Science Fiction Studies

#99 = Volume 33, Part 2 = July 2006


Gray Anatomy.

Neil Barron, ed., Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction. 5th ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2004. xix + 995pp. $80 hc.

The fifth edition of Neil Barron’s Anatomy of Wonder is, on the one hand, an indispensable work, thoughtful, clear, well-written, overwhelmingly reliable, and—in the absence of an update of the Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993)—probably the most useful single-volume reference to English-language written sf. It is, on the other hand, a very odd book indeed; and the oddness has intensified with this most recent edition. (There was a first edition in 1976, a second in 1981, a third in 1987, and a fourth in 1995.)

The book is divided into three sections: Part I, “The Primary Literature—A Critical History”; Part II, “The Primary Literature—Annotated Bibliography”; and Part III, “The Secondary Literature—Annotated Bibliography.” Part I comprises about 85 pages, Part II about 400, and Part III about 400. There are also author and theme indexes, and a useful supplemental chronology is online at <>. Most sections have been substantially expanded, but the fourth edition’s coverage of sf poetry and comics has been dropped: in the first case, says Barron, because it is “a relatively minor and very specialized field that, in my judgment, has never produced major works” (xv); in the second, because—says Barron—the audience for comics is sufficiently distinct from that for sf to be considered a separate subject. The first is at least an arguable proposition—though in my view, a comprehensive reference on sf needs at least some coverage of poetry—but the second seems to me very questionable. Leaving aside fantasy-inflected comics read by sf readers such as Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (1989-96), any sf reference work that omits consideration of, say, Alan Moore’s Watchmen (collected 1988) and V for Vendetta (collected 1990), or Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (collected 1986) is omitting some of the most significant sf works of the last few decades. One cannot structure a reference book around what the editor would like to talk about.

Barron begins by saying, in his Preface, “A careful reader of the fourth edition of this guide may recall that I said it was to be the last edition I planned to edit, having plowed the ground repeatedly. It would have been had not four grant applications for a projected book (having nothing to do with fantastic literature) been turned down. Maybe, I then thought, I can get it right the fifth time. I hope I did” (xv-xvi). He goes on to mention and quote from his essay “The Erosion of Wonder,” published in Fantasy Commentary in 1998:

But if I no longer find much SF plausible, for reasons I have only sketched, the memories linger. Like you, I have explored the dead sea bottoms of Barsoom, joined Carson Napier in the misty mythical forests of Venus, admired Martin Padway’s efforts to prevent darkness from falling, worshipped “she who must be obeyed,” sensed a Mr. Hyde on the fringes of my own consciousness, and witnessed the Time Traveller 30 million years hence, shivering on a dying earth. Names jostle one another: Robida, Verne, Wells, Doyle, Čapek, Campbell, Merritt, Stapledon, Weinbaum, William [sic?], Zamiatin, joined by Aldiss, Ballard, Blish, Bishop, Bradbury, Brunner, Compton, Dick, Disch, Ellison, Heinlein, Lem, Malzberg, Silverberg, Sladek, Sturgeon, Tiptree and Waldrop. Other figures huddle indistinctly on the fringes of memory. Is there any example of SF that, even roughly, parallels my erratic journey through SF? The closest analogue I could think of is the life of David Selig, the protagonist of Dying Inside, whose tragic sensibility opposes the facile optimism of too much SF. His final words can serve as mine:

The world is white outside and gray within. I accept that. I think life will be more peaceful. Silence will become my mother tongue. There will be discoveries and revelations, but no upheavals. Perhaps some color will come back into the world for me, later on. Perhaps. (xvi; emphasis in original

Grayness and Silverbergian dying falls are fine in, well, Silverberg; but they feel somewhat out of place prefacing a reference work whose author is attempting to get his arms around a big and unruly field. One may be forgiven for worrying, as one reads the book, whether Barron will have sufficient energy for attacking such a task. (A note on terminology: the publisher describes Barron as the author of the book [996], but given that he is listed as the author or co-author of six of the book’s sixteen chapters, it might be more useful to think of him as an editor.)

Part I of the book, however, seems to bely these worries. It consists of five chapters, arranged chronologically, attempting to give a narrative history of sf. The first two, by Brian Stableford, lead up to 1939; Paul A. Carter covers 1940 to 1963; and Michael M. Levy contributes two chapters taking the story to 2004. The chapters offer a solid and broad-based history of sf’s central works and the larger context from which they emerged. Levy, in particular, does extremely well in tracing the recent history of the genre: one has the sense that since the cyberpunk/humanist squabble in the early 1980s, there are no universally agreed-on landmarks in the history of the genre. Levy manages to provide a survey that touches on the major developments in the last 20 years without being overly prescriptive about which are “important.” He does, however, describe a sense that sf is fraying at the edges, and that the boundaries between it and other genres are becoming more permeable (80-81). One suspects that it will be yet more difficult in twenty years’ time to describe or map sf as a discrete subject. Levy discusses at length books such as Mieville’s Perdido Street Station (2000) and Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon (1999), giving the sense that, more and more frequently, such boundary cases are central works.

One can quibble with individual judgments in Part I: Stableford, for instance, notes in passing that “Modern historians often attribute the origin of British scientific romance to the works of Mary Shelley, although the Gothic trappings of Frankenstein (1818) place it within the tradition of anti-science fiction and The Last Man (1826) is a magnification of her mourning” (10). The modern historians, of course, are deriving their argument from Brian Aldiss’s Billion Year Spree (1973), unacknowledged here. If Stableford wishes to register his disagreement with Aldiss’s theory and instead put forward his own, that’s all right. Indeed, his contribution convincingly lays out a wide range of proto-sf before Shelley. But given the importance of Aldiss’s arguments in the history of ideas about sf—and particularly his thesis that sf arose from the Gothic rather than being in opposition to it—it seems unhelpful for the neutral reader to be presented with such a cursory summary of them. Nonetheless, Stableford’s contributions, and the others making up Part I, are on the whole exemplary in their clarity and breadth of reference.

Part II is where my concerns start, both with the quality of the data provided and the methods by which it has been selected. It comprises an alphabetical listing by author of selected works of sf; as with the other bibliographies in Part III, especially worthwhile works are starred. The data from previous editions, and the data on more recent British sf, seem to me pretty impeccable, but those on the US side are less so. For instance, it’s worrying to be told that Live Without a Net (2003) was edited by Lou Aronica (which should be Anders); that it contains a story by John Meany (should be Meaney); or that there’s an another anthologist called Jonathon Strahan (should be Jonathan)—all on the same page (478). The listing for Ian R. MacLeod’s first collection (286) is not great, either: we’re told that it was called Starlight and published by “Arkham” in 1997. My first edition is called Voyages by Starlight and it was published by Arkham House in 1996. One might guess that there was a policy of abbreviating “Arkham House” to just “Arkham,” but in that case it’s rather confusing that Arbor House appears—sometimes but not always—as “Arbor.” (Golden Gryphon sometimes appears as “Golden Griffin,” but that’s a different kind of mistake.) Now, of course, any enterprise of this scope is going to have errors, and reviewers should be merciful lest errors magically appear in their own future work (or, worse, in the review pointing out the errors). But I spotted these problems during my first afternoon browsing the book, and a basic check on any of the plentiful online resources available now would have fixed them; they are far from the only such glitches. At the very least, anyone using the recent US publication data given in this book would do well to check it against other sources.

Another, smaller concern with Part II is the attribution of nationality. It’s understandable that Philip Klass (a.k.a. William Tenn) is listed as “US” since he was resident in America for the majority of his life. But, in that case, why is Charles Sheffield down as “UK/US”? And, if there’s a unitary entity called “UK,” why then is Ian McDonald listed as “Northern Ireland,” Jim Burns as “Wales,” or Alasdair Gray as “Scotland”? (The listing of Charles Stross as “Scotland” is even more puzzling: he was born in Leeds, England, and has lived in England for most of his life; I’m pretty sure he would not self-identify as Scottish.)

There is also a sense that the updates of the US information in Part II have been insufficiently well integrated with the material from previous editions. For instance, the bibliography of William Tenn’s work carries over entries on Tenn’s 1950s collections, plus his novel Of Men and Monsters (1968), from previous editions (409-10). It also contains entries for the NESFA Press volumes of Tenn’s complete sf, Immodest Proposals (2001) and Here Comes Civilization (2003), but does not make clear that these contain Of Men and Monsters. Instead, it’s noted that they contain “classic short fiction from one of the masters in the field.” So the reader interested in Tenn may end up seeking out the novel in addition to the NESFA volumes, quite unnecessarily.

The larger question here is that of the decision-making procedures that underlie the Part II listings. One would hope, in a general reference work, that editorial judgment calls would be kept to a minimum and that, when they were necessary, they would be taken as transparently as possible. So, then, on what basis are authors and works included in the listings? The rationale given is that “These books were judged the best, better, or historically important of the many thousands published since the 16th century” (ix). The same principles presumably apply a fortiori to those especially important books starred in the listings. So it’s judgment calls all the way down, and though Barron’s and his contributors’ tastes largely accord with mine, that’s not quite the point. When judgment calls are involved, there’s always the chance that the resulting presentation will seem skewed. To look at some obvious imbalances in the Part II book listings, Ray Bradbury has three titles selected (of which two are starred), Gene Wolfe has three selected (two starred), and Joanna Russ has four selected (one starred). By contrast, both Bruce Sterling and Kim Stanley Robinson each have seven selected (three starred) and Robert Silverberg has fourteen selected (four starred). In a sense, these statistics are partly reflections of authors’ productivity; it’s not surprising that an author as prolific as Silverberg has so much listed; Bradbury, for all his importance to the field, has published relatively few volumes of pure sf. But they also imply editorial judgments about the quality and/or importance of the authors’ works—canon-forming judgments, in short. And from them one would conclude that Robert Sawyer (four books selected, two starred) was more important to the sf canon than Bradbury, Russ, and Wolfe. This is not yet, so far as I’m aware, a widely held view.

So the Part II listings force the reader to consider for whom, and for what uses, the book is intended. Barron’s Preface sets out (xiii-xiv) a series of potential interest groups in bullet points: the casual reader, the devoted fan, librarians, collection development librarians, teachers, futurists, scholars, and so forth. It seems to me, though, that the book is overwhelmingly designed for librarians, for those looking to set up, develop, or manage an sf collection. Barron is, after all, a librarian himself, and this volume is published by Libraries Unlimited. Once one has accepted this, many of the oddities of the editorial approach fall into place. It explains, for instance, the paltry treatment of sf in visual media—relegated to a single chapter that merely lists films and television series but gives extensive (and excellent) bibliographic information on books about film and tv. It explains the emphasis on quality/importance in the bibliographies rather than completeness: Anatomy of Wonder is designed to steer libraries to the books they need to hold, and to answer the sort of questions librarians get about the books they don’t hold.

Indeed, an image springs to mind when considering how Anatomy of Wonder is structured. Many reference books are sufficiently dense with cross-references that a browsing reader can jump from entry to entry almost indefinitely, looping back and forth across the landscape being described. Anatomy of Wonder, by contrast, is structured like a river delta, flowing from a single stem (“science fiction”) through subdivisions of increasing fineness until it reaches the endpoint, one of its bibliographic listings. The endpoint, in other words, is always a single book. Although there are cross-references from many of the book entries, both to themes in the index and to other books, there’s a sense that they’re beside the point.

It’s in this context that one should see the annotated bibliographies that make up Part III. Most of its eleven chapters cover a particular subsection of the field (for instance, illustration, or magazines, or fandom) and, after a general discursive essay, provide listings of important works in the same format as Part II. And most of these chapters are pretty unimpeachable. Gary K. Wolfe, for instance, covering history and criticism, describes both the academic and non-academic sides with equal precision and fervor. But again, the limitations of a solely book-centered approach are evident in Chapter 12 on illustration, which inevitably focuses its coverage on those artists whose work has been collected. John Schoenherr, to take an obvious example, does not have a book listed here, and so it’s difficult to trace the huge impact of his illustrations for the serialization of Herbert’s Dune (1963-1964) on that work’s subsequent success.

Part III does contain, in Chapter 8, a new and comprehensive guide to online resources. There’s also a chapter on Research Library Collections of sf, and a set of listings of awards, series, and so forth. Here, one runs up against a limitation that Barron can do nothing about within the constraints of a book: no awards listing on paper is going to be as comprehensive or up-to-date as a properly maintained online one. (I’m thinking specifically of the Locus listing at <>.) And using other elements of Anatomy of Wonder, one repeatedly realizes how much more smoothly they would work with the possibilities of hypertext available.

One finishes this book wondering how long enterprises like this are going to be made manifest in books rather than electronically. As I write, a third edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has been announced in an online-only format. Many reference works in more general fields are moving to electronic formats. In a sense, this is as it should be: the person who reads Anatomy of Wonder through from start to finish is either someone with extremely peculiar tastes or a reviewer. One needs resources like this to hand for a particular piece of data at a particular time, not to ingest the whole history of the genre in one go. To repeat, despite my reservations, this is a laudable and invaluable work. If, at times, its approach feels narrow, this just reflects Barron’s entirely honorable adherence to his remit. But Barron’s Silverbergian dying fall rings true, and not particularly because of what has happened to him or to the genre: one cannot see a reference book shaped like this being produced twenty years from now. For the moment, within its limits, it deserves to be used.

Graham Sleight, London

Significant Stories Stylishly Told.

Mark Bould and Michelle Reid, eds. Parietal Games: Critical Writings By and On M. John Harrison. Foundation Studies in Science Fiction 5. London: Science Fiction Foundation, 2005 (c/o 23 Ranelagh Rd., London N17 6XY, UK). 358 pp. £18; $40.00 pbk.

“Parietal” references walls and barriers. Parietal Games, therefore—the title of Mark Bould and Michelle Reid’s anthology of criticism by and on M. John Harrison—are played on and with the margins. The phrase is apt for describing Harrison’s work, fiction and non-, as well as Bould and Reid’s collection. Since the beginnings of his reviewing for British sf magazines Speculation and New Worlds in 1968, not to mention his early novels The Pastel City (1971) and The Centauri Device (1974), Harrison has shown a deep interest in the edges of science fiction and fantasy, the places where they strain most against what they are and, in so doing, throw their strengths and weaknesses into sharper relief. In analogous fashion, Mark Bould and Michelle Reid trace Harrison’s work—first through a collection of eighty-six reviews and essays reaching from the start of his critical career in 1968 to as recently as 2004; then through a collection of articles and reviews that address his major work; and finally through a long interview with Harrison conducted in 2002. What emerges from Bould and Reid’s efforts is a portrait of a restless intelligence, a writer determined not to let anyone, including himself, off the hook.

The collection opens with a pair of essays: a relatively brief appreciation by Elizabeth Hand and a longer introduction by Mark Bould. Hand’s piece relates her discovery of Harrison’s fiction through 1982’s In Viriconium before moving on to summarize what she sees as the attitude underlying Harrison’s criticism. To do this, Hand compares Harrison to the teacher and the parent; he is the figure insisting that genre fiction mature. After a passing flirtation with the image of Harrison as the brash young iconoclast, Mark Bould’s essay picks up where Hand’s leaves off and examines Harrison’s critique of sf/fantasy in more depth. Like Hand, Bould argues that Harrison’s chief complaint about genre fiction is its immaturity, which manifests itself in naļveté about its own ideology and in stylistic paucity. For sf/fantasy to develop, as Harrison sees it, it must become self-conscious of its subconscious, so to speak, and it must embrace metaphor. Bould rounds out his essay with lively introductions to the critical articles on Harrison collected in the second part of Parietal Games.

At over two hundred pages, Part 1 of the book, Harrison’s reviews and essays, is its longest section; indeed, it could have been published on its own. In his introduction, Bould suggests that book reviewing might be viewed as the first draft of literary criticism/history; Harrison’s reviews are finely enough written to indicate that we are a good deal along from a first draft. Harrison’s work is arranged chronologically by publication outlet: we begin in May of 1968 with Speculation, move to New Worlds (November 1968-1975), then on to New Manchester Review (January 1979-January 1980), Foundation (June 1981-Spring 1983), The Times Literary Supplement (November 1990-September 2004), and The Guardian (August 2002-June 2004). Part 1 concludes with three essays, the first from The Spectator (June 1989), the second from Fantastic Metropolis (October 2002), and the third from The Third Alternative (Winter 2003). For those interested in following Harrison’s development as a critic, the overlap this arrangement creates is mildly jarring; a simple chronological listing would have been less so.

And what of that development? In her preface, Hand notes that from the beginning Harrison’s tone was one of easy confidence, neither overly adulatory nor professorially pedantic. She is correct, although a reader cannot help being struck by the passion, the intensity, of Harrison’s early reviews, especially for New Worlds. This is the book review as weapon in the struggle of the New Wave to assert itself—which is not to imply that Harrison’s first work was empty polemic. The reviews are always animated by a precise intelligence well equipped to articulate its fundamental concerns. But it is important to recognize the manner in which Harrison’s belief in the New Wave’s goals informs his responses. This accounts for Harrison’s dissatisfaction with most (American) sf/fantasy as poorly written and blind to its own adolescent themes, and his esteem for the New Wave as represented by such writers as J.G. Ballard, Michael Moorcock, and Thomas Disch, whom he sees combining stylistic and thematic subtlety with genre material.

By the mid- to late 1970’s, however, Harrison’s attitudes shift. He grows unhappy with the very writers he has championed, finding Ballard too icy and Moorcock a sell-out. We never learn what he makes of Disch’s later forays into satiric horror and children’s books. While Harrison’s early reviews embraced such writers as Alan Sillitoe and Vladimir Nabokov, his later reviews look increasingly to the commercial and critical mainstream, albeit the mainstream of Ian McEwan and John Barth. At the same time, the essays he is writing for New Worlds move from reviews to reflections on the nature of sf/fantasy. The concern with and critique of desire that lies at the heart of Harrison’s fiction comes increasingly into (his own) view, most directly in his essay on the profession of fiction in the Autumn 1989 Foundation. The piece lays out Harrison’s views—his view of his views—in depth, and as such is crucial for any approach to his work. By making this piece alone widely available, Parietal Games justifies its existence.

There is still more to Part 1. Harrison’s reviews continue through the1990s, into the new millennium, and remain typified by a restless sensibility. We see him returning to such writers as Russell Hoban, Will Self, and J.G. Ballard, and moving on to newer writers, including Alastair Reynolds and Justina Robson. While he admires the fine prose and narrative construction of an Ursula Le Guin collection, its stately self-control makes Harrison long for something more daring, more explosive. Harrison’s active, agile critical intelligence makes any attempt at a final statement of his views a mug’s game; that said, certain observations can be ventured. Harrison wants books that are sensitive to language, that employ and exploit metaphor. He wants books that dig beneath the surface of whatever tales they tell, that seek to excavate the significance of their material. Significant stories stylishly told: this might shorthand Harrison’s standards.

The phrase might be applied to Harrison’s work as well, something the critical articles and reviews that constitute Part 2 of Parietal Games make clear. The section begins with Rob Latham’s “A Young Man’s Journey to Ladbroke Grove: M. John Harrison and the Evolution of the New Wave in Britain,” which addresses itself to Harrison’s reviews and essays for New Worlds, although the essay ends with a consideration of Harrison’s 1989 Foundation essay on the profession of fiction. Latham argues for Harrison’s critical writing as articulating the New Wave’s concerns in a smart, forceful way; as it were, helping the New Wave see what it was (supposed to be) doing. Latham deftly traces the development of Harrison’s views, tracking his growing discontent with most sf/fantasy and the concurrent growth of his own aesthetics. As such, Latham’s essay nicely bookends Mark Bould’s introduction.

Next follow four essays on four of Harrison’s novels. In the first of them, “Form and Content in The Centauri Device,” Rjurik Davidson reads Harrison’s early space opera as a deliberate and systematic overturning of the form’s conventions. Starting with Harrison’s disappointment with Samuel Delany’s 1968 space opera, Nova, Davidson places The Centauri Device as a response to Delany’s revisiting the form, contrasting Delany’s recuperative intentions with Harrison’s de(con)structive ones. Davidson’s examination of the novel focuses on Harrison’s decision to make his protagonist passive, a “loser,” and the novel’s political situation one in which the apparent enemies warring for control of the galaxy are more alike than not. This creates a tension with the conventions of the space opera, which depends on active heroes and clearly defined differences between rivals. In the end, Davidson judges The Centauri Device to be compromised by its inability to resolve these tensions, but no less interesting and relevant for that.

Nick Freeman’s “‘All the Cities That Have Ever Been’: In Viriconium” treats the most recalcitrant of Harrison’s Viriconium series (The Pastel City, A Storm of Wings [1980], In Viriconium, and Viriconium Nights [US 1984; UK 1985]). Freeman directs his attention to the allusions that inform In Viriconium, particularly the early poetry of T.S. Eliot; to its presentation of the relation between art and politics; and to its view of fantasy. Like Davidson before him, Freeman links Harrison’s work to a broader literary context. His discussion of the novel’s debt to The Waste Land (1922) is outstanding, and clearly makes the case for the importance of Eliot’s poetry to the book (and, one suspects, to Harrison’s fiction in general). Freeman’s consideration of the relationship between art and politics in the narrative addresses the ways in which Harrison complicates that apparent opposition, and includes an interesting reading of the novel against the rise of Margaret Thatcher. The essay concludes with a final contextualization, placing In Viriconium in relation to Harrison’s global critique of fantasy-as-escapism, closing by paralleling Harrison’s work with that of Samuel Beckett (a comparison, one hopes, that will inform Freeman’s next essay on Harrison).

From one kind of fantasy to another: Graham Sleight’s “Hard Very Severe: M. John Harrison’s Climbers” concerns Harrison’s 1989 novel of rock climbing, arguing for its centrality to Harrison’s oeuvre. Sleight begins his essay with a critical metaphor, comparing genre fiction to a frame—whose purpose, he contends, is to manage the reader’s expectations and so provide him/her with a source of consolation. For Sleight, that consolation is one of the hallmarks of genre fiction and it is the source of Harrison’s uneasiness with sf/fantasy. Harrison’s desire to leap the bounds of consolation, Sleight proceeds, is at the base of Climbers, and he reads the novel as an almost systematic refusal of consolation in any form, Harrison’s great “No.” Thus, while the novel is Harrison’s most mimetic-naturalist, it remains haunted by the very fantastic it so resolutely refuses.

Haunting lies at the (absent) heart of Harrison’s 1992 masterpiece, The Course of the Heart. Graham Fraser’s “Loving the Loss of the World: Tęsknota and the Metaphors of the Heart” approaches the novel through the lens of tęsknota, a Polish word Fraser draws from Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation (1989) and whose meaning is, approximately, nostalgia accentuated by loss and longing. Tęsknota, Fraser argues, informs The Course of the Heart not only thematically but also formally, and the rest of his essay—the longest in the collection—is devoted to mapping this argument. To aid him in this project, Fraser employs the philosophy of Jan Zwicky, which he uses to focus the ways in which tęsknota functions in the novel. This leads Fraser to a dazzling discussion of the function of metaphor, and of the metaphoricity of the Coeur (the novel’s invented lost kingdom). The only substantial complaint that can be made about Fraser’s essay is that it is too short; there is more to the narrative he could have explored. Its ending, in particular, would be worth his attention. But this is a testament to the richness of Harrison’s novel and of Fraser’s reading.

Following the collection’s longest essay, two shorter pieces: John Clute’s review of Light (2002) for Foundation, and Farah Mendelsohn’s essay on Light upon its winning the 2002 James Tiptree, Jr., Award. Clute’s review astutely sorts out the novel’s various strands and relates it to the body of Harrison’s work. Clute suggests that the novel marks a change in the direction of Harrison’s fiction: the world, Clute contends, has caught up to the abstemious vision of Harrison’s previous work, and Light represents him flinging himself off in a new direction; Clute provocatively describes the book as a prayer. Mendelsohn’s essay, in keeping with the concerns of the Tiptree Award, examines Light’s representations of gender. Mendelsohn focuses her discussion on the novel’s interrogation of gender myths, praising Light for its portrayal of gender identity as a process. Despite their brevity, both Clute and Mendelsohn’s essays indicate the abundance that Light offers the reader.

Parietal Games concludes with an interview of M. John Harrison conducted by Mark Bould in early 2002. The conversation begins with Bould focusing on 1979-1980 as a turning point in Harrison’s fiction, then expands to range across his fiction from old to new. (It is interesting to note how much Harrison’s work is defined by its turns, its transitions.) In this regard, the interview is the perfect capstone to the anthology as a whole: first we have Harrison as critic of other writers (and occasionally himself); then we have critics on Harrison (and occasionally other writers); then we have Harrison on himself, with other critics and writers joining in. Much of what Harrison says fascinates; his comments on Climbers, The Course of the Heart, and Signs of Life (1997) shed new light on our understanding of what he was up to in each of those novels, while his preview of Light, then on the verge of publication, offers insight into what drew him back to space opera.

For those interested in Harrison’s work—happily, a growing number— Parietal Games is essential; it sits as the cornerstone to future critical approaches to him. With so much bounty on display, any complaints may be so much carping, but a couple are worth mentioning. It is not clear whether Part 1 of the collection represents Harrison’s complete collected non-fiction or only a generous sampling of it, a distinction it would have been useful to know and that could have been included easily. And because of the overall quality of the essays in Part 2, one cannot help wondering if it would have been better served by separate publication, with additional essays that could have taken us further into Harrison’s work; at the very least, discussions of his short fiction would have been welcome. A larger selection of essays might have meant the opportunity to challenge Harrison’s conceits and concerns more: the tension between his critique of fantasy and his esteem for metaphor, for example; or the (possibly Oedipal) rejection of so many of the pre-New Wave genre writers.

In all fairness, Mark Bould does indicate that Parietal Games began as two projects before the decision was made to combine them. Anyway, its overall quality vastly outweighs any complaints about it. In bringing us this volume, Mark Bould and Michelle Reid have done a great good thing, for which they should be richly congratulated. Let us hope its success spurs further investigation of M. John Harrison’s work.

John Langan, CUNY Graduate Center

Fun with Dick and Jane.

Emannuel Carrère. I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick. 1993. Trans. Timothy Bent. New York: Picador, 2005. xv + 315 pp. $15 pbk.

One has to wonder how Philip K. Dick would have performed on the Voigt-Kampff test. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), his best known novel, the test is administered to analyze responses to a morally shocking stimulus and thereby determine whether or not the subject in question is an android. Because Dick could not speak without revealing a deep distrust of his own thought process, one that made him feel that he was on some level prohibited from speaking the truth, the result would have been revealing. What would such a long look into the author’s eyes have yielded? Dick would have been among the last to presume that the test would have affirmed his humanity.

Emmanuel Carrère tries to provide us with just such a long look in I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick. As Carrère’s title indicates, he is interested in exploring what was going on inside Dick’s head. Timothy Bent’s translation of Carrère’s work is a pleasure to read, both engrossing and well written. This is a biography that often reads like a novel and it takes quite a few imaginative liberties, which is what one might expect from Carrère, the author of The Moustache (1986; trans. 1988) and The Adversary (2000). Because it is far from traditional scholarship, this is a work that will annoy the accountants: it has neither an index nor footnotes. Likewise, nothing in the richly detailed life story with which Carrère provides us is attributed to sources. We are told only that he benefitted from Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions (1991) as well as from Anne R. Dick’s Search for Philip K. Dick (1995), which was still in manuscript form as Carrère wrote his book. The chief source for Carrère’s quasi-biography, however, seems to have been his own somewhat speculative imagination.

Carrère’s method is to work from events in Dick’s private life, reading them as key points of departure for Dick’s fictions. That Dick searched instinctively one evening in darkness for a light cord in the bathroom instead of hunting around for the wall switch, and that he subsequently realized that someone might be cruelly rearranging the world behind his back, becomes the moment at which Time out of Joint (1959) was conceived. Carrère reads this early and relatively innocuous scene of disorientation as the moment the figure of Ragle Gumm first appeared to him, and thereby one of many events during which a dislocation or a crisis worked its way into Dick’s pages. Carrère touches in this way on many of the important events in Dick’s life, each well known to Dick scholars, including the marriage to Anne, Dick’s reliance on the I Ching, and the appearance of a steely god in the sky, one with metal slots for eyes. Carrère compellingly addresses both the paranoia that preceded and followed the robbery of Dick’s home in Berkeley in 1971 and the mad path that led him to conclude that Stanislaw Lem, who praised his work, was actually conspiring against him. Fortunately, Carrère plays down the LSD use, and for better or worse opts not to make too much out of the so-called 2-3-74 experiences, which have recently been extensively explored in Gabriel McKee’s Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter (2004). In I Am Alive and You Are Dead, the more than forty novels Dick wrote take on the form of veiled diary entries. Although the book is not research in a traditional sense, such readings—the insertion one by one of Dick’s works in a biographical context—will be of use to scholars.

According to Carrère, chief among the biographical moments that shaped Dick’s world-view was the revelation he had about his sister while working on The Man in the High Castle (1962). I Am Alive and You Are Dead begins with the birth of Philip and Jane Dick and an account of how she died at six weeks from malnutrition. As may be evident from the title, the motor of Carrère’s book is Dick’s insight that it was not Jane who died on that day but he. It was he who was “lying at the bottom of a grave in a Colorado cemetery” for forty-eight years, while Jane “in the world of the living, was thinking of him” (277). For Carrère, the conceit that Dick understood his life to be a dream projected on the living from the dead is significant. It seems to provide Carrère with an occasionally monocausal explanation for Dick’s inspirations. Early on in the book, Carrère elaborates the discovery that “the real world lies not on this side of the mirror, but on the other. This side—the side we live on—is the reflection.” He adds:

Phil had known this since he was a small boy, and he also knew something else, something that no one knew: he knew who lived on the other side of the mirror—it was Jane.... In the world on this side of the mirror, the one people called the real world, Jane had died and he had lived.... Perhaps Jane’s world was the real one; perhaps he was the one living in the reflection, in a world that had been re-created for him to obscure the terrifying fact that he was surrounded by the dead. (68)

For Carrère, this single thought lies behind the scrawled words, “I’m the one that’s alive, you are all dead” in Ubik (1969), and it underpins the slippage between worlds in The Man in the High Castle, especially in relation to the book within the book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy.

In explaining all of this, one has to point out that Carrère offers readers an ordering principle, and that is something of which Dick himself would have been suspicious. Dick distrusted systems, as they always seemed to restrict him or to close in around him. The project of thinking entirely along Dick’s lines might be less systemic and a bit messier than Carrère lets on. While Carrère takes Dick’s paranoia seriously, he does not let it undermine his own work’s coherence. This biography is ultimately linear and, except for the occasional authorial aside (“as I was beginning to write this chapter ...”), it employs only a cool and level-headed third person. Because Dick’s novels were primarily in the third person, one can say that there is an attempt on Carrère’s part to imitate Dick’s style, but this keeps him at a remove from the author’s psyche. While it might have been perceived as hubris had he written from a first-person perspective—how could he presume to know or to represent what was going on in Dick’s mind?—the more conventional approach he has chosen prevents him from doing justice to the excesses occasioned by some of Dick’s problems. Dick’s bouts with mental illness are frequently treated as two souls beating in his Faustian breast, rather than as the suicidal pathology that they often were.

The other aspect of Dick’s thought that is overshadowed by the book’s linearity—that it is more a biography than it is a novel—is that in Dick’s fiction, as Christopher Palmer has pointed out in Philip K. Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern (2003), there is no outside to the simulacrum. As Palmer argues, there tends always to be something which even the last of the hypothetical explanations in Dick’s work will not explain. Efforts to get to the bottom of things in his narratives are always already deconstructed. To really journey into Dick’s mind, as suggested by Carrère’s title, would mean taking up this challenge, and the results might be more distorted and disturbing than are here represented. As philosophical as Dick was, his distrust of systems was all the more aggressive. In this way, it becomes difficult to say with any credibility that he was definitively Gnostic or Christian or even a leftist. One can certainly suggest that his style of reading and writing, which was anxious about the imposition of systems, often manifests this very resistance. It is, one could say, paranoid. Systems are not only interpretive (philosophical or religious), but social as well. The ideas were personified insofar as they had the aim of systematizing his thought, and were therefore not to be trusted. The moment that they assembled into an order was the moment that their conspiracy was complete. The curtain would then have to be pulled back, always revealing still greater abuses of power in order that one might start over again.

This is a difficult standard for prose to achieve, but it was one that Dick set for his own work. He aimed at what he described as a shock of “dysrecognition” that for him was the highest goal of science fiction. He reached beyond bizarre twists such as those that might appear in the final moments of The Twilight Zone; his writing aimed to provide a thoroughgoing vision of the whole of society as if through a dark looking glass, or what Fredric Jameson would refer to as a totality. For this reason he is of continued interest to Jameson, who wrote about Dick in an essay in these pages in 1975 (“After Armageddon: Character Systems in Dr. Bloodmoney,” SFS #5) and again recently in his Archaeologies of the Future: The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions (2005). One after the other, Dick produces new totalities and then chips away at their boundaries. To borrow terms from Theodore Adorno, one could say that he presents us with the whole and then reveals that whole to be false through and through.

Although Carrère opts not to step as far as he might have into Dick’s world, he communicates a good deal of the author’s pathos. While he does not get into Dick’s mind, he certainly reveals something of his heart. This compelling work sheds light on the solitary delusions that pervade Dick’s writing and the conditions that led the writer to revere Heinrich Heine’s poem “Atlas,” a brief ode to a poor god who carries that which cannot be carried and whose own heart longed to break.

—Brad Prager, University of Missouri, Columbia

Dispatches from the Cloning Frontier.

Maria Aline Salgueiro Seabra Ferreira. I Am the Other: Literary Negotiations of Human Cloning. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 85. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2005. 304 pp. $79.95 hc.

The twenty-first century will allegedly become the “Biotech Age” and science fiction, with its predictive powers of imagination, may become a litmus test for more or less diverse scenarios in which cloning occupies a major position. Fantastic literature, of course, has been exploring just such scenarios for a long time. Questions of artificial personhood in general and clones in particular have been among science fiction’s major preoccupations for several decades now at least (with a number of ur-texts such as Brave New World [1932] going back even further), and the number of narratives in the field seems to be growing by the day. Until now, however, there were very few critical resources concerning cloning in literature—a handful of chapters and sections in larger publications devoted to cloning (e.g., sections of one of the chapters in Helen N. Parker’s Biological Themes in Modern Science Fiction [1984], several essays in Biotechnological and Medical Themes in Science Fiction edited by Domna Pastourmatzi [2002], and Hilary Crew’s essay in the April 2004 issue of The Lion and the Unicorn). I Am the Other seeks to fill this critical void—a task in which it largely succeeds.

In the introduction Ferreira sets her goal as the investigation of “the topic of human cloning from the point of view of literary history and criticism” (1). Although she never actually defines what range of technologies and methods she means by “cloning” and some of the narratives she uses definitely stretch standard definitions, her approach seems to work much better than relying on a narrow understanding of what cloning is.

The tone for the entire volume is promptly set in the first and the most theoretical chapter. Its title, “‘The Hell of the Same’: From Plato to Baudrillard,” may be somewhat misleading as it does not cover much between Plato and contemporary theory (Freud and Benjamin make appearances with an aside or two to Nietzsche). Instead, it suggests a number of angles from which cloning can be approached, such as the notions of simulacrum, authenticity, doubles, and narcissism. These terms constitute a relevant set of parameters for any discussion of the issue, although their presentation in the book is neither chronological nor systematic. Ferreira also makes it clear that “many ramifications implicit in the subject of cloning were already present in, and indeed have informed the work of, numerous authors from well before the issue became of general concern” (1)—this can be said also of the philosophical and literary works she uses in the book.

The same non-chronological pattern is replicated in the following six chapters, which are structured around a range of issues related to cloning. Chapter two concentrates on matriarchal utopias such as Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora (1890), Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland (1914), and Suzy McKee Charnas’s Motherlines (1978), and the questions of gender otherness inherent in these works. The choice of texts clearly demonstrates Ferreira’s focus on the above-mentioned parameters rather than on full-blown depictions of cloning in more recent fictions. The third chapter analyzes the fantasies of male pregnancy and womb envy, which Ferreira posits firmly in the context of cloning as a channeling of creational ambitions, by-passing the woman’s body. The main texts here are largely from outside genre sf: Sven Delblanc’s Homunculus: A Magic Tale (1965), Peter Ackroyd’s The House of Dr. Dee (1993), and Lisa Tuttle’s “World of Strangers” (1998). The fourth chapter looks at several narratives portraying clone societies, such as Pamela Sargent’s Cloned Lives (1976) and Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976). The fifth is primarily devoted to the Huxley-Mitchison-Haldane triangle—in it the author locates and reads Mitchison’s Solution Three (1975) and Haldane’s The Man with Two Memories (1976) as reactions to the repressive image of cloning in Brave New World. The sixth chapter is devoted to another literary dialogue—that of Russ’s The Female Man (1975) and Fay Weldon’s The Cloning of Joanna May (1989). Finally, the seventh chapter returns to the more theoretical stance of the opening chapter in its discussion of the sexual aspects of cloning and its potential as a source of empowerment for women.

While the selections of the primary texts are in most cases predictable, their contextualization within contemporary theory remains to my mind the strongest and the most valuable asset of I Am the Other. All readings are firmly predicated on the works of such philosophers and theorists as Irigaray, Lacan, Kristeva, Haraway, Firestone, Baudrillard, and Bettelheim, and in most cases it would be very hard to argue with Ferreira’s theoretical takes on the cloning narratives she discusses. A wealth of secondary information can also be found in the extensive discursive endnotes, which refer to an impressive number of less famous— though, judging by their descriptions, no less valid—titles from cultural studies, ethics, philosophy, and other relevant fields. These notes create a very dense webbing of cultural and literary theory around both the discussed fictions and the issue of cloning itself.

It is, however, in the midst of these secondary readings that the first of the two shortcomings of I Am the Other resides. While extending the discussion beyond the immediate descriptions of imaginary technologies of cloning and into such areas as identity, reproduction, and psychoanalysis appears to be very useful, I feel that the bias of the entire project is decidedly (although certainly not entirely) towards feminist theory, gender issues, and sexual politics. Central as they are to any discussion of cloning, these angles are nevertheless not the only ones and the study would certainly benefit from some attention to the broader political and scientific background on which narratives of cloning also draw heavily. The chapter on Huxley, Mitchison, and Haldane is a good example of such bias: the detailed analysis of the dialogic exchange among the authors fails almost entirely to address the social context of the early twentieth-century disputes about eugenics and social Darwinism in which Haldane’s original writings and Huxley’s response to them were located. Nor is there elsewhere in the volume any discussion of cloning as a racial and ethnic metaphor. Ferreira clearly (and from a certain perspective, understandably) shuns the real-world political and scientific contextualization of the narratives she discusses but, at least at times, this theoretical focus detracts from her otherwise excellent readings.

The other deficiency is perhaps even more serious, at least in light of the study’s subtitle. While I Am the Other includes discussions of many foundational texts of cloning, there are also omissions here, some of them glaring. That John Varley’s less famous cloning stories or David Brin’s recent Kiln People (2002) are not included is understandable, as the book does not aspire to being a checklist of cloning literature, but the absence of C.J. Cherryh’s (whose name is misspelled in the bibliography) Cyteen (1988), one of the most elaborate and complex texts addressing the technological, social, and psychological issues of cloning, is a major shortcoming. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), considering the author’s broad definition of cloning as evidenced by the selections of other texts, would be another ideal addition to the discussion.

All in all, however, I Am the Other is a welcome addition to cloning scholarship. It may skirt some issues or texts, but it also offers fresh readings of others that seem to have been critically flogged to death. Above all, it constitutes an extremely useful theoretical framework for future work with other literary texts in the field, including those omitted here. As such, the study will probably remain a standard reference work.

—Pawel Frelik, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland

“Facilis descensus Averni.”

Peter Fitting, ed. Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology. Early Classics of science Fiction. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan UP, 2004. xii + 224 pp. $29.95 hc.

Several years ago I was peripherally involved in negotiations between the Special Collections Department of my university’s library and an antiquarian book dealer who was brokering what was advertised as a “mind-boggling” private collection of 1500 fiction and nonfiction books on subjects related to the Hollow Earth (HE) mythos. The collection belonged to an “eccentric bachelor” who had accumulated it over five decades of obsessed research on the subject, and represented, the dealer promised, the most complete archive of its kind in the world. The annotated list of titles in the collection was notably deep and diverse, and included many works that I—who, like Peter Fitting, have long taken an interest in this vein of imaginative writing—had never read nor even heard of. Unfortunately, negotiations soon broke down: the subject matter of the collection was judged too obscure and the asking price too steep for a state-funded institution, even for the opportunity of becoming in one fell swoop the magnetic pole of research in a minor but robust genre. The list, which we were prohibited from copying, had to be returned to the dealer. Like Pluto and Proserpina, twin suns within the Earth conjectured by eighteenth-century Scottish physicist John Leslie—Verne’s good Dr. Clawbonny mentions them with obvious sympathy for the idea in The Adventures of Captain Hatteras (1864)—the collection dissolved into the luminous air.

But such errant bodies have a way of coming around again. Fitting’s fine new edited collection, Subterranean Worlds: A Critical Anthology, is another in Wesleyan University Press’s series Early Classics of Science Fiction. Under the careful hand of general editor Arthur B. Evans, that series has reissued new translations and editions of major and lesser-known works by Verne, Flammarion, Grainville, Robida, Stapledon, and others, and has rescued from oblivion several works of nineteenth- and twentieth-century pulp and adventure fiction in handsome presentations with scholarly introductions and critical apparatus. Fitting’s collection continues this promising trend. His selection of texts is broad and representative of the highs, lows, and overall oddness of the HE traditions. A few important texts from the periods on which he focuses are missing—see below—but even so, there is no other modern survey that can match this collection for its breadth and critical acumen. It is the most important contribution to serious analysis of HE literatures since Walter Kafton-Minkel’s quirky and entertaining Subterranean Worlds: 100,000 Years of Dragons, Dwarfs, the Dead, Lost Races and UFOS from Inside the Earth (1989) went out of print. (The demise of anarchist publisher Loompanics Unlimited suggests that Kafton-Minkel’s book has forever gone the way of Leslie’s binary lights.)

Fitting’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for his material is evident in the opening chapter, “A Bluffer’s Guide to the Underworld: An Introduction to the Hollow Earth,” in which he sketches a history of scientific and literary arguments for an inner world. These he anchors to their most influential modern proponent in the Americas, John Cleves Symmes, Jr., whose 1818 manifesto “Circular Number 1” declared that the Earth is not only hollow but its interior habitable. In the following decade, Symmes and his supporters petitioned the US Congress to fund expeditions to explore the inner world and establish diplomatic and trade relations with the peoples living there. Several petitions were formally submitted by members of both chambers of Congress; none made it as far as a floor vote, but these early discussions of polar exploration played a role in the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. Jeremiah Reynolds, an early and eloquent supporter of Symmes’s idea, appears to have been Poe’s source for the physical cosmography of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838).

Other major figures in scientific and hermetic HE thought are introduced in this chapter, including Jesuit mystic Athanasius Kircher, Edmund Halley (better known for his comet), and Cotton Mather (better known for his theories of witchcraft). Excerpts from their writings on the HE are appended to the end of the chapter. Fitting surveys pioneering critical writing on HE fiction, including important studies by Alexander Krappe, Régis Messac, and Pierre Versins, and frames principal traits of HE traditions and the three kinds of inner-world topology they describe: a network of interconnected caves, a vast hollow space—Versins called these the gruyère and calebasse (gourd) types, respectively—and the single passage through the globe, usually from pole to pole.

Each of the following nine chapters is comprised of an excerpt from an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century literary work representing these traditions, preceded by a brief introduction that highlights the work’s originality and influence on other writers. These chapters are the treasure-trove of the book. They include texts by Charles de Fieux (Lamékis, 1735–38); Ludvig Holberg (The Journey of Niels Klim to the World Underground, 1741); Robert Paltock (The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, 1750); A Voyage to the World in the Center of the Earth (Anonymous, 1755); Robert-Martin Lesuire (L’Aventurier françois, 1782); Casanova (The Isocameron, 1788); James McBride (Symmes’s Theory of Concentric Spheres, 1820); Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery (1820, by “John Seaborn,” whose real identity is unknown); and Collin de Plancy (Voyage au centre de la terre, 1821). Fitting’s introductions are concise, evocative, and scrupulously annotated. Each would serve very well as an opening to reading the unabridged texts. The excerpts suffer somewhat from the usual effects of compression and segmentation, but they are in general representative of their sources. Translations into English are fluid and accurate.

Chapters 11 and 12 excerpt passages from Poe’s Pym and Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864). These chapters, while as well presented and documented as those before, seem superfluous. On the one hand, it might be unthinkable to exclude from such a collection such as this these monuments of HE fiction; on the other, they are so celebrated and widely available that even casual readers of this field will be familiar with them. This space in the collection might have been more profitably devoted to lesser-known texts, with Poe and Verne relegated to the introduction, notes, and recommended reading.

For example: Alexandre Dumas’s unfinished universal history Isaac Laquedem (1853) and George Sand’s metaphysical fantasy, Laura: A Journey in the Crystal (1864). Laquedem is notable for its fusion of classical myth, Christian teleology, and HE topoi: Laquedem, the Wandering Jew, travels to the inner world to demand of the Fates their assistance in resurrecting Cleopatra, whom he hopes to bring along on his immortal travels. On the way down, his guide, the first-century Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana, lectures him on geologic history in passages reminiscent of Lidenbrock’s lectures to his nephew Axel in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth (1863). Sand’s novel is a rare example of an imagined voyage to the inner world. In a magical trance conjured by his cousin Laura, the hero Alexis enters the crystalline interior of a geode that seems also to open into an entire world. Later, Alexis is lured by an evil alchemist (perhaps from the crystal world, perhaps not) to a lost paradise at the north pole, where an opening to the actual inner world is discovered. In the final chapters, Alexis is revealed to have imagined some or all of his adventure in a fever of unrequited love for Laura. (As Fitting observes, Margaret Cavendish’s 1666 Blazing World includes a similar involution of space at the pole that seems a voyage inward but is really another kind of dimensional shift.) Dumas, who claimed to have worked on the plot of Laquedem for twenty years, was instrumental in getting Verne’s writing career started. Sand, who was Verne’s friend, may have discussed with him the idea of a foray into HE fiction; she complained in letters to friends that his novel bore “a little too much” resemblance to Laura. Something interesting is burrowed in this imaginative warren.

In the American branch of HE traditions, John Uri Lloyd’s Freemasonic fantasy, Etidorhpa, or the End of Earth (1896), might also have been included. Etidorhpa’s inner-Earth inhabitants—humanoid but blind, faceless, sexless, with blue skin like an amphibian’s—are the first of the tradition that seem truly alien. The novel is noteworthy also for the strange physics of the inner world: the more deeply the hero (named “I Am The Man”) penetrates into the Earth, the less he weighs, the less often his heart beats, the less often he must breathe, and the younger he appears. In the novel’s final chapters he crosses a vast inner sea to its other side (going where Verne’s protagonists could not), and tumbles into an abyss at the Earth’s center. In a somersault reminiscent of Dante and Virgil’s at the end of Inferno (c. 1307), he lands upright on the hollow globe’s interior surface. Early editions of the novel were copiously illustrated by J. Augustus Knapp; these images are the most beautiful of any modern HE text. (Subterranean Worlds includes a small number of illustrations from excerpted works, most of which were not originally published in illustrated forms.)

In Fitting’s defense: any survey of HE literature must exclude some significant works. Complete copies of many texts are exceedingly difficult to find. Much of the “nonfiction” in the field is comprised of credulous regurgitations of a few precursors. The fiction is equally out of balance; much of it is simply very bad and of interest only to the completist; even a minor genre has its margins. In any case, Poe and Verne are a slam-bang way of bringing the major circuit of the collection to a close.

The final chapter, “After Verne: Later Developments,” includes excerpts from four late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century texts: Edward George Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race (1871); Mary Lane’s Mizora (1890); Willis George Emerson’s The Smoky God (1908); and the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar novels, At the Earth’s Core (1914). It is regrettable that Fitting did not push the outside date of his samples a little further, as he had to omit texts that might have demonstrated the vitality of HE well into the mid-century. Among these: William Reed’s The Phantom of the Poles (1906), mined by every HE fantasist to follow; pulp adventures such as Robert Ames Bennet’s Thyra, A Romance of the Polar Pit (1901) and A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool (1918; published by Wesleyan in 2004 in a new edition with an introduction and notes by Michael Levy); Cyrus Teed’s wholly original “religio-scientific” treatise Cellular Cosmogony, or the Earth a Concave Sphere (1922; the Earth is hollow and we live on the inside); and Herbert Read’s The Green Child (1935), the most lyrical and simply strange HE novel written in English.

But by then Admiral Byrd had flown over the North and South Poles (1926, 1929) and, mysteriously, “to that land beyond.” Gene Autry and his Radio Ranchers were battling evil Muranians at the movies every Saturday morning (The Phantom Empire, 1935; the first and probably the last musical/western/sf HE adventure). And Ray Palmer’s magazine Amazing Stories would soon unleash the mad, bad world of the “Shaver Mystery” on the American reading public (1947): Deros (“detrimental robots”—“the fifth column of hell!”), Teros (“integrative robots”—humanity’s defenders), and the UFOs they piloted had come out of their chthonic shadows. The popular imagination of the globe would never be the same again. A representative sampling of American pulp and serial short fiction on these themes before and after Shaver’s concept-quake would itself fill a volume at least as long as Subterranean Worlds. An analysis of the HE mythos in fascist thought in the US and Europe would fill another: Peter Bender’s Hohlweltlehre theory, a Teutonophile version of Teed’s inside-out theory, found adherents in Nazi inner circles; as Fitting notes, fantasies of an inner world populated by Aryan supermen are a common element of contemporary neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denial narratives. The Deros are still very much with us.

Fitting has (re)opened an invaluable portal on these curious and compelling realms. If much more archival and critical work remains to be done on these subjects, his collection has secured the idea that these veins are worth digging in. Subterranean Worlds is essential reading for fans and scholars of HE alike.

-—Terry Harpold, University of Florida

Thirteen-Minus-Ten Ways of Looking at an Anthology.

Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, eds. So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp P, 2004. 270 pp. $19.95US; $24.95CAD pbk.

Anthologies serve many purposes and the use one has in mind can dramatically affect the way one sees a particular volume. As I read Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan’s anthology of postcolonial fantasy and science fiction, I found myself trying on at least three ways of seeing their offering—given time, I suspect I could add enough other perspectives to reach Wallace Stevens’s blackbirdy thirteen. I’m looking at the book as a reading anthology, as an indication of changes within the sf genre, and as a possible teaching tool.

First, an anthology is a bouquet of texts offered for the pleasure of the casual reader. Ideally, it includes pleasures both expected and unexpected. So Long Been Dreaming doesn’t include a lot of familiar names among its contributors—no one as well known in genre circles as Hopkinson herself—but it does have a surprising number of stories that fit squarely within sf’s repertoire of themes and modes. There are spaceships, aliens, exotic planetary ecologies, and extrapolated futures both utopian and dystopian. A fantasy reader would find fewer familiar tropes, but there are magical objects, supernatural beings, prophecies, and other representative items from fantasy’s stock-in-trade. In other words, the reader who might be alarmed by the “postcolonial” part of the subtitle, fearing a bunch of magic realist puzzles or a series of lessons in political correctness, will find instead a set of stories that draw on genre traditions but take them in intriguing new directions. These are, for the most part, stories that make effective use of familiar narrative frames and settings, even if they are not being served up by big names in the field.

I called these not merely familiar experiences, but familiar pleasures. A second way to read the volume is as a way of watching sf grow as a genre through the continual re-use and re-invention of its core ideas. The pleasure is in seeing an older trope suddenly made strange, in stepping onto a well-worn path only to find it leading to completely new vistas. Many of the stories in this volume do just that. For instance, Nisi Shawl’s entry “Deep End,” the first in the book, throws us onto a spaceship heading for a colony world. It complicates the scenario by making the colonists not just prisoners, but copies of prisoners: people whose consciousnesses have been downloaded into clone bodies as both punishment and public service. The postcolonial turn in the story comes with the protagonist’s awareness that she and her fellow prisoners are basically a transport system for their masters’ genes. They undergo the painful re-embodiment and the labor of establishing a new world, only to turn that world over to the offspring of their bodies, which is to say, of those who stayed comfortably at home. It is a new sort of slavery, as the characters come to realize: “Cheaper than your average AI, no benefits, no union, no personnel manager. Mammies” (20).

At the other end of the volume, Tobias S. Buckell offers us, in “Necahual,” a fresh perspective on the alien-invasion story. There are aliens and invaders, but the aliens stay off-stage, having established themselves on half of a colony planet, manipulated the genes of the human settlers on that half, and used their semi-human protegés to set up a neo-Aztec civilization. The invaders are also human, liberators from a human League sent to take revenge on the aliens and reestablish a “pure” humanity. Ironically, the liberators themselves have been altered, not genetically but through cybernetic implants that make them into deadly warriors. Buckell shifts ground on the reader in several ways. First, the categories of Us and Them, Human and Alien, are completely mixed up. Second, he provides an invasion within the invasion: a virus that spreads backward from the invaders to their civilization has the effect of cutting the cyborg warriors off from their implants. And, third, he offers an extra option that belongs to neither combatant. The half of the planet that is not Azteca is a peaceful Caribbean-based culture. Its people have been passively resisting their warlike neighbors for generations and have begun to alter their culture from within. “Consider,” says one of the peaceful New Anegadans to his would-be liberator, “before you came we were changing the Azteca from the bottom up, and inside out. The Azteca a hornet’s nest, and we blow some sweet smoke their way. Now you throwing rocks” (260-62). The familiar story—Buckell even makes explicit reference to The War of the Worlds (1898)—becomes a new study in confrontation, with the victory going to those who act indirectly and with a deep understanding of their opponents. Certain political leaders might do well to read and think about the implications.

In general, I found the stories that worked along well-established narrative lines to be the most effective, but that may have to do with my own cultural background and reading habits, which favor such tales. Besides the two stories already mentioned, some of the science-fictional standouts include Andrea Hairston’s “Griots of the Galaxy,” Larissa Lai’s “Rachel” (which movingly creates a point of view for the android heroine of the movie Blade Runner [1982]), Celu Amberstone’s “Refugees” (which puts all of humanity in the position of many uprooted First Nations and Native American people), Carole McDonnell’s “Lingua Franca,” and Ven Begamudré’s “Out of Sync.”

The fantasy offerings include a saucy lesbian retelling of the Selkie legend by Suzette Mayr; a Central-American reincarnation tale by Maya Khankhoje (a bit too wish-fulfillment-ish for my taste); a science fantasy with a Pied Piper conclusion by Sheree R. Thomas; an allegorical journey by Wayde Compton that blends John Bunyan with a bit of James Thurber; and a nice historical fantasy by Opal Palmer Adisa in which slaves on a Caribbean island literally go underground, flattening themselves to two dimensions to hide out among tree roots and preserving traditions until the island is liberated. My favorite in this category is a time fantasy called “Delhi,” by Vandana Singh. Singh’s story is, just as the title indicates, about the city of Delhi, in times past, present, and future. The central character can see and briefly interact with people and scenes from different periods. He is looking for a woman he has seen only on a computer-generated printout, a woman he is told represents his fate. In the meantime, he elects to work for the oracle that prevented his own suicide: the computer; its technician Om Prakash, “BSC Physics (Failed), Delhi University”; and the unseen Pandit Vidyanath, the computer’s builder, who “works for the city” (86). We eventually figure out that all the characters, and everyone who creates connections between lonely people, indeed “work for the city.” Delhi itself is the divine force that engineers its own renewal. The story is engaging, neatly worked-out, richly detailed, and thematically strong without being too obvious.

But if I were really only a casual reader, taking pleasure in stories like “Delhi,” I would not be writing this review. Inevitably, I found myself looking at the anthology from the perspective of a teacher of fantastic literature. Would I use this collection in a course, and if so, how? In a course on postcolonial literature, this volume would offer a useful corrective to the impression that postcolonialism equals multi-generational, magical-realist, anti-modern epics like Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (1986). These stories also redefine science and technology in very interesting ways. In an sf course, they would act as a nice counterbalance to writers such as Heinlein or Card, who always seem to see cultural collisions and scientific exploration from an American point of view.

Although the volume does not have a lot of scholarly apparatus, the brief introduction by Hopkinson and afterword by Mehan, along with relatively detailed introductions to each of the sections and to the individual stories, offer enough guidance to both instructor and student to make for a satisfactory teaching unit. Mehan’s section is the more pedagogical (not surprisingly, since his background is academic). He offers definitions and rationales that could be taken up and tested in class:

Postcoloniality includes those of us who are the survivors—or descendents of survivors—of sustained, racial colonial processes; the members of cultures of resistance to colonial oppression; the members of minority cultures which are essentially colonized nations within a larger nation; and those of us who identify ourselves as having Aboriginal, African, South Asian, Asian ancestry, wherever we make our homes. (269)

Something of the same teacherly impulse comes out in the division of stories into “The Body,” “Future Earth,” “Allegory,” “Encounters with the Alien,” and “Re-Imagining the Past”: these, along with editorial comments, invite particular readings of the stories and of their collective impact. I resisted a few of these invited readings, but more often found them helpful. I can imagine combining each division with a more familiar sf text for a lesson in comparison and contrast—but one that should not degenerate into a set of rote exercises, because the stories themselves will not allow too-easy categorization.

Hopkinson’s comments appeal to me, not so much as teacher but as scholar, especially because I have been struggling with issues related to non-European science fiction and cultural appropriation in fantasy. Her introduction is especially quotable: “Arguably, one of the most familiar memes of science fiction is that of going to foreign countries and colonizing the natives, and ... for many of us, that’s not a thrilling adventure story; it’s non-fiction, and we are on the wrong side of the strange-looking ship that appears out of nowhere. To be a person of colour writing science fiction is to be under suspicion of having internalized one’s colonization” (7). I’d like this and other statements from the introduction entered into the scholarly record as Exhibit A whenever anyone starts taking for granted that science fiction is necessarily American, Eurocentric, or culturally conservative. As Hopkinson says, echoing Audre Lord’s famous dictum, “In my hands, massa’s tools don’t dismantle massa’s house—and in fact, I don’t want to destroy it so much as I want to undertake massive renovations—they build me a house of my own” (8).

This anthology is a very fine house with eclectic detailing and inventive décor. I was grateful to be given a chance to sublet it for a season, and I recommend it highly

—Brian Attebery, Idaho State University

Delayed Flash.

David Ketterer, ed. Flashes of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from The War of the Worlds Centennial,19th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy 107. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2004. 255 pp. $92.95 hc.

Although this year’s (2006) conference of the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts is the twenty-seventh annual such outing, astute observers will no doubt note that the most recent volume of papers from IAFA is drawn from the nineteenth conference, which took place eight years ago, in 1998. While there are always delays in getting together books of conference proceedings—the volume from the 1999 conference (reviewed in SFS #95 by Elaine Ostry) also appeared in 2004—the inordinate length of this particular delay is an inescapable factor to keep in mind for any scholars who might be misled by the publication date. Bernadette Bosky’s insightful interview with Peter Straub, for example, took place years before he published four of his most important novels, including the Stephen King collaboration Black House (2001); and Brian Aldiss, in his essay, mentions a forthcoming novel which has long since been published. There is a story behind this, of course, familiar to the contributors and several regular attendees of IAFA, but for the purposes of this review, suffice it to say that series editor C.W. Sullivan and his assistants have earned themselves a measure of credit that goes far beyond the normal responsibilities of a series consulting editor.

Fortunately, since the general theme of the conference involved celebrating the centennial of Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898), a few more years might not make much of a difference in commenting on that novel, and the coincidence of this volume appearing when Wells is again in the news for the Spielberg film adaptation may lend it an unexpected currency. But as with all IAFA volumes and conferences, the putative theme is more in the nature of a suggestion than an organizing principle and, of the twenty-one pieces assembled here, only four directly concern the Wells novel. (We could, in a stretch, count David Ketterer’s introduction as a fifth piece, since it discusses the imagery of flashes of light in Wells’s novel that gives this current volume its title.) Patrick Parrinder undertakes a characteristically careful and informed discussion of the Martian invasion largely from the point of view of their military tactics and intelligence, while Richard Law explores how Wells takes advantage of point of view to lend a degree of irony to the novel. Both Alexander Irvine (who received the IAFA’s graduate student award for his paper) and John C. Hawley revisit the now-familiar theme of Wells’s critique of imperialism. While none of these essays offers a radical new reading of the novel, or even adds much new research, they offer convincing analyses of some of the reasons for the work’s continued popularity. (A brief note on the book’s woefully inadequate index may be necessary here, by the way: for a book whose very subtitle proclaims a Wells anniversary, it’s rather startling to find that Wells himself is completely omitted from the index, as are the titles The War of the Worlds and A Modern Utopia. There are, however, odd entries for alien races such as “Gethenians” and “Hwarhath” and a peculiar one for “Traitor.”)

The second group of six essays is rather coyly grouped under the heading “H.G. Wells and Science Fiction,” even though only Claire Hirshfield’s analysis of the Samurai legend in A Modern Utopia (1905) actually deals with Wells at all, and in fact this is a general selection of pieces on sf. The most insightful is Andy Duncan’s persuasive argument in defense of C.M. Kornbluth’s much-maligned “The Marching Morons” (1951), in which Duncan carefully points out how earlier critics (including myself) may have misread or overlooked ironic markers in that story. Richard Erlich’s detailed comparison of several versions of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War (1975), together with a discussion of Forever Peace (1997), provides no such dramatic reinterpretation, but is a meticulous piece of the sort of bibliographic scholarship still much too rare in sf studies. Wendy Pearson also looks at specific texts—Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and Eleanor Arnason’s Ring of Swords (1993) from the perspective of queer theory; I found her observations about Arnason more useful, but that may be because LHD has long since been turned into such a specimen for critics that it’s almost hard to remember the original novel as novel. Sylvia Kelso’s more meditative piece on race and gender in sf from the perspective of an Australian woman is appropriately thoughtful, as is Brian Aldiss’s essay on the possibility of imagining a utopia in a disillusioned age, which segues into a précis of some of the premises of his own then work-in-progress, White Mars (1999).

By part three, “The Art of Peter Straub,” we’ve gotten pretty thoroughly away from any pretense of Wellsianism. This section includes only one critical piece—Patricia Moir’s discussion of the role of trauma in Straub’s “Blue Rose” series of novels and stories—along with the aforementioned interview of Straub by Bernadette Bosky and Straub’s own freewheeling and often quite funny conference guest address, which posits everyday life as a kind of alternate reality but ends with a serious point about the importance and integrity of “fictional space,” illustrated by a brilliantly analyzed excerpt from Raymond Chandler.

The final section is the largest, with eight essays, and as usual with these IAFA volumes, it’s also the most eclectic and the one with the most visibly strained overall title—“Fantasy, Reality, Poetry—More Flashes of Insight.” Although these potpourri sections inevitably take on the aspect of academic garage sales—good pieces that we can’t fit into our designated spaces—they are also the sections that most accurately capture the sense of serendipity that one often gets when attending an IAFA conference. Here, for example, is a piece by Juliette Gilman on the background and sources of the Anatole France tale “La Messe des Ombres” (1890), which I now intend to seek out and read because of its newly demonstrated relevance to the study of the fantastic; and Robert Geary’s persuasive argument for the relevance of the little-known Anne Radcliffe novel Gaston de Blondeville (1826). Here is Joan Bridgman’s essay linking Ballard’s Crash (1973) to the death of Princess Diana, which seemed so much like a Ballard invention even at the time. Someone was certain to do this essay sooner or later, but Bridgman does it with a genuine apprehension of Ballard’s aesthetic. Even those papers, common to conference presentations, that consist more of strung-together observations than fully developed theses, have some value in pointing directions for research, although they also are in danger of becoming dated in a late-appearing book such as this. Kim Selling’s discussion of how the Middle Ages are portrayed in modern fantasy and Judith Johns’s similar brief survey of fantasy dragons fall into this category, as do an essay by Katie Harse on how Dracula’s adversaries, in the Stoker novel, form a kind of secret society, and Leonard A. Cheever’s comparison of moon-landing poems by Auden and Neruda. Another paper that suffers from the delay, and the only one in this section to deal significantly with theory, is Judith Kerman’s brief for the liminality of fantastic literature, or for the usefulness of liminality as a theoretical construct in discussing fantasy. It’s an approach that, under various different rubrics, has become so commonplace in the past decade that Kerman’s argument seems far less original than it might have appeared in 1998.

By now, of course, we are leagues away from anything to do with Wells or anniversaries and very much back into the territory of the unfocused conference miscellany, which has unfortunately characterized these Greenwood IAFA volumes since they first began appearing in 1985, despite the presence of an impressive number of strong essays scattered among the eighteen volumes. The very breadth and eclecticism that gives the conference itself the aspect of a bustling intellectual marketplace mitigates against any effort to trap this magic in a book, and it’s not surprising that the Greenwood series, whose individual volume prices have soared to $92.95 with the current entry, should finally be phased out after nearly twenty years. Given the challenges of editing such volumes and the consequent delays—an earlier IAFA volume was delayed by nine years, and even the very first volume in this series, drawn from the inaugural 1980 conference, didn’t appear until five years later—there is a reasonable question as to whether these volumes continue to serve a demonstrable need, with the IAFA’s own Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts sometimes vying for excellent papers, and with such other venues as SFS, Extrapolation, and Foundation available as well. On the other hand, these volumes will continue to serve, for a long time to come, as a valuable chronicle of a remarkable annual conference.

—Gary K. Wolfe, Roosevelt University

Allohistorical Hitlers.

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld. The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005. xii + 524 pp. $30 hc.

Gavriel Rosenfeld’s The World Hitler Never Made is a successful survey and a less successful analysis of alternate histories concerning Nazism. Rosenfeld seems new to science fiction: although he cites a wide range of relevant sf and sf criticism, he seems ill at ease with the field, citing Karen Hellekson on estrangement in sf but not Darko Suvin, for instance (note 8, 399) and hoping “to convince readers of alternate history’s legitimacy as a subject of scholarly inquiry” (4). The result is a book that provides an invaluable resource in its overview of allohistorical treatments of Nazism, including summaries of almost every book, movie, and story on the subject, well over one hundred in all, but that does not offer an insightful analysis of either these particular works, the specific subject of alternate histories of Nazism, or alternate histories in general.

The book is very clearly organized, perhaps rigidly so. The introduction and conclusion cover much the same ground and, together, offer all the analysis of the central chapters without going beyond their discussions in any significant way. Thus, one could read the final chapter to grasp the entire argument of the text. The central chapters are sorted into three parts: “Part I: The Nazis Win World War II,” with subheadings for British, US, German, and other treatments of the subject; “Part II: Alternate Hitlers,” with subheadings for “fugitive” Hitlers and for worlds in which Hitler either never existed or never completed his plans; and “Part III: Hypothetical Holocausts,” the shortest section, with only one chapter, which deals with works that explore the Holocaust itself. Within these sections, Rosenfeld sees four phases: from 1945 to the mid-1960s, an “era of moralism,” further subdivided into an “initial cold war phase” from 1945 to the late 1950s and a “rediscovery phase” from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s (375-76); an “era of normalization” from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, during which stories use “universalization, relativization, and aestheticization” to de-emphasize an “ethically conscientious” representation of the Nazi era (377); and a “post-cold-war phase” (378, emphases in original). Rosenfeld uses the chapters to summarize suitable works and describe how they conform to these observed patterns.

As for the significance of the observed patterns, Rosenfeld’s conclusions are rather disappointingly limited. He finds that the evolution of alternate histories of Nazism “illustrate the fading intensity of the fears and fantasies that originally inspired them” (380); they “suggest a growing sense of apathy towards preserving the lesson of the Nazi past in memory” (382); and they “tell us less about the Nazi past than about the shifting concerns within the nations that have produced them” (383). As for the value of alternate histories themselves, Rosenberg first lists some of the dangers they may pose in their exploration of Nazism: “diverting our attention away from real history,” “distorting what little people already know of the past,” “confusing readers about their [the writers’] underlying motivations or agendas for speculating about the past,” and “trivializing the past” (392-93, emphases in original). He nevertheless recognizes that these works can also serve as “a method of removing distortions, reinvigorating interest in the past, and advancing genuine historical understanding” (393). None of these insights is startlingly new or useful.

The real value of this book is in its thorough summary of many alternate histories of Nazism. There is no place here for secret histories such as Osamu Tezuka’s graphic novel series Adolph (1996), but 116 alternate histories on the subject are exhaustively described. Again revealing Rosenfeld’s unfamiliarity with sf, however, a comparison between his bibliography and the entry under “Hitler Wins” in John Clute and Peter Nicholls’s The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993) reveals that Clute has listed half a dozen other relevant texts, so, as thorough as it is, the survey is not as complete as an elementary search in sf sources would have allowed.

My own interest is in sf treatments of genocide and I have previously claimed that very few alternate histories deal with the Holocaust although many have explored Nazism (in “Utopia, Genocide, and the Other,” Edging Into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation, ed. Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon, UPenn, 2002, 204-16). I was happy to see Rosenfeld’s “Appendix: Alternate histories by theme, era, nation, and medium” confirm my claim—out of the 116 works he surveyed, Rosenfeld found that only six, or five percent, dealt with “Hypothetical Holocausts” (518). His chapter on “Hypothetical Holocausts” suggests several works I plan to seek out as I continue thinking about the subject. Sf scholars with interests touching upon the subject matter of The World Hitler Never Made will also find useful summaries, bibliographies, and statistics, as I did, but might want to remember to check the Encyclopedia as well.


Grandiose, Yet a Good Read.

Francis Stevens. The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy. Ed. Gary Hoppenstand. Bison Frontiers of Imagination. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2004. xxv + 404 pp. $19.95 pbk.

Gary Hoppenstand’s compilation of Francis Stevens’s eight short stories and novellas in The Nightmare and Other Tales of Dark Fantasy is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror studies that focuses attention on influential women writers. For decades, the names of Merritt and Lovecraft have dominated the early twentieth-century dark fantasy scene, and Hoppenstand himself candidly admits that “I argued [in a previous monograph] that Lovecraft was the inventor of modern dark fantasy ... but I was wrong” (x). In his introduction entitled “The Woman Who Invented Dark Fantasy,” Hoppenstand makes clear his hope that “Stevens’ innovative and engaging storytelling talent will entertain a new generation of readers” (xxiv) and that she will take her deserved place among the existing pantheon of dark fantasy writers.

Hoppenstand wants his readers to do more than merely enjoy Francis Stevens as a dark fantasy author, however—he wants us to understand her. His short but extremely informative introduction details biographical information about Stevens’s life, her publishing history, her influence on her colleagues in contemporary dark fantasy (including the aforementioned Merritt and Lovecraft), and the place of her stories in the literary culture of the early twentieth century. He offers his readers frank and honest critiques of Stevens’s stories; his claims that “[h]er known fiction is uneven and not without serious flaws” (xii), that her tale “‘Behind the Curtain’ disappoints in the end” (xxi), and that her novel Avalon (1919) is “[b]urdened by a confusingly large cast ... [and] fails in its attempt at being a thriller” (xv) dispel any notion that he is romanticizing the writer or her work. Rather, he discusses how she attempts to use the formulaic clichés and stereotypes popular in fiction at the start of the twentieth century to “subvert her readers’ expectations” and “suit her thematic intent” (xxi). This critical approach, as well as his descriptions of Stevens’s work as “feminist fantasy” (xx), as “a heady mixture of adventure and fantasy” (xxiii), as “lyrical” (xxii) and “absorbing” (xxi) serve to heighten interest and educate readers about this obviously important and “forgotten author” (xii).

Hoppenstand’s statement, however, that Francis Stevens is “the woman who invented dark fantasy” (xxiv), is perhaps misleading—or at least somewhat reductive. Despite the broadness of this claim, it becomes clear in his introduction that Hoppenstand is limiting his focus to modern American writers; he discusses the history of the “dime novel” and pulp fiction in American culture and how “pulp authors ... were celebrated by the mainstream literary community” (xi-xii). Using his own definition of dark fantasy—“a type of horror story (possibly containing science fiction and fantasy elements) in which humanity is threatened with destruction by hostile cosmic forces beyond the normal ken of mortals” (ix)—we can see elements of dark fantasy in texts such as Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590) and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), in which humankind is threatened by just such “hostile” and “cosmic” forces. His claim, too, that “[w]ith the single exception of Francis Stevens, female authors were not publishing speculative fiction in the early twentieth century” (xvii) ignores the influence that nineteenth-century English women writers such as Anne Radcliffe and Emily Brontė, whose Gothic tales include fantastical elements found in speculative fiction, had on later authors. Hoppenstand does give lip service to Mary Shelley and her foundational work Frankenstein (1818), but for some reason (perhaps because she is English, or because she was not writing during the twentieth century, though her novel was, of course, still being published) does not include her in the group of female speculative-fiction writers whose books were being published in the early twentieth century. These large claims remind me somewhat of Harold Bloom’s controversial statement in his book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human (1998), that there was in literature no true sense of “personality” or “individuality” of character before Shakespeare’s works (xviii)—a statement that discounts an enormous body of literature with compelling evidence to the contrary, including the collected works of Geoffrey Chaucer. I am in no way deprecating Francis Stevens’s contribution to the world of speculative fiction (or, for that matter, Shakespeare’s ability to create remarkably individual and humanistic characters); rather, I would have preferred to see Hoppenstand take a broader look at how Stevens’s work grew out of earlier influences and traditions.

The stories themselves are worth reading for any lover of dark fantasy, women’s fiction, gothic romances, or horror—in part, their charm stems from the fact that they can appeal to broad and varied audiences. “The Labyrinth” (1918), for example, contains elements of gothic romance, while “Friend Island: Being the Veracious Tale of an Ancient Mariness, Heard and Reported in the Year A.D. 2100” (1918) has a more distinct sf flavor. The first page of each story is decorated with a black-and-white illustration by Thomas L. Floyd, a nice touch that adds to the experience of the book, and the tales are engaging and enjoyable throughout.

—Sharon Emmerichs, University of Missouri-Columbia

The Actual Qualities of Imaginative Things: US War/Militarism and Science Fiction.

Darko Suvin and Salvatore Proietti, eds. US Science Fiction and War/Militarism. Special issue of Fictions: Studi Sulla Narrativitą. 3 (2004): 1-166. Pisa: Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali, 2005. 166 pp.€ 75,00 pbk.

The title of my review is a play on the title of Gilbert Sorrentino’s novel Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things (1971), and although the novel has nothing directly to do with the work under review, it seems apt nonetheless, because the actual qualities—US war/militarism—of imaginative things—sf fiction, films, and comics—are one of this short but strong special issue’s major focal points. Indeed, all seven of the essays featured in US SF note, at least in passing, the mutually constitutive relationship between US war policy and much sf on war/militarism, and several of them focus heavily on this theme. The other major theme common to the essays collected here is the historicization and explication of this subgenre’s eternal return to the romance of the bourgeois individual or, in Gwyneth Jones’s words, “the secret appetite for romance and sentiment that characterizes the ‘militarist’ audience” (73). So, triumphal jingoism on the one hand and triumphal individualism on the other—these two poles, according to the authors of this volume, constitute the pernicious binary of most popular US sf on war/militarism, as well as US war/militarism itself.

The issue begins with a very brief preface by Fictions guest editor Darko Suvin (who explains here that the brevity of the preface complements the length and breadth of his essay contribution), followed by H. Bruce Franklin’s thoughtful, well-informed article (he has worked within the military-industrial complex, “the belly of the beast” [9], as Suvin puts it in his preface) titled “War is Peace: Washington’s Final Science Fiction Solution” which considers the generative relationship between US military and weapons systems policies and sf. It offers a short historical overview of the “final solution” fantasy—the weapon to end all wars, an ultimate weapon that would protect us once and for all from our enemies—common to both US military policy and science fiction. Franklin goes on to focus on current US military strategy, the perpetual war, “a world of imminent warfare where the land, sea, air and heavens swarm with America’s invincible weapons” (17). He demonstrates some clear lines of influence between “The Project for the New American Century” and its proposed military strategy in Wolfowitz and Co.’s Rebuilding America’s Defenses (2000) and the sf of Roy L. Prosterman, “[a] key figure in actual late 20th-century US policy” (16). This is a very good article on a topic about which Franklin has done much scholarship: the “actual qualities” of US military policy and how they are informed by the (sometimes terribly) “imaginative” visions of sf.

Franklin’s article is followed by a brief but highly informative article by Peter Fitting, “Notes on Future War in Science Fiction Movies,” which offers a useful approach to the analysis of war in sf film from WWII to the present. Fitting identifies, defines, and offers analyses of “the ways in which war, and the representation of war in film, has changed” in its treatment of “mercenaries,” “future weapons,” “permanent warfare,” and “the militarization of space” (21-22). As Fitting notes, “there are not actually that many images of future war in the SF film of the last few decades,” but these images “are alive and well in ... violent video games” (emphasis in original, 22). Fitting also includes a very useful annotated filmography of “Around Fifty” (31) of the most influential sf films treating the topic of war/militarism.

Next, Franco La Polla’s “Star Wars: Armed Conflicts and Science Fiction Films Today,” like Franklin’s piece, also focuses on the “actual qualities/imaginative things” theme. He links thematic trends in sf films on war to some watershed moments in US history, especially after the 1950s, and offers some insightful, if not very well-organized, readings of how events such as the assassination of JFK shaped US public perception of war/militarism, which in turn shaped its filmic representations of the topic. In the JFK example, for instance, La Polla points out that such films took a turn towards seriousness and an “admonitory component,” a “dramatic key when dealing with this theme.” He notes that in such a sociopolitical climate, “it would have been difficult to repeat the supremely intense and grotesque performance of Dr. Strangelove” (41). He also makes the important point that, beginning in the late 1990s, “it is the Earth that is the target of destruction, or we are indeed on another planet ... but just to halt a threat that sooner or later would approach our own” (42)—a phenomenon that he attributes to a dearth of US enemies with a cultural and political coherence (as in the Cold War) that can be easily tapped. In the absence of such an enemy, argues La Polla, in an interpretive move similar to Gwyneth Jones’s, sf films on war/militarism have tended to downplay their specifically sf features to window dressing and focus instead on the more vague, comforting, and universal theme of the triumph of the individual.

Abraham Kawa’s “Our Worlds at War: Or, How We Learned to Avoid Reality and Turn Our World into a Comic Book” is as excellent as its clever title promises—it delivers a theoretically-grounded reading of impressive scope on war/militarist themes in “a medium [that] thrive[s] on the destruction of cities, planets, and multiverses” (52). Kawa shows us how, in the world of US comics and the US collective imaginary, we have arrived at a time when the “actual”-ities of war/militarism and the “imaginative” productions of comic books and US war/military practice become not so much mutually productive as indistinguishable: “[e]ven politics make great spectacle, and political campaigns are staged within entertainment templates. It is not that entertainment art cannot deal with issues, but that issues have become entertainment” (61). Kawa offers an instructive comparative analysis of British and US comics, noting that “[t]he British have been where the Americans are, and consequently British creators treat global hegemony as a thing of the past” (54). Meanwhile, US comics continue to reflect, albeit in an increasingly abstract manner in the wake of 9/11, “a ‘comicbookfication’ of the real world, with Americans as superheroes and terrorists as supervillians. The price of treating political reality as a comic book myth is a false, criminal innocence” (59; my emphasis).

Gwyneth Jones’s essay, “Wild Hearts in Uniform: The Romance of Militarism in Popular Science Fiction,” combines the critical acumen, occasional wry humor, and attention to writerly craft that characterize her theoretical work, making it eminently trenchant and readable. “Wild Hearts” delineates and focuses on “the pause,” “from the end of the Cold War to 9/11, the period when the SF heartland had no iconic external enemy” (69). Like Kawa, Jones eschews consideration of the “exceptional” or “canonical” to focus on fictions that are marketed to and read by mass audiences. Her contention, which she demonstrates through careful readings of several novel series marketed under the rubric of war/militarist-based sf, is that the fictions of this period are marked by their strong focus on romantic bourgeois-individualist themes. In those novel series of “the pause,” “[t]he drama of the individual’s engagement with the military machine of the state is foregrounded, and passionately valorized; or else milked for pathos to the extent that submission itself becomes a perverse thrill” (69). She pays attention to “the feminine takeover of popular military SF series,” noting that such series authored by and/or featuring women protagonists are also strongly characterized by “the secret appetite for romance and sentiment that characterizes the ‘militarist’ audience” (73). For Jones, “the pause” is a temporal space in which extrapolations of the “actual” problem of war and/or the military state apparatus are virtually absent, except as they affect the besieged or triumphant individual. Jones’s article ends with a short but comprehensive review of popular military sf series and some speculations on the future of a genre that is now being written in the context of “new external enem[ies]” (80).

Salvatore Proietti’s “Saving the American Body at War: Towards a History in Science Fiction” treats many of the same texts analyzed by other essays in this volume. Proietti’s interesting and original slant on this topic is his focus on the human warrior’s body: for this essayist, the human body—its protective gear, its vulnerability, its supplements, its fate in US sf on war/militarism—is a powerful metaphor whose meanings change with historical events. Proietti argues that the warrior’s body is a site of dialectical tension that must be understood as both “a form of empowerment (the transformation of the body into a site of unrestrained power) and disempowerment (its transformation into pure instrumentality)” (84). Ultimately, whether empowered or disempowered, the body at war in much sf on this topic supports historically contingent US nationalisms—the body stands in for the body politic: its “fortification of personal ... boundaries is the starting point for expansive agency” (88). Proietti’s essay provides the most systematically comprehensive history/lineage of the subgenre in the issue. Furthermore, his focus on the body and his focus on “middle-range” (84), as opposed to either canonical or pulp, fiction on the topic allows for intelligent readings of a variety of sf texts, some of which are ambiguous and complex.

Finally, guest editor Darko Suvin’s contribution, “Of Starship Troopers and Refuseniks: War and Militarism in US Science Fiction,” is a politically astute and often poetic meditation on the problems and the future of the US war machine and how it is both reinforced and problematized in sf. Unlike the other essays collected here, Suvin’s is primarily focused on war and the future of the US military/industrial apparatus: the insightful and informative readings of sf texts on war/militarism serve to reinforce, rather than constitute, his preoccupation with the problem of the “actual”: here, the mass destruction of people and of geographical—as opposed to outer—space. As is increasingly the case in Suvin’s work, the urgency of the political here-and-now takes precedence: it is the actual as estranged and re-presented by the sf imaginative space that requires our attention and, ideally, our intervention. For Suvin, “SF has as [sic] its best always been a very interesting early warning system carrying cognitions and understanding otherwise accessible only in very specialized ways” (107). Suvin’s most salient contribution to the conversation on US sf on war/militarism is a succinct structuralist schema. Here he explores

the two souls or stances within US SF[:] ... at one extreme is ... the stance that mass slaughters, with all weapons imaginable and regardless of the military-civilian divide, and a concomitant militarization of society are inevitable for the salvation of the commonwealth ... the other extreme is the stance that while dangers and lures of mass warfare and militarization are real and have deep systemic roots, they ought to be resisted in all possible ways. (113)

Suvin goes on to explore the dialectical tensions of this divide, concluding that “[j]ust like its readers, US SF has not found a believable way out of war and militarism, but at its best it has given us precious articulations and signposts” (148).

The final piece in the volume, a modestly titled “Select Bibliography of Criticism in English (With An Appendix on Italian Sources)” compiled by Suvin and Proietti, offers an invaluable resource for further research on this volume’s increasingly important topic.

—Alcena M.D. Rogan, Gordon College

Expecting Something Taller.

Gary K. Wolfe. Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. Harold Wood, UK: Beccon, 2005 (75 Rosslyn Ave., Harold Wood, Essex RM3 0RG, UK). 415pp. £15 pbk.

A review is an instant, almost contemporaneous, response. It is written usually to a deadline, which leaves no time to consider other responses to the work, and to a word limit, which means most works are liable to get no more than a few hundred words of attention. Given that the review, by its nature, should be as fresh as the book under consideration—publishers send out review copies as part of their advertising budget—there can be no assumption that any readers of the review will have had any opportunity to read the book, so a significant proportion of those few hundred words will be plot synopsis. The more experienced the reviewers, the more chance there is that they will have read enough, either of other books by the same author or of other books of a similar type, to provide some measure of context, but there is no guarantee of this. There is no guarantee, even, that the same reviewer will, over time, be in a position to review all the volumes in a linked sequence of books; and if the reviewer has a regular column to fill, there often won’t be the time to go back and reread in order to establish that context. Given this, and the other limitations of a reviewer’s art, why should anyone want to publish or read a collection of reviews?

Specifically, why should we want to read Soundings, which brings together every review column Gary K. Wolfe wrote for Locus between 1992 and 1996? These 60 columns (he didn’t miss a single month) cover some 262 books, so they represent pretty well all the problems we confront with collections of review columns. The remorseless pace of reading four, five, six books each month clearly dictates the shape of each column: one or two favored books get a little more attention, one or two others get shorter shrift at the end of the column. This volume also contains the survey of the previous year that he, along with other Locus reviewers, contributed regularly each February. The fact that these annual round-ups refer almost exclusively to the books Wolfe has reviewed elsewhere in the volume suggests how little reading beyond the immediate demands of reviewing he was able to manage. This should, by rights, be a fairly negligible contribution to the ever-expanding library of sf criticism. That it isn’t says something about Wolfe’s qualities as a reviewer, though it also leaves us hungry for the more substantial work that has been too long awaited. He is not—unlike, for instance, David Langford—an unfailingly amusing writer. One does not read these reviews for their wit, though he does have an elegance of phrase and a waspish humor that will, every so often, enliven a review. Commenting upon the “Tontoese” spoken by some of the characters in Ganwold’s Child by Diann Thornley (1995), for instance, he remarks, deadpan: “As usual, the high-tech galactic empires may lack the simple dignity of backwoods aliens, but they control all the indefinite articles” (258).

But if such turns of phrase suggest that Wolfe can skewer a mediocre work in a sentence, his greater talent is to be measured. (In his introduction, Wolfe defends the practice, common in Locus, of reviewing only good books on the reasonable grounds that the reviewer only has so much time available, but it is nevertheless a practice I deplore. If such collections of review columns serve a greater critical purpose, it is as a snapshot of the field at any one time, but such preselection skews the picture.) There is, throughout this volume, a sense that whether he is praising or damning a book, Wolfe is being absolutely and unequivocally fair. That is a rare talent.

He even has the ability to change his mind upon mature reflection, which all too few reviewers have the inclination or the opportunity to do. We see, for example, an early equivocation about what Jonathan Lethem was doing in his first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music (1994), turn into a more positive appreciation as he reviews subsequent books. This volume owes a lot to John Clute’s most recent collection, Scores (2003): it has the same publisher, a cover illustration by Judith Clute, even a similar title, but what he has most intriguingly taken from Clute is the interpolation of later comments in square brackets. Alas, it is a device he uses too sparingly, so that when, after perhaps a hundred pages of absence, the square brackets suddenly reappear, we have almost forgotten their purpose. If we are going to have such interpolations, I can’t help feeling that they should perform some more substantial duty than telling us, in a review of the second edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), that the subsequent Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) would, of course, “absorb many of these lacunae among fantasy writers” (86)—such an observation really provides no parallax view of the work under review, or even of Wolfe’s changing perceptions of it.

While this ability to change his mind is interesting, it is when he has the opportunity to develop a perspective on a writer over time that Wolfe really shines. Over a series of six reviews, for instance, he builds a fascinating analysis of Orson Scott Card’s work during the period, particularly the Homecoming series (1993-96). By referring back to earlier columns, he is able to construct something resembling a coherent critical response, noting in particular how “What started out promisingly with the scale and sensibility of Arthur Clarke, overlaid with Card’s trademark concern with moral behavior, seems instead to [have] given way to a simplistic contest of good and evil, as if the Hardy Boys had wandered into Against the Fall of Night” (237). But the writers who really catch Wolfe’s attention are those who have brought a measure of literary sensibility to traditional hard sf, such as Greg Bear and, particularly, Gregory Benford. Sailing Bright Eternity (1995) is given more space that just about any other book in this collection, and Wolfe uses the space to develop one of the most engaging and informative readings of Benford that I have come across in a long time. It is clear that Wolfe should be writing a major critical article, or even a book-length study, on Benford’s work, but in the absence of that, this nascent essay will have to do. Analyzing the novel “as a kind of summative statement of Benford’s career to date” (269), Wolfe does what is almost unheard of in a review column of this nature: he harks back to the way characters and themes have developed since the first novel in the sequence, In the Ocean of Night (1977), takes a sidelong look at Against Infinity (1983), even though it is not part of the sequence, measures Benford’s ambitions in Stapledonian terms, and probably devotes no more than half the review to Sailing Bright Eternity itself.

In the end that is why we read Wolfe’s collection of reviews. Not because of the lasting value of the books considered—as is the way of things, the vast majority of the books have faded from ken, and it can be a strange thing to read ten-year-old reviews of books that mean nothing to me whatsoever; nor because they really contextualize that era in science fiction—despite the formidable number of books covered, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the science fiction that came out and Wolfe still manages to miss many of the major works and award winners of the time; nor yet because the reviews have a lasting value in their own right—few do. No, we read this collection of reviews because we are missing more extensive critical work from Wolfe, and these reviews at least serve to remind us that when he is really on form, when he really engages with a book, we are all the richer for the insights.

Paul Kincaid, Administrator of the Arthur C. Clarke Award

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