# 15 = Volume 5, Part 2 = July 1978
Notes and Correspondence
On Alpers on Heroic Fantasy and Nazism. I've just read Hans Joachim
Alpers' "Loincloth, Double Ax, and Magic" (SFS #14). I notice that Mr
Alpers' paper was translated, apparently from the German. Perhaps he has never
seen a copy of The Iron Dream, a novel about the relationship of heroic
fantasy to the psychic pathology of Nazism that attempts to depict, among other
things, the wish-fulfillment fantasy of the Nazi era in the mind of a heroic-fantasy
writer named Adolf Hitler. I recommend it to him as the only other piece of
writing I know of on the subject in question. Unfortunately he will have to read
it in English or French or Japanese or Italian or Portuguese, since there has
been no interest in publishing it in German on either side of the ideological
border. Perhaps there is little interest in this subject in Germany; perhaps it
is felt that it has no local relevance.
At any rate, except for the naive assumption that Nazism was simply a
capitalist plot to break up the labor unions, I think Alpers is pretty dead on,
and I also think much of his analysis can be extended to things like punk rock,
superhero comics, and other media for mass mythmongering.
The fact that this is, I think, one of the first notices of Nazi
psychosexuality of heroic fantasy to be taken in a publication of SF criticism
is both interesting and a little frightening. In my paranoid way, I sense one of
those proscribed mystical connections between the silence on the subject here,
where most heroic fantasy is originally published, and the non-publication of The
Iron Dream in German. There is a lot of this pathological stuff being pumped
out, and a lot of people are lapping it up. I think you've done a service by
publishing the Alpers piece and I hope it will generate some examination of this
terre incognita of SF criticism. —Norman R. Spinrad.
A Clarification. In my letter about the "Lem Affair" (SFS
4:314-16), I made the statement that the Sargent-Zebrowski Chronology in
the preceding issue did not reveal the fact that George had pressed for the
honorary SFWA membership for Lem. George has pointed out to me that the
statement is present as background for the first chronological entry, that
Zebrowski had asked Anderson if Lem could be considered for the same honor that
had been offered some time before to Tolkien. I hope you will find room in your
earliest issue for the inclusion of this note making clear that I did not mean
to suggest that the information was not available, only that I felt it did not
carry the weight I thought it should. —James Gunn.
Work in Progress: A Suggestion. I wonder if Science-Fiction Studies
could undertake a feature that I have rarely if ever seen in academic
periodicals, presenting and building various scholars' "Work in
Progress." I do not mean by that the traditional feuding between defenders
of different points of view. Nor do I have in mind symposia like the SFS special
issues on individual authors or topics. Even the exchange on Marxism in Volume 1
of SFS was too short, and more competitive than cooperative, from my standpoint.
A couple of years ago, the SFRA Newsletter printed a dissertation
outline, and I was one of several readers who wrote the author, raising
questions and suggesting avenues of approach. As a reader for publications and
conferences, I have also tried to respond to substantive issues as well as
problems in composition. And as a scholar, I sometimes entrust drafts of my own
work to colleagues, making for comment and help.
None of these is quite the same thing as putting one's own "partly-baked"
ideas in print in a prestigious periodical. Would the response be boredom?
Derision? Hostility? Censure of the editor for wasting time, space, and money?
If the piece were well-written, thoughtful and provocative, despite its
incompleteness, the response might be helpful, supportive, even serendipitous,
especially if the article touched a nerve, in areas where many scholars are
No one can know everything about science fiction, and no one can be equally
competent in all areas of criticism touching science fiction, from new frontiers
in science to the latest wave of critical jargon. Possibly, by exposing what we
don't know at certain times, by means of notes and queries and hypotheses
succinctly rendered, we can help each other learn.
What I have in mind I guess is embryonic work on relatively big projects,
rather than the kind of safe study around which we can erect relatively secure
defenses. One might be the continuing debate about "genre," another
about media, another about SF and myth. Do you or other readers have any
opinions about the value of such a feature? About how long such a printed
colloquy should go on? How much should take place in SFS pages and how
much behind the scenes? —David N. Samuelson.
The Maturing of the Genre. The review by David N. Samuelson in SFS #14 of
the Olander-Greenburg Isaac Asimov invites briefly a further elaboration of what
I meant to say in my essay, "Asimov's Golden Age: The Ordering of an
Art." Samuelson begins by questioning the fact that this volume of essays
focuses on Asimov's science fiction, which comprises less than 1/6 of his books;
and at the same time Samuelson faults my "failure to follow the ground
rules and stay with Asimov's science fiction." The point is not, I think,
the confusion about what Asimov writes nor even the commercialism in his
promotion of his own legend (we would all be legends and we would all be wealthy
by our wits). Rather the point is that this fecundity, variety, and self-consciousness
in what Asimov writes (marked vividly by his writing about his own juvenile
reading in Before the Golden Age that Samuelson seems to find the most
ludicrous or perhaps the most blatantly commercial) illustrates the maturing of
a new genre, one of the significant new genres of our time.
My essay suggests some parallels to the development of new genres in the 18th
century, most notably the genre of poetry in the vernacular; and what seems to
be characteristic of these bursts of development is exactly the failure to
follow ground rules. Thus I might complain that my own failure was a
subconscious imitation of Asimov's failure to contain himself as the genre of
science fiction grows. In any case, a favorite quotation of mine from a little
known late 18th-century writer speaks about this need to burst out in many
directions. Erasmus Darwin overstepped many ground rules and was seminal in
seeding at least two stages in the development of our literature: romantic
nature poetry and the move toward "science" in the gothic fiction of
Mary Shelley. Darwin writes about speculating, though, in a way that Samuelson
might take note of as he reconsiders Asimov's comic promethean attempts to make
himself (and his genre) an encyclopedic legend: "Extravagant theories ...
in those parts of philosophy, where our knowledge is yet imperfect, are not
without their use; as they encourage the execution of laborious experiments, or
the investigation of ingenious deductions, to confirm or refute them. And since
natural objects are allied to each other by many affinities, every kind of
theoretic distribution of them adds to our knowledge by developing some of their
analogies" (The Botanic Garden, 1791). —Donald M. Hassler.
On Accidentals. My advice to the new editors, who will take over with #17
(March 1979), is that they simply not attempt to achieve any uniformity in
arbitrary matters of style: let the contributors write footnotes any way they
wish, and leave word division to the typesetter. With respect to the latter, my
reading of books and literary periodicals has convinced me that no one worries
about it any more, and that such divisions as "wat-ched," "disposses-sed,"
and "know-ledge" are so common that they must pass unnoticed. In this
issue I have changed "LeGuin" to "Le Guin" any number of
times, but I am not sure that my doing so served any real purpose. —RDM.
Back to Home