Science Fiction Studies

#74 = Volume 25, Part 1 = March 1998



Agoraphobia, Demonization, and Nostalgia.

Gary Westfahl, George E. Sluser, and Eric Rabkin, eds. Science Fiction and Market Realities. U Georgia P (800-2665-842), 1996. vii+220. $45.00 cloth.

This is a collection of fifteen essays, ten of which originated at the 1990 Eaton Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy. It is divided into three sections, "Overviews," "Case Studies, "and "Other Markets," and brings together contributions from academics, sf editors (David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer), and writers (Gregory Benford, Norman Spinrad, and Sheila Finch). It focuses mainly on the American literary context, although it gestures towards covering the British and Russian sf markets, and it concludes, in a good editorial decision, with essays on sf film/video, the comic book industry, and computer games.

The collection starts from the premise, outlined in the opening essay by Gary Westfahl, that contemporary literary criticism is all but silent regarding the question of the market and its effect on literature. It is this agoraphobia (literally, "fear of the marketplace") that the collection aims to correct. I'm unsure that much of the book gets beyond merely enacting repeated phobic reactions to the market, and yet there are a number of interesting and valuable pieces here to counterbalance that judgment.

Westfahl's argument that students of sf as a genre need to develop more sophisticated models of how sf is produced and consumed is a useful one. Westfahl suggests that we need to consider intermediate stages between a text's trajectory from author to reader: how the market directs the decisions of the author to compose "saleable" texts; how the market directs what the agent will or will not push to publishers; how editors can shape, control, and actively rewrite texts in the name of the market; how publishers are directed by the logic of the market; how marketing departments have reduced or displaced editorial influence; how "the mass market reader" is constructed as an object to be addressed by marketing agencies. Each of these elements can and ought to be historicized to track significant changes. There is good potential for an empirical sociology of the textual production of sf to be generated here, particularly as the publishing industry has undergone massive transformations in the past fifteen years. Some of the insights of the editors and writers in the collection are important in that respect, if frustratingly anecdotal at times--I wanted more structured information about the positive and negative effects of vertical integration between hardback and paperback sales, the effects of publishing mergers, and "just-in-time" book production and distribution on sf publishing lines. Too often "the market" in this collection remains an abstract term, or is simply elided with marketing, which is all too easy to demonize rather than analyze.

This is evident in the general drift of the "Overview" section. The market, or market force, is repeatedly portrayed as in the process of destroying sf as a "literary" genre. For Kathryn Cramer, "the situation is serious. In fact, it is a disaster" (60). For Norman Spinrad, "the marketing parameters determining what the SF Industry is currently calling into being are antithetical to the central literary aesthetics of good science fiction" (33). For David Hartwell, the massification of sf is "starting to bring about the end of science fiction as a form with recognized literary merit" (50). These deathly predictions follow a familiar logic, even if they do have a new object here. The most vituperative writing is reserved for "shared world" anthologies and the "franchise" novels of AsimovTM or ClarkeTM. For Spinrad, the sf section of an average Waldenbooks now contains only "Five-volume trilogies. Drekologies. Novelizations of movies, TV shows, role-playing games... Young writers writing in 'franchised universes'" (26). George Slusser, in the most intriguing and provocative essay in the collection, takes a random sample of sf books, and suggests that sf no longer has "either authors or works in the traditional sense; we have instead a series of self-writing structures that vary according to the pressures of a culturally generated set of thematic constants and variables" (92-93). In this "homeostatic culture machine," the names Silverberg and Niven do not mark authors but "self-imaging simulacra." The machine has also apparently generated two of the novelist-contributors to this very collection--Benford and Spinrad. If Slusser is criticizing this trend (there is an evident mourning for the loss of 1950s sf with its "authorial presence and generic integrity" [92]), he writes about these "authorless" novels in such an interesting way as to suggest they deserve closer attention rather than just horrified demonization.

Shared world and franchise novels are not, of course, anywhere near as dominant as Spinrad or Slusser suggest: they work here as metonymic monsters, a potential fate for the whole of sf. The essays that deal with more specific instances of sf and market realities, however, produce much more variegated and complex demonstrations of how market forces work. The message of Howard Hendrix's analysis of the success of Omni magazine, for example, may ultimately be the familiar expression of market homogenization and leveling, but his case study of how Bob Guccioni's Penthouse millions could sustain a magazine that conflates the "subcultural capital" of three pulp-magazine genres (sf, popular science, Fortean weirdness) is interesting work. Identifying Omni's blurring of pulp and slick styles and its science-fictional element as largely boys' gadget-fetishism and uncritical celebration of corporate culture does indeed put a new spin on Gibson's early short stories, which appeared there. Cyberpunk, Hendrix suggests, is the perfect product of a certain market.

There are other helpful essays by Peter Fitting on film and Jeff Verona on comics. Fitting fulminates against the dumbing down and pricing up of Hollywood's sf film production since the success of Star Wars. However, it is precisely this insane spending that actively helps produce a "video fringe," a set of subcultural straight-to-video genres that operate in different markets. Fitting remains pessimistic about the value of these video films, yet at least his essay demonstrates that market-logic is not monolithic. Homogenization on one level can produce heterogeneous and unforseeable micromarkets on another. This is amply demonstrated by Verona's capsule reading of the ways in which the monopoly of Marvel and DC comics produced independent comics and alternative modes of distribution in the late 1970s. If these independent companies ultimately collapse or are subsumed, this history leaves off at the moment that graphic novels begin to take off in another cycle of innovation, diversification, and generation of temporary subcultural micromarkets. Such analyses are extremely helpful in countering arguments that "market reality" exclusively involves progressive homogenization and standardization. Markets, especially cultural and subcultural ones, shift and mutate in directions that cannot be readily predicted. The last essay, on computer games, evidences this: although revised in 1994, it reads like ancient history after the Playstation/Nintendo wars of 1997. The authors and editors are not at fault for this now fossilized essay--in fact, it becomes a wry example of the different temporalities of the academic publishing market (agonizingly slow) as against the commercial technological market (deliriously fast).

It is significant that the more subtly attuned essays here are focused on non-literary forms of sf. The marked pessimism of the contributions on literature may perhaps be accounted for by the profoundly traumatizing effects of capitalization on the publishing industry in the 1980s (film, for instance, has always been much more clearly dictated by capital, while computer games are the exemplary products of multinational organizations). And yet the transparent nostalgia for the 1950s evident in so many contributions here is surely not driven by any notion of a kinder, gentler market then; sf has always been a commercial genre, invented by the market.

In fact, what is being mourned in the contemporary moment is the massification of literary sf--that is, paradoxically, its success in becoming 15-20% (Spinrad's figure) of total paperback sales. This is marked as a loss, in part because it signals an end of privileged membership in the small, communal sf ghetto (Spinrad, Slusser, Hartwell, Cramer, Hendrix, and Fitting all speak of it with fond remembrance for its mutual support networks, where writing and criticism were in symbiotic relation) but mainly because of the narrow conception of the mass market held by many of the contributors. This would be my strongest criticism of the collection--that for a book claiming to confront "market realities," it holds to rather ancient models of mass culture. "Experience shows," Kathryn Cramer asserts, "that as the market expands, the quality of the audience is compromised" (59). This can only mean the market is a "corrupting force" in her view. David Hartwell shows pure contempt for the mass: "You cannot communicate with a mass market; all you can do is market to it" (48). These are classically elitist positions--peculiar ones for advocates of a commercial genre. Even Slusser's excellent "homeostatic" model is somewhat marred by his assertion that it is necessary because these market forces "cannot be accounted for by any model (Marxist or otherwise) of the marketplace. Despite increasingly sophisticated theoretical veneers, such models still criticize capitalist publishers in the name of the old Romantic shibboleth: disenfranchised geniuses directing their demiurgic powers against philistine constraints" (85). Well, no, they don't. The very vagueness of that parenthetical phrase "Marxist or otherwise" is symptomatic of a lack of awareness about what Marxist and post-Marxist models of the mass market are available in cultural studies. Since the work of Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall (to mention only the founders of modern cultural studies), the undifferentiated mass-mind, passively absorbing and even demanding "junk" culture, has been rejected in favor of active reading and subcultural appropriations of mass cultural significations. Such models are ideal for analyzing sf: Constance Penley's work on "slash" fandom in NASA/TREK: Popular Science and Sex in America (Verso, 1997) is exemplary in this regard.

But this may be precisely the problem: many of the essayists in this collection would not wish to see sf as merely another branch of "mass culture," however conceived. For them, the massification of a small-scale, intimate, genuinely popular sf culture can only be related in terms of mournful loss. It does not seem particularly productive, however, to write narratives of disaster and idealize a past situation. As I have suggested, those working on non-literary sf seem to have a greater appreciation of the complexities of market realities and the sophisticated reactions of consumers within them. There is some excellent work in this collection, but it is not by those who are simply berating the current situation.

--Roger Luckhurst Birkbeck College.

Reassessing the Work of a Major Utopian Theorist.

Jamie Owen Daniel and Tom Moylan, eds. Not Yet: Reconsidering Ernst Bloch. Verso/ Routledge (800-634-7064), 1997. ix+246. $20.00 paper.

For scholars of utopia in general, this is required reading. For those readers interested in utopian literature as a subgenre of science fiction, i.e. the literary depictions of utopia, this would not be an obligatory purchase. In addition to the "Preface" by the editors and a useful bibliography, the book contains fifteen essays by some of our best contemporary utopian, science-fiction, and cultural thinkers on Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), one of the true giants of utopian thought, whose magnum opus, the three-volume Das Prinzip Hoffnung (1959; The Principle of Hope [MIT Press, 1986]), is now available to English readers. Despite rumors of Marxism's death, the editors believe that Bloch has much to offer, and their purpose in collecting these essays, many of which have been published in other journals, is to "provide evidence that Bloch's version of 'warm' utopian Marxist critique is neither outdated nor out of place" (vii). They succeed admirably.

Bloch, the man, his times, and his work are viewed from a number of perspectives: psychological, historical, political, sociological, theological, philosophical, and cultural. The book is divided into three major sections: I. Bloch and History; II. Concrete Utopias: The Big Picture; III. Imagining the Totality: Smaller Pictures. In Part I, Vincent Geoghegan, David Kaufmann, and Jamie Owen Daniel work on Bloch's original ideas about memory and his thinking about "recollection, recognition and reminiscence"(4). In Part II, Ruth Levitas, Douglas Kellner, Tom Moylan, Darko Suvin, and Henry Giroux and Peter McLaren each address some kind of concrete praxis, be it Marxist, theological, or literary. In Part III, the essays by Stephen Eric Bonner, Ze'ev Levy, Tim Dayton, Klaus Berghahn (using excerpts from Bloch's Spuren [Traces; 1969]), as well as Mary N. Layoun's haunting narrative connecting Bloch's work with the dream of a Palestinian boy who is living in a refugee camp in Lebanon, all focus on Bloch's relevance to more specific issues (e.g. to the politics of his time, to detective fiction, to his usefulness in understanding desire and longing).

Of all the essays, it is Darko Suvin's, "Locus, Horizon, and Orientation: The Concept of Possible Worlds as a Key to Utopian Studies," that will be of most interest to readers of this journal. As one of SF's most profound and influential theorists, Suvin begins with the observation that in utopian scholarship there are "two rather different foci and scholarly corpuses, namely utopian fictional texts and utopian movements and communities"(124) and proceeds to argue that in order to achieve "real unity in our field," we need "the existence of some common and centrally significant tools of inquiry ensuring the possibility of some common lines of inquiry"(126). Using concepts such as locus, horizon, and orientation and linking them with Bloch's idea of progress, Suvin forges some of those links between the two overlapping but nonetheless distinct fields of investigation. Near the end of his essay, in a true scholar's act of self-criticism, Suvin reviews his own definition of utopia proffered in his ground-breaking The Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (Yale, 1979) and concedes that in focusing on the differences between texts and movements and arguing that Bloch's methodology was appropriate primarily for texts, he may have been "too narrowly focused." He now believes that these two areas of inquiry should be brought together and that "the concept of 'possible worlds' ... and in particular its spatial categories of orientation, locus and horizon, has some chance of becoming a real bridge"(135). If you do not buy the whole book, duplicate this essay.

--Charles Elkins Florida International University.

Harmony and Plenitude and Comfort.

Carol Farley Kessler, ed. Daring to Dream: Utopian Fiction by United States Women before 1950. 2nd ed. Syracuse University Press (800-365-8929), 1995. xxviii + 326. $49.95.

In The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (Berkeley: U of California P, 1991), Elizabeth Wilson summed up the early history of feminist utopian thought in the U.S. thusly:

[M]any American feminists of the period held views that were not too different from [Edward] Bellamy's or appear similar to us today. Some of these women, with their different blueprints for reform, had been influenced by the early utopian socialists; but not all emphasised the vote and the right to work. They desired to raise the status of women within the home as well as outside it, and to compel society to give a much more central place to domestic reproduction.... (71)

It is perhaps sad that there is little in the various utopian narratives and excerpts of utopian novels anthologized in the second edition of Daring to Dream that is liable to overstep the bounds of Wilson's summation. It is this, perhaps, that is the biggest problem with this anthology: it leaves the reader wanting more from these women--more anger, more humour, more radicalism, more (for want of a better word) perversity. Virtually every utopian blueprint in this anthology is tame, domesticated, and safe.

Of course, one might well argue, and with good reason, that in a world in which most women do not seem to feel safe very often, that very quality may be an inspired, even a radical, one to encounter in women's utopian visions. Nevertheless, the very goodness of these female nowheres, their harmony and plenitude and comfort, can come to seem all too saccharine, rather like a meal that consists only of dessert (oh, admittedly they're relatively healthy, calorie-reduced desserts, but still...).

Part of the problem may lie with history: were there no other narratives during this period that were more radical, more daring, less bountifully inclusive? Looking at the very useful and very inclusive annotated bibliography provided as an appendix in Daring to Dream, the answer would appear to be that there were not, at least not in the United States between 1835 and 1949, the date which the collection takes as its endpoint. But the reader who remembers that, to take one example, the reformer and anarchist Emma Goldman had an affair in 1912 with an ex-prostitute might wonder where both the anarchists and the lesbians have gone. Did they not dare to dream? Perhaps not--or, at least, perhaps not in print.

Another part of the problem may lie in the centrality of Charlotte Perkins Gilman within this collection. Not only is Gilman represented by an unfinished early work, "A Woman's Utopia" (1907), but she is also pivotal to Kessler's introduction, where she is seen, again not without reason, as the paradigm of early American women utopian writers. Certainly Herland (1914) has become the best known early utopian work by a woman, one that provides a very salutary counterpoint to the unmitigated and largely unthinking sexism of Bellamy's Looking Backward (1888). And yet Gilman's consistently matriarchal approach to re-thinking utopia may also signal a strait-jacket of another kind.

Now is the time for practical Utopias. Heretofore all these visions of better living have been given us by men. Never a voice from a woman to say how she would like the world. The main stream of life, the Mother, has been silent. But she is vocal enough today. She speaks and writes, lectures and preaches, teaches in school and college, spreads steadily out into all human industries.... Suppose the Mother makes up her mind as to what she wants, and speaks. (135)

Thus the introduction to "A Woman's Utopia." As a corrective to Bellamy, the positioning of woman, "The Mother," at "the main stream of life" seems essential. In fact, it seems, even if this criticism is perhaps a product of the late twentieth century, too essential. Gilman has a tendency to do one thing with her exposition and quite another with her narrative: that is, she is quite capable of explaining how gender roles are constructed by society, making her in some ways one of the earliest social constructionists, while at the same time depicting a world of quite extreme gender essentialism. Any woman not comfortable with being eulogized as an actual or potential mother may be less sanguine than Gilman about the pedestal on which "The Mother" is placed. What is perhaps invaluable in Gilman, especially as a text for students grappling with the problems of relating gender and sexuality to a history and tradition of (male) utopian thought that has had little time for these issues, is that she so precisely delineates the two sides of a constructionist/essentialist debate that shows no signs of abating in the near future.

Combined with the traditional male utopian texts, Daring to Dream does at least begin to present a more complete picture of how humans have dreamed about utopia from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. That picture, of course, is still incomplete, in part because of Kessler's decision to limit the collection to works by American women, which means the omission of such important writers as Katherine Burdekin, whose Swastika Night (1937) might well provide a useful counter-weight to Daring to Dream on a course reading list.

It is here, I think, that Daring to Dream is strongest: no-one interested in the shape and history of women's utopian writing can afford to be without it. Nowhere else can the teacher of utopian writing or of nineteenth and early twentieth century women's writing find an equivalent record of women's relationship, during this period, to the very idea of utopia. This edition of Daring to Dream is thus as indispensable as its predecessor as a pedagogical tool. --Wendy Pearson, Trent University.

An Important First Step.

Elizabeth Anne Leonard, ed. Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy #74. Westport, CT: Greenwood (800-225-5800), 1997. x+198. $57.95.

American science fiction is particularly suited to the critical study of race. The representations, themes, stories, tropes, and chronotopes that make the genre what it is--from humans and aliens fighting to "get along" to techno-happy corporations and colonialist governments struggling for hegemony--are often implicitly, sometimes explicitly, about the "nature" of physiognomic difference in a universe cramped with competing ideological and nationalist conflicts. Indeed, the genre's use of metaphor and allegory to speak to real world experiences is undoubtedly one of its most enduring projects. As Fredric Jameson (among others) has argued, science fiction tends to defamiliarize our experience of present history. Yet scholars have neglected to fully or rigorously address the intimate relationship between race, one of our society's most profound "experiences," and science fiction. There are only a few books that even mention the subject, most preferring to either relegate it to a subsection or ignore it altogether. There are, of course, several relevant articles, though they too are few and far between when you consider how many articles are actually published about the genre. Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic, edited by Elizabeth Anne Leonard, is an important step in filling this politically unconscious gap.

While the anthology has its shortcomings, which I will address shortly, there are several pieces in the book that offer the reader provocative insights into science fiction and race. In particular, Ellen Bishop's essay, "Race and Subjectivity in Science Fiction: Deterritorializing the Self/Other Dichotomy," uses Toni Morrison's method of addressing the "limits of American criticism" to reveal the "Africanist presence" in the work of Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. In a well-balanced discussion, Bishop shows how Bradbury's and Dick's writings "subsume the critical insight Morrison calls for by framing the issue of race within the open-ended issue of the subjectivity of the masters as well as of the slaves" (87). In doing so, her readings reveal not only the critical-mindedness of these important writers, but also the "fears and desires" that help comprise the American (white, male) writerly consciousness. Providing insight into the self/other dichotomy, Bishop leaves us with a greater understanding--and appreciation--of Bradbury's and Dick's work.

Another solid contribution is Philip E. Baruth's essay, "The Excesses of Cyberpunk: Why No One Mentions Race in Cyberspace." Like Bishop, Baruth is uninterested in polemical posturing: rather than either praising or condemning cyberpunk, his essay recognizes its distinctiveness and complexity. More specifically, he argues that the cyberspace evoked in much cyberpunk sf functions as a dialectical space-time, a "Metaverse," for exploring the possibilities of social stability through more and more networking. He analyzes Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash (1992), revealing some of the ways in which cyberpunk is tied to thematic questions of social integration. While I disagree with his tendency to subsume race under class (although I see them as intimately connected, I don't see race as merely one more ideological alienation in the material dialectics of class conflict, which is what I think Baruth's essay implies), his analysis provides us with much-needed insight into the nuances of cyberpunk's political consciousness.

There are a couple of oversights that distract from Into Darkness Peering's otherwise noteworthy accomplishments. First, Leonard's introduction defines the genre, and thus the scope of the book, in very broad terms--"fantastic in its largest sense" (3)--and, as a result, ends up producing essays that don't speak to each other. Indeed, it almost seems as if the book's broad scope is simply a justification to include an essay each on fantasy and horror (the other ten mostly focus on science fiction). As a further consequence, the book ends up being quite uneven. While there is an essay on Star Trek: Voyager, there is nothing else on science fiction television. Even more problematic, there is not one article on film; and yet the "popular" dimension of the genre--and thus, one would think, the Hollywood science fiction film--is one of the reasons Leonard feels "the fantastic" is particularly suited to the scholarly investigation of race. While I am sympathetic to what Leonard calls "editorial inclusiveness," the anthology could have nonetheless accomplished much more --been more cohesive and focused--had it explicitly enunciated a more modest scope (perhaps looking strictly at literature or only science fiction).

The most significant flaw of Into Darkness Peering is the fact that most of the essays ignore historical factors in favor of placing responsibility for the articulation of race in science fiction in the hands of authors. In other words, the anthology simultaneously links racial practices in the genre with the authors' political and creative intent while ignoring and displacing such key socio-political factors as the civil rights and neoconservative movements (even though Leonard's introduction briefly cites Michael Omi, perhaps the leading sociologist of race as a historically-specific formation). While this critical shortcoming suggests submission to the intentional fallacy (and also to the myth of the "ideal" reading), the ahistoric bent of the collection is perhaps even more problematic for a project that wants to address the meaning and function of race--a socio-political system of meanings that gets much of its power from masking itself as a biological, a priori essence (i.e., anything but history). While placing responsibility for racial practices in the hands of the writers is an important part of a well-balanced critical project, doing so at the expense of historical formations ends up implicitly supporting the myth of race as a natural category, a subspecies, of "man."

In sum, Into Darkness Peering is an important and useful first anthology on the intimate relationship between science fiction and race. It provides the reader with several excellent essays on this important and overlooked subject. Its weaknesses can--and hopefully will--be addressed in future work. Indeed, this is perhaps the book's most important accomplishment. As Leonard explains: the anthology is "an opportunity to begin a discussion rather than an attempt to have the last word." Additional dialogue on the subject of science fiction and race is required if scholars are to resist what amounts to the white presence in critical and literary studies--and thus aim for a politically conscious understanding of this complex, rich, and eminently political genre.

--Daniel Bernardi UCLA.

Women Writing SF: A Field of Their Own.

Jane Donawerth. Frankenstein's Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction. Syracuse UP (800-365-8929), 1997. xxix+213. $39.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.

Jane Donawerth has written a book which reminds us that the ever-increasing production of sf texts by women writers since the last century has resulted in a significant body of writing which, in many instances, poses substantial challenges to and revisions of the major themes and narrative strategies commonly associated with the field. In fact, as Donawerth convincingly demonstrates--although, to be fair, she does not make any such overt claim--sf texts by women writers are by now so wide-ranging and prolific that they virtually amount to a field of their own. Donawerth sets out to explore certain very specific features of this field in Frankenstein's Daughters, a study whose title calls attention to the privileged place assigned to Shelley's early nineteenth-century "origin" story. Starting from the inarguable fact that science fiction as it has been constructed over the course of the past century has been a predominantly masculinist genre, Donawerth examines "women writers' responses to the defining constraints" with which they have been faced (xvii). In her introduction, she proposes Frankenstein (1818) as a kind of paradigm of women's sf writing and identifies three crucial "problems" which Shelley's novel both introduces and addresses. These are the "problems" which Donawerth proceeds to examine in women's sf writing since Shelley introduced her hideous progeny into the world. As Donawerth argues:

In creating the genre of science fiction, in fusing the romance with enlightenment rationality, Shelley created a genre that gave women writers enormous freedoms to be adventurers and scientists, imaginatively, to be vicariously what their society denied them. But Shelley also created a genre inheriting the limitations of her patriarchal society: a society in which women were denied education and careers in science, in which women were constructed as aliens, and in which men retained the license to speak and control the stories. (xxvi; my emphasis)

These three areas, then, provide the basis for Donawerth's discussion of women's science-fiction writing. They also serve to structure the main body of her study, whose three sections are "Utopian Science in Science Fiction by Women"; "Beautiful Alien Monster-Women--BAMs"; and "Cross-Dressing as a Male Narrator." (Each section opens with a wide-ranging discussion of the relevant issues and concludes with detailed readings of two "exemplary" texts.) Donawerth closes her study with an epilogue, "Virtual Women in Global Science Fiction," which takes a brief look at the work of writers like Argentina's Angélica Gorodischer and India's Manjula Padmanabran to celebrate the fact that, "all over the world" (177), women are writing science fiction.

While Donawerth's discussions of "utopian science" and "alien monster-women" do not, I think, contribute major insights to previously published critical work, they do provide an important overview of some of the ways in which women sf writers have responded to specific generic dilemmas. These sections also serve admirably to (re)introduce readers to a broad cross-section of women writers, many of whom, like Jayge Carr, Carol Emshwiller, Cynthia Felice, Rebecca Ore, and Cherry Wilder, have not yet attracted much critical attention. Donawerth's third section, on the "cross-dressing" strategies of women who "speak through" male narrators, is, for me, the highlight of her study, focusing critical attention as it does on a crucial "problem" in narrative construction about which we're probably all aware, but of which there has been a paucity of critical exploration.

I also find the unusually concentrated nature of Donawerth's critical enterprise very gratifying. Her specific foci result in an in-depth study which is quite unlike previous critical studies of women's sf. And this implies the success of earlier and more broadly constructed critical texts--like Sarah Lefanu's In the Chinks of the World Machine: Feminism and Science Fiction (Women's Press, 1988), Jenny Wolmark's Aliens and Others: Science Fiction, Feminism and Postmodernism (U Iowa P, 1994), and the many studies by Marleen Barr --in their work of identifying/constructing a "body" of writing--science fiction written by women--which is by now substantial enough to warrant in-depth works like Frankenstein's Daughters.

In her first section on the construction/revision of the scientific enterprise in women's sf writing, Donawerth maintains a careful balance between her awareness of the inevitable complicities of gender and genre and the efforts of some women writers to imagine in their fiction a different kind of science, a utopian science which rejects the West's traditional approach to nature as an object for "unveiling" and "penetration" (metaphors deployed by Shelley's Victor Frankenstein). In contrast to the conventional construction of nature as object of enlightened study, Donawerth examines a range of revisionary narratives by writers like Naomi Mitchison, Barbara Paul, Octavia Butler, and Joan Slonczewski. However, while she notes the traditional perception of many sf readers that women are "antiscience reactionaries" (29), Donawerth does not pick up this point for detailed discussion. Given the historically conflicted relationship between women and science in the West, and given that some women sf writers have demonstrated an antipathy to the scientific project in all its manifestations, I would have liked Donawerth's views on this issue. Her section on utopian science is also the briefest of her three main sections and her treatment is, as a result, rather cursory. In fact, the (re)constructions of science in the works of women sf writers have never been adequately addressed, certainly not by feminist sf critics. One drawback may be our overwhelmingly humanist academic background, related, of course, to our culture's discouraging treatment of women in the sciences.

The second section of Frankenstein's Daughters takes up the vexed question of the conflation of woman and alien which is so endemic to masculinist sf texts. Donawerth looks at four "categories of the woman as alien: woman as humanoid alien, woman as machine, woman as animal, and minority women as aliens among us" (43). As I mentioned above, I do not think that this section radically adds to our understanding/appreciation of women's revisions of these sf tropes, if only because this thematic has been so thoroughly discussed in much previous critical work. Wolmark's book, for instance, takes the woman/alien intersection as both starting point and central metaphor. What Donawerth accomplishes here, however, is the complication of what is frequently taken up as a relatively simple sf trope: her discussions of "woman as animal" and "minority women as aliens among us" serve usefully to demonstrate the complex facets of the woman/alien interface. These are areas which have been relatively neglected in critical writing to date; her readings of texts by writers like (among many others) Phyllis Gotlieb, C.J. Cherryh, Marge Piercy, Octavia Butler, and Rebecca Ore remind readers of the significant revisionary tactics undertaken by women sf writers. Perhaps the least successful segment in Frankenstein's Daughters, however, is the one on the woman/machine intersection, which introduces and disposes of the Harawayan cyborg in a couple of pages while ignoring cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk writing of any kind. Given the pressures of technological development on the formation of contemporary life in the West, not to mention the complex relationship(s) between women and technology, this is an oversight of significant proportions.

Donawerth's section on the "cross-dressing" performances of women writers in terms of their choices of narrative strategies, however, is both incisive and astute. It builds around a central question: why do contemporary women writers continue to use the male voice? What do they gain from such an apparently outdated move? While this question may be too complex to answer completely, Donawerth does suggest that the pleasures and pressures which result in women writers' cross-dressed literary performances also result in their "subvert[ing] the male narrator or point of view to their own ends, crossing, passing, blurring the boundaries of gender that define science fiction as a genre" (115). She then suggests three ways in which these subversions are accomplished: through converting the male narrator to a woman's point of view--as in James Tiptree, Jr's "The Women Men Don't See" (1973); through parodying masculine authority through the unreliability of the male narrator--as in Ursula Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest (1972); and through inflicting "feminine suffering" on the male point-of-view character--as in Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" (1984). Donawerth offers a wealth of incisive critical reading in this section, as she discusses novels and stories such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Herland (1914), Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue (1984), Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild," Cynthia Felice's Double Nocturne (1986), Doris Piserchia's The Spinner (1980), and Leslie F. Stone's Out of the Void (1929), among many other texts. She concludes with detailed readings of Cherry Wilder's Second Nature (1982) and Emma Bull's Bone Dance (1991), demonstrating how the narrative strategies of women sf writers can offer fictions that are "gender reversed, gender ambiguous, or gender erased" (176), a range of radical reworkings of the fixed gender categories of most conventional science fiction.

And, rather than succumbing to the temptation to treat "women sf writers" as if they were a homogeneous and self-identical monolith, Donawerth avoids essentializing her subject(s) by calling attention, from time to time, to the fact that their narrative strategies are not "innately female, but instead [are] narrative strategies that work as resistance because they are also similar to the conventions of 'realistic' science fiction narrative" (135). In fact, while gracefully acknowledging the influence of more essentialistically-minded feminist critics like Marleen Barr and Robin Roberts, Donawerth distinguishes her own theoretical position(s) from theirs. Her occasional citations of theoreticians like Judith Butler and Marjorie Garber indicate her interest in what is perhaps a less reifying approach to critical reading.

This is a very good study by an important critical voice. Donawerth has published a number of essays on women's sf and utopian fiction ranging from the early pulps to contemporary sf. She is co-editor (with Carol A. Kolmerten) of Utopian and Science Fiction by Women: Worlds of Difference (Syracuse UP, 1994; see my review in SFS #65 [March 1995]), a thoroughly useful collection of essays tracing the intertextual development of utopian fiction and science fiction by women writers from the seventeenth century to the present. Frankenstein's Daughters is an accomplished addition to Donawerth's scholarly achievements and a welcome addition to the growing number of significant studies of women's science fiction.--VH.

A Postmodern History of 20th-Century SF.

Brooks Landon. Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars. Twayne Studies in Literary Themes and Genres #12. Macmillan/Twayne (800-257-5157), 1997. xxxii+ 251. $24.95.

The science-fiction field has been blessed lately by the appearance of some very good critical studies, not least this historical overview by Brooks Landon. Landon has already published a series of useful and entertaining essays and articles on sf's intersections with postmodern culture, as well as a full-length film study, The Aesthetics of Ambivalence: Rethinking Science Fiction Film in the Age of Electronic (Re)Production (Greenwood, 1992; see Andrew Gordon's review in SFS #59 [March 1993]). It strikes me that Science Fiction After 1900 is exactly the kind of history which Landon's previous sf-related critical work might lead us to expect: it is quirky and informative; generous about its subject matter and optimistic about the possibilities of the genre; relatively non-linear but wide-ranging and coherent; theoretically sophisticated and elegantly written; personal and very au courant. It is not, perhaps, the first study I'd give to someone as an introduction to the field. It is, perhaps, too quirky and non-linear for that. But it is, certainly, one of the best studies of sf I've read in a long time; in fact, I think it should be required reading for anyone interested in science fiction.

In conjunction with Edward James's Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (Oxford UP, 1994) and Paul K. Alkon's Science Fiction Before 1900: Imagination Discovers Technology (Twayne, 1994), Landon's Science Fiction After 1900 provides a thorough and thoroughly intelligent history of Anglo-American science fiction as a contemporary construction. It is, therefore, much to be regretted that neither Alkon's nor Landon's study is available in softcover editions. Given the cost of hardcovers, this means that neither of these valuable resources is easily available to interested students and general readers. In fact, Alkon's Science Fiction Before 1900 is already out of print, which doesn't bode well for the shelf life of Landon's complementary history. I'd advise you to pick up your own copy as quickly as possible.

Landon's history functions (more or less) as a continuation of Alkon's, which traces the beginnings of the genre in the context of the voyages extraordinaires and other precursor texts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and then proceeds to examine the development of this literature of cognitive estrangement in England, France, and America respectively, concluding with a discussion of Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). Science Fiction After 1900 takes up the story in nineteenth-century America and moves from there through to the present. Like Alkon, Landon does not opt for a straightforward linear history (this may, of course, be a response to Twayne's format requirements, but, for whatever reason, it works very well). In his detailed Preface, he sets the scene through an emphasis on science fiction as a "literature of change" (xi), invoking Octavia Butler's representation, in Parable of the Sower (1993), of change as the only lasting truth, and pinpointing what he calls "science fiction thinking" (xiii), which has propelled sf past the formal limits of literary genre into a mode and a discourse which has infiltrated Western culture at large. As Landon argues, "science fiction is no longer 'just' fiction, but has become a universally recognized category of film, television, music, music videos, electronic games, theme parks, military thinking, and advertising" (xv).

In other words, Landon recognizes that, before he can attempt an examination of science fiction as it has developed since 1900, he must first outline an object of study which is in the process of exceeding all the limits which previously circumscribed it. For this reason, while his study tends to confine itself to literary texts, he makes no attempt to produce a comprehensive literary history. And, given not only the "excessive" nature of science fiction itself, but also the "excessive" nature of contemporary science, as well as the increasing proliferation of critical writings about science fiction, he represents his own critical/historical project as "a mosaic rather than a manifesto" (xvii). From this perspective, Science Fiction After 1900 is, in fact, a partial history of an extensive cultural phenomenon; it focuses on some of the literary manifestations of that phenomenon but remains aware, always, of the larger cultural field which surrounds them. This works to Landon's advantage, freeing him to shape his "mosaic" in ways most useful to his own aesthetic and theoretical tastes.

One way to appreciate what Landon has accomplished here is to take up the notion of "zones of possibility" as the spaces inhabited by successive generations of science-fiction narratives (17). Landon's own strategy is to activate certain "zones of possibility" in the history of sf fiction and criticism, including what he identifies as two "countertraditions": the writing career of Philip K. Dick, "whose fiction insists on radically questioning the stability of reality itself" (xix), and the proliferation of feminist science fiction, "a doubly oppositional literature that challenges the patriarchal mindset of the culture at large and the concentrated patriarchal assumptions and traditions of the genre" (xx).

Science Fiction After 1900 follows the demanding format laid out for Twayne's Studies in Literary Themes and Genres (the same format we see in Alkon's earlier work). The introductory Preface is followed by a ten-page Chronology of important sf titles from 1818 (Frankenstein) to 1996 (titles by Connie Willis, Terry Bisson, Joe Haldeman, Sage Walker, David Hartwell, C.J. Cherryh, and Michael Bishop; recent entries include a range of television and film titles as well). This resource is very useful indeed, including as it does, along with the usual "classics," titles which may be less familiar to many readers. Appended after the final chapter is a "Bibliographic Essay" which provides information on resources for further study, emphasizing the centrality of both the Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (St. Martin's, 1993) and Neil Barron's Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction (Landon evaluates both the third [Bowker, 1987] and fourth [Bowker, 1995] editions of this indispensable guide). Landon also provides information about journals devoted to the field, historical and theoretical studies, author studies, and studies devoted to film and electronic media. It is indicative of his own particular critical positioning that, in his listings of useful anthologies, he predicts that the Le Guin/Attebery Norton Book of Science Fiction (1993) "may well prove to be one of the most influential of all SF anthologies" (215). (It is indicative of my own position that I am in complete agreement with this assessment.) Finally, Landon provides readers with over twenty pages of annotated "Recommended Titles." Given the extent of the resources provided in this relatively brief study, it is all the more frustrating that it does not exist in a softcover edition, since it has such potential for classroom use.

The main body of Landon's history is divided into five chapters, each of which examines in detail some of the various "zones of possibility" which sf has inhabited since the beginning of the century. The first chapter, "The Culture of Science Fiction--Rationalizing Genre," includes a more in-depth discussion of what Landon means by "science fiction thinking," and establishes a cultural context for the development of sf as itself a zone of possibility for the expression of a sensibility particularly relevant to twentieth-century Western culture. Through detailed readings of classic stories such as E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops" (1909), John W. Campbell's "Twilight" (1934), and Pamela Zoline's "The Heat Death of the Universe" (1967), Landon builds up a sense of the genre as, in Mark Rose's words, "a developing complex of themes, attitudes, and formal strategies that, taken together, constitute a general set of expectations" (qtd. In Landon, 30). The discussion of genre in this first chapter is excellent, due to the clarity of Landon's writing and the care with which he works out his ideas.

Chapter two, "From the Steam Man to the Stars," does work of a more obviously historical nature as it takes readers through the developing genre of sf in the United States of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Landon traces the influence of the many hugely popular "invention stories" which culminated in the appearance of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories, and then takes readers through the career of sf's most important editor, John W. Campbell. This sets the scene for his very persuasive reading of utopianism in Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959), and his convincing argument that "war [as] a scientific given has appeared throughout the history of SF and is one of the genre's most troubling features" (70).

Landon's next zone of possibility is "Science Fiction Outside Genre SF." Here he provides a broad and lucid overview of the development of science fiction outside the United States. After a general discussion of some of the differences between American and "other" sf, he offers detailed readings of both Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice (1968; trans. 1983) and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic (1972; trans. 1977) as exemplars of some of the traditions and conventions of Soviet and Eastern-European sf. It is worth noting that Landon makes good use of Edward James's Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century in his own discussion of British and European traditions. (A minor criticism here: Landon pays much attention to the political contexts of these alternative sf traditions; if only by contrast, this gives the impresson of a relative lack of political contextualization in his discussions of American texts.)

"Countercultures of Science Fiction--Resisting Genre," Landon's fourth chapter, is an excellent discussion of some of the challenges to conventional genre sf posed, not by the New Wave's revolution and experimentation, as readers might expect, but by the far more radical ontological visions of Philip K. Dick and the far more radical politics of feminist sf. In this chapter, Landon explores what he sees as a developing "countertradition" within the field, "writers and writing that insist on turning the lens of change on SF itself, on its confidence in a knowable and objective reality, and on its ostensible confidence in the immutability of gender relations" (110). Landon's discussion of Dick's career, like his earlier close look at Heinlein's, is informative and intelligent, stressing Dick's fascination with the thematics of un/reality, and examining the "inherently contradictory nature of Dick's writing" (122). His overview of feminist sf writing singles out the careers of Joanna Russ, Pamela Sargent, Ursula K. Le Guin and James Tiptree, Jr, demonstrating in the process the complexities of what is too often constructed as a relatively uncomplicated body of writing within the larger parameters of the sf field. He concludes that "in the 1990s SF cannot be defined, described, or understood without prominent if not primary attention to women writers and feminist fiction" (142). (A caveat: Landon uses the unfortunate term "postfeminism" to describe the work of contemporary writers like Connie Willis, Sheri S. Tepper, Pat Cadigan, and Karen Joy Fowler; this term is more often and more accurately applied to productions of the conservative backlash, and, as such, is inaccurate as a description of the work of these important writers.)

Landon's final chapter is "New and Newer Waves," in which he brings his history up to date by exploring the "long line of critical and fictional considerations of the genre's passing" (146), moments of self-proclaimed death and rebirth in sf's quest for legitimation within the broader field of cultural production. This discussion begins, of course, with the eruption of the New Wave onto the sf scene, tracing the growing influence of literary experimentation on the field in both England and the United States, and moving on to a consideration of cyberpunk as "a site of resistance to the metanarrative of SF, a corrective attempt to bring its positivist and optimistic epistemology more into line with reality" (159). Landon ends this final chapter with a reading of some of the stories collected in Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: Twelfth Annual Collection (1995), identifying what he sees as a growing tendency in the field to produce what he calls "soft agenda" sf, that is, sf more focused on the ethical and political implications of our technological context than on technology for its own sake. Given his own critical interests, Landon is well situated to give a useful reading of sf's implication in the postmodern condition, and his historical contextualization of this moment in sf's history is particularly well informed and presented. Readers may or may not agree with his critique of the conservative nature of much current sf writing, or with his conviction that, "if ... a new kind of writing is to appear once again in SF, it will almost certainly be based on a tide of interactive nonlinear narratives made possible by the computers that SF has so long loved to write about but has been so slow to apply to science fiction thinking" (166). But his insistence on the necessity for continual experimentation in the field is certainly well taken.

Science Fiction After 1900 is itself a thoroughly postmodern study, which may or may not be to everyone's taste. Landon's deployment of contemporary critical theory is clear and convincing, as is the manner in which he builds up his history through a series of layerings and circlings. The result is a study which is rich, dense, and complex, about a field of cultural production which, at its best, is serious, sophisticated, and intensely relevant to contemporary life. I enthusiastically recommend Science Fiction After 1900 to your attention. --VH.


Applewhite Minyard, ed. Decades of Science Fiction. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC Publishing Group (847-679-5500), 1998. xvi + 557. $26.50 paper. (Instructor's Edition includes Instructor's Manual, paged IM-viii+ IM-72.)

Decades of Science Fiction is designed as a teaching anthology. It is divided chronologically into nine chapters, the first chapter covering sf through World War I, and the second through ninth chapters covering specific decades from the 1920s through the 1990s. Each chapter contains the following items: a timeline that--according to the editor's Preface--"highlights historical and scientific achievements for the decade" (ix); brief essays, written by the editor, on "Historical Context" (fleshing out the timeline), on "Developments in Science Fiction," and on "Science Fiction in Other Media"; selected sf stories (two for each chapter through the '30s, three each for the '40s through '60s, and four each for the '70s through '90s, for a total of twenty-seven); and, for each story, a brief author's note with, at the end, a series of five "Discussion Questions" and three "Writing Topics" that draw on themes and information contained in the story, editorial essays, and timeline. The book is capped with a Selected Bibliography listing secondary works that teachers and students might wish to consult in preparing lectures, additional assignments, and research papers. The Instructor's Manual provides two-paragraph overviews of each story, suggested answers to the discussion questions, and lists of primary texts for further reading and viewing. The basic purpose of the anthology is to offer a broadly-based history of sf in relation to major social and technological developments and, in the specific stories chosen, to "cover as wide a range of authors, styles, and themes as possible" and to "represent not only the science fiction of [each] decade, but also each author's work as a whole" (x). In conception, it is a laudable undertaking. In execution, however....

The timelines are disconnected hodgepodges of information. The "Historical Context" essays are vapid and unfocused. The "Developments in Science Fiction" essays are woefully banal and riddled with errors. The attention to other media is an ill-conceived distraction. The rationale for the stories selected grows increasingly quirky, and even perverse, with each passing chapter. The Discussion Questions and Writing Topics are either too trivially focused or too vague, and are generally insipid. The Instructor's Manual is insultingly simple-minded. If this book is designed for bad teachers desultorily leading vacuous sf courses in lousy schools, then it has hit its mark perfectly.

A full autopsy of this misbegotten monster would run almost the length of the book itself, but let me briefly expand on my above complaints. Editor Minyard's goal of historically contextualizing the fiction might have worked if he had more consistently attempted to link specific stories with specific events or scientific discoveries, but instead he offers, in his timelines and "Historical Context" essays, disconnected minutiae stitched together with sweeping generalizations; as a result, when his Discussion Questions and Writing Topics draw on this context to address particular stories, they make only the most vague and tenuous of connections (e.g. "The decade of the seventies was an era of advancing technology and withdrawal from personal responsibilities. In an essay, explore how the concerns and attitudes of that decade are reflected in the story" [345]). Sometimes these student assignments are so broad as to be divorced from context altogether--for example, this priceless option: "In your journal, discuss what it means to be human. Then share some of your thoughts with the class" (431). The Instructor's Manual provides no assistance on how one might evaluate the results of such ineffable assignments; instead, it gives Cliff Notes-level summaries of plot and theme buttressed with patronizing advice like the following: "In some cases, student answers may differ widely from what is indicated in the manual. That does not necessarily mean one answer is more correct than another, but could indicate that the text has been interpreted differently" (IM-vi). Well, imagine that!

But its half-baked pedagogical apparatus is really the least of this book's problems, since Minyard's basic grasp of his putative subject is in serious question throughout. This becomes evident when reading the Introduction, where Minyard lays out his conception of the genre and anatomizes its major subgenres and quintessential themes. Over and above their sheer vacuity, his "working definition" of sf--"the exploration of alternate realities taken from present-day events" (xi)--and his anatomy of major themes (which include "Self-Knowledge--Stories emphasizing the ability to know and accept our humanity" and "The Individual versus Society--Tales where the society has certain guidelines for compatible living, but situations occur that the rules don't cover" [xv]) hardly distinguish the genre's productions from the vast bulk of world literature. The breakdown of major subgenres is marginally better, though still informed by a marked shallowness of perception (e.g. "Dystopia--Stories in which society is dominated by negative factors" [xiii]). And Minyard's attempts at historical contextualization at times verge on the unintelligible: "today American science fiction continues to dominate the world market. Perhaps this is because America, as a country, began after an invasion by aliens with a dominating culture and a superior technology, especially in the area of weaponry. Today the United States consists of widely differing cultural and ethnic heritages, so science fiction is naturally popular" (xii). Say what?

The volume's selection of stories is, to be generous, eccentric. In the first place, the rationale for the gradual incremental increase in the number of stories included per decade is unclear, though the editor seems rather proud of the feature (ix). The book's coverage through the '40s is, in the main, unexceptionable, at least in terms of authors represented if not of specific tales chosen (Verne, Wells, Doyle, Williamson, Weinbaum, Heinlein, Asimov, Simak, Merril), but it begins to get peculiar with the '50s, where, alongside stories by Bradbury and Cordwainer Smith, Minyard includes a very minor piece by Marion Zimmer Bradley. The percentage of oddments to solid selections then increases with each decade. The '60s are represented not only by Ellison's classic "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" (1966) but also by McCaffrey's "The Ship Who Sang" (1961) and Dick's "The Electric Ant" (1969)--no Le Guin, no Zelazny, no Delany, no Ballard, despite the fact that Minyard rightly claims them as the major authors of the period in his prefatory chapter essay. The '70s chapter includes nothing by Russ, Silverberg, Lafferty, Bishop, Disch, Wilhelm, or Wolfe, but rather two middling stories by Philip José Farmer and Larry Niven, along with Tanith Lee's "The Thaw" (1979) and something by a Doris Beetem (who is not, according to the Author's Note, even a professional writer). The '80s chapter features an excellent story by Connie Willis, an adequate entry from Mike Resnick, a very minor work by Gregory Benford, and a piece of sentimental fluff by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, while the '90s offers the weirdest mixture: stories by Vonda McIntyre and Laura Anne Gilman (!?), plus--exiled from what would seem their truly relevant decades--Thomas M. Disch and Arthur C. Clarke. No coherent justification is given for this bafflingly purposed cross-section of the genre, though I think I have divined one thread that explains a few of the stranger selections.

The attention to popular film and mass media evident throughout the book accounts, I believe, for some of the otherwise dumbfounding inclusions. Doris Beetem's story, for example, is a Star Trek tie-in originally published in a theme anthology and is clearly here to tap into the crossover interests of Trekkers. Other stories--e.g. those by Lee and Disch--deal with pseudoscientific topics, specifically UFO conspiracies and fantasies of alien abduction, thus cementing a further connection with contemporary pop-culture concerns. Indeed, the very first of the genre's major themes identified in Minyard's Introduction is "Unexplained Phenomena--Stories featuring UFOs, pyramid power, paranormal abilities, telekinesis, ESP, and other psychic possibilities" (xv). (None of this explain the presence of Laura Anne Gilman's "Clean up Your Room!" [1996], however, and I am frankly at a loss to do so.) This cultivation of fringe elements would perhaps be understandable in coverage of sf on the TV news or in a Sunday supplement article, but in a teaching anthology it is deeply embarrassing, seriously deforming the historical contours of the genre in order to curry favor with numbskulls. This is not to say that I feel Star Trek and UFOlogy have no place in a legitimate review of the field, but Minyard has not only placed them front and center, he has reduced them to an example of fan writing and a second-rate send-up of Whitley Strieber.

Perhaps the problem is that, for Minyard, the genre really seems to consist of this loopy, scattered detritus. Here, for example, is his overview of the contemporary sf scene in his '90s chapter essay: "trends of the nineties include alternate histories with story lines about alternate careers of U.S. presidents. Also popular are steampunk stories set in Victorian London with significant changes, such as Jack the Ripper being caught by Sherlock Holmes" (485). This might, perhaps, be a reasonable judgment by a casual browser of the racks at WaldenBooks, but not from the editor of an historical anthology. But then, Minyard's missteps in his chapter summaries are legion, ranging from major interpretive gaffes to persistent errors of detail. Consider this paragraph, in his chapter essay on the '30s:

After Gernsback lost control of Astounding Stories, F. Orlin Tremaine took over as editor in 1931. At first Tremaine followed Gernsback's direction, but he quickly began choosing stories that relied on gimmicks and sensationalism. He sought out what he called "Thought Variant Stories," where he challenged authors to come up with new, thought-provoking ideas. But Tremaine didn't have the vision or dedication of Gernsback, and after four years, John W. Campbell Jr., a highly respected author in his own right, took control. (94)

Leaving aside the glaring factual errors--Gernsback never edited Astounding; Tremaine took over from Harry Bates in 1933 (not '31) and was succeeded by Campbell in '37 (not '35, as implied)--the notion that Tremaine was a second- rate editor given to "gimmicks and sensationalism" is both unfair and unfounded; indeed, Tremaine transformed the magazine into the preeminent publication in the field even before Campbell's accession, and he left his post not because he lacked "vision or dedication" but because he was kicked upstairs at Street & Smith, the magazine's publisher. Later, in the chapter essay on the '80s, Minyard alleges that "the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986 highlighted the end of the traditional science fiction dream and ushered in the dark pessimism of the cyberpunks" (403). But many key texts in that subgenre had already been written by the time of this catastrophic event (whose effects on the "traditional science fiction dream" are hardly so obvious as Minyard suggests).

On top of these frequent howlers, mistakes of detail abound, of which the following is only a partial list. Asimov was a Professor of Biochemisty, not Biomechanics (148). The rallying cry for the New Wave was Inner Space, not "Interior space" (267). There are six "Dune" novels, not seven (268). Lovecraft wrote the Cthulhu Mythos stories, not the Cthullo stories (326). Not all of Larry Niven's solo fiction belongs in his "Tales of Known Space" series (346). Tanith Lee's story collection is Women as Demons (1989), not Women as Dreams (377). Star Trek--The Next Generation was never "the highest rated dramatic series on TV" (406), but only in syndication. Predictably enough, Minyard cannot spell either Fredric Brown's or Frederik Pohl's name, but by what strange twist of imaginative research did he come up with the notion that Marion Zimmer Bradley was ever married to Leigh Brackett (245)? Actually, I think I can tell you how this happened, too. If you open your copy of the Clute-Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (St. Martin's, 1993) to the entry on Bradley, and scan down to the listing of works "about the author," you'll notice the following passage: "The Darkover Concordance: A Reader's Guide (1979) by Walter Breen, MZB's husband; Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1982) by Rosemary Arbur...." It is perhaps forgivable that Minyard does not know who Leigh Brackett is, but I find it hard to accept that he doesn't grasp the punctuational difference between a comma and a semicolon.

In fact, Minyard persistently cribs from the Encyclopedia of SF, at times to the point of near-plagiarism. Compare the following two passages covering the recent fiction of Mike Resnick, the first by Clute and the second by Minyard: "MDR's large 1980s production showed an increasing--and increasingly sophisticated--interest in the use of sf venues and instruments to tell what he has more than once described as "morality tales"...; this was most evident in those stories and novels...set in either a literal Africa or an sf analogue of it"; "the series that best shows his sense of morality as it relates to cultural difference is set in a literal or science fiction analogue of Africa" (432). Even when he attempts to vary the wording more convincingly, Minyard frequently winds up producing garbled paraphrases of judgments articulated more clearly, more cogently, and above all more usefully in Clute and Nicholls' work. Which leads me to conclude that one could do worse than to assign their Encyclopedia in an sf class--though one could not do much worse than assigning Decades of Science Fiction.

To end on a less negative note, this is perhaps a good time to indicate other classroom resources on sf to appear recently. David Hartwell's new anthology The Science Fiction Century (Tor, 1997) offers a wide-ranging overview of the field with forty-five well chosen stories; they are not chronologically organized and the book includes no real scholarly apparatus (though the editor's Introduction and headnotes are very good), but one could easily assemble a syllabus that followed an historical progression and could, if one wished, supplement the text with a solid non-fiction survey such as Brooks Landon's Science Fiction After 1900 (Twayne, 1997; see review in this issue) or Edward James' Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (Oxford, 1994). The all-time best teaching anthology on sf remains, however, James Gunn's magisterial four- volume The Road to Science Fiction, which, happily, White Wolf Press has recently begun to reprint after a near-decade absence (currently, volumes three [1979] and four [1982], covering the Golden Age to the present, are available in trade paperback editions). Gunn's ideological perspective is somewhat narrow, making his judgments in his authors' notes at times questionable, but his editorial acumen at selecting and ordering stories is unsurpassed by any competitor.

White Wolf Press, which has become almost overnight the most important small press publisher in the fantastic genres, has also initiated a series of "White Wolf Rediscovery Trios," of which the first volume, on the topic of time travel, has appeared. The Trios gather three out-of-print novels of classic or near-classic status, in this case Chad Oliver's The Winds of Time (1957), Wilson Tucker's The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970), and Poul Anderson's There Will Be Time (1972), with introductions by the series' editors--respectively, George Zebrowski, Pamela Sargent, and Jack Dann. This editorial triumvirate is a bit given to critical hyperbole--e.g. Zebrowski's claim that Oliver's novel is the equal of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926)--but they are still to be lauded for spearheading this invaluable salvage effort, and White Wolf for supporting it (the Press seems to finance these labors of love by selling fantasy gaming materials). Future trios on the topics of space travel and post-apocalypse futures are reportedly planned. If you teach a thematically organized sf course, you may also want to check out the companion anthologies designed to accompany the trios; the first to appear, Peter Crowther's Tales in Time: The Man Who Walked Home and Other Stories (1997), features a fine introduction by John Clute and a solid, representative historical sample of time travel stories.

Better bookstores should carry much of this material, but you can also contact White Wolf at 780 Park North Blvd., Suite 100, Clarkston, GA 30021, or via their excellent website at With the genre coming to be dominated by TV ties and sharecropper spin-offs, it seems that only the small presses--and works like the Encyclopedia of SF--are keeping its literary-historical memory alive. Teachers, scholars, and fans everywhere owe them an incalculable debt.--RL.

Into the Woods of Nonspecificity

John Clute and John Grant. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York: St. Martin's Press (800-221-7945), 1997. xvi+1049. $75.00.

Consonant with the rise of fantasy in the literary marketplace, the past two years have seen an efflorescence of fantasy reference titles. Under the editorship of David Pringle, The St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers (1996) assembled introductory essays on more than 400 authors. Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (1996) followed soon after, with consulting editor Tom Shippey gathering 791 entries on individual books and series. The latest reference title dwarfs both the St. James Guide and Magill's. Spanning approximately 4000 entries and over one million words, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is outstripped in scope only by its grandiose ambition. Herein lies nothing less than a grammar of fantasy.

The grammarians of this volume will be familiar to readers of the St. James Guide and Magill's. For example, Mike Ashley wrote about 200,000 words of the Encyclopedia and served as one of two advisers to the St. James Guide. The other adviser to the St. James Guide, Brian Stableford, penned about 50,000 words of the Encyclopedia. Contributing editor David Langford also provided material to the St. James Guide, while consultant editor Gary Westfahl supplied entries for Magill, along with Ashley and Stableford. Among the contributors to both the Encyclopedia and the St. James Guide are Rob Latham and Andy Sawyer, while Gary K. Wolfe contributed to the Encyclopedia and Magill's. To borrow terms from the Encyclopedia, these prevalent figures can be described as the "secret guardians" or "secret masters" of the field.

The "hidden monarch" behind the grammar is John Clute, co-editor with Peter Nicholls of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), to which this volume is designed as a companion. The cosmetics for each volume are uniform, right down to binding color and the format that ascribes titles, dates, and cross-references. In comparison to science fiction, however, fantasy is of course particularly tenebrous as a genre--or mode, discursive formation, or horizon of expectations. Rather than attempting to erect palisades and sequester fantasy as a "last redoubt" or "polder," the Encyclopedia follows the lead of Brian Attebery's Strategies of Fantasy (1992) and approaches it as a "fuzzy set" (viii). Fantasy becomes a set with vague boundaries, understandable only through salient examples.

Enter the grammar, or those entries dubbed "motifs" (vii). Some motifs describe textual fixtures. Fantasy is distinguished by its motley cast of characters, such as the "brave little tailor," the "dark lord," the "knight of the doleful countenance," the "obsessed seeker," "accursed wanderers," and "pariah elite." The characters often quest for "plot coupons"--amulets, rings, swords, etc.--that must be collected in order for good to triumph during a "last battle." Their quests frequently involve a "night journey," or travel into a dark country--possibly interior--where the protagonists contend with matters of personal significance. Many of the quests entail a process of recovery from various forms of "thinning" (e.g. the health of the land, the restoration of a home or name). Motifs like these are interlaced with plot devices common to fantasy, be they amnesia, the "Cook's Tour" of locations, the duel, impersonation, inns, oracles, and/or temptation.

While certain motifs operate within texts, others are applicable to the relationship between texts, thereby positioning fantasy as a somewhat specifiable field. "Taproot texts" date from before the last decades of the eighteenth century, when fantasy began to emerge as a discrete purview. Such texts are early instances of the "fantastic"--any form of human artistry that is non-realistic--and comprise classical literature like Homer's Illiad and Odyssey (eighth century BC), romances like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (c. 1370) and Le Morte d'Arthur (1485), as well as a wide range of material that encompasses Don Quixote (1605-15), Paradise Lost (1667), and Gulliver's Travels (1726). The common denominator for "taproot texts" is that they are appropriated many times by later fantasy authors. Taken together, they offer a "cauldron of story" from which authors concoct their material. Multiple performances of the same material inflect it differently, as the boundaries of fantasy blur into "water margins" that include science fiction, supernatural fiction, horror, and magic realism.

Where the motifs are descriptive, Clute posits a prescriptive rubric in which story--make that Story--is central to fantasy. "Fantasy is a way to tell stories about the fantastic," he asserts in the signed entry for "fantasy" (338). Fantasy becomes the genre (a word scrupulously avoided throughout the Encyclopedia) of Story. Fantasy foregrounds transparent stories, stories that are about stories, stories that are self-conscious of their status as stories and recognized as stories by their audiences. Clute's definition of fantasy is as follows: "A fantasy text is a self-coherent narrative. When set in this world, it tells a story which is impossible in the world as we perceive it; when set in an otherworld, that otherworld will be impossible, though stories set there may be possible in its terms" (338). The primacy of Story vis-à-vis fantasy is of course debatable, and pithy critical definitions are easy to assail. Nevertheless, one must salute Clute's audacity. In comparison to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, this volume is much more daring. First, as a reference title, it aspires to give the most comprehensive overview to date of a field mired in nonspecificity. Second, it transcends the reference shelf and proffers an implicit theory of this field. Succeeding in the main on both counts, it will undoubtedly inform fantasy scholarship for years to come.

There are flaws, even so. Among the sins of omission are any mention of Derek Walcott's Nobel prize-winning epic poem, Omeros (1990), a Caribbean revisioning of The Odyssey. Ditto for Aimé Césaire's Une tempte (1969), overlooked in favor of Tad Williams's Caliban (1994) and Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books (1991). To round out the elision of St. Lucia, Martinique, and Guadeloupe, respectively, there is no reference to Maryse Condé's acclaimed novel of the Salem witch trials, Moi, Tituba, sorcière: noire de Salem (1986), although Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850) and Arthur Miller's The Crucible (1953) receive nods. In the entry on computer games, the seminal Myst (1993) is absent, as if the Encyclopedia harbors a prejudice against select islands and islanders--the entry on "islands" notwithstanding. The island so important to Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's César-winning La Cité des enfants perdus (1995) is likewise nowhere in evidence amidst the "cinema" entry, nor is Caro and Jeunet's earlier César-winning Delicatessen (1991).

Overall, however, these are but minor blemishes on a vast and elegant "edifice." The Encyclopedia of Fantasy is in the end a remarkable accomplishment; its thousands of entries prove informative and well-written. If Clute wrote approximately 400,000 words and the lion's share of the motif entries, it is imperative not to slight his co-editor, John Grant, and the latter's 250,000 words. Grant penned almost all of the cinema entries, and his coverage of the material is far superior to the stillborn entries on music, opera, and rock video. Just as contemporary genre fantasy spawns series and sequels, one eagerly awaits a revised, expanded version of this reference title.

--Neal Baker Ball State University.

[Editor's Note: Neal Baker honors me with his comments, but in the interests of modesty I should point out that I contributed only three entries to the St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers (covering marginal figures like Steven R. Boyett, Grania Davis, and Steven Millhauser) and exactly one to the Clute /Grant Encyclopedia (on Rachel Ingalls). Thus, rather than a "secret guardian" or "secret master" of the field, I could with more honesty be designated an attendant dwarf.--RL]

A Very Slow Critical Journal--and Something More.

C.W. Sullivan III, ed. The Dark Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Ninth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 71. Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1997. xx+217pp. $65.00.

Surely there is no harder book to review than a volume of essays from a conference--unless it is a book by a friend. This puts me in a double bind, since I am on friendly terms with this volume's editor, various of its contributors, and the conference itself, which I have attended several times, though not in 1988, the year from which these essays were selected. The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts is a wonderful occasion for meeting people interested in everything from Medieval romance to postmodern film and for finding out what they are currently reading, looking at, or thinking about.

But its strengths as a gathering are not necessarily selling points as a source of printed discourse, especially eight years after the event. Without the personal interaction and the buzz of recent discovery that originally surrounded these essays, what remains? Do the volumes in this series of conference proceedings constitute anything more than a particularly slow critical journal?

The editor, C.W. Sullivan III (who stepped in to rescue the volume after its original editor dropped the ball), argues that they do. In his introduction, he points out that even though the essays were selected without regard to content, they cohere rather fortuitously around the theme of the darker side of fantasy and the imagination. Seen in this light (or un-light?) the volume becomes a sort of symposium on sources of and uses for the grotesque and horrific within various genres of fantastic art.

A majority of the essays identify dark elements within a range of written texts--E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Sandman," Dracula, Paradise Lost, Aldiss's Frankenstein Unbound, Lessing's The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four, and Five. The essays that do not focus on a single text generally look for continuity within an author's works, such as Donald Morse's study of Kurt Vonnegut's satire, or use one writer as a lens on another, as Glenn Edward Sadler does with Hans Christian Anderson and George MacDonald.

I found the most interesting to be those that concerned texts I was less familiar with or that approached the text with new and surprising questions. The former included Maria Salgado's study of two erotic tales by Ruben Dario, and a couple of studies of visual artists: Betty Edwards's soft sculptures, described by Dorothy Joiner, and Joel-Peter Witkin's photographs, discussed by Roger Mesley. Among the latter were two reversals of expectation: Richard West's reexamination of Peter Beagle's apparently gentle and whimsical fantasy, in which he demonstrates a more sinister underlying thread of self-deception, and Eric Shaffer and Patrick Murphy's analysis of the horror movie Aliens in terms of its humor. If I was less interested in Joe Andriano's finding the Jungian anima in Dracula or looking with Tony Magistrale for the return of Hawthorne's New England regionalism in Stephen King, it is partly because I am overfamiliar with the approaches and/or texts, so that the title alone pretty much gives the game away. Will Andriano surprise me by reading the Transylvanian count himself as an anima in drag? No such luck: it's the brides.

But to be fair, there isn't much room for surprise in most of these essays, which have not been expanded beyond conference paper length. In print, that is only eight to ten pages, barely enough space to lay out the problem and identify one or two key pieces of evidence. A few writers do manage something more substantial, and it is probably these which will most interest the general reader, as opposed to the searcher for journal-type articles devoted to specific texts. Three selections might be especially worth seeking out. Leo Daugherty's "Genres of Desire" is unexpected and interesting, but not entirely clear, at least to me. Daugherty proposes to offer a new theory of genre in terms of types of consumers and their desires, a very provocative suggestion, though here presented without enough concrete examples to judge its merit. Colin Manlove's study of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by contrast, is nearly all specifics: a fine close reading of Stevenson's text without much theoretical speculation. Some of that missing theory can be found in Manlove's volume on Scottish fantasy, of which this is also a chapter. Kathryn Hume's "Postmodernism in Popular Literary Fantasy" balances both theory and example and, though only nine pages long, is one of the most substantial pieces in the book.

As I was wondering about the potential uses and audience for the book, it occurred to me to check how many of its contributors had found it useful to consult previous volumes in the same series, and so I went looking for citations of papers from other Conferences on the Fantastic. I found three such citations, which is not exactly conclusive evidence either way. However, since one of the references, in Carol Franko's essay on Doris Lessing, was to a paper of mine from the fourth annual collection, I'll choose to take it as a sign that these Greenwood Press volumes do function as something more than a slow, hardcover journal. Perhaps they are beginning to serve as a virtual space in which minds can meet with at least a measure of the stimulation found at the conference itself.

--Brian Attebery Idaho State University.

Some Things Hurtling through Space.

Michael A. Morrison, ed. Trajectories of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Fourteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy #70 Greenwood Press (800-225-5800), 1997. xx+220pp. $59.95.

Since I expressed last year my limited enthusiasm for an earlier volume of essays from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, attentive readers of Science-Fiction Studies may wonder why I am reviewing another book in the series. In one respect, the answer is simple: Rob Latham offered me the opportunity to review the book, and, wishing to seem agreeable to the new editor, I agreed. As to why I was asked to review this particular volume, this of course must remain a matter of conjecture to anyone but Latham. Regardless of what their sales figures are, it may be that assigned reviewers are the only people who are actually reading each of these books in their entirety. All of these volumes of essays from the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, then, may be rapidly becoming the fruitcakes of scholarship: distributed, displayed, exchanged, but rarely consumed.

To persuade people to read these volumes, one could float the idea that they function as a snapshot of contemporary scholarship in science fiction and fantasy, a guide to what topics and approaches are currently most common or stimulating. But these volumes do not offer the best critical essays of the year, only the best essays presented at one conference during that year. Also, with different editors every time, the volumes do not offer the continuity in judgment that would render them accurate indicators of changing trends. Thus, moving from Joe Sanders's Functions of the Fantastic (covering 1992) and this volume (covering 1993), one might conclude that the entire field, in the course of one year, abruptly lurched from an eclectic interest in darn near every conceivable example of non-mimetic literature to a highly focused interest in science fiction and fantasy, with a special emphasis on non-print media. The more likely explanation is that editors Sanders and Morrison applied different standards in selecting essays for their volumes.

In fact, were I searching for some rationale for reading these volumes other than the virtues of particular essays, I would conceptualize them as illustrative exemplary solutions to the dilemma that confronts every editor of these books (and some editors of other critical anthologies): given that collections of essays, unlike issues of journals, traditionally have some sort of central theme or subject, and given that these books of essays are drawn from a conference that habitually imposes on its presenters no such central theme or subject, how should one go about preparing a collection of essays from a conference? One possible approach, seen in the Sanders volume, is simply to choose what seem like the best essays available, introduced with a few desperate generalizations about their implicit connectedness to justify their appearance in book form. And the result, as I noted, will be a collection of reasonably good essays that have almost nothing in common.

Obviously, this is exactly the sort of volume which Morrison wished to avoid, and so he displays in Trajectories of the Fantastic a different approach: to select the essays that are closely related to each other, and to organize them into thematic sections, so as to achieve a volume that actually appears to be focused on a few topics of genuine interest to science fiction and fantasy scholars. Thus, after placing an Ursula K. LeGuin essay in an introductory section of its own, "Kingdoms of the Fantastic," the volume otherwise has a section of four essays on "Myth and Gender in Science Fiction and the Gothic," a section of two essays on "Fantastic Rock," and six essays about films grouped into two sections on "Cinema Fantastique." Only the six essays in the third section, "Fantasy, Genre, and the Mainstream," manifest the disjointed, anything-goes philosophy of the Sanders volume.

Unfortunately, though, there is a trade-off involved in either approach: if you go for quality (like Sanders), you sacrifice cohesiveness; if you go for cohesiveness (like Morrison), you sacrifice quality. So, on the one hand, Trajectories of the Fantastic is definitely a more unified volume, with all but a handful of essays that are inarguably relevant to the study of science fiction and fantasy; on the other hand, there are several essays included here which are conspicuously weaker than others, and were probably included only because of their apparent, but not necessarily actual, connections to other essays. One pattern in this volume is easy to discern: one excellent essay placed next to another, less than excellent essay which is ostensibly on the same subject. Thus, both Rosemary Hathaway's "No Paradise to Be Lost: Deconstructing the Myth of Domestic Affection in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" and Anna Katsavos's "Using the Fantastic to Disrupt the Domestic: An Examination of Marriage and Family in Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and Wise Children" are ostensibly about "domesticity" in fantasy; yet Hathaway's helpful examination of how Shelley's novel deliberately avoids conventional portraits of domestic bliss is worlds away from Katsavos's less startling revelation that Carter urges her characters to avoid domestic entanglements. Both Brian Attebery's "Androgyny and Difference in Science Fiction" and Tanya Gardiner-Scott's "Androgynous Architecture: Fantasies of Gender Bending in the Gothic Novel" are ostensibly about "androgyny," yet Attebery's insightful (though brief) survey of how modern male and female science fiction writers tend to portray androgyny differently actually has little to do with Gardiner-Scott's enervated argument that Gothic novels, despite the clearly defined sexual identities of their characters, nevertheless convey a sense of "androgyny" through their settings (all those tall towers and long corridors, you know).

In other cases, the connections are real, but the differences in quality are visible. Morrison's "A Few Remarks about a Couple of Things: Hawks and Carpenter Reconfigure Campbell" and Mary Pharr's "Greek Gifts: Vision and Revision in Two Versions of Night of the Living Dead" are both effective and valuable comparisons between an original film and a modern remake; but sandwiched between them is Michael J. Collins's "Version/ Inversion: Paranoia in Three Cases of Bodysnatching," a haphazardly organized and less satisfactory effort to deal with the three versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (though one problem may have been the need to work in references to the third film, not released when the paper was first presented). Rob Latham's "Screening Desire: Posthuman Couplings in Atom Egoyan's Speaking Parts and David Cronenberg's Videodrome," which offers intelligent readings of those two films, is preceded by Mark J. Charney's "Beauty in the Beast: Technological Reanimation in the Contemporary Horror Film," which incredibly attempts to argue that, in the 1980s, there emerged a "new horror film" that "merged hero and monster" with "a protagonist whose well-intentioned desire to explore a technological innovation results in personal disaster and mass chaos" (162). While a single dependent clause does acknowledge that "this trend began in the 1950s" with a few films (162), there were in fact, as many can attest, hundreds of such films and novels well before the 1980s, and even well before the 1950s--has Charney never heard of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Yet it is clear why this flawed essay earned its place of honor: it discusses Videodrome at length, as does Latham. Observing these weaker essays apparently getting into the volume essentially by riding on the coattails of stronger essays, one could suggest this strategy for future paper presenters at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts who urgently want their papers published: find out beforehand what an established scholar is going to talk about, and prepare a paper on the same subject.

If one ignores three essays on African fantasy, Nathanael West, and Toni Morrison, there are seven other essays of potential interest in the volume. Le Guin's "Changing Kingdoms: A Talk for the Fourteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, March 17-21, 1993," Edwin F. Casebeer's "King as Classic: Excellence, Relevance, Endurance," and Leonard G. Heldreth's "Architecture, Duality, and Personality: Mise-en-Scène and Boundaries in Tim Burton's Films" are all good, and well worth reading. Greer Watson's "The Seductive Doom in Young Adult Fantasy," Michel Delville's "Pop Meets the Avant-Garde: Music and Muzak in Michael Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius Stories," and Maureen King's "Future Legends: David Bowie and Science Fiction" are less scintillating, but offer useful information for scholars not familiar with their topics. And one must admire the audacity of Joseph Andriano's "Behemoth Evolving: Whale/Ape/Rocket," which strives to bring together Herman Melville's Moby Dick, the original King Kong film, and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow as a dialogue about evolution, even if Andriano doesn't quite manage to pull it off in the thirteen pages allotted to him. The overall scorecard, as one-time Astounding/Analog reviewer P. Schuyler Miller might have put it: 19 essays, 16 essays of potential interest to science fiction or fantasy scholars, 8 of them strongly recommended, the other 8 less strongly or not recommended.

Even as I write, other editors are undoubtedly preparing future volumes in this series, which Latham will probably be sending to other reviewers who are often offered books of questionable stature that scholars are rarely eager to review. And so, I bequeath to others the ongoing problem of what to say, and what to do, about this series of publications. As other reviewers have demonstrated, it is unfortunately easy to make fun of these volumes (and I succumbed to that temptation in the first paragraph and, even more so, in a deleted introductory paragraph which would have really irritated many people); still, any outlet for the publication of critical essays on science fiction and fantasy should be valued, even if it is only open to people who can afford (or obtain funding for) a March vacation in Florida, and it would be nice if said outlet were less susceptible to ridicule. Wouldn't an expanded, and reliably regular, version of The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts be a more logical place for the essays from these conferences? Or, if books are envisioned as their only desirable forum, has it occurred to anyone that, instead of volumes from each conference, one could store up essays from three or four conferences and assemble three or four volumes of essays, each on a different topic, that would be both consistently good and truly cohesive? My dictionary defines "trajectory" as "the curved path of something hurtling through space"; wherever the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts is trying to go, these volumes surely represent a curved path to that destination, and one hopes they will search for a straighter course.

--Gary Westfahl UC Riverside

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