Robert Weinberg. A
Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. 347pp. $49.95
It is important to observe, first of all, that this book very successfully accomplishes
what it sets out to do. "This is the first book of any note to cover in depth the science
fiction art field. It is not an art book but a book about artists," Weinberg claims (p.
viii); and the claim is not excessive. His introductory essay on the history of SF art is
a detailed, thoroughly researched account which, almost as a by-product, serves equally
well as a capsule history of SF publishing. His section of 279 artist biographies--the
meat of the book--is endlessly fascinating, with detailed bibliographies of the artists'
work in the field which collectively constitute a monumental achievement in themselves.
And his concluding essay, "Science Fiction Art: What Still Exists," is an informative
and at times heartbreaking account of how thousands of original works have been destroyed
to save storage space, or sold at flea-market prices as promotions, or given away by
publishers or editors with no thought of the artists' interests. The very unfamiliarity of
many of the artists who have entries in this book is additional testimony to the suspicion
that SF art has suffered under the double curse of being a marginal art form attached to a
marginal literature in ephemeral publications. At least the authors still had their
stories when the pulp era ended!
Weinberg's study is exhaustive and enormously impressive, but in some senses its title
is misleading. Throughout his text, he refers to "science fiction art," and this is
indeed what the book is about--art which, for the most part, has accompanied the
publication of SF magazines and novels. He makes no ill-advised attempt to define
"science fiction art" as any more than this--he does not try to delineate some "S-F"
tradition in the history of painting that would give him license to go on about everyone
from Bosch to Magritte to Escher; and indeed, these artists are not present. But the
rubric "fantasy art" does create some problems, since there is arguably a tradition of
fantasy art quite separate from the history of illustration, and a tradition of fantasy
illustration quite separate from the (largely American) 20th-century popular books and
magazines which are Weinberg's forte.
Weinberg seems aware of this problem when he states in his introduction that
"mainstream illustrators who worked in a fantastic vein but had not ever illustrated
science fiction were not included. The same judgment also applies to children's artists
and early fantasy artists, such as Arthur Rackham, whose names were primarily associated
with children's literature" (p. viii). Very well--there go W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill
of the Oz books, along with Tenniel, Doré, Howard Pyle, Edward Detmold, Heath
Robinson, Kay Neilsen, and even Rudyard Kipling. Yet Sidney Sime makes it, perhaps because
his work on Dunsany and Machen connects him to authors somehow closer to the mainstream of
modern fantasy and horror literature.
Elsewhere, however, exclusions seem less explicable. Weinberg's impressive work on pulp
artists--he actually conducted extensive primary research by sending questionnaires to
hundreds of artists--still omits George Rozen of The Shadow fame and Walter
Baumhofer of Doc Savage (despite the fact that Baumhofer is given prominent
mention in the introductory essay and that an interview with him is cited in the
bibliography). Artists largely associated with film are also treated unevenly. Syd Mead,
who did so much to create the "look" of Blade Runner, is here, but H.R. Giger,
who did at least as much for Alien, is not. Nor is Brian Froud--perhaps because his major
film, Dark Crystal, was a fantasy. Ralph McQuarrie is included, for his work on
Lucas and Spielberg films, but not Carlo Rambaldi, whose "cute" aliens for Close
Encounters of the Third Kind have proved to be such an unfortunately durable concept.
There is little doubt that collectors could find numerous unfair omissions or
inexplicable inclusions. But my only real complaint is that it is misleading to title a
book A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists when the
focus is on SF artists alone and when the introduction clearly states an intention to
exclude whole categories of fantasy artists. That complaint noted, let me now demote it to
the status of a minor quibble. Weinberg's work is so ground-breaking, his research so
arduous, and his precursors in this field so generally unhelpful (except that they had
illustrations and he doesn't) that we must regard this as charting virtually unexplored
waters. There is nothing really to compare the book to, and there is not likely to be a
more complete such book in the near future. Weinberg deserves the thanks of anyone
seriously interested in what we might call the cultural history of SF, and his book
belongs in any collection that purports to represent that history.
--Gary K. Wolfe Roosevelt University
J.G. Ballard's "Terminal Irony"
Peter Brigg. J.G.
Ballard. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont Press, 1985. 138pp. $6.95
Despite a number of irritating "warts," this study of Ballard's entire
to accomplish some useful tasks economically. Brigg has interesting things to say about
the basic shape of Ballard's fiction; he offers a fair number of pithy observations, in
passing, about particular works; and his chapter on The Atrocity Exhibition is a
concise intelligible reading of that most complex novel. In addition I would like to
single out the well-made bibliography for special praise. The chronological primary
bibliography is comprehensive, and the secondary bibliography is thorough and annotated.
The decent apparatus makes this volume far more useful than many another Starmont
As with the other Starmont guides, this one attempts to analyze the entire canon of the
author in approximately 100 pages, and the limitation doubtlessly accounts for a somewhat
breathless tone. Brigg begins with an introductory chapter that situates Ballard both as
an SF writer and a contemporary "experimental" writer and then lays out a set of
thematic coordinates that Brigg will use in subsequent chapters. The bulk of the book
consists of a long chapter on Ballard's early short fiction; chapters on both of the
"disaster" trilogies; and an extended reading of The Atrocity Exhibition,
Ballard's most consistently experimental work. The final chapters address in a more
cursory manner Ballard's later fiction through Hello, America (1981), and an
epilogue mentions his 1985 non-SF novel, Empire of the Sun.
Brigg's thesis is that Ballard has fashioned a mode of composition that makes him a
literary cousin to the surrealist painters, especially Delvaux and Ernst. In the distorted
psychic landscapes of surrealism, Ballard finds a model for his own obsessions with the
welter of pictorial and televised images of death, violence, sex and gross materialism
that constitute the reality of post-modern European and American life. For Brigg the
typical Ballard story assembles cultural icons and commodified objects in such a way that
all objects have more or less equal subjective value. This sheer paratactic proliferation
of "things" makes it all but impossible for the reader or the characters to organize the
exterior world in a way that would subordinate it either in a collectively coherent manner
or to the satisfaction of the individual ego. Thus while external representation is viewed
as a kind of psychic road-map, it is of a psyche displaced, sterilized, and
attenuated--poised in a way that it threatens to vanish into the interstices of the commodified world. In a style that juxtaposes the iconic with the clinical, Ballard pushes
his "protagonists" into a kind of negative self-knowledge that is, in Brigg's words,
"more grim dare than romantic hope." Ballard's fictional world is a "horizon line at
which inner and outer realities fuse uncompromisingly" (p. 17).
Brigg's name for this psychic condition of the Ballardian hero is "the death of
affect" (p. 16), a continual deadening of human reaction and concern for other people as
a result of the continuous mass violence of the century and its monotonous reproduction
and repetition by the mass media. Most interesting is Brigg's connection of Ballard's
obsession with the "death of affect" with a more underlying and insistent hatred of
"time," so that these grim parables of the death of the subject become as well a kind of
quest for a perverse and ambivalent transcendence that is either a post-human rebirth or
"terminal irony" (p. 74). This thread is traced from the early disaster novels, through The
Atrocity Exhibition, to a culmination in the later work, with its increasingly
lyrical pursuit of figures of transcendence in a mythic landscape somewhere after the end
of the American empire. Ballard becomes a strangely religious writer.
Despite some genuine virtues in this study, there are far too many surface glitches
which will irritate anyone trying to read through it. The prose is by turns purple, lax in
construction, and often ungrammatical to the point of incomprehensibility. Part of the
problem may lie with the editor since any of these flaws could have been contained by a
competent blue pencil. Either the book wasn't edited at all, or the editor made
out of previously intelligible English. Sometimes this carelessness has serious
consequences: for instance, the opening paragraph of chapter 4, wherein Brigg attempts to
address Bruce Franklin's important critique of Ballard, is utter nonsense at the most
elementary level of composition. From context it is impossible to tell whether Brigg just
doesn't know what he's talking about or an editor has created babel out of an important
part of the argument (a possibility left open in view of other Starmont guides that I am
Finally, I have some reservations about Brigg's conception of Ballard's place in
contemporary SF. First, it seems to me that Brigg is reductive in his treatment of the
goals of "classic Anglo-American" SF. It is simply unfair to treat writers like Heinlein
and Asimov--whatever their faults and despite Ballard's views--as though they wrote merely
what we might call "westerns-in-space." This excessive harping on the conventionality of
ordinary SF is too simple, and it makes Ballard's experimentalism seem more outside of SF
than is necessarily the case. Whatever polemical need Ballard had to set himself against
magazine SF, it is ahistorical to see him as too sui generis, especially in light of a
mode of production that had already produced writers as distinctly experimental as
Sturgeon, Bester, and Cordwainer Smith.
Most problematical, however, is Brigg's failure to confront in an adequate manner
Franklin's claim that when Ballard "makes the psychology of the individual the cause
rather than the product of the death oriented political economy" (p. 67) this is not
simply a neutral aesthetic choice; it has ideological consequences, consequences that
might open up a more complex and problematical reading of Ballard's relation to SF as well
as to the rest of those various textual strategies yoked under the term post-modernism.
This reading would not pre-emptively "write off" as power fantasy or innocence SF's
almost mystical adherence to the possibility of futures.
Brigg's analysis makes clear that Ballard's concern with the attenuation and
sterilization of the ego in a world of iconic overload is related to the general
displacement of the priority of the classical subject by system. Yet regardless of how
displaced, attenuated, or sterilized it is, the subject as isolated consciousness still
commands the center of Ballard's fiction. As Samuel Delany has pointed out many times, for
SF the axis of concern is different. The convention of the future allows even the most
pedestrian of SF texts to be written from the position of the historical object in its
plurality and heterogeneity without catachresis. The future is thus not so much a
projective power fantasy or (as it is increasingly in Ballard) an ironized lyrical
absolute, but a complex dialogue with a present that no longer need be a metaphysical
Thus while Brigg uses Ballard's sarcastic description of the American SF community of
the 1930s through the '60s--a description that mocks its subcultural convivialities, group
living experiments, and collaborations--as a straightforward protest against the
encroachments of "groupthink," another reading might see it as a rather fussy throwback
to that most conservative and "literary" of modernist and romantic
isolated creative artist. As well, Ballard's easy juxtaposition of technological excess
with sexual perversion, especially as it regards the sexuality of women, may have
unpleasantly reactionary implications, whatever Ballard's personal views--aesthetic
conservatism as ethical failure of attention.
Whatever its backslidings and betrayals of potential, SF as a paraliterary mode of
production may still be the most interesting site for a post-individualist writing
practice. For that reason, one might want to argue that Ballard's seeming commitment to a
more conservative "literary" practice is less a transcendence of SF's
naiveté than a
failure to exploit some of its most fertile possibilities.
--Dennis M. McGucken Millsaps College
Marleen S. Barr. Alien
to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory. [Contributions
to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 27] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987.
In this book, Marleen Barr forsakes the traditional methods (though not the trappings)
of the "male-oriented" academic thesis in favor of the "patchwork quilt" approach,
which some feminist theorists regard, properly, as more reflective of women's voices and
concerns. Her goal, to link feminist critical theory with speculative fiction by women, is
certainly worthy of the attempt. Her method involves juxtaposing passages from theory,
real-world examples of women's experiences (including her own), and discussions of
fiction, both "mainstream" and speculative, frequently by less well-known writers.
Bringing these writers to our attention with sustained quotation and summary is one of the
book's real strengths. Barr's stated purpose, however--"[to bring] the following boys and
girls together: male speculative fiction critics and readers, feminist critics, and female
speculative fiction writers" (p. xiii)--raises some questions in regard both to the
subsequent choices she makes and to the way she implements her method.
The book is divided into three sections. "Part 1: Community" contains chapters on
"Immortal Feminist Communities," James Tiptree, Jr, and "Female Time Travelers," and
considers along with these subjects the criticism of Nina Auerbach, Judith Fetterly, and
Annis Pratt. "Part 2: Heroism" juxtaposes chapters titled "New Incarnations of Psyche:
World-Changing Womanists" and "Heroic Fantastic Femininity: Woman Warriors" with the
work of Carol Pearson, Katherine Pope, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, and Xavière Gauthier, among
others. "Part 3: Sexuality and Reproduction" discusses phallocentrism and reproduction
in relation to the writing of Nancy Chodorow. It should be noted, though, that this list
of headings is potentially misleading, as is the title of the book itself, which in view
of its actual subject matter, might more accurately have been called "Sexuality
and Reproductive Technology in Recent SF by Women."
Problems with incomplete categorization and shifting categories emerge in the
introduction and persist throughout Alien to Femininity--as when Barr presents
"Anglo-American, French, reader response, and psychoanalytic" as distinct "modes of
feminist discourse" (p. xiii). This at times makes for considerable overlap between
chapters--e.g., in the discussion of medical technology and childbirth. It occasionally
produces confusion as well--the case, for instance, with Barr's handling of artificial
insemination as a topic of discussion for feminist theorists and as a motif in speculative
fiction. Here she seems to confound a number of issues, especially in comparing the forced
insemination of women for the purpose of making them breeders (e.g., in Kate Wilhelm's Where
Late the Sweet Birds Sang) with the laboratory procedures that heterosexual couples
who wish to have children may resort to in real life. While Barr treats both merely as
tools of patriarchy, she approves of artificial insemination outside the laboratory or
hospital by lesbian couples wishing to bear children with a minimum of male participation,
whether in the fictional or the real world. Perhaps such a distinction is finally
warranted; but the grounds upon which it is made need to be clear, and some attention
needs to be given to the differences between the use of such motifs as fictional metaphors
and the real-life adoption of such methods as techniques of feminist resistance.
Then, again, Barr seems to skew certain texts to fit a particular critical perspective.
For instance, in arguing for Charnas's Motherlines as a less radical solution to
the "male problem" than Tiptree's "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?," Barr claims that
the Riding Women "neither fight nor kill to remove men from their environment" (p. 8).
But men who stray into their territory are in fact hunted as animals. We learn, as does Alldera (the central character), that the Riding Women have chosen not to rescue women or
to massacre men in the Holdfast simply because they are afraid that doing so would
threaten their own existence. More importantly, Barr later omits Motherlines altogether
from her discussion of cloning as a metaphor for escape from male-dominated reproductive
technology and as a device for establishing communities of women capable of the full range
of human activity, including heroism, without reference to men. Since Charnas creates a
fictional situation in which whole lines are being lost and others are suffering from
progressive weakening of genetic strains because the women do not have the technical
know-how to overcome the problems, it is clear that she does not intend her audience to
read a reproductively self-sufficient community of women either as an unmixed blessing or
a practicable solution to "the man problem."
One last problem about Barr's method of juxtaposition is that it at least partly
depends on an audience willing to suspend its expectations regarding traditional academic
prose--an audience she is more likely to find among the already-converted than among male
readers resistant to feminist thought and/or to female writers of SF. This is all the
truer inasmuch as she largely presents feminist theorists in the form of block quotations
from their work without the kind of explanatory commentary that would allow the
uninitiated to understand them. The net effect is of one "preaching to the choir," and
not altogether coherently, since obstacles to communication intrude at every level down to
choice of diction. Her impassioned book has some value for those interested in its
subject, but it could definitely have benefited from a strong editorial hand.
--Carol D. Stevens Eastern Illinois University
A Herbert Bibliography
Daniel J.H. Levack, comp. Dune Master: A Frank Herbert Bibliography,
with annotations by Mark Willard. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1988. xx+176pp. illus. $35.00
Levack and Willard's Dune Master began with the intention of listing
published works of Frank Herbert through early 1987," with certain exceptions. The
compilers chose not to include "Published letters, interviews and book reviews"; and
some other material--much of Herbert's newspaper writing--proved too elusive to track
down. Their aim was ambitious, given the variety of materials from fiction to film that
lay before them.
One audience the book was clearly intended for was collectors, who will use it to
identify editions found at used-book sales. As an example of the information a typical
entry contains, consider the following from page 38, listed under The Great Dune
Trilogy, a cover title for a collected set of Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children
Gollancz, London (L. 6.95), 1979.*
Bound in dull red paper with gold lettering on the spine. "1979" on the title page.
No indication of printing or edition on the copyright page. Jacket by Terry Oakes.
A "†" precedes the entry, meaning that a reproduction of that edition's cover has been
included in the bibliography's appendix. The asterisk following the date means that the
compilers "physically examined" the edition.
The user should be warned that the compilers' inclusion of listings for items they have
not seen may have produced some "ghosts." For example, the entry for The Jesus
Incident lists 11 editions, 6 of which the compilers actually saw. Of 8 editions of The
White Plague listed, the compilers saw 5. They saw 5 of the 6 listed editions of Heretics
of Dune. In most cases, the unexamined editions are paperback printings, often
British or of foreign translations. The compilers candidly admit that especially in the
case of foreign editions their work is incomplete.
The bibliography will be important to students of Herbert for its inclusion of some
information not hitherto available. One of the sources Levack and Willard used was Timothy
O'Reilly's Frank Herbert (NY: Frederick Ungar, 1981), but two other sources are
not in print. The first, the "starting point," is "the extensive bibliography that
Charles E. Yenter of Tacoma, Washington had been compiling for many years...." The
second, a mine of material that will surely be worked in years to come, is the special
collection of Herbert's letters, manuscripts, and books at the Library of California State
University at Fullerton. For some reason, Levack and Willard did not think it
"appropriate" (their word) to give a detailed description of the collection, but they do
have a short listing of the manuscripts of both published and unpublished works to be
As an extended illustration of both the strengths and weaknesses of the bibliography,
we may examine its treatment of one of Herbert's most obscure works, a poem of about 450
lines entitled "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian." The easiest way to find a work in Dune
Master is to first consult one of the checklists to see if there is an entry for the
item. A bare listing of the poem's title, without date or place of publication, may be
found in the section headed "Series and Connected Stories," surely not where one would
look for a work that is neither a story nor part of a series. But "Carthage" also
appears in the "Verse Checklist," so we know the poem is listed in one of the main
sections. This is item 9 in the section "Non-Book Appearances," a gathering of works of
all kinds--fiction, non-fiction, verse, even correspondence--that appeared as parts of
collections of diverse material. There we find that "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian"
appeared in Mars, We Love You, edited by Jane Hipolito and Willis E. McNelly (NY:
Doubleday, 1971). The entry has no asterisk, which implies that the compilers did not see
this work, so one wonders what the basis was of the paragraph that describes the content
and mood of the poem. At least one reprinting unknown to Levack and Willard occurred: a
British paperback reprint of Mars, We Love You, entitled The Book of Mars,
"with an introduction by Issac [sic] Asimov," was published in London in 1976 by Futura
Ltd., under the Orbit imprint.
Although Levack's introduction calls the compilation "probably close to complete in
English-language appearances (except for newspaper articles) through early 1987," some reprintings have been excluded by design. As Levack says,
"paperback editions of
hardcover editions and reprints are not separately cited or normally even mentioned" (p.
ix). Herbert's essay "Men on Other Planets" is no. 70 in "Non-Book Appearances," and
the entry tells us it appears in The Craft of Science Fiction, edited by Reginald
Bretnor (NY: Harper & Row, 1975: the actual date may be 1976). In keeping with
Levack's statement above, Harper & Row's own paperback reprint by Barnes & Noble
in 1976 is not listed. Yet the appearance of the essay in Timothy O'Reilly's The Maker
of Dune: Frank Herbert, a Berkley paperback of 1987, is listed. It is hard to see the
advantage of listing one paperback that the essay is reprinted in rather than another.
One section unlikely to be of much use is a list of "some representative works about
Frank Herbert for the interested reader. It is not intended to be a complete secondary
bibliography" (p. 152). The whole section headed "Works about Frank Herbert" has only
11 entries. One of those is the "Cliff's Notes" pamphlet on Dune. Another is The
Dune Encyclopedia, a work only derivatively about the Dune stories and not about
Frank Herbert at all. Dune Master is almost exclusively a primary bibliography, and this
section adds little to the work's value.
But the materials included in this bibliography are so diverse that one may sympathize
with the compilers even while disagreeing with some of their judgments. Among my own
disagreements would be two: first, the inclusion of 21 pages of black-and-white
reproductions of book covers of Herbert's novels, covers of magazines in which his stories
appeared, and even an illustration from the Dune Calendar. This is one of the
features that Levack says have been added in an "attempt to make the Bibliography both
useful and entertaining" (p. ix). For some readers this goal may have been achieved, but
others may have found 21 pages of secondary bibliography much more useful.
A second problematic decision, a more important one, was the size and nature of the
annotations. The "Books" section runs from page 3 to page 69; of that space over 50
pages are exclusively annotation. Much of this is simply plot summary, although, as Mark
Willard says in the "Annotator's Introduction," "in many cases I have tried to convey
something of the mood/atmosphere/treatment of the work as I perceived it. While I usually
tried for objectivity, opinions and value judgments have inevitably crept in, even if not
deliberately included" (p. xix). It is hard to see for whom the annotations were
intended. As they stand, they supply neither bibliographic information nor straightforward
criticism. The user of this work should be aware that the bibliographic information it
contains is much less than the book's 176 pages would lead one to expect.
Nevertheless, we may expect the book to have many users. Scholars interested in Herbert
will necessarily consult it until something more specifically suited to their needs comes
along. Collectors will find the physical descriptions helpful in their purchasing. And
this close to Herbert's death, perhaps that is the most that one can ask.
--Walter E. Meyers North Carolina State
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