Science Fiction Studies

#30 = Volume 10, Part 2 = July 1983




My note in SFS No. 28 concerning the Angenot-Khouri bibliography of prehistoric fiction contains two significant errors, one mine, one yours.                

"The Knife and the Naked Chalk" and "The Story of Ung," mislisted (by me) under Krahn, of course belong to Kipling. (That is what comes of replacing one page with another without checking its relationship to the next.)

Poul Anderson's "The Long Remembering," on the other hand, was correctly described in my typescript as "psychic time travel...à la Allan Quartermain" (sans italics), referring not to the book by that title but to its narrator's drug-induced jataka experiences in The Ancient Allan and Allan and the Ice-Gods.                

My additions to the Angenot-Khouri bibliography might be supplemented with reference, inter alia, to titles Sam Moskowitz mentions in Under the Moons of Mars (NY: Holt, Rinehart, 1970), esp. on pp. 325, 339, and 380. If the indefatigable Mr. Moskowitz would but systematise the serendipitous by-products of his anthologizing efforts into a topical bibliography, what a service to SF scholarship that would be!  -Gordon Chamberlain

Misleading Impression

I would like to add a note to C. Bruce Hunter's review of Michael Banks' Understanding Science Fiction in the March, 1983 SFS. I am afraid that in praising the book's suitability for undergraduates with "limited attention span and minimal commitment to the subject," the reviewer has missed the point—the book's intended audience is not students but teachers of SF, presumably at the high school level. Banks knows the field, and I can see that his book could be useful as a supplementary text in an education course, but I cannot believe that most teachers (and "highly motivated" students) will not find it over-simplified and its list of resources both limited and out of date.  —Lynn F. Williams

Wells's Sphinx and Edward Bellamy

David Ketterer, in the note in SFS No. 28 wherein he makes a convincing case for identifying the Time Traveller with Oedipus, connects the Sphinx of The Time Machine with its mythological prototype. Ketterer points out in so many words what I (among others) have observed: that Wells's Sphinx "presides over 802,701" to signal the fiction's concern with "unriddl[ing] what has ultimately become of Man" (see my "The Time Machine" in Survey of Science Fiction Literature, ed. Frank N. Magill [Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1979], V:2289). The riddle, as Ketterer sees it, has its "answer already embodied in the half human/half animal nature of the Sphinx," whose ravenous propensities link it in his mind with the Morlocks (as does its whiteness).                

That linkage receives reinforcement from something else Wells may have had in mind when he took the Sphinx as emblem of a future world in which the laboring class has become predator as a Darwinian has replaced a Social Darwinian struggle for existence. He might also, that is, have been thinking of the passage in Looking Backward (1888) wherein Julian West says to Dr Leete:

You told me when we were upon the house-top that though a century only had elapsed since I fell asleep, it had been marked by greater changes in the conditions of humanity than many a previous millenium. With the city before me I could well believe that, but I am very curious to know what some of the changes have been. To make a beginning somewhere, for the subject is doubtless a large one, what solution, if any, have you found for the labor question? It was the Sphinx's riddle of the nineteenth century, and when I dropped out the Sphinx was threatening to devour society, because the answer was not forthcoming. (Looking Backward 2000-1887, ed. John L. Thomas ICambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 19671, 5:121-22)               

Certainly The Time Machine addresses itself to that "Sphinx's riddle of the nineteenth century" (among other things).                

What is not so certain is when exactly Wells read Looking Backward. There can be no doubt that he had fatniliarized himself with it before writing When the Sleeper Wakes (1899); for that book not only mentions Bellamy, it is a critique of Bella ny's futuristic vision. Moreover, it is quite possible that Wells's reaction was a delayed one: it is possible that he had read Looking Backward years earlier, perhaps in effect at William Morris's instigation,* but had been so preoccupied in The Time Machine (1894-95) and in "A Story of the Days to Come" (1897) with responding to News from Nowhere (1891; as Morris there had been in responding to Bellamy) that he did not turn his critical attention to Looking Backward until the end of the decade.

In any event, the putative allusion to Bellamy's Sphinx surely fits in with the socio-biological riddle that Wells's poses.—RMP
*This conjecture is reinforced by Wells's mention of Bellamy in a review of Morris's The Well at the World's End, published in the Saturday Review, 82 (17 Oct.1896):413-15. See H.G. Wells's Literary Criticism, ed. Patrick Parrinder & RMP (Brighton, Sussex: Harvester Press & Totowa, NJ: Barnes & Noble, 1980), p. 111.

 A Call for Papers on Black-American SF Writers

Black American Literature Forum will be devoting either its Spring or Summer 1984 number to articles about Afro-American SF writers. Anyone wishing to submit a manuscript on Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, or another black SF writer (or group of writers) should contact the Editor, BALF/Parsons Hall 237/Indiana State University/Terre Haute, IN 47809.  -Joe Weixlmann

Kansas Center for the Study of SF

The University of Kansas at Lawrence, according to a recent press release, has just opened what is advertised as "the world's first center for the comprehensive, scholarly study of science fiction." The new Center will be seeking funds to support research and add to SF holdings at KU's Spencer Library, one of 12 US repositories for the SF Writers of America.

Science Fiction in Review

The fanzine Thrust: Science Fiction in Review has recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. The magazine regularly features interviews, articles on SF, and reviews of SF (and fantasy) books and films "by more than a dozen of the field's most outspoken critics." Subscriptions cost $9/six issues, and back-issues nos. 5, 8-18 are available for $1.95 each. For further information, write to Thrust Publications/8217 Langport Terrace/Gaithersburg, MD 20877. 

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