Science Fiction Studies

#12 = Volume 4, Part 2 = July 1977


McConnell's "Critical Edition" of TM and WW

H.G. Wells. The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds: A Critical Edition. Ed. Frank D. McConnell. Oxford University Press, 1977, viii+455, pb, $4.00.

McConnell botched it. This shabby book would not be worth reviewing if several notable scholars and critics had not contributed to it; but fortunately several of their essays are also available in Bernard Bergonzi's Twentieth Century Views H.G. Wells (Prentice-Hall). Therefore if any teacher is tempted to McConnell by the essays of Bergonzi, J.P. Vernier, I.F. Clarke, Van Wyck Brooks, Jack Williamson, Mark Hillegas, V.S. Pritchett, and Anthony West, or by the convenience of having the two SF classics in one binding with "The Rediscovery of the Unique" thrown in, or by the sheaf of eye-catching illustrations, or by the 365 textual notes supposedly so helpful to students, or by the simple joy of possessing what must be the first of all SF critical editions, then let that teacher be warned.

Has anybody ever seen a critical edition in which the copy-text is never specified? Frank D. McConnell and the Oxford University Press do not specify their copy-text. McConnell/Oxford do not know what their copy-text for The War of the Worlds was, for if they had known they would not have used a bowdlerized edition. Sample bowdlerization (§2:8): "At the sound of a cawing overhead I looked up at the huge Fighting Machine, that would fight no more forever" (McConnell, p 289) versus "At the sound of a cawing overhead I looked up at the huge fighting-machine that would fight no more for ever, at the tattered red shreds of flesh that dripped down upon the overturned seats on the summit of Primrose Hill" (Atlantic Edition, 3:437-38). It would be simple but tedious to multiply examples. McConnell/Oxford were unlucky: they unluckily picked the 1951 Heinemann edition that had been eviscerated for the schools market. The text used for The Time Machine eludes me, but they were luckier here, for they perpetuate merely minor slips like "patent readjustments" for "patient readjustments" (p 78; AE 1:85) and "earthly crustacea" for "earthy crustacea" (p 95; AE 1:107)--both of which occur in a number of other editions. Even so, all they had to do to avoid virtually any chance for error was to reproduce the text Wells intended them to, that of the Atlantic Edition.

McConnell has a map. On the map are shown the landing points of the Martian cylinders. But when the student, after reading that Cylinder Three fell near Pyrford, between Woking and Leatherhead, and that because of its position the hero decided to return to his wife in Leatherhead by a roundabout rather than direct way (pp 163-65, 174)--when the student then turns to the map that fails to locate Pyrford and places Cylinder Three ninety degrees off course, the decision of the hero will be incomprehensible.

McConnell has illustrations. Some of these will be discussed later. Most of them are film stills, one each from TM and WW, two from Things to Come, and one each from films that McConnell perceives as related to Wells, such as Metropolis and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Given this pop art outlook, it is a curious fact that McConnell, who did a book on film and takes every excuse to relate Wells to film, omits to mention Orson Wells's Mercury Theatre broadcast of WW. Could it be that McConnell has never heard of "The Invasion from Mars"? or of Hadley Cantril's study of the panic? or of TVs recent re-creation of the night of that broadcast in a two-hour special?

McConnell has textual notes. Some explain difficult words like "trammel," "nil," "stile" (over a wall), and "dog-cart" (drawn by a horse). Others identify places, events, and people, sometimes erroneously. Astronomical theories put forward by George Darwin are attributed to Charles Darwin (p 57); Norman Lockyer is said to have taught Wells (p 126). At the task of glossing meanings, McConnell is at his worst; he cannot read plain English: "those old-fashioned tricycles with a small front wheel"--i.e., two large, one small--is glossed as "the 'Coventry' tricycle, with a much larger supporting wheel to one side" (p 198)--i.e. one large, two small; "I sat tempering nuts with a cigarette" (p 151)--i.e. after a good dinner the narrator sips wine, smokes a cigarette, and eats nuts--is explained as "burning" or "roasting" nuts with a cigarette; and a misunderstanding as to whether a pig or a dogcart is up for sale McConnell explains by stating that "the landlord fears he may be selling (not buying) a 'pig in a poke'" (p 159). But McConnell's bad readings also lead him into bizarre critical and aesthetic judgments. The Time Traveler has "carnal cravings" (p 38) because the Eloi have no meat and live off fruit; but McConnell finds "a mild joke" implying also "sexual desire" and elaborates it by reproducing Aubrey Beardsley's "A Snare of Vintage." The implication is that Weena is really a Beardsley androgyne. Meanwhile, George Pal's film is labeled "a remarkably faithful and convincing version" (p 109), so that one concludes that to McConnell Yvette Mimieux's Weena looks like a Beardsley. Another erratic judgment: the Time Traveler's "Carlyle-like scorn of this wretched aristocracy in decay" (p 75) is the occasion for a note on Carlyle's "romantic emphasis on the era-shaping influence of 'great men' in their opposition to weak and outmoded traditions." But that is no help at all. Carlyle also speaks of weak people in overwhelming situations, say, Louis XVI who went so foolishly to his (quite inevitable) death: "The silliest hunted deer dies not so," says Carlyle (French Revolution). Possibly the most fatuous note, though, glosses the bowdlerized passage quoted earlier. The words "fight no more forever" were spoken by Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians in 1877. By applying the words of the doomed chief to the Martians, says McConnell, Wells achieved "a striking reversal of emotion" whereby the would-be conquerors are seen as the foredoomed losers of this war of planetary ecologies. No evidence is given for this claim--a claim that requires Wells to be a dealer in veiled historical ironies but requires from McConnell only a lazy reference to the now-popular subject of the trials of the Indians. Besides, McConnell's text is so poetic compared to Wells's!

McConnell is amazingly ignorant of Wells's work and even of the calendar of Wells's work. He makes the statement that, with the publication of TM, "Wells was celebrated enthusiastically as the new Dickens, the new Trollope" (p 7). TM? Dickens? Trollope? What's going on? TM was Wells's first book and critics might call the author a new Verne or a new Rider Haggard but not a new Dickens or Trollope. True enough, Wells was later called so on account of Love and Mr. Lewisham, Kipps, Tono-Bungay, Polly, but those novels are five to fifteen years later. McConnell never mentions one of them. Can it be he has never heard of them? That would account for his connecting Dickens and Trollope to TM. Or maybe he knows the titles but not the calendar. That would account for his creating the impression that the famous quarrel between Wells and Henry James was blown up over Wells's desertion of SF rather than over Wells's (much later) desertion of the novel.

In an essay on "Parable and Possibility" in Wells, McConnell collaborates with Samuel Hynes (author of The Edwardian Turn of Mind). This is a cut above the rest of McConnell's stuff but still pretty bad. It is a rather pretentious development of the Two Cultures heresy. The gist of it is that Darwin removed metaphor from the world of his followers (of whom Wells was a devoted one) and replaced metaphor, which is human, by laws that are inhuman. So the Time Traveler's voyage is said to be a Darwinian and Social Darwinian vision of non-metaphor: of the world as not made for man. But the vision itself is called a humane vision. On the other hand, WW is said to be an assertion that the world is made for man because of his Darwinianly developed immunological system that the invaders lack. Thus, Wells's triumph in WW is said to consist in turning Darwin's non-metaphoric universe into a validation of man. But the vision itself is felt to be less humane, in the belletristic sense, and more biased towards scientism than that of TM and therefore a portent of Wells's desertion of imaginative fiction and conversion to science journalism. Trouble is, it is a cheap stunt to assert that Darwin is non-metaphoric just as if the Darwinian garden were not the central metaphor of the nineteenth century, and it is obvious, within the terms of that garden metaphor, both that man is enormously weak and precarious (as in TM) and that he is enormously adapted and adaptive (as in WW).

To sum up, then, McConnell is irresponsible textually and untrustworthy in matters of fact. That is the main point in judging this book as a schools text. Then, like most people who fail to do their homework, he is erratic in his literary judgments. That this book should be the first critical edition in the SF field is a disaster.

--David Y. Hughes

SF in Dimension and at Large and Its History-Science-Vision

Alexei and Cory Panshin. SF in Dimension: A Book Of Explorations. Advent: Publishers, 1976, viii+342, $10.00.

Peter Nicholls, ed. Science Fiction at Large. Harper and Row, 1977, 224p, $8.95 (also UK: Victor Gollancz, 1976, £6.00)

Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin, Science Fiction: History--Science--Vision. Oxford University Press, 1977, 258p, $12.95 hardback, $2.95 paperback.

In 1970 Alexei Panshin began following up his book Heinlein in Dimension with a series of columns in Fantastic Stories, "SF in Dimension." These he hoped would add up to a critical volume that looked behind the myths, clichés and self-congratulation that passed for criticism among science-fiction writers and fans. For various reasons, some of which he has explained elsewhere, that book has never been published. The present "book of explorations" by Alexei and his wife, Cory, with whom he has collaborated for several years, is a poor substitute, a discontinuous volume of book reviews, shorter and longer essays, and catalogs of major SF books and writers.

The prose is racy, the ideas seem pregnant with great consequence, the authors' convictions seem genuine, and some of the review assessments are quite insightful. Continuity is implicit, in that subsequent pieces revisit concepts raised earlier in this more or less chronological sequence, and the reviews can be seen emerging from the same theoretical concerns as the essays. But some pieces might well have been left out, or at least integrated into others. A short meditation on fantasy ineffectually repeats material made clearer elsewhere. The second of two Heinlein articles, printed ahead of its predecessor in time, repeats material from the original along with introductory material written up elsewhere. And the reviews fit uncomfortably into this Procrustean bed. Where they support the Panshins' theories, they seem redundant; where they do not, they appear to be excrescences. The whole collection suffers from inconsistency, redundancy, self-contradiction, but its shape mirrors the growth of the Panshins' thought, and out of the essays some interesting if unproven observations emerge.

These pieces really are explorations, in that the Panshins are seen groping for the right words with which to express their largely intuitive sense of what science fiction is all about. Since the Panshins are themselves professional writers of science fiction and fantasy, it may not be too surprising to find that their explorations are wrapped up in their search for what they are all about, and that they have derived from this their sense of what Western civilization is all about. These three levels are linked by "human development," which the Panshins lay out programmatically, according to a sequence of identity crises every person must surmount in order to advance to the next stage of individuation and maturity.

The job of literature, in this formulation, is to embody these crisis situations, to help readers as well as writers transcend their more limited, juvenile world-views. Every writer does this, since "there is, in fact, only one eternal Story" (Campbell's monomyth), but writers do it better writing fantasy or "non-mimetic" fiction. Only there, freed from the tyrannical details of here and now, can Story transcend the limitations that threaten to stunt our growth. Among the many kinds of non-mimetic fiction, "speculative" (not "science") fiction is the tool that will best equip us in the coming "post-mimetic" era.

Apparently, speculative fiction is that kind of fantasy which has incorporated some of the rhetoric and imagery of science, in its now declining mechanistic stage, though their sense of definition wavers and blurs. At first, they take great pains to demonstrate the irrelevance of science to science fiction, reducing a straw man called Hugo Gernsback to a smoldering ember. Later on, however, they claim that the science-fiction writers of the first half century have developed a symbolic vocabulary based in part on science, however misled they may have been, a vocabulary which writers of more recent years have experimented with. Some have done rococo embroidery work with the established images, some have followed the old myths into their decadence, some have attempted to transcend the old categories. In their concluding essay, the Panshins recognize that there was in fact a shift of non-mimetic fiction in the 1890s in the direction of mechanistic science. However, as science itself has been changing, away from simple cause-and-effect materialism, so non-mimetic fiction has also been shifting again, this time in the direction of a transcendent kind of fantasy, magical and moralistic, which will either mirror or usher in some kind of Golden Age.

As a research tool, the Panshins' developmental psychology is useful, illuminating some apparent contradictions in Heinlein, whose work they know intimately. They give him credit for facing life-crises stalwartly in his fiction, but they object, perhaps pointlessly, that he refuses to complete their paradigm; time and again, his characters refuse to transcend their egos, a step the Panshins insist he and Western culture must take to achieve enlightenment. Their pique is that of the frustrated evangelist, not the literary critic, who should be interested in how well Heinlein handles this personal material, and how his handling sets him apart from other authors, who are also subject to this universal principle of growth. But the Panshins do not subject any other author to this kind of penetrating psychological criticism, or "subjective reading" in their vocabulary, though they casually appropriate dozens of story-lines to buttress their general statements about where science fiction as a whole is going. (They have done a brief analysis of Van Vogt elsewhere, which is not reprinted here).

What might have been more enlightening, and honest, would be a piece on how the Panshins, themselves, have embodied or arrived at their theory in their own development. It is apparent that they are seeing the world in their own image, in the light of their own sense of achievement, which their tone and attitude seem to say they are offering as salvation to the world. Indeed, they seem to be trying to sell us old snake oil in new bottles, namely the proposition that science fiction, under whatever label, is our only appropriate guide through crises in our individual development, and that of our whole society.

That this testament of faith is at all workable, as a backdrop for short critiques and comparisons of works of science fiction, is due in part to the universality of the theory, which fits everything and makes no distinctions; in part to the variety of science fiction, some of which is overtly, even formulaically developmental; and in part to the widespread and long-standing evangelical spirit of science fiction. There were, of course, science-fiction writers in the Sixties whose mission was to transcend their predecessors; there were such missionaries in earlier decades, too, and some of them were just as committed to "transcending," evading or escaping science and the bothersome world of phenomena. We do not praise them for having that belief; if we remember them, it is because of how well they embodied that belief in their tales. In the Panshins' zeal to snatch away from science fiction the crown of science teaching, which never fit that well anyway, they have substituted another kind of didacticism, a new (or age-old) Pretender to the throne. And the kind of fiction they envision, moral, developmental, optimistic, transcendental, which has always been a part of science fiction, is not by its having those qualities automatically better or more memorable.

The holes in their arguments are big ones, which critics exposed to more literary education outside science fiction should have been able to avoid. They allude to a number of great works of literature, for instance, but mainly to pigeonhole them as simply mimetic or non-mimetic, allotting to the mimetic only the job of helping the reader to adjust to the limiting realities of the social world that is or has been. Their exposure to literary criticism also seems to be thin, even if they have read more than they give credit for. Scorning internal documentation, they list an even dozen seminal books as sources for their ideas, but none of them can be blamed for the Panshins' myopia. Perhaps if the Panshins achieve the stature of James Blish or Damon Knight, whose book reviews have also been published by Advent, this book will stand as a good research tool for "reading Panshin subjectively." As of now, however, it's mainly good for stroking your prejudices, some of which it's bound to rub the wrong way.

Peter Nicholls, ed. Science Fiction at Large. Harper and Row, 1977, 224p, $8.95 (also UK: Victor Gollancz, 1976, £6.00). This collection of what were originally lectures at London's Institute for Contemporary Arts in the Winter of 1975 is uneven but worth reading for some scattered insights, a good balance of opinions and attitudes, and some honest revelations of themselves by some of the writers.

Not every contributor was actually associated with science fiction. Psychologist Edward De Bono discussed his specialty, "lateral thinking," with almost an afterthought about analogous functions of science fiction. Mathematician John Taylor distinguished between actual rigorous scientific research and less restrained speculation that passes for "hard" science fiction; besides a certain amount of gullibility with regard to psi practitioners, his essay is marred by a lame conclusion that SF helps accustom us to change, the same unsubstantiated claim that Alvin Toffler made in the short snippet excerpted from this particular version of one of his standard speeches.

Among the practicing writers, John Brunner, Harry Harrison and Robert Sheckley settled for five-finger exercises. Brunner excoriated the crackpot fringe and sloppy scholarship, in and out of science fiction, which he saw adding up to a disturbing package of anti-scientism. Harrison on "parallel worlds" was reduced in print to some background on the genesis of his pseudo-Victorian pastiche, A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! Sheckley contributed an amusing piece on his inadequacy for the task; others might convincingly generalize about the wonders of science and the psychology of the marvelous, but he was limited to his own slice (and vision) of reality.

Philip K. Dick, Alan Garner, Ursula Le Guin and Thomas Disch took more seriously, perhaps, the request that they write about something that mattered to them. Despite Nicholls' caveat, I can't help but see the Dick piece as cranky, as he goes from the bicameral brain to the reality of the unconscious, then on to the reality of dream-universe people, who may come from outer space. Garner discussed more openly his personal psychological problems with a rare kind of intensity, revealing connections between written fantasies and disturbing memories.

More literary, in the traditional sense, is Le Guin's carefully crafted plea for "character," in Virginia Woolf's sense, without which no literature to her is worth reading or writing. Though her examples of science fiction in which there is room for character--she identifies only Zamyatin's We and Wright's Islandia--may seem bizarre, we may be looking through different ends of the telescope. Although many may protest that she is effectively discarding what makes science fiction what it is, the paradigm she would substitute does seem to spring from her own priorities.

Disch's piece is more sociological, concerned with the embarrassments of science fiction in the eyes of mature, sophisticated readers. The intellectual and emotional limitations of the commercial genre he relates to the audience for whom it has been intended. Lower-middle class, resentful, daydreaming, latently fascist, this audience once comprised almost the whole of the readership, he maintains. Though Disch suggests that today SF and its readers are stratified (high, middle, and lowbrow audiences), unspoken is the implication that the larger audience for lowbrow SF comes from the spread of class characteristics to a greater proportion of the overall reading public.

Equally critical is editor Nicholls, who assails both writers and critics of science fiction for not being demanding enough, who for whatever reasons--he itemizes habit, money, malice, and ignorance--do not make proper use of their critical intelligence. A proponent of Disch's point of view might well respond that the writers are indeed using their critical intelligence to produce what the public wants and make economical use of their own time and energy. But the Nicholls piece reflects in a way the hidden agenda of the whole collection. As the editor says in his introduction, "this book constitutes an indictment of the genre more sweeping, though by no means total, than any that has ever appeared before, and very much better informed."

Almost every contributor was more favorably disposed to various potentials for science fiction than to any actual manifestations; discussions of real stories, books and authors were usually critical in the negative sense. Yet the contributors had been asked to locate their lectures in the "area where science fiction meets real life." Thus, in a way, their dissatisfactions seem to give point to an assertion the editor took pains to discount: "If, as some adverse critics claim, it [science fiction] is purely a literature of escapism, then there is no point in a lecture series in the first place." Having sat through, and even arranged, vacuous talks by science-fiction writers over the years, I find that half-truth tempting, if not as a conclusion, at least as a challenge, which contributors to this journal should keep in mind. But I refer not only to direct social relevance, rather also to the psychological relevance of our attention's being so often directed to what we think science fiction might be, that we may lose sight of what it is and has been, and may continually lose sight of our own idealistic constructions which blind us to mundane realities.

Robert Scholes and Eric S. Rabkin, Science Fiction: History--Science--Vision. Oxford University Press, 1977, 258p, $12.95 hardback, $2.95 paperback.

The need for an adequate textbook survey of science fiction is obvious, with the number of courses in science fiction still growing, and the number of prepared instructors still relatively low. Given the price, the publisher's support, and the reputation of the authors, this will probably be the best-selling text in the nation before very long. But that prospect is a clouded one: like the girl in the nursery rhyme, when Scholes and Rabkin are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid.

In science fiction, and in what passes for scholarship and criticism, we have always had to accept half-measures, so perhaps I should be satisfied with a compact history just short of excellent and a good set of critiques of novels for a survey course. But besides this good beginning and end, the book has a middle, hardly worthy of publication, much less foisting upon a student audience largely innocent of critical thought. To be sure, science fiction is not just literature, and a definitive account must take into account its relations with science and myth, and its manifestations outside the realm of narrative prose. But existing scholarship on these points is rudimentary at best, and misinformation of students is in some ways more reprehensible than no information at all. If the authors couldn't do better on what they do badly, they should have expanded what they did well, filling in some details regrettably absent and extending coverage to authors omitted or too briefly discussed. For failing to edit more carefully, too, both they and the editor must be held responsible.

The strength of this book lies in its first chapter, almost half of the text. Although I do not know how much scholarship dealing with science fiction Scholes and Rabkin have mastered, both are well-read in literature, including science fiction and fantasy, as their previous books indicate. And both have proven themselves familiar with literary theory, able to translate esoteric jargon into everyday English, willing to be provocative without descending into sensationalism, and interested in the forms and techniques of literature and popular culture, with which science fiction is inextricably entwined. Largely because of their background in theory as a way of organizing and understanding material, this history seems to leave far behind the cataloguing of Allen, Ash, Bailey and Lundwall; the gossiping of Gunn, Moskowitz and Wollheim; and the parochialism of Aldiss, Amis, Blish, Davenport, Hillegas, Ketterer, Knight, and Philmus, to name only those whose historical surveys (loosely defined) are available in English (SFS readers may also be familiar with scholarship in French, German, Italian and Polish, discussion of which has appeared in these pages). But while superseding them, this volume has incorporated them into the structural framework that the definitive history of science fiction eventually will have to have.

After the obligatory canonizing of Mary Shelley, the authors bracket the 19th century for four "strains" of science fiction represented by Poe (metaphysics), Verne (hardware), Bellamy (futurism), and Burroughs (adventure). Burroughs' inclusion is chronologically awry but temperamentally perfect. Thus the first "movement" culminates with a well-rounded portrait of Wells: his biography, his quarrel with James, his ambivalence toward the future and the perfectibility of man, his strengths as a writer, and his far-reaching influence.

The second movement is the post-Wellsian split into high and pop culture, a division more extreme in rhetoric than in critical assessment. Zamyatin, Čapek, Stapledon, and Huxley are "a few isolated giants," Gernsback and Campbell, "Doc" Smith and Weinbaum representatives of "a horde of pygmies" functioning in the mutually supportive ambience of the pulp magazines and fan community. London and Lovecraft are barely mentioned, Merritt is not, but the analysis seems weakest in its ignoring the factors of history and social class which drove European writers toward thoughtful dystopia, Americans toward puerile technological utopianism. (I do not mean that dystopia is by definition good, utopia bad.)

C.S. Lewis is the centerpiece of the next section, concluding the second movement in a controversial manner. Suddenly we are introduced to the "genre" of "religious fantasy" (Dante, Milton, David Lindsay), displaced by science, and Lewis' works are invoked as the meeting ground between two value systems. In criticizing the visions of both Stapledon and Gernsback (and of Wells and Haldane, unmentioned), Lewis was by no means the first to criticize the potential in technological society for ethical regress, though he seems to have been the first to do so in science fiction from a conservative Christian viewpoint. The importance of this, however, is unproven, as is his influence on Blish and Miller, brought forward out of chronological placement.

For the "Golden Age" of Astounding (the first theme of the third movement), another balanced quartet of authors is presented: Van Vogt (dream-vision), Heinlein (future history), Asimov (science education) and Sturgeon (style and feeling). Coverage is adequate if not inspired: Van Vogt's incompetence is suggested but his continuing popularity is unaccounted for; Sturgeon's section is arbitrarily interrupted by a paragraph on Williamson on the incongruous grounds that The Humanoids may have influenced More Than Human (shades of Sam Moskowitz). Without warning, Sturgeon shades off into Bradbury, whose importance and popularity with the general public needs dealing with. Clarke, Pohl and Bester round out the Fifties tentatively, with Clarke's near-future extrapolations totally ignored.

The authors' sympathies are clearly with the Sixties, from which decade they have selected five authors for extended consideration, all but one on the grounds of technical "advance" as well as a measure of literateness. Why D.G. Compton I don't know (I haven't read him), but their defense of his "old-fashioned" virtues rings hollow. The others are more canonical: Dick for his blend of fantastic event with genuine anguish; Le Guin for her poetic vision of the "universe as a dynamic, balanced system"; Brunner for his rigorous "Naturalistic" extrapolation; and Lem for "the alien" and its implications for technology, ethics and metaphysics.

The last chapter (fourth movement?) almost collapses from its temporal immediacy, held barely in control by the motif of literary ferment, if not revolution. Beyond name-dropping, the authors select for discussion from the still swirling maelstrom of contemporary history Moorcock, Aldiss, Spinrad, Farmer, Ellison, Zelazny, Delany, Disch, and Russ. Curiously, although Ballard and Vonnegut are considered very important, they appear as vague revenants, whose works are not discussed. Finally, the New Wave comes crashing onto the Mainstream beachhead of "Fabulation," represented by Barth, Burgess, Coover, Golding, Lessing, Percy, and Pynchon, none of whom is more than a name, unlike the "giants" of a half-century before.

In all of this, there are questionable omissions (and inclusions) and arguable judgments, of course, if no absolute errors of fact. News from Nowhere does not emphasize "labor-saving machinery"; the critic who exposed ERB's prurience is not identified; Lewis and the ecology movement are dubiously yoked together as "anti-science"; Heinlein's "Future History" is mistakenly held to be missing from The Past Through Tomorrow (it's on pp 530-531); Asimov's "psychohistory" is ludicrously overrated; Pohl's exemplary labors on behalf of older science fiction are not specified; and the contemporary ill health of the magazines and the incredible growth of fandom are ignored. But although this may not be the definitive history, it prepares the way for that which is; the outline holds up well, the readings of individual texts are sound, and the whole provides an excellent framework for a survey course.

Its flaws, however--a sketchiness of argumentation and documentation, a too uncritically approving tone, an occasionally condescending tone--are much more in evidence in the middle sections of the book, which also suffer from errors in fact, occasional incoherence and general fuzziness. None of this can be excused by the obviously abbreviated nature of these chapters, though it is interesting to me to observe from the uncorrected proofs that the book was once intended to be some 46 pages longer. Each section has problems unique to it, but all three are unworthy of being in the same book with the history.

Most deserving of vaudeville's Hook, perhaps, or television's Gong, is the section entitled "Science Fiction in Other Media" (the second part of History) No one could take care of movies, radio, TV and comics in less than ten pages. At best belaboring the obvious in a banal style, the authors betray a lack of preparation and of organizing theory, as well as a lack of space. Film, we are told, has a special relationship with science fiction, but science-fiction film has a fuzzy definition and a history which in some ways parallels science-fiction literature. At best, these are truisms, but here we are expected to take them largely on faith from writers who call Planet of the Apes "a further development" (in what they don't say) and conclude that "the number of science-fiction films continues to increase." Discussing SF on TV, they call Captain Video "an adventure series" (old Western movies were serialized on it), credit Star Trek with hiring "accomplished science fiction writers" (in 78 scripts, only 14 writers had any previous experience with science fiction), and cite with apparent approbation the inane Far Out Space Nuts. Their contention that radio is an essentially unfit medium for science fiction must be challenged, as must the straightfaced observation that the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon comic strips "created an enormous interest in the twenty-fifth century." And they seem to be totally ignorant of the more bizarre science fiction comic books of the Sixties and Seventies, while they deliberately disregard science fictional materials in popular music.

The longer (40 pp) chapter on "The Sciences of Science Fiction" is not bad, but neither is its need apparent, at least in its present form. Better capsule histories of science are available, and the tie-ins with science fiction seem almost accidental. Notably absent from their survey is any coverage of the figure of the scientist, the actual activity ("sciencing") of science, Kuhn's concepts of "normal" and "revolutionary" science (though Kuhn is cited), or contemporary challenges to the ruling "paradigms" of science and the sciences. These questions are approached obliquely at best by fuzzy sections on "scientific method" (there is none), "pseudoscience" and "science as fiction."

But their coverage of more or less specific sciences isn't all that good, either. They ignore the primary functions of physics and astronomy in science fiction, to provide a massive "landscape" or backdrop and a set of nominally rigid rules (which pose "puzzles to solve" in "normal" science). They see little or no connection between computers and robots, either humanoid or specialized. Relative to thermodynamics, they ignore the significance of entropy as a literary metaphor, and misrepresent Clerk Maxwell's position with respect to "Maxwell's Demon." Under biology, they underestimate the age of the idea of genetic engineering, see Marx's "scientifically deterministic history" as having received its "final refinement" from Asimov (if this is irony, it isn't obvious), and deny the existence of fiction about overpopulation prior to very recent years. And they omit consideration, in the psychology section, of humanistic or Third Force psychology, psychochemistry, psychobiology, or Freudian metapsychology (id, ego, superego, etc.).

They do give Freud (as interpreted by Plank) a passing glance in "Forms and Themes" (the first part of Vision), a melange of whatever we didn't get before. Unfortunately, we don't get it here, either. The section on Myth is sketchy and incoherent; Fantasy represents a good précis of Rabkin's The Fantastic in Literature. Utopias are far too briefly considered, omitting Skinner and Wells (whose A Modern Utopia, though dull reading, does postulate a world-wide and dynamic utopia), and the raft of "non-fictional" utopian writings of the past couple of decades. For consideration of dystopias, the reader is referred back to the discussion of Huxley for proof that "science fiction has excelled" in such visions. The section on Imaginary Worlds seems incoherent to me, beginning as it does with teleportation, followed by time travel, before we even get into the kinds of "alternate universes" that branching paths in time might make possible, but that are only one kind of many "imaginary worlds." Imaginary Beings gives us the beginnings of a typology, but none of the types is treated adequately; indeed, in citing Lem's criticism of robots in science fiction, they seem to think he was only interested in setting up a typology himself. Finally, in their consideration of Sex and Race, they attack unconscious stereotypes in science fiction, but do not address themselves to the social causes of institutional prejudice, not only in the stories but also in the writing of science fiction.

After such ignorance, what forgiveness? At least the last chapter raises the level of consciousness once more, on a more strictly "literary" basis. The authors' choice of ten novels representative of themes and types and times from 1816 to 1976 is fully defensible. Their critiques (averaging four pages) are readable, accurate, and insightful, while leaving something to the imagination of the student (and the teacher). Even here, however, I must cavil at the use of the Zilboorg rather than the Ginsburg translation of We, at their leaving out any reference to the Christian morality play in the background of Childhood's End, and at their apparent preference for works that "transcend" science fiction in a volume which purports to show science fiction itself off at its best.

Have I been too harsh on Scholes and Rabkin in what is arguably a pioneer effort? I think not. I hope, however, that we will see a revised second edition, with the quality of scholarship the authors have shown they are capable of at their best. But in order for them to do a better job on Media, Science, and Forms/Themes, we as well as they will have to contribute more to not only a chronicling of events, but also a theoretical understanding of what is our subject, not just theirs, in its social and psychological contexts. In the meantime, I can only hope that the authors will pay attention not only to the standard measure of the popular culture marketplace, the jingling of cash registers, but also to the need for quality standards in a field almost deliberately devoid of them. Finally, I have adopted this book for my SF course next term.

--David N. Samuelson.

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