Science Fiction Studies

#66 = Volume 22, Part 2 = July 1995


The Definitive First Men.

H.G. Wells. The First Men in the Moon. Edited with an introduction by David Lake. The World's Classics. NY: Oxford UP. xxxvii+229. Paper, $6.95.

David Lake has collated seven published texts of The First Men in the Moon: those of the serializations in Cosmopolitan and The Strand, of the 1901 US and UK first editions, and of the novel as it appeared in the Atlantic and Essex editions of Wells's work and in The Scientific Romances. He has also examined manuscripts and proofs. The first UK edition is his copy text; all substantive departures from it are listed in a note on the text.

Lake's introduction includes an excellent brief summary of previous fictional voyages to the moon, indicating the extent to which Wells used them as sources, and of the influence of the novel on later sf, as well as an excellent analysis of the novel itself. There is an appendix on the science in the novel and a series of annotations that identify people and places and define various turn-of-the-century terms likely to be unfamiliar to present-day readers.

As a volume in the World's Classics series, the book has the expected apparatus: a bibliograpical preface, a Wells chronology, and a bibliographical note, all by Patrick Parrinder, general editor for the books by Wells in the series, of which this is the first. It is certainly good to have this inexpensive edition, though one must regret that there is not yet a hardback edition on acid-free paper and with such secondary materials as appear in the critical editions we now have of The Time Machine, The Island of Dr Moreau, and The War of the Worlds.


The Radical Center.

Frederick Turner. The Culture of Hope. NY: The Free Press (800-257-5755). 250pp. $23.00.

Frederick Turner is unique: a literary cultural maven with ties to science fiction. When he embarks on a rousing, scalding redefinition of our culture, his angle of attack rewards the science-fictional audience.

In this radical, insightful inspection of our cultural times, Turner proposes a quiet revolution, close to the heart of the genre. He holds that with "postmodernism" we have suffered through a cultural twilight and are about to enter a great cultural epoch, deeply classical and informed by modern science: the "radical center."

He holds the academy, particularly the humanities, guilty of confusions and shoddy thinking. "Like the Jodie Foster character in The Silence of the Lambs, we have gone to school with monsters, with the Hannibal Lecters (or cannibal lecteurs) who, in biting the text into pieces with their deconstructive slashes and parentheses, have bitten off the faces of their authors."

Turner has written distinguished criticism, science fiction, even epic poetry about transforming Mars. A professor of arts and humanities at the University of Texas, Dallas, he takes no prisoners, Left or Right.

"The radical center sees that the avant-garde and the conservatives share certain metaphilosophical assumptions, inherited from the nineteenth century..." (4). The Left loves entropy, while the Right sees our salvation from shrinking resources in the Invisible Hand's market. This split leads to art's "desperate crisis of originality, its failure to find an audience, and its isolation from vital intellectual currents in the human and natural sciences, religion, technology, and the environmental movement." To the Left, "we are free only if we can perform a gratuitous act with no sense or reason."

While he sees our present capitalist markets as "our closest approximation to data" to natural "value-production" (26), he adroitly describes how the Right barricades the past against the present. It "believes in the pretty; it denies shame by exporting to the outside all the unpleasantness and smell of our lives.... Its final state is the terminally bland." Rejecting shame means omitting our mammalian selves, which the Right often offloads onto the "social, racial or sexual Other" (13).

His radical center embraces evolution--in biology and in physical processes --as producer of order in novel forms. "Chaos theory tells us that beautiful 'attractors' can underlie apparent chaos, and that highly ordered systems can, through iteration, feedback...generate entirely unpredictable emergent properties" (6).

To Turner, order is neither running down nor deterministic, and a strict division order/chaos is just wrong. Such ignorance leaks into culture. Turner condemns "the bankruptcy of post-modern fictional self-consciousness," noting that one genre "has continued triumphantly to satisfy the requirement of a fullblooded and healthy art: science fiction" (16). There, art rubs against science, pollinating with the fresh visions available at the flowering center of science. It is the sole art able to do this without flinching, sentimentalizing, or recapitulating the postures of the Romantic era; in this is it truly modern, and so seldom uses post-modern devices.

Turner foresees that "postmodernism is destined, like the late eighteenth century 'picturesque' movement, to be seen as only a transitional phase into a new period of cultural history that does not need to be labeled feebly with a modification of its predecessor's name" (17).

America, as the leading Western culture, has "found the knack of listening to and absorbing other cultural values." The essential, classical values come from "deep neurobiologically based grammars, as does language itself, that are common to all cultures." Turn to the genuinely universal art forms and genres, he urges, which give us poetic meter, musical tonality and scale, methods of visual imaging and motifs, mythical structures. His radical center then "rejects the ethnocentricism of the Right, but it also rejects the demonization of the West by the Left" (22).

Turner turns to nature, particularly viewed through chaos theory and the gathering theories of emergent order, as the true spirit of our century's science, and a deep source for the arts. Lazy ignorance of these ideas has served the arts poorly.

Nature as dense and nonlinear is at the core of our science. "A single human brain possesses more potential brain states than there are particles in the universe. More happens in a year in one of our forests than has happened on Mars for the past million centuries. Thus any ideology which is based on the 'tiny insignificant speck' worldview (such as that we might as well give up the enterprise of civilization and devote ourselves to exciting as many of our membranes as possible before we die) is founded on a false premise" (112).

This leads to a broad attack on many currently fashionable views. He accuses the feminist worldview of resorting to "elaborate theories of conspiracy, in which the patriarchy masks itself behind legalism and science" (137). This ironically leads to a feminist vision mistaking the stuffy conservatism of many institutions for a diabolically clever Establishment, wily and cunning beyond plausibility. He puts his finger on the paranoia feminism inherited from Marxism, and its fantasy prehistory of a benign matriarchy, overthrown by Bad Males back before the wheel. Feminists' deepest error is their confusion over whether men and women are different, and how. This could be helped by contributing to the ongoing studies of primate behavior and sociobiology, but few feminists see this as a productive arena; the would rather snipe at it from afar, ritually reciting their mantra of "social construction"--the view that there is little truth afoot in the world, only our perceptions.

Turner's attacks are adroit, often convincing, but one must be familiar with the debate to catch the nuances. Art, criticism and both high and low culture get their lumps.

Much of his vision is rooted in biology as the paradigm model of emergent order. "We have a nature; that nature is cultural; that culture is classical. Our literary and artistic nature is inscribed in our central nervous systems" in such diverse features as our universal preference for poetic meter and narrative (127).

Much scientific evidence from the neurosciences, twin studies, sociobiology, physical anthropology and genetics strongly implies that the nature/ nurture balance is roughly 70/30 or even 80/20. The central myth of the modern then, that we are born as blank slates to be written on by culture, is largely wrong.

Beauty, too, emerges from biology. Our peculiar capacities lead to a natural classicism, connected to our neuro-transmitters and endorphins. Rather than Freud's equation of the aesthetic with a sublimated libido, a model of brain reward implies that certain "lores" are privileged. Poetic meter has a line length of about three seconds, tuned to the period of acoustic processing pulses in our brains. We remember by internal echo for three seconds, then pass that to a longer-term memory system, which edits, organizes and pushes the bit down to a less immediate level. Drive a natural brain rhythm, like the ten cycle per second alpha rhythm, and large changes of brain state and chemistry follow. Poetry gets processed not by merely the linguistic left brain, but with the musical and spatial right brain. This stereo neural mode gives fresh power to ideas which are genuinely nonverbal.

Avant-garde music then often goes astray because it fails to use our wiring diagram effectively. Similarly, postmodern aesthetics' demand that we treat every visual element as significant, avoiding hierarchies, misses an audience. A species which used such a viewing strategy would be unable to throw a rock, dodge a spear or catch falling fruit. Our "marvelously parsimonious cortical world-construction system" leads to a set of classical values, to which he predicts we shall soon return.

In the end, postmodern art is obscene not because it is offensive, but because it is boring. A "bankrupt tribe of venal mediocrities who now infest the arts" decry the philistine mass, failing to note their own unmoored ideas, principally the notion that reality is socially constructed.

His shores up his general argument with many pungent observations, and a few winding, fantastical digressions which lose the thread--he gives in to his sense of the epic. This gives a glimpse of his prescience, but at the price of coherence.

Though science fiction has singularly responded to the new visions of science, he does not find that it has dealt with it to "reflect deeply into the linguistic and formal medium" (223)--a comment that I find opaque, though he cites myself, David Brin, and Michael Crichton as examples.

Still, this cogent, broad analysis will make many enemies, and deserves to be read for that alone; delicious cuts and thrusts abound. Unlike nearly all the culture warfare swirling about the maypole of politics, Turner's vision is positive.

Pay attention to the world, he says. It instructs.

--Gregory Benford UC Irvine.

A New, "Improved" Anatomy.

Neil Barron, ed. Anatomy of Wonder 4: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction. R.R. Bowker (800-521-8110), 1995. xxiv+912. Author/subjet index, title index, theme index. $52.00.

This newest edition of Neil Barron's venerable Anatomy of Wonder is very different from the previous ones. And these differences go far beyond its new multi-colored, retro-art cover and its slightly larger typeface. Although this Anatomy continues to merit its reputation--with Clute and Nicholls' Encyclopedia of Science Fiction--as being one of the "bibles" of modern sf scholarship, readers should nevertheless be fully aware of what this 4th edition contains and what it does not. In his Preface, Neil Barron writes:

Anatomy of Wonder is intended to assist readers, from the devoted fan to the casually curious, as well as to help librarians answer questions and build collections of the best, better, or historically important science fiction works in English. Teachers, from el-hi to college, can also benefit from the guide...which is even more strongly oriented to classroom use in this edition. (xi)

The key words here, which signal a substantial departure from the contents of the 3rd edition, are "librarians," "in English" and "even more strongly oriented to classroom use." Apparently, in order to make this Anatomy more marketable (and to clearly distinguish it from previous editions, especially among teachers and acquisition librarians in the US and the UK), a number of specific changes were made to its basic format.

The most obvious--and for some scholars, the most distressing--is the disappearance of the chapters devoted to foreign-language sf. Explaining the rationale for this editorial decision, Barron states:

Those familiar with the previous edition of Anatomy of Wonder will note the elimination of coverage of SF not translated into English, which occupied 206 pages in the third edition. There were several reasons for the exclusion of untranslated SF. The audience for this guide is almost entirely English-speaking, mostly readers in North America and the United Kingdom. Non-English SF is rarely found in libraries in these areas, even in the specialized collections... A final reason is essentially economic: to have included updated coverage of untranslated SF would have meant a book well over 1,000 pages in length and at a price few libraries or individuals could afford. (xiii)

In other words, hoping to enhance its sales potential, Anatomy 4 has chosen to abandon its international focus in favor of the more profitable domestic English-language sf market. This is regrettable. In 1987, when justifying the inclusion of a lengthy discussion on foreign-language sf in the 3rd edition, Barron pointed out that "There is still a tendency to regard SF as a primarily Anglo-American phenomenon, an insular view that undermines balanced critical estimates" (Preface, viii). Today, this critical bias has not improved; indeed, it might even have worsened. So the elimination of this very important reference material from the 4th edition of Anatomy can only be understood as the deliberate sacrifice of scholarship for consumerism.

On the other hand, for librarians and for those of us who teach sf on a regular basis, it is encouraging to see the addition of so many excellent and highly useful chapters designed to facilitate purchasing decisions and to enrich sf instruction in the classroom. Included, for example, are a fine introductory essay by James Gunn on the history of sf teaching and scholarship from the 1950s until now, a new chapter on cyberpunk, a tabulation of sf writers keyed to ten "authoritative sources of more information about the authors and their books" (xii), chapters on sf poetry and sf comics, and--in my opinion, a most welcome addition--a 25-page Theme Index, arranged alphabetically and ranging from "Absurdist SF" to "Women in SF," listing a wide variety of sf works which touch upon each theme.

But it is the extensive 50+ page section simply titled Listings (in contrast to the more modest 23-page "Core Collection Checklist" in the 3rd edition) that highlights this 4th edition of Anatomy. It may also be both the most informative and the most controversial of this edition's many innovations. Therein one finds the following lists:

"Best Books" - These are classified into three general areas: sf fiction from each historical period (including novels, anthologies, sf poetry, and young adult sf); sf criticism (general reference works, books on sf history, on specific sf authors, on sf in film, TV, and radio, on sf illustration, and on sf magazines); and sf teaching materials (instructional guides, writing guides, and sf textbooks). Of course, as in most listings of this sort, such designations of "best" books--whether fictional or non-fictional--are very open to argument.

"Awards" - A chronological listing of sf works from 1952-1993 which won various awards (Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Arthur C. Clarke, etc.) and a chronological listing of sf scholars from 1970-1994 who received various academic awards like the Pilgrim, Eaton, or IAFA.

"Series" - Novels belonging to a fictional series, listed by author.

"Translations" - This brief list identifies those available English translations of foreign-language sf (Verne, Lem, Strugatsky, et al.), arranged by national language, along with a short essay about the difficulties of translation itself. Woefully incomplete, this list reinforces the impression that Anatomy 4 has abandoned all attempts to provide critical coverage of sf written in any language other than English. The editor even appears to openly admit this, suggesting that "Readers desiring to read SF in non-English languages should consult the third edition of Anatomy of Wonder...the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction...the Survey of Science Fiction Literature...and the surveys that appear several times yearly in Locus" (807). In other words, if this is what you readers are looking for, you had better go elsewhere.

"Organizations" - Those social organizations having sf as their main interest, arranged alphabetically, ranging from the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists to World SF, and including the name and address of the person to contact for each.

"Conventions" - The innumerable fan "cons," described in general fashion but (mercifully) not listed individually.

Yet another change appearing in Anatomy of Wonder 4 involves the contributors themselves. The late Tom Clareson's article on "The Emergence of Science Fiction: The Beginnings Through 1915" remains, as does Brian Stableford's (slightly modified) essay on "Science Fiction Between the Wars: 1916-1939." But Joe De Bolt and John R. Pfeiffer's "The Early Modern Period: 1938-1963" and Brian Stableford's "The Modern Period: 1964-1986" have been respectively replaced by Paul Carter's "From the Golden Age to the Atomic Age: 1940-1963" and Michael M. Levy and Brian Stableford's "The New Wave, Cyberpunk, and Beyond: 1963-1994," and there is also a new essay by Steve Eng called "The Speculative Muse: An Introduction to Science Fiction Poetry." In other changes, Gary K. Wolfe has succeeded Neil Barron as the writer of the "History and Criticism" section, Michael Klossner has replaced Barron as author of an updated article on "Science Fiction in Film, Television, and Radio" (where sf in radio did not figure in the earlier editions), Walter Albert and Peter M. Coogan have joined Barron to discuss "Science Fiction Illustration" (with an additional essay on sf comics), Joe Sanders has replaced Hal Hall for "Science Fiction Magazines," Dennis M. Kratz rather than Muriel Becker now discusses "Teaching Science Fiction" (previously called "Teaching Materials"), and Randall W. Scott now covers "Research Library Collections of Science Fiction" instead of Hal Hall and Neil Barron. As Barron explains in the Preface to Anatomy 4:

New eyes mean new perceptions, and although many of the standard or outstanding works are critically reevaluated, hundreds of books are new to this edition, many of them published prior to the third edition. And whenever the earlier annotations could be improved or updated, this was done to make the guide as current, balanced, and useful as possible... (xi)

As a result of these many changes in contributors, there is much "new blood" in the pages of this edition of Anatomy of Wonder. And this is as it should be, especially since the stalwart Neil Barron has announced that he is retiring and will no longer serve as editor for future volumes of this highly-regarded (and highly labor-intensive) sf reference book.

Despite its disappointing and less-than-cursory treatment of international sf, this new "improved" Anatomy of Wonder 4 must nevertheless be judged as one of the best critical texts available today for getting an accurate and up-to-date overview of the English-language sf field. For this reason, it is highly recommended for all librarians, researchers, teachers, and readers of the genre.


[A response by Neil Barron appears in SFS 67 (November 1995).]

Superb Jules Verne Translations.

Jules Verne. Journey to the Center of the Earth. Trans. William Butcher. The World's Classics. Oxford & NY: Oxford University Press, 1992. xxxviii+234. $7.95 paper.

Jules Verne. Around the World in Eighty Days. Trans. William Butcher. The World's Classics. Oxford & NY: Oxford University Press, 1995. xlv+247. $7.95 paper.

I have been meaning for some time to call attention to the recent excellent translations/critical editions of several Jules Verne works done by my British colleague and fellow Vernian scholar William Butcher. His latest, a new version of Around the World in Eighty Days, now provides me with that opportunity.

Known internationally as a top-notch Vernian scholar, Butcher's first translation was of Verne's previously untranslated short story Humbug (Edinburgh: Acadian Press, 1991). His second was another previously untranslated Vernian text called Backwards to Britain (Edinburgh: Chambers, 1992). That same year, he published for Oxford UP a new translation of Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth for their World's Classics paperback series. This latter translation, in particular, is a true pearl of a book: the translation is accurate yet smoothly readable, the 23-page introduction is insightful and reflected very up-to-date scholarship, and the 12+ pages of explanatory notes at the end (annotations keyed to certain terms, places, or people cited in the text) are extremely useful. Prior to Butcher's (re)translation of this novel, the best one available was done by Robert Baldick (NY: Penguin Books, 1965). Both are very good translations, especially if compared to that hackneyed and maimed original English translation done in the mid-1870s and still reprinted today by many publishers (e.g., the Signet Classic paperback version which-- perplexingly--is also published by Penguin). But between the Baldick and the Butcher translations, I personally prefer Butcher's. His rendering of Verne's stylistic idiocyncracies is more faithful to the original, he follows more closely the original published format of Voyage au centre de la Terre (e.g., the absence of chapter titles, the mock footnotes, etc.), and he retains the use of Axel's present-tense first-person narration in the log-book portion of the text (when the three explorers are on the raft). Moreover, the additional reference material published in Butcher's book--his introduction and notes, a select bibliography, a chronology of Verne's life, and excerpts of Verne's critical reception over the past 125 years or so--combine to make the OUP "World's Classics" version the one to buy.

Much the same can be said of Butcher's more recent OUP publication of Around the World in Eighty Days. Since the original English translation of this novel done in 1873 was of good quality, the merit of Butcher's work on this text comes less from his translation--excellent though it is--than from his close examination of the original manuscripts and his first-rate analysis of how this famous novel came to be what it is. Discussing, for example, Verne's initial ideas for this work, his orchestration of the complex interplays of time and space in it, certain (never before noticed) undercurrents of sexual desire and psychological ambivalence in the story's main characters, and the masterful use of humor and satire throughout, Butcher's critical introduction is one of the most interesting I have read. This introduction, coupled with a select bibliography, a chronology of Verne's life, more than 30 pages of explanatory endnotes, and three very informative appendices ("Principal Sources," "The Play," and "Around the World as Seen by the Critics") make Butcher's and OUP's version of this classic Verne text by far the best available, in either hardcover or paperback.


A Case Not Made.

Alan C. Elms. Uncovering Lives: the Uneasy Alliance of Biography and Psychology. Oxford University Press, 1994. xi+315. $25.00.

From the opening manifesto that psychologists should "take hold of psychobiography," to the concluding chapter's discussions of research methods, ethical issues, and potential biographical subjects, Alan C. Elms's Uncovering Lives reads like a how-to primer for would-be psychobiographers. As a book addressed to other psychobiographers, Uncovering Lives is very instructive; what is less clear, however, is its interest to literary critics. Elms clearly is concerned with such questions of audience, since he quite frequently positions himself and the discipline of psychobiography as outsiders rejected by psychologists for being too "literary" and by the literary academy for being too reductive.

Clearly, however, Elms does imagine his book as being of interest to literary critics since one-third of the book's psychobiographical sketches are devoted to literary figures (the other two-thirds are devoted to psychological theorists and politicians). Significantly, as Elms notes, his creative artists are all "writers of the fantastic" and include John W. Campbell, Robert E. Howard, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Williamson, Isaac Asimov, L. Frank Baum, and Vladimir Nabakov. Although Elms's decision to choose fantasy and sf writers is clearly based on substantial knowledge of and appreciation for the genres, his explanation for the choice is a strange one indeed:

[Writers of realist fiction] as they try to keep at least one foot in the ordinary world, are necessarily guided a good deal of the time by the conscious ego. Writers whose bailiwick is in the future, or the off-Earth universe, or the world of faery, leave more room for the play of less-than-conscious forces. So the psychobiographical study of such writers may be, at least in some regards, more revealing than the study of realists and semi-realists. (106)

Elms's logic here is that sf and fantasy somehow afford writers more imaginative freedom and that with this freedom these authors are more likely to write fiction that reflects their individual psychologies. Elms obviously intends this as a valorization of sf and fantasy literature, and yet his account of why he is drawn to fantasy and sf writers as subjects for psychobiography is strikingly similar to a fairly conventional pathologization of these same writers. For example, in his discussion of Jack Williamson's psychotherapy, Elms cites the therapist's reaction to Williamson's writing: "the value of fantasy was constantly increasing many ways [Williamson] was ignoring reality in order to maintain this ever-increasing interest in [unrealistic] thinking" (124). Significantly, both Elms and Williamson's therapist argue that sf and fantasy allow authors to take leave of their "conscious ego." Moreover, as an understanding of artistic practice, Elms's distinction is also very unconvincing: is H.G. Wells more ego-bound when he writes Ann Veronica than when he writes The First Men in the Moon? It is hard to imagine why sf authors as such would be "more revealing" than any others.

More importantly, however, I wonder what the stakes are in the claim that artistic personality is revealed in fiction. For example, in his chapter on Asimov, Elms argues that we can read Asimov's stories differently after we understand the author's acrophobia and agoraphobia. Yet, even as Elms handily describes scenes of these phobias in The Robots of Dawn and "Nightfall," one wonders what profit this information has afforded. That is, does the story become more interesting to us because we see how it documents Asimov's phobias? I don't think it does. Let us suppose, however, that the psychobiographer's interest is not in Asimov's fiction, but rather in his person. We might argue, then, that the story would offer new insight into the writer's psyche and psychoses. We might argue this, except that Elm's speculation about Asimov's phobias has not, in fact, emerged from a reading of the stories, but rather from a reading of Asimov's Autobiography. In a similar fashion, Elms admits in his discussion of John W. Campbell that we can't know whether "writing 'Who Goes There?' restore[d] [Campbell] to psychological health," because "The biographical data on Campbell remain inadequate" (111). Once again, it is not fiction, but "biographical data" (or, as in the case of Asimov, autobiography) that reveals psychololgy. As a result, although Elms takes great pains to disassociate himself with what he calls reductive psychobiography, the mark of his distinction is quite obscure. He criticizes, for example, those psychobiographers who "mechanistically" and "reductionistically" use "the life as a 'key' to the works, or the works as a 'key' to the life," and yet he describes his own project in remarkably similar terms: how does "life feed into work"? how does life "interact" or "correlate" with work? how does one "reliably anticipate the other"? (106). Elms may possess a more subtle set of keys, but his project nonetheless views life and work as code for one another.

It is not, however, the "key-like" methodology of psychobiography that makes it reductive: rather, what is essentially reductive about psychobiography is the implicit assumption that the impetus to write is always personal. Indeed, Elms argues that the psychological function of fiction can be divided into three categories: expressive, defensive, and restitutive. For Elms, "Writing fiction is one of the more potentially visible--as well as potentially remunerative-- ways to express one's self-perceived identity to others" (107) Fiction is primarily an expression of self, and, as such, the entire focus of Elms's readings is on how an author's various psychological traits (most often neuroses) are reflected in his or her various fictional characters. Although Elms grants that there may be other motives in writing (he offers as alternatives the desire to entertain or to make money), the primary function of fiction, if we buy the psychobiographer's gambit, is ultimately private therapy. Foreclosed, then, are aesthetic, philosophical, political, humanistic, or social motives for writing: indeed, Elms literally forecloses them in his dismissal of such readings as they have been applied to Baum and Nabakov (144, 170-71). As such, even as Elms devotes much time arguing for his inclusion in the fold, his arguments are so unconvincing that I remain at the end of the book quite content to let psychobiography remain in its marginal position.

--Elizabeth Hewitt Hamilton College.

[A response by Alan C. Elms, and Elizabeth Hewitt's reply, appear in SFS 68 (July 1995).]

Dreaming Fathers, Practical Mothers, and Lessing's Fiction.

Margaret Moan Rowe. Doris Lessing. Women Writers series. NY: St. Martin's Press (800-221-7945), 1994. xii+137. $24.95.

Margaret Rowe astutely sets up her discussion of Lessing's fictional oeuvre by extracting from the author's life a recurring tension between "paternal" and "maternal" elements, between the "father as dreamer, the mother as regulator" (6). This tension takes the form of a conflict between "action and reflection" in both Lessing's life and her writing (11). While both elements are there from the beginning, the balance and integration (or lack thereof) between the two shifts throughout Lessing's long writing career. Rowe notes that the visionary reflective mode, seen only momentarily in the early volumes of CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE seems unconnected to the series' major concern, the realistic presentation of Martha Quest's experiences of family life, marriage, motherhood, and political activity, as if "Martha's estrangement has to do with not being able to make that connection" (22).

If the maternal strand represented by domestic or political activity seems to dominate the early Martha Quest books, the paternal disposition to dream gradually begins to take over the fifth book, The Four-Gated City. Here Rowe deftly traces Lessing's move "from emphasis on the discrete individual in a specified milieu to an emphasis on species" (54). By the end of The Four-Gated City Martha is no longer charting the "the social life of London" (49), but rather sketching an "evolutionary" future as yet "unmarked on any political map" (58).

In explicating Lessing's next move away from realistic fiction, the three "inner space" novels that follow CHILDREN OF VIOLENCE, Rowe offers perspicacious observations on the role that narrative strategy plays in "setting up the right order between inner and outer space" demanded by Sufi thought (73). Here the father's reflective mode has metamorphosed into the Sufi concern with "characters at odds with their societies because of 'experience of other dimensions'" (60). Rowe argues quite convincingly that both "other dimensions" and the proper narrative balance between "authority" and "intimacy" are most successfully represented in Memoirs of a Survivor.

However, Rowe is less successful in analyzing Lessing's five-volume "outer space" series, Canopus in Argos. She begins by relating it to the paternal emphasis on "dreams, imaginings" and taking "the long view of our petty world" (80). But this promising insight is undercut by Rowe's lack of sympathy for the long view and her total obliviousness to the short view represented, for example, by the diaries of Rachel Sherban in the second half of Shikasta. Failing to appreciate the way that Lessing uses Shikasta's novelistic structure to represent the interpenetration and mutual influence of the visionary and the ordinary, Rowe overlooks the instructive tension between the "outer space" perspective of the Canopeans and the "inner space" vision of the Shikastans (Perrakis, SFS #17,July, 1990:221).

With the two more personal novels of the CANOPUS series, The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five and The Making of the Representative of Planet 8, Rowe has more sympathy and insight, finding that Marriages "comes close to the 'resting point' between the individual and the collective" (86) that Lessing describes in her early essay, "A Small Personal Voice." However, Rowe never really seems to grasp the point of the series as a whole --the need for the individual to recognize his or her place in a larger order, not by feeling determined or insignificant, but by discovering a self beneath social conditioning and individual unhappiness, a self that ties one to a larger scheme of things.

What is most interesting in Rowe's analysis of Lessing's fiction is her ability to relate the author's need to find "a balance between father and mother," to her formal structures, not only to the dialectic between realistic and hybrid forms of the novel but to the "ongoing tension in Lessing between values of the big novel which she associates with ideas, experimentation and usually male authors, and the small novel which she associates with emotions and convention" (92). However, Lessing's "big" novels almost always incorporate "small" novels within the same work and strive to suggest a relationship between the two. Rowe is partially aware of this in The Golden Notebook but misses it in the CANOPUS series, especially Shikasta. In Lessing's later "small novels," The Diaries of Jane Somers, The Good Terrorist, and The Fifth Child, Rowe finds "maternal concerns ascendant" and notes that "all three novels explore relationships in unconventional families, especially mother-child relationships" (93).

Rowe writes in a clear, spare style that is a pleasure to read. She makes generous use of the insights of other contemporary critics and often places Lessing in the context of earlier figures in British literature, like George Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, and Virginia Woolf. Rowe's last chapter, "The Battle of the Books," takes on Lessing's attempts at "admonishing critics (usually academic) and directing readers" (112). This is a fascinating aspect of Lessing's writing, and Rowe's analysis, like her book as a whole, is clear and reasonable but perhaps too securely tied to the values of the academy. Lessing's trenchant attacks on the tendency of critics and modern educators to be conformist and straightjacketed in their reading of literature and the world as a whole deserves a more daring response than Rowe's rather defensive reaction.

In general, this is a useful book, with interesting readings of all the novels up to The Fifth Child and with especially good insights into the realistic works. But it falters before the more imaginative demands that Lessing makes on her readers to step outside their usual frames of reference and dare to dream of alternative ways of understanding themselves and the world. It is in her sf novels, where Lessing makes that demand in a fictional form, and in her interpretive comments, where she makes it in prose, that Rowe falls short. As Rowe self-consciously admits, she is very much tied to the "'old world' vacated by Lessing" (78), and this is the book's major drawback.

--Phyllis Sternberg Perrakis University of Ottawa.

Briefer Notices (RDM).

Stableford as Critic and Surrealist.

Brian Stableford. Algebraic Fantasies and Realistic Romances: More Masters of Science Fiction. Milford Series 54. Borgo Press (909-884-5813), 1995. 128pp. $25.00 cloth, $15.00 paper.

_____ Firefly: A Novel of the Far Future. Classics of Fantastic Literature 1. Borgo Press (909-884-5813), 1994. $27.00 cloth, $17.00 paper.

The first of these two volumes contains seven previously published articles, four from Foundation, three from more obscure places. "Algebraic Fantasies: The Science Fiction of Bob Shaw," which appeared in a 1981 pamphlet issued by the BSFA, is an admirable account and judicious assessment of Shaw's work through 1980; one can only wish that it had been supplemented with an account of the later work. Two slighter pieces--one on Douglas Adams and one on Stephen R. Donaldson--were written for a series in Interzone called "The Big Sellers." Two of the articles from Foundation are concerned with writers hardly known to today's readers, John Gloag, "The Future Between the Wars," and Edgar Fawcett, "Realistic Romances." The latter is significant as an account of one of the false trails in the development of sf; its chief virtue is that it arouses one's curiosity about Fawcett's work and then satisfies it so fully that one feels it quite unnecessary to read the work itself. For me, the most important article is "The Politics of Evolution: Philosophical Themes in the Speculative Fiction of M.P. Shiel," which, inter alia, presents a definitive refutation of the case against Shiel as the most vicious of anti-Semites, a task that I once attempted without much success. For other readers, the most interesting article, a comparatively slight piece, might be "Animal Spirits: The Erotic and the Supernatural in Michael Jackson's 'Thriller Video.'"

Firefly can hardly be considered a "Classic of Fantastic Literature," for the present edition is its first appearance in print. A note at the end of the book tells us that Stableford began it in 1964, when still in his teens, and revised and expanded it in 1971. The story, which resembles Riddley Walker in some ways, is perhaps best thought of as an exercise in (or exorcism of adolescent terrors by) science-fictional surrealism.

Four-Star Masterpieces and No-Star Stinkers. . David Pringle. The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction: An A-Z of Science Fiction Books by Title. 2nd ed. Scolar Press (Ashgate Publishing, 802-276-3162), 1995. xix+481. $59.

Pringle began his work with the goal of listing all sf titles published or reprinted since 1970, but even with "fantasy," "children's fiction," "non-English-language sf," and "'slipstream' fiction'" rigorously excluded, he finally found it necessary also to exclude "yesterday's ephemera" and "the lesser works of lesser sf writers" (xiv-xv). The resulting list consists of 2828 annotated titles, with the annotations often listing sequels and/or similar works, so that the claim of 3500 titles is probably more than met.

The annotated books (but not the other books listed in the annotation) are graded on a five-place basis: four-star, 106 titles; three-star, 797; two-star, 1327; one-star, 529 titles; and no-star, 69. Most of the no-star entries are film-novelizations, a type excluded from the 1990 first edition, but included now on the basis that in "an annotated title index," it would be "foolish not to include many of the best-known titles of our time" (xvi). But the no-star ranking is also used to condemn the Gor novels of John Norman, the late novels of Robert A. Heinlen, and some attempts at humor that do not come off (e.g., The Eighty-Minute Hour by Brian Aldiss).

The number of four-star rankings, 106, does not seem too large; it is comparable to the number of highest-ranked books, 91, in the new edition of Anatomy of Wonder, though only 38 titles appear on both lists. The only four-star ranking I find indefensible is that for Heinlein's Have Space Suit, Will Travel, which perhaps resulted from the feeling that at least one Heinlein book should be so honored. But Pringle has to my mind been far too generous with three-star rankings, which seem to have been made on the basis of shifting standards. How else can one explain his placing A Princess of Mars and Out of the Silent Planet on the same level of excellence?

An Anthology of Permanent Value. H. Bruce Franklin. Future Perfect: American Science Fiction in the Nineteenth Century--An Anthology. Revised and expanded edition. Rutgers University Press (800-446-9323), 1995. viii+395. $15.85 paper.

Most anthologies are soon dated, but not Future Perfect, which was first published in 1966 and remains indispensible both for its selection of stories by major American writers and for its perceptive commentary. The revisions are not extensive and the expansion (a brief chapter on "Women's Work") would hardly justify your buying the new edition if you already have a copy of the first or second edition, but if you don't, you should certainly avail yourself of the opportunity offered by the book's being back in print.

A Librarian in Sf. Fred Lerner. A Bookman's Fantasy: How Science Fiction Became Respectable: Twenty-four Essays with Four Introductions. NESFA Press (P.O. Box 809, Framingham, MA 01701-0203), 1995. iv+97. $11.95 plus $2.00 S&H in USA, $4.00 S&H elsewhere.

Fred Lerner was one of the founders of the Science Fiction Research Association and the first editor of its newsletter. At an early meeting of the SFRA board of directors, when someone suggested that SFRA might award prizes to sf writers for the best sf of year, his caustic comment that our function was to criticize their work, not to give them prizes, effectively laid to rest that foolish idea. In 1981 he earned a doctorate in library science at Columbia with a dissertation on the history of the science-fiction movement. Since then he has contributed a large number of essays to library journals and fan magazines, of which this volume presents a representative selection.

Fantasy sans Science. Charlotte Spivak and Roberta Lynne Staples. The Company of Camelot: Arthurian Characters in Romance and Fantasy. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1994. xiii+162. $45.00.

Alan Warren. Roald Dahl: From the Gremlins to the Chocolate Factory. 2nd ed., rev. and exp. Milford Series 57. Borgo Press (909-884-5813), 1994. 128pp. $25.00 cloth, $15.00 paper.

 S.T. Joshi. Lord Dunsany: Master of the Anglo-Irish Imagination. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy #64. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800). xv+230. $55.00.

The Company of Camelot offers a chapter each on Merlin, Morgan le Fay, Sir Kay, Gawain, Guenevere, Lancelot, Mordred, and Arthur as they appear in literature from CrÈtian, Malory, and Tennyson to such present-day authors as Thomas Berger, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Stewart, and T.H. White.

Alan Warren's Roald Dahl has the format regular in its series: a chronology, a biography, discussions of individual stories and collections, and a primary and secondary bibliography. Dahl is one of the best short-story writers of our day, but he has done very little in the way of sf.

S.T. Joshi's Lord Dunsany, a critical biography, joins the Dunsany bibliography reviewed by Ben P. Indick in our March issue (22:122-24) as a document in the ongoing revival of interest in Dunsany, one of the most popular writers of the first third of this century.

A Fannish Attack on Fannishness. Paul T. Riddell. Squashed Armadillocon; or, Fear and Loathing in Austin: A Savage Journey into the Heart of the Fanboy Dream. Illustrated. Blue Moon Books (503-345-6197), 1993. iv+151. Paper $10.00. The title says it all. The copy sent to us was accompanied by a flyer for a new magazine, Proud Flesh: Fiction for the Last Millenium, whose first issue is available for $3.75 from Chris DeVito, 402 W. Washington St #2, Champaign IL 61820-3456.

Mormons on Sf. Marny K. Parkin and Steve Setzer, eds. Deep Thoughts: Proceedings of Life, the Universe, & Everything XI. TLE Press (LTU&E Proceedings Volume, 3163 JKHB, Provo, Utah 84602), 1993. xii+215. Paper, $12.00 postpaid. Papers delivered by Orson Scott Card, Kevin J. Anderson, Barbara Hambly and others at a 1993 conference at Brigham Young University on various sf topics. The Card paper is titled "The Book of Mormon: Artifact or Artifice?"

New or Updated Bibliographies. Mike Ashley. The Work of William F. Temple: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. Bibliographies of Modern Authors 28. Borgo Press (909-884-5813; fax 909-888-4042), 1994. 112pp. $25.00 cloth, $15.00 paper.  

Jerry Hewett and Daryl F. Mallett. The Work of Jack Vance: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide.The Work of Jack Vance: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. Bibliographies of Modern Authors 29. Borgo Press (909-884-5813; fax 909-888-4042), 1994. xxii+293. $35.00 cloth, $25.00 paper. 

Roger C. Schlobin and Irene R. Harrison. Andre Norton: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Rev. ed. NESFA Press (P.O. Box 809, Framingham, MA 01701-0203), 1994. xxvii+ 92. $12.50 paper. 

Philip Harbottle and Stephen Holland. British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide.British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines 1949-1956: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. Borgo Literary Guides 7. Borgo Press (909-884-5813, fax 909-888-4042), 1994. 232pp. $30.00 cloth, $20.00 paper.

The lives and careers of William F. Temple (1914-1989) and Jack Vance (born 1916 and still with us) could hardly have been more different. Prominent in British fandom from its beginning and close friend to Arthur C. Clark, Temple struggled as a writer with very little commercial success and finally gave it up. He is best known for one excellent novel, The Four-Sided Triangle (1949), which developed out of a very unpromising short story of the same name. Jack Vance, on the other hand, has never had much to do with fandom or even with other sf authors (though friends with a few), but early attracted attention by the excellence of his writing and has become one of the most popular and intensely admired of sf authors, one whose work in all venues is eagerly sought by collectors. The bibliography offered is one of the most extensive ever compiled for an author in that it seeks to trace each work through all its appearances.

Andre Norton has been perhaps as prolific as Jack Vance, but she is usually regarded as essentially an author for young people and so has not attracted as much critical attention as her admirers believe she deserves. Her work is fondly remembered by many grown-ups who read them when in their teens or younger. Most of her books have been published only in paperback, but a number have reissued as handsome hardbacks by Gregg Press.

The Harbottle-Holland Vultures of the Void: A History of British Science Fiction Publishing 1946-1956 (reviewed in SFS #60, July 1993) is an interesting and informative work, but its hard to imagine that many collectors would be much concerned with magazines and paperbacks of that time and place. For those who are, British Science Fiction Paperbacks and Magazines 1949-1956 presents apparently as thorough a listing as one could expect.

Vampires and Amerinds. A.A. Carr. Eye Killers: A Novel. American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series #13. University of Oklahoma Press (800-627-7377), 1995. vii+344. $19.95 cloth.

SFS does not review new fiction, and this book is fantasy rather than sf. Even so, since its subject may well be of interest to some of our readers, and since it is published by a university press and so will probably not be reviewed in most of the venues devoted to fantasy and/or sf, we will quote from the blurb: "Lurking in the caves of eastern New Mexico, a thousand-year-old vampire chooses his next bride: Melissa Roadhorse, an Albuquerque teenager. ... In Eye Killers, Carr [a Navajo writer and film director] delivers an imaginative clash of cultures--both a suspenseful thriller and a valid rendering of Navajo and Pueblo tribal life in contemporary New Mexico."

  moonbut.gif (4466 bytes) Back to Home