Science Fiction Studies

#65 = Volume 22, Part 1 = March 1995

Not Ça Ira but Icarus.

Robert P. Sutton. Les Icariens: The Utopian Dream in Europe and America. U of Illinois P (800-666-2211), 1994. xiv+199. $26.95.

Icaria was not one of the more important nineteenth-century American communistic ideal societies, but its establishment and collapse constitute an interesting minor moment in history. In 1834 Etienne Cabet (1788-1856), a contentious French lawyer, journalist, and political activist, had the misfortune to fall into water so hot that he had the choice of two years in prison or five years in exile. Taking refuge in England, he read More's Utopia and became acquainted with Robert Owen, the founder of the New Lanark factory reform movement. With characteristic enthusiasm and self-confidence Cabet now recognized what was wrong with European society. To expound his socioeconomic conclusions, Cabet wrote a long novel (final title Voyage en Icarie). First privately published in 1839, then commercially reprinted, it became a near best-seller in France and a focal point for much of the social and economic turmoil that accompanied the local industrial revolution. The novelistic Icarie was essentially a Biedermeier eutopia, deistically Christian, family-oriented, totally communistic in all property, rigidly organized and paternalistically controlled (yet embodying social equality), work- focused, and appreciative of the arts. Karl Marx fittingly called it a petit-bourgeois world. A faddist short-lived Icarian movement arose in France, with hundreds of thousands of members largely drawn from the small-artisan class and those dissatisfied with the Bourbon regime. It collapsed suddenly when Louis Philippe was ousted, but before the collapse Cabet undertook to establish a real-life Icaria in the United States. By this time there were only a couple of hundred men and women enthusiastic enough to follow him. From here on, as Sutton analyzes it, there was a repetitive history of incompetence, naiveté, and perhaps some skullduggery. Cabet was swindled in land that he bought in northern Texas; it was unreachable, tied up in red tape, and unutilizable. Many of the advance settlers died of fever and hardship in Texas. The remainder retreated to New Orleans, where they met Cabet, who then bought the empty Mormon plant in Nauvoo, Illinois. Hardships, imaginative bookkeeping, Cabet's dictatorial methods (including an organized system of internal espionage), and struggles for power brought about desertions, schism after schism, and new settlements for splinter groups as the Icarians gradually dwindled in number. In part, the immigrants were simply not suited for pioneer life; in other part, a basically parasitic organization had difficulty providing what its host demanded. In 1898 the final moment came in Iowa when the eight surviving Icarians disbanded. The name Icaria is generally taken as a partial anagram of the motto Ça ira of the French Revolution, but the fate of Icaria was Icarus's. Along their fifty-year way the Icarians accomplished little. They were a small, isolated ethnic group that never had the impact or interest of Oneida, New Harmony, Brook Farm, or the Mormons. Were they happy? Nineteenth century visitors like Charles Nordhoff chronicle their joyously grim acceptance of what amounted to slavery in the name of freedom. Professor Sutton's book is a fascinating account, deeply researched and well presented, of both French and American episodes in the lives of Cabet and Icaria. While Icaria has little or no direct relevance to science-fiction, Les Icariens can be read as a cautionary tale against trying to transform fantastic fiction into reality. An English translation of Cabet's novel is not available, but significant portions are translated in Frank and Fritzie Manuel's French Utopias and Marie Berneri's Journey through Utopia. "Travels in Icaria. Trans. Robert P. Sutton. Macomb: Western Illinois University Press, 1985" cited (187) in Sutton's bibliography (which is otherwise not impeccable) is not quite a ghost book, but perhaps ectoplasmic. Readers need not waste their time trying to locate it. It seems to consist of xeroxes of a typed ms. prepared by the author. Two copies are recorded, but they are not available on interlibrary loan.

--Everett F. Bleiler Interlaken.

Fiction Factory and Noble Fantasist.

William J. Widder. The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard. Bridge Publications (800-722-1733), 1994. 373p. $50.00.

S.T. Joshi and Darrell Schweitzer. Wider Fields: Lord Dunsany: A Bibliography. Scarecrow Press (800-537-7107), 1994. xxiv+363. $42.50.

Over 20 years ago Rev. Henry Hardy Heins published his monumental bibliography of Edgar Rice Burroughs and initiated a literary form for the genre. Since then there have been fine bibliographies on the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, L. Sprague de Camp and others. Such books are invaluable to the collector and researcher and also of interest to the curious or admiring general reader.

Bridge Publications, set up by and devoted to the fiction of L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) has just issued such a volume, The Fiction of L. Ron Hubbard, by William J. Widder. It is no less exhaustive than its predecessors in the field, and every fictional piece Hubbard ever wrote, published and unpublished, is listed, with many also described; it even covers Hubbard's work in his lesser known experiments in music, screen and stage writing, and poetry. In a generalized biographical chapter, Widder mentions but does not list or explore those particular non-fiction phases of his career, Dianetics and Scientology, which have made Hubbard famous, wealthy, and notorious.

Some readers fear that any book about Hubbard may be proselytizing medium for his psychological and religious philosophies. This is not the instance here. Although these subjects are touched upon respectfully and briefly, the book is faithful to its own purpose: the cataloguing of his fiction. The publishing house is apparently dedicated to reprinting every novel and story the adventuring author ever wrote, irrespective of the literary stature of the venue. Several dozen have already appeared in a project destined to take years and to produce very expensive volumes, inasmuch as many, some containing only short stories, will be issued individually, or, in some cases, collectively, leather bound. In 1950 Hubbard wrote a serial for Astounding Science Fiction, "To the Stars." With well over one hundred million copies of his books published already, they may well reach the stars one day.

As might be expected, the book offers the requisite lionization. A foreword and preface reassure the reader not only of Hubbard's genius, bunching him with some of the most renowned names in American literature, but of his seminal importance in the progress of science fiction as a form. Whether one agrees that he "began to fundamentally and permanently change the face of the genre...and to definitely shape and dynamically enlarge the dimensions and imaginative vistas of living literature" is an individual choice.

This said, the book remains a handsome and useful compendium. It offers in 19 chapters a total overview of everything Hubbard ever wrote, from school and college days through a successful and remarkably busy pulp-writing career, a brief period in Hollywood, military service, and then, after a hiatus of nearly 40 years, a triumphant return to fiction on just as active a basis, before his untimely death at the age of 75 in January 1986. It offers a chronology in some detail of his life, including travel and adventures, for he was indubitably a very mobile and inquisitive man, some of whose activities clearly predisposed his preoccupation with mental health. Regrettably, nothing is mentioned of the intermediate years, after his announcement of Dianetics, nor of his family, other than his parents, nor his various legal contretemps reported elsewhere.

His fiction in all genres is first summarized chronologically. Each genre is then listed separately, adventure, western, mystery/detective, fantasy, science fiction, and romance. This offers valuable insight into what was required of a writer to be financially successful within the popular medium of the pulp magazines. Hubbard's facility and adaptability were already evident. Postage- stamp-size reproductions of representative pulp magazine covers accompany these lists. Regrettably, there are no reproductions in large size of the inimitable illustrations by Edd Cartier for many of Hubbard's best Unknown and Astounding Science Fiction stories. Since Hubbard and Cartier are associated in the memory of readers in the same manner as Burroughs and J. Allen St. John, whose illustrations for Burroughs are reproduced by Heins in his book, Widder would have been well advised to follow Heins's example.

A list of books follows, including all foreign publications. Forthcoming releases and approximate publishing dates are listed, reprinting most of his stories, through 1999. A major part of the book is a complete listing together with synopses of all of his magazine fiction. Special notes illuminate what the editor considers his most significant stories. There is also a list of non- fiction writings which are "relevant to the author's fiction writing career", which includes pieces on writing, aviation, and deep-sea diving. Those published under pseudonyms bear those names, and there is a complete list of his sixteen pen-names for fiction as well as four for non-fiction magazine articles. Chapters for published and for unpublished verse and for audiotapes and recordings follow.

The final third of the volume is more fully concerned with Hubbard as a personality: the honors he accumulated, snippets of praise from newspapers and fellow writers, reprints of the essays he wrote as forewords to his latter-day novels, recounting the glory of the "Golden Age of Science Fiction," in which he felt he had played a part, and especially the glory of the Writers of the Future Program he initiated, which continues and has produced a number of authors who went on to writing success. This program occupies much of a color section, which also contains a broad photo of some of the gloriously lurid pulp-magazine covers (not always featuring his contribution) and book jackets for his work, as well as photographs of him at different times of his life. Somewhat inexplicably, and posthumously, a room was dedicated to him and his writing at Moscow University in Russia in 1992.

In his introduction to Battlefield Earth, he wrote of his omission in the novel of his "serious subjects", that "I also did not want to give anyone the idea I was doing a press relations job for my other serious works." The Bibliography may give such an impression, but what is one to make of so protean and controversial a man? Affable in appearance, egocentric in nature, he almost required that quality without which he could never have crammed so many lifetimes into one. One might note that his screenplays were only for serials and his fiction only for lowly pulp magazines. And his religion? Charles Dickens wrote as fast as he could to meet magazine deadlines for a penny a word; half a century later Hubbard was doing the same thing. Posterity has not done badly by Dickens. In the early 19th century a young man in upstate New York revealed that he had discovered a cache of golden tablets with messages from an angel. A century and a half later Mormonism has adherents around the earth. Scientology, the brainchild of a pulp writer, a sky jockey, a World War II Lieutenant JG, already has millions of adherents. Posterity will have the last word here too, on those pulp yarns of stalwart heroes, fainting heroines, and nasty villains as well as on his notion of spirituality.

In the directness, rapidity, and diversity of his thinking, actions, and writing, L. Ron Hubbard is unquestionably a child of the 20th century. The elegant mysticism and poetic fantasy favored in late 19th-century England is reflected in the early work of another subject of bibliography, Lord Dunsany, who, in a life as long as Hubbard's, would come to reflect the 20th as well.

Born in London of an Anglo-Irish family whose origins could be traced for centuries, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Lord Dunsany, 18th Baron Dunsany (1878-1957), did not publish a word for his first 27 years. Thereafter, as Lord Dunsany, beginning with the mythic fantasy for which he is now primarily remembered, he wrote steadily for half a century in nearly every medium, fiction, drama, essays, poetry, book reviews, letters, etc. He even once ran for parliament (he lost). It was an incredible range and surely he was a man for all seasons. Yet his season in the sun was brief. Early in his career, having published some fantasy, he became acquainted with William Butler Yeats and the fabled Abbey Theatre in Dublin. He turned from the graceful other-worldly fantasies which would so impress H.P. Lovecraft and which remain his greatest heritage critically, to drama, and very quickly achieved success, on a world-wide scale. Not only were his plays translated into other languages, but, incredibly, at one time he had five plays running in different theatres in New York City! For the most part, his plays were written during the era of World War I.

A serious injury during the war dampened his writing ardor, but he returned soon. However, on stage his popularity waned quickly and his work ceased to have any theatrical importance. His signature fantasies, characterized by mystical imagination and a well-defined, poetical longing for magical realms, altered in time as well, and his later stories have a more earthbound quality. He found renewed pleasure and reward from a new public, however, in short stories about Mr. Joseph Jorkens, his clubman who endured an incredible number of even more incredible adventures, many involving science-fictional themes, for the most part humorous with twist endings. Five collections of these stories, many of which appeared first in magazines, found print. One of his stories alone, the grisly "The Two Bottles of Relish" (the initial article is usually and incorrectly omitted), first published in 1932, was reprinted nearly forty times. It sometimes drew outraged letters from readers, who pointed out certain physical improbabilities. A curious reader is invited to read the tale, which would have pleased Alfred Hitchcock's palate, had he been allowed to film it.

In the 1970s, well after his death in 1957, there was some renewed interest in his fiction, the "Dunsany renaissance," as the authors term this modest revival. They maintain that his early fantasy had led to it, and indeed the new critical interest, by such fantasists as L. Sprague de Camp and Ursula Le Guin, has tended to slight the work of the latter years of his career, which, while different, was substantial. Regrettably, there has been little interest in Dunsany in Ireland, where his attitudes have been viewed as pro-British or unsympathetic to Irish causes. His drama has only rarely received a second viewing, although the period charm and fantasy might offset its indubitably dated quality. The poetry which has occasionally qualified Yeats for dramatic revival is not to be found in Dunsany's plays, although he was a serious if undistinguished poet in the years preceding his death.

The book is a remarkable feat of bibliographical detection, for such biographical or critical matter that exists on Dunsany offers scant enumeration of his specific works, especially the later work. Dunsany reportedly kept a private notebook which presumably would have made their work simpler, but it has been unavailable to the editors. Although their work has been accomplished over a decade of search through periodicals, they consider their book, despite its length, "preliminary." It will nevertheless be a surprise to devotees of Dunsany to discover the range of his writings, and it will be an invaluable tool to students.

The contents are arranged in chronological order by date of first publication, with reprints duly noted. The book contains a splendid introduction to Dunsany's life and thought; it insists that criticism of their subject on grounds that he is humanistically remote and inadequately attentive to human concerns will fail upon wider reading of his work. It seems likely, however, that his literary status will remain dependent upon the work which gave him initial fame. There after the book is divided into categories of fiction, essays, poetry, plays, book reviews, letters, and miscellany. Works in translation and Dunsany criticism are also included. Listed collections of stories include the contents, but no individual sections for novels and collections per se are included. Published plays are included with the fiction, as well as within a separate section which includes initial dates of performance, a useful adjunct for theatre lovers. There is excellent cross-indexing of titles within the text as well as a thorough index of three sections in 42 pages.

For general readers, the bibliography will prove to be a formidable book with little adumbration of any sort, except, for whatever curious reason, his more minor writings, essays, book reviews, and letters, to most of which a few words of description are appended. Novels, stories, plays, all glide by as titles, sources and dates. No illustrations appear, not of the subject himself, nor even a portfolio of the incomparably romantic and also neglected art by Sidney Sime which accompanied many of Dunsany's early fantasies. No stills of any of his plays appear, to reward the curious reader.

A haunting refrain throughout his finest fantasy novels, The Chronicles of Rodiguez and The King of Elfland's Daughter is "the fields we know," with the inherent nostalgia but also the quest for whatever mystery and beauty lie beyond them. Hopefully, this valuable book will rekindle interest not only in his early, greatest work but also in those wider fields he subsequently discovered.

--Ben P. Indick, Teaneck.

A Classic of 19th-Century Russian SF.

Osip Senkovsky. The Fantastic Journeys of Baron Brambeus. Translation and introduction by Louis Pedrotti. Middlebury Studies in Russian Language and Literature, Vol. 5. Peter Lang Publishing (212- 764-1471), 1993. xix+232. $32.95 paper.

A friend of mine, who happens to be an anthropologist with a keen eye for forms and fashions, maintains that when it comes to clothes, a form-fitting elegantly feminine (or masculine) silhouette (of one type or the other) always defines the mainstream, but just as invariably a loose and baggy alternative style slouches and swaggers somewhere at fashion's margins, attracting those who like . . . well, you know why you like (or abhor) intentionally inelegant lines of attire.

So it would seem to be, in general, with literature. No matter what style or genre currently defines the ideal form of verbal creation, a loose and baggy antigenre will emerge to parody formal conventions, underdress pretensions to seriousness, all the while claiming for itself the advantages of being "comfort able" and "casual" reading. Senkovsky's The Fantastic Adventures of Baron Brambeus offers up fantastic voyages to the center of the earth ("The Sentimental Journey to Mount Etna"), to an antediluvian "Egyptian" civilization flourishing on the now-frozen Siberian plain ("The Scientific Journey to Bear Island"), and to a steamy and stylized Turkish Orient ("The Poetic Journey over the Great, Wide World"). Along the way the narrator, Baron Brambeus, takes the opportunity to satirize a variety of topical literary and scientific issues of the day, all the while maintaining a chatty rapport with the reader. In the ostensible foreword to his adventures he confides, "I'm a man, too. I also like stupidities, especially my own and those I've picked up personally in this world. We can share them in a friendly way." The Baron then tells us that "The most stupid thing I ever did in my life was to leave my own country to travel in foreign lands." Thus, the narrator leads us out of his native St. Petersburg, a city which is characterized in the opening narrative frame by a stifling dullness, chilly dampness, and bureaucratic heartlessness of mythological proportions. As the commentary to the text indicates, here Senkovsky (alias Baron Brambeus) is not alone in satirizing the classical grandeur of Imperial Russia's capital city. The "dark side" of St. Petersburg finds its ultimate expression in the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and Dostoevsky. The Baron Brambeus, however, wastes no time in leaving literary Petersburg for more extravagantly romantic landscapes. The translator's commentary provides a useful historical overview of the theme of the fantastic voyage and Senkovsky's role in popularizing science fiction in Russia.

Osip Ivanovich Senkovsky (née Sekowski, a Polish family name) was a brilliant student of oriental languages; traveled extensively in the Near East, and was made a professor in Arabic, Persian, and Turkic at the University of St. Petersburg in 1822. He was also the publisher and editor of a commercially successful journal of popular literature, to which he himself was the foremost contributor. Senkovsky's eclectic erudition is revealed in the fascinating details of the stories collected in this volume: Baron Brambeus' travels through time and space are also tongue-in-cheek popularizations of Senkovsky's real scientific interests: the deciphering of the Rosetta Stone, the theories surrounding Halley's Comet, the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the evolutionary theories recently forwarded in the new sciences of geology, paleontology and comparative anatomy.

The brunt of Senkovsky's critical wit, irony, and sarcasm, when it is not aimed at scientific data with which he disagrees, is directed towards certain cumbersome grammatical and stylistic conventions still prevalent in Russian letters at the time. However, judging from Senkovsky's fictional as well as non- fictional literary reviews, he failed to appreciate with any seriousness the greatness of his contemporaries, Pushkin and Gogol, as innovators and reformers of the Russian literary language. This has somewhat dimmed his reputation in retrospective histories of 19th century Russian literature, but it did not at all dampen the genuine popularity of Senkovsky's writings at the time. Furthermore, it should not deter the modern connoisseur of "off-mainstream" genres (as certainly all science fiction readers are) from enjoying the racy adventures of Baron Brambeus. Louis Pedrotti, Professor Emeritus of Russian at the University of California, Riverside, and author of a monograph on the life and works of Senkovsky (Jozef-Julian Sekowski. Portrait of a Literary Alien) has produced a fine translation accompanied by extremely interesting and informative footnotes, in addition to the scholarly commentary.

The publication of this volume in English will certainly open new doors to those interested in the history of science fiction as an international genre, to historians of science who will find further evidence of the formative interaction between science and literature, to students of the 19th century women's emancipation movement (who may be appalled), and, of course, to the reader who wants to be entertained.

--Yvonne Howell University of Richmond.

An Excellent Introduction to the Field.

Edward James. Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. OPUS series. Oxford University Press, 1994. xiv+250. $11.95 paper.

This book may immediately be said to be the best book of its kind now available and so the book to be adopted as a supplementary text for undergraduates. The first chapter, "The Development of a Genre, 1895-1940," begins with a brief discussion of the situation in 1895, when sf was already plentiful though inchoate, and then discusses its development under three headings: the extraordinary voyage (usually set in the present), the tale of the future, and the tale of science (also usually set in the present). Sections follow on the work of H.G. Wells, on sf publishing history in the UK and the US, on sf between the wars outside North America, on sf in the American pulps, and on defining the genre. Chapter 2, "The Victory of American Sf, 1940-1960" is largely to what may be called Campbellite sf. Chapter 3, "Reading Science Fiction," offers sound comments on the differences between sf and the mainstream literature in which the student has presumably been trained. Chapter 4, "The Sf Community," deals with the fans, writers, and publishers that have devoted themselves to the genre. Chapter 5, "From New Wave to Cyberpunk and Beyond, 1960-1993," continues and completes the historical account. From a book published in a series like the OPUS, which "provides concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects," one could hardly ask for anything more or anything better.

Foundation #60 (Spring 1994) was devoted to "Science Fiction Research: The State of the Art." In a note for that issue I wrote that "Most of the things we wanted to do back in 1973 have now been done. The history of sf is now pretty well understood...." Science Fiction in the 20th Century is the first history of the field to take full advantage of that fact, so that we have here the results of consensus rather than original research, which, for an introduction to the field, is what we should expect.

I find little to fault in the book. James does repeat, and does not question, Harry Bates's tall tale on the founding of Astounding about which I wrote in SFS #62 (21:110-11, March 1994), and he is ill-informed on pre-1920 American magazines, a period in which the distinction between "pulp" and "slick" hardly existed, and in which magazines printed on pulp paper were quite respectable and had sedate rather than garish covers, and in which "quality" magazines as well as pulps regularly had ragged edges.


Feminist Utopias.

Jane L. Donawerth and Carol A. Kolmerton, eds. Utopian and Science Fiction by Women:Worlds of Difference. Foreword by Susan Gubar. Utopianism and Communitarianism Series. Syracuse UP (800-365-8929), 1994. xix+260. $34.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.

Claire Myers Spotswood Owens. The Unpredictable Adventure: A Comedy of Woman's Independence. Afterword by Miriam Kalman Harris. Utopianism and Communitarianism Series. Syracuse UP (800-365- 8929), 1993. xviii+511. $16.95 paper.

Here are two more volumes in the very good Syracuse UP series on utopian and communitarian literature edited by Lyman Tower Sargent and Gregory Claeys. Each in its own way is deserving of attention and appreciation and each has much to offer the interested reader. The first is a collection of essays on feminist utopian literature, while the second is the reprint of a utopian novel which has long been unavailable.

Donawerth and Kolmerton's Utopian and Science Fiction by Women comprises twelve essays which trace the course of utopian literature by women from the seventeenth century to the present. The historical research which has gone into these essays makes the collection a particularly valuable document in the field of feminist utopian studies; indeed, it is a worthwhile addition to the field of utopian studies in general. While three of the essays collected here deal with more or less contemporary subjects, it is the essays on texts such as Margaret Cavendish's The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World (1668) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford (1851-53) which will, I think, be of special interest. If nothing else, these essays offer irrefutable evidence that the tradition of women's writing in the utopian genre goes back for centuries. As Donawerth and Kolmerton describe their aim in this undertaking, "this volume is the argue that these fictions [both utopian fiction and science fiction] historically speak to one another and together amount to a literary tradition of women's writing about a better place" (1).

Not unexpectedly in a project of this kind, there are rather a lot of plot summaries to be found in these essays, but this is as it should be, since they aim, for the most part, either to introduce rare material like Margaret Cavendish's singular invention of the Blazing-World, or to reread more familiar works like Gaskell's Cranford within the context of the utopian tradition. Again, not unexpectedly, the overarching plan of this collection is to highlight the similarities among an otherwise disparate group of texts whose writers are women concerned with the condition of women. Thus, scattered throughout these essays are valuable insights into the ways in which these texts differ from male-authored utopian texts. For example, Rae Rosenthal, in one of the best of the essays collected here, "Gaskell's Feminist Utopia," draws attention to several characteristics of utopian writing by women, including its "emphasis on feminine values and issues, commitment to communalism, and an ability to overcome male intruders through either expulsion or conversion" (74). Rosenthal also usefully reminds her readers of something which is perhaps too easily forgotten, the fact that feminism itself is a utopian project: it thus makes perfectly good sense that there should be such a long tradition of utopian writing by women.

In Jane Donawerth's contribution to this collection, "Science Fiction by Women in the Early Pulps, 1926-1930," we are also reminded that it is around the beginning of the present century that the utopian tradition begins to become indistinguishable from that of science fiction. For this reason, two of the final essays, by Sarah Lefanu and Michelle Erica Green, are single-author studies of Naomi Mitchison and Octavia Butler, while the final essay is Naomi Jacobs' thematic survey, "The Frozen Landscape in Women's Utopian and Science Fiction."

Scattered among those essays whose focus is one or several texts of specific historical interest are others which take a broader generic perspective. One of the best is Jean Pfaelzer's "Subjectivity as Feminist Utopia," which, through readings of Louisa May Alcott's "Transcendental Wild Oats" (1872) and Rebecca Harding Davis's "The Harmonists" (1866), demonstrates how American women writing in the utopian tradition broke away from the male-authored tradition which Pfaelzer characterizes as attempting "to realize the ahistorical, antiestablishment and antisocial elements of romanticism" (94).

Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference contains a wealth of information about early women writers in the utopian tradition and a wealth of intelligent analysis about their work and about the writers who have succeeded them. Donawerth and Kolmerten have put together an exemplary collection. The Unpredictable Adventure: A Comedy of Woman's Independence might easily have provided material for one of the essays in the Donawerth/ Kolmerten collection except for the fact that it has been out of print for decades. First published in 1935, it was promptly banned from the shelves of the New York Public Library. And deservedly so, one is tempted to think, given its unabashed exploration of female sexuality, its subversive examination of Christianity, and its fierce intelligence. These are only some of the elements which serve to make The Unpredictable Adventure one of the quirkiest, most entertaining, and most unexpected novels I have come across in years.

Written as an extended allegory, The Unpredictable Adventure recounts the adventures of Tellectina (Female Intelligence) Femina Christian who leaves her comfortable home in Smug Harbour to explore the forbidden land of Nithking (Thinking). As the previous sentence indicates, Spotswood Owens' play with language is not the least of the charms of her novel. The Glossary appended here serves both to unravel some of the wordplay and to identity many of the literary figures whom Tellectina meets on her travels. Tina's encounters with mentors and lovers, her discoveries of her own talents and of the foibles of the human race, her struggles to becomes her own woman and to reach the heights of Mt. Certitude add up to a long, rambling, frequently very funny exploration of the difficulties faced by women of intelligence and education during the early part of the twentieth century. The final solution to Tellectina's unhappiness in the face of the vicissitudes of life is Cianite Vitrgrew (Creative Writing), and this is obviously the same "drug" which Spotswood Owens applied herself for the same condition.

The richness of this novel precludes any detailed description here. Suffice it to say that, although it met with little success when it first appeared in the 1930s, it was praised by the likes of James Branch Cabell and Aldous Huxley. Abandon your comfortable home in Smug Harbour and take up the practice of Reasonese with Tellectina Femina Christian; let the Sillidinous Vines remove the protective film from your eyes; you might even take to the drug Cianite Vitrgrew yourself. As Tina discovers, "there [are] thousands of stupid and ignorant to spare" (153); the heights of Mt Certitude are much less densely populated.


Anne Rice in the Academy

Bette B. Roberts. Anne Rice. Twayne's United States Authors Series. NY: Twayne Publishers, 1994. xii+173p. $26.95.

This volume in the Twayne US Authors series is the first full-length academic examination of Anne Rice's literary output. Deliberately or not, its appearance coincides nicely with the release of the film version of Interview with the Vampire. As I write this review, Tom Cruise's Lestat is no doubt vamping at a theater near you, wherever you happen to be. It is a shame that Bette B. Roberts' study will not meet with the same popularity as Neil Jordan's film, because it's a better study than Interview is a film, providing as it does a gracefully written and intelligent introduction to what is by now quite a prolific body of writing.

Roberts opens her study with the claim that Rice's vampires "are metaphors that are just as meaningful to our own fin-de-sicle climate as the infamous Dracula was to late-Victorian decadence" (viii). She argues that Rice's VAMPIRE CHRONICLES are as influential in their own way as Stoker's novel was to the end of the British nineteenth century. And it is to her credit that the case she makes is a strong one. While Rice's work may or may not enjoy the shelf-life of Stoker's, there is no doubt that THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES have redefined the literary vampire; and since the appearance of Interview in 1976, these novels have been almost single-handedly responsible for the resurgence of the vampire in contemporary literature and film. Not surprisingly, Roberts' study emphasizes the four novels in THE CHRONICLES, devoting a chapter to each. Rice's rather awful mummy novel, Ramses the Damned, and the first of her witch novels, The Witching Hour, share a chapter, as do her historical novels and her erotic fiction. Rice's latest novel, Lasher, appeared too recently to be discussed in any detail.

Roberts reads Rice's novels from two perspectives. The first is biographical, and she relies heavily on Katherine Ramsland's 1991 Prism of the Night: A Biography of Anne Rice for the details of Rice's life which she mentions here. The second and more important perspective is the tradition of Gothic romanticism, and she draws on some good standard studies of Gothic fiction to provide the framework for this part of her work. Thematically, Roberts emphasizes Rice's vision of "the savage garden," exploring her characters' commitment to a form of contemporary existentialism in the face of a meaningless universe where "the only truths are aesthetic ones" (2).

All in all, this is a thorough overview of Anne Rice's output from 1976 to 1992, when The Tale of the Body Thief, the fourth book of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES, appeared. However, in spite of Roberts' efforts to convince her readers that the "history" of Rice's novels is also a "history" of authorial development, she ultimately fails to convince me that Rice ever wrote more than two very good books: these are Interview with the Vampire and its 1984 sequel, The Vampire Lestat. Her other vampire novels and her historical novels are acceptable popular fiction, while Ramses the Damned is really bad, and her erotic fiction by and large fails to grip its readers. While, as Roberts argues, the success of Rice's vampire novels makes her a suitable subject for academic study, her literary output does not justify quite the enthusiasm which Roberts brings to this task. However, if the continuing popularity of Dracula is any indication, one or two hot books may just be enough to give Rice the kind of literary immortality which Stoker, himself no great writer, still enjoys today.


From Fiawol to Gafia: All about Fandom.

Joe Sanders, ed. Science Fiction Fandom. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 62. Greenwood Press (800-225-3571), 1994. xii+293. $55.00.

Joe Sanders, an academic and a veteran fan, has gathered 24 essays by prominent members of fandom in Science Fiction Fandom, a comprehensive examination of this broad and populous adjunct of the science fiction and fantasy genre. Aside from a brief preface by the editor it also offers a comprehensive bibliography and a glossary of the arcane words fans have originated to describe themselves and their activities. It is a competent overview for the uninitiated.

The preface sets the parameters by inquiring "what is science fiction fandom, and what keeps it alive?" The diversity of essays indicates there is no simple answer. The essentially personal nature of fandom is apparent in the responses, some impersonally academic but for the most part idiosyncratic. Fandom is seen by some as a breeding ground for future science fiction writers or as an arena for discussion; other fans have long since lost interest in science fiction per se and enjoy fandom for its associations with other fans, explaining and justifying the acronymn Fiawal, "Fandom Is A Way Of Life." (For those leaving the field, Gafia is "Getting Away From It All.") The book itself is very much a sez-con fanzine, a collection of serious essays; the inevitable Wahf, "we also heard from," commonly letters of comment received but not printed by fanzines, here refers to essayists omitted for lack of space.

After an introductory pair of essays by Juanita and Robert Coulson individually on the personal nature of fandom and the fan, the book commences with essays on the history of the movement. Sam Moskowitz, a major historian of the early years of fandom, dates it to the appearance of Weird Tales in 1923, with resultant reader response and meetings of readers. H.P. Lovecraft's Kalem Club even issued a magazine of membership contributions, perhaps the earliest fanzine. However, the success of Amazing Stories in 1926 was "the definite catalyst" in urging formation of fan groups. Robert A. Madle carries it to World War II, describing internecine fighting, some Communist-inspired, the beginnings of fanzines, from hand-written through hektographic, and the beginnings of the large conventions. The essay is marred by inexcusably bad proof-reading. Art Vidner discusses fandom during WWII; an enthusiastic veteran, his essay exemplifies truly fannish writing, characterized by excesses, gossip, and personalities, including his unsubstantiated claim that "nearly the entire core" of British fandom, which numbered far fewer than their American counterparts, was so pacifist as to be "swept away into farm labor camps or prison." He fails to mention Fanewscard, a much-appreciated fanzine-as-a-postcard sent to fans and servicemen the world round by Walt Dunkelberger of Fargo, N.D.

Harry Warner Jr. takes up the period between WWII and Sputnik. A news paperman and author of two volumes on fan history, his essay is skillfully written, as he describes the introduction of new printing techniques and the proliferation of fans and fanzines, to a point where fan friendships overrode any interest in science or science fiction. He also notes the appearance of female and minority fans. Rich brown (sic) brings the history up to date, concentrating on fan writing and activities, often in fannish jargon. John and Bjo Trimble elaborate on this by comparing the relative homogeneity of most other organizations with the diversity of SF-fandom in its sub-genres, sf-cinema fandom, comics fandom, fantasy-oriented folk ("filk") song, Star Trek, costume and more. Perhaps because the demographics have never been determined, no estimate of the actual size of fandom is given. It is world-wide and Worldcons may attract 10,000 and more fans. The Society for Creative Anachronism, medieval role-playing, according to the Trimbles, has a paid-up membership of 26,000 by itself. Star Trek fans without doubt far outnumber even this.

A growing fandom abroad is considered as well by essayists from those countries. British fandom is nearly as old as American, although smaller. Elsewhere, like science fiction itself, fandom arrived later, and in France, on the continent, in China and Japan is still growing, despite what Roelof Goudriaan describes as a persistent attitude abroad of science fiction being "a foreign, American genre of literature." Australia, which has a growing, vociferous fandom and even associates, like England, in raising a fund with American fans to send an elected representative fan to each other's conventions on a bi-annual basis, is not given a separate chapter.

"Social Interactions" covers various aspects of the scene: fan clubs, which, although local, may mail club fanzines nationally, and conventions, which are of much wider scope, together with their history, programs and financing. Fanzines, the most prominent feature of fandom, are discussed by Harry Warner Jr, perhaps the most prolific writer of locs (letters of comment) and fanzine collectives, Amateur Press Associations, or APA'S, which may have international membership are included.

Professional writer Richard Lupoff admits that many writers were initially fans, but finds such an apprenticeship of dubious value, an opinion shared by numerous fans who disregard fanfic. Jack Gaughan, a professional artist who likewise had his roots in fandom, finds the experience useful as part of an innate desire to draw, in which case it may channel the imagination of the artist. A history of serious book publishing originating from amateur efforts, book-collecting, and the quality of fan criticism considered on an academic level complete the text. The subject is well-covered, but, to the degree that the book preaches to the converted, the material is familiar to experienced fans; others may find it a history of a curious self-contained group and lifetyle.

--Ben P. Indick Teaneck.

William L. Slout. The Trial of Dr. Jekyll. A Play in Two Acts. Clipper Studies in the Theatre No. 7. San Bernadino, CA: Borgo Press, 1993. viii+75. illus.

This stage adaptation takes large portions of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde verbatim and cleverly recasts them in the form of (American) courtroom proceedings against Jekyll. Putting it as a "Case" in that sense, Slout turns the spotlight on Stevenson's book as a rational inquiry into human duality (rather than as a "thriller," for example). But the result, though in actual performance it may bring home that aspect of Stevenson's meaning, does not advance any intellectual understanding beyond the point, say, of my discussion of the book in Into the Unknown (1970).


Paul G. Haschak. Utopian/Dystopian Literature. A Bibliography of Literary Criticism. The Scarecrow Press (PO Box 4167, Metuchen, NJ 08840), 1994. viii+370. $52.50.

The bulk of this volume--80% of it, to be precise--consists of a listing, arranged alphabetically by author, of criticism relating to individual titles or to a given author's entire oeuvre. The primary works in this listing Mr. Haschak subsequently indexes by title, and the secondary sources by critic; and there is also an appendix of just over 16 pages, giving the full bibliographical data for books whose citation Mr. Haschak otherwise abbreviates.

In a rather perfunctory preface of less than two pages, Haschak tells us that his "is the first book-length checklist in the English language devoted exclusively to the general literary criticism of individual Utopian/Dystopian literature" except for poetry (vii). But despite the circumspection of his qualifiers ("book-length," "English language," "individual"), he does not clarify what he means by the one word that he himself emphasizes. A potential user of this volume might suppose that Mr. Haschak, in concentrating "exclusively" on "the general," has deliberately left out candidates which are too highly specialized to count as such. That proves not to be the case, however. David Ketterer's brief note, "Oedipus as Time Traveler," appears among the items on The Time Machine; and under Gulliver's Travels are articles by Ann Cline Kelly and Donald Torchina dealing quite particularly with the putative equation of the Yahoos with the Irish--articles which do not so much as mention utopia. To be sure, these random examples would not indicate a big problem if the entries in this volume--their total number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3600, by my estimate--included everything of more or less central importance. But that isn't the case either. Omitted under Gulliver's Travels are, inter alia, John Reichert's essay on "Plato, Swift, and the Houyhnhnms" (PQ 1968) and mine on "Swift, Gulliver, and 'The Thing Which Was Not'" (ELH 1971); and John Traugott's oft-anthologized comparison of Swift and More is listed only under the latter, with no cross-reference (the same is true, mutatis mutandis, for my "The Language of Utopia," say, which Haschak does not refer readers of Nineteen Eighty-Four to, even though I am comparing Orwell and Swift). Meanwhile, entries for The Time Machine do not include, for example, the insightful essays by Patrick Parrinder and Veronica Hollinger published in SFS in 1976 and 1987, respectively.

Nor, according my rather cursory examination, are these illustrations unrepresentative. As a couple of further instances: the entries for L'An 2440 leave out Paul Alkon's account of Mercier's book in The Origins of Futuristic Fiction (1987); and no reference is made to what is probably still the best discussion of Wells's A Modern Utopia, David Hughes's essay in a 1977 issue of Extrapolation (a journal for which I find no citations whatsoever). Equally quirky are the authors and works that do, or do not, figure in this bibliography. For instance, there are entries for Don Quixote, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, She, and The Wizard of Oz; but none whatsoever for Stanislaw Lem or The Island of Doctor Moreau (though Wells's Russia in the Shadows gets a listing), and no specific title for the Strugatsky brothers.

Two other failings of this volume, though comparatively trivial, are nevertheless worth noting. Mr. Haschak, despite having the assistance of ten people, has evidently not inspected the contents of all of the items he indexes; and he thus, for instance, credits me with having written Wells's radio broadcast on "Utopias," the text of which I briefly introduced when I printed it in SFS #27. Perhaps more surprising in a professional librarian, Mr. Haschak sometimes records the anthologized reprint of an article without giving so much as the original date of publication.

All of this is not to say that Mr. Haschak's no doubt considerable efforts have totally gone for nought. His selections are eccentric enough to comprise items that may have escaped the attention of those particularly concerned with this work or that; and a perfunctory check on my part turned up no "bibliographical ghosts" or other misinformation of any significance. Those virtues, however, do not counterbalance the failings I have specified, in consequence of which this volume seems a luxury rather than a necessity.


The Canonical Supernatural.

D.J. Enright, ed. The Oxford Book of the Supernatural. Oxford UP, 1994. ix+557. $25.00.

Among the epigraphs to this book is a passage from T.S. Eliot's "The Dry Salvages" that begins, "To communicate with Mars, converse with spirits,/To report the behaviour of the sea monster,/Describe the horoscope...," which illustrates pretty well the conflation of scientific possibilities with the supernatural in the minds of many people. The attitude toward the supernatural recommended by D.J. Enright is stated in words attributed to a character in Robertson Davies' Murther & Walking Spirits who calls for "a fine credulity about everything, kept in check by a lively skepticism about everything" (2).

The Oxford Book of the Supernatural is a collection of hundreds of brief passages from literature, most of it canonical literature, hence the title of this note. The passages are sorted into 16 chapters, of which the first is "Assorted Apparitions" and the last "Believers and Disbelievers: On Reading and Writing About the Supernatural." The most science-fictional passage occurs in "Sex and the Supernatural": Guillaume Apollinaire writes about time machines that could be "aimed at spot where they knew that at a certain date a certain woman had lain down [and so could reach] the precise moment when they could encounter the subject in the proper attitude." The narrator, having encountered Leda at the proper moment, writes in triumphant capitals "I HAVE CUCKOLDED THE SWAN" (388-89).


The Sage of Sauk City.

Alison M. Wilson. August Derleth: A Bibliograpby. Scarecrow Press (PO Box 4167, Metuchen, N J 08840), 1983. xxvi+229. $26.00 (A special price of $14.50 postpaid is being offered by the Press in honor of the August Derleth Society).

August Derleth published and edited over 700 novels, short stories, poems, essays, reviews, and sundry pieces in varied literary genres. It is a large oeuvre, of which Derleth was proud, but his fame rests less on his writing than on his creation of the specialty publishing firm, Arkham House, and, through it, his role in bringing the work of H.P. Lovecraft to public attention, long after the death and the publishing of the last of Lovecraft's stories in a pulp magazine.

Alison M. Wilson undertook an annotated bibliography of his work and the result is not only of frequent delight for her piquant notes to the bulk of his writing, but also for her thoroughness. She provides as well a brief introduction and biography to round out the picture of this most active literary midwesterner.

Derleth had been one of the numerous young protégés of the Providence master of the horror genre; since his death, however, Derleth has often been criticized as overly inserting himself into the Lovecraft heritage. As publisher, he insisted that his firm possessed full legal rights to the writings of Lovecraft, and regularly threatened suit against anyone who infringed, when in actuality it had no such rights. He was content to publish Lovecraft's fiction as it had appeared in various pulp magazines, but there it had often been deplorably edited by other hands. (New editions of the writings, edited by S.T. Joshi, and based on scrupulous study of original holograph manuscripts have since been issued by Arkham House.) Derleth bowdlerized the letters of Lovecraft, excising what he considered embarrassing comments in a racial or other sense. (Ironically, he himself quit writing a weekly newspaper column because his words were tampered with by a cautious editor.) He listed chronologies of the work which have been proven inaccurate. He wrote numerous "collaborations" which were that in no sense of the word, being merely stories he wrote based upon sentences or fragments Lovecraft had jotted down into his notebook, The Commonplace Book. Worst of all, in the opinions of Lovecraftian scholars, is the very term "Cthulhu Mythos," which Derleth created to cover the pantheon of extraterrestrial creatures of Lovecraft's fiction; it is a term which bids fair to be forever associated with the hapless author, who never intended such a creation.

Ms. Wilson points out the irony that a man who had published so much was so quickly disregarded in literary circles, even during his own lifetime, for the most part. She offers reasons, one being that most of his writing was for disparate genres, whose readers did not cross over, and that the editions were, in any event, small. In addition, while he did receive prizes early in his career and never tired of repeating the praise afforded him by Edgar Lee Masters (to whose daughter Derleth was briefly engaged in 1943-44) and Sinclair Lewis in the lists of his titles which he published regularly, he admitted he wrote swiftly without revising, simply for the money. Not infrequently he had more than one story in a single issue of a magazine, and he used more than half a dozen pseudonyms to conceal this. In one amusing instance Wilson relates, a story of his appeared in Weird Tales under his favorite pen-name (also a character in his Sac Prairie stories) "Stephen Grendon." Unfortunately, the cover of the issue, printed first, listed it as by August Derleth. A note was hastily added to the title page explaining that by error, Grendon's agent, Derleth, had been listed. A number of his short horror tales are of better than average quality, but his hasty hackwork ultimately relegated him to the status of a minor writer, possibly excepting the regional novels, his Sac Prairie Saga, which he considered his best work, aside from his poetry.

Wilson offers a warm and satisfactory review of his life, including the facts of his marriage and divorce, as well as his career, summarized in a chronology, although she does not discuss the contretemps with his original partner in Arkham House, the science-fiction and weird-tale writer Donald Wandrei, whose last years were embittered by what he perceived as injustice. Nevertheless, if Derleth's literary contributions are now seen as modest, his name remains a major one in the horror genre. Not only did he revive the name of Lovecraft, but he also brought to light many other writers buried in the pages of moldering pulp magazines, as well as celebrating nearly forgotten British masters of the genre; his attention also made possible the revival of Robert E. Howard and the sword and sorcery genre, which became a major publishing field in itself. The money he made through his hastily written fiction, even his derivative Judge Peck mystery novels, subsidized Arkham House, which, despite his justifiable pride in it (and, indeed, it remains his monument) was hardly a money-generating machine for most of its years. As a poet he also published poetry magazines, allowing the voices of numerous poets to be heard, until he could afford that luxury no longer.

Wilson divides the bibliographical bulk of the book into two divisions. The first is "The Fantasy Worlds: Mystery, Science Fiction and Horror." It includes his own short stories, over 250 under his own name or his pseudonyms; collaborations with Mark Schorer, which were truly so, as well as those he termed such with Lovecraft; the "Pontine Canon"; Judge Peck books; collections of his stories; anthologies edited by Derleth; plus his introductions. The second part is "Sac Prairie and the Real World." This includes not only his many regional stories and novels but also his juvenile literature, non-fiction, a selection of articles, reviews, and letters, which merely tap the volume of available material, plus his many books of poetry, with a listing of poems included. The Index consists of titles only, of novels, stories, collections, and poetry books but not individual poems.

Ms. Wilson mentions in the Chronology the three magazines Derleth published, but, strangely and regrettably (because he was very much a part of each) offers no other word on them. These include, under the Arkham House imprint, The Arkham Sampler and The Arkham Collector, each containing articles, poems, fiction, and advertising plus his editorial comments; merely copyrighted under his own name is what he described to me as "the only little magazine I ever edited," Hawk and Whipporwill, ten lovely issues containing the work of numerous contributors, conservative (reflecting the editor's tastes), and his own editorial wrap-up in each issue on the world of poetry.

He was a remarkable man, larger than life in many respects, and if people reacted to him otherwise, this reviewer remembers him with great affection. Once, after many years away from fantasy, I was hospitalized. Musing over the past I wrote to August Derleth, asking whether his long-time dream of publishing the letters of Lovecraft had ever been realized. He responded, recalling my name, encouraging and wishing me well, and enclosing a copy of the first volume of those letters. Fantasy publishing has not seen nor likely will see again another with his devotion and editorial acumen.

--Ben P. Indick Teaneck.

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