Science Fiction Studies

#26 = Volume 9, Part 1 = March 1982

A Man of the Enlightenment

Jacques Marx. Tiphaigne de la Roche: Modéles de I'imaginaire au XVIIIe siècle. Brussels: Editions de l'Université de Bruxelles. 1981. 107p. BFr. 445.00

Tiphaigne de la Roche's classical utopia, Histoire des Galligènes (1765), was reprinted in 1979 by Slatkine (see my review in SFS No. 23), but his other philosophical tales have not been republished since the end of the 18th century. De la Roche, a Norman physician and polygraph, is a typical sample of those minor enthusiasts of the Enlightenment whose unbridled spirit of "philosophical" conjecture and speculation provokes alternatively admiration and amazement. Aside from poetry, essays, and dissertations, he published in 1749 his Amour dévoilé, a physiological system deemed to account for sexual attraction--this attraction being determined by exudation of a "sympathetic" fluid, vulgo: perspiration, sweat. Trivial as this thesis might look, it shows a commendable effort to reject mythological sillinesses about love and to shape a materialistic concept of attraction and affinities that leads to Goethe as well as to Charles Fourier. Jacques Marx examines other quite perspicacious and modern hypotheses formulated by his author: he analyzes several semi-fictional themes elaborated in the book, such as the automaton or woman-robot, and rightly suggests that De la Roche should be greeted among the precursors of modern SF. His second book, Amilec (1753; translated into English the same year), is even more whimsical and provocative. It is a philosophical dream à la Kepler about the plurality of inhabited planets (a commonplace of 18th-century speculation) combined with Swiftian satire of social classes and dystopian pictures. The Bigarrures philosophiques that follows is a melange of speculative fiction and scientific hypotheses, as diffuse and peculiar as his previous books.

Giphantie (1760) is an extraordinary voyage combining orientalism and SF traits. I shan't talk again of the Histoire des Galligènes (see SFS No. 23), his major utopia which is also his last book. Thanks to Dr. Jacques Marx's erudition and insight we now have the first excellent survey of Tiphaigne's works, his sources and intellectual descent. This monograph made out of first hand data is pleasant to read and informative, it is a significant contribution to the history of utopian fiction and SF.--MA

In Praise of American (Baumian) Utopianism

Edward Wagenknecht. Utopia Americana. Folcroft, PA: The Folcroft Press, 1977. [reprint of: Seattle, WA: University of Washington Book Store, 1929]. 40p. illus. $10.00

Edward Wagenknecht's charmingly relaxed speculations on utopia first appeared during the Great Depression, and then resurfaced after the energetic disillusionment of the 1960s had wearied itself into complacency. However much had changed between 1929 and 1977, the publication and the reprinting of Utopia Americana, dreams remained in fashion and alternative worlds critically in demand. Industrial progress and mechanical ingenuity had done little to supply these needs, and the profusion of idealist communities, having reached its zenith in the mid-19th century, had shrunk into parody if not non-existence. As the need intensified and the commodity vanished, Wagenknecht spoke reassuringly of a realm in danger of disappearing altogether. The implications of his message are encouraging. Utopia is no mere dream but a spontaneous by-product of quite ordinary endeavors. It is expansion, not escape, an appropriate response to a world too constricted to supply the fantasy demanded by human enterprise. Since such a place is necessitated by the very business of being alive, it would follow that everyone in his own way is involved in the building of utopias. The romantics who busy themselves trying to refurbish a fussy globe, and the realists who would make it less attractive than it is, are not polar opposites but comprise two separate approaches to tampering with and tempering existence. Utopia, the great nowhere, appears as everyone's destination, if not milieu.

Such universality and hope supply the comforting tenor of the work, but like its subject, the book (really an essay bound in a single volume) has no position on any map and therefore no specific direction. As if in stylistic harmony with its subject, this brief study is as confused as it is clear. The author taps any number of tantalizing topics, provides brief compelling biographies of Robert Louis Stevenson and L. Frank Baum, makes some tenuous connections between utopia and fairy-tales and then hastens to lament the lack of native American fairy stories. If the realms of fairy and of the idealist wanderer are similar (and there is more to suggest discrepancy than similitude), then it would appear logical that the US, with its more than 140 utopian settlements in the 19th century, should have had no pressing need of fantasy, for there were Shaker colonies along with those of Zoar, Harmony, Oneida, Icaria, Amana, and sundry quasi- Fourierist efforts--all in practical operation and ready to serve the perfectionist and imaginative leanings of a populace, whether they chose to join, to gaze with awed curiosity, or simply to derive assurance from the existence of these idealist ventures. Whatever the American stance, there was always some relationship with utopia. Although Wagenknecht does not make the connection, the fact that he offers Oz as a reply to the void of utopianism points up a peculiarity of the American response. The Emerald City, dazzling as it is, cannot displace gray Kansas in the affections. Dust storms, cyclones, and spirit-bending labor fail to quash the vision of something better transpiring right here in this perennially parched pasture.

According to Wagenknecht, Baum and his conscious efforts to supply young America with native fantasies opened the way for the New World to populate itself with legendary figures. Baum's contribution should not be minimized, but he was hardly breaking new ground. If anything Americans were busy with Oz almost from the outset of colonizing, laboring humorously throughout the westward push like Uncle Henry and Aunt Em to convert a howling wilderness into a verdant Eden. Pioneers of the Great Plains and their descendants in defiance of geographic certainties treated this climatically fickle region as if it were divisible into tidy, agriculturally predictable New England homesteads. They lived utopian dreams by stubbornly refusing to leave off thinking them possible. And these dreams were not over the rainbow but in the gullies.

In 1900, the same year that the immortal Wonderful Wizard of Oz made its appearance, Baum published a book with the prosaic title The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Store Windows. The connection between the fantastic and the prosaic work is in fact closer than between fairy-tales and utopia. Like Oz, the display window was the mundane made marvelous through manipulation of light and appealing arrangement of materials. One day Baum, eyeing a random piece of stove pipe, worked it into the decor of his display, and at the same moment the Tin Woodsman emerged. Merchandizing and Oz, Puritan ingenuity and the proliferation of the arts--the two inclinations merged in the profile of the American. An American ideal is the charlatan like P.T. Barnum or the irrepressible wizard who keeps everyone in benign wonderment. Whatever the cost, whatever the deceit, he proves a bargain in consideration for what he provides for the affections and the imagination.

Wagenknecht's pursuit of the components of American utopia are deceptive in their presumed successes, but his confusions and hedgings are forgiveable, maybe even applaudable. Such genteel, semi-sagely dabblings are sorely required. If he fails to define utopia, Wagenknecht shows that it remains viable and necessary. The man Baum responding to the call of his youthful readership to keep on producing sequels long after his desire to do so had given out is an image of the wizard as a spontaneous product of the land. The impossible conditions of the Plains generate wizards, and the American dreamer toils onward finding sophistry in scarecrows and enchantment through green tinted glasses. It's all the happy marriage of dullness and our dreams, of a dilemma transformed into a dazzling delight.

--Leonard Mendelsohn

The Merits of Samuel R. Delany

Douglas Barbour. Worlds Out of Words: The SF Novels of Samuel R. Delany. Frome, Somerset: Bran's Head Books, 1979. 171p. 4.50

Despite the considerable number of doctoral dissertations and heavy-duty critical essays being devoted to the works of still-practicing SF writers, the fact remains that few such writers have produced bodies of work of sufficient size or complexity to sustain such attention. Perhaps one reason that so many of us SF critics seem fond of global theorizing about the genre is that we seek to provide a kind of theoretical scaffolding or superstructure upon which to place works which, by themselves, would quickly collapse under the weight of too much scrutiny.

These thoughts are prompted by Douglas Barbour's 1979 volume on Delany not because Barbour is guilty of such practices, but because he presents a convincing case that Delany is one SF author who warrants, and perhaps even demands, such attention. Much of Barbour's book, in fact, began as part of his doctoral dissertation, in which he discussed Delany's novels to 1972. He has modified this material, added chapters on Dhalgren and Triton, and appended a brief conclusion and a lengthy primary bibliography. Despite a distracting number of typographical errors and a visible break in the structure of the book between the chapters dealing with the early novels and the chapters dealing with Dhalgren and Triton, the result is probably the most intelligent study of Delany we are likely to see for some time.

Not the least useful part of the book is the Introduction, which consists largely of quotations from Delany's own critical works. While it would be misleading to take statements made as early as 1970 as providing any sort of basis for Delany's later work, this chapter nevertheless provides the valuable dual function of establishing Delany s dedication to his craft and of providing a brief overview of an important body of SF critical theory which some have claimed to find impenetrable.

The chapters that follow treat Delany's novels up to and including Nova as a group, exploring the aspects of quest, allusion, world-making, and style and structure. While Barbour does not deny the preciosity of such early novels as The Fall of the Towers, he regularly invokes such "mainstream" theorists as William Gass, Richard Poirier, Hugh Kenner, and Susanne Langer to connect Delany's works with broad-based contemporary cultural theories. In some cases this works better than in others. Poirier's notion of "performance," for example, seems unusually apt not only for Delany but for SF writers in general, with the peculiarly complex relationships they have with both the popular audience and with critics. Langer is appropriate to Delany because of her acknowledged influence on his work. Gass is an insightful novelist and essayist, some of whose essays lead in the direction of semiotic theory, which seems especially applicable to Delany. But Barbour fails to follow this lead, and seems unaware of or uninterested in European semiotic theory, with the exception of Foucault, whom he discusses in connection with Triton. He does invoke briefly the old Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, which has been a bone for many SF writers to gnaw on for years, but as he himself suggests, Delany's fiction seems to move beyond that concept rather quickly. Nor does Barbour seem especially interested in connecting Delany's work to earlier works of SF; perhaps he has to some extent fallen prey to the temptation to "legitimize" his subject by the invocation of only the loftiest antecedents. But isn't it possible that Heinlein has as much to do with The Fall of the Towers as does Robert Graves?

These are relatively minor complaints in a book as rich in insights as this one is, though they tempt me to the conclusion that the book is more for students of Delany in particular than for students of SF in general. Barbour's account of Delany's growing mastery over such techniques as synaesthesia and "multiplexity," his argument that Dhalgren is more indebted to Thomas Mann than to James Joyce, his explanation of the growing recursiveness of Delany's later fiction, are only a few of the things I learned from this study. The complexity of the subject matter and the occasional stiffness of Barbour's style may prevent this from becoming a popular critical text among fans, but it is clearly a book which deserves wider attention than it has received on this side of the Atlantic. Far from being an example of critical overkill, Worlds Out of Words leaves one with the conviction--which Barbour wisely acknowledges--that there is more to explore in Delany's fiction than as been treated in this volume. And that alone comes as something of a relief.

--Gary Wolfe

Delany and Zelazny from G.K. Hall

Michael W. Peplow and Robert S. Bravard. Samuel R. Delany: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, 1962-1979. xiv+178p

Joseph L. Sanders. Roger Zelazny: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. xxx+154p. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980. S15.00 ea.

These two volumes in G.K. Hall's continuing series of author bibliographies, Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy (edited by L.W. Currey with Marshall B. Tymn as Advisory Acquisitions Editor), follow the same basic format that Gary K. Wolfe described in his earlier review of the first four titles published (SFS, 8 [1981]:224-26): introduction, primary bibliographies, secondary bibliography with selected annotations' various appendices, and two indices to primary works by title and secondary works by author and title. Unfortunately, these two volumes, unlike their predecessors, are not typeset; they are reproduced from typed, camera-ready copy. This change probably reflects G.K. Hall's concern with the cost of smaller press runs and with the reduction in length that typesetting would cause. The only problem that this creates is that the increased length means that readers must often flip back eight to ten pages to discover the publication year of a given item since dates are only listed at the beginning of the listings for a given year. It's strange that running heads were not used as a simple solution to this problem.

Before continuing with the few, peripheral difficulties of these two books, it should be noted first that they both do their primary jobs with skill and excellence. Following contemporary SF and fantasy writers through the quagmire of early published letters, high-school literary magazines, and often rare issues of amateur magazines to the readily available products of major publishers is a time-consuming and often frustrating task. With responsible indications of what has been omitted or undiscovered, Sanders and Peplow and Bravard succeed in accurately citing large numbers of primary and secondary works that will delight and enlighten even the most devout and conscientious of Delany and Zelazny followers. At times the arrangement of the volume is awkward and convoluted--as when Sanders provides full bibliographic information for some of Zelazny's novels, such as The Dream Master and This Immortal, only under their seed stories and doesn't repeat the information when the novels are listed later (they are, however, cross-referenced)--but with rare exceptions, both volumes supply full and correct citations to first and subsequent appearances. Their successes in this vital area of accuracy prove that the volumes are well done and well worth acquisition.

Where there are problems with the two volumes, they are in the areas outside of the bibliographic citations. Both introductions supply biographies and career histories, but while Peplow and Bravard's is strong, providing valuable information on the personal and creative relationship between Delany and Marilyn Hacker (among other things), Sanders' survey of Zelazny's life and career is painfully brief. On the other hand, Sanders' examination of Zelazny's fiction is far more energetic and insightful than Peplow and Bravard's. For example, the Delany introduction contains little discussion of his themes and his literary criticism, both major concerns. Both volumes selectively annotate the secondary studies. Peplow and Bravard consistently draw on the studies themselves for the annotations by using quotations, a debatable, though not incorrect, practice, while Sanders prefers to use his own prose. Perhaps more significantly, neither volume evaluates the secondary studies, staying for large part with descriptive statements. While it is acceptable to leave such value judgments to the researcher, such tags as "valuable," "superficial," "trivial," and "important" would be of help to anyone pursuing further understanding of either author. Also, the secondary section of the Delany bibliography lists a very odd group of items as "not seen." While such publications as The Alien Critic, LUNA Quarterly, and Riverside Quarterly might be difficult to find, certainly The CEA Critic, Locus, Foundation, and Extrapolation (the last three available in microfilm from Greenwood Press and in reprint from G.K. Hall/Gregg) are readily available. The strangest example of this is that a review in the December, 1974, issue of Extrapolation (D110) is listed as not seen, and two items later (D112), an article in the same issue that immediately precedes the review (pp. 81-85 vs. p. 88) is both seen and annotated. In addition, Peplow and Bravard irregularly list the pages for Delany references in larger studies, leaving the reader to wonder, for example, how extensive the discussion is and where it is in Brian Aldiss' Billion Year Spree. In short, the secondary section of the Delany volume, despite its valuable inclusions, is uneven and not as strong as the one in the Zelazny volume.

Both volumes include valuable appendices. The Delany has ones on juvenilia, unpublished speeches, and non-fiction, and Delany collections; the Zelazny, on nominations, awards, and honors; foreign-language editions; and Zelazny collections. Not included in the appendices are series and genre listings. These would have been very helpful additions, especially to the Zelazny volume. For example, if readers do not discover the entry for the Science Fiction Book Club's omnibus set of the five novels in the Amber series, where they are listed, there is no way that anyone would know they are related. There is nothing at all to indicate that Zelazny has a group of short stories featuring a sword-and-sorcery protagonist, Dilvish the Damned, which has recently generated the first novel in a trilogy (The Changing Land, 1981). In addition, the works of two authors like Delany and Zelazny, who write in a variety of genres and media, would be clarified by appendices that list these distinctions.

With numerous volumes forthcoming in this valuable series, it is time for the contributors and editors to reflect on the successes and failures of the previous seven volumes--Norton, Simak, Sturgeon, Williamson, and Verne (all published in 1980) in addition to the two under discussion here--and further strengthen the important contributions these bibliographies have already made. Certainly, as the Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy series continues into 1982 with volumes on three women authors (Anne McCaffrey, Leigh Brackett, and Marion Zimmer Bradley), Robert Silverberg, J.G. Ballard, Gordon R. Dickson, and Ursula K. Le Guin, it is a must for any library that takes its SF and fantasy collections seriously, and the individual volumes should be necessary acquisitions for any person seriously interested in any of the authors.

--Roger C. Schlobin

An Index of SF Criticism and Book Reviews

H.W. Hall, ed. Science Fiction Book Review Index, 1974-1979. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981. xx+391p. $78.00; Science Fiction Research Index. Vol 1. Bryan, TX: H.W. Hall, 1981 (prepublication photocopy; final published version due to be published September, 1981. 29p. S5.00). The Science Fiction Index: Criticism. An Index to English Language Books and Articles About Science Fiction and Fantasy. Bryan, TX: H.W. Hall, 1980. 6 microfiches. S10.00

Hal Hall's Science Fiction Book Review Index, 1974-1979 (SFBRI, 1974-79) along with his SFBRI, 1923-73 (Detroit, 1975) joins Contento's Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections (Boston, 1978), Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (Detroit, 1979), and Sargent's British and American Utopian Literature 1516-1975 (Boston, 1979) as a painstaking work of scholarship and an invaluable reference tool for SF scholars and critics. SFBRI, 1974-79 is a handsome and sturdy volume and, given the outrageous price of hardback books these days, the $78.00 one has to pay to acquire it for one's personal library does not appear too unreasonable. This five-year cumulation since SFBRI, 1923-73, indexes about 15,600 reviews of some 6,200 books treated in approximately 250 general and specialized periodicals. These figures support what many of us suspected and what the Gale News Release proclaims: "that is, more reviews of more science fiction titles appeared in the past five years (1974-1979) than during the entire fifty years (1923-73) already indexed."

Similar to its companion volume, SFBRI, 1974-79 is divided into five sections. There is a useful "Introduction" detailing the scope of the Index, its arrangement and instructions on "How to Read a Citation." Readers may disagree with Hall's assertion that while "stories which may be classed as science fiction date back at least to H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, fiction really began as a separate literary genre in 1926 with the birth of Amazing Stories, the first magazine devoted exclusively to science fiction." And readers of this journal may justifiably feel slighted by Hall's curious omission of SFS as one of the journals of the Science Fiction Research Association. (He mentions only Extrapolation!)

Like its predecessor, SFBRI, 1974-79 has sections on "Abbreviations" and a "Directory of Magazines Indexed." Here again, while SFS is listed in the Directory, and while it appears as "SFST" in the "Author Entries," there is no entry for this journal in the "Abbreviations" section. A reader might be able to figure out the "SFST" entry, but the key is missing, and that is annoying.

The core of SFBRI, 1974-79 arranges reviews by the author's real name, with cross-references for pseudonyms. Co-authors and editors are given (but in the "Title Index"), with book-titles listed alphabetically as well as their reviews, which are cited under each title. The final section is the "Title Index," listing the book and its author.

The SFBRI is an immensely useful research tool. An index of reviewers would have made it even more helpful, particularly if one is interested in researching the development of SF criticism by selecting individual critics. However, such a deficiency does not significantly detract from the overall importance of Hall's work. Hall's Science Fiction Index: Criticism (SFI) with its subject index supplement, Science Fiction Research Index. Vol. I (SFRI), is already another useful research tool. Available at the moment on six microfiches only, the SFI is due to be completed by "mid-1982" (author's letter to reviewer). It provides information on 4,350 books and article dealing with SF and fantasy in English. The index consists of four parts: (1) a Bibliography consisting of all the items cited in the index arranged in numerical ("accession") order, with author, book, or article title, citation, year and subject heading; (2) an Author Index; (3) a Subject Index, consisting of "a set of standard terms to provide subject access to the articles and books"; (4) a Keyword Index, i.e., a keyword-in-context (KWIC), in which the reader locates the keyword and the accession number for the Bibliography.

Hall cautions the user that "this is an experimental index, utilizing computer techniques for data manipulation," and that the Subject Index is still not complete (with about one-half the entries having subject descriptors assigned). In a letter to the reviewer, Hall writes: "Since I need all the feedback I can get for this project, may I request your comments on the index in the form you see it here, and on the subject access which is provided. Does it meet your needs: Are there subject headings which should be added? Do you have any suggestions for improvement in the conceptual area?" Users should feel free to communicate their suggestions and criticisms to: Hal W. Hall, The Science Fiction Index, 3608 Meadow Oaks Lane, Bryan, TX 77801. This is an important project and deserves the support of all SF scholars. critics, teachers, and fans.

The SFRI vol. I is the first in a series of volumes titled Science Fiction Research Index, and is effectively the first supplement to the [SFI]." The SFRI updates SFI to 1980 and provides information on articles about "any subject within" SF. This supplement contains a little over 200 major subject-headings, an Author Index, and a section titled "Book Notes" containing a descriptive list of SF collections which have been indexed by subject. All three items will prove to be extremely valuable for anyone working in SF. One can only hope that Hal Hall's energy does not flag and that he can enlist others in assisting him to bring his projects to completion. I applaud his accomplishments.

-- CE

Writings about the Future

Yvon Allard. Écrits sur l'avenir. Montréal: La Centrale des bibliothèques/SERA, 1981. 99p. Can. $6.95.

Mr. Yvon Allard gives here an excellent annotated bibliography of major books published in French and dealing with the future, in fiction or otherwise. Allard's framework is very wide indeed, this bibliography being divided into three main sections: (1) prophecies and divinatory arts, including geomancy, palmistry, astrology and a subsection dealing with eschatology, millenarism and its modern avatars; (2) Utopianism, including Utopian fiction, and contemporary scholarship in that field; (3) Futurology and different types of semi-scientific prospectives à la Toffler, together with less ambitious works in contemporary planning and probability. If Allard's selection is quite eclectic, his annotations are short, clear, and to the point. The booklet contains 1,000 entries or so. This bibliography, which includes SF novels here and there but mainly deals with the periphery and outskirts of our field, will certainly be useful to many SF scholars. One would like to have at one's disposal an English equivalent.--MA

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