerse the protagonist (and the reader) in an imaginary world much like the world of dreams for the purpose of ultimately strengthening the ego's role as psychic regulator of the clamorous demands of the id" (63). The value of Dwellers, then, is not intellectual as in the best SF, but therapeutic. The question that remains is, how many readers stand to benefit Tom this kind of therapy?

Foust's first sentence is, "Abraham Merritt's career as a fantasy and science-fiction writer is a study in the evanescence of literary celebrity" (4), and he devotes some space in his first chapter to speculations on the decline of Merritt's popularity. It might be noted that that decline was coeval with the rise of the horror genre beginning in 1967 with Rosemary's Baby and continuing with the adulation of Stephen King, whose works evidently have stronger therapeutic effects for present-day readers than those of such outmoded therapists as A. Merritt.

The only hard science in Dwellers is the law of entropy, and that appears only to generate emotion in character and reader. The other sciences drawn on are the softest of the soft: anthropological, biological, and psychological speculations that, if not entirely discredited, are of much less interest today than when they were formulated. For students of SF, Professor Foust's book may be regarded as definitive in that it demonstrates, albeit unintentionally, that Merritt's fiction is essentially supernatural-mythological fantasy rather than SF, and so no longer needs their attention.

--RDM


Nietzschean Analysis and Theatrical Concern

William F. Touponce. Ray Bradbury. Starmont Reader's Guide #31. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989. iv+ 110. $19.95 cloth, $9.95 paper.

Ben P. Indick. Ray Bradbury: Dramatist. Essays on Fantastic Literature #3. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1989. 48pp. $17.95 cloth, $7.95 paper

Bradbury's aesthetic of fantasy, as set forth by Professor Touponce, resembles, if it does not derive from, the Nietszchean Esthetic of tragedy, so that Bradburian fantasy "fulfills the same roles and saving functions [as tragedy in Nietzschean theory]; it has the same constant awareness of chaos with the will to form beautiful illusions in the interests of life. Therefore, in The Martian Chronicles, we would expect a critique of worn-out illusions to alternate with the fresh creations of new myths, and in this chapter I will show that that is exactly what we have: the reader oscillates between Apollonian and Dionysian fantasy..." (24). In other chapters Touponce subjects Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree, and a number of short stories to the same kind of Nietzchean analysis. I found the analysis consistently interesting but not especially illuminating, for Bradbury's fiction is hardly so difficult, or his philosophy so complex, as to need detailed explication.

Bradbury stories have been adapted by other writers for radio, television, the screen, and the stage; Bradbury has adapted the work of others as well as his own. His one great success has been the screenplay for John Huston's Moby Dick. He has had moderate success on TV in the HBO series THE RAY BRADBURY THEATRE. His first major stage production, The World of Ray Bradbury was successful in Los Angeles in 1964 but failed in New York in 1965. He is at present engaged, with various collaborators, in adapting Fahrenheit 451 for the musical stage. Mr. Indick, in addition to relating the details of Bradbury's career in the various dramatic media, discusses the plays from the standpoint of theatrical craftmanship. He ends with an expression of hope if not faith: that the operatic Fahrenheit 451, if and when it reaches Broadway, will "take its place among the modern triumphs of the imaginative American stage" (35).

--RDM


Scheherazade in England

Peter L. Caracciolo, ed. The Arabian Nights In English Literature. Studies in the Reception of The Thousand and One Nights into British Culture. London: Macmillan, 1988. xi+330. 16 plates. 40.00. NY: St Martin's Press. $35.00

That the Arabian Nights was widely read in 19th-century Britain is almost a truism, yet its influence on British fiction has never before been thoroughly studied. The contributors to the present volume address this problem in terms of fiction by Charles Dickens, W.M. Thackeray, Wilkie Collins, George Meredith, Elizabeth Gaskell, Robert Louis Stevenson, H.G. Wells, and Joseph Conrad, adding poetry by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Butler Yeats. Special topics include the adaptation of Nights into a children's book, the influence of Nights on Victorian English travelers, and parallelism between "The King of the Black Isles" and the Frazerian divine king and the Waste Land.

For the most part the contributors are concerned with references to Nights as a token for exoticism or romance, or with narrative structure. In this last instance, simple frame-situations with imbedded stories are equated with the extremely elaborate patterning by Schcherazade, with the unstated assumption that slight similarity constitutes genetic relationship.

SF does not appear significantly in the book. Of three authors briefly considered, Wells, C.S. Lewis, and Doris Lessing, only Lessing seems plausible.

The development is not always impeccable. Neither Michael Slater nor Caracciolo, who write about Dickens, seems to be acquainted with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which would afford firmer support than the works they cite. Caracciolo, discussing Wilkie Collins, bases part of his thesis on "The Bridal Chamber" from The Lay Tour of Two Idle Apprentices; this is surprising, since this story has been accepted as by Dickens for roughly the past 100 years. Robert G. Hampson and the editor, on H.G. Wells, both confuse When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) with The Sleeper Awakes (1910). Hampson also assigns a wrong date to the novel; corrected, it removes a point of his. Leonee Ormond on Stevenson's "The Bottle Imp" seems unaware that it is an adaptation of Fouque's "Das Galgenmaennlein."

Caracciolo's long, elaborate introduction is both rewarding and irritating. On the positive side, Caracciolo includes many early citations of Nights, much of which is new. Caracciolo is also a fine idea man, with many insights that compel thought. On the debit side, he is sometimes erratic and irrelevant, bemusing the reader with statements like "[Wilkie Collins] develops a new subgenre, the detective novel, to investigate the insidious effects of empire upon the morality of the British class structure" (159).

Did Nights have a significant influence on British literature, as covered here? I remain unconvinced. There can be no argument on Meredith or Stevenson, but borrowings proposed elsewhere seem to me mostly trivial, strained, or inconclusive. (Warwick Gould on Yeats, though, is solid.) Once one leaves out-and-out imitations by lesser authors, like M.G. Lewis's "Amorassan," G.P.R. James's The String of Pearls, or Frederick Marryat's The Pacha of Many Tales (which are not mentioned), one has difficulty finding significant diffusion of Nights into British fiction.

--Everett F. Bleiler


A Series of Exhaustive Bibliographies

Boden Clarke, ed. Bibliographies of Modern Authors ##1-25. San Bernardino, CA: Borgo Press, 1984-[91]. $19.95 cloth, $9.95 paper, except where noted

The titles of the books in this series all follow the same pattern: The Work of--An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. Four of the books are on authors of considerable fame; the other authors, while well-known in SF or other circles, are comparatively obscure. The following are in print or promised by March 1991 (in some cases the pagination is tentative): Brian W. Aldiss by Margaret Aldiss (#9, 350pp, $32.95/$22.95), Charles Beaumont by William F. Nolan (#6, 1990, 60pp), Reginald Bretnor by Scott Alan Burgess (#8, 1989, 122pp), Orson Scott Card by Michael R. Collings (#19, 180pp, $22.95/$12.95) Jeffrey M. Elliot by Boden Clarke (#2, 1984, 50pp), Raymond Z. Gallun by Jeffrey M. Elliot (#?, 70pp), Dean Ing by Scott Alan Burgess (#11, 80pp), Katherine Kurtz by Boden Clarke (#7, 60pp), Louis L'Amour by Hal W. Hall (#15, 160pp, $24.95/$14.95), Bruce McAllister by David Ray Bourquin (#10, 1986, 32pp), Chad Oliver by Hal W. Hall (#12, 1989, 88pp), Robert Reginald by Michael Burgess, 2nd ed. (#5, 120p), Ross Rocklynne by Douglas Menville (#17, 1989, 70pp), Ian Watson by Douglas A. Mackey (#18, 1989, 148pp, $22.95/$12.95), Colin Wilson by Colin Stanley (#1, 1989, 312pp, $32.95/$22.95), and the three reviewed below.

Jeffrey M. Elliot. The Work of George Zebrowski. With Robert Reginald (this volume only). 2nd ed. #4, 1990. 118pp. The Work of Pamela Sargent. #13. 80pp. 1990. The Work of Jack Dann.#16. 128pp. 1990. Each $19.95 cloth, $9.95 paper.--The editorial format and exhaustive nature of these books, together with some indication of the details provided, can perhaps be set forth most conveniently by listing the sections as they appear in the tables of contents, with the three books designated as WZ, WS, WD.

Introduction. In WZ, "Between Sensitivity and Concern"; in WS, "Let the Rest take Care of Itself"; in WD, "In Pity and Terror."

Chronology. Birth, family, school (literary activity, awards, etc.), college, graduate work, friendships formed within the SF community (very extensive for Zebrowski), first sales, books published, editorial posts, awards, marriages, etc.

A. Books. In chronological order: not only books written by, but also anthologies edited or co-edited by, the author in in question. Includes all American and foreign editions. The data includes the name of the cover artist, and for each book a list of "Secondary Sources and Reviews."

B. Short Fiction. Details not only of first publication in magazine, anthology, or collection, but also of all reprintings.

C (D in WD). Nonfiction. Letters to editors, reviews, introductions, and miscellaneous essays, with details of first publication and reprintings.

C (in WD only). Poetry. As above for Short Fiction and Nonfiction.

D (in WZ only). Translations. Publication details for one magazine story.

E. Editorial Credits. Positions with magazines or publishing houses. Lists of books edited or books selected for a publisher's series.

F (G in WS, not in WD). Juvenilia. Stories and/or essays published in school papers, fanzines, etc.

G (D in WS, not in WD). Unpublished Works. For Sargent, her senior thesis and master's thesis; for Zebrowski, an unsold story written with Dann and two versions of a story sold to a magazine that folded without publishing it; for both, in collaboration, four filmstrips ordered and paid for but never produced.

H (F in WS). Other Media. For Zebrowski, a play consisting of adaptations of five SF stories (one by himself, four by other authors) produced at the University of Nebraska; for Sargent, a radio play broadcast in Germany and an adaptation for television of one of her stories.

I (G in WD). Honors and Awards. School and college honor rolls; scholarships, fellowships, assistantships; books recommended by the American Library Association or listed in a periodical as one of the year's best, etc.; books or stories winning or short-listed for Hugos, Nebulas, etc.; etc.

J (H in WD). Public Appearances. Addresses, panel participations, courses taught, talks to high school or college classes, TV interviews, etc.

K (J in WS, F in WD). About the Author. Books and/or articles on the author

(rather than on individual works).

L (K in WS, I in WD). Miscellanea. Manuscripts, memberships, dedications, the author's Library of Congress numbers, etc.

Quoth the Critics. Sentences or paragraphs quoted from reviews.

Afterword. By Zebrowski, "6,250 Bits of Immortality"; by Sargent, "Through the Looking Glass"; by Dann, "Advice to Aspiring Writers."

Postscript (in Wit) only). An interview with Dann by Gregory Feeley.

Index.

About the Author(s). Notes on Reginald (WZ only) and Elliot.

George Zebrowski and Pamela Sargent entered SUNY Binghamton as freshmen in 1964, Dann as a junior in 1966; the three became friends, Zebrowski and Sargent "companions" (WS 9). Sargent and Zebrowski majored in philosophy, Dann in political science. Zebrowski, already active in fandom and as an apprentice writer collecting rejection slips, encouraged the other two to attempt SF stories. Sargent sold her first story in 1968, Zebrowski in 1969, and Dann (a collaboration with Zebrowski) also in 1969. In the years 1970-74, Zebrowski was editor of the SFWA Bulletin, with Sargent and Dann as assistants. Each of them did some college teaching in the early '70s. Sargent began doctoral work but abandoned it when she became confident of success in SF. The first books published by Dann (Wandering Stars, 1974) and Sargent (Women of Wonder, 1975) were anthologies, each a notable success; Zebrowski's first was a novel, but his second was also an anthology (Tomorrow Today, 1975). Dann has since been editor or co-editor of 15 anthologies, Zebrowski of 11, Sargent of 5. Sargent has published 12 novels, Zebrowski 7, Dann 3. Zebrowski and Sargent have been co-editors of the SFWA Bulletin since 1983.

--RDM


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