Science Fiction Studies

# 22 = Volume 7, Part 3 = November 1980

Charles Elkins

Recent Bibliographies of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Ruth Nadelman Lynn. Fantasy for Children: An Annotated Checklist. NY & London: R. R. Bowker, 1979. 288 + ix p. $14.95.

R. Reginald, ed. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. 2 vols. Detroit: Gale Research, 1979.(Vol. I: Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist, 1700-1974; Vol. II: Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II. [Vol. II is the 2nd ed. of a biographical directory first published as Stella Nova: The Contemporary Science Fiction Authors (1970), rev. and reptd. as Contemporary Science Fiction Authors, First Edition (1975)]. 1141 + xi p. $64.00 per set.

Roger C. Schlobin. The Literature of Fantasy: An Annotated Bibliography of Modern Fantasy Fiction. NY & London: Garland, 1979. 425 + xxxv p. $30.00.

Marshall B. Tymn, ed. American Fantasy and Science Fiction: Toward a Bibliography of Works Published in the United States, 1948 -1973. West Linn, OR: FAX Collector's Editions, 1979. 228 + ix p. $12.95.

Marshall B. Tymn, Kenneth J. Zahorski, and Robert H. Boyer. Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. NY & London: R.R. Browker, 1979. 273 + xiii p. $14.95.

For the strict SF reader, some of these works--those devoted exclusively to fantasy--will be of passing interest only. However, if a sampling of the papers given at the First International Conference on the Fantastic (March 19-22,1980, Boca Raton, Florida) indicates any common pattern, it is that the boundaries between fantasy and SF are very fuzzy indeed. Despite the reliance on Rabkin, Scholes, Todorov, et. al., critics are still fishing for workable definitions. With the first section containing those fantasies grouped as "Allegory and Fable," the second classifying fantasies under "Collected Tales," and the remaining 11 sections dividing fantasies by type (e.g., ghosts, magical toys, tall tales, mythical beings and creatures, etc.), Lynn's Fantasy for Children (ages 3-8) provides an annotated checklist, out-of-print titles, along with titles available in the United Kingdom, a directory of publishers, an author and illustrator index, and a title index. In distinguishing fantasies of time travel from SF, Lynn argues that "the means of time travel must be magical, not scientific" (p.159); in fantasies dealing with travel to another world, there must be "no manipulation of time, no indication of past or future, just a magical (not `scientific') transportation out of our world" (p. 173).

In addition to Lynn's bibliography, there have come to hand Scholobin's The Literature of Fantasy, and Tymn, Zahorski, and Boyer's Fantasy Literature, both of them annotated bibliographies which purport to deal only with works of fantasy. With over 1,200 citations, Schlobin's bibliography of adult fantasy includes (by author, cross-referenced by pseudonym and joint authorship) novels and collections and anthologies listed by editors as well as indices of authors, compilers, editors, translators and titles. In his "Preface," Schlobin says that "horror, science-fiction, and weird literature is excluded unless it contains material that would be of particular interest to the fantasy reader" (p. x). How this is determined is not clear. He includes such works as Blish's A Case of Conscience, Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, E.M. Forster's The Eternal Moment and Other Stories (which contains "The Machine Stops"), and Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Mars of Barsoom Series (which Schlobin argues is not SF because "this series lacks the necessary ingredient of extrapolation that would make it part of that genre [i.e., SF]. Rather, it is rationalized fantasy, and Burroughs has used occasional scientific pretenses to ease the willing suspension of disbelief" [p. 36]). Yet in his 18-page "Introduction," Schlobin does not discuss "rationalized fantasy." In fact, he seems to agree with Jung that fantasy is distinguished by its "`irrational, instinctive function,'" its "uncontrollable quality" (p. xxiii). Taken as a whole, the "Introduction" is a valiant attempt within severely limited space to define the psychological, social, and literary dimensions of fantasy. However, this kind of introduction almost always raises more questions than it answers. For example, on the one hand Schlobin agrees with those who understand fantasy as a power--"the power to create ex nihilo" (p. xvii)--and who argue that such things as "spirits and demons, religions and philosophers, social orders and political systems, rituals and myths, laws and mores, boundaries and belongings, hopes and expectations" were "all created first in the mind" (p. xviii). To consent to this explanation denies the social dimension of fantasy and its dependence upon language, whose structure and meaning is social. Even the most private fantasies and dreams have form and content which depend upon symbolic resources available at the particular moment. Fantasy cannot create ex nihilo. (Here, Freud is surely more valuable than Jung, Eric Newman, Harvey Cox, or Joseph Campbell! ) On the other hand, Schlobin agrees with those who see fantasy as a protest against "contemporary, materialistic, empirical, phenomenological, and technological society" (p. xx). But this implies that fantasy is clearly related to external "reality." More importantly, fantasy is intimately conditioned by social order as such. Order implies limits, constraints. There have been and always will be individuals and groups who will (because of their sex, age, race, status, class, role, etc.) be unable to act in certain ways because they threaten those in power. Fantasy allows the satisfaction through symbolic action of desires whose object cannot be obtained in overt acts. The function and, hence, the need for fantasy are not limited to the contemporary world; fantasy is as old as civilization. The significant question to ask is: why these particular fantasies at this particular moment? Why are certain fantasies encouraged and others scorned?

Tymn, Zahorski, and Boyer's Fantasy Literature lists over 240 works (the "core" collection), almost all of which get at least a half a page of annotation. Part I includes a 35-page essay on "Fantasy: What Is It? Definition and Classification," and the "Core Collection" (consisting of an annotated bibliography of novels, short story collections, and anthologies). Part lI, "Research Aids," has sections on: Fantasy Scholarship (history, criticism, author studies, reference works), Periodicals, Fantasy Societies and Organizations, Literary Awards, Fantasy Collections in US and Canadian Libraries; and two final sections, "Core Collection Titles Available in the United Kingdom" and a "Directory of Publishers." The authors chose works which are (1) "high fantasy" (defined as a story in which "the major action takes place in a secondary world," as contrasted with low fantasy which is "usually set in a rational, physically familiar world"), and appeal to adults of all ages; (2) "of high-quality prose fiction, judged by the same critical norms applied to any piece of literature"; (3) written in English; and (4) generally fit into the modern period (ca. 1854 to the present). In terms of a literary genre, the authors define fantasy to consist of "works in which nonrational phenomena play a significant part,... works in which events occur, or places or creatures exist, that could not occur or exist according to rational standards or scientific explanations. The nonrational phenomena of fantasy simply do not fall within human experience or accord with natural laws as we know them" (p. 3). The authors expand this definition in their essay in Part I. As is the case with Schlobin, they are severely limited by available space; however, they are somewhat more successful because they limit their discussion to creating a typology of works of fantasy. (That is, they simply avoid working out the implications of such phrases as "(non-) rational standards," "scientific explanations," "significant part," "the real world we live in," etc.) They distinguish "science fantasy" from SF: "science fantasy" is a type of "high fantasy" which "offers scientific explanation for the existence of the secondary world and, usually, for the portal by which one can pass from the primary to the secondary world. Once in the secondary world, which is the principal setting of the work, magical causality takes the spotlight, and this remains nonrational, unexplained by science" (p. 17). If all can agree on the crucial terms, this distinction is workable enough.

The remaining works should be of more interest to SF readers, teachers, and scholars. For its relatively high price ($12.95 in paperback), Tymn's American Fantasy and Science Fiction is of limited value. It lists only hardcover editions (by author and title) of works published in the US from January 1948 to December 1973. There are three appendices: "Notes," "Borderline Titles," and "Science Fiction Book Club First Editions." (One minor irritation: the pagination of the Table of Contents for the Appendices is wrong and off by ten pages.) While Tymn includes an appendix of titles of uncertain classification, it is never revealed what criteria were used to determine what is fantasy and SF. One wonders, for example, why Isaac Singer is excluded and Donald Barthelme included. Why are Kafka's The Complete Stories (New York, 1971 ) included but his Selected Short Stories (NY: Modern Library, 1952) omitted?

These questions are relevant if for no other reason than both Singer and Kafka's Selected Short Stories are included in Reginald's massive bibliography (Vol. A, which lists over 15,000 English-language works from 1700 to 1974. Entries are by author (with cross-references), with an additional Title Index, Series Index, Awards Index (with a list of world SF conventions, officers of the SFWA, and index of awards by award name and recipient), and the Ace and Belmont Doubles Index. All of this makes it a useful tool for the general reader, teacher, and scholar, although its $64.00 price tag (for Vols. I and II) will put it out of the reach of most people. (Vol. II, Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II is of minimal value and not much better than Brian Ash's Who's Who in Science Fiction [NY: Taplinger, 1976].) About 72% of the questionnaires Reginald mailed to "active science fiction and fantasy authors" to compile the biographical information for this volume were returned. The rest of his information came from Gale's Contemporary Authors series. Entries include: full name, date of birth, names and vocations of parents, marital status, education, career description, first professional sale, awards, interests, and some comments by the writer on what appears to be just about anything (e.g., Sam Moskowitz's celebration of his two dogs). As in Tymn's bibliography, there is no hint as to Reginald's criteria for classifying fantasy and SF. Why, for example, are "present day utopias" excluded? Why Richard Brautigan but no Robert Coover?

All of this may sound like so much carping about trivial detail. Reginald's bibliography satisfies a real need and will be immensely useful to a variety of audiences; so, too, will the other works mentioned. And on the more obvious writers and works, these bibliographies are in substantial agreement. However, with the more marginal cases--e.g., Gore Vidal, Robert Coover, Kurt Vonnegut, Doris Lessing, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, Isaac Singer, Richard Brautigan (writers chosen at random)--there is almost no consensus. What is and is not fantasy and SF remains to be determined.

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