SFRA newsletter

SFRA newsletter

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SFRA newsletter
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
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[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Science fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
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The SFRA Newsletter Puhlished ten times a year hy The Science Fiction Research Associa tion. Copyright 1988 by the SFRA. Address editorial correspon dence to SFRA Newsletter, English Dept., Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431. Editor: Robert A. Collins; Associate Editor: Catherine Fischer; Rel'iell' Editor: Rob Latham; Film Editor: Ted Krulik; Book News Editor: Martin A. Schneider; EditOlial Assistallt: Jeanette Lawson. Send changes of address to the Secretary, enquiries concerning subscriptions to the Treasurer, listed below. SFRA Executive Committee President William H. Hardesty, III English Department Miami University Oxford, OH 45056 Vice-President Martin H. Greenberg College of Community Sciences Univ. of Wisconsin-Green Bay Green Bay, WI 54302 Secretary Elizabeth Anne Hull Liberal Arts Division William Rainey Harper College Palatine, IL 60067 Treasurer Charlotte P. Donsky 1265 South Clay Denver, CO 80219 Immediate Past President Donald M. Hassler English Department Kent State University Kent, OH 44242 Past Presidents of SFRA Thomas D. Clareson (1970-76) Arthur O. Lewis, Jr. (1977-78) Joe De Bolt (1979-80) James Gunn (1981-82) Patricia S. Warrick (1983-84) Donald M. Hassler (1985-86) Past Editors of the Newsletter Fred Lerner (1971-74) Beverly Friend (1974-78) Roald Tweet (1978-81) Elizabeth Anne Hull (1981-84) Richard W. Miller (1984-87) Pilgrim Award Winners J. O. Bailey (1970) Marjorie Hope Nicolson (1971) Julius Kagarlitski (1972) Jack Williamson (1973) I. F. Clarke (1974) Damon Knight (1975) .lames Gunn (1976) Thomas D. Clareson (1977) Brian W. Aldiss (1978) Darko Suvin (1979) Peter Nicholls (1980) Sam Moskowitz (1981) Neil Barron (1982) H. Bruce Franklin (1983) Everett Bleiler (1984) Samuel R. Delany (1985) George Slusser (1986) Gary K. Wolfe (1987) Joanna Russ (1988)


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 President's Column With your indulgence, I'd like to comment brieOy on the SFRA's real business, the serious study of SF. My thoughts were triggered by the reviews in the newest (November, #44) Sciellce Fictioll Stlldies. In this issue, several critics whose work I've long respected converge in their thinking about the secondary literature thinking that parallels my O\\ln. In a review-article, David Samuelson, examining two new book-length studies of major SF writers, states the problem most sharply: "Much writ ing about SF in fact bears out the charge ... that we are second-rate critics of second-rate authors" (362). This lack of quality is implicitly confirmed in another reviewarticle by David Lake (who argues that a supposedly "definitive" edition used the wrong copy-text) and in shorter reviews by Kathleen Spencer (who argues that a dissertation should not have been recycled a decade later without more thorough updating), SFRA Past President Mack Hassler (who finds two volumes of conference proceedings too inclusive), and SFS editor Robert Philmus (who finds a major new bibliography not inclusive enough). Each reviewer belives that in some way the work under review lacks sufficient rigor, at least by standards accepted in other fields. But, you object, how accurate are these reviews? I suspect that they're prelly much on target, though I haven't yet read all the books. (I urge you to look up the reviews and decide yourself.) They are the work of scholars known to me, in some cases personal friends. What worries me is that such a wide variety of new books on SF can be found wanting in such a variety of ways. Are these works genuinely representative of what we SFRA members and our colleagues are producing? Or could this simply be an accidental juxtaposition of works that (for various reasons) don't live up to expectations? And, anyway, should our scholarly and critical efforts be judged by the standards academic col leagues apply to works about canonical literature? In my view, the answer to the last question is emphatically yes. To be sure, we're fans: many of us are working with SF and allied genres simply because we like to read them; moreover, we're often personally acquainted with the writers we're examining and enjoy their company at cons (even at SFRA annual meetings). However, these facts shold never inter fere with our professional tasks: we must approach our schoarly or criti cal work as we do that related to the other bodies of literature we study and teach. In next month's column, my last, I'll try to justify this opinion. --Bill HardcS!1' 3


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 Good Books Y 00 Might Have Missed By Michael M. Levy As anyone who has spent time in a small to miu-sized university town can tell you, quality science fiction can be hard to come by. At Walden Books or B. Dalton's you have to Jig it out from amidst the Star Trek novels, the shared world fantasy series, anu Jack McKinney's latest novelizations from the Robotech Sunuay morning cartoon show. The chains get most of the mass-market paperbacks, of course, but anything that uoesn't sell big immediately, or isn't part of a long-running series, or isn't by a brand-name author like Piers Anthony tends to be gone within a few weeks, long before trustworthy reviews come out. And if it isn't by Asimov, or Clarke, or some other writer whom the accountants believe can be turned into a bestseller, you can pretty much forget about hardcover sf. The public libraries fill some of the gaps, of course, but a lot of worthwhile books are very hard, if not impossible to find if you don't live in a city with an sf specialty bookstore. A case in point: beginning in late 1986 and continuing into 1988, a publisher which heretofore hau virtually no connection with science fic tion. Conguon & Weed, brought out a series of mostly first novels under an "Isaac Asimov Presents" logo. The books each centered on a different classic sf theme and each featured an introductory essay on the topic by Asimov himself. Although many of these novels were praised by reviewers in LOCllS, Fantasy Rel'iell' and other publications (including the SFRA Newsletter), they had poor distribution outside of the specialty bookstores anu \vere picked up by relatively few libraries. You may not have seen any of them. This is unfortunate because eyen the less memorable of the Isaac Asimov Presents novels are solid works of science fiction and several of them are excellent. The entire series, however, is now appearing in paperback from Worldwide Library and should be sought out. Already in the bookstores as I write this in November are John Barnes' The Man 1+1/0 Pill/cd DOlVn the Sky. Neil Barrett Jr.'s 771tOllgh Darkest America, Judith Moffett's PenntelTa, and Harry Turtledove's Agent of BVZaTllilllll. Scheuuled for late 1988 and 1989 are Andrew Weiner's Station GehellTlna, Steven Popkes' Caliban Landing, and Stephen Barnes' Sill of Ol1f::,IiIl. The most recent books in the series, Harry Turtledove's A Differellt Flesh and David Skall's AntiiJodies, have not yet been listed for


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 paperback release, but will presumably appear some time in 1989. Perhaps the best of the group is Barrell's Throllgh Darkest Amen'ca, a particularly biting post-holocaust novel which I chose as one of the ten best sf novels of 1987 in my year-in-review article for the alld Sciellce Fictioll Book Review Allllllal. Barrett has been publishing wclldone but essentially light-weight adventure sf for nearly twenty years tit lcs like AidaiJ; Master of Ships and The Kamza COI]JS come to mind-so this new and very serious novel is something of a revelation. The book feels intensely real ami is in some ways the equal of such better-known post holocaust novels as Edgar Pangborn's DalT and David Brin's 7711.' Postmall. Also enormously readable and full of interesting ideas is Judith Moffell's PClllltel7V, which concerns the founding of a colony on an alien planet by a group of Quakers and how they interact with both the planet's native population and another, non-Quaker colony. Moffett, who received a Nebula Award nomination in 1986 for her novelette "Surviving," is her self a Ouaker, and her transference of that cult ure to another world works very well. The novel suffers from structural problems at times, but it's very well written (Moffett is a widelypublished poet) and makes a variety of valuable observations about the nature of both violence and sexuality. Many recent science fiction novels have examined the fact of male violence, both towards women and towards the environment. What Mof fett docs which is refreshingly different from so many other writers, however, is show men who, although they may have violent propensities, are able to control themselves and direct their violence into useful chan nels. Several other 1987 hardcover novels now out in paperback also deserve a brief mention here. One which has received plenty of publicity and is selling well, but which might not be finding as wide a readership within the science fiction community as it should, is Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' Reindeer Mooll (Pocket Books). The novel is being marketed largely as if it were a Clall of the Cave Bear clone, but it's a much better book than anything Jean Auel has produced. First of all, it's considerably more accurate than Auel's work in its depiction of a primitive society; the author is an internationally respected anthropologist and she has all the details correct. Secondly, the action is simply more believable. Unlike Auel's heroine, who seems to leap from one world-shaking discovery to another, Thomas' protagonist is very lucky simply to survive for as long as she does in an incredibly hostile world. The novel, despite its realism, is also a com pelling fantasy, and, of course, won the 1987 I.A.F.A. Crawford Award for the best first fantasy novel of the year. Just out in paperback is David Gerrald's Chess with a Dragoll (Avon), which was originally published in Walker's Millenium series of young 5


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 adult sf novels. This is a genuinely funny book with a number of lovely and repulsive aliens. Also worth looking for in paperback reprint are.r ohn McLoughlin's Toolmaker Koall (Baen) and Michael D. Weaver's Mercedes Nights (St. Martin's). J'c1like to turn now to a number of original paperback novels which are worth going out of your way to find. For the last several months I've been reading a lot of mediocre sf in pursuit of the few gems which deserve con sideration for the 1988 Philip K. Dick Award. I'm nowhere near done with my reading--my nine-month old daughter takes enormous pleasure from toppling the rickety piles of unread paperbacks and unbound galleys in our study--but several hooks already stand out. One is Richard Paul Russo's IlIlIer Eclipse (Tor). Russo, a 1983 Clarion Writers' Workshop graduate, has published a number of fine short stories, including the memorahle "In the Season of the Rain," which appeared in the recent Vietnam war sf anthology III the Field of Fire. Illller Eclipse, his first published novel, although Hawed by a weak ending, packs an emotional wallop. IlIlIer Eclipse tells the story of Benedict Salt ow, a First Order Empath. Saltow cannot act ually read minds, but his empathic ability is a highly sale able commodity. Unfortunately it is also a curse, causing him to suffer from crippling seizures which may eventually kill him. As the novel opens, Saltow finds himself drinking heavily and at loose ends on the planet Nightshade, source of the deadly but enormously pleasurable drug known as Flex. He's hired by Ryker, an adventurer and soldier of fortune, to take part in an expedition into the Nightshade outback, ostensibly to check up on rumors that an unknown sentient race may be living in the depths of the jungle. Saltow has spent a good part of his life looking for intelligent aliens with no real success, and the resultant bitterness of his failure is, in part, responsible for his current problems. He soon discovers, however, that Ryker's motives are not as pure as his own. Flex is an enormously profitable product and, if sentients arc discovered, the companies which manufacture and sell it stand to lose a lot of money. There are indications that genocide may be the order of the day. Although Illller Eclipse is not as well plotted as it might be and has a weak ending, Russo has a knack for character development and the two civilizations he describes, one human, one alien, are both believable. He's also a fine stylist. Generally speaking cover blurbs are not to be trusted, especially when they compare a young unknown to one of the giants of the field. When Tor's editors compare Russo's work to that of George R. R. Martin and Lucius Shepard, however, they aren't far off the mark. Roger MacBride Allen's O'7Jhall of Creatioll (Baen) is another book


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 worthy of consideration for the Dick Award. Allen's previous novels, The Torch of HOI/or and Roglle are typical Baen/Analog hard sf, the sort of books where the mostly male characters are given to long lectures in awkward prose about physics or military tactics and spend more time relating to their spaceships and weapons than they do to other people. He does these kinds of stories about as well as anyone, but they're clearly minor work. Olphal/ of Creatiol/, however, which describes the discovery of a tribe of our Australopithecine ancestors in modern Africa, and which looks seriously at the moral implications of such a discovery, represents a major step upward in Allen's career. The story opens as Dr. Barbara Marchando, a paleoanthropologist, at tends a reunion at Gowrie House, the old family plantation. Dr. Marchan do, is black, descended from a former slave, Zebulon Jones, who made good after the Civil War, grew wealthy, and eventually bought his bankrupt former owner's property. She's also a very well-developed character, one of the best drawn black women in recent science fiction outside of the work of Octavia Butler. While digging through Gowrie House's allie, Marchando discovers Zebulon's diary which tells a very strange tale indeed. Back in the 1850's, while Zebulon was still a slave, his master imported a small number of new workers who definitely were not human. They didn't succeed as slaves, however, and soon died out. At first Marchando assumes that the slave owners were experimenting with gorillas, an important enough discovery in and of itself. After she con ducts a dig, however, and finds hominid skeletons, she realizes that she's on to a much bigger stury than she'd thought. In secret, and with the backing of her employer, the Smithsonian In stitute, Marchando organizes an expedition to Africa which succeeds in brings back a live Australopithecine. Marchando's interest in the hominid, whom she names Thursday, is exclusively scientific at first, but soon takes on a personal angle, especially when Thursday becomes the unwitting center of a growing storm of controversy. The hominid, although clearly more intelligent than a gorilla, is much less intelligent than we arc. Should she therefore be considered human and, if so, does she have legal rights? If she isn't human, can she be owned? Her existence seems to either anger or bring dollar signs to the eyes of just about everyone, from scientists to fundamentalists, from animal rights organizations to big busi ness. Olphal/ of Creatiol/ is not without faults. Characters still tend to lecture each other unnecessarily and Allen's style will never win him any awards. His picture of contemporary scientists at work, however, is both convincing and interesting; Allen succeeds admirably in conveying the passion such men and women bring to their profession. Without 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 spaceships, without high-tech fireworks of any sort, he has written a novel which shows an insight into the human condition and a potential for serious thought far beyond what his previously published fiction has led us to expecl. I enjoyed both the Russo and the Allen novels a lot, but the leading candidate for the Dick Award at this point may well be Ian McDonald's Desolation Road (Bantam). This novel has been widely reviewed so I'm not going to discuss it in any detail here. Suffice it to say that it's a book you'll want to look for. Although somewhat derivative--Garcia Marquez's One HlIIldred Yem:<; of Solitude and Bradbury's Mmtian Chronicles arc the author's most obvious modds-Desolation Road is incredibly well written and bulges at the seams with wonderful ideas and images. McDonald, who has published some fine short fiction in Asimol"s and Fantasy and Science Fiction, is only twenty-eight years old, and is clearly a writer who should be watched very closely in the future. Two other 1988 paperback originals which I've enjoyed and recommend are Daniel Keys Moran's The AI711(1geddoll Blues and his Emerald Eyes. Moran's novels tend to be violent, slightly over-written, and rather pretentious in their use of quotations, extended acknowledgements pages, and elaborate dedications, but his work has an enormous energy and drive which I find addictive. Moran is also enormously prolific; he has a third novel, 77/C Rillg (Bantam), due out before the end of the year. Other 1988 paperbacks worth a look include Lois McMaster Bujold's hard sf Falling Free (Baen), Phillip C. Jennings' disorganized but fascinating TOlVerto the Sky (Baen), which features a particularly striking Steve Hickman cover painting, Janet Kagen's Hcllspmk (Tor), with its wonderful electric plants, D. Alexander Smith's Relldezvolls which has some lovely aliens, and Michael Kube-McDowell's talc of multiple time lines, Alter Ilities (Ace). Last but not least, I'd like to mention Barry B. Longyear's literary parody, Naked Came the Robot, a truly funny take off on 77/C Red Badge of Courage, Ayn Rand's 7711' FOlllltaillhead, 77lC Dil'ine Comedy and at least a dozen other works you'll recognize. --Michael AI. Michael M. Levy is Associate Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stoul. He serves as Science Fiction editor for the Sciellce Fic tion & Falltasy Book RCl'icw Allnual, and is the author of Natalie Babbitt in the Twayne authors series. He has chaired the Crawford Award Com mittee for lAFA and is currently ajudge for the Philip K. Dick Award, as well as a longstanding member of SFRA and a regular reviewer for the Newsletter.


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 "The View From Lawrence" Gunn Retorts: "Latham's article is not so much a review as an ideologi cal attack. That's okay but I can't allow it to stane. unchallenged .. By James Gunn I would have preferred an opportunity to respond to Bob Latham's review of The New Ellcyclopedia of Sciellce Fictioll in the same issue, when I might with beller form have answered it point by point. Now I must breach a long-standing principle not to respond to reviews because Latham's article is not so much a review as an ideological attack. That's okay reviews are one way in which critics advance their ideologies but I can't allow it to stand unchallenged as if it were objective appraisal. If an ideological battle is to be waged, the battlefield, the participants, and the causes should be clearly identified. The individual criticisms, in any case, combine an ignorance about the specific circumstances of the book with a surprising and unscholarly eagerness to speculate about them all the same. More important, they evidence a lack of familiarity with the ways books are put together, edited, and published. In this field, it matters, because it is just this background, the total circumstances of science fiction, that informs the Encyclopedia. The people who have shaped science fiction have worked within the limitations of the publishing industry at the same time they have pushed it at the boundaries. In my 55 years as a reader of SF, 40 years as a writer, 20 years as a teacher and almost as long as a writer about the field, I have seen science fiction evolve as the result of a variety of influences, and the Encyclopedia can't help but reflect my experience of the genre -my ideology, if you like, although surely "critical position" would be a more objective and scholarly term. This is not to say that the Encyclopedia is free of mistakes. A book like this offers hundreds of thousands of opportunities for error; perhaps some editor, in the time allotted and the circumstances provided, might be able to bring it to completion, mistake-free, but I'm not that person. I 9


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 hope readers will send me a list of the errors they identify, and perhaps a future edition can bc corrected or an errata sheet published. Although the fallacies in Latham's critical judgments all seem to emerge from his preference for the Nicholls approach, the question of writers contributing to the Encyclopedia deserves individual comment. The science-fiction field has been virtually unique in the accessibility of its authors, editors, puhlishers, artists, etc., to readers, critics and scholars. Authors move across boundaries, serving sometimes as editors, sometimes as teachers, sometimes as scholars and critics, and the best critics often have been writers, for example, Damon Knight, James Blish, Algis Budrys, Brian Aldiss, Jack Williamson, Samuel R. Delany, and many others. The suggestion that they ought to be disqualified should earn Latham a permanent disqualification from the reviewers' guild. Writers are the "Real Experts" I'm willing to allow Latham a mistake, even a big one, but I can't dis miss the concept entirely: the idea of the real experts in the field, the writers (who not only do it but often have thought about the theory of it), writing entries on their fields of expertise seems so obviously meritorious that Latham's "general disapproval" seems too naive to be taken seriously, and the notion that scholars are not as susceptible to professional interests in self-promotion is contradicted by the very article in which it is embedded. On that ground alone, the rest of the review might well be called into question. I'll tell you something else that wuuld have shocked academic conservatives into speechlessness: early in the planning process I proposed that we try to get as many authors as possible to write their own entries, but Viking turned down the idea as too radical. I still think it would have been illuminating and useful. A more objective review (that concentrated on what the Encyclopedia is rather than what the reviewer thinks it ought to be) night well have described the unusual distinction of the contributors, their competence, and the quality of their contributions. A survey of the contributors' list might even have led a reviewer to conclude that the Encyclopedia was planned to create, in the space and time available, an authoritative consensus of knowledgeable experts in the field. And a survey that counted reviewers' credentials (rather than the editor's contributions) might have noted the presence of Pilgrim Award winners (nine), SFWA presidents (four), IAFA scholars (two), and Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Award winners (too many to count). And there would have been a number more had not some I asked been, inevitably, too busy with other projects. Clearly, an encyclopedia created by a nucleus of a half dozen con-10


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 tributors and editors gathered together in a major \vorld capital is a dif ferent work and has different problems (irrespective of ideologies, about which more later) than one that atlempts to broaden the base to include writers, scholars, and fans; and to fail to consider as major differences the respective lengths of the two books (as well as to suggest that the Emcyclopedia might have been published by a small or scholarly press) is to he blkind to the realities of publishing. Perhaps more important, Latham's atlempt to set up a class system is unjustified by either literary history or the entries in the Encyclopedia, which he does not cite (or when he does it is only to concede that they are "generally good") but also ser ves to rai5e again the barriers between writers and scholars that a number of us have tried to lower. My career, exaggerated as Latham thinks it is represented in the Encyclopedia, has been devoted to building bridges, beginning as long ago as 1974, in a guest editorial in Analog, when I defended academic interest in science fiction from the suspicions of Sf readers, writers, and editors, just as I am now doing just the opposite. Latham seems more interested in burning bridges. London Vs. Lawrence Finally, and this has gone on much longer than I intended and much longer than even the most patient reader might desire, let us take up "ideology." Almost all of Latham's criticisms seem to stem from the fact that he prefers the view of science fiction from London to the view from Lawrence. I admired the Nichulls Encyclopedia too. It was a magnificent accomplishment, and I not only mentioned it by name in my introduction but pointed out that this and other reference works can be recommended "not only for their still useD information, some of which may not be duplicated in this Encyclopedia, but for their insights ami for the perspectives they offer on their historic times." But une of the reasons I accepted the task of editing an encyclopedia was hecause I felt that the Nicholls en cyclopedia was not the last word on SF, that there was an alternative view of SF, one from within the genre. The view from London was a view. but it was not the only view, and at criticial points I found myself disagreeing with its judgments. I try not to maintain that my view, even though it may be based on wider and longer experience with many aspects of the field. is superior, but it is. at least, equal in the marketplace, and the notion that expressing this viewpoint in an encyclopedia will provide, according to Latham, "a distorted view of the genre to naive or ill-informed readers" is to assume that the Latham or Nicholls viewpoint has a monopoly on the truth. Surely this is more ideological than anything in the Encyclopedia, more of a religious 11


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 conviction than academic objectivity, and the entire tone of the review suggests offended belief more than dispassionate appraisal. Certainly The New Ell cyclopedia ofSciellce Ficlioll represents my critical appraisal of the field (insofar as I was able to translate it into entries); what else could it be? There's certainly nothing "surreptitious" about it. But I would maintain that the understanding of science fiction embodied in the Encyclopedia is at least as valid as any other, and to my mind, and to the minds of many others, the most valid. My "ideology" (oversimplified by Latham as hard SF or Campbell ian; anyone familiar with my own fiction would recognize it as social, in the Goldian sense, and philosophical, with moments of literary experimentation), to put it that way, is generic; that is, I think that if one is to read SF and get the most out of it one has to understand what distinguishes SF from other forms of writing and how and why and by whose efforts SF became what it is. The Encyclopedia re!1eets this, and I believe that this is the way SF is perceived by those who know it best. That is the way iteach my classes. This is not to deny that SF can be taught, and approached, as if it is part of literature, subject to the same standards and judgments as other kinds of literature, but I would argue that this is better described as a class in literature using SF as an example. Similarly, one can teach SF as a "great books" course, or as a way to raise important ideas for discus sion; these might serve many worthwhile purposes but would not make beller SF readers out of students. Latham wants to blur the lines between SF and fantasy, between the mainstream and SF. I want to make distinc tions. Who is right? I think we read fantasy and SF differently, and that fantasy is unreadable if we ask it the hard questions we ask SF, and SF is misread if we fail to ask it hard questions. Ultimately. within the time and space limitations established by the publisher, the entries in 771C NelV Encyclopcdia were selected and shaped by this critical viewpoint. Latham might like to see entries selected and space allocated on the basis of his assessment of value, but surely this is the worst sin of the reviewer, telling thc author or editor what books they should have produced. The judgments in the Encyclopedia reflect more than anything generic significance, not literary value (though that also is involved) and the more authors have strayed into other genres or into the mainstream the less their work needs to be read and understood for purposes of science fiction. Of course literary judgments are part of it, though I'm always uneasy with unsupported judgments of excellence or lack of it (one of my points of dilTerence with thc Nicholls encyclopedia), and I tricd to avoid them: it seems to me that the purpose of a good encyclopedia is not so much to inrorm its users what is good (much of it is a matter or taste) as what is important.


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 Clearly all this runs coUtller to Latham's ideology, and it seems equally clear that his ideological differences have spilled over into other areas of criticism. --Jal11es GIlIIII Latham Responds Since Gunn docs very lillie to dispute the specific judgments I made in my review, it is hard to respond to his charges except in the most general terms. Generally speaking, then, (Junn's assertion that my pur pose in the review was "to blur the lines between SF and fantasy, between the mainstream and SF" is unfounded and misses the point. The point is not what I want science fiction to be, but rather what the genre itself has evolved into over the last few decades. I think anyone who reads exten sively in contemporary SF has to admit that, like it or not, it has become increasingly difficult to establish firm lines between SF and fantasy, SF and mainstream. This, it seems to me, is a simple fact-a fact which I really did not, in my review, evaluate one way or the other. Gunn's desire to wish this evolution away is itself the height of fantasy, and his conclusion that he may fruitfully ignore such SF writers' efforts as stray into fantasy not only erects a snobbish editorial shibboleth but also evinces a fundamental blindness to the complex nature of generic influence within an author's career. It is ironic that Gunn concludes that my review is harbor ing an ideological agenda, since my point was precisely to suggest that anyone who has such an agenda ought not to be editing an SF en cyclopedia. Of course, Gunn may not like the recent evolution of SF, but that hardly gives him the right to simply ignore it. The fact is thal. beyond some in consistencies in coverage caused by the drift between SF and fantasy (in consistencies I remarked in my review), his book generally does ignore it, and this sabotages the editor's claim to establishing anything like "an authoritative consensus" or to reflecting "the total circumstances of sciencc fiction." Gunn allempts, simplistically, to reduce the whole issue to a question of whethcr I, as revicwer, "prefer thc vie\\! from London to the view from Lawrence," but this reduction papers over one of my central points: namely, that Peter Nicholls' encyclopedia was more responsible in scope (as I pointed out. Nicholls generally agreed with Gunn's ideas regarding fantasy, hut he suppressed his personal opinions when acting as editor) and is altogether more rigorously organized and edited. This conclusion, too, it seems to me, is a simple fact --a fact attested, I might add, by many other reviewers of Gunn's volume. Further, Gunn's assumption that my preference ror Nicholls' book can


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 be interpreted as an endorsement of Nicholls' own ideology (he speaks of "the Latham or Nicholls viewpoint" as if there were such a coherent en tity) is also unfounded. It is in the context of this strange assumption that Gunn takes exception to my conclusion that his encyclopedia "will provide a distorted view of the genre to naive or ill-informed readers." Gunn calls this judgment "more ideological than anything in the Encyclopedia. more of a religious conviction than academic objectivity." Yet I provided nu merous specific illstallces of critical bias in his book. Really, I would have been grateful to hear Glllm's explanation of why Dean McLaughlin is deserving of an encyclopedia entry but not M. John Harrison, for example, or Andrew M. Stephenson but not A.A. Attanasio. Such explanations Gunn does not provide. Instead, he merely asserts "that the understanding of science fiction embodied in the Encyclopedia is at least as valid as any other, and to my mind, and to the minds of many others, the most valid." This conclusion, unsupported by any evidence, we are obviously meant to take on faith. Who is the dogmatist here? Moreover, it is not as though the authors I listed as being slighted in Gunn's book are somehow "outside" of the genre, as Gunn implies: most of them have published exclusively in SF magazines, have been nominated for and won SF awards, have written books marketed and reviewed as SF, etc. They may not have expressed, in their work, Gunn's own view of what SF ought to be, but that hardly means they deserve exclusion. Unless, of course, Gunn's book is intended to be normative, an ideological checklist of "right -thinking" science fiction; this was the general conclusion of my review, and Gunn's response has given me no reason to revise this judg ment. Indeed, Gunn's entire terminology of generic "insides" and "outsides" is, I think, an index of the basic problem: namely, his obvious dis comfort with the deep changes which have taken place in the genre since the 1950's and his determination to draw up criteria which elide those changes. This sort of editorial strategy is not evidence, as Gunn claims, of "the way science fiction is perceived by those who know best" but rather of critical myopia. As far as the issue of SF authors writing encyclopedia commentary is concerned, Gunn should consider my response to Susan Shwartz in last month's feedback column. To those comments I would add only a quiet thank-you to Viking press for jettisoning Gunn's incredible notion of having "as many authors as possible ... write their own entries." (For evidence that at least one SF writer is embarrassed by such "conflicts of interest," see Gregory Feeley's comments below.) Perhaps I am an "aca demic conscrvative" on this point, but that's not because I want to "burn bridges" between authors and scholars; it is rather because I believe scholarship should "merit [aJ reputation for objectivity and independent 14


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 judgment" (I am quoting here from Boh Collins' remarks, in the June/July issue of this newsletter 1 pp. 19-201, amI I would refer Gunn to those pages for a more eloquent statement on this point than I can now muster). If SF writers are, as Gunn contends, "the real experts in the field," then the SFRA itself is a needless redundancy. } should add here, though, that I believe Gunn's critical bias does not even reflect the general consensus of the writers themselves. When I complained, for example, that Samuel R. Delany received less space in Gunn's book than Jerry Pournelle, this was not simply because I personally prefer Delany's work (though I admit} do); it was also because Delany has won four Nebula awards and Pournelle has won none. Further, it was the writers, after all, who voted a Nebula this year to a falltasy novel (Pat Murphy's The Fallillg Womall). And since Gunn decided to include in his book fairly comprehensive coverage of the cyberpunk movement, his con clusion that the British New Wave could largely be written out of the genre makes no sense, given its significant influence on William Gibson et al. In this same context, I think Gunn is out of step with the general SF readership. For instance, his privileging of thcAllalogcontingcnt of recent SF writers simply does not tally with the outcome of the Hugo and Locus awards, the best barometers of fan approbation. Given all this. it is a mystery to me what kind of "generic significance" the coverage in his en cyclopedia is supposed to reflecl. Gunn certainly has the prerogative to "make distinctions" in his book, but I would have hoped these distinctions had more to recommend them than Gunn's own say-so -relevance to the SF genre as it exists, say, rather than to some nebulous genre the editor imagines alight to exist. Gunn. who is so concerned about the "hard questions" legitimate science fiction must face, has really not answered any of the hard questions I have posed regarding his encyclopedia. --Rob LathalJl Weedbacij The view from New Jersey Editor: I just felt I ought to express my distaste for Rob Latham's review of Jim Gunn's The New Ellcyclopedia ofSciellce Fictioll. While my copy of the book has not arrived as of the date of this letter (No\'. 4), and while when I do receive it I might possibly concur with some of the opinions that Latham expresses, I don't need the reference on hand to offer my objcc-


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 tions. First, considering your length and space limitations, it is absurdly long. I'm sure some other items of interest had to be crowded out as a result. Secondly, having once decided he disliked the book, Latham seems to feel obligated to go to convulsive aIllI absurd lengths to prove that el'elything was wrong, in the process reviewing a reference he would like to have seen collected rather than the one that Gunn presented. Thirdly, and most of fensive, he worked himself into a polemic on why more wasn't done for the New Wave (now decades past in history), leading me to suspect that it is a put-up job, more so since Latham is apparently not even a mcmber of the SFRA utili/.ing our 1987 Annual Directory as a guide. I therefore have to ask if this was solicited? Why you did not exer1 greater editorial prerogative as to curtailing its length, since there was no controversy about the book to warrant it? It is the longest review of a book you ever published since you have been publishing. Finally, Latham sets up standards, subjects and authors he believes should be covered as though they were conventional wisdom. They are not, and some of them arc so far off base as to make me question his judg ment. not Gunn's. I thought you ought to have my opinion on this. --Sam MoskOlvicz I Ed. Note: I admire the fervent "first-fandom" sense of loyalty which underlies your leller, Sam, but you probably should have examined the book (or at least other reviews of it sec below) before making such sweeping charges against the reviewer and his editor. The review was not "off base" in relation to the "critical consensus," and most of your objections arise from misinformat ion. The length was dictated partly by the subject --an encyclopedia is a very complex work, and we felt that this one, because of great expectations for it within the SF community, deserved a thorough examination. The receipt of our review copy also coincided with a suggestion from the executive commillee that we seek out "longer and more substantial" pieces for the NelVslelter. In fact, we announced this policy several issues ago. The review was not "solicited," as you suggest, but handled "in-house." Rob Latham has been listed on the masthead for more than a year as "Review Editor" of the Nell'sleller. Before taking that job, he was Review Editor of Fantasy Review, succeeding Neil Barron and Carol McGuirk in that position. He is also my co-editor for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annl/al. He has indeed been a member of SFRA for several years, but was not listed in the directory you consulted (neither am I, did Hi


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 you check that?) because of the very desultory mcmbei'ship renewal drive that year. One well-known SFRA member described the article as "the most ex haustively thorough review of a reference work I have ever seen an)"vhere," and another called it "a very impressive piece of scholarship." (I omit names to avoid fanning animosities.) It occurs to me thal. shorn of its emotional rhetoric, your charge that Latham went "to absurd lengths to prove that el'eryt/Zillg was wrong," is a similar observation. except that Latham did not, of course, prove "e\'efyt/Zillg was wrong" many things were singled out for praise. As for "reviewing a reference he would like to have seen collected rather than the one Gunn presented," this seems unavoidable under the circumstances: not only did many people have high expectations for the book, but in the case of an encyclopedia a discussion of w/zat is left olll is ofpfime importance to any scholar who might expect to use it. Finally, your charge that Latham's standards are "off base" according to "conventional wisdom" can only prompt the question, "What in hell is conventional wisdom?" Is it Charles N. Brown consulting with Thomas Clareson? Or Sam Moskowitz talking to Julius Schwartz? Or Brian Al diss conferring with Frederik Pohl? Old-timers all, but hardly congruent in their opinions. As far as the fiction of the Ii.!-st decade goes, and that is precisely the period in question, I would match Latham's expertise with anyone's. He has literally seen ami handled every original title in the field, read every review in the several national venues, and read many hundreds of these books himself. My experience with this fiction is less extensive than his, but my conclusions parallel his. I therefore respect his judgment, and I certainly defend his right to express it. --R.,"{c.J Excerpts From Competitive Reviews: GREGORY FEELEY in The Washillgtoll Post "Book World," [October 30, 1988, p. 101: "James Gunn's 77/C NCII' Ellcyclopedia o/Scicilce Fictioll ... bears no relation to Peter Nicholls' Sciellce Fictioll Ellcyclopedia (1977), and probably would not exist if that exemplary volume had enjoyed a second edition. Gunn acknowledges both that work and Curtis C. Smith's Twclltiet/z Celltllly Sciellce Fictioll Hl,iters [but] the Gunn less com prehensive than the Nicholls ... and less rigorous than the Smith sets a low standard, and fails to meet it. The result -and it's a word I do not use lightly -is a scandal. "First and mosl apparenl, the texl is riddled with errors. [Turning] to entries on writers with whom I can claim some familiarity ... [IJ found errors in dales and tilles in all of them. Two ... looked like memory errors 17


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 of contributors who did not check their work. I then drew up a list of sf tities whose punctuational features lent themselves to frequent misspell ing ... and checked the book against it. Gunn's volume scored an as tonishing zero. Nearly evcry author's entry has more than one date wrong; the total over the work's 523 pages must exceed a thousand. "Second is inconsistent methodology. Authors are listed by that form of their names under which they were published, with middle names sometime given and sometimes no!.. .. Pseudonymns are not cross-referenced; the work of.l ames Tiptree, .I r., and Anthony Burgess is listed under these long-established bylines, but all other [pseudonymns, including] Racoona Sheldon, the name under which "Tiptree" published one of her best stories and won an award, can be found only under other entries. Some contributors note whenever a cited work won an award, some don't, and the year given may be either that of publication or that in which the award was made .... "Third, and most distressing. is bad judgment. Numerous entries have been written by interested parties, an astonishing lapse that the contributors' notes show Gunn to be aware of. The entry for Harlan Ellison is written by one of Ellison's associates, who offers a gushing encomium full of statements like 'All of Ellison's writing is deeply persuasive and highly personal' .... The entry omits Ellison's many failed projects of the last 15 years, failing even to mention The Last Dangerolls Visions. This \is] equivalent to a Random House publicist writing a puff about Truman Capote's career and neglecting to mention Answered Prayers .... Less egregious conflicts of interest abound. Gunn should not have written the entry for thc movie based on his novel 77le 111l11l0/1al, whether he liked the mnvie or not. A. E. Van Vogt credits himself with inventing the term "fix up," which may be true but should have come from another source. "Some errors can be traced to Smith's TIFentieth CelllllTY Science Fic tion W,ite/:l, which evidently was often consulted in place of the original sources .... The entry on George Turner, written by Gunn himself, is so plainly cribbed from Smith as to warrant a failing grade in any college course. "Nothing in the encyclopedia can be accepted except by someone who already knows the subject, which is to say that the book cannot be trusted. As a reference work sitting on library shelves to be consulted by students, journalists and other nonspecialists, 77lC New Encyclopedia Science Fiction will prove IlamlilIl. The book should not simply be over hauled for its next edition: it should be lVithdrmvnlrol7l sale." DAN CHOW in Loclls r #332, Sept., p.27]: "771e Nell' Encyclopedia ol Science Fiction demonstrates why there are such things as truth in adver18


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 tising laws. lL is not the ucfinitive reference that we woulu hope for, anu that the title suggests it might be .... Peter Nicholls' [Sciellce Fictioll En cyclopedia I set the stanuaru of excellence for such reference works I anu I its admirers have waited in vain for the news that it would somehow be updated .... Gunn's The New Encyclopedia is not what they have been wait ing for. "A certain amount of expertise has indeeu been assembleu ... yet the result seems a little off, as if partially polarized into another uimension. Most notably, there is an emphasis on sf cinema ... one of the most egregious examples of a pointless uiscussion is Bill Wan'en's article on 77lC Devil Girl From Mars (1954), a ludicrous low-budget effort typical of the fifties. There arc articles on individual movies, but not individual books; the movie articles treat not just seminal movies but mediocrities .... "The book also offers essays on various sf themes.... Here, too, 77lC New Encyclopedia falls far short of earlier standards.... These portions are distressingly formulaic. Mike McQuay, for example, is for adventure-oriented hackwork, ... as if he had already been prejudged without reference to his Philip K. Dick Award nominee,MemOlies. These essays come far too close to being recapitulations of what has been saiu and written before .... DOUG FRATZ in 771111St I #31, Fall, 1988, p. 24]: "With Peter Nicholls' Science Fiction Encyclopedia now almost a decade out of date ... .r ames Gunn's 77le New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction obviously aimed at fill ing that voiu [but] it falls far short of completely fulfilling its purpose .... "The major defect in this volume as a reference source on SF is the ex cessive proportion of its space allocated to too-lengthy descriptions of every grade-B SF movie ever perpetrated .... As well as annoyingly dilut ing the volume, these grade-B movie entries take up space which could have been used to cover hundreds of far more important topics, as Nicholls [did]. Instead of improving and adding to Nicholls' choices, Gunn has simply failed to cover many of the kinds of information for which an encyclopedia is most useful. Nowhere in this volume, for instance, can one find out who or what won the major SF awards each year. Virtually no information is provided on book publishers or book editors in the his tory of SF .... "Possibly Gunn (or his publisher) believed that a larger, more literaryorienteu encyclopedia woulu have too limited a sales potential. In any case, the final product is far less than it could, and should, have been .... Fandom and fanzines are given only very cursory coverage. Sf literary criticism is surprisingly also very poorly covered. Short essays on the history and use of such SF literary conventions as time travel, parallel 19


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 universes, telepathy, terraforming the list could go on and on \vould have been valuable .... NEIL BARRON in The Nell" Yo,.k RCl'ielV uI Science Fiction 1#1, forthcomingl: "771e Science Fiction ncvclopedia edited by Peter Nicholls and others .iustifiably won a Hugo. Iltl established very high standards against which any similar work must be measured .... Let's compare some hasic data: IBarron provides figures. similar to Latham's, for number of words. entries, theme essays, authors covered, films, etc.1 "Nicholls is about 1.7 times the length of Gunn, and equivalent cntries are much more detailed in Nicholls. The Nicholls entries tend to be more specific. whieh is the kcy reason why there arc more of them. Gunn has a wcak article on fandom by Ackerman, whcrcas Nicholls has a general article and cntrics on more than 411 individual fanzines .... Both volumes treat too many wretched films Ihut] the ratio of film to author entries in (iunn is almost 1 to 2, compared with I to 6 + in Nicholls.... This imbalance is a bit ironic, given Gunn's comment in a 1980 essay: The problem with the scicncefiction film is that it adds nothing to science fic tion except concreteness or image and this may be more of a drawback than an asset.' "Although several entries suggest the magnitude of the changes in SF during the past decade, only one, Clareson's 'Scholarship,' deals with the enormous growth in secondary literature, much of it from university presses. Clareson hardly suggests this. He's sometimes careless as well-Ihe I contributed to all thrcc editions of my Anatomy oj JVonder but cites only the first, the most dated and least valuable. "Scholarship is seriously slighted in the entries themselves. Because encyclopedias must be succinct, most entries include bibliographies to direct users to additional sources. GUI1I1 includes 11011e; Nicholls included many (given its relatively early date) together with essays on Bibliographies and Indexes and Critical and Historical Books about SF. "Nicholls treats magazines far more comprehensively, with more than 2()() magazines receiving individual entries .... The Nicholls author entries tend to be much more evaluative than Clunn's and provide greater bibliographic detail. IOf] 53 unique entries in Gunn about writers who have achieved prominence in the past decade, [only] l4 arc not in the 1986 edi tion of Smith's biographical work. "Gunn isn't the pioneering work Nicholls was, nor is its scope or criti cal rigor equal to its honored predecessor. Serious readers owning the key reference works of recent years will probably want it, even if it doesn't add agreat deal towhat Lhey already know. But a Hugowinner it shouldn't be." 2()


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 [he Shape of Films to Cornel By Ted Krulik October 1988 -The Halloween season is traditionally a choice time for movie openings in horror and science [cition. One SF film that had been eagerly awaited wasAlicn Nation, produced by GaIc Anne Hurd (who also co-produced Thc TCI711inator andAlicl1s) and Richard Kobritz: directed by Graham Baker: and written by Rockne S. O'Bannon (who scripted a number of the new Tll'ilighl Zonc episodes). The film's basic premise, that aliens have come to Earth, settled in amongst us, and assimi lated, seemed to promise some thoughtful science fiction on the big screen. Instead of lizard-cn:atures lusting for human flesh, the fans hoped, this film might realistically portray humans and aliens altunpting to live together in concert. Disappointingly, Alicn Nation fulfills no such promise. The moyie never comes close to dealing with anything really alien, much less with alien-human relationships. It even fails to make a satisfactory entertainment out of its basic cops and robbers/racial comedy routines. The human cop, played by a beefy-looking James ('aan, volunteers to team with the first "Newcomer" (the film's impossibly bland epithet for the aliens) who makes detective third-grade on the Los AngeIcs police force. But Caan hates aliens because his former partner was killed by one during a rob bery investigation. Instead of using this situation to explore real probIcms in racial prejudice, the film-makers opt for stand-up comedy: Caan's character, Sykes, refuses to use his new partner's name (Sam Francisco), calling him "George"; in return, the "Newcomer" (Mandy Patinkin) ex plains that "Sykes" in his language sounds like the words for "excrement" and "cranium," and proceeds to substitute the comon Earth coIIo quialism. As for the criminal investigation they pursue, tracking down the bad dies who killed Sykes' partner, the plot is as routine and simplistic as any episode of "Miami Vice." There are car chases, violent shoot -outs, drug deals, and yes, a "dark secret" hidden in the Newcomers' past. But there is absolutely nothing inventive about any of it --any contemporary sit-com dealing with urban immigration could do beller. On the sociological level, the problems of the Newcomers in assimilat ing are entircIy too bland. The aliens respond to most things much like humans. They have their own fast food places, their own bars where a scattering of humans mLx with Newcomers. When Sykes and George walk 21


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 into one of these places, the scene is reminiscent of 48 in which Nick Nolte amI his furloughed-from-prison parlner Eddie Murphy walk into a Black bar to similar effect. Although care is taken in this scene to point out anatomical differences the Newcomers' gonads are in their armpits, for instance -Mandy Patin kin's alien still responds with sexual arousal to the heaving breasts of an exotic dancer. The good aliens, like George, are given an "Ozzie and Harriet" lifestyle, while the bad aliens are gang sters in the "Untouchables" mold. Alicn Nation comes off as silly and wrong-headed, completely deriva tive of the kind of police-investigative urama-comeuy exemplified by Richaru Dreyfuss anu Emilio Estevez in Sta/(COI/t. But it lacks the depth anu the haru-edged portrayal of bigotry in Encmy Mine, another deriva tive tale done to much better effecl. If only the talented people in Hollywood would read some real science fiction maybe the movies they make might be less shoddy stuff. Martians Return to Groyer's Mill During the weekend prior to Halloween, this small New Jersey town helu a celebration of the event that put it on the map: fifty years ago, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater or the Air inspired the panic of the cen tury with a radio adaptation of H. G. Wells's War a/the Worlds in which Martians invaded Grover's Mill. All kinds of remembrances were planned for the anniversary weekend, including a parade, art show, panel sessions, and the burying of a time capsule. Besides having a good deal of fun, the town intendeu using the proceeus to ueuicate Grover's Mill Pond as a memorial Martian lanuing site. Now on view at Sotheby's Auction House in Manhattan is the original typed mansucript of "The War of the Worlds" radio play. The author, Howaru Koch, offereu this (the only known surviving mansucript) for auc tion on December 14th. Additions and deletions are markeu on the script in pen by Orson Welles and his co-prouucer John Houseman. If you are interested in buying the manuscript, be prepared to spend a lot of money; Sotheby's expects it to go for $25,O()() to $35,000. "Nightfall" Vanishes On Friday, September 30th, a movie version of Asimov's classic story "Nightfall" opened in theaters all over New York City and vicinity. By the following Friday it had disappeared, not to be found anywhere. The in formation I have cumes from a New York Times ad the movie had not even been revieweu. According to the au, the screenplay was by Paul Mayersberg, who also directed; producer was Julie Corman, and the film starred David Birney, Sarah Douglas, Alexis Kanner, and Andra Millian. 22


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 If any SFRA member has seen "Nightfall" or a review of it, please senu the data to Teu Krulik at 2Y-10 137th St., Flushing, NY 11354. I would greatly appreciate hearing from you, and any further information I receive about the movie will be published here. --Ted Kntlik By Neil Barron Recruitment Help Sought My sole goal as SFRA Vice President for the 198Y-90 period will be to rccruit new membcrs. I havc a number of ways to do this, amI one of them involves you. Before YOII pill this isslle of the /lclvsletter dow/I, please send me the names and addresses (or at least the academic affiliation) of AT LEAST TWO people you think would prohably be interested in the benefits of SFRA membership. Details about these people (interests, publications, past SFRA membcr, etc.) woulu be welcome but aren't essential. Please check the latest membership directory to make sure they aren't current members. I will send a personal invitation to each. There are about 300 SFRA members as a result of recent recruitment efforts. I hope to receivc at least 400 uistinct names, anu hopc many of you will supply more than two names. Please IV/ite /lOW I /lecdyollr help. My address is 1149 Lime Place, Vista, CA 92083, phone ()19) 726-3238. Thanks. Versins Museum/Library Relocated On September 1, 1988, the city parliamcnt approved a plan to relocate the very large collection of fantastic litcrature ofPicrre Versins to a former city prison building in Yverdon, Switzerland. The Maison d'Ailleurs, Musee dc l'Utopie, ues Voyages Extraordinaires et ue la Science Fiction (to give it its formal name) contains the extensive holdings of Pierre Versins, author of the most important French language encyclopedia of fan tastic literature. Pascal Ducommun [PaL\( 37, CH-2300 La Chaux-ueFonds, Switzerland] is the part -time curator of the collection and says a grand opening is still about two years away. If you happen to be in Swit zerlanu, Ducommun can be reacheu at (02Y) 238763 evenings, and may be able to arrange a visit. 23


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 1988 Fantasy CommentatOl' Issue 3R (v. 6, no. 2, Fall 1(88) of the annual Fal/ta.\y C0111111el/tatorwas published in November, and maintains the generally high quality I've come to expect. A 20 page interview with veteran pulpster Raymond Z. Gallun (lY II --) begins the issue. The third of several more articles about Bernarr MacFadden by Sam Moskowitz discusses SF in Tn/(' StOl), Magazil/e:. Moskowitz also continues his history of early SF, "Voyagers Through Eternity," with some fascinating details about Fitz-James O' Brien. A reprint of a 1930 Algernon Blackwood review of three books, one of them Staplcdon's Last alld First Mell, has considcrable interest. Add six lengthy reviews. the editor's comments on some older books, and three poems. The highlight for me was 1984 Pilgrim Ev Bleiler's fascinat ing and frank article on the genesis and development of his famous 1948 Checklist of Falltastic Literature. You don't have to be a bibliographer to appreciate this, and anyone with the slightest interest in the history of SF or SF scholarship should send $4 immdiatcly for this issue of FC to editor A. Langley Searles, 48 Highland Circle, Bronxville, NY 10708-5Y()l). Author Bibliographies Cheap! The latest four working bibliographies issued by Galactic Central (the grandiose name used by Gordon Benson, Jr., Box 40494, Albuquerque NM 871Y7, the co-compiler) are of Jack Vance, James Tiptree, Jr., Keith Laumer and Cyril M. Kornbluth. The principal compiler is Phil Stephen son-Payne. "Imladris," 25A Copgrove Rd., Leeds, West Yorkshire L58 2SP, U.K. These stapled booklets list short fiction, books. articles. poetry. etc .. plus a secondary bibliography. Reprints are listed following the original work. The bibliographic details arc sometimes a bit sparse, though usually adcquate, and the coverage is relatively complete. Benson issued about 30 similar booklets alone, but Stephenson-Payne, who com piles the British Books Received listings for LOCIIS, has taken over as prin cipal compiler. You can order from either of them. The prices in dollars and sterling for the four cited above arc $3.50/.50, $2.00/1.25, $3.00/1.75 and $2.50/1.50 respectively. A list of all available titles will be sent with your order. They're not elegant, but a good value for the money. --Neil Balmll 24


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 U. S. Commercial Releases November Paperbacks: ASPRIN, ROBERT. alld Im-Pcn'eetiolls, a "Myth" series book. $3.50. Ace. Fanta.w. BONTL Y, THOMAS. Celcstial Chess. $3.95. Ballantine. Fiction -supernatural. BRADLEY, MARION ZIMMER. Shlll1'(/'s Exile. $3.95. DAW reissue, Fantasy. BRADLEY, MARION ZIMMER wi the Friends of Darkover. FOllr 1\100115 of Darkol'er. $3.95. DA W. Fantasy -collection. BRODERICK, DAM lEN, SlIiped Holcs. $3.95. Avon Books. SF. BRUNNER, JOHN. The Cl1leible of Time. $4.95. Del Rey, previously a Del Rey he. SF. ---------. The Best of.lo"" B1111111cr. $3.95. Del Rey. SF collection. C ARTER, CARMEN. Sta,. Trck: 171C Next GCllcratioll: 171C Childrell of Hamlill. $3.95. Pocket Books. SF. DALKEY, KARA. Ell"yale. $3.50. Ace. Fantasy. DONALDSON, STEPHEN R. A Mall Rides 17l/'Ollgh, Mordant's Need: Vol. II. $4.95. Del Rey, previously a Del Rey hc. Fantasy. ---------. 171C Mil7"Or of Her Dreams. $4.95. Del Rey ,.eisslle. Falltasy. DRAKE, DAVID and THOMAS T. THOMAS. Oisis I: All HOllorable De/ellSe. $3.95. Baen Books. SF. DVORKIN, DA VlD. Celltral Heal. $3.95. Ace. SF. EISENSTEIN, PHYLLIS. 171C C"ystal Palace, sequel to So,.e(']'e,.'s SOil. $3.95. SignEt. Fantasy. FLINT, KENNETH C. Isle of DestillY. $4.50. Bantam. Fantasy. GERROLD, DAVID. Chess Hirth a Dragoll. $3.50. Avon Books. SF. INGRID, CHARLES. Celestial Hit List, Book Three of the Sand Wars. $3.50. DA W. SF. ---------. Sola,. Kill. $3.50. D A W reissue. SF. ---------. Lase/10wn Bllles. $3.50. DA W reissue. SF. IRWIN, WALTER and G. B. LOVE, eds. 17,e Best ofT,.ek #14. $3.50. Signet. Nonfiction. MARSHAK, SONDRA and MYRNA CULBREATH. Sta,. T,.ek: 17,e p,.omethells Design. $3.95. Pocket Books reissue. SF. MARTINE-BARNES, ADRIENNE. The Fi,.e Swo,.d. $3.50. Avon Books reissue. Fantasy. McCAFFREY, ANNE. Reissue of the Pern series. Del Rey: Dragon.f7ight. $3.95, Dragollqllest, $3.95, 17,e H11ite Dragoll. $3.95, Mo,.eta: Dmgolllady 25


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 of PCI7I, $3.50, and Nelilka's Stem', $3.95. MORRIS, JANET amI CHRIS. Ci(I' at the Edge of Timc. $3.<)5. Baen Books. Fantasy. NOVAK. KATE and JEFF GRUBB. Azure Bonds, a Forgotten Realms novel. $3.95. TSR. Fantasy. O'BRANAGAN, DEVIN. Spilit Wan1ors. $4.50. Pocket Books. Horror. O'RIORDAN, ROBERT. Cadre Messiah, concludes the Cadre triology. $3.50. Ace. SF. REYNOLDS, MACK wi DEAN ING. Trojan Orbit. $2.95. Baen Books reissue. SF. SAHA ARTHUR W., ed. TIle Year's Best Falllasy StO/ies: 14. $3.50. DA W. Fantasy --anthology. SALSITZ, R. A. V. Daughter of Destiny, sequel to TIle UnicoI7l Dancer. $3.50. Signet. Fantasy. SAPERSKIN, DAVID. Meta17lOlphosis, sequel to Cocoon. $3.95 .love Books. SF. SHEFFIELD, CHARLES. Trader's World. $3.95. Del Rey. SF. SHETTERLY, WILL and EMMA BULL, eds. Liavek: Spells of Bi1ldillg. $3.50. Ace. Fantasy --shared world. SMITH, GUY. Deathbell. $3.50. Pocket Books reissue. Horror. STEUSSY, MARTI. Drea17ls $3.95. DeI Rey. SF. ---------. Forest of the Night. $2.95. Del Rcy reissue. SF. TURTLEDOVE, HARRY. Age1lt of Byza1ltiu17l. $3.95. Worldwide Library, previously a Cogdell and Weed he. SF --alternate history. TYERS, KATHY. Fusio1l Fire. $3.95. Bantam. SF. VINCE, VERNOR. Thrcats ... alld Other Promises. $3.50. Baen Books. SF --collection. WAGNER, KARL EDWARD. Legion fr017l the Shadows. $2.95. Baen Books reissue from Zebra. Fantasy. WELLMAN, MANLY WADE. Twice ill Time. $2.95. Baen Books. SFtime travel. WURTS, .lANNY. ShadoHjalle, Book Three of the Cycle of Fire. $3.50. Ace. Fantasy. ZAHN, TIMMOTHY. A C017lillg of Age. $3.50. Baen Books reissue. SF. ZELAZNY, ROGER and NEIL RANDALL. Roger Zelaz1lY's Visl/al Guide to Castle A17lber. Avon Books. $8.95. October Paperbacks: MOFFET, JUDITH. PelllltoTa. $3.95. Wideworld Library, previously a Congden and Weed he. SF. 26


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 Trade Books: ASTURIAS, MIGUEL ANGEL, translated by Gerald Martin. Mell of Maize. $lY.95 hc. Verso. Fantasy --Latin American. November 17, BLAYLOCK, JAMES P. 77le Last Coill. $17.95 hc. Ace. Fantasy. November 1988. CARD, ORSON SCOTT. Treason. $17.95 he. Sl. Martin's Press. SF. November 15, 1988. CARLSON, LARRY. Molecular Ramjet (//Id Other Bedtime StOlies. $4.95 trade paper. Tadalex Puhlications. SF/Science Facl. November 198R. DA Y, MILDRED LEAKE, cd. & translator. 77le StOlY of Meliadoc, King ofCa1l1blia. $35.00. Garland Publishing. December 1988. DOUGLAS, CAROLE NELSON. CounterProiJe. $17.95 hc. Tor Books. SF. December 19, 1Y88. DuPONT, DENISE. IFomen of Vision: Essays by Women Wliting SF. $14.95 hc. Sl. Martin's Press. Nonfiction. December 9,1988. FINE, STEPHEN. Mol(" Dear: 77le Autobiography of an Android. $18.95 he. Sl. Martin's Press. November 30. 1988. FISCHER, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, IV. 771(' Gothic's Gothic: Aids to the Tale of TelTor. $67.00. Garland Publishing. Bibliography. GIBSON, WILLIAM. MOlla Lisa Ol'ml1il'e. $17.95 he. Bantam/Spectra. SF. November 1988. HAMBLY, BARBARA. 77IOS(, 1+710 Hunt the Night. $16.95 he. Del Rey. Horror. Dccember 198i). HARTWELL, DAVID G. /lfastcl]Jieccs of Fantasy and Enchant171cllt. $19.95 he. Sl. Martin's Press. Fantasy --collection. December 5. 19S8. KENNEAL Y, PATRICIA. The Sill'('/' Branch. a Novel of the KelLiad. $18.95 hc. NAL Books. SF/Fantasy. December 1988. KlPEL, ZORA, translator. 77w Byc!o11lssian T,istan. $29.00. Garland Publishing. Arthurian Romance. LEVY, MAURICE, translated by S. T. Joshi. Lo\'ccraft: A Stlldy in thc Fantastic. $29.95 cloth, $12.50 trade paper. Wayne State U ni\!. Press. Nonfiction. LICHTENBERG, JACQUELINE. 77IOSC of Afl' Blood. $19.95 hc. Sl. Martin's Press. SF. December 5, POHL, FREDERIK. 771e Day thc /lfm1ians Came. $15.95 he. SI. Martin's Press. SF. November 1988. RHODES, DANIEL. Adl'emu},. $18.95 hc. SI. Martin's Press. Horror. December 5, 1988. SARGENT, LYMAN TOWER. Blitish and A17le1ic(/// Utopian Litcraturc 1516-1985: An Anllotated Chronological Bibliography. $77.00. Garland 27


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 Publishing. Bibliography. SCARBOROUGH, ELIZABETH ANN. nze Healer's War. $17.95 hc. Doubleday. Fantasy. November 1,1988. VESCE, THOMAS E., translator. nle Ala/rels of RigomC1'. $46.00. Gar land Publishing. Arthurian Romance. WIDDICOMBE, RICHARD TOBY. Edward Bellamy: An Annotated Bihliography of Secondmy Oificism. $77.00. Garland Publishing. Bibli ography. WOLFE, GENE. TI!ereare Doors. $17.95 hc. Tor Books. Fantasy. December 1, 1988. --lI1al1i11 A. Schneider tReviewsl Non-Fiction Library Guide Revised Burgess, Michael. A Guide to Science Fiction and in the Libra!y of Congress Classification Scheme. 2nd ed., rev. & expanded. Borgo Press [Box 2845, San Bernadino, CA 92406], 1988, 168p. $22.95 hc. 0-89370-8275. $12.95 trade ph. -927-1. Burgess, who's beller known as R. Reginald, the bibliographer, is a cataloger and has wrillcn this manual mostly for other catalogers. This second etlitiun is considerably revised from the 1984 original, most notably in the 92-page list of 4100 authors, almost twice as many as in the first edition. Literature class numbers are included for roughly 60% of the authors, those who had at least one trade hardcover or paperback. LC does not usually catalog mass market paperbacks, although libraries con tributing to the OCLC (Online Catalog Library Center) database do. Also revised is the list of SF and fantasy/horror subject headings, the classification schedules (not only of fiction but of art, film, etc.), with an alphabetical index to the class numbers. The introductions to the chap ters note thc inconsistencies that have developed over the years which will make searches, computer or manual, less productive. Companion volumes to mystery/detective and western fiction are also available. The book is mostly of interest to a few catalogers and to anyone conducting subject searches or browsing the shelves of large LC-c1assed collections of fantastic literature. --Neil Bm1'011 28


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 Essential Pop Lit Survey Inge, M. Thomas, ed. Halldbook of A III e/ic all Poplllar Literatllre. Greenwood, Westport, CT, July 1988. x + 408p. $55.00 he. 0-313-25405-2. Inge edited the authoritative three-volumc Halldbook of AlIIe/ieall Popular Culture (Greenwood, 1979-81, now being revised). Ten of the chapters from this work were rcvised for their appearance here: best sellers, children's literature, detective and mystery novels, Gothic novels, historical fiction, pulps and dime novels, romantic fiction, SF, verse and popular poetry, and westerns. Five essays are new: Big Lillie Books. comic books, fantasy, popular history and biography, and young adult fiction. The structure of the chapters, which range [rom eighteen to forty pages, is standardized: a brief introduction, a historical outline, a discussion of key reference works, a description of major library collections, a critical and descriptive survey of the principal historical and critical works, and a bibliography of books, articles, indexes and key periodicals. The contributors are American academics, heavily from English, American Studies and history departments. Roger Schlobin's chapter on fantasy excludes horror literature. which is also largely ignored in Kay Mussell's chapter on Gothic novels. an over sight which should be corrected in any future edition. Schlobin is too sclf congratulatory, praising his own mechanical The Literature of Falltas." (1981) while denigrating the more eclectic and valuable survey by Diana Waggoner, The Hills of Faraway (1978). Schlobin also mis-cites a Star mont reader's guide on Piers Anthony, for \vhich he is the series editor. as by Robert A. Collings, not Michael R. Collings. Marshall Tymn's chapter on SF is better balanced than Schlobin's and provides a useful OVCf view through 1986. The identifying term "Popular", when applied to fiction, suggests for mulaic, undemanding hackwork, usually judged inferior from a narrowly "literary" standpoint, as articulated by opinion-shaping review sources and the academy. In fact, the distinctions between "popular" and "serious" literature have always been blurred, and never more so than today. To make the bestseller list is not proof of mediocrity (nor any guarantee of merit). The British critic Richard Hoggart has authored an important study o[ British working class popular culture, The Uses of Literacy (1957), and although the study of popular literature needs no defense in these pages, Hoggart's key insight bears repeating: [Ijt wOllld be a l1Iistake to regard the ClIltlira/ slmggle 1l01I' going 011 as a straiglrt fight betweell. say. what The Times and the picture-dailies represelll. To wish that al1lajcllity o( the populatioll !rill ever read The Times is to wish that hUl1lall were dif29


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 ferelll, alld is to fall illto all illtellectllal slIobbel),. n,e ability to read the decellt weeklies is Ilot a sill' qlla 1l01l q( the good life. It seems lllllike at allY lime, alld is 1I01 ill allY peliod which those of liS 1l0W alive arc to kIlOll', that a ma.iOlity ill any class will have illlelleelual jJlIrslIits. n,ere arc olher Ivays of being in the 111Ith. nIC slrollgest objeelion to the more lJil'ial poplllar ellteJ1ailllllell ts is lIot Ihat Ihey prevelll Iheir readers from becomillg highbrow, but thaI Ihey make if harder for people wilhollt WI illldleelllal bellt to become wise ill Iheir 0I1'1I wal'. Inge's survey is broad, current and very readable, ancl should be part of most library collections amI on the shelves of anyone interested in popular literature amI culture. --Neil Bmron The Swiss Watchmaker of the Short Story Warren, Alan. Stal71lOlll COllfcmpormv Wlilcrs I: Roald DaM. Starmont House, Mercer Island, WA, 1988, 105p. $8.95 trade pb. 155742-012-2. Once read, a Roald Dahl story is not easily forgollen. Yet no two Dahl stories offer the same reason for their staying power: "Lamb to the Slaughter," his well known tale of a woman who commits the perfect mur der, appeals to that rational part of the mind that wonders if it's possible to gel away with a perfectly irrational act; "William and Mary" is mem orable for the grotesque extreme to which it takes the ballle of the sexes; "The Man from the South" reinforces the common paranoid fantasv that the casually met stranger ;l1ight not be "someone like you" (the uf a Dahl collection), but instead a psychopath. Since Dahl's work does not fit any specific genre, since his charactcrs are not particulariy strong, and since his plots, though perfectly crafted, have just enough substance to sustain a brief talc, one suspects that the author's disarming style of storytelling has much to do with the lasting impact his stories make. "His intention is to draw the reader into the story without undue haste or provocation," writes Alan Warren, ami, indeed, Dahl's tone is so comfor tably mundane that when the story slides over the edge into the unex pected, the reader feels a bit like the young man in "The Landlady" who suddenly discovers that all of his landlady's pels are stuffed and that the cup of tea she has just served him leaves an aftertaste of bitler almonds. Warren has wrillen a thorough and very readable study of these stories and Dahl's other works of fiction and non-fiction. Since Dahl's reputation as the Swiss watchmaker of the short story is secure, Warren doesn't waste time defending his less successful work or trying to make him more acces sible. He divides Dahl's output into four different categories: short stories, children's fiction, novels, non-fiction and adaptations. Following a brief }O


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 introductory essay on Dahl's style, themes and characterization, Warren summarizes and critiques each work in chronological order. One might wish for more discussion of the links between Dahl's adult and children's fiction, since he is one of the few writers to achieve success in both domains. Overall, though, this book is a good introduction to its subject. --Stefall DziellliallOlvicz Fiction A Life in the Twilight Zone Beaumont, Charles. Selected StOlies. Edited by Roger Anker. Dark Harvest Press, ArIighton Heights, IL, 1Y88, 404p. $19.95 he. 0-913165-23-9. When Charles Beaumont died in 1967 at the age of 38, the close-knit family of fantasy writers felt as though it had lost a gifted younger brother. The statistics speak for themselves: between 1951 and 1964, Beaumont wrote or collaborated on two novels and 73 short stories, saw thirteen screenplays and seventy teleplays produced, and edited three books. But the whole of Beaumont's impact on fantasy (and, to a lesser extent, science fiction) is much greater than the sum of these numbers. As one of the driv ing forces of postwar --and post-pulp --fantasy, Beaumont moved in a circle that included Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and other found ing fathers of the modern horror/dark fantasy movement. Many other writers had learned to soften and blend the overpowering darkness of traditional weird fiction with the shadows of everyday life, but Beaumont proved the most adept at internalizing the conflict between good and evil, rephrasing it in terms of a personal moral quandary or of the individual's struggle for identity in an indifferent world. In the introduction to The Fielld ill YOll (1962), an anthology of horror stories he edited, Beaumont summed up his psychological approach to fantasy and defined what would become the focus of the genre [rom that point on: "We've discovered a new monster .... He's called The Mind." Along with Bradbury and Matheson, Beaumont helped deliver fantasy from the formulaic genre magazines to the burgeoning mens' magazine market, where it was read by a larger and generally more sophisticated audience. It may not be possible to measure the full effect his influence had on the work of Matheson, Ray Russell. Harlan Ellison, William F. Nolan and others, but it's a sure bet that anyone whose predisposition towards fantasy was shaped by the TV scries The Tlvilight Zone owes a lot to Beaumont: after Rod SerIing. he was the show's most prolific writer. In spite of these achievements, this is the first hardcover collection of .11


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 Beaumont's fiction to appear since The HUllger alld Olher SIOIies was publisheu in lYS7, anu only the second compilation of his work in over twenty-five years. For readers gelling their first taste of Beaumont, the hook is a windfall, as editor Roger Anker has spiced it with anecdotal head notes penned by Beaumont's colleagues. (An example is Harlan Ellison's account of how he createu Beaumont's unusual pseudonym, C.B. Lovehill --from beau 11/0111 --so that Playboy magazine, which had Beaumont on retainer, wouldn't know he was selling to Rogue, a competitor that Ellison was editing at the time.) Also, the stories Anker has chosen give a generous sampling of the many types of fiction Beaumont produced: horror, suspense, science fiction, fantasy, humor, urban realism. One story, "A Death in the Country," even offers a glimpse of Beaumont's passion for auto racing. The selections are equal parts biographical profile and "best of.' For most authors, there would be no need to include their first professional sale, except that "The DeviL You Say?" (later adapted for T1l'ilighl ZOlle) was a surprisingly self-assured piece of writing for a t wenty-two-yearold, as fine as anything that was appearing in the pulps at that time. Comparing it to "Black Country," which Beaumont wrote only three years later, one perceives a phenomenal maturation of style for so little time. "Black Country" is still a potent piece of fiction, one whose jazz cadences perfectly express the pain and rage a hlack musician pours into his music. Beaumont was always willing to take risks; taboo or controversial sub jects were among his many specialties. His novel TIle !lItl7lder (excerpteu here) maue an eariy civil rights statement. "The Crookcd Man" is a parable of forced conformity set in a future society of homosexuals. In stories like "Miss GentiIbelle," "The Hunger" anu "The Dark Music," Beaumont wrote of the lonelincss and uepravity brought on by scxual repression. In "Last Rites" he questioneu the tenets of organized religion. William Nolan once said that, even more than Rod Seriing, Beaumont was the perfect Twilighl ZOlle writer heeause he lived there. The five TZ adaptations that appear here, including the well-known "The Howling Man" and "Perchance to Dream," bear out this conclusion. Along with tales like "The Vanishing Aml:fican," wherein a man is so taken for granted by the worklthat he turns invisible, and "Free Dirt," an odd tale ofjust desserts, they show that Beaumont was writing Twilight ZOlle stories years before the series was even conceived. The hook concludes with five unpublished stories, three of which were to appear in a 1964 collection that never matcrializetl. Their seamless fusion of fantasy with hip realism makes speculation about what Beaumont might have gone on to accomplish all the more sad. --Ste/all Dziemial1Oll'icz 32


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 Techno-Politics Bo\,a, Ben. Peacekeepers. TOR, NY, August 1988, 337p. $17.95 he. 0-31293080-l. Readers of Ben Bova's earth-hased, near-future fiction will find much to admire in this story of a peacekeeping force modelled on our presentday U.N. forces, but with considerably sharper teeth. After a local nuclear war demolishes four ancient cities of the Middle East, the superpowers reluctantly agree to an orbiting uberl1lachf to contain conflict within inter national boundaries. But a terrorist holds world peace hostage with a cache of six nukes, and disorder still reigns: the drug trade, for instance, flourishes because international retaliation against the drug producers is prevented, ironically, by the Peacekeepers. As in Millelliul1l (1976), ColollY (1979), and Test of Fire (1982), Bova pits a few heroic characters against sclerotic political and military jugger nauts, arming both with tools the author has intelligently extrapolated: hydrogen fusion, robot factories, remote-controlled fighter planes, and a lunar colony that exports solar power and oxygen. His narrator, official historian of the peacekeepers, laces his story with interesting chapters from his ullofficial journal. One might wish Bova had not given his youth ful characters such superheroic capabilities (ala Top GUll), or leaned so heavily on stereotypicaJly bad-guy Arabs; but otherwise this readable and intelligent action novel should have strong appeal for many young readers. -771011l DUlin Welders in Space Bu.iold, Lois McMaster. Falling Free. Baen, NY, 1988, 307p. $3.50 pb. 0671-65398-9. This novel, which originally appeared as a serial inAlla/og in 1987-88, has been garnering a fair amount of praise and a number of Nebula Award nominations. I'm not entirely sure why. Essentially, it's a fairly routine hard SF novel of the sortAllalog has always specialized in. The book's one major innovation is having several important secondary characters who arc believably female, technically trained, and, in one case, a nursing mother. Even this sort of material isn't really new; it's just not generally seen in nuts-and-bolts SF. Leo Graf, the male protagonist of Falling Free, is a welding engineer working for the GalacTech corporation, who has been sent to teach the workers on a space station the advanced techniques in his field. He is shocked, however, when he meets his new pupils. The outcome of a secret and possibly illegal experiment in genetic engineering, these "quaddies" have an extra pair of arms instead of legs. This innovation, along with 33


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 other, more subtle genetic changes, was developed by GalacTech scien tists in an attempt to create the perfect zero-gee worker. The quaddies have lived up to or surpassed their design specifications and, since they breed true, are clearly a new and legitimate form of humanity. But they're in serious trouble. Advances in other areas of space technology have already rendered them virtually obsolete as a source of profit. The soulless GalacTech corporation therefore stands to take a financial drubbing on them and is looking for any excuse to cut its losses. It seems likely that the quaddies will be sent planetside to spend the rest of their days as helpless cripples. Graf, an amiable hero in the best AI/alog competent-engineer tradi tion, is all business at first, but is soon softened by the quaddies' plight and vows to help them escape the long arm of GalacTech. What follows is a somewhat more sophisticated version of the kind of light-healted, seatof-the-pants engineering extravaganza in which George O. Smith used to specialize in his VenllS Eqllilateral stories. Graf and his allies must take over the space station, stand off the armed forces of the company, and find a place that the quaddies can call home. Bujold devotes considerable time to the details of space welding, and her exposition is convincing. There is, however, a bit too much of it for my taste. A more serious weakness is the author's failure to adequately flesh out the psychological implications of the quaddies' mutation: at one moment naive and almost childlike, at the next highly intelligent (if lacking in initiative) as well as intensely sexual, they seem curiously shallow and unscarred by their situation. Further, GraPs easy donning of the mantle of leadership smacks too strongly of the hundreds of subtly racist stories and films in which the superior American male shoulders the White Man's Burden and, for the good of the Native American, the black South African, the [fill in your own downtrodden minority], takes control of their revolu tion. I'm not really accusing Bujold of racism, of course; rather, my point is that she has fallen unthinkingly into one of the disturbing cliches of the pulp tradition. Falling Free could have been a daring and exciting hard SF exploration into the feelings and thoughts of a new form of humanity. Instead, Bujold has settled for an entertaining but essentially lightweight adventure story of a sort we've seen many times before. --Michael M. Clarke on Top Clarke, Arthur C. and Gentry Lee. Cradle. Warner, NY, August 1988, 104p. $18.95 hc. 0-446-51379-2. Arthur C. Clarke is fast approaching the status of a science fiction 34


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 legend and this collaboration, published more than fortyfive years after his first story, shows that he has lost none of his skills or energy. While Gentry Lee may be on the masthead and may have helped in many ways, every page of this novel reads like Clarke -with its careful science, strict-1y regulated and imagined vision of aliens, imaginative high-tech devices, and those curiously externalized psychological portraits which have al ways passed for characterization in the context of fast-paced and twisting SF plots. In Cradle, Clarke returns to his beloved undersea world (off Florida this time). Carol Dawson, a television reporter, is attempting to clarify the mystery of some curious whale behavior coinciding with the loss of an experimental Panther missile. Her pursuit gets entangled with several local plots, including her love affair with an intelligent charter boat operator. some goings-on over lost marine treasure, and the Navy's attempts to block Carol's efforts. As in Childhood's End and Rendezvolls with Rama, the real "sticker" in the novel is the paralkl plot -fragments of action shO\ving an extremely advanced intergalactic confederation rescuing endangered species. Towards the end of the book Clarke puts all of the earthly struggles into a galactic perspective as the plots coalesce (but how this happens would be telling). Clarke has never mastered the creation of living characters -or, rather, he has always overmastered their creation. His central figures have meticulously drawn childhoods complete with requisite motivational traumas to explain their pn:judices and other behavior. They are models 011 the order of physics examples, rather than living, complex humans. Clarke, despite his flirtation with metaphysics in Childhood's End or the 2001 sequence, has always been true to the pragmatic view of the scien ces, and he applies this commitment to the making of characters much as an expert would to the calculation of a ballistics path. By rights, this flaw should mar his work, but it does not. Technological imagination, pure story line, future ethical dilemmas which are thought ful metaphors of our current reality, and a bouncy, flavorful prose as sharp in exposition as in dialogue and action, carry this novel where they have always carried Clarke: to the top. And from that summit, the author has always looked out into the universe and speculated on First Contact. After Cradle, the reader is pretty certain that when we finally meet "them" we will be able to use Clarke's scientifically careful visions as a guidebook. --Peter Bligg 35


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 All Bark, No Bite (in'en, Terence M. Barking Dogs. St. Martin's, NY, 1988, 214p. $15.95 he. 0-312-01424-4. Barking Dogs is a cop story. Considered as such, it even might be said to be a good cop story. The setting is a late 1990's Toronto firmly in the grip of organized crime, where the middle-class dream of suburban bliss has been detoured into vast apartment blocks amid the urban sprawl. High-tech has worked its way down to the seamy underside of the city and changed the face of street crime with body armor and hand lasers. Mitch Helwig is a cop on the edge. His partner is dead, having casually walked in on a robbery at a donut shop. The investigation is going nowhere and Helwig knows that nothing will be discovered by a police dcpartment handicapped with antiquated weapons and burdensome "proper" procedure. But Helwig wants vengeance, and so, equipped with a sophisticated voicestress analyzer and a laser taken from a street punk, he takes the investigation off-shift and into the mean, gritty streets of Toronto at night. Twenty years ago, Barkillg Dogs' tcchnology would have seemed suffi ciently advanced and its extrapolated impact on society and its characters great enough to place it clearly within the SF genre. Now, it is only the cop story variant of the high-tech-hardware military-adventure fiction so popular in the mass market over the past few years. --Peter C. Hall Lifters a Strain lng, Dean. The Big Lifters. St. Martin's, NY, July 1988, 288p. $16.95 he. 0312-93067-4. Less than a decade from now, the US and the rest of the industrialized world are recovering from the effects of a dramatic increase in oil prices that resulted when Shiite Moslems slaughtered the ruling family of Saudi Arabia and Iran gained control of half the world's oil supply. The hero of the story, John Wesley Peel, is that old SF favorite, the American business tycoon and scientist-engineer. He is working to develop super dirigibles"big lifters" --that can cheaply transport heavy cargoes, thus reducing the need for long-distance trucking and, consequently, the cost of energy. Not surprisingly, Peel has enemies, both domestic and foreign. The Na tional Transport Coalition is moving to eliminate him and has placed a spy high in his organization. Meanwhile, the Iranians, who have evolved a plan to assassinate those they perceive as threats to their control of energy supplies, have made Peel their next target. Further, a group of Peel's most trusted subordinates are working on a secret project that Peel him36


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 self had rejected --space travel--in an effort to escape an economically overburdened planet. This novel has a curiously archaic feel about it, as if it had been asleep for forty or fifty years. It is a straightforward piece of engineering SF with touches of relatively simplistic romance, patriotism, and intrigue thrown in. (Even the gangsters turn true-blue American when offered an opportunity to work with the Iranians to remove Peel.) lng's style is simple and direct, his characterization limited to stereotypes. The author concentrates on his main theme: the use of dirigibles for transportation. HardSF huffs may enjoy this book, but only if they have a taste for second-rate early Heinlein; even they should wait for the paperback edition. --Fred RWlk A Place of Wonder Norton. Andre, ed. Tales oJthe Witch World 2. TOR, NY, July 1988, 376p. $16.95 hc. 0-312-93078-X. Last year's Tales oj the Hitch World was artistically successful partly because its shared universe was not a muddled committee effort hut the work of Andre Norton, with others writing by her invitation and under her supervision. It was less a collaborative effort than a collection of partial views of the same place. All the contributors were afficianados of Norton's famous Witch World series, and their enthusiasm showed. Although con taining seventeen stories by a totally different group of writers, Tales oj the Hitch World 2, happily, lives up to its predecessor; its widely varying perspectives and approaches maintain an aura of freshness. On the Witch World, magic holds sway over science. Almost all the installments recognize and respect this hierarchy, with Melinda M. Snodgrass breaking the mold, in her "Futures Yet Unseen", wherein the tale's hero, horrified by the magical conflicts between good and evil, stands all but alone in his faith in science and mathematics. This story is an accomplished injection of SF elements into a fantasy framework. Selecting other highlights is difficult because the caliber of work is generally so high. Sandra Miesel's "The Salt Garden" explores the sterile beauty of a ruined city. "S'O\carian's Sons," by Lisa Swallow, is a myth detailing the dawn of a seafaring people and the quest that drives them. Occasionally, the Witch World's domains overlap our own: A.R. Major writes of a sword carried by a renaissance Portuguese hero that makes its way to the Witch World to fight a resurgent evil. A less satisfying effort in this vein of contemporaneity is "Through the Moon Gate" by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, in which a vampire on his way to Denver finds himself in another world, Although the story is well-thought-out and skillfully ex ecuted, the prospect of vampires in the Witch World is just a bit too in37


SFRA News/etter, No. 162, November 1988 congruous. The final entry, by Rose Wolf, deals more with updated Arthurian legend than with the Witch World; however, when the connection between Camelot and Norton's world is made, it seems natural that they should share a common magic. The Witch World is a place where good and evil exist in similar degrees, with plenty of gray areas between them, resulting in a net stalemate be tween the forces of Light and Dark. Yet for all its balanced conflict, it is not a place for cynicism. What this volume depicts is a place of wonder, where magic is more than just an acceptance of supernatural or psychic forces, but a complex game in which all are players. As this and the first collection have shown, it is also a roomy place where diverse storytellers, as well as their heroes and.sorceresses, can ply their craft. --Jamcs P. Wcrbal/cth Fun Romp from Pohl #2 Pohl, Frederik. Narabcdla LId. Del Rey, NY, 1988, 375p. $16.95 hc. 0-34533974-6. It has always seemed to me that there are really two Frederik Pohls: Pohl # 1, the major novelist, author of the Heechee Saga, JEAf, and Mall PillS, co-author with C.M. Kornbluth of n,c Spacc Afadwl/ls; and Pohl #2, the polished but essentially light-weight satirist and adventure story writer, author of Dl1111kard's Walk and Black Star Risil/g, co-author with .lack Williamson of the Undersea and Starchild trilogies. Pohl #2 is a per fectly solid writer, a provider of entertainments on the level of a Fred Saberhagen or a Piers Anthony, but he can't hold a candle to Pohl # 1 who is, after all, along with Fritz Leiber and Arthur C. Clarke, one of the three finest SF writers to emerge since World War II. Narabcdla Ltd., then, is Pohl #2 writing at the top of his bent. The story concerns one Nolly Stennis, a former world-class baritone who lost his voice to the mumps and who has now settled down to a boring existence as tax accountant to his former musician colleagues. One of Nolly's friends, a cellist, receives a tour offer from the mysterious company Narabedla Ltd., accepts it, and then. days later, disappears, reportedly killed in an air crash. Using his connections in the worlds of business and music, Nolly soon discovers that a number of promising musicians have died or disappeared soon after signing with Narabedla. Our hero keeps asking questions, even storming the corporate offices of Narabedla Ltd. itself; soon, of course, he has stepped on the wrong toes, and, before he knows what's hit him, he wakes up, kidnapped, on the second moon of a planet circling the star Aldebaran. The set-up at Aldebaran is a fairly standard one of the multi-species galactic-civilization sort, with the author playing his various aliens'


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 anatomical, gustatory, and artistic peculiarities primarily for laughs. As one would cxpect, Nally soon discovers that the Earth is cssentially a backwater planet with little to offer the gencrally rapacious and eompetitiye galactic civilization except its arts. Nally himself seems entirely out of place at first because he alone among the kidnapped humans is not a performer and has no obvious talent with which to pay his way. The bulk of the novel details our hero's efforts to find a place for himself among both the touchy divas and musical prodigies of his own species and the equally cantankerous alien races with which he has to deal. Narabedla Ltd. is a genuinely fun read, ably demonstrating its author's considerable knowledge of both music and music history. The story lacks any reid tension or satiric bite, however. and clearly represents a minor addition to Pohl's (#'s 1 and 2) distinguished career(s). --Michael AI. LeI'}, Capable SF Myster)' Resnick, Mike. IVOlY: A Legelld of Past alld FlItllre. TOR, NY, September 1988, 375p. $17.95 hc. 0-312-93093-3. Duncan Rojas, head of the research department of Wilford Braxton's (publisher of Records of Big Game), is approached in the year 6303 G.E. by Bukoba Mandaka. Mandaka, who claims to be the last of the Maasai, hires Rojas to locate the tusks of the Kilimanjaro Elephant. Rojas, a fanatic puzzle solver, cannot resist the challenge, since the tusks have been missing for nearly 3000 years. But he is equally fascinated by another mystery: why does Mandaka want the tusks? The story proceeds through a series of Ilashbacks, which detail the history of the tusks, and interludes, which detail Rojas' search for them, to the solution of both mysteries. Although its structure is episodic, the plot is fairly interesting. The suspense is well maintained and the characters, though not deep, are worth meeting. The resolution is not quite what one might expect and provides a satisfying ending. Ivory will appeal particularly to those readers who enjoy crossovers between SF and detective stories. --Robelt Reilll' Righteous Cyberpunk Guerillas Shirley, John. Eclipse Pellumbra. Popular Library/Questar, NY, 1988, 322p. $3.95 pb. 0-445-20508-3.lBook 2 of A Song Called Youth] In Eclipse (1985), we watched the development of what was essentially a leftist's nightmare: an America unuer the control of a right-wing government, its power sappeu by an ongoing non-nuclear war with the Soviet Union, while a multinational organization of fascists, racists, anu totalitarians, called the Second Alliance, was attempting to take over the 39


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 world. The only group contesting the Alliance's rise to power was the New Resistance, a motley collection of leftist agitators anti rock-anti-rollers. Now, in Eclipse Pellumbra, the Alliance plots genocide as the New Resis tance continues its campaign of guerilla warfare. Although my politics and Shirley's are probably similar, I have a certain amount of trouble with these books. Shirley writes exciting, hard-hit ting action sequences. He successfully grafts the language and technology of the cyberpunks onto the conventional war novels he's updating (Alis tair MacLean's 77u! GUllS of Nal'arolle comes to mind). Again, I sym pathize with his politics. His characters, however, give me fits. They seem almost to have leaped out of an old Doc Savage serial: enormously strong anti wise, they make few mistakes, and when they do, they suffer for them romantically before redeeming themselves heroically. Also, they tend to declaim in implied capitalletlers rather than just talk like normal people. The villains are pretty darn close to totally evil, the Christian fundamentalists lacking any shred of genuine religious feeling and the militarists en joying torture for its own bloody sake. What's going on, in short, is that Shirley is offering up exactly the kind of stereotypes that I -and, I assume, he --believed in as somewhat naive late-sixties radicals. Such stereotypes have some truth to them, of course (recent evidence has shown that both Johnson and Nixon did skirt nerv ous breakdowns while in the White House), but they tend to distort and oversimplify a complex reality. And by pandering to an audience all too eager to view the world as a battle of black anti white, Us against Them, Shirley becomes part of the problem. Eclipse Pellumbra is an exciting if somewhat grim war novel, but any pretense it makes to being a serious attempt to grapple with contemporary or ncar-future social and political is sues should be ignored. --Michael M. Kane and Pendrake Ride Again Spruill, Stephen G. The Paradox Planet. Doubleday/Foundation, NY, 1988, 182p. $14.95 he. 0-385-2448G-X. Spruill's third "Kane and Pend rake" novel continues in the spaceopera-cum-thriller mode of its predecessors, 77re Psychopath Pla[;lLC (1978) and 77re Imperato/' Plut (1983). In TIre Paradox Planet, Briana, the new Imperator, sends Elias Kane to investigate her mining operation on Cassiodorus, a heavy-gravity planet where she has recently lost three im perial inspectors. Briana fears -rightly, it turns out --that rebel activity is behind their deaths. Kane travels to Cassiodorus accompanied by Pendrake, a Cephantine with titanic physical strength who is also a thoroughgoing pacifist, and 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 by Dr. Martha Reik, an allractive imperial physician with whom Kane is falling in love. On Cassiodorus, Kane soon ferrets out the paradox of the novel's title: while the adults are able to function normally in 1.5 gees, their children are physically and mentally retarded. The Paradox Planet would benefit from a prologue; as written, the beginning assumes the reader's familiarity with the previous books in the series. At points the novel is also overwritten and the dialogue unconvinc ing. More than balancing these problems. however. are Spruill's absorb ing portrait of the difficult life on a high-gravity planet, his realistic analysis of the psychological costs of the Cassiodorans' "secret," his sharp characterizations of the three principal figures, and his dexterity at getting them into and out of various potentially fatal situations. Although perhaps a notch or two below Spruill's other work (including his very first SF novel Keepers of the Gate l1977j, not part of the Kane and Pend rake series), The Paradox Planet is still a pretty good hard-SF novel. --Todd H. Sal1l/llol/S Shrink-wrapped in Sci-Fi Wilhelm, Kate. 771e Dark Door. St. Martin's, NY, October 1988, $16.95 hc. 0-313-02182-8. Kate Wilhelm's new novel is billed as science fiction, but except for a brief prologue and epilogue, set in a galaxy far, far away, it's not. It's an out-and-out terrestrial thriller, pitting scientists against detectives in a bumbling rush to cope with a mysterious force. Without the omniscient prologue, which privileges the reader with a solution to the mystery, it would be a better book in my opinion. We the readers know the mysterious force is a malfunctioning robotic probe, designed by an alien civilization to search out sentient life in the cosmos, but perversely bent on destroying it, rather than reporting it, wherever such life appears. The characters in the novel don't know that. In fact they haven't the faintest idea what they're up against, and they never do find out for sure. For Carson Danvers, whose wife and son have been destroyed by it, the force is the embodiment of evil, and its mysterious black portal the doorway to hell. Danvers has devoted his surviving life to burning down every isolated building in which the portal appears (it chooses isolated spots because electromagnetic fields disable it). Meanwhile Wilhelm's scientists display a callousness toward human suffering which is meant to be seen as a necessary corollary to the quest for knowledge at any cost, while her honest, humanitarian cops, by contrast, seek to protect the public from madness and death. (The U. S. government is conspicuously on the wrong side here, if you identify with the humanitarians.) Physicists and psychologists, of course, do not believe in pure evil (ar41


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 tifact though it is, the malevolent probe is meant to embody such an ethi cal concept). Nor do they accept any responsibility for the death and destruction caused by the force. In fact, as they begin to suspect that the force is of extraterrestrial origin, they obviously don't care how many in dividuals are maimed or killed so long as they get their chance to inves tigate the phenomenon, in the hope of proving its alien venue. The humanitarians, led by detective Charlie Meiklejohn, are closer to understanding the true nature of the thing, and seek only to destroy it. They are, in turn, aided and influenced by Carson Danvers, as well as by their own first-hand experience of the hideous suffering caused by the force. Ninety percent of the book, then, explores the blindness of pure reason in coping with'an ethical absolute, like pure evil. Meiklejohn's wife, Con stance Leidl, is an experimental clinical psychologist. Intellectually, she sides with the scientific establishment, discounting emotional and ethical implications of the phenomenon. But her experience of the force under mines her objectivity, and when it attacks her husband she reacts instinc tively. For her the confrontation is no longer a search for knowledge but a fight for survival. "YOII call't hal'e him!" she said IIllder her breath. Her words were ad dressed to the thillg behilld the black doOl; the thillg that had tOllched Charlie with evil. "We'll blolV it to hell alld galle." Her peer, psychologist Byron Weston, is another story. He, too, has experienced the destructive horror ofthe force --two of his assistants have been attacked, one killed, the other driven mad. Yet Byron still cries, "It's the breakthrough every scientist on earth has been waiting for! .. .It's not as dangerous as we thought ... we'll lick ill" "Tell that to Polly and Mike," Charlie replies, mentioning the two ravaged assistants by name. The "good guys" win, of course: Constance, with the unwitting assis tance of a dead boy (the force riddles the brains of its victims, then operates their bodies like zombies), sends a high potency bomb through the black portal. The probe is destroyed; the ambitions of the scientists and the government are frustrated; the killing stops. Score one for righteous xenophobia? Enough of the old Faustian dream remains in this science fiction fan to question the casting of good and evil in this book. I think the SF frame, fitted around the ambivalent thriller like a plastic shrink-wrap, is basically a cop-out. Without the certainty provided by the frame that Charlie and Constance are Tight after all, the conflict would have greater resonance. Although the scientists in the tale wear their rationality like blinders, they do have a point. (If an apt example of pointless government-sponsorcd bloodshed is needed, any average war makes a better il lustration.) Conceivably the hundred-odd victims of the force might be 42


SFRA Newsletter, No. 162, November 1988 culturally compensated by a single scientific breakthrough, an insight into "hyperspace" for instance. Why must Wilhelm undercut the complexity of her theme by using a sci-fi dells ex madzilla to launch her evil force? Adriall de IVit Twenty-first Century Ambience Womack, Jack. TelTaplalle. Weidenfield & Nicholson, NY, 1988, 227p. $16.95 hc. 1-555-84165-1. Jack Womack has followedAmbiellt (1987) [seeSFRA Newsletter#159, p.46 --Ed.] with another novel set in his vision of the twenty-first century. I n Moscow, Luther and Jack, agents of the supercorporation that controls the western world, meet Skuratov, an agent of the supercorporation that controls the East. They develop a plan to kidnap Oktobriana, the stu dent/colleague of a missing renegade soviet scientist who, it turns out, has developed a device that allows travel into a parallel world. Treachery and intrigue force the two western agents to use the device, and they find them selves apparently stranded in New York City in 1939. As they seek a way to return, they become acquainted with an America that is not precisely the America of their own history. They have not gone into the past but have shifted into another version of Earth, about a cen tury behind their own version. In this America, there was no Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt ended slavery in 1907 to protect the economy, and blacks live under legal controls like those in contemporary South Africa. The agents' attempts to find their way back to their world are complicated by Luther's being black, as wdl as by a plague that attacks Octobriana. The story moves quickly. The action, often violent, follows the logic of the two worlds, where, for different reasons, much of human life has no value to those in power. (Some of the book's most memorable moments involve Luther privately meditating on the relative brutality of the alter native histories, in an effort to decide which is finally more destructive.) Womack creates the same twenty-first century atmosphere here as inAmbiellt, in part by giving his main characters a dialect which derives from that earlier work --and which, it should be pointed out, takes a bit of get ting used to. Womack's exposition is equally difficult, with a complexity that sometimes requires careful rereading. Nevertheless, TelTaplalle is a novel that rewards its readers with moderately engaging characters, a fastpaced adventure, and an interesting double-extrapolation of the situation of contemporary America that raises serious questions about contemporary values. -Tel1)' Helle,. 43


SFRA Newsletter No. 162 Robert A. Collins, Editor English Department Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL 33432 Non Profit Organization U. S. POSTAGE PAID BOCA RATON, FLORIDA Permit No. 77 DATED MATERIAL PLEASE DO NOT DELAY


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