Science Fiction Studies

#80 = Volume 27, Part 1 = March 2000

Update on French SF. The new French revival of interest in sf continues. Too late to be included in Roger Bozzetto’s admirable piece on the situation (SFS  79 [Nov. 1999]), a second sf congress was held in Poitiers in October 1999. The venue was Futuroscope, crammed with futuristic architecture—a sort of French Disneyland without that irritating Mouse. The conference drew participants from all over Europe and Scandinavia, and the whole program was conducted energetically and with great good humor by Bruno della Chiesa, the Italian scholar. Representatives of the Anglophone world included Christopher Priest, Norman Spinrad, and Orson Scott Card.               

Interest in Philip K. Dick is still hot. With Ursula Kiausch, I performed my playlet about Dick in the Afterworld, and it was warmly received. The entire congress was marked by an amiable internationalism—as shown by the award of the Prix Utopia to Wolfgang Jeschke (German, stalwart editor at Heyne Verlag for many years) and me (English, possibly because I’m getting on in years). Editions Métaillié, my publisher in Paris, plans to publish five of my titles in the year 2000, which shows a certain amount of confidence in the health of the field.—Brian Aldiss


SF Strategies in Scientific Pedagogy. I enjoyed reading “Origins of Science Fiction Criticism” in the July 1999 issue (SFS 78), especially the discussion of authors’ intent and the relationship between sf and scientific pedagogy. In my own research into the history of science, I’ve noticed how scientists since Kepler have incorporated sf-style interludes into works of nonfiction. Until the mid-twentieth century, paleontologists and geologists writing for students or general readers often included colorful time-travel sequences in books intended to provide factual information about scientific findings. A good example of this practice appears in paleontologist Charles H. Sternberg’s The Life of a Fossil Hunter (1909; rpt. Indiana UP, 1990). In the middle of a chapter describing prehistoric fossils, Sternberg breaks into an entertaining two-page sequence to “put some life” (59) into the bones of mosasaurs (aquatic animals that became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous). In a style reminiscent of Jules Verne, Sternberg embeds factual material into his speculative description:

We are back again where the two mosasaurs did battle royal for our enjoyment. What a ripple! It is caused by a shoal of mackerel scurrying in toward shallow water, in a mighty column five feet deep. They are flying for their lives, for they have seen behind them their most terrible enemy, a monster fish with a muzzle like a bulldog’s, and huge fangs three inches long projecting from its mouth. Two rows of horrid teeth, one above and one below, complete its armature. The great jaws, fourteen inches long and four deep, move on a fulcrum, and when they have dropped to seize a multitude of these little fish, they close with a vise-like power. The crushed and mangled remains pass down a cavernous throat to appease a voracious appetite.... But see! nearer and nearer the great fish comes, mouthful after mouthful of the fishes falling into its horrid jaws. It must be starving; so eager is it for its prey that it seems unconscious of the fact that the tide has turned and is moving outward. Now it discovers its danger and turns, but too late. The water has gone back to the deep, leaving it struggling for breath in a shallow pool.... And then the scene changes. The old ocean disappears, and we stand, George and I, three thousand feet above sea level, on Hay Creek, in Logan County, among crumbling ruins and denuded and eroded chalk; and, working with a pick and shovel in the burning sun, we bring the mighty carcass once more to the light of day. (59-60)

Time-travel sequences in books by other paleontologists of this period routinely follow the same pattern: the author or readers travel to the distant past, witness a prehistoric beast in a life-threatening situation, and then return to the present. It seems that the conclusion of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) was recapitulated by several generations of science writers. By the 1940s, however, W.E. Swinton and other influential paleontologists became critical of this convention of including imaginary description within books about science, arguing the threat of anthropocentricism and scientific inaccuracy. These attacks coincided with the growing popularization of prehistoric life in novels, comic strips, and films.—James Satter, University of Minnesota Program in the History of Science and Technology


Legal Studies Forum SF Issue. The Fall issue of Legal Studies Forum (23.3 [1999]) focuses on contemporary sf and its possible uses in legal studies (the interdisciplinary study of literature and the law). The strongest connections emerge from the emphasis on how sf uses law as an extrapolative device—as in Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics or Star Trek’s Prime Directive—and also on how legal training itself typically makes extensive use of hypothetical situations and scenarios, as in law examinations.        

Derrick Bell’s “The Power of Narrative” includes a full reprinting of his parable about racism, “The Space Traders” (1992), in which apparently superior space aliens arrive on the shores of the U.S. on New Year’s Day 2000, offering to reverse pollution and bring prosperity—but only if all African-Americans in the nation are rounded up and turned over to them, for return to an unknown destiny on the Traders’ home planet. The story is a shrewd, polemical history lesson, with chilling final imagery of people in chains led off to the holds of gigantic spaceships. (The referendum on the Space Trader’s “Modest Proposal” passes by a wide margin.) Bell, in the time-honored sf tradition, tells a story of future history that analyzes contemporary problems and also reminds readers of historical precedents.                

Another contributor who stays close to legal issues is Jeffrey Nesteruk in “A New Narrative for Corporate Law,” which analyzes recent court decisions about corporations (treated—problematically, says Nesteruk—as persons under the law, rather than as property) in terms of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the android Data’s status (as either a person or a chattel of Star Fleet) is debated in a legal hearing. Both Bell and Nesteruk stress the centrality of speculative extrapolation both to storytelling and to the formulation of legal interpretations.                

The contributors, particularly Guest Editor Bruce L. Rockwood, who writes the comprehensive first essay, “New Possibilities,” have read the primary work—sf novels, stories, and dramas—with insight and sympathy. Rockwood notes in his introduction that his main intended audience is in legal studies: the “law and literature movement” has tended to focus on “canonical literature, rather than literature that is more widely read. Science Fiction ... remains a largely unmined mother-load [sic] for expanding our understanding of law through literature, and expanding the audience for law and literature themes and analysis beyond a small, inbred coterie of academics” (267-68). Rockwood introduces legal-studies scholars to popular television series such as Babylon 5 and Dr. Who as well as Star Trek; but he also covers the post-World War II print tradition, from Heinlein and Asimov through Ward Moore and Walter M. Miller, Jr. to Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, Octavia Butler, Orson Scott Card, and many others.                

The issue is weakest in its citations of sf criticism and its definitions (implicit and explicit) of the genre: Rockwood’s reliance on Thomas M. Disch’s The Dreams Our Stuff is Made of (1998) produces not the most balanced overview. The other criticism he cites is solid, but there is too little of it (Norman Spinrad’s Science Fiction in the Real World [1990], Frederik Pohl’s introduction to The Early Pohl [1976], Thomas Clareson’s Understand­ing Contemporary American SF [1992], Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare [1970], and the Nicholls and Clute Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). William Pencak’s essay, which has the best title (“Lyres against the Law: Orpheus as Cyberpunk Outlaw”), has the least to say about sf per se: the total sum of print sf cited is two phrases from Neuromancer. William Gibson is a brief detour from Pencak’s real interest, the Orpheus figure in ancient and modern literature and especially in opera, including Robert McGinley’s Shredder Orpheus (1991), which does use Gibson’s novel. (Pencak does not mention Salman Rushdie’s Orpheus-linked novel The Ground Beneath Her Feet [1999]; perhaps it was not yet available when his essay went to press.) From Boethius’ sixth-century reflections on Orpheus, Rilke’s Orpheus sonnets (1923), and Jean Cocteau’s plays and films (the last in 1960), to Orpheus operas by Monteverdi (1607), Gluck (1762), Mozart (1791 [The Magic Flute]), Offenbach (1859), and Harry Kupfer (1991), Pencak tours the broad themes but never gets much more specific about sf than to see it as a convenient vehicle for modern myth: “The Greek myths, with gods flying from Olympus to earth and wielding supernatu­ral though arbitrary power, and heroes like Prometheus and Orestes combating them and bringing fire and justice to humankind, were the first science-fiction tales” (Pencak 293). Such sweeping statements fail to carry weight when merely asserted: Pencak conflates myth/ancient religion with modern speculative fiction and evidently sees no difference worth mentioning in the use of heroes by such widely disparate genres as myth, tragedy, and opera. Aeschylus’ Orestes, murderer of his mother, does not bring justice in the unambiguous sense that Hesiod’s Prometheus brings fire; and how can the Orpheus of an early-modern or modern opera carry anything like the symbolic force that he carried as a major figure (probably one of the earliest native deities) in ancient Greek religious beliefs?                  

The vagueness in definition characteristic of all four essays, probably a result of the neglect of sf criticism and scholarship, is a distraction but not a fatal flaw. This new view of sf through legal studies is most promising.—CM


SF EYE on Hiatus. SF Eye, legendary semiprozine for serious readers of sf and alternative fiction, from its first issue in 1987 showcased extraordinary writers, artists, and vivid personalities. Its bold visual style, incisive writing, and explosive rhetoric helped to re-hone the genre’s cutting edge. Its columns, articles, reviews, and interviews approached contemporary issues (and writers) with energy and insight; but SF Eye also recalled the informed fandom of the immediate post-World War II era, with whom the contributors to SF Eye shared a passionate emphasis on the first word in sf’s double name: science fiction’s imaginative possibilities are best used by writers aware of new and emerging paradigms of knowledge. Eye’s most recent issue appeared two years ago; Stephen P. Brown, co-founder and editor, has just announced that the magazine, which in the past has survived similar intervals of silence, will continue on hiatus for the foreseeable future. With Brown’s permission, the informal checklist below is condensed from the oral history of the journal posted on his SF Eye website: he wrote the Epilogue specifically to round out this note. [CM]

                Issue #1, Winter 1987, Cover artist: Dan Steffan. At a convention in Washington, DC in 1986, William Gibson introduced me to the Japanese critic Takayuki Tatsumi; artist/writer Dan Steffan urged me to use my friendship with some writers just becoming notorious to join him in creating a new magazine. Bruce Sterling—who had been publishing Cheap Truth for longer than he wanted to—promised a column every issue. We filled the first issue with interviews: Takayuki’s interviews with Gibson and Sterling; Tom Maddox’s convention interview with Gibson. We also printed a transcript of an SFRA panel [at the UC, San Diego meeting in June 1986—Ed.] with John Shirley, Jack Williamson, Norman Spinrad, and Gregory Benford, illustrating a generational breakpoint in sf. Takayuki wrote about cyberpunk in Japan. I wrote an introductory essay titled, with stunning lack of prescience, “Requiem for the Cyberpunks.” Ever after, the Eye had a reputation as “cyberpunk house organ.” Editor/writer Ted White blasted out an essay refuting a boneheaded article on sf that had appeared in Harper’s, and John Kessel contributed a tongue-in-cheek article, “The Humanist Manifesto,” that caused trouble. Bruce Sterling’s first column read Jules Verne as Boho/cyberpunk lightning rod of his day. Co-editor Dan Steffan set just the right tone with his edgy layout designs and graphics.
                Issue #2, August 1987, Cover artist: Jun Suemi. We tried to print all the great material that poured in, establishing a pattern of giantism. John Shirley wrote on performance artist Stelarc; Rudy Rucker on living in Jerry Falwell’s home town, Lynchburg, VA. Rafael Sa’adah interviewed Lucius Shepard;  Paul Di Filippo wrote about the ten best sf novelists of all time (including William Gaddis), and Bruce Sterling explored the worlds of Stanislaw Lem. The issue’s coup was the Philip K. Dick section, including an unpublished novel outline, “Fawn, Look Back,” with an introduction by PKD estate-executor Paul Williams, an unpublished radio interview conducted by Richard Lupoff, and a tough look at Paul Williams’s book on PKD by Ted White. This latter essay established another tradition: biting the hand that fed us. The first issue had been viciously parodied in Charles Platt’s REM with an essay written under the name “Sue Denim.” Denim had long been the pseudonym of Lewis Shiner, who wrote an outraged letter that killed the Denim persona. Rob Hardin rebutted John Kessel’s “Humanist Manifesto.” The cover, by Japanese graphic artist Jun Suemi, enhanced the Eye’s developing reputation as an artistic showcase.
                Issue #3, March 1988, Cover artist: J.K. Potter. After two issues, Dan and I considered ourselves grizzled veterans: we decided that we had a tradition to violate. So we produced the third issue over-sized—11 x 14 inches. “No one will ever be able to line up a neat stack of SF Eye on a bookshelf,” said Dan with a evil grin. We ran an interview with Samuel R. Delany conducted by Takayuki, and Sterling turned in an incisive column on John Updike. The cover was a photo-collage by J.K. Potter. To further break tradition, we filled the issue with fiction by Richard Lupoff, John Shirley, Ian Watson, Charles Sheffield, Paul Di Filippo, and Kathe Koja’s first published story. The Humanist controversy continued, with scathing letters on both sides.
                Issue #4, August 1988, Cover artist: Clive Barker. Richard Lupoff contributed a radio interview with Clive Barker; Clive let us use a piece of his art for our first color cover. Gregory Benford wrote on British sf, Rudy Rucker on life in Silicon Valley (virtual and otherwise), and Elizabeth Hand on Delany’s four “Nevèrÿon” novels. William Gibson described his impressions of Tokyo, and Richard Kadrey and Lou Stathis reported on the Survival Research Lab. Ed Bryant interviewed Ellen Datlow; Takayuki (with his wife Mari Kotani) wrote about the Japanese sf scene. Sterling’s column was on Robert Silverberg. Paul Di Filippo became a regular columnist with a survey of John Crowley’s short stories. Graphically, the magazine became more complex, as Dan Steffan pushed the limits of what could be done with no money.
                Issue #5, July 1989, Cover artist: Richard Thompson. With this issue, the Eye became over a hundred pages, no more than half of which had anything to do with sf. The goal of the Eye was to blast inbred genre readers out of their ruts. Lewis Shiner and Howard Waldrop interviewed each other. John Shirley gleaned the small presses, pointing out where the real frontiers of speculative fiction lie. Charles Platt, completing his year as a Philip K. Dick Award judge, commented on the sorry state of genre sf. Co-editor Steffan joined J.G.Ballard (in a conversation with Richard Kadrey) in assessing the death of Salvador Dali. Dan Joy wrote on designer hallucinogens; Richard Kadrey offered a short essay on the obsolescence of the human body. Bruce Sterling’s column, one of his most influential essays, was on “slipstream” writing; Paul Di Filippo’s was on Thomas Pynchon and his imitators. The cover was an elegantly strange painting by Washington Post artist Richard Thompson, who also supplied us with devastating caricatures of our interview subjects. The Scientology argument of previous issues produced a flood of mail that we ran as a feature article in the interior: “The Scientology Letters.” This section also contained a short interview with Orson Scott Card in which he defended the Hubbardites, laying groundwork for more controversy. Both the regular letter and review sections contained far too much. It was this issue, I believe, that caused Locus to complain that the Eye contained “far too much content for the money,” a comment we gleefully adopted as a slogan.
                Issue #6, March 1990, Cover artist: Jun Suemi. Between issues #5 and #6, co-editor Dan Steffan resigned. I considered stopping the magazine, but so much great material continued to flood in that I couldn’t. I did the graphic layout as best I could, making mistakes. From this issue, all the design work was my own. Michael Cobley turned in an interview with Iain Banks. Charles Platt, picking on Bantam, continued his tirade against genre sf. Joan Gordon wrote about feminist cyberpunk, Richard Grant about learning to read, and Takayuki Tatsumi about literary controversy in Japan. Richard Kadrey sent more of his talk with J.G. Ballard (this installment mainly discussed advertising and architecture), which I illustrated with clip-art collages. Giddy with the power of being sole editor, I published my own essay about cultural anachro­nism in sf, using Allen Steele’s work as a bad example: was he mad. Bruce Sterling’s column looked at Japan both today and (through the stories of Lafcadio Hearn) yesterday. Paul Di Filippo focused on the neglected work of Ian McEwan. I began running Misha’s reviews in the back pages; the letter column got bigger still. I bound into this issue a giveaway comic book for Steve Niles’s comic company, Arcane Comix. He had published a few issues of an entertaining comic/text mix, Fly in My Eye. This bound-in booklet was therefore titled Fly Inside the Eye.
                Issue #7, August 1990, Cover artist: Craig A. Kraft. An intemperate remark about Orson Scott Card in a previous letter by Peter Lamborn Wilson generated a heated response from Card, sparking a debate on his story “The Lost Boys.” Bruce Sterling’s column, “My Rihla,” is a personal favorite of mine, a synthesis of disparate cultures; and Paul Di Filippo’s column, on  Kathy Acker, is close behind Bruce’s. This issue, by accident rather than design, contained much work by women writing on feminist themes: Wendy Counsil interviewed Pat Murphy, Lisa Goldstein, and Karen Joy Fowler on feminism in sf; Misha contributed an article/interview on RE/Search and its editors, V. Vale and Andrea Juno; Takayuki interviewed Connie Willis; and Lucy Sussex critiqued Willis’s controversial story “All My Darling Daughters.” Kathe Koja’s essay, on literary criticism, had the title-of-the-issue: “Oral Sex on a Man Wearing a Condom.” Lucius Shepard responded in incendiary terms to Richard Grant in #6. The first art portfolio was included: “Six Sensory Explorations” by Washington, D.C. artist Larry Chambers. This issue sported an updated cover logo, a lovely eyeball with moonscape by Kim Ketterman.
                Issue #8, Winter 1991, Cover artist: Freddie Baer. This was the fattest issue yet, 112 pages. Sterling wrote on computer folklore, Di Filippo on  conspiracy novels. Richard Kadrey began “Synaptic Intrigue,” a round-up of reviews of odd bits of music. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote about getting lost on an Alp; Elizabeth Hand’s article surveyed women visionary writers. Glenn Grant’s review of Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine, just published, was accompanied by Eileen Gunn’s “Difference Dictionary,” an alphabetical decoding of hundreds of references in the book. Eileen’s Dictionary was later translated and included as part of the Japanese edition of the novel. Peter Lamborn Wilson wrote on  “Amoral Responsibility.” Another essay looked at the Craig Strete plagiarism case from Strete’s point of view: Sheldon Teitelbaum interviewed Strete and several others. Paul Di Filippo interviewed J.G. Ballard at length; the illustrations were by San Francisco artist Ferret. Marc Laidlaw wrote of his visits to Fritz Leiber in San Francisco when Laidlaw was a young fan. Richard Grant wrote on reading Pynchon; Constance Ash described a visit to Cuba. The inside back cover contained the first installment of Joey Zone’s “The Joey Zone.” Misha began a review column that included “visual reviews”: the first was a photograph of a book that she set up on a fence post and shot to pieces.
                Issue #9, November 1991, Cover artist: Steve Callahan. The letter column had settled into a dozen pages of impassioned rhetoric. Sterling turned in a column on computer games, Di Filippo on talking-animal novels; Kadrey continued his ongoing look at odd corners of recorded sound around the globe. Charles Platt wrote on Alfred Bester. Impressed by Iris, I ran an interview with  William Barton and Michael Capobianco (co-authors) as the centerpiece of the issue. Tony Daniels contributed “Brothers,” a piece of “fictocriticism”:  literary criticism that includes characters and a plot. Pat Murphy wrote about the newly created Tiptree Award. The earlier Orson Scott Card and Connie Willis controversies percolated into Japan, generating passionate dissents from Norio Itoh and Mari Kotani. Punk paleontology fanatic Paul Riddell wrote about the Burgess Shale Critters as theorized by Stephen Jay Gould. The issue was rounded out by a survey of industrial society and art by Philip Jones, a satire by Gary Westfahl (“Deconstructing the Atom”), and an essay on Richard Calder by Takayuki Tatsumi. There were reviews, the “Joey Zone” on the inside back cover, and Misha’s visual review in “Points of Impact”: photographs of a book being chainsawed into pulp debris.
                Issue #10, June 1992, Cover artist: Ernest Hogan. Following relocation from Washington D.C. to North Carolina, the Eye soldiered on. Bruce Sterling’s column was a “Statement of Principle” about his career: “I am not responsible for every act committed by a Bohemian with a computer.” Paul Di Filippo sent in a poignant, funny column on book selling. Elsewhere, new writer (to the Eye) Terry Bisson wrote on car travel in rural post-Soviet Russia, and Ernest Hogan sent in a diatribe against the short story markets. Charles Platt advocated the abolition of privacy; John Shirley began a three-part essay on “The Social Future,” illustrated by Rick Berry. Vance Anderson interviewed Dave Wingrove about Wingrove’s ongoing multi-novel project: illustrations were by Steve Stiles. For me the stand out in this issue was Dennis Kealey’s harrowing “Witnessing Schizophrenia,” illustrated by Ferret. The lead review was by Kathleen Ann Goonan, soon to become an important new writer. In the back pages, Jim Steel began a ’zine review column and Paul Riddell’s first “Scleral Rings” column appeared. Misha’s visual review consisted of photo­graphs of a wolf ripping a book to shreds. By now many had protested, accusing me of “book burning”: I disagreed, thinking of those photos as no different from saying in print “Don’t buy a worthless book.” Joey Zone, as always, brought up the rear with a bang. 120 pages had become the basic issue length.
                Issue #11, December 1992, Cover artist: Rick Berry. Last issue’s Di Filippo column on conspiracy fiction touched off this issue’s Sterling column about public perceptions of hacking conspiracies. Di Filippo ventured into Rupert Sheldrake territory; he also interviewed Thomas M. Disch for this issue. Disch contributed three poems. Gary Westfahl wrote a funny essay about the various categories of sequel, using that inveterate sequelizer Philip José Farmer as his example. John Shirley wrote about lying; Ernest Hogan longed for the return of greasy sci-fi. David Memmott contributed a serious essay about AIDS and Charles Platt mused about his cryonic experiences. A stand out was Jack Womack’s description of post-Soviet Moscow, illustrated by a team that included Rick Berry, Darick Chamberlin, and myself. Berry also contributed his first color cover to the Eye, printed, alas, too murkily. In the back, Riddell, Steel, and Zone occupied their customary seats and Misha’s visual review was of herself in a spectacular self-immolation: she had decided to stop doing visual book reviews. I regretted this: she had been talking about hooking a certain book up to several horses and drawing and quartering it.
                Issue #12, Summer 1993, Cover artists: Mark Brown and Rick Berry.  Paul Di Filippo’s column was on Ishmael Reed, while Sterling revisited the French Bohemian scene of Jules Verne, focusing on the remarkable art­ist/photographer Nadar. Kadrey’s music round-up detoured from odd discs to odd books. Charles Platt wrote a paean to Strange Science. John Shirley concluded his three-part essay with a survey of greed and taboos. Larry McCaffery and Takayuki Tatsumi sent in a dialogue about Larry’s avant-pop literary theory; it won the Pioneer Award of the Science Fiction Research Association, the first time the Pioneer had been won by an essay published in a non-academic journal. Ron Drummond wrote a surreal essay on the work of Steve Erickson; Erickson himself sent an autobiographical essay. Brian Eno was interviewed by Dan Joy, and the interview touched upon neither music nor literature. And there was more: Bruce McAllister wrote about working at Disneyland during the 1960s, and Michaela Roessner described one of the strangest structures in America, the Winchester house in San José. The reviews reflected the editorial percentage: only about half were of genre sf.
                Issue #13, Spring 1994, Cover artist: Ferret. Ferret, one of the best of the Eye’s interior illustrators, turned in his first color cover. On the inside front cover was a peculiar digital work by Greg Carter. (This Eye, like all earlier issues, had been laid out by pasting down bits of paper onto cardboard. But I could see the digital future.) Film maker David Blair was interviewed by Takayuki Tatsumi and Mari Kotani. Blair’s remarkable film Wax: or, The Discovery of Television Among the Bees, had become a cult classic, partly due to Paul Di Filippo’s review of the film in a prior issue. Bruce Sterling’s column looked at his inundation by e-mail; Di Filippo’s discussed the utopian ideals of a book written a century ago. Kadrey’s column updated his Covert Culture Sourcebook, Charles Platt took a hard look at the Extropians, and John Shirley turned in an essay assessing violence. Don Webb pondered the mysterious in fiction, and Gary Westfahl discussed teaching sf. Ken Jopp wrote on the positive aspects of arrested infantilism and the human future; and Steve Kelner looked at the mind/brain dichotomy in reality and as portrayed in sf. Mark Rich joined Paul Riddell, Jim Steel, and Joey Zone in the back pages with a new mini-column on short fiction. Joey brought up the rear with a display of his tattoos.
                Issue #14, Spring 1996, Cover artist: Rick Lieder. There was a  two-year gap between this issue and #13: many thought this indicated a waning interest, but not so. I was still being deluged with great material. Bruce Sterling wrote an elegy for the Russian space program; Paul Di Filippo surveyed proto-sf in magazines of the early 1900s. Richard Kadrey’s column was about Hong Kong action movies: during the long interval before this column saw print, the whole country discovered these movies and Jackie Chan became ubiquitous. Two writers new to the Eye turned in very different essays: Michael Hemmingson’s was a brooding commentary about love and the Internet, Stepan Chapman’s a paean to John R. Neill, original illustrator of L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Horror writer Nancy A. Collins denounced contemporary ob-gyn practices. Sherry Coldsmith contributed a withering review of Fuck SF (then a brash new magazine, now defunct). The feature interview was a talk with Philip K. Dick by Uwe Anton, conducted in 1977 at the Metz Festival in France. Dick was in an expansive mood; the interview is funny, thoughtful, and self-critical. Paul Riddell looked at Martian paleontology; Joey Zone turned in his usual acerbic column and filled both sides of the back cover with graphic peculiarities, including another manifestation of the inscrutable Dr. Ihoka.
                Issue #15, Fall 1997, Cover artist: Rick Berry. Ten years earlier, the Eye had been born amid the splintered shards of a movement that failed to answer Bruce Sterling’s question: “What does it mean to be a barbarian storming the gates when those gates are thrown open and the city’s inhabitants prostrate themselves at your feet? What’s a proper rebel to do?” One of the casualties of cyberpunk’s transition from outsider movement to the mainstream was Bruce’s seditious broadsheet, Cheap Truth. It seemed pointless to continue with it but a shame to let it die. Simultaneously, I was galvanized by the artistic vision of Dan Steffan, who set the exact tone and look of what the Eye ought to be. Though Dan resigned early, to this day I see SF Eye as a logical extension of Steffan’s inspiration.
                True sf opens a door to an unknown world, whether literal or an author’s peculiar interior landscape. It leaves the reader fumbling for clues, searching for landmarks. I like to think that every essay in SF Eye was a glimpse into an unknown world.

Epilogue: If I had to define a single motive that drove me to publish for ten years, it would be this: the widespread influence of sf fandom had created a literature increasingly recursive and self-referential. The great sf writers of the 1940s and 1950s were aware of the changing world around them, culturally, politically, and technologically. They would discern a fresh trend and come up with a science-fictional technique to warp and bend the idea into the metaphor of a story. But the writers of the 1970s and 1980s had grown up as sf fans. The field had once been full of writers who thought extrapolatively: “The recent discovery of a prehistoric feathered insect with gills may have a profound impact on the way we view evolution. How best to deal with this idea?  Perhaps a nested series of alternate universes. Let me try it out and see if it works.” By contrast, sf of the early 1980s seemed to me driven by a different motive: “I’ve always admired Samuel Paleowriter’s incisive alternate-evolution stories. I think I’ll try writing one.” Sf was becoming a literary cyst, walled off from the human body, growing increasingly irrelevant to the rest of the world.                

When the Eye came to be, one of my goals was to bring the field back to its extrapolative roots. I did not want to publish what sf writers and readers were interested in; I wanted to publish what I thought they ought to be interested in. My success varied widely, but over the years there was a movement away from literary criticism and toward general articles and essays about aspects of life that I thought should be generating new and original sf stories. I never planned to abandon criticism altogether; I continually sought the proper mix. And I doubt that anything I published ever actually sparked a story. But the attempt made the work of editing and producing the magazine something much more than a hobby.                

I regret that demands on my time make it impossible for me to continue. Yet I think that my goal has been achieved (though not due to my efforts). Today, many talented writers create superb sf directly out of source material. There are still many recursive writers devoting their time to replicating the books of decades past. But the field is bigger: there’s a lot more room out there, room enough for everyone.—Stephen P. Brown

[Ed. Note: Back issues of SF Eye are available (all but the sold-out #2, #4, and #12).The website <>has details on the purchase of back issues as well as on partial refunds for subscribers.]


Millennial Essays: Contributors Sought. Donald E. Morse invites articles for a collection with the working title Science Fiction at the Turn of the Millen­nium: Literature, Science, and Culture. The essays will appear both in the Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies and in the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Possible topics include literary techniques that sf has initiated or rehabilitated, sf and the postmodern moment, the connection between the conscious and the unconscious in sf, and how current scientific theories illuminate sf. Essays on the theory of infinities or the cosmology of multiple universes would also be welcome. Sf, acknowledged as an excellent tool for extrapolation, is also a powerful mirror of any culture, so essays are invited that relate sf to cultural or social movements. The deadline for submissions is August 25, 2000. Send proposals and inquiries to: Prof. Donald E. Morse, 4010 Debrecen, Pf. 73, Kossuth University—English Institute, Hungary H-4010; E-mail: <>.—Donald E. Morse


Call for Submissions: ARIEL Special IssueARIEL (A Review of Interna­tional English Literature) invites submissions for a special issue titled 2001: A Postcolonial Odyssey. Speculative fiction (including sf, fantasy, horror, and magic realism) concerns itself with many of the topics that preoccupy postcolonial authors and critics: alien-ness and alienation, travel and the discovery of possible new worlds, territorial expansion, and imperialism. This issue will explore the complex responses of speculative literature and film to “real world” conditions; it will also focus attention on otherwise neglected writers from around the world who are working within and transforming the genre. The due date for essays is July 30, 2000. For further information, contact Nancy E. Batty <>. For contributors’ guidelines and general information on ARIEL, see our webpage <http://www.>.—Pat Srebrnik, University of Calgary


Another Special Issue: Romanticism on the Net. This electronic journal will devote a special issue to “SF and Romanticism” in February 2001. As the deadline for submissions is February 15, 2000, too late for SFS’s subscribers (who will receive this information early in March), this item is offered more as advance notice of the issue’s focus than as a call for submissions. Interested potential contributors, however, might contact either Robert Corbett <> or Michael Eberle-Sinatra <michael.eberle.> to ask whether some extension of the deadline is possible. The editors have invited articles on sf’s roots in romanti­cism (the Shelleys et al.), romanticism’s persistence in today’s sf, and scientific imagining in the period. —CM


Call for SAMLA Papers. The SF and Fantasy Discussion Circle of the South Atlantic MLA invites paper proposals for Fall 2000 for the panel “The Future as Metaphor: SF and The Millennium.” We invite papers on nineteenth versus twentieth-century visions, utopia and dystopia, future histories, alternate histories, or any other aspect of sf and metaphor. Send proposals or papers,  postmarked by May 1, 2000, to Dr. Warren Rochelle, Box F41, 1115 Limestone College, Gaffney, SC  29340. Tel.: (864) 488-4503 or (800) 795-7151, x 503. Email:<>or<wrochelle@saint.>.—Warren G. Rochelle 


Special Issue: Historical Materialism. This refereed interdisciplinary journal of Marxist research is putting together a special issue/symposium on “Marxism and the Fantastic”: we hope to publish at the end of Y2K. We want to cover all aspects of the topic, including fantasy, sf, horror, surrealism, the uncanny, utopianism, etc. Essays can be short and more focused or long and more broadly theoretical. We are looking for work written from the classical Marxist perspective. Those who would like more information or submission guidelines, contact the editors at <>or at Historical Materialism, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE. We can also provide details on how to subscribe or order back issues.


SFS Offprints Available. I have three boxes of offprints available from SFS Vols. 3-17 (1976-90). If your article or review-article appeared in any one of these issues and you have any use for additional offprints, I am willing to send them to you for reimbursement (or, preferably, “pre-imbursement”) of the postal costs. Those interested should contact Robert Philmus, Concordia University, 7141 Sherbrooke St. W., Montréal, Canada, H4B 1R6, fax (514) 848-2831. If you wish, you may estimate the appropriate remittance yourself on the basis of the US postal rate for 5 offprints (the number we have on average). Your remittance may take the form of whatever postage stamps are available at your local post office, or a check or money order in US dollars, payable to RMP. (International reply coupons are a ripoff: one for 80¢ US, say, though currently worth Can. $1.20+, is redeemable for only 90¢ Can. in postage.)—RMP  


Lem versus Rottensteiner Verdict. In the matter of Mr. Stanislaw Lem’s lawsuit against me, the Trade Court in Vienna (Handelsgericht Wien, No. 19 Cg 12/99) has ruled against the plaintiff, Mr. Lem, on all counts. Those able to read German and interested in the details of the ruling may look it up under: <>. —Franz Rottensteiner, Vienna

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