Science Fiction Studies

#71 = Volume 24, Part 1 = March 1997



Delany as Postmodern Icon.

Damien Broderick. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. London: Routledge, 1995. xvii+197. Paper. $16.98

When Samuel R. Delany began publishing in the 1960s, Damien Broderick was the most appreciative contributor to Delany studies in Bruce Gillespie's Australian sf fanzine. Already a practicing writer of science fiction, Broderick was intrigued by Delany for reasons then obscure to fellow Aussies. Broderick's more recent commentaries, often involving Delany, have appeared in the New York Review of Science Fiction, whose editor David Hartwell has referred in print to Broderick's dissertation on Delany. I have been unable to trace it in Dissertation Abstracts, but this book covers the same territory it advertises for Broderick's PhD in "the semiotics of science, literature, and science fiction."

Though its subtitle suggests a wider study, Reading by Starlight might with justice be called an homage to Delany as a writer of "critical fictions." Although Broderick surveys post-structural critics who have been explicitly or implicitly "generous" to sf and other genre fiction, Delany is virtually the only writer of sf (outside cyberpunk) he identifies as postmodern. Indeed, Broderick's meditations on Delany as critic and fiction writer easily fill half of this relatively slim volume (roughly 160 pages of text, including lengthy epigraphs for each chapter).

To prepare the path for Delany's apotheosis, Broderick must clear the brush of ignorance and misconceptions about sf and its place in the world. He ritually denigrates most sf as both bad art and bad science, the mass-produced stuff of adolescent daydreams, yet he seeks to elevate the potential of its "metaphors" as the "pre-eminent mode" for capturing our postmodern, postindustrial age. I am not convinced that he achieves the latter goal, but he does run through a number of critical moves in that direction.

For readers not familiar with sf, his book is not encyclopedic, but presents examples in a kind of montage, excused in part because traditional criticism itself is suspect and outmoded. The reader should not expect thorough historical or theoretical treatment of preliminaries, but should trust Broderick's generalizations, both original and borrowed, to establish a tension and even ambivalence between sf and other domains of discourse, such as science, myth, and literature. This strategy can be disconcerting, if a reader tries to make all the chapters cohere.

As a genre, sf is formulaic, imitating itself, its pulp origins, and the attitude if not diction of scientific reports. Posthumanist in attitude, it has been analyzed usefully as fantasy by Robert Scholes, Tzvetan Todorov, Eric S. Rabkin, Rosemary Jackson, and Darko Suvin. Unlike most fantasy, however, it respects history (Frederic Jameson) and "cognitive breakthrough" (attributed to Peter Nicholls). Sf shares with Tolkien a primary textual strategy, building up the density and richness of imaginary objects, but it relies less on common superstition and ancient tradition. With Patrick Parrinder, Broderick considers sf as a possible "mode," which neither clearly distinguishes from genre. Whatever his wish to break with formalist criticism, Broderick (like Delany) is still drawn to textual features, such as paraphraseable content, metaphor, and rhetorical devices.

Summarized as estranged but mimetic, sf seeks otherness within soothingly familiar frameworks (Gregory Renault, Gary Graff). When it is actually subversive (Suvin, Brian Aldiss), it does not prophesy, but poses alternatives, germane to the humane sciences and particularly relevant for sexual politics. Relevance to the real world, however, may be unfairly demanded by Christine Brooke-Rose, who does not understand the special nature of sf's "mega-text." Years in the making and always under construction, it must be partially re-explained in each new rendition. Unlike myths, sf "icons" (Gary Wolfe) change meaning over time; reprising cliches, sf simultaneously deconstructs them, as do poetry and science (Jonathan Culler on Gaston Bachelard). What humanist critics see as "defective characterization" results from the need to foreground an imagined world. Perpetually re-establishing an "under-determined surface" is a  structural tool of the genre. To really grasp that reversal of common sense requires as a guide a competent reader or "native speaker" of sf, such as Delany.

Beginning inevitably with his first essay on subjunctivity and the reading process, Broderick follows the "trajectory" of Delany's critical writing as charting a "new way" to read sf. Delany has recanted much of that first essay, however, although it has been assimilated into popularizations of his theory, and Delany sees his way of reading sf as what everyone already does. What is new is drawing conscious attention to it as a subset of how human beings "read" everything in the known universe. If Broderick correctly sees Delany's poststructuralism as more extreme than his practice, in commandeering that theory to serve a postmodern frame of mind he in turn seems unduly restrictive.

Before exploring the postmodern and Delany's fiction, Broderick expands his (still unproven) claim for sf as an "international cultural dialect" that is "uniquely shaped for the articulation of the subjunctivity of our current episteme" (75). Mining satire and the sublime out of sf's escapist dreams, even lesser writers challenge assumptions about what is or should be alien. As one index of its postmodernism, cyberpunk (primarily represented by William Gibson) wallows in ontological doubt as it seeks to redeem the trash of daily existence. Possibly the "pinnacle of Modern (and modernist) sf to date" (99), Aldiss' Helliconia Trilogy is inventive, self-deconstructing, a challenging intellectual puzzle, and occasionally moving. In a characteristic move, however, Broderick also declares it boring, subject to crackpot didacticism, and prone to lapses in craft, such as uncertainly privileged point of view, unjustified elaboration of coincidence, and undigested lumps of exposition.

Following Brian McHale's admitted oversimplification, Broderick differentiates modern from postmodern by their tendencies toward epistemology (how do we know?) and ontology (who are we to know anything?). Using Jameson as a "flawed" guide, he tries to map onto sf the postmodern as cultural "dominant" (Roman Jakobson). Jameson and others (Vivian Sobchack, Teresa Ebert) also tie postmodern sf to global paranoia, cognitive mapping, class consciousness, simulacra, and fictivity. Even if they are characteristic of our time, of course, Jameson's hallmarks of the postmodern--flatness, waning affect, ahistorical euphoria, pastiche, fragmentation, and the "hysterical sublime"--do not privilege sf as a cultural index.

Insofar as sf is postmodern, however, Broderick sees Delany as its avatar. Otherness and undecidability have been hallmarks of his fiction since before he met the French New Critics. Alluding to The Jewels of Aptor, Babel-17, Empire Star, and Nova, he represents Delany's early work with The Einstein Intersection. Replete with purposeful contradictions, TEI is a virtual "allegory of reading" sf, going well beyond the "Two Cultures" debate. Post-scientific, incestuously generic, endlessly reinterpreting its myths, TEI both mocks and valorizes "difference." Stressing metaphor, music, and pattern, it foreshadows the "Modular Calculus" in his later works.

The later Delany seeks heuristic models, overtly open to revision and deconstruction, like the webs of Triton and beyond and the mirrors of the Nevérÿon Tetralogy, works which refuse to maintain firm barriers between fiction and reflection on it. Backgrounded and foregrounded in all five books is the "Modular Calculus," termed by Broderick a:

generous, self-subverting machine for modeling practically everything mundane and contentious in our contemporary epistemic and social order, including AIDS, semiotics, paraliteratures emphasizing [sic] their object and, reflexively, Delany's own struggles to perfect such a craft(129).

A gigantic concept, it would be the bridge between science and literature sf often claims to be. Breeding self-interrogation, progressively more ironic as it goes along, the calculus offers a tool for rereading Delany and others.

Contemporary critical theory may reject the writer as seer or disciplinarian, but Broderick sees Delany as veering between these outmoded models, mining autobiography for his fiction. Explored in more detail this insight might show the ore of Delany's life experiences considerably transformed. At least Broderick finds in it a fruitful relationship between Delany's texts and his writing of them. Dhalgren's emphasis on récit (usually read as experience) should make it accessible to traditional criticism, though the record does not bear out this notion. His other "masterpiece," Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, is more radical, emphasizing the dynamic relationship between récit and foregrounding.

Even as a fragment (of a long-delayed diptych), Stars shows an inextricable interweaving, such that récit becomes foregrounding. As self-deconstructing as Nevérÿon's tales, this book challenges schemata even as it proposes them, familiarizing the strange and estranging the familiar. Gender recoding is most obvious, but relations between intelligent species, the nature of love, the General Information System, and the opposition of two great networks also play significant roles. Word-games abound as do intertextual and self-reflexive echoes, revisiting several of Delany's earlier books. Interpretation never rests as the Marq Dyeth (pronounced "death") and his family face confusing boundaries by deciphering signs. To Broderick, this refusal of closure is emblematic of postmodern frustration at an inability to transcend pattern, summed up in the gnomic statement that sf potentially "renders personality into object and is then that object's pitiless delphic gaze" (152).

Bolstered by Delany's achievements, Broderick essays to redefine sf, which he has come to identify with metaphorical strategies, metonymic tactics, and mega-textual icons and schemata, as well as Delany's preference for the object of contemplation over the perceiving subject. Downplaying "fine writing," subjectivity, and specifically literary communicative properties, this sf will continue to dismay traditional critics. As postmodern culture supersedes technical-industrial modes, however, demanding new models for fiction, sf may yet fulfill Milan Kundera's terms for a renovation of the novel, recasting and recapturing play, dream, thought, and time (157).

At its best, Reading by Starlight is a meditation on Delany's critical and fictional practice, enthusiastic but reserved about Delany's actual achievements as a prime example of postmodern sf. Broderick's reach may exceed his grasp, however, as he tries to turn a polyester purse into a silken tapestry. Even granting his reservations about Jameson in particular, most conceptions of the postmodern seem overblown. What we identify today as the "dominant" may be an aberration; we are too close to and too arrogant about our own moment to see it clearly. While the continuity of postmodernism with all of post-Romantic tradition is underrated, its repetitive self-reflexivity seems too nihilistic to define our moment for the ages. Given the vast potential of the Internet for good and ill, I find Nova's satire of the novel's extinction a more likely prophecy than redeeming sf via the postmodern.

Born with Modernism in the late nineteenth century, sf has tried to be "modern" in the sense of up-to-date, often being perceived as pre-modern in its fitness for established literary taste. If postmodernism and sf are both characteristic of our time's world view, their inevitable linkage does not really seem remarkable.

Trying to convince readers of the significance of his material, moreover, Broderick does himself a number of disservices from a rhetorical standpoint. It is difficult enough to get sf readers to think critically and literary critics to read sf sensitively. It does not help to damn with faint praise ("not without art") material whose importance you are trying to establish, as Broderick continually does at both stylistic and conceptual levels. Yet he also tempts fate with "telling" titles for his chapters, identifying them with the pulp style he puts down. Nor is it impressive to use overloaded sentences which, when unpacked, fail to justify their abstract terminology. He further exacerbates the problem of his argument by identifying with what he calls (but I don't) a "posthumanist" position, attacking the episteme he himself persists in using to read the material he analyzes. Although this book does some things well, there are even more that it could have done better.

--David N. Samuelson.

Delany Lost in the Ashes.

James Sallis, Ed. Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1996. xviii+224. $65.95 cloth; $27. 95 paper.

Ten critical essays and an extended introduction comprise this uneven volume, which includes articles reprinted from Extrapolation, The Australian Science Fiction Review, Foundation, Black American Literature Forum, Essays in Arts and Sciences, and The New York Review of Science Fiction. Three of the essays--James Sallis' Introduction, Robert Elliot Fox's "This You-Shaped Hole of Insight and Fire: Meditations on Dhalgren," and Mary Kay Bray's "To See What Condition My Condition's In: Trial by Language in Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand"--are said on the Acknowledgments page to be appearing "for the first time here," which is misleading given their nearly simultaneous publication (with no acknowledgment of this volume's preexistence) in a special section on Delany in The Review of Contemporary Fiction 16.3:91-170, Fall 1996. David Samuelson's solid essay on Delany's criticism, "Necessary Constraints: Delany on Science Fiction," has appeared both in Foundation and in Review of Contemporary Fiction. Just two of the articles, Robert Eliot Fox's "The Politics of Desire in Triton and Tides of Lust," which covers more ground than his brief essay on Triton in RCF, and Ken James's "Subverted Equations," which reads Delany in the light of G. Spencer Brown's new calculus of the 1970s, are available only in this volume.

Reprinting, presumably, is reserved for essays of special value. Yet this volume falls far short of any significant reappraisal of Delany's position within the sf field; it is only intermittently useful even as an overview of Delany's writings to date. There are worthy, wide-angle essays: Samuelson's survey of Delany's sf criticism, already mentioned, Jean Mark Gawron's lively "On Dhalgren," originally published in 1977 as the introduction to the Gregg Press edition of Delany's novel, and Kathleen Spenser's admirably broad "Nevèrÿon Deconstructed"--which nonetheless does nothing like deconstruction; Spenser rather explicates Delany's realm of fantasy by placing it cannily in the context of his other fictions. Ken James's brilliant contribution to the volume is similarly ambitious, seeking in G. Spencer Brown's mathematics a structural paradigm comparable to Delany's patterning of meaning in fiction ranging from Dhalgren to Tales of Nevèrÿon. James, who starts with Delany's subversion in Dhalgren of a moment from Joyce's Ulysses, misses Delany's echo of a central formal element in Finnegan's Wake (which, like Dhalgren and Nova, also forms an infinite textual loop when the incomplete final sentence winds round to join a first sentence begun at midpoint). But James's essay does establish the scope of Delany's many borrowings. Gawron's essay is similarly useful in sketching shared traits among Delany's early protagonists. Among several contributions that address sexuality as a concern in Delany's fiction, Robert Elliot Fox's discussion of Triton and Tides of Lust (despite spending too much time on plot reconstruction) is the most lucid and broadest.

Weaker contributions concentrate too closely on a single issue (pornography in Ray Davis' "Delany's Dirt") or a single text or theme (alien language in Babel-17 in Carl Malmgren's broad-in-title but narrow-in-scope "The Languages of Science Fiction"). Less useful articles typically consider Delany's work sui generis, when probably what is most needed is criticism that defines historical and stylistic contexts for Delany's writings. Plot description, novels examined in isolation, and thematic analysis (the most frequent critical strategies here) leave the vital center of Delany's mythopoeic imagination virtually untouched. If sf has ever produced a major stylist whose work appropriates and subverts earlier and contemporary writing in the field, using the so-called "low" cultural material of pulp and genre writing for avant-garde purposes, it is Samuel R. Delany. Of these essays, James's comes closest to offering an analysis of Delany's style, but much remains to be done. Too many contributors to this volume over-explicate, creating a kind of false clarity or oversimplified view of the text that is alien to the dizzying experience of actually reading Samuel R. Delany. What Samuel Johnson said of Clarissa might be said as well of Dhalgren: any reader seeking clear-cut and expeditious plot-resolution might as well hang herself.

An anecdotal or fannish inflection clings to the volume, dedicated to "Chip." Invocations of theory and context emerge as a soft mist of steadily dropping Big Names, whose ideas and writings are never explored and who often make strange company for each other. Sallis' introduction summons Bataille, Hölderlin (with umlaut missing), Balzac, Emerson, Pasternak, Eco, Jameson, Trilling. The associative word-play of Delany's best fiction is incompetently echoed in some essays, in hyperextended sentences that fail to achieve Delany's own discursive grace. Here is Russell Blackford on Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand: "While the fuzzy edged concept is a respectable philosophical animal, Delany appears to deploy it in such a way as to suggest that he is prepared to try to dazzle the reader with the first bit of old rubbish he thinks of--in this case, apparently, just to avoid admitting that there is a meaningful sense in which Rat Korga does seem to be that melodramatic phenomenon, the sole survivor of a planetary cataclysm (a conclusion which he appears to want to fob off on to his characters, disowning it himself while getting mileage out of it)" (33). This is not writerly improvisation à la Delany --it's word-processor style and it should have been edited.

It is strange to read a series of essays on Delany that often take up the themes of assimilation/copulation/miscegenation but that make no mention of Octavia Butler's or Greg Bear's early short stories, so clearly influenced by Delany. Joanna Russ' criticism is mentioned, but not her extraordinary fiction, so clearly an influence on Delany. Single themes are discussed but not image or metaphor. This may be related to sf critics who also are teachers: students will engage happily in dissection of characters and plots, but tend to sit silently when reminded that the text is constructed and contrived, a matter of style and word-placement--in Delany's marvelous phrase, a "word-beast." Thesis-driven arguments, articulating "major themes," achieve their clarity at the expense of complexity, considering in isolation topics that are  intertwined within the texts. In this volume, Delany's sexual narratives are discussed as if Delany does not (at least in Stars in My Pocket and the Nevèrÿóna series) connect sexual activity very clearly to fully realized human (and alien) nature, to affection, to familial love, to ethical groundedness. In this collection, the overlapping concerns of Delany's fiction are too often oversimplified by a simplistic critical methodology that takes the part (the theme or topic) for the whole (the living text). No essayist here has ventured to consider continuities in Delany's work from his earliest to his most recent writings. Delany's intensely lyrical early stories--sketches for his novels-to-be--are seldom touched upon. (Jean Mark Gawron's essay does the best job of integrating discussion of the early short fiction.)

Delany's fiction is finally not logical but metonymic, not extrapolated but improvised. A poetics (different from a methodology because arising--like Aristotle's Poetics, a reading of Sophocles--from within the specifics of textual form) is probably needed to do justice to his fictional practice. This is also the case with the young Delany's New Wave peers, e.g. Roger Zelazny (mentioned only twice in the index) and Cordwainer Smith (mentioned not at all). Discussion of relevant movements within science fiction (including the New Wave movement of the 1960s) is absent from this volume, though the index records a single reference to New Worlds.

Sallis writes in his Introduction, "The body of Delany scholarship is just beginning to congeal." Sad but true. Delany himself recently, in the December 1996 New York Review of Science Fiction, complained that "the academics who enter the field of science fiction studies are not necessarily of the first order, even when, in our little pond, they occasionally make a sizable splash. It goes along with their tendency to be mired in outmoded critical concepts" (10). I don't share Delany's desire for ever-trendier theory--like literature itself, criticism should be a mode not of ever-changing fashions but of classic style. But I was disappointed to find how little help the majority of essays in this volume will offer readers curious about Delany's place within the traditions (and countertraditions) of the sf genre. The use of most of these essays will return, no doubt, to their origins: they will guide teachers working up single-text presentations on Delany, or giving classroom lectures organized around so-called key themes. But Delany, a major yet understudied writer, still awaits a critical corpus that is not quite so depressingly just the stale embodiment of sf critical-practice-as-usual. Valid and useful assessment of Delany's total achievement will require more than piecemeal explication; the work calls for a multivalent critical method, flexible and perspicuous enough at least to suggest, if not to define, his allusive, elusive vision.

--Carol McGuirk, Florida Atlantic University.

Delany as a Postmodern Edmund Wilson.

Samuel R. Delany. Longer Views: Extended Essays. Introduction by Ken James. Wesleyan UP / UP of New England (800-421-1561), 1996. xli+342. $50.00 cloth, $22.00 paper.

Samuel Delany, as we all know, has had a remarkable career. A child of the black haute bourgeoisie who attended an elite private school and the Bronx High School of Science, but who for some reason dropped out of college before taking a degree, Delany did the equivalent of graduate work as an autodidact, so that after some years of modest success writing science fiction and criticism for various minor venues, he was able to enter academe and eventually win a professorship at the University of Massachussets. For the sf community he has written as one having authority, bringing to bear major philosophers and theoreticians, as well as a remarkably extensive general erudition, on sf and on literature and art in general. That his Silent Interviews (1994) should have been published by a university press is not surprising, for it is concerned mostly with sf and there is, of course, an academic audience for sf criticism. But more than half of Longer Views is devoted to essays not even remotely connected with sf. As with Edmund Wilson's essays, their overall topic may perhaps best be called cultural history.

Edmund Wilson was the most influential literary critic of the '30s and '40s --influential, that is, with readers rather than with other critics, many of whom thought him merely an introductory critic, one whose essays used extensive plot summaries to make the masterpieces of high modernism understandable to the "common reader." As one of those who in the '30s needed such help (and often still does), I admired and still admire Wilson's work; indeed he is now, as he always has been, the critic I most enjoy reading. Delany has been an introductory critic for readers in the sf community, bringing us news from the rarefied heights inhabited by currently prestigious philosopers, linguists, and theoreticians and filling us in on cultural history. It may be that Delany as cultural historian is now finding an audience outside the sf community. Longer Views has been reviewed favorably in at least one critical weekly (The Nation, 10/28/96) and in "Books in Brief" in the NYTBR (12/29/96).

Delany presents himself, in the first sentence of his Preface, as a critic committed to postmodernism: "In a critical epoch that has privileged, for twenty years or more, difference, discontinuity, diversity, and pluralism over the elder gods of Unity, Totality, and Mastery, so much American nonfiction still finds itself attempting to appease those elder gods and their former conventions" (ix). But not this book! Since Longer Views is, from first to last, a wonderfully good read that in each of its essays privileges  "difference, discontinuity, diversity, and pluralism," Delany seems to me to be a viable candidate for recognition as the postmodern Edmund Wilson.

"Shadow and Ash," which Delany regards as the most important essay in the book (x), consists of 47 numbered sections, ranging in length from half a line ("1. Rhetoric is the ash of discourse.") to three pages. Nine of the longer pieces are meditations on or inspired by Coleridge, Silliman, Russ, Symonds, Mapplethorpe, Silliman again, Homer, Silliman still again, and Artaud. The single-sentence and single-paragraph pieces comment on, inter alia, satisfactions and frustrations in his own life. The topic of the essay as a whole is said to be "the concept of discourse and its necessity for any sophisticated historical understanding" (x). If so, the notes may be regarded as obiter dicta with no central argument for the dicta to be obiter to. Though "Shadow and Ash" is also the essay "that needs the least prefatory matter," Delany has included as an appendix to Longer Views an even longer "chrestomathy" called "Shadows," which first appeared in Foundation in 1974-75 as a contribution to that journal's autobiographical "Profession of Science Fiction" series. Among its 60 pieces (some as long as seven pages) are several ventures into metaphysics and linguistics, which, taken together with all the miscellaneous observations, provide a possibly satisfactory philosophical justification for the apparently formless form.

"Some Notes on Hart Crane," the subtitle of the essay "Atlantis Rose," may also be applied to each of its five numbered but untitled divisions, for each of them ranges far and wide over Crane's life, work, and times, over the influences important or perhaps important to his work, and over the ups and downs of his critical reputation. "Wagner/Artaud: A Play of 19th and 20th Century Critical Fictions," with politics and dramaturgy added to the subjects ranged over, is similar in construction to "Atlantis Rose." "Aversion Perversion/Diversion" comes closer to unity inasmuch as it deals first with homosexual cruising and then with the problem of finding proper language for discussing the "'gay experience'" and for critiquing canonical literature with covert homosexual content. Finally, "Reading at Work and Other Activities Frowned on by Authority: A Reading of Donna Haraway's 'Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s'" does deal with science fiction, albeit also with reading as process and much else.

In his overall interpretation of The Bridge--

God--or the Absolute--as an abstract idea is too vast for the mind of man and woman to comprehend directly. Such an idea can only manifest itself--and then only partially--through myths. Living in the rectilinear architecture of the modern city, for Crane the curve, the broken arc, most visibly suggested the vastness and transcendence of deity. (216)

--Delany differs little if at all from Waldo Frank's introduction to The Collected Poems of Hart Crane (1933). What Delany adds for a reader unacquainted with more recent studies is a homosexual reading of several passages. His principle concern, however, is with the opposition between the poetics of Crane's time and of the present: i.e., between unity-totality-mastery and discontinuity-diversity-pluralism. Although the practitioners of the "new criticism" accepted Eliot and Pound as masters, they were a bit dubious about their ultimate achievement. Delany quotes R.P. Blackmur--

It is a disheartenting fact that the three most ambitious poems of our time should all have failed in similar ways: in composition, in independent objective existence, and in intelligibility of language. The Waste Land, the Cantos, and The Bridge all fail to hang together structurally in the sense that "Prufrock," "Envoi," and "Praise for an Urn"--lesser works in every other respect--do hang together. (193)

--and then remarks that though the consensus on Eliot and Pound "has wholly reversed," that on Crane has not. Delany's essay, I take it, is part of an ongoing effort by devotees of Crane to achieve for Crane the kind of prestige enjoyed by Eliot and Pound. A little later we learn that of the poets of Crane's time only Eliot, Pound, and Stevens now "precede[] Crane in reputation" (199), which means, I suppose, that more books and articles are being published on Crane than on Frost or Robinson or Cummings or whomever.

Though "Wagner/Artaud" is a very good read, I am not wholly persuaded as to the accuracy of its details. The sentence--

In 1850...twenty-seven-year-old Matthew Arnold stood looking out a window in the moonlight at the full, calm tide of Dover Beach (with or without a young woman, we are not sure). (35)

--makes me wonder whether there has been discovered since my time new evidence for dating the poem--and whether there is an "Arnold House" in Dover, a house in which the guide tells literary pilgrims that in this very house, standing with his beloved at that very window, the great poet was inspired to write his great poem.

I am also dubious about Delany's interpretation of the poem as one expressing fear of working-class revolution. Shall we add a phrase?:

Ah, love, let us be

True to one another! for the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really [what with the workers in revolt] neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain.

Delany reads the "darkling plain/ Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,/ Where ignorant armies clash by night," as "a nightmare Arnold feared lay under the dream the English could still see as,'so various, so beautiful, so new'--a nightmare that was already manifest in France and Germany, a nightmare that was uneasily feared for England herself" (35). But Arnold, a middle-class Liberal in post-1832 England was not opposed to the bourgeoisification of continental governments brought about by the revolutions of 1848.

Delany comes to Arnold and "Dover Beach" in the course of an argument to the effect that since religion in the 19th century no longer served to keep the lower orders in hand, upper-class intellectuals decided to try literature as an opiate, and so advocated the establishment of Departments of English:

Seventeen years later in 1867, as his last lecture as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, Arnold delivered what was to become the first chapter of his book Culture and Anarchy--and in it, it is all there. The study of Latin and Greek had promoted the necessary civilized values in the upper middle classes. But it is was quite another thing to make Latin and Greek the basis of mass education for the proletariat.

Why not use imaginative works in a language the masses already spoke to accomplish for the working classes what disciplines such as philology and the "Greats" had done for their rulers?(35-36).

But there is nothing whatever in "Sweetness and Light," the first chapter of Culture and Anarchy, nor in the Preface or any of the other chapters, about the unsuitability of Latin and Greek for the masses, nothing whatever about using literature to inculcate civilized values in the masses, and certainly nothing whatever about replacing religion with literature. To be sure, Arnold believed that literature--the best literature--did inculcate civilized values, but he was much more concerned with acculturating the middle classes (the Philistines), who had come to dominate the life of England. The aristocracy (the Barbarians) already possessed a degree of culture, and the lower classes (the Populace) could wait their turn. Arnold was a good liberal as well as a Liberal: he believed in equality as a social goal and had no thought that shopkeepers and working men were inherently any less capable of achieving culture than the Philistines.

There are at least three other places in which a lapse in Delany's erudition leads him astray. First, in his note on Coleridge, Delany has Wells in 1939 being "prompted" by a line quoted by Lowes from "Frost at Midnight" in The Road to Xanadu to make "Things to Come" the title of the film he was writing (146). There is no evidence, so far as I know, for Wells having read Lowes; the sequence "things to come" had already appeared in the title of Wells's 1933 novel, The Shape of Things to Come; in addition, "things to come" is a not a fixed phrase coined by Coleridge or anyone, but a freely formable word sequence that goes back at least to Shakespeare (Troilus and Cressida, I.iii. 346). Second, on the next page, in a note on Joanna Russ, Delany gives the tiny rocketship in Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations" a "five-man crew" (and attributes the same error to Kathryn Cramer); whereas, as one thought all the sf world knew, the pilot and the girl are all alone. Third, in "Atlantis Rose," ignoring the real Cape Hatteras on Hatteras Island and the references in the text to Kitty Hawk and the Wright brothers, Delany identifies the setting of "Cape Hatteras," a section of The Bridge, as "that stretch of southern New Jersey containing Whitman's last home, in Camden" (220). (In this instance the fault may possibly lie in Delany's failure to make his thought clear.)

But such lapses in erudition seem trivial indeed in view of the grand sweep of Delany's cultural history, in which the "elder gods of Unity, Totality, and Mastery" are judged responsible not only for our failure properly to appreciate such poets as Hart Crane, but also for all the deadly ills of our time: nationalism, antisemitism, totalitarianism, racism (40-41). I repeat, Longer Views is a wonderfully good read.--RDM.

Ideas on and Attitudes Toward Technology.

Yaron Ezrahi, Everett Mendelsohn, and Howard P. Segal, eds. Technology, Pessimism, and Postmodernism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995, viii+216. $14.95 paper.

Technology, Pessimism, and Postmodernism is a medley of essays written from a variety of viewpoints on the reinterpretation of technology in light of the prevalent contemporary commitment to some form of technological pessimism. There are specific historical discussions of specific technologies (the controversy over lightning rods in mid-nineteenth century; the enthusiasm for and opposition to American telegraphy from 1840-80), and to individuals or groups of individuals (Joseph Glanvill's role in trying to balance science and morality in the eighteenth century; the belated technological pessimism [post-World War II] of German conservative intellectuals; the breakdown in the 1960s of the unwritten contract that linked science to society in writers such as C. Wright Mills, Lewis Mumford, Herbert Marcuse and Rachel Carson). They each in their way illustrate the continued presence of a technological pessimism throughout the history of technology, paralleling technological enthusiasm. While primarily historical, these essays also include discussions of some or all of philosophy, political theory, and social and scientific policy.

Complementing and supplementing the historical papers, there are three primarily theoretical papers--Ezrahi on "Technology and the Illusion of Escape from Politics"; Pippin "On the Notion of Technology as Ideology: Prospects," and Motzkin revisiting "On Time and Technology in Heidegger's Thought." The themes of these papers complement some of the more specific historic examinations. Pippin's tracing of the problem of technology as ideology from Marx to Habermas leads to a critique of Habermas as well as Heidegger. He notes that Heidegger, who is "undialectical and a bit moralistic," avoids all notions of ideology critique, since for him technology embodies an orientation to Being and Being is forgotten. Commenting on Habermas at the conclusion of his summary of the tradition of ideological technique, he observes that the ideological issues advanced by modernism and the technological need "to be raised within a broader philosophic framework, one more sensitive to the substantive, historical, and practical issues at stake in the modern revolution itself, and thus more responsive to the claim that modernity and its technological implications may be, finally and decisively "legitimate"--at the very least, in historical terms, "sufficiently rational" (111). Pippin argues that an energetic technological optimism is required precisely because of a kind of philosophical pessimism associated with the aporiai (102) inherent in the technology as ideology claim.

Motzkin's essay establishes the ground for Pippin's reservations concerning Heidegger's treatment of time and technology. He argues that Heidegger's treatment of this issue is fundamentally simplistic and reductive, partly resulting in Heidegger's pessimism being a retrospective one (situating the future in the past), not a prospective sense of that impending apocalypse which we associate with some of the dystopian visions of sf. Consequently, Heidegger cannot according to Motzkin be regarded as a genuine technological pessimist. The implication is that Heidegger does not share the postmodern pessimism of Foucault or Lyotard noted by Pippin when he observes that while Heidegger makes us aware that the "modern fixation of technological power is actually a final culminating revelation of the deep connection between all power/knowledge, the Foucaultian/Nietzschean themes while continuous with Heidegger in many ways go much further" (98). This motif has already been picked up in Leo Marx's opening essay, which must have been the keynote paper of the conference in Tel-Aviv at which these papers were presented, since Marx argues for a reassessment of postmodern pessimism and some of its inherent paradoxes.

The timing and location of the presentation of these conference papers are of some interest, since the specter of the then recent Gulf War quite appropriately stalked the proceedings and consequently this book. The theoretical orientation that Leo Marx, as one of the founders of the history of technology in North America, had presented to historians of science, culture and technology underlies this conference's apparent exploration of the possibility for achieving a rational balance of technological optimism and pessimism. Marx's essay, "The Idea of 'Technology' and Postmodern Pessimism," is a capsulated history of technology since the eighteenth century, which parallels an account of the development of technological pessimism. The focal point of this essay is Marx's claim that this pessimism has its origin in those very developments that called into being--among other salient features of modernity--the idea of "technology" which arises during the mid-nineteenth century when the word technology becomes the accepted term for denominating the realm of the instrumental.

If, as Leo Marx claims, such a usage of "technology" becomes widespread between 1880 and 1900, then the popular establishment of technology's relationship to the instrumental and the early development of sf (at least in its modern form) are contemporaneous. Emphasizing the way the nature of the term deflected attention from the materialistic and reifying associations of the machine by establishing an idealized and purified abstraction, Marx asserts that "of all its attributes, this hospitality to mystification--to technological determinism--may well be the one that has contributed most to postmodern pessimism." For Marx the critical turning point is between 1870-1920 when large technological systems became a dominant element in the American economy. Whether, as Rosalind Williams has claimed, such systems begin with the Enlightenment, their economic and political importance becomes much greater subsequent to the telegraph and telephone networks, the new chemical industry, the electric light and power grids, and mass production and use system-- such as the "Fordist" automobile manufacturing industry.

The emerging technocratic idea that progress "tacitly replaced political aspirations with technical innovations as a primary agent of change, thereby preparing the way for an increasingly pessimistic sense of the technological determination of history" (20). This technocratic spirit permeates cultural modernism and manifests itself in various modernist, avant-garde movements in the visual arts and architecture, culminating in "the popular science-fiction vision of life in a spaceship far from planet Earth, where recycling eliminates all dependence on organic process, and the self-contained environment is completely under human control" (21). Only after the Vietnamese war does the idea of progress underlying the determinate nature of technology become totally untenable.

Marx's essay is one of two which seriously treat the professional world of cultural production--the arts, sf, advertising, architecture, artificial environments--as a significant avenue for understanding the processes involved in the generation of a technological sublime and the parallel changes in pessimism about technology. One of the most interesting, and certainly the paper most oriented to issues of everyday practice here and now and in the near future, is Howard Segal's concluding essay "The Cultural Contradictions of High Tech: or the Many Ironies of Contemporary Technological Optimism." In an unusual turn for this collection, Segal closely examines various popular cultural phenomena--the writings of such technological enthusiasts as Tofler and Naisbitt; advertising of technology, such as IBM's use of Charlie Chaplin; the history of World's Fairs, Disneyland, and theme parks.

Segal's analysis of the deterioration of the reflective utopianism of world's fairs into the uncritical, romantic utopianism of theme parks spans the gap between a balance of the technological sublime and technological pessimism. His highlighting London 1851 (the Crystal Palace), Paris 1900 (the significant fair in the education of Henry Adams), and New York 1939 is certainly appropriate for illustrating the educational aspects of the historic fairs. But he, like Gelernter in his study of the New York World's Fair of 1939, manifests ethnocentric Americanism by suggesting that New York's utopian vision of technology is the end point of the great World's Fairs. Most of these essays in one way or another indicate that the aftermath of the sixties was a major turning point in the nature of technological pessimism--a point that would be better understood by tying that end-point to a later exposition.

The International Exposition which marks the end of the tradition of the great World's Fairs dominated by educational themes and international multiculturalism is Montreal's Expo '67. Situated two-thirds of the way through the sixties, thematically dominated by the height of McLuhan's international reputation and the peak of Canadian internationalism and multi-culturalism, Expo's theme of Man and His World advanced a critical optimism about cultural and human ecology. The Montreal exposition which explored the beginnings of the cybernetic era of communications and warned about the potential dangers of the emerging technoculture, as well as its promise, was one of the last of the Fairs dedicated to the genuinely educative as well as the spectacular. Choosing this end-point, rather than that moment preceding World War II, would have complemented the importance of the sixties in creating the postmodern pessimism with which this volume is concerned. There would be little argument that by Vancouver 86, under the impact of high tech's establishing the uncritical and ahistorical world of the theme parks, the World's Fair had become obsolete.

Segal's final target is the "nine ironies of technological literacy" providing the ultimate operation of hi tech in manipulating technological enthusiasm. Here is the ultimate co-optation of the critical university through the New Liberal Arts as the culmination of Eisenhower's prophetic warnings in his presidential farewell address on January 17, 1961, against "unwarranted influence the military industrial complex" (155)--discussed earlier in the collection by Mendelsohn in his essay on "The Politics of Pessimism and Technology."

Given the discussion of sublime and pessimistic orientations toward technology, it is surprising that sf writing plays a very minor role in this book. In Ido Yavetz's essay on "lightning protection" in Victorian England there is a mention of H.G. Wells' Time Machine (1895)--"Rejection of technology, Wells seems to imply, will not lessen our dependence on it; it will only drive technology underground, rendering our relationship with it and with each other parasitic rather than symbiotic" (7l)--and in Marx's essay cited above. Otherwise, like the ghost of the Gulf War, the ghost of science fiction stalks these essays without any significant attention. Apart from the many classics in print and film that would have contributed significantly to this dialogue, the contemporary importance of Stanislaw Lem, Star Trek, and cyberpunk to any contemporary dialogue on technological pessimism and the technological sublime should have made it apparent that their discussion is as requisite to this dialogue as art, advertising, expositions, or the press.

The reader interested in theoretical debates associated with French postmodernist and poststructuralist discourse will regret the lack of any extensive discussion of Lyotard and Foucault, or any discussion of Deleuze and Guattari. With such a complex collection, it is regrettable that an Index for reference to the essays was not provided. Nevertheless, the essays in this collection are significant and important contributions to a complex debate and will offer students of sf much valuable information about the history of technology, particularly the history of ideas about technology and attitudes towards technology.

 --Donald F. Theall, Trent University.

More Cool Memories.

Jean Baudrillard. Cool Memories II. 1987-1990. Trans. Chris Turner. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 1996. vii+90. $39.95 cloth, $15.95 paper.

There are at least two Baudrillards. There's the Gauloise pinching professional intellectual, the post-everything hypertheorist that many righteous folk have something to say about. And there's the other guy, Bizarro Baudrillard, the author of Amériques and Cool Memories I and II, surely the most ironic man on earth, a hilarious self-parodying comedian, the Buster Keaton-faced descendant of Durkheim, Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin. Bizarro Baudrillard is on a permanent road trip. The best way to spend time with him is on a zigzag cross-country run in a T-Bird, passing bourbon and bennies, country music and pentecostals on the radio, you provide the Americana, and he will provide the patter. If there is a sublime of infinite space, and a sublime of eternal time, there must also be a sublime of perpetual wit, in which the most taxing logics are invoked, turned into metaphor, and set loose. Baudrillard is a  sublime ironist--he begins an analogy or explication of the social world, and before you get it, it has mutated to infinity, and, at the velocity of those UFOs that can vanish in the blink of an eye, as soon as you understand the logic, it's gone. This is Baudrillard's humor. Aphorist, put-on artist, joker, fool. His irony is almost private--from an intelligence with seemingly no other aim than to entertain itself, the way one of those fallen angels in Wings of Desire might share a joke with a colleague in a fallen-angel bar.

Cool Memories II is Baudrillard's mellowest book, and one of his wittiest. It continues Cool Memories' format: a running notebook of random aperçus, aphorisms, and night thoughts as he travels the world. Baudrillard has become even more random with time; there are no dates, and the sense that Baudrillard is writing residual travelogue has diminished. He has grown used to travel, and, true to his theory, the differences among places have faded. There are still spots--Brazil, Salt Lake City, Buenos Aires, Italy--but they are evaporating before his very eyes. Untethered by the responsibilities of theory, and of being a good terrorist, Baudrillard becomes a postmodern flaneur in Cool Memories II. Unlike most of the recent French philosphers of disappearance, Baudrillard is uncomfortable with the universalization of his thinking. America and the Cool Memories books give him a formless form to ground his work in his own personality, his class irony, his shortcomings. The resulting picture is of a hopelessly sentimental self-deprecating heterosexual, an insomniac intellectual incapable of not thinking, a connoisseur of ennui and Passagenarbeit, an elegant poet, an artist for whom the term visionary ironist should be reintroduced.

Cool Memories II gives ample evidence that Baudrillard's science-fictional imagination has not abandoned him. For no other philosopher or theorist do science-fictional tropes come so easily and naturally. What's more, most of them are original, derived not from films or books, but from close observation of the real world as it implodes into hyperreality. The book begins: "A continent which, by its mass, deflects light rays and thus cannot be seen, deflects lines of force and thus cannot be encountered, deflects the radiation of conceptual influences and thus cannot be conceived" (1). This continent of thought, whose event horizon inspires "the metaphysics of the Green Ray," perturbs the seen world. Entering this green black hole of Baudrillard's thought, we enter several sf tropes at once: utopia, dystopia, inner space, outer space, aliens, alternate history. Baudrillard's typical sf form is the tiny high-concept scenario or meditation, in which a conceptual paradox is first "materialized," then worked to its "fatal" conclusions.

Thrill to the B-Movie, postmodern style: "Flies in the plane.... I see them multiplying hour by hour, taking over the aircraft.... In the end, the passengers are overcome and devoured by the enraged swarm. The weight of the aircraft increases with each passing minute. It ends up crashing to earth in the forest, but because of their lightness, the flies escape" (9).

Or the metaphysical technotale: reflecting on Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God": "Thrilling, this idea of a gentle apocalypse by the lights going out, the universe having found and spelled out its own formula. It would be the ideal for human beings too to be able to spell out at least some of the billions of their potentialities and then disappear in the assumption of the universal paradigm.... Doubtless, too, it is the secret aim of computers to put an end to the world by an exhaustive listing of data..." (8).

A modern utopia: "On the lines of the Jesuit republics of the past, they ought now to found a Psychoanalytic Republic of Argentina, which would extend the rule of the Unconscious, as far as Patagonia," etc. (10)

The Two Cities: "Las Vegas and Salt Lake City: The translucency of Christ and religion is to Salt Lake what the spectral ritual of gambling and money is to Las Vegas. The biblical, evangelical, genealogical, operational compulsion of the Mormons is to faith what the calculating, superstitious madness of the Las Vegas addicts is to money. Messianism and discipleship reach perfection of Salt Lake City. Heresy and apostasy are at their height at Las Vegas." (41)

Kalifornia: "The Californians are committed to a job of advertising just as ascetic as the task of the Mormons with whom they share a geographical and mental space. They are a huge sect devoted to proving happiness, as others have dedicated themselves to the greater glory of God" (41).

Hyperpunk: "At Disneyworld in Florida they are building a giant mock-up of Hollywood, with the boulevards, studios, etc. One more spiral in the simulacrum. One day they will rebuild Disneyland at Disneyworld." (42)

Techno-historical recursion: "we are becoming like primitive societies once again, with all their vulnerability to the slightest germ. The tiniest computer bacillus will soon create as much mayhem in our societies as the influenza or smallpox bacilli did among the Amerindians of the sixteenth century. Our intensive mode of communication promotes contamination even more readily than did the physical crowding associated with poverty" (52).

Mutant Futures: "In the hierarchy of lack, the intellectual--and the politician--are merely intermediate links. They will be succeeded by the true mutants, those lacking a particular gene or chromosome or those with extra ones (when the AIDS virus has become part of humanity's genetic inheritance) or even artificial mutants who will not have sexual reproduction--mutants who are in a sense inhuman, borderline specimens--successors to the eununchs who peopled the harems of antiquity and choirs of the Renaissance, and to the impotent hemophiliacs who commanded empires, etc. This is not pejorative. It is merely an expression of the law that only the person who lacks something is capable of filling the vacuum of power." (61)

Rational Devolution: "And what if ecology itself rediscovers the higher utility of forest fires? Will we also rediscover the higher utility of human sacrifice? (The Aztecs believed that only by spilling human blood could the sun's energy be regenerated? Can we really imagine they got things so badly wrong?)" (66).

Life During Wartime: in a global exchange of drugs for debt, the North and South are involved in a global "soft and dirty war," each hemisphere struggling "to drain the blood of the other" (87).

Mythic Return: Latin America replays its fatal myth of immolation as America replays its myth of the frontier (73). (An idea, by the way, that Asturias published almost a century ago.)

Each of these, and other, tiny high-concept scenarios is drawn with brushstrokes. One can imagine dozens of ways of making them "realistic," elaborating them with detail and narrative, but they are an sf genre in their own right. Baudrillard also has a special gift for collapsing the distance between metaphors and scientific concepts, and the borders between different domains of scientific metaphors. This too is a sort of sf, scientific-conceptual irony-- certainly not a naive form of sf, but just one step beyond the materialization of metaphor that sf thrives on (Baudrillard warns us of the ozone leak in the noosphere). Or his characteristic extreme, ironic, farcically conceptual social prophecy that is chilling because one can no longer believe that anything is impossible if it can be thought:

"Contrary to that superstition, which consists, under cover of human rights, in extending responsibilities to infinity, we long for things to happen to us which we are not responsible for and not entitled to. Catastrophe is of that order. That is why it could become a vital and legitimate demand--why not one of our human rights? (It is already, we know, a sign of the liberalization of totalitarian regimes: the reinvention of catastrophe in the USSR is a part of glasnost)." (49)

Not everything in Cool Memories II is science-fictional, of course. But there is enough sf imagining in it to transform even the theorist's this-worldly meditations into the musings of an sf character waiting in the time-transit terminal for his next ride.- ICR

21.7% Interesting.

Joe Sanders, ed. Functions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Thirteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1995. 230pp. $59.95.

A brief review of Joe Sanders's anthology Functions of the Fantastic would not be difficult to write. The volume reads like an expanded issue of a journal devoted primarily, but far from dogmatically, to the study of fantasy and science fiction. Its essays examine a wide variety of authors and genres, and their quality ranges from excellent to so-so. Each essay proceeds in a brisk and businesslike fashion, suggesting that Sanders exercised a firm and capable editorial hand. The book should be purchased by any library with a significant number of patrons who can be expected to regularly consult the MLA annual bibliographies. And I suspect that exactly the same review, with minor revisions, could be offered for any of the recent anthologies emerging from the annual International Conferences on the Fantastic in the Arts. Now, reading this volume does raise a number of questions about the enterprise that generated it. Is "the fantastic," construed to refer to the vast range of literature that is not mimetic, really a meaningful category coherent enough to be the subject of critical analyses and broad generalizations such as those found repeatedly in this volume? Isn't an organization devoted to the study of the "fantastic in the arts" destined to bring together all sorts of scholars who really have very little in common? Does an occasional study of something other than literature--here, a single essay about a sculptor--justify the announced coverage of "the arts"? However, these and related concerns have been raised before without generating any response--and why should they? The IAFA conferences are well attended, their Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts is back in production, and their conference proceedings are being published in rapid succession. Theoretical objections notwithstanding, this organization seems to be succeeding, and only declining attendance or dismal sales figures are likely to provoke any soul-searching about its governing philosophy.

Therefore, after offering only one general comment about this collection-- despite Sanders's desperate introductory claims about a shared commitment to "applicability" and essays that "connect so serendipitously" (xii), these essays have absolutely nothing in common, and the fact that the editors of these volumes regularly feel obliged to pretend otherwise is an embarrassment to everyone involved--I will focus my attention on the five essays out of twenty-three in this volume that directly relate to science fiction, as these are most likely to be of interest to readers of this journal. (All appear near the end of the volume, suggesting Sanders either moved them to the back of the bus or saved the best for last.)

First, two essays seem substantive and persuasive, though not particularly provocative, as I suspect that critics familiar with the examined authors would happily agree with everything that is said: Sarah Jo Webb's "Culture as Spiritual Metaphor in Le Guin's Always Coming Home" matter-of-factly describes the three "metaphorical themes" Le Guin employs "to point to something essentially unnameable" about her Kesh culture (159), while Veronica Hollinger's "Travels in Hyperreality: Jean Baudrillard's America and J.G. Ballard's Hello America" argues that Ballard's 1981 novel was "both the chronological prequel and the imaginative sequel" to Baudrillard's 1986 work (188).

Bud Foote's "Assuming the Present in SF: Sartre in a New Dimension" develops out of Kim Stanley Robinson's "Green Mars" (not Green Mars) a fascinating conceit about science fiction and history, but, like other Foote essays, it seems to come to an end just when things are getting interesting. Still, I suppose it is a rare compliment to say that a critical essay needed to be much longer.

Rob Latham's "The Men Who Walked on the Moon: Images of America in the 'New Wave' Science Fiction of the 1960s and 1970s" usefully surveys New Wave fiction to find a common fascination with America in general and with the figure of the astronaut in particular, managing to counter some conventional characterizations of this literature (both positive and negative) and, for me at least, establishing the New Wave's connections to, if not endorsement of, previous science fiction.

Brian Attebery's "The Closing of the Final Frontier: Science Fiction after 1960" ends the volume with an argument so artfully and eloquently presented that one almost hates to point out its flaws. First, drawing upon the reading expectations of three generations of Atteberys, Attebery suggests that the western genre has steadily changed from a literature primarily judged by its fidelity to the frontier experience to a literature primarily judged in the context of its own literary traditions, the turning point being Turner's closing of the American frontier in 1890. Similarly, he argues, various developments brought a closing of the science-fiction "frontier" around 1960, sparking a parallel transformation in science fiction from a science-based literature to a literature-based literature. Yet it is easy to turn this argument on its head. First, despite what the Atteberys were looking for in their westerns, I do not think it profitable to characterize the western as a genre that progressed from authenticity to literariness, especially since many of its patterns were established by nineteenth-century writers with little knowledge of the frontier, while modern writers like Louis L'Amour and Chad Oliver have based their westerns on painstaking research. And Turner's notion that frontier life essentially vanished in 1090 has been widely derided; to this day, there are still people living what could be termed a frontier life, one subgenre of the western has always been the story set in modern times, and there are therefore to this day readers who can evaluate westerns in terms of their authentic flavor. One could plausibly argue, in fact, that the western has steadily progressed from a genre founded on mythic conventions about western life to a genre that has rejected those myths and has rediscovered the actual history and nature of life on the frontier. And in parallel fashion, then, one could argue that science fiction, far from moving from scientific influence to literary influence, has in fact moved from lip service to science to, in some of the best modern writers, serious borrowing from and examination of science in a manner utterly unlike previous generations of writers. (As it happens, I made roughly that argument in Cosmic Engineers.) Of course, the problem from Attebery's perspective is that such a reversed argument provides no justification for The Norton Book of Science Fiction; and while this paper was first presented before it appeared, one's knowledge of that anthology now makes the argument here seem more self-serving than analytical. Still, if the best essays are the ones that provoke the greatest amount of thought, I would have to call Attebery's the best essay in the volume.

Finally, just to show I am aware of the value of "serendipity," I will admit that Barbara Kline's "Duality, Reality, and Magic in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" did convey the importance of noting how characters respond to events in their own stories and thus provided an idea that might someday be useful in my own work. But, considered in terms of cost-benefit analysis, I must ponder whether obtaining that idea really made it worthwhile to wade through essays about, among other things, fairy tales, mysteries, ghost stories, Edmund Spenser, Matthew Lewis, Jane Austen, and Anatole France. Personally, I feel that life is short, my time is limited, and I am therefore obliged to limit my future reading to books whose benefits to me will be demonstrably more than serendipitous.

--Gary Westfahl, University of California at Riverside.

An Important Study of German SF.

Roland Innerhofer. Deutsche Science Fiction 1870-1914. Rekonstruktion und Analyse der Anfänge einer Gattung. Wien-Köln-Weimar: Böhlau Verlag 1996 508pp. ATS 686.00. (Literatur in der Geschichte-- Geschichte der Literatur, vol. 38).

In his comprehensive compilation Science Fiction in der deutschsprachigen Literatur (1995, reviewed in SFS 23:297-299, 1996) Hans-Edwin Friedrich had complained that since Manfred Nagl's groundbreaking study Science Fiction in Deutschland (1972) the topic of German sf had been left, with few exceptions, to dedicated fans and American Germanists. Now Roland Innerhofer, a professor at the Institute for German Philology in the University of Vienna and a teacher at the American International School in Vienna (the school where expatriate American fantasy novelist Jonathan Carroll teaches a course in creative writing), has written an extensive work on the origins of German science fiction. By doing so, he follows in the steps of an early American doctoral thesis at Brown University, E.M.J. Kretzman's The Pre-War German Utopian Novel (1890-1914) (1936), mentioned by Friedrich but used so far by no historian of German sf. Innerhofer too didn't know it. Innerhofer's work is theoretically less ambitious than Nagl's work in that he doesn't aim at giving any all-encompassing exegesis of the German "technische Zukunftsroman" (the technological novel of the future, the most common term for this kind of writing before science fiction became generally accepted in the fifties and sixties). Innerhofer is completely free of any ideological bias, and discusses the individual works in the context of the time in carefully reasoned, detailed analyses. A big problem with the study of German sf has always been the dearth of sources: paraliterature was considered not worth collecting in libraries, many books thus are not to be found in any library and have been preserved, if at all, only in a few surviving copies in the collections of private aficionados. The once tremendously popular dime novel series "Der Luftpirat und sein lenkbares Luftschiff" (165 issues, 1908-1912) is not to be found in a single library, nor is it listed bibliographically. Only a single collector is reputed to have a complete run (which may be a false rumor), and even most collectors haven't seen a single issue, although this series was widespread in imperial Germany and was undoubtedly the first contact with sf of thousands of young readers. The situation with books is not much, better. Innerhofer had the support of some collectors who drew his attention to particular texts, and this is noticeable in the corpus of the investigated stories which includes some rare specimens. Gratefully, he refrains also from the game of trying to define sf, the initial ritual in most German theses, and agrees with Nagl's view that sf is a "compound of media, products, and advertising" (roughly, sf is that which is called so by its publishers) and agrees that although the roots of sf include many forerunners from the Greek utopias onwards, it is only in the late 19th Century that the increase of literacy in the populace, the rapid growth of technology and a new enthusiasm for science and technology, as well as new ways of printing and distributing cheap literature made possible the rise of the genre sf; that it is the so-called trivial literature that reacted quicker to the new conditions than respectable fiction; and that exactly because of its formal imperfection, its schematism and its stereotypes it is a better indicator of the new developments. Popularization of science, enthusiasm for the possibilities of technology, education as well as entertainment and escape from a dreary social reality were the driving forces. The work of Jules Verne provided a focus for this development; Verne's originality lies in the way that he functionalized older traditions of the adventure novel and introduced historically new themes. Although not aesthetically innovative in themselves, they led to new aesthetic qualities that went beyond a mere compilation of old factors. In Austria and Germany Verne was also from the beginning, as in France, marketed as a brand name, and other writers came to be measured against Verne and said to be writing "Verniades." There was a large number of translations in all forms, from cheap editions to beautifully illustrated and expensive volumes, and Verne's formula was also adapted to the stage and from the beginning of that medium as films. Verne escaped also being labeled trash, as happened with other writers, presumably because of his educative value: he was considered a great teacher and his books wholesome reading for young people. Consequently, Innerhofer starts with an extended discussion of the genre-forming pivotal position of Verne, discussing first his tremendous presence on the German market (H.G. Wells never enjoyed a similar popularity) and reactions to him, and then investigates Verne's narrative structures, his machines of travel and modes of perceiving movement, science as a solution of riddles, the engineer as hero, when the hero is a machine, and the machine becomes the hero, and the overwhelming role of electricity as the movens of Verne's stories, Verne's borrowings from the adventure novel, the travelogue, the robinsonade, the detective story, and utopias. The bulk of Innerhofer's book is organized in four main sections in which he investigates individual works in careful analyses that remain close to the texts and take cognizance of formal literary criteria as well as the ideonotional context of the time. These topics are fantasies of flight (divided further into earthly flights and flights into space), catastrophes, and means of communication.

Most of the material is either completely unknown or has never been discussed before at such length. Innerhofer concentrates on the unknowns and discusses writers like Kurd Lasswitz, Bernhard Kellermann, and others that have been written extensively about elsewhere only in passing. It must be admitted that early German sf produced no figure of the stature of Verne or Wells; even Kurd Lasswitz appears rather pedestrian besides Wells. The aesthetically most interesting German writer of the period was Paul Scheerbart (1863-1915), a singular phenomenon whose work had nothing in common with any other sf. Scheerbart created a literary universe of pure form, colors, geometric patterns, light--a purely visual utopia that was not something to be achieved in the future but which Scheerbart declared to be the true cosmic nature of the world apart from this vale of tears.

Innerhofer's book does for early German sf what Paul K. Alkon's Science Fiction Before 1900(1994) does for British, American, and French sf, and much more amply; it gives a balanced overview of its period, covering the connections and interrelationships between technology, public opinion, and literature, often colored by nationalist and imperialist aspirations and hopes, exaggerated expectations in the marvels of technology, as well as the fears and anxieties that found expression in tales of cosmic or man-made catastrophes that put an end to progress, and it does so in an impressive array of works. Besides Manfred Nagl's Science Fiction in Deutschland (1972) and Horst Heidtmann's monograph on modern sf in the late German Democratic Republic, Utopisch-phantastische Literatur in der DDR (1982), this is the most useful study of German sf we have. The book is illustrated with pictures from rare works and contains an extensive bibliography and an index.

--Franz Rottensteiner, Vienna.

A Centenary Biography.

Barbara Belford. Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula. NY: Knopf, 1996. xv+381. $30.00 (US); $42.00 (CAN)

Barbara Belford's long-awaited biography of Bram Stoker, which acknowledges his most notorious creation in its title, is only the most recent attempt to bring the Irish writer and theatre manager into the footlights. As next year marks the centenary of the publication of Dracula, Belford's book is at least timely. Timeliness, however, is one of its only strengths. Despite her use of archival material unexamined by two predecessors--Harry Ludlam (A Biography of Dracula: The Life Story of Bram Stoker, 1962) and Daniel Farson (The Man Who Wrote Dracula, 1975)--her subject remains waiting in the wings. Where readers anticipate biographical flesh and blood wrought of articulate prose, all they get, finally, is the skeleton that has been previously on offer in earlier biographies.

If there is a star in Belford's biography, it is the Lyceum, the theatre that Stoker managed for nearly a quarter century (it was sold by Stoker's boss, English actor Henry Irving, in 1902, three years before his death). Belford's chapters devoted to it and to Irving's eight American tours account for fully three-quarters of her book and do, in fact, succeed in bringing this famous venue to life.

The primary production Belford stages here, however, is one which has had a long run in the annals of Stoker lore; unfortunately, it is a production which is also contradictory and questionable. On the basis of what Belford describes as Stoker's obsessive "hero worship" of such commanding male figures as Walt Whitman, Richard Burton, Tennyson, and Henry Irving, she claims that he sealed "a Faustian pact" with Irving when he agreed to assume his managerial position. In Belford's Freudian melodrama, Irving plays the role of exploitative father figure while Stoker assumes that of "willing victim."

Although it is estimated that Stoker wrote about half a million letters in his capacity as the Lyceum's manager, Belford reiterates that he was secretive and elusive about himself. He did not keep a journal, and the only forthcoming statement Belford has discovered involves his passion for the theatre. "Faith is to be found more often in a theatre," he wrote, "than in a church." Rather than recognizing, on the basis of this statement, that Irving and Stoker were well-matched equals who were exceptionally private, worked hard, and loved the theatre, Belford adheres to the old, groundless reading that Irving exploited Stoker in true Dracula fashion.

It is on this front that Belford is especially annoying. Every stage and facet of Stoker's life--not to mention 17 novels, romances, works of non-fiction, and numerous articles and short stories--is analyzed in the light of Dracula. Confronted by a busy and unforthcoming biographical subject, Belford desperately searches for meaty, emotional subject matter. She comes up with the goods in the form of biographical blurbs about the famous people surrounding Stoker at the Lyceum.

One would think that a professor at Columbia University's graduate school of journalism with two previous biographical works to her credit would know better than to shroud her subject in the raiment of his most notable production. Not so. While Dracula continues to rise illustriously from his grave, Stoker, thanks to inferior biographies, continues to roll in his.

--Carol Davison, Concordia University.

Dick as Theorist.

Lawrence Sutin, ed. The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick. Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings. NY: Vintage, 1995. ilxx+350. US $13.00, Canada $17.95, paper. (NY: Pantheon, 1995, cloth).

It seems odd in a forum such as SFS to make the apparently radical claim for Philip K. Dick that he is a writer of note and literary worth, a philosopher, a great thinker. It was in these pages, after all that A-J Greimas's semiotic rectangles were invoked to explain Dr. Bloodmoney--or perhaps Dr. Bloodmoney was invoked to explain the rectangle. Here that Lem declared for the one visionary among the charlatans. And here that Lacan was used to explain Dick, or Baudrillard was, or Benjamin. Or Lacan, Baudrillard, and Benjamin could only really be understood in terms of Dick. I know this symbiotic explanation first hand, as I grappled with the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas to explain Dick's peculiar privileging of ethics over ontology, only to find that I understood Levinas through my reading of Dick. Elsewhere Dick has been mentioned alongside Debord, Derrida, Freud, Jung, Genette, Merleau-Ponty, and no doubt scores of other thinkers. The question lingers on: is Dick a thinker in his own right or simply a convenient mold in which to pour the latest red hot /crack pot cultural theory?

Lawrence Sutin's collection is evidence which goes some way to prove the former--Sutin is well-placed for this task: his Divine Invasions is by far the most useful biography of Dick to date (Williams's Only Apparently Real is little more than an extended interview, albeit a useful one, and Rickman's biography is stalled at volume one half a decade on). Sutin's work on presenting a substantial fraction of the Exegesis (Dick's largely hand-written debates on the nature of his 1974 mystical experiences and how they related to his fiction) also deserves our praise, even if we should carp at his failure to note precisely which envelope each extract was taken from in the chaos of Dick's papers. Now Sutin brings together "significant nonfiction writings--essays, journals, plot scenarios, speeches, and interviews--by Philip K. Dick from throughout his career" (ix).

Those last four words should be taken account of: they gloss over "the eclectic Dick anthology The Dark-Haired Girl (1988)" (165). That collection included the compilation of letters and dream accounts entitled "The Dark-Haired Girl," an article on the early stages of A Scanner Darkly, letters which illuminate The Divine Trilogy, a short story missing from the Collected Stories and two articles which reappear in Sutin's volume, "The Android and the Human" and "Man, Machine and Android." Any serious scholar of Dick's post-1974 novels should track down a copy.

Meanwhile, Sutin has saved future scholars a good deal of leg work. Dick's non-fiction has appeared in fanzines such as Niekas and Lighthouse, the Australian magazine SF Commentary, and the British semi-prozine Interzone. A small piece of his appeared in a late issue of NewWorlds, and two outlines for novels appeared in the revived New Worlds edited by David Garnett. Much, but by no means all, of this material was reprinted in The PKDS Newsletter (now defunct), but few people have access to a complete run of this. Shifting Realities overlaps with a goodly percentage of this material, and presents a fair amount of material neglected by the Newsletter.

But it begins with a selection of autobiographical writings, and in particular with two short extracts from Gather Yourselves Together, Dick's earliest or second earliest surviving novel. Sutin rather schizophrenically describes this as "an early unpublished Dick mainstream novel" (xxvii) whilst noting it "was published in a limited edition by WCS Books in 1994" (3). The extracts are used to suggest the autobiographical nature of Dick's fiction even thirty years before the romans à clef of the late works. Similarly, Dick's musings on his childhood reaction to the Sargasso Sea (in the 1968 "Self Portrait") could be set aside Isidore's in Confessions of a Crap Artist. The reverse of this tendency could perhaps be examined--his one-year-old reactions to Chicago, his (apparently) unsubstantiated claim to have "had a classical music program on station KMSO" (11, cf 23), which might have fed into his memories from The Broken Bubble. (Dick's mentor Anthony Boucher was, meanwhile, broadcasting on KPFA, an early, radical FM station founded in Berkeley in 1949. Could it be no more than wishful embroidery of his own past by the frequently agoraphobic Dick?).

The second section collects a sequence of essays, mostly from fanzines, where Dick comes to grips with science fiction and its definition. The real gem here, "Pessimism in Science Fiction" (1955), establishes the starting point for much of Dick's 1960s sf: "Rather than writing stories about doom, perhaps we should take the doom for granted and go on from there. Make the ruined world of ash a premise: State it in paragraph one, and get it over with" (55). Again and again, Dick was to start with his character scrabbling in the ruins after World War Terminus, or surviving against environmental extremes, or making do after the Axis or the UN have taken over. Even the novel which comes closest to the nuclear cataclysm of the atomic age, Dr. Bloodmoney, circles about the actual moments when the bomb detonates.

In 1979, he admits that this doom did not come to pass, and yet he feels that his characters in Dr. Bloodmoney are still real and genuine. Real and not real: mimetic, "but not mimetic of the real world" (44). And it depends what you mean by the real world. Consider this statement against the Platonic idea of the real everyday world as imitative of the ideal world of forms, and then you begin to wonder if, perhaps, sf is realer than staid old, second order imitation realist fiction--and whether sf stands in analogous position to the ideal as does "reality." The human relationships in Vonnegut's Player Piano (which Dick praises in 1966 and 1969) are somehow more authentic than his everyday problems with wives and mothers. Wish-fulfillment, yes, and the upbeat nature of the fact that these fictional relationships do survive or come good is difficult to square with his jaw-dropping assertion that sf "is a man's field, and hence a happy ending is not required--as in all the fiction fields dominated by women" (63).

But then Dick does take these apparently random potshots from time to time--at Patricia Warrick's book The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction ("Don't dignify us.... Quite frankly, we were doing fine before you came along" [98]), Heinlein ("[He] has done more to harm to SF than any other writer" [58]) and Ridley Scott's Alien ("A monster is a monster and a spaceship is a spaceship" [105]). All too often Dick imitates a certain British politician: he is always sincere at the time of speaking or writing. As Sutin notes, Warrick and Dick were frequent correspondents and Dick was elsewhere complimentary to Heinlein ("My spiritual of the very few gentlemen" [88]). Is this evidence for multiple personality? Or simply the strong feelings of a genius, or someone striving for effect? The tale of poor little Phil, eating horse meat--from the oft reprinted "Lucky Dog Pet Food Store," also appearing here--certainly strikes a melodramatic chord.

Dick's distaste for Alien (probably conditioned by his treatment during the making of Blade Runner) should be contrasted with his liking of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back--and more surprisingly--Star Trek. But then his peers Theodore Sturgeon and Harlan Ellison had written episodes of the latter. Included here are script ideas for Mission: Impossible and an original series, although not his treatment for an episode of The Invaders. During the same period, he got involved with a failed attempt to film Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and provided copious notes for the potential director.

The most sustained pieces of work in the book are in the section "Essays and Speeches," including "Drugs, Hallucinations and the Quest for Reality," the two Human and Android speeches, the introduction to I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon and the infamous Metz speech, "If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others." It is here that he explores answers to his two recurring questions of "What is real?" and "What is human?," chases down some of the implications of the answers, and puts a new spin on them. These two questions are the subtext to virtually all of his fiction, and are asked in their purest form here.

At first sight, in "The Android and the Human", the reality question is eclipsed by that of the human. His division of beings into Humans and Androids seems to be more than flesh and blood or metal and oil: an Android is what a human being becomes if it unquestioningly obeys authority, if its behavior can be precisely predicted and controlled. The Human on the other hand has "a spirit of merry defiance, of spirited, although not spiritual bravery and uniqueness" (209). Being human is being humane--or, rather doing a humane act. That a type of behavior is in the end one answer to the "What is human?" question in turn leads to one answer to the "What is real?" question: "Reality, to me, is not so much something that you perceive, but something you make.... 'Good,' for example--that is not a quality or even a force in the world or above the world, but what you do with the bits and pieces of meaningless, puzzling, disappointing, even cruel and crushing fragments" (205).

In "Man, Machine and Android," this inauthenticity of the Android trying to pass itself off as Human, or being passed off as Human, is one symptom of a wider distrust of the apparent reality of the universe. Here Dick comes up with a model of the universe following "orthogonal time," its duration being both a straight line and a spiral like a long-playing record. God/the universe is asleep, is not yet aware of the paradise that may await it. Here Dick draws on both Cabbalistic and Gnostic influences to demonstrate how the "spirit" or "soul" of the individual and/or God and/or the universe (for want of an adequate vocabulary) can animate the reality toward a better, more ethical, more authentic reality.

The complex orthogonal model is the starting point of the Metz speech, where not only is the universe going to change for the better, but it already has. There was another, even more evil, version of the period leading up to 1974, which was erased with the fall of Nixon. And Dick, in 1974, has been given glimpses of a third, better, version of reality. His revelations stretch credulity, but are nonetheless fascinating as finger exercises for VALIS. And just when you think that Dick has toppled into insanity, he undercuts the ideas with a suggested headline for the speech: "AUTHOR CLAIMS TO HAVE SEEN GOD BUT CAN'T GIVE ACCOUNT OF WHAT HE SAW" (253). When this first appeared in English, in the PKDS Newsletter 27, it contained Dick's hurried amendments and deletions--and the fullest version would involve a not-quite-simultaneous translation into French with different omissions. Here it is presented as a straightforward text, a curious omission from Sutin's usually helpful source notes. But if the source notes give useful information concisely, Sutin's gnomic editorial interpolations leave something to be desired. It is fair enough to explain that F&SF is short for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (30) but why not do so at its first appearance (14). On the same page, Anthony Boucher is described as its editor, and he reappears on several subsequent pages (15, 18, 24-27) and reappears described as "[SF editor] Tony Boucher" (59, Sutin's brackets). When Sutin annotates "a superb little illo [illustration]" (107) and "fen [sic; perhaps 'fan' intended]" (112) the light suddenly dawns: Sutin is not editing for an sf audience after all, or rather not a fannish audience. It is only appropriate that Dick uses fanspeak in a fanzine (in this case Niekas) even when he is being deadly serious about Nazi atrocities.

The copyright page notes some earlier appearances of articles, but not all and is potentially misleading. More helpful would have been an index, and perhaps an annotated glossary of writers and philosophers, picking up where Sutin's appendix to his earlier Exegesis selections left off. But the manner of the task's undertaking should not be allowed to obscure the fact that the task has been done. Yes, there are inevitable omissions--a transcription of Dick's tape-recorded notes for a sequel to The Man in the High Castle (PKDS Newsletter #9/10) and Dick's own caustic review of The Divine Invasion (Patchin Review #7:9-10, 1985) for starters. But this is counterbalanced by Sutin's presentation of two completed chapters of a sequel (a revelation to me). Above all, Sutin has provided a substantial body of Dick's work which can be used (albeit with caution) alongside the volumes of Selected Letters to illuminate future readings of the philosophical systems extrapolated within Dick's fiction. Dick's strengths--and, yes, weaknesses--as an original thinker on the intersection of ethics and ontology may now be explored within a wider context than just his novels and nonfiction extracts tucked away in biographies.

--Andrew M. Butler.

Not Always Boon Companions.

Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1996. $29.95 each. Paul Bail. John Saul. Robin Roberts. Anne McCaffrey.xiii+186. Sharon A. Russell. Stephen King. xvi+173. Elizabeth A. Trembly. Michael Crichton. xviii+192.

As is announced in the Kathleen Gregory Klein's "Series Foreword" that appears in all of Greenwood Press's Critical Companions to Popular Contemporary Writers, "The authors included in this series were chosen by an Advisory Board composed of high school English teachers and high school and public librarians," who presumably represented the opinions and preferences of high school students. The process might be defended as prudent anticipation: since today's high school students are tomorrow's graduate students and young scholars, one should find out about their favorite authors now, so that references will be in place when they are later in a position to carry out literary research. However, the books themselves suggest another explanation: that, despite Klein's claim that the series "is designed to appeal to a wide range of readers," the books are being written primarily for an audience of high school students.

One reaches this conclusion by noting, first, that there are visible efforts to keep the prose style clear and simple, and the authors were manifestly required to make each chapter understandable if read in isolation, which sometimes leads to maddening repetition. (For example, Robin Roberts's "Feminist" reading of Anne McCaffrey's Restoree is largely identical to her "Feminist" reading of Dragonflight, with comments about Lessa replaced by comments about Sara.) In addition, the rigidity of the series format and the contents it dictates suggest an envisioned high school audience. Each book begins with two general chapters, one an author biography and the other a discussion of the author's characteristic genre(s). The other chapters each focus on a particular novel, with special emphasis on recent novels. With some variations, each chapter first discusses the plot, the characters, and the themes, then closes with an "Alternate Reading" from a particular critical perspective --such as Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, or psychoanalysis. Though one could defend this system as a helpful aid to reading, the materials provided seem suspiciously well suited to serve as a substitute for reading; and all literature instructors with an interest in preventing plagiarism would be well advised to be aware of and to have access to these books. Still, the fact that these books might be misused does not mean that they necessarily deserve criticism. Readers at all levels of education deserve to have resources available to them, and some previous books--most notably L. David Allen's respectable (and unacknowledgedly influential) Cliff's Notes book, Science Fiction: An Introduction (1973)--demonstrates that it is possible to write for high school students in a reasonably intelligent and worthwhile manner. Regarding this series, the four books I have read suggest that a general evaluation is impossible, since these books vary tremendously in quality, for reasons both within and beyond their authors' control.

First, standing head and shoulders above them all is Roberts's Anne McCaffrey. The choice of this author did provide Roberts with some advantages. First, there is a fairly extensive body of scholarship about McCaffrey, including a few books and numerous articles, so there was some solid research for Roberts to draw upon. (In contrast, as will be noted, Elizabeth A. Trembley flounders in examining Michael Crichton in part because there were no good resources available.) Second, since most of McCaffrey's work falls into series, Roberts, by the device of devoting individual chapters to different series, not different novels, could achieve a comprehensive study of her career. (In contrast, for example, Sharon A. Russell's book, limited to only nine Stephen King novels, seems woefully incomplete.) Third, McCaffrey's work falls almost exclusively in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, so that it is relatively easy to provide a focused and thoughtful discussion of her generic heritage. (In contrast, the other three authors, who drift between various genres, make it extremely difficult for a single critic to speak astutely about all of their different generic heritages.) Finally, McCaffrey is known as an accessible author, and Roberts was able to helpfully correspond with her by e-mail in early1995. (In contrast, while Paul Bail did interview John Saul, Trembley and Russell were apparently unable to make contact with their authors.) However, the success of Roberts's book is not due entirely to the luck of the draw. She knows her subject well, she worked hard to acquaint herself with all the appropriate primary and secondary materials, her language is straightforward and not condescending, and her conclusions, while at times inevitably simplified or redundant, are tenable, well expressed, and potentially useful to future scholars.

The other three books are not without virtues, since they all provide useful information about their authors, reasonably complete (though not comprehensive) bibliographies, and accurate assessments of the selected works. Still, they do seem to illustrate some of the dangers involved in writing studies of this type. First, in the case of some authors, are the problems of inadequate critical resources, and of relying on unreliable critical resources. Trembley's book is the case in point, since there has been virtually no serious criticism of Crichton's work. I was initially puzzled by one statement in her less than scintillating summation of "Science Fiction": "In the twentieth century, authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. Le Guin, Michael Crichton, and scores of others continually update and revitalize the genre" (23). Surely, even admirers of Crichton with a passing acquaintance with sf would agree that Crichton's name simply does not belong on any list of writers who have "updated" or "revitalized" the genre. Where, then, did the notion of Crichton- as-innovator come from? The answer is in the next chapter, where, relying on a single 1969 article from Life magazine (!), Trembley presents with a straight face one Melvin Maddocks's argument that The Andromeda Strain represented an entirely new form of science fiction, "sci-non-fi":

[Crichton] follows the developments made by other twentieth-century science fiction writers to bring his novel to a wide audience. First among these developments is the connection of science fiction to real technology and important cultural issues. "Science fiction, which once frightened because it seemed so far-out, now frightens because it seems so near" (Maddocks, 15). No longer do authors have to set their stories far into a future full of impossible technologies.... As science fiction grows even closer to the realities experienced by the general public, it becomes a more mainstream genre. People have begun to talk about "sci-non-fi," or science nonfiction, as fantasy "sneaked up on by the facts" (Maddocks, 15). Thematically, many sci-non-fi books follow the science fiction heritage, but their contemporary settings bring them new attention.... (38-39)

With all due respect, this is nonsense. In fact, the sf proffered by Crichton-- stories set in the present involving near-future scientific developments enveloped in frame stories and even bibliographical references so as to provide an air of verisimilitude--is exactly the sort of sf that dates back to Hugo Gernsback, actually to well before Gernsback; Crichton's only "innovation," in other words, was to achieve popular success by returning to approaches and devices that other sf writers had long ago abandoned.

Since Trembley's embarrassing assertions could have been avoided if she had possessed more knowledge of science fiction, she also illustrates a related problem: not making use of all available resources. Perhaps one should not expect critics dealing with authors who range over several genres to have a good knowledge of science fiction; still, one could plausibly ask critics to avoid displaying a near-complete ignorance of the genre. As another example, consider Bail's comments about the science fiction roots of Saul's Shadows:

This novel has elements of the cyberpunk genre of science fiction which was pioneered by William Gibson in his novel Neuromancer (1991), and which has been recycled by other writers such as John D. Vinge in Cat's Paw. The cyberpunk worldview has two shared premises. First is the notion of a new dimension of reality, called cyberspace, produced by the linking together of millions of computers in a complex electronic network called the Net or the World Wide Web through which it is possible to "travel" in a kind of virtual reality. The concept of virtual reality has been further popularized by the television series "VR5." The second premise is that humans could use complex electronic interfaces to mesh their nervous systems with computers so thoroughly that events in cyberspace could have a profound effect on the human who is linked up--to the point of even causing death under certain conditions.... The robotics genre descends from Isaac Asimov's I, Robot (1973) to the man-machine hybrid popularized in the movie Robocop (1987). It includes the notion of artificially implanted memories, as pioneered by writer Philip K. Dick. (144)

One doesn't know where to begin in critiquing such a performance: the dates of publication of two of the most significant science fiction novels in modern times are spectacularly wrong; Bail's version of "The cyberpunk worldview" is incredibly constricted and trivialized; the assertions are ill-informed (the idea of "cyberspace" preceded by several years the actual "World Wide Web," which is only one specialized area of the Internet or "the Net") or highly dubious (Cat's Paw is merely a "recycled" Neuromancer? Dick "pioneered" "the notion of artificially implanted memories"?); and there is the general problem that any effort to intelligently place Saul's work in the contexts of cyberpunk and robot stories absolutely demands some mention of authors and issues that are utterly neglected here. Visibly, this author doesn't know what he's talking about, and it would not have demanded any great effort to learn more about these subjects. (And while my background makes me most attentive to inadequacies in these authors' discussions of science fiction, I suspect that readers with different backgrounds will find other inadequacies to complain about; for example, while I can claim no expertise in critical theory, what these critics present as their "deconstructionist" readings of various novels at times seem highly questionable if not risible.)

Bail's work also demonstrates another danger in this type of book: talking down to one's readers. In Bail's case, he makes the surprising assumption that his readers cannot be expected to be aware of much literature, so that the vast majority of his examples and references are to films and television programs. Not only is this inappropriate, since Saul's novels do not seem highly influenced by film or television, but all these references simply serve to make his points seem banal. Consider, for example, how Bail illustrates the growing influence of feminism:

As a result of this new awareness, there have been some concessions to an alternative presentation of women protagonists. One thinks of such films as The Jagged Edge; Fatal Attraction; Mike Nichols's recent movie Wolf, where the woman saves the hero by killing the monster; and Al Pacino in Sea of Love, which is a role reversal of the heroine-in-peril theme. That these films still remain largely the exception is evidenced by the fact that they continue to stand out in one's mind. And despite some advances in the public sensibility, an action film primarily centered on a tough, independent woman is a box-office risk, as demonstrated by the poor showing of V.I. Warshawski, in which Kathleen Turner played a hard-boiled private eye. (77)

Well, regardless of what Bail's "one" thinks, this "one" thinks that feminists would recoil at these illustrations of the "new awareness" they are promulgating and would prefer to focus on a rather different set of texts. And yet, believe it or not, this paragraph is preceded by what is, given the context, a reasonable and defensible summary of the major concerns and achievements of feminist criticism (76-77). It is only the above paragraph, with its absurd and inappropriate examples, that makes Bail sound like an idiot--or, perhaps, someone writing for an audience of idiots.

There are, of course, other ways to condescend to readers. One of them is to employ an irritatingly simplified prose style, which is the major drawback in Sharon A. Russell's book. One paragraph in particular about King's The Dark Half called my attention to the problem:

We don't know if other monsters exist inside Thad. King does not tell us if Thad has finally removed his evil twin. Thad was unconscious during the first operation to remove his twin. He acts on his own to destroy his double the second time he appears. William and Wendy represent a hope for a future. They are not identical twins, but there is a strong connection between them. This time the connection is good. They help Thad conquer his dark half. Thad makes the right choice, but he must still accept responsibility for creating Stark. No one emerges from a struggle with evil unmarked. We know Thad is the good half, but we may join the Sheriff in wondering how good can create evil. King shows us how doubles can represent the good and evil within us. But he leaves open the question of the source of evil-- how and why a dark half appears. (92-93)

In this paragraph, the average number of words per sentence is 12; the average number of syllables per word is 1.39. Formulas designed to measure the readability of texts would place this paragraph on the fifth-grade or sixth-grade level; freshman composition instructors who encountered such a paragraph in a paper would complain about its "primer style" and assign the author to do exercises in "sentence combining" and "word variety." To put the criticism most damningly, Russell is writing prose to be comprehensible to readers who would be unable to comprehend Stephen King's prose. And, needless to say, when an author limits herself to writing simplified prose, she similarly limits herself to presenting simplified ideas--as this paragraph also illustrates.

By focusing attention on some--though not all--of the most conspicuous weaknesses in these books, I am perhaps being too hard on their authors--who may have felt with some justification that they were working within in a restrictive format which demanded too much work in too little time for too little reward--or on all the editors responsible for the series--who may have reasoned that rushing simplified and accessible books into print was a logical strategy for ensuring success. In an imperfect world, one cannot always expect perfect books, and if I were in these authors' positions, the book I produced might well have significant flaws as well. Still, since Roberts demonstrated that one can write this sort of book with a reasonable degree of success, I wish that something could have been done--a better selection of authors? a better selection of critics? more aggressive editorial review? a more leisurely publication schedule?--to make the other books in the series equally commendable.

 --Gary Westfahl, University of California, Riverside.

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