Science Fiction Studies

#54 = Volume 18, Part 2 = July  1991


Karl S. Guthke. The Last Frontier: Imagining Other Worlds from the Copernican Revolution to Modern Science Fiction. Translated from the German original (Mythos der Neuzeit, 1983) by Helen Atkins. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1990. xiv+402. $35.00

When I was a high school senior, concern over free communication among scientists being frustrated by security regulations led me to a subject for a history term paper. Though it never reached the point I intended, I did learn something of the history of censorship from Roman times. I also discovered some pitfalls as well as fascinations of historical scholarship.

It would be equally frustrating and rewarding to read Karl Guthke's The Last Frontier in search of information about 20th-century treatments of aliens and alien worlds. Despite the title and subtitle, this study in the "history of ideas" concerns science fiction in a sense both broader and narrower than narrative art. Distinguishing features of the "genre" have always overflowed its banks, from narrative fiction to drama, poetry, film, and graphic illustration, just within the confines of the arts. Even the claim for prose narrative as the primary means of artistic expression has been vitiated by the films and merchandising with mass audiences and incomes that dwarf the inflated market for SF novels in the '80s. Furthermore, while scientifically rationalized speculation may be an art, it is not limited to the arts. Corporate and governmental planning, technological and economic forecasting, not to mention demographic and ecological research, are among the more obviously practical applications of the way of thinking singular to SF in the realm of literature.

Treated as philosophy rather than entertainment, moreover, fiction has always accompanied science; indeed, it is virtually inevitable that every scientific approximation of "truth" is eventually seen as a fiction. One problem SF has always faced as a kind of literary expression is that is "vocabulary," including concepts and structures as well as diction, refuses to stand still long enough to be absorbed into what J.R.R. Tolkien called "the pot of story." Overt fantasy may be timeless, because it can be true only in the imagination; scientific truths reign more briefly, imbuing their literary expression with an even shorter half-life. To be part of the tradition large numbers of writers and readers draw upon, SF must tap into existing structures (e.g., romance plots and character types), or establish a long-term, more or less abstract, hold on the popular imagination. The classical example of both is the "Frankenstein" motif, rooted in the myth of Prometheus (the "forethinker"), blossoming in the threat of virtually every new scientific discovery or invention.

Concepts holding up long enough to affect humanity's self-image may also be said to take on the aura of myth. Guthke's real subject, explicit in the introduction and implicit on almost every page of the book, better fits his original title, Mythos der Neuzeit. Starting from the cliché of SF as a "modern mythology," he ponders both the modernity and the mythicality of one particular fiction to which science began to give substance in 16th-century Europe. Idle speculation about the "plurality of worlds" had a prior existence, but the new astronomy placed other planets more or less like Earth in actual orbit about the sun. What these worlds were like and what if anything populated them has occupied a corner of the Western imagination ever since, reaching a truly mass cultural awareness in the industrialized world since the 1960s, when men actually landed on the moon and everyone within reach of mass media could see the whole Earth from space.

This fiction he finds modern in several ways, none of them unique to the 20th century. It coincided with and helped produce the "modern age" of European history, the period since the Renaissance. It is a fiction open to correction, a hallmark distinguishing the dynamics of modernism from the revealed knowledge of an earlier age. As new astronomical information and misinformation became available, scientific images of alien worlds and beings underwent change. Newton's laws in the 17th century gave them stability; the nebular hypothesis of Laplace at the end of the 18th gave them a history. Biological and cosmic evolution supported each other in the mid-19th century, at which time spectrum analysis also found Earth's physical elements throughout the visible universe. The "canals" of Lowell and Schiaparelli confirmed prior beliefs in an older Martian civilization; like its lunar predecessor, however, this phantom of the imagination would also be killed off by more reliable information. While today's space probes virtually deny the existence of intelligent life in our solar system, our universe is considerably larger than that of previous ages, and growing all the time, making it less possible than ever to close off speculation.

Plurality is also a "myth" in more senses than one. Guthke dismisses its static "archetypal" resonances, without which I believe its spread and endurance would be in doubt. Siding with Joseph Campbell and William Irwin Thompson over C.G. Jung and Robert Plank (and completely ignoring Claude Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes), he focuses instead on the role of this myth in symbolizing man's changing self-knowledge. While we continue to obtain more reliable scientific information about our planetary neighbors, Guthke's concern is the psychological projections we substitute for knowledge about alien beings. Whatever the medium or venue, he finds our hopes and fears always in the forefront.

Theological disputation was primary at first, Christianity having fossilized the Aristotelian/Ptolemaic view of the universe as a symbol of man's stable relationship with God, albeit punctuated by various supernatural and preternatural creatures of someone's prankish imagination. It was hardly prankishness that cost Giordano Bruno his life, however; the threat to Catholic hegemony posed by Copernicanism made intolerable his embrace of it and of atomic materialism and other heresies (much as Salman Rushdie's embrace of modernism today seems to have brought down on him the wrath of Islam). Hardly simple decorative entertainments, myths affect people's lives, both socially and individually.

Guthke argues that debate on the plurality of worlds shifted over time from theological to philosophic, scientific, and literary venues. Mythical overtones rarely disappeared, however, in arguments from analogy and teleology, or speculation over aliens' intellectual or moral superiority or inferiority. Clergymen often wrote about the idea of plurality, but so did anti-clerical writers like Cyrano de Bergerac and Voltaire, not neglecting its religious significance. From Fontenelle and Christian Huygens in the 17th century to Camille Flammarion and Garrett P. Serviss in the 19th, writers with some scientific credentials were also concerned with disturbing the moral universe of civilized man. Writers of poetry and fiction reflected the issue, but were largely overshadowed by practitioners of what was ostensibly "non-fiction," until the turn of the century.

Although Guthke uses SF in the usual sense as his launching pad, and often cites its detailed descriptions of unknown places and beings as a touchstone, his discussion of 20th-century literature (and scientific thought) is decidedly cursory, as may have been inevitable from its sheer mass. Identifying the last half of the 19th century as the Golden Age of the plurality question, he discusses several novels from the fin de sicle, most notably Kurd Lasswitz's Auf Zwei Planeten and H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Their angelic and demonic images of invasion he sees as paradigms for SF, the latest and most popular medium for expressing the concept.

While better informed on SF than many intellectuals browsing the stacks, Guthke seems to have had limited exposure. Most critics agree 90% of it is not worth reading, but not necessarily on the 10% that is. At its best, he argues, SF is philosophical literature "interpreting for the non-scientist the implications the present state of scientific knowledge has for our view of man" (23). It can be seen as serious, moreover, when we consider "the philosophical approach and original ideas they [its writers] bring to bear on the theme of the encounter with aliens, or the plurality of worlds" (30). Keeping alive a concern with the definition of mankind practically abandoned elsewhere, its planetary focus defines SF as a particularly modern literature for Guthke.

Clearly approving of Bradbury and Le Guin, as well as Borges, Dürrenmatt and Jünger, he identifies a number of other novels and short stories with a "theological" slant on aliens, but seems unaware of Olaf Stapledon. Of the three writers he gives the most coverage (limited to a brief section of the introduction), C.S. Lewis is plainly a Christian apologist. Arthur C. Clarke is most widely if perhaps erroneously known for fictional aliens clothed in images redolent of mythology. While the third, Stanislaw Lem, demythologizes the issue, he also deconstructs the means, scientific or other, by which we may know the alien, or anything else. Curiously, Guthke does not mention the last (but not necessarily correct) explanation Lem presents of the sentient ocean in Solaris as an "imperfect god."

Along the way, Guthke twits Arthur O. Lovejoy for misjudging the transformation Copernicanism worked in the Great Chain of Being (54-56), Marjorie Nicolson for making Kepler's Somnium a telescopic vision (84) and misstating the nature of its aliens (90-91), George Locke (367, n54) and other SF scholars (372, n59) for superficial analysis. It should also be noted that, while exhuming a wealth of material for the study of his theme, he at no point sides with any judgment on the objective validity of the plurality-of-worlds myth. Irony and sympathy go hand in hand in his analysis of how writers over the centuries handled this motif, and by extension, how we and our predecessors have defined ourselves by comparison with it. Throughout, Guthke points out not only ramifications of various conceptions of the alien but also the live tradition of this discussion, which precipitated the published arguments and counter-arguments.

The style is academic but highly readable, thanks in part no doubt to Helen Atkins' translation, and the table of contents and index are both useful. The major problem with the format is the lack of a bibliography, forcing the reader to comb the pages for Guthke's copious footnotes identifying specific texts examined. I also found a few odd errors in titles and details which may have resulted from inattention. Although The Last Frontier is of limited value in dealing with the literature of science fiction, it is invaluable for the study of SF in what it does accomplish, i.e., exploring and making order of the literature of long standing on the genre's central theme.

--David N. Samuelson  California State University, Long Beach

Butcher, William. Verne's Journey to the Center of the Self: Space and Time in the "Voyages Extraordinaires." Foreword by Ray Bradbury. London: Macmillan, 1990. xvii+206pp. 35.

Martin, Andrew. The Mask of the Prophet: The Extraordinary Fictions of Jules Verne. Oxford & NY: Oxford UP, 1990. xiv+222pp. $42.50

This past year's publication of two monographs by William Butcher and Andrew Martin marks an interesting milestone in international Verne studies: for the first time, all three of the most noted English-language scholars of Jules Verne now have books in print. Together with my own Jules Verne Rediscovered (see SFS #49:369), these works constitute a small but highly credible and ever-growing body of modern Anglo-American criticism devoted to this most widely translated of all French SF authors. Moreover (albeit entirely fortuitous), their individual thematic foci tend to complement each other quite nicely: my 1988 book targeted Verne's scientific and moral didacticism, Butcher's analyzes the spatio-temporal structure of Verne's narratives, and Martin's investigates the ideological sub-texts of imperialism and revolt which pervade the Voyages Extraordinaires.

Contrary to what one might surmise from its title, Butcher's Verne's Journey to the Center of the Self is not a psychological study of Verne the man (in a Freudian or Jungian sense) but, rather, a meticulous and wide-ranging structuralist/phenomenological study of how time and space function together in Verne's works. Butcher explains:

Responses to the general question of plots in literature have often employed terms like 'slice of life,' 'train of events,' 'narrative thread,' or 'point of view.' Their use of metaphorical objects that are already of dimension two, one, or zero means, however, that the key question of dimensionality is often begged. The vital problem, in other words, remains that of knowing how mappings can take place between the world and a one-dimensional succession of words; how space, even when divided in two, can begin to be 'temporalized.'

In simpler terms: how is the choice of particular journeys in time and space made? (2)

To answer this question, Butcher closely examines a variety of spatio-temporal structures and themes which undergird Verne's romans scientifiques: e.g., narrative patterns of linearity, arborescence, and circularity; their relation to and "symbiosis" (2) with fictional and nonfictional time (particularly evident, for example, in novels like Voyage au Centre de la Terre); Verne's innovative use of verb tenses and deictics (Le Chancellor, for instance, "constitutes apparently the very first novel in continuous prose written in the present" [132] and L'Ile à hélice "is apparently the first--perhaps only--one written in the third person and the present" [132]); the conflicting thematic presence in Verne's texts of closure vs. openness, invention vs. authenticity, scientific space-time vs. personal space-time, and so forth.

Butcher analyzes these aspects of Verne's narrative practice in the context of late 19th century naturalistic/realistic literary conventions--a canon within which Verne was forced to compose his fictions and against which he is convincingly shown to have rebelled again and again. To help illustrate his points, a number of Butcher's (sometimes difficult but very insightful) discussions are supplemented with graphs and charts: e.g., fictional time vs. narrative time in certain key works (31, 33, 35), cyclical plot structures (80), etc. But, as Butcher discovers (and openly admits in his conclusion), finding a definitive matrix for Verne's treatment of space-time is an impossible dream--similar, in some respects, to the ambitious (and Hetzel-mandated) goal of the Voyages Extraordinaires themselves in attempting to completely "map" the known and unknown universe.

Even at the end of our analysis, time and space in the Voyages, considered separately, remain largely mysterious entities. Neither is material nor immaterial, neither divinely-appointed nor created by man, and neither is detectable as a scientific object nor constructible as a literary subject. For Verne the positivist, the frustrating lack of physical data tends to lead time and space to be ignored; but for Verne the novelist-craftsman, they simply cannot be circumvented. Instead, the problem is transferred, subsumed into such typically nineteenth-century concerns as the relationship with other times and places, the nature of identity and difference, or the functioning of feedback systems. Time and space in the Voyages ultimately remain a loose bundle of conceptions and perceptions, defined above all in terms of each other. Although rarely imperceptible, they stay consistently and implacably unanalysable....

[T]he Voyages Extraordinaires seem to present themselves as a heroic and exemplary failure: they prove that even the most visionary survey of Nature's outstanding features cannot put the world back together again....Verne puts another nail into the remaining encyclopaedic aims of the Age of Reason; and contributes massively to what was to become the new uncertainty.

But in this book, as in the Voyages, it is not the end-product or the destination that counts; it is the journey itself. And Butcher goes well beyond most Vernian critics in his coming to grips not only with the author's complex rendering of space and time but also with the relation between Verne's son Michel and the posthumous novels of the Voyages Extraordinaires--fictions long known to have been (at the very least) partially rewritten or (at most) completely authored by the latter.

In summary, I know of no other study, in French or in English, which treats the spatio-temporal aspect of Verne's creative vision so comprehensively and incisively. In Verne's Journey to the Center of the Self, Butcher has very capably explored the conceptual framework in which Verne composed his fictions; and, as a result, he has effectively demonstrated Verne's "modernity" as a writer as well as his status as a genuinely literary (as opposed to scientific) prophet for the 20th century.

But be forewarned: for the anglophone reader who is not an aficionado of Verne and/or does not possess a Ph.D. in literary studies, Butcher's study may present a challenge. All French quotations remain untranslated, the arguments presented (while cogent) are dense, intricate, and presuppose a familiarity with the nomenclature of modern literary theory, and the many sub-chapter rubrics sometimes tend to fragment one's sense of exegetic continuity. Finally, the forward by Ray Bradbury, although quite impressive as a marketing accoutrement, is generally disappointing--mostly rehash and generic accolades--particularly when compared to his earlier essay titled The Ardent Blasphemers. As for Martin's (more easily read but equally insightful) The Mask of the Prophet, its title refers not only to Verne himself and to the many efforts made by French critics to discover his "true" identity, but also to the highly unique thematic/heuristic paradigm around which Martin's study is organized: i.e., the tale of a Masked Prophet in revolt against an Empire. The two-fold source of this story is (prior to Verne) Napoleon Bonaparte and (after Verne) Jorge Luis Borges--against whom Martin compares Verne. Martin explains his unusual modus operandi as follows:

To give an oblique impression of the sheer range of Verne's writing, and because it invites a double reading, I shall be invoking as models the work of two other, very different, writers (different from Verne and from each other)...Napoleon and Borges....Verne's extraordinary fictions persistently tell and retell, in multifarious forms, the story of a masked prophet who promises to reveal what is concealed. It is this recurrence that provides one of the many justifications for the seemingly arbitrary act of linking Verne with the names of Napoleon and Borges. For both of these writers tell essentially the same tale, archetypal in its implication and scope. (9, 14)

While freely admitting that the story per se of a Masked Prophet rebelling against an Empire actually appears in none of Verne's Voyages, Martin contends that it nevertheless constitutes--either explicitly or metaphorically--an ever-present politico-ideological backdrop to virtually all of them:

The Voyages can thus be read as an extended commentary on the narrative of the Masked Prophet, a set of variations on the infinitely rich themes the story contains. The fictions of Verne constitute a sequence of meditations on the ramifications of imperialism and its metaphorical counterparts. In particular, the Voyages explore both the avenues followed in the respective versions of the tale by Napoleon and Borges....The Vernian oeuvre might be said to enact the transformation linking Napoleon to Borges. (16-17)

To illustrate his point, at the outset of each chapter throughout The Mask of the Prophet, Martin reproduces excerpts from Napoleon's Le Masque prophte and Borges' The Masked Dyer, Hakim of Merv which then serve as catalysts to his own (ingeniously deconstructive) commentaries on a wide variety of novels from Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires.

Martin's often brilliant analysis of these novels in the light of Bonaparte and Borges succeeds in revealing the latent tension in Verne's narratives as the author strains to reconcile the irreconcilable: i.e., the bourgeois (Napoleonic) ideology of positivist codification/closure, imperialist expansionism, and strict uniformity of narrative discourse along with its symbiotic yet subversive (Borgesian) counterpart of decategorization/open-endedness, libertarian individuation, and ironic self-parody. In Martin's terms, the former characteristics constitute the hegemony of "Empire," the latter represent "Revolt," and the "Masked Prophet"--or "The Prophet of the Mask," as Martin suggestively titles his final chapter--is both the author himself and the Voyages Extraordinaires as literary artifacts from a specific historical era, both of which are disguising themselves to be something they are not. Moreover, as mediators of this ideological and narratological tug-of-war, Verne's novels also symbolize, in a more general sense, the tension-filled dialectical nature of literature itself: i.e., the perpetual interplay between the innovative and the normative, between creation and canon:

The narrative of the rise and fall, the expansion and fragmentation of empire encapsulates the destiny of all concentrations of power--political, intellectual, and linguistic. Verne is a condensation of the forces that issue in the great system-builders of his era (Comte, Balzac, Marx) and the de-systematizers (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Roussel), the metaphysicians and the ironists. The narrow obsessions of the Voyages Extraordinaires attain almost unlimited symbolic power, generating an encyclopaedia of the forking paths of the future, a labyrinth from which we have still not emerged. To speak of Verne is thus in some way to speak of all literature. (201)

Whereas Butcher's Verne's Journey to the Center of the Self is an in-depth elaboration of various narratological/structural(ist) analyses first sketched out by the French theorist Jean Ricardou and well-known Vernian critics like Franois Raymond, Jean Delabroy, and Jean Roudaut, Martin's The Mask of the Prophet follows in the footsteps of three very different French scholars whose earlier studies of the Voyages Extraordinaires offered a more archetypal/political/ideological perspective: Michel Serres, Jean Chesneaux, and Pierre Macherey. But both new books are worthy and welcome additions to the growing corpus of English-language scholarship on Jules Verne and its efforts to both defamiliarize and refamiliarize (i.e., to "unmask") for the Anglo-American public the multi-layered richness of Jules Verne's legendary novels.


Gaille McGregor. The Noble Savage in the New World Garden: Notes Toward a Syntactics of Place. Toronto: Toronto UP; Bowling Green, KY: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1988. 357pp. $33.95 cloth, $16.95 paper

Gaille McGregor has, in effect, combined three books in one in her Noble Savage in the New World Garden: a survey of the development and ever-changing import of the noble-savage concept first in Britain and then, in greater detail, in America; an extended account of the noble savage in the work of James Fenimore Cooper; and a discussion (mostly confined to the fifth of the book's seven chapters, "The Noble Savage Rides Again") of mainly American SF and fantasy in terms of their adaptations of the noble savage. What emerges--slowly--from the well-written but uncomfortably packed pages (of 600 or so words per page) of this detailed, comprehensive, densely argued, synthetic (McGregor draws particularly on Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden, Richard Slotkin's Regeneration Through Violence, and Raymond Olderman's Beyond the Wasteland), and overlong study is a story of the figure's rise and decline largely concentrated in the years 1810-40 and again, primarily in the context of SF and fantasy, in the years 1965-75. McGregor concludes her book with the claim that, although at the time of writing the noble savage would seem to be irrelevant, "The instablity of the American psyche...suggests that he will probably turn up again" (349). To judge from the success of the film Dances with Wolves (1990), he seems to have returned rather sooner than she might have supposed.

Linked to the documentation of these historical cycles is a quasi-structuralist "strategy for tackling what we might call the syntactic analysis of culture."

Assuming that landscape will play a key role in any colonial imagination, I began my quest with an examination of the convention in terms of which the earliest settlers were accustomed to image/structure their relations with nature. By the time this book began to take shape, my focus had zeroed in on the iconic figure whose attributes seemed most saliently to express/mediate/displace the problematic aspects of those relations. What I ended up with is at once a literary history of the Noble Savage in the New World and a metamorphology of the American mind. (10-11)

More specifically, what she ends up with is a grid of unstable oppositions-- negative and positive images of both nature and the city, all "in the context of America's mutually antagonistic and internally inconsistent urges toward heroism and ideality" (332)--which purports to explain the revolving permutations of possibilities, including those of rise and decline, for the noble savage in American literature. A diagram headed "The Unstable Modes of American Culture" (332) correlates four modes of heroism--the Saint (or noble savage), the Champion (as soldier or policeman), the Anti-hero (as madman or criminal), and the Adventurer (as pioneer or captive)--with the idyllic primitivistic Garden, with the idyllic progressivistic City of New Jerusalem, with the demonic World-machine, and with the demonic Wilderness, respectively.

This handy summary diagram is offered near this worthy book's conclusion, long after, I suspect, most wearied readers will have put the book aside. And it is all the more unfortunate that, lacking an index, there is no way that a reader can promptly access the often quite provocative things that McGregor has to say about certain of the very large number of works she treats.

My concern here, of course, can only be with the SF and fantasy portion of McGregor's treatise. This means passing over the first 206 pages except to note the surprising omission pf Mary Shelley's Rousseauistic monster in McGregor's chapter 2 sketch of "The Noble Savage in Britain," the single brief reference to "science fiction" (116), and three references to a critic named "Clark" (10, 136, 168; there is a fourth on page 311) who cannot be located in McGregor's extensive listing of "Secondary Sources Cited" (350-57). McGregor seems to be quite well read in SF and fantasy but, judging from the oddly assorted 11 book titles included in her "Secondary Sources Cited," rather less well in the area of SF and fantasy criticism and scholarship. She mistakenly identifies Peter Nicholls as a "British critic" (242; he is actually an Australian who lived in England for a period), and without any sense that she is being controversial, she alludes to "that sub-species of SF usually designated as fantasy" (289).

It is certainly not news that there are analogies to be drawn between the American Indian and the SF alien (and not just in transposed western space-operas), but McGregor is original in specifically exploring the noble-savage analogy. She is also to be commended for making use of both familiar and unfamiliar examples. However, the noble savage himself (almost never herself it would seem) is frequently diluted within more abstract discussions of the nature/city opposition and indeed, at times, disappears from view entirely. It seems to be consistent with the American ideology of escape, of which SF is a manifestation, that writers slide away from the confrontation with concrete particulars. In an account of "The Exemplary Other," after noting the savage in Huxley's Brave New World (1932) and locating a "prototypical version of the [SF] alien" as "ecological exemplar" (254) in P. Schuyler Miller's "The Cave" (1943), McGregor goes on to corral, among others, the problematic Michael Valentine Smith in Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), the Fremen in Frank Herbert's Dune (1965), and in particular, the protagonist in Herbert's mythic Soul Catcher (1972), which is not, strictly speaking, SF. Under the sub-heading "The 'Other' as 'Ego"' McGregor focuses on the "good" SF primitive alien who "becomes the locus of...sympathetic identification" (278). Le Guin's The Word for World Is Forest (1972) and Michael Bishop's A Funeral for the Eyes (1975) are among the representative works analyzed.

Under the sub-heading "Birth of a Champion"--one of the four modes of heroism--McGregor deals with various American kinds of fantasy: "pastoral" fantasy (which she distinguishes from "high" fantasy), "heroic-barbaric" fantasy, and "medieval futurism" (in both fantasy and SF forms). But few noble savages appear to be at large in these versions of fantasy; even the heroic-barbaric Tarzan is best described as a "savage noble" (299). All told, in fact, neither SF nor fantasy seems to have thrown up a noble savage as memorable as Chingachgook or Hiawatha.

--David Ketterer  Concordia University

Götz Müller. Gegenwelten. Die Utopie in der deutschen Literatur. Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1989. ix+371. DM 64

While the history of utopian literature in German lacks both the sheer quantity of the Anglo-American tradition and the incidence of such seminal works as More's Utopia or Bellamy's Looking Backward, it spans four centuries and includes texts by such noted authors as Wieland, Döblin, and Hesse. It is the more surprising that up to now there had never been an attempt to cover the history of German utopias in a systematic way. Hans Jürgen Krysmanski's Die utopische Methode, 1963, offers a discussion of several German utopias, but does not attempt a comprehensive historical survey. Other studies, such as Ludwig Stockinger's Ficta Respublica focus on a particular period, while Michael Winter's voluminous Compendium Utopiarium (which, so far as I know, has yet to be continued beyond early Enlightenment) presents merely an extensively annotated bibliography. Götz Müller's Gegenwelten thus aims to fill a major gap in the study of German literary utopias.

After a brief survey of the classical texts by More, Campanella, and Bacon, Müller discusses the critical reception of utopian literature. He rejects the common charge that literary utopias advocate totalitarian systems and emphasizes that the history of German utopias includes "Christian, Pietist, bourgeois, ascetic, hedonistic, nationalist, sentimental, mythological, and esthetic utopias" (8). It is the goal of his book to analyze this wide variety of utopian endeavor.

The body of Müller's book consists of a chronological survey of individual literary utopias, beginning with Andrea's 17th-century vision of a Christian city and ending with Arno Schmidt's complex intertextual thought-experiments in the 1950s. Müller's treatment of the subject is very comprehensive, and we find not only chapters on all the major texts (with the surprising exception of Hertzka's Freiland and Herzl's Altneuland, both discussed only very briefly), but also detailed information about many obscure works, such as Joann Heinrich Gottlob von Justi's Die Dichterinsul of 1745. Müller's main achievement is the way in which he weaves his discussions of many disparate texts into a coherent narrative, a narrative that always refers back to the larger literary and cultural developments in German and European history. Moreover, Müller (a professor of Modern German Literature at the University of Würzburg) writes in a very lucid style, a benefit not always to be taken for granted in the German academic tradition.

Overall, Gegenwelten is an admirable piece of work. The main criticism would have to be that Müller fails to cover the considerable number of nationalistic utopias written since the late 19th century (and especially during the Third Reich). Readers interested in this topic will have to turn to Jost Hermand's recent study Der alte Traum vom neuen Reich. Völkische Utopien und Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt/M: Athenäum, 1988). Furthermore, the fact that Gegenwelten ends its survey with the works of Arno Schmidt creates the impression that there are no more recent German utopias worth discussing. One would have expected Müller to mention at least a few of the utopian authors of the 1970s and 1980s, such as Carl Amery or Stefan Heym. Aside from the omissions, Müller's Gegenwelten is an extremely useful volume, valuable particularly in its comprehensive approach and its acute readings of individual works. This book should prove indispensable for any future student of German utopias.

--Frank Dietz Austin Community College

Al LaValley, ed. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Rutgers Films in Print Series. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1989. viii+230. $23 cloth, $13 paper

Al LaValley's meticulously edited volume on the original (1956) version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a fine casebook for film classes, particularly useful as a study of how SF films are made and received. It consists of an introduction, a biographical sketch of the film's director, Don Siegel, the complete continuity script of Body Snatchers, a post-production file including letters and memos between Siegel and Walter Wanger, interviews with Siegel, contemporary reviews of the film, a good selection of critical essays by Peter Bogdanovich, Stephen King, and others, including Nancy Steffen-Fluhr's 1984 article from SFS, a filmography for Siegel, and a selected bibliography of commentaries on the film.

As LaValley points out, Body Snatchers is an excellent film for study, since it is an "unstable text," "a locus of conflicts of authorship, genre, aesthetics, political ideology, and B-movie studio practice" (4). The film has been claimed both by the right, as an anti-Communist allegory, and by the left, as a critique of 1950s political conformity. The novel by Jack Finney can be considered politically centrist, since it evinces a faith in American institutions and science. But the screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring changed it into a cry of despair from the left, warning Americans that they were turning into totalitarian conformists. Don Siegel, in turn, was an action director trying to put his own signature on B-films. Although he was not interested in politics, he celebrates heroic individualism and attacks conformity in all his films (including the right-wing, Clint Eastwood vehicle, Dirty Harry [1971]). Producer Wanger was ambivalent: an anti-communist but no conservative, he criticized American complacency. But the messages in his films are often muddled, as he was torn between the desire to convey a didactic message and the desire to show a profit at the box-office. In post-production, Wanger fiddled with the film to make it more moderate and upbeat and to resemble conventional '50s' SF films more. The studio, Allied Artists, then got into the act, demanding and getting a framing story, voice-over narration, and a new, happier ending.

The continuing appeal of the film over the years, claims LaValley, derives not from its ambiguous political message but from its nightmare horror, which taps into deep fears: the fear of "passivity, sleep, loss of self, and death" (17). I would agree: Body Snatchers has outlasted its time not because of anything it says about the political climate of the American 1950s but because it is a skillfully crafted thriller, a blend of SF and horror with a documentary feel and an hallucinatory impact. Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake shows the continued relevance of the film's psychological themes. But for my money, Siegel's stark, low-budget, black-and-white original is better: Kaufman transfers the setting from a small-town to a city, which is less claustrophobic, and changes the characters into late-1970s' San Franciscans who are so laid back to begin with that you are not surprised when they turn into pod people.

The bulk of LaValley's book consists of the complete continuity script, along with a shot-by-shot breakdown, photos of many of the scenes made from frame enlargements, and notes specifying the differences between the various versions of the script. This labor of love creates a valuable resource for serious students of film.

The post-production file shows Siegel's and Wanger's changing and sometimes widely different views of the project, demonstrating the compromises of the collaborative art of film. Wanger gives an idealistic speech to the 1956 American Booksellers Convention, speaking out against totalitarianism and in favor of freedom of the press and of the filmmaker. Ironically, however, he is also plugging his latest picture and speaking out in favor of free enterprise, the freedom of both these media to make profits: "speaking for films that have been made under a system of free enterprise and have been successful at the box office, and that are critical of America..." (147). Here is Wanger's conflict in a nutshell: How to make films that are (supposedly) critical of America and yet still make money at the box office?

The interviews with Siegel give his own ideas on the film: "People are not who you think them to be and, ultimately, your greatest enemy is your own pod self" (157). Among other interesting details, Siegel reveals that he is a chronic insomniac, which might explain some of the film's paranoid intensity. Siegel suggested two alternative titles to Wanger for the film: "Sleep No More" and "Better off Dead." He also comments on how he got around the low budget and lack of special effects by emphasizing action and character.

The carefully selected critical essays cover a wide spectrum of approaches. Peter Bogdanovich celebrates Siegel as a B-movie auteur who managed against the odds to impose his personal style and bleak vision on otherwise routine material, overcoming low budgets through tight directing and editing. Stuart Kaminsky emphasizes Siegel as a genre director of mostly Westerns and crime films. Siegel's themes are consistent: his protagonists are torn between a total freedom which is madness and a total conformity. He offers no easy solutions and maintains psychological complexity in his characters. Ernesto G. Laura, Nora Sayre, and Peter Biskind do political interpretations of the film: Laura reads it as left-wing allegory, Sayre and Biskind as right-wing. Stephen King distinguishes between horror films which tap into socio-political fears (The Brood or The Exorcist) and more potent horror which taps into the unconscious. He places Body Snatchers in the latter category, saying, "I don't really believe that Siegel was wearing a political hat at all when he made the movie..." (200). Michael Paul Rogin, however, sees Body Snatchers as both political and psychological horror; "Nevertheless, its political consciousness, like that in cold war cinema generally, is subordinate to its sexual unconsciousness" (204). Rogin suggests that the pods really represent a fear of women, an idea that Steffen-Fluhr elaborates in the feminist, psychoanalytic essay which closes the volume. Noting that Becky in the novel was a heroine, but Becky in the film is a betrayer, Steffen-Fluhr argues that the film conceals a fundamental horror at the feminine, represented by Becky and those ovarian pods.

LaValley's book is useful for both fans and film scholars. As Stephen King says, "Over the years, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has given a lot of people the creeps..." (199). The continuing argument over how to read the film may simply be a testimony to its persistent psychological power; let us hope it will survive to give future generations the creeps. --

--Andrew Gordon University of Florida, Gainesville

Harriet Prescott Spofford. "The Amber Gods" and Other Stories. Edited & introduced by Alfred Bendixen. American Women Writers Series. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1989. xxxi+222. $35.00 cloth, $15.00 paper

Readers of 19th-century American literature have long considered gothic writing as inseparable from the now-gigantic figures of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. But Alfred Bendixen's edition of Harriet Prescott Spofford's short stories nicely dusts off the prevalence and popularity of the genre. Published throughout the latter half of the 19th century in such widely circulated magazines as the Atlantic and Harper's, Spofford's stories would have been read by thousands, including Emily Dickinson and Henry James, both of whom were Spofford's admirers. If the appearance of this edition helps to emphasize the popularity of gothic writing, it also, more significantly, clears the air of the idea, so abiding in modern commentary on American literature, that Emily Dickinson was the only woman writer of the period who took the perilous plunge into the psychotic underside of the American imagination. With their strange and sumptuous language, their wild scenarios, their unsettling exposure of the logic of madness and deception, Spofford's stories bring into relief the role of female writing in the development of an American tradition of the gothic. They illustrate that Emily Dickinson was not an aberration.

Two of the tales in Bendixen's collection, "In a Cellar" and "In the Maguerriwock," are clearly inspired by Poe. Both are detective stories, the one Parisian, like "The Purloined Letter," the other domestic, like "Thou Art the Man." But in some things at least Spofford outdoes Poe. "In the Cellar," for instance, offers a glittering evocation of those French diplomatic circles which in "The Purloined Letter" are distant and indistinct. Where Poe hints of odd connections between sexual and state affairs, Spofford dramatizes these outright in her detective's fascination with the political possibilities of the lovely and marriageable Delphine St Cyr. The plot of this story, one of Spofford's earliest, stumbles somewhat, but the plot of "In the Maguerriwock," written ten years later, does not. Wrought out of the legends of Yankee peddlers and American dreams of a rise from rags to riches, "In the Magurriwock" at once incorporates the intellectual and ethical complexity of Poe and anticipates the sheer formal mastery of Conan Doyle. Spofford's addition of folkloric detail to her detective story adds an element all her own to a genre otherwise known for urbanity and realism.

Spofford is at her best in those tales that feature madness and obsession, for it is here that her lush, eroticized language finds its mate in the dark desires of her protagonists. Two of the stories, "The Moonstone Mass" and "The Black Bess," concern the wild obsessions of their male narrators with the pursuit of adventure and gain. Like his predecessors-- Frankenstein, Arthur Gordon Pym, and Captain Ahab--the narrator of "The Moonstone Mass" deserts the warmth of home and fireside to chase his fortune across the seas and up the polar ice-fields. What he finds at last in his search for wealth is the very womb of the Earth's axis, a vortex of pure white reminiscent of Ishmael's nightmare, where a solitary giant moonstone holds court in the frozen emptiness. Such comments on the nature of masculine aspiration surface again in "The Black Bess," a tale about a train conductor obsessed with the raw power of his "iron steed." Forced, like the narrator of "The Moonstone Mass," to decide between his loving fiancée and the thrill of life aboard the "Black Bess," the protagonist chooses the latter. But he is driven slowly mad by the vision of his sweetheart stumbling helplessly across the tracks while the train, in all its monstrousness, bears down on her.

If many of Spofford's stories borrow from and elaborate the characteristics of male-authored American gothic, the most striking works in this collection turn that tradition on its head, articulating what might be termed a female gothic in their blatant transgression of Victorian norms for women. "The Amber Gods," for instance, stealthily enjoys and half revels in a narrator rivetted by her own beauty and fixated with her own erotic potential. Here, as Yone describes herself as one of the Amber Gods--a race apart-- Spofford's prose takes on a richness commensurate with her heroine's charged sensuality:

I'm a blonde, you know,--none of your silver-washed things. I wouldn't give a fico for a girl with flaxen hair; she might as well be a wax doll, and have her eyes moved by a wire; besides, they've no souls. I imagine they were remnants of our creation, and somehow scrambled together, and managed to get up a little life among themselves; but it's good for nothing, and everybody sees through the pretence. They're glass chips, and brittle shavings, slender pinkish scrids,--no name for them; but just you say blonde, soft and slow rolling,--it brings up a brilliant golden vitality, all manner of white and torrid magnificences, and you see me! I've watched little bugs--gold rose-chafers--lie steeping in the sun, till every atom of them must have been searched with the warm radiance, and have felt that, when they reached that point, I was just like them, gold all through-- not dyed, but created. (38)

Yone's weird fate in "The Amber Gods" is matched for horror in the fate of the female narrator of "Her Story"--in my opinion, the best work in the collection. The tale is told by a woman locked up in a sanitorium and trying desperately to defend herself against her husband's charge that she is mad. We never know whether or not she is. Her description of the vampiric girl who seduces her husband away and sends bats to haunt her eyesight is at once far-fetched and subjective enough to suggest that the girl was actually no threat at all and yet immediate enough to imply that she was. Some of Spofford's tales retreat from their startling subject-matter into conventional and even sentimental conclusions, but "Her Story" strides to the outer verge of the gothic premise, into that region where what is and is not sanity unfolds itself as so much guesswork. And more than any other tale in the collection, this one hovers at the tenuous borders so often occupied by Dickinson's narrators. What is being explored here, as in Dickinson, is a definition of female sanity.

Alfred Bendixen's introduction to these works provides a useful biographical and critical analysis of Spofford, though he does tend to prop up his evaluation on all the clichés of American literary studies. Spofford, for instance, rebels "against the moral heritage of New England culture" (xxiii), and her stories are said to reveal "an underlying skepticism about both human nature and human society" (xxii). Evident here is an effort to jostle Spofford's stories into line with modern assessments of what "great" American literature ought to talk about and not, unfortunately, an effort to understand her work in the context of the dominant literary paradigms of the period in which she wrote.

Spofford's stories may not be to everyone's taste. The early ones especially are typical of much 19th-century American writing in their digressiveness and journalistic detail. But for anyone interested in the development of American gothic and, more particularly, for anyone interested in the woman writer's role in that development, "The Amber Gods" will prove an absorbing and enlightening read.

--Sandra Tomc University of Toronto

Anthony R. Lewis, ed. An Annotated Bibliography of Recursive Science Fiction. Introduction by Barry N. Malzburg. NESFA Press (Box G, MIT Branch Post Office, Cambridge, MA 02139-0910), 1990. 8x11. vi+56. $6.00 + $1.00 postage

This is a list of SF stories and novels in which the characters, settings, or plots refer to other SF stories or novels. Bradbury's "The Exiles" is perhaps the best known of such stories. The members of the Lovecraft circle played at this game with some frequency. My favorite is Aldiss's "The Saliva Tree." The most recent is perhaps Harry Turtledove's "After the Suicide Wars" (Analog, April-May-June 1991), in which our heroine teaches Middle English SF at Saugus Central University, featuring such classic works as Pangborn's Davy (1964) and Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960).


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