Science Fiction Studies

#23 = Volume 8, Part 1 = March 1981


Voyages to Nowhereland

Raymond Trousson. Voyages aux Pays de nulle part. Brussels: Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles, 1975, 298p. BE 495.00

Raymond Trousson is a professor of Romance philology at the University of Brussels. He has published several remarkable studies in Stoffgeschichte, thematic criticism, and literary history (mainly French 18th century). His book Voyages aux pays de nulle part (Voyages to Nowhereland) differs from most of the previous major approaches to utopia and utopianism insofar as it is written from a strict point of view of literary history. Dr. Trousson is careful to distinguish utopia--as a literary genre--from the mental and social attitude Cioranescu has termed utopianism, and he is certainly right in suggesting that the confusion of these two phenomena or entities is a major source of misapprehensions and undue disappointments among scholars who tend to compare the successive topoi of the genre with their own historical hopes for radical change and dialectical mutation. It is also true, however, that those major topoi (the figure of the Island, the geometrical paradigm of political structures, the central figure of the Wise Legislator, the role of social pedagogy, etc.) according to Trousson cannot be treated as pure and simple rhetorical conventions. Although they build up a literary tradition that resisted major ideological changes from the Renaissance to the 19th century, they are necessarily related to the most fundamental axioms of Western culture. The link between Reason and State Power, political structures and collective happiness, is one of these axioms, which utopias from Thomas More's on display in a fictional dramatization but also on which the major issues and stakes of our civilization are inscribed.

Trousson's definition of utopia, being of a purely literary kind, will only attempt to distinguish it from contiguous genres and discursive formulae: "We can talk of a utopia when, in the frame of a narrative (excluding therefore political treatises), a community is being described (excl. here the Robinsonade) that is organized following certain political, economic, and ethical principles in a way that attempts to render the complexity of social life (excl. Golden Age tales and pastorals), be it presented as an ideal stage that must be accomplished ('constructive utopias') or as a warning against a social inferno (modern dystopias), be it situated in a real space, an imaginary one, in time, or described at the end of an imaginary voyage, itself meant to be verisimilar or not" (p. 26). Although Trousson's historical survey goes as far back in pagan antiquity and Judaeo-Christian traditions as possible, his actual point of departure for the development of modern utopias is, as traditionally accepted, Thomas More. He then surveys chronologically the utopian tradition up to our day (Huxley, Bradbury, Boulle), trying to take into consideration not only the Great Utopianists but also most of the minores. Up to the early 19th century, Trousson's erudition and breadth of investigation are almost never at fault. For the last two centuries, I find his analyses much more arbitrary and his selection dubious. This might be due to the single fact that the quantitative inflation of texts he was likely to take into consideration unavoidably led him to voluntary and involuntary omissions. US utopias in the 19th century, for instance, are represented only by one paragraph about Ignatius Donnelly ("governor of Minnesota")[?], p. 204) and a three-page section about Bellamy's Looking Backward (pp. 204-206). But this skimpiness might also be due to the fact that for contemporary history the traditional descriptive approach, with the oversimplifications it entails, falls short of accounting for the complex ideological vectors that go through any piece of writing. To say about Bellamy. e.g., that "his Socialism is actually a Marxism insofar as the economic Unterbau is determinant, although it is a pacific Marxism that believes in evolution and almost ignores class struggles" (p. 206), is, from whatever side you take, rather unconvincing, neither false nor accurate, and finally misleading. An indulgence in aperçus of the kind just cited might be a shortcoming inherent to the "genre" of historical surveys, where no analysis can be thoroughly elaborated and the commentator is led to label, taxonomize, and formulate in a few words what he considers to be the differentia specifica of the text under scrutiny before passing on to the next one in his chronology. For lack of a rigorous theoretical frame, synthetic statements often times appear both partially significant and arbitrary. Take, for instance: "This might be a constant trait of utopian writers ...: instead of considering a possible mutation [they] wish to maintain or reinstate an economic and social structure already overstepped" (p. 53). Although supported by a cursory reference to Plato, Aristotle, More, Mercier, and Restif, what general relevance does such a thesis possess and to what extent is Trousson himself ready to apply it to most of the modern tradition? Another disturbing statement, in terms of periodization this time: "No important utopian writer appears in the first half of the 19th century, aside from Cabet" (p. 186). Putting aside Saint-Simon, Owen, Fourier (insofar as they are theoreticians and not narrative writers), considering that Defontenay published only in the early 1850s (but is not quoted by Trousson anyway), what about Fenimore Cooper, Melville, Hawthorne, Poe, not to mention Symmes, Tucker, Mary Griffith (to limit myself to US writers)?

The strength of Trousson's writing is elsewhere: it is in his ability to delineate a succession of literary conventions, traits, and features common to a series of texts from the same period: sequence of rhetorical topoi, but also ideological fashions that span the historical march and striving against each other. Trousson's book is certainly very useful, more so for the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries than for recent times (which might be a fault common to all literary historical approaches). For the French 17th and 18th centuries, it probably offers the best historical synthesis available today. The change in perspective it implies against philosophical and theoretical approaches is legitimate and interesting. It is the work of a gifted and competent scholar who, however, seems to me too prone to endorse the traditional proceedings of historicism and comparative literature: his study displays all the merits and all the weaknesses of that tradition.

Something else, however, disturbs me and I don't know whether I should attribute it to Trousson's psychological bent or to his methodological choices. He constantly displays a sort of ironical impatience in the face of the poor aesthetic concepts and critical limits of most traditional utopographers. "Here is another geometrical city, another theory of quantifiable happiness, another variation on mariage à l'essai," he seems to think. It is true that there is a lot of rubbish in classical utopias, and I do not demand from the scholar a "critique d'adhésion," but it also seems to me that to look at utopias from the wrong end of the telescope does not do justice to them and does not at any event add anything of critical value to our knowledge of the genre.

One final note: there are a number of mistakes in Trousson's rendering of the names of previous scholars whom he quotes: Braczko (and not Bagko, p. 131), Hans Girsberger (and not G. Girsberger, (p. 149), A.R. Ioannisian (and not Ionisian, pp. 156 and 284), Borkowksy (and not Bockowsky, p. 171). V.L. Parrington, Jr. (and not V.L. Parrington, p. 189) Sviatlovski (and not Svietochowski, p. 274).

Professor Trousson is also in charge of the Bibliotheca Utopistica, a project undertaken by Slatkine Reprints (P.O. Box 765, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland) for reissuing facsimile reprints of utopian texts. The first series of the Bibliotheca comprises the following six titles, for each of which Trousson has provided a valuable introduction ....

Foigny, Gabriel de. La Terre australe connue. 1979 (?) Reprint of the edition of Vannes: Jacques Vernevil, 1676). 310p. S.Fr. 70.00--This volume was still in print in June 1980. Gabriel de Foigny, a defrocked Franciscan friar who emigrated to Geneva, published this "imaginary travel" in 1676. It contains a radical criticism of Biblical beliefs, in the vein of Spinoza. A rewritten and rounded-off version was published in 1692 by the abbé Raguenet under the title Les Aventures de Jacques Sadeur.

[Veiras] Vairasse, Denis. Histoire des Sevarambes. 1979. (Reprint of the edition of Paris: Barhin. 1677-1679. 5vols). 2 vols. of xxx + 1561 + 236 + 268 + [16] + 342 + [2] p., and [4] + 358 + [2] + 456p. S.Fr. 400.00--The Protestant Denis Veiras, "an obscure soldier, briefless barrister, and undistinguished jurist," first published part of his utopia in English in 1665 under the title Hisrory of the Sevarites. Trousson considers the complete French version of this extraordinary voyage as "one of the most complex and rich of all utopias and probably also the most effective in terms of fictional invention." Veiras does not present an already static and immutable utopian society, but a detailed historical account of its setting-up by its founder, Sevarias. After landing on the Austral Land, Sevarias and his companions try three successive systems of social organization, abandoning the first two in favor of the best possible one founded on a double social pact: between Sevarias and the people on the one hand, and between Sevarias and the Sun, the Great Being, on the other. Sevarias limits his powers by promulgating a number of unrepealable laws. What Veiras is looking for is a system where the Ruler is the trustee of supreme Power without possessing it or incarnating it as in the theory of Divine Right. Sevarias suppresses the nobility and private property and promotes equality and a certain rational austerity. Veiras does not try to depict a perfectly harmonious state: "if his society is the best possible, it is not meant to be perfect since perfection does not exist in humankind" (Trousson.p. xx).

Tyssot de Patot, Simon. Voyages et Ventures de Jacques Massé. 1979. [Reprint of the edition of Bordeaux: Jaques [sic] l'Aveugle.1710). xxv + [8] + 508p. S.Fr. 125.00.-- "Tyssot de Patot is one of the foremost representatives of the climate of skepticism and questioning, so characteristic of the last years of the 17th century" (Trousson). Most of the book deals with the tribulations and shipwrecks of Jacques Massé, a navy surgeon, Tyssot displays meanwhile a universal erudition reminiscent of Fontenelle. The description of the ideal Kingdom of Butrol fills only one eighth of the book: it is a utopia à la More, which is mainly a pretext for dealing with controversial scientific issues and for questioning the validity of religious institutions and the credibility of Christian dogmas. The "Bordeaux 1710" edition in fact bears a fictitious antedated title page. It was, according to Trousson's sources, published in Holland in 1714.

Another book published anonymously by Tyssot de Patot, La vie, les aventures et le Voyage de Groënland du Révérend Père cordelier Pierre de Mésange (Amsterdam: Etienne Roger. 1720. 2 vol.) will also he reprinted by Slatkine in the same series (Price: S.Fr. 130.00).

Tiphaigne de la Roche, Charles-François.Histoire des Galligènes ou Mémoires de Duncan. 1979. (Reprint of the edition of Amsterdam: Arkstée & Merkus, and Paris: Veuve Durand. 1765). xvii + 165 + [2] + 136p. S.Fr. 60.00--Tiphaigne de la Roche, a Norman physician and author of philosophical tales, wrote this utopian romance to expound his concept of freedom in morals. An ironical skepticism about traditional utopianism is to be found in his book, opposing a concept of necessary historical change to the immutability of utopian constructs. The Galligenes, descendants of Frenchmen living on an "unknown island," are ruled by a gerontocracy: they favor communism of property, sexual promiscuity, malthusianism avant la lettre, religious tolerance, and scientific esotericism. Trousson compares Tiphaigne with Swift as far as a certain anthropological pessimism is concerned. Tiphaigne's book has certainly its interest, albeit historical, but it is a remarkably clumsily written utopia.

Mercier. Louis-Sébastien. L'An deux mille quatre cent quarante, suivi de: I'Homme de fer, I-III. 1979. (Reprint of the edition of Paris: Brosson et Carteret, Dugour et Durend, An VII [1799]). xxviii + [4] + xl + 356 + 4 + 346 + [4] + 349p. S.Fr. 250.00)--Mercier's utopia, the first version of which was published in 1771, is certainly the best known of all the texts reprinted in this series. Trousson himself previously did a critical edition of the 1771 version (a version translated into English as early as 1772). He is using here the last version prefaced by Mercier himself, who died in 1814. The Year 2440 is the first utopian romance situated by anticipation in the future. This represents a change in perspective that is obviously decisive for modern utopias and SF. Trousson terms this new subgenre "uchronial": but I would prefer to keep that term, coined by the French philosopher Renouvier in the 19th century, for tales of alternate history or "alternative universe" (The Wheels of If,The Man in the High Castle. etc.). Trousson shows very subtly what is at stake in this fictional mutation: utopia is no longer a fictional society that compensates for empirical contradictions and shortcomings insofar as we are cut off from it. The utopia set in the future must be in some way "deduced from" the present, its blessings must he already there, although hidden behind present corrupt practices, infringements and oppressive structures.

L Homme de fer is a lifeless allegorical dream added by Mercier to the 1799 and other editions of his utopia. The quality of book production for this reprint and all the others in this series deserves the greatest praise. It is to be wished that the Bibliotheca Utopistica will he carried on in the republishing of other important texts.

-- MA

Strategies of Utopianism

Pierre Furter and Gérard Raulet. eds. Stratégies de l'utopie. Colloque organisé au Centre Thomas More. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1979. 269p. Can. $24.75

It is not very easy to account for the content of a book made up of 20 or so highly theoretical communications, each of them quite interesting, and often followed by an animated debate. The contributors deal with utopianism in its wider sense (in the spirit of Ernst Bloch): utopian components in economic theories, in theology, in architecture, in contemporary music: utopianism and eschatology; utopianism and child psychology, etc. Such a wide scope of interest seems to make utopia, as the subtitle of the colloquium suggested, an "interdisciplinary ideology"--which is a rather ambiguous label (criticized already in this work by B. Vincent, pp. 259ff.). The discussions often seem to hesitate between an erudite synthesis of some aspects of the history of Western ideas and diverse attempts at theorizing, in a more direct and passionate way, about contemporary practices in the vein of Ivan Illich or Paul Goodman. No relevant synthesis can be provided of these complex and often contradictory debates, in which Michel de Certeau, Marc Guillaume, and Louis Marin-- among others--participated. I shall confine myself to selecting here and there some theoretical propositions; this will not say much about the way these hypotheses were handled and illustrated but will at least show the variety of points of view:

(1) There is an essential contradiction in all types of literary utopias between the utopian dynamism and the closed system it seems to engender--a paradox that can only be transcended if we see closure as a condition for the perception of movement (G. Raulet).

(2) Economic discourse has always been one of the most significant loci of Western utopianism and its oscillation between a conservative role and subversion (Marc Guillaume).

(3) Technological planning is to be considered as an ideological falsification of utopianism: it is characterized by an irreversible limitation of human goals, present interests being simply reinvested in the future (Burkhardt and Schmidt).

(4) Contemporary utopian practices in art do not construct any stable or hierarchical structures; they are essentially determined by the elimination of any functional centralized axiomatics to the advantage of a "nomadology," producing the image of an open, undecided world in a constant turmoil and flux of contradictions (I. Stoianova--see also on the same topic, Louis Marin, pp. 232-33.)

In summary, the book contains a multifaceted and valuable collection of essays reflecting the present state of utopian "revival" in Western Europe.


Jules Verne in Rumania, Germany, France, and Québec

Ion Hobana. Douazeci de mii de pagini in cutarea lui Jules Verne. Bucarest: Editura Univers. 1979. 237p. Lei 12.50

Ion Hobana is a well-known scholar of SF. His last book, Twenty-Thousand Pages in the Work of Jules Verne, is an excellent biography and monograph on the famous French writer and a testimony for the worldwide influence of his work. Besides, it is not the first book on Verne published in Rumanian, and Hobana pays tribute to his major predecessor, Dinu Moroianu (Romanul lui Jules Verne, 1947 and Jules Verne, 1962). In the same vein as Jean Chesneaux, some of whose theses he discusses, Ion Hobana sees most of all in Verne the "hidden revolutionary" who drew from three major sources: the emancipator's spirit of 1848, Saint-Simonian utopian socialism, and libertarian individualism. It is in this light that Hobana discusses Verne's institutional position as a writer for youth: he suggests that one should consider this status as a deliberate choice on Verne's part and not a cultural constraint that Verne would have been unable to get rid of. He links such a choice to the secret political and social criticism that Verne sought to transmit to the younger generation. Hobana elaborates on this particularly in connection with A Castle in the Carpathians (whose plot is set in now Rumanian Transylvania), and Hobana's chapter on Castle is also suggestive of the way Verne takes advantage of his sources (notably Elisée Reclus) and often takes liberties with them.

Ion Hobana was also a special editor for the "Jules Verne" issue (no.207) of Secolul 20, 4 (1978), the journal of the Rumanian Writer's Union (Lei 7.00).

Thomas Ostwald. Jules Verne: Leben und Werk. Braunschweig: Graft, 1978. 299p. DM 12.80.--There have been several studies of Verne published in Germany before this one. In fact the first monograph in German, that of Max Popp, was published as early as 1909. Thomas Ostwald provides some interesting data and documents about Verne's reception in Germanic countries. The present study, abundantly illustrated and offering some previously unpublished documents, draws on some valuable information but not much on recent French scholarship; clearly its goal is not to account for its critical revaluation. Ostwald's approach is at the same time vivid and conventional: a good biography, content analysis of each narrative, traditional data on Verne's reception and literary fortune. This is a good introductory monograph from an enthusiastic and reasonably critical reader who does not however look beyond the dominant themes.

Bruno-André Lahalle. Jules Verne et le Québec (1837-1889): Famille-sans-nom. Sherbrooke, Québec: Naaman, 1979. 189p. $12.00--It seems to me that there is a fundamental methodological mistake in dividing Verne's opus (or any work that one may consider) into SF vs. non-SF--such a division being usually made on the basis of commonsensical but controversial criteria. In Verne's work there is an all-encompassing vision of science, progress, society and political struggles, which it is not convenient to compartmentalize. M. Lahalle devotes his monograph to Verne's major "historical novel," Famille sans nom (A Family Without a Name) whose plot is set in Lower Canada (now Québec) during the 1837-38 Revolt of the "Patriots." The author patiently reconstitutes all the sources that Verne used and discusses the way he reinterprets them. Sometimes unfaithful to historical facts, Verne, a liberal ideologist, considers with favor the major national uprisings of the 19th century, although he also dreams of a Québec freely associated with the great American Republic. The analysis of this novel, quite revealing of Verne's political thought and sympathies, is conducted with great accurateness and perspicacity.

Francois Raymond and Simone Vierne, eds. Jules Verne et les sciences humaines Paris:10/18, Union générale d'Édition, 1979. 443p. $6.95.--This is a collection of contributions to a colloquium organized in 1978 by the international "Centre culture!" of Cérisy in France. It bears testimony once again to the present, often muddleheaded, revaluation of Verne. You've got to pick and choose what to believe: Verne makes people talk, no doubt; he therefore makes an excellent topic for colloquium organizers: economists and sociologists, psychoanalysts and Marxists, academic erudites and eccentrics are being gathered in a Vernean communion that might end up raising some suspicion. No doubt one will find in this book some quite suggestive hypotheses: Verne as a perverter of adult science and an accomplice of the ill-at-ease teenager; Verne as a poet of taxonomies and nomenclatures; Verne as a clandestine theoretician of literary writing, theories hidden behind the fiction they engender, etc. Two types of hermeneutics are at stake here, although they sometimes are mingled with eclecticism: the socio-critical and the psychoanalytic. Verne and the major French figure of psychoanalysis, Dr Jacques Lacan, have at least this in common: their extreme propensity for puns and conundrums and their common interest in the productive role of the "calembour" in literary texts. The Lacanians in the colloquium are therefore working on the "signifier" with delight; hence a lot of mers mortes that might have been mères mortes; hence cryptographic studies of a work that is truly full of cryptograms. Apart from that, one takes interest in reading several papers, on Verne and Robida (D. Lacaze), on Le Village aérien (A Village in the Treetops; A. Buisine), on Verne's Darwinism and reinterpretation of scientific schemes (Françoise Gaillard), on trompe-l'oeil as rhetorical device in his work (Simone Vierne).


About H.G. Wells

Peter Haining. The H.G. Wells Scrapbook. London: New English Library, 1978. 144p. 6.95

The sub-title of this lavishly illustrated coffee-table book promises "articles, essays, letters, anecdotes, illustrations, photographs, and memorabilia about the prophetic genius of the twentieth century," and this promise is kept as in the same compiler's similar books on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jules Verne, and E.A. Poe. Most of the appeal of volumes of this kind is in their illustrations, and the book on hand indeed offers much pictorial material from Wells's serials and books that often is not only very rare, but in itself of great interest. (The illustrations from Pearson's for The War of the Worlds are a case in point, though it should be added that most of the illustrations drawn from later periodicals, comics, and films are less interesting.) Some of the illustrations refer to Wells's precursors (and sometimes competitors) like E.A. Poe and Jules Verne, or later SF (especially Hugo Gernsback and his magazines).

Haining's book presents only the author of SF and fantasy, not the whole Wells-- that is to say, not the social reformer, the angry young critic of his own time, the tireless prophet of the world state, the utopist, the author of contemporary and humorous novels, or the champion for the emancipation of love. The chosen field is large and important enough, for Wells not only introduced many of the themes that were to become standard in SF, but in many instances provided their definitive treatment, in his novels and also--especially--in his short fiction. Beginning with a less than distinguished introduction by Jack Williamson, author of one of the numerous studies on Wells, the book collects a number of critical pieces about him. The first of these is "The Fables of H.G. Wells" by J.L. Borges, a brief but substantial and weighty essay by a sympathetic soul. There is also an excellent piece from the Times Literary Supplement of August 3, 1933, that deals mostly with Wells: differentiating him from Verne (who was a writer of travel stories), it defines the essence of Wells's prose and makes it abundantly clear how unsurpassed Wells's position in English-language SF is. In another important essay from the same year, "Mr. Wells['s] Apocalypse," Gerald Heard makes some astute observations, suggested by Wells's great essay The Shape of Things to Come, not only about utopias but also about anticipating the future. Two other articles contain at least much information. "The Man Who Did Work Miracles--in the Movies" by Denis Gifford, a prolific critic of SF and monster films, offers comprehensive overview of the transformations of Wells's stories to the screen (and Wells did attract the film makers, ever since Mélies), while George Pal's "Filming War of the Worlds" discusses the technical problems encountered during the shooting of that film. Finally, Basil Cooper, in "Ecstasy and Time Travel in Sevenoaks," provides a mixture of entertaining information and not very important literary analysis.

Included are also a number of contemporary reviews of the early SF of Wells, especially The First Men in the Moon, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr Moreau. (The latter was attacked as sensational, bloodthirsty, and irresponsible. It also prompted a number of parodies, among which one, James F. Sullivan's "The Island of Professor Menu," is really funny.) Wells himself is represented in some short excerpts on his literary methods and from his fantasies of war, and also in a number of rare but important texts, such as "A Tale of the Twentieth Century," "The Man of the Year Million," and a late story not included in his Collected Short Stories of 1929, curiously enough first published in the Ladies' Home Journal: "The Queer Story of Brownlow's Newspaper." This is the strange tale of a man of 1931 who is allowed one glimpse at a page of the Evening Standard of November 10, 1971, before it irrevocably disappears down a disposal chute: reason enough for the real newspaper to compare Wells's imaginations with the reality of the time. Of interest is also a write-up in the New York Times of October 31, 1938, about the effects of the famous Orson Welles radio treatment of The War of the Worlds that caused a panic in the US, where many Americans believed they had been listening to live coverage of a real Martian invasion of Earth.

Haining's book combines, both in texts and pictures, the merely curious with things of more intrinsic value. Altogether it is an irresistible melange and a fitting tribute to the dominating figure in English-language SF to this day.

--Franz Rottensteiner

SF Iconography

Gary K. Wolfe. The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1979. xvii + 250p. $12.50

What John Cawelti's Adventure, Mystery, Romance undertook for westerns, detective stories and "contemporary melodrama." Gary Wolfe has at least begun for SF. Cawelti's "formula" may slip its definitional moorings at times, but he demonstrates how writers and filmmakers manipulate formula characters, settings, and plots to reflect contemporary values and create popular art. Wolfe appropriates the religious term "icon" (as did W. H. Auden in The Enchafèd Flood), for images whose roles are fundamental in the manipulation by SF artists of certain value structures in technological society to which we give secular assent. Like Cawelti, he never forgets his responsibility to the text (verbal or filmic) or to the reader, for whom his prose and organization are a pleasure, unburdened with jargon or arcane.

The images Wolfe examines "should have been done to death long ago," as he points out, if they were simply "props" to be taken for granted. As "icons," he maintains, they perform three key functions: they indicate "the opposition between the known and the unknown"; they represent a "subjunctive" reality; and they extend into social and psychological belief structures. In this way they attain both extra-literary significance and aesthetic power, of which we are all but unconscious, except as we are cognizant of the traditional "sense of wonder."

Such icons do not compel belief, rather they provide the storyteller with "a structural pivot." This permits him or her to argue either for or against the central philosophical position long ascribed to Anglo-American SF between 1935 and 1965 (the period with which this study is mainly concerned): that problems can be solved by the rational application of science and technology. The use of these icons, moreover, allows for considerable variety, as Wolfe demonstrates for the six he has uncovered: the abstract central image of the barrier; the environmental images of spaceship, city and wasteland: the humanoid figures of robot and monster. Each chapter analyzes numerous examples of both stories and films, often arranged along a simple-to-complex or familiar-to-unfamiliar continuum.

One test of a theory, of course, is whether it makes sense of the examples to which it is applied. The iconic reading does lend significance to the otherwise commonplace; this seems especially true with works that do not respond as well to more stringent aesthetic tests of form and style. Wolfe seems to me particularly good with respect to Harry Harrison's Captive Universe, the robot stories of Williamson and Asimov, Leinster's "First Contact." and Blish's "Cities in Space." He has less to say to me that is new about Heinlein's "Universe," Brackett's The Long Tomorrow and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, but his analyses are both good and pertinent to his argument. He seems a little defensive about including films in his study, but I would have been glad of some more extended consideration of those which he does integrate into the discussion.

At the middle level, between the general theory and the specific explications, the continua at times seem arbitrarily imposed on the material. Wolfe clearly relates the "barrier'' to Kafka and other "existential" writers before the mid-1930s, but he neglects the "wasteland" and anti-city imagery equally common outside SF in the 1920s and even before. Moreover, after showing that much of the catastrophe literature after World War II was non-nuclear and outside the ghetto, he then largely ignores such literature in favor of post-atomic novels by SF stalwarts to illustrate the "wasteland."

Having accepted the argument that these icons are ambivalent, especially the barrier and the spaceship, but even the wasteland, I find it a little disconcerting to be told that the future machine-city is unfit to carry much positive emotional freight, that the robot/computer cycle can only end with the (re)creation of man and that the "monster" (including biological transformations and psi talents) is largely negative. The reasons offered for the city's negative aura are almost overwhelming, but he may be guilty of overkill: however much SF has turned away from it, somebody must like the city, given the worldwide pattern of continued urban growth. His diagram of the paths open to the robot and the computer seems too schematic. Not only is there confusion in SF over the distinctions among "robot," "android," and "cyborg," but also I am not convinced the public is as negatively oriented toward these machines as SF seems to be. Acceptance of biological change both by the public and in SF likewise seems more positive to me than Wolfe allows, but perhaps I am reading contemporary attitudes back into history.

Placing the extraterrestrial alien into the "monster" continuum, at the place where logically human beings should go (after mineral, vegetable, and animal but before physical, then mental transformations), also disturbs me. Although the imagined alien, which cannot be significantly alien after all, does share with these other creatures ambivalence toward our earthbound status, aliens can appear anywhere on the continuum, even beyond it as demons or gods. Possibly the most potent of all "icons" pointing to the known/unknown polarity, the alien may deserve a separate chapter or essay.

My final reservation is that Wolfe, though he gives due consideration to the social critiques of Mumford, Ellul, Ferkiss, etc., and the psychological approaches identified with Freud and Jung, slights the religious component in the manipulation of these icons. Part of what gives them their power is conventional religious conservatism toward the new, associated with superstitions of nemesis. The city is unlivable or becomes wasteland because we have sinned against nature. Technology unleashes monsters on our presumption to surpass divine creation. The wasteland also offers us a second chance, as does the new world opened up by the spaceship journey (a parallel Wolfe all but ignores, though he does equate the city and the spaceship in other ways), in a kind of secular resurrection.

No book can be perfect, no reader may be in perfect harmony with an author. So these objections of mine may be minor matters, relevant less to the theory than to particular applications. This book in fact seems to me a major step forward in SF criticism, drawing together cultural, psychological and aesthetic approaches too often separated by barriers firmer if less iconic than those Wolfe studies. As he suggests in his "afterword," there is much to be gained by extending the concept of the icon into earlier and later time-frames (something Cawelti accomplishes with his "formula"), into SF in other languages, into visual art, and the "literatures" represented by futurology and "crackpot cults." The "Golden Age" of SF criticism may have only begun.

--David N. Samuelson

Sometimes Critical Encounters

Dick Riley, ed. Critical Encounters: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. NY: Frederick Ungar, 1978.184p. $3.95

Critical Encounters collects nine original essays by critics of divergent interests and abilities. It intends to appeal to both the fan and the serious reader. There does not appear to be either a common theme or a single point of view that connects the essays, although most of them focus on either major works or major authors in the genre. Few of the essays have anything original or inspiring to offer either fan or general reader. The introduction is conventional and has nothing to say, briefly and pleasantly. But for the sake of two good and one superior essay, Critical Encounters could be dismissed as another in that growing line of forgettable collections of criticism piously offered to convert the already converted.

However, for the sake of the better essays in the collection, the reader should consider whether his interests would be served by a critical encounter of this kind. At least the price is right! The curtain raiser by Jean Fiedler and Jim Mele is a readable piece on "Asimov's Robots" which covers familiar territory in a predictable way. It shows the ways Asimov justifies the laws of robotics to man. The essay does score points for both a nicely worked out statement of the general theme of the robot short stories--that technology requires human direction to succeed in its aims--and for a good summary comparison and contrast of the themes of the two robot novels. Nevertheless, the Asimov essay-- together with others on Bradbury, Clarke, and Sturgeon--suffers from an unlaced popular approach to its subject that in the end lacks both discrimination and critical authority. Only an SF novice will find much that is new in these essays, and there are certainly better guides available in print to the work of these writers. Perhaps the lesson of the essays is that the plot summary approach to interpreting texts makes for tedious reading unless the critic has something fresh and new to say.

O tempora! O mores! The reader is not to be spared encounters with feminist criticism, obligatory in these times, it seems, at least to the editorial mind. The first of two such essays, "Sisters, Daughters, and Aliens" does not leave much room for males, who seem to finish fourth in a field of three. The essay attempts to illustrate the development and something of the range of feminist consciousness in recent SF. Taken together as they are here, the stories examined produce an astringency of outlook and tone that will please readers with an appetite for militancy rather than reason. There is little objectivity and less understanding of the history and values of the genre in the claim put forth in this essay that it was women feminist writers who have introduced enlightened values of racial and sexual equality into a literature characterized as "racist," being "historically a white as well as a male genre." One may admit the latter view, after all, without necessarily accepting the former charge and its corollaries.

A more temperate view would take into account the actual history of SF literature and the fact that it has been and thus far remains a popular literary form. Instead, we are confronted by a critic, intent on consciousness-raising, in the dismally familiar posture of reducing literature, and in this instance culture, to the simplistic value standards of an ideology. This sort of public airing of prejudice simply demonstrates that the critic is as chauvinistic as those she accuses of contaminating the genre with values that "make us cringe in embarrassment today." Thanks to essays such as this, the balance of cringe will soon be restored.

The essay "Androgynes in Outer Space" focuses its attention on two of Ursula Le Guin's novels, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed. The essay is a critical toccata that deals artlessly in the surfaces of relationships that Le Guin works out laboriously in her novels. The essay misses its opportunity to trace historical connections of androgyny in literature, and the treatment of the subject is more tentative and inconclusive than Le Guin's. The time is surely coming for a revaluation of Le Guin's fine but overpraised novels, both of which are too dependent on anthropological formulas of character design and interaction. The weakness of both novels has been insufficiently appreciated by those who value ambiguity as either the expression of a complicated but balanced mind or as a sophisticated authorial strategy for evading the kinds of meaning or certainties of perception not encountered in the real world. But then that is why humans make art, is it not, because life of itself does not deliver up its meaning without the artist's vision? And that may be the reason why Le Guin's special handling of ambiguity in both novels produces not dimensioned characters but literary ghosts whose tentative, indefinite states of mind are in the end insufficiently supported by the author's murky plotting devices and preference for unresolvable lines of action. These weaknesses are strengths in her shorter fiction, where revelation and disclosure are more satisfactory methods of character interaction than in novels.

Timothy O'Reilly's essay on the evolution of Dune from concept to fable is worth reading. O'Reilly has a disciplined mind, and his exposition of the organizational design of Dune is clear and intelligent except for a certain obtuseness about the roles of the Bene Gesserit. The reader will find himself wishing the essay were broader in scope but perhaps less reliant on plot exposition.

George A. Von Glahn's interpretation of Delany's The Einstein Intersection is a strong, intelligent analysis that rises above its subject and makes Delany's frequently chaotic mythic montages something the originals are not--eloquent and persuasive instead of confused and obliquely suggestive. If Delany had written up to Van Glahn's interpretation, his novel might have been a legitimate masterpiece instead of a foreshadowing of the immolation of Dhalgren. Incidentally, Von Glahn's essay is the unhappy victim of some of the shabbiest editorial preparation I have ever seen in the work of a respected publisher.

Dave Samuelson's essay on Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land is easily the class of the collection. Curiously, Samuelson's analysis of the novel's flaws is the most sustained and successfully developed part of the essay. Out of this, though, the critic makes his case for the popularity of the novel in the 1960s. Cunningly, Samuelson implies that many of the novel's deficiencies were the very qualities that appealed to readers for whom the soul of a book was more important than the head: vibes counted for more than art. Or to revise one of Yogi Berra's obiter dicta, Heinlein made the right mistakes. Stranger turned out to be a cult book, a piece of pop mythmaking. For people on the lam from established values, it served to define counterculture attitudes. Heinlein's views appealed in the 1940s and early '50s, because they confirmed either in rhetoric or attitude the dissatisfaction of youth with a social order from which it felt alienated once the indulgences of childhood were no longer applicable. Stranger also dealt heavily in wish fulfillment for the young who were trying to make good sense out of awakening sexuality and social disorder. Samuelson is illuminating especially on Heinlein's own ambiguous handling of his themes and characters. One of the strong appeals of Stranger to the young was that it replaced on a fictive level what it took away on the level of social criticism and satire. Still, this reviewer has never met a devotee of Valentine Michael Smith who was the least concerned with the way Heinlein had undercut Smith's character and ideas, because the encounter with Smith's discovery of power, especially the power of sex, the mystical power of "grokking," and the ritual of water sharing seemed to answer needs as it defined them. The appeal of these icons is too powerful to be denied and involves, in part, the fictional imprinting of cult formation.

If Samuelson never entirely resolves the issue of whether Stranger is a model or a mirror for the times, he offers the best sustained analysis of the novel I have read to date. His remarks on Heinlein's solipsism as an expression of the artist's dream-process of controlling world through art is especially rich in its suggestiveness of approaching Heinlein as an artist in the Romantic tradition. Perhaps Samuelson will follow up this line of inquiry another time.

Readers will probably want to read O'Reilly on Dune, should read Von Glahn on The Einstein Intersection, and need to read Samuelson on Stranger in a Strange Land. All three essays are going to be helpful to the student, the serious fan, and the scholar, for they are instructive and will likely stimulate the reader to want to take another crack at the originals. These are not the meanest virtues of good criticism.

The weakness of the collection as a whole is that the majority of the essays fall so far short of the standard established by the better ones. Editors who are considering a collection of critical encounters to appeal legitimately to the spectrum of SF readers from fan to scholar would do well to substitute professional writers for well-meaning amateurs. There are major authors in the genre who are also among its most inspired critics. The present volume studies two of them: Delany and Le Guin. A collection which included criticism by such artists-as-critics together with contributions by editors or review-editors of the major pulps to balance some of the more readable academic critics would be likely to achieve the lofty aspirations of the editor of Critical Encounters. It is worth another, better-conceived attempt, and O'Reilly, Von Glahn, and Samuelson prove that it can be done.

--Donald L. Lawler

A Bibliography of SF and Fantasy in the Low Countries

A. Spaink, G. Gorremans, & R. Goossens. Fantasfeer: bibliografie van science fiction en fantasy in het Nederlands. Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1979. 279p. US $12.00 paper

This bibliography of works (both original and translated) from the Low Countries is a complete listing of all stories, collections, anthologies, and novels of SF and fantasy that have been published in the Netherlands and Belgium through 1978. The book consists of two parts and two appendices. The first part is a listing by author and gives the Dutch title, number of pages, publisher, and year of publication. For short stories, the collection and/or magazine in which they have been published is also given; translations are provided with the original title and date of first publication. The second part is a listing by Netherlandish titles, with cross-references to part one. The two appendices give a listing of series (i.e., publisher's series, not connected stories and novels) and of pseudonyms.

The book holds the same position for Dutch and Belgian fiction as Bleiler's Checklist does for American fiction. That is to say: it shows many omissions, mistakes, printing errors, bibliographic faults (e.g., the listing of De Camp under C), and some plain blunders (e.g., the listing of Conan Doyle's Tales of Terror under the heading of a collection of stories by the Dutch author J.B. Charles).

Such criticisms would be devastating if the work under review were an American reference work of 1979, for there are so many checklists and indexes available now that such faults would be unforgivable. But in Holland there were none until now, except for Dick Scheepstra's short and incomplete listing of SF novels (100 Jaar SF in Nederland, Harlingen: The Compiler, 1968). Therefore, in a work like this one, which has grown virtually out of nothing, mistakes and even blunders are inevitable, and it would be sheer unkindness to be too harsh about them.

However, there is one type of mistake that could easily have been avoided. Apparently the authors have not consulted the standard American indexes and checklists, for the publication dates of nearly all the original American and English short stories are, in fact, not the dates of their first printing, but copyright dates. For instance, all the tales by C.A. Smith are credited with dates from the late 1940s and early '50s, when they were reprinted in collections, instead of the dates of their original publication in magazines like Weird Tales in the 1930s.

Of course, this is a minor fault, for one does not consult a Dutch bibliography to get the exact publication dates of American stories and novels--and the dates of original Dutch and Belgian fiction are quite correct. One uses a bibliography like this one for two reasons: to learn more precise details about books one knows of, or to get an impression of the whole SF and fantasy production in Holland and Belgium.

As for the first use, the bibliography is quite useful. As far as SF is concerned, there are only a few omissions for original works and almost none, I think, for the English and American translations since ca. 1965 (when the SF boom in Holland started). So this book is the only reference tool for the (many) American compilers of author-bibliographies who also wish to include foreign translations (although there is no index of original titles).

But with regard to the second use, there is a much more serious objection to make, which has to do with the whole plan of the book. The title says that it is a bibliography of "science fiction and fantasy," and in the (much too short) foreward the authors state that the following are not included: "utopia and anti-utopia, horror, demonology, magical realism, adventure, occultism, futurology, legend, parapsychology, etc." Now, granted that essentially non-fictional categories such as demonology, occultism, futurology, and parapsychology are indeed to be excluded from a bibliography of fiction, there still remain some serious questions about the other categories.

First of all, "magical realism" is not a type of fiction but a literary movement, mainly in Flemish literature, since the Second World War. It is called thus because the general characteristic of the novels and stories by the authors connected with it is that in a seemingly normal realistic world some strange, magical events begin to appear. So "magical realism" is just the period-name for a group of writers who, in effect, produced "fantasy" (the generic name). And it is very strange indeed to exclude such a group of writers from a bibliography of fantasy....

With regard to the categories "utopia" and "horror," I do not think that the distinctions between SF and utopia on the one hand, and between fantasy and horror on the other, are as clear and determined as the authors seem to think. But assuming that they have set up for themselves exact criteria for differentiating between these categories, then, first, they should have stated them (which they haven't), and second, they should have stuck to their own standards. But to me their choices seem to be very arbitrary. Many books which are pure utopias are included; many stories which in my opinion are fantasies are excluded, apparently because the compilers have considered them to be tales of horror. But even if their divisions were right, it is very strange to see a bibliography of fantasy with only three titles by Poe ("Valdemar," "Hans Pfaall," and Pym) and only two by Bierce ("The Damned Thing" and "Moxon's Master") and none by M.R. James (all three authors have been translated widely into Dutch). Moreover, the titles cited under Poe and Bierce demonstrate that the compilers are not right in their decisions. If their opinion of "Valdemar" as an SF story rather than as a horror story may be justified, the conception of "The Damned Thing" as fantasy instead of horror cannot. (One can also ask whether there is a real generic difference between horror and fantasy. a question which I tend to answer negatively.)

Similar remarks could be made about the categories "adventure" and "legend" and especially about some genres about which nothing at all is said in the foreword, such as fairy tales, imaginary voyages, and satires. The general impression one gets from all this is that the authors, like so many SF fans, have too limited a knowledge of some basic literary scholarship.

So we are confronted here with a work which is unreliable in two respects: the information given is sometimes incorrect, and the listing of some 5000 titles does not represent the actual publishing of fantasy in Holland and Flanders. (As said above, it does represent the publishing of SF.) It is, however, the first work of its kind in Holland (and probably will remain the only one for a long time), just as Bleiler's was the first of its kind in the US. Again like Bleiler's, it is a labor of love, done in the compilers' spare time over a period of many years, starting virtually from scratch. For this they deserve our admiration--and for their faults, our understanding. (As for the omissions and mistakes: the Dutch fan organization N.C.S.F. [Nederlands Contactcentrum voor Science Fiction] plans to issue yearly supplements, the first of which will appear in 1980 and will include a list of errata. This organization is also responsible for the distribution abroad of the present bibliography. [N.C.S.F., P.O. Box 87933.2508 DH The Hague, The Netherlands].)

--Joe A. Dautzenberg

A Danish Review of SF Criticism

Ellen Pederson and Niels Dalgaard, eds. CritiFan. No. 1:1978 and No. 2:1979. Published three times a year [with an intended frequency of three times a year] by Tohu Bohu Press. Horsekildierej 13. IV dǿr 3. DK 2500 Valby, Denmark. Price per copy: DKr. 12.50 (US $2.50)

SFS does not as a rule review fanzines but this one can be seen as an exception since it publishes exclusively criticism--articles and book reviews (in English). The first two issues show a commendable desire to go beyond paraphrastic and gossipy "Fan" Criticism and a genuine concern for theoretical elaboration (see "Editorial." No. 1: 1978) All in all, I am impressed by the level of contributions. I should say, however, that the title of the journal does not seem to me terribly exciting.


The Yearbook of French SF

Goimard. Jacques, ed. L'Année 1979-1980 de la science-fiction et du fantastique. Paris. Julliard, 1980. 302p. (Also available: L'Année 1977-1978... and L'Année 1978-1979...)

For the last three years, Jacques Goimard has been publishing a yearbook of French SF with contributions by most French writers, fan publishers, and critics. It is an excellent undertaking: this 400-page book is well-constructed, informative, and accurate. Contributions by various hands enable the reader to take the SF ship's position and to measure streams and tides. For many years, SF critics diagnosed a "Crisis of French SF" insofar as its position in the market remained. in the 1950s,'60s. and early '70s, very peripheral and at the mercy of a few publishers and journals, themselves permanently threatened by bankruptcy--with the exception of the "pulp" publishers "Le Fleuve Noir." At the end of the '70s, however, through a change of marketing priorities, which don't have much to do with literary tendencies, there is a sudden shift of scene: every publisher in Paris insists upon producing a series of SF: all the manuscripts that have remained for years in drawers reappear and are published without discussion; utopias and scientific romances published in 200 copies in the mid-19th century are suddenly propelled into the pocketbook market, and sell well. In this euphoria a new generation of SF writers takes advantage of the demand for SF. It is not that the reflux is already there but Gérard Klein, in the front article of the yearbook. rightly suspects that French SF has entered into another type of crisis--inflation. replacing stagnation--for which he tries (as he had done successfully in the early 70's) to find new remedies.

In 1979 French publishers released 426 books of SF, including reprints--which seems to represent a 20% increase over 1978. Andrevon et al. provide a very useful survey of this output. French SF is represented by 155 books (three-quarters unpublished) and three anthologies. As far as the reprints are concerned, there are for instance eight publishers that struggle for the right to reprint a single piece by Jules Verne. For the journals one can probably diagnose a rather confused situation in the general-public market (some journals are flourishing, others disappear, like the most regretted Futurs [see SFS No. 18:238]). In the world of fanzines: general stagnation, or even regression, it seems.

There is a section on the SF world in French Québec by Norbert Spehner, our colleague editor of Solaris (pp. 214ff). Mr. Spehner when mentioning SFS is unfortunately wrong in saying that the journal is "from now on bilingual." The remaining chapters deal with radio, television, movies, conferences, comics, exhibitions, fine arts, music, and SF criticism in book form.


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