Science Fiction Studies

# 17 = Volume 6, Part 1 = March 1979

An Unnecessary Reprint

Hans Girsberger. Der utopische Sozialismus des 18. Jahrhunderts in Frankreich. Wiesbaden: Focus-Verlag, 1973. XXVII+271 p.26 DM.

This photo-offset edition of the original 1924 book on utopian thought in 18th-Century France, occasioned by the growing post-1968 interest in the history of utopianism and SF, confirms Dale Mullen's complaints (in SFS 15:192) about unnecessary reprinting; indeed it extends them, since he was speaking about post-1945 fiction, and this is an example of pre-1945 secondary literature. The first 107 pp. of Girsberger's book are an introduction discussing the philosophical, ideological, and material "bases" of 18th-century utopianism, with a brief review of the utopian tradition from Plato to the Renaissance and of the "socialist" extra-literary models for that tradition in Antiquity, the Jesuit state in Paraguay, and the French rural cooperative as remnants of the early "agrarian communism." Self-confessedly a second-hand digest, based mostly on the French and German secondary literature of the 50 years preceding Girsberger's book, this first part is today completely superseded by intervening studies on utopianism (for the general ones of Beer, Berneri, Biesterfeld, Bloch, Cioranescu, Gove, Negley-Patrick, Schwonke, and Seeber see SFS 10:245-46; also Atkinson, Baczko, Chérel, Coe, Coste, Courbin, Krauss, Le Flamanc, Manuel, Mühll, Patrick, Pons, Poster, Trousson, Tuzet, Venturi, Volgin, and Wijngaarden, to mention only the main studies dealing with 18th-century authors). However, the investigation of the texts of "utopian socialism" proper which follows on pp. 108-235 is not much more useful either. First, it is based on what I have elsewhere (see chapter 3 of my book Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, US 1979) called the "antediluvian" approach in utopian studies, i.e. the isolation of a fully perfect and ideal "essence" of utopia which is by definition identical in "poetically intuitive" and "philosophically dialectical" (in other words, fictional and non-fictional) "forms"; this essence is for Girsberger "the universal image of the State as a whole... and the cultural-cum-social life in its totality" (p. 1). Therefore he proceeds to discuss the "social nucleus" of each utopian text without regard to the "adventurous garb" (p. 1 11) when it happens to be a fictional tale. Such a Kantian distinction of form and content, coupled with a total disregard of the former, leads to a willful blindness toward the narrative effect of all utopian texts (even the non-fictional ones). To take only one example, Girsberger has to dismiss the differences between Morelly's two widely differing utopian works -- one fictional and "romantic" and one non-fictional and "rational" -- with the observation that they represent "the two sides of utopian socialism, the fantastically unbound and the mathematically rational one" (p. 130): an observation which, assuming it were correct, would then raise the question how come he discusses only the rational side in his book, merely muttering feebly something about Shaftesburian pre-romanticism when encountering such clearly non-mathematical texts as Morelly's Basiliade (not to mention Restif, whose main work he confesses not to have found and blithely discusses from paraphrases in secondary literature). Second, Girsberger divides his texts into three groups using the basic yardstick of how they relate to "modern socialism" or "the pure socialist form" (p. 110 -- whatever that meant in 1924: German social-democratic or Russian bolshevik programs?); thus, e.g., Fontenelle's Ajaoiens is impure because it depicts merely an "agrarian communism." This yardstick is then supplemented with a double grid based on the categories consistent vs. confused, and purely vs. impurely collectivist. The final result is: 1) the radical or consistently collectivist works (with common property of means of production, to spell out what he coyly does not) which include Vairasse, Meslier, Morelly, Mably, Restif, Foigny, and Fénelon (?!); 2) the reformist works with individual or mixed Property of the means of production, which include Ramsay, Péchméya (?!), Mercia, Fontenelle (?!), the anonymous Féliciens, Volney, and Boissel; 3) the "confused" works which are uncategorizable but unimportant, probably because Girsberger confesses not to have read them (Guilbert, Gueudeville, Tyssot, Berington, Tiphaigne, etc.). Not to raise queries of a basic nature, such as how far are some of them utopian, or why are a number of 17th-Century or non-French works included and a number of works excluded, my parenthetic question-cum-exclamation marks indicate evidently nonsensical categorizations to which Girsberger's non-method has led. Thirdly and perhaps crowningly, the actual texture of his discussion is composed of ideological paraphrase of each work plus ideological commentary within the described categories (together with hints about a few other categories, e.g. that these are all anthropological and not cosmological utopias, which is obviously untrue at least for Restif and to my mind for a number of other texts too). Even his title, claiming all of these texts for "utopian socialism," is never substantiated - certainly not by the confused discussion on socialism vs. collectivism on pp. 18-19, which is concluded by denying the sense of such discussions! Nonetheless, on p. 213 he remarks in an offhand note that all of these utopias can be imagined as a pyramid, in which the broad basis is socialist, a smaller middle step is kind of mixed, a still smaller third step is reformist, and a very small apex is liberal: if this is true, the whole thesis of the book is untenable.

Thus, while there are a few interesting hints in the book, including its conclusion (pp. 236-53), the well-intentioned leftist Focus-Verlag -- publisher also of several books on SF to be reviewed soon in SFS -- would have been better advised to translate one of the works I listed above, or even to go back to good old André Lichtenberger (Le Socialisme au XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1895, rpt. 1970), from whom much of Girsberger's data is anyway taken. The new preface by B. Heymann on bourgeois ideologies of the time is of dubious relevance, while the appended bibliographic update, I think, fully proves my point.

--Darko Suvin

The CEA Critic [Special Issue]: Fantasy, 40, No. 2 (Jan 1978): 1-42. $3.00.

Guest editor Donald E. Morse assembles three articles on teaching fantasy, four pieces dealing with a specific author or theme (Horatio Alger, Sleeping Beauty, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Tolkien), and two bibliographies: Roger C. Schlobin's "Annotated Bibliography of Fantasy Fiction," and Marshall Tymn's "An Annotated Bibliography of Critical Studies and Reference Works on Fantasy." Except for purposes of comparison, most of this material is of only passing interest to SF readers. However, one is struck by the variety of works included under the rubric of "fantasy" (e.g. Wells' The Time Machine, Haggard's She, Vance's The Dying Earth, and Horatio Alger's fiction), which indicates the need for some general introduction to at least raise the issue of genre - especially of the relationship between fantasy and SF. The two bibliographies are useful to readers new to the field. Tymn's bibliography can be supplemented with his Recent Critical Studies on Fantasy Literature: An Annotated Checklist, Exchange Bibliography No. 1522 (May 1978), 21pp ($2.00) and his A Basic Reference Shelf for Science Fiction Teachers, Exchange Bibliography No. 1523 (May 1978), l2pp ($1.50); both are published by the Council of Planning Librarians, General Editor Mary Vance, P.O. Box 229, Monticello, Il. 61856. The SF bibliography is aimed to "serve the needs of the beginning SF teacher." It brings up to date Ms. Susan Keller's more complete and useful (and free!) "Science Fiction: The Sources of Information" (1974 unpubl. ms) given out at the 1974 SFRA meeting in Milwaukee. Both are supplemented by Tymn's and Schlobin's A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies (reviewed in SFS No.14).

--Charles Elkins

Campbell, Campbell Everywhere, and Not a Drop To Drink

Leon E. Stover, La Science-fiction américaine: Essai d'anthropologie culturelle. Paris: Aubier Montaigne, 1972, 187 p., price ?.

This French translation of Leon Stover's "anthropological" study of American SF has unaccountably not become available in the original, and is therefore being reviewed here after waiting for the English version in vain. It is divided in two parts, "Form and Function" and "Content." SF is, Stover affirms in his first sentence (in flagrant contradiction with the Introduction by Professor Jacques Goimard), an American paraliterary genre which has evolved out of the dime novels and pulps of the early 20th century. Firmly rejecting the view that SF has a long history which can be traced back to the Greeks (which is possibly why he ascribes The Golden Ass to Lucian, p. 23), Stover describes the crucial roles of Gernsback and Campbell in early American SF. In answer to the question "What is SF for?" - the title of his second chapter - he defines what SF became under the guidance of John Campbell and what it potentially still remains today: "a means of criticizing and questioning science, of protecting man from a technology which has become too eager for results while ignoring the consequences of those results" (p. 39). The growth of SF and its special relationship to science stem, according to Professor Stover, from two factors: the rise and importance of scientific research and development in the US; and the snobbish anti-scientific bias of the American literary intellectuals which has caused engineers and scientists to develop another means -- outside the Eastern, "leftist" literary establishment -- for the exposition and criticism of their ideas. And in terms of such an explanation, the ideal is of course John Campbell: "For the agnostics that we are," admits Stover, speaking for American SF writers, "John Campbell represented the closest thing to a God we had ever known" (p. 27).

The author's very open admission of his biases continues with a description of the methodo- logical format of his study:

All literature is, finally, a kind of anthropological criticism, a means for moralising about human conduct. The realistic novel judges the individual's qualities: man as a creature provided with (or deprived of), a certain ethical formation; and it often implies a personal reform: can I improve myself?

In SF, the purpose of the moral judgement is man insofar as he shares customs and practices - culture, in the sociological and anthropological meaning of the word .... My analysis of the content of American SF in the second part of this volume will follow the ten universal and basic principles of human culture .... Communication has led to exchange which in turn has permitted the formation of Society, whose principle end is to assure the subsistence of the individual through Work and the reproduction of the population through Sexuality. These activities are oriented in Space and Time. In every culture the end of these activities is preservation; these activities are felt profoundly and are consequently less subject to rational forces than the remaining four principles which constitute deliberate means employed by every culture which, by their nature, have an innovative force. Play, for instance, is but experimental comportment without which there could be no modification in the Acquisition of Knowledge. Taken as a whole, culture is the human way of adapting to the world and includes the means of Defence and the use of Tools (pp. 43-44).

In the following thematic chapters Professor Stover deals very narrowly, from a vulgar or pseudo-sociological perspective, with certain problems which fall into each category. He sets out to examine how SF has dealt with these ten "basic principles of human culture," but in each case the "principle" is reduced to a single theme as it is presented in ten or twelve stories and novels. Thus the fictions referred to under the first heading, "Communication," revolve around what the author calls "the American concept of sincerity" as seen in the theme of telepathy and in the many stories in which communication is established despite the language barrier . . . . Under Society, he examines the theme of return to primitive society centered around the family and the underlying notion of innocence . . . . The principle of Work leads to a discussion of ecology and the author again pays tribute to the memory of John Campbell whose disappearance, he fears, marks the death of SF insofar as Campbell was the only one capable of reconciling two hostile poles: engineers and scientists on the one hand, the "anti-conformist enemies of science and rationalism" on the other (p. 82). The level of Professor Stover's critical judgements may be seen in his comment on Dune: "If only we were taught in school to understand the world in a look as Herbert does his imaginary world, we would probably be able to understand the political economy of our planet and its workings as a whole" (p. 82)! Sexuality provokes a different response from the author who attacks the "modern," explicit treatment of sex (as exemplified by Heinlein's "disgusting" I Will Fear no Evil), while praising that SF which criticizes the subjugation of sex to technique and technology; a position which, he admits, coincides strangely with "traditional religious opinions" and which suggests to him that there must be some kind of arrangement possible between religion and scientific knowledge.

By limiting himself to a Campbellian definition of SF -- it is "a response to modern research and the rapid material progress which has resulted from it" (p. 45) -- the author restricts himself too severely, excluding, for instance, Jules Verne on the (incorrect) grounds that he was "never concerned with the social consequences of his actions" (p. 34). This methodological confusion is amplified not only by his personal prejudices and biases (objectionable only insofar as they are presented as fact rather than opinion), but by the interjection of "literary" criteria -- in rejecting as worthless, for instance, most SF from the magazines of the 1930's (p. 22) -- into what he describes as his "anthropological" approach. However, a "scientific" description of a given corpus - in this case US SF would seem to be invalidated by any prior, non-scientific delimitation of that corpus. Yet he uses "literary" criteria, and admits as well that he has stressed stories from Astounding because he has a complete collection of that magazine! Moreover, there is no explanation nor documentation of his "ten universal and basic principles of human culture," a declaration which I am very reluctant to admit as either anthropologically valid or as useful in terms of SF criticism.

--Peter Fitting

Gérard Klein. Malaise dans la science-fiction. Metz: l'Aube enclavée, 1978. 78p.

The two essays by Gérard Klein recently published in SFS -- "Discontent in American Science-Fiction," No. 11 (1977) and "Le Guin's 'Aberrant' Opus: Escaping the Trap of Discontent," No. 13 (1977) -- were, as we had told our readers, only excerpts from a much larger work which is now available in its entirety in French. The reader will find here a close-textured synthesis of the general ideological tendencies and aesthetic choices of American SF from the early 60's on. Klein's approach is founded upon a very original fusion of the Marxist sociology of Lucien Goldmann and Freudian hermeneutics. Despite the title which suggests a wide range of material, the book deals exclusively with American SF of which, one must add, Klein remains probably the most probing connoisseur in continental Europe.

--Nadia Khouri

Luigi Russo, ed. Ventanni di fantaseienza in Italia: 1952-1972. Palermo: La Nuova Presenza Editrice, 1978. 77 p. Lire 2,500. -

In the frame of the International Conference held in Palermo in October 1978 (see Nadia Khouri's report in our section "Notes & Correspondence"), Luigi Russo had organized an exhibition of which this book is the catalogue. But it is also more than that since it provides a number of bibliographies and surveys of Italian SF, and includes several short notes by prominent Italian writers and critics about the present state of SF in Italy.

--Marc Angenot

Michael B. Goodman. William S. Burroughs: An Annotated Bibliography of His Works and Criticism. Bibliography of His Works and Criticism. New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1975. 96p. $13.00.

How much in Burroughs' writing, and consequently in Goodman's bibliography, is directly related to SF is a matter of geneological interpretation. However, the influence of SF in Naked Lunch, Nova Express, and, perhaps, The Wild Boys seems evident enough to justify drawing the attention of SFS readers and contributors to him by this review.

As Jack Ludwig points out in the introduction to Professor Goodman's bibliography, the compiler "uses old-fashioned apparatus on a writer not very old fashioned," a fact that all Burroughs (W.S. not E.R.!) scholars and users of this valuable tool should appreciate. What Goodman sets out to do is to apply much common sense to a highly volatile body of bibliographic information on Burroughs, sometimes contained in obscure or inaccessible sources, and to present "in an organized format what major primary and secondary sources exist, what is in them, and which ones are easily secured." Over 400 bibliographic entries are divided into seven sections: books by Burroughs; articles, essays, and stories; interviews and biographic material; critical articles on Burroughs; original letters owned by Columbia University; the Burroughs material from the Grove Press Collection, kept by Syracuse University; and finally the bibliographic material on Burroughs. Of these, sections V and VI are of particular interest to Burroughs scholars because of their descriptive account of the contents of newly available manuscript material, including unpublished letters to Kerouac, publishers' proofs, legal correspondence surrounding the obscenity trials of Naked Lunch, and other documents of critical and biographical interest, are accompanied by citations to ca 135 reviews, grouped under the most available edition of each work. Articles, essays, and short stories are also arranged by title and include important information on reprints. Some of the most substantial reviews have been treated as critical material by the compiler, and can be found in the appropriate section. There is a similar overlap between the section covering biographical material and the section of criticism; the latter supplies references to close to a hundred articles that appeared in the American and British press. A  brief itemization of the principal bibliographical sources on Burroughs brings the total to 425 citations. An author/title /topic index provides ready reference to the individual entries.

If there is one thing to regret about Professor Goodman's bibliography, it is the exclusion of translations of Burroughs' works and the deliberate non-attention to the critical and biographical material in other languages. Lynda Rushing's bibliography of Burroughs (Bulletin of Bibliography, July 1972) includes representative translations into French, Italian, German, Japanese, and the Scandinavian languages. It is reasonable to assume that their number has grown in recent years. The appearance of Le Mitro Blanc (Paris: Seuil, 1976) and of L'oeuvre croisée (with Brion Gysin, Paris: Flammarion, 1976) as well as of Philippe Mikriammos' book, William S. Burroughs (Paris: Seghers, 1975) is a good indication that the continuing foreign interest in Burroughs' writing is sufficient to warrant bibliographic coverage in a guide of this scope.

Nonetheless Professor Goodman's work will provide, as he intended it, "a solid foundation for any study of [Burroughs's] work." That he accomplished this far from easy task through an "old-fashioned" format is much to the users' advantage. No bibliographer could have done so by following Burroughs' own "cut-up" style.

--Irena Žantovská-Murray  

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