SFRA newsletter

SFRA newsletter

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SFRA newsletter
Alternate Title:
Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
Place of Publication:
[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
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Subjects / Keywords:
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 )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
serial ( sobekcm )


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Place of publication varies.

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
S67-00060-n168-1989-06 ( USFLDC DOI )
s67.60 ( USFLDC Handle )

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The SFRA Newsletter Published ten times a year for Tile Science Fiction Research Association by Alan Newcomer, Hypatia Press, Eugene, Oregon. Copyright !l 1989 by the SFRA. E-Mail: COLLlNS@SERVAX.BITNET. Editorial correspondence: SFRA Newsletter, English Dept., Florida Atlantic U., Boca Raton, FL 33431 (Tel. 407-367-3838) Editor: Robert A. Collins; Associate Editor: Catherine Fischer; Review Editor: Rob Latham; Film Editor: Ted Krulik; Book News Editor: Martin A. Schneider; Editorial Assistant: Jeanette Lawson. Send changes of address to the Secretary, enquiries concerning subscriptions to the Treasurer, listed below. SFRA Executive Committee President Elizabetll Anne Hull Liberal Arts Division William Rainey Harper College Palatine, Illinois 60067 Vice-President Neil Barron 1149 Lime Place Vista, California 92083 Secretary David G. Mead English Department Corpus Christi State University Corpus Christi, Texas 78412 Treasurer Tilomas J. Remington English Department University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614 Immediate Past President William H. Hardesty English Department Miami University Oxford, Ohio 45056 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) James Gunn (1976) Tilomas 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) Ursula K. Le Guin (1989)


SFRA Newsletter. No. 168, June 1989 President's Message Time Capsule As I write this, I'm preparing to leave forthe World SF Meeting, which is being held this year in conjunction with Eurocon, in the Republic of San Marino, the tiny country entirely encompassed by Italy. It's a bit eerie to realize that you will be reading this after our own SFRA annual meeting at Oxford, Ohio. So what can I say that will be relevant to the future? Much seems to depend on the discussion of questions at the annual meeting. Shall we keep the benefits package as is, or modify it, and if the latter, modify it in what ways? What other changes will our organization require to keep it healthy? Shall we alter the way we select awards, or the way the jury is selected, as proposed by Adam Frisch? Last month Fred and I participated in the awards ceremonies of the Writers of the Future at the UN Headquarters in New York. As a judge of the WotF, Fred was asked to contribute a prediction to the time capsule they sealed (to be opened in the year 2089). The last time he was asked to write a similar prediction he told me he could see too many possible futures to predict just one; there are so many ways things could go wrong and end In disaster. Don't worry, I advised him. You can be completely optimistic .. 1 pointed out that if anyone is around to open the capsule, that means we at least avoided all the terminal disasters, such as a nuclear war, in which case all our other problems should be solvable. This time, however, it seems that there are other ways than nuclear holocaust to destroy the habitat. We may experience a population "sink" or die off, the sort of thing that occurs in the ecology when one species overpopulates a limited area or some natural disaster curtails the food supply. But even If we survive this, our great-grandchildren may experience such poverty that they may never be able to share the optimism we feel about the possibilities of space exploration, much less space colonization. Or we may be survived by an illiterate genera tion that is barely wealthy enough to support a very few "antiquarian scholars" who can decipher our time capsule messages. Gloomy, sobering thoughts! Somethow, though, this challenge gives me a perspective that :\


SFRA Newsletter. No. 168, June 1989 makes my own load look lighter. After all, all I have to do is talk to SFRA members, you who can not only read but also write. I know this to be true because I have received a half dozen letters from SFRA members this spring, each with constructive suggestions for ways to Increase membership and/or make SFRA a better organization. I'm looking forward to some lively debate at the meeting, but for those of you who cannot be there, I Invite you especially to drop me a line about your ideas and concerns, and I will share them with the Executive Committee. Elizabeth Anne Hull -President Editorial Note: The next issue of this newsletter will be a July/August double-issue containing a full report on the SFRA meeting in Oxford, with pictures, minutesof the executive and business meetings, and the Pilgrim Award acceptance speech. So as not to keep those of you who did not attend the meeting In suspense, however, we would like to indicate that this year's Pilgrim winner was Ursula K. Le Guin, whose speech of accep tance was both brilliant and charming. Also, we would like to add a footnote to some of President Hull's musings above: Neil Barron's proposal for a flexible membership benefits package was voted down at the business meeting, and would seem to be a dead issue. Barron received approximately 75 responses to his poll, and the general trend of the responses indicated that Science-Fiction Studies and Extrapola tion, the two journals included in the current package, were far and away the most popular choices among members. Discussion at the meeting stressed the importance of SFRA maintaining its scholarly identity by continuing to offer these journals to members. Fuller details will appear In next month's issue. Feminist Forum Forms A t the SFRA meeting in Oxford, a feminist caucus announced the organization of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Feminist Forum, a group designed to provide a network of support for scholars inter ested in feminism in/and speculative fiction. Immediate plans are to begin a newsletter and seek new members. Send dues ($5) to Joan Gordon [Hulip Lane, Commack, NY 11725], news to Patrick Murphy [English Dept., Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA 15705]. More in the conference report next month. --Rob Latham 4


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Editorial Now We Need Help We Got a Pretty Good Thing Going ... LET'S take a moment to survey our accomplishments in the last two years. When Fantasy Review folded in August, 1987, your Newslet ter undertook publication of its review section, somewhat shortened but without a break. Though few people realize it, that made the SFRA Newsletter the largest and most comprehensive review service in the field. For the past two years our monthly issues have reviewed more books than any other venue, Including LOCUS, Thrust, SF Chronicle, and the New York Review of Science Fiction. We've presented an average of 21 reviews per issue, each averaging about 500 words (one page), including several longer review articles. More of the latter have been planned, in response to encouragement from members at the June meeting in Oxford, Ohio. (A full write-up of the meeting, inciden tally, will be featured in our next issue.) SFRA's determination to underwrite this review service is admirable, to say the least, since it's expensive. Earlier this year a crisis in membership, plus the high cost of commercial printing, almost did us In. A generous offer from Hypatia Press, to produce the magazine for us almost at cost, plus an aggressive campaign to retrieve lost mem bership, has rectified that situation, however. We have more than 300 members at present, and we've reduced costs to slightly less than $300 per issue. That brings the cost under control at a buck per member per issue, or about $10 a year taken from annual dues. Wider circula tion of the journal could reduce costs further we might consider marketing the newsletter in specialty bookstores, or offering subscrip tions separately (not Insisting on full membership as a prerequisite for subscriptions), but that's a policy decision for the future. In any case, our financial problems appear to have been solved. Now The Editors Need Relief Though few people know It, the major workhorse In producing this successful effort has been Rob Latham. Latham has not only assigned the books and edited the reviews, he has "keyboarded" and "for-


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 matted" the review copy, which ranges from 50% to 90% of the content In each issue. Rob will be moving to Stanford University in Palo Alto this fall, where he has been awarded a Jacob Javits Fellowship for four years of doctoral study. He does not feel he can jeopardize his progress there by continuing to produce the newsletter. I, too, am weary, after eight years of meeting (or trying to meet) monthly deadlines. During the past few years my health has seriously deteriorated, so that I feel I owe myself and family some "rehab" time. Accordingly, I announced, through Betty Hull at the June conference, my resignation as Newsletter editor, effective with the July/August Issue. That still leaves us plenty of time to make a smooth transition to a new editorship, provided a qualified volunteer can be located quickly. The officers of the association agree with me that SFRA cannot go backward technologically in producing its most charac teristic publication. That means that the primary qualification of the new editor must be ready access to desktop publishing hardware and software. There is no other way to produce a comparable product under our budget restraints. What's Needed The new editor must have ready access to 1) a full-featured laser printer (such as the Hewlett-Packard, Apple Laserwriter, Quadram Quadlaser, Okidata Laser, etc.), 2) a computer with at least a 30 megabyte hard disc, and 3) software comparable to WordPeriect 5.0, Ventura Publisher or Pagemaker. The basic type font in the Newsletter is Helvetica 10 point, with headlines in 12 point Bold, 14 point Bold, 18 point Bold, etc. Most desk-top publishing systems include these fonts as basic equipment. Our actual eqUipment at present Includes an IBM AT clone with 32 MB hard disc, a Quadram laser printer with a Hewlett-Packard emulation mode, plus WordStarand Ventura Publish er software. This represents about a $5,000 investment, though It could be duplicated today for much less say $3,000. Many colleges and universities will have similar equipment already available, however. The most time-consuming aspect of the editing job is producing the camera-ready copy. With Ventura Publisher and a laser printer, the formatting into camera-ready pages is simple enough It usually takes only one evening. However, preparing the copy is tedious. It must all be copied word for word (unless you have a very expensive scanner) onto files on your hard disc. Some secretarial support will be essential for most editors, unless they are expert typists with twenty to thirty hours a month to spare.


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 Here is the Process: 1. The copy is typed into various files via a wordprocessor (such as WordStar) and stored on the hard disc (or on floppies, which are later copied onto the hard disc). 2. The files are called up in order via the Desktop Publishing software, and formatted into pages according to a preset style sheet. (The style sheet controls the page size, margins, type sizes, headline styles, headers and footers, etc.) 3. An over-all size for the issue (number of pages, In multiples of four usually 40, 44, or 48, including the cover) is determined. Then the length of the various sections is adjusted so that the finished print-out will fit within the page limits determined. There is always some adjustment. If copy runs too long, some portions (usually a couple of reviews) must be deleted; if it runs too short, space must be filled with secondary items, like calls for papers, conference announcements, etc. We format the whole magazine, then determine whether to fill or cut, depending on the parameters at that point. 4. The pages are printed In final form on the laser printer. These print-outs are then trimmed to page size on a paper cutter and pasted onto forms (8 1/2" X 11" sheets) so that each page, printed front and back, will be in the correct place when the sheets are collated and folded to make the final booklet. This paste-up is then sent overnight mail to Hypatia, where Alan Newcomer prints the sheets, collates them and has them side-stapled and trimmed. The finished copies of the Issue are then returned to the editor via UPS, 2nd Day Air. 5. The editor (and student crew) then labels and sorts the copies for bulk mailing the Post Office does the rest. A bulk maflfng permit Is absolutely essential, but most colleges and universities have one. The permit number must be printed directly onto the backside "mailer" of each copy. The sorting and banding is done with zip-code ordered labels, supplied by treasurer Tom Remington, and takes only a couple of hours. The post office charges about $60 to mail an Issue, but this is reimbursed by SFRA, so the editor (or his/her university) is not out-of-pocket. Technical Help Available If the new editor volunteers promptly, I can supply much in the way of technical assistance and Instruction to make the transition smooth. If he/she Is using similar equipment and software, I can also supply the formatting software and printing fonts currently used to produce the 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 newsletter. (My equipment is IBM compatible, using MS/DOS operat Ing systems. My software will not transfer to Apple, C/PM, or NeXT computer equipment. I don't know much about Apple equipment, either, though I am told that this job can be done effectively with an Apple SE-II computer with hard disc and an Apple Laserwriter printer. It is NOT possible to do a satisfactory Job on a dot-matrix printer, no matter how sophisticated the printer claims to be. Reviews About half of each Issue is reviews, and these are listed on the front cover. Since the book assignment and review process is now firmly in place, and since Rob and I expect to continue the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annual, at least for another year, we will supply review copy to the new editor. The copy will not be edited or key boarded, however. Editing and production will be the responsibility of the new editor. Finally, let me admit that "Newsletter Editor" is a fairly thankless job. It takes a lot of unrewarded, often criticized labor. It interferes with your former life-style incredibly (monthly deadlines can become an ulcerat ing burden). All editors get lots of nasty letters, and the Newsletter editor Is no exception. You will be blamed, perhaps rightly, for every blemish perceived in the final product and there will be many, despite your best efforts (typos, particularly, have a way of eluding the eye until they are fixed In print). The only reward Is a basic one satisfaction in having preserved, produced, perhaps improved an important publication in the field. This will be appreciated by your peers, even the very ones who wrote you nasty letters: three years ago a poll of SFRA members put the newsletter at the bottom of membership benefits, though its editor remained popular. More recently, polls have placed it at the very top, despite the "outrage" expressed by various members over the present editor's alleged indiscretions. I always feel that if nobody howls, nobody's reading you. It's nice to know we've been read, in any case. Robert A. Collins


SFRA News/etter, No. 168. June 1989 IN. e.1 By Neil Barron A number of people at the recent SFRA convention found my T-shirts of more than passing interest. There are two companies which provide unusual T-shirts, and I recommend you write for their catalogs. (My Information Is a year or two old, so there may have been changes.) The catalog of the Journal of Academic T-shirts, Box 88, Lafayette Hill, PA 19444, phone (215) 245-3857, looks just like an academic journal, but the contents are nuttier than any journal I've ever seen. Geologists will like "Geologists Are Gneiss People," Lewis Carroll freaks will like Martha Bartter will like "When You've Seen One Nuclear War You've Seen Them All," and many will groove on the proofreader shirt I wore. Cotton Expressions, 832 W. Junior Terrace, Chicago 60613, was a bit slow In sending their brochure, but the walt was worth It. Einstein In blue on the front, In red on the back, Is called Doppler Einstein. "Reality Is for Those Who Can't Stand Science Fiction" Is a bit cluttered but fun. A glow-In-the-dark star chart Is printed upside down so that the wearer can use It. There are probably new designs not in the catalogs I have, and the prices may be higher, but if you send in your boxtops now, you can be the first kid on your block .... "Short Form" Lives! Orson Scott Card's good intentions caused .him to neglect his review of short sf called Short Form, discussed In an earlier column. He sent me volume 2, number 1 (June, 1989), the fifth Issue of the (so far) Irregular magazine. His cover sheet says v. 1, numbers 3-4, will 2, but won't count against any subscriptions. The revived magazine will be edited by Mark L. Van Name and be published by Hatrack River Publications, Box 18184, Greensboro, NC 27419-8184, $24 yearly (6 issues, including the belated v.1, no. 's 3-4); $4 for a sample Issue. Card will contribute a column. This latest issue Isn't restricted to short fiction commentary. Bruce Sterling ruminates on the Rushdle affair, and Richard Curtis fantasizes about a day In the life of a literary agent. Solid text in two columns, no ads. "Cyberpunk America" This Is the title of SFRA member Takayukl Tatsuml's Japanese book published last December. A 310 page hardcover, It's a critical analysis 9


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168. June 1989 of this oft-discussed "movement," focusing on the principal writers associated with it, Including several critics, such as Larry McCaffery, who directed the 1986 SFRA Conference In San Diego. The book received the 1988 American Studies Book Prize sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, which Is chaired by Glenn Campbell, director of Stanford's Hoover Institution. Tatsumi has his doctorate from Cornell and will be attending Boston's Noreascon and the World Fantasy Con in Seattle, should you wish to enter his cyberspace and exchange notes. Call for Papers The Utopian Studies Section of the New England Modern Language Association, meeting in Toronto in early April 1990, is seeking papers on the topic of "Women Seeing Dystopia." Those interested in submIt ting papers should send a two-page summary by September 1 to: Jane Donawerth, Dept. of English, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742. [Editor's Note: The following letter, received too late to make our May issue, was circulated to all members attending the June meeting In Ohio. It Is reproduced here for the general membership.] To All SFRA Members In the "Feedback" column of the March 1989 SFRA Newsletter, Everett F. Bleiler ends a series of critical remarks about the selection of the 1988 Pilgrim Award winner with the comment: "This all raises the question of how judges get selected" (p. 9). While this year's Pilgrim Award judges disagree with most of the interpretive conclusions in Mr. Bleiler's second paragraph, we do believe his final comment merits some consideration and reflection. A superficial answer to Mr. Bleiler's question would be that the President of SFRA selects the Pilgrim judges each year. Since the President is elected by majority vote of the entire membership, she or he presumably represents SFRA majority values and opinions when appOinting the four Pilgrim judges, thus insuring over the long run a "fair" and "representative" selection process. 10


SFRA News/etter, No. 168. June 1989 Except that SFRA members choose their chief executive for a wide variety of reasons, among which that person's own critical expertise and preferences are often the most tangential of considerations. Indeed, SFRA has probably evolved Into a viable organization precise ly because it has nurtured a number of different and often divergent critical interests, ranging from bibliographic studies to film criticism, from practical classroom applications of SF literature to the scholar ship of deconstruction. (Joan Gordon claims that there are at a minimum seven or eight distinctive "mini-SFRA's," but then Joan Is prone to occasionaly exaggerations.) It does seem to those of us who have had the honor of serving as this year's Pilgrim Judges that SFRA should do everything it can to foster Its diversity of critical constituen cies, and to insure that none of them ever feel that their interests are being Ignored by some sort of internal "Good Ole Persons" network. Thus it might make some sense to reconsider the Pilgrim Award process, even given the SFRA's current exploration of possible new critical awards. While the very nature of this Award for "lifetime achieve ment" would seem to require some sort of consensus process and thus probably preclude any simple "mass vote" solution it might well be possible for Interested members to select the judges. (It would sure beat a 400-person conference call.) Perhaps those attending the annual SFRA meeting, the one place where all critical areas have an equal opportunity for presentation and representation, could vote near the end of that session for three or four judges (with the President appointing one member of the previous year's committee as Chair for the sake of continuity). Or perhaps someone can suggest at that meeting or In the newsletter an alternative system that might more appropriately reflect the membership's interests. Whatever the final process selected, we hope it will be one not that displays our rivalries, but that will bring us together by reminding us of all that we have In common through our admiration for one of tomorrow's and today's most exciting forms of art. Sincerely, -Adam Frisch, -Joan Gordon, Brian Attebery, Veronica Hollinger (1989 Pilgrim Award Committee) II


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Review Article We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us By Robert A. Collins Bartter, Martha. The Way to Ground Zero: The Atomic Bomb in American Science Fiction. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1988, 278p. $39.95 hc. 0-313-25892-9. Franklin, H. Bruce. War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Oxford University Press, NY, 1988, 256p. $22.95 hc. 0-19-505295-1. FED, perhaps, by the Reagan-era fixation on an all-too-apposite Armageddon myth, our end-of-the milennium scholarly Industry has recently focused major attention on studies of the Apocalypse, an area of popular Imagination in which science fiction plays a major role. In 1987, university presses produced two independent, yet nearly simultaneous bibliographical studies of nuclear war in fiction: Paul Brlans' Nuclear Holocaust: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984 (Kent State University Press), and David Dowling's Fictions of Nuclear Disaster (University of Iowa Press). Again in .1988, two independent, nearly simultaneous studies trace America's schizoid preoccupation with "superweapons," and the idiotic (but prevalent) concept of "war to end all wars," to the same cultural sources. Both studies are massively researched, overwhelmingly detailed, and effectively ar gued. And their conclusions are nearly identical. Together they should be hailed as a major demonstration of the reasons why we Americans, at the close of the twentieth century, "Jive day by day under the shadow of ex1ermination by our own weapons" [Franklin, 3). A small byproduct of the demonstration: no careful reader of either study can continue to doubt the huge cultural influence of science fiction on "middle America" over the last century. As Franklin puts It: To create the objects that menace our existence some people first had to Imagine them. Then to build these weapons, a much larger number of people had to Imagine consequent scenarios -a result-12


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Ing future that seemed desirable. Thus our actual superweapons originated In their Imagined history, which forms a crucial part of our culture. [Franklin, 4] That "Imagined history" appeared earliest In science fiction, where It shaped the vision of many technocrats who later produced the weapons. Franklin also studies two of the most typical "Yankee Inventors" whose projections of "absolute weapons" which would "end all war forever" seem prototypical: Robert Fulton, whose fanciful utopian projections of the future accompanied his promotions, variously, of the submarine, the torpedo. and the steel warship as superweapons terrible enough to end all war; and Thomas A. Edison, whose reputation as a general purpose wizard made him the center of the earliest military/industrial complex (Edison once proposed hook Ing a dynamo to a firehose and torching whole armies with it). But the major Images of high-tech future-war emerged from a spate of fan taslsts who fed on racial and political fears (Frank Stockton, M. P. Shiel, Jack London) during the last century's fin de siecle, and who promoted "military preparedness" by imagining Invasions of the U.S. from every quarter of the globe. Characteristically, In most of these epics, America's eventual triumph is a result of "Yankee Ingenuity," the timely development of a superweapon which thenceforth guarantees America's "global dominance" and thus an "end to all wars." These novels and stories were a main dish In the cultural diet of what Is now called middle America. Many were serialized In newspapers and popular magazines.... A fairly typical reader was a young Missouri farmer and businessman named Harry S. Truman, who throughout this period avidly devoured the fiction In American Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, and McClure's. [McClure's published Jack London's "The Unparalleled Invasion" and serialized Cleveland Moffett's The Conquest of America.] As he wrote In a 1913 letter to Bess Wallace, the young woman he was courting: "I suppose I'll have to renew my subscription to McClure's now so I won't miss a number." [Franklin, 52-53] One would expect Independently conducted studies to reveal differences; Bartter and Franklin differ somewhat In approach, though their conclusions coincide to an amazing degree. Bartter's corpus of evidence Is primarily science fiction literature, while Franklin uses a wider segment of popular culture, including, aside from about 150 fiction titles, many popular articles and more than 50 films. Our national fetish for heroic inventors leads him to devote a chapter each 13


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 to Fulton and Edison, and a whole section of the book to the popular debate over air power in the 30s, of which a key chapter is "Billy Mitchell and the Romance of the Bomber." Bartter sees futurist fictions as "thought experiments." and thus as a public dialogue about what Is possible or desirable her final chapter suggests that writers may alter the future by conducting truly constructive thought experiments in fiction. Franklin Is less optimistic. Discussions of science fiction form a dominant part of many of his chapters, however, particularly "The Final Catch" (on Vonnegut, Heller and the saturation fire-bombing of defenseless Dresden) and "Don't Worry, It's Only Science Fiction," In which 20th Century war-oriented SF from H. G. Wells' amazingly prophetic The World Set Free (1914) through Robert A. Heinlein's "Solution Unsatisfactory" (1941) Is examined to show the source of those preconceptions which middle America used to rationalize the construction and use of atomic superweapons. Wells' accurate forecast of the development of atomic power directly Inspired Hun garian physicist Leo Szilard, who Is credited with first developing the concepts of critical mass and the chain reaction, and who was later co-author of the letter to Franklin Roosevelt which initiated the Man hattan Project. Heinlein's account of atomic warfare was "read and widely discussed among the physicists and engineers working on the Manhattan project" [Franklin, 142]. As the quintessential repre sentative of middle American fantasies, Heinlein takes his lumps here. In "Solution Unsatisfactory" his answer to the dilemma of controlling atomic superweapons (an "American mastermind" placed in the posi tion of "military dictator of the world") is so close to the Baruch plan, the U.S. 's only offer of a postwar "disarmament" plan, that Franklin Is led to label the Baruch plan "American science fiction" [Franklin, 162]. That plan, so patently unacceptable to other "superpowers," was the direct cause of the arms race that has blighted the world ever since. Of course, the pursuit of superweapons continues there were first the fusion bomb, then intercontinental ballistic missiles, automated delivery systems, and most recently the fusion-bomb-as sisted laser guns, capable of transmitting destructive energy beams thousands of miles into space (Star Wars). Meanwhile, the depend ence on automation has accelerated, so that now less than six minutes of decision time exist between a bomb alert and irrevocable commit ment of ballistic missiles toward enemy targets and the start of World War III. Yet mechanical malfunctions in the early warning system are now so routine that one false alert at NORAD occurs, on average, once every two hours. We have, then, a dozen chances every day to experience the end of the world. And when the holocaust comes, the 14


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 decision to launch It will not be ours, nor that of Congress, nor that of the President, nor perhaps any living creature. The simulation of Intelligence by computers proceeds apace, so that future wars will remain largely under the control of the machines themselves. Franklin cites Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" as representing "the culture of the superweapon extrapolated to its logical conclusion." [Franklin, 209] Bartter's approach, as she announces In "The Plan of the Book," is to examine "a large number of stories [more than 500] featuring superweapons or superwar ... by American authors ... analyzing them to disclose the sociopolitical assumptions that authors take for granted.... Encoded In these fictions we find the patterns that led us to create and use the atomic bomb" [Bartter, 11]. In Part" of her study, she also examines those "deeper assumptions on which these sociopolitical assumptions rest, those by which we declare what humans 'are' and how they 'naturally' behave." Perhaps her most provocative chapter Is "The Hero and SOciety: Sturgeon Versus Heinlein," In which Sturgeon's belief that for the true hero "vengeance and patriotism must be put Into a wider context, one that Includes the whole human race" ["Thunder and Roses," 1947] Is seen In opposition to the standard middle American assumption shared by Heinlein, that "human nature" In the masses is "flawed at best, Inherently evil at worst," and that the hero's job is merely to save humanity "from itself, again and again, since It cannot change" [Bartter, 172]. Heinlein's stories, she says, show the powerful regressive force of human nature In conflict with' the powerful force of a hero who seems like an Idea In human form; the plot comes from their Interaction. As a rule, the Idea wins. But forces are not changed by such Interaction. Heinlein does not assume that fundamental social change Is possible. [Bartter, 175] On the contrary, Sturgeon's heroes are always "social creatures," and Sturgeon "works out their relation to society with care." For Sturgeon, a change In society Is always reflected In the characters, and change In the characters changes society as a whole.... Society does not consist of hierarchical forces that can only be opposed by counterforce, but of people transacting ... who can change both themselves and each other. [Bartter, 176] While Heinlein's "conviction that diplomacy equals capitulation" mirrors that of the American military, Sturgeon's concept of society is 15


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 more flexible. The explicit contrasts, Bartter says, "give us some insight into what we may call the 'American myth' of society." Heinlein accepts the popular assumptions, treating society as a thing, con structed of interacting forces, altogether less than the sum of its parts. That is, like the militarists, Heinlein assumes that "a superforce must be applied to control the 'wild animal' man." [201) For Bartter, however, only Sturgeon's view offers any hope for the future. Heinlein's, epitomizing the polity of the past, can only lead to future wars and the destruction of civilization (a leadership role Heinlein has apparently left in the hands of Jerry Pournelle, currently Chairman of the "CItizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy" and science fiction's most indefatigible propagandist for Star Wars and the military/industrial complex). Bartter's hopes for a "constructive dialogue" in science fiction that can lead to new solutions, less "unsatisfactory" than Heinlein's, are expressed up front in her very moving prologue: We talked our way Into our nuclear nightmare, word by word and story by story. As long as we remain Ignorant of this conversation, we make ourselves helpless to alter It. But our stories create, as well as reflect, the public conversation we live by. Perhaps we are already telling ourselves stories that contain an alternative to species suicide. If not, we need to begin, Ideally, as one advance blurb writer said of Franklin's study, both of these books "should be placed on the desks of all public officials, elected or appointed, and into the hands of all candidates for the Presidency." I agree, although I'm afraid I share Heinlein's pessimism about human nature, and I certainly can't imagine any public official, especially a President. sacrificing any measure of public approval to do anything innovative or admirable. Despite my skepticism, I think these books are the most significant studies ever published in science fiction scholarship, though their message is undoubtedly deflating for the SF fan. Perhaps we must now, with Walt Kelly's original Pogo (not the current gutless imitation), admit that "we have met the enemy and he is us." Robert A. Collins Ie;


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 [Editor's Note: If you have not read Bob Collins' editorial in these pages, then I urge you to do so now. If you have, then you know that I will no longer be editing the review section of this newsletter as of the July/August Issue (# 169). In September, I start a Ph.D. program In Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University, and juggling a monthly deadline along with coursework and teaching would be simply impossible. I have enjoyed my two years with the newsletter immensely, and I feel that Bob and I have Improved it into one of the most comprehensive and useful review sources on SF anywhere. Now that Hypatia Press Is handling the printing, the newsletter has become cost-effective, and It can continue to provide extensive review coverage. I will certainly help in any way I can to Insure that the transition to a new editor Is as smooth as possible, and that the flow of reviews continues unabated. But I must admit that I look forward to the day when I will receive my copy of the newsletter and can read a review section just once, in print, that I did not have to pore over in copy, on the computer screen, in proofs, and in final paste-ups. The work was fun, but it was also hard, and I am happy to pass the reins to a fresh rider. I would also like to thank the SFRA members who participated, at the June meeting In Ohio, in a panel discussion on reviewing chaired by Neil Barron. It was the first chance I had to get significant feedback on the review section, and I was happy to hear that those present generally agreed we should run more substantial review-articles In future. This Issue bears Bob Collins' essay on H. Bruce Franklin's War SCars and Martha Barrter's The Way to Ground Zero, next issue will feature an article on Darko Suvln's Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction, and another has been commissioned on Karl Kroeber's Romantic Fantasy and Science Fiction. I hope the general membership will let the new editor know whether they would like to see more of this sort of coverage, along with the relative distribution of nonfiction to fiction, and SF to fantasy, reviews they crave. I am aware that one of the first review-articles we ran, my own on James Gunn's New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, was a source of controversy, and I regret that this feature of the newsletter had to debut to all that fallout. I trust, however, that SFRA's members are hardy souls willing to stomach a bit of strife If it means beefing their newsletter up Into a genuine scholarly organ for extended discussion of major critical 17


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 works. Still, I urge members to let the new editor know what you want; this newsletter is published for all of you, but it can only meet your scholarly needs and purposes if you state them loudly and clearly. In two years, Bob and I only got feedback when we did something that made people mad; a letter of constructive comment now and again would have been helpful. I'm sure the new editor will appreciate your thoughts. Finally, I want to thank my staff of reviewers, whose yeoman work has provided the substance of this section for two years. They are brave souls slogging through drek for an honest book, and I hope I have provided them a few bright moments even if it was only an opportunity to vent their eloquent spleens on a literary atrocity. They are also genuinely nice people who have put up with all my vices: my long silences, my lousy decisions in book assignments. my editorial meddling with their copy. That they have not formed a lynch mob and summarily strung me up 'ere now is a tribute to their superhuman forebearance. Thanks especially are due to Neil Barron, whose fre quent book lists and batches of reviews have insured that we didn't miss any nonfiction titles. and to Chris and Pauline Morgan, who provided coverage of the SF scene in Britain. They, along with the many other reviewers (most of them SFRA members, but some not). have made this review section what it is. I hope they have been pleased with it, and as proud of it as I. -Rob Latham] Non-Fiction Double Your Pleasure? Corrick, James A. Double Your Pleasure: The Ace SF Double. Gryphon Books [Box.209, Brooklyn, NY 11228], February 1989. $5.95 trade pb. 0-936071-13-3. If you had a spare thirty-five cents back in 1953 you could have bought the first Ace SF double. which paired A. E. Van Vogt's The World of NulI-A and The Universe Maker. Ace produced 221 SF doubles during the first two decades, about one a month, including novels, collections and anthologies. A few still appear; the last listed in this bibliography was a reissue released in March 1988. Within the past year Tor Books has begun releasing doubles. Quality was not the selling point. but the average probably wasn't much worse that that of the sludge generated by today's presses. A number of writers well-known today got their start, or at least some


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 rent money, from these rack fillers, and the better-known names sometimes helped the unknowns. A memorable 1966 double paired Le Guln's Planet of Exile with Disch's Mankind Under the Leash. Corrick is a doubles collector and provides thorough details about every double, from cover artists (many covers are reproduced in this stapled booklet) to original source to subsequent reprints, of which there have been many. He also provides author and title indexes. Volume 3 of Tuck's encyclopedia also lists authors and titles of all Ace books from 1953 to 1968, one of a number of sources Corrick acknow ledges. No prices are shown, however, perhaps because the doubles are collected for reasons other than investment. This extended foot note to SF's less distinguished postwar history should interest collec tors, but few others. Neil Barron Intimate and Rewarding Du Pont, Denise, ed. Women of Vision: Essays by Women Writing Science Fiction. St. Martin's, NY, 1988, 163p. $14.95 hc. 0-31202321-9. Original essays about writing from twelve successful authors, among them Ursula Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Pamela Sargent, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Alice Sheldon and Joan Vinge, are enough to tempt. But these personal reflections on crafting science fiction reveal perspectives informed by the writers' studies in such fields as anthropology, linguistics, psychology, literature, veterinary medicine, and philosophy. The result is fresh and stimulating, and enough to satisfy. Oh yes, and by the way, all of them are women. Actually, that is the point of the collection, as the title indicates. But the point must be made clear. Du Pont decries adding to the myth that "there are writers and then there are women writers"; she intends to provide a forum to allow "the woman writer" to comment on her work. The unfortunate ambiguity of "woman writer" could mislead potential readers into bypassing the book as yet another gendered litany, a collection of testimonials to salvation from male publisher chauvinism through the grace of radical feminism. The book is far from that, though passionate defenders of feminism are represented. Instead, In response to Du Pont's topics, the writers offer thoughtful, candid discussions of their lives, their work, and their specific views on gender, feminism, character construction, and writing styles. A common set of questions, explicitly revealed in an interview piece but not doggedly followed in each article, provides a handy structure for I I)


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 comparison of claims and attitudes. This thread gives coherence to a set of essays divergent in style and content. Especially poignant is Alice Sheldon's account of being discovered to be James Tlptree, Jr., and the subsequent rebuffs from the men and women she had fooled. Marion Zimmer Bradley disputes myths about women science fiction writers and comments with some heat on feminists who have "trashed" her and Leigh Brackett. Virginia Kldd's brisk prose offers Insight into a career as writer-turned-literary agent, contrasting with a darkly dramatic rendition of Pamela Sargent's early experiences in a mental institution. Women of Vision includes brief biographical notes with each essay, followed by a list of the writer's published books. Curiously, significant short story works go unmentioned. While the jacket blurb "breathtak ing" overstates the case, there is breadth and brightness, and a content which should appeal and be useful to beginning writers, students of literature, science fiction readers, and those Interested In women's Issues and history. Du Pont meets her goal of providing an Intimate and rewarding connection with women science fiction writers. -Ka Tresca Conceptual Experiment Miller, Fred D., Jr. & Nicholas D. Smith, eds. Thought Probes: Philosophy Through Science Fiction Literature. 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, 1989. xi + 334p. $24 trade pb. 0-13920059-2. SF has often been used to teach subjects other than itself. As a putative literature of Ideas It is in principle well-suited for the study of philosophy. Miller (Bowling Green) and Smith (Virginia Polytechnic) revised their 1981 edition, suggesting a continuing need for such a textbook. The eight chapters are topically organized, beginning with epis temology, and including religion, metaphysics, ethics, etc. the stand ard subdivisions of philosophy. Each chapter comprises an Introduc tion, an unabridged short story called a "conceptual experiment," an analysis of the major ideas in the story, drawn from books and journals, a glossary of specialized terms, questions ("probes") and recom mended reading, which includes fiction illustrating similar Ideas as well as straight philosophical discussions. From what I've read, [subject] and literature courses are fairly widely taught in fields such as medicine, law, psychology, etc. The fictions can be Interesting per se, but they also serve as exempla, case studies. Whether SF is any better to teach philosophy than other types of literature I don't know, but traditional literature would offer many 20


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 examples, often better ones (certainly better written ones in most cases). Think what you could do with Borges or Plrandello and metaphysics, or King Lear and ethics, etc. Many other Ideas of a similar nature are in a long OP book I acquired, Philosophy and Literature (1949) by Julian L. Ross. Lacking a copy of the first edition of Thought Probes, I relied on reviews to determine the differences, aside from a doubling of the cost. Much of the text appears to be the same. The reading lists have a few post-1981 entries. I didn't detect any major errors. Pohl's first name Is misspelled, as Is (Inevitably) Fredric Brown's. Instructors should acquire an examination copy to compare with the 1981 edition, or to see if the book Is suitable for an introductory or Intermediate under graduate course. Neil Barron Unironic Chronicle Moskowitz, Sam. The Immortal Storm. Hyperion Press, Westport, CT, 1989, 270p. $34 hc. (No ISBN given) It's the third time around for Moskowitz's highly personal account of SF fandom In the 1930s, originally published in 1954 by the Atlanta Science Fiction Organization Press (and, before that, serialized for years In Fantasy Commentator). What makes it worth reading today? There have been other books since touching on the same period, from Harry Warner's All Our Yesterdays (1969) to Damon Knight's The Futurians (1977) and Frederik Pohl's The Way the Future Was (1978): all more literate and (so the common wisdom goe$) obJective. But all also more distanced from the material, more ironic. The Immortal Storm remains as close as anyone can get (short of poring through old fanzines and the like) to the original spirit of 1930s fandom. Here are recorded the doings of a few hundred (at most) SF enthusiasts who met through magazines, or through clubs set up by magazines and/or active fans who had already met through magazines. They were mostly gawky teenagers, whose efforts consisted of crudely-hec tographed fanzlnes, and who thought a turnout of 100 for a convention was totally awesome. Their feuds seem today like a tempest in a teapot, even If they did involve issues like Marxism. But, God, did those fans ever think they were Important! And some of them became Important: Moskowitz himself, Donald A. Wollhelm, Frederlk Pohl, even Forrest J. Ackerman (who we learn was planning, even then, to be the professional fan). It doesn't matter how subjective the viewpoint seems today, or how 21


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 hoary the prose. Reading The Immortal Storm is the next best thing to going back to the scene in a time machine. John J. Pierce Koontz Kritiqued Munster, Bill, ed. Sudden Fear: The Horror and Dark Suspense Fiction of Dean R. Koontz. Starmont House, Mercer Island, WA, 1988, 182p. $10.95 trade pb. 1-557-42024-6. Most readers of Dean Koontz have been following his work since 1986, when the publication of Strangers launched him into the best seller stratosphere. However, the five original books that have ap peared under his name since then represent the tip of a very large Iceberg, one comprised of more than forty horror, suspense and science fiction titles, written under a variety of pseudonyms (Leigh Nichols, Brian Coffey and Owen West being the most familiar) and extending back over twenty years. This first collection of critical essays on Koontz and his fiction doesn't pretend that it can deal with the breadth of his career or the bulk of his output. Nevertheless, it establishes a solid foundation upon which all future studies of his work can rest. Four of the essays form an integrated core. Stan Brooks's "The Mutation of a Science Fiction Writer" is valuable for its synopses of Koontz's science fiction, most of which is out of print. One does not have to agree with Brooks's argument that science fiction is a literature of pessimism, and horror a literature of optimism, to accept that Koontz's horror fiction is basically affirmative, and that he presents certain themes in his recent fiction with more optimism than he expressed in his earlier science fiction. In "The Three Faces of Evil: The Monsters of Whispers, Phantoms and Darkfal/," Michael Morrison uses detailed readings of three novels to demonstrate how Koontz raises up figures of familiar genre monsters only to criticize them "as inadequate avatars of Evil for the modern world." Concluding that, in Koontz's fiction, "Evil simply exists, and only through faith, love, duty and courage can man hope to defeat it," Morrison elucidates the moral foundation of Koontz's universe, one in which mankind is still a creature of consequence despite the existence of abstract Evil. Indeed, as D.W. Taylor observes in "Mainstream Horror in Whispers and Phantoms," man is always at the center of Koontz's universe: his characters find they cannot grapple with Evil until they first exorcise their personal demons. And it takes no great extrapolative effort to move from Koontz's faith In the individual's ability to rehabilitate himself, to Koontz's hope for the whole human race as described by Richard 22


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Laymon in "In the Midst of Life." In addition to five other essays, including David Silva's fine discus sion of Koontz's narrative style, Bill Munster has included an interview with Koontz and a valuable chronology of his fiction through 1988. -Stefan Dziemianowicz A Craftsman Under Contract Reemes, Dana M. Directed by Jack Arnold. Mc Farland [Box 611, Jefferson, NC], 1988, 243p. $24.95 hc. 0-89950-331-4. Jack Arnold spent his most productive years as a contract director of B films for Universal-International, subject to all the disadvantages of that status assigned scripts, low budgets, tight shooting schedules, and crews and casts of variable competence. According to Reemes, Arnold throve in those circumstances for two reasons, besides his considerable talent. First, his movies were so cheap (and usually so profitable) that he could normally do as he pleased without studio interference. Second, Arnold was one of the few directors who read science fiction seriously, making him ideal for his role as Univer salInternational's SF specialist during the SF film boom of the 1950s. His principal genre films were It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and its first sequel Revenge of the Creature (1955), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Space Children (1958) and The Mouse That Roared (1959). Reemes's account of Arnold's work is informative but effusive. The author states that a scene from It Came from Outer Space is "on a level with Welles and Hitchcock" and that Incredible Shrinking Man con tains "one of the great moments of cinema." He even finds something nice to say about Monster on the Campus (1958) and begins a twenty-seven page chapter on Arnold's unrealized ambition of filming Doyle's The Lost World with a breathless, "In the annals of art there are many attempted masterpieces that never saw completion. Michelangelo's designs for the vast tomb of Pope Julius" and Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood are random examples that come to mind." Despite this adulation, Directed by Jack Arnold is useful for biographi cal Information about the director and for many long quotes from Interviews with Arnold about his work. -Michael Klossner For the Collector Stoner, Samuel G., compo Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Price Guide to Hardback First Trade Printings. Author [3128 SE Alder Court, Portland, OR 97214], June 1988. v + 86p. $16.95 pb (delivered). (No


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 ISBN.) Most of the 1600 + domestic and foreign trade editions of books by 343 authors listed in this price guide have been published since 1950, another measure of fantastic fiction's greater if still marginal acceptability. Stoner, a dealer/collector, compiled these listings from specialty dealer catalogs issued between 1983 and 1986. At least five listings were used to determine the asking prices for almost all entries, with auction records and unnamed "general price guides" used for about 5%. The arrangement is by author, then title. City, publisher, year, and edition statement (first, first hardback, first American, first British) are shown, followed by a price range from low to high. "The range was arrived at by computing the standard deviation from the mean and rounded to the nearest $5.00." The prices are for books in fine (near new) condition with fine jackets, if issued. A merely "very good" copy might command half the price range. Condition is critical, and catalog descriptions can often be very misleading, particularly if the dealer him/herself is not knowledgeable (or honest). No points are shown; references are made to Currey's Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors (1979) and the more general work by Edward N. Zempel and Linda A. Verkler, First Editions (1984). Any serious collector or specialty dealer should own Currey, but Stoner remarked in a letter, "It amazes me how many general book store owners have never heard of him, let alone have a copy of his work." (Copies are still available from Currey for $68.50 delivered.) How useful this guide will be for the novice is hard to say. Since no pOints (the details which identify the true first issue or first edition) are shown, the amateur may have difficulty identifying genuine firsts In some cases. And since this guide is restricted to first trade hardcovers, hundreds of original paperback first editions are excluded, as are the many limited (non-trade) first editions of recent years, the latter produced specifically for collectors. And the range is often fairly wide Dune, $370-650; A Wizard of Earthsea, $150-245; The Outsider and Others, $705-1850 so determination of a "fair" price Is difficult. Nevertheless, this guide should provide some general guidance for the more experienced collector for a few years, who should be able to Identify the seriously underor over-priced books. But as I said In Anatomy of Wonder, a reliable, experienced dealer Is still your best guide. Neil Barron 24


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 Fiction Dark Whimsy Blaylock, James P. The Last Coin. Ace, NY, November 1988, 328p. $17.95 hc. 0-441-11381-8. Thirty pieces of sliver, two heroes who out-eccentric Tristram Shandy's Uncle Toby, prophetic pigs, gruesome murders, a pair of age-old and world-wide conspiracies, and a coastal California town these are the Ingredients of James Blaylock's latest fantasy. The blend of elements from comic fantasy and from horror creates an unusual flavor, somewhat reminiscent of John Bellairs' stories. The coins of the title are those of Judas Iscariot's betrayal, but they are older than that: the crucifixion, it is Implied, was simply the result of their having been gathered together to exert their evil influence In concert. Now Jules Pennyman has gathered twenty-five of the coins and Is out to complete his collection. The opening scene of the book Introduces the Immoral and evidently Immortal Pennyman, nicely establishing the fearsome power of the coins and the black humor with which both are portrayed. The names of the coins' collectors and guardians are puns: Pennyman, Aureus, Pfennig. Pennyman, having murdered Aureus, flees Jerusalem through a storm of howling dogs and a rain of dead birds, frantically bribing his cab driver to get him to the airport. The humor becomes broader when the scene changes to California. The hero, Andrew Vanbergen, is trying to snatch his wife's aunt's cats, using a pruning ladder and a noose on a pole. This scene pretty well establishes Vanbergen's character: impulsive, self-centered (his reason for the snatch is that the cats are keeping him awake), and fond of Rube Goldbergesque means for accomplishing apparentiy simple ends. Unfortunately, it doesn't establish him as someone particularly likeable or interesting, nor do his subsequent actions, and that hinders his functioning as both the viewpoint character and as the defender of good against Pennyman and the coins. Ultimately, Vanbergen and his friend Beams Pickett bumble their way through the plot, creating TV-sitcom scenes that have little to do with saving the world. The more sympathetic and capable characters, like Andrew's wife Rose and her aunt Naomi, do their work largely offstage. The reader who finds Andrew and Beams delightfully eccentric will probably be charmed by the entire book. Those who are repelled will stili find plenty of vivid scenes and striking magical effects that add up, 25


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 despite the predominantly comic tone, to a dark and conspiratorial view of the world. Brian Attebery Little Letdowns Brunner, John. The Best of John Brunner. Ballantine/Del Rey, NY, November 1988, 288p. $3.95 pb. 0-345-35307-2. The great fascination with the short story form In science fiction Is, in essence, a recognition that a single powerful idea can be trans formed into a fictional paradigm with punch and energy. Great SF short stories leave a unique powerful image for the reader to ponder which perfectly represents the author's idea. When the story Is even a touch too long, a bit awkward or when the image does not "hit" the idea, the result is inevitably flat. This collection of John Brunner's short stories reveals the hit-or-miss nature of such fictions In the hands of a highly competent but rarely stunning practitioner. In a friendly yet not adulatory introduction, Joe Haldeman suggests that the relationship between serious stories and lighthearted work In a writer's output merely attests to the fact that people cannot be continually serious. The problem with Brunner is that his straight comic stories, such as the four "Galactic Consumer Reports" reprinted here, are funny (although they are one-bite, jokey comedy), but a number of his serious stories do not come off well at all. "The Totally Rich," for example, confuses reviving the dead with ironic comment on the jet set and a wooden love story and most definitely does not have a clear and powerful thrust. "Fair," a tale based on an enormously good idea, drifts along far too long before the revealing twist which Is meant to give it impact. "The Man Who Saw the Thousand Year Reich" would be the best tale in the book, were It not for the awkward exit from the story through a very artificial narrat9r in the last paragraphs. Only "The Suicide of Man" is really gripping: it has philosophical depth and is a curious tribute to Olaf Stapledon in both style and range. The last story in the volume, "The Vitanuls," may owe something to Arthur C. Clarke's "The Nine Billion Names of God" and shows a delicate touch which many writers would envy. I have real difficulty with this volume because I admire the John Brunner of Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, The Stone That Never Came Down,and many other fine novels, and I do not like the fact that, if these are his best short stories, he has never written In the short story format up to the standards of his best longer work. Peter Brigg 26


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Trilogy's End ... ? Butler, Octavia E. Imago. Warner, NY, May 1989, 272p. $19.95 hc. 0-446-51472-1. [Xenogenesls #3] Dawn (1987), the first book In Octavia Butler's Xenogenesls trilogy, made my list of the ten best SF novels of the year in the 1988 Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annual. Its excellent sequel, Adult hood Rites (1988), will make my list in the 1989 Annual. Imago, the third Xenogenesis novel, however, although a fine book by most standards, is somewhat weaker than its predecessors. Xenogenesis was originally billed as a trilogy, but Imago fails to tie things up adequately. One can only hope that Butler plans a fourth book in the series at the very least. Dawn described the awakening of an earthwoman, Lilith Iyapo, aboard an alien spaceship and her discovery that she and a few others were the sole survivors of a global nuclear war. The aliens who rescued them, however, did so not entirely out of altruism. Rather, the Oankali planned to use the men and women they saved to satisfy their own deepest genetic imperative: to merge their genes with those of the humans, creating a hybrid species, something they had done many times before on their travels across the galaxy. In Adulthood Rites the surviving humans were returned to a revitalized Earth. Those who wished to have children formed five-partner marriages consisting of males and females of both species and an Oankall ooloi. The ooloi were a legitimate third sex, living gene factories who reworked eggs and sperm from each of their partners before depositing the resulting fetuses in the human and Oankali mothers' wombs. Humans who would not mate with the Oankali were at first sentenced to live out their lives on earth in sterile frustration. At the climax of Adulthood Rites, Akin, Lilith's son and a human-Oankali construct, convinced his alien relatives to go against their better Judgment and allow a small colony of fertile humans to exist on Mars. In Imago we meet another of Lilith's children, Jodahs, the first construct 00101. Its people consider it a danger because it Isn't clear that a construct ooloi will be able to control its enormous powers of genetic manipulation. At first the danger that Jodahs presents seems very real: without meaning to, with a mere touch, it can cause cancer or some other genetic disaster. Imago describes Jodahs' gradual maturation, Its search for a male and female human with whom to begin a family, and its eventual acceptance within the Oankali community. The 00101 are a marvelous creation, but I have mixed feelings about Butler's decision to have Jodahs narrate its own story. She does a good 27


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 job of putting us in the head of a truly alien creature and of getting us to sympathize even to Identify with It, but, at the same time, by doing so she unavoidably makes the 00101 less marvelous, more prosaic. Further, by concentrating on the problems of one being, even one as well-developed and Interesting as Jodahs, Butler limits the scope of her narrative, makes it seem like a less important story. The first two books of Xenogenesis, by contrast, Involved the fate of all humanity. Most of Imago's problems may result from its being a middle book in a series. Butler has dropped hints of a variety of spectacular things to come, Including a final destruction of the earth which, if she can bring It off, may well rival the last part of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. Imago is really a very good novel which suffers only by com parison with the books that came before it. All things considered, I look forward to further installments in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis. Michael M. Levy Unbearable Dvorkin, David. Ursus. Franklin Watts, NY, April 1989, 379p. $18.95 hc. 0-531-15109-3. According to Science Fiction Chronicle (quoted on Franklin Watts' press release), David Dvorkin's Ursus "straddl[es] the line between science fiction and horror." What should be added is that It also engages a number of themes developed In mainstream fiction, par ticularly fiction of social criticism, providing a good example of what Dean R. Koontz refers to as cross-generic writing. Unfortunately, Ursus attempts too many such connections; unlike the streamlined effect of a first-rate Koontz novel -in which horror, science fiction, romance, adventure, suspense, and psychological thriller comfortably coexist -Ursus is merely diffuse. Many elements remain essentially unconnected throughout. The multiple storyline examines political corruption in city government in Piketon, Arapahoe (a thinly disguised Denver, Colorado; I would have preferred a real location, since fabricating a new state works against the verisimilitude the novel tries to create). Additional subplots Include racial politics (Hispanic) and definitions of ethnlcity (Jewlshness); religious hypocrisy in electronic mlnisteries; health and psychological services for seniors; male-female relationships, Including marriage; the corrupt Ing nature of money and power; and the isolation of cultural minorities within communities. All of these threads of plot are basically separate from the horror/science-fictional element of genetic mutation resulting In "minibears" (hence the novel's title) of terrifying power, dexterity,


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 and intelligence. The minibears ought to focus the novel, but they do not. They first appear (other than as a general and unknown threat) well into the book, and then almost immediately go into hibernation, rousing only long enough to dispose of one or two strategically placed characters. The bears are frustratingly anthropomorphic, often at the expense of the human victims, who become ciphers. The major human characters are single-dimensional representations of greed, pride, corruption, hypocrisy, etc. Moreover, Dvorkin frequently drops characters when expedient. The various subplots involving them do not conclude, although Dvorkin does assert, in the final chapter, a restoration of social order In the manner of an Elizabethan comedy. To.complicate matters, the text frequently shifts from human to ursine point of view without warning, blurring necessary perspectives. Ursus is readable and at times quite interesting; Dvorkin is capable of good effects and shows a deft hand in much of his writing. But compared with Koontz's cross-generic narratives In Watchers, Light ning, or Midnight. Ursus seems thin and unfocused. Bill Collins Dreary Beloved Fine, Stephen. Molly Dear: The Autobiography of an Android. St. Martin's, NY, 1988, 420p. $18.95 hc. 0-312-022549. Stephen Fine's first novel, the post-picaresque, flrstperson narra tive of a 21 st-century domestic android brought to "full conscious ness," has little to recommend it except some mildly effective satire of mid-1980s U.S. culture and politics of greed. Molly's story weakly echoes Defoe's Moll Flanders, Voltaire's Candide, and Terry Southern's Candy, as well as the conventions of cybernetic fiction and android characters pioneered by Karel Capek, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, and Aldred Bester. In the 2070s and 80s, "humanists" are far-right religious nuts who want to keep the solar system safe from a plague of androids produced by multinational corporate factories. Androids are programmed for obedience and low intelligence, and are prevented from reproducing that is, until the Pirouet Model P-9 (Molly is one) is manufactured without an on-board "universal governor" but with the capacity for reasoning and reproduction. Fine gives this old Idea a few flourishes and details that add contemporary satiric relevance, but overall he's forgotten to show, not tell. Molly is an incessant and boring narrator given to cute flights of Latinate diction (in homage to her 18th-century antecedents?). One time cute is many times tedious; the style prevents 29


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 sympathetic Identification and wears out satiric distance as the plot speeds past enough Incidents to fill two or three seasons of Dynasty. The novel's pretensions to deal with philosophical questions are trlvlal ized by Fine's turgid writing. Fine regularly arranges for Molly to have her memories purged. The conventions by which character can be established and developed over the length of an autobiographical novel are contradicted In Molly Dear, perhaps as a postmodernist demonstration of the impossibility of portraying coherent personality or essentialist human character? To deny character in this way, however, creates In Molly a kind of prema ture victim of Alzheimer's disease, and after each of her memory wipes it's up to the reader (who presumably does have a memory) to furnish the context for the ironies that occur when Molly meets characters she's forgotten. Molly's many turns through fortune and misfortune, her loves and losses, are bound together by satire of exploitative commercialism. Even though she's fully sentient in between memory losses, Molly Is not legally human, so she Is bought and sold, bartered and betrayed, regularly throughout her life. One of the few effectively constructed examples of satiric settings in the novel is the burgeoning city of Commerce, "your kind of town, Mars," wherein Fine re-imagines the contemporary contradictions of riches and poverty most strikingly apparent In New York City, with "consumerbergs and fantastic spiral office towers and ... exclusive mobe estates" built over subterranean caverns "clogged to overflowing with ... cardboard hovels." Com merce, a city "that believed that only by each striving against each could prosperity be achieved," is a creation that could support far more pointed political criticism of the Reagan administration, but Fine dis sipates the power of his discourse in sophormoric jokes about Bark University and the "venerated old firm of Meese, Meese, & Meese." The satirical point, of course, is that one's humanity will not protect against enslavement, given other people's unchecked and un scrupulous will to profit. Fine blunts the force of his message, however, so despite his allusions to older and finer satires like Candide, and despite his efforts to show off a complex prose style, the whole venture collapses under its own weight. Lengthy exposition and frequently arbitrary plot reversals lack wit or irony of situation, and with each repetition they become more tiresome tricks. Molly Dear cloys the appetite so that reading is heavy slogging for most of the book. Philip E. Smith /I 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Horribly Real Haldeman, Joe. Buying Time. Morrow, NY, June 1989, 300p. $18.95 hc. 0-688-07244-5. Joe Haldeman may well turn out to be the definitive postVietnam novelist. That war continues to haunt his work the way the Holocaust haunts the novels of Elle Wiesel or perhaps more appropriate the way the First World War haunted so much of Hemingway's best work. Buying Time, heralded as Haldeman's "welcome return to a big science fiction canvas" on the book's dust jacket, Is set nearly a century In the future and ostensibly deals with the economic and social consequences of surgically extended lifespans yet its hero, Dallas Barr, Is a veteran of an unpopular war who was drafted (by my calculation) in 1967. Furthermore, the process by which life is extended for the few who, like Barr, can afford It Is described as "three weeks of sustained agony, beyond imagination, being pulled apart and put back together." That description contains eerie echoes of Haldeman's own hospitalization after being severely wounded In Viet nam; perhaps he, along with all those wounded fortunate enough to get hospital treatment, was also "buying time." (What would happen, Haldeman asks, if one had to endure such hospitalization every decade or so in order to continue to survive?) Later on, the villain suggests to Barr that those he killed in that century-old war (Vietnam is never mentioned by name) would "be dead anyhow by now." One can't help but feel that there are a number of unresolved Issues at the heart of this novel. And yet one might be wrong. In its surface narrative, Buying Time Is a suspenseful chase story reminiscent of 1987's Tool of the Trade, embroidered' with a more substantial science-fiction mise en scene similar to that of Worlds (1981) and given added texture through the multiple viewpoints and textual interpolations Haldeman used earlier In Mindbridge (1976). This latter technique doesn't always work as well as it might, since Haldeman's distinctive style tends to swall9w up all voices but his own. An entry from the 2068 edition of an encyclopedia, for example, soon loses its cool reference-book tone in favor of Haldeman's characteristic second-person form of exposition: referring to the restrictions placed upon the disposition of wealth by the foun dation that controls the life-extension process, the encyclopedia says, "You can't even give It away." And the chapters narrated by the book's heroine, Marla Marconi, sound suspiciously like those narrated by the hero, Dallas Barr, despite a rather unconvincing streak of religiosity built Into her character. .11


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 But if Haldeman's style proves too irrepressible to yield to Dos Passos techniques, that Is far from bad news, since it is among the clearest and most direct styles in all of science fiction. By and large, the dust jacket is correct in claiming that this is Haldeman's full-scale return to the genre. The novel not only makes use of a detailed and convincing future society as backdrop and alludes to some of Haldeman's own earlier fiction, it even gives us a little Haldeman version of James Blish's story "Common Time," in scenes Involving drug-induced distortions of time perception. Such scenes are a delight, as is the headlong plot in which Barr, himself an "Immortal," discovers a heinous scheme by the foundation which controls the Immortality process and commences to flee (and occasionally dis member) assassins sent after him by the foundation. Those occasional dismemberments bring me back to my original point about the novel's subtexts. Few authors can write of physical violence as persuasively and in such clinical detail as Haldeman, and yet somehow, even at its most graphic, the violence never seems purely sensational. When we read of a character whose "skin was pulled away in large sheets entwined with shredded clothing," we seem to be drawn with the author into some sort of weird purgation, a fascination with the vulnerability of the body that goes well beyond what the Immediate narrative calls for. This was notably true of The Forever War (1975), and it Is true of Buying Time as well. Perhaps this compulsion Is what gives Haldeman's narratives a kind of (literally) visceral power that makes even complex hard science fiction tales accessible to non-SF readers. We suspect there is something horribly real at the heart of these stories, no matter what their futuristic appur tenances, and we suspect that it all began, like Dallas Barr's career, about 1967 or 1968. Gary K. Wolfe Koman's Knife Unwisely Wielded Koman, Victor. Solomon's Knife. Franklin Watts, NY, April 1989, 278p. $18.95 hc. 0-531-15108-5. Koman's last book, The Jehovah Contract, a strange and powerful amalgam of hard SF dystoplanism and Lovecraftian horror, was one of the best SF novels of 1987 and won the Prometheus Award. His new novel, Solomon's Knife, however, is somewhat less successful. The book Is only borderline science fiction, dealing as It does with the development of a medical procedure which Is already very close to reality. Unable to get authorization for her research from conserva tive hospital administrators, Dr. Evelyn Fletcher has secretly perfected 32


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 a technique she calls transoption, the transplanting of an aborted but still viable fetus into the womb of another woman. Unfortunately, soon after her first successful operation, the baby which results falls ill and needs blood and marrow transfusions from its genetic mother. Dr. Fletcher, however, did not tell the woman whose fetus she aborted what she planned to do with it, and, discovering the truth of the matter, the genetic mother sues to get the baby back. The second half of the book details the court battle reminiscent of the Baby M case In which a Jury must award custody to either the genetic or the birth mother and, while doing so, also rule on the morality of Dr. Fletcher's transop tlon technique. Solomon's Knife moves quickly and has its fair share of both gruesomely persuasive operating-room detail and high-voltage courtroom oratory, but the book suffers from being blatantly didactic. Koman is a libertarian and is strongly opposed to abortion. He feels little more than contempt for the religious right, the feminist left, or the medical establishment. The representatives he gives us of those three groups are, therefore, nasty, venal, and not very believable caricatures. Dr. Fletcher, by comparison, Is a virtual saint, a woman who, after making the mistake of having an abortion In her own youth, has devoted her entire life to saving the fetuses of others. Transoptlon, should it become a reality, would indeed be a wonder ful gift to the world. Koman's assumption, however, that those with whom he disagrees on other issues would automatically be too stupid or self-Interested to see the value of the procedure, causes him to drastically oversimplify and distort his scenario for transoption's recep tion. I cannot believe, for example, that the feminist community as a whole would react to the procedure so negatively; Koman seems honestly to believe that feminists like the Idea of abortion simply for its own sake, perhaps out of some perverse desire to kill off male babies. His ali-tao-evident bias vitiates his book and renders suspect his discussion of what might soon be an important medical breakthrough. -Michael M. Levy Psych Job McQuay, Mike. The Nexus. Bantam/Spectra, NY, May 1989, 474p. $4.50 pb. 0-553-28178-X. In 1987, after having produced a string of well-done but lightweight adventure novels, Mike McQuay surprised us with his fine tale of psychic time travel, Memories, which was runner-up for that year's Philip K. Dick Award. Now he has produced a thematic sequel to that book. The Nexus shares Memories's concern with the corrupting


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 influence of power, the healing power of love, and how these forces can weigh upon the soul of one man. Denny Stiller, an ace TV news reporter, has recently been demoted to a local Dallas beat because his questions angered two powerful and corrupt men, the President of the United States and a big-time TV evangelist. Sent to investigate a former prostitute turned faith healer named Tawny Kyle, Stiller discovers that she -or, rather, her autistic daughter Amy can work real miracles. Determined to ride Amy's abilities to wealth and success, Denny signs the Kyles to a personal services contract and, hiding them from an Increasing number of desperate sick people, WOUld-be worshippers, and government agents, he conducts a series of experiments before live TV cameras. His broadcasts, which include demonstrations of psychic healing, levitation, and the partially successful resurrection of a dead dog, instigate growing violence throughout the world as more and more people recognize the power that Amy Kyle represents. Fundamen talists consider her actions blasphemous. Governments consider her a threat to the balance of power. Stiller, an emotional cripple who has made a fetish of his supposed reportorial objectivity, seems incapable of understanding the mag nitude of what he has unleashed upon the world. Moreover, his blindness to his own problems makes him an easy victim of the power that he has tapped. Amy Kyle, given direction by Stiller, can apparently do just about anything. Denny sees himself as uniquely suited to the task of directing her, but he may be moving her down the road to Armageddon. The Nexus has faults. Like Memories, it seems too long: several scenes could be tightened up and the characters could spend less time discussing the nature of the universe. The novel's many sex scenes become somewhat redundant. The utopian ending, moreover, seems far-fetched. Despite these flaws, I liked The Nexus. McQuay has thought seriously about the effect that psychic powers such as Amy Kyle's would have, both on the world and on those who control her. He avoids the wish-fulfillment fantasy cliches into which many such novels fall. Denny Stiller is a well-developed character and his growth from cynical cripple to potential savior is believable. Although It isn't In a class with Robert Silverberg's Dying Inside, The Nexus Is one of the more worthwhile recent SF explorations of psychic phenomena. -Michael M. Levy 34


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 [Editor's Note: The Nexus is one of a new line of titles being issued as "Spectra Special Editions" -a series obviously modeled on the late Terry Carr's famous Ace Specials line and, like that predecessor, devoted to the highest quality fantasy and science fiction. Along with McQuay's novel, the first three original titles include Dan Simmons' Phases of Gravity and Ian McDonald's Out on Blue Six. Unlike the Ace line, Spectra Specials are also issuing reprint editions of major hardcovers like Michael Bishop's Unicorn Mountain and of earlier Bantam originals such as Patricia Geary's Strange Toys. The packag ing Is distinctive-looking and quite attractive, and the books are worth seeking out. This newsletter will run reviews of Simmons' and McDonald's novels soon.] Essential Collection O'Brien, Fitz-James. The Supernatural Tales of Fitz-James O'Brien. Edited, with notes and an introduction, by Jessica Amanda Salmon son. Doubleday, NY, 1988. In two volumes: Volume One: Macabre Tales, 158p. $12.95 hc. 0-385-24562-9. Volume Two: Dream Stories and Fantasies, 175p. $12.95 he. 0-38524649-8. The publication of this new collection of Fltz-James O'Brien's supernatural tales is a cause for celebration. Although he is currently suffering from critical neglect (there is not one mention of him in the new Columbia Literary History of the United States, for instance), O'Brien deserves an important place in the history of the American short story and a crucial place In the history of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. The short fiction he published in the major periodicals of the 1850s and 1860s established him as the heir to the romantic school of Hawthorne and Poe. "The Diamond Lens" Is among the most distinguished works of nineteenth-century science fiction, and "What Was It? A Mystery" is among the most anthologized and praised ghost stories of all time. Until now, we have had ready access only to the thirteen stories in William Winter's 1881 anthology of O'Brien's fiction and poetry. Occasionally, an ambitious researcher has rescued one or two other tales from oblivion, but these have appeared In collections that were published in small editions and soon went out of print. Jessica Amanda Salmonson, however, has managed to gather together all of O'Brien's supernatural fiction Into two modestly-priced and welledited volumes. Salmonson deserves praise for several reasons. First, many of the twenty-five stories she collects have never been reprinted before, and these stories should significantly enhance O'Brien's reputation as a


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 master of fantastic literature. Moreover, she provides new and more reliable texts for tales that have been frequently anthologized. For instance, her textual notes reveal that Winter meddled with "What Was It? A Mystery," a story that has also frequently suffered abridgement at the hands of other editors. Salmonson claims to be the first to reprint the original 1859 text from Harper's Magazine, thus restoring the textual Integrity of a work that Influenced the treatment of the fantastic In Ambrose Bierce, Guy de Maupassant, F. Marlon Crawford, H.G. Wells, Edith Wharton, and many others. Her decision to return to the original versions whenever possible should be commended. Any responsible scholar who writes on O'Brien from now on will have to use Salmonson's edition. Salmonson's introduction is largely biographical, and It may be controversial. Noting that almost all of his acquaintances believed he lied about his age, she suggests that O'Brien was probably born In 1826 in County Cork, instead of 1828 In Limerick as most reference works state. She also interprets the anecdotes that have circulated about O'Brien in an original way, concluding that he was almost certainly homosexual. That argument may disturb some scholars who might Insist that the evidence could be read differently, but there Is no doubt that Salmonson's case rests on a surprisingly large amount of evidence. If we accept her suggestion that O'Brien was a Bohemian artist whose sexual preferences were In conflict with the Calvinistic values of his time, then it becomes relatively easy to provide new readings of O'Brien's works. For example, a psychological critic might have some new comments to offer about the discovery of an invisible man In the protagonist's bed In "What Was it? A Mystery," or the perverse love story in "The Diamond Lens," or the fear of suddenly losing one's place In society in "The Lost Room." Salmonson, however, leaves the Interpretation of these stories largely to her readers, limiting herself to only a few comments on the merits of each work. (She asserts, I think correctly, that "The Lost Room" Is the best of O'Brien's supernatural tales.) Still, these two volumes have enough new material in them to warrant a critical reassessment of Fitz-James O'Brien. The stories that Salmonson has rescued from obscurity, if not oblivion, are likely to change substan tially our view of the author. Those interested In O'Brien's always skillful handling of the macabre will be fascinated by "The Child That Loved a Grave" and ':Jubal, the Ringer," two fine tales Inexplicably overlooked by Winter. There are even more surprises In volume two, devoted to the Dream Stories and Fantasies. For me, the biggest was discovering that O'Brien was also a master of satiric comedy. The wide-ranging 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 salre of "From Hand to Mouth" and "The Wonderful Adventures of Mr. Papplewlck" shows O'Brien pioneering the kind of fantastic whimsy that Frank Stockton later mastered. These two volumes are essential reading for anyone seriously Interested in the development of nineteenth-century American literary treatments of the fantastic. -Alfred Bendixen Spectral Horror Olson, Paul F. and David B. Silva, eds. Post Mortem: New Tales of Ghostly Horror. St. Martins, NY, 1989, 290p. $16.95 hc. 0-312-02631-5. Scholars have been forecasting the death of the ghost story since the turn of the century, and It's true that there are fewer ghost stories being written today than there were during the heyday of the form a century ago. Nevertheless, the tale of ghostly horror Is still very much with us. In the last few years alone, we have seen The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, an excellent retrospective anthology with some major recent entries, and Robert Alckman's collection The Wine-Dark Sea, many of whose ghostly tales were written well Into the 1970s. Within the last two decades, there have been outstanding novel-length ghost stories like Bernard Taylor's Sweetheart, Sweetheart and Peter Straub's Ghost Story, and 1987's Shades of Gray, by Timothy O'Neill, may well belong in their company. Now comes Post-Mortem, an anthology of original ghost stories by some of the best writers of modern horror, not one of whom Is known for this particular type of tale. Although all of these stories are "new," several of their ghosts are familiar. Gary Brandner's "Mark of the Loser" Is straight out of the E.C. Comics tradition, and William F. Nolan's "Major Prevue Here Tonight" and Donald Burleson's "Walkie Talkie" both recall tales from The Twilight Zone. But even old spooks can offer a frisson for the modern reader. Ramsey Campbell's "The Guide" Is a splendid homage to M.R. James In which pursuing spirits struck from the Jamesian mold seem perfectly at home in Campbell's own landscape of paranoia. For the most part, the ghosts of these stories bear little resemblance to the Jamesian specter, brimming over with inhuman malevolence. If anything, they are all too human. Just as the modern horror story has shifted Its focus from the outer to the Inner world, so has the modern ghost story undergone a reversal, replacing the haunted house with the hanuted mind, and Its ghostly figures with avatars of the disturbed psyche. In David Silva's "Brothers," Charles L. Grant's "The Last Cowboy Song," Melissa Mia Hall's "The Brush of Soft Wings," James .17


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Howard Kunstler's "Nine Gables," and Kathryn Ptacek's "Each Night, Each Year," the personal needs of the characters create ghosts to supply what the material world cannot give them. Four stories in particular bode well for the future of the modern ghost story. Steve and Melanie Tem's "Resettling" is a poignant tale of a husband and wife whose house is haunted by the specter of their marriage's impending failure. In pw. Sinclair's "Getting Back," the limbo of the ghost world serves as a metaphor for one man's mid-life crisis. However, honors for the most innovative tales of ghostly horror go to Thomas Tessier and Thomas F. Monteleone, both of whom find rich material in the unlikely setting of a Central American combat zone. In Tessier's "Blanca," spectral horror both amplifies and pales before the terror of hit squads and midnight abductions. Monteleone's "The Ring of Truth" conjures a ghost out of the collective guilt of an entire nation. Tales of caliber are solid proof that rumors of the ghost story's demise have been greatly exaggerated. -Stefan Dziemianowicz Sweet, Sweet Rain Park, Paul. Sugar Rain. Morrow, NY, April 1989, 384p. $17.95 hc. 1-557 -10029-2. [The Starbridge Chronicles #2) In his first novel, Soldiers of Paradise (1987), Paul Park began the tale of a society in transition. Charn is both a city and a nation dominated politically and religiously by a single family, the Starbrldges. Using Prince Abu Starbridge and his cousin Dr. Thanakar Starbrldge as focal characters, Park introduced his readers to the strange, tanta lizing and often grotesque inner workings of this alternate world. Now he takes up the tale where it left off. While it is not absolutely necessary to read Soldiers of Paradise before beginning Sugar Rain, I strongly recommend it. Though Thanakar remains a figure of central importance in this volume, Prince Abu yields his place to his sister Charity Starbridge, whose odyssey constitutes the main action. Her escape from Charn takes place against the backdrop of an enormously bloody revolution precipitated by the executions of Abu and the Bishop of Cham. In some ways Charity is a more interesting and compelling character than either of the men. In Sugar Rain Park continues to explore some of the same fun damental themes introduced In his first novel. Love and loyalty are chief among these, but the questions of what it Is to be human and what relationship exists between science and religion take on greater Im portance in this section of the tale. The ending suggests that Park has


SFRA News/etter, No. 168, June 1989 by no means worked out the rich vein of imaginative are he has been mining. I expect and look forward to another volume in this series. Highly recommended. Robert Reilly Move Over, Whitley Reeves-Stevens, Garfield. Nighteyes. Doubleday/Foundation, April 1989, 548p. $18.95 hc. 0-385-24755-9. There is much In Nighteyes that I found disturbing. In a book by an author named Garfield Reeves-Stevens, the presense of main charac ters named Gardiner, Reece, and Stevens seems at best awkward, at worst problematically non-fictional particularly in a plot about visita tions by little gray men a la Whitley Streiber's Communion (a text mentioned by name in Nighteyes). Add to this several extended passages of scientific dialogue that virtually halt the narrative move ment while struggling to make plausible an alien penetration into human society extending over forty years. Mix in a liberal helping of FBI, CIA, NSA, and other alphabetical agencies dedicated to protect Ing the American way of life, no matter what laws might be broken or what rights curtailed. Conclude by evoking time-travelling mutated humans collecting genetic materials long before edited (through natural and unnatural causes) from the gene pool In time to manipulate the salvation of three hundred people from an unprecedented global disaster that nearly destroys humanity. Yet when the tiny travellers are asked what the disaster is, the only answer they give Is that It Is unimaginable (the reader, unfortunately, Is likely to believe that, in spite of the apocalyptic tone and the attempt to make plausible the alien visitation, Reeves-Stevens himself can't think of any catastrophe suffi ciently devastating, and so hides behind a purely verbal barrier of assertion). To be sure, there are moments of well-handled suspense, action and adventure aplenty, chapters that force the reader to hesitate between believing characters to be mad or assuming that something entirely unusual is happening to them. But there are too many other elements that slow the pace. The writing at times is clumsy (what exactly are "clenched eyes"?), and occasionally Reeves-Stevens stops In a moment of crisis to Inform us that a character Is wearing a dark blue Jacket. He throws in brand names, but without the sense of ease that Stephen King or Dean R. Koontz might show. In too many ways, through too many passages, Nighteyes reads like a gloss on Communion -and then, when we are finally promised an SF payoff, some twist or turn that will make it all work, Reeves-Stevens asserts an


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 unnamed, undefined, undescribed global disaster. In spite of some moments of promise, Nighteyes ultimately disappoints. -Michael R. Collings Wide-Angle Vision Shirley, John. Heatseeker. Scream/Press [P.O. Box 481146, Los An geles, CA 90048],1989, 280p. $25.00 hc. 0-910489-26-2. Largely on the basis of his Eclipse novels, John Shirley has been grouped with the cyberpunks and lauded as one of their most visionary talents (a categorization Shirley has been eager to cultivate in his polemical briefs for the "movement" appearing in his column "Let It Scream" in Thrust magazine). This first collection of his short fiction calls for an asterisk after that estimation, however. Drawn from over the last fifteen years, and from magazines as diverse as Fantastic, Interzone and Mississippi Review, the nineteen stories in Heatseeker offer a broad (I.e. pre-punk) context in which to consider Shirley's work. If anything, they show that his cyberpunk inflections are only a natural extension of his elastic, often loopy experimentalism as a New-Waver In the 70s. A single spirit animates all of these stories: Shirley's exhillration at the extrapolative potential of his material and his refusal to stop until the possibilities have been exhausted. In the 1977 story "The Almost Empty Rooms," for example, a man theorizes that If an event can be thought of as an animal, and humans as the individual cells that comprise the animal, "then it might be possible to alter the course of anticipated incidents through working with the event creature's ner vous system to shift its actions." His efforts to avert nuclear disaster by tampering with the actions of others fail, but in his role as part of the animal, he continues to narrate the event as he Is vaporized by the atomic blast. Eight years later, in the cyberpunk opus "The Unfolding" (written with Bruce Sterling), Shirley conceives of a world in which the template for DNA flees the earth, leaving it to the robots who are unaware that "machine DNA" is developing a similar restlessness. Although Shirley's stories zoom off for the unpredictable with Heisenbergian willfulness, they are ever respectful of the second law of thermodynamics. Shirley is obsessed with equilibrium, the price of losing It, regaining it and maintaining it. "Ticket to Heaven" tells of a novel vacation scheme to provide the wealthy with spiritual enrichment through the spiritual devastation of the poor, demonstrating within a social system that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In "The Generator," the animate and the inanimate are forced Into rough equivalence by a society that harnesses the entropy of death as a 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 solution to its energy crisis. Even moral and ethical crises are resolved with a harmonic precision: "Triggering" tells of characters reincarnated as organic and inorganic objects who are brought together to redress a wrong committed in their past lives; in "Equilibrium," a character devises a suitably fiendish retribution for the gung-ho parents of a boy maimed in war. The fIIpside to the force of universal equilibrium is the breakdown of distinctions that comes with equivocation. In "Sleep walkers," a doper who hires out his sleeping body for fix money considers all the acts perpetrated on it as roughly equal. The stories most clearly in the cyberpunk mode "What Cindy Saw," "Unfolding," "Wolves of the Plateau" all end with the implication that men and their machines are only different expressions of the same blueprint. A consequence of Shirley's wide-angle vision is that his perspective sometimes overtakes his sense of direction. In" Six Kinds of Darkness, "What It's Like to Kill a Man," and "Tahiti in Terms of Squares," piot takes a backseat to the view of a future or extra-dimensionai world from above. But what a view it is! Given a choice of the passenger's or driver's seat for a trip through Shirley's worlds, most of us wouid be perfectly content just to sit back and enjoy the ride. -Stefan Dziemianowicz Light-Weight Willis, Connie & Cynthia Felice. Light Raid. Ace, NY, May 1989, 229p. $17.95 hc. 0-441-48311-9. This lightweight romance of industrial espionage and hightech warfare is set in a near-future North America where Quebec has become an independent nation and is currently waging and, perhaps, winning a war against the fragmented remnants of both Canada and the United States. Their major weapons are satellitemounted lasers which strike without warning and with incredibie power and precision. Both sides have nuclear weapons; neither has used them as yet, but threats have been made. Seventeen-year-oid Hellene Ariadne, daughter of Hellene Medea, an expatriot Quebecker scientist who is at the heart of the American war effort, has been evacuated to neutral Victoria on Vancouver Island for her own protection, but, when her parents' letters stop coming, she decides to return home and find out what's happened to them. Both parents, it turns out, are still alive, but they, and now Ariadne, are caught up in a complex web of intrigue. Spies and assassins surround them. Ariadne's mother is accused of treason and of sabotaging the war effort. Our young heroine is apparently the only one capable of getting to the bottom of the mystery --though, if she does discover the 41


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 truth, it may well cost Ariadne her life. Light Raid Isn't a bad book, but It's well below the mark that Willis and Felice have each established on their own. The novel s near-future North American background Is not very well developed, and any number of unanswered questions present themselves. Why Is the war going on in the first place? What is the rest of the world doing while North America is tearing itself apart? How did Western Canada manage to come up with a king? Why Is R&D vital to the war effort being done In an exposed, privately-owned laboratory rather than In a carefully guarded underground military facility? Why does the Hellene family, unlike everyone else in the book, put their family name first and their personal names last? And why, for God's sake, do they go around wearing ancient Greek clothing? Readers unfamiliar with the work of Hugo and Nebula Award winner Connie Willis are best advised to turn instead to her marvelous histori cal fantasy Lincoln's Dreams or her fine short story collection Fire Watch. Cynthia Felice, a former nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for best new SF writer, is better represented by such novels as Double Nocturne and Downtime. Michael M. Levy Young Adult Arthur, with a Twist Katz, Welwyn. The Third Magic. McElderry, NY, 1988, 204p. $14.95 hc. 0-689-50480-2. The Third Magic is Welsh-Canadian author Welwyn Katz's fourth novel for young adults, although her last two novels, False Face and The Third Magic, are the kinds of books any lover of fantasy would enjoy, young or older. All of Katz's novels have a mythological base. Sun God, Moon Witch was based on old British legends. False Face was concerned with legends from the Canadian Iroquois' past. Now there is The Third Magic, which is based on the Arthurian legends. In her use of mythology, Katz avoids the obvious retelling of the same old, tired tales, bringing a fascinating spark of originality to her work. The Third Magic Is a good example of just such a reworking of an old legend from a new perspective. The story does not open on Earth at all, but on the alternative fantasy world of Nwm, which sends the equivalent of missionaries to other worlds to influence them to fall In line with one of the two magics prevalent on Nwm: "first magic," which is earth magic practiced only by the light-haired, gray-eyed 42


SFRA Newsletter, No. 168, June 1989 Sisterhood; and "second magic," which is practiced only by dark haired, blue-eyed Linesmen. These two factions struggle back and forth for dominance on Nwm and on other worlds. The boy Arddu, blonde and gray-eyed like his sister, is torn between both. He looks like first magic, so is unwanted by the Linesmen. but he is male, so is unwanted by the Sisterhood. He is protected from the Sisterhood only by his sister Morrigan, and that protection is withdrawn as soon as she is missioned to Earth to teach an important future king the ways of the Circle and to protect him from the influence of the Line. The story is partly Arddu's, then, as he is rejected by both factions and seeks to find his own place in his world. He is joined by a young girl from Earth, Morgan, one of Morrigan's distant descendents. who is with her TV producer father in Cornwall where he is doing a show on Tintagel Castle and King Arthur. She is drawn into Nwm by mistake, when the Linesmen try to recall Morrigan. She and Arddu escape together, and she searches with him for a way back to her own world. Arddu and Morgan are both likeable and believable characters; the fact that they are victims searching for escape of different kinds endears them to the reader, and keeps us riveted as they travel back and forth between worlds, often helpless. The solution lies in the "third magic," which they must discover and then use, but it doesn't give them what they expect, which leads to a very unpredictable con clusion. The story of Arthur is woven throughout. more as a subplot, as Morrigan protects him, oddly enough, from the influence of Merlin, a powerful Linesman. And Katz maintains her unpredictability with a surprise ending that unites Arthur and Arddu, Morrigan and Morgan. Unfortunately, it is the ending which is the novel's weakness, as the logic of Katz's treatment of the Arthurian matter falls apart just a bit, leaving one with a sense of disillusionment after so exciting and captivating a story. Overall, though, the book is excellent and ranks with the best young adult fantasies of recent years. treating important themes like identity and personal responsibility even as it crafts an interesting fantasy world. The Third Magic well deserved the pres tigious Canadian Governor General's Award it won earlier this year. -J.R. Wytenbroek


SFRA Newsletter lVO. 168 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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