#5 = Volume 2, Part 1 = March 1975
BOOKS IN REVIEW
The Great Futilitarian: De Camp's
Biography of Lovecraft.
L. Sprague De Camp. Lovecraft:
A Biography. New York: Doubleday. 1975. $10.00.
L. Sprague De Camp's Lovecraft: A Biography is presumably intended for the
juvenile market; at any rate it glosses all hard words and is full of brief lectures on
things all young people ought to know, especially aspiring writers. For one example:
Lovecraft's neophobia--fear of the new--is a common human quality. Human beings like
change but also stability. No change bores them; too much makes them uneasy. When young,
they tend to favor more change than when they are older and have built up habits,
associations, and affections for things as they have been. (p324)
On July 6, 1906, Lovecraft [16 years old] acquired a used Remington typewriter. He
never, however, took the next logical step: to learn to type by touch....
What with Lovecraft's impractical mother and his amateur-gentleman complex, he never
really grasped the idea that there are right and wrong ways of doing things; and that one
saves oneself much grief by learning the right way. A modern writer who does not know how
to type with all his fingers is like a cowboy who cannot ride a horse. But the stubbornly
archaistic Lovecraft stuck to the writing habits of an earlier day, like a Babylonian
scribe of the Hellenistic Era clinging to his clay tablets and stylus and decrying this
newfangled system of pen and papyrus. (p48).
The overall attitude of De Camp's cautionary tale for teen-agers is perhaps best
expressed in the following, which has to do with the poverty-stricken Lovecraft devoting
his time to what became his most considerable achievement in criticism, and with his
"justifying the task as 'excellent mental discipline'":
"Supernatural Horror" had taken practically all of Lovecraft's writing time
for eight months. And for what? So that Cook could print it, free, in an amateur
periodical to be seen by a few hundred other amateurs. So far from being "mental
discipline," it was a piece of frivolous self-indulgence on Lovecraft's part. (p245).
But if we put aside all the lectures on how to be successful as a professional writer,
or simply as a good citizen, there still remains enough information in this book to make
it an adequate if superficial biography, and since it is the only biography of Lovecraft
we have, it is indispensable for students of SF.
Lovecraft was born in 1890. His father having been committed to a mental institution,
he was taken by his mother to live with her parents and two sisters in their Providence
home of fifteen rooms and four servants. In his grandfather's 2000 book library the boy Lovecraft read Grimm, the Arabian Nights, Poe, Hawthorne, and (finding little of
interest in most of the 19th century), "innumerable crumbling and long us'd tomes of
every size and nature--Spectator, Tatler, Guardian, Idler, Rambler, Dryden, Pope, Thomson,
Young, Tichell, Cooke's Hesiod, Ovid by Various Hands, Francis's Horace & Phaedrus
&c. &c. &c" (p29). For several years during his childhood he was because
of his supposedly delicate condition tutored at home rather than sent to school. He wrote
stories and printed them for his friends on his own printing press; at thirteen he was
already contributing letters and articles on scientific subjects to a local newspaper.
His grandfather died in 1904, after losing most of his money, and his mother, with a
total fortune of perhaps $20,000, moved into a servantless flat where he was to live in
genteel poverty for the next twenty years. He attended high school in 1904-05, was kept at
home in 1905-06, returned to high school for the two years 1906-08, but then dropped out
to begin a five-year period of almost total seclusion--a period during which he evidently
became convinced that his own talents were quite limited, that nothing much was worth the
effort, and that the only tolerable life was that of the gentleman amateur.
Futilitarianism became his philosophy and amateurism his way of life.
He began his career in amateurism in 1913, at the age of 22, with a series of letters
to the editor of The Argosy and continued in 1914 with articles on scientific
subjects in the Providence press. He joined the United Amateur Press Association in 1915,
organized a local chapter, established his own amateur journal, and began the famous
correspondence that was eventually to reach a total of perhaps a hundred thousand letters.
He neither smoked nor drank, and evidently never so much as kissed a girl or boy, but was
still universally regarded as the most delightful of companions. He was elected national
president of the UAPA in 1917, and in later years served in various offices of both the
UAPA and its rival, the NAPA. In 1918 he began the revising and ghostwriting that remained
his sole occupation for the rest of his life. His mother was committed in 1919, but an
aunt moved in and continued to live with him after his mother died in 1921. The poems,
essays, and stories he published in the amateur press between 1915 and 1923 brought him to
the attention of the editor of the newly established Weird Tales, who asked him
to submit some stories. Since he wrote not for money but only (as the saying goes) to
please himself and a few select friends, he agreed only with reluctance and only on the
condition that his stories be printed exactly as written.
Among the amateur intellectuals who made up his circle of friends in 1924 was a
successful business woman who married him, installed him in her New York apartment, and
even got him to look for a job; but marriage was not worth the trouble, and there were
separations and eventually a divorce. In the mean time he had in 1926 returned to
Providence to live with his aunt.
He continued to live in genteel poverty; that is, on about a hundred dollars a month
provided by his revising and ghostwriting and by the income from and dwindling capital of
his small inheritance, with the proceeds of the occasional sale of a short story used for
special treats. He was offered the editorship of Weird Tales, which was published
in Chicago, but refused to consider living in so barbarous a city. He wrote only when the
spirit moved him, and only what he wanted to write: he not only devoted eight months to Supernatural
Horror in Literature, which if not paid for was at least published, but also many
other months to manuscripts that never left his filing cabinet, such as the 75,000-word
"Description of the Town of Quebec, in New-France, Lately Added to His Britannick
Majesty's Dominions, By H. Lovecraft, Gent., of Providence, in New-England" (p334).
He wrote his stories in longhand, and often found it too much trouble to type out a copy,
so that the story never reached an editor. The stories that he did publish, if not the
most popular of those that appeared in Weird Tales, were certainly the most
intensely admired, and they broadened his circle of friends, who visited him in
Providence, and whom he visited, traveling by bus up and down the eastern coast, going
once as far as New Orleans. When he died of cancer in 1937, his friends, under the
leadership of August Derleth, began the gathering and sorting of manuscripts and obscure
publications that led to the establishment of Arkham House and the publication of the
books that have brought his present international fame.
This seems to me to have been a good life, one with little or nothing to regret from
the stand point of personal fulfillment, and one that might well be pondered by any
teen-ager with a small inheritance. One event in the Lovecraft career that De Camp has
overlooked or ignored (I cannot believe it unknown to Lovecraft scholarship) is that he
made Edward J. O'Brien's Roll of Honor in 1928 with "The Color Out of Space" and
in 1929 with "The Dunwich Horror" (for the Biographical Note, surely written by
Lovecraft himself, see O'Brien's The Best Short Stories of 1928 and the Yearbook of
the American Short Story [NY 1928], p 324). This minor critical success might well
have led another writer to attempt the world of literary prestige; that is to submit
stories to "little magazines" rather than "amateur journals" or to
quality magazines rather than the pulps. That Lovecraft did not do so may be attributed to
his inordinate fear of being rebuffed (indeed, it can almost be said that he never
submitted anything to anybody) but also to a correct self-appraisal of his abilities. His
problem intellectually was that his commitments were emotional rather than critical, and
he seems to have understood the irrationality of his being committed to both Aryan
Supremacy and the love of his Jewish friends, to both mechanistic materialism and the most
absurdly fantastic of subject matters, and most of all to both the world of the 18th
century and a prose style far removed, in its vagueness and floridity, from that of the Spectator
or Idler. He could no more have written in a style that would have had wide
appeal to literary intellectuals than he could have been the money-making, solid-citizen
professional writer that De Camp thinks he should have been.
Much More Ado About Ada.
Bobby Ann Mason. Nabokov's Garden: A Guide to Ada. Ann Arbor:
Ardis. 1974. $3.25 in paper, also available in cloth.
Ardis Publishers (2901 Heatherway, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104) is a new, scholarly,
highly specialized company, concerned only with things Russian and especially Nabokovian.
Ardis is named after the country estate in Ada, so it is hardly surprising that
they have published Bobby Ann Mason's Nabokov's Garden: A Guide to Ada.
Her study is a model of accurate and disinterested scholarship. It locates the central
fact of the novel, and exhaustively follows various ramifications of that central fact,
that "Ada is about incest" (p. 13).
Of most interest to readers of SFS is Ms. Mason's argument that "the use of the
sibling planets Terra and Anti-Terra is a reflection--among many others in the book--of
the incest theme" (p. 13). Anti-Terra exists only in Van's imagination. "Incest
at Ardis can thrive only in a 'nether world,' not simply because conventional attitudes do
not permit incest to be practiced openly, but, what is more basic, because Van and Ada's
incest is solipsistic. When they enter into it, they enter into their own private
anti-world." Thus the SF elements of Ada are all psychological metaphors
rather than descriptions of "reality."
I totally agree with this position, and I offer here the following further observation:
all Nabokov novels take place in the "real" world. No other reference
point exists. The characters themselves have invented Anti-Terra, Zembla, Padukgrad, and
the distant future of Invitation to a Beheading, where thought control is
practiced successfully and airplanes no longer fly. (Admittedly, the short story
"Lance" may be a special case.)
However, this in no way negates Swanson's observations in this issue of SFS. Indeed,
his study of science-fiction "eversions" in Ada is a useful supplement
to the eversions analyzed in Nabokov's Garden. Ms. Mason has concentrated
primarily on Nabokov's eversions in botany and entomology; representative chapters are
entitled "The Trees at Ardis," "Insects and Incest," and "Ada or
Orchids." Mason's and Swanson's discussions of the Garden of Eden motif are
complementary; approaching the subject from different paths, and commencing the assault
with different weapons (Andrew Marvell and Dutch painters for Mason, etymology and sexual
reversal for Swanson), they wave the same flag at the summit.
If there is any fault with Nabokov's Garden, it is the implication that all of
Van's distortions of reality are intentional. Someone needs to study Van's accidental
memory lapses. After all, he finishes his manuscript--or almost finishes it--in his
nineties, and his powers are clearly failing. He often crucifies chronology
For Nabokov lovers only, but a splendid book.
A CEA Chapbook on SF.
Willis E. McNelly, ed. Science Fiction: The Academic Awakening. CEA Chapbook.
($2 from Herbert V. Fackler, Department of English, University of
Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA 70501) .
In Wells's Ann Veronica (1909), the father of the heroine reads "healthy
light fiction with chromatic titles, The Red Sword, The Black Helmet, The
Purple Robe...in order 'to distract his mind'" (ß1:3). For perhaps a hundred
years newspapers have been publishing amused stories about great men in politics,
commerce, or even science who relax with historical romances, detective stories, western
stories, or whatever. For a hundred years and more the world has been well aware of
science fiction as a form of popular entertainment in books, magazines, penny dreadfuls,
dime novels, movies, comic strips, comic books, radio, and now television. If not for a
hundred years, at least for the last thirty, newspapers and magazines have regularly
published gee-whiz articles on SF; i.e., articles in which the author informs the
presumably incredulous reader that many people actually take serious interest in science
fiction and then goes on to express his own astonishment at discovering that among all
this Buck Rogers stuff there is actually some material of interest even to such normal
people as himself and those he writes for.
If among your colleagues there are some who have just discovered SF as something more
than Buck Rogers stuff, you could hardly do better than to give them a copy of the new CEA
Chapbook, which contains articles on various aspects of the phenomenon by Jack
Williamson, Mark R. Hillegas, Jane W. Hipolito, Leon E. Stover, A. James Stupple, Gregory
Benford, Brian Aldiss, Harry Harrison, Harlan Ellison, John Boyd, Philip K. Dick, and
Thomas D. Clareson, as well as McNelly himself. And as weary as I am of introductions to
SF, I must grant that there are some fresh insights and convenient information in this
little book, and so must recommend it even to the readers of SFS.
An Exhibition of SF Books and Magazines.
The current exhibition at the Lilly Rare Book Library of Indiana University (Bloomington 47401) is entitled SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY. The first exhibition of such literature ever held in this country by a major rare book library, it is the result of acquisitions made by the Lilly within the last few years. It will extend through March, and an illustrated catalogue is available.
The major portion of the material on display is work which has appeared since the establishment of Hugo Gernsback's
magazine Amazing Stories in 1926. The Lilly now has complete runs of most of the
major SF pulps: besides Amazing Stories, it has Astounding Stories, Wonder
Stories, Unknown, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy, and
others. Selections from these magazines form the most colorful part of the
exhibit. But it is the books which are given the greatest space. While almost
all important authors and publishing houses are represented, the amount of
material available is so large that prolific authors, such as Heinlein, Clarke,
and van Vogt, are, with one exception, represented by only a few of their works.
The exception is the special section on Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thanks to the
generous loan of manuscripts and of original art works by J. Allen St. John from
the Burroughs family, the Lilly has been able to mount a complete view of his
work. As one of the most popular writers of the century, Burroughs deserves a
The unique holdings of the Lilly has permitted a rounding out of the exhibition.
First there is a short introductory section of scientific works which have some bearing on the field, such as Percival Lowell's Mars (Boston 1895). This is followed by a selection of books which would fit on any list of progenitors of science fiction or fantasy: included are works of ancient authors, such as Lucian, up through the early 20th century. Of particular interest are the first editions of many classics, such as Frankenstein (London 1818) or Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (New York 1838). Equally essential for any exhibit of science fiction are the works of Jules Verne and H.C.
Wells: the Lilly's large collection of both men's work permits the pertinent
novels to be displayed.
SF in Psychology Textbooks.
The use of SF in psychology courses fits in well with the movement toward humanistic psychology, which strives to use both the theories of science and the metaphoric patterns of the humanities, as well as with the movement to expand the traditional definition of psychology from the study of the organism-in-the-environment to the humanistic view, "man-in-the-universe"--see Joseph Royce, "Metaphoric Knowledge and Humanistic Psychology," in Challenges of Humanistic Psychology, ed. J.F.T. Bugental
(McGraw-Hill 1967). Since SF can be a useful tool in helping students deal with
the important root problems that concern them, where and how do we use this
tool? Judging from the books that have emerged, SF is primarily used in teaching
During the spring of 1974 at least four introductory psychology books using SF came on the market. First, Valence and Vision: A Reader in Psychology, ed. Rich Jones and Richard L. Roe (Rinehart), a collection of research-oriented articles and SF short stories. The entries are introduced by brief comments and organized around some of the newer and hotter areas of psychology like biomedical technology, parapsychology, and newer forms of therapy. Second, a very creative text by
C. Le Grancois entitled
Of Humans: Introductory Psychology by Kongor (Brooks/Cole), Kongor being "a little blue individual from outer space who is studying man for the first time." The book covers traditional areas of introductory psychology through 25 of Kongor's progress reports, and it is shorter than the usual introductory text. Third,
Understanding Human Behavior by
James V. McConnell (Holt), a very large book combining traditional introductory material with original short stories, including some SF. Last but hopefully not least, Introductory Psychology Through Science Fiction, by Harvey A. Katz, Patricia Warrick, and Martin Harry Greenburg (Rand McNally), a collection of SF short stories organized in sections which correspond to the traditional introductory course (the learning process, developmental processes, social processes, etc.) and with an extensive introduction to each story, as well as to each of the areas it covers.
--Harvey A. Katz.
SF in a Political-Science Textbook.
Martin Harry Greenburg and Patricia S. Warrick, ed.. Political Science
Fiction: An Introductory Reader.
Instructions for reading the stories in this anthology are provided in the Preface:
An efficient reader who is experienced in his field practices the technique of
previewing. He rapidly scans the material to be read, looking for the major aspects of the
topic and erecting key questions for which he wants to find answers. Next, he actually
reads the material, and he can do this with high comprehension because he is looking for
specific answers. The notes that precede each story in the book serve as a preview for the
reader.... Using them as a guide, the student should be able to find much more meaning
than if he read passively.
All right, men, now I want you to go in there and tear those answers out of those guys!
The antonym of "passive" here is evidently not "active," but
"aggressive," or perhaps "exploitative." And yet the next paragraph of
the Preface goes on:
No excerpts from novels have been used in this reader. A work of fiction contains a
plot and creates dramatic tension. To slice out a piece of a novel for examination
vitiates that dramatic tension. The piece is a poor substitute for the whole. To prevent a
loss of the suspense of plot, which makes the reading of fiction exciting, only short
stories have been used in this reader. (p. x)
Mr. Greenberg is identified on the book-jacket as a teacher of political science, and Ms.
Warrick as a teacher of English. Does one sense here, perhaps, the residue of a slight
"dramatic tension" between them? The assumption that plot is the essence and
excitement the value of a novel is dismal, but still, a certain aesthetic sense is shown,
a consciousness of the nature of literary rape, and willingness to avoid it. And in
general the quality of the "notes that precede each story" bear out this real if
limited sensibility. Some recent anthologies of science fiction for use in college courses
have had "study questions" that were crass and coercive. These I think are
intelligent and suggestive, though patronizing, sometimes towards the story, and
invariably towards the student reader.
As for the selection of stories: It isn't bad. It's almost all "tough,"
"hard-nosed," "virile," etc., but at least it's not all golden oldies.
I was glad to see Chandler Davis, Jack Vance, Howard Fast, Brian Aldiss, Harlan Ellison
represented, though none of them at their best. Of the twenty-seven stories, one-half of
one was written by a woman. Among the "societal alternatives" it purports to
contain, the book includes no non-sexist societies. There are two or three British
writers, but no other Europeans, Western or Eastern. None of the stories is identifiably
written from a Marxist viewpoint, and such Communist characters as occur seem either to
get killed or converted. There is considerable implied criticism of the Way Things Are,
usually through irony, as in the Fast and Davis stories; but there are no genuinely
alternative societies, ideologies, or points of view.
Most of the models offered thus are artistically mediocre, and ideologically and
morally very limited. But, as the editors remark,
Another result accrues from encountering a substantial amount of science fiction. The
mind begins to develop flexibility in considering alternatives, begins to feel at home
with unfamiliar worlds, begins to feel comfortable with the idea of change. (p. 6)
I hope they're right.
My favorite sentence in the book also occurs in the Introduction: "When Estragon
in Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot said, 'Nothing happens, nobody comes,
nobody goes, it's awful!,' he was not in touch with the forefront of scientific
thinking" (p. 2). Somehow this sums up the whole obtuse, wrong-headed,
--Ursula K. Le Guin.
A Facsimile of the Wilkins Treatise.
John Wilkins. The
Discovery of a World in the Moone. Introduction by Barbara Shapiro.
Delmar, NY (12054), Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints. $12.50
John Wilkins's The Discovery of a World in the Moone has been reprinted by
Scholars Facsimiles and Reprints with a brief introduction by Barbara Shapiro. The book's
subtitle indicates its purpose: "A Discourse Tending to Prove that 'tis probable
there may be another habitable world in that Planet," which it does by arguing its
way through 13 "propositions." Although the book is not SF or fiction at all, it
is nonetheless a must for all historians of SF and its 17th-century "planet
romance" form, arguing as it does that the Moon is "a solid, compacted, opacous
body," that there are sea and land with mountains, valleys, and plains on it, that it
possesses an atmosphere, and finally "That tis probable there may be inhabitants in
this other World, but of what kinde they are is uncertaine." Halfway between
Galileo's first "perspective" observations and the selenography of Kepler's
successors, Wilkins still relies in part on classical and medieval precedents (Plutarch,
Nicolaus de Cusa, etc.). Yet he also prefigures modern, post-Brunoan cosmological
relativism and scientific skepticism in his Proposition 11, "That as their world is
our Moone, so our world is their Moone." This sentence will pass almost literally
into Cyrano's witty onslaught on dogmatic, unfree, and non-skeptical life-styles in his Estates
and Empires of the Moon. Cyrano's planet romances presented a critical mirror to
corrupted sublunary Earth by means of satirical islands in the sea of ether. Thus, at a
time when significant SF was once again in its long history expelled from official culture
and literature, the detour through Kepler, Francis Godwin, and Cyrano led finally to
Swift, reclaiming the wondrous islands for an oblique, satirical defense of basically
utopian values by way of an onslaught against the authors' anti-utopian actuality. Bishop
Wilkins's dry proofs paradoxically contributed to such a development. His final argument
precognizing a flight to the Moon can thus be read, in historical hindsight, as a wider
statement about the possibilities of the future: "Time will come when the indeavours
of after-ages shall bring such things to light, as now lie hid in obscurity. Arts are not
yet come to their Solstice, but the industry of future times assisted with the labours of
their forefathers, may reach unto that height which wee could not attaine to."
German Utopian Thought in the Twentieth
Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand, ed. Deutsches utopisches Denken in 20. Jahrhundert,
Urban-Taschenbüher No. 80. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 1974.
German Utopian Thought in the 20th Century is the English for the somewhat too
ambitious title of a 150-page paperback, Deutsches utopisches Denken in 20.
Jahrhundert. In this record of a symposium held in 1973 at the University of
Wisconsin, Madison, a majority of the eight contributions deal with utopianism and German
politics (e.g., in Marcuse, Lukács, or the West German student movement). Three
contributions deal directly with "utopianism" in literature. Evelyn Torton Beck
writes in "Women, Blacks, and Proletarians: The Stepchildren of Utopia" about a
dozen German utopian texts from Lasswitz and HerzI to Ernst Jünger's Heliopolis
and Glass Bees and Jens Rehns's Saturn's Children in the 1950s,
stressing the unsatisfactory roles the three exploited groups of her title play in such
writings. George L. Masse writes about the kinship of the "Third Empire"
pseudo-utopianism and Nazism. Hans Mayer follows the development of views about utopia and
literature in Ernst Bloch, the most important philosophical analyst of utopias--literary
or otherwise--in our century, who saw in much literature and art "tracks"
leading to an utopian horizon. For SFS readers, the booklet has two main shortcomings.
First, nobody dealt with the most interesting and still quite un-analyzed German writings
of this kind in our century--those of Paul Scheerbart and Alfred Döblin. Second, and
methodologically most important, nobody even tried to analyze the relationship of utopias
proper and SF, apart from some hasty lines knocking SF in the opening statement of the
editor, Professor Hermand. And yet in all the cases of more than documentary interest or
more than a mere history of ideas--in Lasswitz and Arno Schmidt, Döblin and Scheerbart,
as well as in the later writings of Heinrich Hauser and Herbert W. Franke--utopias flow
into SF. Isn't there an ideological lesson there too, not merely a pedantic
The Hyperion Reprints
- Robert Paltock.
The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins
- Percy Greg. Across
the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record. Deciphered, Translated and Edited by Percy Greg.
- Gabriel Tarde. Underground
- Stanley G. Weinbaum. A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales: The Collected
Short Stories of Stanley G. Weinbaum.
The Hyperion Reprints (see SFS 1:300-05): Addenda. I
can now report on the four books that were "not available for this report" in
our last issue. But let me begin these addenda by correcting two errors in the original
report. First (page 300, column 2, line 11), it was #3, Across the Zodiac (585p),
not #9 (198p) which was "announced in 1971 by McGrath at $42.00 (but never
published)" and is now offered by Hyperion at $13.50 hardback, $5.50 paperback.
Second (page 301, column 1, line 20). It is of course #4, The Angel of the Revolution,
not #3, to whose 9th edn "the reader is referred." And since I was for the sake
of brevity altogether too cryptic at this point and later in the article (page 301, last
line of column 1 and first line of column 2), let me give the Olga Romanoff
errata slip in full: "In view of recent events in Russia it is necessary to state
that Olga Romanoff was published before they happened. For the obviously
necessary alterations in the text, the reader is referred to the Ninth Edition of The
Angel of the Revolution." The "events" were the death of Tsar
Alexander and the accession of Nicholas. In Olga the "necessary
alterations" seem to be called for only on page 2, where the phrase "Alexander
Romanoff, last of the Tsars" appears twice. In the 9th edn of Angel (a copy
of which I happen to have) the change from "Alexander" to "Nicholas"
has been silently made in a number of places: since the two names are of almost exactly
the same length on the printed page, and since Alexander/Nicholas is portrayed simply as a
type of tyrant rather than as an individualized character, it was not necessary to reset
any lines other than those in which the name actually appeared.
#1. Robert Paltock.
The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins.
1751 (but here a 1928 edition profusely illustrated by Edward Bawden and with an 1884
introduction by A.H. Bullen). $10.95/4.50. It is good to have Peter Wilkins back
in print, and this is certainly the edition for all enthusiasts of fauvist-style
illustrations in general or Edward Bawden in particular. Others might have preferred an
edition (e.g., the one pbd by Dulau in 1925) that retained of the illustrations of 1751:
the "several Cuts, clearly and distinctly representing the Structure and Mechanism of
the Wings of the Glumms and Gawrys, and the Manner in which they use them either to swim
or fly." The Introduction is typically Bullenite.
#3. Percy Greg.
Across the Zodiac: The Story of a Wrecked Record. Deciphered,
Translated and Edited by Percy Greg. 1880. Two volumes in one with a
new introduction by Sam Moskowitz. $13.50/5.50. Although a masterpiece only in
this novel is certainly indispensable for any student of the history of SF, and at $5.50
is certainly a bargain for anyone attempting to build an SF library. The chapters
"Outward Bound" and "The Untravelled Deep" give us a masterly
depiction of space travel, and the other 28 chapters, though mediocre as narrative,
description, and exposition, are still unusual enough in their presentation of a
utopian-dystopian world to reward careful reading.
The Martial world-state is a utopia in some respects: "a general distribution of
property, total absence of permanent poverty, and freedom from that gnawing anxiety
regarding the future of ourselves and our children which is the great evil of life upon
Earth and the opprobrium of our social arrangement," together with "absolute
equality before the law, competitive examinations among the young for the best start in
life, with equal chances wherever equality is possible; and again, perfect freedom and
full legal equality as regards the relations of the sexes" (1:138). This enviable
condition has been achieved through the application of three principles. First, absolute
monarchy in government, the Martialists having learned through long and bitter experience
that the liberties of the subject are more secure under an absolute prince than under
"democracy, with its inseparable party conflicts, mal-administration, neglect, and
confusion" (1:143). Second, private property and free enterprise in economics:
"our experience of Communism having taught us that immediate and obvious
self-interest is the only motive that certainly and seriously affects human action"
(1:137). Third, absolute scientific orthodoxy, materialistic and atheistic: "any one
who ventures to affirm persistently a story which science pronounces impossible (like your
voyage through space), if he do not fall at once a victim to popular piety, would be
consigned to the worse than living death of life-long confinement in a lunatic
hospital" (1:121). Having won complete legal equality, the Martial women have learned
that they cannot compete successfully with men either in university examinations or in
commercial or professional endeavors--in sum, that they were designed by nature to be
wives and mothers ("equality before the law gives absolute effect to the real
inequality, and chiefly through its coarsest element, superior physical force"), and
that in winning equality they have lost the protection of the institution of marriage, for
nowadays men are free to demand, and almost always do demand, that cohabitation contracts
"exclude legal interference in household quarrels" (1:214).
Of the adventures of the nameless narrator in his explorations of this strange world,
of his being adopted by a family that belongs to a secret religious order, of his falling
in love with and marrying Eveena, of his being presented with six additional wives by the
King (a gift he dare not refuse, and wives to whom he must pay his husbandly debt), of his
being persecuted by one of the King's chief officers and being constantly in danger of
death, of his leadership in a great struggle for religious liberty, of the death of some
of his loved ones through his accidental importation of Terrestrial germs, and of his
thrilling escape from Mars in his spaceship, I will say nothing except that these
adventures and situations will remind you sometimes (especially in what is suggested of
sexual relationships) of John Norman's Gor.
#9. Gabriel Tarde. Underground Man. With a prefatory note
signed A.L. and a postscriptive "Note on Tarde" by Joseph Manchon; translated by
Cloudesley Brereton; with a Preface by H.G. Wells. 1905 (Paris 1896 & Lyon 1904 as Fragment
d'histoire future). $7.50/2.95. This story of how a united mankind created utopia of
a sort on the surface of the earth, only to meet almost universal death with the
exhaustion of the sun, and of how the remnants of mankind, with "the complete
elimination of living nature, whether animal or vegetable, man only excepted," built
a new utopia-of-a-sort deep underground--this story is certainly the wittiest and one of
the most imaginative of these 23 Hyperion Reprints. (For wit its only rival would be #19, The
Absolute at Large.) The elimination of all living nature other than man
"produced, so to say, a purification of society":
Secluded thus from every influence of the natural milieu into which it was hitherto
plunged and confined, the social milieu was for the first time able to reveal and display
its true virtues, and the real social bond appeared in all its vigor and purity. It might
be said that destiny had desired to make in our case an extended sociological experiment
for its own edification by placing us in such extraordinarily unique conditions. (p111)
The tone of the fictive historian writing in the Year of Salvation 596 (AD 3085) is one
of immense satisfaction with the progress and present condition of mankind, and Tarde's
book is of course not one with the "moral...that in the proper environment man can do
all things--even overcome his basic nature" (to quote the Hyperion blurb), but is
instead a satire on sociological concepts prevalent at the turn of the century, and
"The whole of Tarde is in this little book," says A.L., who concludes his
prefatory note with the statement that "a pious friendship has desired to clothe this
fascinating work in an appropriate dress." Published in the year of Tarde's death,
the Lyons edition is thus evidently a memorial volume intended to replace an edition in
inappropriate dress, i.e. that of 1896, presumably a pamphlet. The preface by Wells is
interesting as an essay on stories of the future and on the differences between the French
and English intellectual milieux ("Imagine a Story of the Future from Mr. Herbert
Spencer! America and the north of England would have swept him out of all respect"
[p3].), and also because it contains a maddeningly ambiguous passage:
If I may be forgiven a personal intrusion at this point, there is a singular
parallelism between this foreshadowed Last Man of M. Tarde's stalactitic philosopher, and
a certain Grand Lunar I once wrote about in a book called "The First Men in
the Moon" . And I remember coming upon the same idea in a book by Merejkowski,
the title of which I am now totally unable to recall. (pp18-19)
Had Wells read, or did he even know of, the 1896 edition of Tarde's story? And what is
the date of the Merejkowski book? Is Wells here acknowledging a debt to Tarde, and perhaps
Merejkowski, or is he claiming to have influenced Tarde, and perhaps Merejkowski, or is he
simply remarking that great minds run in the same channel?
#22. Stanley G. Weinbaum.
A Martian Odyssey and Other Science Fiction Tales: The
Collected Short Stories of Stanley G. Weinbaum. A composite volume
containing an Introduction by Sam Moskowitz (§18 of Explorers of the Infinite),
a 5-page Autobiographical Sketch, A Martian Odyssey and Others (1949), The
Red Peri (1952), a 3-page short story, "Graf," and an 18-line poem,
"The Last Martian." $13.50/5.75. The details given above correct and expand
those given in SFS 1:304. It remains only to say what was also said of #3: this book is
indispensable for any student of the history of SF and at $5.75 is a bargain for anyone
attempting to build an SF library.
The Arno Reprints.
Although some of the 62 titles being reprinted by Arno Press (330 Madison Avenue, New
York 10017) are certainly indispensable for students of the history of SF, none of these
reprints can be called "a bargain for anyone attempting to build an SF library,"
for there are no paperback editions, and the hardbacks are priced from $7.00 to $42.00,
presumably depending on the number of pages. A brochure is available from the publisher:
"Science Fiction: 62 Books," with plot summaries for each of the 49 volumes of
fiction and equivalent comment for the 13 secondary works, by R. Reginald and Douglas
Menville, the advisory editors for the series. Time permitting, we will have a complete
report on this series in the next issue of SFS.
The Avon-Equinox Reprints.
Under its Equinox label Avon Books has published photographic reprints in paperback of
unidentified editions of The Foundation Trilogy ($3.95) and (in an "SF
Rediscovery" series at $1.95 each) of Algis Budrys's Rogue Moon (1960; a
somewhat longer text than the magazine version reprinted in the Science Fiction Hall
of Fame), Philip Jose Farmer's Strange Relations (1960; "Mother,"
"Daughter," "Father," "Son," and "My Sister's
Brother"), C.M. Korbluth's The Syndic (1953), and a somewhat Dickian,
somewhat Kornbluthian but never subtle novel by John T. Sladek that attracted very little
attention when published in 1968 as Mechasm, retitled here The Reproductive
System. Since new titles are to be added in this series each month, several more will
be available by the time this issue of SFS reaches its readers.
From the standpoint of bookmaking these volumes stand somewhere between the ordinary
mass-market paperback and the ordinary quality or trade paperback. The page size is 5 x
8, which allows an enlargement of the type, but the paper, although better than ordinary
pulp, is still of dubious quality, and the reproductive process has not been carefully
done: in Foundation, the designation of the publisher has been changed from
Doubleday to Equinox on the first two of the four title pages but not on the other two; in
The Reproduction System two pages of advertising have been reproduced (it will
surely not make Ace Books happy to receive orders at 1968 prices); and more important, the
copy of The Syndic used for photographing was one that had been printed from
dirty type, so that the tops of the e's and s's are filled in; the same thing is true,
though to a lesser degree, of Strange Relations.
George Griffith: A Bibliography, a
Moskowitz Essay, and Seven Stories.
A book presumably edited by George Locke--The Raid of 'Le Vengeur' and other stories
(£2.50 from Ferret Fantasy Ltd, 27 Beechcroft Road, Upper Tooting, London, SW17)--is of
great value: first, for its Bibliography by Mr. Locke, presumably complete for Griffith's
books and reasonably so for his magazine appearances; second, for the essay by Sam
Moskowitz on Griffith and the magazine publishing world of his time (from which excerpts
appear in Hyperion reprints ##4-5); and last and least, for the seven hitherto uncollected
stories, one a chapter from the magazine version of The Angel of the Revolution
not included in the book, another the same thing for VaIdar the Oft-Born, and all
pretty routine stuff to have come from an author hailed in 1893 as a "second Jules
Verne" (pp17, 19; cf the preceding note).
Born in 1857, Griffith joined the Pearson company some time before 1893, during which
year he wrote week by week the installments of The Angel of the Revolution that
appeared in Pearson's Weekly. During the next 13 years (he died in 1906) he wrote
47 books, of which perhaps 20 count as SF. Though a few of these seem to have sold well,
none seems to have approached the great success of Angel, with its 10 or 11
editions in the original format as well as later cheap editions. What with my own
love/hate relationship to the criticism of Mr. Moskowitz (which has fascinated me strangely
ever since the chapters of Explorers of the Infinite began to appear in Amazing
Stories in 1960), I am tempted to dwell at length on the absurdity of his claim that
there was on Wells's part for Griffith a "strange hate/love attitude and ambivalent
feelings of contempt, respect and envy" (p7) -- a claim that Mr. Moskowitz has been
making ever since 1968 and
Science Fiction by Gaslight. He tells us that this
attitude is "summed up" in two sentences that he quotes from Wells, but neglects
to tell us that these two poor sentences constitute his entire case. That they indicate a
degree of contempt is obvious; that they indicate anything at all in the way of respect or
envy is not apparent and is highly dubious (see The War in the Air
Harris Wilson's Arnold Bennett and H.G. Wells, 1960, p73). Having said that, I
must end this love/hate note with the statement that with respect to Griffith and the
London publishing world of the 1890s, Mr. Moskowitz, aided and abetted by Mr. Locke, clears
up a number of matters that I had hitherto found obscure, and that the Moskowitz essay as
a whole is much more balanced and reasonable in its estimate of Griffith than was the
excerpt printed in Hyperion #4, which caused me to end my note in the last issue of SFS
with a snort of derision.
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