Science Fiction Studies


#80 = Volume 27, Part 1 = March 2000

The Language of Futurity.

Janeen Webb and Andrew Enstice. Aliens & Savages: Fiction, Politics and Prejudice in Australia. Sydney: HarperCollins Australia, 1998. vi + 297 pp. AUS$17.95, paper.

Aliens & Savages examines the discourses of Australia’s colonization from the late seventeenth to the late twentieth centuries, using fiction and nonfiction texts to represent the appropriation of the continent as a specifically science fictional undertaking. The language of colonization is essentially a language of futurity: the colonial project depends for its success upon the future promise of the colonized space, which licenses the colonizer to rewrite, ignore, or otherwise obscure its past. Space is made for the fabulation of a new history onto occupied territory, a fabulation that often makes direct use of sf themes and tropes.

For example, Erle Cox’s 1925 novel Out of the Silence tells the story of a beautiful, rational, highly evolved woman from the dim past who is unearthed in a time capsule by two present-day white Australians. Earani, as the time-travelling beauty is named, is one of three emissaries preserved from the doomed Earth of the past. Horrified by the presence of non-whites, whom she considers subhuman, Earani makes an offer to the Prime Minister to eradicate all non-whites from the face of the Earth in order to "redeem" mankind. Although Earani’s scheme is aborted when she is killed by a jealous female rival, the suggestion of genocide as the solution to the Aboriginal "problem," as Webb and Enstice point out, betrays the shocking depth of white Australia’s anxieties about the putatively threatening presence of non-whites.

Aliens & Savages documents the Europeans’ early development of Australia through a thoughtful analysis not only of fictional texts such as Cox’s novel, but also travelogues, government reports, and personal narratives. These documents reveal the brutality and insensitivity of the European colonizers, and they also sketch out a history of European sociological thought. The story of the colonization of Australia begins as the story of the disciplining of the Aborigines—a people William Dampier, the Englishman who "discovered" the continent in 1688, dubbed "the miserablest people in the world" (qtd. 22). According to Dampier’s accounts, the Aborigines were, in turn, terrified, mystified, and finally disgusted by the presence of the foreign invaders. The two groups regarded each other with mutual dismay and incomprehension, setting the stage for European and Aboriginal relations for the next 300 years.

In chapter four, Webb and Enstice take up the second thread in their story of race relations, charting the history of Chinese immigration to Australia in the middle of the nineteenth century. The authors analyze the various cultural productions, including science fiction texts, that reflected white Australia’s anxieties about Chinese immigrant culture. One such example was the work "White or Yellow?: A Story of the Race War of A.D. 1908." Written in 1888 by William Lane, a notorious political agitator who lobbied for an all-white Australia, the serialized novel portrayed a British-sanctioned "Asian invasion" —a campaign for Chinese supremacy that resulted in white Australia’s social and economic marginalization. Webb and Enstice read the novel against the backdrop of popular Darwinism, used to to establish the "natural" superiority of white Australians over both Aborigines and Asian settlers. Yet they also show the ways in which this racist ideology was confounded with issues of class difference—specifically in Lane’s criticism of Chinese aristocrats. Here, as throughout the volume, the authors display an admirable sensitivity to textual and social nuance.

Part three asks the most difficult question in the aftermath of Australia’s bloody colonial history: "Towards Reconciliation?" Webb and Enstice analyze current trends in Australia, such as the incendiary, disruptive discourses still being produced by Australia’s political figures, who play upon whites’ ingrained fears about the potentially violent consequences of decolonization. They also examine hopeful counter-movements to these discourses of repression, such as the Australian academy’s efforts to canonize Aboriginal literatures. Aliens & Savages reproduces, in a positive, dialectical manner, the discourse of futurity that has been Australia’s downfall: after an honest assessment of the past, it seeks reconciliation in a forward-looking perspective that hopes to repair its former abuses. The book is a work of sf criticism in every sense, and a very trenchant and valuable one indeed.—Alcena Madeline Davis Rogan, Louisiana State University

Fragments and Freeze Frames.

Janeen Webb and Andrew Enstice, eds. The Fantastic Self: Essays on the Subject of the Self. Eidolon (P.O. Box 225, North Perth, Western Australia), 1999. 309 pp. AUS$21.95 paper.

The Fantastic Self is an enticing title that disguises a book of conference proceedings in fantasy drag. The outcome of the tenth conference of the Mythopoeic Literature Association of Australia, held in Melbourne in July 1994, it is a collection of 39 pieces of uneven quality. The book is divided into five sections: Writing the Self; A Question of Identity; Identifying a Self—Children’s Literature; the Traditional Self; and the Genre Self—SF and Fantasy. Many papers deal with the conference theme of "desperately seeking self-hood" (6) and engage in "the debate on the nature of identity and the myth-making process in a rapidly changing literary world" (6). Others muse about books the authors were reading (or writing) at the time—for example, Peter Nicholls’s thoroughly engaging but mostly off-topic essay, "Trapped in the Pattern: Science Fiction vs. Fantasy, Open Universes vs. Closed Universes, Free Will vs. Predestination." Some "articles" are fragments of 1000 words or less and are contributions to the sort of ongoing discussions that occur from one year to the next of a specialist conference, rather than stand-alone essays.

I am quite disappointed in this book, yet I want to be able to like it. The cover is gorgeous. The book includes much useful material for teachers of genre fiction and children’s literature. It is certainly far from being a bad book, yet has had the misfortune of being frozen in time. The editors themselves note the gap of five years between the conference in 1994 and this book’s publication. This would not matter if the articles had been updated, but there are few references to books or criticism published since 1994. For example, Van Ikin’s article on "Tomorrow’s Selfhood: Self in the Science Fiction of Greg Egan" is admirably to the point of the volume’s overall subject, but includes no reference to work Egan has published since 1995. Susan Nicholls, in "Hypergender: Embodiment in Cyberspace," examines the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson. But why not, since she is talking in an Australian context, engage with issues brought up in Van Ikin’s paper and consider by comparison Egan’s clever and idiosyncratic projections of the future of embodiment? In an ideal world, the authors of conference papers in a volume such as The Fantastic Self would be encouraged to engage more with each other’s ideas—especially given the five-year lag time in publication. The book could have been rescued, at least for this reader, by a longer introduction in which the central issues were updated to at least the end of 1998, but the editors’ opening contribution dated January 1997 is extremely short. Still, nobody, least of all the editors, could have intended such a lengthy prepublication period.

As a freeze frame of what Australian writers and critics were thinking and talking about in July 1994, the book does sterling service. Two articles were published soon after the conference, in the October 1994 issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction: Damien Broderick on "Minds, Modes, Models, Modules"—covering the theme of plug-in personalities—and Russell Blackford on "Hi-tech, Samuel R. Delany and the Transhuman Condition." Sylvia Kelso tackles gender and women’s writing in an entertaining and informative essay entitled "Writing New Ones: Myths of Self-hood in Recent Women’s SF." As might be expected at a meeting of the Mythopoeic Literature Association, there are articles on C.S. Lewis: Paul Tankard’s "The Moral Writer and the Struggle for Selfhood: C.S. Lewis and Samuel Johnson," and Hadyn Williams’s "Manifestations of the Grail Quest in Charles Williams and C.S. Lewis."

In any collection of essays, there is always at least one that gives special and unexpected pleasure. This "Eureka!" reaction came, for me, with Donat Gallagher’s "The Wolves Always Howl Once: Finding a New Self in Jessica Anderson’s Taking Shelter, Amy Witting’s A Change in the Lighting and Joan Dugdale’s The Gripping Beast." In all three novels, the central character is a woman over fifty; as Gallagher comments in his introduction: "all of these women ... respond to an invitation that has come belatedly—but not too late—to ‘run with the wolves’" (219). The article is placed by editors Webb and Enstice in the section on the Traditional Self, as the three novels are realist depictions of Australian suburban life. Gallagher has taken up the challenge of finding the "fantastic self" in places the reader might not have thought to look, and this reader is grateful to him.—Rosaleen Love, Monash University, Australia

A Virtual WisCon.

Helen Merrick and Tess Williams, eds. Women of Other Worlds: Excursions Through Science Fiction and Feminism. U Western Australia P (fax: +61-8-9380-1027), 1999. xi + 472 pp. AUS$22.95 paper.

The annual WisCon, held in Madison, Wisconsin, may or may not be the world’s only feminist sf convention, but it is certainly the best known, most successful, and longest running. WisCon 20, held in 1996, seems to have been an especially fruitful gathering of writers and scholars from many parts of the world. A strong contingent of Australians attended, and two of them, Helen Merrick and Tess Williams from Perth, Western Australia, have put together this doorstopper collection of material presented at the con, inspired by it, or otherwise associated with WisCon’s traditions. By no means a conventional proceedings volume, the book reads, as Jeanne Gomoll’s introduction suggests, like "an attempt to create a virtual WisCon with paper and ink" (4).

Most of the items presented in Women of Other Worlds have been published previously, though sometimes in different versions (e.g., the pieces contributed by Nicola Griffith and Pat Murphy). The volume also contains original material, however, such as the trans-Pacific, post-convention correspondence between American sf author Lois McMaster Bujold and Australian literary critic Sylvia Kelso. Part of the book’s interest comes from the way its various elements interact—e.g., the inclusion of Kelly Eskridge’s fascinating story "And Salome Danced" alongside the transcript of a listserv discussion debating and exploring it. By such devices as this, the editors convey some of the excitement of actual attendance at a serious, constructive, and highly stimulating sf convention.

The mix of fiction and nonfiction pieces also recreates the more general experience of encountering sf within a community where people read novels and stories, discuss them with others, and use a raft of forms—not only fiction and criticism—to share their ideas and experiences. The nonfiction in Women of Other Worlds includes interviews, autobiographical apologetics, internet literary discussions, correspondence between participants, and fannish histories. Eileen Gunn’s all-purpose recipe for "Ideologically Labile Fruit Crisp" is mischievous and hilarious. Most of the contributors write with clarity and enthusiasm. The late Judith Merril’s contribution, "Better to Have Loved: Excerpts from a Life," rounds out the book and is especially thoughtful and thought-provoking.

The quality of the fiction is generally high, with strong work by Eskridge, Katherine MacLean, Nalo Hopkinson, and Delia Sherman. Oddly little of it communicates an overt feminist message, however, and it is difficult to imagine an unreconstructed male-chauvinist reader taking offense at any of the stories. A possible exception is editor Williams’s "And She Was the Word," which delivers a solid punchline at the expense of heterosexual attraction, but even this is relatively gentle stuff compared with Joanna Russ’s feminist anger. The fiction authors are all women, and I would imagine that they all self-identify as feminists, but most of them appear to have individual agendas and concerns that certainly do not conform to any monolithic conception of gender politics.

The literary critics and theorists spend more energy in overtly resisting something that is occasionally referred to as "technological, masculinist" sf. While I have a vague idea what this phrase might mean, I was surprised to find that the fiction of William Gibson, neither a rightwing patriachal figure nor a hard-sf exponent, appears to be considered a prime example. Indeed, Gibson is a kind of phantom menace shadowing the book. Jeanne Gomoll complains about "the seemingly irresistible urge of well-known SF critics to close the book on the experiment in feminism and move on to the adventures of mirror-shaded boys hacking into virtual reality" (8). Rebecca Holden complains, though without providing a real argument, that Gibson’s Molly Millions embodies a "rather dangerous ‘postfeminist’ position" (211). Kelso and Bujold gripe a bit resentfully over the putative reasons for Gibson’s enormous success, while Kelso laments that his work "reacted against feminism" and ended back in the world of "technological, masculinist SF, or ‘the Gernsback Continuum’" (386). To her credit, Kelso does set the record straight when she admits that "the guy crystallized the information revolution and cyberculture" (392). Yet Women of Other Worlds invites speculation as to why so many feminist theorists are hostile to Gibson and the cyberspace visions that he helped to develop in the early 1980s.

Nicola Griffith’s essay, "Writing from the Body," may provide a clue. Griffith trots out the familiar but intellectually untenable thesis that there is an affinity between cyberpunk writing and metaphysical dualism, which is supposed to be a masculinist philosophy. Those who propound this line do not notice that cyberpunk’s deepest assumptions are thoroughly materialist, not dualist at all. What’s more, the wish of some vulgar transhumanists to be free of the body’s "meat" has been more often criticized than valorized in cyberpunk works—from Gibson’s early stories to movies such as The Matrix (1999).

Some of the feminist critiques of cyberpunk’s alleged metaphysics are founded on garbled relativist philosophies based, in part, on the ideas of Thomas S. Kuhn and his successors. One contributor to Women of Other Worlds, Lisbeth Gant-Britton, twice misquotes the title of Kuhn’s most famous book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), then proceeds, in a long footnote, to make a complete hash of explaining his basic ideas. Such confused wanderings into philosophical territory are common in the present intellectual climate of literary study, and the book contains thankfully few examples of this trend. Better still, and despite its anti-Gibson leitmotif, it is a generous book—generous in its commemoration of what must have been a joyous convention, in the bounties it offers its readers, and in its attitudes towards science fiction, the future, and the possibilities of a better world for women and men alike.—Russell Blackford, Melbourne, Australia

Transforming Text.

Jennifer Burwell. Notes on Nowhere: Feminism, Utopian Logic, and Social Transformation. U Minnesota P (800-621-2736),1997. xix + 237 pp. $19.95 paper.

Jennifer Burwell’s Notes on Nowhere is one of a number of recent critical texts seeking to redress the purported loss of grounding for political action in this postmodern, deconstructed world. In another such work, Wising Up the Marks: The Amodern William Burroughs (U California P, 1997), Timothy S. Murphy defends an author sometimes maligned as politically reactionary, arguing that Burroughs’s work promotes new forms of social organization and a new collective project. Burwell, on the other hand, focuses on individual subjectivity and what she sees as a need for situated agents of change who can put to good political use the multiple contradictions inherent in the "locations" assigned to them by majoritarian culture. Burwell links utopian fictions to feminisms concerned with identity and standpoint: each conceives of subjects as embodying social spaces, real or imaginary.

Burwell’s argument relies on a small number of feminist science fiction novels produced during the 1970s. She distances herself, and her chosen texts, from both "traditional" utopias—which, she argues, are invested in a self-contained, harmonious subject expressive of an "ideal space free from ideological conflict" (xv)—as well as from utopias that seek to preserve a "negative" purity through the shared experience of victimization (e.g., Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground [1980]). In novels by Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Marge Piercy, and Monique Wittig, Burwell locates exemplary female subjects who move among contradictory and internalized "positions," often literalized as movement through different times and places, and who are able to gain the critical distance necessary to stage an oppositional or resistant politics. Burwell views these earlier texts as essential correctives to the now prevalent viewpoints of postmodern, poststructuralist, and queer theorists such as Donna Haraway and Judith Butler. These thinkers she variously and provocatively faults for offering undifferentiated, passive, overly abstract figurations of subjects who engage in "subversive acting out" rather than in strategic forms of activism grounded in particularized subjectivities.

Joanna Russ’s The Female Man (1975), Burwell argues, functions along the reductive faultline woman/human, yet plays out rich negotiations among autobiographically-informed subject positions that pose a challenge to Haraway’s "passive" cyborg. Octavia Butler’s Patternmaster trilogy (1976-78) and her novel Kindred (1979) improve on Russ by complicating notions of female identity with the addition of the category of race and by exemplifying "an active, situational logic that is founded upon agency and movement within and between communities" (119). Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) is "Foucauldian," exploring "the way that power acts on and through the individual body" (132); in Burwell’s reading, Piercy does Foucault one better by articulating specific forms of resistance. Finally, Burwell examines language and its relationship to subject formation and strategies of resistance in Monique Wittig’s novels and other writings.

Burwell’s text has an explicitly Marxist-Jamesonian orientation: social change arises out of contradiction; agency derives from the ability to perceive distance between subject locations; location substitutes for the presumed loss of other grounds in postmodernist culture. Overall, her argument is presented with passion and verve. The commitments evidenced here are laudable, and even plausibly worked out, if you accept the parameters and assumptions of the project. I don’t, however, and thus the book causes me serious frustration.

Despite Burwell’s claim to be working within a New Historicist frame, her text suffers from a lack of historical context and from a rather shaky methodological rationale. Three travel-weary Sherpas carry the weight of her argument: the "traditional" utopia, as represented by More, Campanella, William Morris, Bellamy, and B.F. Skinner; feminist science fiction novels, written between 1969 and 1979; and "postmodern/poststructuralist" theory. Burwell too carefully chooses her "traditional" utopias, which she argues operate through a "logic of resolution," and sets them up as fall guys with reference to 1970s feminist science fiction. But this opposition only works because Burwell unduly minimizes the extent to which her traditional utopias critique and destabilize the political and social conventions of their respective present times. Furthermore, Burwell refuses to identify her main objects of inquiry as anything other than "novels" or "feminist utopias." In other words, "science fiction"—as a predilection, a moniker, a genre with a history, a cultural phenomenon, a group of literary strategies, or a set of reading protocols—is entirely invisible. Burwell never raises the question of why her authors chose to write science fiction, or of how science fiction, a genre with a "situated" history, may have offered feminist writers of the period some of the tools Burwell attributes only to canonically correct theorists. In my opinion, Burwell weakens any argument to be made about oppositional "locations" by eschewing science fiction and aligning her own efforts with the academic and literary mainstream.

This tacit disavowal of sf gets Burwell into more serious trouble. She repeatedly speaks of "cognitive alienation" without ever mentioning relevant sf theory (e.g., Suvin), and only with respect to alienation experienced by characters in books. In her discussion of Wittig, Burwell notes the non-normative assignment of meaning to language, again remaining within the confines of the novel and without employing any of the critical literature concerned with the effects of language in sf. Burwell’s engagements with her chosen novels proceed at the level of plot and thematics. She reads the texts only as self-contained enactions of the modes of subjectivation she wishes to promote, with no thought as to how language, structure, rhetoric, or other formal choices work on the reader.

Burwell’s omissions raise a serious question for literary and cultural theorists in our roles as both readers and producers of texts. What is the relationship of a description of activism, a model of activism, to social activism? Isn’t activism a name for a set of effects? If we do not ask how language, structure, and concepts affect readers, and about the ways and means of these effects, in what sense do we even speak of activism? Burwell lauds, via her analysis of Wittig, the proposition that language and people stand in a mutually shaping relationship. She goes so far as to note that, through her experimentation with language, "Wittig rejects novels that merely thematize a specifically ‘lesbian’ point of view" in favor of changing the "textual reality" (185). Yet even a changed textual reality, interpreted within the boundaries of the page, stands as simply another variety of thematization. While the novels Burwell discusses stage especially sophisticated assaults on their readers for specifically political purposes, Burwell’s own readings never acknowledge this. She argues, speaking again of Wittig, that her novels have "political force" and "activate lesbian subjectivity," yet she provides absolutely no clue as to how the leap is made from reading something to enacting or embodying changed subjectivities as forms of resistance. In the end, Burwell’s interesting claims about the political inertness of certain kinds of figurative modeling in contemporary theory cannot be supported in a text that, unlike some of the best sf theory, does not even get close to asking about the relationship between activism and theorizing or activism and writing.—Ann Weinstone, Stanford University

Bringing Utopia to Order.

Dorothy F. Donnelly. Patterns of Order and Utopia. St. Martin’s (800-221-7945), 1998. x + 150 pp. $45 cloth.

As an analysis of the concept of reason and its influence on ideas of order, Patterns of Order and Utopia points towards some important interpretive gestures made by a number of medieval and early-modern thinkers. As an inquiry into the evolving influence of ideas of order and nature from Augustine to Bacon, it is also interesting. As a rigorous history of utopian thought, it is terribly uneven, and unfortunately what this book is most successful at is also what it does least often.

Donnelly begins by specifying her intention "to discuss the radical role that a classical utopian writer’s unique ordering vision has upon the particular kind of transforming ideal that is envisioned" (1). There are two problems with this project right from the start. The first is that, despite the term’s recurrence no less than six times in the opening paragraph, the reader is never told exactly what a "classical utopia" is. We are told right away that the authors under consideration will include Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Marsilius of Padua, Thomas More, and Francis Bacon; this leads us to believe that Donnelly considers them all classical utopians. Not long after this we find that "We have agreed that classical utopianism is a mode of thought that deals with humanity’s temporal condition and that the intention of classical utopias is to offer ideas concerning a perceived possibility of achieving the good life in this world" (28; emphasis added). So far, so good, although I didn’t remember agreeing to anything.

Soon, however, Donnelly states that Augustine’s system "was to spell the end to classical utopianism" (31), and on the very next page we find that Aquinas became "a primary influence on the reappearance in the fourteenth century of classical utopian thought" (32). Neither Augustine or Aquinas, then, are themselves classical utopians. Shortly thereafter, More’s Utopia (1516) is characterized as "the first modern utopia" (59), and as we reach the end of the book, Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1629) becomes for Donnelly the final radical break from the utopian tradition as it persisted in More—so that if More was modern, this must make Bacon ... what? postmodern? And isn’t The New Atlantis still concerned with "the good life in this world" and therefore classical?

This looseness in definition would not be so troublesome if the reader got the sense that the interrelation of Donnelly’s central terms created some kind of coherent argumentative matrix, but the rhetorical structure of Patterns of Order and Utopia is equally unstable. The best example of this is probably Chapter 4, a seventeen-page discussion of More. Donnelly begins:

It is typical to study Thomas More’s Utopia for its commentary on the social ills of sixteenth-century England, its representation of a community where all people are created equal, or its tightly structured social institutions that serve to control all facets of human activity. In this chapter I want to explore More’s meaning in the Utopia through a study of the concept of order that he set forth in that work. (61)

Why these should be two separate goals Donnelly never explains, and it seems perfectly obvious that ideas about More’s concept of order might usefully be approached through a study of Utopia’s social institutions.

She goes on, though, not to clarify this point but, for six pages, to summarize the previous three chapters of the book (with the exception of two valuable paragraphs contrasting the Stoics and Augustine that might have been more useful in her earlier chapter on Augustine). Three full pages of minute summary and block quotation from the Utopia follow, punctuated by the eyebrow-raising statement that it is "not necessary to give all of the details More provides about the way in which life in Utopia is organized" (71). Then another two pages resummarize Augustine’s and Aquinas’s ideas on the origin of the state, after which Donnelly contrasts More’s idea of the state with those of his predecessors, finding that "More is less concerned with the expression of a particular political philosophy than with a conceptualization of a world that is designed by human beings, a world that is informed by, and which in turn conforms to, a concept of order defined strictly in human terms" (76). But isn’t this conceptualization a political philosophy? Perhaps not, but Donnelly never makes clear exactly what the differences are between such a philosophy in her understanding of the term and what More himself is doing—and later on she will state, "There is little doubt that More saw himself in the Utopia, albeit somewhat reluctantly, as a political theorist" (97).

Donnelly ends this chapter arguing that "Utopia presents a radically different vision of order" from that of Marsilius or Dante or Aquinas—but she has said exactly the same thing (often in exactly the same words) about Marsilius and Dante and Aquinas. In her treatment, each writer is first a radical, then—when the time has come to consider the next radical—suddenly more of a traditional "classical utopian" after all: for example, More, we discover at the beginning of the chapter on Bacon, "still retained strong traces of the traditional outlook" (79).

All of this is in the service of the book’s primary point, which is that Bacon’s New Atlantis is a real radical departure, a work that liberated the concept of order "from stagnation and from the uncompromising tension that resulted from the link between cosmic and temporal order" (94). This may be true, although Bacon’s ideal of progress seems a bit more, well, orderly than Donnelly argues, and I’m not sure what she means by "Bacon’s proposal that all order is characterized by change, not by stability" (14). Baconian inquiry, after all, proceeds along prescribed channels and is devoted to the discovery of immutable laws that lie behind the flux of the material world. Bacon does, as she points out, predicate his utopia on

a radically different way of perceiving nature and of viewing the connection between nature and human nature. Whereas in the Greek view nature was a model to be imitated, and in the Augustinian view it was something to be conquered by divine grace, in Bacon nature can be modified and transmuted, and it can be controlled by human beings. (87)

This approach to utopian history might have made for a stimulating study. But once again, in order to forge Bacon into another link in her successive chain of radical departures, Donnelly overstates her case: "Cosmic law, divine law, nature’s law—all are replaced by Bacon with those principles of nature discovered by inquiry into the operations of discrete natural phenomena" (88). As with earlier cases of terminological uncertainty, the difference between "nature’s law" and "principles of nature" is not easy to discern. Only the method of approach differs, and Donnelly—even as she foregrounds the importance of experiment and inductive reasoning (80-81)—explicitly dismisses the idea that Bacon’s radical departure originates with his specifically scientific concerns (14-15).

The second problem with Donnelly’s book is that it’s all a bit obvious. Only rarely does she venture outside her program to take a fruitful look at what should have been significant issues in the general argument: evolving ideas of the natural world and humanity’s relationship to it; the influence of contemporary politics on a given writer’s utopian vision; resistance to new concepts of reason, nature, and order that originated in a struggle between an emergent modern rationalism and traditional religion. Each of these issues surfaces for tantalizing moments in the text; none is investigated in any real depth, and more importantly, none is ever substantively related to the historical project of utopianism.

Instead, the argument of Patterns of Order and Utopia consists largely of pointing out things that other critics have previously noted in the texts under discussion, and then stating—after extensive summary of previous summaries, invariably signaled by the phrase "we have seen"—that those interesting facets are the result of the writer’s attitude (or, more often than not, the writer’s century’s attitude) toward concepts of order. The idea, finally, is too slight for even this book’s modest 99 pages (plus notes). Patterns of Order and Utopia would have made a fine journal article on the gradual divergence of utopian thought from traditional ideas of order as understood through paradigms of resemblance. At book length, it doesn’t offer enough of a reward to justify the sloppy terminology, repetition, and organizational dilapidation.—Alexander Irvine, Denver University

[Editor’s Note: Another recent book on the subject of utopias is Richard C.S. Trahair’s Utopias and Utopians: An Historical Dictionary(Greenwood, 1999; xvi + 480 pp; $95 cloth), which features entries on major authors, books, and topics in the history of utopian literature and social theory. Each entry is broadly informative—giving for major books, for example, both summaries of their content and of their contextual significance—and is capped by a useful list of sources for further study. Dystopian texts and contexts are covered somewhat spottily, and include the Donner Party, presumably intended to balance out the extensive coverage of historical utopias; the analogy, however, is unsound, as the Donner Party certainly didn’t set out to found a community based on principles of murder and cannibalism! While not a substitute for more substantive historical or critical studies, this dictionary is useful for its provision of brief focused overviews of major topics in the field and for its concise gathering of secondary materials on those topics.—RL]

An Arbitrary Polemic.

Gary Westfahl. The Mechanics of Wonder: The Creation of the Idea of Science Fiction. Liverpool UP (fax: 0151-794-2235), 1998. viii + 344 pp. £32 cloth; £14.95 paper.

Gary Westfahl begins with the clear agenda of correcting almost all previous students of sf. He proposes to demonstrate, by what he claims is a simple "description" of the "true history" of sf, that until Hugo Gernsback named it and devoted a pulp magazine to it, sf did not exist as a genre. With special attention to Brian Aldiss and Darko Suvin, the opening chapter attacks the majority of modern critics for attempting to trace a generic consciousness developing in the nineteenth century. In contrast to such "subjective" readings of sf history, Westfahl’s own reading, he assures us, is "neutral." But by the end of this long book one senses that something other than historical accuracy is at stake. Westfahl conceives of his mission as saving sf from elite, theoretically oriented, usually academic, interpretations. Anyone familiar with Westfahl’s work will recognize the theme looming here: only someone who has become one with early fan culture by putting in the heavy labor of reading what he at one point estimates as 650,000 pages of sf commentary written "by people who have not been employed to do so" (290), is qualified to describe the history. The book is less an historical interpretation than a brief for the embattled and belligerent consciousness of 1930s fandom.

Hugo Gernsback is the hero of the polemic. Most of the basic story of Gernsback’s historical presence is familiar: in fact, Westfahl has little new to add to the picture of the slightly sleazy entrepreneur we already know. Westfahl wants to change our understanding by making the remarkable claim that Gernsback was a genuine "literary critic" whose "theory," as formulated in editorials and in his selection of letters in Amazing Stories, gave sf the self-consciousness that, by Westfahl’s argument, made it a distinct genre. In the first issue of Amazing Stories, Gernsback defined science fiction as "a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision" (38). "Charming" and "intermingled" are hardly precise terms, yet Westfahl takes this casual statement very seriously and goes on to consider at great length how scientific sf must be and how the science should be presented, and he emphasizes the call for "prophetic vision." Gernsback’s triad—story, science, prophecy—is held up throughout much of the book as a profound and historically central idea. Westfahl’s enthusiasm for it is such that he can at one point exclaim that "Gernsback is arguably the most important literary critic of modern times" (63).

Later chapters on legendary sf editor John W. Campbell, Jr. are both more detailed and more reasonable, probably because they are not committed to so grandiose a claim. With his usual all-or-nothing energy, Westfahl sets out to debunk Campbell, making the case that he took credit for developments in sf that Gernsback had set in motion. Westfahl proposes a loose and occasional distinction separating Gernsback’s visionary sf from Campbell’s social and "problem solving" ideals. Gernsback was not a systematic literary critic, however, so the case ultimately rests not on the disciplined reading of a coherent body of work but on the juxtaposition of selected quotations.

There is comparatively little attention paid to sf practice in this book. A chapter on Gernsback’s early novel, Ralph 124C 41+ (1911-12), tangles itself in difficulties: Westfahl repeatedly apologizes for the book’s clumsy style and plot, but he is nevertheless committed to asserting its centrality as a model. Robert A. Heinlein stands in for Campbell when Westfahl needs to look at actual fiction from the late thirties and early forties and finds Campbell’s own not worth analyzing. The discussion of Heinlein is judgmental, leading to odd critical conclusions such as the following: "Thus, Ralph 124C 41+ is an unsatisfactory combination of several unsuccessful novels; Beyond This Horizon is an unsatisfactory combination of several successful novels" (247).

Westfahl becomes embroiled with previous critics regarding issues of genre that are for the most part matters not of fact, value, or interpretation, but simply of stipulated definition. His arbitrary and strict definition of genre asserts that unless authors consciously know they are writing in a genre, the genre does not exist, a definition that does not even conform to the practice of Gernsback himself (for instance, Gernsback calls Wells and Verne sf writers). It is an easy task to show that other critics have not subscribed to this definition. Such an argument does not substantially change the way we read the earlier material, however, so it is not clear why such a distinction about genre matters except that it gives Westfahl an occasion to set himself apart.

One may grant an author the privilege of creating his or her own definitions, yet, after he has denounced most other modern critics, Westfahl himself abandons his early concerns. The final chapter engages in a wandering meditation that arrives at a definition of sf unrelated to self-consciousness and ready to dump any or all parts of Gernsback’s triad of story-science-prophecy. Throughout the final chapter Westfahl offers a number of definitions of sf that are incongruent with each other. One of the simpler (he calls it "an expedient shorter version") asserts: "A work labeled science fiction has these three features—it is a prose narrative with scientific language and non-realistic subject matter—or any two of these three features" (299). The enigmatic circularity of the opening phrase and the openness of the options at the end leave it unclear how one could possibly use such a definition. This is a definition that will allow Westfahl to include all the works he thinks of as sf, but by not requiring a work to be scientific or fictive it opens the door to almost anything. Westfahl seems confused about the very purpose of definition: at times he understands it to construct a theoretical category, but at other times he uses it to describe an historical understanding or practice. His discussion drifts between these very different purposes, and they undercut each other.

Westfahl knows a great deal about the pulp writers of mid-century America, but unfortunately his polemical agenda prevents him from writing the book that might serve as a useful literary history of the period.—John Huntington, University of Illinois at Chicago

The Pleasures of Pulp.

Clive Bloom. Cult Fiction: Popular Reading and Pulp Theory (fax: 800-672-2054), 1996. ix + 262 pp. $17.95 paper.

Deborah Cartmell, I.Q. Hunter, Heidi Kaye, and Imelda Whelehan, eds. Pulping Fictions: Consuming Culture Across the Literature/Media Divide. Pluto Press, 1996. vi + 160 pp. $16.95 paper. Distributed in the US by Stylus (800-232-0223).

______, eds. Trash Aesthetics: Popular Culture and Its Audience. Pluto Press, 1997. vi + 170 pp. $16.95 paper. Distributed in the US by Stylus (800-232-0223).

Taken together, these three books, all British imports, are an exciting excursion into the land I call home, the largely uncharted realms of pulp fiction, exploitation film, and trash culture in general. They are a welcome addition to existing scholarship, and any student or critic of science fiction could benefit from dipping into them. They operate, however, on very different levels. The anthologies, the first two books in a series from De Montfort University aimed at bridging the gap between English and Media Studies, are entertaining but fairly light in substance, and succeed best at documenting interesting cultural phenomena and marking key questions for later scholars to answer more fully. Bloom’s book, on the other hand, is a true work of pulp scholarship. Colorful, rambling, and ungainly, like many of the pulp treasures Bloom examines, Cult Fiction is filled with fresh and compelling insights.

All four editors of the Film/Fiction series are on the faculty at De Montfort. This may account for the tight thematic unity of the collections. One can see that the four share enthusiasms, and can easily imagine them complaining to one another about lacunae in their fields born of academic prejudice, and working together to produce this series to fill them. The best of these essays are defined by the editors’ brave willingness to venture into largely uncharted terrain, and to challenge not only existing canons of study—which is a commonplace, even a defining virtue, among scholars of popular culture—but also the standard theories of pop culture experts. For example, it would be easy enough for an sf scholar to sneer at the 1989 film Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: the science is bad, the history is bad, the humor is lame. Yet I.Q. Hunter (a name to conjure with!) does a grand job of placing the film within the framework of Francis Fukuyama’s seminal essay "The End of History" by exposing how Bill and Ted work as "shock troops" simultaneously commenting on the banal wonders of consumer capitalism and spreading its ideology throughout history. Several of the authors in each book join Hunter in an attempt to grapple with the elusive nature of postmodern capitalist culture. Often, as in Jenny Rice and Carol Saunders’s discussion of the BBC-TV version of George Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871-72), these essays deal with how high-culture texts are recycled by and for a consumer economy. On the other hand, Helen Merrick’s excavation of the role of women in sf fandom and Stephen Knight’s analysis of Mel Brooks’s Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) apply more traditional scholarship to popular texts and contexts. All of the essays are animated by an impulse to expose the mythmaking process of mainstream cultural histories as the construction of palatable stories designed to serve largely middle-class interests.

Unfortunately, this tightly coherent vision shared by the editorial board may also account for the drawbacks common to the collections. Many of the essays work from a surprisingly small base of shared theorists—Pierre Bourdieu is invoked repeatedly, as is Michel de Certeau, and other French theorists (Barthes, Kristeva) are nodded to. Perhaps the editors are trying to break free of the traditional neo-Marxist base of cultural studies—this aim is obliquely indicated in the introduction to the second volume—but the result is to convey the sense of a closed, weighty, and highly academic vision that isn’t fully appropriate to its hyperkinetic subject matter. The bulk of the essays share a curious sameness of format and emphasis. They seem far too willing to stop once some aspect of a text has been tagged as an attribute of postmodernity, far too secure in the notion that analyzing something (like gender identity) is the same as "destabilizing" it. At times this insulated theoretical stance leads the critics to deal with their subjects rather naively, as in Martin Barker’s essay on a self-proclaimed "fascist" fan of the comic Judge Dredd. Barker engages in a brave and serious reflection on the difficulty of studying an audience of one, especially when the critic dislikes and cannot identify with the person, but ultimately he treats class, fascism, and audience in a fairly shallow fashion. The two books are finally great as entertainment, and as "first scout" into strange and wonderful new territories, but they function better as texts geared to prompt discussion among advanced undergraduates than as powerful voices in the scholarship.

The same is not true, I am happy to state, about Bloom’s Cult Fiction. A direct comparison would not be fair, since Bloom takes an entire book to develop his argument while the writers in the Film/Fiction series seem to have been allotted a standard twenty pages each; however, Bloom too is crucially concerned with how the pressures of the marketplace work to define literary and cultural production. More specifically, he investigates the "underworld of literary production" (3) through the last two hundred years (focusing on the last hundred), in an attempt to expand our understanding of "pulp." In Bloom’s view, this word refers less to cheap materials or ephemeral aims than to "certain attitudes, reading habits, and social concerns" (3) that are worthy of study in their own right. The attitudes he explores well, but they are fairly familiar; it is in its analysis of the intersection of pulp reading habits and social concerns that his book succeeds most fully.

One of his projects along the way—one quite useful for the science fiction scholar—is to challenge the genre model of literary analysis. Bloom finds this approach too text-based and insufficiently dynamic to describe the febrile workings of the pulp mentality. Bloom advances a more active and adaptive vision of both writers and readers, as cultural producers and consumers in a complex matrix of literary exchange, engaged in various negotiations for power in a continually shifting cultural landscape.

After sketching his overall project, and nimbly demonstrating how genre designations and publishing categories can shift over time (even for a single text), Bloom devotes the first half of the book to a detailed review of the historical development of literacy and its relationship to the forces of cultural production. Along the way he repeatedly revises simplistic understandings of the spread of print culture—for example, the traditional British myth of literacy spreading outward in a grand sweep due to foresightful government action, specifically the Education Reform Act of 1870. Using both the complaints of the upper classes about what the lower classes were reading and the business records of pulp publishers, Bloom paints a picture of active market forces seizing on a potential new market and opening it to whatever could be sold there. The resultant products often conflicted with Victorian public morality, whether they took the form of working class political pamphlets or lurid accounts of sex and violence. Often the two came together nicely, as in sensational reports of highwaymen who robbed the rich.

Throughout this history, Bloom takes care to trace the now parallel, now independent tracks of British and American literary production—though he seems a bit more certain about the British, more eager to revise it than he is the American. Throughout, he carefully examines the nature and function of cultural hierarchy, sketching pulp culture not as the force for revolution that some champions of popular culture would have it, but as the necessary "other" that high culture has traditionally used to define itself. As with all mirrors, however, what high culture sees in its pulp Doppelgänger is necessarily reversed and distorted, and Bloom spends much of the second half of the book delineating the rules of pulp. Rather than defining an aesthetics in parallel with high culture strategies, Bloom offers what might be called a "hedonics" of pulp culture. The actual chapter on the "Rule of Pulp," which uses the Comics Code as a model for the restraints high culture would put on pulp materials, is quite fine. Here, Bloom develops an argument for pulp as an obsessive lifestyle—it is a lived literature. In so doing, he indicates the class hierarchy implicated in judgments of taste, the highbrow assumption that economic liberty leads inexorably to moral laxity among the lower classes. At the same time, he offers a skillful critique of how pulp functions mold its readers, exposing its essentially individualist and biologically determinist ideologies.

The chapters that follow, which feature four individual examinations of pulp figures (Jack the Ripper, Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu, H.P. Lovecraft, and Harry Price), are the most uneven in the book. In a way they are the most pulpy, for while they are fairly exciting in themselves, the texts chosen seem arbitrary and highly personal. In one case, that of Bloom’s study of Harry Price, a professional British ghost hunter, this is so patently the case that one wonders why the essay was included. All four of these chapters were previously published elsewhere, and all bear the marks of forced editing to make them fit into the book. Perhaps the most obvious instance of shoehorning involves Bloom’s study of Lovecraft. Originally published in 1990, it is a skillful discussion of the racial and social paranoia that informed the author’s psyche and his works. It reads as very dated now, however, and it is clear that Bloom did no new research to update the original article. Since a great deal of critical and biographical work has been done on Lovecraft since 1986, the date of Bloom’s most recent citation, this seems very remiss, even sloppy.

This lurching if pleasant ride through Bloom’s personal obsessions does have a reward at the end. The final chapter turns a theoretically informed eye first on the intersection of literature with other arts, and then on contemporary critical theory itself. Using F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dashiell Hammett as representatives of high and pulp literatures respectively, Bloom examines how each man’s fiction responded to the artistic pressures of new media, specifically film. Examining the style of The Great Gatsby (1925) and The Maltese Falcon (1930), specifically character description and dialogue, he shows how the close-up, the pan, and other elements of cinematic vision are reworked by each author. Pulp, he argues, embraces hybridity, accepting the tools of film as it has other media in the past, just as high-art fiction defines itself by ignoring or attacking technological and economic advances.

This insight, illustrated by a skillful close reading, would have been a strong enough point to end on, but Bloom goes further. Examining the language and claims of critical theory with the same tight focus that he had pulp fiction, he argues finally for a blending of the two, in which critical theory functions as a new kind of pulp. What unites them both, he argues, is an almost metaphysical nostalgia pitched in a gothic register. As the pulps voiced a longing for the secure individual, critical theory mourns a unitary self. Both express these feelings through linguistic violence upon the object of their longings, and a lurid, passionate response to its sufferings. Exposing these violent textual decompositions helps us see a difficult thing—how supposedly liberatory contemporary theories themselves serve similar class functions as cheap comics, hard-boiled detective stories, and space operas. All offer an experience of consumer capitalism as the road to determining one’s own destiny, as well as, along the way, the "illicit pleasures of pulp" (240). —Gregory Beatty, University of Iowa

Monster Mash.

Mark Jancovich. Rational Fears: American Horror in the 1950s. Manchester UP, 1996. vii + 324 pp. $24.95 paper. Distributed in the US by St. Martin’s (800-221-7945).

Kevin McCarthy and Ed Gorman, eds. "They’re Here...": "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," A Tribute. Berkley Boulevard (fax: 212-951-8993), 1999. xi + 273 pp. $13 paper.

Good monsters never really die. They can always be resurrected for another assault on humanity, in order to scare the hell out of us. And 1950s horror movies also keep coming back: consider the remakes of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958; 1993), The Blob (1958; 1988), The Fly (1958; 1986), Invaders from Mars (1953; 1986), or Little Shop of Horrors (1960; 1986). More recently, the television series The X-Files keeps recycling the old stories and images. And in Hollywood, within the past two years alone, Norman Bates once again sliced up Marion in the shower (as Gus Van Sant, in an absurd act of homage, remade Psycho [1960] shot-for-shot); Godzilla stomped once more across the screen; and the 1963 film The Haunting, based on Shirley Jackson’s classic 1959 ghost story, The Haunting of Hill House, was also remade. Although none of these last three remakes improved on the originals—bigger budgets, more blood, and more elaborate special effects do not necessarily scare audiences—the return of such works shows that the 1950s were indeed the seedbed of contemporary American horror.

Mark Jancovich’s Rational Fears: American Horror in the 1950s is an ambitious, thorough, and highly useful reappraisal of the seminal nature of the fiction and film of that decade, when horror moved away from the exotic settings of the Gothic (Frankenstein, Dracula, and Lovecraft) and into the streets and homes of modern America. He builds on the revisioning of the American 1950s by historians such as Richard Pells—author of The Liberal Mind in a Conservative Age: American Intellectuals in the 1940s and 1950s (Harper & Row, 1985)—and of 1950s horror by film critics such as Andrew Tudor, in his Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie (Blackwell, 1989). Jancovich takes issue with the standard view, expressed by such film critics as Robin Wood and Peter Biskind, that 1950s horror is, like the decade itself, largely politically conservative or reactionary. Jancovich proposes a far more nuanced and complex view of 1950s American culture and 1950s horror. He sees the threats in these films as reflecting not so much fears of the Red Menace as anxieties about the rapid changes being brought about in postwar American life by the rise of what he terms "Fordism" or "rationalisation": "the process through which scientific-technical rationality is applied to the management of social, economic and cultural life.... [T]his new system of organization was seen by many as an inherently totalitarian system which both created conformity and repressed dissent" (2-3).

This is a wide-ranging book. In terms of content, Part One concerns "invasion narratives" such as The Thing (1951), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), The War of the Worlds (1953), and Invaders from Mars. Part Two deals with the "outsider narratives" of Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Jack Arnold, and the low-budget horror films of American International Pictures aimed at the new youth audience, such as I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957). Part Three concerns "psychological horror": the fiction of Robert Bloch, the Hitchcock film based on Bloch’s novel Psycho (1959), the films of Roger Corman, Forbidden Planet (1956), and the novel The Haunting of Hill House. Jancovich objects to the tendency to view historical decades as all of a piece. As he points out, this ignores "both historical change across periods, and differences or struggles within any particular period" (10). And he objects to the similar tendency to view genres "as coherent and hermetically sealed objects" (10). Audiences get their sense of a genre such as horror or science fiction by exposure to many different media, including film, literature, television, and comic books. And they are not much concerned with the categories critics impose. For example, the arguments about whether 1950s invasion films are better classified as science fiction or horror "was irrelevant during the period in which they were produced, and they were usually simply referred to as ‘monster movies’" (11).

In terms of critical focus, Part One discusses the rise of "Fordism" in the late 1940s and 50s and the widespread fears that as a result of this new system of organization, "America was becoming an increasingly homogeneous, conformist and totalitarian society" (22). "The Soviet Union was used to highlight and challenge aspects of American society.... It was not simply an ‘external Other’ which was used to legitimate American society...." (18). Thus, Jancovich argues that the "invasion narratives" cannot be viewed simply as "a code for fears of Soviet aggression" (15), but rather that they express a fear of the effects of the new forms of scientific rationalism on American life. Jancovich reverses the usual critique of the two 1951 films The Thing and The Day the Earth Stood Still, arguing that the former is the more respectful of difference and the latter the more "rational"—and therefore totalitarian—because the alien Klaatu demands "rigid conformity to the universal order, an order from which there can be no dissent" (46). The problem, as Jancovich sees it, is that critics tend to prefer "the rational over the emotional" and thus to devalue most of 1950s horror (58). He demonstrates how in so many of the stories and films of the 1950s, "rationality and science are dehumanizing and dangerous" (67). It is the warmth of small, local groups, such as those in The Thing or War of the Worlds, that is "distinguished from the large, abstract structures of Fordist America" (56).

In Part Two, Jancovich argues that "while the 1950s invasion narratives used the alien invaders as images of rationalisation and conformity, other horror texts of the period used aliens as an image of difference through which they investigated, problematised and even rejected the notions of ‘normality’ prevalent in 1950s America" (82). Here he cites examples of aliens and outsiders from the fiction of Bradbury and Matheson. In particular, he deals insightfully with Matheson’s novel The Shrinking Man (1956), with the Jack Arnold film based on it, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and with The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) as critiques of 1950s notions of masculinity through their elevation of alienated outsiders. Part Three continues this reappraisal of gender roles in 1950s horror, citing, for example, "active female characters who are often presented positively" in the films of Roger Corman (274). The book ends with a comparison of the film Psycho and the novel The Haunting of Hill House. Although Psycho is often seen as "an attack on matriarchy and motherhood, no real evidence is given that substantiates the claim that Mrs. Bates is actually to blame for anything. All that is seen of Norman’s mother are his perceptions and interpretations of her" (300). Instead, Jancovich argues that Shirley Jackson’s novel is far more critical of matriarchy than is Psycho. In The Haunting of Hill House, the heroine’s psychological problems and eventual destruction are shown as directly caused by the early death of her father and her domination by her mother.

Rational Fears is a well-informed work of scholarship filled with stimulating re-evaluations of 1950s American culture and insightful readings of many novels and films. If Jancovich can be faulted, it is that he perhaps rides his thesis too hard. Just as there is a danger in seeing "fear of Communism" as the all-purpose explanation for 1950s horror, so there is a similar danger in simply replacing it with "fear of Fordism." In his urge to prove his thesis, he sometimes ignores contradictory evidence. For example, he argues that in The Day the Earth Stood Still, "for Klattu [sic], as for the film, greatness means scientific genius" (45). Yet Klaatu refers to Abraham Lincoln as a great man, and Klaatu himself is implicitly compared to Christ (he goes among the common people and is hated and feared and finally killed by the authorities, only to rise again). And contrary to Jancovich’s view of Klaatu as merely cold and rational, we may recall the alien’s fondness for Billy, a boy whom Klaatu praises to his mother as "warm." Finally, in his urge to refurbish the image of 1950s horror, Jancovich perhaps takes some works too seriously. He strains to find merit in such forgettable Roger Corman exploitation features as Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954) and Viking Women vs. the Sea Serpent (1957), films ripe for treatment on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

More re-evaluation of 1950s horror and assessment of its postmodern reworkings can be found in "They’re Here...": "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," A Tribute, edited by Kevin McCarthy and Ed Gorman. Unlike Jancovich’s book, this volume is aimed primarily at fans. Scholars would do well to consult first Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Rutgers, 1989), edited by Al LaValley, which includes the complete continuity script of director Don Siegel’s classic 1956 film, a post-production file, an interview with Siegel, as well as serious critical articles. "They’re Here...," while overfilled with fannish trivia, is useful in discussing the persistence of the Body Snatchers phenomenon during the postwar era through Jack Finney’s novel and the three films it inspired. Each decade discovers a different form of paranoia in the story: in the 1950s, it is fear of conformity; in the 1970s, urban paranoia; and in the 1990s, paranoia about government (the Army is taken over by the pods). The collection offers views of Jack Finney’s career, of his 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, and of the films: the 1956 Siegel version, the 1978 remake directed by Phillip Kaufman, and the 1993 version directed by Abel Ferrara.

In addition, "They’re Here..." includes interviews with Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, stars of the 1956 movie; with Philip Kaufman and W.D. Richter, the director and writer of the 1978 movie; and with Abel Ferrara, Stuart Gordon, and Robert Solo, respectively the director, one of the writers, and the producer of the 1993 version. The interviews with the makers of the 1993 movie provide contrasting viewpoints on what went wrong with that particular venture. Robert Solo, who had produced the 1978 film, envisioned this new version as the start of a franchise, with two sequels and perhaps a TV series. But the script went through "development hell," had six writers, and died at the box office. Solo blames the failure of the project on an inept studio head and the choice of Ferrara as director, accused of being indifferent to science fiction. But Stuart Gordon claims Ferrara made a good, scary movie that Warner Brothers killed by not marketing it. Ferrara, who says he likes science fiction (he is working on an adaptation of William Gibson’s story "New Rose Hotel"), also blames the studio. Ferrara’s interview is remarkable in one respect: he succeeds at being more foul-mouthed than a rock star.

The best appreciations of the Body Snatchers phenomenon, not surprisingly, are by horror novelists Dean Koontz and Stephen King. In his introduction to the volume, Koontz says that the standard interpretation of the film as a "red-scare movie" is inadequate, and that the film instead works because "In the twentieth century, so many powerful forces have reshaped society so rapidly, compared to the more measured pace of change in previous centuries, that it’s no surprise when we feel besieged and in danger of losing our humanity" (vii). Koontz then would probably agree with Mark Jancovich. King, in an excerpt from his study of the horror genre, Danse Macabre (Everest House, 1981), credits Jack Finney, along with Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury, as having pioneered modern horror by shifting it from exotic Lovecraftian locations to the American small town. "Finney’s little town of Santa Mira predates and points the way toward Peter Straub’s fictional town of Milburn, New York; Thomas Tryon’s Cornwall Coombe, Connecticut; and my own little town of ’Salem’s Lot, Maine" (9).

There is a lot of repetition and padding in the volume. Some of the critical articles repeat the same information. Others contain mostly plot synopses or impressionistic, bad writing. For example, James Combs writes of the ending of Finney’s novel: "it’s so lame ... it’s quadriplegic" (41). The interview with Kevin McCarthy is much too long at 85 pages, of which only 25 concern the making of Body Snatchers; the rest concerns his long career as an actor. McCarthy is a genial storyteller, but as one of the volume’s editors, he was too self-indulgent.

It will be interesting to see how the twenty-first century continues to rework 1950s American horror. As Jancovich points out, 1950s horror played "a central and formative role" for writers and filmmakers who grew up in the era, such as Stephen King and Steven Spielberg (304). Yet younger audiences can continue to relate to the material because they were exposed to these films "on television at an early age" (304).—Andrew Gordon, University of Florida

A Not-So-Different Story.

Val Gough and Jill Rudd, eds. A Very Different Story: Studies on the Fiction of Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Liverpool UP (fax: 0151-794-2235), 1998. ix + 188 pp. £32 cloth; £15.95 paper.

This collection could almost be retitled "Studies on Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland," as nine of its eleven essays touch on that utopian novel. Gilman is probably best known for The Yellow Wall Paper (1892), a much-anthologized story that chillingly evokes the author’s experience with the "rest cure" prescribed for "hysteria" in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Gilman’s lifetime, the less-familiar Herland was only published as a serial in her magazine The Forerunner in 1914, but has been widely read and taught since its book-length publication in 1979. Herland is a feminist utopian novel in which three male explorers "discover" a country populated entirely by women who reproduce parthenogenetically, and who, in their exchanges with the men, reveal both new ways of being-in-the-world and a critique of US society. Herland inverts discourses of exploration and colonization, reverses sex roles, inserts humor into the didactic genre of utopia, and consistently tweaks male understandings of females. In short, it is a fun serious book, generally considered an important text in the history of utopian literature.

The editors of A Very Different Story are coy about their volume’s massed attention to the novel, noting only that "several of the essays revisit" Herland, and stating that Gilman’s more general "utopianism ... is the focus of this collection" (1). Indeed, many of the essays touch on Herland as part of Gilman’s overall utopian-feminist project, rather than focusing on that book exclusively. The editors hope to bring Gilman scholarship to a new understanding of her aesthetics and didacticism by emphasizing that "Gilman’s literary work forces reassessment of conventional evaluative criteria" (2)—a point that several essays demonstrate through close attention to Gilman’s manipulation of different genres. Finally, the editors praise the essays in the volume for participating in what they see as a willingness in current Gilman scholarship to "acknowledge and explore, rather than suppress, the inconsistencies and contradictions of her work" (4); along this line, they single out the essay by Chris Ferns, "Rewriting Male Myths: Herland and the Utopian Tradition," for its reading of Herland’s failures as well as its successes.

Ferns’s essay is certainly one of the best in the book. Pointing out that Gilman’s utopia has been read as both critiquing and confirming contemporary perspectives on femininity and women’s roles—particularly in its insistence that "woman’s sphere remains the home; the only difference is that here the home has expanded to embrace the entire community" (33)—Ferns notes that Gilman’s confirmation of such contemporary values is congruent with the visions offered by other (i.e., male) utopian writers of the time, from emphasis on the domestic roles of women to their apparent lack of sexual desire. "Gilman ... may be seen as echoing four hundred years of utopian tradition" (35), he asserts, and finds that the author, even while satirizing the "infantilization" of narrators in traditional utopias, finally reinscribes that infantilization in her treatment of the male narrators, especially in the marriages between the explorers and three of the women of Herland. Ending on a provocative note, Ferns reads the willingness of the Herlanders to embrace the possibility of change through renewed contact with men as contravening the traditional stasis of utopias, and observes that it is the "word of honour [of] gentlemen," as well as the act of naming by "a gentleman," that closes the novel and generates one of its deepest puzzles and paradoxes.

Unfortunately, where Ferns’s essay is strong and clear and carefully argued, other pieces could have been better written and edited. Moreover, although the essays together paint a rich, strong, multidimensional picture of Gilman, taken individually they don’t add dramatic new bibliographic or historical information to what is known about the author or her work. Several fail to live up to their own potential. Mary A. Hill’s "Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Journey from Within," for example, seems mostly intended to portray Gilman as prefiguring contemporary quasi-feminist invocations of "The Goddess." For me, this came as a strangely anticlimactic conclusion to an essay that begins by provocatively connecting Bluebeard, Gilman, and contemporary academia, proceeds to quote in full an apparently previously unpublished (and fascinating) violent dream Gilman had, and intimates a lurking fascination with violence, even cannibalism, in Gilman’s letters and dreams. Hill is one of the major Gilman scholars in the world, but this essay does not rank among her finest work.

A stronger essay is Bridget Bennett’s thoughtful exploration of "pockets" as an organizational metaphor in Gilman’s writing; these pockets "exist at the intersections between public and private," as "marginal space," and as locations of knowable mysteries (38-9). This metaphor is well known to Gilman’s readers from her writings about men’s and women’s clothing, in which she skewers gender inequity by examining differential access to pockets for carrying necessary and useful items. Bennett successfully connects Gilman’s interest in pockets with other aspects of Gilman’s writing having to do with boundaries, especially between interior and exterior worlds. Much could be made of Bennett’s reading of the mountain-rimmed valley geography of Herland as "a pocket of civilization in a vast dark continent [that] can be read against the theme of space which has so preoccupied commentators on North American culture and identity" (42). She concludes accordingly that Herland’s "private world of woman’s space" is "a liberating counterpart to the forced private world of The Yellow Wallpaper" (42). Bennett takes great care not to overstep boundaries of evidentiary reasoning when she leaves the reader with the provocative suggestion that "Gilman may be establishing a lesbian pocket of woman-identified women" in Herland, noting that such speculation met with much resistance at the conference where she originally presented this chapter as a paper (50). Her provocation, coming from a close, historically situated reading of the text, and from suggestive evidence in Gilman’s letters and diaries, bears further scrutiny and interpretation; one hopes other scholars or Bennett herself will continue this interesting line.

Some of the contributors to the volume will be familiar: Hill, for instance, to scholars of Gilman, and Ruth Levitas to scholars of utopia. Others have published widely in feminist criticism and theory. As a group, they address familiar topics: marriage, family, sexuality, economics. Janet Beer examines Gilman’s treatment of illness and health to illustrate connections among Gilman’s short fiction, autobiographical writing, and utopian fiction. Anne Tanski reads two lesser-known fictions, "Making a Change" (1911) and The Crux (1911), as examples of Gilman’s commitment to the possibility of changing even the most deeply held social values. Alex Shishin provides a survey of the industrial and mechanical arts both present and notably absent in Herland, reading the novel as a recipe for the successful reconciliation of the sexes. The essays showcase the wide range of possible perceptions of Gilman, from Bennett’s assertion that she "was a writer for whom boundaries had little sanctity" (38) to Hill’s exploration of her adherence to public and private boundaries "almost as though she sensed ... that there are certain issues we should refrain from openly approaching" (9). What emerges is a collective portrait of Gilman in all her fullness: egalitarian, racist, strong-willed, timidly uncertain, crusading, cautious.

The rest of the essays range fairly widely over the possible approaches to Gilman, and it is fascinating to consider how central a role Herland takes in this criticism. Amanda Graham, for example, reads the novel through the lens of ecofeminist criticism, openly confronting the question of how much Gilman successfully resists or contests masculinist modes of thought, and suggesting that, for all the weaknesses of the novel and personal faults of its author, it can be read as anticipating some of the feminist theorizing of the later twentieth century. Val Gough’s essay tackles Gilman’s earlier utopian novel, Moving the Mountain (1911), alongside Herland, which is generally considered more successful, radical, and oppositional; Gough works against the grain of that critical consensus, valorizing the earlier novel because of its greater realism and its frank presentation of a blueprint for social transformation. Jill Rudd analyzes Gilman’s use of animals in her writing for what it can reveal about her penchant for rule-making, rule-following, and carefully considered rule-breaking. And, finally, Anne Cranny-Francis rounds out the collection with an essay that reads Gilman’s use of different genres in her program of reader re-education in the service of social change. All but one of the essays in this volume are original, the exception being Levitas’s "Utopian Fictions and Political Theories: Domestic Labour in the Work of Edward Bellamy, Charlotte Perkins Gilman and William Morris," which appeared as "‘Who Holds the Hose’: Domestic Labour in Bellamy, Gilman and Morris" in Utopian Studies (6.1 [1995]: 65-84). Levitas critiques Gilman’s utopics on the grounds that Gilman inappropriately denigrates child-rearing and other domestic labor; it is an important essay written with characteristic vigor, but is probably already familiar to readers.

Readers interested in Gilman in general might find this volume revolves too much around Herland, and is perhaps a little too demanding on those who are not familiar with the basic contours of Gilman scholarship. Readers seriously engaged in Gilman scholarship will surely notice that, other than the major book-length publications of the 1990s, such as Mary Hill’s edition of some of Gilman’s letters, a good deal of Gilman scholarship surrounding the 1992 centenary of The Yellow Wall Paper, and some of the more recent scholarship on Herland, is not much referenced in these essays. Bennett might have noted, for example, previous queer theory readings, such as Jonathan Crewe’s argument for lesbian undercurrents in The Yellow Wall Paper ("Queering The Yellow Wallpaper? Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the Politics of Form," in Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 14.2 [Fall 1995]: 273-93), or Val Gough’s own argument that Gilman resolved the conflict between lesbianism and marriage in favor of an independence joined with heterosexuality ("Lesbians and Virgins: The Motherhood in Herland," in Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors, ed. David Seed [Syracuse UP, 1995]: 195-215). Still, for those doing serious scholarship on Gilman, utopian studies, and feminism, the book generates numerous questions and provocations that far outweigh its weaknesses.—Peter Sands, Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

[Editor’s Note: Teachers and researchers interested in Gilman’s fiction might want to consult two new gatherings of her work. Herland, The Yellow Wall-Paper, and Selected Writings (Penguin, 1999; xxx +353 pp.; $9.95 paper), edited with an introduction and notes by Denise D. Knight, is suitable for classroom use and contains, alongside the famous works listed in the title, eighteen short stories and eighteen poems. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Utopian Novels (Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1999; 389 pp.; $52.50 cloth), edited and introduced by Minna Doscow, contains Gilman’s With Her in Ourland (1916), sequel to Herland, as well as the hard-to-find Moving the Mountain. This book’s price, however, will tend to limit it to larger library collections. Also worth consulting are The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader (UP of Virginia, 1999; 256 pp.; $14.50 paper), edited and introduced by Ann J. Lane (whose 1997 biography of Gilman, To Herland and Beyond, is still in print from UP of Virginia), which features—though in excerpt form only—a broader selection from Gilman’s novels, and The Abridged Diaries of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (UP of Virginia, 1998; 320 pp.; $22.50 paper), edited by Denise D. Knight. Gilman studies are definitely in full swing these days.—RL]

A Biology of Art?

Brett Cooke and Frederick Turner, eds. Biopoetics: Evolutionary Perspectives in the Arts. Paragon House (fax: 651-644-0997), 1999. viii + 466 pp. $16.95 paper.

Since human beings are biological creatures, it would seem self-evident that a biological perspective ought to be capable of producing valuable insights into human culture; and it is salutary to state this truism in an era when the extreme culturalism prevalent in some (by no means all) varieties of poststructuralist thought has become a dogma whose acolytes react with nothing short of panic to the least hint of nature—rather like proper Victorians shocked beyond words at the public display of a naked ankle. Unfortunately, most actual attempts to define evolutionary elements in culture and art have been disappointing in the extreme. Sometimes they have suggested no substantial mechanisms connecting culture to biology, with the result that the latter figures only in a vague, gestural way. Sometimes they have fallen into a biologistic reductionism so crude as to make one sympathize with the most hysterical poststructuralist fears after all. And sometimes—indeed, most of the time—they have been guided by a knowledge of biology that is shaky at best. Specifically, they have generally fallen into what might be called the adaptationist fallacy: the popular and almost quasi-religious notion (denounced by Darwin and cogently refuted in our own time by Stephen Jay Gould) that natural selection is the sole driving force of evolution and hence that all significant biological characteristics must have (or, in a subtler version of the error, must at least once have had) adaptive survival value. The infamous reductionism of most of those who attempt "biopoetics" does not, then, begin when they turn to poetry; it is rooted in their (mis)understanding of biology itself.

There have been exceptions to the general sterility of biological approaches to culture—for instance, in certain areas of evolutionary psychology farthest removed from "sociobiology" of the old E.O. Wilson type. But the book under review (in which Wilson appears practically as an incarnate god) is not a good place to look for them. Here only Joseph Miller repudiates the adaptationist fallacy that haunts most of the other contributors. Perhaps not coincidentally, his essay is the best in the volume: adducing evidence from drug use, language use, and other areas, Miller posits a "novelty drive" in human beings and suggests that the reading of science fiction may have evolutionary value in influencing the ways we respond to novelty and the future. His logic is speculative, but frankly and productively so. He displays a sophisticated sense of biology and of literature, and suggests a mechanism that may actually link them.

The other essays in the volume that concern sf are all worth reading as literary criticism, but, unlike Miller’s, none has much to do with biology or a genuine "biopoetics." Eric Rabkin contributes two essays on fantasy (construed so as to include many works of sf) that are intelligent and well-informed but that establish no real connection between literature and evolution; it is only their vague speculations about human survival that have, presumably, led the editors to include these pieces in the anthology. Gary Westfahl appears as his normal provocative self, arguing (implicitly against Miller) that science fiction is a less radically novel literature than is often supposed. As usual, I disagree with Westfahl’s view of sf in several ways, but his case is well argued, especially in his detailed reading of Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). Again, though, there is nothing biological in his argument, save for the half-hearted suggestion that the mixture of strangeness and familiarity in science fiction may reflect Wilson’s notion of humankind as an only moderately adventurous species: a point that, if taken seriously (as Westfahl himself does not seem to take it), would be hair-raisingly reductionist indeed. Finally, Lee Cronk also addresses herself to The Left Hand of Darkness, skillfully using the text to make a cross-cultural argument for the primacy of the family. Her failure to anchor her case in biology is particularly curious because here a valid argument from survival value does seem to be suggested by the "prematurity" of the human infant and its consequent biological need for years of intensive care.

On a lower intellectual level are the essays by critics less familiar with sf. The worst is Joseph Carroll’s almost unbelievably stupid meditation on literary theory. Carroll’s grasp of ideas is fairly indicated by the fact that he dismisses Marx and Freud with breezy ignorance as "obsolete" (149) and then goes on to celebrate an instance of criticism that does impress him: an empirical experiment claiming to show (I am not making this up) that test-takers possessing different psychological attributes tend to write different kinds of stories—thus "scientifically" establishing a link between authors’ psyches and their works. This is an astonishing finding, since, for example, though Proust and Hemingway are well known to have been very different psychological types, Swann’s Way (1913) and The Sun Also Rises (1926) are so similar as novels as to be nearly indistinguishable (yes, I am being ironic).

No other contribution to Biopoetics is as bad as Carroll’s, though several come close. For instance, Brett Cooke’s close reading of Pushkin’s "The Snowstorm" (1830) conveniently encapsulates many of the worst problems common to the "biopoeticians": the essentialism of the adaptationist fallacy at its most naive; a confusion between Darwinian and Lamarckian models of evolutionary change (a confusion that enables the vulgar reduction of the cultural to the natural); the silent and untheorized use of the Freudian concept of the Unconscious in a field that usually (though not always) holds Freud in ignorant contempt; and others. There are better pieces too. Nancy Easterlin contributes some interesting remarks on literary modernism (and a welcome corrective to the reactionary neoclassicism of her fellow contributor Frederick Turner), but never rigorously engages biological questions. There are also two substantial efforts by Ellen Dissanayake on the putative origins of art in general and music in particular; rough, highly speculative, and not wholly free of the general conceptual problems that plague her colleagues, these essays do nonetheless seem to make real progress in understanding the relations between nature and culture, and perhaps provide at least a glimpse of what a "biopoetics" of the future might look like.

In sum, the search for the biology of art and culture remains, in principle, a promising one. But it is unlikely to progress far until those undertaking it liberate themselves from the influence of sociobiologists like Wilson and adaptationist "fundamentalists" (Gould’s term) like Daniel Dennett—and, indeed, until they also bother to learn a great deal more about the actual achievements of cultural theory over the past hundred years than they have managed to do so far. As to the present volume, those with an unusually keen interest in the interfaces between nature and culture should read Miller’s and Dissanayake’s essays and perhaps skim the remainder of the book. Those waiting for a "biopoetics" really worthy of the name must continue waiting.—Carl Freedman, Louisiana State University

A Noble But Dying Breed?

Richard A. Hauptmann. The Work of Jack Williamson: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. NESFA (New England Science Fiction Association) Press (fax: 617-776-3243), 1998. xvii + 185 pp. $17 cloth.

This handsome volume, one might argue, represents a noble but dying breed: given the current economics of book production, and the increasing availability and attractiveness of electronic publishing, can the hardcover single-author bibliography continue to survive as a viable product? Perhaps—if the author is sufficiently distinguished, and if the volume is crafted so as to be not only useful to consult but also enjoyable to read.

Happily, Richard A. Hauptmann’s The Work of Jack Williamson: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide passes both tests. No science fiction author has enjoyed a career as long and as productive as Williamson’s, ranging from his first published story in 1928 to his recent novel The Silicon Dagger (1999); and if he is rarely lauded as a literary craftsman, he has always commanded respect for his vigorous storytelling, consistently innovative ideas (in varied areas such as machine intelligence, genetic engineering, and terraforming), and his contributions to the genre as a scholar, teacher, and supportive friend. Hauptmann’s presentation of Williamson’s singular career also provides an abundance of both data and interesting reading material, including an introductory appreciation by Frederik Pohl, an afterword by Williamson himself, and a fascinating year-by-year chronology of the author’s life (with details about the ups and downs of his income from writing). Each listed novel and story is accompanied by a brief summary and/or quoted blurb from its original magazine publication, and sometimes snippets of critical commentary are featured as well. Improbably, then, the book holds one’s attention simply as a page-turner.

To summarize its contents: the two longest sections, occupying more than half the volume’s length, offer information and commentary on Williamson’s novels, including all editions and translations, and on his short fiction. There are shorter sections on his nonfiction and on his involvement in other media, and a final section of "Miscellanea" features a number of lists, including his fiction in chronological order and his degrees, honors, and awards. To anyone interested in Williamson or in the development of twentieth-century science fiction, this book is essential reading.

Like the typical reviewer, I do have a few complaints, although none of very great import. In the listings of book publications, Hauptmann occasionally gets bogged down in detailed discussions of minutiae—how many copies of one edition were published, how many were left unbound, how many covers were green and how many were gray—matters that are surely important only to a handful of book collectors. The summaries of novels and stories vary tremendously in their length and thoroughness, and some are clearly inadequate, like the one-sentence summary of "The Prince of Space" (1931) that fails to mention the story’s most striking feature, the first appearance of a true space habitat in science fiction. While the original magazine blurbs might logically be included in a bibliography to convey the ambiance of first publication, they should never be used to replace true summaries, as occurs far too often here; all that one learns about "The Fortress of Utopia" (1939), for example, is "On a Lifeless Mystery Satellite, Five Lone Mortals Summon Secret Forces of the Citadel of Science to Free the Earth from the Doom of the Dark Nebula!" (89). Perhaps those words were ideally suited to lure a twelve-year-old boy into buying that issue of Startling Stories, but they tell modern scholars virtually nothing about what actually occurs in the story. Inevitably, this massive compilation of data has a few errors and omissions: Hauptmann lists Richard W. Gombert’s The Work of Edmond Hamilton: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide, containing an introduction by Williamson, as a published but unseen book from Borgo Press, although the book actually never appeared, and he does not cite Williamson’s brief essay "Space vs. Time," which appeared in the program of the 1997 SFRA/Eaton Conference. Finally, while Hauptmann’s impulse to mention all of Williamson’s own comments about his works is admirable, some of the cited observations are trivial at best and might profitably have been omitted; of what possible value to the Williamson scholar, for example, is the gossipy remark that "Pohl and J.W. separately report having heard the rumor that Betty Ballantine posed for the nude woman who appears on this cover [of Starchild]" (39)?

The major problem with this or any Williamson bibliography, of course, is that this venerable author, now in his nineties, continues to produce worthwhile new material; so, just as Hauptmann’s book replaces Robert E. Myers’s outdated 1980 bibliography, a third bibliography may someday be needed to record the author’s future accomplishments—including two Williamson essays that will appear in an anthology scheduled for publication in February 2000, advancing his career as an active writer into the new millennium.—Gary Westfahl, UC Riverside

Bold Interdisciplinary Speculation.

Gregory Benford. Deep Time: How Humanity Communicates Across Millennia. Avon/Bard (212-261-6800), 1999. 208 pp. $20 cloth.

After some twenty novels that have established him as one of the most important science fiction authors of his generation, Gregory Benford has now published his first nonfiction book. This nonfictional turn is, however, by no means out of character: not only is Benford a research physicist and the author of many popular essays on science, but his sf is distinguished by an unusually strong sense of fact. Benford’s speculations are audacious, but they are grounded in science—which Benford (unlike most sf authors) tends to understand not only as a set of theories and experiments but also as an institutionally-based human practice.

Deep Time (the title refers to any span of time much longer than a human lifetime) is similar in many ways to the author’s sf. Though the book has little to say about science fiction as such, its own speculative riffs and cognitive estrangements are often akin to those in Benford’s novels. Benford has participated in several scientific projects involving large time scales—for instance, designing a nuclear waste dump to last safely for ten thousand years, and composing messages to be rocketed into outer space—and in this book he not only tells the stories of these experiences but uses them as springboards for more general interdisciplinary musings on communication across millennia. Nobody, as he points out, lives for more than about a century. It is also true, as the German novelist Theodor Fontane famously noted, that it is difficult to have a personal (as opposed to scholarly) sense of any historical period earlier than the youth of one’s own grandparents; and we might add that it is just as hard to feel much spontaneous concern for any future beyond the old age of one’s own grandchildren. Nonetheless, attempts to communicate across vast spans of time have fascinated some sections of humanity at least since the days of the Pharaohs. Of course, the problems are enormous, as the failure of so many earlier attempts suggests: how little even Stonehenge, or the much-studied Pyramids, convey to us compared to what they must once have been meant to convey! Addressing "deep time" involves issues of mathematics, physics, geology, meteorology, chemistry, biology, archaeology, history, linguistics, economics, politics, psychology, literary and cultural studies, and much else; and even the richest attainable combination of perspectives may be inadequate to the case.

But the theme has often proved irresistible to science fiction—Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1930) and Star Maker (1937) continue to set the standard in literary sf, as Kubrick’s 2001 (1968) does in sf cinema—so it is not surprising that a science fiction author should be the first (so far as I know) to engage the matter in a full-length nonfiction book. As speculative visionaries go, Benford is often remarkably practical. In one interesting aside, for instance, he points out that simple earthen mounds have always enjoyed one big advantage when it comes to durability: nobody bothers to steal dirt. He also pays a good deal of attention to the economic costs of various ways that "deep time" might be negotiated, to the institutional means that might be employed, and to the political and bureaucratic obstacles that may have to be circumvented.

But this practicality by no means precludes a sense of wonder. Benford is fascinating, for example, when he discusses the efforts to design a nuclear waste dump that would be striking-looking enough to convey its message of danger to our distant descendants, yet not so aesthetically attractive as to become a tourist site. He is equally interesting when he engages far more immense temporal vistas, wondering whether even pure mathematics is a truly universal language that will be legible to alien beings who evolve long after homo sapiens has gone the way of the dodo and the passenger pigeon. Then too, many of the book’s most original pages are devoted to the conjuncture between "deep time" and ecology. Benford points out that the largest time capsule we will bequeath to futurity is the planet itself, and that the chief contribution of our own historical period may well be the extinction of an enormous number of plant and animal species. In view of Benford’s usual political profile as a conservative of libertarian, pro-capitalist bent, readers may be surprised to find him appearing here as also a passionate environmentalist, with ideas about preserving nature that are significantly different from those commonly found on either the right or the left.

Of course, all such discussions demand a synthesis of various disciplinary approaches that no individual is truly competent to make, and Benford frankly admits that his generalizations may appear oversimplified to those with more specialized knowledge of the pertinent fields. I myself, as a literary critic, noticed a number of dubious statements on matters ranging from the history of English verbs to the status of "postmodern" theories of textuality. But so what? Though monographic accuracy is an indispensable ingredient in a healthy intellectual culture, it is not the only worthwhile goal of intellectual labor. Bold interdisciplinary speculation, with its inevitable slips of detail, can also be valuable—especially if, as here, it estranges our spontaneous mundane concerns and forces us to think anew about matters that, though far removed from our daily routines, engage our humanity in hard-to-define but sometimes powerfully felt ways. After reading Deep Time, one is less likely to look at a clock or a calendar in quite the same way as before.—Carl Freedman, Louisiana State University

Brief Notices

H. Rider Haggard. She, ed. with an Introduction and Notes by Daniel Karlin. Oxford UP (800-451-7556), 1998. xxxviii + 332 pp. $8.95 paper. World’s Classics Series.

Clark Ashton Smith. The Book of Hyperborea, ed. Will Murray. Necronomicon (fax: 401-826-1151), 1996. 173 pp. $9.95 paper

_____. Tales of Zothique, ed. Will Murray with Steve Behrends. Necronomicon (fax: 401-826-1151), 1995. 224 pp. $11.95 paper.

Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer. When Worlds Collide [includes When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide]. U Nebraska P (fax: 402-472-6214), 1999. 192 pp. + 190 pp. $14.95 paper. Bison Books "Frontiers of Imagination" Series.

Here is a gathering of recent reprints of vintage sf and fantasy titles. The classic late-Victorian lost world novel She (1887) has just been reissued as an Oxford World’s Classic. Typeset from the British first edition, it offers a somewhat different text from other versions of the novel currently in print, which incorporate revisions Haggard made in later editions—changes that smoothed out the jagged texture of the narrative, a roughness editor Karlin prefers (xxxii). Karlin’s introduction is strong on both the novel’s mixed-genre composition and its fraught sexual politics, offering sharp insights along the way on the history of its critical reception; his Explanatory Notes are helpful yet unobtrusive, making this an excellent choice for classroom use. The cover features a striking still from the 1965 Hammer Films adaptation of the novel starring Ursula Andress, which manages to capture some of the beckoning luridness of this magnificently weird tale.

And speaking of Weird Tales, Clark Ashton Smith was one of that magazine’s signature authors during its 1930s heydey, and Necronomicon Press has recently released two collections of his best stories, set in the imaginary worlds of Hyperborea and Zothique. Editor Murray draws on Smith’s original manuscripts and incorporates changes the author made to the published versions; these collections thus differ from those assembled in the early 1970s by Lin Carter for his Ballantine Adult Fantasy line—entitled Zothique (1970) and Hyperborea (1971)—which used the texts that appeared in Weird Tales (and were subsequently culled for a series of Arkham House volumes). They also offer more material than Carter provided; this is especially true of Tales of Zothique, which features an excised story preface, fragments from an unpublished manuscript, a verse drama entitled "The Dead Will Cuckold You," and four ink drawings Smith produced at the behest of Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright. Finally, Murray also resists Carter’s dubious imposition of an internal chronology on Smith’s story cycles, presenting the tales instead in the original sequence of their composition, since this approach alone "best reveals the creative mind of the artist at work" (Hyperborea 14). Despite his own sometimes tone-deaf prose (e.g., "Smith’s poetic comet was soon dashed into the hard concrete of commercial reality" [Hyperborea 7]), Murray displays a real appreciation for Smith’s incantatory style, his "mordantly decadent" vision (Zothique 11). The wasted worldscape of Zothique—with its shadowy necromancy, its corrupt erudition, its linguistic excess—paved the way for subsequent depictions of morbid far futures, such as Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth (1950) and Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun (1980-83). (Recent evidence of Smith’s abiding influence is the 1999 anthology The Lost Continent: New Tales of Zothique, edited by John Pelan for ShadowLands Press, which contains nineteen homages and pastiches by Wolfe, Brian Stableford, and others.) Some of the tales gathered in these volumes—for example, "The Dark Eidolon" and "Ubbo-Sathla"—have a thrillingly macabre energy that even Poe might have envied. Anyone studying or teaching early twentieth-century fantasy should make use of these marvelous books: Smith deserves a place in that tradition at least as high as Lovecraft’s.

Finally, Bison Books’ "Frontiers of Imagination" series, published by Nebraska, has reissued Wylie and Balmer’s classic novels of planetary catastrophe, When Worlds Collide (1933) and After Worlds Collide (1934)— though the omnibus status of the volume is not immediately apparent from the front cover or title page and is acknowledged only in a line on the back cover. As per usual with this series (see my review of several earlier releases in SFS 26.2 [July 1999]: 338-39), a few corners have been cut in terms of the presentation of the texts, which have been so cheaply typeset from earlier editions that the paging is not consecutive throughout. But the book does include attractive cover art and an appreciative introduction by sf author John Varley. The other new entries in the series announced in my earlier review—Mary E. Bradley Lane’s Mizora: A World of Women (1880-81), which depicts a bizarre hollow-earth all-female utopia that may have influenced Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1914), and J.D. Beresford’s The Wonder (1911; a.k.a. The Hampdenshire Wonder), a brilliant superman story that certainly influenced Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John (1935)—have also appeared. Given Bison Books’ evident budgetary constraints, which would seem to limit them to out-of-copyright materials, one wonders how much farther into the twentieth century their series will venture, but anyone who studies or teaches proto-sf can be thankful for their services to date.RL

Alan Morton. The Complete Directory to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Television Series: A Comprehensive Guide to the First 50 Years, 1946 to 1996. Peoria, IL: Other Worlds, 1997. viii + 982 pp. $29.95 paper.

Roger Fulton and John Betancourt. The Sci-Fi Channel Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction. Warner Aspect (212-522-7200), 1998. 668 pp. $15 paper.

Morton’s self-published guide is about as no-frills as reference works get, but it is a truly comprehensive and useful compendium of information. Organized alphabetically by series title and, within each entry, by season and episode, it covers, by my quick count, 389 different television programs. The series treated are mostly American (and are certainly limited to the English language), and include only live-action programs that have consistently featured fantastic themes and elements—though Morton has been "as lenient as possible with [his] definitions" of genre when confronted with marginal cases, such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents (vi). Wherever possible, the original episodes have been consulted to glean the information that Morton distills down to his bare-bones summaries, which are usually no more than an elliptical sentence or two (though for major series he provides some introductory paragraphs). The utility of this book is its admirable thoroughness and its provision of the dates of original broadcast for every episode of every series included. Though it lacks an index—Morton says he generated one but decided that adding its 400 pages to this already weighty tome would have sent the price skyrocketing (vii)—it is fairly easy to use if you know what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t, it is possible to find relevant data quickly through diligent browsing. For example, I had long been haunted by a creepy episode of an obscure horror anthology series that I saw as a child, in which a woman doing research on a series of murders in a smalltown library finds herself alone in the stacks with the killer, and within ten minutes of opening the book I was able to determine that this must have been the third telecast episode of a 1968-69 British-American co-production called Journey to the Unknown. Anyone who has grown up on fantastic television will find this seemingly gray and stolid tome filled with similar moments of sharp, nostalgic recollection.

It deserves to sell more copies than Fulton and Betancourt’s Sci-Fi Channel Encyclopedia, which is a rather shoddy enterprise by comparison. In the first place, it makes no attempt at comprehensiveness, listing 150 fewer titles than Morton. While all the major series are here, the information presented regarding them is spotty: episode guides for programs are included "where relevant, or possible" (n.pag.) and dates of broadcast for individual episodes are not provided (only overall seasons are dated). In their entry on the 1960s Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, the editors claim to omit an episode guide because it "would be the size of this whole book" (126), but Morton manages to fit this data onto 41 closely packed pages. If Fulton and Betancourt had offered more extensive critical commentaries in place of the dull details they sometimes can’t be troubled with, then their sketchiness in coverage might not be so irritating, but they do not; their episode guides (when they do choose to provide them) are as scanty as Morton’s, and their introductory summations generally shallower. But their book bears the imprimatur of the Sci-Fi Channel, is published by a major press, and is thus likely to reach more users, which is a shame. If you are a fan or scholar of television sf and fantasy looking for a useful gathering of information, and if you can find Morton’s book (which is available from online booksellers), it is worth the higher price.RL

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