Science Fiction Studies

#105 = Volume 35, Part 2 = July 2008


A Longish Note on Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia is a beautifully written addition to Le Guin’s canon and a fine novel. If it gets the attention it deserves, it will also be a controversial work.                

Lavinia gives voice to Lavinia, wife of Trojan Aeneas and mother of Silvius; the political overplot is the origin of Rome. Lavinia is a dead White European woman with a vengeance, a progenitor (legend has it) of the West’s greatest empire and a character in the Aeneid by Publius Vergilius Maro (Vergil or Virgil—take your pick on the spelling). Le Guin’s novel gives Lavinia a voice, but the novel is silent on a number of other topics, including the history of Rome foreshadowed in the shield of Aeneas and the history some readers bring to the novel. Virgil appears in spirit, but we get only a hint or two in Lavinia about Virgil’s enthusiasm for Octavius Caesar, or Caesar Augustus, the first Roman Emperor, who put paid finally to the dying and corrupt Roman Republic. For people like my ancient history instructor, who drew Roman/US analogies, Virgil’s support of the Empire should be a problem: our heroes should be those who honorably and for the public good resist one-man rule (when one can find such heroes). In her Afterword to Lavinia, Le Guin rewrites to new purpose the line Tacitus assigns to a British chieftain: “ ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant” (Where they make a desert, they call it ‘peace’ [277]); but there is nothing specific in the novel on the rape of the Sabine women, figured on the shield of Aeneas (the shield is seen in the novel) and there is nothing on the atrocities behind “the grandeur that was Rome” (Poe), no undermining of Virgil as a poet of Empire and imperialism.    

Le Guin’s novel is friendly to Virgil and nonjudgmental on Rome. To tell one story is to leave out or de-emphasize other stories; and critics—who are often more judgmental than is healthy—should (eventually) argue about the gaps and silences in Lavinia, about the novel’s politics.                

I am judgmental on Rome, seeing no reason to condemn modern empires while giving the earlier ones a pass. Still, as Le Guin says in her Afterword, what draws her is not the Empire but “early Rome: the dark, plain Republic, a forum not of marble but of wood and brick, an austere people with a strong sense of duty, order, and justice: … extended families whose worship was of the fire in their hearth, the food in their granary, the local spring, the spirits of place and earth.” This was a culture where “Women were not set apart as chattel” and where “slaves of the household … sat at table with the free” (278-79). Even the early Republic is in the distant future at the end of the novel. Lavinia is not responsible for the Empire and cannot be blamed for it any more than Eve—or the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus—or a terrorist like Crassus (Swain 302, 305), or that mass murderer of Germans, Julius Caesar, or Jews, Hadrian (about half a million apiece, impressive given the populations involved and the limited means by which people could be “massacred” or “slaughtered” [Swain 326, 515]). Crassus was, unfortunately, historical; Lavinia is pretend.                

What interests me most in Lavinia is something that Lavinia, the narrator, presents to us in detail: the religion of really ancient Italy and its implications for Le Guin on the modal “must.” Latin worship in Lavinia (as in history) is not much directed toward personified gods of the Olympian fashion, but, as Le Guin says in her own voice, to the older powers of earth and sky and household, immanent in the world and woven inextricably into everyday life. We get an idea of what in this world it is right to do, including one very specific explanation of what Le Guin means by “must.”

I once asked Le Guin, “What do you mean by ‘must’?”—I think at the 1978 convention of the Science Fiction Research Association (Cedar Falls, IA). She responded with something like this: “You are free; do what you must do …? I guess I like paradoxes.” Le Guin hasn’t changed her mind since 1978—or since Ged told Arren in The Farthest Shore in 1972 that a mage might offer this advice to a king: “My lord, do nothing because it is righteous or praiseworthy or noble...; do only that which you must do and which you cannot do any other way” (67). There is a similar idea in City of Illusions (1967), when the young Werelian Orry explains the Kelshak concept of “rale”: “the right thing to do, like learning things in school, or like a river following its course” (136). As Ogion tells Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea, if a man “would not be a stick whirled and whelmed in the stream, he must be the stream itself” (128 [cf. Lavinia 141]).                

You must follow the Dao, become the Dao (“Tao” in the older romanization). But that is mage-talk, philosophy or high-powered mysticism, and Le Guin has put a lot of effort into bringing the idea down to Earth, giving it concrete manifestation. In her poetry and fiction, and emphatically in the 1985 screenplay King Dog (1985), Le Guin has performed the poet’s function to give to such “airy nothing” various realized local habitations and names, as in her use of Shiva and Kali in her poetry for the Dao’s creation and destruction (Erlich ch. 17), as in the entire world-view and Way of the Telling in the novel by that name, and in other places in her canon.                

In Lavinia, we get a term like “rale,” but one embedded in real Latin and in a very literally pagan religion—a religion of the pagus of farm folk (276; Afterword). It is embedded, too, in a world-view on the large scale and a very specific moment of narrative on the small. In Lavinia, the time-tripping spirit of the dying Virgil comments on the underworld as “a terrible place. On the far side of the dark river are marshy plains, where you hear crying—little, weak, wailing cries, from the ground, everywhere, underfoot. They are the souls of babies who died at birth or in the cradle, died before they lived. They lie there on the mud, in the reeds, in the dark, wailing. And no one comes” (61; Aeneid VI.426-29). Virgil knows because “I was there.” But not with Aeneas; that was the Sybil. Maybe with a person some readers will recognize as Dante in the Inferno. Yet that cannot be right, since Circle 1 (Canto IV) does not have wailing babies: a lot of sighing there, but not wailing.               

Wherever the justifiably confused Virgil got the idea of the suffering infants, Lavinia finds it appalling. “If you invented that marsh full of miserable dead crying babies, it was a misinvention.” Correcting the poet, she tells him “It was wrong,” and tells us, “I was extremely angry. I used the second most powerful word I know, wrong, nefas, against the order of things, unspeakable, unsacred. There will be many words for it, but that was the one I knew. It is only the shadow, the opposite, the undoing, of the great word fas, for the right, what one must do” (61-62).                

Condemning babies to limitless pain is evil, nefas—period. Lavinia’s immediate reaction is a place where ethical thought can start. But philosophical sorts, distrustful of “Ethical Intuitionism” (or sentimentalism) can legitimately ask of fas: What one must do in terms of bleeding what? Not the will of Jupiter, who is not around yet, but in terms of what your Genius (if a man) or Juno (if a woman [64-65]) senses you must do in terms of that which is. In Lavinia, the world that is, the world we see, is, among other things, a world in which people take care of crying babies.                

More is at stake here than just custom and figurative social taboos, because the world of Lavinia is numinous: “The world is sacred, of course,” Lavinia tells us, with an “of course” equivalent to the one a writer of sf throws in after introducing some novum implausible and awe-inspiring to us but presumably a matter of course in the future. The world “is full of gods, numina, great powers and presences. We give some of them names—Mars of the fields and the war,” and separating tame from wild (208)—“Vesta the fire, Ceres the grain, Mother Tellus the earth, the Penates of the storehouse. The rivers, the springs. And in the storm cloud and the light is the great power called the father god. But they aren’t people. They don’t love and hate, they aren’t for or against,” unlike the Juno of Virgil’s story (who hates the Trojans), whose appearance in Virgil’s story-telling to Lavinia sparks her meditation on numina, lares, and penates. For Lavinia—and the reality she narrates—the powers “accept the worship due them, which augments their power, through which we live” (65; cf. also traditional beliefs in Ansul in UKL’s Voices).

That which is, is, and is sacred; to go against the order of things is desecration, a violation of fas, an unmaking, nefas

Le Guin’s pius Aeneas acts worthily—the word is arlesh on Werel (CI 136)—because he consciously tries to do what is right. Lavinia has grown up with the minimally anthropomorphic gods, powers, and presences of the Latins and has developed more of a knack at following fas. She knows the order of things and chooses to follow an oracle, accepting her destiny/fate to marry Aeneas, come of it what comes (there is a fas even in war, which is what her decision brings [Lavinia 198]).                

In such a world, doing what one must also can mean doing something highly unusual and downright weird: following an oracle and marrying a stranger, someone claiming to come from the end of the world, coming to some sort of promised land—Italy? among the barbarous Latins?—from Troy. And so she and Aeneas do what they must do and fulfill a destiny, following their sense of honor and the “sacred powers” (128), performing “the will of heaven and earth” (149).                

In the world of Lavinia, the “father god” is still just the semi-personified power of light and storm, not yet Zeus or Jupiter, much less a Semitic One-God separating sacred from profane and laying down universal Law. Still, there is a rightness inherent in things, and a wrongness.                

Sic fas aut nefas”: a villain unoriginally balances while moving toward an atrocity involving another Lavinia in Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus (2.1.133-35): “Be it right or wrong.” With consistent emphasis, Le Guin has presented us with worlds that offer us choices among varieties of right and wrong. Without gods to command or forbid (FS 137), Le Guin still wants us to make those choices, and presents fas and nefas—by whatever names—as a choice that is meaningful and a sacred duty.—Richard D. Erlich, Professor Emeritus, Miami University of Ohio

Erlich, Richard D. Coyote’s Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin. 2007. April 12, 2008 <>. Also available as a searchable pdf file, free via e-mail at <>.
“Ethical Intuitionism.” Wikipedia. April 12, 2008 < wiki/Ethical_intuitionism>.
Le Guin, Ursula K. City of Illusions. 1967.  Rpt. Five Complete Novels. New York, Avenel, 1985.
─────. The Farthest Shore. 1972. New York: Bantam, 1975.
─────. Lavinia. Orlando: Harcourt, 2008.
─────. King Dog: A Screen Play. Santa Barbara, CA: Capra, 1985. “Capra Back-to-Back” Vol. V, bound with R. Carver and T. Gallagher’s “Dostoevsky: A Screenplay.”
─────. The Telling. New York: Harcourt, 2000.
─────. Voices. Orlando: Harcourt, 2006.
─────. A Wizard of Earthsea. 1968. New York: Bantam, 1975.
“Marcus Licinius Crassus.” Wikipedia. April 12, 2008 <Marcus _ Licinius_Crassus#Crassus_and_Spartacus>.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “To Helen.” Coll. Yale Book of American Verse (1912). April 8, 2008 <http://www.>.
Swain, Joseph Ward. The Ancient World, 2: The World Empires: Alexander and the Romans After 334 BC. New York: Harper, 1950.
Tacitus: Publius Tacitus, or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus. De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae, at the end of ch. 30. April 8, 2008 <>.

John Wyndham’s Chocky (1968): The First Covert Alternate World? In “Alternate Presents: The Ambivalent Historicism of Pattern Recognition” (SFS 33.3 [2006]), Neil Easterbrook focuses on what he understands to be deliberate minor counterfactuals in William Gibson’s novel (489-90, 500 n8). These counterfactuals inform a reader familiar with sf protocols that Pattern Recognition belongs to the alternate histories/alternate worlds subgenre. When I commented on Easterbrook’s article in “The Present World in Other Terms” (SFS 34.1 [2007]: 170-71), I assumed that Gibson’s novel was possibly the first example of such a covert alternate world. I now wish to propose an example that precedes Gibson’s novel by thirty-five years.                

In “John Wyndham and ‘the Searing Anguishes of Childhood’: From ‘Fairy Story’ to Chocky” (Extrapolation 41 [Summer 2000]: 87-103), I argue that John [Wyndham Parkes Lucas] Beynon Harris’s (JBH’s) 1963 novella “Chocky” and his 1968 novel of the same title are the culmination of a series of his stories (including “Child of Power” [1939] and “But a Kind of Ghost,” written circa 1951) in which a child or young adult benefits from an otherworldly communication. The unseen, sexually ambiguous alien whose name sounds a bit like “Chocky” and who acts as a kind of teacher/guardian angel for a boy named Matthew represents JBH’s desire for an idealized form of helpful communication with his father, who disappeared from his life when his parents separated in 1911; his father died in 1933.                

But that is not the whole story. There is a further autobiographical dimension to the novel version, which was composed after JBH on July 26, 1963, married the just-retired schoolteacher Grace Wilson (with whom he had had a relationship since 1935) and they both left their very long-term communal London residence, the Penn Club, and moved to a modest house in Steep, in Hampshire, where he had attended Bedales School (1918-21). It involves recognizing Chocky as also the last of another JBH story-series, what might be termed his “time-schism love stories.” Beginning with the unpublished “The Man Who Returned” (written in 1931) and proceeding through “Chronoclasm” (1953), “Opposite Number” (1954), “Stitch in Time” (1961), “Random Quest” (1961), and the unpublished “Modification” (written in 1964), each is about a man who should have married a particular woman; she has gone on to marry someone else. The situation is rectified by some kind of time-switch transfer to an alternate world, where the “right” relationship (a minor counterfactual from the primary-world point of view) applies. The detailed account in Chocky of the first meeting of narrator David Gore and Mary Bosworth on a coach tour supposedly bound for Rome, soon after she has completed her history degree at the University of London (all part of an addition written for the novel version), corresponds to the first meeting in summer 1927 of JBH and Mary [or “Molly”] Cathcart Borer (1906-94), a future prolific author, screen-writer, and social historian (and one of the two women he thought he should have married), soon after she had completed her University of London degree. (The other Mrs. Right was his beautiful first cousin, Dorothy Joan Parkes.) This means that although Chocky appears, on the basis of references to hovercraft (Penguin edition 49), Jack de Manio (87), a transistor radio (106), and a Z car (134) to be set in the early 1960s, there is an implicit earlier autobiographical chronology by which the story is set in an alternate “1943,” “sixteen years” (10) after David and Mary first met. In this chronology, David and Mary married in “1928 ” and Matthew was born in “1931.” These dates can also, I suspect, be approximately applied to the likely primary-world genesis of the story, which seems to have had a much earlier origin than its 1963 novella publication date implies. In a probable allusion to “Chocky,” Peter Hebdon, Managing Editor of the London publisher of most of “Wyndham”’s work, Michael Joseph, in his letter to JBH of October 12, 1967, quotes JBH’s characteristically self-deprecatory dismissal of this “pre-war production.”                

The different temporal world-setting of Chocky indicates that it should be viewed as the one-sided (i.e., other-sided) culmination of JBH’s series of “time-schism love stories.” It is about an alternative “1943” that results from a shearing off from JBH’s reality at some point in 1928, when he should have married Molly, who in 1935 instead married the archaeologist Oliver Myers. This “1943” resembles the actual early 1960s, not least in the fact that no world war is in progress.   

The strongest evidence that Chocky is set in an alternate world is the reference, in an addition to Chapter 6, to a book that Matthew has been reading: “It was Lewis Mumford’s Living in Cities” (76). There is no such Mumford title. Similar Mumford titles are The Culture of Cities (1938) and his major work, The City in History (1961), which projects his notion of an ideal “organic city” in balance with nature. JBH was an admirer of Mumford’s work. In his war-letter to Grace of February 12, 1945 (two years after the hidden year-setting of Chocky), he informs her that “I’ve started in on the first Mumford—and it’s very interesting.” Matthew is bored by the Mumford book he has been reading, but Chocky, he says, “thinks it’s interesting” (77). The first Mumford book that JBH read in 1945 was The Story of Utopia (1922). And the “1943" world that JBH describes in Chocky amounts to a personal utopia in which he marries Molly Borer, has two children (one adopted) and, as the adopted child, regains contact with the father he lost 32 years previously.                

A non-fiction Penguin pamphlet was published in 1942 entitled Living in Cities by Ralph Tubbs. Profusely illustrated, it anticipates a time after the war when the UK’s destroyed cities can be rebuilt along much more progressive lines. Tubbs includes Mumford’s The Culture of Cities (1938) among his acknowledgments. Tubbs’s Living in Cities was available to be read in 1943 and no doubt JBH did read it. But only David Gore, Matthew, and Chocky could have read Mumford’s Living in Cities in “1943.” It did not exist in 1943 (or at any later point in Mumford’s life) in our reality.                

We can now more fully understand the disclaimer that precedes Chocky: “All persons and institutions in this story (other than Jack de Manio and the BBC) are entirely fictional[.]” In place of “mythical,” with its suggestion of a higher truth, one would expect “fictional.” But the alternate world of Chocky is more appropriately described as “mythical” because it represents JBH’s ideal reality. Jack de Manio began hosting the early morning “Today” radio program in 1958. He was famous for his frequent time-slip announcements and JBH mentions him in a lengthy addition in the novel (83-123) for that very reason. “Jack de Manio said: ‘The time is exactly twenty-five and a half minutes past eight—no, hang it, I mean past seven” (87; emphasis in original). The real time is actually earlier than de Manio at first believed. Similarly, the real time in Chocky, the year “1943,” is earlier than the 1960s date a reader would assume. The BBC and de Manio communicate between these two alternate worlds and have a real existence in both of them. Broadcasting makes two worlds adjacent—that of the listener or viewer and that of the broadcast. De Manio is an entity of the broadcast world that can communicate with “1943.” At the same time, of course, as a disembodied voice, he has one characteristic in common with Chocky.                

No doubt the “England” of “1943” includes the county of Winshire (Wyn[dham]shire) in the vicinity of Hampshire and Sussex. Introduced in JBH’s detective novel Foul Play Suspected (1935), Winshire includes the villages of West Harding, Hambling, Stouch, Oppley, Hickhan, and Midwich. We are informed, in Chocky but not in “Chocky,” that the Gore family live in close-by Surrey in Hindmere, a place that cannot be found on any map of Surrey in our world but which combines Hindhead, where JBH’s father lived for many years, and nearby Haslemere.—David Ketterer, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Liverpool

Pariah Elite. In my review-essay covering several works on J.G. Ballard in SFS 34.3 (Nov. 2007), I questioned whether the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America would ever consider giving their Grand Master Award to one of the “more central New Wave controversialists”—such as Ballard, or Michael Moorcock, or Thomas M. Disch—“whose best work was designed not just to shock sf orthodoxies but to transcend the limits of the field” (484). Well, the SFFWA has promptly answered my question by electing Moorcock as their 25th Grand Master; he joins such Golden Age luminaries as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. Moorcock will receive the award—now named in honor of SFWA’s founder, Damon Knight—at the Nebula Awards banquet in Austin, Texas, on April 27. In a press release announcing the tribute (available online at <>), Moorcock is quoted as saying he “feel[s] especially honoured to receive the Grand Master award.” This event would seem finally to settle the issue of whether major New Wave figures can now comfortably be acknowledged as central contributors to the field’s development. At the same time, however, the press release makes no mention of the New Wave controversy or its legacy, or even of New Worlds magazine, from whose helm in the mid-1960s Moorcock, as editor- and polemicist-in-chief, launched a frontal assault on the genre’s cherished traditions. Either those fiery struggles have now been long forgotten, or it was thought prudent not to stir their still-smoldering ashes at this moment of discreet apotheosis.                

My prediction that Ballard himself would never be named Grand Master seems all but certain given that the author has announced, in what he has called his final book, Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton (Fourth Estate, 2008), that he is dying of cancer. This lack of formal recognition for the “excellence” of a “lifetime of contributions to the genres of science fiction and fantasy” (as the award language puts it) is likely felt as no great loss by Ballard, who once referred to the SFWA as “a reactionary s-f writers’ guild” which had helped to usher in “the most commercial phase [the genre] has ever known” (“New Means Worse,” in A User’s Guide to the Millenium [New York: Picador, 1996], 189-91; the quotation is from p. 190). But it is a loss to the field that Ballard, almost certainly the greatest English-language sf writer of the past half-century, will not be enshrined among the elite. He belongs there with Ellison, and Silverberg, and Aldiss, and Moorcock—and, yes, with Heinlein, Asimov, and Lester del Rey, who once called the New Wave “completely lacking in even the slightest trace of originality, while it claims to be something new and revolutionary” (“Art or Artiness?” in Famous Science Fiction 8 [Fall 1968]: 78-86; the quotation is from p. 82). Forty years on, now that the New Wave is something old and revolutionary, one cannot help but wonder whether its aging partisans do not still cause some factions of the genre establishment the faintest twinge of embarrassment and contempt.—RL

Revisiting K.M. O’Donnell. “Sf” is a dubious term when it comes to K.M. O’Donnell, Barry N. Malzberg’s pseudonym when he first started publishing in the field. “I am not really a science-fiction writer,” he claims in the afterword to his story “Still-Life” in Again, Dangerous Visions (ed. Harlan Ellison, New American Library, 1972): “of my 20-odd published stories in the field I would say only two or three are genre pieces and my novel, The Empty People, is sheer metaphor” (314). The Empty People (Lancer, 1969) is perhaps the weakest of O’Donnell’s or Malzberg’s work, an early effort by a writer who has not yet found his voice. Aliens reside in a woman’s body, or consciousness, a theme Malzberg would revisit in a number of other books, including Overlay (1972) and Day of the Burning (1974); as he stated, it is a metaphor evoking the alien feeling of the human soul in modern society. Malzberg was not hiding the fact that he was writing this book or the others. The copyright is in his real name and the author blurb states that “Barry N. Malzberg, as K.M. O’Donnell, has sold sixteen science-fiction stories in less than three years” (i). At the same time, Malzberg was writing (as “Mel Johnson”) quick paperback porn for Midwood Books with such classic titles as Love Doll, Campus Doll, and Nympho Nurse.

The second O’Donnell book was Final War and Other Fantasies (1969), which Malzberg had wanted to subtitle “and Other Disasters,” but which Ace’s marketing department would not permit. It appeared as an Ace Double with Treasure of Tau Ceti by John Rackham and contained eleven stories, including his first published work, “We’re Coming Through the Window” (1967), a 1,000-word letter to Galaxy editor Frederik Pohl. His second published piece was the novella “Final War” (1968), which he envisioned as an allegory of Vietnam (and which strangely has a plot similar to the movie Platoon). He rewrote the first page to make it appear to be set in the future and sold it to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction; it was on the ballot for the 1969 Nebula Award. The sf community had taken notice of this new kid on the block. Dwellers of the Deep (1970), a quirky alien-invasion yarn, was the next Ace Double; and Gather in the Hall of the Planets (1971) also considers aliens—they appear at an sf convention. This was a social commentary on sf fandom, and it reappeared quickly in an O’Donnell collection, In the Pocket and Other S-F Stories (1971). He was publishing collections only months after the individual stories had appeared in magazines. Some of the stories appeared in Amazing and Fantastic during Malzberg’s short tenure as editor of both: he soon realized, however, that he was making more money as a writer than an editor.                

Universe Day (Avon, 1971) is the best of the O’Donnell books: a lost classic of 1970s sf. It is a series of related stories about the space program and a prelude to Beyond Apollo in certain ways. In Universe Day, astronauts (in an alternate-reality US) are treated like rock stars and sex symbols, an obvious nod to Samuel Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah .... “ (1967). The story “Still Life” was supposed to be a part of Universe Day. “He sold me the story on 11 August 1968,” Ellison notes in his introduction to Again, Dangerous Visions (300), but there was nearly a three-year delay in publishing, and Ellison would not let it be a part of Universe Day because he required every story to be an “original that has never appeared anywhere” (300; emphasis in original). Ellison also contends that O’Donnell/Malzberg writes “what may well be an extraordinary new kind of fiction: fantasy that becomes reality by inference” (300). Since “Still-Life” and Universe Day are about NASA, O’Donnell was looking like a psychic back in 1969-1972. Ellison continues:

I wish I could invent the term “neorealistic” or “fabulorooted” the way the litterateurs do, but frankly I cannot even devise a category …. It’s the kind of story that becomes reality even as it’s written … it is the most dangerous vision in this book. (301-302) 

Such is the legacy of the short life of K.M. O’Donnell, an sf author who left his particular mark.—Michael Hemmingson, San Diego

Corrigienda. I want to let you know about two unusual printer’s errors that got added to my article after page proofs in the Works Cited entry on Steve Tomasula’s VAS: An Opera in Flatland (104). The printer misspelled his name as “Thomasula,” added the word “Space” at the end of the book title, and also included the 2002 date as part of the title. The correct citation:

Tomasula, Steve, with art and design by Stephen Farrell. VAS: An Opera in Flatland: A Novel (first published Barrytown: Barrytown/Station Hill Press, 2002, and then printed in paperback, Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004).

I wonder if this might be an occasion, perhaps, for a note of correction?—Susan Vanderborg, University of South Carolina     

Eds: Our apologies for this error and for several typographical and printing errors that slipped into Susan Vanderborg’s “Gendering ‘Otherspace’: The ‘Martian Ty/opography’ of Johanna Drucker and Brad Freedman” (SFS 35.1: 88-104). Line-height errors led some of the text to be compressed, some typographical symbols were incorrect, and in the Works Cited, the publisher of Stephen Bury’s book is misspelled. The correct name is Scolar Press.

2008 Pioneer Award (Science Fiction Research Association). It is my pleasure to announce that British sf critic and writer Gwyneth Jones has been selected as the recipient of this year’s SFRA Pilgrim Award. She joins an illustrious set of former Pilgrim winners whose criticism has continually demonstrated science fiction’s relevance to our contemporary world, its problems and its potential.—Adam Frisch, SFRA President

Ed. Note: One of Jones’s critical essays, “Metempsychosis of the Machine: Science Fiction in the Halls of Karma,” appeared in SFS 24.1 (March 1997). Among other highlights, her thoughtful survey of sf’s penchant for tales of “aliens,” colonies, and space exploration offers a close reading of Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) in comparison with Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light (1967). It was Zelazny’s novel, she says, that “inspired” “my [own] borrowing” from non-Western cultures in her early sf:

Lord of Light (1967), like Dune, is a fantasy adventure in which a highly advanced technological community confronts its relationship with its subject peoples.... [In Zelazny’s novel] Sam, the renegade immortaln ... recreates the life of the Buddha, in order to loosen the shackles of theocracy. His fake mission throws up a genuine Bodhisattva, and in spite of the cunning priests—who swiftly incorporate Buddhism into their power structure—the new religion takes hold .... Lord of Light is a science fiction [novel] that endures with more dignity than Dune ... because of Zelazny's decision to address the identity between the myths he uses and his own re-telling. He blows away the sf delusion that there is something inherently, morally superior about power derived from “science” and machines—as opposed to the primitive, despicable dominion of magic-makers and theocrats. Magic is power and power is magic.... [Zelazny] leaps the gap between the technophilic worshippers of USA consumerism and every other population of dazzled, adoring peasants. Nothing else in the book is so memorable, not even the Rakasha (demons in the form of energy-entity aborigines) or Sam's dashing, wisecracking progress to genuine Enlightenment .... Liberal sf, well supplied with post-holocaust, post-diaspora reiterations where the export-drive story can be told all over again, can imagine the end of economic imperialism: the moment when power has passed—surrendered, stolen, copied, reinvented, replicated—into other hands. But no further. The anxiety in John Barnes's A Million Open Doors (1993) is foreshadowed [by the conclusion of Lord of Light]. Can we survive without our subjects? (5-6)

In a March 2001 review of Jones’s Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction, and Reality (Liverpool UP, 1999), Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr considered her incisive critical style:

Ursula Le Guin writes for concreteness. Samuel Delany writes for intellectual display. John Clute writes for the pleasurable excess. Jones, it seems, writes only for the mot juste. Even when she conjures up intimate moments from her past—reading to her young son, or her own reading as a sickly child (in the fine critical memoir on Lewis and Tolkien)—she has the markedly British voice of a highly educated, analytical, philo-scientific reasoner, quick with the wry aside and the parenthetical insight. A blurb for Eleanor Arnason’s Ring of Swords (1993) calls it a mingling of Star Trek and Jane Austen. I’m not sure that’s accurate for Arnason’s masterpiece (I have a hard time imagining Jane Austen writing about homosexual wookies in any universe), but something like it may work for Jones. Or perhaps, rather than Austen, try the Virginia Woolf of A Room of One’s Own (1929) for the same restrained, ironic address to a university-educated audience deeply invested in masculine values, reserving for herself the right to demolish any sacred icon of the hegemonic order, but unwilling to get in anyone’s face.  (SFS 28.1 [Mar. 2001]: 120)

Heinlein Forum Reinstituted. The Heinlein Centennial was last year, and we do not plan a “Hundred and One” this year. But you’re welcome to continue the camaraderie of last July at the NitroForum for Intelligent Discussion of Robert A. Heinlein at <>. Until its demise late last year due to a hosting change, the NitroForum was one of the oldest Heinlein-centric forums on the net. It is now back on a new platform, but sadly empty, as we were not able to successfully migrate the old content and user-list. So this is a restart, and you are cordially invited to help. A thread about the Centennial is already waiting, and you’re invited to open up discussion about any other Heinlein-related topics on this general Heinlein discussion board, hosted by Nitrosyncretic Press. Anyone who searches around for “good crack” about Heinlein will find that the few groups and boards that once existed have disappeared or fallen on hard times.—RAH Centennial Committee

Still Has a Mouth and Still Must Scream. This is the title of an interview with Harlan Ellison by Andrew O’Hehir that recently appeared in Salon (March 13, 2008). The wide-ranging conversation is linked to Dreams With Sharp Teeth, a film about Ellison by Erik Nelson. For the interview, see < ent/movies/btm/feature/2008/03/13/ellison/index.html>.—CM

Research Scholarship in Utopian Studies. The University of Plymouth has a Masters of Research Scholarship available for Utopian Studies for a student starting in October 2008. The scholarship would cover a year of full-time fees or two years of part-time fees. Information is available on the following link: <>. For further information on the Utopian Studies Society itself, see <>.—Lorna Davidson, Secretary, Utopian Studies Society, Europe

Special Issue of Utopian Studies: Octavia Butler, 1947-2006. While the deadline for proposed contributions is scheduled just as readers of SFS will be receiving their copies of the July issue, we provide the following information in case there may be some leeway in the proposal deadline.                

“I don’t like most utopia stories because I don’t believe them for a moment. It seems inevitable that my utopia would be someone else’s hell,” said Butler in response to her story “The Book of Martha” (2003). The characters in Octavia Butler’s novels and short stories are often faced with circumstances that are hellish, and the dystopian leanings of her work might imply that her rejection of utopia is as complete as the quotation above suggests. And yet Butler’s work is deeply informed by utopian impulses.  

This special issue of Utopian Studies will celebrate the breadth and depth of Butler’s work and her constant questioning of human potential. We invite previously unpublished papers that address utopian and dystopian themes in any of Butler’s works. We welcome analyses from multiple disciplines and theoretical approaches. Comparative essays and reminiscences that engage the utopian and dystopian themes in Butler’s work will also be considered. Deadline for completed papers is July 1, 2008. Inquiries and papers to either Claire Curtis <> or Toby Widdicombe <>.—Claire Curtis and Toby Widdicombe, Utopian Studies

International Association of Audience and Fan Studies. Audience and Fan Studies are fields of scholarship that have developed in a number of traditional academic areas, including anthropology, communication, composition/rhetoric, computer science, film studies, folklore, information technology, law, library science, literary studies, media studies, performance studies, psychology, and sociology.

This new organization will promote cross-disciplinary communication through traditional academic venues, including the creation and management of a web page, the creation of an e-mail listserv to serve the interests of scholars in the field, the publication of an online newsletter, and the creation of interdisciplinary activities such as study days, mini-conferences, and eventually  an online conference. Finally, we plan to create an on-line academic journal. Scholarship in the following areas falls under the association’s areas of interest, although this list is selective, not comprehensive: Audience Research, Conventions, Convergence Culture, Cosplay/Costuming, Fan Art, Filkin, Folklore/Myth/Urban Legend, Hypertexts, Memorabilia and Collecting, Music, Role-playing Communities, Trading Cards, Video Gaming, Virtual and Face-to-Face Communities and Cultures, and Viral Marketing. As new media technologies and the World Wide Web offer more venues for creativity, new topics for scholarship will develop. If interested contact <>.—Barbara Lucas, Division Head, Communities and Culture in the Fantastic, IAFA

New Journal: Transformative Works and Cultures. Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC) <> is a Gold Open Access international peer-reviewed journal published by the Organization for Transformative Works <>. It is edited by Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson. TWC publishes articles about popular media, fan communities, and transformative works broadly conceived. We invite papers on all related topics, including but not limited to fan fiction, fan vids, mashups, machinima, film, TV, anime, comic books, video games, and any and all aspects of the communities of practice that surround them. TWC’s aim is twofold: to provide a publishing outlet that welcomes fan-related topics, and to promote dialogue between the academic and the fan communities.                

We encourage innovative works that situate these topics within contemporary culture through a variety of critical approaches, including feminism, queer theory, critical race studies, political economy, ethnography, reception theory, literary criticism, film studies, and media studies. We also encourage authors to consider writing personal essays integrated with scholarship, hypertext articles, or other forms that embrace the technical possibilities of the Web and test the limits of the genre of academic writing.     

TWC copyrights under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License. Theory accepts peer-reviewed essays that are often interdisciplinary, with a conceptual focus and a theoretical frame that offers expansive interventions in the field of fan studies (5,000-8,000 words). Praxis analyzes the particular, in contrast to Theory’s broader vantage point. Essays are also peer-reviewed and may apply a specific theory to a formation or artifact, explicate fan practice, perform a detailed reading of a specific text, or otherwise relate transformative phenomena to social, literary, technological, and/or historical frameworks (4,000-7,000 words). Symposium is a section of editorially reviewed, concise, thematically contained short essays that provide insight into current debates surrounding any topic related to fandom or transformative media and cultures (1,500-2,500 words). Reviews offer critical summaries of items of interest in the fields of fan and media studies, including books, new journals, and Web sites. Reviews incorporate a description of the item’s content, an assessment of its likely audience, and an evaluation of its importance in a larger context (1,500–2,500 words). Review submissions undergo editorial review; submit inquiries first to <>. TWC has rolling submissions. Contributors should submit online through the Web site <>. Inquiries may be sent to the editors at <>.—Karen Hellekson

Call for Submissions: JET. I have been appointed editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology (JET), for which I have been a regular referee in the past. JET is a scholarly peer-reviewed journal, publishing academic research online. It falls under the auspices of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). It welcomes submissions on subjects that many mainstream journals shun as too speculative, radical, or interdisciplinary, on all issues relating to the future prospects of the human species and its possible descendants. JET’s existence is premised on the real prospect that human beings will take the further evolution of the species into their own hands, using technological means. The journal’s founders, in 1998, felt that the time was ripe to begin to discuss such issues in a more systematic and rigorous way than is usually possible in journalistic or popular publications. I should add that JET welcomes a wide range of viewpoints, from visionary and radical transhumanist ones to more cautious ones that involve discussing issues on their merits, with no commitment to anything like transhumanism. It is fair to say that it is certainly not a journal of resistance to the future or to enhancement technologies in the manner of The New Atlantis. It also welcomes the work of people from a wide range of disciplines in the sciences, humanities, and elsewhere. The editors invite submissions from sf scholars who are looking to publish work on the way such themes of the “transhuman” or “posthuman” are/have been handled in sf. Reviews of individual works of science fiction or science-fiction (and related) scholarship are also welcome. While JET definitely has a pro-technology, pro-enhancement bias, the most important thing is to attract the best scholarly work relating to its theme that we can. I will be trying to get the journal onto a regular publishing schedule of two issues per year and to raise both its profile and its academic reputation. I think the journal is already publishing high quality work, although it has been appearing more irregularly than desirable. Because we will be publishing articles as they are finalized (copyedited, proofread, etc.), we should be able to achieve a quick turnaround between acceptance and publication. If this interests you, have a look at JET’s website <> or browse some of the recent issues <>. Even if you don’t submit material (but please consider it seriously), I think you will find much that is of interest to sf scholars.—Russell Blackford

ICFA 30: First Call for Papers. The 30th International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts will be held March 18-22, 2009, at the Orlando Airport Marriott in Orlando, Florida. The theme for 2009 is “Time and the Fantastic.” Papers are invited that explore this diverse topic. We especially welcome papers on the work of Robert Charles Wilson (Guest of Honor), Guy Gavriel Kay (Guest of Honor), and Maria Nikolajeva (Guest Scholar). As always, we also invite proposals for individual papers and for academic sessions and panels on any aspect of the fantastic in any media. The deadline is October 31, 2008. Keep checking <> for updated information.—Graham J. Murphy, Trent University

Cerisy and Science Fiction. While the deadline will have passed for the submission of abstracts for this famed conference, readers of SFS will be interested to learn that the theme of the 2009 Cerisy conterence will be “Contemporary Science Fiction Dreams of Tomorrows.” The dates of the conference itself will be July 20-30, 2009. Topics will include film, visual and media studies, literature, science, communication, language studies, linguistics, women’s and gender studies, history, psychology, philosophy, religion, cultural studies, and popular culture.                

Literature papers will consider influences on today’s science fiction writers. Do they still draw their inspiration from masters of the past or have they succeeded in freeing themselves from them? Have they remained focused on their own achievement or do they display some curiosity towards mainstream breakthroughs? If so, will the race to update—now at last in pace with our fast-developing technology—entail a science fiction deprived of intertextuality? Is there room for new paradigms? Is science fiction necessarily looking back toward its past? Is mainstream literature so deteriorating that it now needs to feed on genres it used to hold in contempt? Notions of influence, deviation, evolution, and reciprocity are the ones we would like to see tackled. Papers will be in English or in French, and presentations will last for 40 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers.                

The deadline for abstract submissions is May 1, 2008. Notifications will be mailed in July 2008 and completed articles should be submitted in May 2009. The conference will be held at The International Conference Center of Cerisy-la-salle <, July 25-August 3, 2009>. Abstracts and articles must be sent to the three organizers: Danièle ANDRE  (University of Corsica)<>, Daniel TRON (University of Poitiers and Angers) <>, and Aurélie VILLERS (PhD, University of Nice) <>. Conference registration and housing reservations will be possible in 2009; the Cerisy Conference Center hosts the contributors (full lodging and catering). For further information, please contact the organizers.—Danièle Andre, University of Corsica

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