Science Fiction Studies

#51 = Volume 17, Part 2 = July 1990


Sturgeon's Law

Bill Warren. Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties. Vol. I,1950-1957. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1982. 485pp. $39.95. Vol. II, 1958-1962. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1986. 816pp. $39.95. Two-volume set: $65.00

These exhaustive, meticulous volumes by Bill Warren (assisted by researcher Bill Thomas) are an invaluable reference work for libraries and serious scholars of SF film. Together, they constitute an encyclopedic history of American SF movies of the 1950s, the formative period of the genre.

It is a personal history. Warren admits that he writes as a fan as well as a scholar and that he subscribes to no particular critical theory. His study is a labor of love, a homage to the films he cherished as a child: "I wish I could recapture the feeling of seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still for the first time again. It was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced [he was eight]. My heart was pounding and my knees were literally knocking together in excitement; I'd never seen anything like it before, and because of its newness to me, have never seen anything like it again" (I, viii). What sex is to the adolescent, SF films were to the boy Bill Warren.

Nevertheless, is his nostalgia for the thrill of "the first time" sufficient justification for these lengthy volumes (1301pp. in toto), "the most extensive survey of such a limited focus undertaken in the history of film scholarship" (II, xix)? Certainly there are numerous other histories of the genre (and Warren is familiar with them all, frequently citing books by John Baxter, John Brosnan, Alan Frank, David Pirie, Philip Strick, Don Willis, and many others). Yet the sheer number of studies could be said to testify to the continuing fascination with the films. Furthermore, Warren's guide has two particular advantages over other such histories: first, it is the most detailed and comprehensive; and second, it is written with wit and love. Warren seems to have almost total recall of the way films struck him when he first saw them as well as the ability to analyze them coolly in retrospect. It is important that someone of Warren's generation (which is also my generation) record his childhood responses to these films, and compare them to the way the films look to him several decades later, for they played an important role in forming the emotional and imaginative life of the "baby boomers."

SF films as we know them today emerged in the 1950s. Despite their gimmicky plots and formulaic repetition, they sparked something in the imagination of a young audience that led to much of today's SF and fantasy literature and film--to the work both of writers such as Stephen King and of filmakers including Joe Dante, Robert Zemeckis, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg. Consider also the wave of remakes of '50s SF films--Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, Invaders from Mars, The Fly, The Blob, Little Shop of Horrors, The Absent-Minded Professor (remade as a TV movie)--as well as all the recent '50s'-inspired SF films: Strange Invaders, Back to the Future, The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Teen Wolf, and My Stepmother Is an Alien.

Warren defines SF film by content and covers every film released theatrically in the US from 1950-62 with some significant SF plot element, excepting serials--almost 300 in all. For each, he gives a detailed plot summary and sometimes production history; he scrupulously assesses the script, direction, acting, cinematography, sound, make-up, and special effects; he quotes from contemporary newspaper reviews and cites more recent critics (often differing with them); and he provides occasional capsule biographies of screenwriters, producers, directors, actors, and special-effects technicians, some of whom he has interviewed. The encyclopedic wealth of information is impressive. Warren is meticulous about accuracy and corrects the errors of other critics. For example, he demonstrates how Frank D. McConnell's essay on The Creature from the Black Lagoon (Journal of Popular Film 2.1 [1973]:14-28) is undermined by McConnell's fundamental mistake about the plot of that film.

Volume I ends with useful appendices covering credits and casts; films in order of release; announced titles (of films that were never made); and SF serials of the 1950s; plus a generous subject, title, and personal name index. In addition to all these, Volume II adds an addendum of six films overlooked in Volume I and a selective bibliography for both volumes. The lively cover art for both books is by Cathy Hill, and the charming cartoons inside by Marc Schirmeister. There are also many black-and-white photos, although this is by no means an illustrated history or coffee-table book; the bulk of it is well over 1,000 pages of fairly small print.

Warren organizes the movies by year, with those released in a given year arranged alphabetically. This leads to occasional anomalies, as when I Was a Teenage Frankenstein precedes I Was a Teenage Werewolf (Werewolf begat the entire "teenage monster" film cycle). However, this should not bother the average reader, who is going to consult the book as a reference, not read it consecutively.

Warren's exhaustive survey illustrates once again the validity of "Sturgeon's Law": that 90% of SF (or of anything, for that matter) is crap. Warren admits to constantly "looking for a few moments of quality among hours of dreck" (II, 396). Of the almost 300 films, he rates perhaps 30 as good or great. Thus Warren is forced to spend most of his time making fine distinctions between levels of rottenness. He discriminates carefully between the agonizingly bad, the unredeemably moronic, the thoroughly mediocre, and the laughably camp: "Pictures like Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land are above, beneath, or beside criticism" (I, 82); "those unsung heroes of science fiction...the Bowery Boys, spunky but stupid, the way you like them" (I, 76); "This film [The Deadly Mantis] is so perfunctory that it almost seems that no one at all wrote it or directed it; it just appeared" (I, 335); "Cat-Women of the Moon is one of the most alarmingly awful films in the history of movies" (I, 105), though its naiveté, he finds, is "screwily charming" (I, 109). He sifts painstakingly through 300 films, searching for nuggets of pleasure against heavy odds, believing that "each and every [SF] film should be examined in detail by someone who loves them...if for no other reason than to satisfy simple curiosity: I'm a collector and insatiably curious myself, and there are others like that" (II, xx). For this reason, he deplores smug critics like Harry and Michael Medved, whose Golden Turkey Awards he claims evince little love for film.

As he plows amiably through the trash, Warren occasionally stumbles upon discarded gold: rarely seen or underrated films such as Enemy from Space (1957), one of the British "Professor Quatermass" series written by Nigel Kneale; Val Guest's The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1962), a fine British drama too adult for the kiddie crowd; and Karel Zeman's The Fabulous World of Jules Verne (1961), a Czech feature that eschewed Hollywood "realism" for a fanciful style inspired by woodcut illustrations in early editions of Verne. Warren rates Zeman's film the best of the entire period (I've never seen it, but he made me want to).

Warren divides the history of American SF films in that era into three phases: from 1950 to 1955, the films are spurred by "novelty and 3D" (II, xvii) and aimed at adult and family audiences; between 1956 and 1958, there is a renaissance as SF films begin to specialize to compete with television and are released during the spring and summer to reach an audience of children, teenagers, and the drive-in crowd; and in the 1959-62 period, a decline sets in. "At the beginning of the decade, SF movies were a part of the movie industry at large; by the end, they had moved off into their own little niche" (I, xi). In other words, they had moved into a ghetto--although it was not exactly congruent with the ghetto occupied by print SF.

The films became cheaper and more formulaic as the decade wore on: radiation explained every menace; male leads were bland and interchangeable team players, young scientists or military men, and female leads were characterless; and the visual style was "gray, flat, and 'realistic,'" a cheap, semi-documentary style popularized by crime and espionage films of the late '40s and early '50s and by television's Dragnet (I, xiii). In subgenres, such as the "monster bug" cycle begun with Them! (1954), "the films became so similar as to take on the aspects of ritual" (I, xii). Warren credits the reissue of King Kong in 1952 with inspiring the giant insect films and It Came from Outer Space (1953) with introducing the typical '50s' SF film hero and the characteristic desert setting. The decline of the genre came through repetition and dilution and the rise of Hammer and other studios which revived the old horror monsters with new sex and gore.

My main quarrel with Warren's project is its excessive length, especially in the gargantuan Volume II. Entries in Volume I average about three pages per film (more for major films), which seems about right for the quality of most of these products; but entries in Volume II average almost five pages each. Warren explains that he was able to see more of the later features because of their availability on videotape and so wrote more about them. Nevertheless, he admits that the genre from 1958-62 was in decline. Why then devote seven pages to "a cheap little shocker" (II, 40) like The Brain from Planet Arous (1958)? Or why, after admitting that "in the face of all this attention, there really isn't much more to be said about...[Plan Nine from Outer Space (1958)]" (II, 154), does he give us ten full pages on this notorious stinkeroo? Warren can be an acute and marvelously well-informed critic and scholar, but some of the writing here betrays the fanatical interest in trivia of the fan or the completist collector.

Nevertheless, without that obsessive drive, we would not have this book. It was a nasty job, but somebody had to do it, and thank goodness Warren did it with wit and respect for the genre, even for its most debased specimens. By winnowing the gold from the garbage, Bill Warren has performed a service of great value to future scholars, if only by relieving them of the chore of having actually to watch all those abysmal films!

--Andrew Gordon University of Florida, Gainesville

Rediscovering Science-Fiction Art

Robert Weinberg. A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1988. 347pp. $49.95

It is important to observe, first of all, that this book very successfully accomplishes what it sets out to do. "This is the first book of any note to cover in depth the science fiction art field. It is not an art book but a book about artists," Weinberg claims (p. viii); and the claim is not excessive. His introductory essay on the history of SF art is a detailed, thoroughly researched account which, almost as a by-product, serves equally well as a capsule history of SF publishing. His section of 279 artist biographies--the meat of the book--is endlessly fascinating, with detailed bibliographies of the artists' work in the field which collectively constitute a monumental achievement in themselves. And his concluding essay, "Science Fiction Art: What Still Exists," is an informative and at times heartbreaking account of how thousands of original works have been destroyed to save storage space, or sold at flea-market prices as promotions, or given away by publishers or editors with no thought of the artists' interests. The very unfamiliarity of many of the artists who have entries in this book is additional testimony to the suspicion that SF art has suffered under the double curse of being a marginal art form attached to a marginal literature in ephemeral publications. At least the authors still had their stories when the pulp era ended!

Weinberg's study is exhaustive and enormously impressive, but in some senses its title is misleading. Throughout his text, he refers to "science fiction art," and this is indeed what the book is about--art which, for the most part, has accompanied the publication of SF magazines and novels. He makes no ill-advised attempt to define "science fiction art" as any more than this--he does not try to delineate some "S-F" tradition in the history of painting that would give him license to go on about everyone from Bosch to Magritte to Escher; and indeed, these artists are not present. But the rubric "fantasy art" does create some problems, since there is arguably a tradition of fantasy art quite separate from the history of illustration, and a tradition of fantasy illustration quite separate from the (largely American) 20th-century popular books and magazines which are Weinberg's forte.

Weinberg seems aware of this problem when he states in his introduction that "mainstream illustrators who worked in a fantastic vein but had not ever illustrated science fiction were not included. The same judgment also applies to children's artists and early fantasy artists, such as Arthur Rackham, whose names were primarily associated with children's literature" (p. viii). Very well--there go W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill of the Oz books, along with Tenniel, Doré, Howard Pyle, Edward Detmold, Heath Robinson, Kay Neilsen, and even Rudyard Kipling. Yet Sidney Sime makes it, perhaps because his work on Dunsany and Machen connects him to authors somehow closer to the mainstream of modern fantasy and horror literature.

Elsewhere, however, exclusions seem less explicable. Weinberg's impressive work on pulp artists--he actually conducted extensive primary research by sending questionnaires to hundreds of artists--still omits George Rozen of The Shadow fame and Walter Baumhofer of Doc Savage (despite the fact that Baumhofer is given prominent mention in the introductory essay and that an interview with him is cited in the bibliography). Artists largely associated with film are also treated unevenly. Syd Mead, who did so much to create the "look" of Blade Runner, is here, but H.R. Giger, who did at least as much for Alien, is not. Nor is Brian Froud--perhaps because his major film, Dark Crystal, was a fantasy. Ralph McQuarrie is included, for his work on Lucas and Spielberg films, but not Carlo Rambaldi, whose "cute" aliens for Close Encounters of the Third Kind have proved to be such an unfortunately durable concept.

There is little doubt that collectors could find numerous unfair omissions or inexplicable inclusions. But my only real complaint is that it is misleading to title a book A Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists when the focus is on SF artists alone and when the introduction clearly states an intention to exclude whole categories of fantasy artists. That complaint noted, let me now demote it to the status of a minor quibble. Weinberg's work is so ground-breaking, his research so arduous, and his precursors in this field so generally unhelpful (except that they had illustrations and he doesn't) that we must regard this as charting virtually unexplored waters. There is nothing really to compare the book to, and there is not likely to be a more complete such book in the near future. Weinberg deserves the thanks of anyone seriously interested in what we might call the cultural history of SF, and his book belongs in any collection that purports to represent that history.

--Gary K. Wolfe Roosevelt University

J.G. Ballard's "Terminal Irony"

Peter Brigg. J.G. Ballard. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont Press, 1985. 138pp. $6.95 (paper)

Despite a number of irritating "warts," this study of Ballard's entire oeuvre manages to accomplish some useful tasks economically. Brigg has interesting things to say about the basic shape of Ballard's fiction; he offers a fair number of pithy observations, in passing, about particular works; and his chapter on The Atrocity Exhibition is a concise intelligible reading of that most complex novel. In addition I would like to single out the well-made bibliography for special praise. The chronological primary bibliography is comprehensive, and the secondary bibliography is thorough and annotated. The decent apparatus makes this volume far more useful than many another Starmont monograph.

As with the other Starmont guides, this one attempts to analyze the entire canon of the author in approximately 100 pages, and the limitation doubtlessly accounts for a somewhat breathless tone. Brigg begins with an introductory chapter that situates Ballard both as an SF writer and a contemporary "experimental" writer and then lays out a set of thematic coordinates that Brigg will use in subsequent chapters. The bulk of the book consists of a long chapter on Ballard's early short fiction; chapters on both of the "disaster" trilogies; and an extended reading of The Atrocity Exhibition, Ballard's most consistently experimental work. The final chapters address in a more cursory manner Ballard's later fiction through Hello, America (1981), and an epilogue mentions his 1985 non-SF novel, Empire of the Sun.

Brigg's thesis is that Ballard has fashioned a mode of composition that makes him a literary cousin to the surrealist painters, especially Delvaux and Ernst. In the distorted psychic landscapes of surrealism, Ballard finds a model for his own obsessions with the welter of pictorial and televised images of death, violence, sex and gross materialism that constitute the reality of post-modern European and American life. For Brigg the typical Ballard story assembles cultural icons and commodified objects in such a way that all objects have more or less equal subjective value. This sheer paratactic proliferation of "things" makes it all but impossible for the reader or the characters to organize the exterior world in a way that would subordinate it either in a collectively coherent manner or to the satisfaction of the individual ego. Thus while external representation is viewed as a kind of psychic road-map, it is of a psyche displaced, sterilized, and attenuated--poised in a way that it threatens to vanish into the interstices of the commodified world. In a style that juxtaposes the iconic with the clinical, Ballard pushes his "protagonists" into a kind of negative self-knowledge that is, in Brigg's words, "more grim dare than romantic hope." Ballard's fictional world is a "horizon line at which inner and outer realities fuse uncompromisingly" (p. 17).

Brigg's name for this psychic condition of the Ballardian hero is "the death of affect" (p. 16), a continual deadening of human reaction and concern for other people as a result of the continuous mass violence of the century and its monotonous reproduction and repetition by the mass media. Most interesting is Brigg's connection of Ballard's obsession with the "death of affect" with a more underlying and insistent hatred of "time," so that these grim parables of the death of the subject become as well a kind of quest for a perverse and ambivalent transcendence that is either a post-human rebirth or "terminal irony" (p. 74). This thread is traced from the early disaster novels, through The Atrocity Exhibition, to a culmination in the later work, with its increasingly lyrical pursuit of figures of transcendence in a mythic landscape somewhere after the end of the American empire. Ballard becomes a strangely religious writer.

Despite some genuine virtues in this study, there are far too many surface glitches which will irritate anyone trying to read through it. The prose is by turns purple, lax in construction, and often ungrammatical to the point of incomprehensibility. Part of the problem may lie with the editor since any of these flaws could have been contained by a competent blue pencil. Either the book wasn't edited at all, or the editor made "soup" out of previously intelligible English. Sometimes this carelessness has serious consequences: for instance, the opening paragraph of chapter 4, wherein Brigg attempts to address Bruce Franklin's important critique of Ballard, is utter nonsense at the most elementary level of composition. From context it is impossible to tell whether Brigg just doesn't know what he's talking about or an editor has created babel out of an important part of the argument (a possibility left open in view of other Starmont guides that I am familiar with).

Finally, I have some reservations about Brigg's conception of Ballard's place in contemporary SF. First, it seems to me that Brigg is reductive in his treatment of the goals of "classic Anglo-American" SF. It is simply unfair to treat writers like Heinlein and Asimov--whatever their faults and despite Ballard's views--as though they wrote merely what we might call "westerns-in-space." This excessive harping on the conventionality of ordinary SF is too simple, and it makes Ballard's experimentalism seem more outside of SF than is necessarily the case. Whatever polemical need Ballard had to set himself against magazine SF, it is ahistorical to see him as too sui generis, especially in light of a mode of production that had already produced writers as distinctly experimental as Sturgeon, Bester, and Cordwainer Smith.

Most problematical, however, is Brigg's failure to confront in an adequate manner Franklin's claim that when Ballard "makes the psychology of the individual the cause rather than the product of the death oriented political economy" (p. 67) this is not simply a neutral aesthetic choice; it has ideological consequences, consequences that might open up a more complex and problematical reading of Ballard's relation to SF as well as to the rest of those various textual strategies yoked under the term post-modernism. This reading would not pre-emptively "write off" as power fantasy or innocence SF's almost mystical adherence to the possibility of futures.

Brigg's analysis makes clear that Ballard's concern with the attenuation and sterilization of the ego in a world of iconic overload is related to the general displacement of the priority of the classical subject by system. Yet regardless of how displaced, attenuated, or sterilized it is, the subject as isolated consciousness still commands the center of Ballard's fiction. As Samuel Delany has pointed out many times, for SF the axis of concern is different. The convention of the future allows even the most pedestrian of SF texts to be written from the position of the historical object in its plurality and heterogeneity without catachresis. The future is thus not so much a projective power fantasy or (as it is increasingly in Ballard) an ironized lyrical absolute, but a complex dialogue with a present that no longer need be a metaphysical given.

Thus while Brigg uses Ballard's sarcastic description of the American SF community of the 1930s through the '60s--a description that mocks its subcultural convivialities, group living experiments, and collaborations--as a straightforward protest against the encroachments of "groupthink," another reading might see it as a rather fussy throwback to that most conservative and "literary" of modernist and romantic clichés, the isolated creative artist. As well, Ballard's easy juxtaposition of technological excess with sexual perversion, especially as it regards the sexuality of women, may have unpleasantly reactionary implications, whatever Ballard's personal views--aesthetic conservatism as ethical failure of attention.

Whatever its backslidings and betrayals of potential, SF as a paraliterary mode of production may still be the most interesting site for a post-individualist writing practice. For that reason, one might want to argue that Ballard's seeming commitment to a more conservative "literary" practice is less a transcendence of SF's naiveté than a failure to exploit some of its most fertile possibilities.

--Dennis M. McGucken Millsaps College

Methodologically Questionable

Marleen S. Barr. Alien to Femininity: Speculative Fiction and Feminist Theory. [Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 27] Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1987. xxv+189pp. $35.00

In this book, Marleen Barr forsakes the traditional methods (though not the trappings) of the "male-oriented" academic thesis in favor of the "patchwork quilt" approach, which some feminist theorists regard, properly, as more reflective of women's voices and concerns. Her goal, to link feminist critical theory with speculative fiction by women, is certainly worthy of the attempt. Her method involves juxtaposing passages from theory, real-world examples of women's experiences (including her own), and discussions of fiction, both "mainstream" and speculative, frequently by less well-known writers. Bringing these writers to our attention with sustained quotation and summary is one of the book's real strengths. Barr's stated purpose, however--"[to bring] the following boys and girls together: male speculative fiction critics and readers, feminist critics, and female speculative fiction writers" (p. xiii)--raises some questions in regard both to the subsequent choices she makes and to the way she implements her method.

The book is divided into three sections. "Part 1: Community" contains chapters on "Immortal Feminist Communities," James Tiptree, Jr, and "Female Time Travelers," and considers along with these subjects the criticism of Nina Auerbach, Judith Fetterly, and Annis Pratt. "Part 2: Heroism" juxtaposes chapters titled "New Incarnations of Psyche: World-Changing Womanists" and "Heroic Fantastic Femininity: Woman Warriors" with the work of Carol Pearson, Katherine Pope, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, and Xavière Gauthier, among others. "Part 3: Sexuality and Reproduction" discusses phallocentrism and reproduction in relation to the writing of Nancy Chodorow. It should be noted, though, that this list of headings is potentially misleading, as is the title of the book itself, which in view of its actual subject matter, might more accurately have been called "Sexuality and Reproductive Technology in Recent SF by Women."

Problems with incomplete categorization and shifting categories emerge in the introduction and persist throughout Alien to Femininity--as when Barr presents "Anglo-American, French, reader response, and psychoanalytic" as distinct "modes of feminist discourse" (p. xiii). This at times makes for considerable overlap between chapters--e.g., in the discussion of medical technology and childbirth. It occasionally produces confusion as well--the case, for instance, with Barr's handling of artificial insemination as a topic of discussion for feminist theorists and as a motif in speculative fiction. Here she seems to confound a number of issues, especially in comparing the forced insemination of women for the purpose of making them breeders (e.g., in Kate Wilhelm's Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang) with the laboratory procedures that heterosexual couples who wish to have children may resort to in real life. While Barr treats both merely as tools of patriarchy, she approves of artificial insemination outside the laboratory or hospital by lesbian couples wishing to bear children with a minimum of male participation, whether in the fictional or the real world. Perhaps such a distinction is finally warranted; but the grounds upon which it is made need to be clear, and some attention needs to be given to the differences between the use of such motifs as fictional metaphors and the real-life adoption of such methods as techniques of feminist resistance.

Then, again, Barr seems to skew certain texts to fit a particular critical perspective. For instance, in arguing for Charnas's Motherlines as a less radical solution to the "male problem" than Tiptree's "Houston, Houston, Do You Read?," Barr claims that the Riding Women "neither fight nor kill to remove men from their environment" (p. 8). But men who stray into their territory are in fact hunted as animals. We learn, as does Alldera (the central character), that the Riding Women have chosen not to rescue women or to massacre men in the Holdfast simply because they are afraid that doing so would threaten their own existence. More importantly, Barr later omits Motherlines altogether from her discussion of cloning as a metaphor for escape from male-dominated reproductive technology and as a device for establishing communities of women capable of the full range of human activity, including heroism, without reference to men. Since Charnas creates a fictional situation in which whole lines are being lost and others are suffering from progressive weakening of genetic strains because the women do not have the technical know-how to overcome the problems, it is clear that she does not intend her audience to read a reproductively self-sufficient community of women either as an unmixed blessing or a practicable solution to "the man problem."

One last problem about Barr's method of juxtaposition is that it at least partly depends on an audience willing to suspend its expectations regarding traditional academic prose--an audience she is more likely to find among the already-converted than among male readers resistant to feminist thought and/or to female writers of SF. This is all the truer inasmuch as she largely presents feminist theorists in the form of block quotations from their work without the kind of explanatory commentary that would allow the uninitiated to understand them. The net effect is of one "preaching to the choir," and not altogether coherently, since obstacles to communication intrude at every level down to choice of diction. Her impassioned book has some value for those interested in its subject, but it could definitely have benefited from a strong editorial hand.

--Carol D. Stevens Eastern Illinois University

A Herbert Bibliography

Daniel J.H. Levack, comp. Dune Master: A Frank Herbert Bibliography, with annotations by Mark Willard. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1988. xx+176pp. illus. $35.00

Levack and Willard's Dune Master began with the intention of listing "all the published works of Frank Herbert through early 1987," with certain exceptions. The compilers chose not to include "Published letters, interviews and book reviews"; and some other material--much of Herbert's newspaper writing--proved too elusive to track down. Their aim was ambitious, given the variety of materials from fiction to film that lay before them.

One audience the book was clearly intended for was collectors, who will use it to identify editions found at used-book sales. As an example of the information a typical entry contains, consider the following from page 38, listed under The Great Dune Trilogy, a cover title for a collected set of Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune:

Gollancz, London (L. 6.95), 1979.*

Bound in dull red paper with gold lettering on the spine. "1979" on the title page. No indication of printing or edition on the copyright page. Jacket by Terry Oakes.

A "" precedes the entry, meaning that a reproduction of that edition's cover has been included in the bibliography's appendix. The asterisk following the date means that the compilers "physically examined" the edition.

The user should be warned that the compilers' inclusion of listings for items they have not seen may have produced some "ghosts." For example, the entry for The Jesus Incident lists 11 editions, 6 of which the compilers actually saw. Of 8 editions of The White Plague listed, the compilers saw 5. They saw 5 of the 6 listed editions of Heretics of Dune. In most cases, the unexamined editions are paperback printings, often British or of foreign translations. The compilers candidly admit that especially in the case of foreign editions their work is incomplete.

The bibliography will be important to students of Herbert for its inclusion of some information not hitherto available. One of the sources Levack and Willard used was Timothy O'Reilly's Frank Herbert (NY: Frederick Ungar, 1981), but two other sources are not in print. The first, the "starting point," is "the extensive bibliography that Charles E. Yenter of Tacoma, Washington had been compiling for many years...." The second, a mine of material that will surely be worked in years to come, is the special collection of Herbert's letters, manuscripts, and books at the Library of California State University at Fullerton. For some reason, Levack and Willard did not think it "appropriate" (their word) to give a detailed description of the collection, but they do have a short listing of the manuscripts of both published and unpublished works to be found there.

As an extended illustration of both the strengths and weaknesses of the bibliography, we may examine its treatment of one of Herbert's most obscure works, a poem of about 450 lines entitled "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian." The easiest way to find a work in Dune Master is to first consult one of the checklists to see if there is an entry for the item. A bare listing of the poem's title, without date or place of publication, may be found in the section headed "Series and Connected Stories," surely not where one would look for a work that is neither a story nor part of a series. But "Carthage" also appears in the "Verse Checklist," so we know the poem is listed in one of the main sections. This is item 9 in the section "Non-Book Appearances," a gathering of works of all kinds--fiction, non-fiction, verse, even correspondence--that appeared as parts of collections of diverse material. There we find that "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian" appeared in Mars, We Love You, edited by Jane Hipolito and Willis E. McNelly (NY: Doubleday, 1971). The entry has no asterisk, which implies that the compilers did not see this work, so one wonders what the basis was of the paragraph that describes the content and mood of the poem. At least one reprinting unknown to Levack and Willard occurred: a British paperback reprint of Mars, We Love You, entitled The Book of Mars, "with an introduction by Issac [sic] Asimov," was published in London in 1976 by Futura Ltd., under the Orbit imprint.

Although Levack's introduction calls the compilation "probably close to complete in English-language appearances (except for newspaper articles) through early 1987," some reprintings have been excluded by design. As Levack says, "paperback editions of hardcover editions and reprints are not separately cited or normally even mentioned" (p. ix). Herbert's essay "Men on Other Planets" is no. 70 in "Non-Book Appearances," and the entry tells us it appears in The Craft of Science Fiction, edited by Reginald Bretnor (NY: Harper & Row, 1975: the actual date may be 1976). In keeping with Levack's statement above, Harper & Row's own paperback reprint by Barnes & Noble in 1976 is not listed. Yet the appearance of the essay in Timothy O'Reilly's The Maker of Dune: Frank Herbert, a Berkley paperback of 1987, is listed. It is hard to see the advantage of listing one paperback that the essay is reprinted in rather than another.

One section unlikely to be of much use is a list of "some representative works about Frank Herbert for the interested reader. It is not intended to be a complete secondary bibliography" (p. 152). The whole section headed "Works about Frank Herbert" has only 11 entries. One of those is the "Cliff's Notes" pamphlet on Dune. Another is The Dune Encyclopedia, a work only derivatively about the Dune stories and not about Frank Herbert at all. Dune Master is almost exclusively a primary bibliography, and this section adds little to the work's value.

But the materials included in this bibliography are so diverse that one may sympathize with the compilers even while disagreeing with some of their judgments. Among my own disagreements would be two: first, the inclusion of 21 pages of black-and-white reproductions of book covers of Herbert's novels, covers of magazines in which his stories appeared, and even an illustration from the Dune Calendar. This is one of the features that Levack says have been added in an "attempt to make the Bibliography both useful and entertaining" (p. ix). For some readers this goal may have been achieved, but others may have found 21 pages of secondary bibliography much more useful.

A second problematic decision, a more important one, was the size and nature of the annotations. The "Books" section runs from page 3 to page 69; of that space over 50 pages are exclusively annotation. Much of this is simply plot summary, although, as Mark Willard says in the "Annotator's Introduction," "in many cases I have tried to convey something of the mood/atmosphere/treatment of the work as I perceived it. While I usually tried for objectivity, opinions and value judgments have inevitably crept in, even if not deliberately included" (p. xix). It is hard to see for whom the annotations were intended. As they stand, they supply neither bibliographic information nor straightforward criticism. The user of this work should be aware that the bibliographic information it contains is much less than the book's 176 pages would lead one to expect.

Nevertheless, we may expect the book to have many users. Scholars interested in Herbert will necessarily consult it until something more specifically suited to their needs comes along. Collectors will find the physical descriptions helpful in their purchasing. And this close to Herbert's death, perhaps that is the most that one can ask.

--Walter E. Meyers North Carolina State University

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