Science Fiction Studies


#93 = Volume 31, Part 2 = July 2004


Masculinity is a Gender Too.

Brian Attebery. Decoding Gender in Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 2002. xi + 210 pp. $85 hc; $22.95 pbk.

Brian Attebery’s Decoding Gender in Science Fiction is a welcome addition to the list of key texts—Sarah Lefanu’s In the Chinks of the World Machine (1988), Marleen Barr’s Feminist Fabulation (1992), Jenny Wolmark’s Aliens and Others (1994), and Justine Larbalestier’s The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (2002)—that address science fiction’s problematic relationship with gender. What makes Attebery’s contribution unique is that both males and females are marked by gender in his analysis. This sets his work apart from the earlier examples whose focus is more clearly on the spaces that science fiction has opened up for women to explore strange new worlds alternative to the patriarchal and heterosexist one we have been given. Attebery’s text does cover this familiar ground as well, exploring feminist utopias, androgynous characters, and women’s access (or lack thereof) to publication within the field. Beyond this, however, Attebery also explores the way in which science fiction has simultaneously created a very specific image of ideal masculinity. His dual focus allows Attebery to provide a much more inclusive reading of the various ways in which gender and science fiction intersect and also to situate these concerns within a broader historical context than the above-cited works, which tend to focus on the 1970s boom of feminist writing. He accomplishes this in a mere nine chapters.

The overall organizing principle behind this volume is a desire to understand both gender and science fiction as sign systems, “cultural systems that allow us to generate forms of expression and assign meaning to them” (2). In his introductory chapter, Attebery outlines with admirable clarity the parallels he perceives between the codes of gendered performance that mark one as belonging to a recognized category and codes of generic convention that similarly structure our expectations of normal or appropriate science fiction. Both sets of conventions, he demonstrates, are arbitrary, constructed, malleable, and historically variable. Further and more importantly, both sets of conventions share a concern with “discovery, power, desire, selfhood, and alienness” (9), central categories for mediating our understanding of the world. Reflecting on the various ways in which science fiction and gender ideology coalesce and conflict, Attebery concludes that “gender is not merely a theme in SF,” but is rather “an integral part of the genre’s intellectual and aesthetic structure” (10).

In order to work through the evidence supporting this claim, Attebery provides us with what he characterizes as “an alternative history of SF” (10), a history designed to illuminate rather than elide the role of gender in shaping the genre from its earliest days. Chapter 1, “Secret Decoder Ring,” provides the theoretical framework; Chapter 2, “From Neat Idea to Trope,” explores the gothic heritage; Chapter 3, “Animating the Inert: Gender and Science in the Pulps,” is centered around a reading of 1937 as a representative year; Chapter 4, “Super Men,” looks at extraordinary men in the print fiction tradition; Chapter 5, “Wonder Women,” examines extraordinary women in the tradition; Chapter 6, “Women Alone, Men Alone,” explores gender-segregated futures; Chapter 7, “Androgyny as Difference,” androgynous characters; Chapter 8, “‘But Aren’t Those Just ... You Know, Metaphors?’”, sf that engages with postmodern theories of gender difference; and Chapter 9, “Who Farms the Future?,” the responsiveness of the genre to accepting a revised, gender-centric history as indicated by assessments of recently published anthologies

It is no small task to provide such a sweeping revision in a mere 200 or so pages, and the magnitude of the task that Attebery sets for himself is revealing of both the strengths and the weaknesses of this volume. Since my assessment is overwhelmingly favorable, I’ll begin with the strengths. The mere existence of such breadth itself is helpful, as the broad range of topics considered allows Attebery to provide not only specific readings of certain sf texts that illuminate gender ideology but also an assessment of how these isolated texts fit into a larger conversation among fans, writers, and scholars, and across decades. Thus, a reader is alerted to how a seminal (yes, pun intended) work such as The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) is marked by the longer history of representations of masculinity and femininity, a history insuring that Le Guin’s characters emerge out of an assumption of masculinity as the norm. Attebery’s analysis of this text and of Theodore Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X (1960) leads to one of the more significant and interesting conclusions in the book. He makes a distinction between, on the one hand, androgyny as a fusion of sexes that is an addition or expansion from a singular sex and, on the other, a more anxious merger he calls gynandry, in which the merger of the sexes is seen as a loss or dilution of some essential masculine quality through the addition of the female.

The clarity with which Attebery presents sophisticated and complex ideas is another admirable quality. Without ever deviating from a conversational—and often amusing—tone, he skillfully weaves together a discussion of sf texts with references to theory ranging from Freudian psychology, through poststructuralist language theory, to feminist studies of science. Attebery never simplifies the ideas in order to present them in clear language, but he similarly never resorts to jargon as a substitute for clear thinking. The fiction dominates the analysis and serves to clarify the theoretical concerns through its example rather than merely as matter upon which to “apply” a theory.

The part of the work I most admire is the chapter examining gendered representations in the pulps, taking 1937 as its representative year. While working on this chapter, Attebery read all the original science fiction published in this year in its original version. What strikes me as particularly valuable about this approach and the analysis emerging from it is that seeking out the texts in their original contexts reinforces the point that both gender and science fiction are representational codes among other codes circulating in a complex material world that shapes what we see and how we interpret it. By situating his readings of specific stories within the context of the other stories, letters, and advertisements with which they originally were published, Attebery is able to foreground in revealing ways the relationship between the gender codes within the genre and those in the larger culture. This method produces, for example, the insight that the masculinity of science fiction heroes of this period is integrally related to the masculinity of science as a discipline, of the presumed masculinity of the commanding gaze of scientific investigation. This chapter is where Attebery most successfully demonstrates his thesis that gender is not simply one theme among many in science fiction, but is in fact an essential part of the genre’s shape through the gendering of science itself. Further, by restoring the context of letters and other fan contributions to the field, Attebery also makes clear that, from the earliest days of the genre, the normative codes of gender were challenged as often as they were repeated.

I found the last two chapters of the book to be the weakest. Chapter 8, “‘But Aren’t Those Just ... You Know, Metaphors?’” takes as its topic science fiction that explicitly engages with poststructuralist theories of language and identity. While I found Attebery’s readings here—of Gwyneth Jones’s Aleutian Trilogy (1991-97) and James Morrow’s Godhead Trilogy (1994-99)—both interesting and insightful, I did not find that the analysis in this chapter sufficiently advanced the book’s central concern with gender and science fiction. The chapter successfully makes the point that the marked body influences how we see the world and thus that metaphors based on a different embodied experience could lead to a different account of selfhood and a new relationship between self and Other. Attebery demonstrates the degree to which the very metaphors we use to describe the world and assign value to it are intertwined with our ideologies of gender as a cultural system. However, given that he develops this argument based on Mark Johnson and George Lakoff’s analysis of the relationship among embodiment, metaphor, and philosophical concepts, what was lacking here, I found, was a compelling explanation of why gendered difference was any more primary than race, sexual orientation, or other kinds of embodied differences.

The final chapter takes a backward glance over the alternative history of science fiction that Attebery has constructed through the lens of gender. It makes the important point that the history of sf and gender is not simply a history of how writers have engaged with gender; in addition, the influence of fans through conventions, ’zines, awards, and the like is acknowledged. It concludes with a look at the critical response to a number of recently published sf anthologies, a response that indicates that the battle to determine the “true” history of science fiction is alive and well. Attebery suggests that some of the negative responses to The Norton Book of Science Fiction (1993), which he co-edited with Ursula K. LeGuin, betray anxiety that the “political correctness” of feminism distorts the genre’s proper history. While Attebery does prove his point that some of the negative responses to the anthology were a response to the editorial principles that included more women writers than the “standard” history of sf classics might include, he also provides equally compelling evidence that some of the negative response arose because of the volume’s Norton imprint and the sense that academe was contaminating and distorting the genre. I did not find that the strands of anxiety regarding gender and sf were successfully sorted out from the strands of anxiety about literary or academic influence on the genre, and hence the material in this chapter was not as well connected to an analysis of gender as the rest of the volume.

I also thought that at times the extremely broad reach of the book did not serve its project as well as I would have liked. I found myself wanting more analysis at certain points rather than a rush on to the next chapter and the next perspective provided by the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of gender codes. I experienced this sense of frustration particularly near the end of the book where the organizational strategy for presenting the material shifts. In early chapters, Attebery pursues his alternative history of sf in a linear, chapter-by-chapter move from the past toward the present. By Chapter 6, “Women Alone, Men Alone,” this pattern is abandoned, and instead the book presents a mini-history within each chapter beginning with the earliest appearance of a particular trope (in this case, separatist futures) and traces its development through readings of specific texts that Attebery offers as markers of key shifts in the trope. This pattern is easy to follow within the individual chapters that use it (Chapters 6, 7, and 9) but it breaks the larger historical flow of the overall work and also makes Chapter 8, a chapter dealing only with recent sf, quite disconnected from the chapters around it.

This concern with organization, however, is a minor quibble. Chapter 6, “Women Alone, Men Alone,” might break with the structure followed thus far in the book, but it also provides a strong overview of groundbreaking work that emerged during the 1970s and of patterns of gender in eutopic and dystopic fiction generally. This survey leads to the intriguing insight that there is a “gap” in masculinist eutopias written by men since the 1970s, a phenomenon Attebery theorizes in a number of ways, the most convincing of which to me is the observation that “men have less reason than women to question cultural assumptions about gender” (124). The very fact that this gap has not generated comment up until the present brings me back to my original point. Decoding Gender in Science Fiction is vital precisely because it theorizes gender as a dual system rather than conflating the study of gender with the study of the female.

Sherryl Vint, St. Francis Xavier University

Re(a)d Ken.

Andrew Butler and Farah Mendlesohn, eds. The True Knowledge of Ken MacLeod. Reading, UK: Science Fiction Foundation, 2003 (c/o 22 Addington Rd., Reading RG1 5PT, UK). xiii + 136pp. $40.00 hc.

Within the space of roughly 140 pages, The True Knowledge of Ken MacLeod manages to incorporate an introduction, two essays by MacLeod himself, two interviews with MacLeod, four reviews of MacLeod’s novels, and six critical studies of his work. To say the least, there is a lot here.

But then, there is a lot of MacLeod’s work, and a lot to it. In less than a decade, he has published a tetralogy, a children’s book, a volume of poems and essays, a stand-alone novella, a trilogy, and a stand-alone novel. That work has shown him to be one of the most political writers working in sf in general, and in British sf in particular (to be sure, no small feat). MacLeod’s fiction is saturated in the political: it is the medium in which his characters live and breathe and have their being, and he devotes the same care to his political extrapolations and speculations that he does to his technological extrapolations and speculations. Informed by Marx, Trotsky, and a host of other left-wing thinkers, his political vision is idiosyncratic, challenging, and entertaining.

At the same time, at the level of local narrative, MacLeod’s fiction participates in many of the conceits currently dominating sf, especially those related to the Singularity (AIs, uploaded intelligence, etc.); at the global level, his books participate in such sf forms as the Future History, the Alternate History, and the (New) Space Opera. (The Singularity is Vernor Vinge’s term for the moment when computers exceed the humans who create them, and for the complications thereof.) He makes interesting use of narrative structure, arranging a number of his novels in chapters that alternate between two, ultimately connected, plots. He employs first-person point of view to intriguing effect. His prose varies from information-rich, Gibsonesque density to a clearer and almost surprisingly lyrical style.

All of which is to say that Andrew M. Butler and Farah Mendlesohn, the editors of the first collection to address MacLeod’s oeuvre, have their work cut out for them. By and large, they meet that challenge, assembling what is essentially a casebook on MacLeod. This casebook portrays a range of responses to the writer. MacLeod’s own understanding of his project(s) and of sf in general are represented by the interviews and by his two essays. The immediate critical reaction to his novels is captured by the four book reviews. The ongoing reception of his work emerges in the half-dozen critical articles. In combination, the contents of this anthology offer a snapshot of the initial reaction to MacLeod’s work, and it is no surprise to discover that that reaction has focused, by and large and in a variety of ways, on MacLeod’s political vision and its place in his fiction.

In a sense, MacLeod himself sets the stage for this in his first short piece in the anthology, “Phlebas Reconsidered,” an introduction to the German edition of his friend Iain M. Banks’s Consider Phlebas (1987). After placing the novel in its sf traditions, MacLeod discusses its relation to the events of 1980s Afghanistan, suggesting the way in which it can be read as an (apparently) sympathetic coded portrait of heroic mujahedin struggling against godless communists. Only at the very end of his short introduction does MacLeod hint that all is not as it seems in Banks’s novel. He does not retract his decoding of the book, only suggests that a vast irony permeates Banks’s text, and therefore its politics.

The other piece by MacLeod, “Socialism: Millenarian, Utopian, and Science-Fictional,” an expansion of his guest-of-honor speech at the 2002 SFRA conference in Scotland, develops the connection between sf and the political in a more general way, discussing the links among millenarianism, Marxist thought, and the sf genre. Emphasizing sf’s critical potential, the essay includes an interesting critique of the politics of the Singularity, arguing that this meta-trope is just the latest example of millenarian thought.

In this light, it is no surprise to see both Andrew Butler and Andy Sawyer, in their respective interviews, questioning MacLeod on the place of politics in his work. Butler’s “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Post-Human” is the more far-reaching of the two; Butler discusses with MacLeod his Scottishness, his relationship with Iain Banks, his influences, his understanding of his own politics, and the development of the Fall Revolution series (The Star Fraction [1995], The Stone Canal [1996], The Cassini Division [1998], and The Sky Road [1999]). Sawyer’s “Ken MacLeod in Conversation” is briefer, covering much the same ground as Butler’s interview—MacLeod’s personal writing history, his relationship to Marxist thought, his reflection on the Fall Revolution books— and adding brief remarks about the genesis of Cosmonaut Keep (2000). The interviews reveal MacLeod to be gracious and articulate and, together with the essays by him, they nicely round out our view of the author.

The four reviews of MacLeod’s fiction included in the collection display an interesting consistency in their responses to his work. John Newsinger’s review of The Star Fraction enthuses over the book’s comic aspects, but concludes with an evaluation of it as among the best leftist works of sf in recent memory. Farah Mendlesohn’s review of The Cassini Division is much less happy: after the moral and political complexities of MacLeod’s first two novels, Mendlesohn finds his third novel overly simplistic, a cheap thriller whose ending rather too simply endorses genocide. John Newsinger’s second review of a MacLeod novel is also less happy: while he pays lip service to Cosmonaut Keep as a superior novel, he too takes MacLeod to task, this time for not being sufficiently politically engaged in what Newsinger considers the proper way. Finally, Neil Baker’s review of Dark Light (2001) is also unhappy with the book under consideration, though this is more because of Baker’s general unhappiness with the middle books in trilogies. Indeed, with the exception of Newsinger’s original review of MacLeod’s first novel, one comes away from these reviews with the feeling that MacLeod’s previous novel is always the one the reviewer prefers. It is easy enough to quibble with the various reviewers in retrospect; the significance of the reviews lies in the way they demonstrate a recurrent concern with the politics fueling the novels in question. Not one of them is disengaged from the subject at hand, a testament to MacLeod’s abilities as a writer.

The six critical articles take that concern with MacLeod’s politics and run with it. Of them, Farah Mendlesohn’s “Impermanent Revolution: The Anarchic Utopias of Ken MacLeod” and Adam Frisch’s “Tension and Progress in Ken MacLeod’s Engines of Light Series” are the high points. Mendlesohn presents the Fall Revolution books as “postmodern utopias,” which is to say, books in which utopia is a process (and not a place) that embraces pluralism. Tracing the different utopian traditions on which MacLeod draws in each of the Fall Revolution books, Mendlesohn has produced an invaluable guide to the ideas at play in the series. Frisch’s essay addresses itself to the ways in which the Engines of Light trilogy (Cosmonaut Keep [2000], Dark Light [2001], and Engine City [2002]) employs dialectical configurations throughout its narrative, from the level of character to the level of metaphor; indeed, Frisch’s analysis of MacLeod’s metaphors is one of the high points of his discussion. His essay also considers the role of women in the series, and the ways in which they become the hinges on which MacLeod’s plot turns. Frisch’s essay is more diffuse than Mendlesohn’s, but for future study of the Engines of Light books will prove no less valuable.

Like Adam Frisch, Joan Gordon is concerned with MacLeod’s aesthetics: specifically, with his use of a less-than-reliable narrator in The Cassini Division. In “Utopiant: Ken MacLeod’s The Cassini Division,” Gordon focuses on MacLeod’s narrative strategies in his third novel and the ways in which they intersect and interact with the book’s politics. Her discussion of the rhetoric of MacLeod’s fiction is perceptive and provocative, and signposts an avenue down which one hopes future interpreters will travel further.

John Arnold and Andy Wood’s “Nothing is Written: Politics, Ideology and the Burden of History in the Fall Revolution Quartet” examines the functioning of history and historical interpretation in the Fall Revolution tetralogy. At the center of these books, Arnold and Wood argue, is a deep concern with the individual’s relation to the past: as a source of knowledge, as a basis for future action, and as a burden. Their essay makes interesting use of Jacques Derrida’s ideas about the work of mourning to read the dilemmas that MacLeod’s characters face in relation to the past, and the ways in which they attempt to move past that past. It is informative to place this essay alongside the collection’s longest piece, James Brown’s “Not Losing the Plot: Politics, Guilt, and Storytelling in Banks and MacLeod.” Brown begins by contrasting the universe of Banks’s Culture novels (seven books beginning with Consider Phlebas in 1987 and ending most recently with Look to Windward in 2000) with that of MacLeod’s Fall Revolution tetralogy, emphasizing the difference between the limitless plenty and plurality of Banks’s setting(s) and the more drastic and reduced circumstances in which MacLeod’s characters find themselves. One might think such settings would symbolize the respective series’ politics, but, in fact, Brown argues, the politics the series evince are in almost direct opposition to their settings. Banks’s universe of plenty is haunted by guilt and moral paralysis, while MacLeod’s more stringent settings are places of hope and possibility. Brown takes a bit more time than he needs to deliver his analysis, but his effort to view MacLeod alongside perhaps his closest contemporary is worth the time. Together with Arnold and Wood, Brown’s essay emphasizes MacLeod’s recurrent concern with the Clutean “slingshot” ending, the final moment that races the narrative forward into a new universe of possibilities.

In the midst of these discussions of Ken MacLeod’s sf novels, K.V. Bailey’s “A Planet Engagingly Lived Through/Ironically Observed: Poems of Experience in a Polemical Setting” seems something of an anomaly. Addressing itself to MacLeod’s Poems and Polemics (2001), a slim volume containing eight poems and ten prose pieces, Bailey’s essay attempts to draw together the politics revealed in the essays with the poems. It is not a bad idea, but the discussion suffers from a tendency to view the poems themselves as little more than polemics, so that one comes away from the essay with little understanding of why MacLeod has chosen to embody these ideas in poetry, as opposed to writing another essay.

If there is a complaint to be made about this collection, it is its comparative neglect of MacLeod’s aesthetics. While there can be no doubt that MacLeod is a thoroughly political animal, he is also a novelist, and a rather complex one at that, and not enough attention has been paid to this side of his achievement. That said, this collection represents only the first step in the ongoing assessment of MacLeod’s career, and, as such, it succeeds admirably. For those first-time readers looking for greater understanding of a challenging novelist, or those critics looking to contribute to the discussion of his work, The True Knowledge of Ken MacLeod is an invaluable resource.

—John Langan, CUNY Graduate Center

A Storyteller’s Delight.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Eternal Savage: Nu of the Neocene. Intro. Tom Deitz. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2003. xv + 204 pp. $11.95 pbk.

Robert W. Fenton. Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2003. vii + 212 pp. $35 hc.

Edgar Rice Burroughs is back. In the past five years, we have had John Taliaferro’s biography Tarzan Forever (1999), as well as numerous reprints of Burroughs’s Tarzan, Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar novels, most of them by the University of Nebraska Press. There are several possible reasons for Burroughs’s resurgence. Tastes in literature are far more catholic than they were a generation ago. The idea of the reclaimed author launched anew into cultural respectability, originally the preserve of women’s and African-American writing, has been extended to all areas of literature. On a more concrete level, one could point to the increased interest of university presses in printing titles that will actually sell to people outside academia. The books of a popular sf/fantasy author, a crowd-pleaser like Burroughs, certainly fit this description. There is also the cultural-studies factor. Burroughs’s texts can be used, much in the manner of H. Rider Haggard’s African novels, to explore questions of race, gender, and biological identities. But what should not be missed is that Burroughs is back because he is entertaining. Burroughs was a born storyteller, and this comes through even today.

The Eternal Savage (1914) is an early work of Burroughs’s. It was written after only the first two Tarzan novels had been published and it postdates only the first serialized Mars story, “Under the Moons of Mars” (1912). It was published in book form as The Eternal Lover in 1925 and (no surprise) was pirated by Ace Books in the 1960s. Nebraska’s Bison Books imprint has reissued it handsomely with an entertaining introduction by the fantasy novelist Tom Deitz. Deitz candidly admits he read the book only because he had been asked to write the introduction. But he makes up for this unfamiliarity by witticisms such as this comment on the names of some of the book’s characters: “Oo and Ur were perhaps not gifted with an etymology as contextually consistent or carefully derived as, say, Glorfindel or Mithrandir” (viii). Nu is a Neocene savage. The book’s subtitle, “Nu of the Neocene,” referring to a geological era, is so syntactically similar to another Burroughs title, Llana of Gathol (1948), in which “Gathol” refers to a place name, that it makes us see how space-travel and time-travel converge in Burroughs. For him, the past truly is a different country.

Nu is hunting a saber-toothed tiger, with as routine an air as it is possible for a novelist to project, when an earthquake occurs. Suddenly, the “startled troglodyte” (11) is hurled forward into the world of the Tarzan series. This is, as we know well, an alternate, colonial-era Africa. Here, we meet an American woman, Victoria Custer from Beatrice, Nebraska (the name and place are a surfeit of significations in themselves!). Victoria has repelled all suitors and is waiting for her dream man, a dark-haired giant. Victoria, an Isabel Archer-like figure, finds in Nu, the displaced troglodyte, a more deserving love interest than was achieved by her Jamesian original. Nu, who arrives in the twentieth century still bearing the head of the saber-toothed tiger he has just killed, is disoriented. He can talk to the monkeys but most of the flora and fauna of his day are gone. Furthermore, he thinks the prim Victoria is the beauteous Nat-Ul, his beloved from what is “now” scores of millennia ago. But it turns out that Victoria, whom Nu liberates from momentary capture by (unusually southward-venturing) Arabs, is indeed Nat-Ul—or, rather, that Nat-Ul’s identity is atavistically layered beneath her own as a kind of deep, proto-Jungian unconscious. Nu learns English quickly and is about to undertake a Tarzan-like courtship of Victoria, when he is re-displaced back to his own time. The “original” Nat-Ul is, in a stunning, almost crystalline plot move, far more assertive and less the passive damsel than we have been led to believe. Several other men are after her, and she handles her situation with daring and aplomb. Though Victoria’s soul has not literally transmigrated back, we have a sense that past and present are again communicating on some subterranean level. The book’s conclusion, which again involves Oo, the saber-toothed tiger, takes full advantage of the dual layers of time that Burroughs has provided.

Though the book cannot be said to be high art, to call it unsophisticated would be wrong; many of the ideas and much of the plotting are ingenious. Despite all the times when the reader is tempted to make fun of it, the book ends up being a moving time-travel love story. (The book’s original title, The Eternal Lover, is thus superior, especially since to call Nu a “lover” is a more measured anthropological judgment than to call him a “savage.”) Nu intuitively understands the dilemma of his having known both past and future. In the wake of this realization, he takes an honorable and valorous course. The drama here is compelling, remarkable especially for so early a work in Burroughs’s canon. The brief presence of Tarzan in the story also evinces an early premonition of Burroughs’s interest in crossovers between his various worlds, later seen in Tarzan At The Earth’s Core (1930), although, wisely, the Tarzan and Barsoom series never crossed. Another reason we end up admiring rather than mocking this book is its anti-racism. Nu, though “white” himself, is treated as a savage by the whites, and realizes that there is more than one level of whiteness. Nu resents how badly the black population of Africa—here the Waziri—are treated. The Eternal Savage, though written in 1914 and filled with many character stereotypes, is not racist. Nor does it endorse imperialism or flatter the ego of the white race.

Burroughs’s fundamental anti-racism is well captured in Robert W. Fenton’s reissued biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan, originally published as The Big Swingers in 1967. This book began informed assessment of Burroughs. It was followed quickly by Irwin Porges’s mammoth 1975 biography, Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan and by Richard Lupoff’s 1976 Barsoom, an enjoyable study that did for Burroughs’s Mars books what Fenton does for the Tarzan series. The Mars (Barsoom) series, always gathering a more intellectual following, seemed to be far more sf than the Tarzan series. But recent discussions of the modeling of sf’s representation of alien life on earthly colonial encounters, and the concurrent realization of the uncanny aspects of the imperial construction of the colonized, make Tarzan’s world seem now far more sf in nature.

Notwithstanding primitivist stereotypes of Africa in the Tarzan books (made more severe in the films), the fundamental humanity of Africans is affirmed, as occurs in The Eternal Savage. The Germans disliked Burroughs already as Tarzan had been made to fight against the Kaiser’s men in the First World War. Furthermore, the permeability between Africa and white civilization disturbed Nazi ideas of racial purity, or, as the Nazi film board unctuously clouded it in doublespeak, “official propaganda and enlightenment” with regards to race (86). Burroughs was also, unsurprisingly given his simian interests, pro-evolution. Yet his dismissal of religious fundamentalism did not lead Burroughs in the other direction of Darwinist racialism. Tarzan and John Carter of Mars are heroes, but neither is an Ubermensch, at least not in the negative sense of that term. For all the naiveté we are inclined to see in him, Burroughs was a modern man, and one resistant to both Nazism and racism.

Burroughs’s genial expositor, Robert W. Fenton, was not an academic but a journalist who was an unabashed Burroughs fan. (Burroughs fandom in the 1960s was in many ways similar to contemporary sf fan culture.) He provides the reader with vital information, including a full chronology and primary Burroughs bibliography and a complete glossary of the ape-language of the Tarzan books. In twenty-five short chapters, themselves divided into bite-size parcels, Fenton tells the story of how Burroughs became a successful, world-famous writer from very meager beginnings. Not at all to the manor born, not remotely part of the literary establishment, Burroughs persisted through a series of sputtering hopes and temporary jobs. Only at thirty-five did he aspire to write for the pulp magazines. Quickly, he became a best-selling author. In only a decade and a half, he was able to become the squire of the new Los Angeles-area suburban development named by him “Tarzana.” During the Second World War, in his late sixties, Burroughs functioned very effectively as a war correspondent in the Pacific. Among his contributions, according to Fenton, was encouraging the members of the Honolulu Rotary Club to loosen up and reveal their inner Tarzan.

Though more scholarly books, such as John Taliaferro’s Tarzan Forever: The Life of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Creator of Tarzan, eventually appeared, Fenton, who died the year after his book was first published, was the pioneer. His unabashed delight gives the reader a sense of the joy that Burroughs’s books, for all their undeniable lack of literary polish, continue to provide.

—Nicholas Birns, New School University

Two Mars Adventures.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Under the Moons of Mars. Intro. James P. Hogan. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2003. xvii + 505 pp. $16.95 pbk.

Edwin L. Arnold. Gullivar of Mars. Commemorative Edition. Intro. Richard A. Lupoff. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2003. xvi + 193 pp. $15.95 pbk.

When I first embarked upon rereading ERB’s Mars novels, I was filled with mixed feelings: curiosity, amusement, nostalgia, and, I must admit, some sense of dread. Having been an avid reader of early science fiction (Verne, Wells, Burroughs, Merritt) at the age of 11—and a collector of Ace and Ballantine paperback editions of these authors’ works—I had fond memories of exploring the works of Burroughs, but also recalled the occasional density of his prose. What I best remembered, though, was the sense of adventure in these paperback editions (not to mention the outrageous Frank Frazetta artwork that adorned their covers).

Now, nearly 40 years later, I reembarked on an adventure with John Carter to Barsoom (Mars) in the Bison edition of Under the Moons of Mars, a 500-page edition of Burroughs’s work that includes the novels A Princess of Mars (1917), The Gods of Mars (1918), and The Warlord of Mars (1919). Regarding the mixed feelings described above, I must report that the sense of dread has now disappeared. The novels are quite impressive: one never gets the feeling that the author was anything less than enthusiastic. Burroughs’s characterization of his hero John Carter is, of course, old-fashioned, the stuff male adolescent fantasies are made of, as are most of the depictions of his female characters. And those who have said over the years that Burroughs’s novels are weak science fiction but strong adventure stories might have a point, laden as they are with strange beasts, sword fights, and princesses in peril.

All in all, I expected to be cringing at the puerility of the novels; rarely did I, however. On the contrary, Burroughs’s Mars novels are crisp, action-packed, occasionally corny and filled with masculine braggadocio, and, most importantly, a hell of a lot of fun, which is more than one can say about some current science fiction.

Having finished the Mars novels, I then turned to Edwin L. Arnold’s 1905 novel Gullivar of Mars, also brought to print once again by Bison. While Arnold’s novel is worthy enough to deserve study in and of itself, most of the critical print about the novel has concerned whether or not the book was the—or one of the—inspirations for Burroughs’s Mars novels. Years ago, Richard A. Lupoff dared to suggest Arnold’s novel was a source of inspiration for Burroughs’s works, an assertion to which Burroughs’s hardcore fans took extreme exception. While Burroughs’s debt to Arnold might be entirely possible, my response to this debate, which has been going on since the 1960s, is, so what? Do the Burroughs fanatics really believe that their favorite author existed in a vacuum and read nothing? Surely he was influenced by Verne, Wells, and the author he most reminds me of, H. Rider Haggard. The debate is silly, and it does a disservice to both Burroughs and Arnold.

Gullivar of Mars is a wonderful novel, one that certainly has its own inspirations and influences. As Gary Hoppenstand persuasively points out in his Afterward to the Bison edition, Arnold’s novel owes much to both the gothic tradition and to H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895). Arnold’s Hither and Thither people seem derived from the Eloi and Morlocks: one tribe is brutal, the other rather fey. Unlike Wells, though, Arnold’s sympathies lie with the more primitive race. But Arnold’s principal influence, it seems to me, although rather obvious, has been, if not ignored, at least undervalued: Jonathan Swift. Unlike Burroughs’s work, Arnold’s novel is a satire. (Swift was also an influence on Wells, though one might hesitate to call Wells’s “scientific romances” satires.) Arnold’s hero’s first name is Gullivar; the original title of the novel was Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation; and our hero travels to Mars via flying carpet! Clearly, from just these matters, we are asked to see the novel as in the tradition of Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Like Gulliver, Gullivar Jones is far from the near perfect specimen of male hero found in Burroughs’s novels. Gulliver is gullible; Gullivar is ineffective, at best. Swift’s protagonist and Arnold’s main lead both encounter different races that suit their authors’ specific satirical purposes. And even Arnold’s last paragraph sounds like a typical (if less barbed) Swiftian address to his readership: “The compact was sealed in the most approved fashion; and here, indulgent reader, is the artless narrative that resulted—an incident so incredible in this prosaic latter-day world that I dare not ask you to believe, and must humbly content myself with hoping that if I fail to convince yet I may at least claim the consolation of having amused you” (181). The “adventure” elements are here—complete with a princess, who, incidentally, our hero does not win, instead returning to Earth to marry his earthling Polly—but the reader who craves fast-moving action would probably prefer Burroughs’s works. Like Gulliver’s Travels (again), Gullivar of Mars is a slow albeit thoroughly worthwhile read.

Who influenced whom? Who didn’t? I repeat: who cares? Genre fans should ignore such trifles and rejoice in the fact that these early science-fiction writers are responsible for bringing innumerable young readers into the sf/fantasy fold. And speaking for myself, though I continue to think Wells the best of the early authors, it was the Burroughs novels (with the Frank Frazetta covers) that got me hooked.

—Allen C. Kupfer, Nassau Community College

Essential Takes on the Essence of SF

Scott Bukatman. Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. xvi + 279pp. $21.95 pbk.

Here’s a stretch, but let’s call it a “thought experiment.” Read Jonathan Lethem’s marvelous story “Super Goatman” in the April 5, 2004 New Yorker (68-75), then morph the details of this story just enough so that it becomes “Super Theoryman,” and then imagine that Super Theoryman is actually Scott Bukatman, eight of whose remarkable essays on film, sf, comics, and techno-culture are now collected in Matters of Gravity, a book that contains much worth thinking about for cultural-studies scholars, sf scholars, and those of us who just like thinking about the world around us.

OK, this particular thought experiment may not be the best way to link Bukatman’s writing with Lethem’s, but the link needs to be made and the project is, I believe, instructive. Both have carved out important careers writing at once as sf insiders and as sf outsiders, reminding us of the value of slipstream vision to the larger understanding of the uses and value of sf thinking. Both teach us something worth learning—even when we disagree with them—with almost every word they write. Both share an abiding nostalgia for a theorized and fictionalized New York as the model for urban utopianism. And, of course, both have given us splendidly insightful meditations on superheroes. Bukatman works the critical side of the street in his Terminal Identity—a 1993 book ahead of its time in so many ways—and essays such as “X-Bodies: The Torment of the Mutant Superhero” and “The Boys in the Hoods: A Song of the Urban Superhero,” both collected in Matters of Gravity. Lethem works the fictional side of the street in his novel Fortress of Solitude (2003) and now in “Super Goatman.” It’s no secret that Lethem is not just a fabulously talented novelist, but also a fabulously talented closet academic, and anyone who has read much of Bukatman’s writing is likely to agree with Bruce Sterling’s view that, “if you insist on reading stuff like this, you ought to read Scott Bukatman. He’s much smarter and funnier than most of his theory-surfing colleagues” (<>). Talk about your Dynamic Duos!

The essays gathered in Matters of Gravity originally appeared in venues addressing audiences as different as those implied by journals such as October, South Atlantic Quarterly, and IRIS ,and by anthologies whose focus differed as widely as did that of Mark Dery’s Flame Wars (1994) from Vivian Sobchack’s Meta-Morphing (1999). Bukatman’s ostensible subjects range from superheroes to cinema special effects to film musicals about New York to the technology and phenomenology of the typewriter, re-seen through the lens of cyberspace. Each of the essays in this collection, however, references or re-enforces issues approached in many or most of the other essays and all of them share in Bukatman’s larger project of resituating the human body and human identity in a technosphere that threatens both. Indeed, read together, these essays call attention to the fact that Bukatman’s writing is essentially and gloriously recuperative, whether he is trying to valorize or rehabilitate popular media, urban space, technologized motion, or the role of the hip and liberated cultural studies scholar. The overlap of his concerns, the uniqueness of his vision, and the delights of his prose can be glimpsed in the following excerpt from “The Boys in the Hoods,” the essay that both closes this collection and reveals why “Syncopated City,” the seemingly out-of-place preceding essay on film musicals, not only belongs in this volume but also reminds us that, in the hands of a gifted cultural critic, parataxis becomes almost inspirational.

The superhero city is founded on the relationship between grids and grace. The city becomes a place of grace by licensing the multitude of fantasies that thrived against the “constraining” ground of the grid. Grace is a function of elegant precision but also implies a virtuostic transcendence of the purely functional, and the city thus possesses a grace of its own. Superheroes are physically graceful, but they are graced through their freedom, their power, and their mobility. Superhero comics embody the grace of the city; superheroes are graced by the city. Through the superhero, we gain a freedom of movement not constrained by the ground-level order imposed by the urban grid. The city becomes legible through signage and captions and the hero's panoramic and panoptic gaze. It is at once a site of anonymity and flamboyance. Above all, soaring above all, the superhero city is a place of weightlessness, a site that exists, at least in part, in playful defiance of the spirit of gravity. (188)

That final sentence also foregrounds the contrast between weightlessness and gravity—considered literally and figuratively—that inspires and sometimes haunts this volume. From his reference in “Syncopated City” to special-effects musical sequences that feature weightless dancing on ceilings and otherwise unlikely surfaces to images cited in “Boys in the Hoods” of superheroes effortlessly swinging, flinging, or otherwise flying through the upper reaches of a cityscape, Bukatman invites us to recognize the inherent similarities between physical escapes from gravity depicted in musicals and in superhero productions, and the inherent tension between those deliriously liberating constructions and the horrific, inescapable gravity of the events of September 11, 2001.

Bukatman celebrates and interrogates “fantasied escapes from gravity” as experienced or imagined or imaged in cyberspace, in “the dances on the ceiling in Royal Wedding [1951] and 2001 [1968],” in amusement park rides, in film, and in the leaps, bounds, and flights of superheroes, casting all as occasions for us to “recall our bodies to us by momentarily allowing us to feel them differently” (xiii). It is Bukatman’s goal to locate the phenomenology of these “fantasied escapes” in the “spaces of industrial and electronic capitalism” (3), and to do so in a way that avoids the technophilic excesses of constructing our technologized environment as utopian carnival and the technophobic excesses of constructing it as control mechanism. As Bukatman puts it, “There has to be something between the carnival and the panopticon” (5), and his essays consistently explore ways in which media (broadly construed) provide “a set of tactics for negotiating modernity” (4).

His project then, while grounded in film studies and usually focused more on popular than on more “dignified” cultural phenomena, can be seen as sharing broad concerns with the work of Cecelia Tichi, as seen in her Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (1987), and of David Nye in his The American Technological Sublime (1995) and his Narratives and Spaces: Technology and the Construction of American Culture (1997). Only Bukatman approaches modernist anxieties about technology from the future looking backward, while Nye and Tichi generally approach the future looking forward from nineteenth and early-twentieth-century anxieties and celebrations. Bukatman always acknowledges science fiction’s conceptual investment in this effort, while Nye and Tichi generally theorize technoculture as if sf had never existed.

Bukatman organizes the essays in this book under the categories of “Remembering Cyberspace,” “Kaleidoscopic Perceptions,” and “The Grace of Beings,” explaining that the essays “move from a consideration of the body as constructed by spectacular experience to an emphasis on the performing body moving within the built-environment of the American city” (6-7). “Remembering Cyberspace” offers three essays in the general vein of the argument of Terminal Identity, focusing on the plight of the human subject in a digital culture that more and more seems to promote, if not to demand, disembodiment. This section includes Bukatman’s “There’s Always ... Tomorrowland,” a tour de force, if not always a persuasive linking of Disney theme parks with cyberpunk, a movement whose central concerns provide the ironic counterpoint to the emblematic dead tech so thoughtfully interrogated in the second essay in this section, Bukatman's classic “Gibson’s Typewriter.” I’m not completely sure how “X-Bodies: The Torment of the Mutant Superhero” advances our understanding of human subjectivity in a digital age, but it’s a compelling analysis of the body as constructed in superhero comics, and it represents Bukatman’s disarmingly personal style at its most engaging, opening with his claim that he probably isn’t as worried about his dick as he used to be and closing with his admission that he is worried about finding a niche in the academy.

“Kaleidoscopic Perceptions,” the second part of Matters of Gravity, contains two essays on film special effects and the appeal of the techno-sublime that should be must-reads for anyone interested in understanding the appeal of sf literature and film. “The Artificial Infinite: On Special Effects and the Sublime” traces the special effects of contemporary cinema back through numerous stages of immersive experiences such as “‘Renaissance’ and elevated perspectives, panoramas, landscape paintings, kaleidoscopes, diorama” and the cinema of attractions (91). Situating technological spectacle within the larger contours of the sublime, Bukatman argues that “the presence of the sublime in science fiction, a deeply American genre, implies that our fantasies of superiority emerge from our ambivalence regarding technological power rather than nature’s might (as Kant originally had it)” (101). In “The Ultimate Trip: Special Effects and Kaleidoscopic Perception,” Bukatman develops his notion of kaleidscopic spectatorial experience (“the headlong rush, the rapid montage, and the bodily address”[3]) to argue that spectacularly kinetic special-effects sequences in recent sf cinema in themselves “articulate a utopian discourse of possibility,” leading him to this provocative conclusion: “Science fiction is a notoriously rationalist genre, but in the kinetic delirium of many effects sequences, the genre detaches from disembodied, desensationalized knowledges” (130). Buy the book if only for these two magnificent essays.

But wait—there’s more! Section three, “The Grace of Beings,” contains essays that expand our consideration of morphing to include its racial valence, that rethink film musicals in terms of their constructions of a New York as a “delirious urban celebration,” and that then rethink that urban celebration in terms of the urban imagery of superhero comics. It was while I was rereading “Taking Shape: Morphing and the Performance of Self,” the first essay in the section, however, that I started noticing something about Bukatman’s criticism I had previously missed: for all his cultural and theoretical hipness, there’s a touch of the unreconstructed modernist in Bukatman’s writing. His interrogations of technological culture all seem to rest on an apparently timeless modernist concern that the technologized world inexorably creates anxiety in its inhabitants. Count the number of times that “anxiety” or “anxieties” appear in these essays. And that anxiety, in Bukatman’s criticism, seems essentially timeless and unchanging—just as pervasive at the beginning of the twenty-first century as it was at the end of the nineteenth.

Moreover, while his work occasionally nods toward possibilities of resistance in viewers and readers, the possibility of truly transgressive agency on the part of those on the receiving end of technological spectacle never seems to get much consideration in these essays. While Henry Jenkins offers a powerful appreciation of Bukatman’s work on the jacket of Matters of Gravity, I found myself wondering why “spectatorial poaching” isn’t as likely as “textual poaching,” and whether the denizens of Thirteenth Gen, Fourteenth Gen, and beyond really respond to technology and technologized spectacle in ways that continue to be illuminated by Schivelbusch, Koolhaas, Simmel, and the host of critics looking at modernist anxieties to whom Bukatman turns again and again. Just a thought—and a heretical one at that, since I also love those critics, also turn to them again and again, habitually try to make similar historicizing moves in my own attempts to understand digital culture, and just wish I could do so with half the panache and insight that Bukatman brings to all he writes. But how much, finally, can world’s fairs tell us about hypertext, and how much can Hale’s Tours tell us about whatever will come next in cinema special effects? Gibsonian virtual reality makes a cameo or two in these essays, but if the web, much less web culture, got even a mention, I missed it. Which is just to suggest that, while this set of Bukatman’s fascinating and rewarding essays helps us to embrace and understand our technological recent past, they may not point us toward embracing and understanding our digital future.

While Bukatman has been at the worthwhile task of unpacking and explaining the “power of a good daydream” in mass and popular culture since the early 1990s, it is clear from his Preface to this volume that the horrible and real spectacle of September 11, 2001, now challenges him to rethink the ontological status of the contrived technological spectacles so frequently the subject of his essays. This admirable, important, essential, and almost certainly premature effort to bring the events of September 11 into the discourse of theory leads Bukatman to the poignant suggestion that we reread and rethink his essays as “in defiance of the spirit of gravity, but with a new cognizance of gravity’s irresistible pull” (xiii). One more reason to respect Bukatman’s unique critical sensibility.

Brooks Landon, University of Iowa

Confronting the Violent Sublime.

Elana Gomel. Bloodscripts: Writing the Violent Subject. The Theory and Interpretation of Narrative Series, ed. James Phelan and Peter J. Rabinowitz. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 2003. xlvii + 234 pp. $74.95 hc; $25.95 pbk; $9.95 cd.

Elana Gomel’s Bloodscripts: Writing the Violent Subject explores the nexus of violence, the subject, and narrative in the “violent sublime,” a term she defines as “the unrepresentable that clamors for representation, ... that which exceeds language but provokes speech” (xxviii). That quote exemplifies the clear, balanced sentences that form summarizing epigrams throughout the book. Indeed, two of the great pleasures of Bloodscripts are its clarity and its elegant prose.

In Gomel’s “Introduction: Stories to Die For,” she posits that “the ellipsis of the violent subject’s life-story is a scar of the sublime. Violence both wounds the narrative and stimulates its recovery” (xxix). She then identifies three patterns for the performance of the violent sublime—“the subject of torture, the subject of discipline, and the subject of ideology” (xxviii)—that will structure the book as a whole. The subject of torture, the monster of horror fiction, experiences an ellipsis, a gap, at the site of motive—he cannot say why he commits violence. The subject of discipline, in the classic detective story, experiences this ellipsis before the body of the victim, “eliminating not only graphic descriptions of violence but desire, contingency, and accident” (xliv). The subject of ideology, the utopian “creator of monsters”—Dr. Moreau and Dr. Mengele—experiences his gap in “the open secret: the knowledge that is held in suspension between acceptance and denial” (121). The following six chapters will explore these three patterns, as well as “intermediate” or “transitional” types (xliii). Throughout, Gomel reminds us, “The second general concern ... is the relation between body and narrative.” In another elegant turn, she clarifies: “While the body is indeed constructed in discourse, it also constructs discourse” (xlvii). Her consistent focus on the body, in its vulnerability and temporality, means the discussion is never coldly academic or cold-bloodedly theoretical but humanely academic and responsibly theoretical.

Chapter One, “The Visible Man,” talks about horror fiction, using as its texts Wells’s The Invisible Man (1896), Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), several of Clive Barker’s stories, and, of course, Stoker’s Dracula (1897). The list indicates two of the few weaknesses of Bloodscripts: first, that Gomel’s choices of fiction suggest a limited range of knowledge about the genres under consideration (horror, fantasy, science fiction, and detective fiction, among others); and second, that she selects works to fit her theories, rather than the other way around. I am not entirely convinced, however, that the latter is necessarily a weakness, although it would be a weakness in, say, scientific method. In my old age, as I consider how order may arise out of chaos, and as I read more books such as this one, it becomes easier to forgive and even welcome the approach. As for the first problem, the limited range, it is a weakness but not one damaging to Gomel’s arguments. Instead, the lack of breadth in reading represents opportunities for the reader to add to the discussion. The perceived lack of breadth may be an active choice, I would note, since Gomel has, according to a cursory search, also written about the Strugatsky brothers, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Possible weaknesses aside, Gomel has stimulating things to say about the monster of horror fiction in her first chapter. She calls it “a living oxymoron, created by the collapse of binary dichotomy, such as linving [sic]/dead ... or human/animal.” Citing Judith Butler and others, she discusses how the monster is “a subject beyond humanity” not only physically but ethically” (2). Gomel’s insight is to see that “The monster expresses the commonality of the flesh that underlies violence: we are all books of blood” and that the monster displays both “the ruined corporeality of the victim and the ruined subjectivity of the perpetrator” (2). “The true seduction of the violent sublime,” she claims convincingly, “is the escape from the slippery discriminations of morality into the incontestable materiality of the body” (3). This goes a long way toward explaining the horrible fascination we have with the Grand Guignol, not only in horror fiction and film, but in history: my class in literature of the Holocaust is always filled.

Chapter Two, “Serial Killing and the Dismemberment of Identity,” about both fictional and non-fictional serial killer narratives, looks at the argument over whether such moral monsters as Hannibal Lecter and Ted Bundy are born (monstrous creations) or made (victims of monstrous circumstance). Gomel sees each of these paradigms as “problematic legally and morally,” but “even more so narratively” (50). “If the monstrous creation paradigm fails to account for the killer’s similarity to the ordinary run of humanity, the victimization paradigm cannot explain his difference” (57). Gomel concludes that “choice is the one element of the narrative that cannot be predicted in advance since it does not obey the law of causality” (61). When she says that this “free choice of violence ... means abandoning their [serial killers’] commitment to the scientific paradigm of rational explanations” (62), she approaches another scientific paradigm—of chaos or complexity theory—but stops short. Perhaps for this reason, perhaps because of the limitations of the serial killer genre, perhaps because this is a chapter about an “intermediate type,” it is less impressive than the first chapter, though still provocative.

“The Library of the Body,” Gomel’s third chapter, considers classic detective stories from Poe’s source texts, through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown. Here she sees “the dominant feature of the detective story: its repression of the sublime and the projection of the perfectly disciplined subject of violence” (65). However disciplined the subject, and the examining detective, “the generic specificity of the detective story is created precisely by the sustained tension between its smooth and precise narrative exterior and its dark Gothic core.... [C]rime and logic are kept in constant creative tension” (67). Having approached chaos in the previous chapter, here Gomel arrives, seeing the orderliness of the detective story’s narrative surface as covering the chaos of the violent sublime, while the detective’s role is to discover the order hidden in that chaos: “This literary striptease is the detective writer’s greatest skill: to admit just enough of the Real but never too much” (75). Violence, and sexuality as well, are repressed chaos in the detective story; thus, “the paradox of the detective: the Thinking Machine locked in the cage of ‘meat’” (83). There is much more in this rich chapter, and much of it is applicable to science fiction—to the Asimovian/Spock logical hero, for instance, to the complex mind/body speculations and attitudes of cyberpunk, and beyond.

“Utopia Noir,” the fourth chapter, begins with a comparison between Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1976) and Dostoevskii’s Crime and Punishment (1866) to illustrate two kinds of subjects, those of ideology “who thrive on torture,” and those of discipline “who are appalled by it.” “What,” she asks, “is the secret of Omelas? Or, in the light of the twentieth-century experiments in utopian politics, what is the secret of Auschwitz ...? It is Raskolnikov, with his violence-nurtured Idea, who can answer this question” (100). This chapter has much of value to say for utopian and dystopian criticism. Gomel’s discussion of the New Man is particularly stimulating. He is, she claims, “a dangerous dream of healing the wound of separation between body and mind, public and private, individual and collective, consciousness and desire” (105). And what is the New Man’s greatest enemy? It is, she says, “democracy, which was consistently perceived in terms of a stable set of metaphors: disease, femininity, chaos, swamp, and rot” (109). “Stable” is the operant word, for the New Man abhors contingency, “multiplicity to the New Man’s hard-won unity; randomness to his control.... The femininity of democracy links the chaos of desire with the chaos of history” (110).

I found this chapter both frustrating and extremely useful for my own work. On the one hand, Gomel’s seeming lack of breadth in science fiction made for some peculiar choices of texts, and some equally peculiar omissions, more noticeable in this chapter than in others. She focused on what she called investigative dystopias, exemplified by books by Robert Harris, Donald James, and Paul Johnston, and I admit that I was familiar with none of them. I wondered if Philip K. Dick’s Ubik (1969) or James Morrow’s City of Truth (1992) might qualify. Had she provided a clear definition, some more familiar examples, and coherent and brief synopses of her own choices, I would have had a clearer understanding. Nevertheless, her application of the idea of the open secret to the New Man and the fascist dystopian utopias of twentieth century history was very valuable. “Both in the Third Reich and Stalinist Soviet Union, the body in pain was simultaneously displayed and denied.... The suffering body was forced into the cultural Imaginary” (122). These cogent points continue the discussion of the convergence of utopia, genocide, and the other that James Berger explores with regard to apocalyptic literature in his superb After the End (1999) and that I explored with regard to science fiction in “Utopia, Genocide, and the Other” (Edging Into the Future, ed. Hollinger and Gordon, 2002).

Like chapter four, chapter five—“Doctor Death: From Moreau to Mengele”—has direct relevance to sf criticism. Its extensive readings of Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896) and Lucius Shepard’s “Mengele” (1986) are among the best in the book. Gomel sees that “the transformation of Dr. Moreau into Dr. Mengele parallels the development of the New Man from an aesthetic possibility to a political goal” (134). Further, “the bio-ideologies of Social Darwinism and eugenics” generate “‘the biological sublime,’ a particular modality of the violent sublime that combines the ecstasy of murder with the instrumental rationality of science” (134-35). The margins of my copy of the book are filled with stars indicating especially cogent and neatly expressed points in this chapter. Let me cite a few examples. “The New Man incorporates Darwinism’s dizzying denial of essential humanness, while at the same time neutralizing its potentially anarchic emphases on randomness, heterogeneity, and accident” (136). “History is not a disease that can be warded off by intellectual quarantine” (138). “The torturer becomes a vampire of transcendence” (143). Of The Island of Dr. Moreau: “If the House of Pain is meant to teach obedience, the only one to learn the lesson is Prendick whose body escapes Moreau’s knife. The victims rebel; the witness becomes a collaborator” (154). “Pain becomes a just punishment for the ability to feel pain” (157). “The torturer must keep himself pure from imputations of being like the tortured; otherwise, pain spreads across the sterile edge of the scalpel and corrodes power rather than creates it” (158). At this point, it is clear that an important motive for the sometimes odd choices of text is their ability to illuminate issues of genocide, particularly the Holocaust, but this chapter, rather than seeming limited because of its textual choices, instead inspired me to extend its insights to consider, for example, much of the work of Gene Wolfe and China Miéville.

Chapter Six, “The Singularity of History,” inspired by the Wilkomirski affair, tackles the use and abuse of memory in narrating the violent sublime. Gomel examines the recovered memory movement, Wilkomirski’s false memoir Fragments (1996), stories by Borges (of course) and Dan Simmons, some detective novels, Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz (1958; transl. 1961), movies about the Holocaust, Shoshana Felman’s defense of Paul DeMan’s collaborationist writing during World War II, and an sf novel called Days of Cain (1998) by J.R. Dunn. These works from many genres directly refer to the Holocaust, confirming that Gomel’s scheme is to find texts to support her theories rather than the reverse, and that her theories focus upon the Holocaust. The confirmation clarifies and to a great extent justifies her limited and apparently eccentric range of choices throughout the book. Gomel uses the variety of sources to illustrate important insights about “the connection between memory and desire” (169). Noting the fragmentary and disordered nature of traumatic memory, she identifies it as “the nemesis of narration” (164) and laments that its fragmentary nature forms “the new criteria of authenticity, which have supplanted outdated notions of accuracy and objectivity” (162). Disturbingly, as Wilkomirski’s fabulated yet possibly sincere memoir shows, “for shards of memory to draw blood they need not have been shattered by any real event” (162) and, therefore, “the vortex of the violent sublime lying at the heart of the uncritical celebration of traumatic memory threatens to consume history” (163). Gomel seeks to restore history and, in so doing, return the body to the narrative of pain. This is an important ethical stand, since “The separation of memory from the discourse of historical truth ... devalues trauma and cheapens suffering” (167). She continues her physics metaphors in this chapter with “the ultimate fragmentation of both space and time: the black hole” as “the master trope at the intersection of history, memory, and trauma (163). This chapter has wise and pointed things to say about the comfortable space that reliving an event provides, allowing one to escape responsibility and action. A discussion of “Holocaust fairy tales” (182) such as Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic (1990) and Cherry Wilder’s “The House on Cemetery Street” (1988) is also fine. Of them, she says that “The process of storytelling itself ... constitutes a defense against the black hole of violence” (184). Throughout the chapter, Gomel insists upon the ethical responsibilities of all participants in the violent sublime—subjects, victims, and narrators. Evoking Levinas, she condemns that “which denies the independent existence and the ethical stature of the Other” (185).

Gomel’s brief (12-page) conclusion dismantles the idea that the Enlightenment and the bureaucrat were responsible for the Holocaust. Instead, “utopian and apocalyptic ideologies generate mass-scale violence not as a by-product of their functioning, but as their raison d’être” (202). Her answer is to confront horror and the violent sublime in narrative. Violence, she says, “is not a contagion.... It is a human possibility” (204-205) and we choose it. The “bloodscripts” of narrative provide a way to explore, “express, define, and delimit violence” (208) and bring us to the terrible truth beneath the delicious horror of the violent sublime, the abject body.

Bloodscripts is an excellent example of recent criticism that combines theory and commitment, literature and ethics, criticism that applies to a variety of texts within and beyond our own field of sf, within and beyond the written word. Hybrid or indeterminate, this criticism lets the whole world provide grist for its mill. Thus, science fiction scholars can find stimulating criticism in many places without sf signposts. Along with the work of Judith Butler and Allucquère Rosanne Stone, N. Katherine Hayles and Anne Balsamo, I would put some recent works published in 2003 and reviewed in these pages: Cary Wolfe’s Animal Rites (SFS #92, 31:1[March 2004]), Steven Shaviro’s Connected, and Scott Bukatman’s Matters of Gravity (both reviewed in this issue). As genres bend and blend, so does criticism, and Bloodscripts exemplifies the vivifying potential of this trend.—JG

From Earth to Mars, With Love: Who Will Define Eden?

Robert Markley, Harrison Higgs, Michelle Kendrick, and Helen Burgess, eds. Red Planet: Scientific and Cultural Encounters with Mars. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2001. $39.95 DVD-ROM.

Pedal to the metal as you tear across the Martian landscape, dodging alien fire and green tentacled creatures lashing out at you, red dust flaring up, sparks trailing an overheating, heavily armored dune buggy—no, sorry, that’s not what you experience when you open a window on the world of Red Planet. Forget the “off-road” vehicle dream.

But that doesn’t mean forget the dream this DVD inspires: a dream of life on Mars, eventual human life, that is. Far more exciting even than looking at the latest pictures from NASA’s Martian toy-like rover, Red Planet is serious stuff for those with a spark within—and the DVD stokes the fire.

Lights out and shades drawn, watching the DVD, you feel like a passenger on a group tour bus, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It connotes a controlled, steady feel, no bumps—no direct interaction with the Martian “environment,” never really feeling like you leave the confines of the bus—but an understated confidence relaxes you and sustains your interest.

While the look and feel are somewhat antiseptic, such as the predominantly white background on text pages, reminiscent of the clean suits engineers wear while working on a space-faring piece of technology, the simplicity of design serves as a sort of inverted drop-shadow to the content: the medium does not interfere with the message. The utilitarian style restricts interference on the tech learning side to the problem of trying to solve your own computer’s hiccups and glitches (such as occasional audio collapses and video clips not playing). Navigational controls are minimal and standardized, such as left, right, and up arrows. The slightest bit of experimentation with the controls reveals their plain purpose.

Aside from stoking that inner fire, Red Planet may also warm those of us bred on the liberal-arts end of the academic spectrum by supplying content carefully scripted according to traditional rules of writing. A literate learner will easily recognize the full range of “rhetorical modes,” as the presentation begins topically through classification and division, and stories gently unfold in manageable chunks through a combination of process-analysis, exemplification, cause-effect, definition, narration, and description. From “chapter” headings such as “Early Views” and “Canals of Mars” to “The War of the Worlds” and “Missions to Mars,” the Earth-bound virtual tourist can explore the Martian historical and geological landscapes with scientists and science-fiction writers.

The flip side, though, to a liberal-arts learner’s instant “essay pattern recognition” (and self-congratulations), is the acknowledgment of the accompanying weakness we art-bred and -fed types often suffer from, more so, perhaps, than science-suckled students: a greater degree of ecological angst. The liberal-arts learner’s lens on Earth’s environmental crises is generally chaotic and quixotic, but the Martian landscapes and lore related by the scientists and novelists (yes, novelists, who perhaps have liberal-arts lifelines) featured on Red Planet grind and refocus that lens.

Liberal-arts learners may wish to begin with the “Dying Planet” section, which features a large portion of the “encounters” with fiction writers on this virtual bus tour. Unfortunately, the encounters are just that—in many cases only the briefest interludes with a host of sf writers (including Arthur C. Clarke, Kenneth Gantz, D.G. Compton, and Ben Bova) who seem to step onto the bus, wave, and leave. Others are singled out with a hundred-and-fifty or so words of text and occasional audio-supplemented commentary. These include Kantian philosopher Kurd Lasswitz and Alexander Bogdanov, both of whom offered different takes on European society’s shortcomings; Alexei Tolstoy and his Aelita (1922), which exported the Russian Revolution to Mars; Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of eleven novels about Mars from 1913 to 1944; as well as Ray Bradbury, P. Schuyler Miller, Judith Merril, Robert Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, and Kim Stanley Robinson, who is also the subject of an interview.

If the “Dying Planet” section is not tempting, then where does one begin at this science and science-fiction multimedia smorgasbord when one does not have to begin at the beginning (and “Dying Planet” is not “at the beginning”)? Why not begin at the end? Or anywhere? To truly appreciate the deeply philosophical implications of this multimedia experience—and not be bored because of knee-jerk selections of seemingly overly technical details—try to work in a patient, linear fashion. Thumb through the contents; explore and experiment. Eventually, though, when you settle on something that looks interesting, use the back arrow to catch the beginning of the discussion.

Once you slide into a passenger seat and cruise a content area such as “Life on Mars,” deeply philosophical implications light up the tour. The history of Martian science may not readily inspire confidence and, indeed, may fuel angst about government, technology, scientific experimentation, and science in general—if you’re a cynic. An optimist will probably blame the lack of consistent, abundant funding for Mars-related programs and insist upon strict adherence to future mission deadlines.

But a holistic reaction, from a liberal-arts learner, might be amusement: Martian history is theater—comedy, in fact. Comedy allows us to examine ourselves satirically, to improve upon the way we do things. (Tragedy always has an unhappy ending, and the ending in the Mars story is far from being written.) And as a new chapter in the exploration of Mars script has just begun, it is healthier to be optimistic. Looking back on the stage of history, comedic material abounds, from wild speculations of seasonal vegetative growth patterns, to polar-bear-like animals roaming the surface (from a young Carl Sagan), to super-advanced beings constructing canals, to mistaken experiments on probes, to underfunded programs and failed NASA mission moments.

The nationwide panic instigated by the Orson Welles 1938 radio production of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (in the section unsurprisingly named “War of the Worlds”) seems inconsequential when compared to the unbroken war of words among scientists, arguing over—clinging to—nineteenth-century speculation of life on Mars as perceived by Percival Lowell (presented in the “Canals of Mars” section). Lowell, whose diplomatic training no doubt at least in part accounted for his poetic prose, touched the hearts and minds of many scientists after him. (The Flagstaff, Arizona, observatory which bears his name was built to satisfy his curiosity—and others’—about Mars.) Scientists seemed locked in a fruitless loop of idle speculation about life on Mars, relying on somewhat fancifully extrapolated sketches of the planet’s surface, based on modest images seen through Lowell’s telescope.

Lowell says, “Unnatural regularity, the observations showed, betrays itself in everything to do with the lines [on the Martian surface]: in their surprising straightness, their amazing uniformity throughout, their exceeding tenuity, and their immense length. These traits, instead of disappearing, the better the canals have been seen, as was confidently prophesied, have only come out with greater insistence.” Lowell argued that a Martian race “could be recognized only by the imprint it made on the face of Mars.”

Such a race, he further suggested, needed to build canals to drive water from the poles to an otherwise dry surface. His merry logic leaped extraordinarily, from science to what we would call science fiction, concluding that canal-creating on a planetary-wide scale required enormous efforts and cooperation. These aliens “must labor,” he said, “harmoniously to a common aim,” and thus to a higher social and political plane than we humans do.

The DVD does well to delve into Wells’s stunningly dark satirical novel on Darwinian-derived social theories and our predator mentality, and which also pokes fun at Lowell’s “benevolent” Martian race theory. The War of the Worlds (1898) landed amid a public apparently primed for anything Martian. This not quite so technologically sophisticated alien race was hungry for resources—and for human blood. These ravenous aliens, reflecting humanity’s ugly side, were ultimately undone by Earthly microorganisms. (Oh, if only the hotly debated Martian nanofossils had still been alive to boost alien immunity!)

To trace the route of Martian science-fiction roots, peek into the “Early Views” section. Featured is a cursory mention of a few ancient myths as well as of early scientists who inspired Lowell and others, such as the Italian Mars-seeking luminary Gian Domenico Cassini, who in 1666 drew the first detailed images of the planet’s surface, and Dutch scientist Christian Huygens who speculated on the similarities between Mars and Earth. Also featured is England’s William Herschel who, about a century later, correctly observed that Mars had a relatively thin atmosphere, basing his observation on the lack of change of two stars as they aligned against its atmosphere. Interestingly, Herschel stubbornly ignored his own findings and suggested that Mars was like Earth—and could support Earth-like people. The “planet has a considerable but moderate atmosphere, so that its inhabitants probably enjoy a situation in many respects similar to our own.”

Jump another century into the “Canals of Mars” section and dream of straight-line “canali”—“canals”—on the Martian surface with Italian scientist Giovanni Schiaparelli. “Mars is a small version of the Earth, with seas, an atmosphere, clouds and wind, and polar caps; and it promises ... a good deal more,” he said, but stopped short of claiming artificially-built canals, although that did not stop Lowell from dreaming further.

Far more modest than the Mars images seen through Lowell’s scope were the blurry early-Renaissance telescopic images that once frustrated geniuses like Galileo, who only receives a tiny DVD marquee space as an early red planet tracker. These same fuzzy and fleeting images of Mars from long ago seem to capture vividly and to express in (unintentional) satirical cartoon-panel style Martian science and exploration history to this day: imperfection and the lack of hard data are the only constants throughout. The ambiguity surrounding the tiny image of Mars seen then is our own bone-deep ambiguity now about survival issues; how will we deal with so many potentially looming ecological crises here on Earth (let alone those we may create on Mars)?

What the DVD reveals is the scientific depth of ignorance about Mars throughout most of the twentieth century (until the various Mars missions) and the political depths to which scientists seem willing to sink to pummel each other, and us, with a theory (Mars Scientist Mud Wrestling Channel?). Over the decades, arguments spilled into or were fought in the media and splashed the general public—good theater, no more harmful and no less intriguing than The War of the Worlds.

Today, with the chapter on idle speculation (or for the optimists, “imagination”) nearly closed and the new chapter on exploration opened, we should be underway at making the most accurate study ever of the red planet. Lest, though, we theatergoers be forced to watch comedy reruns, we must ask the new generation of Martian science scriptwriters to avoid the dangers of non-dispassionate blind faith and to avoid the appearance of wrapping themselves—and the American public—in the Martian flag.

DVD users touring the Martian historical terrain, however, can find comfort (if not escape from all their angst) in the mindful paths charted by today’s fiction writers, such as Kim Stanley Robinson, who have eyes set on the past, present, and future of both Earth and Mars, even as scientists seem to nano-debate nano-fossils. (That debate centers on a rock—one of the many apparently Martian-rooted rocks that have pelted Earth—discovered in 1984, en route to who-knows-where when it was conveniently intercepted by our atmosphere and rerouted to Antarctica some 13,000 years ago. This rock, ALH84001, seems, according to some, to have fused within it microscopic fossilized life forms, resembling similar looking critters here on Earth that huddle in micro-environments more than a mile beneath the surface.)

The scientists and fiction writers presented on Red Planet generously speculate about terraforming, reshaping Mars in the image of Earth, or in some other image, for better or worse, and colonizing the planet. (Such has been the speculation of fiction writers for more than a century.) If we terraform Mars the wrong way, though, might we erase the perhaps as yet undiscovered descendants of the alleged fused remains of red planet bacteria?

As we think about how to shape the surface of Mars, we shape the soul of Earth; Mars is a metaphor for this world, an apparently dead planet for a living one. Mars is more than a cost-benefit analysis, a faster-better-cheaper victim, a product waiting to be exploited, a world of nano-fossils. It is an Eden.

Randy Hayman, Nassau Community College

Alisdair Gray in Living Color

Phil Moores, ed. Alisdair Gray: Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography. British Library: London, 2002. Available through U Toronto P. xii + 241 pp. $40 hc.

Alisdair Gray illustrated the interiors and covers of this book, lending to it the unmistakable strong lines of his art. This, combined with fifteen color illustrations, on eight pages, of Gray’s murals and portraiture, ensure that the reader not only enjoys the critical appreciations of Gray’s writing but also his first and ongoing career as an artist.

Beside the Review of Contemporary Fiction special issue (115.2 [1995]) covering Gray and Stanley Elkin, this is only the third scholarly treatment of Gray’s work after Crawford and Nairn’s The Arts of Alisdair Gray (Edinburgh UP, 1991) and Alisdair Gray by Stephen Bernstein (Bucknell UP, 1999). Crawford and Nairn’s work covers only the period up until 1990, however, while Bernstein’s covers only Gray’s novels. Critical Appreciations, therefore, can be seen as the first overarching appreciation of Gray’s oeuvre.

Will Self begins the volume with his “part reverie, part parody, part fantasy” Introduction (4). Self abstains from adding an essay of glosses of the forthcoming essays but rather writes of the impact of Gray on UK literature and of the impact of Lanark (1981) on an reviewer who “seemingly in response to one of the novel’s own Fantastical Conceits ... found myself growing in a matter of days, two superb reptilian nether limbs.” Self adds, “Any encomium I could add to this would be worse than pathetic” (4). Self, as others do within these pages, wonders why Gray is not more well known but stops himself from going further in this direction with a pithy question: “Literary art is not a competition of any kind at all; what could it be like to win?” (3). Self’s essay is smart, self-aware without being ill at ease, and his respect for Gray and his work sets the tone for the rest of the volume.

The first essay is University of Glasgow Emeritus Professor Philip Hobsbaum’s “Arcadia and Apocalypse: The Garden of Eden and the Triumph of Death.” Hobsbaum considers Gray’s novels Lanark, 1982 Janine (1984), and Poor Things (1992), and the collection Unlikely Stories, Mostly (1983) in light of critiques of Gray’s work as eccentric, modernist, and grotesque. Hobsbaum identifies Gray’s literary antecedents as Swift and Sir Thomas Urquhart, a seventeeth-century “pamphleteer and scholiast” (19) whom Gray uses in a story in Unlikely Stories, Mostly. Hobsbaum admits to Gray’s “bleak view of human possibility” (25) but suggests that the exuberance with which Gray writes means that reviewers, forced into shorthand by the limits of word counts, who identify Gray’s work as eccentric, modernist, and grotesque are only touching on the most superficial parts of his writing. He encourages readers to find their own joys in Gray’s texts. Hobsbaum makes his points clearly and well with illustrations taken from Gray’s texts.

“Alisdair Gray’s Personal Curriculum Vitae” follows and lists events from his father’s birth in 1897 up until 2002, as well as a list of books “Containing Fragments of Autobiography” (44) and an email address (morag@ from which they can be ordered. Gray notes that he has annotated the three entries preceding his birth in 1934 “more than most others because they show why I know that Socialism can improve social life, that the work we like best is not done for money, and that books and art are liberating” (33). His typically dry notes focus on family events and influences, childhood reading, early work experience, and so on, until he begins to regularly publish his work. Gray’s unmistakable voice, politics, and juxtaposition of misery and joie de vivre (as explicated in Hobsbaum’s essay) add much to the volume; indeed, it is hard to imagine this book without his contributions.

In “Alisdair Gray Interviewed by Kathy Acker: 1986–A Public Interview at the ICA, London,” Gray’s answers have been corrected and neatened, while the late Acker’s introduction and questions remain unchanged. At the time of the interview Gray was 50 years old and his third novel, The Fall of Kelvin Walker (1986), had just been published. Acker begins by asking about Lanark and Gray’s early years as a writer before moving on to Kelvin Walker. When asked about his next book, Gray, showing a happy lack of foresight, states, “I don’t think I’m going to write more fiction” (54). An audience member asks about his eccentric (and influential) typography and Gray responds that it “started in the epilogue to Lanark” and was “especially addressed to critics of the novel’s pretensions” (55). Acker ends by asking Gray about the role of God in his fiction, something that Hobsbaum touched on in his essay but that would certainly make an interesting essay (or thesis) all on its own. Acker’s interview stands the test of time, still having much of interest almost twenty years later.

Novelist Jonathan Coe’s “1994, Janine” is a short personal essay on the inspiration and influence Coe found in Gray’s second novel, 1982 Janine. While reading 1982 Janine, Coe realized that, despite his boredom with most fiction of the day, Gray showed that “contemporary fiction could still be a vivid and vital way of interpreting the world” (65). Coe’s essay, the shortest contribution, is the also the lightest and, while a pleasant read, it is not much more.

Gray’s poetry, especially his two major collections, Old Negatives (1989) and Sixteen Occasional Poems (2000), is considered in S.B. Kelly’s broad and enlightening “‘An Equal Acceptance of Larks and Cancer’: The Poetry and Poetics of Alisdair Gray.” Before 1989, most readers would be hard-pressed to find Gray’s poetry as it was either published in small chapbooks or magazines. These two collections (and the ubiquity of the Internet) have changed that and Gray is now better known as the polymath he is. Kelly’s interpretations of Gray’s poetry are generous and patient and he gracefully notes both Gray’s technical accomplishments and his sharp and disconcerting work on relationships between the sexes.

After Gray’s poetry, Elspeth King contributes the longest essay in the collection, “Art for the Early Days of a Better Nation,” on Gray’s art. King worked with Gray three times in the period from 1977 to 1996—an especially turbulent time politically, with heavy job losses as industry moved abroad and the English Tory government seemed to be following myopic policies concerning “North Britain.” To those who know Gray as a gritty and fabulist writer, this essay will be a revelation. Gray went to art school at the age of 18 and chafed at the limitations. By the age of 20 he had begun his first mural—he has since painted nine more—and ten years later he was the subject of an episode of the BBC program, Monitor. King also touches on Gray’s book illustrations, decorations, and typography. Perhaps because of King’s personal connection and knowledge of Gray, his work, and the various responses he and his work have received, the essay makes for fascinating reading.

Angus Calder’s discursive “Politics, Scotland and Prefaces: Alisdair Gray’s Non-Fiction” (adapted from a review of Gray’s The Book of Prefaces [2000]) leads off by stating that a “peculiarity of Scottish literary culture is that leading creative writers quite commonly sound off in extenso on general as well as particular political issues” (125). Gray’s work has always been highly politicized—his first mural was painted on the walls of the Scotland-USSR Friendship Society (now the Scotland-Russia Society)—and in 1992 he jumped into politics with the publication of a long pamphlet Independence: Why the Scots Should Rule Scotland. Calder is quick to point out that—running against the Scottish stereotype—while Gray’s stance is pro-Scots, it is “not anti-English” (134), and he uses Gray’s The Book of Prefaces, where Gray admiringly glosses prefaces from many famous English novels, as proof. Calder’s essay touches on many aspects of Gray’s work, his political beliefs and activism, and the culture in which he lives. However, enjoyable as it is, its wide-ranging nature does not quite carry through on its promise so that we might wish he had chosen to focus either on The Book of Prefaces or on Gray’s politics instead of on both.

In “Doing as Things Do With You: Alisdair Gray’s Minor Novels,” Stephen Bernstein (Alisdair Gray [1999]) uses Gray’s four plays turned into novels, The Fall of Kelvin Walker, McGrotty and Ludmilla, A History Maker, and Mavis Belfrage, to illustrate Gray as a comic, and an historical optimist, observing that in Gray’s books the “lesson is always in progress, its completion ... attendant upon his characters doing the hardest thing, the thing they do not like” (162). Besides Lanark, A History Maker is Gray’s only obviously sf novel and Bernstein’s is the only essay to really touch on it. A History Maker is set in a post-necessity matriarchal 23rd-century Scotland. The chief protagonist, Wat, “the most complex character in these four novels” (154), is bored as the utopian future has degenerated into voluntary clan wars. When the balance is broken, Gray explores what happens to those who “would try to control others (or crave that control) without taking sufficient account of how history ... already controls them” (157). Bernstein’s easy familiarity with Gray’s work gives him such a breadth and depth of commentary that, despite the subject being Gray’s “minor” novels, this stands with Hobsbaum’s “Arcadia and Apocalypse” as one of the two major essays of the collection.

The final essay, “Under the Influence,” by writer and editor Kevin Williamson, provides a loose personal and socioeconomic contextualization of Gray’s debut masterpiece, Lanark (“a futuristic sc-fi novel set in an unnamed Scottish city” [166]), sketches Gray’s subsequent career, and gives an almost writer-by-writer listing of those writers whom Williamson feels Gray has influenced. Williamson’s unrestricted, free-flowing style allows him to roam freely through the social and literary history of the last two decades of the twentieth century. He is an enthusiastic and infectious reader, sf fan, and fan and promoter of the short-story form, and he sees Gray’s work influencing and being one of the reasons for the ongoing popularity of reading, sf, and the short-story form.

Editor Phil Moores’s “An Alisdair Gray Bibliography” is a rich and detailed listing of Gray’s collections (fiction and poetry), novels, magazine and anthology publications, plays, nonfiction, essays, catalogs, audio recordings, and book design and illustration. Moores provides the usual bibliographic information as well as invaluably full notes on limitations to editions and commentary on illustrations, covers, and differences between US and UK editions. Moores believes “the bibliography to be complete as far as Alisdair Gray’s major work is concerned, though less so in the case of materials published in magazines and anthologies”(189). Many collectors and scholars will find Alisdair Gray worth acquiring for this bibliography alone.

The final piece is to some degree an answer for any who have wondered what working with someone as talented (and no doubt as detail-oriented) as Gray would be like. Joe Murray’s short story, “A Short Tale of Woe! ...,” “adapted from a joke” (241), concerns the impossibilities of typesetting Gray’s The Book of Prefaces and serves to emphasize both the playful and personal aspects of this book.

Critical Appreciations and a Bibliography is a wonderfully rich and detailed look at Alisdair Gray’s work and the book itself is an object of physical beauty. While Bernstein’s and Hobsbaum’s essays are as detailed as one might wish, one more deep essay on Gray’s fiction would not have gone amiss. King’s essay on Gray’s art and Kelly’s on his poetry add much to the book and serve notice to scholars and future biographers that all aspects of Gray’s work should receive equal weight and consideration. The book suffers badly from its lack of an index. Even given that lack, however, it is a very enjoyable selection for any reader of Gray. It will be both a solid introduction to Gray for those unfamiliar with his work and a high-water mark for future Gray scholars.

Gavin J. Grant, Small Beer Press

Additional Editions.

Robert Louis Stevenson. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.Ed. Katherine Linehan. Norton Critical Editions. New York: Norton, 2002. xv + 222 pp. $9.25 pbk.

Anne Williams, ed. Three Vampire Tales: Bram Stoker, Dracula; Sheridan Le Fanu, Carmilla; John Polidori, The Vampyre. New Riverside Editions. New York: Houghton, 2003. viii + 481 pp. $9.96 pbk.

Judith Wilt, ed. Making Humans: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; H.G. Wells, The Island of Doctor Moreau. New Riverside Editions. New York: Houghton, 2003. viii + 355 pp. $8.76 pbk.

The growth in student numbers over the last decade or so and the expansion of the curriculum to include works of science fiction, fantasy, and cognate genres has led to an increased number of competing imprints publishing public domain works. I remember a class a few years ago in which we had ten different editions of Sons and Lovers in the room: Penguins of various vintages, a couple of Lawrence omnibuses and two different versions from the cutprice Wordsworth. Despite an early loyalty to Penguin Classics, my critical edition of choice has largely been the Oxford World’s Classics series, and these have thus been the yardstick against which I have measured competitors. These tend to have a solid introduction, notes for further reading, a chronology of the author’s life, a note on the text, and substantial notes at the end. The question posed when faced with the three new editions in front of me is whether I would be weaned off my preferences, and whether I would choose to teach from them.

The New Riverside Editions are descendants of the earlier Riverside Editions—I have complete editions of Chaucer and Shakespeare under that imprint—which tended to collect the work of British and American poets, and now include novels and other fiction from writers marginal to the canon. The decision to include a number of titles in one volume is striking, as if they are aspiring to be entire courses in themselves. Three Vampire Tales and Making Humans show both the strengths and pitfalls of such an approach. John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819) goes better with Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla” (1871) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) does with H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896) (both have dubious scientists at their heart), but might “The Vampyre” not also go with Frankenstein as joint products of the Villa Diodati ghost-story competition? Three Vampire Tales also includes part of Byron’s “The Giaour” (1813), which also appears in the New Riverside Three Oriental Tales.

Three Vampire Tales begins with a brief introduction, nodding toward respectability with mention of Bertha from Jane Eyre (1847) and toward popularity with mention of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sesame Street. Then the context is provided for the history of the literary vampire from “The Giaour” to Dracula, including the ghost-story competition and Polidori’s borrowing of Byron’s characteristics for his vampyre Lord Ruthven, which leaves two paragraphs for the origins of “Carmilla” and one for Dracula. It concludes with a summary of theoretical approaches to vampires from the last quarter century.

The note on the texts is brief and includes mention of some but not all of the secondary materials—Coleridge’s “Christabel” is included from the manuscript that Polidori, Byron, and the Shelleys would have read in 1816 rather than the version actually published that year, although the reader needs to locate that work to find the changes. The note seems to attribute the Introduction and “An Extract of a Letter from Geneva” to Polidori, whilst the Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Vampyre and Other Macabre Tales questions this and notes several possible candidates. We are also told in the note on the texts that “Carmilla” first appeared with other novellas in In a Glass Darkly (1872), but no details are given.

Part One of the book—“The Vampire Comes to England”—gathers together Byron’s Vampire Curse from “The Giaour,” his fragment of a novel (1816), part of the “Polidori” introduction, part of “Christabel,” a section from James Malcolm Rymer’s Varney the Vampire (1847), an account of the writing of Dracula from Christopher Frayling’s Vampyres (1991), two nonfiction pieces by Elizabeth Miller, and the canceled but revised chapter from Dracula, “Dracula’s Guest.” The inclusion of the introduction to “The Vampyre” here is odd, as it more properly belongs with the story itself, and its quotation of some lines from “The Giaour” is the third time these appear in the book. “Christabel” comes complete with a facsimile of the title page of Christabel; Kubla Khan, A Vision; The Pains of Sleep for no very good reason, and the poem itself is truncated. Whilst I may occasionally feel that as Coleridge failed to finish this poem (like “Kubla Khan”), it seems odd that the extracts do not include the fragment about Geraldine’s bosom that so shocked Percy Shelley. The extracts from Frayling focus on Stoker’s research and sources, and this is built upon in Miller’s examination of Stoker’s reading. The other extract from Miller—a version of which is at her website—debunks some of the myths about who inspired the portrait of Dracula.

Part Two consists of the major texts themselves, although “Carmilla” includes an illustration and the text for Dracula is here announced as apparently taken from the 1997 Norton edition edited by Nina Auerbach and David J. Skal. The illustration points up a contradiction in dating: according to the text the story was first published as part of In a Glass Darkly in 1872, whereas the illustration comes from a magazine, The Dark Blue, in 1871, which predates that. There are minimal notes at the feet of most pages, some giving details of real people mentioned in the text, others defining words, but none that could not be puzzled out by the reader with a dictionary. A comparison of the sixteen notes to “The Vampyre” to the ten in the Oxford World’s Classics edition reveals that the former are definitional whereas the latter are largely interpretative—they point to biographical and verbal parallels between the story and the life and works of Lord Byron. The note that the setting for “Carmilla,” Styria, is in Austria is not cross-referenced to Frayling’s discovery in the Dracula papers that “The novel was originally (1890) to be set in Austrian Styria” (45), and thus presumably Stoker was making an allusion to the earlier work.

The book concludes with chronologies of the lives of Polidori, Le Fanu, and Stoker, a list of vampire films, and a list of works cited that overlaps with the further reading. The filmography covers ground from Nosferatu (1922) to Blade (1998), although it gives little more information than year of release and director. It omits perhaps the most interesting vampire film of recent years—Cronos—(1993) and misdates Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (1974) as 1947.

Making Humans offers scope for a course dealing in the ethics of science, in the nature of life, and the horrors of vivisection by offering annotated texts of Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus and The Island of Doctor Moreau. Both of these novels have tangled textual histories, with Frankenstein’s 1831 text now being edged out by the 1818. There are arguments to be made on both sides, with the incest theme of the 1818 version being a major reason to prefer it. The New Riverside Edition does have a lengthy textual note, but does not, unlike Marilyn Butler’s Oxford World’s Classics Edition (1994), for example, print the substantial textual variations. Robert M. Philmus has noted that there were “five different authorized versions” (SFS #50, 17:1 [March 1990]: 65) of The Island of Doctor Moreau, three of them (1913, 1924, 1927) being developments from the first British edition of 1896, the fifth a rather different American edition from Stone and Kimball (1896). The situation is made more complex by the existence of a Colonial Edition reprint of the first British edition, which was heavily annotated in Wells’s hand between 1897 and 1900, some but not all of these revisions being taken up in the 1913 edition. Philmus himself selected the Stone and Kimball text as the basis for his 1993 Variorum edition, whereas Wilt follows Leon Stover (1996) in working from the first British edition.

Wilt’s introduction is unbalanced, with nods towards the contemporary at the start—a mention of Baudrillard and Disneyland—and at the end—the suggestion that Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1981), AI (2001), and The Terminator films (1984, 1991, and 2003) are more subtle than the film versions of Frankenstein and Moreau. Whilst there is a discussion of nineteenth-century science, there is no sense of the books as science fiction apart from these film references—and the blurb’s reference to them as “gothic science fiction novels.” The reference to De Niro “fisting” the heart out of Elizabeth in Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) is presumably a misprint for “fishing.”
Unlike Three Vampire Tales, the book begins with the texts, before moving on to Part Two, “Contexts: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century,” and Part Three, “Contemporary Views.” Part Two rather muddies chronology, beginning with Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 version before moving to three pieces by Erasmus Darwin from 1789 to 1803, one of which is an extract from a poem. More poetry follows in an extract from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” (1859), which stands in for a large number of poems of the period that addressed scientific discoveries, but still feels out of place. The section is rounded out with extracts from Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man (1871) and T.H. Huxley’s “Evolution and Ethics” (1893). There is no space for any of Wells’s nonfiction on science.

Part Three includes four articles from the period 1985 to 2000, two on each novel, written by Marilyn Butler, Maureen N. McLane, Coral Lansbury, and Jennifer Devere Brody. It is presumably a coincidence that all the contributors are female, but it is a shame that there was no space for the ground-breaking work on Shelley by Moers or Gilbert and Gubar, or on Wells by Parrinder or Philmus. Butler’s essay, from The Times Literary Supplement, formed the basis for her edition of the 1818 Frankenstein and is an examination of the debates between John Abernathy and William Lawrence (Percy Shelley’s physician) over the nature and origin of life as the property of organs or as the result of a vital spark—debates which suggest that Victor Frankenstein is rather more old-fashioned than cutting-edge in his scientific endeavors.

Norton Critical Editions have gained a good reputation for annotated texts with large amounts of supporting critical material, and their version of Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde—correctly titled for once—is no exception. Strange Case was a Christmas horror story that was held back to January 1886 for a clearer shot at the market, and it almost immediately started causing waves. The official story is that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first draft in three days and then, dissatisfied with it, threw the manuscript into the fire and started again, producing the second version in three days. Nonetheless there are several textual variations between the published story and surviving manuscripts, which are laid out for anyone who cares to make comparisons—and it seems likely that the second draft received further attention.

The short novella is supplemented by a number of letters written during and after its production, and the initial reviews from British newspapers and journals, such as The Saturday Review, The Birmingham Daily Post, The Academy, and The London Times. It also features the letter to Stevenson from poet, critic, and closeted homosexual John Addington Symonds, who felt that the allegory of Strange Case “touches one too closely” (98); in other words, it speaks to the divided life of the sexually active Victorian, especially the Victorian homosexual. The patient reader can turn back to Stevenson’s response to Symonds that “the only thing I feel dreadful about is that damned old business of the war in the members” (85) or forward to an extract from Symonds’s memoirs in which he writes of “what in moments of self-abandonment to impulse appeared a beauteous angel, stands revealed before him as a devil abhorred by the society he clings to” (139).

Alongside the initial critical response are excerpts dealing with the context of late nineteenth-century thought, literature, and London: the popularity of sensation fiction, the figure of the double, the return of the gothic, now radicalized through anti-Semitic anxieties about the East End, the misuse of evolutionary theory, Freudianism, depression, poverty, and overcrowding. These extracts are heavily edited, perhaps too heavily edited, and ought to point students towards places for further research.

Linehan wisely knows that the reputation (for good or ill) of the novella was partially sealed by cartoons, plays, and films, and she devotes a section to adaptations. The 1887 stage premiere is given particular attention, being the site of the insertion of larger roles for women into the narrative, as is the 1931 film, directed by Rouben Mamoulian, and starring Frederic March. Other versions are not neglected, from the early silent adaptations through to Stephen Frears’s reframing of the narrative in Mary Reilly (although Valerie Martin’s novel might have repaid some attention). Eleven versions, from stage, film, and television, are selected for particular, if brief, attention.

The later critical responses to the novella are boiled down to extracts from Chesterton, Nabokov, Peter K. Garrett, Patrick Brantlinger, and editor Katherine Linehan, which offer a spectrum of responses from the horrors of the dual personality to allegories about the rising of the masses. A number of the critics refer back to earlier writers—for example, Nabokov’s skepticism about “The all-male pattern [of the novella that] may suggest by a twist of thought that Jekyll’s secret adventures were homosexual practices so common in London behind the Victorian veil” (187) becomes in Linehan a suggestion from Nabokov that the novella has a homosexual theme, “whether Stevenson intended it or not” (205). An editorial footnote in the Nabokov extract and a reference in Linehan point us towards Elaine Showalter’s work on the novella, which might usefully have been extracted.

One context that has been partially elided is the scandal of the so-called Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, the exposure in the Pall Mall Gazette of widespread prostitution rackets involving young girls, some as young as ten, and the British establishment. It was the shock from this scoop that saved the Criminal Law Amendment Bill from being talked out for a third time, and that indirectly paved the way for the Labouchère Amendment that made sexual acts between two men illegal. The Labouchère Amendment rapidly became known as the Blackmailer’s Charter, since many wealthy men would willingly pay people not to make allegations about their homosexual activities. The reference by Enfield to Jekyll being blackmailed and to the place where he has been spotted as “Black Mail House” (10) is unannotated in otherwise thorough commentary at the foot of each page. (My Oxford World’s Classics edition of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/Weir of Hermiston similarly leaves this uncommented upon, and neither edition either confirms or denies the homosexual resonance of “Queer Street,” referring merely to difficulties, specifically financial.)

Would I adopt these texts for use in the classroom, rather than as reading texts? I think I would turn to Christopher Frayling’s Vampyres: From Lord Ruthven to Dracula for a better contextualization of vampires, and Polidori’s “The Vampyre,” despite the lack of annotations, and to the 1998 Oxford World’s Classics edition of Dracula edited by Maud Ellman. That leaves “Carmilla” unaccounted for, but then Three Vampire Tales hardly does it justice anyway and the text is available online (as indeed are the Polidori and the Stoker). Equally I would stick to the Marilyn Butler (no kin) edition of Frankenstein: The 1818 Text, but Moreau is more problematic. The Philmus and Stover editions are clearly out of the price range of students, but there is Patrick Parrinder’s Oxford World’s Classics edition of The Time Machine/The Island of Doctor Moreau which may still be available outside the restrictions of UK copyright law; in Britain I’d have to use an Everyman edition, an SF Masterworks version or the House of Stratus reprint. On the other hand, I think I can recommend the Norton Critical Edition of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for its many useful notes, contexts, and responses.

—Andrew M. Butler, Canterbury Christ Church University College

Revisiting Feminist Utopia

Tatiana Teslenko. Feminist Utopian Novels of the 1970s: Joanna Russ & Dorothy Bryant. Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory: Outstanding Dissertations. New York: Routledge, 2003. xii + 200pp. $75.00 hc.

In Feminist Utopian Novels of the 1970s: Joanna Russ & Dorothy Bryant, Tatiana Teslenko takes a “new rhetorical” approach to examining the strategies of the feminist utopian genre that have a “certain trajectory, a specific potential for producing world views and representing human agency for the feminist community” (12). Relying heavily on the work of rhetoric theoretician Kenneth Burke, Teslenko promises a re-visioning of feminist utopianism that reveals its potential for community building and political change. Teslenko succeeds in articulating the spaces that feminist utopian literature opens for sociopolitical transformation, though this results primarily from a recapitulation of the critical work of previous scholars on the subject, namely Lucy Sargisson, Margaret Whitford, Jennifer Burwell, and Frances Bartkowski.

Beginning with the supposition that “[m]ost mainstream utopias … failed to expose the sexist discrimination within the patriarchal status quo and to envision true gender equality” (3), Feminist Utopian Novels seeks to prove “that the symbolic action of feminist discourse is the expression of the repressed truth about women’s inferior subject-positioning in patriarchy” (7). Feminist utopian discourse is ostensibly an ideal form of this expression and has the ability to turn traditional—what Teslenko calls patriarchal—utopias on their heads and offer us a new way of seeing the world. These novels go beyond mere thought experiments to have real-world effects on social structure and inspire political action. Feminist utopianism also rides the wave of postmodernism’s subversion of grand narratives and “welcomes the opportunity to rewrite the patriarchal script” (72). Aside from the inherent sexism of patriarchal utopias that Teslenko finds so limiting, she is equally troubled by their dogged insistence on the goal of perfection. Feminist utopias circumvent this tendency by exploring openness and multiplicity as opposed to more static and rigid social constructs. This aspect of feminist utopia lies at the heart of Lucy Sargisson’s Contemporary Feminist Utopianism (Routledge, 1996) and what she identifies as transgressive utopianism—an expression of “multiplicity rather than an all-encompassing perfection” (23). Such a view has been expressed before, most notably in Margaret Whitford’s Luce Irigaray: Philosophy in the Feminine (1991), Jennifer Burwell’s Notes on Nowhere: Feminism, Utopian Logic, and Social Transformation (1997), and, to a lesser degree, in Frances Bartkowski’s Feminist Utopias (1989). Sargisson’s work, along with Tom Moylan’s Demand the Impossible (1986), seems to structure the majority of Teslenko’s study. By uniting the oppositional politics of feminism and utopianism, like others before her, Teslenko gives us a further appreciation for the cultural work literature does and the transformative potential of the utopian genre in particular. Unfortunately, this study falls short of offering a productively distinctive approach to feminist utopias in general.

Teslenko’s extended discussions of Sargisson, Moylan, and others make Feminist Utopian Novels an informative and accessible synthesis of important conceptual work concerning the politics of utopian literature in general, and the politics of feminist utopias in particular. This, as well as an intricate reading of Dorothy Bryant’s The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You (1971), is Teslenko’s accomplishment. Though Teslenko discusses Joanna Russ’s work, it has been well-treated in other feminist sf and utopian studies, but Bryant’s work has received less attention, perhaps, as Teslenko suggests, because the protagonist of Bryant’s novel is male. This characteristic of the novel fails to deter Teslenko, who argues that although Bryant’s text is “more traditionally utopian,” it nevertheless “provides a site for gendered opposition and resistance to patriarchy” (85). Teslenko’s treatment of the novel goes a long way to countering the predominant misgivings concerning the identification of the novel as feminist.

While Teslenko’s review of the pertinent literature in the field is helpful, and her readings of Russ and Bryant interesting and persuasive, there are a few omissions in her text worthy of note. First, Teslenko mentions Charlotte Perkins Gilman only once, and only in passing. Although her text centers on feminist utopias of the 1970s, neglecting the pioneering work of Gilman and other female writers at the beginning of the twentieth century is a definite oversight. In fact, though written at the turn of the twentieth century, Gilman’s work was rediscovered by the Feminist Press in the 1970s and most likely influenced the writers showcased in Teslenko’s work. Second, since Teslenko lauds the uniqueness and value of feminist utopias with respect to more traditional forms, her repeated emphasis on feminist utopia’s promotion of “sharing, cooperation, caring, nurturing, collectivism” (169), suggests that these elements are specific to feminist utopias. This is a bit shortsighted when we consider the work of earlier utopian socialists and the inherent critiques of capitalism found in the work of Bellamy, Howells, and others. Teslenko’s discussion of the mutually productive relationship between feminist utopian literature and feminist politics is an able synthesis of previous work on the subject, but such a synthesis fails to further the notion that feminist utopias are ultimately more effective than their patriarchal counterparts in critiquing and influencing sociopolitical practices.

Angela Warfield, University of Iowa

Bellamy or Bust

Toby Widdicombe and Herman S. Preiser, eds. Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy (1850-1898), American Author and Social Reformer: Uncollected and Unpublished Writings, Scholarly Perspectives for a New Millennium. Studies in American Literature 54. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon, 2002. xiv + 528 pp. $139.95 hc.

In the essay that concludes Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy, utopian scholar Kenneth Roemer argues that the desire to “go beyond ‘what if’ to ‘what ought’ [to be]” (494) poses problems for authors who imagine possible futures. Sf thrives on the “what if?” and those suggestive scenarios that ask more questions than they offer answers. When writers like Edward Bellamy and his scholars argue, instead, that these possible futures should be read more in terms of how they reveal “what ought” to be, they render that work too rigid. Thus, the ambiguity of the ideas presented, so highly prized by sf readers and critics, is lost. The tendency of Widdicombe and Preiser’s text to fall into this habit makes Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy a book that promises more than it can actually deliver and one only of interest for Bellamy specialists.

In its defense, Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy brings together a remarkably varied set of Bellamy materials. Widdicombe and Preiser’s volume is divided into sections that feature some of Bellamy’s uncollected fiction and nonfiction (material published in the Springfield Daily Union), as well as selected excerpts from Bellamy’s notebooks. Additionally, there are unpublished personal recollections of Bellamy by a close friend and by members of Bellamy’s family. The text also contains a contemporary bibliography of critical assessments of Bellamy’s work and concludes with a set of five scholarly essays. Thus, on its face, Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy provides some of the benefits of a literary collection, a critical biography, a secondary bibliography, and a critical anthology. But, upon second look, these materials would best benefit a reader already well-versed in Bellamy studies since they work best as supplements to previous scholarship on Bellamy’s life and work.

Even for the Bellamy devotee, however, this text does not deliver fully on any of its inherent promises. Each of the sections outlined above leaves the reader either wanting more or, in a few cases, wanting less. Reading several short pieces of Bellamy’s uncollected fiction together exposes a problem with Bellamy’s work in general, and from an sf perspective in particular. As is true of Bellamy’s signature texts, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897), his short works offer their solutions as too self-evident. They offer resolutions without drama to conflicts that, from a modern perspective, seem mole hills rather than mountains, and present circumstances ready-made for didactic opportunities. By contrast, lesser known utopian texts by contemporaries of Bellamy, such as Sutton Griggs’s Imperium in Imperio (1889) and Frederick Adams’s President John Smith (1896), found ways to propose approaches to the social and political issues of the day without pretending that such solutions themselves would not cause turbulence. By comparison, Bellamy’s short story “Extra-Hazardous” (1871), in which a young woman is rescued by and lectured to by a “scamp” in the woods who turns out to be a Boston lawyer, looks mannered and too polite to be taken seriously as revolutionary. Despite the story’s attempt to argue that charity is a better mode of goods exchange than free trade because no trade is “free” (52), its conclusion puts no change in motion and offers no plan for change other than its certainty that change “ought” to come. The weakness of the story is a sign that, for all but the most dedicated to Bellamy, here less would be more.

By contrast, Bellamy’s uncollected articles from the Springfield Daily Union, his unpublished notebook material, and the unpublished personal narratives will likely leave most interested readers with any experience of Bellamy wanting more. The journalistic writing is organized into themed subdivisions such as “Education,” “Women’s Rights,” and “The Market Economy.” Given the centrality of such themes to his work, the selections suggest that more investigation into Bellamy’s journalism would be beneficial. Similarly, the notebooks offer glimpses of ideas that took full form in Looking Backward and Equality, as well as in other stories. Thus, the reader can trace the evolution of some of Bellamy’s theories and set pieces. Finally, the personal recollections of Bellamy reanimate the man and his legacy. For example, Mason Green’s recollections of Bellamy’s passion and the interest surrounding him remind the reader just how disorienting and revolutionary Bellamy’s work was for its era. Bellamy’s influence on his moment is clear in Green’s discussion of the energy in the offices of Bellamy’s weekly newspaper The New Nation (284) and in the publication figures Green provides for Looking Backward (275).

In the next section, Toby Widdicombe, with the help of Ron Howe and Rebecca Early, provides a useful bibliography of secondary criticism. However, this material works to supplement work previously done by Widdicombe (1988) and Nancy Snell Griffith (1987). Thus, it offers a fragment of the terrain a reader interested in Bellamy would want to examine. Similarly, the section of critical essays entitled “Contemporary Critical Views: The Significance of Edward Bellamy to the New Millennium” does not provide a representative selection of responses to Bellamy. Daphne Patai’s Looking Backward,1988-1888 (1988) offers more of what readers would expect. Instead, Widdicombe and Preiser offer a sampling of five essays more concerned with advancing the very clear agenda that Bellamy offers as an economic and political plan for the current moment.

This emphasis on reading Bellamy’s work as an accurate representation of what ought to be is the key factor that diminishes the volume’s value for the sf reader. Nowhere is this focus more clear than in Herman Preiser’s work in the text’s “Foreword” and in his essay “Ethical Capitalism: Redirecting the Global Market Economy towards Bellamy’s Quest for a Just Society.” His foreword opens with a survey of America’s post-9/11 terrain and offers the seemingly exaggerated claim that Bellamy’s work could redress current political crises. That Bellamy “would do much to help mitigate the current emphasis on unrelenting market competition” (ix) is taken so seriously that Preiser will later use Bellamy to completely redesign global economics. Preiser’s contribution to the section of critical essays is so devoted to an examination of economic concepts (i.e., Earned Income Tax Credit [EITC] and a Guaranteed Annual Income [GAI]) that it reads like a policy report from a congressional subcommittee. John Baer’s contribution, “Edward Bellamy’s Concept of Economic Equality—Practical or Utopian?,” strikes a similar note, though tempered to some extent. Sylvia Bowman’s work in Edward Bellamy Abroad (1962) and in Edward Bellamy (1986) offers more compelling and suggestive appraisals of Bellamy’s influence on various thinkers and sociopolitical trends.

Finally, like Bellamy’s work, Revisiting the Legacy of Edward Bellamy has its peaks and valleys. When the reader can focus on the “what if” possibilities of Bellamy’s influence, the book is very successful. What if Bellamy Clubs had sparked a viable and sustainable political party or movement? What would Bellamy have written if he had lived longer, continued to mature as a writer, and had seen the labor, national, and global conflicts of the first 25 years of the twentieth century? But even in these moments, the book seems suitable solely for those at work on Bellamy or utopian studies. The book is less successful and of less relevance to the sf community when it suggests that Bellamy’s legacy is sufficient to provide a blueprint for a reorganized social, political, and economic future.

—Scott Ash, Nassau Community College

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