Science Fiction Studies

#6 = Volume 2, Part 2 = July 1975



Scholes' Structural Fabulation

Let a prominent Joyce scholar loose in the fields of science fiction and what do you get? A condemnation of the failure of SF to live up to the standards of prose and construction set by the master? A microscopic examination of every symbol and allusion, every error and flaw in a random dozen tests? Not if the scholar is Robert Scholes; in this case, you get a stirring introduction to SF viewed at a slightly skewed angle: Structural Fabulation: An Essay on Fiction of the Future (University of Notre Dame Press, 111p, $6.95).

Speaking as an academic to other academics (in four lectures originally delivered at Notre Dame), Scholes seductively argues the legitimacy of SF as an art form and the need for it as an antidote to much that plagues contemporary literature and society. It is not science fiction per se which he presses upon his audience, however, but structural fabulation, so defined as to comprise "the best" of science fiction, and to spill out beyond traditional SF boundaries.

Starting from the proposition that all we know are fictions (models of reality), he surveys the contemporary dead-ends of realism (which can not be fully real), fantasy (which can not escape from our models of reality) and meta-fiction (stories about the impossibility of writing believable stories). If the historical present as a viable time-frame for fiction is receding (as did mythical eternity, the legendary cycle, and the ideal time of fairy tales before it), its logical successor is future time, in which we can openly deal with self-acknowledged models of reality. Doris Lessing serves as a representative case in point.

Building on frameworks erected in previous books, Scholes constructs a theoretical (and genealogical) model for the genre of romance. As opposed to pure romance, didactic romance (termed fabulation) divides into dogmatic and speculative fabulation, the latter further subdividing into pseudo-scientific sublimation and structural fabulation. In similar fashion, he shows the drama giving way to the novel as a dominant form, and the novel itself passing through sentimental, socio-historical, and psychological dominant modes, correlated with social change. Then he suggests that the concept of historical man (progressing through the conquest of implicitly congenial nature) is giving way to one of structural man (operating within the limits of a closed system of indifferent nature). Given man's need for fictions as a means of both sublimation and cognition, he asserts that only SF can provide both for our modern conception of man's place in the cosmos.

Having provided historical and theoretical pedigrees for his version of SF, Scholes then proceeds from the general to the particular. Although all art estranges and defamiliarizes objects, he maintains (with Darko Suvin) that SF estranges conceptually. A sensitive reading of a passage from Sturgeon's "Slow Sculpture" illustrates the point in the microcosm of style; consideration of the four legitimate versions of Keyes' "Flowers for Algernon" demonstrates the elasticity of a "minimal SF" concept. Brief analyses of Stapledon, Herbert and Brunner suggest speculative, sublimative and (future) historical perimeters for SF, and a full chapter on Le Guin offers her Earthsea trilogy and The Left Hand of Darkness as pinnacles of achievement in both concept and style.

A natural outgrowth of Scholes' concern for a poetics of fiction, visible in The Nature of Narrative (co-authored with Robert Kellogg) and last year's Structuralism in Literature, Structural Fabulation provides a clearer strand of argument than did The Fabulators, his earlier attempt to apply his theories to examples of contemporary fiction. Short as it is, this book carries enough theoretical baggage with it that one need not consult its predecessors (though I'm glad I was familiar with them).

Intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive, Structural Fabulation is not so much a "defense of poetry" as it is an aggressive staking of claims, on grounds much surer than those on which most SF missionaries stand. Even so, its claims need close analysis. It may be "common knowledge" that the contemporary novel is dead, but is it true? The historical schemata he invokes are interesting, but their very symmetry arouses my suspicions. In Structuralism in Literature, Scholes provides an arrowhead diagram with history at the point and the novel (fiction) proceeding chronologically away from the point; realism is neatly bracketed by sentiment and comedy, naturalism by the picaresque and tragedy, fabulation by satire and romance. The model is aesthetically and logically pleasing but, as with those in the present volume, it leads teleologically toward the a priori position that fabulation (structural or not) is today the dominant form, and to the suggestion that this is the end of the line.

I am sympathetic to Scholes' arguments. I have used fabulation as one pole in classes in contemporary literature. And I have argued for the need for a "structural" view of man, for the future as a complementary dimension in our culture's model of time, and for literature as "useful," at least in the sense of enlarging us with vicarious experiences. But how much science fiction actually does this? Scholes is very selective, and one could infer from his statements that science fiction which does not fit within the parameters of his structuralist ideology (he calls it that himself in Structuralism in Literature, comparing it with existentialism and Marxism) is by definition trivial. Evaluation by ideology troubles me, especially on such a conscious, programmatic basis.

But perhaps that's a minor nit to pick in a book with this one's virtues: wit, grace, sensitivity, social concern and a challenging theoretical base. This essay may do more to convert the Philistines than any ever written on science fiction.

--David Samuelson

Patrouch's Study of Asimov

In a famous dispute over the art of fiction, Henry James taxed H.G. Wells with stressing situation at the expense of character. Wells replied that subtle analysis of character is only possible if the writer assumes that the social frame remains fairly stable. Living at a time when industrial development and scientific discovery were rapidly warping the social frame, Wells felt that he could not afford the Jamesian luxury of cataloguing the minutiae of personality. The world itself had become problematic. Modernist writers have generally sided with James in this dispute, probing ever deeper into the veins of consciousness while progressively ignoring the social realm. With few exceptions, and those fairly recent, writers of science fiction have sided with Wells, creating a genre in which, not character, but the framework within which character acts out its destiny, is at issue.

In The Science Fiction of Isaac Asimov (Doubleday, xxvii+283p, $6.95), Joseph F. Patrouch, Jr., offers a working definition of the genre as "fiction which examines scientifically plausible alternate settings for human consciousness." His chronicle of Asimov's work, from the stories of 1939 to The Gods Themselves of 1972, shows that this patriarch of science fiction has sustained for over three decades a fascination with alternate settings alongside a rather rudimentary interest in consciousness. In other words, the Asimov who emerges from Patrouch's study is the creator of psychologically simple characters within conceptually intricate situations. The only complex mind present in this fiction is Asimov's own, the ever-present artificer.

Patrouch himself is most interested in Asimov the artificer, the craftsman, rather than Asimov the thinker, and much of the book is therefore devoted to the examination of narrative technique in the fiction. The choice of focus is an odd one because, as Patrouch demonstrates repeatedly, Asimov is a clumsy writer, often hasty and careless, more interested in the well-turned idea than the well-made story. His best fiction moves us by the force of his conception rather than by the power of his art, by ingenuity rather than craftsmanship. Having chosen this focus, therefore, Patrouch is led to protest time after time against Asimov's inconsistencies, his use of hackneyed or hyperbolic language, his recourse to formulas, his partiality for trick endings, his cardboard characterization.

And yet Patrouch makes clear to us from the beginning that these protests should be read as a lover's quarrel: he is pointing out flaws in a master whose lifework he respects. In fact on several occasions he exhorts Asimov to dedicate himself once again full-time to the writing of science fiction, and suggests that the master could most fruitfully deal with those social and technological trends which have recently led Asimov (together with the rest of us) to take a dim view of the human prospect.

Indeed the technological optimism and the unwavering faith in reason which were characteristic of Asimov's fiction from the beginning have become increasingly suspect in the past decade. Patrouch notes that Asimov has claimed he suffers from no "Frankenstein complex," harbors no fears that our mechanical creations will destroy us.

Even in the nineteen-forties, when new inventions were annihilating millions, this technological faith might have seemed groundless. Surely in the nineteen-seventies, anyone who still believes the First Law of Robotics--that our mechanical creations are incapable of harming us--is indulging in nostalgia or fantasy.

Those interested in Asimov's work as a writer of science fiction will find Patrouch's book a careful, thoughtful summary. There are bibliographies listing sequences of composition and publication for the novels, stories and collections, and there are discussions of all the major and many of the minor works. He notes the influence of reigning pulp models, particularly as formulated by Campbell, on the earliest stories, although he emphasizes the break Asimov made from the space-opera tradition in favor of a more cerebral and eventually political fiction. After dealing in successive chapters with the beginnings of Asimov's career, the Robot stories, the Foundation series, the novels from the fifties and the various collections of short fiction, Patrouch concludes with a discussion of recent work, and in the process summarizes the qualities which he takes to be distinctively Asimovian.

He stresses that he has no intention of ranging outside the ample domain indicated by his title; but this has the effect of isolating Asimov's science fiction from all his other multifarious activities as writer, scholar and publicist. This man who has sought to embody in his own life the catholicity of interest and the unity of understanding which he advocates for all enlightened modern persons, deserves someday to be studied as a whole.

--Scott Sanders

Reginald's Contemporary SF Authors

This volume--R. Reginald, Contemporary Science Fiction Authors (Arno Press, viii+368, $20.00)--first appeared in 1970 in a $5.00 limited edition. Anything published in 1969 figures here as "Work in Progress."

This half-decade time lag is as unfortunate as it is unavoidable. Happily, CSFA does not rely greatly on being up-to-date; its merit lies in an eclectic eccentricity which includes much information of a kind that less catholic editorship might have rejected.

Let me give instances. Most of the authors--483 are claimed, though this bag includes editors and critics and other breeds without the law--have been allowed to talk about their own work. So we find D.C. Compton admitting that he regards the writing of SF as a sign of weakness; Paul Corey claiming that he writes farm fiction, a genre hitherto unknown to this reviewer; Tony Russell Wayman saying that he scripted a series of Malaysian fantasy novels, including Aladin Burok and Wily Delilah; Ray Nelson confessing to several previous reincarnations, including one as Yoni McKarikan in Ireland in the Early Middle Ages; Lester del Rey revealing his full name. Etc.

To qualify, authors had to be active when the volume was being compiled; so it is a surprise to come across the name of Col. S.P. Meek, noted author of the Gernsback era, who still writes in the style of that period. "I am not especially familiar with the modern version [of SF], and would prefer not to express an opinion on its merits, much less pontificate about it. I was in at the early days, I feel I made some contribution to it, and the mere fact that two of my old magazine serials were disinterred and reprinted in 1961 seems to indicate that my work was not wholly without merit. More I will not say."

The editor's comments are equally enjoyable. "A.J. Merak seems to be a real name, but no proof has been encountered to date verifying his existence." And I appreciated "Zeno Koomoter is a pen-name of Joseph Marnell," and similar information. In the pirandellan SF field, authors are always in search of names--and vice versa. The fact that E.H. Visiak was pen-name for Edward Harold Physick is omitted, perhaps wisely.

Mr. Reginald is particularly strong on English authors, perhaps because Ted Carnell helped with the British scene. Britain has produced some of the best SF writers; that it has also produced some of the worst--and the most prolific--this volume testifies. Badger Books find their monument here. Although consistency is not a strong point, the volume does not include the names of Nigel "Quatermass" Neale, Peter Tate, Christopher Priest, or John Keir Cross; the mystery of who John Lymington is is not unravelled. However, by way of compensation, it does include the information that Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster) "was recently presented a plague by the Newark Science Fiction Club"--presumably for Doctor to the Stars.

For a reference book, CSFA is extremely readable. More cuddley than definitive, it provides another heroic memorial to the amateur endeavour on which so much of the activity of the SF field is based--as well as a feast of aberrant facts.

--Brian W. Aldiss

Samuelson's Visions of Tomorrow

New Criticism has been slow to cast its cold analytic eye upon science fiction, partly due to the classical bias of those who fathered close reading in this country, scholars who preferred their literature to go upon stilts, and partly due to the speculative bent of the genre itself. Science fiction has been so insistently concerned with ideas that it has held out little appeal to critics who believe that works of literature should not mean but be; it has employed pulp conventions so loyally, and has held so faithfully to the values of clarity and accessibility, that it has discouraged critics who seek formal complexity, whether their key terms be irony, paradox, ambiguity, tension or allusiveness. The aesthetic values implicit in New Criticism, in short, are at odds with those implicit in science fiction.

Nevertheless, works of science fiction are crafted objects, they are products of human design, and accordingly they have begun to attract the sort of close formal attention which we have long since bestowed upon writings of the Metaphysicals, Symbolists and Moderns. An ambitious and largely successful example of this close reading is offered by David Samuelson in Visions of Tomorrow: Six Journeys from Outer to Inner Space (Arno Press, v+429p, $25.00). The six journeys in question are Childhood's End by Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov's The Caves of Steel, Theodore Sturgeon's More Than Human, Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s A Canticle for Liebowitz, Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys, and The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard.

Originally submitted as a doctoral dissertation at U.S.C. in 1969, the study has been reprinted as it stood six years ago, with a brief forward added in which Samuelson sketches the main changes he would make were he to revise the book. Let me ask, before going on to describe what Samuelson does, and does well, why he did not revise the study? It is an uncommonly good dissertation, written with confidence and lucidity; but it remains a dissertation, in need of pruning, too timid in places where a doctoral committee might raise objections, too lumbered with notes and yet lacking an index. Furthermore Samuelson himself states in his Foreword that his thoughts have shifted concerning the central theme in the book, the role of science in science fiction. Why then not rewrite it for book publication? Any study worth presenting to the public is worth presenting in its most considered form.

Visions of Tomorrow opens with a historical chapter which reviews the formative influence of the utopian and dystopian traditions, of Poe, Verne and Wells, and then concentrates upon the development of the genre in this country since the 1920s. Because this development has been recorded and largely promoted by the pulp magazines, Samuelson stresses the role played by the most important editors, Hugo Gernsback, John W. Campbell, Jr., and Anthony Boucher (pseudonym for William Anthony Parker White). The chronology he offers is a useful summary of what has become fairly well accepted in histories of the genre: the period up to WWII was dominated by "physical" science fiction, exploiting technical discoveries, often for the further glory of some death-defying hero; the succeeding period, from the war into the late 1950s, was dominated by "social" science fiction, stressing the broadscale human response to scientific discoveries; and the pre-eminent form since about 1960 has been "psychological" science fiction, which explores the further reaches of consciousness and dramatizes the life of the psyche.

In the second chapter Samuelson sketches a blueprint for the science fiction novel an "ideal," in Max Weber's sense of a hypothetical model whose essential features: never exactly duplicated in reality, define the genre. The model he offers, as he acknowledges, is a familiar one: "imaginative literature based on extrapolation from contemporary reality, consistent with contemporary scientific assumptions and theory." Judging from his new Foreword, he would now qualify his claim, prominent in the book, that a scientific conception of the world is basic to the genre, that the science-fictional cosmology is "at bottom...founded on natural law and the goals and assumptions of science." However true this may have been for earlier work, it ceases to hold for much of what has been written under the name of science fiction during the last two decades; in proportion as writers explore the psyche, religious experience, and altered states of consciousness, the methods and outlook of the sciences lose their efficacy.

With the historical and theoretical scaffolding erected, Samuelson then proceeds to his primary concern--the close reading of the novels. In each analysis he discusses other relevant works by the author in question, summarizes the reviews which greeted the book, articulates the leading themes, and examines matters of style, characterization, narrative structure, imagery and symbolism. He is strongest precisely where science fiction criticism has been weakest, in formal analysis, in viewing the novels primarily as artefacts and only secondarily as vehicles for speculation. Among the six critiques he is most illuminating when dealing with the two authors who are the finest craftsmen, namely Miller and Ballard, who repay formal analysis most handsomely. I believe Samuelson is wrong in his implicit hope that science-fiction writers will be provoked into greater concern for the art of the novel by such criticism, however. Good writers have always derived their standards from other writers, not from critics. One science-fictional Stendhal or Tolstoy or Lawrence would have more impact on the genre than a trainload of well-intentioned commentators. But I believe Samuelson is justified in his hope that studies of the sort he has written, intelligent and clear-eyed, will help us "to see science fiction more in terms of individual works and writers, and less in terms of a conglomerate or corporate image."

Having said that, I wish to consider briefly two features of the corporate image of science fiction which emerge from the book. The first is the prominence of pulp literary conventions--for example, stereotypical characters, action-oriented plots, resort to sentimentality or melodrama, and the treatment of language as a tool for communication rather than a medium bearing its own intrinsic interest. Samuelson provides a balanced reading of the pulp elements present in the six novels under discussion, and suggests the crucial role this repertory of conventions has played in establishing a community of readers for the magazines. The pulp influences have helped create a paradoxical genre. For we encounter in science fiction a combination of scientific speculation, which is oriented toward innovation, and popular literary forms, which tend to be conservative, formulaic, counter-innovative. This pouring of new wine into old wineskins was common during the first two centuries of the novel's existence (if we date from Cervantes), when the novelty which gave the genre its name was often a matter of content rather than form. Increasingly during the past one hundred years, the "literary" novel has stressed formal innovation; the aesthetic bequeathed us by the modernists has demanded that each new work constitute an assault upon narrative and stylistic conventions. Therefore, during the past century, the gulf between "popular" and "literary" fiction has widened, the one adhering to formulas of plot, characterization and language which had proved engaging for a broad audience, the other seeking to generate new forms as relentlessly and often pointlessly as Detroit spinning automobiles.

In the case of science fiction, in addition to the aesthetic gulf which separates all pulp fiction from the self-consciously literary novel, there is also an ideological gulf, because, in our own time, the mainstream writer is usually ignorant of or hostile to the aims and methods of science. This has not always been so. However amateurish their efforts to comprehend the sciences, many nineteenth century novelists, from Balzac through Zola and Howells, sought to explain their fiction by analogy to biology or physics. Literary naturalists and positivists conceived the novel as a branch of natural philosophy, an application of the scientific method to the affairs of society. Discoveries in biology, anthropology, psychology, and even, to a lesser extent, in physics and chemistry, were eagerly followed by writers who wished to incorporate the newest learning into their fiction. As these discoveries became more esoteric, however, and their human significance more obscure, writers who lacked technical training came to feel impotent in the face of this proliferating realm of scientific theory. This technical illiteracy, coupled with the misuse of scientific discoveries in our own century, the daily atrocities visited upon man and nature by our own inventions, would be sufficient grounds for explaining the neglect of science on the part of "literary" writers.

But there is an additional ground, more potent than the other two, for the mainstream writer's ignorance of or hostility toward science, and this is the manifest failure of scientific method to illuminate the novelist's traditional subject matter--human beings as unique individuals, and as social creatures. This brings me to the second feature of the corporate image of science fiction which emerges from Samuelson's book. For he holds out as an ideal the vision, projected elsewhere by Reginald Bretnor and Judith Miller among others, of an "integrated" literature, combining the speculative method, awareness of technical change, and scientific outlook characteristic of science fiction, with the respect for individual character, aesthetic values and human wholeness characteristic of the mainstream novel. But is this integration possible, and if so on what terms? Much has been made of the use of science fictional motifs by such mainstream writers as Anthony Burgess and William Burroughs. Yet to proceed from borrowing motifs to expressing a scientific worldview is an immense journey. J.G. Ballard, for example, as Samuelson himself argues, ransacks science for metaphors and images, much as T.S. Elliot ransacked literature; but the worldview implicit in Ballard's fiction, the view of man's nature and prospects, is diametrically opposed to that upheld by science. Likewise, the interest in the intricacies and idiosyncracies of character--the romance of psychology--which animates the modernist novel, is diametrically opposed to the abstracting, categorizing, generalizing interest which sustains the scientist. The limitations of scientific understanding, particularly when applied to human affairs, are in fact a central theme in the six novels which Samuelson discusses. In each book at least one character reveals the distortions and dangers to which an exclusively rational, scientific mentality falls prey.

If we are to achieve the integrated literature which Samuelson imagines, it must involve more than a borrowing of metaphors from science for the mainstream novel, more than aesthetic polishing for the science fiction novel. It will have to involve a blending of the quite different modes of understanding characteristic of the two traditions: modes of understanding character, event, history, and consciousness. The obstacles in the way of such a blending are obvious. Whether some genius will succeed in overcoming them, succeed where humanists and scientists have failed, only the future of fiction will tell.

--Scott Sanders

Menville's Thesis on SF Film

But why is Douglas Menville's A Historical and Critical Survey of the Science-Fiction Film (New York: Arno Press, xvii+185, $11.00) published? The survey, which attempts to trace the history of the film genre from its beginnings through 1957, was and still is merely a Master's thesis presented at USC in 1959. It is entirely superseded by John Baxter's Science Fiction in the Cinema (New York: Paperback Library, 1970), to which it adds little except an occasional error.

The volume does provide a fascinating glimpse into the horrors of American graduate education. It contains all the idiocies we require in an MA thesis, the superabundant and useless footnotes, the execrable prose style ("As has been stated previously..."; "Ever since man first..."), the bloated commonplaces presented as scholarly conclusions ("As we glance back over the history of the science-fiction motion picture we will come to realize that the primary purpose of this type of film is to entertain"). To be fair, one must say that this pendantic guff is probably more to be attributed to Mr. Menville's thesis directors than to himself. If they had enough confidence in the subject to allow him to pursue it, why had they not enough confidence to allow him to treat it sensibly? Here is a prime example of the way in which academic snobbishness and defensiveness can mortally hinder interesting research.

Even so, Mr. Menville has allowed it to be published. Rather, he has caused it to be published, since he is one of the two advisory editors for the Arno Press Science Fiction collection. And for this, he must be held guilty. At a time when money is scarce, and when many libraries are trying desperately to gather workable holdings in both film and SF, the issuance of this volume under the aegis of the New York Times is a heartless imposition.

Menville is, I take it, working on a real, honest-to-God history of the SF film. We could have waited; it costs nothing to wait.

--Fred Chappell

SF: A View from the USSR

In his Chto Takoe Fantastika (What is SF?--Moskva: Khudozhestvennaya Literature, 1974 352p), Juliy Kagarlitsky, who received the 1972 SFRA Pilgrim Award, sets himself the task of defining SF in a literary and social context, appealing first to the historical antecedents of the genre and then to its main present-day concerns. He limits himself primarily to British and American authors, but the problems upon which he touches are not theirs alone. The low quality of much of the SF produced for the mass market has, in Kagarlitsky's estimation, caused the works of even the best writers to be unjustly slighted. As a result, the positive social role of SF has been minimized or ignored. Kagarlitsky intends that his book should help to remedy this situation.

Selecting several scientific concepts and tracing them through various works important in the history of SF, Kagarlitsky sets off to explore some of the conflicts inherent in the genre. While SF is undoubtedly based in the scientific knowledge and social reality of its time, and while it may use realistic literary devices, its effect is destroyed if the illusion of reality thus created is too complete. On the contrary, as he points out, SF demands a complex interaction of belief and disbelief in its explorations of the unknown aspects of the known. Kagarlitsky suggests a possibly productive comparison of myth with SF: both are only analogues of reality, but while myth is based on faith, SF is based on the "dialectics of the investigative mind."

The fruits of some of the more notable "investigative minds" are examined in the next two chapters. He devotes the second chapter to a brief history of the genre, beginning with Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel and the Renaissance utopian fiction, continuing through Swift and Voltaire's Micromégas, and concluding with works from the Romantic period, of which the most important is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He selects Gulliver's Travels for a closer analysis of the interrelationship of scientific ideas and SF; specifically, the experiments of the Projectors of Lagado demonstrate that Swift was writing from a close knowledge of the scientific advances of his period.

The second and more extensive section of the book (ch.4-9) deals with some of the major elements which have been present in the SF of the last 100 years. Revealing a broad knowledge of the works of many British and American authors, Kagarlitsky devotes particular attention not only to their scientific, but also their social bases. In the chapter "Chronoclasm," for example, Kagarlitsky--referring to works by Wells, Asimov, Lem, Aldiss, Bradbury, Heinlein and others--mentions some of the philosophical and social problems explored through time-travel. Moreover, he suggests that the preoccupation of writers with this device is a measure of their interest in the problems of history and the direction of the future. One result is the relatively new "historical novel about the future," exemplified here by John Wyndham's The Chrysalids.

Chapter 5 is devoted to the discussion of American mass-market SF. Although he deplores its low quality (earlier he had pointed out that in its unquestioning absorption of often pseudo-scientific ideas it resembles myth more than it does true SF), he sees in it, especially in the "space operas," a reflection of the epic element present in all SF, and proposes that it derives its popularity and distinctively American flavor from wholesale borrowing from Westerns. At the same time, he does acknowledge the high quality of much American SF.

In the next three chapters, Kagarlitsky discusses in considerable detail the reaction of SF to the social problems created or threatened by changing conceptions of the world, of man and of the role of technology. He deals with the social uses, as seen by SF, of such concepts as personal immortality, telepathy and robots. This analysis is extended in his last chapter, "SF, Utopia, Anti-utopia," which examines the SF portrayal of societies, ideal or otherwise. Although he has already passed the early utopias in review, he discusses them here in more depth. In addition, he treats anti-utopias such as Wells' Time Machine, Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's 1984 and Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, characterizing them as critical evaluations of progress and, incidentally, refuting claims that anti-utopias such as 1984 were aimed against communist states. Finally, he turns to visions of future societies in contemporary SF, enumerating frequent targets such as the desirability of prosperity, over-dependency on machines, or personality leveling. Particularly timely, in view of our present preoccupation with the return to the simple life, is Kagarlitsky's discussion of what he terms the Rousseauist utopia. Utopias such as B.F. Skinner's Walden Two are futile, in his opinion, since they are moving in an anti-historical direction by rejecting progress, and he interprets them as essentially, although not necessarily intentionally, reactionary. He sees the pessimism of many Western SF writers as a function of their limiting themselves to visions of progress only along the lines of bourgeois materialistic societies.

Whether or not one agrees with Kagarlitsky that the utopia for which British and American writers are searching lies in communism, he offers a valuable interpretation of the interaction of SF, and in particular of its basic themes, with society. This is both the strength and the limitation of his approach to what is after all fiction rather than futurology. Perhaps such an exclusive stress results from his popularizing intention, which is here pleasingly fused with solid erudition. Thus, although Kagarlitsky may not, as he confesses in his introduction, have provided a definitive answer to the question "What is SF?", he has instead suggested some promising lines of research on a number of basic problems with which modern SF deals, and on how it historically came to do so.

--Marjorie Ferry

Orwell Surveyed

George Orwell: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Raymond Williams, has just been published in the industrious Twentieth Century Views Series (Prentice-Hall, x+182p, $6.95 hardback, $2.95 paperback). This is an excellent choice of various views on various facets of Orwell, which runs the gamut from liberal to anarchist and from journalistic to scholarly criticism; only the two blind extremes of Tory and Stalinist reactions to Orwell have been excluded as not helpful, but Professor Williams's Introduction gives a sense of the whole evolution of views on Orwell. For the SF critic, the most helpful parts will be a) the general views of Orwell by Raymond Williams himself, E.P. Thompson, and John Wain; b) particularly on 1984, which increasingly looks as the fountainhead of the "new maps of hell" SF after World War 2, there are useful contributions by Isaac Deutscher and Conor Cruise O'Brien, while the concluding chapter by George Woodcock is both a general approach to Orwell's prose and a critique of 1984. A number of writers in this collection point to Orwell's indebtedness to earlier masters of SF. The by now classic essay of Deutscher analyzes his huge debt to Zamiatin's We (though it would have been useful had a footnote corrected Deutscher's wrong information about Zamiatin's biography, which was in 1954, when he wrote, largely obscure but has by now been cleared up, notably in the monograph by Alex M. Shane, The Life and Works of Evgenij Zamjatin, Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1968). Further, an essay by Jenni Calder uses Orwell's reviews of Jack London's The Iron Heel for a brief parallel. But much work remains to be done on 1984 as a twist on the transmission between prewar and postwar approaches to the SF genre. For such further work, Professor Williams's collection is an excellent first introduction, from which a student can continue to deal with other views on Orwell--with Woodcock, Williams himself, etc. (a basic bibliography, as it made clear in a useful appendix, would by now have about two dozen titles).

--Darko Suvin

Locke's Bibliography

We have long needed what George Locke gives us in Voyages in Space: A Bibliography of Interplanetary Fiction 1801-1914 (London: Ferret Fantasy, 1975, 80 pages plus paper cover, $8.50 in U.S. bookstores). Beginning where Marjorie Nicolson left off, Locke lists 215 books published in his period, and then adds 48 magazine stories, "boys' novelettes," etc. Since he is not especially interested in identifying the first issue of the first edition (and in some cases does not have the information to do so), he does not give a full collation, but merely the number of the last printed page. On the other hand, since the book is designed primarily for collectors, he does give some information on bindings and variant editions. He is commendably careful with his dates, bracketing any derived from copyrighting, bound-in advertisements, or external sources, and clearing up a number of matters that had bothered me for some time. Most important, he presents for each book a brief statement on the content: the planet to which the voyage is made, the nature of the inhabitants of the planet, the technology involved, etc. He includes a number of works in which the voyage into space occupies only a few pages, or comparatively few, as in the anonymous 4-volume Life and Its Manifestations (privately printed 1891-1910), for which the commentary ends with this wry note: "However, 130 pages in nearly 2000 is not likely to attract many collectors, and there is, of course, no story." Not many books are listed of this type, and only one that I think should have been excluded, simply on the matter of dating, for his scheme does not allow him to include in his main list the second or third edition of a book first published before 1801: Volney's Ruins, for which he lists an 1801 edition. On the other hand, it is interesting to discover that this famous book contains a passage in which the "narrator's spirit is taken by a genius to a point in space above Earth and, as the planet rotates, is able to witness the future development of civilization," and if he had merely put this note in his "select bibliography of interplanetary fiction up to 1800," I could not have made even this quibble. Finally, although Mr. Locke limits himself to the modest claim that his listing includes "between 80 and 90% of the relevant books," it seems to me highly doubtful that anything of any importance has been overlooked--but of course, if you have knowledge to the contrary, both Mr. Locke and I would be very happy to learn about it. In sum, Mr. Locke has given us what we need, and probably all we need, as a guide to serious study in this field.


Orbites, a Quarterly edited by Daniel Riche and Gérard Klein. Paris: Nouvelles Editions Oswald, 1982. 200 p. each issue. FF39.00.--This is a new journal published in France by two major SF writers and editors. After a number of failed attempts at launching a quality journal of SF, we do hope that the new formula will be successful. In its second issue Orbites published a number of short stories by Moorcock, Matheson, Robert F. Young, and Scott Baker. Half of the issue is devoted to critical surveys (on heroic fantasy in this case), notes, and reviews.

Jacques Bisceglia (with the help of Roland Buret for SF) Trésors du roman policier, de la science-fiction et du fantastique: catalogue encyclopedique Paris: Les Editions de l'amateur, 1981. 431p. FF135.00.--This bibliographical catalogue attempts to provide a complete listing of all that has ever been published in French in detective fiction' SF, and fantasy. The authors do recognize that this compilation of 25,000 titles or so, with a grouping by series and publishers, still presents gaps and errors. As it stands, however, their work is a mine of information that will be welcomed by collectors and second-hand booksellers as well as by university scholars. An average price on the second-hand bookmarket is provided where possible.

Koinos Kosmos, edited by Klaus Johansen. Odense, no. 2:1982. US $1.00 per issue.--This fanzine, published in English by a Danish fan, Mr. Klaus Johansen (Godthäbsgade 61/ 5000 Odense C./Denmark) stands unique in its kind for exclusively publishing critical texts on Philip K. Dick. In issue number two, an interesting polemic between Stanislaw Lem and O. Terlecki pro and against Dick has been translated.

"Special Uchronie," Imagine..., Montréal, no. 14:1982. 171p. Can. $5.00.--This is an excellent special issue of this journal, dealing with alternative future romances, a subgenre of SF that is examined in a dozen interesting essays. For information write to: J.M. Gouanvic/403 west, St.-Joseph, #21/Montréal. Ouébec/Canada H2V 2P3.

R. Reginald. Science Fiction & Fantasy Awards. First Edition. San Bernardino CA: Borgo Press ["The Borgo Reference Library," Vol. 21, 1981. 64p. $8.95 cloth, $2.95 paper.--This booklet contains a complete listing of all awards related to SF and SF film through the end of 1981, not only the American awards but also the major foreign ones.

----Marc Angenot  

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