Science Fiction Studies

#138 = Volume 46, Part 2 = July 2019


Repeating the Past.

Carl Abbott. Imagining Urban Futures: Cities in Science-Fiction and What We Might Learn from Them. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2016. 276 pp. $27.95 hc.

Unfortunately, Carl Abbott’s Imagining Urban Futures (2016) appeared in print a year before Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2140 (2017), which presents readers with a Manhattan under fifty feet of flooding because of climate change. Further, just another year later, in 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report “Global Warming of 1.5°C,” which warns of irreversible climate-related upheaval to the Earth by 2040. In short, in promising its readers “what science fiction can teach us about urban planning” (from the dust jacket), Imagining Urban Futures should plan how sf has become or should become climate fiction (from the dustjacket). By now, perhaps the only thing sf can teach us about urban planning is how to deal with the massive humanitarian crisis unfolding as the now nearly guaranteed inundation of massive coastal cities arrives.

Instead, Abbott closes by writing about Robinson’s decade-old Science in the Capital trilogy (2004-2007), which presents a Washington DC, inundated, frozen, and coping. In underscoring how “wobbling institutions move back toward a center like a ship righting after nearly capsizing” in Robinson’s trilogy (231), Abbott makes a case for the resilience of the modern city, a space that generates its strength in part out of its diversity. Nevertheless, only two years old, Imagining Urban Futures feels dated and overly optimistic about cities in its suggestion of an urban future as impossible as the impossible ones Abbott tracks in this survey of English-language sf over the history of the genre.

I mention all of this to attempt to recreate the confusion Abbott’s book causes. An emeritus professor of urban studies and planning, Abbott has supplemented a forty-year scholarly career of studying the American West and urban growth there with two books on sf. Imagining Urban Futures follows Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West (2006) from a decade before, yet Abbott opens the newer work by describing its inevitable precedence in the form of a syllogism: “Science fiction is about the future. The human future will be urban. Therefore, science fiction should be about urban futures” (2).

As our future can only be urban, so, too, can our sf only be urban, and Abbott draws on the archive to split these urban futures into two broad groups: sf cities that challenge the reader through technological possibility and sf cities that, through increased diversity, present the complexity of social life in such a compacted space. These two groupings Abbott further splits into the eight chapters that make up Imagining Urban Futures. The technological possibility informs the first three chapters, starting with “Techno Cities” that are “containers for new technologies” before moving to the ways cities can become monolithic machines pursuing the task of keeping their populations breathing (14). Abbott then closes this section with a chapter on cities that themselves can move when prompted. Abbott transitions to social complexity with the next two chapters, on the benevolent, imprisoning “carceral city” against which teenagers typically buck and on how sf has used decayed suburban environments to continue an unfair (in Abbott’s view) anti-suburban bias in American culture (93).

Only the closing chapters begin to feel like more than indices of examples. Throughout, Abbott typically describes around 20 texts per chapter, and in the first chapters the description is driven by explaining whatever urban conceit (the city moves!) appears in the work that puts it in the current chapter and giving a summary of the plot to demonstrate how this urban conceit constrains the urban potential of the novel or movie. Turning to more social issues, however, Abbott uncovers a deeper sense of how the human interactions in sf reflect upon, amplify, or challenge over a century of social scientific research growing alongside the genre. Abbott also now settles in with the texts under question, describing the various social interactions across multiple pages, instead of as a series of page-long plot synopses.

The sixth chapter, on cities in crisis, is particularly rich in this way. Abbott views the sf city in crisis historically, as making up three distinct epochs: fire, famine, and flood. Early sf, and in this Abbott reads heavily from Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1908), features the urban “fire” of class conflict. Panic over overpopulation in the middle of the previous century provides the “famine” crisis, and Abbott uses Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! (1966) and its cinematic version, Soylent Green (1973), as emblematic of the era. Only from the 1970s, however, does Abbott track a deep interest in how environmental catastrophe, and specifically flooding, should frame the sf cities of tomorrow. Yet here Abbott uses Paolo Bacigalupi’s flooded Bangkok in The Windup Girl (2009) as an opportunity to close the chapter by discussing how Asian cities are playing more and more prominent roles in sf. Eco-conscious readers see their climate-directed interests finally addressed and then brushed aside to explain how the “fire” of class conflict might be returning with an Asian spin; Abbott references the phyles in Neal Stephenson’s Shanghai novel The Diamond Age (1995) for illustration.

After a short chapter on abandoned cities, Abbott closes with a chapter on the interactions and diversity provided by putting so many people in the same space. Beginning with a tour of what Samuel R. Delany has called “unlicensed sectors” (qtd. 192) and Abbott refers to as “Nighttown” (193), the author admirably coaxes the vibrancy and excitement of the ground floor of dystopian sf cities such as the Los Angeles of Blade Runner (1982) and the Neo Tokyo of Akira (1988), in contrast to the ziggurats of the ruling class looking down on the rubble and rabble.

In these closing chapters, Imagining Urban Futures shines when Abbott draws on that forty-year career in urban planning. Familiar names to scholars of cities such as Mike Davis, Robert Park, and Michel de Certeau begin appearing as touchstones for the sf, and Abbott’s readings grow more informed by the theory surrounding them. This is in contrast to how Abbott juxtaposes, for example, Le Corbusier’s views of the city of the future with the views of his sf contemporaries earlier in the text. Despite treating the city as an assemblage with emergent properties for half the book, the richer sections are the ones that remember that cities are nothing without the humans populating them. They may be greater than the sum of their parts, but it is ultimately the parts that keep our attention. When Abbott chastises a lack of interest in explaining how Coruscant, the planet-sized capital in the Star Wars universe, works to an urban planner, it is by pointing out that much of the plot occurs in conference rooms. Yet conference rooms are precisely where much of contemporary human drama is acted out.

So what of climate fiction and New York 2140, then? Reading Imagining Urban Futures, I felt that something like a monograph on Robinson’s novel (and recent work) or at least a book treating a smaller archive of texts would be far more rewarding to planners and literary critics interested in the future of the city than this text, which is too broad in its focus. As Abbott already hints, the importance Robinson gives to civic duty suggests a path to the future for those concerned about the UN’s warnings. In New York 2140, Robinson uses the conceit of a MetLife Tower overlooking a flooded Madison Square Bacino as a starting point from which the simple diversity and various networks of information, power, or whatever, that hold cities together can effect change. Here live a detective, a financial analyst, homeless hackers, orphaned wharf rat children, a superintendent with a past in salvaging, a media star, and a community organizer. This group then uses their various network connections and cooperates—and this seems to be the central Robinsonian word—to hatch a scheme to wrest control of capital from the endlessly speculating financial markets of, among other places, lower Manhattan. In other words, the novel provides opportunities to present the city as a member of many of Abbott’s eight categories and, by crossing over them, it also demonstrates how technology and society are connected as well. The later chapters of Imagining Urban Futures begin to show that Abbott clearly understands this. It is a shame, then, that it is hidden from the readers in the rest of the book and in the book’s own structure.—Moacir P. de Sá Pereira, Columbia University

Otherworldly Fantasies, Short on Space.

Esterino Adami, Francesca Bellino, and Alessandro Mengozzi, eds. Other Worlds and the Narrative Construction of Otherness. Torino, Italy: Mimesis International, 2017. 210 pp. $18.00/ £14.00/€16,00 pbk, £7.99 ebk.

As the title suggests, the focus of Other Worlds and the Narrative Construction of Otherness is not sf, even if the “Other Worlds” part seems to indicate its relevance for sf studies. Only four of the ten essays deal with sf, while two others loosely graze the territory. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does work against the cohesion of the volume as a whole. Nevertheless, some of the essays deal with lesser-known works of sf from around the world or throw light on little-studied works. In this review, I will only deal with the essays on sf.

The book is divided into four brief sections. The first section, “Other Spaces, New Worlds,” is the one most directly relevant. Alessandra Consolaro looks at the little known early Hindi novel Baisvi Sadi [Twenty-second Century] by Rahul Sankrityayan (1923). While the work itself now feels quite antiquated, its historical importance to Indian kalpavigyan [sf] can hardly be understated. Consolaro argues that in Baisvi Sadi, Sankrityayan builds a model of alternative modernity that was also utopian, one of transnationalism and glocalism, that could not be accommodated within the political systems of the time. Sankrityayan’s vision still retains faith in technology and progress rather than primitivism. The protagonist of the narrative falls asleep and wakes up after 200 years to a utopian society; the rest of the narrative has the shape of a travelogue that takes him through this utopian world and its features. Unsurprisingly, many early sf works followed a very similar structure, and templates such as Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888) were well-known and widely available, whether Sankrityayan had read them or not, as were dream narratives with utopian form. The influence of socialism and the impact of the Russian revolution were more direct. Consolaro focuses specifically on the travel aspect of the narrative, arguing compellingly that even in a relatively early work Sankrityayan was able to outline and articulate some of the central concerns and qualities of Indian modernity, including its struggles with fetishized nationalism as well as the more positive utopian universalism that was the hallmark of many prominent Indian intellectuals of that age, including Rabindranath Tagore and Bhimrao Ambedkar. 

The other essay in this section, Ada Barbaro’s on Arabic al-khayal al-‘ilmi [science fantasy], attempts to find the space where science fiction and Arabic fantastic literature meet, is unarguably the most valuable essay in the collection from an sf perspective and is featured on the back cover blurb of the book. While the use of the desert as a setting has a long history in both European and North American sf, and the desert settings of the Arab world continue to be actively used as a site for the Hollywood sf imaginary, Barbaro focuses instead on the use of the underwater city. She argues that its use for idealized utopias goes against mainstream Arabic literature that focuses more on the land. She also looks at transferences and cross-fertilizations between Arabic and other traditions, for instance the influence of Sufi ideas on Doris Lessing, or the many translations of Anglophone sf into Arabic. For those who have not had a chance to read Barbaro’s book in Italian on the emergence and transformation of the Arabic fantastic (perhaps the first full treatment of the topic), this essay provides a great window into her arguments, which others such as Ian Campbell have built upon. The essay also contains an invaluable but partial bibliography of Arabic translations of works of/on science fiction, showing the gradual development of the genre in the Arabic language, especially the history of translations. My one complaint about this essay, however, is that there could have been more discussion of the desert as a setting in Arabic fantastic literature.

The two other essays that directly deal with sf include Esterino Adami’s essay focusing on the work of Vandana Singh and Manjula Padmanabhan, framing them within a general discussion of postcolonial sf, linguistics, and narrative studies. Adami skillfully demonstrates the use of irony—especially through “constructed oppositions” (93), a concept he borrows from Leslie Jeffries in Opposition in Discourse (2010), in the short story “Gandhi Toxin” by Padmanabhan (1997), a useful idea for much of Padmanabhan’s work. Adami’s focus on how Padmanabhan juxtaposes opposing ideas to represent Gandhi. For instance, catastrophic pacifism, or the Gandhi toxin, demonstrates how politics in India seems to frame Gandhi as both an important political figure and the unwitting architect of India’s partition. Adami’s discussion of Vandana Singh’s “Infinities” (2014), is not as strong. Adami tries to articulate the symbolic relevance of infinity in the story while he would have been better served exploring the story’s politics. In this, as well as the previous essays, I had the feeling that much more could have been said, indeed should have been said, than the volume’s constraints may have allowed.

Lucia Avallone’s essay on Majid Tubiya’s short stories and the Egyptian fantastic is the longest essay of the four, and is one of the most refreshing reads in the whole book. The essay focuses on four short stories by Tubiya written in the 1960s and 1970s, and highlights the origins of the dystopic moment in the Egyptian fantastic. The first of these, “Vostok Reaches the Moon” (1965), is set during the Egyptian modernization phase of the Gamal Abdel Nassar period, and shows the duality of technology as something both alienating and freeing. This decade spawned a new kind of fantastic fiction across the Middle East and South Asia with very similar aspirations, and Avallone’s essay clearly adds to the analysis of this trend. In the later stories, “The Bulge-Eyed” (1970), “Five Unread Newspapers” (1970), and “The Following Days” (1972), all of which come after Egypt’s defeat in the third Arab-Israeli war (1967), the mood feels more pessimistic and dystopian, even though the final one, as Avallone shows, leads to a more utopian idea. Much of the fiction is focused on alienation, metamorphoses, outer space, and monstrous beings, using these to deal with the modernization of Egypt and its effect on the personal, generational, and political history of the region. The essay convincingly shows how the avant garde generation, to which Tubiya belonged, used fantastic themes and created a new kind of literature. Egypt is at the forefront of the fantastic dystopian literature coming out of much of the Middle East region at present, and this offers a useful glimpse of its prehistory.

Of the other essays in the book, both the essay on Fu Manchu and the last one on the figure of Ra’s al-Ghul, may be of interest to scholars of pulp literature and comics. Bellino’s essay traces the history of the Ra’s al-Ghul figure in Arabic literature and how it influenced DC Comics portrayals and is a really cool read, even if not directly about sf. The other essays, while they all deal with narrative constructions of the Other, seem a bit more haphazard and are likely to be of little interest to sf or even fantasy studies, although those interested in horror and monstrosity might take a look.

The book would have benefitted from a stronger editorial focus on sf, fantasy, or monstrosity, and the essays might then have had more space to develop discussions more fully. It will nonetheless be a useful book to have in libraries, and the above-mentioned essays could easily be used in courses on the global fantastic.—Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, University of Oslo

The Good, the Bad, and the Scary.

Christian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen, and Christine Cornea, eds. Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017. vi+246 pp. $119.99 hc.

This useful collection of papers is distilled from a conference in Denmark that involved scholars and scientists from a range of disciplines, plus input from local sf fandom. The contributors present varied perspectives, including some that are not narrowly academic. In their introductory chapter, Christian Baron, Peter Nicolai Halvorsen, and Christine Cornea outline the book’s concern with the ethical implications of future technologies and whatever social practices they might bring. In that context, as the editors observe, science fiction can provide a laboratory for thought experiments:

Indeed, one of the aims of this book is to demonstrate what can be achieved in approaching science fiction as a kind of imaginary laboratory for experi-mentation, where visions of human (or even post-human) life under various scientific, technological or natural conditions that differ from our own situation can be thought through and commented upon. (2)

The remaining chapters are grouped thematically into three parts, though the allocation of particular chapters sometimes appears a touch arbitrary. Part I relates to science, technology, and sf, Part II to questions of identity and what the editors call “the post-human condition,” and Part III to sf’s engagement with political and ethical questions.

Part I is focused as much on science and technology themselves as on sf narratives. Christian Baron’s chapter considers the scientific credibility of Alien (dir. Ridley Scott, 1979) and its successors, with brief discussions of other scientifically informed works such as the film Quest for Fire (dir. Jean-Jacques Annaud, 1981). Baron argues that sf narratives (and their creators) often take sides—sometimes deliberately, sometimes by inadvertence—in live scientific controversies.

In a thoughtful contribution to ongoing debates about an anticipated technological singularity, Mikkel Willum Johansen expresses what seems to be well-reasoned skepticism. On his assessment, there is no likelihood that research on artificial intelligence will cause a mind-boggling technological liftoff. Johansen explains the limited ability of computers to do creative work in mathematics that requires sophisticated high-order concepts. He argues that the increase in cognitive advantage brought about by computers has happened far more slowly than the steady doubling and redoubling of raw processing power described by Moore’s Law. Rather than computers developing the field of mathematics through their autonomous problem-solving power, they have become increasingly effective as tools to aid human intelligence. Johansen then ponders the ethical implications. We should, he concludes, abandon our hopes for (or fears of) a technological singularity, however exactly we define the concept, and instead concentrate attention on real, imminent problems caused by AI applications—which we need to identify, examine, and debate.

Peter Westermann’s chapter, “A Greenhouse on Mars,” analyzes the prospects and, importantly, the ethics of colonizing the red planet, including whether we should disturb even bacterial life if we find it there. Westermann makes perceptive comments about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy (Red Mars [1992], Green Mars [1993], and Blue Mars [1996]). He is mainly concerned, however, with the actual science of interplanetary travel and colonization.

Also in Part I, Gitte Meyer’s chapter bears the longiloquent but rather splendid title “Fascinating! Popular Science Communication and Literary Science Fiction: The Shared Features of Awe and Fascination and Their Significance to Ideas of Science Fictions as Vehicles for Critical Debate About Scientific Enterprises and Their Ethical Implications.” The “science fictions” that Meyer has in mind are not novels, stories, or films; they are sensationalist reports and speculations relating to actual or postulated scientific innovations. These, Meyer argues, merit a level of scrutiny and skepticism that they seldom receive.

Part II of the book turns to questions of personal identity, especially in relation to postulated technologies that could alter how we, as human beings, live in the world and understand ourselves. Stig W. Jørgensen outlines the established notion of modernity as a broad social shift, subsequent to the invention of the printing press, “towards a post-traditional society” in which the individual “must carve out an identity for him- or herself, and accept that this identity can and will be subject to change throughout the individual’s lifetime” (85). Jørgensen compares this historical transition to newer challenges to self-understanding driven by emerging technologies. He provides a well-informed description of current debates surrounding transhumanism, a political and cultural movement that embraces the prospect of radical human enhancement. From there, he examines the depictions of selfhood and its discontents in Charles Stross’s Accelerando (2005), the fiction of Greg Egan and Iain M. Banks, and Walter Jon Williams’s novelette “Lethe” (1997).

The remaining chapters in Part II could just as easily have been placed in Part III, since there is a considerable overlap between issues of personal identity and those relating to ethics and politics. That said, these chapters are credible and informative analyses of particular narratives. Sherryl Vint discusses the implications of human cloning in the Canadian tv drama Orphan Black (2013–2017, though Vint deals with just the first two seasons). The bottom line, for Vint, is that the series indicts capitalist-neoliberal exploitation of biotechnology. While this is a relatively predictable conclusion, it is preceded and sustained by detailed, persuasive analysis of the series and individual episodes.

Peter Nicolai Halvorsen’s chapter deals with large questions of life, death, and redemption. More particularly, it demonstrates the saturation in religious iconography of two films directed by Ridley Scott: Blade Runner (1982) and Prometheus (2012). In itself, this might have been obvious to anyone familiar with the films, but Halvorsen’s account is unusually comprehensive and rich.

Likewise, Tony Degouveia explicates religious elements in Francis Lawrence’s film I Am Legend (2007), which he compares to The Last Man on Earth (dir. Sidney Salkow, 1964) and The Omega Man (dir. Boris Segal, 1971)—all based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (1954). Degouveia amply shows the pro-Christian symbolism and tropes of the 2007 film, in contrast to its predecessors, which are notable for secular or even anti-religious themes. So striking is the difference that, according to Degouveia, Lawrence’s film displays “a profoundly Manichean misunderstanding of the original myth” (154).

Part III commences with Christine Cornea’s “From Isolationism to Globalism: An Overview of Politics and Ethics in the Hollywood Science Fiction Film.” This is exemplary as a short history of American cinematic sf since the 1930s. Cornea is adept at relating particular works to the social anxieties of their time. Niels Dalgaard provides an equally well-grounded overview of Kim Stanley Robinson’s fiction from the Mars Trilogy to 2312 (2012).

Christian Baron’s analysis of frontier ethics in science fiction is a highlight of the volume, and perhaps the chapter that dovetails most neatly with its overall purpose, if this is to examine sf’s engagement with questions of ethics. Baron identifies how, in a frontier situation, self-dependency, self-reliance, and resourcefulness may be regarded as moral virtues—rather than as non-moral capacities, analogous to intelligence, charm, or strength—and, indeed, as virtues of overriding significance. They may, for example, override the gentler virtues of compassion, tolerance, and self-sacrifice.

Baron cites works such as Alien and Tom Godwin’s classic story “The Cold Equations” (1954); these portray situations where the harsh virtues of the frontier are paramount. By contrast, frontier ethics is critiqued by other sf narratives, such as Don Saker’s story “The Cold Solution” (1991). Baron concludes with some timely advice. We should not, he suggests, be too quick to assume that we are in situations where frontier virtues take priority. He adds, however, that frontier styles of ethics will inevitably play a role in future political debates involving issues of security or survival.

Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition rounds off with two useful chapters focused on works by widely known authors. Jerry Määttä discusses John Wyndham’s popular, though often maligned, novel The Day of the Triffids (1951), examining the ideologies of various groups attempting to survive after an apocalyptic disaster that leaves most people blind and at the mercy of mobile, carnivorous plants. Maud M.L. Eriksen and Mickey Gjerris examine Margaret Atwood’s series of novels beginning with Oryx and Crake (2003), which was followed by The Year of The Flood (2009). (Eriksen and Gjerris indicate that their paper was written before publication of MaddAddam [2013], the third novel in the series.) The emphasis here is on finding courage and hope in seemingly hopeless situations such as the post-apocalyptic world that Atwood depicts. I would only add that this is a common theme in sf narratives: the resilience of basic decency and of moral virtues such as courage and hope in highly adverse circumstances.

In all, Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition is a consistently solid, often astute, collection. It achieves a commendable balance between discussing prose fiction and the visual media, longer and shorter narrative forms, broad ideas and their embodiments in specific narratives, genre sf (aimed at a specialized sf audience) and sf by predominantly mainstream authors, and so on.

If one body of work receives unusual prominence, it is films directed by Ridley Scott, particularly Alien, Blade Runner, and Prometheus. This is not, however, especially intrusive when so much else receives careful attention. There is an emphasis on dystopian or desolate futures (including Blade Runner, but also much more) and on sf-horror scenarios (including, but not limited to Alien). This is noticeable, if not exactly intrusive, but understandable in a book devoted to sf’s engagement with ethical issues and visions of the human condition. Very often, these thematic elements are brought vividly to life in stories about extreme, frightening situations.

Ultimately, I have no serious reservations about this collection. Some chapters do contain material that struck me as trite or lazy, such as references to “scientism,” as if it were clear what that chameleon-like word means and why scientism, whatever it amounts to, is a bad thing. Likewise, Christian Baron claims, with no substantiation, that the distinction between “hard” and “soft” sf relies on an alleged “positivist conception of science that has long been rendered obsolete by the findings of historians and sociologists of science” (19). I doubt that any such “positivist” understanding of science has been, or could be, so easily disposed of. In any event, the loose distinction between hard and soft sf need not rely on any controversial theory of science itself. But these are relatively minor and scattered irritations within a substantial book.

Thankfully, Science Fiction, Ethics and the Human Condition is also well written and edited. Some small glitches recur, but they are relatively minor: for example, the authors and editors often struggle with the idea that subjects and verbs are supposed to agree in number, but this does not produce any unintelligible or distractingly awkward prose.

On the whole, the contributors to this volume, most of them from Denmark, seem scientifically and philosophically informed. At the same time, their papers are accessible to non-specialists. As a bonus, most contributors also demonstrate a strong overall grasp of the sf field, something that cannot be taken for granted at a time of increasing academic hyperspecialization. —Russell Blackford, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Ethics in the Sf Mega-Text.

Russell Blackford. Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination: Visions, Minds, Ethics. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, Science and Fiction, 2017. xi+204 pp. $19.99 pbk.

Early in Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination Russell Blackford contends that “it is more strictly accurate to describe science fiction as a narrative mode rather than, more vaguely, as a narrative genre” (10). Although he will remind us twice later that sf is really a mode (58, 105), he also says he finds it more convenient to refer to sf as a genre, as it is more familiarly known. Indeed, the second chapter is entitled “Science Fiction: A Short History of a Literary Genre” (21). Still, his early references to narrative modes that define sf in terms of “the sorts of events that can take place and, more specifically, the sorts of action that the characters can perform,” and to sf generally as a field whose distinctiveness derives from “the expanded, yet bounded, range of things that can happen and things that its characters can do” (10-11; emphasis in original), are important. For the subject of this book is the ethical implications of those “things” that can happen in sf or that its characters can do.

Blackford’s reference to modes is also interesting for other reasons. He says that he derived the term from Northrop Frye’s classic study Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (1957), in which Frye begins his discussion of five “modes” of literature—mythic, romantic, high mimetic, low mimetic, ironic—by arguing for a classification dependent on “the hero’s power of action” (Frye 33; paraphrased by Blackford 10). The early reference to Frye is intriguing, given that, according to Wikipedia, Blackford holds two PhDs, one in literature and one in philosophy, and his dissertation for the first doctorate focused on “the return to myth in modern fictional narrative (as postulated by Northrop Frye)” (Wikipedia). Indeed, although Blackford mentions him only in this early passage, Frye’s impact may be seen throughout the volume.

One way in which Frye appears to have influenced Blackford lies in their shared tendency to use specific texts to illustrate broad tendencies in literary works. For the most part both critics look at a large number of texts to see what they have in common and what distinguishes them from one another, rather than being mainly interested in individual literary works for their own sake. In particular, both are interested in looking at how authors draw on what Christine Brooke-Rose calls the “parallel story” or “megatext” (A Rhetoric of the Unreal [1981]). Damien Broderick, in turn, borrowed (and hyphenated) the useful term “mega-text,” arguing in his Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction (1995) that “when novelties like hyperspace and cyberspace, memex and AI (Artificial Intelligence), nanotech and plug-in personality agents are very quickly taken up as the common property of a number of independent stories and authors, we have the beginnings of a new mega-text” (Broderick 59; qtd. in Blackford 28). Throughout Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination, Blackford examines ethical issues raised by sf texts primarily for ways in which the texts (mainly novels, occasionally short stories or films) either reflect or alter the way those issues are handled in the sf mega-text.

For that reason, like Frye in his Anatomy, he rarely addresses an individual work at length. There are exceptions—the sections devoted to James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958) (61-67) and Samuel R. Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) (98-102) are examples—but brief overviews are the norm. Thus, in the section entitled “Isaac Asimov: Science Fiction as Problem Solving” (28-31), Blackford demonstrates that Asimov’s sf treats “historical crises as puzzles to be resolved through logic and insight” (28). In about two and a half pages this section on Asimov covers his contribution to future history and alludes briefly to his treatment of robots as subjects in sf. Here, as elsewhere, Blackford relies on summary and paraphrase for his descriptions and analyses: although there are occasional quotations from other sources, there are none from the sf texts themselves. He will sometimes circle back to an author discussed earlier—for example, Blackford returns to Asimov’s robots later (145-47)—and this leads to some repetition. Such repetition may be unavoidable, but at times it is a bit much. Rather than mentioning Plato’s fable of the Ring of Gyges twice (109, 175), both times in connection with H.G. Wells’s The Invisible Man (1897), but without summarizing Plato’s story or pointing to its implications for Wells’s Griffin, he might have explained the relevance of the Ring of Gyges for the benefit of general readers.

I do not mean to imply that the brief attention paid in this study to most sf texts is necessarily a defect, only that, given his focus on works as representatives of particular themes, ideas, situations, technological developments, or other constituent elements of the mega-text, Blackford cannot afford to dwell at length on any given work. Often this strategy works quite well, especially when he sets up a comparison of two or more works, as when he follows his discussion of moral issues in A Case of Conscience with commentary on Mary Doria Russell’s “more recent contribution to theological science fiction” (67) in The Sparrow (1996) and Children of God (1998) (67-70). Another comparison that stands out pairs Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (1959) with Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (1974) (84-87). That one is hardly new, but Blackford’s comments are nonetheless concise and helpful: for example, “The science fiction genre has been used for a wide range of depictions of war. However, Starship Troopers and The Forever War are at opposite poles. One author (Heinlein) views war as an ineradicable feature of the human condition; the other (Haldeman) sees it as a form of madness that could be avoided with sufficient clarity and good will” (87). Blackford’s crisp style, devoid of jargon, makes it a pleasure to read. (Readers who are familiar with W.B. Yeats’s late poem “Politics” (1938) will also enjoy recognizing it as the source of Blackford’s apt title for this section: “War and War’s Alarms.”)

The structure and focus of Science Fiction and the Moral Imagination also reflect its status as a volume in the Springer International Publishing series Science and Fiction, since the real or fictitious scientific and technological developments of sf, including encounters with extraterrestrial forms of life and artificial intelligence, often raise ethical issues. After two general overviews, the first on the role of science in sf and the second on stages in the development of the sf field, Blackford develops his study in a series of chapters whose titles indicate their thematic concerns: “Morality, Science Fiction, and Enabling Form,” “Future and Alien Moralities,” “Technophiles, Technophobes, and Renegades,” “Aliens, Robots, Mutants, and Others,” “Going Inward: Science Fiction and Human Enhancement,” and “Conclusion: Great Power and Great Responsibility.” Throughout, he finds appropriate texts to develop his case.

Moreover, he is reliable in handling his material. I occasionally raised an eyebrow, for example, when he described James Hogg (1770-1835), who wrote all or virtually all of his works after 1800, as an “eighteenth-century Scottish writer” (23), but I noted only a few clear factual errors, the worst of which is a reference to the author of The Body Snatchers (1955) as Hal (rather than Jack) Finney (132). Even so, the book would have benefitted from better proofreading, which would have caught an obviously erroneous 2014 publication date for Wells’s The World Set Free (154 n. 3), whose actual publication date, 1914, is cited elsewhere (e.g.,16). Someone might also have noted that on page 134 Blackford credits the British philosopher Stephen R. L. Clark (misspelling his surname as “Clarke”) with having asked “why we should necessarily side with our own species in conflicts with intelligent aliens” and cites his source as “Clarke 1995, 101”—but does not list any work by Clark in the references to that chapter or for that matter anywhere else in the book. There is a similar problem with a quotation from Isaac Asimov on page 142: the source is cited as “1981, 145” but the list of sources for that chapter does not include anything by Asimov. What I assume is the same book is quoted in three other chapters, however, each of which indicates that it is Asimov on Science Fiction (1981).

That leads to my minor complaints about this book, which have to do with its documentation and indexing. If this were a collection of essays by different hands I could see why each chapter would have its own list of works cited, but what sense does it make to do that in a book with just one author—especially since some of those works, for example Broderick’s Reading by Starlight, will be listed several times? A comprehensive bibliography or list of works cited near the end of the book would be more helpful, at least for me. Even more puzzling is the index, which does not list any authors or other people, real or fictitious, or the titles of any literary works, movies, etc. Instead, it is limited to general topics discussed in the book: Abjection, AIDS, Alien infestation, Alien invasion, Aliens, Alternative history, Androids, Anthropology, Artificial intelligence, and Authenticity, for starters. That does call attention to the subjects of the mega-text, but it omits the writers who have given them their shape, which seems unfair both to the writers and to Blackford’s readers.—Patrick A. McCarthy, University of Miami

Atomic Age Echoes.

Mike Bogue. Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017. 316 pp. $39.95 pbk.

Mike Bogue’s Apocalypse Then has a familiar ring to it. From its colorful montage cover, offering a host of familiar images from early sf cinema, to its combination of detailed filmographies and brief commentaries, to its manifestly fannish appreciation of the good and the bad in sf cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, it recalls Bill Warren’s encyclopedic volume Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties (2010). In fact, Warren’s book is the most commonly cited source here, as well as an obvious model for much of what this book tries to do: to provide some very basic information (the filmography) about American and Japanese “atomic age” movies, to recount in varying detail the plots of these films, and to offer some modest commentary (and sometimes personal reminiscences) about them. That sort of combination, as Warren’s popular book has demonstrated, seems to work well for the avid fan of this era’s sf cinema. Certainly, it makes for an interesting—if a bit repetitious—read, one that, the author admits, is at least partly designed to evoke “a welcome nostalgia” (9), but that also should inspire readers to investigate some of the lesser-known films that Bogue describes.

While Warren’s book aims to be a comprehensive account of US and foreign sf films distributed in the US during the 1950s, Apocalypse Then has a slightly narrower aim, limiting its focus to three types of movies: those about radiation-induced mutants, about giant monsters either awakened or spawned by atomic bombs or radiation, and about the projected effects of atomic warfare. As the title indicates, the films range from the 1950s to 1967—a point at which, we are told, “the threat of nuclear war became increasingly probable, and therefore, inherently unrealistic atomic age monsters almost totally disappeared from the cinematic landscape” (84). While that cut-off point—as well as the explanation for it—seems a bit questionable, the aim is worthwhile: to identify a body of films that demonstrate how Japan and the US, two countries inextricably linked due to the atomic bombing of World War II, differently responded to various threats associated with the atomic bomb and its attendant fallout. While Japanese and American sf films, especially of the 1950s and 1960s, have often been the subject of comparison, Bogue argues that less attention has been given to those focused exclusively on “the nuclear threat” (6) in its various forms. An underlying thrust here is to draw out the differing subtexts that characterize the US, Japanese, and US remakes of those Japanese atomic films (the best-known example of the latter being the American Godzilla, King of the Monsters [1956], a reworked version of the original Japanese Gojira [1954]).

For much of the volume, however, that treatment of subtext, along with the quality of the research, proves a bit wanting. As already noted, extensive filmographies (valuable) and lengthy plot summaries (not so valuable) dominate the book, the latter partially justified by the fact that a number of the Japanese films, such as The Mysterious Satellite (1956), The Last War (1961), and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) received scant distribution, have often been recut or otherwise altered for American audiences, or simply have not been widely available since their initial release. But the book applies the same approach to well-known, mainstream American sf films, including Them! (1954), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), and Dr. Strangelove (1964), for which reliable videographic information is readily available and whose plots are fairly familiar. Moreover, the attendant commentary is mostly drawn from fanzines such as Castle of Frankenstein, G-Fan, and Scary Monsters Magazine, without any articles from Science Fiction Studies, Extrapolation, SFRA Review, any major film journal, or key books on the subject making their way into the discussion.

Of course, fanzines can be a valuable source of information, particularly of anecdotal commentary from those involved in a film’s production. But the various pieces cited here add little of significance to the discussion and, along with the overdone plot summaries, tend to crowd out what this sort of focus could bring us—a better understanding of how those nuclear anxieties significantly contributed to the burgeoning of sf cinema in the 1950s, coloring so much of the genre’s early landscape. This is what Susan Sontag pointed out long ago in her famous essay “The Imagination of Disaster” (1966), and what both Peter Biskind’s Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us to Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties (1983) and especially Joyce Evans’s Celluloid Mushroom Clouds (1999)—neither cited in Apocalypse Now—have detailed at some length. Yet when Bogue does fully engage with those nuclear concerns—as he does in a final, brief chapter, “Aftermath,” which considers what was so much at stake in these films’ atomic subject matter—the book takes on a different and more compelling character. Here, in a kind of overdue payoff, he strikes a serious and significant note as he meditates on why it is that, while “American nuclear threat movies generally posited a survivable aftermath,” their Japanese correlatives “allowed for no aftermath at all” (274).

That sudden shift in focus, though, almost seems fitting for the strangely mixed tone that colors much of the book’s plot summaries and discussions. While Bogue often shows an awareness of the serious matter that propelled many of these films, such as the fears of nuclear fall-out, of possible ecological catastrophe, of a Cold War all too easily turning hot, even apocalyptic, he also often steps back to send up—usually gently—many of these works. Thus he cites a line of superfluous dialogue from the Japanese The H-Man (1957) and follows it with the comment “No kidding” (90); he pokes fun at the obvious logical holes in that film’s plot (and many others), as he notes that if “H-bomb fallout” can turn “humans into H-Men,” then should not there be a host of such mutations, including “H-Dogs, H-Dolphins and H-Whales?” (93); he sums up the plot of Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) with the throwaway line, “like God, radiation apparently works in mysterious ways” (145); and he heralds the ending of the “cinematic sub-cycle” of humanoid mutant movies of the period as “causing celebration for some, mourning for others, indifference by most” (86). While Bogue admits at the start that he is trying to treat “the serious as well as the frivolous” (9), and he notes that increased humor—or what he terms “kaiju [giant monster] comedy” (190)—helped extend the popularity of some of these films into the 1960s, the book seems to teeter too often between the “serious” and the “frivolous”; at times it smacks of another influence, Mystery Science Theater 3000, that capitalizes on the ways in which time, shifting tastes, and greater knowledge lend us comic distance and detachment from earlier texts.

Still, an obvious fondness for these texts repeatedly comes through, especially as Bogue recalls his first experiences seeing many of the sf films cited here as an easily impressed—and frightened—child or later as a teenager. On those occasions the book effectively reminds us that its real audience is, after all, not academics but rather the fans or popular readers who might best appreciate the light tone and enjoy the sort of nostalgic pleasures to be gained by reading detailed plot summaries of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Tarantula (1955), or Teenage Cave Man (1958), or by recalling the appreciatively described early stop-motion accomplishments of Ray Harryhausen and the special-effects work of Japanese master Eiji Tsuburaya. Bogue frequently nods in the direction of this intended audience, as he admits that some of these films will appeal mainly to what he terms “completists,” that is, fans of cinematic sf who find satisfaction in seeing practically everything of a certain stripe, or to “any Monster Kid at Heart” (156). It is the sort of audience that also gravitates to Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies! or Stuart Galbraith’s similar survey of Japanese efforts, Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films (1994), both also published by McFarland. That press has, over the years, effectively staked out this territory, publishing volumes that situate their material somewhere between an academic and a popular readership, and Apocalypse Then is another claimant for that territory. While aiming largely for the fan, the nostalgist, the “completist” reader, it also offers some of the comprehensive videographic information that might aid further research into sf cinema and into the cultural concerns of both American and Japanese audiences of the “atomic era.”—J.P. Telotte, Georgia Institute of Technology

Nuclear Literature of the 1980s.

Daniel Cordle. Late Cold War Literature and Culture: The Nuclear 1980s. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xi+229. $109.99 hc.

Daniel Cordle, a reader in English and American Literature at Nottingham Trent University, is the author, previously, of States of Suspense: The Nuclear Age, Postmodernism, and United States Fiction and Prose (Manchester UP, 2008), which argued that several of the key philosophical and thematic concerns of postmodern literature—e.g., its evocation of “reality” as a textual construct, its resistance to narrative closure—deserve to be seen as expressions of (or responses to) the characteristic social anxieties of the atomic era. His new book, Late Cold War Literature and Culture, is at once more narrow and more expansive: its temporal scope is limited to the 1980s, viewed as its own “coherent Cold War moment” marked by “the reemergence in public discourse of nuclear anxieties largely suppressed since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis” (3), while the analytic schemas it deploys are quite diverse, with chapters focusing on gender, ecological, politico-economic, and textual issues. It is an important and valuable work that brings together a significant number of novels and stories in a way that illuminates them both individually and as a group.

At its core, Late Cold War Literature and Culture is a work of cultural studies that seeks to align literary (and, to a lesser extent, filmic and televisual) production—and especially tales of apocalypse and post-apocalypse—with relevant sociopolitical events and contexts during the period. As a consequence, it tends to ignore other crucial frameworks that enabled and constrained this production, such as the aesthetic techniques and genre histories that informed how post-apocalypses were represented. Each chapter begins with a summary of important historical trends and events, then moves to a consideration of how these were reflected in or refracted through specific clusters of texts. The readings are generally cogent and compelling, though they suffer a bit from Cordle’s tendency to flatten out distinctions among different kinds of literary production under the blanket moniker “nuclear literature.” Works of science fiction are analyzed alongside novels by the likes of Martin Amis and Ian McEwen, with little attention paid to the literary-institutional protocols that differentiate them. That said, Cordle does offer a perceptive analysis in Chapter 3 of how nuclear issues were treated in young adult fiction during the period, and thus how youthful audiences were receiving and responding to them, one of the few times he acknowledges the constitutive aesthetic systems within which texts are produced and consumed.

Cordle argues convincingly for the emergence of a transatlantic corpus of nuclear literature during the 1980s, a decade bookended by the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan—two avid cold warriors who embraced strongly anti-communist rhetoric and policies—and the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet regime. During the intervening years, the ramping up of a new arms race—including the placement of medium-range US missiles in Britain, Reagan’s advocacy for the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (a.k.a. “Star Wars”), and the growing acceptance, among hawkish policymakers, that a limited atomic war could be survived—spurred new forms of anti-nuclear militancy on both sides of the Atlantic, a “shared culture of protest” that inspired “rapid and productive cultural traffic between Britain and the United States” (30-31). Chapter 2 is devoted to excavating the “overlapping Anglophone communities” (29) that sustained this culture of protest, giving rise to increasingly sophisticated literary engagements as the decade advanced.

This new nuclear literature was marked by what Cordle calls, in Chapter 3, a “politics of vulnerability”—a sharpened sense of the extraordinary fragility of human bodies and social systems in the face of potentially world-ending technologies and the “deeply threatening … discourses of the nuclear state” (51). The following three chapters consider how this politics of vulnerability was inflected by concerns related to gender, the environment, and the consolidation of a neoliberal politico-economic order. In all of these areas, nuclear literature contributed powerfully to prevailing social debates by offering “imaginative constructions of nuclear near futures” that gave the public a crucial “sense of what was at stake in the Cold War” (48). Thus, for example, feminist critiques of the patriarchal norms and values built into nuclear decision-making were given vivid expression in a range of popular texts, including works of sf such as Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country (1988), which contrasts a masculinist militarism based on competitive hierarchy with a matrilineal system of mutual support and cooperation.  Feminist sf of the 1980s was culturally important because it could “imagine alternative ways of being” and “experiment with different worldviews” in ways that moved beyond the macho posturing and nostalgic “family values” rhetoric that informed much of the era’s nuclear discourse. Indeed, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home (1985), with its vision of a post-apocalypse future transformed ethically, politically, and even linguistically, becomes a touchstone text that Cordle returns to in several chapters.

Cordle’s engagement with the genre is robust: most of the 97 texts listed on the timeline he includes as an appendix would be classified as sf, and many were published as such, ranging from Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake (1978) to M.K. Wren’s A Gift Upon the Shore (1990). He also attends to such quasi-sf works as Whitley Streiber and James Kunetka’s futuristic documentary Warday and the Journey Onward (1984) and the UK technothriller series Edge of Darkness (1985). (The book’s treatment of non-literary texts is spotty: there is an excellent discussion of the bleak British telefilm Threads [1984] but rather little attention paid to The Day After [1983], which was equally significant in the American context.) And Cordle is well-versed in the nuclear criticism produced by such scholars as Paul Brians and David Dowling, though he seems unaware of more encompassing sf scholarship on future war and (post)apocalypse. As a consequence, his handling of sf is rather decontextualized: even granting the volume’s limited chronological focus, it makes little sense to discuss the importance of book-burning and libraries in 1980s nuclear fiction, as Cordle does in Chapter 7, without once mentioning Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), which set the pattern for many of these later treatments.

Despite its limitations, this final chapter is well-conceived and interesting, focusing on the way the fragility of books and textual archives emerges as a proxy for anxieties about the potential extinction of human culture. As he argues, nuclear literature displays “a recurrent preoccupation with books, the libraries in which they are stored and the material (paper; ink) out of which they are constructed. In some post-nuclear texts, libraries are special, almost sacred places, repositories of knowledge about a lost civilization” (173). For many writers, books become ghostly artifacts filled with “signifier[s] of loss” and “tantalizing glimpse[s] of a disappeared world” (179). In an echo of his earlier States of Suspense, Cordle cleverly shows how this textual obsession connects up with postmodern metafictionality in such novels as Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (1980), which “comically plays with our attempts to interpret” its linguistically mutated post-nuclear future, with its “radical fracturing of the archive” and thus of cultural identity itself (188).

Late Cold War Literature and Culture is a deeply researched and effectively argued study of a coherent body of 1980s fictional texts that engaged with the dynamics of a revived Cold War and a renewed anxiety regarding nuclear destruction. While its treatment of sf is, as noted, at times a bit hazy and decontextualized, there is little doubt that the volume makes an important contribution to the study of nuclear war in fiction and will thus be highly useful for sf scholars interested in that topic.—Rob Latham, Twentynine Palms

No Human Error.

James Fenwick, ed. Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey: Representation and Interpretation. Chicago: Intellect, 2018. xvii+268 pp. $93 hc.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s (1968), IMAX gave this canonical sf film a new life in summer 2018. So on a Tuesday afternoon in late August, I ventured to see it at the Cinéma Cineplex Forum in Montreal. I arrived just a few minutes late and, as I entered the theatre, discovered that Cineplex had foregone their usual 20-minute pre-show of car advertisements and trailers for upcoming blockbusters. Instead, the room was pitch black and György Ligeti’s Atmospheres (1961) blasted through the speakers. I used my phone-flashlight to locate my assigned seat; then, for the next two hours and 40 minutes, I sat transfixed by 2001’s sublime visuals, silences, and musical accompaniment.

Exhibiting 2001 in this setting was perfect. While this was not my first viewing, given my comparatively small 40-inch TV I was seeing it here with fresh eyes. Two of the authors in Fenwick’s Understanding Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey begin their respective chapters with their initial encounters of the monumental film. Fenwick recalls feeling perplexed and engrossed by “The Dawn of Man” sequence and, for Rachel Walisko, 2001 was her first truly “existential experience” (183). For many of 2001’s viewers the film is undeniably a transformative experience, whether they are watching it for the first time or the tenth time.

Alongside this new era of IMAX exhibition comes a new era of scholarship to which Fenwick’s collection is a valuable contribution. Partially emerging from a 2016 conference entitled Stanley Kubrick: A Retrospective, Fenwick’s Understanding Kubrick’s 2001 builds a bridge between older methodologies and interpretations of the film and new methods and research undertaken after the opening of the Stanley Kubrick Archive (held at the University of the Arts, London and the London College of Communication) in 2007. According to Fenwick, Understanding Kubrick’s 2001 “represents a wide-ranging examination from a number of standpoints about one of the most important and influential films in cinema history” (11). The volume contains six parts and twelve chapters. The chapters detail the film’s production history and narrative, assess its representations of masculinities and technology, and outline its philosophical import. They are relatively short, similarly structured, and almost all equally engaging. Most of the contributions will appeal to a general audience, as well as to curious 2001 fans and established Kubrick scholars.

Fenwick begins the volume by outlining the stakes of his project and situating it within the broader field of Kubrick studies. Before each section, he provides brief overviews of its chapters and some further reading. If one were to read the book cover to cover, however, beginning at the end is advised. Filippo Ulivieri, one of the leading Kubrick scholars in Italy, provides “the first systematic attempt at reconstructing the entire chronology of Kubrick’s endeavor” (204). He starts in February 1964 and Kubrick’s lunch with Columbia Pictures’ Roger Cara—here, the director pitched the idea for a “serious science-fiction film.” Ulvieri then moves through Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s collaboration on the story and Kubrick’s four years of work with dozens of crew members; he concludes with the film’s premiere and its negative reviews. While the genius behind 2001 is undeniable, Ulvieri’s chronology of the film’s production indicates that its success also hinged upon extensive and diverse collaborations. One small change to 2001 could have altered its fate entirely (e.g., Kubrick conceived several monolith designs and considered a physical alien, a prologue of scientist interviews, and a narrative voiceover).

I suggest beginning with Ulivieri’s chronology because the two strongest chapters in this volume focus on the film’s conception and on Kubrick’s collaboration with Daniel Richter, respectively. On the former, Simone Odino traces a path from Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (1964) to 2001. Using materials from the Archive and rare interviews, Odino demonstrates that 2001 is, in a way, an extension of Kubrick’s ongoing preoccupations at the time, namely, sex, technology, and global catastrophe. From the acquisition of the rights of a BBC sf radio broadcast (unused) to Kubrick’s commission to direct a film for the United Nations (he later withdrew), the research and work he accomplished in the years intervening between the two films informed and influenced his sf masterpiece. On the collaborative quality of Kubrick’s endeavor, Fenwick’s research on “The Dawn of Man” sequence suggests a clear way forward for Kubrick studies after the opening of the Archive. Fenwick details actor Richter’s background (the choreographer of the sequence and the main ape, Moon-Watcher) and that of the American Mime Theatre, Richter’s studies of ape behavior and movement, and the sequence’s shooting conditions. Fenwick concludes that after 2001 Kubrick maintained a keen interest in filmic expressions of the body.

Several chapters of the volume reflect on 2001’s depictions of technology. Vincent Jaunas considers the stiff, mechanical, and unemotional performances of the main actors, concluding that the characters’ lack of connection with their human subjectivity and embodiment is due to increased reliance on technology and science (what he calls their “becoming-machine”). This loss of human subjectivity, however, gives Dave Bowman’s (Keir Dullea) final sequence its weight. In the last act, from Star-Gate to Star-Child, Kubrick proposes “a new relation with humankind's subjectivity, one which embraces the benefits of technology without allowing it to distance humanity from itself—unlike, Kubrick suggests, the kind of technological evolution that took prominence in the eighteenth century and climaxes in the modern age” (93). Contrasted with the mechanical human characters are the two HAL 9000s that Cynthia J. Miller and A. Bowdoin Van Riper uncover in an early script. They read the early script and they provide more context for the novelty of 2001’s more human-like AI, a watershed moment for sf cinema. For Miller and Van Riper, the two HALs even more firmly establish an AI that blurs “the boundaries between humanity and technology” (122). Finally, the most theoretical chapter of the volume, written by Antoine Balga-Prévost, adopts 2001 to understand better Gilbert Simondon’s philosophy of technology. His chapter, albeit exemplary within its field of film philosophy, will likely not be of great interest to a general readership.

Philosophical approaches to 2001 also inform Caterina Martino’s and Rachel Walisko’s chapters. The former articulates Kubrick’s philosophy of photography. She reads small elements of the film—e.g., the monolith inserts during Moon-watcher’s discovery of the bone-as-tool, the Photographer’s movements prior to Heywood Floyd’s (William Sylvester) Moon speech, HAL’s (Douglas Rain) wide-angle camera-eye, and the “light-box” where Bowman spends his final moments—to articulate the film’s efforts to demonstrate humanity’s ongoing preoccupation with image production and our capacity for photographic memory. In her contribution, Walisko reinvigorates the concept of the cinematic sublime, demonstrating the ways in which 2001 evokes Cynthia Freeland’s four criteria of the sublime. Walisko’s chapter and Suparno Banerjee’s contribution earlier in the volume share some common interests. Banerjee assesses the radically different approaches to sf visuals in Clarke’s novel and Kubrick’s film. On the latter, Banerjee introduces the prospect of comparing 2001 to Paul Schrader’s concept of transcendental style, but unfortunately too quickly veers off in another direction. Had this line of inquiry been pursued, Banerjee’s and Walisko’s chapters would have paired well with each other.

While the sections mentioned above provide an array of film studies methodologies, philosophies, and conclusions, the part titled “Masculinity and the Astronaut” is a little weak in both content and conclusions. Dominic Janes’s excellent essay on queering 2001 is here reproduced (published in Science Fiction Film and Television in 2011). Janes furthers our understanding of how same-sex encounters and perversion function in a film otherwise devoid of sexuality by assessing Clarke’s and Kubrick’s personal and career-spanning interest in homoeroticism and homosociality, 2001’s notable absence of women, and the film’s sexual imagery. Following Janes’s work, Nils Daniel Peiler’s chapter covers some of the same ground, so this section is a little underwhelming. Given the keyword “masculinity,” I would have expected some engagement with the fertile field of masculinities studies. Finally, I want to note Dru Jeffries’s exciting addition to this volume and 2001 studies more generally. In his chapter, Jeffries, a comics scholar, considers one of the film’s unexpected paratexts. While the film renewed its life again and again in the form of subsequent novelizations and film sequels, Marvel Comics hired famed author and artist Jack Kirby to develop an adaptation. Hiring Kirby may have been Marvel’s attempt to get back on Kirby’s good side after he defected to DC Comics in 1969, but a 2001 adaptation may have been a project Kirby wanted to take on anyway. This hypothesis makes sense since his ten-issue adaptation (1976-1977) is situated well after the initial release of the film and well before Clarke’s sequel 2010: Odyssey Two (1984). Jeffries provides a brief but poignant comparison between Kirby and his contributions to comics and Kubrick and his mark on cinema. Jeffries then reads Kirby’s adaptation as a way of better understanding his unique style. The film and the comics series could not be further apart in terms of their narrative, visuals, and themes; in Kirby’s hands, 2001 transforms into a superhero-style tale. Missing from Jeffries’s account, however, is a brief background on other relevant genres of comics history. For example, the early issues of Kirby’s 2001 rely heavily on jungle comics imagery and themes. I end with Jeffries’s chapter because it highlights a shortcoming of Fenwick’s volume: there are lots of things outside of the text and those things outside of the text keep 2001 relevant. Indeed, Fenwick’s collection does not quite reach its stated goal to assess and interpret “one of the most important and influential films in cinema history” (11). I am left wanting to know how it became important and who precisely it influenced. Discussions of topics such as its official and unofficial sequels, parodies, influence on future filmmakers, the technological shifts in distribution and exhibition (film to VHS to DVD to Blu-ray to digital …), promotion and marketing, reception in non-Western countries, reception post-1968 (many claim that 2001 is one of the greatest films ever made), its social and political context, and fandom are entirely absent from the collection. On the latter, while Ulvieri concludes his chronology with critics’ negative reviews of the film, he also notes that this did not stop people from lining up around the block to see it. 2001 is a key work of cult cinema, so detailing cinephiles’ reactions would have been welcomed.

Nevertheless, Understanding Kubrick’s 2001 is rich with original analyses and information. The volume works best when its authors dive into the Archive or attend to the film’s philosophical stakes. Even 50 years later, there is more to uncover about 2001 and Stanley Kubrick.—Troy Michael Bordun, Concordia University/Trent University

Let’s Discuss the Moral Status of Liminal Others.

David J. Gunkel. Robot Rights. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2018. xiv+256 pp. $35 hc.

The moral status of robots is a frequent theme in sf. In his latest book, David Gunkel undertakes a philosophical assessment of whether robots can and/or ought to have rights. He asks whether robots must remain toasters or whether they might become something more. While this is not sf, Gunkel acknowledges the intersections between sf and the philosophical, legal, and social responses that technology generates in the nonfictional world. And while this is a philosophical work that raises difficult questions, a crisp and sensible approach makes it a compelling read.

Gunkel first considers terminology: first, what do we mean by “robots?” Second, what do we mean by “rights?” The former question proves a bit more slippery than the latter. Most chatter about the future of AI and robot rights bypasses these preliminary questions. While one might expect terminology discussions to be tedious and uninteresting, Gunkel deftly considers various approaches in the literature.

If we begin with the idea that a robot is a sophisticated tool, the rights-inquiry outcome is predetermined. Garden hoses or sprinkler systems, even very complicated ones, serve only human ends. Instrumentalities cannot—and should not—be invested with privileges that constrain human interests. Even the earliest sf accounts of robots question their rights-bearing capacities. It is well known that the word “robot” derives from the Czech robota meaning “forced labor,” coined by Karel Čapek’s play R.U.R. (1920). Thus, the idea of robots-as-slaves is “part and parcel of the robot’s origin story and etymology” (117). Some contemporary robot ethicists have flatly asserted that robots ought to be slaves. In fact, Gunkel considers how Roman slave law could be applied to robots in some depth.

The more recognizable approach, as presented in sf narratives as well as in the wider scholarship on robot ethics, is to begin with an “if.” That is, if robots achieve consciousness, the ability to suffer, or the capacity for empathy, then we ought to extend rights to them. The assertion is formulated as a conditional one—if one day robots become sentient, they will probably be granted moral claims. Qualification for robot rights will be determined when (and if) it becomes relevant. The linkage of the capacity to suffer and the extension of protections has a parallel history with animal-rights philosophy. The criteria for some level of rights-bearing capacity might be the ability to suffer. It might be whether animals or robots “have wants, preferences, beliefs, feelings, etc., and that their welfare matters to them” (97). Or it might be whether they have a sense of well-being. But once some threshold is reached, moral status follows.

Gunkel demonstrates the shortcomings of this approach. First, it postpones the issue and suggests it need not be seriously considered at present. In other words, “this stuff can be and risks being written off as mere ‘science fiction,’ which means that the question concerning robot rights is nothing more than an imaginative possibility—one possibility among many other possibilities—but not something that we need to concern ourselves with right now” (95). The “if” approach shortcuts further analysis and ends the discussion.

Moreover, by granting robots rights when they achieve consciousness, we assume that consciousness (or pain-experiencing capabilities) will be measurable. Not surprisingly, we lack even a workable operational definition of consciousness. Daniel Dennett once demonstrated that it was impossible to design a computer that feels pain. But the reason that a computer cannot be designed to feel pain is not the result of technological limitations. As Gunkel notes of Dennett’s argument, “It is the product of the fact that we remain unable to decide what pain is in the first place” (100). And even if terminological problems could be overcome, epistemological ones remain. The detection of internal states of mind is beyond our grasp. And it may remain so. The best we may be capable of is essentially to reason that since a robot yelps when it stubs its toe, it must be in pain. But even a toaster can be programmed to yelp.

One alternative approach considers the social context of human-robot encounters. This asks whether a particular robot that appears before us should be included in a moral community of others. It “presents a specific instance of an encounter with a particular entity—one that challenges us to think otherwise” (171). In this context, the moral status of a robot is not derived from a robot’s state of mind but from actual interactions and relationships. The primary risk here is our tendency to anthropomorphize, to project human-like qualities on human-like artifacts.

Robot Rights is an excellent monograph. While Gunkel refrains from making any particular conclusions or recommendations, his skill in organizing and presenting all of the various objections and approaches to robot rights is singular. Readers will not be disappointed.—Thomas E. Simmons, University of South Dakota

The SF That Came in from the Cold.

Andrew Hammond. Cold War Stories: British Dystopian Fiction, 1945-1990. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. vi+168 pp. €83,19 pbk & hc, €69,99 ebk.

There is a tension here between the title of Andrew Hammond’s book and its subtitle: Cold War Stories and “British Dystopian Fiction, 1945-1990”; the first provides an interesting arena to explore, while the other seems to narrow the book’s scope but, in the end, does anything but. The Cold War is that forty-five years of almost-but-not-quite-war between the USA and the USSR and other Communist states, beginning with the tensions over the post-Second World War division of Berlin between West and East and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and a series of revolutions throughout the Soviet Bloc. In the meantime there had been brinksmanship and proxy wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Central America, among other places. It was fought through dirty tricks, propaganda, and espionage, through art (especially Abstract Expressionism), film, the space race, and, of course, through literature.

As one of the Allied Powers in the War, Britain was caught in the middle, between a country with which it had a special relationship and the anti-Soviet buffer of a potential United States of Europe. Aside from a few Marxist individuals, Britain as a state was clear which side it was on—providing air and missile bases, cooperating in the United Nations and NATO, acting as a stage for American soft power in the form of popular culture and sometimes as unwitting associate in covert-funded art, comics, and film. And yet the socialist tradition within recent British politics and the nationalization of industry and healthcare was at self-evident odds with American ideology. At the same time, Britain was divesting itself of most of the vestiges of empire, while stubbornly wishing to remain a power within global politics.

Andrew Hammond argues, in perhaps a circular manner, that “To fully understand the lasting impact of the 1945-1990 conflict there is no better place to start than the period’s dystopian fiction, which remained an overtly Cold War literature” (124). He might start there, but he is reluctant to remain there, rather awkwardly noting the other national literatures that might be explored by historians interested in the Cold War. He eventually skips through the 1990s, 9/11, and the 2000s up to the BREXIT vote, as well as ranging back through the 1930s and 1920s to the nineteenth century and even Plato. This is a lot to squeeze into 168 pages, nearly 40 of which are notes, 25 bibliography, and nine index. Comprehensiveness is inevitably at the expense of depth.

An eyebrow might be raised at the very first text mentioned, Cathy Come Home (1966), Ken Loach’s deeply powerful television play about poverty and homelessness, which directly led to the establishment of the charity Shelter, still active to this day. It displays Loach’s career-long critique of capitalism’s failings and the weakness of its safety nets, seen as recently as his I, Daniel Blake (2016)but is it helpful to see such social realism as dystopia? On the same page, Hammond mentions The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1978), a satirical radio comedy which begins with the demolition of a house, continues with the destruction of the Earth, and ends with its protagonist stuck in prehistory. While the bureaucracy which forms one of Douglas Adams’s targets can also be seen in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), I am left again with a sense of category error.

For Hammond, “the dystopian novel is a cautionary tale that takes the most negative features of the contemporary world to be the most significant and ... via a careful choice of material, imaginatively intensifies those features in order to warn against them” (2). Against this we might posit the idea of dystopia as a narrative set within an enclosed society, where a totalizing ideology (from the left, right, or any other political position) limits the agency of its denizens. To my mind, Hammond simply casts his net too widely, including, for instance, invasion and disaster narratives in his discussions. In The Day of the Triffids (1951) there may be hints of Cold War underpinnings—Triffids as foreign or alien creation, the possible origins of the blinding lights in weapons satellites—and some of the societies the protagonists pass through may be dystopian, but is this a warning against anything other than evolution? I have argued that British sf is by its nature pessimistic; the glass is half empty and grubby with greasy fingerprints. When we do get optimism—in, say, the works of Arthur C. Clarke and of his nearest heir Stephen Baxter—we cannot quite believe it. In the end, with Wells, we just see crabs on the far-future beach.

Hammond divides his book into three main chapters dealing with “the engagement in the Cold War, the loss of global prestige and the declining status of intellectual culture” (18). In each of these, there are interesting snippets of cultural history—secret service espionage, fear of Soviet invasion, the growth of the European Economic Community—and I learned a lot. But the thematic division obscures any linear chronology, although each chapter approximates to such a history. With scores of titles mentioned, it is hard to get a grip on the details of each text, and texts are repeated between chapters. It is perhaps not surprising that Nineteen Eighty-Four is repeatedly returned to, as is the work of Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange [1962] and 1985 [1978]), and of the rather obscure D.G. Barron. The book is at its best when Hammond allows himself two pages on authors (Doris Lessing and Angela Carter) but at its weakest when listing out of context snippets of quotations from D.G. Compton, Richard Cowper, or Christopher Priest, whose works can only be identified in some cases from the notes. Hammond clearly knows a range of obscure books from the 1950s to the 1970s, many of which were published as sf, but is less strong on the dystopian islands of New Worlds (although the New Wave is mentioned in passing) or Interzone. His erudition is impressive—I had no idea that Stanley Johnson, father of British politician, journalist, and Brexiteer Boris Johnson, had written a novel called The Commissioner (1987), which argues for Britain to remain in the European Union to keep Germany under control as well as to fight a Cold War.

This brings me to a point where I think I am asking for a different book—I suspect a lot of British fiction written during what Hammond calls the first Cold War, say up to the late 1970s, is overshadowed by the loss of empire and the traumas of the Second World War. Post-traumatic stress and invasion anxieties are there through a range of titles up to the “Hitler Wins” novels of Len Deighton’s SS-GB (1978) and Robert Harris’s Fatherland (1992); with the rise of Thatcher and neoliberalism there is perhaps a generational and political shift. But the momentum of the book is such that it is hard to disagree with its judgments—leaving aside its underlying errors of genre, it tends to move on quickly from text to text before it can any anything disputable. There are a few formatting glitches, where book and film titles lose italics and Hammond likes adding a “sic” to instances of (presumably) gender-neutral “he” and “man,” but mainly I wish he had focused on a smaller range of titles and stuck more closely to his subtitle.—Andrew M. Butler, Canterbury Christ Church University

SF as a Global Genre.

Dale Knickerbocker, ed. Lingua Cosmica: Science Fiction from around the World. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2018. xxi+236 pp. $29.95 pbk.

Dale Knickerbocker’s edited anthology Lingua Cosmica: Science Fiction from Around the World is a wonderful addition to the growing body of criticism about global sf. It contains eleven essays by established sf scholars on authors writing in nine different languages, from eleven countries spread across five continents.

The wide scope of this anthology distinguishes it from most recent publications on non-Anglo-American sf. Apart from Sonia Fritzsche’s The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film (2014), most critical works on non-Anglo-American sf (perhaps rightly) focus on a specific region, country, theme, or critical lens. For example, such works as Russian Science Fiction Literature and Cinema (2018) edited by Anindita Banerjee, Dis-Orienting Planets: Racial Representations of Asia in Science Fiction (2017) edited by Isiah Lavender III, and Latin American Science Fiction: Theory and Practice (2012) edited by Elizabeth Ginway and J. Andrew Brown have a specific regional or national focus. Conversely, works such as Iva Polak’s Futuristic Worlds in Australian Aboriginal Fiction (2017), Eric D. Smith’s Globalization, Utopia and Postcolonial Science Fiction: New Maps of Hope (2012), and The Postnational Fantasy: Essays on Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction (2011) edited by Masud Raja, Swaralipi Nandi, and Jason Willis take specific themes and critical issues as their organizing principles.

Within these conversations on global sf, Lingua Cosmica stands apart by focusing on individual practitioners of sf, instead of on particular spaces, times, or themes. In this collection, which introduces the readers to important sf voices from around the world, the editor’s goal is indeed ambitious and possibly requires an encyclopaedic corpus to do his aims true justice. Nonetheless, a collection that provides American readers a window, however small, into other sf traditions of the world deserves commendation. The author-centered approach allows the chapters to explore the dominant themes and trends of an author’s oeuvre in detail, offsetting the inevitable problem of exclusion in a collection like this. Consequently, the editor rightly hopes that “the value of

Not organized in any specific order, the chapters examine works by authors from Russia, Poland, Finland, Germany, France, Canada, Cuba, Argentina, China, Japan, and a film director from Nigeria. Although the anthology reflects a certain degree of Eurocentrism (five chapters on European authors and only two on works produced in non-European languages) and the effectiveness of one chapter-topic is slightly questionable, the overall quality of the essays and editing is admirable. Ranging in topic from stalwarts such as Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Sakyo Komatsu, Angelica Gorodischer, Daina Chaviano, and Liu Cixin to authors perhaps less recognized outside of their countries such as Johanna Sinisalo, Jacek Dukaj, and Andreas Eschbach, the collection presents enlightening and stimulating chapters. If, as Knickerbocker claims, the aim of the book is to fill in the gap between general and informative study of regional/national traditions and close analysis of specific texts, Lingua Cosmica unquestionably succeeds.

The opening chapter by Juan Carlos Toledano Redondo on Daina Chaviano, “Daina Chaviano’s Science-Fiction Oeuvre: Fables of an Extraterrestrial Grandmother,” sets the tone for the collection. In this essay, Redondo examines the mixing of religious and mythological elements in Chaviano’s sf oeuvre, concentrating mostly on her sf novel Fables of an Extraterrestrial Grandmother (1988). While the author primarily focuses on a few specific works, however, he also informs the readers about the general arc of Cuban sf since the mid-twentieth century. The chapters that follow generally maintain this format with varying widths of focus.

Another essay on Spanish language sf, Yolanda Molina-Gavilán’s “Angelica Gorodischer: Only a Storyteller,” concentrates on the author’s oeuvre. This chapter establishes Gorodischer not only as a nationally important sf author with a feminist bent in Argentina, but by comparing her with writers including Franz Kafka, Italo Calvino, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ursula K. Le Guin, it also highlights Gorodischer’s distinction as a storyteller without generic or national boundaries. In “Jacek Dukaj’s Science Fiction as Philosophy,” Paweł Frelik introduces Dukaj as a worthy successor to and perhaps a more complex writer than the Polish master-storyteller Stanisław Lem. Frelik focuses on the relationship between Dukaj’s narrative plotting and world building, while arguing that the bending of generic qualities lets Dukaj question various political and philosophical issues. Vibeke Rutzou Petersen takes a similar approach to Frelik’s in “Andreas Eschbach’s Futures and Germany’s Past,” which examines some of the major works by Eschbach and relates the futures depicted in them to the troubled history of Germany.

Offering a somewhat broader perspective, Natacha Vas-Deyres asserts the importance of Jean-Claude Dunyach in the context of French sf of the late-twentieth century in “Jean-Claude Dunyach, Poet of the Flesh.” Through a close examination of Dunyach’s Animal Cities story cycle (1991, 1992, 1999), Vas-Deyres identifies the acute sensuality of Dunyach’s sf as a uniquely French quality. Another essay on French language sf, but from Canada’s Quebec, Amy J. Ransom’s “Laurent McAllister: Rhizomatic Space and the Posthuman” tackles an interesting case of two authors, Yves Meynard and Jean-Louis Trudel, writing under the “simbionym” of Laurent McAllister. Ransom locates the authors within 1970s Franco-nationalism and the emergence of Québécois French sf. By using Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s critical concept of “rhizome” and the tropes of critical posthumanism, she convincingly argues that Laurent McAllister’s sf advocates non-hierarchical future social relationships. Following in the same vein, Hanna-Riikka Roine and Hanna Samola’s “Johanna Sinisalo and the New Weird: Genres and Myths” examines Sinisalo’s oeuvre in the context of the Finnish “new weird” movement. The authors show the generic fluidity of Sinisalo’s work and claim that such fluidity stands as a challenge to mainstream Finnish literature.

The most notable essay in thecollection may be Yvonne Howell’s “Arkady and Boris Strugatsky: The Science-Fictionality of Russian Culture.” By examining personal, historical, and cultural records, Howell makes a compelling case for the science fictionality of the Soviet ideology within which the Strugatsky brothers grew up and wrote their sf. Howell then studies some of the brothers’ major works, including the ones set in their famous “Nooniverse,” an imagined universe, to show parallels between the Strugatskys’ real and fictional worlds, and the persistent relevance of these works during our own times.

The two chapters on sf not written in a European language come from East Asia: Japan and China. Takayuki Tatsumi’s “Sakyo Komatsu’s Planetary Imagination: Reading Virus and The Day of Resurrection” examines the named works not only in the context of Japan but also in relation to Western sf. Tatsumi’s chapter draws interesting links between Komatsu’s works and similar Anglo-American works, such as between his novel The Day of Resurrection (1964) and Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain (1969) and the film versions of both novels, all of which deal with similar themes of arrival of an alien virus and epidemic on earth. These and other links put into question the stereotype of a one-way western influence on Japanese/non-western sf. The other chapter, Mingwei Song’s “Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Trilogy: Between the Sublime Cosmos and the Micro Era,” examines Liu Cixin’s works in detail. Song demonstrates that although the trilogy begins during the cultural revolution of 1966-76 in China and highlights the dehumanizing of humanity as a device of future survival, Cixin’s works are generally politically ambiguous.

The only chapter related to Africa, “Olatunde Osunsanmi and Living the Transatlantic Apocalypse: The Fourth Kind” by Alexis Brooks de Vita, although well written, is somewhat problematic in its choice of topic. The author compellingly argues that African literature in general possesses sf-like qualities because it is born in response to long periods of “Alien invasion” and “abductions.” Her choice of a film director, Olatunde Osunsanmi, in an anthology primarily focused on literature is slightly incongruous, however, since the African continent and its diaspora offer some excellent sf authors such as Tade Thompson, Lauren Beukes, Deji Bryce Olukotun, and Nnedi Okorafor. Focusing on an author would have made the chapter more consistent with the rest of the collection. Doing so would also have avoided the controversial choice of a film, The Fourth Kind (2009), directed by a Nigerian but produced in Hollywood and only tangentially related to Africa.

Comprising contributions by recognized critics, Lingua Cosmica is an excellent addition to the current scholarship on non-Anglo-American sf. Perhaps the publisher and the editor would consider following this book up with a series of similar volumes that establish sf as a global rather than a primarily Anglo-American genre.—Suparno Banerjee, Texas State University

Alternate Metal.

Nicolas Labarre. Heavy Metal, l’autre Métal Hurlant. Bordeaux: Presse universitaire de Bordeaux, 2017. 238 pp. €25 pbk.

Translation and adaptation scenarios tend to concentrate in one direction: from English or, as publishers in France like to say it, de l’américain [from American English] to French. This is especially true in science fiction. In Heavy Metal, l’autre Métal Hurlant [Heavy Metal, the Other Métal Hurlant], Nicolas Labarre, a lecturer in American Civilization at the Bordeaux-Montaigne University and specialist in comic-book literature, traces the story of a successful cultural exchange that went in the other direction: from France to the US, to the extent that the English-language sf and fantasy comic magazine survived its French counterpart.

Métal Hurlant was a French sf comic magazine created in January 1975 by Jean-Pierre Dionnet and published by Les Humanoïdes Associés. In 1977, at the height of the French magazine’s glory, the publisher of satirical periodical The National Lampoon bought the American rights and launched Heavy Metal, an English-language edition of the now mythical French magazine. The two magazines were very similar in the first few years, but they gradually went their separate ways in terms of both content and marketing. Métal Hurlant disappeared in 1987 (with short-lived resurgences in 2002-2004 and 2006), while Heavy Metal is still being published.

Both the French and the American versions of the magazine had a great impact on the sf and comic book milieu. In 2005, Christian Marmonnier and Gilles Poussin published Métal Hurlant: La Machine à rêver 1975-1987 [Screaming Metal, the Dream Machine 1975-1987], a picture-filled book that recalled the story of the magazine based on interviews with many of its major contributors. In Heavy Metal, l’autre Métal Hurlant, Nicolas Labarre emphasizes what he calls the “transatlantic exchange” between the two publishers and tries to explain the impact that the magazine had in the United States by transposing the styles and norms from the French-language comic book.

Prefaced by Gilles Poussin (co-editor of the 2005 history of the magazine), Labarre’s monograph is structured along two lines: temporal and analytical. In addition to the five chapters and introduction and conclusion, it contains an extensive bibliography, an index, a few illustrations from the magazine, and a list of the Francophone graphic novels (albums de bande dessinée) published in Heavy Metal from 1977 to 2015, plus an interview with Julie Simmons-Lynch, who worked for Heavy Metal from 1977 to 1993. Through the comparative history of Métal Hurlant and Heavy Metal, Labarre aimsto understand the gradual and, somehow, paradoxical gap in the look and content of the two magazines. He also wishes to examine Métal Hurlant’s co-founder Jean-Pierre Dionnet’s opinion that Heavy Metal quickly became a horrible calendar-girl kind of magazine, focusing on sexy images rather than content.

The first chapter, “Le point de contact: 1977” [The Contact Point: 1977], is dedicated to the origin of the exchange. Many stories, sometimes contradictory, exist about the creation of the American Heavy Metal: for example, in one version, Leonard Mogel, president of 21st Century Communications, owner of the National Lampoon, was so impressed with the French comic magazine that he offered to buy the American rights; in another version, Jean-Pierre Dionnet convinced Leonard Mogel to make the deal. According to Labarre, Anne Mogel was the initiator of the project. In any case, what the beginning of the project shows is the vividness of the cultural exchanges between France and the US in the domain of comic literature and science fiction: “Le magazine propose la réimportation d’un certain nombre d’influences américaines, profondément transformées par leur passage dans l’espace francophone, et revenant dans leur pays d’origine comme autant de nouveautés radicales” [The magazine offers the reimportation of a certain number of American influences, profoundly transformed by their transition in the French-speaking space, and returning to their country of origin as radical novelties] (54).

The next chapter, “Heavy Metal, 1977-1981, les années Métal Hurlant” [Heavy Metal, 1977-1981, The Métal Hurlant Years] describes how in the first years of its existence, the American magazine closely followed the content and structures of its French counterpart. In the first two years, most of the content was from the French edition. Gradually, American authors started publishing in the US version. Beside the sf content, however, both magazines had a sexualized tone. Because of American policies and sensibilities, some graphic images had to be toned down and nudity had to be masked. Labarre provides an overview of the contributors during this period, and then offers an analysis of the February 1979 edition, giving statistics about the authors but also about the level of sexuality present in the images and texts. His conclusion is that in the first years comic stories were of variable quality but they developed similar (sexist, for instance) themes and showed an analogous connection to the genre.

The second half of the period shows that Heavy Metal was already differentiating itself from its French cousin. Two years after its creation, the magazine had acquired its own identity. When the two French editors Sean Kelly and Valérie Marchant were replaced by Ted White, the rifts between the two magazines widened even more. Non-fiction and prose fiction were added to the content and themes were expanded to drugs and rock and roll. The American content was accentuated, although White kept some French content as well. Labarre describes the tensions between two forces: “Heavy Metal se trouve en effet face à un paradoxe: si les bandes dessinées européennes constituent le sommet de ce qu’il est possible de faire en bande dessinée, comment justifier de leur préférer ponctuellement des artistes locaux?” [Heavy Metal is indeed faced with a paradox: if European comics are the pinnacle of what can be done in comics, how can one justify promptly publishing local artists instead (99). The formula, says Labarre, proved successful and the magazine managed to sell 200,000 copies monthly.

“Les imitateurs et la diffusion internationale” [Imitators and the international market] explains how Heavy Metal inspired other publishers to create their own versions of comic magazines. Because of the composite nature of the magazine, which collected many creators with various styles, the formula was rather easy to imitate. Soon it almost became a recipe, if not a genre, says Labarre. What is interesting in those versions is that most of them were created in Europe, especially the German Heavy Metal-inspired magazines, but these were adaptations of Heavy Metal, not of Métal Hurlant. They reinforced Labarre’s observation that local differentiation from the original French magazines is a rule and not an exception, and is also a condition for sustainability.

The last chronological chapter (the chapter described above is more of a hiatus) is dedicated to the years 1981 to 1993, thus the years when the rupture with Métal Hurlant was more definite: “‘Nous ne seront plus le Métal Hurlant américain’” [We won’t be the American Métal Hurlant anymore] (145). These are also the years of the movie Heavy Metal (1981), and Labarre analyzes the connections between the magazine and the cinematographic form, and also the conditions that allowed the production of the movie. The author also describes the marginal position of the American magazine in recent years, cut from the comic-book market.

In the last chapter “Des filles sur des chevaux et RAW” [Girls on horses and RAW] goes back to Dionnet’s quote: “Ils sont allés vers les horribles filles de calendrier, cheveux brochés [sic] sur cheval blanc” [They went to the horrible calendar girls, brushed hair on a white horse] (12). Dionnet would have wanted an English language Heavy Metal with the aesthetics of RAW (1987; published by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly) and he was disappointed with the kitsch imagery championed by the American publishers. Labarre observes that there is some truth to this statement if one considers only the covers, filled with pinups in fantasy set-ups. The content of the magazine, however, never completely reflected the covers: “il est … tentant de renverser la perspective et d’affirmer que Heavy Metal aura publié des auteurs importants, pris des risques, soutenu des créateurs avant qu’ils ne rencontrent le succès public, même s’il fallait faire la place aux compromis nécessaires pour garantir rentabilité et rationalité économique.” [it is ... tempting to turn things upside down and claim that Heavy Metal published important writers, took risks, supported creators before they became famous, even if it meant making room for the compromises necessary to the profitability and the economic rationality of the magazine] (196). In the general conclusion, Labarre admits that, although Heavy Metal had its great moments and most issues still feature quality content, it definitely pales in comparison with the best issues of Métal Hurlant, and even with other similar contemporary publications.

A few times, Nicolas Labarre refers to his own book as a “narrative,” but it is a very dense story he is telling. Heavy Metal, l’autre Métal Hurlant is filled with factual data and information and it demonstrates very meticulous research—a cross between the work of a specialist and a fan. We need to trust Labarre on the historical details, for only he and those closely involved have knowledge of this information. In this sense, the book is an important one, because it documents an important period in the history of sf and comic magazines. While I was reading Labarre’s study, I found myself wondering who its audience might be. It is definitely an important source for those interested in popular culture and the circulation of cultural practices between France and the United States. Labarre’s monograph is not an easy read, but it provides an overview not only of the magazine industry and of the politics of translation and adaptation, but also insight into the differences in cultural policies and sensibilities.—Sylvie Bérard, Trent University

P.K. Dick, Hegelian Philosopher.

Jean-Clet Martin. Logique de la science-fiction: De Hegel à Philip K. Dick. Brussels: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2017. 350 pp. €22 pbk.

The philosophical nature of the genre is a commonplace for sf scholars, but for philosophers probably not so much. Jean-Clet Martin’s recent book, which explores the resonances between G.W.F. Hegel’s Wissenschaft der Logik (The Science of Logic,1812) and an array of sf literature and film, is a serious attempt at convincing philosophers of the fruitful connections between these two seemingly very distinct forms of rational speculation. Translated as “The Logic of Science Fiction: From Hegel to Philip K. Dick,” Martin’s title privileges the author of the Exegesis (2011), but his near encyclopedic reading and viewing of sf texts allows him to draw out the resonances between the German Romantic-era philosopher and the fiction of Jules Verne, H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Stephen Baxter, Joe Haldeman, and many others, as well as films by Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle, and the like. The author of a volume on Gilles Deleuze, Martin also invokes an array of philosophers and critical theorists, including Kant, Bergson, Derrida, and Foucault. This work serves in some ways as a sequel to his unique examination of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) through the lens of detective fiction in Une intrigue criminelle de la philosophie: Lire “La phénoménologie de l’esprit” de Hegel [Philosophy’s Criminal Plot: Reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit, 2009]. In his latest book, Martin uses examples of speculative tropes drawn from sf texts to illustrate aspects of Hegel’s Logic and, conversely, demonstrates how sf writers and filmmakers explore Hegelian principles, frequently unbeknown to themselves.

Martin’s study is divided into three main sections, entitled “L’Être” [Being], “L’Essence” [Essence], and “Le Concept” [Concept], which also reflects the structure of Hegel’s Science of Logic, and smaller subdivisions help focus the reader’s attention and organize Martin’s leaps of logic into more manageable units. Still, the reader searching for a linear argument might easily get lost; Martin is a Deleuzian, after all, and his style invokes the “lines of flight” central to the latter’s collaborative projects with Félix Guattari. At the same time, however, his main project—validating sf as a serious form of speculation, a valuable contribution to Western humanity’s efforts to make sense of the universe—fascinates and sometimes surprises. Most of Martin’s discussion connects specific passages from writers as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, A.E. Van Vogt, Robert Silverberg, Christopher Priest, the Gregs (Benford, Bear, and Egan), Vernor Vinge, and the Wachowski brothers (he seems unaware that they are now sisters) to various aspects of Hegel’s thought. But he also occasionally documents sf writers’ direct or indirect influence by Hegel and other philosophers.

The volume’s tone is set with two epigraphs. The first is a passage from the Exegesis in which Dick states, “Je suis donc hégelien” [I am, then, a Hegelian] (qtd. in Martin 5). In the second, Gilles Deleuze asserts that “Un livre de philosophie doit être … une sorte de science-fiction” [a philosophy book should be … a sort of science fiction] (qtd. in Martin 5). Later he asserts that “Lovecraft will undoubtedly be closer to Hegel than anyone else” (109; my translation), citing passages from Lovecraft’s “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1932) to argue that Gilman’s dreams parallel Hegel’s quantitative approach to being in which, with each degree, reality jumps to another “power” (111). Prefiguring the logic of the quantum, Hegel’s Logic is also frequently paired with 2001: A Space Odyssey (both the 1968 Kubrick film and Clarke’s novel published in the same year), as Martin posits that both offer “a logic that is no longer at all that of Aristotle” (113).

Each subsection of the book begins with a philosophical concept or subdivision explored by Hegel and then connects it to a trope of science fiction, revealing how sf texts speculate about the same problems that philosophy does. These include broader categories such as metaphysics, logic, and being, as well as more specific concepts such as the finite and the infinite, identity and difference, freedom and necessity. Martin reads sf texts as exploring existential angst in the deepest of ways, citing passages from Stephen Baxter’s Titan (1997) that express more effectively than any argumentative text the depths of ontological stress experienced by a protagonist on Saturn’s moon, facing a setting absent of all human imprint. Extravehicular activities (EVAs) function in a similar manner, placing the sf protagonist in a situation in which the precarity of being could not be clearer. Martin thus reveals how a text such as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013) forces viewers to reflect on existence in the same way (or even more effectively) that the philosophical treatise does. He also outlines how fictional accounts of parallel worlds and realities or the effects of near- or faster-than-light-speed travel relativize things that are taken as immutable constants by the average human, but that the philosopher and the sf writer and reader are willing to question. Above all, he describes Hegel’s Science of Logic itself as “an extremely strange speculation that does not resemble philosophy or theology” of its time (19-20; my translation).

Occasionally irritating, despite his extensive readings and viewings, Martin makes some of the mistakes typical of French scholars when discussing the Anglo-American sf canon. He leaves out what we might see as essential elements of authors’ names, referring to “l’excellent roman de [Robert] Charles Wilson, Bios” (79), to “Edgar [Allen] Poe,” and “[P.] K. Dick” (89); he cannot be blamed, though, for his editors’ allusion to “Stanislas Klem” in the book’s table of contents. But his discussion is also frequently illuminating, even in its footnotes: did you know that Rick Deckard is a reference to René Descartes (80n81)? Or that Lovecraft invokes Hegel in a short defense of poetical meter titled “Metrical Regularity”(1915) (109n119)?

Not for the faint at heart, Martin’s book requires a more than basic knowledge of Hegelian philosophy. The casual scholar need not apply here, but sf theorists who read French may find his approach fascinating and I hope it will attract the attention of philosophers. The work is significant in its up-front and in-your-face validation of sf as a form of logical speculation that contributes to human understanding of ourselves and the universe around us. This is yet another example of the French academic world’s increasing validation of sf studies, and I only wish Martin had drawn more than the very occasional examples from the French sf canon.—Amy J. Ransom, Central Michigan University

Literary and Military Symmetries.

Andrew May. Rockets and Ray Guns: The Sci-Fi Science of the Cold War. Crewkerne, UK: Springer International, 2018. vi+214 pp. $27.99 pbk.

If Isaac Asimov was right to assert that sf is principally concerned with our reactions to scientific and technological transformation, then it is ironic that the genre has such a long history of military entanglement. As Andrew May’s new book makes clear, militaries have historically been less concerned with reactions and consequences than with unrestricted technological innovation. As a result, they learned the wrong lesson from a literature that critically examines the impacts of war as often as it celebrates its tools.

That misreading reached its crescendo during the Cold War, and May’s book details some of the ways in which sf both influenced and was influenced by military projects, while also showcasing how the genre examined the effects of those projects during the conflict’s decades-long history. Each of the book’s seven chapters is oriented toward a distinct technoscientific phenomenon. The opening chapter, “The Super-Bomb,” focuses on the race for the atomic and hydrogen bombs, as well as the role sf played in predicting the emergence of atomic warfare and thinking through its social and ethical implications; by way of comparison, the fifth chapter, “Mind Games,” maps the research and development of “sci-fi-sounding hypnosis machines and mind-control drugs” (143), both of which were considered as potential tools of war by US and Soviet intelligence agencies. And again, we are given examples from sf that anticipated and perhaps even fueled the phenomena, including Brian Aldiss’s Barefoot in the Head (1969), which imagines the awful consequences of the “widespread deployment of hallucinogenic chemicals in warfare” (151). Each chapter adheres to this basic formula, outlining a technoscientific development central to the Cold War (often framed as “the real world”) and exploring its gestation in sf—the unreal world, perhaps?

The use of a real/unreal dichotomy may suggest what is lacking in this approach, and that is a concerted attempt to illuminate how literature functions in its social context. Was sf during the Cold War part of a broader discourse, one that helped lay the cultural and conceptual foundations for ICBMs, chemical warfare, weaponized satellites, and other technological marvels/horrors? Or was the genre a mirror, one that helped readers see their techno-transmogrification over the course of a conflict that brought the world perilously close to the edge of nuclear annihilation? Or did these works function as military thought experiments—a kind of literary R&D—for governments intent on destroying their adversaries in increasingly efficient ways? Though the text seems to imply the latter in some instances, May is largely silent on such questions and as a result the book is devoid of critical-theoretical inquiry, leaving the reader with the somewhat banal and unexamined notion that bombs and other technologies existed in a “real world” with their literary cousins relegated to some unnamed and tenuously connected unreality. This quality separates May’s book from critically oriented studies such as David Seed’s American Science Fiction and the Cold War: Literature and Film (1999), a text that is much more interested in understanding the role of art in the context of technoculture and war. 

The book falls short as literary analysis, then, but it succeeds as a detailed guide to the history of American sf during the Cold War, particularly of those works intent on conceptualizing the era’s technoscience. There is little effort to frame these details, a fact evidenced by the lack of an introduction and conclusion, and by the truncated, matter-of-fact openings to each chapter, always beginning with “in which”: for instance, “In which the real world seeks to emulate science fiction by giving serious thought to the possibility of launching bombs, guns and missiles into orbit” (109). But the connections that are explored are numerous and well-researched, offering readers a look at those moments, both diegetic and meta-diegetic, when military developments overlapped with literary ones.

In a chapter covering “Star Wars,” Joseph P. Martino’s little-known story “Pushbutton War” (1960) is discussed in relation to the emergence of automated warfare in the 1950s: the story’s “purpose was to show that, even in an age of advanced technology, there may be situations where it’s still essential to have a human in the loop” (123). Later in that chapter, May describes Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), his plan to develop satellites that would use lasers to detonate incoming nuclear warheads, and its genesis in the work of Edward Teller, who “succeeded in persuading Reagan that his X-ray lasers could provide America with an impenetrable ‘shield in space’ against enemy missiles” (136). SDI advocates from the world of sf such as Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven are mentioned here as well, including their involvement in the Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy, a right-wing lobby group that included sf authors such as Robert Heinlein and Greg Bear, as well as engineers, aerospace experts, and astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin and Pete Conrad. Ben Bova’s novel Millennium (1976) is evoked in connection to these developments for its early portrayal of a network of weaponized satellites, and this well before Teller, Pournelle, and Niven began advocating for the implementation of one. Similar thematic and conceptual groupings are outlined in the book’s other chapters, each revealing a web of literary and military symmetries that even well-versed students of Cold War sf might find of benefit.

The book’s connections stretch beyond literature and the “real world,” in fact, with May also plumbing the depths of comic books, film, and television to trace ideas across a spectrum of popular and militaristic fantasy. In a chapter on “Electronic Brains,” Philip K. Dick’s novel Vulcan’s Hammer (1960) is used to illustrate the prevalence of giant, malevolent machine intelligences in sf; that literary icon is then linked to NORAD’s Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE), an early network of monolithic computers that “combined data from multiple sources in order to simplify matters for human decision makers” (92). May goes on to trace SAGE through the 1958 comic book “I, SAGE,” with panels provided, and the film Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) “whose eponymous computer, Colossus, is clearly modelled on SAGE” (92). These are fascinating—historically crucial, even—associations, and though they are presented without critical or theoretical scrutiny, the connections themselves hold value. This may be especially true for readers not interested in wading through military histories and mass-market narratives to locate the kinds of obscure intersections May uncovers. 

Interdisciplinary researchers in particular may benefit from the text’s attention to scientific detail, even when descriptions tumble a bit too far down the black hole. The chapter on the super-bomb begins with a lengthy overview and history of atomic science, including an account of Ernest Rutherford’s first theory of the atom’s substructure. The nature and function of isotopes is covered as well: “In the case of uranium, for example, the most stable isotope has an atomic weight of 238, while the commonest of its unstable isotopes, U-235, has three fewer neutrons” (4-5). In the chapter on machine intelligence, we are given technical details on electromagnetic radiation, which “can be thought of as waves travelling at a constant speed c—approximately 300 million meters per second—and differing only in their wavelength and frequency of oscillation” (97). The author does an admirable job tethering such minutiae to sf texts and commentary from sf authors, especially vis-à-vis the pulps, which were concerned with scientific detail, but there is little doubt that one’s mileage will vary, even though an emphasis on science is signaled in the book’s subtitle (as is, perhaps, a lack of critical-theoretical reflection, suggested by the use of the populist “sci-fi”).

This is a book of connections, not explorations or analyses, and as such it provides interested readers with a helpful resource for their own research and pedagogy. Considering this, an appendix would have facilitated its use as a guide to American sf and technoscience during the Cold War, so it is unfortunate that one is not provided. Neither this, however, nor the author’s proclivity to draw connections without probing the literary and cultural mechanisms that made them possible, render the book unusable as a springboard for other projects.—Chad Andrews, Independent Scholar

Know Your Anime.

Susan Napier. Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2018. xviii+305 pp. $30 hc.

Beyond the films themselves, available materials on the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli are rich but often compromised by personal connections. Miyazaki and his colleagues at Studio Ghibli were not merely agents of immense change in the animation business, but also active participants in the surge of information that greeted the rise of the anime press in the late 1970s. Their relationship, in particular with the publisher Tokuma, the magazine Animage, and its editor, future Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, not only made them the center of a substantial archive of writings on Japanese animation, but also allowed them to curate and steer much of what was written about their work.

In the case of the director Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli’s own tireless self-commemoration and the company’s ardent following overseas have combined to create a vast archive, even in English. As Susan Napier concedes in her introduction to Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art, Helen McCarthy’s Hayao Miyazaki: Master of Japanese Animation (1999) covered much of the background twenty years ago, a fact which ought to have prompted today’s researchers into more diligent use of untranslated Japanese sources. This has not always been the case, leading to a sump of Miyazaki cash-ins and Ghibli giblets that simply rehash materials already well known in academic or fan circles.

Fortunately, Napier does not disappoint, dropping in quotations from many Japanese books unavailable in translation, ensuring that she has snippets of information to educate all but the most jaded of Miyazaki-watchers. Her Miyazaki is a child of privilege, wracked with guilt at his family’s war profiteering, and “keenly aware of the traumatic effect of World War II” (3), a talented artist even at school, and a committed socialist despite (or perhaps because of) an education at the elite Gakushūin school, “hardly a place likely to engender strong left-wing sympathies” (29). Her third chapter rushes a little over the first fifteen years of Miyazaki’s career, cramming in his apprenticeship at Tōei Animation, his decade in television, and his return to cinema. I would contend that these are all vital elements of a “life in art.” The young Miyazaki, hot-headed by his own admission, clambered swiftly to a position of responsibility on the box-office disaster Little Norse Prince (1968), which came close to ending several careers. Licking his wounds in the unforgiving industrial environment of television, he was instrumental in the success (and budget over-runs) of the widely acclaimed tv series Heidi (1974). Napier has some time for Future Boy Conan (1978), the sf tv series that, on a technicality, became his “first” feature when several episodes were cut together for a theatrical re-run, but all three of these elements arguably deserve a chapter each in a truly granular biography.

Napier would be the first to argue that this book is not intended as the last word on Miyazaki, however, but rather the starting point of a conversation and an appreciation that students are expected to take further and deeper on their own. As such, it skims over Miyazaki’s work in tv and pieces below feature length in order to devote twelve of its sixteen chapters to his most famous cinema works (and one manga), which lend themselves better to classroom study. Future Boy Conan might well tell us much about Miyazaki in the 1970s, but watching it all the way through would take ten hours, while his landmark Castle of Cagliostro (1979) checks out in a brisk 100 minutes.

Perfectly judged for the undergraduate reader, Napier’s book offers a commendable balance of analysis and insight, production gossip and historical contexts. Its references diligently cram in signposts for delving deeper into untranslated sources, but not in such a way as to alienate scholars who can only work in English. There is sufficient material here to turn a fan into a critical viewer, but also to inform artistic appreciation of films that are already well-loved. It is sure to become part of the introductory toolkit for many a course on anime, not the least for its nuanced coverage of the life and works of Japanese animation’s most famous creator.

There is a trend in film studies to deride chronological accounts as conservative and old-fashioned. But it is only by walking through Miyazaki’s filmography that we are able to adequately evaluate it in historical and historiographical context. By doing so, Napier is not only able to show themes and obsessions as they develop but also to contrast different approaches to the same texts: she helpfully covers Miyazaki’s landmark ecological sf story Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) in two separate chapters, once on the completion of its feature adaptation and again a decade later when its author chose a different ending for the long-running graphic novel.

So much of what is written about Miyazaki is hagiography aimed at a community of like-minded souls who all agree on his genius and status as a national treasure. Napier clearly adores her subject, but is ready to cite some entertainingly dissenting views. While she is to be praised for her use of untranslated materials, the greedy academic is left wanting more—some juicy rants from Mamoru Oshii’s Let’s Talk About the Ghibli That Nobody Talks About (2017), perhaps, or the dishy gossip walled off from English readers in Steve Alpert’s Japanese-only account I am a Gaijin: The Man Who Sold Ghibli to the World (2016).

Napier sets herself a grandly difficult task by promising “a life in art,” even though Japanese subjects are notoriously private, and Miyazaki’s own public profile has been carefully managed. By leaning on an untranslated biography, Napier manages a more intimate and revealing job than any previous English-language writer, although her source’s 2002 publication predates many of the public spats between the aging Miyazaki and the studio management that spent ten years trying to replace him. She alludes to the shady dealings surrounding the hiring and sudden departure of Mamoru Hosoda from the production of Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), as well as the publicity circus around the directorial debut of Miyazaki’s son Gorō on Tales From Earthsea (2006), after focus-group statisticians revealed that the word Miyazaki had a greater cachet than the name of Studio Ghibli itself. As the author Ursula K. Le Guin herself noted in dismay, she had believed she was selling film adaptation rights to the man who made My Neighbor Totoro (1988), not a former landscape gardener who happened to be related to him.

Perhaps we will never know to what degree the spat between Hayao and Gorō was another of Toshio Suzuki’s crowd-baiting marketing tactics, daring audiences to witness the Earthsea car-crash, and then inviting them back again to observe father and son supposedly reconciled on From Up on Poppy Hill (2011). A chapter on the latter film might have helped here, but Napier favors Miyazaki’s directorial work, not his films as a mere scriptwriter, such as on Poppy Hill, the Borrowers adaptation Arrietty (2010), and Whisper of the Heart (1995). Three hundred pages might already be enough for any reader, but a truly comprehensive work on Miyazaki would need to approach the last twenty years not only in terms of his feature direction, but also his writing, his short films which can only be seen at the Ghibli Museum, and the intricate politics surrounding the management of his legacy.

When it comes to English-language criticism, Napier acknowledges the vast and possibly indigestible surfeit of Miyazaki sources, but makes a few omissions in her bibliography. I presume she lacked the opportunity, lead times being what they are, to consult Raz Greenberg’s Hayao Miyazaki: Exploring the Early Work of Japan’s Greatest Animator (2018) or Rayna Denison’s collection Princess Mononoke: Understanding Studio Ghibli’s Monster Princess (2018), but Andrew Osmond’s monograph on Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001), for example, which would have enlivened several parts of her chapter on that film, was published by the British Film Institute in 2008 and is conspicuously absent here.

Napier also misses several points and allusions that would have helped bolster her narrative. What was, for example, the content and impact of Mrs. Miyazaki’s book Gorō and Keisuke: A Mother’s Childhood Picture Diary (1987), which dragged the Miyazaki children into the public eye a generation before the Earthsea saga? In other admittedly minor cases, Napier can be a little too ready with glib assessments which could have done with sterner scrutiny, particularly in a book that delights in pointing to recurring themes and influences. She breezily writes, for example, of Castle of Cagliostro (1979) as the first iteration of what she calls Miyazaki’s “castlephilia” (56), seemingly without realizing that he was also instrumental in the fortress chase scene of Tōei’s Puss in Boots (1969). Animage magazine was not “newly established” (70) in 1982 when Miyazaki began serializing his Nausicaä manga in it, but had already spent four years valorizing him and his future Ghibli colleagues, publishing their memoirs and defenses from their period of exile in the television industry, and arguing, from its very first issue, that their notorious failure Little Norse Prince had been a generation ahead of its time. Napier observes that My Neighbor Totoro takes place on Miyazaki’s home turf in Tokorozawa, but not that this was also the setting for Panda! Go Panda (1972). And while she argues for the apparent self-identification of Miyazaki with the hero of The Wind Rises (2013), she does not notice similar parallels with Kamaji, the grumpy, workaholic boiler-man of Spirited Away (2001), who openly complains about having spent the last four decades toiling for the people upstairs and wishes, fondly but in vain, for a quiet retirement. —Jonathan Clements, Xi’an Jiaotong University, China

The Allure of the Postapocalyptic in Criticism.

Dahlia Schweitzer. Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World. Rutgers, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2018. 256 pp. $27.95 pbk, $99.95 hc.

It is hard to imagine another topic that so many scholars of sf studies and of science and technology studies would like to sink their teeth into more than zombies. The rich, aloof vampire has caught our cultural interest here and there—the Twilight and True Blood series being the most recent notable examples—but the zombie craze, like the unrelenting horde it depicts, has been unrelentingly omnipresent in popular culture. Since George Romero’s original classic The Night of the Living Dead (1968), the onslaught has been endless and has taken an endless number of media forms. Since the early 2000s, such iterations have tended to associate zombies with contagious plague and so the two topics have often been intertwined in the collective imaginary.

In a society increasingly subject to neoliberal mandates and political surveillance of the populace, the fascination with imagining the import of an undifferentiated mass of humanity is fairly obvious. This is particularly the case for scholars who focus on dystopian studies or critiques of science, technology, and medicine. The same can be said of contagion. In our increasingly globalized society, the subject appeals as it haunts. Entire conference panels are regularly devoted to these subjects, as are special issues of journals—such as the issue on plague in Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies (10.2 [2010])—of which a sizable number deal with zombies. Scholarly collections include The Walking Med: Zombies and the Medical Image (2016), edited by Lorenzo Servitje and Sherryl Vint, and Dawn Keetley’s edited collection ‘We’re All Infected’: Essays on AMC’s The Walking Dead and the Fate of the Human (2014), both of which hash out these issues from multimodal perspectives and in their various multimedia manifestations. Another panoply of texts exist on the topic of contagion in society, including, of course, Priscilla Wald’s classic monograph, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative (2008), as well as newer collections such as the interdisciplinary Endemic: Essays in Contagion Theory (2016) edited by Megan Nixon and Lorenzo Servitje. For this reason, any full-length monograph on the topic of zombies and disease is ambitious indeed, as it risks simply retreading old ground.

Dahlia Schweitzer’s Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World, however, approaches the topic from a meta-analytic angle, considering zombie media as a product of the amalgamation of contemporary fears about contagion, globalization, and the apocalypse, and this gives her monograph an “in” to a very saturated market replete with astute and nuanced arguments about zombies and apocalyptic plagues. Paradoxically, Schweitzer’s method of aggregating a host of concerns around apocalyptic media is both her book’s strongest and weakest feature. It allows the book into a niche in the market that has not explicitly combined these causalities to explore our fascination with apocalyptic zombie plagues, resulting in a study that treats these three topics equally, separately, and yet simultaneously. This remains the book’s weakest element for precisely this reason. That is, while the extant literature on these topics might not address these ideas explicitly, they are part and parcel of the implications of the very theoretical methodologies that undergird their interpretation. While Kristeva might not talk about mass casualty in the opening chapter of Powers of Horror (1980),for instance, the implications of her work on corpses has obvious relevance and leaves only dubious room for a text that only serves to make explicit these same ideas.

Going Viral in this regard both takes on too much and too little. It addresses three major topics (plague, zombies, and apocalypse) that have been the subject of multiple monographs treating these topics individually; for that reason, scholars who are well versed in these subjects may well wish that a more thorough discussion had been given to any one of them.

At a brisk pace, Going Viral devotes individual chapters to outbreak stories—global outbreaks, bioterrorist outbreaks, and finally end-of-the-world outbreak scenarios. This last chapter is primarily about zombie narratives, but discussions about zombies appear intermittently in all of the chapters, as do issues of contagion and contamination. The structure of the book simply cannot hold the weight of all its ambitions where so much prior scholarship exists to be contended with and incorporated; moreover, the book feels unfocused at times, weaving multiple figural disasters (alternately disease, zombies, terrorism, and sometimes combinations of these) in and out of chapters that purport to be about only one or the other of these topics.

Thus, its meta-analytic scope is both its finest feature and its greatest flaw; this is because, while Going Viral provides a relatively new vantage point and a nice, digestible overview of the topic, it never addresses any one of these topics in enough detail to sustain the weight of its claims. This is, of course, due to its very aim to encompass such a broad overview. There simply is neither time nor space for the author to give due weight to the sheer amount of work that has been done in the fields she covers. There are multiple moments of clear insight in the text that leave one wishing the entire book had been set aside for such moments. The chapter on bioterrorism is one such example. In a discussion of American surveillance culture after 9/11, she argues that this event created a fundamental shift in the types of fears represented in film: “one key difference between older and newer outbreak narratives is arguably this shift from discipline to control, from hierarchical social ordering to horizontal and rhizomatic modes of self and peer-to-peer policing” (120). Here Schweitzer demonstrates the incisive interpretations that are typical of the best of her writing: they are layered, they build upon well-known theorists (here, Foucault), and they move into critical gaps that beg to be filled. In the absence of longer, sustained readings, however—and this chapter especially could use more of them—the potential of these moments falls flat and we are left with vague generalizations about post-9/11 terrorism anxieties. When divested of concrete interpretive applications to sustain them, these comments feel hackneyed and obvious, rather than compelling and fresh.

The broad scope of the project also results in problems of critical engagement with scholarship. The vast amount of extant work on these topics is mentioned very rarely and the selection of previous scholarship seems haphazard, virtually ignoring classic texts such as Priscilla Wald’s Contagious, for instance, mentioned only once and rather buried in a footnote. As such, the book generally feels bloated with fairly well-known academic truisms about monster, zombie, and contagion theory, punctuated by the aforementioned seemingly obvious generalizations (such as the claim that “Starting in 2002, fears of bioterrorism began showing up more and more in films and television shows,” and that “renewed patriotism … followed the 9/11 attacks” [111[)—and all at a sweeping pace that dips into the topics, but never dives.

Indeed, Schweitzer’s book is at its best in the moments when it sustains close analysis of a given film or TV series. Here is where the original interpretive moments shine through, and the extent of her knowledge about the topic and its criticism becomes clear. Her analysis of the film Contagion (2011), for instance, is one of the longest in the monograph and, in its detailed consideration of one idea and medium, it is also one of the best in the book. Schweitzer considers the visual representation of the pre-outbreak world in which audiences are shown “in graphic detail … the very real impact of inappropriate and reckless consumption” (83). She incorporates helpful film analysis into her readings and does so with verve, as in her elaboration of a scene in which clinical laboratory footage is juxtaposed with traditional film footage: “While [the doctor] watches the ‘clinical version,’ the version the audience sees is a more emotional version, a version shot on handheld camera, a version that bobs and weaves, as if filmed by a person in the crowded casino rather than by a security camera fixed to a wall” (82). The book would benefit from more sustained readings of this nature, during which Schweitzer’s style, at once approachable and insightful, comes through.

Overall, Schweitzer’s monograph would work well as a reader for lower-division courses in film studies with a focus on disaster films or in intro-level medical humanities courses. Its tendency to gloss over critical scholarship while presenting big (if sometimes trite) ideas, while niggling to readers well versed in the topic, would make for a good primer for students just getting used to the idea that there is something more to zombies and apocalyptic plague movies than meets the eye.—Kari Nixon, Whitworth University

The Descent of Woman.

Patrick B. Sharp. Darwinian Feminism and Early Science Fiction: Angels, Amazons and Women. Cardiff: U of Wales P, New Dimensions in Science Fiction, 2018. ii+193pp. £60 hc, ebk.

This well-researched and very readable study of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century feminist responses to Darwinian evolutionary theory examines the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and colonialism in a wide range of early speculative fiction by women. For Sharp, “Darwinian feminism” was “a formative moment in the long history of women’s SF” (173) and he sets out to trace the outlines of this moment. He opens by situating Margaret Cavendish’s A Blazing World (1666) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) as influential precursor texts that provide model critiques of masculinist science, but his emphasis is on later work, from nineteenth-century feminist utopias to feminist sf published during the heyday of the pulp magazines. Sharp argues that for Darwinian feminists, “Darwin’s account of sexual selection provided the template for diagnosing the violence of patriarchal institutions that enslaved women” and “also provided an account of the possible mechanisms for their emancipation” (2). He situates Darwin’s work in the context “not only of a colonial grammar of race, but also a Victorian grammar of gender and sexuality” (7), and it is through this complex nexus that he reads women writers’ challenges to “violent Darwinian masculinity” (7), even as they worked within the plot structures and narrative strategies favored by male writers. Sharp outlines five “storytelling tactics” (9) particularly popular in early women’s sf: 1) a revisionary take on sexual selection that gives women the upper hand; 2) a privileging of the domestic sphere to which women have traditionally been confined; 3) a reorganization of the colonial gaze in order to challenge masculine aggression and hierarchy; 4) echoing Mary Shelley, a critique of the dangers of masculinist science; and 5) the representation of women through figures of the Amazon and the angel “as the apex of Darwinian feminist evolution” (9-11). Sharp convincingly makes the case that science fiction is “a Darwinian genre” (1) and that evolutionary theory is a key element of sf’s scientific megatext.

As part of his analytical framework, Sharp notes how systems of genres become available to writers at specific historical and cultural moments. His first two chapters, “Scientific Masculinity and its Discontents” and “Charles Darwin, Gender and the Colonial Imagination,” provide both a detailed overview of the kinds of scientific “plots” that feminist writers struggled with/against and a very useful outline of Darwin’s work, including its developments and transformations in the socio-philosophical works of Herbert Spencer and others. These opening chapters tracing the rise of the masculinist science project provide an excellent background to Sharp’s study. He pays careful attention to the scientific theories and stories that directly impacted the writing of science fiction in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, considering such influential early modern texts as Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone (1638), Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis (1627), and Isaac Newton’s “A New Theory of Light and Colours” (1672), noting in them “the connection between colonial exploitation and the emerging techno-scientific desire to control nature” (15). He also examines the establishment of the Royal Society in 1660 and its valorization of “a rational and unprejudiced scientific masculinity” (27) that results in the exclusion of even such highly educated women as Margaret Cavendish. Sharp shows how deeply gender and race were imbricated in the science project from its earliest iterations, focusing on the challenges posed by Cavendish and Mary Shelley to scientific masculinity and its ambitions to “conquer” nature. Sharp’s second chapter on Darwinian science examines the intersections of race and gender in the constitution of western scientific masculinity, linking these developments to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century colonization projects and the expansion of Empire. He outlines how the relations of “science, gender and colonisation would come to play an essential role in Darwin’s later writings about human evolution” (43). For Darwin, in Sharp’s analysis, human evolution was driven by active masculine “sexual selection,” while women were passively aligned with reproduction, and scientific development was tantamount to proof of racial superiority. (White) women and non-white “others” were simply less advanced in this particular version of the science project.

For Darwinian feminist writers, however, evolutionary theory suggested very different ways to think about concepts such as “natural selection” and about appropriate ways to do science. Against the “evolutionary essentialism” (55) espoused by thinkers such as Darwin and Spencer, these writers posited women’s reproductive energies, as well as their intellectual and moral advantages, as the forces driving a very different kind of evolutionary progress. This second chapter on Darwin also introduces two important non-fiction texts, Antoinette Brown Blackwell’s early critique of Darwinian theory, “Sex and Evolution” (1875), that situated motherhood at the center of civilization, and Eliza Burt Gamble’s The Evolution of Woman (1894), that combined socialism and feminism to argue for the superiority of women over men, given that “the traits ascribed to women by Darwin made them uniquely qualified to control society” (62). Sharp also examines the attractions of eugenics theory for many Darwinian feminists in its support for the idea of scientific control of human reproduction.    

Sharp’s third chapter—“Evolution’s Amazons: Colonialism, Captivity and Liberation in Feminist Science Fiction”—traces the ways in which both literal and metaphorical Amazons and angels circulate in the writings of early feminists. In Gamble’s The Evolution of Woman (1894), for example, any violent propensity in naturally gentle women is understood as a kind of last-ditch response to masculine threats to autonomy and reproductive freedom. Turning again to the system of genres, Sharp notes how “the [American] captivity narrative became one site where strong women began to have a significant presence” (71). After situating the reader through historical accounts of heroic captives and cross-dressing military women, Sharp devotes the rest of this chapter to mapping some of the influential early examples of Darwinian feminist speculative fiction. He includes Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora: A World of Women (1880/1881), with its problematic take on white racial superiority and its commitment—pervasive in so many of these texts—to “the holy grail of Darwinian feminists: control of sexual selection” (79); British writer Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett’s New Amazonia (1889), which was also influenced by Francis Galton’s ideas about eugenics, in this instance as a response to “unthinking motherhood” (83); Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood; Or, the Hidden Self” (1903), which in contrast celebrates a proto-Afrofuturist vision of African civilization; and Inez Haynes Gillmore’s Angel Island (1914), which rejects the idea of white racial superiority and looks forward to a multiracial future. (Sharp takes the title of his study from Gillmore’s later history of the women’s movement, Angels and Amazons [1931]). This chapter culminates, not surprisingly, with a discussion of what is perhaps the best known work of evolutionary feminism, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1914), which Sharp reads as “the triumph of scientific femininity” (92). In Sharp’s terms, Herland embraces progress through a kind of “negative eugenics”: while motherhood is the principal ideological commitment of the Herlanders, those who are unfit to be mothers must forgo this experience in the interests of racial superiority. On the other hand, Gilman’s critique of the contraints of women’s gender performance under patriarchy and her demands for a new kind of masculinity worthy of these new women remain powerfully attractive features of her feminist utopia.

In Sharp’s analysis, “Darwinian feminism became one of the unique attributes of SF written by women before the Second World War” (101). Chapters four and five—“Women with Wings: Feminism, Evolution and the Rise of Magazine Science Fiction” and “Darwinian Feminism and the Changing Field of Women’s Science Fiction”—take readers to the perhaps more familiar territory of the early pulp magazines, focusing on the ways in which the elements of Darwinian feminism were transformed in the early decades of the pulp era as new generations of women “wrote them into the genre system of the new SF magazines” (101). Edgar Rice Burroughs’s hugely popular planetary romances, for instance, were reworked in early feminist stories such as Clare Winger Harris’s “The Fate of the Poseidonia” (1927). In his fourth chapter, Sharp includes detailed analyses of how Darwinian feminism plays out in stories by writers such as Lilith Lorraine, Leslie F. Stone, Minna Irving, and M.F. Rupert, demonstrating how the battle-of-the-sexes motif—so apparent, for instance, in Stone’s “The Conquest of Gola” (1931)—was deployed as a popular narrative strategy to privilege the moral and intellectual qualities of an advanced femininity. In the process of reading these early pulp fictions, Sharp provides fascinating information about the various editors such as Hugo Gernsback (who knew?) who encouraged the inclusion of women in their magazines, noting that it was the discouragement of later more conservative and less feminist-friendly editors such as John W. Campbell that drove many women to abandon the field. For Sharp, “the golden age of Darwinian feminism in magazine SF” flourished during the late 1920s into the first half of the 1930s.

Sharp’s fifth and final chapter traces transformations of the evolutionary trope in women’s pulp writing after this golden age. Sharp reads later stories by Lorraine and Stone, for instance, and expands on his discussion of the influence on these authors of particular magazines and individual editors. Although Sharp argues that “by the end of the 1930s Darwinian feminism was no longer a part of women’s SF” (148), his readings of later stories by Lorraine and Stone emphasize its continuing influence. This chapter includes a substantial reading of C.L. Moore’s fiction. In particular, Sharp focuses on the kinds of generically hybrid stories that Moore published in Weird Tales, including sword-and-sorcery and space opera. I particularly enjoyed his reading of Moore’s classic story “Shambleau” (1933) as “queer[ing] the standard heterosexual narrative of evolutionary science” (159), as well as his attention to Moore’s Amazon-like Jirel of Joiry, a savage warrior who is nothing at all like the angelic moral mothers of Antoinette Brown Blackwell and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Sharp ends this chapter, and this study, by noting the importance of women editors such as Judith Merril and by briefly noting how the sometimes-submerged tropes of Darwinian feminism can be traced in the work of important later writers such as Monique Wittig and Joanna Russ.

Darwinian Feminism and Early Science Fiction is a very good book, a significant addition to the scientific and cultural histories of women’s early utopian and science fiction. And it is very good news that many of the novels and stories that Sharp discusses are now easily available to readers. Novels such as Lane’s Mizora and Gillmore’s Angel Island have been published online by Project Gutenberg, and a variety of the pulp stories discussed here (e.g., by Harris, Stone, Lorraine, and others) are newly accessible in two recent collections: Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction (Wesleyan UP, 2016), which Sharp co-edited with Lisa Yaszek, and Yaszek’s edited collction The Future is Female!: 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin (Library of America, 2018). So much great reading, so little time.—Veronica Hollinger, SFS

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