Science Fiction Studies

# 5 = Volume 2, Part 1 = March 1975

Darko Suvin

Introductory Note

I cannot now recall with any precision the reason which prompted SFS to announce a special issue on Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin, except that we had been getting all kinds of signals from our students and colleagues that the proof of SF criticism is in making sense of the major contemporary SF writers in its main domain, the USA, and that two of these are Mr. Dick and Ms. Le Guin. The quantity and quality of the response to our announcement has, I believed, confirmed that we were on the right track, so much so that we have had to change our plans to allow for two special issues: the present one for Dick and SFS #7 (November 1975) for Le Guin. This has also meant that some interesting proposals have had to be turned down for lack of space and time or because of thematic overlap. But I hope that SFS readers will agree that quite enough remains to make for a searching and provocative issue. I am particularly pleased that through the kind cooperation of Mr. Dick and Professor Willis E. McNelly we are able to present here both an unpublished essay by Dick himself and a survey of the Dick manuscripts at CSU Fullerton.

Several of our Editorial Consultants have urged me to comment on the fact that Dick is a prophet honored much more abroad than in his own country. The contributions to this special issue attest to that too. Not counting the bibliographies and Dick's own contribution, there are seven essays, four written by prominent European SF scholars (of whom three are also prominent SF writers, a happy union!), and three by North American academics strongly influenced by European, especially French and German, criticism, and leaning more toward comparative literature or theory of literature than toward classical Eng. Lit. Particularly in France, but increasingly in Britain and other European countries, Dick seems to be the center of a small hurricane of discovery and praise (in France there is already at least one dissertation on him). I don't know whether this means that North American critics are too close to Dick to see him steadily and see him whole, or that no heretic who subverts the accepted norms of a genre as wholeheartedly as Dick can expect to be a prophet in that genre's heartland. Whatever the cause, it is true (as Dr. Lem has charged in the to date most impressive though to my mind also somewhat one-sided article on Dick, "SF: A Hopeless Case With Exceptions," SF Commentary ##35-37, September 1973) that North American SF critics have lagged behind not only their European colleagues but also US fans in recognizing the merits of Dick's writing. I could have also said "the merits in Dick's writing": for it is only when one has articulated what merits can arguably be found in an opus, that one can also argue about the reasons, scope, and specific weight of the weaknesses also in that opus: for a special issue is not an embalming laudation but a recognition that a subject is significant enough to be painted with care, warts and all.

Perhaps I should not fail to mention that my own contribution--although written as a first approximation to that overview of Dick's opus which I could not persuade any contributor to undertake, and therefore printed at the beginning--was written last, and has thus profited from reading, and sometimes discussions at length with, all the other contributors, even those with whom I do not wholly agree. My editorial and personal thanks go to all of them for patience when faced with editorial nagging, and for what I believe the readers of SFS will learn from their essays about Dick, about SF, and about our times.

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