BOOKS IN REVIEW
A History of Magazine SF, and the
Paul A. Carter. The
Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction.
Columbia University Press, 1977, xi+318, $12.95.
How many forests have been pulped, during the last five decades, for the printing of
science fiction magazines? Probably fewer than for cereal-box coupons or
hamburger-wrappings, but, still, more than any scholar of the pulp era likes to think
about. Faced with this sierra of stories, how is the historian to map it for us? Memoirs
by writers, editors, and fans from the pulp era are useful sources, but they are less
concerned with providing an overview than with recreating the feel of the time. The
various indexes and bibliographies are even more indispensable tools, but they remain
tools, preliminary to the writing of history. Anthologies of stories gleaned from the
magazines highlight certain figures, but leave the bulk in shadow. The few existing
attempts at a history of the pulps often merely chronicle the foundings and failures of
particular magazines, the changes of editors, the first appearances by writers who were
later to become famous. Like the monastic records kept by the faithful, such chronicles
are useful for dates, and for little else.
Paul A. Carter, a historian at the University of Arizona, whose own experience as SF
reader and writer stretches back over nearly three of those five decades, has provided us
with a more illuminating map of the wilderness of magazine SF than any other I have come
across. Although he discusses Gernsback and the early Amazing in his first
chapter, and speculates on the future of SF magazines in his last, Carter has organized
his study thematically rather than chronologically. Each chapter is loosely -- sometimes
too loosely -- wound about a central motif: time-travel, for example, or inter-planetary
adventure, or human evolution. Within each chapter he traces the chronological
development of the motif, and notes parallels between that history and the larger
movements of contemporary society. For anyone concerned with SF not as an isolated
passion, but as one powerful element in the intellectual life of our time, this drawing of
parallels should prove the most interesting dimension of Carter's argument. He shows, for
example, how SF responded creatively to the rise of European dictatorships during the
1930s, how it accommodated public shifts in racial and sexual attitudes, how it incorporated the pessimistic historiographies of Spengler and Toynbee.
I have deliberately avoided using such passive verbs as mirror or reflect
to describe the sort of SF/society parallels that Carter draws. For if he does not
believe, as Gernsback and Campbell and Tremaine occasionally seemed to, that SF could
create new tomorrows, he clearly shares the belief implicit in the entire SF enterprise,
that, by taking thought, we may help change the world. In certain areas, such as
sexual stereotypes, SF has lagged far behind other intellectual media; while in such
matters as ecology and space travel, SF has clearly helped lead the way.
Most of us who read SF for more than the pleasures of invention do so, I suspect,
because we are attracted by the genre's potential for transforming consciousness. Our
purposes are reformist, or perhaps revolutionary. (Has contemporary mainstream literature
appealed so politically to leftist critics, as SF has appealed to Raymond
Williams, Fred Jameson, Darko Suvin, and H. Bruce Franklin, to name a few?) If we
understand "utopian" in the sense employed by Karl Mannheim, not to signify
social perfection but merely an alternative future, then all revolutionary thought is
utopian, and much SF is revolutionary. Carter's history of the SF magazines implies a
refutation of the charge that the genre is escapist. Of course he passes over in silence
the vast bulk of material that appeared in the pulps during the last 50 years. Mortality
alone would have forced him to. But what he chose to examine reflects a belief
that SF, throughout its popular history, and not just during its dignified last ten years,
has been an important medium for revolutionary imagination.
During the first three decades of their existence, roughly from 1926 until the
mid-1950s, the SF magazines were, for all practical purposes, SF. Writers and
readers began there, or they did not begin at all. During the two decades leading up to
the present, the pulps have played an ever-dwindling role in the field. Partly the reasons
are economic, as magazine fiction has given way generally to paperbacks and television, as
book-publishing of SF has allowed writers to by-pass the old pulp apprenticeship. Partly
the reasons are institutional, since the universities teach books, not magazines. Drawing
upon the letters columns and editorials, as well as upon hundreds of the stories
themselves, Carter reflects on these shifts in the fortunes of the pulps, and on their
overall role in the evolution of the genre. Like the best of the writers whom he examines,
he proceeds with double awareness, of the literary tradition and the times.
Joseph D. Olander and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds.
Arthur C. Clarke. Writers of the
21st Century Series. Taplinger Publishing, 1976, 254p, $20.95. To judge from the nine
essays in this volume, the SF of Arthur C. Clarke troubles critics on two counts: (1) How
should we respond to the disparity between his sophisticated ideas and his often naive
art?, and (2) How can we reconcile his rationalism with his mysticism?
Writing about "Childhood's End: A Median Stage of Adolescence?",
David N. Samuelson concludes that the price of the "cosmic viewpoint" so much
admired by Clarke's readers is bad art: "The characters are frequently left to fend
for themselves, as it were, in a jungle of disorderly plots, melodramatic incidents, and
haphazard image-patterns, which are symptomatic of an unbalanced narrative technique.
Unity, if there is any in such a composition, frequently is maintained only by an
uninspired consistency of style and tone, and by the momentum built up in the unwary
reader by the breakneck pace of events." Childhood's End he calls "an
impressive failure," which has attracted its wider readership, not by hard science
extrapolation, but by "sentimental mysticism," "watered-down theological
Taking the same text as his focus, Alan B. Howes argues, in "Expectation and
Surprise in Childhood's End," that Clarke maintains reader interest by
working variations on the hoariest conventions of the genre. Where Samuelson finds a
jumble of hackneyed themes, Howes discovers "alternative directions in which the
story may develop." Where Samuelson says the plots are disorderly, Howes concludes
that, "At every turn, the reader's expectations have been met with surprises."
A more complex defense of Clarke's reliance on SF formulas is offered by E. Michael
Thron in "The Outsider from Inside: Clarke's Aliens." By working in highly
predictable forms, Thron argues, Clarke establishes a neutral background against which the
alien (whether alien idea or extra-terrestrial visitor) can show up vividly: "The
alien is the mystical intrusion upon the scientific and mundane world of linear Western
evolution. The final alien is not a character at all with inside and outside but an idea,
the idea of the mystical reality of the universe." If Clarke were more
"literary," Thron is suggesting, the structure of his thought would not emerge
so clearly. The obvious analogy is with science-writing, in which language is treated as a
transparent medium through which ideas may be apprehended directly. It is no coincidence
that Clarke, like Isaac Asimov and Fred Hoyle -- against whom many of the same aesthetic
complaints might be lodged -- shifts easily back-and-forth between science-writing and SF.
As SF criticism becomes increasingly academic, Thron wonders, will a concern for
artistic values displace a concern for the quality of ideas? And will writers like Clarke
be shoved aside in favor of ones whose fiction more richly satisfies a literary
sensibility? Whatever the long-term trends in SF criticism, at present many readers are
still attracted to the genre primarily by the drama of its ideas; and Clarke remains one
of the most fascinating dramatists, as the remaining six essays in this volume attest.
Several of these critics puzzle over the second general question I mentioned at the
outset: How can we reconcile Clarke's rationalism with his mysticism? Peter Brigg, for
example, in "Three Styles of Arthur C. Clarke: The Projector, the Wit, and the
Mystic," argues that in his best work, such as Rendezvous with Rama, Clarke
blends hard science extrapolation with dry humor and mystical speculations. But Brigg is
not able to show exactly how these distinct styles mesh, nor is he able to avoid the
conclusion that Clarke's "abilities as a writer weaken as he approaches the
metaphysical." In "The Cosmic Loneliness of Arthur C. Clarke," Thomas D.
Clareson shows how Clarke's hortatory science writings, especially on the imperatives of
space flight and space colonization, have informed his fiction. Both the fiction and
non-fiction muse upon hardware, propagandize for space exploration, and push science just
beyond the current boundaries of the known.
While celebrating the exploits of science, however, Clarke repeatedly imagines alien
contacts that dwarf reason completely, that call forth non-rational powers in the human
mind. Clareson suggests that these imagined aliens are Clarke's response to a sense of
"cosmic loneliness." Students of nineteenth and twentieth-century literature are
familiar with invocations of occult powers in response to the disappearance of God.
Celebrating science, the chief cause of God's banishment from our intellectual universe,
Clarke reintroduces into his fiction figures very like the banished divinities. In the
book's most substantial essay, "Contrasting Views of Man and the Evolutionary
Process: Back to Methuselah and Childhood's End," Eugene Tanzy
observes that, "if we need to know that we have a home in the universe, that somebody
big up there is looking out for us, Childhood's End allows us to believe it
without sacrificing our scientific stance." How we can satisfy religious longings for
a hierarchical universe while preserving a "scientific stance" Tanzy explains by
comparing Clarke's reworking of evolutionary theory with George Bernard Shaw's. Rejecting
mechanistic views of human destiny derived from Darwin, Shaw insisted -- as Clarke was to
do later -- on the directing role of intellect in human self-transformation. Clarke went
Shaw one better by positing intelligences superior to humankind's. By their god-like
intervention in our affairs, these alien intelligences bring about quantum jumps in human
evolution. The theological term for such intervention is grace.
By virtue of their transcendent mental powers and their immortality, Robert Plank
argues in "Sons and Fathers in A.D. 2001," these aliens are not merely god-like;
they literally are gods. Avoiding the reductionism to which psychoanalytic readings so
often lead, Plank still proposes that "the drama of 2001 is, in a new guise,
the old drama of the generations." More precisely: "The masters of the slabs are
father figures. Hal is a son figure." Clarke's godly aliens, in other words, derive
from the same psychological sources, satisfy the same emotional needs, as any more
As the title of Bety Harfst's essay, "Of Myths and Polyominoes: Mythological
Content in Clarke's Fiction," would suggest, she is primarily interested in his use
of myth-materials to depict a search for spiritual regeneration. In a fine essay,
"From Man to Overmind: Arthur C. Clarke's Myth of Progress," revised from a
version that originally appeared in this journal, John Huntington discusses "Clarke's
need for a mythology that will value technology without limiting itself to it." He
deals shrewdly with the central paradox in that mythology. For Clarke, he argues, the
"myth of progress consists of two stages: that of rational, technological progress,
and that of transcendent evolution." But, once achieved, "transcendent
consciousness completely dispenses with the attainments of rational science and the
inventions of technology." The advancement of science, with which Clarke is so
prominently identified, thus appears to be merely a prelude, a proof of human worthiness,
for some metaphysical leap into regions of existence where science cannot follow.
Briefly, those are some of the issues being argued, the positions taken, in this
volume. You will find no biography, no sociological readings, little textual or historical
analysis. You will find much more than the editors should have allowed on Childhood's
End (four of the nine essays are devoted to this overburdened tale, and the other
five make it a major exhibit), and very little on his short fiction. And, typical of
single-author collections, you will find too few references to the larger literary and
intellectual contexts within which Clarke has been writing.
- William Contento.
Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections.
- Donald H. Tuck.
of Science Fiction and Fantasy Through 1968.
- Glenn Negley. Utopian Literature:
A Bibliography with a Supplementary Listing of Works Influential in
- Brian Ash, ed.
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.
- Douglas Menville and R. Reginald. Things
to Come: An Illustrated History of the Science Fiction Film.
William Contento. Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections. G.K.
Hall & Co., 1978, 8½ x 11, 2 columns, xii+608, $28.00.
Indispensable, absolutely indispensable. And sufficient -- almost absolutely
sufficient. If you're thinking about buying Cole, Siemon, or Collins, save your money.
"The Index now covers 2,000 book titles with full contents listings of over 1,900
books containing 12,000 different stories by 2,500 authors. Of the books, I have
personally examined about eighty-three per cent, seen photographs of the contents pages of
five percent, and used other sources for twelve percent. Where it was necessary to use
other sources an effort was made to find more than one source for each book" (page
vii). My only cavil, though the book of course contains an error or two, is that Mr.
Contento does not indicate which of the books have been treated on the basis of
"other sources." (The difference between the "2,000" and the
"over 1900" presumably results from the ways he has handled certain expanded or
omnibus volumes; since his method here is systematic and quite clear, there is really no
need for the qualification.)
There are three major sections: the author listing, the title listing, and the book
listing with each book "analyzed." It is of course the existence of the computer
that has made such elaborateness possible on so extensive a scale. (Of course, the use of
the computer also means that if an error appears in any one of the sections it will also
appear in the others.)
Mr Contento's intention was to exclude "stories that deal exclusively with horror,
the weird, ghosts, mythology, sword and sorcery, the occult, and other fantasy," but
he has listed such stories when they appear in SF author collections (e.g. all of Wells's
stories are listed, except the few that have never been collected) or in books intended to
be SF anthologies. Furthermore: "when there was any doubt, the book was
included" (page vii).
The term "collection" is allowed to include "science fiction novels
rewritten from three or more stories," though these are not covered as
"thoroughly" as ordinary collections -- i.e., books containing three or more
distinct stories. (A few of the "novels," and perhaps a few of the
"collections," contain only two stories.)
Of the 2000 books listed, only 25 (unless I have missed one or two) are dated before
1940 (and one of those erroneously): nine collections of Wells stories, four Burroughs
novels, two Verne omnibuses, one collection or novel each by England, Weinbaum, Griffith,
Doyle, Wright, Reeve, and Key (whoever he is), and three anthologies: The Battle for
the Pacific and Other Adventures at Sea (Harper, 1908; drawn on by Hartwell and
Currey for their Gregg Press anthology), The Moon Terror (1927; issued by Weird
Tales as a subscription premium), and Adventures to Come, edited by one J.
Berg Essenwein (1937; perhaps the first SF anthology; see Tuck). Although this list is
surely far from complete (e.g., it should include at least three books by Robert W.
Chambers, and it could include, given the Reeve listing, a number of collections of
scientific detective stories), the point is easily made that SF collections are rare
before 1940 -- and indeed, comparatively rare before 1950, since there are only about 50
books listed for the 40s.
The erroneous listing, presumably deriving from Mr Contento's having used Bleiler or
Tuck, is "The Time Machine and Other Stories, Holt, 1895," for this
collection was actually published in 1927 as Volume 16 of Benn's Essex Edition of the
Works of H.G. Wells, with the title and contents appropriated that same year to serve as
the first section of the Benn-Doubleday omnibus edition of the Wells short stories. Here
the irony is that Mr Contento, in listing the contents of this "1895" volume,
gives the first-publication date of each of the stories, each date (except that of TM
itself) being several or many years later than 1895.
Donald H. Tuck. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy Through 1968.
Volumes 1 & 2. Who's Who. Chicago: Advent Publishers, 1974 &
1978,8½ x 11, 2 columns, xx+530, $25.00 each volume.
The now complete Who's Who contains approximately 2500 articles, each
consisting of one or more of the following: Biographical Note, Series, Fiction,
Nonfiction, Anthologies (edited by the subject), Artwork. For example:
RAPHAEL, RICK (10 Feb 1919--) U.S. author. A newspaperman for 20
years, he has also had experience in photography, feature writing, TV, and public
Thruway Patrol. In
ASF: "Code Three" (Feb 1963); "Once a
Cop" (May 1964). Published as part of
Code Three. Both stories appeared in
Italian in Urania: 397, 1965.
Code Three (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1966, 252 pp., $3.95)
(Gollancz, 1966, 216 pp., 21/-) (Berkley: X139A, 1967, 176 pp., pa 60¢) (Die
fliegenden Bomben [German], Heyne: 3099, 1967, pa) (Panther: 025707, 1968, 191 pp.,
An extrapolation of traffic problems into the near future, with air cushion cars
travelling 300 mph on mile-wide thruways.
Thirst Quenchers, The [C] (Gollancz, London, 1965, 175 pp., 15/-)
(S.F.B.C. [S.J.], 1966) (Strahlen aus dem Wasser [German), Goldmann, 1966; #73,
1966 pa) (Panther: 2046, 1968, 142 pp., pa 3/6)
4 stories: "The Thirst Quenchers" (ASF, Sep 1963);
"Guttersnipe" (ASF, Nov 1964); "The Mailman Cometh" (ASF,
Feb 1965); "Odd Man In."
The biographical notes (missing only for writers too obscure for even Mr. Tuck's
industry) are usually helpful and sufficient; that is, in most cases they tell me all I
want to know about the author in question. In some instances, however, they are exercises
in supererogation -- i.e. those for authors prominent enough to be covered in general
reference works, e.g. Poe, Wells, Thackeray.
So far as I know, Tuck is the only source for "series" information, and this
feature alone makes the Encyclopedia indispensable.
There is a brief comment on each novel listed, sometimes informative and accurate, as
above for Code Three; sometimes uninformative whether or not accurate, in that it
merely expresses an opinion on the quality of the novel; and sometimes inaccurate (e.g.
Haggard's Elissa: The Doom of Zimbabwe is said to be a "story of Elissa, the
ancient colony of Solomon which produced the gold of Ophir," whereas Elissa is the
heroine, Zimbabwe the colony). But let me not be too critical here, for far more often
than not Tuck's comments allow you to distinguish between SF and fantasy (compare Negley
The listing of all known editions, with pagination and price, is also a valuable
feature of the work.
The value of the analysis of anthologies and collections is reduced by the failure to
supply indexes by author and title (which of course would require a volume in itself), and
now is further reduced by the appearance of the Contento volume reviewed above. Even so,
Tuck lists many collections in "fantasy" not listed by Contento.
In sum, this work is indispensable in that it contains a great deal of information not
readily available elsewhere.
Although some exceptions are made for the pre-1945 past (authors associated with the SF
magazines, books appearing in the SF magazines either originally or as reprints, books by
well-known authors for whom a complete fantasy-and-SF listing is to be attempted, and
short-story collections subject to analysis), the scope of the Encyclopedia is in
general limited to books published or reprinted in the 1945-1968 period. One result of
this policy is that some earlier works of little importance are included simply because
they happened to be reprinted, whereas some of considerable importance are omitted,
including many reprinted since the closing date of 1968; that is, Mr. Tuck has been most
unfortunate in his timing. Finally, as I said in my review of Volume 1 (SFS 1:309),
my impression is that the Encyclopedia is much less reliable for the earlier
works than for those of the post-1945 period, an impression reinforced by the Wells
article, which is so full of errors that it can only be called a disaster.
Glenn Negley. Utopian Literature:
A Bibliography with a
Supplementary Listing of Works Influential in Utopian Thought.
Lawrence: The Regents Press of Kansas, nd [©1977], xxiii+228, $17.50.
Convenient at this moment, but insufficient, quite insufficient, and surely soon to be
There are 1608 numbered items, but at least 365 of these are duplications, so that the
total number of works listed is at most 1243. The duplications are for the most part of
three types: first, cross references; second, translations; third, edited editions, more
convenient editions (e.g. the collected works of the author), or comparatively recent
reprints, whether reset or facsimile. Those of the third type are of course of great
importance to the scholar, for a work said to be very rare may turn out not to be rare at
all if a reprint will serve your purposes.
Professor Negley's Utopia Collection of the Duke University Library (Durham,
1965) states that "The utopia collection of the Duke University Library has been
assembled on the basis of a general bibliography of some 1200 titles" (page ii). The
present work is evidently that "general bibliography," published now some twelve
years later -- and without any updating whatsoever!
The years 1965-1977 were notable in utopian studies for the reprinting of a large
number of utopian works, not only in Arthur O. Lewis's series of American utopias (41
volumes, Arno Press, 1971) and the SF series issued by Hyperion, Arno, Gregg, and Garland,
but also in other series of various types (e.g. Garland's Foundations of the English
Novel, which includes Berington's Guadentio di Lucca), not to mention such
notable additions to translations and edited editions as the Strachan translation of
Cyrano (OUP, 1965) and the Surtz-Hexter Utopia (Yale, 1965). All such reprintings
and new editions since 1964, a vastly greater number than in all preceding years, have
been ignored by Professor Negley, who evidently just turned his old manuscript over to a
university press eager to get in on the boom in utopian studies.
Before 1965 there was a substantial if comparatively small number of general studies of
utopian works, each with an appended list of books declared to be utopias. There was an
obvious need for a conflation of these varying lists, followed by an examination of the
books listed to see which of them actually qualified as utopias under some reasonable
definition of the genre and by the publication of a canon as comprehensive and as
definitive as was then humanly possible. Professor Negley took on this task and carried it
to a reasonably successful conclusion, which included the division of the overall list
into two parts, utopias proper and "works influential in utopian thought" (i.e.
works often listed as utopian but not qualifying under Professor Negley's definition). If
the resulting general bibliography, the work here under review, had been published in
1965, the reaction of scholars interested in utopias could only have been one of great
gratitude. But since 1965 there has also been a considerable amount of scholarly work in
utopian literature, with the result that a large number of additional books have become
candidates for any definitive canon of utopias -- e.g. Negley's two lists include only
about half the works listed for 1888-1900 in Roemer's The Obsolete Necessity
(Kent State, 1976). Again, though I cannot blame Professor Negley for allowing his work to
be published or the Regents Press of Kansas for simply publishing it, it seems to
be disgraceful that any university press should advertise such a work as
"comprehensive" and "definitive."
With respect to utopian studies the scholarly needs of 1978 call for a closer look at
this 1965 work. In his introduction Professor Negley speaks of his "Aquaintance with
some twelve hundred works which can be termed utopian or directly influential in utopian
thought" (page xiv), and I have no doubt that he has actually read or at least
thumbed through each of the works in his two lists. On the other hand, there is no
indication that he engaged in the kind of systematic note-taking that would be necessary
for any merely human scholar if he is later to defend his decisions on which of the books
may properly be called utopian and which may not. There is no annotation of individual
works for content, so that we must simply accept Professor Negley's judgment that 969 of
these works meet his criteria for utopias whereas 274 do not. Here I will not only say
that this is not good enough but will also take it upon myself to proclaim Mullen's law
for generic bibliographies: for every work listed as belonging to the genre, the
bibliographer must cite the features that qualify it for the list, and for every dubious
work excluded from the list, the bibliographer must cite the features that have caused
other scholars to regard it as qualifying for the genre.
Professor Negley has divided his overall list into "utopias" and
"influential works" on the basis of the following definition:
a utopia is first a fictional work (thus distinguished from political tracts and
dissertations); it describes a particular state or community, even though this may be as
limited as a small group or so extensive as to encompass the world or universe (thus a
statement of principles or procedural reforms is not a utopia); its theme is the political
structure of that fictional state or community (thus a mere Robinsonade, adventure
narrative, or science fantasy does not qualify as utopian). [page xii]
In applying the first and most general of his criteria, fiction versus non-fiction,
Professor Negley has erred at least three times. Two well-known non-fictional works appear
in the main list, Wells's The Open Conspiracy and Huxley's Brave New World
Revisited, each of which may be accurately described as a political dissertation or,
invoking the second criterion, as a statement of principles and procedural reforms. On the
other hand, Young's The Rise of the Meritocracy 1870-2033, which certainly
"describes a particular state" (the Britain of 2033) and has as "its
theme...the political structure of that state," is banished to the supplementary
listing, perhaps because it is subtitled "An Essay on Education and Equality."
Is it necessary to point out that this work is an historical essay only in the same way Gulliver's
Travels is the autobiography of Lemuel Gulliver?
The requirement that the work must "describe a particular state or community"
would seem to rule out Shiel's The Purple Cloud, which begins with the
contemporary world, continues with a post-catastrophe world in which the narrator is
apparently the sole survivor, and concludes with the narrator's having found a mate,
apparently the sole surviving woman. I don't know how small Professor Negley's "small
group" can be, but his exclusion of the robinsonade would surely rule out any group
as small as two people. Another main-list book in which there is no community at all is
Lloyd's Etiodorhpa (currently available as a Pocket Books paperback), which is
discussed by Roemer in his chapter on "The Individual."
Among the books banished to the supplementary list is Collier's Tom's a-Cold
(US title, Full Circle), a post-catastrophe novel in which the survivors are
numerous enough to constitute a community -- indeed, a network of communities. Since the
political structure of the hero's community is certainly the principal theme of this work,
I do not know why Professor Negley regards it as failing to qualify for the main list,
even though I know why I do not regard it as properly a utopia. Which is to say that
Professor Negley's third criterion needs clarification. In the first place, even though
this point has little bearing on any of the arguments in this review, the criterion needs
to be broadened by changing "its theme" to "one of its principal
themes." More important, the term "fictional" needs to be applied not only
to the "state or community" but to the nature of the political structure itself,
for surely novels about fictional states with political structures not essentially
different from those of actual states (e.g. Ruritania, Graustark, and Yoknapatawpha
County) should not be counted as utopias, however important the political structure may be
as a theme of the novel.
If the third criterion is not understood in this way, it will open the gates to a flood
of novels which surely no scholar in the field wishes to think of as utopias. If it is
understood in this way and applied with any rigor, it will decimate Professor Negley's
main list by excluding all stories of certain types.
First, the world-catastrophe story with or without a brief utopian aftermath, such as
Wells's The War in the Air, Harris's The Day of the Triffids, and
Johnson's The Polyphemes, all to be contrasted with Wells's The World Set
Free, in which the utopian aftermath occupies the last third of the book.
Second, the post-catastrophe story in which history repeats itself -- not only those in
which the survivors simply make out as best they can under primitive conditions, as in Tom's
a-Cold, but also those in which they manage to achieve a kind of feudal order, as in
Jefferies' After London, or go through a medieval-renaissance-modern cycle, as in
Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.
Third, the story of the visitor from utopia, as in Allen's The British Barbarians,
the visitor who judges contemporary society from a utopian standpoint but does not
describe his own society in any detail -- such stories contrasting with Howells's A
Traveller from Altruria, in which the description of the visitor's society forms the
Fourth, the depiction of a subhuman or superhuman society. Professor Negley is surely
correct in not listing either Tarzan of the Apes, in which the Mangani form a
community with a rudimentary political structure, or Out of the Silent Planet, in
which we find an eden under the direct supervision of the hosts of heaven. But if so, he
is just as surely wrong in listing The Time Machine, with its subhuman Eloi and
Morlocks, or Wright's The World Below, in which the narrator is quite unable to
grasp, much less describe, the political structures or principles of the superhuman
societies in which he finds himself.
Finally, fictions in what Professor Suvin has called the "non-realistic mode"
or "transitive mode": "moral allegory, whimsy, satire, and the lying
tall-tale" (SFS 5:46). Graves's The War of the Wenuses is a burlesque of
Wells's The War of the Worlds; its theme, if it can be said to have one, is the
silliness of women. The theme of Elmer Rice's A Voyage to Purilia is the pure
puerility and the puerile purity of the movies of 1930; the fictional world differs from
the author's own world (i.e. the world of the stage) most noticeably in that things there
have the habit of suddenly becoming very large or very small, but also in such matters as
the sudden appearance of babies out of nowhere. And in both Hodgson's The Night Land and
Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus, which in some respects resemble The Faerie
Queene, the theme is not the political structure of the depicted communities but is
instead the metaphysical structure of the entire universe. (I do not know what works
Professor Negley has in mind when he speaks of a "state or community...so extensive
as to encompass the world or universe," but in my objection the operating distinction
is that between political and metaphysical.)
Since I have read only 118 of the 1243 works listed by Professor Negley, I can make no
fair judgment on the overall accuracy of his classifications. And it may well be that on
some of the books discussed above he is right and I am wrong, his judgment having been
based on things I have overlooked or forgotten. But the more important point is that the
absence of commentary makes it impossible for the user of the bibliography to decide how
well the bibliographer has applied his criteria, and thus makes the bibliography much less
valuable than it would be if the commentary were there.
Brian Ash, ed. The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Harmony
Books, 1977. 7½ x 10, 3 columns, 352 pages (many in color), $17.95 hardback, $7.95
paperback. (Published in Canada by General Publishing Co.; in Great Britain by Pan Books.)
Contento's Index was produced with a computer; this work is presented as
if organized and to some extent written by a computer -- i.e. with extensive use of
words that have come to be associated with the use of computers. Those science-fiction
fans who speak contemptuously of litterateurs will presumably find this attractive; others
will perhaps find it alarming in its dehumanization; I find it merely silly. Perhaps the
fairest thing I can do for the book is simply to copy the table of contents:
02 THEMATICS/with Introduction by
02.01 Spacecraft and Star Drives/Poul Anderson
02.02 Exploration and Colonies/Jack Williamson
02.03 Biologies and Environments/James White
02.04 Warfare and Weaponry/Harry Harrison
02-05 Galactic Empires/Lester del Rey
02.06 Future and Alternative Histories/Brian Aldiss
02.07 Utopias and Nightmares/John Brunner
02.08 Cataclysms and Dooms/J.G. Ballard
02.09 Lost and Parallel Worlds/Robert Sheckley
02.10 Time and Nth Dimensions/Fritz Leiber
02.11 Technologies and Artefacts/Ken Bulmer
02.12 Cities and Cultures/Frederik Pohl
02.13 Robots and Androids/Isaac Asimov
02.14 Computers and Cybernetics/Arthur C. Clarke
02.15 Mutants and Symbiotes/Josephine Saxton
02.16 Telepathy, Psionics and ESP/Larry Niven
02.17 Sex and Taboos/Keith Roberts
02.18 Religion and Myths/Philip José Farmer
02.19 Inner Space/A.E. van Vogt
03 DEEP PROBES
03.01 Interface [one essay by Ash and one by Edmund Cooper]
03.02 Science Fiction as Literature [by George Turner]
03.03 Recurrent Concepts [by Damon Knight, L. Sprague de Camp, and Ash]
04 FANDOM AND MEDIA
04.02 Science Fiction Art
04.03 Science Fiction in the Cinema
04.04 Science Fiction on Television
04.05 Science Fiction Magazines
04.06 Books and Anthologies
04.07 Juveniles, Comics and Strips
04.08 Commentators and Courses
04.09 Fringe Cults
The "Program" is a chronology beginning with 1805, rushing through the 19th
century to 1895, then proceeding year by year to 1926, whence the years give way to
months. The listings include important books and films, the "launch" and
"abort" dates of SF magazines, the first SF story of each SF writer of any note,
and events in the history of fandom. I find it the most interesting feature of the book.
In the "Thematics" sections, the "introductions" average about 750
words and say about what you would expect each of the authors to say. The sections proper,
presumably written by Ash, present a rapid run-through of stories on the themes.
With respect to its facts, this book scores very high in accuracy, probably something
like 99.44%, which was a pleasant surprise for me, Ash's Who's Who in Science Fiction
having been so thoroughly bad a book (see SFS 4:80-81). Credit here should be given
to the Research Staff, headed by Mike Ashley, and including John Eggeling, Walter
Gillings, James Goddard, Jon Gustafson, Philip Harbottle, George Hay, Colin Lester, Philip
Strick, and Gerry Webb.
Many high school and college teachers of SF courses will undoubtedly find the
information in this book valuable, and its organization convenient. On the other hand,
given the number of SF histories, picture books, and reference works now available,
scholars will find little or nothing here not readily available elsewhere. Which is to say
that the book adds nothing to our knowledge of science fiction. And when the author
departs from matters of simple fact, the scholar will find much that is dubious. For
example, the following from the "Religion and Myths" section:
In 'A Vision of Judgment' (1895), Wells wrote a spoof of Judgment Day. However,
religious affirmation is the basis of 'Under the Knife' (1896) in which the narrator,
drugged by chloroform, feels himself drift through the Universe where he perceives a Giant
Cosmic Hand, the foundation of all Matter. [p 225]
"Under the Knife" is one of several stories in which Wells brings
supernatural or magical concepts into juxtaposition with scientific concepts, largely for
the fun of the resulting paradoxes. In the narrator's dream, his soul does not "drift
through the Universe," but instead, since "the immaterial has no inertia, feels
nothing of the pull of matter for matter," remains fixed in space while earth, sun,
solar system, and universe drift away from him. The giant hand, "upon which the whole
Universe of Matter lay like an unconsidered speck of dust" turns out to be (as the
narrator gradually regains consciousness) the hand of the surgeon grasping the rail of the
bed. Anyone who knows Wells would be highly dubious about his having made in 1896 any kind
of "religious affirmation." More important, Ash's reading of the story (or of
the notes on it by one of his research assistants) illustrates the tendency of the
superficial reader to reduce the original to the commonplace, the paradoxical to the
orthodoxy of spoof or affirmation. The Visual Encyclopedia is a thoroughly
superficial work, but with such values of convenience that even a superficial reference
work can have.
Douglas Menville and R. Reginald. Things to Come: An Illustrated History of the Science Fiction Film.
Times Books, 1977, 8½ x 11, xii+212, paperback, $8.95.
This book, which perhaps has more stills from SF films than any previous work, would
make an excellent supplement to the Visual Encyclopedia, being on about the same
level of sophistication and containing probably all the information on SF movies that any
teacher would need to have for an ordinary SF course.
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