Science Fiction Studies

#33 = Volume 11, Part 2 = July 1984


From "RVOG" to VOR: A Coded Message from James Blish

Damon Knight in an essay on James Blish describes the peculiar history of a story which Knight could not finish and how it led to a novel on which he could not collaborate. After half completing a story entitled "Mercy Death,"Knight had asked Blish if he could find an ending. The collaborative result appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories (33 [February 1949]; 76-89—hereafter TWS) under a new title ("The Weakness of RVOG") supplied by the editor, Sam Merwin (who also rearranged the original name, RGOV). Some years later Blish had seen new possibilities in the piece that would justify its expansion into a short novel. The expansion essentially involved grafting on the story of one Marty Petrucelli, who is experiencing marital problems. Blish now turned the tables and asked Knight to collaborate with him on the novel version, VOR, but Knight declined, having found that he was unable to "work with the new characters" that Blish had introduced. The novel, which appeared in 1958, has not met with approval. Knight's own reaction is typical; he complains that the major new plot element is irrelevant to the main action (which corresponds more or less to the original story), that there is too much unnecessary information, and that the overall effect of Blish's expansion is to slow things down to a crawl.*                

Any re-evaluation of VOR will depend upon finding an answer to one question: What led Blish from the story of an alien enigma named RVOG to a story about marital problems, specifically sexual problems? I shall argue that in the novel Petrucelli's story is organically related to that of the alien now renamed VOR, with the result dial VOR's story appears in a very different and rather more intriguing light than does RVOG's. It is thus appropriate that Blish signals this "paradigm shift" by changing the name of the alien (besides, RVOG sounds too much like "frog"). Indeed, Blish's reconception of "The Weakness of RVOG" is sufficiently radical that VOR deserves to be treated on its own terms as an independent novel rather than as the expansion of a short story. A brief discussion of the short story followed by a somewhat longer discussion of the novel will indicate the extent to which we are dealing with two very different works.                

The short story has to do with an incredibly powerful and apparently indestructible alien who arrives on Earth and asks to be destroyed. This message is received by a couple of scientists, the American, Davis, and the Russian, Boris Erdsenov, when they succeed in cracking the color communication system emitted from a flashing circular organ below the alien's eyes. The repeated sequence (which Merwin neglected to rearrange)—red, green, orange, and violet—is taken as indicating that his name (it is immediately assumed that the alien is masculine) is RVOG. Not only is there no explanation as to why RVOG wants to be destroyed and no apparent means of destroying him; there is, alternatively, clear evidence that RVOG has the power to destroy Earth. Frustrated that no one has even tried to kill him, RVOG walks out of the Terminal Building (of the Chicago spaceport where he landed) and takes off in his ship, with the result that much damage is done and Port Commissioner Holm is killed. A number of Patrol planes pursue RVOG, including that piloted by Captain Bergsen, accompanied by Davis, in the Loci. There is talk of a battleship named the Ginnangu (which it is pointed out means the end of the world in Scandinavian mythology) and of using a weapon called the "Solar Phoenix" (TWS, p. 85).               

Erdsenov, whose alarmist views have previously been rejected by Davis, provides the solution to the conundrum that Knight originated. Via a "photophone" (TWS, p. 87) of his own design, he attempts to persuade RVOG to commit suicide and thereby prove that he is not susceptible to human weakness, specifically the fear of death. Obligingly RVOG falls for this semantic trickery: it is assumed that he will fly his ship directly into the Sun, thus creating his own "solar phoenix." It is Erdsenov's hypothesis (and that, it should be emphasized, is all it is) that RVOG was a robot scout designed to test our military strength. Had we not destroyed him, the alien culture that created him "would know we were too weak to resist invasion" (TWS, p. 88). As it is, we are now safe. The last of the story's four sections is entitled "The Chink in the Armor, " meaning RVOG's armor. More significant than RVOG's "weakness" are the chinks in the armor of weak logic that Blish concocted to bring the story to a conclusion. There were good reasons for Knight's block.                

In VOR Blish jettisons the Swedish Commonwealth and Co-operative State background which figures, to no particular point, in the earlier story, brings on the Civil Air Patrol, and replaces the focal character of Captain Bergsen with Marty Petrucelli, State Senator and CAP officer. Blish's 1955 experience with the CAP serves him well in this novel as it does in "Tomb Tapper" (1956), a close-to-contemporary story which is also concerned with the landing of an unidentified craft in difficult terrain. But VOR begins with Petrucelli and his inadequacies. Brian Stableford notes correctly that, as with The Frozen Year, there is a preoccupation with realistic presentation and characterization.** One does not have to be familiar with Erica Jong's book to realize that Marty's fear of flying is not unrelated to his sexual problem. By way of some rather lamentable dialogue, his colleague, Al Stickland, who will shortly be involved with Marty's wife, Pat, needles him about the matter—until a forest fire alert, with news of a wrecked plane in the middle, signals the destructive arrival of the alien ship.                

Before long Commissioner Christian Holm, of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) this time, is checking the "missile" along with Marty, who travels to the site by land. The alien emerges much as before, except that the creature is at first an "it" (NY: Avon, 1958, 3:49—hereafter cited by chapter: page) and only later a "he" (3:60) who is named VOR after the violet-orange-red identification combination he emits from the "mouth-like patch" (5:78) in front of his head. With some difficulty, the lethal creature is conveyed to the Grand Rapids Pile Station, where Davis and the Russian Boris Kovorsky (previously Erdsenov), now identified as linguists, solve the communication problem with the same results as before.                

By way of a new development, Marty, as the AEC liaison man, is placed in charge of the spaceship and concern is voiced about the Russian belief that "the 'VOR project' is code for research into the Solar Phoenix" (6:84); should the truth be publicly announced? There is much padding here. After the workings of VOR's ship have been more or less figured out, it is decided that Marty will fly the ship by remote control from the ground. But the key to what Blish is up to in VOR occurs in chapter 7 when Holm invites Marty and Pat (who is now dating Al Stickland) to meet him in a bar. Holm explains that VOR is now in the hands of the UN, and that he is likely to lose his job but he might be able to get Marty appointed his successor. However, Marty will need to get to meetings quickly and must overcome his fear of flying. At this moment a booming sound indicates that macho Al is personally flying VOR's ship—so there! There have been various references to Holm's alienation, and now "the loneliest man in all the teeming world" (7:120) leaves Marty and Pat. It is left to Pat to point out to a shocked Marty that Holm is sexually attracted to him: "He's been chasing you ever since this thing began" (7:122). Holm, his secret encoded in his name, is a homosexual—and so, we may assume, is Marty. This would explain his marital problems and his "fear of flying." Knight's belief that VOR should have been written from Holm's point of view (although he seems not to have taken account of the fact that Holm is to die before the conclusion) may have reflected a sense of Holm's centrality in this regard.***                

But how does this relate to VOR's story? The connection has to do with VOR's desire for self destruction (no doubt the death theme must have appealed to Blish when Knight presented him with the unfinished "Mercy Death") and with the sense that homosexuality is also self-destructive, a form of sexual suicide, since it does not lead to procreation. The physical appearance of VOR amounts to an epitome of homosexual phallic energy as voraciously destructive. He is described in terms of protruberances. His legs, "swollen at their centers like two overstuffed sausages, sprang without grace or logic from the flattened bottom of the torso; the arms, only slightly less thick, stuck out from the sides.... [T]he domed head, shaped somewhat like the skull of an elephant, rose straight from the torso without a break" (3:49-50; my emphasis). This impression does not come through as strongly in the description of RVOG, although RVOG does have "two whorled horny ears" (TWS, p. 79) which become "horn-like" (3:51) in VOR. It hardly seems accidental that, as Holm approaches VOR, we are informed that the flexible oxygen tube issuing from the back of his protective suit "was nearly rigid with the force of the air being driven through it" (3:51; my emphasis). RVOG, who, like VOR,is "shining and black as anthracite" (TWS, pp. 79, 50), appears much more metallic and robotic than VOR. Aside from the "anthracite" (which dispels a too-obvious evocation of the potent black man), all the analogies used to describe VOR are organic: legs like "sausages," "starfish" arms, digits "like those of a contracted anemone," and a head like "that of an elephant" (3:49-50). For a while these analogies discourage the notion that VOR is a robot and thereby add further pathos to his desire for death. It is likely that the reader would feel less sympathy for an artificial entity. Furthermore, although it is subsequently assumed that VOR is a robot, these initial organic hints augment the symbolic equation between VOR's destructive phallic force and Holm's (and Marty's) homosexuality. (As additional evidence for this sexual reading, it might be noted that the somewhat related story, "Tomb-Tapper," features the well-nigh clichéd situation of a missile piloted into a railway tunnel.)                

VOR's story concludes in much the same way as RVOG's except that it also provides a resolution to the theme of homosexuality as the expression of a death wish. Kovorsky explains what he believes to be VOR's purpose, but he does so before and not, as in the short story, after the alien is tricked into apparently destroying himself. Marty overcomes his fear of flying and flies Kovorsky in a ramshackle plane above VOR's ship so that Kovorsky can flash his message across. In response, VOR's ship "tilted upwards" (9:154) in preparation for his orgasmic union with the Sun. But if the "Solar Phoenix" metaphor is to hold, the little death of sex should be followed by a resurrection. Echoing a line from A Torrent of Faces (1967), Kovorsky says that with VOR gone, "We shall die, perhaps, but we shall all be changed" (10:157). New life, in a psychological sense, will, it seems, issue from VOR's death. And likewise from Holm's; he died when VOR broke out of the Pile Station: "The concussion burst open his abdomen" (8:130), as it does when RVOG breaks out of the Terminal (TWS, p. 84). Holm's is a pregnant death which results in the birth of the new Marty Petrucelli, who can accept that he will not get back with his wife and who may succeed Holm as the new AEC Commissioner. Looking "toward the Sun," Kovorsky points the moral: "Christian Holm was right: you are his son" (10:158). Presumably Marty comes to the realization that a homosexual relationship can be as much a manifestation of Christian brotherly love as a heterosexual one and that he himself is evidence of its procreative possibilities.  

In the light of the above, it seems necessary to conclude that VOR amounts to a lot more than just an extended version of "The Weakness of RVOG." Contrived, misleading, and occasionally inept VOR may be; but out of weakness, out of death, has come a distinct new life.  —David Ketterer
*See Knight, In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction (1956; rev. ed., Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1967), pp. 155-57. Knight explained why he could not collaborate on VOR in a letter to me dated May 28, 1983.
**A Clash of Symbols: The Triumph of James Blish (San Bernardino, CA: 1979), p. 41.
***Knight specifies the episode where "Holm confronts the alien, risking his life to try to open communication. If the story had been written from Holm's viewpoint, this could have been a scene of hair-raising suspense. As it is, it takes place almost invisibly offstage while we get a worm's eye view of Marty and his stone-cold love life": In Search of Wonder, p. 156.


Innocence Unrewarded: A Note on E.T. and the Myth of Adolescence

As I write these words, Steven Spielberg's movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is banned to Scandinavian children under the age of 12. Supported by an influential group of child psychologists, the authorities in Finland, Norway, and Sweden have interpreted the fantasy film as a negative image of adulthood because it portrays a society composed largely of individuals who are the enemies of children.                

The adults in Scandinavia should at least be applauded for their insight. For E.T. is a subtle act of subversion, decrying a society, a culture that has lost contact with the sustaining values of human compassion and tolerance. Yet the critique which the film levels at the adult world as perceived from the standpoint of children—and sensitive and personable children at that—is not easily dismissable. Nor will prohibiting children from seeing it do away with the social tensions that alienate them and make them rebellious.                

Early in E.T. we learn that the movie's young protagonist, Elliott, is disconsolate over the departure of his father—throughout the film a faceless figure who has separated from Elliott's mother and is currently pursuing another woman in Mexico. Although Elliott still lives with his mother, older brother, and younger sister, it is clear that his affluent life in suburban California is painfully incomplete without paternal influence. While searching for equipment to aid E.T. in the construction of his communicator, Elliott and his brother, Michael, discover a discarded shirt belonging to their father; Elliott even recognizes the exact scent of cologne that still lingers in depressing familiarity. In the dialogue which ensues, the audience learns that among Elliott's fondest memories are the baseball games he once attended with his father. Moreover, in spite of Michael's reassurance, the child is no longer confident such father-and-son activities will reoccur. The scene is important not only for its emotional impact in illustrating the void that exists in Elliott's life, but also in preparing the audience for E.T.'s symbolic emergence in the temporary role as a partial substitute for Elliott's absent father. In fact, it is through the extension of the baseball metaphor that the child is initially introduced to E.T.: playing a one-sided game of catch with the invisible "presence" behind the garbage cans.                

Elliott is a precocious child of the 20th century. He understands intuitively that if E.T. is discovered, the creature will be displayed, analyzed, and finally dissected by a scientific community less interested in the wonder of this organism from space than in the properties which enable it to function in Earth's atmosphere. It is for this reason that Elliott elects to release the frogs in his biology class: E.T. physically resembles the specimen about to be chloroformed; but more importantly, he has also produced a heightened awareness in the child of freedom and life—values not exclusive to only the human sphere.               

It is a process that bears interesting parallels with the Huck Finn-Jim relationship in Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck undergoes a painful moral struggle to eventually achieve a similar empathy with the black man. This emancipatory process is more complex for Huck—filled with contradictions and the belief he has forfeited his soul—than for Elliott; but it nonetheless results in his embracing a position rather like Elliott's. Both children choose to reject the most important foundations upon which their societies are grounded—slavery and science, respectively. By logical analogy, their rejections unite them with the outsider in a life-and-death struggle against society in general.                

As Leslie Fiedler has documented in Love and Death in the American Novel, there exists a mythic archetype in American culture that connects the white male outcast to the non-white outsider. The strength of this union, based initially on mutual survival and desperation, belies a loneliness that demands love; its very existence symbolizes a disavowal of the conventional in favor of a broader-based spirit of acceptance. It is a relationship that challenges the core limitations of society, and therefore must remain secretive and illicit.                

E.T.'s ending is perhaps less abstract than Huckleberry Finn's, but it is as equally committed to rebellion against a society whose police are prepared (on two separate occasions) to use bullets in order to prevent the escape of both creature and children. Indeed, were it not for E.T.'s magical powers of flight and the escape they offer, the undercurrent of violence that lurks beneath the surface of Spielberg's film would have been more evident than it is, with a result closely resembling the conclusion of François Truffaut's The Four Hundred Blows.

But what of the adults in E.T.? Are they indeed unfair caricatures worthy of censorship? Spielberg's treatment of them—from the helmeted albino monsters who finally capture E.T. to the waist-angle shots of legs and jangling keys—considers adulthood from the restricted perspective of a ten year-old (or a three-foot high extraterrestrial). From a strictly imagistic point of view, the strategy is highly effective, rendering both a surreal sense of unbridled bureaucratic power and a heightened sensation of anxiety and fear. However, when helmets are removed and upper torsos reattached to legs, Spielberg's adults become no less monstrous. Devoid of an appreciation for the mysterious and even lacking a primitive level of human compassion, they are the technological descendants of Hawthorne's intellectuals (Brand, Chillingworth, Rappaccini, etc.): scorning the relationship between Elliott and E.T., their overuse of science—the discovery of DNA in E.T. produces ecstasy among the white-cloaked technicians—nearly destroys the very organism they seek to penetrate. Representative of modern man at his worst, scientists unite with various governmental agencies to stalk the screen in zombie-like performances; they emerge as the real "creatures" from a hostile world. The technocrats in this film compose an unflattering portrait; but they are—unfortunately—no mere exaggerations of 20th-century man, obsessed in his desire for meaning through statistics.               

Perhaps Spielberg's most serious indictment of adults concerns their lost capacity for wonder. While explaining the Peter Pan legend to her daughter, Elliott's mother (Mary) pays lip-service to the importance of believing in "fairies. " However, when confronted with the reality of E.T.—fantasy brought to material form—she responds only with fear and loathing, removing her children from E.T.'s sickly presence. Her reactions are of course in stark contrast to those of her children, all of whom readily welcome the space-being into their lives. Although Mary also comes to "love the alien" at the film's conclusion, she gains this new perspective only after observing the relationship between E.T. and her children and by personally experiencing the intrusion and violation of both home and offspring by the officious authorities.                

Spielberg does not unexceptionally condemn adults or science. Peter Coyote appears in a cameo role as a scientist who has relinquished neither his humanity nor the ability to perceive imaginatively. As he acknowledges to Elliott, he has been exploring the world of fantasy, anticipating an experience like the appearance of E.T., since he was ten years old. Only the arrogant bureaucrats and technicians who have willingly purged themselves of all ties to childhood are subject to Spielberg's wrath.                

Behind the backdrop of romance and fantasy, there is a pervasive element of desperation that propels Elliott through his adventure. Elliott's own nostalgic longing for the former, more complete family unit he once shared, is echoed in E.T.'s interstellar quest for transportation "home." But when the spaceship ascends with E.T. on board, Elliott's human father remains in Mexico and marital divorce still looms in the future. At the end of the film, Elliott is abandoned once again, and like so many American protagonists in literature and cinema—from Faulkner's and Hemingway's time-warped outcasts to the celluloid anti-heroes played by Dustin Hoffman—his quest for wholeness remains unresolved. In this sense at least, the child undercuts the sentimental myth of bliss and leisure so frequently attributed by nostalgic adults to the experience of boyhood. Elliott remains profoundly skeptical of the adult world, and given his experience in it, his mistrust is more than adequately justified.                

The relationship between Elliott and E.T. represents an indictment of adult society that spans generations of families, decades of history. The film raises the uncomfortable and yet unanswered question of why it is that in America, or Scandinavia, or perhaps anywhere else, a man so rarely evolves into what the boy gave promise of becoming. This is the real issue that child psychologists and librarians, properly concerned over the healthy development of society's children, should consider thoroughly before resorting to the deadening effects of censorship. What is it about the adult world—what properties inhere with the matrix of its institutions and authority— that makes enemies of its own progeny?—Anthony Magistrale


A Dialogue on Science Fiction Dialogues

Patrick Parrinder's review of Science Fiction Dialogues in SFS No. 32 contains some valid critical observations, some legitimate questions about the general direction of the Science Fiction Research Association, and a large number of specific complaints about the editing of the volume. While I do not wish to dispute his prerogatives as a reviewer, I do question his surmises about how the book was produced and his implication that the book in its present state reflects the larger work of the SFRA.                

In particular, I think clarification is needed concerning his statement that since none of those whose help is acknowledged in the preface "appears to be a publisher's editor," this is somehow evidence "that the publisher's role was neutral rather than interventionist." If there is one thing the rather widely publicized controversy over this book had made clear, I had thought it would be that the "interventionism" of the publisher was unquestioned, that it took place after the manuscript left my hands, and that the book was proofed and set in type before I saw it again. Under such circumstances, it would have been difficult for me to thank the publisher's editor even had I been so inclined. Much of this has been documented in print, in The Patchin Review and elsewhere.               

Members of the editorial board were responsible only for reading and commenting upon essays submitted for inclusion. Once the final manuscript was assembled, it was submitted to Academy Chicago, who complained about a couple of the essays but assured me that their copy-editing would fall within accepted practices of publishers' editing and that in any event proofs would be available. In fact, I did not see proofs, and the editor at Academy Chicago virtually rewrote entire essays. Nearly all of the errors of titles, names, typography, etc. that Parrinder notes resulted from this process. Some examples: the title of Budrys' essay, which Parrinder questions, was in fact changed (with his permission) to "Fiction in the Chain Mode: Nonliterary Influences on Science Fiction." This title (which survives in the table of contents but not on the essay itself) was meant to clarify that he was focusing on authors who wrote for chain magazines such as those Silverberg wrote for. Hence also the apparent rate discrepancy between those magazines and the Galaxy rates mentioned in Marchesani's essay. Robert Crossley has also publicly disputed changes made in his piece without his or my knowledge, and even the title of the book (which Parrinder also questions) was assigned by the publisher, who rejected suggestions made by myself and James Gunn. Such examples go on and on.                

After more than 18 months, I have little desire to reopen this dispute, but I felt it necessary to at least explain the very limited involvement of the editorial board members and the even more limited involvement of the SFRA membership in general. If the "leadership" of SFRA or the critical predilections of its members are to be questioned, that is a different matter, and more properly the subject of a separate essay.—Gary K. Wolfe

Gary Wolfe is correct in assuming that, at the time of writing my review of Science Fiction Dialogues, I was unaware that he was in dispute with his publisher. I did not learn of this until after the review had reached page-proof stage, which—given the time-lag all too familiar in SFS and most other academic journals—was some time ago. I am most grateful to him for setting the record straight on this point and for clarifying the role of the SFRA editorial board. However, I am sure he would acknowledge the existence of a wider public who do not take the SFRA Newsletter and whose view of that organization might well be formed by what they find in the pages of Science Ficdon Dialogues. May I propose that SFRA devote some of its efforts (including legal ones if necessary) to putting out a corrected edition of this ill-fated book which bears its imprimatur?—Patrick Parrinder


A New French Journal

Daniel Riche is the main editor of a new journal simply entitled Science-Fiction and meant to appear irregularly (or so it would seem: no periodicity is mentioned in its first [Jan. 1984] issue) as a 250-page small illustrated volume (emanating from Denoël in Paris and costing FFrs. 38). For the first time in France, an SF journal is not being launched to publish primarily fiction, original or translated, but mainly essays, debates, and commentaries, providing French SF "with the kind of critical and cultural relays" it seems to be in need of in order to play its role in the circulation of modern ideas (see "Editorial," pp. 8-9). More ambitiously, Riche and his team aim at offering an S-F comment on the present time in general, implying that SF may be seen as a way of dealing with social changes ("a pertinent reading of the signs of Modernity"), if not as a world-view. Hence the editorial team are planning occasionally to neglect SF as such to look at phenomena like "videos, micro-computers, fashion, or aesthetics" from an S-F standpoint. Such an ambition seems to be both sufficiently challenging and risquéto attract notice. The present issue, devoting its major section to the works of J.G. Ballard, includes a long interview with him, his essay "From Shanghai to Shepperton" (originally published in Foundation, No. 24 [1982]), and a brilliant analysis by Jean Baudrillard of Ballard's Crash. The French novelist Philippe Curval writes a "Manifesto for SF," stressing what he considers to be its revolutionary potential not to give way to literature but to destroy "this old world of ours." A section of book reviews deals not only with recent SF, but—in accordance with editorial policy—with a number of books that seem to raise the SF writer's interest.—MA


Colloquia-ly Speaking

The group "Neotopia, " connected with the Université de Montréal's Communication Department and the journal Anthropologie et Société, is planning a colloquium on utopias—messianically seductive, technocratic, alternative, socio-psychological, or fantastic. Sessions under those five rubrics will take place in Montreal on September 27-28th. Those wishing to participate or seeking further information should contact Jean-Bernard Fabre (NEOTOPIA)/525 Sherbrooke St. East, Apt.10/Montréal, Qué., Canada H2L 1K2. At our request, M. Fabre has obligingly agreed to extend the deadline for proposals for papers to the second week of August; but inasmuch as the cutoff date was originally set for May 15th, you would be well advised to communicate to him immediately an outline of what you have in mind to talk about.                

From another corner of the French-speaking world, we have news from Professor Denise Terrel that a special double-issue of the journal Métaphore has just come out containing the proceedings of a colloquium held last year in Nice on SF's "Images of Elsewhere—Interior Space." To judge by their titles, the majority of the papers (half of their number in English) deal with the topic stipulated (mirabile dictu!); their authors include Darko Suvin, Brian Stableford, Robert Scholes, Patrick Parrinder, David Ketterer, Peter Fitting, and John Dean, along with ten others no doubt less familiar to readers of SFS. The price of the ca. 320pp. volume outside France is FFr.100.                

Available from the same source as double-issue no. 9-10 of Métaphore is no. 7 of that review, a special number on SF and fantasy comprising essays on Bradbury, Campbell, Poe, and Spinrad, an interview with Ballard, etc. The price for its 140pp. is FFr. 60. Orders for Métaphore should be accompanied by a draft for the appropriate amount and sent to: Jean Émelina, Treasurer/Centre d'Étude de la Métaphore/Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines/Université de Nice/06007 Nice Cedex/France.—RMP


Proposal for a Literature and Science Society

The Modern Language Association's Literature and Science Division has formed a subcommittee (which I am chairing) to investigate interest in establishing a society to facilitate research and exchange of information in Literature and Science studies. The proposed society would establish a public forum for work exploring a wide range of relationships among science, technology, literature and the arts. A society-supported journal or newsletter, which would serve as a permanent home for the division's annual bibliography, is also under discussion.                

If you have any suggestions concerning the goals of the proposed society, or wish to indicate an interest in participating, please write to me: c/o Humanities Dept./ Worcester Polytechnic Institute/Worcester, MA 01609. (Other subcommittee members are Mark Greenberg, Stuart Peterfreund, George Rousseau, Joseph Slade, Stephen Weininger and David Wright.)
                                                                                                                                                                              —Lance Schacterle


Literature and Science: A Bibliography

The 1981-82 annual bibliography, The Relations of Literature and Science, is now available and can be obtained by sending a check for $5.00, made out to Clark University, to me, c/o Dept. of Foreign Langs. and Lits., Clark University, Worcester, MA 01610.—Walter Sthatzberg


Another SF Conference at Nice

                [The communication that follows arrived too late for us to incorporate it into "Colloquia-ly Speaking."—RMP]Considering the success of our first conference on SF (in April of 1983), we are happy to announce that a second will take place next April.

Like the previous one, this international gathering will be organized in collaboration with the Centre International d'Études Françaises, the Centre Régional de Documentation Pédagogique (C.R.D.P.), and the Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture de Nice-Magnan (M.J.C.). Included on the program will be: one day devoted to papers delivered by French-speaking participants, another day for papers by English-speaking participants, and a third day for the projection of films and video-tapes, which will then be commented on and discussed. Concurrently, the C.R.D.P. will organize a "creative talent" competition in the local schools on the theme of the conference, and the M.J.C. will offer a fortnight of SF films. (There may also be other cultural events.) As in 1983, a simultaneous translation service will be in effect.                

Our first conference focused on outer space as a reflection of inner space. The one forthcoming will revolve around planet Earth as it has fascinated the greatest SF writers, above all after the 1950s. How can one be an Earthman? How long will an Earthman remain an Earthman? And what kind of Earthman will he be? Invasions and apocalypses, deserts and metropolises, technology and ecology, history and politics, myths and anti-utopias, humor, poetry, hope and horror—all these visions of our Earth, its species, spaces, and societies will constitute the conference's unifying theme as seen in literature, the cinema, and/or comic strips.               

The final program for the conference will be drawn up and made public this coming November, after the organizing committee has made its choice from among the lecture-topic proposals received. The latter (or requests for further information) should therefore be in the mail soon to me, c/o Centre d'Étude de la Métaphore/ Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines/Université de Nice/98, bd Edouard Herriot (B.P. 369)/06007 Nice Cedex/France.—Denise Terrel

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