BOOKS IN REVIEW
- Darko Suvin, ed., with Robert M. Philmus. H.G. Wells and Modern
- Darko Suvin. Pour une poétique de la science-fiction: Etudes en théorie et
en histoire d'un genre littéraire;
- Patrick Parrinder.
- Damon Knight, ed.
Turning, Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction;
- Damon Knight.
The Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction
"Family" of the 30's That Produced Today's Top SF Writers and Editors
- Walter James Miller, ed.
The Annotated Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
- Lee N. Falconer, compiler.
A Gazetteer of the Hyborian World of
- Robert Weinberg, ed.
The Weird Tales Story
- Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry
Isaac Asimov and Arthur
- George Edgar Slusser.
The Bradbury Chronicles and Harlan
Ellison: Unrepentent Harlequin
- Horace Gold.
What Will They Think of Last?
- Monroe Berger.
Real and Imagined Worlds
- Strother B. Purdy.
The Hole in the Fabric: Science,
Contemporary Literature, and Henry James
- Floyd Gibbons.
The Red Napoleon
- David G. Hartwell, ed.
The Gregg Press Science Fiction
Series: Series Three
- Louis-Sebastien Mercier.
Memoirs of the Year 2500
- Edward Maitland.
By and By: An Historical Romance of the Future
- M.P. Shiel.
The Purple Cloud
- David Lindsay.
A Voyage to Arcturus
- Thea von Harbou.
The Rocket to the Moon
Full reviews of some of the books listed below will appear in
later issues of SFS (the first two, of course, could not be reviewed in SFS with any
propriety), but for the moment, exigencies of time, space, and circumstance confine us to
Darko Suvin, ed., with Robert M.
H.G. Wells and Modern Science Fiction. Bucknell
University Press, 1977, 279p, $15.00; also UK: Associated University Preses, £9.00.
Contains four articles reprinted from SFS, Patrick Parrinder's "Imagining the Future:
Wells and Zamyatin," Robert M. Philmus's "Borges and Wells and the Labyrinths of
Time," David Y. Hughes and Robert M. Philmus's "A Selective Bibliography (with
Abstracts) of H.G. Wells's Science Journalism, 1887-1901," and R.D. Mullen's "An
Annotated Survey of Books and Pamphlets by H.G. Wells," and seven additional
articles: Suvin's "Introduction" and "A Grammar of Form and
Criticism of Fact: The Time Machine as a Structural Model for Science
Fiction," Tatyana Chernysheva's "The Folktale, Wells, and Modern Science
Fiction," David Y. Hughes's "The Garden in Wells's Early Science Fiction,"
J.P. Vernier's "Evolution as a Literary Theme in H.G. Wells's Science Fiction,"
Mullen's "'I Told You So': Wells's Last Decade, 1936-1945," and Howard Fink's
"The Shadow of Men Like Gods: Orwell's Coming Up for Air as
Darko Suvin. Pour une poétique de la science-fiction: Etudes en
théorie et en histoire d'un genre littéraire. Translated by Gilles Hénault. Les
Presses de I'Université du Québec (C.P. 250, Succursale N. Montréal, Canada, H2X 3M4),
1977, x+228. Contains nine essays that have appeared in English in various scholarly
Patrick Parrinder. H.G. Wells. Writers and Critics Series. G.P.
Putnam's Sons, 1977, vii+188, $2.95. The first US edition, with updated bibliography, of a
book that first appeared in England in 1970 and that is widely regarded as the best
overview of Wells's fiction. For a review see SFS 3(1976):169-71.
Damon Knight, ed. Turning, Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction.
Harper and Row, 1977, xii+303, $12.50. Contains 23 essays, almost all by SF writers, and
almost all reprinted from other books. If you have been collecting SF criticism for ten
years or so, this will contain very little that you do not already have, but if you have
not, it is an excellent place to start.
Damon Knight. The
Futurians: The Story of the Science Fiction "Family" of the 30's That Produced
Today's Top SF Writers and Editors. John Day, 1977, xi+276, $10.95.
Himself when young, along with Asimov, Blish, Kornbluth, Merril, Pohl, Shaw, Wollheim, and
a number of other SF fans and writers less well known, including especially John B.
Michel, whose obscure later years and death Knight has made a special effort to trace.
Walter James Miller, ed. The Annotated Jules Verne: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.
Thomas Y. Crowell, 1976, 8x10‡, xxii+362, $16.95. Miller's thesis is that
Verne's fiction would be much more highly regarded in the English- language world if it
had been competently translated. The present volume gives us the most widely circulated
English version, the one by "Mercier Lewis" (Lewis Page Mercier), with its
blunders corrected and its excised passages restored, together with very extensive notes
and numerous illustrations from the early editions.
Lee N. Falconer, compiler. A Gazetteer of the Hyborian World of Conan, including also the
World of Kull, and an Ethnogeographical Dictionary of Principal Peoples of the Era, with
Reference to the Starmont Map of the Hyborian World. Starmont House
(Box E, West Linn, Oregon 97068), 1977, xiii+127, $5.95. The
Hyborian World of Conan. A map, 28x4O, same publisher, $7.95 plus
75¢ for mailing.
Robert Weinberg, ed. The Weird Tales Story. Fax Collector's Editions
(Box E, West Linn, Oregon 97068), 1977, 8 1/2x11, ix+134, $17.50. The 32-year history of the
magazine (1920-1954), with photographs of editors and contributors, numerous illustrations
from the magazine, and letters in reminiscence from a number of the contributors.
Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds.
Isaac Asimov (247p) and Arthur C. Clarke (254p). Writers of the 21st
Century Series. Taplinger Publishing Co., 1977, $10.95 each. Each of these books contains
an editorial introduction, nine essays by various hands, and a bibliography; the first
also has an afterword by Asimov. Nearly all the essays appear here for the first time,
though three are reprinted from SFS and two from previously published books. Each is
obviously required reading for students of the author concerned. The series also includes
a book on Heinlein which should be out before this issue appears, and books in preparation
on Dick, Bradbury, and Le Guin.
George Edgar Slusser. The Bradbury Chronicles and Harlan
Ellison: Unrepentent Harlequin. The Milford Series. R. Reginald, The
Borgo Press, 1977, each 64p, each $1.95. Slusser's first booklet in this series, the one
on Heinlein, has been somewhat revised for a 2nd edn (same price, etc.). It was reviewed
in SFS 3(1976):293-94. His booklet on Le Guin was reviewed in SFS 4(1977):86.
Horace Gold. What Will They Think of Last? Institute for the
Development of the Harmonious Human Being (P.O. Drawer D, Crestline CA 92325), ix+154.
Editorials from Galaxy in the 1950s, when Gold challenged Campbell for leadership
in the SF world.
Monroe Berger. Real
and Imagined Worlds: The Novel and Social Science. Harvard University
Press, 1977, xi+303, $15.00. Although concerned with realistic fiction rather than SF,
this book deals with matters central to the study of SF.
Strother B. Purdy. The Hole in the Fabric: Science, Contemporary Literature, and
Henry James. University of Pittsburg Press, 1977, xi+288. Concerned
with James as a forerunner of such "post-modern" authors as Vonnegut and
Nabokov, this book has a chapter entitled "Science Fiction," in which SF, at
least as it is written by mainstream writers, is seen as the essential fiction of the
Floyd Gibbons. The Red Napoleon. US 1929. Photographic reprint
with title-page replaced and with Afterword by John Gardner, Southern Illinois University
Press, 1976, hardback, vi+486, $9.85. Also Popular Library, 1977, paperback, 384p, $1.95.
War correspondent Floyd Gibbons, with his black eyepatch, was one of the celebrities of
the 1920s, having (in legend at least) interviewed all the great men of the world and
scored many a scoop. In this 1929 book he pretends to be writing in 1941 about his
adventures in the intervening years, during which he remained the greatest of reporters.
Like many future-war stories, The Red Napoleon uses the names of real people (Al
Smith is President, having defeated Hoover in a 1932 rematch), but it goes farther in this
respect than most, Gibbons taking an impish delight in maiming or killing off his fellow
celebrities: Flo Ziegfield, Al Jolson, Heywood Broun, Arthur "Bugs" Baer, Irvin
S. Cobb, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., and Will Rogers are disposed of in a single paragraph,
not to mention O.O. McIntyre, Herbert Corey, and Grover Whalen, who continue to do their
work in the ruins of New York (hb p 336; pb pp 261-62).
Evidently wholly unfamiliar with the future-war story and its yellow-peril subtype,
John Gardner (the novelist and medievalist) treats The Red Napoleon as sui
generis, a trashy popular novel which is at the same time a masterpiece of irony, in
that its great villain (the Tatar leader of the USSR, which has absorbed China--or been
absorbed by it) is idealistic about race relations while its good guys mouth the
banalities of white supremacy:
As a popular writer--that is, more precisely, an idealist determined to reach and
subtly sway the widest popular audience--Floyd Gibbons found himself in a curious
position. Everything he believed most profoundly--and believed to be a matter of life and
death--would be anathema to his readers. Not only would the vast majority of his
readership find his visionary slogan ridiculous--"We recognize but one race, THE
HUMAN RACE"--they would find it grossly evil, implying the impious horror of
miscegenation, a crossing of completely separate breeds, analogous to crossing a horse and
a donkey, so that the product must be a sub-human monster, nothing less than--God help
us!--a mulatto, that is, literally, a "little mule." [hb pp 48-80; pb pp 378-79]
Which is simplistic nonsense. For if in 1929 we readers of popular fiction were treated
to White Supremacy on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we were also treated to the
Brotherhood of Man on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and sincerely believed in both.
And this was not simply a matter of double-think, for the two attitudes were reconciled in
the concept of the White Man's Burden (however ugly that concept may have been in its
actual applications), which urged us to uplift our colored brother, civilize him, and
prepare him for the glorious world of tomorrow. And if interracial love and marriage were
often viewed with alarm, they were also frequently sentimentalized and idealized.
Gardner is accurate in saying that The Red Napoleon made no great impression
on the readers of its day, but wrong in attributing its failure to its being years ahead
of its time, for in simple truth it was just another future-war novel of the yellow-peril
variety, albeit cleverer than most in its devices for verisimilitude.
David G. Hartwell, ed. The Gregg Press Science Fiction Series: Series Three. 25
volumes. Gregg Press, a Division of G.K. Hall & Co. (70 Lincoln Street, Boston MA
02111). The prices given below include a 50¢ handling charge; prices outside the US are
10% higher. The five oldest books in this new series antedate "Modern Science
Fiction" and will be briefly considered here; the other twenty range from a Van Vogt
(1948) to the latest Delany (1976) and will be discussed in our next issue.
#1. Louis-Sebastien Mercier. Memoirs of the Year 2500. Translated by W. Hooper
[from Mémoires de l'An 2440, Amsterdam 1770]. [London 1772]; Philadelphia 1795.
Introduction by Mary Elizabeth Bowen. xxv+xi+360, $22.50. As perhaps the most
representative of the Enlightenment utopias, and as the first important tale of the
future, this book is of course indispensable for the study of the history of SF. Though
unclear on certain bibliographical matters (e.g., are all the footnotes Hooper's, or are
some of them Mercier's?), Bowen's introduction is informative and generally satisfactory,
but we still need a much fuller treatment of the various English-language versions and
their influence on 19th-century SF in English.
#2. Edward Maitland. By and By: An Historical Romance of the
Future. [UK 1873]; US 1873. Introduction by Ormond Seavey. xii+vi+460. $22.50. A
contemporary review of this landmark in the history of the tale of the future appears
elsewhere in this issue of SFS. The condescending and uninformative introduction bv Ormond
Seavey (whose work we have praised in earlier SFS reviews) advises us to read the book
from the standpoint of the moral, intellectual, and ideological superiority of the 20th
century to the 19th, an attitude fatal to any understanding of the literature of our
forebears, as well as to any understanding of ourselves.
#3. M.P. Shiel. The Purple Cloud. UK 1901. Introduction by David
G. Hartwell. xviii+ iv+463. $20.50. The three novels that Shiel purportedly derived from
the shorthand notebooks in which Dr Browne recorded the visions of Mary Wilson, were
evidently all written at about the same time. The first two, The Lord of the Sea
and the present book, were published in the same year, but the third, The Last Miracle,
was delayed until 1906, and probably much revised in the interval. Dr Hartwell reads the
three as "the first 'future history' series in science fiction" and as an
"ambitious attempt by Shiel to yoke various traditions by force to produce a
synthetic whole" --a reading which raises a number of problems that Hartwell
acknowledges but does not deal with in any satisfactory way. It is more reasonable,
especially when Shiel's mundane novels are taken into account, to see the three parts of
the trilogy as presenting three different possibilities for the future, each consonant
with a different religious view. The Lord of the Sea is Judeo-Christian and
optimistic, concerned with the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of the world (see
SFS 2:186-87 and 4:78-79). The Purple Cloud is Manichean and
catastrophic, with the human race destroyed, except for a new Adam and Eve. The Last
Miracle is rationalist-evolutionist, with God seen as simply the force that has
driven the race down the pain-filled road from subman to man and is now driving it toward
overman. Existential horror is Shiel's great theme, and The Purple Cloud, though
based on a metaphysic soon to be rejected, is his most imaginative and vivid expression of
that horror, as well as incomparably the best of all last-man novels.
The textual differences between the first and revised editions of The Purple Cloud
are not so extensive as those for The Lord of the Sea, but are still extensive
enough to make this reprint of the first edition highly welcome. Dr Hartwell does not
think much of The Last Miracle and evidently has no intention of reprinting its
first edition. I think he is wrong both in his reading of the book and in his estimate of
its value, and hope that he will change his mind, so that all three of these masterpieces
of science fiction will again be available in their original form.
#4. David Lindsay. A Voyage to Arcturus. UK 1920. Introduction by
Van A. Mensing. xvii+v+303. $15.50. To the Icelandic and Gnostic interpretations of this
eternally fascinating story, Mr Mensing has now added a persuasive Nietzchean reading. The
next step in the ongoing study of Lindsay is surely a comparison with Shiel.
#5. Thea von Harbou. The Rocket to the Moon. Translated by Baroness
van Hutten [from Die Frau im Mond, Berlin 1928]. US nd (c 1930). Introduction by
Ivor A. Rogers and Deborah C. Rogers. xiii, 187. $12.50. For all the Rogerses have to say
about romanticism, expressionism and the German literary tradition as opposed to the
American pulp-magazine tradition, this story is a tissue of banalities that would have
been quite at home in the American pulps of the 1920s. Since there are no stills from the
Fritz Lang film of 1929, this volume does not have the interest of the Gregg Press Metropolis
(see SFS 2:292); as a representative of German popular SF, it is of less interest
than Otto Willi Gail's The Shot into Infinity (see SFS 2:282).
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