NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE
Realist of a Larger Reality: Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018
“We are not great powers. But we are the light. Nobody can put us out.”—“The Princess” (79)
Ursula K. Le Guin, who recontoured the fields of science fiction and fantasy even while fiercely defending them from attacks by elitists and outsiders, died in Portland, OR, on 22 January; she was 88. The quality of her work in every genre she chose—science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, poetry, literary criticism, etc.—was widely recognized by readers of all ages and by mainstream as well as genre critics. Each novel in the initial Earthsea trilogy received a major award: A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) won a Boston Globe/Hornbook award, The Tombs of Atuan (1970) a Newbery Medal, and The Farthest Shore (1972) a National Book Award. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)—a breakthrough novel for the sf genre as much as for the author—received both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, as did The Dispossessed (1974). Other Nebula-winning novels included the last Earthsea novel, Tehanu (1990), and Powers (2008), from the Western Shore series for young adults. Five shorter fictions in sf/fantasy won Nebulas, and there could have been a sixth, as Le Guin reports in No Time to Spare (2017); but she withdrew a short-listed story, “The Diary of the Rose” (1976), to protest the expulsion of Stanislaw Lem (in retaliation for his attacks on American sf) by SFWA, whose members chose the Nebula winners. She persisted even when told that the votes had already been tallied and her story had won. In 1989, Le Guin received the Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association for lifetime contributions to sf criticism. She generously supported Science Fiction Studies from its earliest days, serving first as contributing editor and then as editorial consultant from 1974 to 1993.
Her style shows strong continuities across genres, most notably in the measured gravitas of her authorial voice, which is cool and unhurried. Her signature trope is paradox, the figure of speech that brings together unlike things: “Light is the left hand of darkness” (252); “home is a place where you have never been” (Dispossessed 55). The word-twists of oxymoron also recur, especially in names and terms: “Earthsea,” “mindspeech.” It may have been an inborn love of paradox that initially drew her to the I Ching; she published an idiosyncratic translation in 1998. Yet her sayings also suggest Zen koans, eloquent non-sequiturs hinting at unexplored possibilities. In “The Day Before The Revolution,” dying Odo recalls her own long ago and now famous paradox (“True journey is return”), reflecting that the wording “had never been more than an intuition, and she was farther than ever now from being able to rationalize it” (269). In “The New Atlantis,” a prescient climate-change story from 1975, an elusive paradox somehow shape-shifts into utopian speculation: “The difference between one and more than one is all the difference in the world. Indeed, that difference is the world” (320). Le Guin’s intertwined contraries can also convey deep affection, as when Genly Ai describes Therem Harth, his androgynous Gethenian brother/sister/friend, as a beautiful mystery, “a shadow on snow” (287).
Le Guin’s offhand commentary in interviews shows frequent flashes of humor, and several early stories written for Cele Goldsmith at Fantastic (“April in Paris” [Sep. 1962], “The Rule of Names” [Apr. 1964]), are predominantly light in tone. Yet as Le Guin learned her strengths, she required more of readers. To understand the world presented in The Left Hand of Darkness, readers must sift evidence and resolve problems along with her dual protagonists, Genly Ai and Therem Harth, who offer interspersed first-person accounts of events in the story that express contradictory views. Along with calibrating this conflict—and even after learning that the “alien’s” perspective is more reliable—readers must pause for field reports and retellings of Gethenian legends and myths. In a publisher’s letter rejecting The Left Hand of Darkness, posted on Le Guin’s website to “cheer up anybody who just got a rejection letter,” the unnamed editor is deeply annoyed by Le Guin’s slow unveiling of her tale:
The book is so endlessly complicated by details of reference and information, the interim legends become so much of a nuisance despite their relevance, that the very action of the story seems to become hopelessly bogged down and the book, eventually, unreadable. (ursulakleguin.com)
Le Guin mused in 2017 that she herself had had similar doubts in 1968:
Left Hand looked to me like a natural flop. Its style is not the journalistic one that was then standard in science fiction, its structure is complex, it moves slowly, and even if everybody in it is called he, it is not about men. That’s a big dose of “hard lit,” heresy, and chutzpah, for a genre novel by a nobody in 1968. (TOR.com)
Her use of the male pronoun throughout The Left Hand of Darkness, covertly defended here, became controversial among second-wave feminists during the 1970s, and yet pronoun-choice seems less important than Le Guin’s bold imagination of a world on which there is no stable sexual or gender identity whatever, with the exception of a tiny percentage of unfortunates (including Genly Ai, an earthborn male) called “Perverts.” Most Gethenians are estrous like female cats, not capable of (or interested in) sex except during a few days every month, when they enter a sexually responsive state called “kemmer.” When in kemmer, Gethenians might transform into males or females; either partner might become pregnant. (Group sex occurs sometimes but usually “kemmer is ... played by pairs” .) Many Gethenians live to experience both motherhood and fatherhood, yet most of the time they are without desire, awaiting biological readiness and a recurring bodily transformation that they cannot control or predict. The King of Karhide is pregnant as LHD opens; he is heartbroken after he miscarries. “Everybody has the same risk to run and the same choice to make,” says Genly Ai, “Therefore no one here is quite so free as a free male anywhere else” (100). In interviews and speeches Le Guin occasionally mentioned her abortion, then illegal, during her senior year in college. Her randomization of sex and gender roles on Gethen may be inflected by an impulse to reimagine her own early experiences; for like most writers, she sometimes used fiction to reconnect with parts of her own life.
Born 21 October 1929, in Berkeley, CA, she grew up in a blended, tightly bonded family. Her mother was a widow with two sons when she met and married Alfred Kroeber in 1926. A childless widower, Kroeber adopted Theodora Krakow Brown’s two sons. Of the two children born after this second marriage for each, Ursula Le Guin was the youngest and the only daughter. Alfred Kroeber was the first professor of Anthropology hired by the University of California at Berkeley, arriving in 1901. His special focus was on the languages of California’s indigenous peoples, who by the twentieth century had been all but exterminated. (The population of Native Americans in California, around 300,000 during the mid-1700s, had plunged by the turn of the twentieth century to 16,000.) Eighteen years before Le Guin was born, Alfred Kroeber gave the name Ishi, Yana word for “man,” to a lone Native American living without connection to a tribe or even a surviving family member; asked his name, he had told Kroeber that there had been no one left to name him. In all her fiction, but especially in Always Coming Home (1985), Le Guin assigns names and reconstructs “other” cultures with a scrupulous precision reminiscent of her father’s work.
An avid reader of sf and fantasy, including pulp fiction, in her childhood, Le Guin tried early to make the transition to published writer, receiving her first rejection slip in 1942 from Astounding Science-Fiction. At Berkeley High, she and Philip K. Dick were classmates, although they did not know each other there. As a freshman at Radcliffe College in 1947, she may have crossed paths with another sf writer-to-be, Anne McCaffrey, then a Radcliffe senior: Le Guin majored in French and Italian, McCaffrey in Slavonic Languages. After taking an MA degree at Columbia in 1952—her thesis was on the French poet Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585)—Le Guin became a Fulbright scholar, traveling to Paris for dissertation research on another poet, Jean Lemaire de Belges (c. 1473-1525). En route to France on the Queen Mary, however, she met a fellow Paris-bound Fulbright scholar, historian Charles Le Guin, and they were married a few months later. An early story may recast as sf/fantasy Le Guin’s U-turn from academics late in 1953: in “April in Paris,” a burnt-out professor on a year’s leave in Paris finds it a distinct relief to time-travel to fifteenth-century Paris, where he meets the woman of his dreams.
Rocannon’s World (1966), the first novel in Le Guin’s Hainish series, shows her early grasp of world-building and her anti-colonialist approach to depicting a human future in space. Rocannon is an early version of Genly Ai, serving as sole Hainish visitor (the orbiting ship housing his fellow researchers has been blown up) on a planet that is not technologically advanced and yet is never depicted as backward. This world is, like Gethen, to be recruited for the “League of all Worlds,” not yet called “the Ekumen” as it is in LHD. Like Genly Ai, Rocannon has little to go on as he tries to find his way across unknown continents using only local informants, scanty field notes, and tattered maps—until even the notes and maps are destroyed. Very much like Genly Ai, Rocannon is driven by curiosity about the diverse cultures and populations on the planet, respecting the customs of each with only one exception: a group of predatory beings reminiscent of the “Therns,” the tricked-out cannibal “gods” in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Gods of Mars (1913). Le Guin’s “Winged Ones” likewise look (but do not act) like heavenly beings.
Early in his story, Rocannon insists that his task is “learning, not teaching” (32), and Genly Ai makes a similar disclaimer: “I’m no Educer” (268). In general, contrary to some critics, Le Guin is not didactic but heuristic, retwisting old tropes to take them in new directions. Most statements that on a first glance seem to be “teachings” prove too elliptical to fully grasp, let alone adopt as a guide. Clearly her sf and fantasy novels were explorations for Le Guin as well as her protagonists and readers. She had no use for Golden Age sf’s emphasis on space as mere backdrop for human triumph, refusing also early sf’s penchant for gadgets and technological interventions; yet by imagining the ansible (a device for instantaneous communication among the stars, already a plot-element in Rocannon’s World), she was able to establish her Hainish series as science fiction rather than fantasy. In both her fantasy and her sf, Le Guin encouraged readers to think and then to think again. Her best work delights yet is never escapist, always thought-provoking. Even four-year-olds who first encountered Le Guin through Catwings (1988-1999), the series whose winged wild kittens are kin to the feline “windsteeds” of Rocannon’s World, were encouraged to ponder the plight of feral cats not able to fly away when in danger.
Accepting a medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters in 2014—Ray Bradbury is the only other sf author to receive it—Le Guin shared the honor with all “the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long—my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.” Then she looked into the future and asked the genres to step up their game and focus on quality, not profits:
Hard times are coming, when we’ll ... need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries, realists of a larger reality.... I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold [out].... [T]he name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom. (The Guardian online)
As long as “writers of the imagination” continue to invent insightful possible futures, speculative fiction will survive and may even flourish; despite market pressures, first-rate writers have broken through in every sf era. Yet times to come are never going to produce another Ursula K. Le Guin. Not only is her voice unique, as all voices are, but the old sf training ground—the pulps and digests that printed the fledgling early stories of those in her generation—has vanished. Fortunately, she was prolific, so that readers can always return to the trove of classics that she crafted with such restraint and skill. Her work invites and richly repays re-reading, one modest way for Le Guin’s admirers to enact Odo’s elusive adage: true journey is return.—The Editors, SFS
Le Guin, Ursula K. “The Day Before the Revolution.”1974. SF Masterworks: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. London: Gollancz, 2015. 263-80.
─────. The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. 1974. New York: EOS, 2001.
─────. Excerpts from “Introduction.” The Hainish Novels and Stories. Vol. 2. Ed. Brian Attebery. New York: Library of America, 2017. TOR.com. Online.
─────. The Left Hand of Darkness. 1969. New York: Ace, 2010.
─────. “The New Atlantis.” 1975. The Norton Book of Science Fiction. Ed. Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery. New York: Norton, 1993. 317-36.
─────. “The Princess.” Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. New York: Grove, 1989. 75-79.
─────. “Ursula K. Le Guin's speech at National Book Awards: ‘Books Aren't Just Commodities.’” The Guardian. Online. US Edition.
Frankenstein200. Two centuries after Mary Shelley imagined the story of Frankenstein, the very mention of her most famous creation conjures up imagery of dank, electrified labs and mysterious, unnatural creations overseen by a solitary, wild-eyed researcher. Yet today the types of science that enchanted Victor—autonomous machines, synthetic biology, and the biochemistry of life—are more likely to be explored by brilliant and charming people in the offices of the latest start-up. Given the types of environments that tomorrow's scientists and technologists will likely inhabit and will need to be equipped to navigate, Arizona State University, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, created Frankenstein200. The project, designed to create and assess new methods for informal STEM education, pairs hands-on activities and DIY maker challenges with an online story/game that invites players aged 8-14 to role play in a modern-day Frankenstein's lab.
At the high-tech Laboratory for Innovation and Fantastical Exploration (L.I.F.E.), founded by Victoria “Tori” Frankenstein, the familiar story of grave-robbing and lightning bolts is replaced with science activities and thought-experiments around genetic engineering and artificial intelligence. Participants take on the role of junior research assistants, working alongside other characters in the lab to uncover a scientific mystery. Built on the same methodology as popular story-games produced for film and television, Frankenstein200 relies on the media literacies of learners raised in immersive story-worlds such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Harry Potter. Shuttling between creative activities in physical spaces, online videos, chats, and interactive content as well as emails/phone calls from characters that break the 4th wall, players become active co-creators in a transmedia learning environment.
This learning is bolstered by the ubiquity of Frankenstein itself. Over two hundred years, the story has been adapted, remixed, transmitted, politicized, and commodified in myriad ways. Mary Shelley's creation looms large in our cultural consciousness and affords an entrée into complex topics at the nexus of science, technology, and society. Whereas few young people have developed weighty opinions on bioethics or participated in public policy debates over artificial intelligence, nearly everyone knows Frankenstein. The story’s fluidity and familiarity create an accessible space for public audiences, young and old, to think about these big ideas and deliberate together on what lies ahead.
Frankenstein200 is available now, for free. Visit the following website <http://Frankenstein200.org> for a trailer, a list of activities, participating locations, and to start the experience.—Bob Beard, Arizona State University
On Lenin’s Supposed Response to The Time Machine. There is an alleged quotation from V.I. Lenin about the potential human impact of space travel and interplanetary communications which has continued to re-surface and is now a standard item in the cultural history of the Russian Revolution. Numerous literary scholars have repeated it, including the present writer (Parrinder 135).
The first, and fullest, English-language version of the Lenin quote is in Moura Budberg’s translation of Julius Kagarlitski’s The Life and Thought of H.G. Wells (1966), where, in the middle of a discussion of The Time Machine, we come across the following:
In 1920, after a conversation with Lenin, Wells made a note, which was published fairly recently—after the Soviet flight to the moon. “Lenin said,” wrote Wells, “that as he read The Time Machine he understood that human ideas are based on the scale of the planet we live in: they are based on the assumption that the technical potentialities, as they develop, will never overstep ‘the earthly limit’. If we succeed in making contact with the other planets, all our philosophical, social and moral ideas will have to be revised, and will put an end to violence as a necessary means of progress.” (46)
Although Kagarlitski’s book, originally published three years earlier in Russian, has no notes or references, the “recent publication” that he refers to is evidently an article by Elizaveta Drabkina first published in the December 1961 issue of Novy Mir, reprinted in Izvestia on December 22. (Darko Suvin, who in Metamorphoses of Science Fiction  summarizes Lenin’s supposed remarks, has confirmed in a private communication that this was the source.) But where did Drabkina get her information from? She herself claims that Wells’s long-forgotten “note” had been rescued from the archives by the French daily newspaper Paris-presse l’intransigeant, to which her attention had been drawn by the poet and Communist Party member Louis Aragon. This “note,” doubtless written in English and recording what had been spoken in the Soviet leader’s own fluent English, had apparently gone through both French and Russian translation before being translated back into its original language! It may be added that the Paris-presse version, which appears in a text box under the title “Ce qu’en pensait Lénine” [What Lenin thought] as part of the newspaper’s front-page coverage of the Luna-2 rocket launch on 15 September 1959, is couched in remarkably idiomatic French.
There is no official record of the conversation between Lenin and Wells, which took place in the Kremlin on 6 October 1920 with two other people present. Nor, to my knowledge, have the biographers of either Lenin or Wells quoted the former’s supposed response to The Time Machine. Wells returned to London almost immediately after the meeting, by way of St. Petersburg where, as it happens, he must surely have shared his impressions of Lenin with his new acquaintance, eventually to become his long-term companion, Moura Budberg. (Unfortunately, the latter’s involvement as Kagarlitski’s translator does nothing to authenticate Lenin’s remarks.) Wells’s account of his meeting with Lenin was almost immediately serialized in the Sunday Express, and included in his book Russia in the Shadows by the end of the year under the famous title “The Dreamer in the Kremlin” (123-42). This account mentions neither The Time Machine nor interplanetary communication. Nor are they referred to in the diaries of the British sculptor Clare Sheridan, who spoke to Wells immediately after he left the Kremlin, and to Lenin himself the next day. Sheridan, however, records that Lenin told her on 7 October that he had read part of Joan and Peter (1918) but none of Wells’s science fiction (102-103, 108). No other “note” by Wells of his conversation with Lenin has, to my knowledge, ever been found.
From a literary point of view, Lenin’s reported comments manifestly ring false since The Time Machine (1895), unlike several of Wells’s later works, makes no reference to possible interplanetary communications or space travel. But this has not stopped scholars from repeating these comments and, in some cases, adding fresh errors in the course of transmission. For example, Mark Steven (175, 241n) attributes the Lenin “anecdote” to Maxim Gorky, as a result of misreading a note by the Russian specialist Susan Buck-Morss (44, 296n), who herself cites another Russian specialist, Richard Stites (42, 263n). Some of these scholars, including Darko Suvin, have set out to explain just why, in the midst of a terrible famine and civil war, the hard-pressed Soviet leader may have found time to think about an interplanetary future. But what nobody, including the Russian specialists, has noted is that Kagarlitsky himself had returned to the Lenin quotation in a brief article published in 1970 in the Soviet Writers’ Union journal Voprosy Literatury—a far from obscure source. Here he wrote that Paris-presse had been asked where they had found their information but had failed to reply. (The newspaper itself closed down in 1970.) Kagarlitski concluded—to the profound disappointment, perhaps, of those dreaming of a Lenin who was both capable of ideological self-doubt and interested in the possibility of space travel—that Lenin’s remarks had no factual basis (1970, 244). Was this whole story no more than the last-minute inspiration of a Parisian literary hack anxious to fill up the front page? Very likely we will never know.—Patrick Parrinder, University of Reading
NOTE: I am deeply grateful to Galya Diment and Vitaly Babenko for identifying and commenting on some of the above sources, and also for translations from the Russian.
Buck-Morss, Susan. Dreamworld and Catastrophe: The Passing of Mass Utopia in East and West. 2000. Cambridge, MA: MIT P, 2002.
“Ce qu’en pensait Lénine.” Paris-presse l’intransigeant (15 Sep. 1959): 1.
Drabkina, E. “Nevozmozhnego niet!” [Not Impossible]. Novy Mir 12 (1961): 6-10.
Kagarlitski, J. “Chital li Lenin Wellsa?” [Did Lenin Read Wells?] Voprosy Literatury 10 (1970): 244.
─────. The Life and Thought of H.G. Wells. Trans. Moura Budberg. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1966.
Parrinder, Patrick. Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 1995.
Sheridan, Clare. Russian Portraits. London: Cape, 1921. US title Mayfair to Moscow.
Steven, Mark. Red Modernism: American Poetry and the Spirit of Communism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2017.
Stites, Richard. Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.
Suvin, Darko. Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre. 1979. Ed. Gerry Canavan. Bern: Peter Lang, 2016.
Wells, H.G. Russia in the Shadows. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1920.
Report on the George Slusser Conference. The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy was held on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on 26-27 April 2018. The conference was designed to honor the legacy of the late science-fiction scholar George Slusser (1939–2014) in two ways. First, the conference followed the format that Slusser long employed for his J. Lloyd Eaton Conferences on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature at the University of California, Riverside, with a single track of papers and panels that enabled participants to hear every presentation, and a schedule that allowed ample time for questions and comments after every paper. Second, in their analyses of science fiction and fantasy, speakers were asked to engage with, and build upon, Slusser’s far-ranging and insightful scholarly writings, which, as the conference theme announced, truly did address “Science Fiction: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” The conference was sponsored by the Office of the Campus Writing Coordinator at UC Irvine, and its four coordinators were Jonathan Alexander, Gregory Benford, Howard V. Hendrix, and Gary Westfahl.
There were fifteen speakers at the conference: sf writers Benford, David Brin, Hendrix, Charles Platt, and Alvaro Zinos-Amaro; experienced scholars Alexander, Bradford Lyau, Steven Postrel, Stephen W. Potts, Lisa Raphals, Westfahl, and Gary K. Wolfe; younger scholars Ari Brin and Joey Eschrich; and librarian Julia Ree, who provided a first-hand account of Slusser’s work for the Eaton Collection of UC Riverside. A sixteenth paper, an excerpt from an unpublished Slusser book, was read by Westfahl. There were also three panel discussions featuring, in addition to several speakers, writers James P. Blaylock, Sheila Finch, Larry Niven, and Tim Powers, and Celeste McConnell Barber, widow of the late scholar Frank McConnell (1942–1999). The conference concluded with a reception at Alexander’s house.
The coordinators are now in the process of assembling a volume of conference essays which they expect will be published within the next two years, and there are hopes that additional conferences of this kind can be held in the future.—Gary Westfahl, Claremont, CA
Theorizing Zombiism, 25-27 July 2019. The University College Dublin Humanities Institute will host a 2019 conference to address rising academic interest in the zombie across many disciplines, including the humanities, anthropology, economics, and political science. The zombie has been used as a metaphor for economic policy, political administrations, and cultural critique through various theoretical frameworks as well as a metaphor for capitalism, geopolitics, globalism, neo-liberal markets, and even restrictive aspects of academia.
This cultural figure has its beginnings in folk tales related to the experience of the Haitian slave. Roger Lockhurst, in Zombies: A Cultural History (2015), examines these folk tales concerned with the horrific existence of slavery as told through the enigmatic “zombi,” which was quickly assimilated into western film and pulp fiction. Early films such as White Zombie (1932) mark the induction of the savage zombies into western culture. George A. Romero transformed the zombie narrative into a survival story reflecting aspects of human society in such films as “Night of the Living Dead” (1968).
This conference aims to investigate the possibility of developing a single theoretical framework to evaluate culture and society through the zombie narrative trope. Contributors are encouraged to provide discipline-specific or interdisciplinary examinations of such topics as nationalism, globalization, refugees and migration, and zombies in popular culture. Send abstracts of 300 words to <email@example.com> by 1 Sept 2018 to the website: <https://theorizingzombiism.wordpress.com.>—Scott Hamilton (UCD), Conor Heffernan (UCD), Conference Organizers
CFP: Kumoricon Anime and Manga Studies: Intertextual Anime. Kumoricon Anime and Manga Studies is a new program featuring academic panels and lectures, hosted at Kumoricon (Portland, Oregon, 26-28 Oct. 2018) with the goal of bringing together anime and manga scholars and fans and exposing the discipline’s insights to a larger audience of enthusiasts. Kumoricon is Oregon’s largest anime convention, held annually in the Pacific Northwest for fifteen years.
Homage, allusion, and experimentation with genre conventions have been key elements in anime and manga, from the inspirational role of film noir and Akira Kurosawa on the Gekiga (“dramatic pictures”) movement to the self-reflexive examination of popular genres and character types in recent anime and manga such as Re:Creators (2017–) and Space Dandy (2014). Fan practices, such as dōjinshi (self-published work) and cosplay, follow in a similar vein, recontextualizing or reproducing the familiar both to entertain and to discover new elements contained within their source material. An understanding of the complexities of intertextual frames and genre deeply contributes to the appreciation of anime and manga as media for both scholars and fans, drawing on multiple approaches and methodologies, from history to animation theory.
KAMS invites submissions on all topics related to anime and manga, particularly intertextual and genre elements but also general topics. Panel and individual submissions are welcome. Proposals of 250-400 words should be submitted in .pdf or MS Word format to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Please include your name and the paper or panel title in the attached document. Notifications of acceptance will be sent to the email address used for submission. The inclusion of 3-5 bibliographic entries is preferred but not required. The deadline is 15 July 2018. Contact me at <email@example.com> with any questions.—Nicolas Trace Cabot, University of Southern California
TLS Remembers Le Guin. The 2 February issue of the Times Literary Supplement offered, in lieu of a formal remembrance after Ursula K. Le Guin’s death on 22 January, a “From the Archive” reprint of two Le Guin reviews that appeared in TLS in March and July of 1976. In the first, Le Guin considers, with some asperity, the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, describing L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Lovecraft (1975) as balanced and conscientious, and therefore ill-fitted to his topic: “Lovecraft dangles like a rabbit from the jaws of his unconscious.... Mr. de Camp’s own opinions are ... far too sane and moderate to suit his demented subject” (34). She concedes, however, that “Lovecraft’s feebleness gave his writing its one strength.... Read late at night alone, ... [his stories] can give the genuine chill.... Is there, perhaps, a web-footed person in the basement?” (34).
The other review assesses four works of sf by Robert Silverberg (The Stochastic Man, 1975), Robert Sheckley (The Status Civilization, 1960; rpt. 1976), Christopher Priest (The Space Machine: A Scientific Romance, 1976), and Robert Holdstock (Eye Among the Blind, 1976), delivering mixed reviews to each but singling out Holdstock’s first novel as a notable debut. In the novel by Robert Silverberg, “probably the most intelligent science-fiction writer in America,” she suspects she sees an author “bored to death by his own proficiency.” Robert Sheckley’s new book is “cheerfully readable, but it could have been much more than that.” Christopher Priest’s pastiche of H.G. Wells is “thoroughly entertaining,” yet modernist Le Guin—somehow foretelling the arrival of “steampunk” a decade before it appeared—fears that “this and Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound” (1973) will “herald a spate of phony Victorianism” (34). Robert Holdstock’s novel, faulted for substandard copy-editing left uncorrected by the press, is then praised as
a serious, ambitious, fascinating first novel.... Here the ideas are the action, and the action is exciting because the tone is not icy, nor evasive, nor self-parodying, but passionately concerned.
Framing this review is Le Guin’s observation that altogether these four novels suggest two things: both “[t]he necessity of professionalism as a means, and the insufficiency of professionalism as an end” (34).—SFS Editors
2018 Mullen Fellows Announced. TheMullen Fellowship offers stipends of up to $3000 for the post-doctoral award and up to $1500 for the PhD award to support research at any archive that has sf holdings, in support of dissertation or book projects that have science fiction as a central research focus. The program was instituted tohonor Richard “Dale” Mullen, founder of Science Fiction Studies. This year the Mullen Fellowship Award Committee consisted of Barry Keith Grant and M. Elizabeth Ginway, SFS consultants, and SFS editor Istvan Csicsery-Ronay. It was chaired by SFS editor Sherryl Vint. The committee has selected the following projects for 2018.
The post-doctoral award this year goes to Andrew Ferguson. He received his PhD in English from the University of Virginia in 2017. His present project explores the role of editorial work in shaping the movement retroactively called the New Wave—not just in the tasks of selection and promotion but also in the textual operations of line and copy editing. Studying these processes reveals the actual language of the New Wave in the process of becoming, language that continues to exert an outsized influence not only on the genre but also on everyday reality as the visions of that generation creep dangerously closer to quotidian life. Among the figures whose labor proved crucial to this movement, few were more central than Judith Merril, whose anthology England Swings SF (1968) capped two decades of work in the field. Although her papers contain Merril’s correspondence with almost every major author and critic of the day and detailed documentation of her contributions to their stories, they have rarely been consulted and have not yet been completely processed, in part because they are not held along with her books at the Toronto Public Library, but rather at the National Archives in Ottawa. This project seeks to develop a picture of Merril’s editorial tendencies and to map her relations to the writings of others at the heart of the New Wave. Dr. Ferguson hopes also to begin the process of reuniting these materials with the collection in Toronto, placing them in the hands of those best able to preserve and curate them.
The following doctoral candidates, listed in alphabetical order, received the Mullen PhD awards for 2018:
Stina Attebery is a PhD candidate at the University of California, Riverside. Her dissertation, Refuse Ecologies: Indigenous Posthumanism in Polluted Futures, looks at the representation of polluted ecologies in Indigenous futurism. Indigenous science rethinks the divisions among life, death, animacy, inanimacy, ecology, geology, and toxicity in ways that emphasize precarious kinship in the face of climate change. In apocalyptic Indigenous futurism, the refuse of capitalism—bioengineered experiments, broken machines, landfill tricksters, unruly chemical agents, gas mask warriors—forges new kinship within a polluted ecosystem. Indigenous science fiction therefore explores the discomforting connections between futurity and waste at stake in human collaborations with the nonhuman world. She will visit the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale to research the papers and manuscripts of Gerald Vizenor (Anishinaabe), particularly his sf novel Heirs of Columbus (1991) and story collection Landfill Meditation: Crossblood Stories (1991).
Rhodri Davies is a PhD candidate at Birkbeck College, University of London. His dissertation, A Secular Religion: Pulp Science Fiction and Alien Theologies, explores the apparent contradiction between the privileging of scientific rigor that underpinned most “Golden Age” sf and its appropriation in the formulation of certain science-fictional New Religious Movements—an interdisciplinary project drawing on methodological tools offered by the cognitive and digital humanities as well as cultural history and literary criticism. The funding from this fellowship will enable him to visit the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection the University of California, Riverside, to conduct research for a chapter on fandom during a period in which many expressed interests and ambitions that are shared by later religious movements. Specifically, he will investigate various fan publications and correspondence concerning Claude Degler, whose advocacy of “fanationalism” and attempts to establish a fan community to usher in the next stage of human evolution clearly prefigure such movements. Although Degler enjoyed a brief period of infamy and is mentioned in most histories of fandom, a closer analysis of his publications and other fans’ responses to his mission is overdue and will help to illuminate an often-overlooked history of sf: the genre’s imbrication with the mystical, occult, and esoteric.
Bethany Doane is a PhD candidate at Penn State University. Her dissertation, Weird Reading: Horror as Radical Politics at the End of the World, draws on critical theory, feminist studies, and genre literature in order to posit the aesthetic and conceptual significance of weird fiction today. This interstitial and speculative genre attempts to think toward the unthinkable by imagining what lies beyond human perceptual, epistemic, and phenomeno-logical limits. Following the mode’s fascination with the “outside” as one of such ambivalence that it easily opens to both reactionary and radical interpretations, this project is also devoted to the politics and practices of reading weird/horror, as well as to the political contexts of how various media, from pulp magazines to blogs, have enabled certain gendered and racially configured reading communities and practices. She will travel to the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, to examine the extensive archive of early and mid-century weird fiction housed there, particularly the advertisements, artwork, and regular contributions to a section of Weird Fiction magazine called “The Eyrie,” a reader’s forum in which fans exchanged thoughts and opinions.
Congratulations to all the winners, and my thanks to the selection committee for their important work in evaluating applications.—Sherryl Vint, SFS
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