Science Fiction Studies

#87 = Volume 29, Part 2 = July 2002


From Art to Artificial Life.

Olaf Arndt, Stefanie Peter, and Dagmar Wünnenberg, eds. Hyperorganismen: Essays, Fotos, Sounds der Ausstellung "Wissen." Hannover, Germany: Internationalismus Verlag, 2000. 451 pp. DM78,000 hc, includes CD-ROM.

In 2000, the German art group BBM (Beobachter der Bediener von Maschinen) organized an exhibit entitled "Knowledge, Information, Communication" at the Expo 2000 theme park in Hannover. The exhibit featured 72 machines shaped like enormous white bubbles that roamed freely around a spacious hall. The machines were autonomous devices, in control of their own movements and designed to respond to their environment, including both the machines around them and their human visitors. The hall itself also contained image projectors and sound speakers, with l5 channels of ambient music triggered by the movements of the machines and microphones set to record, filter, and then rebroadcast sounds. The organizers conceived of the exhibit as a Wagnerian "Gesamtkunstwerk," a total sensory experience, whose chaotic and unpredictable elements would endow the space with a kind of living presence. It was an experiment in artificial life on a grand scale, and in their public statements the organizers frequently referred to the machines as a living "swarm," thus mobilizing metaphors of insects and microbes.

Hyperorganismen is a collection of essays edited by the organizers of this exhibit. It is not an anthology of works written specifically for the event, but rather a collection of articles and interviews that seem to have informed or inspired the installation. More than simply an art exhibit, as the editors make clear in their foreword to the book, the project was also approved by robotics experts, and it was a scientifically legitimate experiment in artificial intelligence. The possibilities and implications of this research are therefore central issues in the collection, and many of the articles directly address the topic of artificial intelligence. Hans Moravec, for example, dismisses the claim that attempts to create artificial intelligence have failed because of a conceptual problem in programming computer intelligence. He argues instead that we are only limited by the size and speed of our hardware, and that artificial intelligence will only become possible when we have developed computers with enough memory and processing power to replicate the human perceptual apparatus (which should take approximately 30 years). In addition to these discussions, several other contributors discuss the possible applications of artificial life research. Craig Reynolds, for example, suggests that artificial life can be useful in simulating ecosystems and traffic patterns, and even in predicting consumer behavior.

The exhibit was also one of the largest experiments in human-machine interaction ever performed, and the editors add that they hope the development of a "swarm theory" will provide a contemporary model to explain the function of complex communications networks and social organizations: "The swarm simply stands for a plausible outward form that immediately makes clear how social movements and their future possibilities will function in connection with new media technologies" (16). The influence and impact of media technologies is therefore a second major theme running through the book, although the contributors often address this issue in radically different ways. In his contribution to the book, for example, sf writer Bruce Sterling discusses his "Dead Media Project," a compilation of dead media technologies that he hopes will help to explain why media fail. In his "Dairy Product Theory of Dead Media," he also discusses the ways in which media technologies are gradually becoming transformed into biotechnologies, and thus the boundary between nature and technology is becoming increasingly blurred. While many of the contributors address the dangers of new information technologies and the degree to which human beings are transforming into cybernetic organisms, some of the contributors also suggest that there was never any clear division between nature and technology to begin with. Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, for example, argue that our machines are products of evolution, just as we are, and thus they develop with us. Heinz von Foerster similarly argues that humans are nothing more than networked machines: not only is it impossible to draw a clear distinction between humans and machines, but also between individual beings, because our existence is essentially collective.

Further, the editors claim that the book is a political project and that the "swarm" represents a potentially revolutionary model of social organization: like pirates or guerrilla soldiers, the swarm is a community of individuals who hold together without being dependent on one another and without any centralized control or authority. Despite the fact that the exhibit was subsidized by corporate sponsors and that the technology industry is largely complicit with capitalism, the contributors frequently return to the notion that complexity itself might present possibilities for political resistance. For example, Hartmut Bruckner, sound designer for the exhibit, argues that corporate-sponsored intermedia installations can undermine their use as corporate advertising through the spectacle of confusion and chaos. Peter Lamborn Wilson similarly argues that the complexity of information technologies allows for free enclaves, or "temporary autonomous zones," where people can be free of political restrictions. Several contributors also express a desire to reclaim technology from corporate power structures. In his "Manifesto for Digital Artisans," for example, Richard Barbrook calls for digital artists to transform the machines of domination into technologies of liberation by breaking down barriers and hierarchies. And Ricardo Dominguez, founder of the "Theatre of Electronic Disturbance," similarly argues that the instabilities of new technologies provide a window of opportunity for "micro-mass disturbance gestures" (56), and he encourages hackers to take advantage of these opportunities by bombarding corporations with e-mails and staging virtual sit-ins. Sadie Plant clearly supports this notion that political activism can dismantle hierarchies, which she sums up in her notion of "bottom-sideways" interpellation; however, she also points out that there is a danger to being structureless as well, and she adds that it is therefore important to consider carefully every movement and event.

The editors’ stated goal is to outline a new field that will incorporate such disparate topics as robotics, anthropology, psychology, media, literature, quantum physics, biochemistry, nanotechnology, philosophy, ornithology, software programming, political science, electronic music, paleontology, nutrition, microbiology, space travel, art history, tourism, religion, orthography, and architecture, all of which are represented in the essays included here. Heiko Idensen notes that the book thus functions as a "swarm text," whose varied chapters seem to replicate the chaos and complexity of the exhibit’s 72 autonomous machines by drawing the reader into a dizzying array of different fields and subjects. Although the book’s structure and scope may appear too disorganized and overwhelming at first glance, it does not set out to be a coherent articulation of this new field, but rather a list of connections and associations designed to provoke the reader’s imagination and curiosity. The greatest strength of the book, therefore, is its ability to encourage radically new approaches, combining the best of both art and science, to understanding the relationship between humans and machines.

Anthony Enns, University of Iowa

Kubrick’s Artistic Spectacle.

Michel Chion. Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey. Trans. Claudia Gorbman. London: BFI, 2001. vi + 194 pp. £14.99 pbk.

Michel Chion, for many years best known in Anglophone film studies as Kaja Silverman’s straw man in The Acoustic Mirror (1987), is a filmmaker, lecturer, composer of musique concrète, and a Cahiers du cinéma critic. His 1982 La Voix au cinéma, written at a time when Lacanian psychoanalysis and various French feminisms were articulating discourses around "the voice," was finally translated into English in 1999. It is a virtuoso display of rigorous, independent, imaginative, and elliptical thinking about a critically-theoretically neglected aspect of film: the relationships between the image and the human voice. Although Chion displays no interest in sf as a genre, and especially because he is writing before the Alien/Blade Runner/Terminator axis made sf cinema fashionable, it is intriguing to see the marginally-sf Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933) given as weighty treatment as Chion’s other major example, Psycho (1960). Even more tantalizing is a two-page treatment of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968):

It is remarkable that in 2001 as in The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, the switch from acousmêtre to acousmachine is an inscrutable and unthinkable moment which we can comprehend only by what goes before and after. There is no gradual transition from one to the other.... What is perhaps most troubling about the death of Hal the acousmêtre is that this death is no-place. The voice itself is the locus of the mechanism that leads to the acousmêtre’s demise. The textual repetition of Mabuse’s voice, taken over by the time bomb’s ticking; the downward slide of Hal’s voice ... a strange death, leaving no trace, no body.1

Chion’s still-untranslated La Musique au cinéma (1995) has an equally fascinating seven-page treatment of 2001’s soundtrack. All of this, to my mind, recommends Chion for a BFI Classic on 2001. Despite sharing a publisher, however, Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey does not belong to that series—although it does read like one of its better examples, shamelessly padded out to 194 pages.

Chion situates 2001 on the unlikely intersection between popular spectacular cinema and experiments in "pure" cinema, arguing that it is "the father of all ‘event movies,’" while its aspiration "towards non-verbal, universal experience" simultaneously "embodies the dream of absolute cinema" (v). Although this is not an unproblematic formulation, it does capture the possibility of retrospectively seeing the origin point of contemporary blockbuster sf cinema in Kubrick’s experiment in form. 2001 is notable for separating out conventionally tightly-interwoven filmic elements (the soundtrack from the image, and within the soundtrack, dialogue from music). Later filmmakers such as George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola would first imitate and experiment with similar effects in THX 1138 (1971) and The Conversation (1974), and then miss the point entirely by focussing on improving the technical quality of each of these elements (e.g., Skywalker Sound’s THX system and Industrial Light and Magic’s computer-assisted and then computer-generated visual effects) so as to reintegrate them into mind-numbing spectacle.

Chapter One, "The Genesis of 2001," is a thirty-page excursion into material already very familiar from Jerome Agel’s The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 (1968)2 and Arthur C. Clarke’s The Lost Worlds of 2001 (1972). Chion does, however, make the point that in discussing the movie, it is important not to turn to Clarke’s novel for explanations, motivations, or clarifications, "because doing so would rob the film of the many ambiguities that give it its richness" (8). But his repeated failure fully to treat the scene when the monolith screeches out its signal (despite mentioning it on pp. 2, 7-8, 21, and 52), throws this point away. It is clear from the novel that the previously buried monolith is responding to the first sunlight it has seen in several million years, but Chion argues that, "as this event happens to occur while they are getting ready to photograph the monolith, for all we know the monolith is emitting its electromagnetic screech in protest against being captured on film" (21). Noting the existence of an ambiguity is rather different from exploring it, and that Chion only does the former is, I suspect, a consequence of his inability to read 2001’s humorous tone. This major weakness in his otherwise impressive analysis is most evident in his discussion of the trip from Clavius to Tycho, which he treats as a straightfaced attempt to make

momentous revelations ... in the most quotidian tone.... These men we see are research specialists who are travelling on the moon. They are not going to move around with dramatic pomposity in a solar system they have learned to approach as a field of study and a series of scientific challenges. Kubrick’s choices here are guided by his concern for truthfulness; the film aims to show how we might approach the problem if we were in their situation. (104-05)

While I might agree with the final sentence, the "truthfulness" of the scene lies in its satire on unimaginative military-corporate culture, from the flunky who praises the speech made by Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester)—we saw it; we know it was not in the least bit inspiring—to the banal discussion of improvements in the quality of space sandwiches. In the following scene, these same men, whom it is easy to suspect of wearing grey flannel beneath their spacesuits, are shown to have more in common with tourists than with the serious scientists for whom Chion mistakes them. When the monolith screeches, it is precisely to emphasize the tangentiality of these powerful human figures. As they pose proprietarily with the monolith, they place themselves in the foreground; this routinized act of hubris exposes their insignificance.

Chapter Two sketches in the film’s historical, cultural, generic and Kubrick-ian contexts. These nineteen further pages of padding nonetheless succinctly capture an important part of Kubrick’s technique: "a predilection for wide-angle lenses (which dilate and expand space and exaggerate perspective) and for great depth of field, as well as for an extremely sharp and detailed, often contrasty, image. It is a visual style that emphasises the sensory shock inherent in each cut between shots; each cut feels like a decision, a choice, a chess move" (45). The scene of Floyd’s speech at Clavius is a brilliant example of the effect Chion describes when he goes on to claim that "Kubrick strips the cut naked: the cut becomes a device of commutation" (81; italics in original).3

Chapter Three begins with a five-page plot description and eleven pages of black-and-white photographs; then finally the real substance of the book begins with a discussion of possible ways of segmenting the movie. One of the most rewarding aspects of this is Chion’s demonstration of the way in which 2001 exhibits rather than integrates its music, exemplifying an audio analogue of the drive in Kubrick’s shot-construction and editing choices to produce film qua discontinua. Chapter Four extends this subtle critique through an extended appreciation of mise-en-scène (including camera position, angle, and movement), shot transitions, and scene construction. For example, Chion traces in some detail the implications of there not being "a single shot-reverse shot of two close-ups of human characters" (82; italics in original). This discontinuum of human relationships is complexly related to the relationship between humans and machines (there are several shot-reverse shot exchanges between David Bowman [Keir Dullea] and Hal’s electronic eyes), and between humans and monoliths (the monoliths, discontinua within the visual field, never return the gaze).

The next discontinuum Chion explores is that between the image and the soundtrack, with the "Blue Danube" described as "anempathetic music—music whose ostensible indifference to the situation on the screen, implacably continuing no matter what, creates an expressive contrast" (94; italics in original). He then returns to ideas drawn from La Voix au cinéma to consider Hal’s voice, with its lack of materializing sound indices4 indicating the discontinua between human and machine in terms of their "strikingly different sonic spaces" (102).

Chapter Five, "Towards the Absolute Film," turns to the monolith as a manifestation of Kubrick’s organizing principle of commutation, and Chion builds from this discussion a sense of what the film’s pervasive discontinuity and commutation might be about, connecting it to

what is for humans the sharpest experience of discreteness: that which institutes the acquisition of language, which—obviously in accordance with its reconstruction a posteriori—cuts for ever into the vocal and auditory continuum of the baby’s existence. Language is what separates phonemes from sound, but does not manage to rid the sound from the envelope of "non-pertinent" sound characteristics as from the shell of a chrysalis, and which will always tag along with it as superfluous sound. The shots of 2001 are edited together like the elements of a language or an alphabet, their articulations visible. The film comes across like a text reduced to its hieroglyphic materiality. (117)

This provocative claim would have made a good conclusion. Unfortunately, there are still another 77 pages to go. The remainder of Chapter Five contains fitful bursts of insight. Chapter Six, "Science-fiction Cinema after 2001," is completely superfluous. Chapter Seven, "2001 and Eyes Wide Shut: Last Odyssey to Manhattan," links Kubrick’s two films in a waltz (as opposed to a marching) rhythm. Both are concerned with "the mystery of existence" (165). The former depends "entirely on logical connections and on the absence of explanations," and the latter "on a long and disturbing scene of revelations, during which verbal explanations get us deeper into mystery and doubt than their absence did"—they are the "reverse and complement" of each other (172). Chion’s argument here is more elusive—and more tenuous—than elsewhere, as if it is a rehearsal of ideas to be tried out elsewhere. (And, sure enough, he has written the forthcoming BFI Classic on Eyes Wide Shut.) The 2001 volume also includes a sequence breakdown, a French press release, a glossary of Chion’s terminology, 2001’s credits, and a select bibliography that usefully details some untranslated French resources.

Despite my misgivings about certain aspects of this volume, I must nonetheless recommend it because pages 66-155 constitute the single most important contribution to the study of 2001: A Space Odyssey since Annette Michelson’s 1969 Artforum article, "Bodies in Space: Film as Carnal Knowledge" and Jean-Paul Dumont and Jean Monod’s Le Foetus astral (1970). Perhaps others will find some use for the rest of the book, too.


1. Michel Chion, The Voice in Cinema, edited and translated by Claudia Gorbman (New York: Columbia UP, 1999), 45-46 (ellipsis in original). "Acousmêtre is from acousmatic ["sound one hears without seeing its source"] and être (being): a kind of voice-character specific to cinema that in most instances of cinematic narrative derives mysterious powers from being heard and not seen" (Chion, Kubrick’s Cinematic Odyssey, 188). By extension, acousmachine is a machinic voice-character with such powers.

2. Most of the out-of-print Agel is reprinted in Stephanie Schwam, ed., The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey (New York: Modern Library, 2000).

3. The translator’s note reads: "By this term, which Chion has adapted from the French word for an electric switch, commutateur, he means an abrupt, instantaneous switch" (109, n.4).

4. "Sonic details that supply information about the concrete materiality of sound production in the film space" (188).

Mark Bould, Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College

The SF Family Speeches.

Hal W. Hall and Daryl F. Mallett, eds. Pilgrims and Pioneers: The History and Speeches of the Science Fiction Research Association Award Winners. SFRA Studies in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror No. 1. Tempe, AZ: Jacob’s Ladder Books and SFRA Press, 2000. 292 pp. $20 pbk.

I awaited the arrival of Pilgrims and Pioneers in the manner of an expectant mother contemplating encountering her new offspring: I imagined what the book might be like and I knew—sight unseen—that I would love it. The letter carrier delivered it and placed it in my arms. I responded emotionally in terms of awe and wonder, history, professional "family" connections, and future potential. Parents’ effusive responses to their children are most certainly biased—and so is the heartfelt good feeling, respect for colleagues, and fond reminiscence which constitutes my response to the history and speeches of the Science Fiction Research Association award winners. I have enjoyed the privilege and honor of being a Pilgrim. So, yes, of course I am exceedingly positively disposed towards Hal W. Hall’s and Daryl F. Mallett’s editorial compilation. But my bias is negated by the point that it would be highly unusual for an sf critic to react negatively to the ideals represented by the Pilgrim and Pioneer Awards. Which member of the sf critical community would not welcome a collection of the texts that document the Awards’ history? How can we fail to applaud Pilgrims and Pioneers in the spirit of momentarily casting aside tendentious tendencies in sf criticism to celebrate our shared efforts to learn from other worlds? Because I cannot imagine how critically to engage with a collection of Pilgrim and Pioneer Award speeches, what follows is not a book review in the usual sense of providing positive and negative commentary; I have nothing negative to say. Instead, I offer a description of the volume’s format, some personal and professional responses to its subject matter, my thanks to Hall and Mallett, and a community-enhancing proposal.

Pilgrims and Pioneers adroitly fulfills its purpose: to honor and document the comments of scholars who received the Pilgrim and Pioneer Awards. Part one focuses upon Pilgrims (from 1970 to 1999); part two focuses upon Pioneers (from 1990 to 1999); the appendix focuses upon Thomas D. Clareson Award winners (from 1996 to 1999). Arthur O. Lewis’s account of the Pilgrim Awards’ initial ten-year history precedes the chronological listing of Pilgrim Award speeches. The information (where available) about each award winner includes a biography, a selected bibliography, the text of the presentation speech, and the text of the acceptance speech.

The volume, though, is more than the sum of its parts; it is more than a mere reference book. Pilgrims and Pioneers commemorates and celebrates a beloved cultural institution created by sf critics. For seasoned sf critics, reading it involves engaging with respected colleagues, with dear friends, and—I will go so far as to say—with "family." Celebrating the memory of those who are no longer with us is a profound part of the reading process. When I first opened the book, I immediately tried to find Marjorie Hope Nicolson’s Pilgrim Award acceptance speech. I was profoundly disappointed to learn that (of course, for reasons beyond the editors’ control) no record of the speech exists. It would be wonderful to fill this absence with a commemorative presence. I propose establishing the Marjorie Hope Nicolson Award for the best essay on women and science fiction authored by a junior scholar. Bill Clinton looked to the past for his place called Hope; our place called Hope can at once involve honoring the past and inspiring the future.

Pilgrims and Pioneers, which chronicles sf criticism’s past and, by implication, anticipates its future, includes an unexpected surprise: Daryl F. Mallett’s heartfelt commentary, which immediately follows the entries for the first ten Pilgrims. Mallett movingly discusses friends, mentors, passion, generational continuity, admiration, fond recollection, and the honored deceased. His eloquent response must speak for itself:

And being involved in the science fiction, fantasy and horror field has been the realization of my wildest dreams. Because of it, I have writer, editor, actor and publisher friends. Because of it, I have published works and been an actor in the universes in which I dreamed as a child, and that allows me to live on into the future. Each of these individuals, our Pilgrims, have also produced works which live on, which enhance how we see the people we know, which help us understand those we haven’t met.... We recognize the Pilgrims with an award. But I think no greater accolade exists than the wide-open minds of the next generation, the sense of wonder they can garner from our works and those of our predecessors, and the thanks they give us. And so I say a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to those who have gone before me, and I hope I can continue to raise the bar for those who come after me. (79)

Mallett’s personal appreciative words are beautifully—and lovingly—articulated. He aptly conveys the strong emotions this book elicits. I cried when I read of the deaths at the end of the biographies of Pilgrims I never had the privilege to meet. I turned away from the page which contains my own biography when it occurred to me that this literal death sentence will unfailingly appear on a future (far future, I hope) updated version of that page. But thankfully, in addition to death, the next generation is also a part of life. My friend Daryl F. Mallett is a member of the generation of sf critics that follows my own. If his wonderfully personal and profound voice is representative of this next generation’s new voice, future sf criticism will be well served. I anticipate with pleasure a future edition of Pilgrims and Pioneers that includes members of Mallett’s generation. I hope that I will be able to engage with many future female Pilgrims—and, of course, with future male Pilgrims too.

George Slusser concluded his Pilgrim Award acceptance speech by referring to this professional future of

projects devoted to examining, through SF, how this idea of the future, unique to our Western culture, affects today almost every aspect of its existence. I believe that SF is this important. I believe that all the Pilgrims before me would agree, or they would not have staked their careers on a field such as SF, a field so little regarded by the establishment pundits, and yet so filled with marvels. Certainly, those many writers and filmmakers and artists who have created SF would not, were they given the chance to do it all over, do it another way. On behalf of all these, creators and critics alike, I say: let’s go forward. (150)

Our forward progression occurs in a very special familial professional atmosphere. Ursula Le Guin evoked the special family that is sf criticism when she sent her Pilgrim Award acceptance speech addressed to "My Dear Nieces and Nephews" and signed "Your loving and grateful Auntie, Ursula K. Le Guin" (169, 171). The Pilgrim, Pioneer, and Clareson Awards provide an occasion for our family to come together to enjoy exceedingly happy occasions. The general public annually anticipates the Oscars; movie audiences love to celebrate such figures as Gwyneth, Julia, and Cher. The sf critical community annually anticipates the Pilgrims; sf critics love to celebrate such figures as Darko, Joanna, and Chip. Although, for example, Chip shares little in common with Cher, Pilgrim winners and Oscar winners can be expected to have the same response. All the winners can be expected to echo Mallett’s "THANK YOU."

I want to repeat the "thank you" I articulated on some enchanted evening in June 1997 abroad the Queen Mary when I won the Pilgrim Award, when my wildest professional dream was realized. "THANK YOU" to Hal W. Hall and Daryl F. Mallett for giving us Pilgrims and Pioneers, a volume that the family of sf critics can cherish.

Familial Post Script: I love Pilgrims and Pioneers. I love my Pilgrim Award. I love being a member of a critical community in which "personal" is so often intertwined with "professional." Mallett’s editorial commentary reminded me that I am what he calls a "second-generation" winner: "Already we have one acknowledged second-generation winner, Gary Wolfe, who acknowledges Jim Gunn as his mentor" (78). I too acknowledge Jim Gunn as a mentor who taught me a great deal when I participated in his sf course. (And, although I have never told him so, I regard him as a professional version of a father figure.) I also wish to acknowledge another Pilgrim mentor: Darko Suvin. Whenever I need brilliant advice, I unfailingly compose an e-mail message that always begins "Dear Pilgrim Dar." In the spirit of the sense of family that pervades this text, I would like to evoke our familial "Mad Great-Aunt Ursula," as Le Guin signed her Pilgrim Award acceptance speech—with the word "Love." I would like to sign exactly as I sign my e-mails to my mentor Darko: Love, Pilgrim Mar.

Marleen S. Barr, Columbia University

Angels in the Inkling House.

Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride. Women among the Inklings: Gender, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. xvi + 201 pp. $59 hc

When Candice Fredrick and Sam McBride discovered a mutual interest in the Inklings, a group of writers including C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams who met weekly at Oxford University during the 1930s and 1940s, they decided that a gender study of the Inklings’ work was in order. Their focus is women in the lives and works of the Inklings: who were they and how did they influence the writers and their work? Understandably, Frederick and McBride go to a great deal of trouble to explain the rather extensive range of meaning in the term "feminism," and how Christianity and feminism are not incompatible. Lewis’s statement to friend Bede Griffith that "The decay of friendship, owing to the endless presence of women everywhere, is a thing I’m rather afraid of"(1), perhaps best exemplifies the fundamental feeling of the Inklings that the bonds between men are weakened by the presence of women.

The authors attribute this pervasive attitude to the British university system, which, even in the 1950s, allowed only unmarried tutors and dons to live on-campus. They point out that Lewis and Tolkien chose the narrow, elitist path of chauvinism, well aware of the male-female intellectual relationships in the artistic circles of Bloomsbury, Paris, and New York’s Algonquin Circle.

While the Inklings avoided most professional relationships with women, they realized the benefits of having "caretakers" for themselves and their households. Frederick and McBride illustrate how Williams and Tolkien tended to idealize their wives and their female fictional characters, while maintaining a rather sadistic control of them. Williams, especially, preferred the Dantean ideal to flesh and blood women. The authors cogently summarize Williams’s theory of romantic love: "if the relationship is contemplative and imaginative rather than physical, it can be perpetually blissful" (43); they note Williams’s emotional abandonment of his wife and his supposedly sadistic and domineering relationships with Phyllis Jones at Oxford University Press and with Lois Lang-Sims.

Tolkien, who collaborated and formed friendships with a few female students, idealized his wife Edith and refused to discuss ideas or his intellectual life with her. She was to be satisfied with the domestic realm of home and children.

Of the Inklings, Lewis had the most complicated relationships with women— he was drawn toward domineering, strong-willed women, and in his relationship with Janie Moore and his marriage to Joy Davidman Gresham, he was supposedly the more submissive partner. Frederick and McBride point out the irony between Lewis’s writings and behavior; Lewis, arguably the most influential Christian apologist of the twentieth century, "did not practice the model for Christian marriage he espoused" (83). The authors contend that while Lewis enjoyed Joy’s wit and intellect, he was master, she pupil, and that "Lewis presumes, even after his tentative embrace of the ‘feminine’ quality of emotion, that being called ‘masculine’ is a compliment to either gender, whereas being called ‘feminine’ is uncomplimentary to men" (85).

Williams and Tolkien are opposites in constructing fictional roles for women, although both prefer imaginary ones who cooperate with and are subordinate to men, rather than real women. Frederick and McBride point out the lack of women both in Tolkien’s stories and in his patriarchal world. While Williams presents women who lead satisfying, even intellectually stimulating lives, at the same time these women wish to be dominated by men or to become their saviors. The ideal wife accepts, even desires, the hierarchy of the husband’s dominance. Through self-sacrifice and courage, she can achieve the sanctity of love, one of Williams’s major motifs. In Williams’s Arthurian poetry, violence against women (rape, beatings, public humiliation) abounds; control over women by men is paramount, indicating the importance of gender relations to Williams.

The authors examine several ways in which Lewis depicts women. Good women are presented abstractly, while evil women are described physically—the saint or slut dichotomy. Lewis was fond of theological arguments for female subservience, and natural subordination is his theme, whether in religious or secular essays. Lewis’s collaboration with Joy on his last novel, Till We Have Faces (1956), brings about the first female main character who is well developed and who grows in the story. The female character becomes ugly, however, more masculine than previous females in his writings.

Frederick and McBride declare that the "underlying principle in the Inklings’ lives and works" is that women should know and accept their place in God’s hierarchy—subject to men. They discuss misogyny and its myriad connotations, and ask the question: "Does gender … impact readers?" (160) and invite readers to share their own observations about sexism, misogyny, and gender in the Inklings’ writings.

The authors provide an excellent survey of the scholarly readers/critics whose opinions vary widely as to the Inklings’ gender bias. Especially enlightening is "MereLewis," an Internet discussion group of "Virtual Inklings" that includes males and females from varied backgrounds and education.

Frederick and McBride express disappointment that few readers/scholars use the term "feminism" in their discussions of the Inklings, possibly because it is viewed by many as radical and anti-Christian; they posit that further investigation of gender depiction by the Inklings may eliminate this misconception. Dorothy L. Sayers is given the final word—that men and women are "equally human," a fact seldom acknowledged by the Inklings. The authors, however, are adamant that their findings in no way detract from the importance of the Inklings or their work.

Although the book is highly subjective in places and there are several regrettable typos, these are mere quibbles; the book is well-researched and the Notes and Selected Bibliography are extensive and impressive

Elaine Good, Nassau Community College

The Alchemical Tanith Lee.

Mavis Haut. The Hidden Library of Tanith Lee: Themes and Subtexts from Dionysos to the Immortal Gene. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001. 256 pp. $32 pbk.

After re-reading this exploration of Lee’s mythic themes, I am bound to acknowledge that Mavis Haut has come close to doing the impossible in creating a framework that enhances understanding of Lee’s incredibly wide-ranging and complex use of mythic themes, following them through Lee’s fantasies, science fiction, horror, and quasi-historical novels.

And I am also drawn toward the answer to a question that has plagued me since I began following Lee’s work. Why, with its richness, its complexity, its lively mind-play, and its unabashed eroticism, is Lee’s work not more popular with readers and critics? Mavis Haut gives evidence that Lee’s recurring themes and circular plot-structures, incorporating elements from almost every mythos of Europe and Asia, are essentially female in their perception, returning again and again to bits of mythos that may preserve remnants of a pre-patriarchal system and mythic structure.

Extrapolating from Haut’s evidence, one sees that in Lee’s fiction the circle never ends: all stories are open-ended, capable of many interpretations. This so completely contradicts the linear structures of the well-wrought story that it must put many readers off balance, while it delights those of us who are of a non-linear mindset. Lee’s richly ornamented prose may be another stumbling-block to her work’s popularity, recent trends having given preference to spare, "masculine" syntax, but Haut carefully confines herself to Lee’s mythic underpinnings, which provide enough complexity for a book of this length and may be another reason for Lee’s select readership, at least in America.

That select readership is advised to pay attention to Haut’s criticism. It incorporates a great number of sources, draws many useful parallels, and dips deep beneath the multicolored surface of Lee’s writing. According to Lee herself, her fiction arises spontaneously from the author’s mind. Extremely widely read, Lee brings forth the stories as they well up, alchemically changed, as it were, by her own subconscious.

That Haut has been able to read through the multiple layers of Lee’s work to suggest many of their sources attests to her own generous literacy and patience. In great detail she examines Lee’s larger works, considering first the Bildungsroman of the BIRTHGRAVE series (1975-78), and showing how it portrays a female hero’s journey in the first volume, and a male’s Oedipal (but hardly Freudian) conflicts in the latter two, finally re-uniting female and male in the sacred mother/son configuration. Haut shows connections between Jocasta as a representative of the goddess being displaced by male gods, and suggests that Uastis may represent a Jocasta redeemed.

In discussing the Flat Earth stories (1978-87), Haut indicates that, despite some very serious themes, the genesis of the Flat Earth is in play, in creating a micro-cosmos that unnerves the reader with its distortions of space and time. "Lee’s references come from all points of the compass," writes Haut. "Myth, religion, folk and fairytale merge into pure story. Repeated themes and the echoes or continuing presences of certain characters provide a pathway through extreme complexity" (38). Haut traces themes of love and death, questionable evil and equally questionable good, through their many incarnations as demons, angels, humans, males and females. She pays particular attention to the strong Dionysian elements in Delirium’s Mistress (1986).

What is true of the Flat Earth is true of the remainder of Lee’s canon. Multiple complexities are traced by Haut with remarkable completeness and clarity. Especially notable is her thorough treatment of one of Lee’s more problematic works, A Heroine of the World (1989). Haut’s extensive research into alchemy and the details of the Tarot go far toward providing a rationale for a major work that delves almost too far into the arcane.

Haut draws together the seemingly disparate elements of THE SECRET BOOKS OF PARADYS series (1988-93), which make up a wild portrait of damnation, bestiality, death, and madness, and, at times, a sort of redemption. She deals well with the even more complicated long novel, The Blood of Roses (1990), with its melding of paganism and Christianity, and its characters created by the angelic-demonic Anjelen, who become human even as their creator becomes inhuman. In dealing with the incomplete BLOOD OPERA series, she draws in Richard Dawkins’s theory from The Selfish Gene(1976) to good effect.

Haut includes an interview with Lee through correspondence, a short biography, a bibliography of book-length works containing over fifty entries, and a thorough index.

Haut’s final comments are encouraging: "There is great space for a great deal more work on this author. I conclude with the hope that this gap will eventually be filled" (186). With the guidebook that Mavis Haut has provided, other scholars may be encouraged to continue, for Haut’s excellent treatment suggests plausible and possible readings, but Lee’s mercurial transmogrifications of myth leave room for many more.

Lillian Marks Heldreth, Northern Michigan University

Not Just A Kid’s World.

Peter Hunt and Millicent Lenz. Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction: Ursula Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman and Others, including THE AMBER SPYGLASS.CONTEMPORARY CLASSICS OF CHILDREN’S LITERATURE series. New York: Continuum, 2001. 176 pp. $79.95 hc; $24.95 pbk.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this collection of four critical essays is that one can find its subjects covered in both adult and children’s collections of the local Barnes and Noble. As we well know, Ursula Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, and Philip Pullman write intelligently about alternative worlds; while their books may often be aimed at children, they are certainly enjoyed by more than a few adults. And it is just this intersection that Hunt and Lenz address in their essays.

What does it mean for authors to aim their writing towards children? And what are the implications of such a task? Are there clear delineations between children’s and adult literature? Alternative Worlds is an overview of children’s fantasy literature that addresses such matters as the boundaries within, complaints against, and ideology of the genre. Hunt masterfully maps the complexities, pointing out relationships among a variety of both historical and contemporary texts. He takes readers on a useful whirlwind tour of relationships between such texts as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies (1863) and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1908), J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (1937) and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence (1965-77), C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56) and the Harry Potter books of J.K. Rowling (1997-), leading all the way to the discussions of Le Guin, Pratchett, and Pullman that follow.

Millicent Lenz’s chapter on Ursula Le Guin might have been better titled "Earthsea," as she focuses only on this series of four books (A Wizard of Earthsea [1968], The Tombs of Atuan [1971], The Farthest Shore [1972], and Tehanu [1990]). Lenz grapples with some of Le Guin’s metaphors, most particularly noting the fairly obvious aspects of Jungian psychology. In particular, she aptly covers the discussion of the gender differences between Ged and Tenar. While she provides a useful overview of the EARTHSEA books (just a step up from Cliffs Notes) and the critical analysis of the books, however, she adds nothing new or revelatory here.

Like the chapter on Le Guin, Lenz’s chapter on Pullman is actually only about Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy (Northern Lights [1995], published in the US as The Golden Compass [1996]; The Subtle Knife [1997]; and The Amber Spyglass [2000]). But similarities between the two chapters end there, as Lenz is freed to do her own bit of criticism. She has written a quasi-guide to the trilogy, ending with a vehement argument against the accusation that the books are anti-Christian. Pullman rather ambiguously calls himself a "Christian atheist," and his books reveal an anti-theology that transforms sin into consciousness and the biblical fall into a necessary stage of human development. The issues here are deeper than most children are interested in or will even notice when they read this series of intense adventure; as Pullman writes to an audience beyond children, however, these are issues that need to be grappled with, and Lenz does a good job of providing a clear (and clearly positioned) summary.

Hunt has written an extensive chapter on Terry Pratchett’s children’s books: The Carpet People (1971) and THE BROMELIAD (consisting of 3 books: Truckers [1989], Diggers [1990], and Wings [1990]) and the three Johnny Maxwell books: Only You Can Save Mankind (1992), Johnny and the Dead (1993), and Johnny and the Bomb (1996). Pratchett is best known, of course, for his DISCWORLD series (1983-), books that are wildly popular in Britain. While his children’s books are not as well-known, they are characteristic of Pratchett’s satirical cultural commentary. The main difference between Pratchett’s children’s books and his books for adults is the role that didacticism plays in the former, though Hunt points out that even when Pratchett is didactic, he "establishes an unpatronizing tone" (95). Pratchett’s books, according to Hunt, miraculously nod to the conventions of children’s fantasy while also providing a "thorough demolition of the clichés of children’s fantasy" (113).

Perhaps one of the best things to note about this small collection is that it takes seriously the work of these important authors; Hunt and Lenz are acute in their analysis of the alternative worlds created by Le Guin, Pullman, and Pratchett, and they are to be commended for that task. As we have seen with the popularity of the Harry Potter books, children’s fantasy is a force to be reckoned with—and not just economically. When I rode the subway reading The Amber Spyglass, I was repeatedly interrupted by adults who wanted to discuss the complexity of the book’s worldview; meanwhile, the young teenagers I talked to were more interested in discussing plot and character development, especially the beautifully drawn romance between Lyra and Will. This volume acknowledges the young audience while addressing the older one.

Rebecca Fraser, Nassau Community College

A Dubious Overview.

Dennis Fischer. Science Fiction Film Directors, 1895-1998. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2000. viii + 759 pp. $175 hc.

This book, which is "intended as a complete overview of the science fiction film genre" (1), offers a collection of 83 biocritical essays on major and minor directors of sf films. Almost all of these treat American and British directors whose careers began after 1945, the rest of cinematic sf being relegated to an introductory "Brief History of Science Fiction Films" and an appendix canvassing "Classic Science Fiction Films from Non-Genre Directors." This curious organization is debatable on a number of counts. First, in terms of chronological coverage, it is hard to understand why the likes of Georges Méliès and Fritz Lang should not have separate essays devoted to their work, especially given the numerous hacks of the postwar period (e.g., Irwin Allen, Jeannot Szwarc, Phil Tucker) who receive careful treatment. Second, the book’s claim to global scope rests largely on its provision of essays on directors whose work is already well-known in English-language countries—e.g., the most renowned creators of Japanese anime (Mamoro Oshii, Katsuhiro Otomo) and the internationally celebrated Andrei Tarkovsky—plus a few Italian dabblers (Enzo G. Castellari, Luigi Cozzi, and Antonio Margheriti). And Fischer’s broad division between "genre" and "non-genre" directors seems arbitrary at best: are, for example, Alex Cox and Richard Fleischer really genre sf directors, whereas Nicholas Roeg and George Pal are not? Finally, Fischer’s tendency to view sf film as a bastard form of sf literature—his introduction sorts definitions of sf proferred by major authors such as Bradbury and Heinlein, and concludes that sf film has "lagged behind [sf literature] in sophistication" (6)—causes him to slight directors, such as David Blair or Chris Marker, who have developed film-specific forms of science fiction.

That said, Science Fiction Film Directors does offer a few distinct pleasures—which, given the volume’s incredibly steep price, are best sampled in your local library’s reference shelves. The essays on major contemporary filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, and Paul Verhoeven are detailed and intelligent, based as they are on extensive primary research—though they do suffer from Fischer’s dubious decision to cover the entire output of these "genre" directors (e.g., he wastes an entire page on Scott’s Thelma and Louise [1992]). The coverage of 1950s creators of low-budget sf, while nowhere near as exhaustive or penetrating as Bill Warren’s two-volume Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties (McFarland, 1982, 1986), is engaging and useful, especially for the student seeking a basic overview or the neophyte scholar who will eventually move on to more substantial critical fare. Unfortunately, the book’s contents are gathered alphabetically, and so the entries cannot be readily accessed in terms of chronological (or, for that matter, thematic) clusterings. All in all, this book is no substitute for Phil Hardy’s indispensable Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction (Overlook, 1995), which remains the best single reference on sf cinema.—RL

Evidence of a New Temporal Dimension?

George Slusser, Patrick Parrinder, and Danièle Chatelain, eds. H.G. Wells’s Perennial TIME MACHINE: Selected Essays from the Centenary Conference, "The Time Machine: Past, Present, and Future" Imperial College, London, July 26-29, 1995. Athens, GA: U of Georgia P, 2001. xvi + 216pp. $40 hc.

As the Time Machine Centennial Symposium got under way at Imperial College, London in July 1995, there was, I seem to remember, a certain apprehensiveness in the air. Was a novella dashed off in less than three weeks in the summer of 1894 by an unknown 27-year-old college dropout in poor health, severe marital difficulties, and rented lodgings, capable of sustaining attention and interest as the sole focus of a four-day academic conference? At the same time one was uneasily aware that, even though The Time Machine had marked the beginning of a career unsurpassed in its cultural influence on the first half of the twentieth century, by the end of that same century H.G. Wells had become a writer unrepresented, indeed barely mentioned, in the standard undergraduate anthologies that survey the canon of English literature, while science fiction as literary genre remained as academically marginalized as ever. Yet in the event most doubts about the worth of the enterprise were allayed and by the end of the Symposium the majority of participants were, I think, as surprised and delighted as myself by the passionate variety of responses that had been generated by Wells’s slender yet fecund masterpiece.

Six or seven years on, and we have a collection in print of fifteen of the pieces presented at the Symposium, framed by a brief introduction by two of the editors and an afterword by the third. Conference volumes in the humanities seem to inhabit their own temporal continuum, one that runs counter to the prevailing tendency of historical processes to accelerate. In 1895 it was not uncommon for a mere six weeks to intervene between a publisher’s decision to accept a manuscript and the appearance of a book published in hard cover. At the turn of the twenty-first century, when technologies allow the instantaneous manipulation and transmission of text, what took six weeks can now take six years. Is it possible (one wonders parenthetically) that such conference volumes, which often contain, like this one, a number of papers already long published elsewhere, sometimes in revised form, may offer material proof of a multidimensional universe? After all, such volumes crystallize an alternative discursive past that differs from the "real" discursive history that their already-published components have helped constitute.

In their introduction the editors note, correctly, that The Time Machine is at once "a masterpiece of narrative art" (xii), a summa of Victorian intellectual history, and "science fiction’s seminal text" (xiii), and that these three premises will form the implied rubrics of the tripartite division of the volume: "Eternal Readability: A Work for All Time," "Currents of Its Time: Neoteny, Anthropology, Society, Numerology, Imperiality," and "The Rewriting: The Time Machine in the Twentieth Century and Beyond." As existing criticism on The Time Machine has not, frankly, often raised itself to a standard worthy of its classic subject, as one remembers the enthusiasm generated at the Symposium, and as one scans the list of distinguished contributors, one takes up the volume with high expectations.

One puts it down with more than a little disappointment. True, the essays are generally readable, there is a beef-to-by-product ratio that is slightly higher than the average for a collection such as this, and the volume is well-edited and pleasing to the eye. Yet rarely is one offered any new or deep insight into The Time Machine. Notwithstanding the six-year interlude, the papers too often retain the traces of their origins as oral presentations, and the paeans and dithyrambs that swept along the sympathetic audience in the lecture hall at Imperial College in a tide of enthusiasm ring slightly hollow when eternalized in print. Far too few of the papers present a sustained argument, and though there is a commendable avoidance of critical jargon, there is also too often a shrinking—perhaps a consequence of the celebratory intention of the Symposium—from serious engagement with the pre-existing criticism. Nor is there, except in one or two cases, much interest in the question of how The Time Machine was a product of its age, even though the centennial of the publication of a classic should surely have been the cue for a more thorough revisitation of the conceptual and gestationary epoch—in this case the seven and a half years between "The Chronic Argonauts" and the Heinemann text.

Perhaps the best essay in the collection, Robert Crossley’s "Taking It as a Story: The Beautiful Lie of The Time Machine," exemplifies the strengths of the volume even if it does not quite transcend its weaknesses. Crossley approaches the novella as a fictional artefact as "beautifully made" as the Time Traveller’s miniature time machine, and he offers in an almost off-hand manner a number of valuable insights that derive from an admiring scrutiny of the machinery of the narrative. Other notable contributions include Paul Alkon’s "Was the Time Machine Necessary?" which is really an elegant homage-cum-polemic reminding us that The Time Machine remains the yardstick by which we judge what makes good sf. And W.M.S. Russell’s "Time Before and After The Time Machine," one of the few pieces that is sufficiently sensitive to historical context, is a useful survey of ideas about the fourth dimension as they relate to Wells’s achievement, though this article appeared in Foundation almost seven years ago.

While I can accept that The Time Machine may well be read as a parable (Hammond), a gloss on Heidegger (Scafella), a solar myth (Hardy), a venting of outrage at social injustice (Huntington), a rewriting of Gibbon (Parrinder), or a chronicle of the dissolution of London (Pagetti) all at the same time, I felt strangely unmoved by the cumulative effect of such lucubrations. It was not, indeed, till beginning the last of the pieces, Brian W. Aldiss’s "Doomed Formicary Versus the Technological Sublime," that I was aroused from a light stupor by a paragraph serving as the volume’s most powerful reminder by far of both the major significance of Wells’s invention and the literary establishment’s unaccountable failure to acknowledge his achievement (not to mention popular culture’s predictable failure to understand it, as evidenced by the newly-released Hollywood movie version). The passage is worth quoting in full, and everyone interested in temporal mechanics ought to tape it above their workbenches.

The Time Machine represents a revolution in storytelling. It may stand in a tradition of marvelous travel tales, but it presents us with something new: a story whose mainspring is a dramatization of the grand, grim process of evolution. Unprecedented as this was in 1895, one might think that by the time a century had passed, the bemusement of literary critics might have given place to a general acknowledgment of H.G. Wells’s stature and the new gifts and vistas he brought to a traditional form of literature. (188)


Nicholas Ruddick, University of Regina

Organizing SF.

Warren Smith, Matthew Higgins, Martin Parker, and Geoff Lightfoot, eds. Science Fiction and Organization. ROUTLEDGE STUDIES IN HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT. New York: Routledge, 2001. x + 227 pp. $100 hc.

This collection of essays is the product of a 1999 conference entitled "Science Fiction and Organization." The initial question for me, a reader and teacher of science fiction (with little connection to human resource development other than my role as a faculty member at an extremely large community college), was, "for whom is this intended?" For the first time ever, I read the notes on contributors before actually beginning the book. Daunted by the predominance of lecturers, professors, and researchers in disciplines such as management, industrial relations, and social and organizational theory, I proceeded with caution. And my reluctance was not misplaced. Overall, the book is intended for readers with no small background in organizational theory and application. But let this not be misinterpreted as a discouragement to the rest of us; the book is a worthwhile venture into the connections between sf writing and the structure and methods of social and industrial organization.

Divided into four sections, Science Fiction and Organization begins with two essays on science fiction’s connection with other disciplines: David McHugh’s "Give Me Your Mirrorshades," connecting sf with social and organizational science, and Christopher Haley’s "Science Fiction and the Making of the Laser," connecting sf with science fact—the ways in which science fiction presents a method by which we understand, and see through to completion, actual technological products.

Subsequent sections concern specific texts and their usefulness as exemplars and interrogatives about organization, management, and human social structures. We are asked to consider the metaphors surrounding or embedded in the texts, metaphors that speak to our awareness, concern, or confusion about technology, production, lateral and hierarchical management systems, and always, the implications for the society and the individual by and for whom these systems and these fictions are made.

Here the student of management and the student of literature find interesting and meaningful common space. Of particular interest are James A. Fitchett and David A. Fitchett’s "Drowned Giants: Science Fiction and Consumption Utopias," which provokes us to examine, among other topics, "J.G. Ballard’s consumer-oriented capitalist society"(94), and "Reading Star Trek: Imagining, Theorizing, and Reflecting on Organizational Discourse and Practice," in which Donna Kavanagh, Kieran Keohan, and Carmen Kuhling guide us through the structure of the Star Trek organization—the original series and its many later incarnations—with particular attention to the evolution of social and organizational structures and motives in the program and in the surrounding society.

The value of this collection to a management researcher with an interest in or a taste for the literature is unarguable. But the further value, to the non-management reader familiar with most of the text examples, is to reread science fiction in a different way: to see the literary text as both directive of future social and industrial organization and as an analysis of structures that expand—or restrict—the lives of the people who must exist, grow, produce, learn, and change within those structures.

Marian Parish, Nassau Community College

Another Fine Kettle of Sturgeon.

Theodore Sturgeon. A Saucer of Loneliness.THE COMPLETE STORIES OF THEODORE STURGEON, Vol. II. Ed. Paul Williams. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2001. ix + 388 pp. $30 hc.

After Theodore Sturgeon died in 1985, North Atlantic Books began the arduous work of gathering his prodigious short story output into a comprehensive collection. A Saucer of Loneliness is the latest installment (Volume VII) in that series. Since the material is being arranged in chronological order, Volume VII takes us only to 1953. The next installment is tentatively scheduled for publication in May 2002; the complete series will consist of ten hardbound volumes. The foreword to A Saucer of Loneliness is a succinct, one-page summary by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. that describes how Sturgeon (whom he calls "one of the best writers in America"[ix]) came to be the inspiration for Kilgore Trout, star of Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions (1973).

The stories in A Saucer of Loneliness were written by Sturgeon between autumn 1952 and autumn 1953, and all but one first appeared in classic sf magazines such as Amazing Stories and Galaxy. Younger readers will recognize them from their later appearances in some of Sturgeon’s own anthologies—such now-famous and oft-reprinted collections as E Pluribus Unicorn (1953) and A Touch of Strange (1958).

In his lifetime, Sturgeon was recognized by the sf community as one of the definitive voices of the genre. In recent years he has gained the respect of the literary community at large; many critics have argued that his talent as a writer transcends the limits of genre-casting. His ability to effortlessly juggle the demands of the short prose genre—concise characterization, seamless narrative, and pithy diction—invites comparison with the best twentieth-century writers. His pyrotechnic prose anticipates such later mainstream writers as Thomas Pynchon, while his quirky story-lines can be compared to the fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Consider the following brief passage from "…And My Fear is Great…":

He found an all-night café where the talk was as different as the talkers could make it; where girls who were unsure of their differences walked about with cropped hair and made their voices boom, and seedy little polyglots surreptitiously ate catsup and sugar with their single interminable cup of coffee; where a lost man could exchange a broken compass for a broken oar. (95)

With a few deft literate brushstrokes, a master storyteller has dashed off a vivid prose rendering of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942). Many of Sturgeon’s heroes and heroines are just such marginal figures in the American landscape: working folks down on their luck, many of them verging on criminality. As many critics have noted, Sturgeon’s genius was particularly evident in the way he brought such figures to life and inspired the reader’s sympathy for the lonely, the outcast, and the simply different.

Not only did Sturgeon significantly raise the prose standards to which subsequent sf writers would be held, but he also carried his readers into territories that had been previously inaccessible. Take, for example, "The World Well Lost," which editor Paul Williams reminds us was (in 1953) "the first science fiction story to sympathetically portray homosexuality" (378). The narrative is richly layered, brimming with cunning characterizations that challenge not only the dubious impulses of homophobia, but whatever conceptions the reader might have of "normalcy."

Similarly, "…And My Fear is Great…" is a complex tale about the transformation of a small-time thief and inarticulate grocery boy into a tantric yoga expert, presented against the backdrop of a strangely Freudian interpretation of virginity as a cultural motif. Not many genre writers in 1953 could get away with salting their prose with terms like "dialectical" or "synergy" or "yin and yang."

"A Way of Thinking," also from E Pluribus Unicorn, is one of Sturgeon’s shorter masterpieces, with a cleverly executed twist on a standard gothic plot. "Talent," also brief, is a disturbing meditation on the horrors of childhood. The story offers an almost psychoanalytical presentation of the often murky congress children effect with each other and with grown-ups, and ends with a typically spooky surprise beneath the bed.

Many other well-known Sturgeon tales are included in this collection—"The Silken Swift," "The Education of Drusilla Strange," and "The Touch of Your Hand," all of which show Sturgeon at the height of his intellectual powers.

The executors of Sturgeon’s estate must be applauded for their earnest dedication in arranging to have his works collected and presented in such handsome and affordable editions. Incidentally, the cover art by Ed Emshwiller is from Sturgeon’s private collection and originally appeared on the cover of a special issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction devoted to Sturgeon (September 1962) featuring him as a bearded satyr.

Aaron Parrett, University of Great Falls

New Editions of "Classic" SF.

Jules Verne. Invasion of the Sea. Trans. Edward Baxter. Ed. Arthur B. Evans. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2001. xx + 280 pp. $24.95 hc.

Jules Verne.The Mysterious Island. Trans. Sidney Kravitz. Ed. Arthur B. Evans and William Butcher. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2001. li + 456 pp. $40 hc; $17.95 pbk.

Arthur Conan Doyle.The Poison Belt. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2001. xvi + 252 pp. $11.95 pbk.

H.G. Wells. In the Days of the Comet. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2001. xiii + 192 pp. $11.95 pbk.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Pirates of Venus.Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2001. xiii + 314 pp. $14.95 pbk.

Reprint series of sf novels appear regularly and usually describe them as "classics," which can become a token justification for the selection, regardless of the novels’ age or status. These two series, the Bison "Frontiers of Imagination" series from the University of Nebraska Press and the "Early Classics of Science Fiction" series from Wesleyan University Press, however, show all the signs of avoiding the pitfalls of arbitrary selection, and both series include useful introductions and other editorial material. Begun in 1998, the Bison/Nebraska series has already published over twenty titles by such writers as Burroughs, London, and Wells, among which particularly noteworthy reprints are J.D. Beresford’s The Wonder (1917), Camille Flammarion’s Omega (1893), and Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ (1911). The Wesleyan series was launched in fall 2001.

Two Jules Verne novels open Wesleyan’s "Early Classics of Science Fiction" series. The choice of Verne for the first titles in this series is a shrewd one, since it establishes from the beginning that the series will not only be of Anglophone texts. There is further promise in the launch title being Invasion of the Sea, since this novel closed Verne’s series of Voyages Extraordinaires and until now has never appeared in English. First published in 1905, the novel drew on a plan from the 1870s to create an "inland sea" in northern Algeria through a canal originating in Tunisia. The scheme attempted to combine technology, commerce, and politics, but was subsequently abandoned. The novel, translated by Edward Baxter, features an introduction and critical materials by Arthur B. Evans and incorporates all the illustrations and photographs that accompanied the first French edition. One impressive feature of the series, evident here, is the section of notes, which supplies exceptionally full glosses of terms and historical references in the text. The new translation and the notes alone establish the professionalism of this new series, which is further strengthened by a primary and secondary bibliography and an outline biography of Verne.

The second Verne title is The Mysterious Island, first published in 1874 but until now unavailable in a complete translation. This novel was originally entitled Uncle Robinson in manuscript, thus indicating the tradition Verne was using. As the appendices by William Butcher demonstrate, Verne was strongly influenced by Defoe, Fenimore Cooper, and particularly by Johann Wyss’s The Swiss Family Robinson (1812). Butcher further shows that the deserted island theme extended into other works by Verne. The introduction to this edition, also by Butcher, shows the extraordinary state of Verne’s translations in English. Although one by the novelist W.H.G. Kingston appeared as early as 1875, English versions had substantial passages cut from the original text. A full discussion of the manuscripts of this novel gives us an indication of its composition, and Butcher’s excellent introduction points out the many inconsistencies both in Verne’s attitude to progress and imperialism and within the text. Many factual discrepancies are noted, and Butcher points out that the reappearance of Captain Nemo from Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1870) as a secret helper to the castaways on this island is actually inconsistent with his original appearance in the earlier novel. The textual apparatus for this novel is truly outstanding. The notes, for example, not only gloss obscure terms but also give a commentary on how Verne diverged from the robinsonade pattern.

To turn from these volumes to the University of Nebraska Bison "Frontiers of Imagination" series is in effect to turn from scholarly professionalism back to a more familiar pattern of reprints that carry new introductions by novelists rather than critics or biographers. This is not to say that the introductions to these editions have no interest. Katya Reimann’s account of Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt (1913) contextualizes it within the Professor Challenger series, though it says nothing about the scientific hypothesis of the ether that underpins its narrative. Ben Bova’s introduction to H.G. Wells’s In the Days of the Comet (1906) goes a step further by discussing that novel’s utopian elements and the dispute between Wells and Verne over who was sticking closer to science in his narratives. No doubt partly provoked by the growing popularity of Wells’s novels, Verne objected that his competitor was using devices inconsistent with the scientific knowledge of their time. Here again, however, little is said about how Wells used his narrative as a forum for debate about society, or about the possibility that he used the agency of the comet in response to M.P. Sheil’s The Purple Cloud (1901), as has been claimed. Finally, F. Paul Wilson discusses how Pirates of Venus (1932) variously reflects Burroughs’s interests in Marxism, eugenics, and the possibility of immortality. There seems to be no consistent policy about illustrations in the books of this series. The Conan Doyle carries pictures presumably from the original edition (no attribution is given); the Wells carries no illustrations at all; and the Burroughs has new illustrations created especially for this reprint. No information is given at all about the composition or publishing history of these novels, so the reader has no way of knowing which edition was used for the reprint. This is frustrating because it means that we are denied any information about how these novels grew out of different historical and social concerns; and the series promotes a loose sense of genre in which science fiction, utopia, and fantasy blur together into a speculative mass.

The stated aims of the Wesleyan series, in contrast, are to promote a detailed awareness of their chosen writers and to facilitate further study and debate about the nature of early science fiction. To judge from their first volumes, they should realize these aims.

David Seed, Liverpool University

Sex, Death, and Scholarship: Two Books on Cronenberg.

Michael Grant, ed. The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2000. 218 pp. $24.95 pbk.

William Beard. The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg. Toronto: U Toronto P. 2001. xiii + 469 pp. $50 hc.

David Cronenberg lives and works in Toronto, where he was born and where he began making films in 1966. "Something of a dream" (Pevere 138) for critics because he writes as well as directs many of his films,1 Cronenberg’s thirteen feature films have won over forty international and national critical awards (including four Canadian Genies as "Best Director"). In 1990, he was honored with France’s prestigious Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres. The Cannes Film Festival and the Berlin Film Festival each awarded him a Special Jury Prize: in 1996 to Crash for its "audacity, daring, and originality" and in 1999 to eXistenZ for "Outstanding Artistic Achievement."

Cronenberg’s films target the isolating and sanitizing thrust of civilized society as the breeding ground of uncontrollable monstrosity; they insist that the monstrous is not in our "natural" but in our cultural selves—in our efforts to quell flesh, sanitize speech, and sublimate desires; and in our "civilizing" institutions to keep the monster from rearing its ugly head. Fredric Jameson calls ours "the cellophane society of consumer capitalism" that desperately attempts to contain "the haunting and unmentionable persistence of the organic—birth, copulation, and death" (26). Cronenberg’s films unwrap that cellophane from antiseptic hospitals, luxury apartments, "pure Science," and other civilizing institutions.

The Modern Fantastic: The Films of David Cronenberg is a collection of seven essays that range in tone and subject from the generally accessible to the highly esoteric; they are well-written and worthwhile in every case. The book also includes a valuable interview (conducted by Xavier Mendik during the production of eXistenZ) in which the director meditates on the controversy over Crash and considers other market and academic responses to his films. A filmography (compiled by the book’s editor, Michael Grant) covers Cronenberg’s directorial work in cinema and television as well as his acting work in films. A bibliography (also by Grant) lists published screenplays, novelizations, book sources of adaptations, selected interviews, books, chapters, journal issues, reviews, and articles on the director and his films. This book should be a welcome addition to the research collection of Cronenberg enthusiasts.

The anthology is introduced by its editor as an "analysis of impressions" (31) and, indeed, it is as open-ended and broadly inquiring as the phrase suggests. This review considers the seven essays that ponder in depth and provide insight into the Cronenberg disturbance, and then looks to William Beard’s The Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg, which offers a sustained examination of Cronenberg’s career.

According to Ian Conrich, in his essay "An Aesthetic Sense: Cronenberg and Neo-horror Film Culture," the reaction of the British press in the 1970s was all but violent, countering the fans’ praise of "genius" with "sick" (37). Citing their characteristic lack of originality ("This could really blow your mind" is a review headline for Scanners [1980]), Conrich points to "a certain fascination" revealed in the critics’ details that "sensationalize" (38) violent scenes for the newspapers. I think these critics are getting it right even while getting it wrong, for the thrill reveals a passion sometimes too secret for even the writers to acknowledge. Because the Cronenbergian body departs from the typical cinematic spectacle (even in the horror genre), some critics imagine a puerile indiscretion by the director while others fear a sordid invitation to specular indulgence—and they won’t (agree to) participate.

To understand the nature of Cronenberg’s horror, Jonathan Crane ("A Body Apart: Cronenberg and Genre") revisits the "mad scientist" as narrative catalyst in the early films (up to The Fly) of "menace fused with flesh" (51), while Murray Smith, in "A(moral) Monstrosity," investigates the "intersections of sex and horror" (69) in Shivers, The Fly, and Crash. Crane locates horror in the oscillation—in the impossibility of choice—between the "degradation of everyday life" and the "damnation of the new flesh" (66). Of course, Cronenberg’s mutations are the stuff of everyday life, but Crane doesn’t go as far as that; he maintains the dichotomy between the mundane and the profane. Smith detects a "pathogen perspective" (71) in the films that at least dampens our sympathy for the human victims and at most—at worst—erodes the distinction between human and nonhuman. In addition to the loss of bodily integrity typical of anthropocentric horror, Smith observes that a "moral threat" (75) presides when social life allows—admits—a discrepancy between "human" and "person."

Michael Grant, in "Cronenberg and the Poetics of Time," compares Cronenberg to the "greatest of the modern poets," calling him a "literary filmmaker" whose cinema can be understood, by way of symbolist literature, as "standing in a critical relation to what it depicts" (123). Grant illustrates by focussing on M. Butterfly (1993), in which the "undecidability" (134) of Song Liling’s sexuality is crucial, since the meaning of Song and Gallimard’s sex—indeed, the nature of their desire—cannot be distinguished from how it is expressed. Writing about sexuality and horror in Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), M. Butterfly, and Crash (1996), Barbara Creed ("The Naked Crunch: Cronenberg’s Homoerotic Bodies") observes "deeply contradictory" (91) homoerotic and homophobic impulses in the bodily alterations and feminization of the male, in the anal displacement of the vagina, and in the search for jouissance with/in other men that ends in a "profound sense of loss" (99) unresolved by the narratives. She laments a common misogyny in spite of the films’ "delicious" (85) refusal of the mythic phallocentric body; I suggest it’s more properly misanthropy, although I don’t believe it’s even really that. Cronenberg’s male bodies exceed the textualization that constructs masculine subjectivity as stable, unitary, rational, and masterful, and feminine subjectivity as volatile, fragmented, irrational, and impotent. The last words spoken in Dead Ringers, for instance, are Claire’s, and what she asks is who Beverly is; the last word is hers figuratively, as well, since she lives and the men die. Dead Ringers is about identity or, more exactly, the inadmissability of identity. To answer Claire’s question—to accept the either/or (Beverly or Elliot)—would be to erect a singularity at the expense of connection. Instead, Bev leaves the phone (and Claire with it) to re-join Elly, to assert connection (Bev-Elly) in defiance of "identity."

Parveen Adams, in "Death Drive," refers to Crash as "an analytic road-movie" (120) that collapses voyeuristic distance in a cinema that vacates desire. Taking us to the site of injury, she offers a view of the wound as continuous trauma that is "not traumatizing" but, rather, "a condition of our psychical and social life" (111-12). I am partial to this essay not only because of its provocative insight into the Lacanian passage of desire/death/identity (my slashes replaceable by "of," not "or"), but also because it is ultimately unsatisfactory for two reasons. Its stress on the "unwriting of the body" (104) overlooks Vaughan’s philosophy that a wound caused by a car accident has magical powers as it is flesh transformed by cataclysmic contact with technology, and its view of the death drive as a "withdrawal from the space of the other" (114) undermines the film’s love stories.

Let me refresh our memory that when Vaughan first appears in Crash he is sent into a quivering excitement by James’s injured leg: he wants to touch it, to experience it through his fingers—the conjoined metal and flesh make him mad, as if with love. It is the wound that he loves, the inscription that it makes upon the flesh that no one else can read. Later, when James tears apart Gabrielle’s stocking to reveal her jagged scar, he sees for the first time as Vaughan sees, and that tearing begins to bring them closer. That the scar is erotic to James and that Gabrielle is proud of its evocativeness is consistent with Vaughan’s philosophy that decries the technology of the freeway as benign and godlike because it inscribes and thereby makes real the flesh that cannot be admitted to, the "organic" that is continually disavowed in our "cellophane society" (Jameson 26). As the borders of the body break down and at once multiply in meaning, an entirely new meaning—or, it would be closer to the film’s logic to say, a new religion—is suggested. It was Vaughan’s scars that Catherine’s lips sought and that sustain her interest. As in Kafka’s "In the Penal Colony" (1919), something elaborate, ornate, has been written upon the body—by a broken automobile in Crash instead of by Kafka’s broken-down writing machine.

Adams sees the film as dominated by the death drive that withdraws from the other (114). I want to argue differently—that there is more than the death drive at work. Vaughan calls James for tattoos for two and, afterwards, secure again within the Kennedy death-car, he peels off James’ bandage, and kisses and licks the fresh wounds on his stomach. They kiss and lick each other—the first mouth-to-mouth kiss in the film—and, pushing each other’s jaws back, forcing their necks into a broken pose, they make love. Although it had that impact on homophobic audiences (some walked out in protest when I saw the film), this is not the beginning of a homosexual takeover of a heteroeconomic world. Instead, James and Vaughan’s love-making only makes explicit what has been implied all along: throughout the first half of the film it is obvious that Seagrave and Vaughan are more interested in each other and their joint project than in the women with them. What is being shown, for anyone who cares to see, is what lies behind all the rituals of the buddy film: buddies going for tattoos is a cliché, true, but in terms of residual meaning, of being mutually marked, drawn upon deep within the flesh, it is within the corpus of Crash a symbol that reflects and refracts the entire genre. Against the backdrop of Hollywood’s compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory car chases in the buddy film, Cronenberg’s humor can be seen as Crash returns the homosocial protagonists to their logical homosexual premise.

Furthermore, in the poetics of the film, in my view, Vaughan does not try to kill James because they have just made love. It is neither homophobia nor withdrawal; he tries to kill James as a necessary conclusion to the act of love-making. Vaughan’s pansexuality includes death. His sexual desire for James fits his larger theories about the meaning of life and its collision/morphing with the automobile. Vaughan inscribes (by collision) his mark upon James that is anticipated by the tattoo he designed and had written upon him. The descent into the abyss is expectant and charged—a moment fully alive.

Thus, when Adams suggests that the purpose of the "desire not to desire" (104) is to enter into and never return from the ultimate signifier of abandonment—death—I think, instead, of James and Catherine, for whom, as for Orpheus and Euridice, the gates of the underworld are the only place equal to the intensity and sadness of their love. As Catherine lies on the grassy knoll, crushed but not yet dead, James speaks the words of comfort she herself had uttered near the start of the film: "maybe the next one, darling." He makes love to her from behind, as he did at the beginning, in hopeless hope of bringing comfort, remaining tender in despair.

Andrew Klevan’s essay, "The Mysterious Disappearance of Style: Some Critical Notes About the Writing on Dead Ringers," laments the neglect of film style in modern film scholarship; he illustrates by examining four extensive meditations on Dead Ringers, all of which, though different in critical approaches, disappoint Klevan in their common failure to "sustain a discussion" about the film’s music, color, mise-en-scène, and other stylistic elements (148). Let me now point us in the direction of William Beard’s Artist as Monster: The Cinema of David Cronenberg, which offers the kind of broad yet close attention that Klevan says "arises out of the desire to give intense, felt attention" (163). Ultimately, the complexity of any piece of writing has to approach that of its subject in some way; in my view, Beard succeeds, with his book of eloquent detail and sustained inquiry, in sustaining the discussion Klevan looks for.

Artist as Monster covers the underground films Stereo (1969) and Crimes of the Future (1970) and all the feature-length films except Fast Company (1979), which Beard describes as "the formulaic racing film … almost completely uncharacteristic and almost completely uninteresting" (xii). Some elaboration on this judgment would have been useful, especially for readers not completely familiar with Cronenberg’s oeuvre.

The book reads like a single movement, suggestive of progression both in the director’s work and in the author’s analysis. It is a good book, well written and reasonable, compelling insofar as its argument carries us forward with it. These strengths are also the book’s weaknesses: Beard’s composure does not allow him to move us as much as his subject does, especially since his orderliness is part of the world destroyed again and again in Cronenberg’s films. Something is also amiss in the idea that evolution has to do with progress, especially as regards Cronenberg, who is famous for saying that "you tear down something that’s ugly and repressive, and you create something that’s even more ugly and repressive. That doesn’t mean you have to stop. It’s a given of human existence that you just don’t stop. You never stop" (qtd. in Rodley 65).

Marking the start of Cronenberg’s commercial filmmaking career, Shivers and Rabid focus on the horrors constructed around the body’s orifices and their functions, and set the stage for what would become Cronenberg’s sustained interrogation of the Cartesian body/mind dualism—the overarching theme and principal strategy of the horror genre—and the injuries it has done to human life. Cronenberg doesn’t mature from this thematic concern. I have said that the central metaphor in Shivers is plumbing—that which is internal and living, alive and endlessly infested, between every human mouth and anus, as well as that mechanical, architecturally curtained plumbing of our homes, the enormously complex and expensive shield we construct and reconstruct endlessly so that we may hide from ourselves and our neighbors what we all know is there. The flesh becomes unmentionable by virtue of our hiding it: "a sentence to disappear," "an injunction to silence," and "an affirmation of nonexistence" (Foucault 4) converge so that what is private and un-pretty, what we know and participate in but do not admit to in the polite world, is not seen; we must not see it; there is nothing to see. Starliner Towers in Shivers is an image of living in coffins, of corpses in gorgeous apartments, or of packaged meat in supermarkets—the antiseptic container does not prevent but only hides the rotting that goes on inside. Even though he is to take a more direct and shocking approach to the human-as-consumable problem in Rabid, already in Shivers Cronenberg sees our world as cut up and sealed off; but his parasites turn this over: from pristine and structured eating to all-out feast for all, when the creepy crawly bug enters people’s orifices and turns them into creatures who seek sexuality without borders, rules, or taboos. Twenty years later, and excepting that auto-crashes have taken the place of bugs as the "release," the theme is exact in Crash. A film primarily about the disintegration of civilization—for ultimately a civilization based on individuals pursuing death has its drawbacks—Crash must also be seen as essentially sympathetic to disintegration. Recent attempts to reform Cronenberg notwithstanding, the Canadian director is still on the side of disease; the difference is that here, life itself has become identical to the disease. Beard’s indictment that "the body is therefore always the enemy" (31) in Cronenberg’s films is, in my view, simply wrong.

Beard strikes hard—because unexpectedly—when he calls Cronenberg a "minor but important artist" (xi). I at once recalled hearing the same said of Bruegel in a first-year art-survey course at university, and there the lecturer went on to spend almost four hours on the sixteenth-century artist and his original style in painting peasant life, religious allegories, and mythological scenes. It was clear to me, then and always after, that Bruegel was not in any way "minor," certainly not to the lecturer, who was more lively and passionate than he was at any other point in the semester. To William Beard, Cronenberg is not minor, and his quibble is a distraction. In my humble opinion, a little more audacity from Beard would not have condemned him to the ranks of fandom.

Artist as Monster is essential reading in Cronenberg studies as it considers in depth the films’ narratives, thematic concerns, generic allegiances and departures, artistic style, cinematic strategies, and the aforementioned directorial growth in twenty-five years of filmmaking. The book also serves well as an introduction by a leading scholar who has contributed to some of the earliest scholarship on Cronenberg’s cinema.


1. Of his thirteen feature-length films, five are adapted from his own stories (for which he also wrote the screenplays): Shivers (1975), Rabid (1976), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1980), and Videodrome (1982). He wrote the screenplays for Naked Lunch (1991) and Crash (1996), and co-wrote for Fast Company (1979), The Fly (1986), and Dead Ringers (1988)


Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. New York: Random House, 1990.

Jameson, Fredric. Signatures of the Visible. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Pevere, Geoff. "Cronenberg Tackles Dominant Videology." The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg. Ed. Piers Handling. Toronto: General Publishing, 1983. 138-142.

Rodley, Chris, ed. Cronenberg on Cronenberg. Toronto: Knopf Canada, 1992.

Suzie S. F. Young, York University

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