Hal W. Hall, ed. Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index, 1985-1991: An
International Author and Subject Index to History and Criticism. Englewood,
CO: Libraries Unlimited (800-237-6124), 1993. xxii+677. $90.00.
This is the first supplement to Hall's Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index,
1878-1985 (Gale, 1987). It lists some 19,000 items, first by subject, and then by author,
including some newly discovered earlier items. Though it perhaps has some of the faults
mentioned by Robert M. Philmus in his review of the earlier volume (SFS 46:383-84, #46,
Nov 1988), it is far more comprehensive than any other available work, and thus may well
be called indispensable.
In addition to their greater comprehensiveness, these volumes have an advantage over
the MLA bibliogaphies in that they do not group their listings into such sections as
American literature, English literature, or Trinidad and Tobago literature (where you must
look to find articles on V.S. Naipul). Last year, thinking I might write an article on
Riddley Walker, I went through ten years of the English-literature section of the MLA
volumes and found nothing at all on Hoban, which was puzzling but quite satisfying. So I
embarked on an elaborate and very time-consuming analysis of the language and themes of
Riddley Walker. With the arrival of SFFRI, my complacence was shattered--and I remembered
to my embarrassment that Hoban, though living among and writing about the English, is an
American by birth. So now I must do extensive research to discover whether I really have
anything new to offer, and will perhaps abandon the project.
Feminist Science Fiction 101.
Robin Roberts. A New Species: Gender and Science in Science Fiction.
Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993. ix+171. $29.95 cloth, $12.95
Robin Roberts' A New Species "provides the first overview of science fiction from a
feminist perspective" (1). The word "overview" is quite telling: Roberts offers a
survey-course approach to the encounter between SF and feminism. For example, when she
details what every literary critic knows-- such as "in the Greek version of the myth,
Demeter loses her only daughter, Persephone, to the Lord of the Underworld, who abducts
Persephone and carries her off by force to his underground kingdom" (101)--Roberts
appropriately addresses undergraduates. (One would also be hard-pressed to find any SF
critic who needs to be informed that "Lord Estraven...[is] Genly Ai's friend" ).
Roberts, who manages to pack references to two Suzette Haden Elgin novels, the entire Darkover series, and a Sheri Tepper novel into the last half of a short paragraph (87),
offers a cursory study of the progression from Shelley to Sheldon. That particular
paragraph epitomizes what I find lacking in Roberts' book: a complex engagement between
critic and specific sections of fictional texts. A New Species is Feminist Science Fiction
A survey course is not at all a bad thing for those who wish to tackle an unfamiliar
subject. Roberts (rightfully--of course!) proclaims that feminist SF is important and
waves her finger in reader's faces when telling them how they should respond to it:
Feminist science fiction can teach us to rethink traditional, patriarchal notions about
science, reproduction, and gender. Only in science fiction can feminists imaginatively
step outside the father's house and begin to look around.... This study of science fiction
shows that feminist critics should read popular culture carefully, that science fiction
critics should appreciate the depth and range of feminist contributions to the genre, and
that literary critics in general ought to look more carefully at the intersection of
gender and popular literature. (2)
As someone who is on the verge of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome from my own finger
waving regarding these issues, I applaud Roberts' applause for feminist SF. Roberts is a
member of the small group that has taken to task the feminist critics, science-fiction
critics, and general literary critics who don't want to know from feminist SF. A New
Species serves as a good starting point for folks who wish to begin to do what Roberts
says they should.
She provides readers with kernels of insightful analysis. Her discussion of
Frankenstein in terms of Haraway's and Keller's work on gender in science (25) is
particularly noteworthy. Roberts adroitly links pulp SF to Cixous, Clément, and Kristeva
(46-47, 56). I am also impressed by this connection between French feminist
theory and feminist SF: "Irigaray seems to be writing about Always Coming Home" (150). The insight
that Lessing, Norton, and Finch imbue a feminized symbol of jewelry with the status
attributed to advanced weaponry in traditional science and science fiction (146) is
certainly creative and interesting. Ditto for the point that Finch's and Slonczewski's
linking of language to ocean, contagion, or plague manifests the "poststructuralist sense
of language as a fluid medium in which humans are immersed" (142). In this vein, Roberts'
last and best chapter turns to language to argue that feminist SF is postmodern fiction.
While Roberts' applications of feminist theory to feminist science fiction, her discussion
of pulp magazine art, and her thoughts about postmodern fiction are all very original, the
chapters about feminist SF and feminist utopias do not break new ground. Her chapters
devoted to Shelley and Lessing--writers who, of course, do not suffer from lack of
critical attention--could have been supplemented by a chapter on a neglected SF writer.
("Especially because she has been neglected by critics, Norton deserves our attention"
(93) and should have had a chapter devoted to her.)
Repetition mars the positive aspects of Roberts' work. Her introduction states that
pulp magazines are "named for the cheap, pulpy quality of their paper" (11). Surely
there is no need for the second chapter to reiterate that pulp magazines are "so called
because of the cheap, pulpy paper on which they were printed" (40). Roberts mentions the
"neglect in the academic world" of pulp magazines (41) before stating, a mere six pages
later, that "pulp science fiction has been ignored by critics" (47). Since chapter one
contains a lengthy discussion of "PLAGUE" in Shelley's Last Man, it is hardly necessary
for chapter two to explain that Shelley "depicted a female PLAGUE that obliterates a
patriarchal culture" (47). The introduction's second footnote quotes New York Times
Magazine author Lesley Hazleton and states that she is shocked and surprised by Lessing's
science fiction; this point and the very same Hazleton quotation appear again in chapter
five (118). Roberts' text is PLAGUED by repetition. While Roberts does a fine job
acknowledging contributors to feminist science-fiction criticism--and while she does
include such diverse critics as Derrida, Gilligan, Harding, Holland, and Kolodny--her book
refers too often to her dissertation director, Nina Auerbach.
Some of Roberts' assertions are just plain wrong. "[James] Schmitz is the only male
who has written a feminist utopia" (88). Not so. A New Species is "the first discussion
of postmodernism and feminist science fiction" (11). Certainly not. "Jeannie" (80) is
named as one of the four female protagonists in The Female Man. Although it is fun to
dream that Jeannie escapes from her bottle and visits Whileaway, Russ's novel provides no
indication that the character does so. Roberts, however, seems to imagine that Russ's
Janet takes over the identity of theorist Jane Flax. How else to explain the appearance of
"Janet Flax"? (155, 160). (Flax, like many other individuals Roberts mentions, is not
listed in the index.) Lax proof reading results in the appearance of the "New York Times
Sunday Magazine" (160), a nonexistent publication, and "Nicholas O. Smith" (161), a
nonexistent coeditor of mine. Roberts' attitudes toward the engagement of male writers and
critics with feminism and SF seem to be confused. When discussing James Schmitz, she
rightly points out that "a writer need not be female to be a feminist" (76). She credits Suvin with being among the first to recognize a feminist aspect of Flatland (64). However,
when mentioning Mark Rose's Alien Encounters, Roberts decides that "his neglect of the
feminist theme of the story ["The Heat Death of the Universe"] is yet another example of
the failure of male science-fiction critics as well as writers to appreciate the
transformation woman writers are effecting" (108-09). If Schmitz can author a feminist
utopia, he can appreciate the transformation woman writers are effecting. If Suvin is the
first to see the feminist aspects of a particular male writer's work, the same
appreciative ability holds true for him. Feminist critics should not position an
all-inclusive category of males as deserving to be chastised for ignoring feminist
Roberts and I approach the category feminist science fiction differently. She uses a
chronological approach to connect feminist works traditionally categorized as science
fiction; I maintain that it is time to move beyond the category feminist "science
fiction" and to connect formally ghettoized feminist works to a redefined understanding
of postmodern fiction. "Feminist science fiction exposes sexism and condemns female
exclusion from science and science fiction" (24), says Roberts. I agree and I add my
arguments in Feminist Fabulation which condemn the routine exclusion of "feminist
postmodern science fiction" (Roberts' term) from work categorized as postmodern. Roberts
could not be more correct when she insists that writers such as Le Guin, Russ,
Slonczewski, and Finch are uniting feminism with postmodernism. Her insistence, however,
can become nullified by a prevailing attitude: regardless of the merits of an individual
work, many critics still react to the term feminist science fiction by associating it with
"scantily clad females attacked by monsters and rescued by men" (27)--not with serious
literature. Roberts' discourse supports my points.
If "many critics have complained about science fiction's misogyny" (37), then why
continue to attach a major form of feminist postmodern fiction to an inhospitable genre?
Instead of perpetuating a classification system which marginalizes the woman postmodern
writer--which positions her as "the female alien...the unknown, the terrifying" (46) subliterary writer--critics interested in feminist SF might work to break down traditional
boundaries between high art and genre fiction. Roberts gestures toward this direction when
she explains that her book "breaks down traditional canonization by including science
fiction and Le Guin and Lessing" (48). To my mind, the end of Roberts' list requires
another "and": acclaimed postmodern writers who are not defined as science-fiction
writers. If critics of the same bent as Roberts and myself are engaged in "a breakdown of
traditional categories" (65), then I suggest that we try to accomplish this breakdown by
viewing our computers as being analogous to sledge hammers, not sling shots. Feminist SF
itself would approve of this approach: "feminist science fiction insists on the
dissolution of traditional literary and gender categories" (138). Yes, without question,
feminist SF "creates a new postmodern, feminist writing" (141). Armed with this
knowledge, instead of continuing to attach new writing to the old term feminist science
fiction, interested critics should encourage a "blurring of distinctions" (142) between
feminist postmodern science fiction and respected postmodern fiction. Since, for instance,
Always Coming Home is the "new writing" Derrida calls for and exemplifies "a pastiche
that stresses the breakdown between genres, which is a defining quality of postmodernism"
(154), it is appropriate to remove the boundary which separates feminist postmodern
science-fiction from canonical postmodernism.
Always Coming Home and her sister examples
of feminist fabulation can't go home again to science fiction.
Women postmodern feminist science-fiction writers need to be "allowed to breathe"
outside a generic enclosure. The virtually "all-male environment" (24) of canonical
postmodern fiction is an appropriate space where they can do so. In other words, Roberts'
"new species" requires a new name.
Roberts outlines an enterprise in which women SF writers boldly go into the male
postmodern canonical terrain. Her overview informs readers about the start, progress, and
present status of their journey. She is a critic who herself has the courage to chart a
new literary sector. I hope that, in the very near future, Roberts will say more about
feminist SF and postmodernism.
--Marleen S. Barr Virginia Polytechnic
Early Study Appears (Too?) Late.
Barbara Puschmann-Nalenz. Science Fiction and Postmodern Fiction: A Genre Study.
American University General Literature Studies 29. Peter Lang Publishing (62 West
45th St., New York NY 10036-4202). 268p. $46.95 (plus $3.00 shipping).
This study first appeared in German in 1986, which makes it, as far as I know, the
first full-length academic study of the interactions between SF and postmodern fiction.
Would that we had had access to it in the mid-eighties, however, because its belated
English-language appearance only serves to demonstrate how rapidly this area of
critical/theoretical work has developed over the past few years. Reading Science Fiction
and Postmodern Fiction, what strikes me most forcibly is the wealth of material--both
fiction and non-fiction--which has appeared since its original publication and which
functions like a kind of absent presence coloring any reception of Puschmann-Nalenz's text
On the fiction front, the most serious absence is cyberpunk, of course; whether or not
it was worth all the critical hype it generated, cyberpunk almost single-handedly pushed
many SF critics into the field of the postmodern and generated important studies on SF and
postmodernism like Larry McCaffrey's collection, Storming the Reality Studio (1991). In a
sense, therefore, Puschmann-Nalenz's study is the victim of the very process she discusses
in her introductory chapter, that is, the very rapid development of recent SF theory and
In addition, Science Fiction and Postmodernism takes no account of feminist SF and its
complex participation in postmodernism, since texts like Joanna Russ's The Female Man and
Pamela Zoline's "The Heat Death of the Universe" appeared well before 1980.
(Puschmann-Nalenz's study mentions only one woman writer, in fact, and this is,
predictably, Ursula Le Guin.) Puschmann-Nalenz makes it clear that she is not interested
in what she refers to as "ideological" analysis; her focus remains fixed on thematics,
as well as on rhetorical and narrative strategies. Her approach, in fact, is not
dissimilar to that taken by Carl D. Malmgren in his more recent, and almost equally
"anti-ideological" genre study, Worlds Apart: Narratology of Science Fiction (1992; see
David Ketterer's review in SFS #56).
Also missing from the study are some of the more influential theorizations of the
postmodern which appeared in the '80s, for example, by Hal Foster, Jean-François Lyotard,
Fredric Jameson, and Andreas Huyssen. For this reason, Puschmann-Nalenz's construction of
postmodernism remains rather flat; it lacks the richness and complexity which might have
developed through dialogue with more recent theoretical studies.
Having said all this, I must admit that, reading it retrospectively, as it were, I find
much to admire in Science Fiction and Postmodernism, not least in its very perceptive
identification of some of the parallels between SF and postmodern fiction. Both,
Puschmann-Nalenz suggests, often interest themselves in the collisions between two
alternative worlds; both often write of a world directed an manipulated by outside forces;
and both are fascinated by the construction of synthetic and artificial universes. In
addition, she demonstrates the attraction of both modern SF and postmodern fiction to
explorations of identity, communication, and the interactions between reality and
illusion. In developing these common characteristics, Puschmann-Nalenz offers a useful
series of parallel readings, comparing, for example, Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49
with John Brunner's The Productions of Time, Allain Robbe-Grillet's nouveau roman with
Brian Aldiss's Report on Probability A, and various fictions by Jorge Luis Borges with SF
by Stanislaw Lem, Michael Moorcock, and Frederik Pohl. Although written before the
onslaught of cyberpunk, Puschmann-Nalenz's commentaries on the creation of parallel
worlds, simulacra, manipulated realities, and so on, demonstrate-- before the fact, as it
were,--the postmodern character of cyberpunk and other recent SF texts which still
emphasize these narrative elements.
One important conclusion she draws--although one with which I am not completely
comfortable--is that, while SF tends to result in the confirmation of reality and
identity, these are the very concepts postmodern fictions tend to put into question. She
argues that, in SF, "the fictional world claims the status of the real" (100) while, in
postmodern fiction, the real world is, ambigously, also a fictional world. Put
differently, "the axiom of reality [is] an essential element of SF" (110). For this
reason, she singles out writers like Ballard and Moorcock as stretching the limits of the
genre, and, occasionally, breaking through these limits into what, I assume, is the area
of the postmodern.
Science Fiction and Postmodernism concludes with a chapter on the "SF" writings of
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and William Burroughs, demonstrating the allegorical nature of their
appropriation of SF rhetoric and motifs. It argues that these two writers exemplify the
tendency of postmodern fiction to "use SF as raw material for its motifs and its images
in another narrative system" (211). In other words, if I understand this rightly, SF and
postmodern fiction remain two different fields of discourse, two different "narrative
systems" which can interact, but which tend to remain mutually exclusive. SF is no longer
itself once it becomes part and parcel of a postmodern allegorical system. Like Samuel Delany, Puschmann-Nalenz emphasizes the concretization which the SF text espouses.
This conclusion is one with which I tale issue, however, since it fails to take into
account a growing number of fictions which balance metaphor and extrapolation in such a
way that both are available for activation by the reader. Among them I would includes
almost all of Philip K. Dick's work, as well as novels like Margaret Atwood's The
Handmaid's Tale, Angela Carter's Heroes and Villains, and William Gibson's
texts which also happen to be postmodern texts.
I remain dissatisfied, for this reason, with the destination at which
Puschmann-Nalenz's study arrives. If we keep in mind its original publication history,
however, it becomes less a study with which to argue, than one to admire for its early
identification of the interactions between a popular genre and a contemporary aesthetic
which, between them, have produced so much fascinating fiction in such a relatively short
span of time.
Essays on Dick in French.
Hélène Collon, ed. Regards sur Philip K. Dick: Le Kalédickoscope. Anthologie de
témoignages et de textes critiques, entretien avec Philip K. Dick et bibliographie
Encrage Edition (B.P. 0451, 80004 Amiens cédex, France), 1992, 221p.
This attractive book is a collection of previously published essays (seven originally
in English, two in French), selected and translated by Hélène Collon. In addition to
articles on Dick's work, the book includes Jeff Wagner's biographical sketch and a 1977
interview conducted by D. Scott Apel and Kevin C. Briggs (which forms the core of Apel's Philip
K. Dick: The Dream Connection), a fairly substantial bibliography of Dick materials
and criticism, as well as two non-traditional salutes: a poem by Jacques Chambon and Brian
Aldiss's "imaginary conversation" with Dick. While all but one of the articles are
available in English, this book brings to a French public a number of articles not
previously translated. Thus Collon's book complements (and replaces) the special issue of Science
et Fiction (Paris: Denoel, 1986) with the added advantage of an extensive bibliography
which has been done with more care than those in some scholarly books. The bibliography
includes an comprehensive record of Dick's writings and their publication in French, as
well as a wide-ranging survey of academic and non-academic writing about Dick in English
and French. (There are the inevitable typos, particularly in the English language
material: Dish at one point for Disch, and Desser for Dresser, both page 201.) In sum, for
a French audience a valuable collection of some worthwhile essays (two of which appeared
in SFS), with a very useful bibliography.
Peter Fitting, Peter Fitting, University of Toronto.
Clarke's Voices Updated.
I.F.Clarke. . Voices Prophesying War: Future Wars 1763-3749.
Second Edition. Oxford and NY: Oxford UP, 1992. x+268. $25.
Words like "groundbreaking," "pioneering," and "seminal" only hint at the
originality and influence of the first edition of this book, which appeared in 1966 as Voices
Prophesying War 1763-1984. Clarke's earlier annotated bibliography, The Tale of the
Future From the Beginning to the Present Day (1961), had shown how technological
change, in transforming Western conceptions of historical time, spawned a new and
ever-expanding genre which imagined various futures radically different from the present
and past. Voices Prophesying War had focused this vision on a subgenre of
future-scene fiction: stories and novels that projected wars in the future. Clarke tied
the growth of future-war fiction directly to the evolution of military technology from the
Industrial Revolution to the nuclear age. Especially striking was his discovery that the
first characteristically modern fictions of future war appeared in the early 1870s, a
direct product of the advent of what we have now come to call technowar, in the U.S. Civil
War and the Franco-Prussian War.
This revised and enlarged second edition includes a greatly expanded "Checklist of
Imaginary Wars," extending coverage through the quarter of a century from 1965 to 1990
and adding a number of titles in the earlier years. There are, however, many surprising
omissions, including some important works discussed in Thomas Clareson's chapter on
future-war fiction in Some Kind of Paradise: The Emergence of American Science Fiction
(1985) and my own War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination (1988),
some of which are also listed in John Newman's "America at War: Horror Stories
for a Society," Extrapolation 16 (December 1974 and May 1975), John Newman and Michael
Unsworth's Future War Novels: An Annotated Bibliography of Works in English Published
since 1946 (1985), and the catalogs published by Stuart Teitler's Kaleidoscope Books.
Although Clarke's discussion has been revised in many places and now covers some of the
newly-listed titles from both the last quarter of a century and the earlier years, this
new edition will certainly disappoint those who, like myself, had expected him once again
to break new ground. Indeed, he does not even engage with the massive scholarship and
criticism inspired by his early work, and therefore major themes and concerns of the last
few decades are virtually ignored. Clarke has made an effort to explore more widely beyond
European and British fictions, but little attention is paid to the distinctive
characteristics of American future-war fiction, which has had such a profound impact on
the actual conduct of war in the late 20th century. The dialectic interplay between
post-World-War-II warfare and future-war fiction is hardly noticed. Vietnam is not even
mentioned. In short, while certainly superseding the first edition, the second does not
live up to the expectations of those who recall the impact of the original. For those who
do not own or have not read Voices Prophesying War, this new edition is an
indispensable introduction to future-war fiction, the genre I.F. Clarke first defined.
Bruce Franklin, Rutgers UniversityNewark.
War Re-Imagining War.
George Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin, eds.
Fights of Fancy: Armed Conflict in Science Fiction and
Fantasy. Athens: University of Georgia Press,
1993. vii+223. $40 cloth, $18 paper.
Even the most casual reader has noticed that SF includes a very high percentage of war
stories and yet the analysis of these battle tales is not nearly as common as their
prevalence would seem to warrant. Perhaps it is just a statistical accident or maybe it is
academia's distaste for blood and gore? In any event, George Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin
have performed a great service in bringing together sixteen fine essays on SF and armed
conflict, including their very thoughtful joint introduction and their own individual
It is a particularly valuable work because they have chosen essays which, for the most
part, go beyond a straight-forward examination of clearly pacifist and warist texts. The
analysis of didactic SF is indeed important, as many fine articles on Heinlein, Haldeman,
Pournelle, Le Guin and others have demonstrated. But the editors of this collection have
set for themselves a different goalto use SF as a way of re-imagining what war might
be and still might become.
Today, as many who study or practice war feel that war is changing in fundamental ways,
this is a particularly significant focus, especially since understanding the implications
of ever-expanding technoscience, SF's special interest, is also central to explaining
war's current (r)evolution. Of course, it is too much to ask that a set of academic essays
on armed conflict in SF "explain" contemporary and future war when thousands of military
officers, bureaucrats, and academics are trying to do the same thing in countless volumes
and not succeeding. But these articles do offer a very effective vantage point for
rethinking what is happening to war in these postmodern times, and on speculating about
the strange forms it still might take. So much so that it is certainly a valuable
collection not only for scholars and thoughtful fans of SF, but for anyone personally or
academically concerned with peace and war today.
The essays themselves were chosen from the presentations at the 1988 J. Lloyd Eaton
Conference. Somehow the editors have managed to keep the collection focused on the theme
of reimagining war, while spanning the ideological and methodological spectrums and also
maintaining a high level of analysis not just of SF texts, but of SF film, comics, and
even some music as well. And all this in prose that, for academia, is not only always
quite clean and interesting but is even occasionally moving.
The first essay after the editor's introduction is Rabkin's own discussion of
the importance of "Reimagining War" which ranges from Thomas Hobbes past Mark Twain on to a
fruitful comparison of specific works by Robert A. Heinlein, Joe Haldeman, and Orson Scott
Card. The argument is really too rich to summarize here, but he is convincing when he
concludes that SF, by reimagining war, "offers us a new instrument, a continuation of
politics by radically different means" (24).
Rabkin is followed by Reginald Bretnor's reflections on "Science Fiction and the
Semantics of Conflict." While I strongly disagree with many of Bretnor's assumptions,
especially on war being inevitable (the "history of mankind"), it is an insightful and
well argued essay. Bretnor is particularly good at dissecting various myths about war,
such as the supremacy of moral force, and at explaining certain aspects of contemporary
war from the point of view of a military theoretician, which he is on occasion. He is
followed by Gary Westfahl who uses a methodology I usually find to be quite useless,
quantitative discourse analysis, to make a convincing argument about differences between
SF heroes and those of mainstream fiction. He shows that in the SF texts he analyzes
heroes often speak in more complex ways than the villains, reflecting higher intelligence
and/or education, while in the mainstream texts he looks at it is quite the opposite. His
conclusion that this represents a validation of "learned reason" over "youthful
idealism" and of human hubris over fate are probably somewhat overdrawn but it does seem
he is on to something. SF heroes, at least those of hard SF, are probably different than
the heroes of other genres and it is a provocative insight. Next, Louis Pedrotti has a
very intriguing discussion of the fantasies of the 19th-century Russian writer, Osip
Senkovsky, who often combined ecological disasters with horrible wars in his tales; a
combination that probably makes more literal sense today than it did 150 years ago. It is
clear that Senkovsky's work deserves more attention, as Pedrotti asserts. And the same can
be said for H.G. Wells, whose war stories Arthur Campbell Turner analyzes nicely in his
essay. As Turner points out, they all seem to follow a basic plot: war leads to a miracle
which produces a world state thanks to the intervention of some elite group of
oh-so-rational-and-competent SF heroes. Interestingly enough, Turner shows that Wells'
heroes are much like those Westfahl discovered in the work of Hugo Gernsback, John W.
Campbell, and Robert Heinlein and that the dynamic of Apocalypse-to-Utopia that structures
Wells' stories is hauntingly similar to a major trope of modern society, apocalypse as
regeneration, which is bisected in different ways by several of the other contributors.
First, Laurence Davies looks at the prowar fantasies that preceded World War I in his
very moral and sophisticated essay "'The Evils of a Long Peace': Desiring the Great
War." In his judgement, while "The belief that society could be purged only by total
cataclysm did not originate in the future-war genre ... [it] did play its part in keeping
that belief in motion" (68). In an equally convincing essay, Peter Fitting argues that
many post-apocalyptic SF films such as Mad Max play a somewhat progressive
role in that they "nourish utopian hopes" for what the band R.E.M. calls an "end for
the world as we know it" (126). But this is just one point Fitting makes, and with strong
reservations, in what is a multilayered and powerful discussion of SF film that focuses on
utopia and its dangerous linkage to social apocalypse.
In the next essay, David Clayton uses Samuel Delany's Dhalgren to critique the
whole idea of apocalypse itself in contemporary culture and the various utopian and
anti-utopian work it is called upon to do. It is a subtle and fascinating defense of this
difficult text. Paula Rea Radisich also studies a work about apocalypse, the French artist
Philippe Druillet's comic La Nuit, which Druillet calls "a hymn to death" (103).
Her fascinating iconographic analysis of his work (unfortunately unillustrated) reveals
important Christian and erotic grounds for the appeal of apocalypse to the Western soul.
Scott Dalrymple's "Demonic Therapy: Reading the Holy Word in the Mushroom Cloud" is
also about apocalypse. He explains the appeal of horror writing in terms of the control it
offers readers in the age of possible nuclear war. While his argument is abbreviated by
necessity and its focus on Steven King's The Dead Zone (hardly a typical horror
text), it is quite convincing as far as it goes.
Two of the essays directly address feminist SF. Rosemarie Arbur discusses works about
the victory of women in the war of the sexes by Joanna Russ, Suzette Haden Elgin, Samuel
Delany, and Alice Sheldon, among others in "Fights of Fancy When the 'Better Half'
Wins." It is a powerful and disturbing (to men and women alike I should think) piece that
not only enriches the reader's understanding of what war might mean and be, but also has
much to say about understanding between the sexes. Martha A. Bartter, in an excellent
essay on M.J. Engh's little-known novel Arsian (1976), a tale of sophisticated
genocide, critiques the subtle dangers of most postapocalyptic "regeneration" fantasies.
When considered together with the other essays mentioned above that focus on various
readings of apocalypse, this article gives this book a remarkable perspective on this
crucial subtheme of war. Perhaps the greatest distinction between war now and war before
is that war can truly produce apocalypse today (or tomorrow) so it is altogether fitting
that it is explored from so many perspectives here.
Joe Haldeman's contribution to this collection is a totally appropriate
autobiographical account of how his war experiences have shaped his SF writing. It is a
haunting, moving, and very perceptive essay. And it makes a fine counterweight to the many
academic speculations about war which inevitably fill the rest of the book. Haldeman's
personal story reminds us that despite the growing role of machines (especially computers
and their simulations) in combat, and no matter how accurate high theory may be in laying
out the various implications of armed conflict in its many strange possibilities, war is real.
It kills real people. It changes real peoples' lives. Otherwise, it wouldn't be war.
It is a point that the authors of the last two essays should always keep close to their
hearts. In many ways George Slusser's "Third World Fantasies" and Brooks Landon's
"Solos, Solitons, Info and Invasion in (and of) Science Fiction Film" are my favorites
in the whole collection. They are both brilliant deployments of postmodern analytics and
they make crucial real-world points. Slusser's focus on Third World forms of media and
Landon's use of cutting-edge technologies as explanations are very effective ways of
demonstrating just how unique the times we live in are, and that includes the nature of
armed conflict, which is basically war. Both essays are hyper with out being hyped, pomo
with a point, if you will. They are full of the provocative use of new metaphors
(such as Landon's "solitons") and the stunning juxtapositions (as when Slusser looks at Reggae
music and Kung Fu films) that make the best of contemporary theory so exciting and
illuminating. But I'm glad Haldeman's memoirs are there just a few pages earlier, to
remind the reader that real war is about real bodies, their death and dismemberment, and
nothing less. We can hope that war might become something else, as a number of the authors
in this collection do, but it is still far from it.
The book is nicely made with an appropriately enigmatic cover. I couldn't find any
major quibbles to share although I do wish the index included subjects (such as cyborgs
and solitons) and not just works and people, and illustrations would have been very nice,
especially where films and graphics were analyzed. Being an academic I have many specific
disagreements about terms, claims, and definitions throughout the book but I'll skip them.
They are minor and this is an important collection for so many different reasons. But most
significantly because war itself is such an important issue for all of us, and SF has some
very crucial things to say about war, and these essays have some very compelling insights
as to just what some of those things are. I sincerely recommend it.
Chris Hables Gray, Oregon State University.
C.W. Sullivan III, ed. Science Fiction for Young Readers. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 56. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1993. xv+214. $49.95. Credit-card orders 1-800-255-5800.
Sixteen essays on the work of about two dozen writers form this addition to SF
scholarship (13 deal with a single writer; three, with a number of writers). If we don't
question too deeply, the need for such a volume can be seen in its brief bibliography,
which lists only three books and four articles that specifically connect SF to youth,
children, juveniles, or young readers. Michael Levy could have listed other articles and
chapters, but he would not have found many more books.
This is a well-produced book: there's a useful index and only a few typos. The essays
are grouped into three sections, each with a succinct introduction by the editor, C.W.
Sullivan III, who tells us in the preface that he has "tried to present both a historical
and a thematic perspective on science fiction for young readers and on science fiction
criticism" (xiv). He begins valiantly with Francis J. Molson's detailed examination of
the four Tom Swift series, the original of 1910-1941 and the subsequent series reappearing
most recently in 1991. He continues more or less chronologically through "Part I: The
Shapers of Science Fiction for Young Readers" and into "Part II: Specific Authors and
Their Works." However, there and in "Part III: Science Fiction as a Vehicle for Ideas,"
the pattern breaks down: too many of the writers discussed were publishing
contemporaneously in the '70s and '80s. The question that must be asked is whether the
essays complete the inner vision of the anthology, and the answer must be, not quite.
The three parts into which Sullivan divides Science Fiction for Young Readers
appear contrived, dictated more by exigency than vision. The writing ranges from
workmanlike to brilliant, the style from pretentious to impeccable. Only half of the
essays are intelligent, provocative, and of high quality. Two of the 16 efforts, the one
concerned with the extremely popular works of Anne McCaffrey and the other with the
well-known young-adult works of the UK writer Louise Lawrence, provide little more than
book summaries. And a second essay on Louise Lawrence fails to convince me that her Moonwind
"present[s] to the late 20th-century adolescent the key tenets of Gnosticism" (179).
While the apparent editorial decision to keep each essay under 15 pages is a valid one,
the many ellipses in the essays on the Tom Swift books, Robert Heinlein's Scribner
juveniles, John Christopher's juvenile dystopias, and H.M. Hoover's futuristic fiction
make the writing disjointed. Disappointingly, Roger C. Schlobin merely repeats his already
expressed insights about André Norton, now simply attached to the Magic series. Nor can a
single book of this size adequately cover the works and authors of interest to the wide
variety of "young readers." This discussion ranges from the Tom Swift books and Asimov's
Lucky Star series, suitable for eight-year-olds and, at the other extreme, Russell Hoban's
Riddley Walker, generally read only by teens reading adult books.
The scope is both too broad and too narrow for those "unfamiliar with the field [who
need] a place to start," an audience Sullivan hopes to attract (xiv). Such a group
probably derives its knowledge of SF from standard texts on children's or adolescent
literature such as Zena Sutherland and May Hill Arbuthnot's Children and Books
(1991) or Alleen Pace Nilsen and Kenneth L. Donelson's Literature for Today's Young
Adults (1993). If so, they will be surprised to note that in this book only six SF
writers given full attention are already familiar to them: Asimov, Christopher, Heinlein,
L'Engle, Hughes, and Norton.
William Sleator does appear twice, most prominently and strangely as one of the
innumerable secondary sources in the overview of Louise Lawrence (144). Elsewhere,
Sleator's House of Stairs joins Robert O'Brien's Z for Zachariah as a
contrast to Monica Hughes's Keeper of the Isis Light, two pessimistic works
opposing one optimistic one, a ratio Joseph O. Milner maintains throughout his stimulating
"Captain Kirk and Dr. Who: Meliorist and Spenglerian World Views in Fiction for Young
Adults." His major thrust contrasts Sylvia Engdahl's Enchantress from the Stars to
John Christopher's The White Mountains. He succeeds admirably in logically
presenting the two philosophic views and supports his argument with other highly
recommended short stories by familiar writers for middle, junior high, and/or senior high
school readers: Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" and Ray Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft
Rain" in contrast with Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas."
I have said "not quite" and that only half the essays are interesting and
well-written. But each and every one of that half is a carefully reasoned and rhetorically
pleasing essay of value both for those "who need a place to start" and for those
"already working with such materials [who need] a source of new interpretations and
ideas" (xiv). With warmth and understanding for both the series and the authors,
Elizabeth Anne Hull, in "Asimov: Man Thinking," effortlessly brings to life Asimov's
Lucky Star series of the '70s and the Asimovs' Norby series of the '80s and early '90s
(i.e., the series written by Isaac and Janet [Jeppson] Asimov). I wish only that the
essay's title were the heading appearing halfway through: "The Asimovs: Man and Woman
Thinking (and Feeling) Together" (54). The essay that follows, M. Sarah Smedman's
'Terrible Journey' Past 'Dragons in the Waters' to a 'House like a Lotus': Faces of Love
in the Fiction of Madeleine L'Engle," is clarity itself. Smedman ranges easily from A
Wrinkle in Time (1962) through L'Engle's science fantasies and realistic works of the
next 22 years, explicating their fuguelike nature. Families and characters appear,
disappear, and reappeareach novel providing an episode to strengthen the major
subject of L'Engle's work: a deeper understanding of human and divine love.
The second part opens with Howard V. Hendrix's "The Things of a Child: Coming
Full-Circle with Alan E. Nourse's Raiders from the Rings," a faultless
reader-response essay in which Hendrix analyzes why Raiders had a such an impact on
him 22 years earlier. As a nine-year old, Hendrix would not have realized that Nourse
provides in Raiders "commentary on Cold War politics expressed through the defamiliarizing mask of science fiction" (90), nor could he have verbalized the
archetypes, the maturation process, or the pacifist polemic that the adult Hendrix proves
without question was unconsciously felt. This beautifully written, sensitive demonstration
of the complex emotional and intellectual response to literature should not be missed.
There are two essays on the fine young-adult author Monica Hughes. In "'True Myth':
Female Archetypes in Monica Hughes's The Keeper of the Isis Light," Raymond E.
Jones shows how Olwen, the central character, moves through archetypal stages from maiden
to mother to crone and ultimately to Earth Mother. In "The Debate Continues:
Technology or Nature—A Study of Monica Hughes's Science Fiction Novels," J.R. Wytenbroek, with
reference to an article by Perry Nodelman ("Out There in Children's Science
Fiction: Forward into the Past," SFS 12:285-96, Nov 1985), raises the issue of whether or not
young-adult SF disguises a "clear prejudice against scientific knowledge" (145). She
then examines the many ways Hughes negates that opinion by examples from Hughes's early
novels of the '70s, from the Isis books, and from her recent frightening post-holocaust Invitation
to The Game (1990). Her conclusion is that Hughes believes we can "maintain our
environment while utilizing the real benefits of humanized technology" (154).
A different approach to the environment emerges in the book's final essay, "Raymond
Brigg's When the Wind Blows: Toward an Ecology of the Mind for Young Readers" by
Millicent Lenz. Lenz proves that Briggs's brilliant post-nuclear cartoon satire does
unquestionably belong in Science Fiction for Young Readers. Everyone who loves or
has loved Mad Magazine, Monty Python, or Douglas Adams will chortle at the
naiveté of the Blogges as they blindly follow each directive of the civil defense agency
subsequent to nuclear explosions. She will convince you as well.
It would belabor the obvious to note that the "12 and up" readers of science fiction
are voracious. Most of the satisfactory essays in the this book deal with notable writers
of young-adult SF. Adults particularly interested in these young people, more than those
concerned with younger readers, will find here many thoughtful subjects to reflect upon.
Muriel Rogow Becker, Montclair State College.
A Bloody Profusion of Reading.
Greg Cox. The
Transylvanian Library: A Consumer's Guide to Vampire Fiction. Borgo Literary Guides 8. P.0. Box 2845, San Bernardino, CA 92406-2845: Borgo
Press, 1993. 264p. $30 cloth, $20 paper; plus $2.00 shipping.
This reader's guide performs its task both competently and entertainingly, which makes
it a much more successful work than most of the purported "guides" to, and "encyclopedias" of, vampire fiction, film, and lore which these days are proliferating
at a quite alarming rate. Cox opens The Transylvanian Library with brief historical
and literary introductions and then proceeds to describe and evaluate fully 258 stories
and novels dealing however tangentiallywith vampires and vampirism. Entries
are arranged chronologically and are followed by indices of authors, titles, and
characters. Cox also provides cross-references between and among entries, which is
especially useful for readers unfamiliar with the field. While acknowledging that a truly
comprehensive listing of vampire fiction is an impossibility, his lighthearted but
thorough approach to his subject makes The Transylvanian Library probably the most
useful introduction to vampire fictionand films and television shows, as
wellavailable today. And his rating system Stoker's Dracula rates four
bats, of courseis consistently reliable.
For readers more familiar with SF than fantasy, Cox's identification of "the
scientific vampire" may be of particular interest (other categories include "the
Creature of Hell," "the Reluctant Vampire" [Ann Rice's favorite motif], and "the
Heroic Vampire"). As Cox puts it, "the boundary between science fiction and horror has never
been clearly defined," and, in his discussion of H.G. Wells's "The Flowering of the
Strange Orchid" (1894), he argues that "vampires have had a foot in both camps from the
beginning" (26). Novels and stories such as C.L. Moore's "Shambleau" (1933; the first
extraterrestrial vampire), A.E. van Vogt's "Asylum" (1942), Richard Matheson's I Am
Legend (1954), Colin Wilson's The Space Vampires (1976), Tanith Lee's Sabella,
or, The Bloodstone (1980), and Brian Stableford's The Empire of Fear (1988) are
only some of the very successful crossover fictions which place the figure of the vampire
within the context of SF (for a more detailed study of this re-contextualization, see my
"The Vampire and the Alien: Variations on the Outsider" [SFS 16:145-60, #48, July
Manlove on C.S. Lewis.
Colin Manlove. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Patterning of a Fantastic World.
Twayne's Masterwork Studies 127. NY: Twayne Publishers, 1993. xvi+137.
$22.95 cloth, $7.95 paper.
In the last 20 years Colin Manlove, though devoting himself more to fantasy than to SF,
has established himself as one of our best critics. In SFS #9, reviewing his first book, Modern
Fantasy: Five Studies (1975), I spoke of "the thoroughness of his preparation" for
his "admirable readings of the various texts...each viewed in the light of the author's
life and the main body of his work," but devoted the bulk of my essay to analyzing his
definition of fantasy, concluding that his work was "more rewarding in its particulars
than in its generalizations" (3:205-07, July 1976). In SFS #45, Sarah Pell, while
devoting her review mostly to particulars, concluded that Manlove's "attempt at
definition, while not perhaps irreproachable, is certainly worth the reading"
(15:246-49). In SFS #60, Robert Galbreath expressed his admiration for Manlove's 1992
work, Christian Fantasy (20:294-95, July 1993).
The present work seems to me unexceptionable in its discussion of story and patterning.
It opens with a chronology of Lewis's life and works, discusses the historical context and
the critical reception of the Narnia books, devotes a chapter to each of the nine volumes,
and ends with a well-argued "Conclusion" followed by an appendix on "Approaches to
Teaching." This is evidently the first full-scale study of the Narnia series; I don't see
how there could by a better one.
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