Science Fiction Studies

#94 = Volume 31, Part 3 = November 2004


Lost In Burroughs.

Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lost On Venus. 1935. Intro. Kevin J. Anderson. Original illustrations by J. Allen St. John. Frontiers of Imagination Series. Lincoln, NE: Bison, 2004. xx + 318 pp. $14.95 pbk.

I’m not old enough to have read E.E. Smith, Robert E. Howard, and A. Merritt during the great age of the pulps, of course, but I did come across these writers at just the right age, somewhere between eleven and sixteen. Ditto for H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Ray Cummings, John W. Campbell, Eando Binder, and Otis Adelbert Kline. I can still remember any number of gaudy paperback covers from Avon, Ace, and other publishers. Heck, I still own a few of those early-to mid-1960s editions. And I particularly remember Edgar Rice Burroughs. Tarzan was fun, of course, but not fantastic enough. What I really loved was John Carter of Mars, and the Pellucidar books, and Carson of Venus, and the Frank Frazetta covers.

Perhaps you too loved the pulps as a child or teenager, but then didn’t read them for many decades. Perhaps, when you did go back to them, if you have, you reacted much as I did when, starting a couple of years ago, I began to immerse myself in the work of A. Merritt for a scholarly edition of The Moon Pool for Wesleyan University Press. There’s some variation from author to author, of course—Robert Howard actually could write better than most of the other pulpsters—but they all have a lot in common as well. The style is the first thing that gets to you regardless of whether you’re reading Merritt or Smith or Burroughs: by turns florid and colloquial, often archaic, occasionally quite obviously ungrammatical. Then there’s the breakneck pacing which only makes sense when you remember that these guys were typing in a white heat, often sending off their work within hours of having produced it. And there’s also the casual racism and sexism, invisible when the stories were written, invisible to me when I first read the books, but glaringly obvious today. Ah, nostalgia!

The University of Nebraska’s Bison Books has been producing relatively inexpensive paperback volumes in its Frontiers of Imagination series for a number of years now. Many of the books come from the pulp era—there’s a lot of Burroughs, and they’ve also published Hugo Gernsback, Merritt, Edwin Arnold, and E.E. Smith—but they’ve also reprinted a fair number of more serious works, from Mark Twain’s Tales of Wonder (2003) to H.G. Wells’s The Sleeper Wakes (2000), and they’ve brought back into print some genuinely hard to find books, like Mary E. Bradley Lane’s Mizora and J.D. Beresford’s The Wonder.

It should be noted, however, that the Frontiers of Imagination books aren’t really intended as scholarly editions despite their university pedigree. Yes, John Clute did provide prefatory material for David Lindsay’s Voyage to Arcturus and M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud, and David Ketterer introduced the Twain volume, but most of the books in the series have introductions by such popular science-fiction writers as Harry Turtledove, Gregory Benford, Jack Chalker, Greg Bear, and Ben Bova. Although some of these are quite solid, others are rather perfunctory.

Kevin J. Anderson’s introduction to Lost on Venus, the second volume in Burroughs’s Carson of Venus series, is, unfortunately, one of the latter sort. Things start off on the wrong foot when Anderson states that the first book in the series, Pirates of Venus, saw print in 1929. I may be wrong, but the earliest publication date I can find is 1932, when it was serialized in Argosy two years before its book publication. The sequel, Lost on Venus, first appeared in 1935. Actually, though, and rather oddly, Anderson never even mentions Lost on Venus, the novel he is ostensibly introducing, in his Introduction! After that brief, incorrect reference to Pirates, he plunges into what is essentially a straightforward biographical sketch of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s life. It’s well-written and interesting enough—who would have guessed that Burroughs failed at so many business ventures before discovering his knack for pulp—but it’s essentially little more than a ten-page summary of John Taliaferro’s 1999 biography Tarzan Forever, the only book other than Jim Gunn’s 1975 Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, that Anderson cites.
As for Lost on Venus itself, well, it’s quintessential Burroughs, which is to say that you’ll like it a lot if you like this sort of thing. Our hero, Carson Napier, late of Earth, loses the Princess Duare, and then finds her again. They wander around Burroughs’s Venus, fighting monsters and bad guys, proclaiming their dislike or love for each other in typically pulpish language such as the following: “We may be together for a long time, and you must remember that I may not listen to love from the lips of any man. Our very speaking together is a sin, but circumstances have made it impossible to do aught but sin in this respect” (64). The language and the plot and the characters are all, occasionally, ludicrous, but the novel can also pack a considerable emotional punch, particularly in the action sequences. Lost on Venus is a fun read, a vintage pulp adventure, but it isn’t clear that the Anderson introduction, the five original but rather uninspired J. Allen St. John illustrations, or the University of Nebraska label add much to the package.

 —Michael Levy, University of Wisconsin-Stout

Vintage Delany.

Samuel R. Delany. Aye, and Gomorrah. New York: Vintage, 2003. 383 pp. $14.00 pbk.

This volume contains almost all of Samuel R. Delany’s fiction of less than novel length. Though it excludes those pieces that form a large component of the author’s Nevèrÿon books, very little else is missing. Most of the fifteen stories included here were first published between 1967 and 1971, and were included in Delany’s 1971 collection, Driftglass. The remainder were added to the expanded version of Driftglass, Driftglass/Starshards (1993), which, as far as I can ascertain, was not published in a US edition (in any event, my own copy is of a 1993 British edition, released under HarperCollins’s Grafton imprint). Aye, and Gomorrah is, in short, a new release of Driftglass/Starshards, minus a couple of autobiographical pieces.

In the mid to late 1960s, Delany was a dominant force in the sf field, and the stories from that period show us why. His first published short story, “The Star Pit” (1967), is seldom discussed, and it is easy to forget how textured and involving it is, with its setting at the edge of the galaxy, where the viewpoint character runs a business repairing space vehicles. All of the characters are trapped, in one way or another, even those who have an unusual capacity to survive the metaphysical terrors of intergalactic travel.

At this point in his career, Delany already had several successful novels under his belt, and he was using tough, detailed, naturalistic prose to depict extraordinary future events. He did not rely on page-turning plots or stunning resolutions, or even on an extravagant style—though there were always a few stylistic experiments and flourishes. The pleasure was in the detailed realization of what it would be like for his characters to find themselves in the strange situations that their author could imagine. The viewpoint characters of these classic stories have their own psychological demons, and they often live and operate at the physical or sociological margins of their respective societies. Yet they are not so bizarre in their emotional responses that we fail to identify with them. We immediately recognize and identify with all their hesitations, frustrations, and doubts, while being immersed in the sensory detail of their worlds and cultures.

Among the other stories collected here is the title piece, “Aye, and Gomorrah …,” which first appeared in Harlan Ellison’s taboo-busting Dangerous Visions (1967). Delany transmutes queer sociology by postulating a subculture of sexless spacers, who return to Earth between assignments, and the “frelks” back on Earth, who have a sexual fetish for them (the frelks are said to have “free-fall-sexual-displacement complex”). “Aye and Gomorrah …” won Delany a Nebula Award, while he won both a Hugo and a Nebula for his baroque and Besteresque “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-precious Stones” (1968).

Less well known are such pieces as “Prismatica,” a long fantasy story said to have been written in New York in 1961, but not published until 1977, when it appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction—and evidently not collected before Driftglass/Starshards. It is one of the delights of the book, an original fairy tale with everything a reader of such a tale could possibly wish for: a classically-told quest adventure; a suitably charming and brave prince; a beautiful and clever princess; a sinister villain who gets what’s coming to him; and a simple allegory of joy and love versus drab conformity.

Finally, Delany’s essay “Of Doubts and Dreams” (1981), which is used here as an afterword, is only twelve pages long—but it contains the most concise and cogent advice I have ever read on the craft of writing science fiction. Delany freely acknowledges that he picked up two of his three essential points from other writers, Theodore Sturgeon and Thomas Disch. But that does not make the essay any less valuable, either as advice for aspiring writers or as an insight into the author’s own method and craft.

In short, any sf library that does not already have this material in other formats should include Aye, and Gomorrah. It contains some of the most important shorter work in the sf field, all in one handy place.

—Russell Blackford, Monash University

Art Glass.

Camille Flammarion. Lumen. Trans. and intro. by Brian Stableford. The Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction series. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2002. xxxv + 153 pp. $45 hc; $17.95 pbk.

The Wesleyan Early Classics of Science Fiction Series has the laudable intention of bringing back into focus—and keeping in print—the archaeological remains of science fiction. In such an enterprise, one worries that one will be presented with a series of potsherds that will delight only the connoisseur. Only occasionally will the series editor unearth, wrapped and buried in silks, precious glass which when brushed delicately with a single hair, will sparkle now as it did for its own time and society. Lumen may be a piece of such glass. Brian Stableford certainly has the delicacy of an archeologist. In his introductory essay, he gently places the text in a society eager for scientific popularizations, capable of holding to scientific rationality yet still flirting with spiritualism.

Camille Flammarion was a French scientific popularizer of the late nineteenth century, an astronomer, a philosopher, and to a lesser extent, a natural philosopher. If modern science stands on the shoulders of giants, it is also supported by the strong arms of lesser men who, like Flammarion, made small observations that added incrementally to scientific knowledge. The history of his reputation, as Stableford explains, is intimately linked to our attitudes to the scientific endeavor. Flammarion wrote for a society that had come to regard the scientific method and scientific knowledge as the birthright of the citizen, a crucial element in the maintenance of a Republic. As science became more rarefied, popularization was regarded as a vulgar exercise. Casting such popularizations in a fictional mold was relegated by the 1920s to pulp magazines and children’s publications, but in 1872, auto-didacticism was at the center of middle-class culture and Lumen was well received.

Lumen is that peculiar thing which is not quite yet science fiction, but is recognizably scientific romance. An elderly man returns from the spirit world to talk with a young follower about the world to come. What he offers is not heaven but, in the first three chapters, a perspective on the world dependent on the new ideas about the speed of light and the shape of the universe. These first three chapters discuss, in turn, watching oneself grow up by moving in from 72 light years, watching the world go backward by traveling faster than light, and finally a form of posthumous punishment in which travel at the speed of light forces evil-doers to watch the consequences of their own actions for ever. These chapters are only barely fiction, but they do have an elegiac quality that can be partially ascribed to the quality of the translation, and partly also to Flammarion’s concern with the relationship of the material to the spiritual.

Although Flammarion casts scorn on theories of racial difference and hierarchy, he does not seem to be able to escape his assumption that other species would be higher or lower in the spiritual chain. Presumably influenced by both Christianity and Hinduism, interplanetary reincarnation is about moving up or down the spiritual scale. What saves the novel from being a period piece is, as Stableford points out, the sheer exuberance of invention linked to a conviction that form fits function. Flammarion’s aliens are genuinely a product of another place. As a taproot of both popular science writing and science fiction, Lumen is a fascinating text. Stableford’s commentary offers a very effective introduction that makes it readily available to the scholar and the classroom. The result is a text that is more than a reprint. Stableford’s introduction and translation provide genuine value.

—Farah Mendlesohn, Middlesex University

Mediating Marxism and Modernism.

Carl Freedman. The Incomplete Projects: Marxism, Modernity, and the Politics of Culture. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2002. xvi + 203 pp. $65 hc; $24.95 pbk.

The Incomplete Projects combines seven previously published articles— including three of obvious interest to sf scholars—with a long introductory essay that ambitiously juggles the concepts adumbrated in the book’s subtitle. Each of these eight sections is valuable and interesting, but the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts. The table of contents refers to the seven articles as “Case Studies in the Politics and Ideology of Culture,” which they certainly are, but this huge umbrella would cover a multitude of potential topics, as Freedman himself concedes. The fact is that, despite Freedman’s best efforts to present them as diverse articulations of a cohesive set of issues, the chapters do not really hang together. As might be expected of any such gathering of writings spanning almost two decades of intellectual labor, they manifest some shared concerns but remain relatively distinct products, geared for different audiences and expressing varying facets of a mind that is (to give the author his due) admirably catholic and erudite. It is best, then, to approach this book as a wide-ranging collection of essays rather than as the focused methodological study it uneasily purports to be.

Happily, the essays are always cannily argued and sometimes quite brilliant, whether examining the crosscurrents of race and sexuality in Robert Penn Warren’s bestseller All the King’s Men or using Roland Barthes’s myth criticism to analyze the ideology of the TV series M*A*S*H*. Two of the essays—on banality and seriousness in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and on paranoia and social structure in the work of Philip K. Dick—will be familiar to long-time readers of this journal, but attention should also be paid to a powerful analysis of Nineteen-Eighty-Four (originally published in Modern Fiction Studies), that shrewdly dissects the political ambivalences of that landmark dystopia (Freedman’s first book was an excellent study of Orwell). Perhaps the best essay, however, is “Labor and Politics in Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest” (coauthored with Christopher Kendrick), a sharp and subtle defense of that novel’s critique of bourgeois individualism; more than any of the other chapters, it seems precisely calculated to address the cultural-political imbrication of Marxism and Modernity announced as a central focus in the introduction.

That introductory essay, though it fails to provide a convincing rationale for the volume as a whole, is nonetheless a compelling statement of the author’s abiding commitment to Marxist theorizing. Arguing that “as long as we live under capitalism we will need new and continuing analysis of capitalism performed under the rigorous guidance (which, of course, is opposed to the uncritical adulation) of Marx’s principles” (10), Freedman offers, in forty densely-packed pages, an exposition of the basic political-economic insights of Marx and his followers, bringing them into provocative alignment with Jürgen Habermas’s influential critique of Modernity as an “incomplete project,” and concluding with a stout defense of literary/cultural analysis as a key site of “strategic intervention” (36). In part, this essay can be read as a follow-up to Freedman’s Critical Theory and Science Fiction (Wesleyan, 2000), articulating some of that book’s animating assumptions within a broader horizon of political-philosophical inquiry. Indeed, it is better read as such a meditative coda than as a prologue to the chapters that follow it, which it illuminates fitfully at best.—RL

Two New Studies from France.

Arnaud Huftier, ed. La Belgique: un jeu de cartes? De Rosny aîné à Jacques Brel. [Belgium: a Game of Cards? From Rosny the Elder to Jacques Brel.] Valenciennes, France: Presses universitaires de Valenciennes, 2003. 304pp. 16€.

Roger Bozzetto and Arnaud Huftier. Les Frontières du fantastique. Approches de l’impensable en littérature. [The Borders of the Fantastic. Approaches to the Unthinkable in Literature.] Valenciennes, France: Presses universitaires de Valenciennes, 2004. 384pp. 22€.

For our francophone readers, here are two new and very worthwhile books that have recently come to my attention—one featuring a collection of essays on J.-H. Rosny aîné (who might be called the “H.G. Wells of France”) and one focusing on “The Borders of the Fantastic” (in the European sense of fantastique à la Todorov, rather than in the IAFA sense of “fantastic” as an umbrella term for horror, sf, and fantasy). Both are published by the Press of the University of Valenciennes located in the extreme northwest corner of France, near Lille and the Belgian border.

As its title would seem to suggest, the first volume seems to suffer from an acute case of thematic schizophrenia—it doesn’t appear to know what it wants to be. Over two-thirds of its content are devoted to the life and works of the Franco-Belgian sf writer J.-H. Rosny aîné. But, curiously, three additional essays on very different—albeit generally Belgium-related—topics (the town of Roubaix, Jacques Sternberg, and Jacques Brel) are tacked on at the end. Since the latter contributors all list their affiliation as the University of Valenciennes, one wonders if their inclusion in this collection was done as a courtesy to publish the work of graduate students or if there were other motives involved (e.g., perhaps these were the acts of a conference?).

As for the pieces on and by J.-H. Rosny aîné, they are very good—the best collection of articles on Rosny that I have seen in recent years. Arnaud Huftier’s “Rosny aîné et les frontières” [Rosny the Elder and Borders] dicusses Rosny as a mainstream writer—who even served as president of the Académie Goncourt—as well as a seminal sf writer. Roger Bozzetto’s “Rosny et ses chimères” [Rosny and his Chimera] focuses mostly on Rosny’s “alien encounter” narratives. Eric Lysøe’s “Rosny, poète de l’impur” [Rosny, Poet of the Impure] defines “impure” as the intentional mixing of genres, registers, and patterns of referentiality by Rosny in his sf texts. Guy Costes and Joseph Altairac’s “Une lost-race ‘nouvelle’… perdue” [A Lost-Race Short Story ... Lost] presents a short prehistoric tale by Rosny that was previously unknown: “La Résurrection de mon oncle Jérôme” [The Resurrection of My Uncle Jerome]. Paul Jamati’s “Le Premier Couple” [The First Couple] is a similar short story published in 1925 by an admirer of Rosny. Arnaud Huftier’s “Déliquescence et déplacement du merveilleux scientifique: M. Renard, A. Couvreur et Rosny aîné” [Decay and Displacement of the Scientific Marvelous: M. Renard, A. Couvreur, and Rosny the Elder] analyzes how these several French sf writers of the 1920s positioned their works within the evolving genre definitions of the time. Gérard Klein’s “Aperçu sur la taxinomie de variétés du roman dans l’œuvre de Rosny aîné” [A Brief Look at the Taxonomy of the Variety of Novels in the Work of Rosny the Elder] examines how Rosny viewed his own writings in the context of specific genre labels and expectations. Daniel Compère’s “Les Déclinaisons de l’aventure chez Rosny” [Declensions of Adventure in Rosny’s Works] discusses Rosny’s many non-sf “adventure” novels—the genre epithet “adventure” being defined very broadly—published during the 1920s. Hubert Desmarets’s “D’un horizon à l’autre : L’Etonnant Voyage de Hareton Ironcastle” [From One Horizon to the Next: The Amazing Journey of Hareton Ironcastle] offers an analysis of this famous 1922 Rosny sf novel, probably his most self-reflexive and synthetic. Jean-Pierre Picot’s “L’Etonnant Voyage de Hareton Ironcastle : un hapax générique” [The Amazing Journey of Hareton Ironcastle: A Generic Hapax] is another analysis of this—at times, Céline-like—novel, which is a “one of a kind” in Rosny’s oeuvre. Jean-Michel Pottier’s “Fin de carrière, fin des temps : Les Instincts” [The End of a Career, the End of Time: Instincts] takes a look at Rosny’s last novel, published in 1939. J.H. Rosny aîné, “Hommes et choses. Le Monde contemporain et les instincts primitifs” [Men and Things: the Contemporary World and Primitive Instincts] concludes this part of the book with a very prescient little essay by Rosny on the seeds of barbarism still present in modern humanity (written in 1937-38 during Hitler’s rise to power).

As mentioned, in addition to the above—uniformly impressive—essays on Rosny, this collection also features three articles tacked on to the end of the book, all apparently spun off from graduate theses on Belgian topics done at the University of Valenciennes and grouped under the rather elusive heading of “Varia: entre frontières et cartes” [Varia: between borders and maps]. Chantal Pétillon’s “Roubaix, une ‘colonie’ belge” [Roubaix, a Belgian “colony”] is a sociological study of the patterns of Belgian immigration in the small French town of Roubaix during the nineteenth century. Delphine Plouchart’s “Le Récit belge de l’absence, ou la thématique de l’Entre-deux, l’exemple de Jacques Sternberg” [Belgian Narratives of Absence, or the Theme of Between the Two, the Example of Jacques Sternberg] analyzes the work of writer Sternberg from a distinctly deconstructionist viewpoint. And Stéphane Hirschi’s “Ce Pays don’t Brel a fait tout plat...” [This Country that Brel Made All Flat]—referring, of course, to Brel’s famous song about Belgium “Le Plat Pays” (1962)—offers an interesting discussion of all things Flemish in Brel’s oeuvre.

Roger Bozzetto and Arnaud Huftier’s Les Frontières du fantastique, by contrast, is a book that is both more focused (exclusively on the “fantastic”—there are no pieces on geography or francophone singers) and broader in its thematic and generic sweep (ranging from Poe to Bradbury and from “hard” sf to a fantasy tale by Salman Rushdie). Begun, appropriately, with a series of essays—authored, as throughout the book, alternately by either Bozzetto or Huftier—on how the “fantastic” seems to be defined in the world today, the remainder of its contents is organized into five “borders of” groupings: religion and myth, reason, science, law, and magic. For example, in the religion and myth section, one finds an article by Bozzetto on “Fantastique et religions” which discusses how gothic fiction recycles and makes reference to—or, at times, refuses to make reference to—certain discourses, philosophies, and “supernatural” iconographies of organized religion. In the “reason” grouping is located the essay “Médecins et fantastique au XIXe siècle” by Huftier on the portrayal of doctors in a variety of fantastic stories of the nineteenth century from Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819) and Hawthorne’s “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” (1837) to Stoker’s Van Helsing in Dracula (1897) and Conan Doyle’s “The Black Doctor” (1898). In the “law” section, two articles by both editors focus on the character of the detective in fantastic narratives and demonstrate how porous the boundary can sometimes be between the genres of detective fiction and gothic fiction. Finally, included in the “magic” grouping is a delightful piece by Bozzetto on Salman Rushdie’s first novel, a 1975 fantasy called Grimus, described as a kind of generic and ideological “melting pot.” The book concludes with an extensive primary and secondary bibliography as well as an index of proper names and titles of works.

For all SFS readers interested in the French sf pioneer Rosny aîné or in the borders of the sf genre that overlap into the “fantastic,” I recommend these two new studies from France.—ABE

Short Essays on Russian Film.

Evgeni Kharitonov and Andrei Shcherbak-Zhukov. Na ekrane-Chudo: Otechestvennaya kinofantastika i kinoskazka [The Wonder on the Screen: National Fantastic, SF, and Fairy Tale Films]. Moscow: NII Kinoiskusstva, V. Sekachev, 2003. 320 pp.

This book consists of eighteen short essays about, and a filmography of, Russian/Soviet films in all fantastic genres. Most of the essays (each written by one of the two authors) discuss the fantastic works of one director, or the films based on one author’s works, while a few cover more general themes such as animated films, and one is actually an interview. Of the five writers discussed, four are sf writers: A. Tolstoy, A. Belyaev, the Strugatskys, and Kir Bulychev; one, Evgeni Schwarz, wrote fantastic philosophical and social parables that Brecht might have written had he turned to fantastic literature. Most of the essays were first published in Russian sf magazines, some in magazines dedicated to cinema, and a few appear here for the first time.

The filmography makes up three quarters of the book. It gives the usual data and, in most cases, a short description of theme and plot. The filmography is alphabetized by film titles (with animated films in a separate section), and an extra index puts the films in chronological order. While the essays are centered (although not exclusively) on science fiction, the filmography contains a large number of fairy tale films. The presence of the fairy tales, or rather the lack of distinction between them and the other fantastic film genres, is the only serious shortcoming of the whole book: there is not even an index that would give an overview of the different genres, and while the filmography seems to be very complete for sf and the other fantastic genres, it clearly presents only a few of the fairy tale films without making clear why some were included and others were not.

—Erik Simon, Dresden, Germany

Illuminating Dick.

Gabriel McKee. Pink Beams of Light From the God in the Gutter: The Science-fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick.New York: UP of America, 2004. ix + 84 pp. $22 pbk.

Is Science Fiction Studies the right place for this review? I ask because the author of this monograph claims that “this book is not about science fiction. It is about theology” (vii). Philip K. Dick has discussed theology or more accurately, theologies, in his fiction, but Gabriel McKee focuses more on Dick’s religious non-fiction. Since McKee claims that “Dick’s writings pose religious questions to the human beings of the future” (ix), one might argue that the proper place for this review might be a journal of theology.

I believe, nevertheless, that PKD scholars will have to take Pink Beams of Light into account as they consider his fiction, not so much because Dick’s writings “blend religion and sf in a truly original way” (ix) as because the theological questions and concepts that interested Dick are necessary for interpreting his sf. PKD scholarship “can easily be a match for anyone if it enlists the services of theology,” as Walter Benjamin said of historical materialism in his “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1950).

McKee charts Dick’s religious thinking from the (in)famous 2-3-74 experience, seen as the source of Dick’s religious reflections. This is the time from February to March of 1974 when Dick began hallucinating Kandinsky paintings and seeing strange pink beams; he later became convinced that someone—God, aliens, the apostle Thomas—had contacted him. The first chapter of Pink Beams of Light, “Anamnesis, 1 Corinthians, and Rocket Ships: Philip K. Dick as Religious Philosopher,” offers a summary of the experience, drawing mostly from Sutin’s Divine Invasions (1989), Dick’s letters, and some interviews. It then explores Dick’s interpretation of 2-3-74 in the Exegesis (only partially published as In Pursuit of Valis [ed. Lawrence Sutin, 1991]), and connects it to the Valis Trilogy (Valis [1981], The Divine Invasion [1981], and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer [1982]). McKee then offers a remarkably original section in this opening chapter called “Philosophical Concerns in Dick’s Writing Before 2-3-74,” in which he outlines Dick’s religious concerns before what has until now been considered the turning point of his life. McKee reminds us that Dick had “joined the Episcopal Church in 1963,” thus abandoning “the atheism of his Berkeley years” (13). That conversion triggered Dick’s interest in the doctrine of transubstantiation, the basis of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964). After reading McKee’s discussion, one might rethink or even reject Darko Suvin’s remarks about the banality of Dick’s theological ideas. The first chapter ends with a discussion of two of Dick’s most pressing questions: what is human and what is reality. While McKee offers nothing really new here, he does connect Dick’s questioning of the nature of humanity with Martin Buber’s meditation on the it-world of impersonal relationships as opposed to the you-world of interpersonal relations. McKee sets up a fascinating and promising short circuit among Buber, the Holocaust, and Dick’s motif of empathy. This would be useful in reconsidering The Man in the High Castle (1962) and The Simulacra (1964), for example.

The second chapter, A Scanner Darkly: Dick as a Christian Theologian,” aims at challenging the widespread opinion that Dick was a Gnostic writer. McKee reviews much of the scholarship regarding Dick’s religious experience and the fiction based on it, scholarship that does not often recognize that the term Gnosticism “generalizes a number of heterogeneous religious communities and obscures the broad differences between them” (28). McKee goes on to argue that “it is problematic and inaccurate to attempt to find one category that can describe the entire breadth of Dick’s metaphysics” (29), a statement that anyone who knows Dick’s oeuvre in its entirety must endorse. The ensuing discussion offers evidence of Taoist and Buddhist elements in Dick’s fiction and non-fiction (27, 29), persuasively pitting Christian mainstream against Gnostic elements, and highlighting the relevance of Paul’s writings and John’s Gospel to Dick’s theological reflections and fictional constructs. It is puzzling, therefore, that McKee ends this central chapter with a section about “The Centrality of Christ in Dick’s Religious Writing.” I agree with him when he claims that “it is both a mistake and a disservice to the right variety of Dick’s religious ideas to describe his entire experience and process of interpretation ... with a single categorical designation” (29), that is, Gnosticism. But why then should we describe Dick’s body of work with the single categorical designation of “Christian”? And why should we necessarily define a center in a writer who so stubbornly and passionately challenges our notions of center and periphery, and who is definitely not (as McKee acknowledges) a systematic thinker? A system necessarily implies the demarcation of center and periphery. We are dealing with the products of a restless man who declared himself to be both “Fascistic” and Marxist (Dick, In Pursuit of Valis, Publishers’ Group West, 1991:140, 175 ). McKee is persuasive when he spots, here and elsewhere in the book, the heterogeneous threads of Dick’s intellectual texture; he is not so persuasive when he argues that the texture shows a single coherent image.

The third and concluding chapter is entitled “Infinity, Play Again: The Nature and Importance of Dick’s Religious Speculations.” It deals with the ingrained unsystematic character of Dick’s theological speculations: McKee claims that since “Dick threw himself into each new theory with energy, fervor, and conviction, he needed to discount old hypotheses in order to move on to new ones” (47). Yet something is constant in Dick’s endlessly shifting theological interrogations, and that is the basic idea of the unreality of the cosmos—what we see is not what we really get. Hence, according to McKee, Dick is fascinated with the theology of Martin Luther, who posits a God “hidden in his suffering” (Luther, qtd. McKee, 58). The connection between Luther and Dick is extremely interesting, and, given the widespread Pauline elements especially in his last works, such as The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, it is not all that far-fetched, since Luther was deeply influenced by Paul. But McKee does not give us any detailed reference: although he writes in a footnote that “Dick certainly read Luther, as he cites him on several occasions” (58), he does not tell us where and how. McKee says that his “comparison ... is not to suggest such an influence, but rather to use Luther’s thought to illuminate Dick’s ideas” (58). This is certainly a legitimate strategy, but had he told us where Dick had quoted Luther, McKee would have had enough evidence to support a direct influence.

The chapter then traces one of Dick’s many abrupt reversals: after mistrusting physical reality, he begins to approach the theology of Teilhard de Chardin, who proposes God’s immanence in the universe as the cosmic or Universal Christ (61). God is hidden, yet he does not hide behind the Creation, but in the Creation, in “the solid, organic reality of a universe, taken from top to bottom in the complete extent and unity of its energies” (Teilhard de Chardin, qtd. McKee, 61-62). It is a pity that McKee contents himself with saying that “Dick is in complete agreement with Teilhard de Chardin here, and in the Exegesis he frequently acknowledged the similarities between their theories” (62). Once again McKee omits telling us where and how Dick quoted the theologian, and therefore he misses the opportunity to write a much more useful book. A cursory search of In Pursuit of Valis allowed me to find Teilhard mentioned in a highly meaningful passage, where Dick says, “as Teilhard de Chardin says—mankind following Christ as a species along the stations of the cross—I went through the vicarious experience of the Passion ... or was it vicarious? It was real” (26). Such a statement, its theological value aside, casts light on the figure of Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968), undoubtedly one of Dick’s key works. The virtual prophet Mercer, who painfully climbs the barren hill, can be seen as a vicarious representation of Dick’s own experience, something like Teilhard’s notion of the human species following the stations of the cross and thus becoming the Universal Christ. We are not far from those apocalyptic images studied by Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism (1971), and close to the core of Dick’s symbolism. McKee doesn’t follow this path, however, probably because his main aim is to outline Dick’s theology, so he tells us that Teilhard de Chardin’s God, who incorporates the multiple (that is, the universe), is, in Dick’s terms, “a form of transubstantiation: God, as a mimicking, undetectable being superior to human beings, is altering the substance of the universe and infusing it with and thus incorporating it into its infinite Being” (McKee 62). We are extremely close to Ubik (1969), yet McKee does not make the connection.

In spite of these gaps, the monograph is nevertheless useful for literary critics because it is full of interesting suggestions about Dick’s less obvious sources, be they literary, theological, or philosophical. Only a careful, complete mapping of his sources might allow us to fully understand the workings of Dick’s narrative strategies, and from this point of view, McKee’s monograph is a step forward.

I am not competent to judge McKee’s final claim that “Dick’s religious thought is certain to become an invaluable part of the future world of the spirit” (72). Dick might well be read as a gifted, albeit flawed writer and thinker (just like Nietzsche and Pascal, for example); it is, however, Dick’s literary side that interests us here. But, even if considered on a purely theological basis, McKee’s monograph is marred by a defect that, while not nullifying the value of the book, nevertheless bars what could be the most stimulating development of his discussion. He maintains that “Dick himself never rejected religious interpretations of his writing, and seems to have thought such interpretations more valuable than more secular, political analyses” (26). While Dick’s theological side is important to his writing—and McKee proves that it is—doesn’t it have a political component as well? McKee notes the relevance of Dick’s 1982 statement about the sick man in need of hot soup being more important than the ravishment of divine ecstasy (35). Should we not read that statement as parallel to Angel Archer’s refusal to accept Timothy Archer’s divine madness in The Transmigration of Timothy Archer? In other words, are not Dick’s theological speculations a reflection on a fallen condition that is also a political condition? The Black Iron Prison, the Demiurge, Satan, if you prefer, are ways to reflect theologically on a personal crisis (the 2-3-74 experience comes after Dick’s drug years, the wreckage of his emotional life, and so on), but also to reflect on an historical moment (the repression of the counterculture of the 1960s, Nixon, Watergate, etc.). At the end of his theological “adventure,” Dick wrote one of his most historical novels, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, in which the collapse of the counter-cultural generation of the 1960s is brilliantly portrayed. This should tell us that Dick never completely abandoned secular, political concerns, and that his theological speculations should always be analyzed within their historical and political contexts. Even the 2-3-74 experience, the starting point of McKee’s discussion, can be envisioned (like many Biblical prophecies) as having a strong political component that cannot be totally obliterated by any ecstatic mysticism, no matter how huge a dose of it is present in the published pages of the Exegesis and in Dick’s final Valis Trilogy.

In fact, we should not forget that part of that purportedly mystical and religious experience was Dick’s overwhelming feeling of having actually lived in first-century Rome at the zenith of the Roman Empire (3). Could not the vision of imperial Rome and early Christian communities be a quasi-Blakean vision of contemporary political concerns about the American Empire? Obviously, we cannot reduce Dick’s theology to politics alone, yet we cannot dismiss it either. McKee seems to have done just this, and that is probably the major defect of his otherwise commendable analysis.

—Umberto Rossi, Rome

From E.T. to Betty Crocker.

John F. Moffitt. Picturing Extraterrestrials: Alien Images in Modern Mass Culture. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2003. 595 pp. $30.00 hc.

Moffitt’s Picturing Extraterrestrials is a mammoth volume dedicated to analysing the image of the alien in popular culture and the American psyche. Taking as his inspiration the fact that a recent poll showed that two thirds of Americans believe the US Government is not telling the truth about UFOs, and that both the The X-Files and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982) have become an integral part of the national cultural imagination, Moffitt posits the question: “Why is the alien such a popular figure in contemporary culture?” (27). To answer this question Moffitt’s research takes him through a myriad of popular images, ranging from modernist apocryphal portraiture to alien abductions, visitations, Betty Crocker, Henry Fuseli’s Nightmare, UFOs, New Ageism, sf film and television, and Jesus Christ. The sheer number of case studies Moffitt uses is evidence that we, and especially Americans, have taken the image of the Other and made it into a living, sentient being. The alien is as much a part of our cultural heritage as is Star Trek or Van Gogh, and because of this it is impossible to separate the alien from attempts at understanding ourselves and what it means to be human. As Moffitt states, “we need… to establish the overwhelming importance of our subject, the awesome ‘fact’ of any number of extraterrestrials lurking among us, with their portraiture being a necessary offshoot of their increasingly close encounters with our merely mundane selves” (24).

Moffitt identifies several possible reasons for the omnipresence of aliens in contemporary culture. First is the profitability of the UFO industry. Moffitt points out that he received no advance royalties for writing this book, focused on analyzing aliens and abduction stories as fiction, whereas the (in)famous Professor John Mack, professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, received a $250,000 advance for his Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens (1994) because it was seen as a work of non-fiction (26-27). This is a compelling insight into the “alien industry” and Moffitt explores that market throughout American history. The second reason behind the rise of E.T. can be ascribed to the development of certain cults in American society, whose followers, according to Moffitt, turn the UFO experience into a postmodern alternative religion. The “‘abduction by aliens’ stories, and the infotainment industry that supports them, are a symptom of a larger syndrome, a general ‘occultation’ of the modernist mentality” (424). This may be true; there is no doubt that the images of the alien visitor and the UFO carry great spiritual worth for a number of people. In some cases, the aliens have replaced traditional symbols of religious faith, and believers (many of them abductees) gather together to worship the extraterrestrial as a Christ figure. At a fundamental level, then, the alien might represent that which we feel is missing in our lives.

Moffitt seems more interested in how the alien has become such a pervasive figure. An art historian, he locates the first signs of the alien in artwork depicting Christ’s image and in visions of him in the writings of Saint Teresa de Avila (1515-1582). Just as we instinctively know what an alien looks like because it has been seen over and over again in the media, personal accounts of visions of the Lord began to influence the iconography of artwork showing the image of Christ (43-44), and his image has become standardized over time. The alien as popular image has been invented in stories describing abduction and visitation and its iconography has become standardized as well. The alien of media fame, usually bug-eyed with spindly limbs, is a result of society’s attempts to understand momentous and inexplicable events. As we have become used to the story of alien abduction we also convince ourselves that, if aliens do come to Earth and introduce themselves en masse, they will look like E.T. In sf, however, there is more to the alien than bug-eyed monster, and so Moffitt’s limited scope is open to criticism since he takes as his subject only the stereotypical, popular iconography of the alien (E.T. being the most familiar), while ignoring other images of the alien.

Debunking the UFOlogists, attributing their fascination for the alien to traditions in art history, is the central thrust behind much of Moffitt’s argument. He goes into some depth with analyses of cinema aliens in movies such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Communion (1988), Independence Day (1996), and X-Files: The Movie (1998), but does not go further by pointing out their roots in sf literature. He does not explore ideas of the non-corporeal alien, nor does he consider the alien unknown, common to the fiction of Arthur C. Clarke, for example. Alien forces lacking the typical alien body are not relevant to a study concentrating on the physical image in popular culture, perhaps, but other ideas of the alien than the small bug-eyed being are also part of popular culture or of sf, and therefore should be considered, even if only in contrast to the stereotypical iconography. While Moffitt is looking at how we picture the alien in mass culture as a way of understanding our fascination for the other, there is just as much to be said about how we imagine the alien in literature, as a means to understand ourselves and our relationship with the universe.

From E.T. to Betty Crocker, Moffitt’s Picturing Extraterrestrials is an informative read and a much-needed work on the alien image in popular culture. Learning why people continue to believe in UFOs and abductions is an important step in learning why we care at all about the strange, the wonderful, and the alien. Yet such a large examination of the subject (14 chapters and 595 pages) often concentrates too much on the general and not enough on the particular.

—Lincoln Geraghty, University of Nottingham, UK

Tracking Lem.

Jacek Rzeszotnik. Ein zerebraler Schriftsteller und Philosoph namens Lem [A Cerebral and Philosophical Writer Named Lem] Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis 2531. Wrocław: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Wrocłaskiego, 2003. 278 pp. Z25.00 pbk.

Jacek Rzeszotnik, a Polish professor of German philology with a great interest in fantastic literature, has published widely on the subject in German. This book, a post-doctoral thesis, traces Stanisław Lem’s critical reception in the German-speaking countries. Lem’s German agent Wolfgang Thadewald guaranteed that Rzeszotnik had access to all materials on Lem published in German. The first main part, “Autorenbild” (portrait of the author), gives a picture of Lem as a writer and philosopher of science as it emerges from the German reviews. In the second part, “Werkbild” (description of works), Rzeszotnik selects representative samples from Lem’s rich body of works. Rzeszotnik by no means examines the German reviews and essays one by one. On the the contrary, he abstains from any evaluation but extracts from each work its relevant points. In this respect, Rzeszotnik’s book is very different from an earlier thesis by Dr. Dagmar Ende, who examines the portrayal of human beings and society in selected sf works by Lem and their reception in the literary criticism of the German Democratic Republic between 1954 and 1990 (Untersuchungen zum Menschen—und Gesellschaftsbild in ausgewählten Science-Fiction-Werken Stanislaw Lem und zu deren Aufnahme durch die Literaturkritik der DDR 1954-1990 [Researches into the Portrayal of Human Beings and Society in Selected Works of Stanislaw Lem and their Reception in the Literary Criticism of the GDR 1954-1990], 1992). Rzeszotnik uses a careful and sophisticated arrangement of quotations, amply documented in the footnotes and supplemented by further, extensive quotations. The result is a running critical narration that is as wide-ranging as it is penetrating. The author stresses that his book is by no means intended as a “review” of the reviews of Lem, and will not enter into any discussion as to the validity of insights or interpretations of Lem’s texts; nor will it take part in a discourse on the aesthetics of reception. Rzeszotnik does not differentiate between reception in the GDR (East Germany) and GFR (West Germany), since he rightly points out that although criticism on Lem began in the GDR and was therefore subject to certain ideological restraints, later interpretations converged more and more. The first Lem translations, of Astronauci (The Astronauts, 1951/trans. 1954) and Obłok Magellana (The Magellan Nebula, 1955/1956) were true to these ideological requirements.

A book such as Rzeszotnik’s would be possible only in the German language. “For although Lem is without doubt the greatest Polish export success” (17), there are great differences of reception in the various countries in which Lem has been published. Lem probably had the greatest circulation in the Soviet Union, but there is no Russian criticism that would be worthy of investigation. Almost the exact opposite is the case in the Anglophone countries, where Lem was reviewed in The New Yorker, Newsweek, Time, and The New York Times, and has especially found attention in academic circles, but is ignored or actively hated by sf readers and had only minuscule publishing runs. Indicative of this situation is that until the remake of Solaris with George Clooney (2002), the Science Fiction Book Club never offered a single volume of Lem’s. None of Lem’s hardcover editions sold more than a few thousand copies in the Anglophone countries, and his paperback sales were not significantly higher. Lem owes his presence in the US book market to Harcourt Brace, which arranged for good translations (at great cost and unappreciated by the author) and kept his books in print despite abysmal sales figures. This is exceptional in US publishing, and other publishers would have pulped his books long ago. The only Lem book that was a middling paperback success, even before the Soderbergh film, is Solaris (1961).

And Solaris was, thanks also to the great Tarkovsky film of 1971 (which Lem hated as much as the new film), his greatest international success, appearing in countless translations and still in print in many countries. In most European countries Lem was translated in many different editions, but hardly any of those books went beyond a first printing. They appeared almost exclusively in sf series, and their success must be seen as part of the international success of the genre. There was, however, hardly any critical reception, just newspaper reviews of no importance, often as part of a column on sf books by various authors. Lem was relatively successful in Japan where some paperbacks sold quite well, and where the publisher Kokusho Kankoukai now offers a standardized edition in six volumes. In Japan there was also some criticism published: the January 1986 Eureka was devoted to the theme of “Stanislaw Lem: Postmodernism and SF,” and Hayakawa’s SF Magazine published a Lem issue in January 2004, but most of the contributions there were translations such as Peter Swirski’s “Lem in a Nutshell” from his A Stanislaw Lem Reader (1997).

The great exception is Germany—both Germanies. There Lem’s work had a high circulation, there he was paid high royalties (over the years several million German Marks—more than for all his other translations combined), and there he was amply discussed, if mostly in specialized sf criticism. Rzeszotnik makes no distinction in his discussion between respected high-circulation newspapers like Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Spiegel, or Die Zeit, and amateur publications with a circulation of only a few hundred copies (like my own Quarber Merkur). Larger studies of Lem’s work are rare in Germany, including only a couple of essay collections by various hands, and three books by Polish scholars: Jerzy Jarczebski’s Zufall und Ordnung (1986), especially written for German publication and still unpublished in Poland in this form; Zygmunt Tecza’s monograph Das Wortspiel in der Übersetzung (Stanislaw Lem’s play with the word as the subject of interlingual transfer, 1997), and Stanisłlaw Bereś́s Rozmowy z Lemem (Conversations with Lem, 1987/1986), published in German before its Polish appearance. The only exception is Bernd Gräfrath who has so far written three books mostly on Lem’s philosophy. “The mass of the receptive task in German is formed by interviews, followed by newspaper pieces, overviews, and single reviews and short notices in the press” (20).

In Germany almost everything by Lem has been translated, even the juvenile Clowiek z Marsa (The Man from Mars, 1946/1989) and his earliest borderline sf techno-thrillers such as “Plan Anti-V” (published for purely monetary reasons). But Obłok Magellana has never been published in the GFR, perhaps because the author didn’t wish it to became known that he had ever held Marxist views. His non-fiction has also been translated and published in Germany, most of which had never been translated anywhere else in the world, including Filozofia Przypadku (The Philosophy of Chance, 1968/1983 and 1985, in a greatly revised version), Dialogi (Dialogues, 1957/1980), and even some of his most recent and rather uninspired volumes of essays. That even those difficult works have been translated into German is due to Lem’s main German publisher Suhrkamp. But Lem’s successes in Germany were his sf books, most of all Solaris (trans. 1972), which sold some 400,000 copies, followed by The Star Diaries (165,000 copies, 1957/1961 and 1973), and The Futurological Congress with 145,000 copies (1973/1974). The Star Diaries was more successful in Germany than anywhere else. In Germany, as elsewhere, Lem was recognized primarily as an sf author. Without sf, which Lem holds in low esteem, he would never have achieved so many translations and would have the same marginal position internationally that he holds in Polish literature.

In the second part of his book, Rzeszotnik discusses as representative examples: “Juvenilia” (The Man from Mars); “Realistic Fantasy in the Spirit of Dialectical Materialism” (The Astronauts, 1951); “Realistic Prose” (Hospital of the Transfiguration, 1956); “Ideological Experiments” (Eden, 1959); “Gnosological Experiments” (Solaris); “Ontological Experiments” (Memoirs found in a Bathtub, 1961); “Political Experiments (“Wizja Lokalna,” 1982); “Metaliterary Experiments” (A Perfect Vacuum,1971); “Experiments in Literary Criticism” (“Science Fiction and Futurology,” 1964); “Socio-critical-satirical Experiments” (The Star Diaries, Memoirs of a Space Traveler); “Experiments in Power Politics and Allegory” (The Futurological Congress, 1973); “Autobiographical Experiments (High Castle, 1966); and “Prognostic Experiments” (“Summa Technologiae,” 1964). The volume also contains a bibliography of the first German editions of the works discussed, and a bibliography of the literature quoted.

As noted, aside from concise introductory remarks, the author rarely offers any evaluation of Lem’s criticism. Rzeszotnik skillfully arranges quotations as a running chain of arguments, sometimes resembling a critical debate, which is especially apt, since Lem’s works derive their interest only partly from their surprising plots, and least of all from character development, but most from the clash of often elegantly presented and contradictory intellectual arguments that cover Lem’s fields of interest, so that Rzeszotnik’s manner of presentation resembles that of his subject.

Rzeszotnik considers only German-speaking critics, which is a disadvantage since it isn’t clear how much criticism about Lem has been translated into German, and to what extent Lem’s writings on his own works are available in German. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr. remarked once how much Lem has himself influenced and shaped the criticism about his work, not only by direct statements, but also by the parallelism of the argumentation in his fiction and non-fiction. M.R. Becher also said that Lem loves to reflect on his own work (185). This is especially true of German criticism, which has mostly taken Lem’s statements at face value, especially his criticism of sf, without recognizing their vanity. Lem’s manner of theorizing suits German preferences and acknowledges what the German reader, especially the reader not familiar with science fiction, holds to be the most valuable part of science fiction. There are hardly any reviewers who would question Lem’s claim for sf as a literature of ideas, or who would accuse him of not meeting his own intellectual standards. Perhaps because Lem argues very teutonically, and because in German sf, theory, the play with ideas, and thought experiments have been deemed more important than purely literary matters, Lem has his greatest successes in Germany (while in the neighboring Netherlands he is almost completely unrecognized). But aside from Gräfrath, only K. Podak has discussed Lem’s philosophy, and his verdict is totally negative. For him, Lem is a “philosopher without a philosophy .... He is not a scientist, although he is well versed in many arts of thinking and the laboratory” (62) The most grievous criticism comes from literary scholars who find Lem’s work on sf, Fantastyka i fugurologia (1964), weak in its terminology (“imprecise and diffuse”), accuse him of unstructured theorizing, and hold his definitions to be “nebulous and contradictory” (C.W. Thomsen, qtd. 188). Here, Lem doesn’t meet his own requirements, he uses terms and theories idiosyncratically, and he confuses “structural or even structuralistic analyses with—at best witty—paraphrases and the analysis of thematic strata” (188).

Lem proves himself well-versed in the juggling of philosophical-theological and cognitive elements of science and culture, but he always allows himself the escape hatch of fiction. Finally, he is neither a philosopher nor a scientist, but a fabulist with a rich fund of philosophical and scientific materials, contaminated, however, by popular culture. The achievements of this versatile author are indeed admirable, but there are indications that he is “in general not appreciated and honored as a philosopher and scientist, neither by science nor his readers, and this has caused Lem deep wounds” (60): “Lem’s decision to turn away from literature and to devote himself exclusively to ‘serious’ essay writing may be gauged as a desperate attempt to get away from the discriminatory odium of a fantasizing author, that is, a fiction writer who is not to be taken seriously” (62). If this assessment hits the mark, then Lem’s decision to turn exclusively to non-fiction was a fatal mistake, as is shown by the deplorable quality of his recent volumes of essays, whose nature is journalistic, not scientific or philosophical.

Rzeszotnik presents an overwhelming wealth of material, and this material has also been persuasively organized into a richly faceted picture of the writer and thinker. Rzeszotnik makes abundantly clear that German critics—and Lem himself—are interested above all in the intellectual content of Lem’s work, while the interest in its poetic and narrative aspects is negligible. Even for those familiar with Lem’s work and its reception in Germany, Rzeszotnik offers a wealth of new insights.

—Franz Rottensteiner, Vienna

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