SFRA newsletter

SFRA newsletter

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SFRA newsletter
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
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[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Science fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
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University of South Florida Library
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S67-00063-n171-1989-10 ( USFLDC DOI )
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SFRA Newsletter October 1989, No. 171 In This Issue: President's Message (Hull). . 3 N .B. (Barron). . . .4 Shape of Films to Come (Krulik) .6 Call for Papers (Harfst). 11 Directory Update (Mead) . 12 1989 Hugo Awards (Hull) . .13 Corrections (Harfst). . . . . .13 Editorial (Harfst). . . . . . .13 REVIEWS: Non-Fiction: Cannon, H.P. Lovecraft (Barron). . .. .15 Hoppenstand & Browne, Gothic World of Stephen King (Barron) .. 16 Sammons A Better Country ((Lowencraft) . . . 17 Tintner. Pop World of Henry James (Bendixen) . . .18 Veeder, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde After One Hundred Years (Bendixen).. 20 Widmer, Counterings: Utopian Dialectics (80gstad). . . 21 Fiction: Appel, Twice upon a Time (Soukop). . . .23 Attanasio, Wyvern (Bogstad) . . . .23 Bear, Eternity .(Hatfield). . . . .24 Cantor, Krazy Cat: Novel in Five Panels (Mingin). .25 Fergusson, Mace of Souls (Reiiiy) . . .27 Ford, Scholars of Night (Schuyler) . . . .27 Harrison Return to Eden (Lewis) . . . .29 Jennings, Bug Life Chronicles (Letson) . .31 Kennealy, Silver Branch (Sullivan) . .32 Koontz, Lightning (Michaels). . . .33 McCaffrey, Dragonsdawn (Bartter) . .35 Rusch, Pulphouse: Issue One & Two (Landis) .36 Rushd ie, Satanic Verses (Sanders). . .37 Shaw, Wooden Spaceships (Pierce) .39 Van Scyoc, Feather Stroke (Phy-O lsen).. ..... .40 Wri ghtson, Moon Dark (Bartter) . .. ... ... .40 Zelazny, Fire & Frost (Sanders) . . . .41 Young Adult: Cormier, Fade (Becker) . . .42 Jacobs, Born Into Light (Soukop) . . .43 Osborne Moondream (deWit). . . . .44 Sargent, Alien Child (LowEmtrout). . . .45 Springer Hex Witch of Seldom (Sherman) .46 Williams, House of Shards (Letson) . . . .47


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 The SFRA Newsletter Published ten times a year for The Science Fiction Research Association by Alan Newcomer, Hypatia Press, Eugene, Oregon. Copyright 1989 by the SFRA. Editorial correspondence: Betsy Hartst, Editor, SFRA Newslet ter, Dept. of Arts, Communications and Social Science, Kishwaukee Col lege, Malta, IL 60150. (Tel. 815-825-2086.) Send changes of address and/or enquiries concerning subscriptions to the Treasurer, listed below. SFRA Executive Committee President Elizabeth 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 Thomas 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 2 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) Robert A. Collins (1987-1989) 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) Thomas D. Clareson (1977) Brian W. Aldiss (1978) Darko Suvin (1979) Peter Nicholls (1980) Sam Moskowitz (1981) Neil Barron (1982) H. Bruce Franklin (1983) Everett Bleiler (1984) Samuel R. Delany (1985) George Slusser (1986) Gary K. Wolfe (1987) Joanna Russ (1988) Ursula K. Le Guin (1989)


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 President's Message ODDS & ENDS FROM THE PRESIDENT Welcome to the first issue of the Newsletter edited by Betsy Hartst! I've worked with Betsy several times in the past and I'm delighted to have this opportunity to do so again. If all goes smoothly, we should be back on schedule with our publication dates before the end of the year. As I write this, I'm preparing to meet my first classes of the semester tomorrow and Wednesday, then leave for Pasadena to see the pictures come in at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories from Voyager II's close encounter with Neptune. Of course, we could stay at home and see them all on television, but somehow it seems more real to see them there. We'll get back from JPL Sunday night and leave again on Wednesday for the Worldcon in Boston, where a lively "actrack" is scheduled as part of the programming. One of the panels I will be on (with Tom Clareson) is titled "On Being Fans and Academics." It will be interesting to see how many fan-academics are in the audience. SFRA members who have subscriptions to Science Fiction Chronicle or Locus will know who won the Hugo awards by the time you read this; Betsy will publish the balloting results in the October issue of the Newsletter for those of you who don't subscribe to either. I'm pleased to announce at this time the members of the Pilgrim Awards Committee for 1989/90: Neil Barron, Joan Gordon, Liz Cum mins, and Gary Wolfe. Neil and Gary are, of course, previous Pilgrim winners themselves, and Joan will provide continuity from the last Pilgrim committee. Each year the committee is free to determine the criteria and methodology for choosing the winner of the award, which is for lifetime achievement and contribution to science fiction scholarship. However, nominations from the membership at large to the committee are appropriate. The more complete the rationale provided for any nomination, naturally, the better chance that candidate stands of serious consideration. I am also working on the composition of the committee to choose the winner of the new award--the one for best single sf article of the year--and hope to be able to announce its membership next month. And I have added Edra Bogle to the committee working on ways to publish an annual volume of criticism by SFRA members. She will work with Leonard Heldreth and Tom Remington. Rob Latham has agreed to join the standing committee on Bylaws, representing graduate students. At this time, the Executive Committee has not definitely decided whether to meet in person this winter or to have a conference phone call meeting. But since we will have a new newsletter editor, we will probably try to meet in person if the budget will allow. This makes it very important that we get as many early renewals as possible. The October issue carries a renewal form, as will the next two. If you haven't already done so, please renew now, while you think of it, the sooner the better. We are going to try to get the directory out in the spring as early we can, closing at the end of March if at all possible. 3


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 And pass along those extra membership forms to anyone you know who should be a member! by Neil Barron --Elizabeth Anne Hull President The following list of recent and forthcoming books supplements those described in the September issue. All publication dates are 1989 unless indicated o/w; all are tentative. Books With publication verified have a (P) following their listing. Recent and Forthcoming Books Reference Collins, Robert A. & Rob Latham, eels. Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annual, 1989. Meckler, December. Covell, Ian. An Index to DAW Books. Benson/Stephensen-Payne, 1989 (P). History & Criticism Graham. Kenneth W., ed. Gothic Fictions: Prohibition/Transgression. AMS Press, fall. ed. "Vathek" and the Escape from Time: Bicentary Evalu ---aITons. AMS Press, fall. Hearne, Betsy. Beauty and the Beast: ViSions and Revisions of an Old Tale. University of Chicago, November. Heinlein, Robert A. Grumbles from the Grave, ed. Virginia Heinlein Ballantine, Jan. 1990. Inge, M. Thomas. Comics as Culture. Univ. Press of Mississippi, Jan. 1990. Levine, George. Darwin and the Novelists; Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction. Harvard, 1988 (P). Matthew, Robert.Japanese Science Fiction: A View of a Changing Society. Routledge, June. McCord, William. Voyages to Utopia; from Monastery to Commune-the Search for the Perfect. Norton, January 1990. Wagar, W. Warren. A Short History of the Future. Univ. of Chicago, Nov. Zool, M.H. Bloomsbury. Good Reading Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy. Bloomsbury (UK), Aug. 4


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 Author Studies Benson, Gordon, Jr. & Phil Stephensen-Payne. Booklet-length "working bibliographies" of Poul Anderson, Michael Bishop, Philip K. Dick, Anne McCaffrey, C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner (3d rev ed), Frederik Pohl, Bob Shaw (all P). {Carroll}. Lovett, Charles C. Alice on Stage. Meckler, September. {Carroll}. Lovett, Charles L. & Stephanie B. Lovett. Lewis Carroll's Alice: An Annotated Checklist of the Lovett Collection, 1965-1988. Meckler, 1989. {Heinlein}. Thorner, J. Lincoln. A guide Through the Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein. Gryphon Books, summer (P). {James}. Tintner, Adeline R. The Pop World of Henry James: From Fairy Tales to Science Fiction. UMI Research, spring. {King}. Beam, George, ed. The Stephen King Companion. An drews & McNeel, September. {King}. Underwood, Time & Chuck Miller, eds. Feast of of Fear: Conversations with Stephen King. Underwood-Miller, July; McGraw, November. {Oates}. Milazzo, Lee, ed. Conversations with Joyce Carol Oates. Univ Pressof Mississippi, Oct. {Pynchon}. Mead, Clifford. Thomas Pynchon: A Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Materials. Dalkey Archive Press, summer (P). {Serling}. Engel, Joel. Rod Serling: The Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight Zone. Contemporary Books, Oct. {Stoker}. Florescu, Radu R. & Raymond T. McNally. Dracula, Prince of Many Faces. Little Brown, Oct. Film &TV Donald, James, ed. Fantasy and the Cinema. Univ. of Illinois (for the British Film Institute), winter 1989/90. Peel, John. The Trek Encyclopedia. Pioneer, summer (P). Riley, Philip J., ed. Filmscripts, all published by Samuel French of: The Bride of Frankenstein, July; Frankenstein, July; The Mummy, October; This Island Earth, October. Address Correction In the July/August Issue, No. 169, the commentary about the forth coming SF Guide by Everett F. Bleiler, assisted by his son Richard (p. 28). listed Richard at the wrong university (Ohio State). He is a librarian at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. 5


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 Fourth Sf Study Nears Completion John J. Pierce has written the longest single study of Sf to date--778 pages. The three volumes, all published by Greenwood Press, are Foundations of Science Fiction (1987; $35), Great Themes of Science Fiction (1987; $37.95) and When World Views Collide (1989; $39.95). Their common sub-title is A Study in Imagination and Evolution. (Imagi nation and Evolution was the original working title of what was conceived of as a single volume in 1971.) Although the publisher's flyer forthe third volume cites it as the last, Pierce's preface refers to it simply as the third volume. A fourth volume is being written for submission next summer. Odd Genre, although not conceived of as part of the three volume study, is not an afterthought, either. Constraints of length forced Pierce to omit material he would have liked to include in volumes 2 and 3, and other topics had to be slighted throughout the series. Odd Genre's primary focus is SF as fiction, rather than as a literature of ideas or themes (volumes 1 and 2), or conflicting philosophies (volume 3). The prelimi nary table of contents he sent me includes these topics: SF in a broader fictional context; SF and ... (romance, mystery, humor, sports, coming of age--YA SF, and family sagas); borderline SF and SF blends--Iost race, pulp super heroes, science fantasy, sf/horror, moral fabulations and sat ires, men's adventures/thrillers; writers who "escaped" SF (Vonnegut, Ballard) or escaped to SF (Burgess, Atwood); film, TV, comics, music; and a discussion of various aspects of SF as literature (narrative tech niques, style, sensibility, etc.). Worth watching for. Literary Classic Reissued Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald, out of print for almost a decade, has been reissued by Lawrence Hill Books, Brooklyn, NY, 192p. $8.95 pb. 1-55652-065-4. This surrealistic portrait of a society bent on atomic self destruction is more than a cautionary tale. it Is a probing inquiry into what gearing for war does to men and women when there is no war. An afterward by H. Bruce Franklin has been added for a new generation of readers. --Neil Barron THE SHAPE OF FILMS TO COME Theodore Krulik August 1989--Some film critics have called this season the Summer of the Movie Sequel. It seems to me that was what last Summer had been called. Sequels are part of the trend--a trend that has been long-lasting, one that will probably continue for years to come. I prefer 6


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 to look at the Summer block-buster movies of this season as "Movies that Hearken a Return to Childhood." Movie-makers of four blockbuster films that I would like to focus on may have had in the back of their minds a form of escapism to a time of long-ago Innocence. Anyway, I would like to look at four ofthese summer movies in thatlight: "Batman," "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," and "Ghostbusters II." Two of these films hearken back to my own childhood specifi cally. I was in my late teens, and entering my twenties, when the original "Star Trek" was shown on television for the very first time. I never became a "Trekkie" of "Trekker," but I always enjoyed the series as being a good representative of science fiction, with some episodes still standing up well even in the 1980s. As a young boy, I was an avid comic book reader, and "Batman" was one of my favorites. I was always unhappy with the 1960s TV series" Batman:" the comic book treated the character seriously and with heroic dignity, which was missing from the TV series. The "Indiana Jones" movies and the two "Ghostbusters" films remind me of some of the class movies, albeit some classic "B" movies, of the forties and fifties. If you are ever able to, catch a 1950s movie called "Hong Kong" that starred a "B" movie actor who later got into politicsRonald Reagan. In that movie, he wore precisely the same outfit worn by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. In spite of the fact that the "Ghost busters" movies are rooted in good old 1980s capitalism, selling all kinds of "Ghostbusters" paraphernalia to the kiddies, to me they have always hearkened back to movies of the forties, when Bob Hope battled ghosts in "Ghostbreakers," the Dead End Kids did the same when faced with an evil Bela Lugosi, and Abbott and Costello entered a haunted mansion to encounter ghosts and eerie happenings, all done with comic effect suitable to each humorous lead. In a sense, these blockbusters of the Summer of '89 come from our collective childhood. For all the money spent on making "Star Trek V," it had a very short life in the movie theaters. It simply did not make enough money at the box office to last. Perhaps it will make back its profits in home video rentals. Still, Trekkies have called it a very good entlY, in the film series and hope that this will not be the end of the original' Star Trek." It was produced by Harve Bennett and directed by William Shatner, who also co-authored the script. Joey a devout "Star Trek" fan, has written the following favorable review of 'Star Trek V: The Final Frontier:" "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is supposed to be about Spock's renegade half-brother Sybok, who forces the Enterprise on the ultimate journey---traveling beyond the Great Barrier of the Universe in search of God. But the major focus of the film is on the relationship between Kirk, Spack, and McCoy. If you find these characters intriguing, you will love this movie. If you are more interested in fantastic creatures, situations, and special effects, you will not. "Sybok, son of Sarek and a Vulcan woman, has adopted a philosophy considered heresy to Vulcans--that only through feelings can a person really come to know himself. Exiled because of this philosophy, Sybok comes to believe he has pinpointed the place where God is. In order to get there, he must have a starship, so he recruits a 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 band of followers and devises a plan to steal the Enterprise. To make the journey eventful, the Enterprise has had extensive re-modeling, and so, nothing works right. This gives Scotty an opportunity to utter some amusing one-liners. Sybok's search for God--the major premise of the moviedisappoints him in the end. He is forced to see that the creature they have found is not God. As he argues with it, the being changes its appearance until it looks exactly like Sybok. The rebel Vulcan then blames his own vanity for all that has occurred and throws himself upon the life force. Sybok is dead. All is vanity. "The question of God's existence still remains as the crew journeys homeward. McCoy asks Kirk if he thinks God is really 'out there.' 'No, Bones," Kirk replies. 'I think God is in here, inside the human heart.''' This message, and the various other elements of "Star Trek V," as Joey Heimberg points out, makes it a worthwhile entry; "It is delight fully constructed as an extended episode of the TV series, which I, personally, have been longing for since the series' demise." Another movie that relies heavily on a formula plot that worked well previously is "Ghostbusters II." One would have hoped that a movie that reunites all of the key cast members, including Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis (both of whom have been very busy people), would be equal to, and even surpass, the first film story. Instead, "Ghostbusters II" is a sagging rehash of many of the same elements of the first one, and it simply isn't as clever. Produced and directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Harold Ramis and Dan Aykroyd, "Ghostbusters II" had the potential for being a bright, humorous sequel. In spite of the excellent speCial effects, the various ghosts creating mayhem weren't as cute or funny as in the original. Something was amiss, also, in Bill Murray's one-liners, which seemed lacking in sharpness and in timing. Sometimes the main characters appeared to be sleep-walking through their roles: Aykroyd had little of his manic enthusiasm and Weaver seemed uncharacteristi cally defenseless against the supernatural force trying to use her baby, even though she played such an heroic role in "Alien" and "Aliens." The basic plot of the movie is structured in much the same way as the original. It begins with the hint of some supernatural element about to erupt in Manhattan. In "Ghostbusters II," it is a slight bubbling slime coming out of a crack in a sidewalk that has something to do with Sigourney Weaver's baby carriage, with baby inside, riding through the sidewalks and streets of New York in jeopardy, completely on its own. Then the audience meets the members of the "Ghostbusters" team, who are somewhat down on their luck since the first movie ended. Weaver goes to them about the baby carriage mishap, and the team is off to investigate various supernatural happenings that are suddenly occur ring. In this case, they discover a river of gelatinous slime under the city that feeds on human emotions, making people downright mean and rude. This slime is shown to be connected, in a rather loose way, to a painting of an ancient Carpathian lord named Vigo, in the possession of Weaver's work place, the Manhattan Museum of Art. Vigo comes to life and wants Weaver's baby so he can be reborn, and the team winds up 8


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 doing battle with Vigo in order to save Weaver and the baby. In their attempt to get inside of the museum, the boys make use of a giant symbol of all the "good stuff" that would bolster good feelings from the populace--they bring the Statue of Liberty to life and ride in her to the museum. This represents the Marshmallow Man of the first picture, but Lady Liberty is not asked to do much except walk, and, having no real dramatic purpose, she just disappears from the scene after dropping the boys in the museum. In the end, the "Ghostbusters" destroy Vigo and rid the town of the supernatural intrusion once again. Murray gets Weaver, and they are again hailed as heroes. Actually, the "good stuff" in the movie is few and far between: there is an uproarious courtroom scene that combines funny sight gags, silly banter, and wonderful special effects; another is an all-too-short scene of dreary-faced ghosts disembarking from a ghostly Titanic, and a dead-pan Cheech Marin turning to a co-worker on the docks to say: "Better late than never." Such scenes, though, hardly make up for its poor showing, and, I suspect, there will not be a "Ghostbusters III." Formula plotting is at the heart of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," but it is a formula that works for this third and (probably) final installment to the series. The team that has done the first two Indiana Jones movies is back for the third: Stephen Spielberg as director, George Lucas as executive producer, and Harrison Ford as the dashing, if grubby, Indiana. This third entry returns to the light side that was so entertaining in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and it has all the familiar elements: Nazis as vile enemies, a beautiful but mysterious woman, an ancient, mythical object of universal interest, and literally cliff-hanging exploits. These all work in an entertaining fashion, as they have done before, but there is an added element not present previously --Sean Connery as Indiana's father, Dr. Henry Jones. The relationship of father and son really forces the core of the movie, holding all these other elements together, and making their adventures personal and highly humorous. The plot turns on Indiana's following his father's steps, as outlined in Henry Jones' diary that Indy received in the mail. The elder Jones had worked out through his researches the location of the Holy Grail, but he was kidnapped by the Nazis before he could follow up on it. When Indy and his father's friend, Marcus Brody, arrive in Venice, Italy, Indy al most immed iately snoops out the first artifact leading to the Grail's location. The action moves quickly from one peril to another. Indy comes to rescue his father; they're both captured by the Nazis; they escape and flee with the baddies in hot pursuit; they find the Grail; an evil Nazi collaborator mortally wounds Henry Jones; and Indy must obtain the Grail by crossing a deadly trail of hidden dangers in order to save his father's life. Naturally, Indy succeeds; he regains his father but loses the girl. Still, Indy and his father and their friends ride off happily into the desert sunset. As hackneyed as the plot sounds, it's really done wonderfully well. The chases are exciting, filled with little moments of great humor, and the interaction between Harrison Ford and Sean Connery is price less. Rarely will we see such fortuitous casting in a film again. This movie also shows a bit more of the contrast in Indy's double life: on one front, 9


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 he is a bespectacled university professor with admiring female students, and on the other front, he is an impetuous man of action. In the library in Venice, once an ancient monastery, he suddenly takes it into his head to move a hearthstone and climb into a long-buried sewer system to seek the tomb of Sir Richard of the Crusades. For many a college professor, Indy's physical approach to archaeological studies is a fantasy. Having it in mind that this would, in all likelihood, be the last Indiana Jones movie, the filmmakers reveal to us some of the origin of Indy's paraphernalia, as well as some of the reasons behind Indy's reactions to certain dangers. Although it has nothing to do with the rest of the story, we see Indy as a boy embarking on his earliest impetuous adventure. It holds some surprises and is an enjoyable set-up for the adventures to follow. The movie works so well because it knows the importance of Sean Connery's character. Rather than making Henry Jones an incidental character, merely one element in the plot, he becomes essential to the story from beginning to end. It is great fun to watch him match wits and fisticuffs (of a sort) with Harrison Ford. Completely opposite in tone from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "Batman" is a dark film, both in appearance and in its storyline. It is directed by Tim Burton, from a story written by Sam Hamm, who co-authored the screenplay with Warren Skaaren. Of course, its casting of Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne has been controversial, but Jack Nicholson makes a wonderfully quirky Joker. The plot of "Batman" is not necessarily an overly-used formula. It's just that it begins as an overly-complicated crime-and-corruption-in high-places tale, but ultimately lapses into a personal contest between the Joker and Batman. The story is at its most intriguing when it takes us along in showing us how gangster Jack Napier (Nicholson) becomes the Joker. Much of the film belongs to Nicholson as he cavorts with mad laughter while killing off the racketeers and no-goods who had crossed him. Particularly memorable is a meeting he has with the other mobsters when the Joker tells them he is taking over the crime syndicate. He bids adieu to one protesting gang member, a joy buzzer in his hand. This joy buzzer, however, has enough electricity to fry the jolted fellow to a skeletal cris8' Fixing the dead man's tie and patting his shoulder, the Joker says, 'You'd have made one mean enemy. I'm glad you're dead. That's good," he laughs. "I'm glad you're dead." Michael Keaton plays Bruce Wayne with cautious understate ment. Although his romance with news reporter Vicky Vale (Kim Bassinger) is light and playful, there is little ofthe out-of-sync humorthat, first of all, Keaton has been known for and, secondly, the Joker has exhibited. When he dons the cowl and cape of Batman, the texture of the film is usually dark so that his features are cloaked in shaded mystery. Through most of the movie, Batman is presented in this way. He offers little by way of explanation when he rescues Vicky from the Joker's henchman, and he keeps his voice low and husky. Near the end of the film, when Vicky seems to know that Bruce Wayne is Batman, that knowledge doesn't seem to matter. The filmmakers were not looking for that playful layer of tension, as when Lois Lane tries to trap Clark Kent into revealing that he's Superman. There is a quieter, perhaps more real, relationship between Vicky Vale and Bruce Wayne. It's an interesting 10


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 approach that makes the movie "Batman" worthwhile, and, with so many other characters introduced without great dramatic purpose, it makes a sequel absolutely essential. Batman's origin is a given, shown to us through newspaper clippings and a flashback sequence, but we are left hungering to know what steps that ten-year -old boy took over the years that led to his becoming the dark vigilante, Batman. Hopefully, a sequel will show us some of that. Although I don't often involve myself in the various novelties that are movie tie-ins, it has struck me that some of the literary works connected with these films might prove useful in a classroom. For example: along with a glut of "Batman" movie tie-ins isa book of original stories entitled THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF BATMAN, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and published by Bantam Books. Greenberg obtained Batman stories from such authors as Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Robert Sheckley, George Alec Effinger, and Isaac Asimov. Some of the stories are well-conceived, some are middling, and the rest are only fair, but I'm not pointing to this endeavor as a work of classic literature. USing excerpts from stories in this collection, however, might be a useful jumping-off paint for having our students do the same kind of creative writing--and this need not involve only the Batman story. I've just discovered an enjoyable collection of essays about the Star Trek universe, originally published in a series of fanzines called TREK, and then gathered up and collected in a series of paperbacks published by New American Library. The specific edition I ve come across is THE BEST OF TREK # 13, edited by Walter Irwin and G.B. Love, and printed in May, 19S5. The essays represent some careful thought brought to bear on the original TV series and the first three Star Trek movies. Although these essays may not be brilliant literary studies, they try to rationalize and bring consistency to some provocative areas that the Star Trek audience would want to know more about. Similar such examinations of SF films and TV programs might bear fascinating fruit if tried among students in a classroom. --Theodore Krulik CALL FOR PAPERS David Ketter is organizing a session on "American 'Science Fiction' Before 1926" for the American Literature Association Confer ence at the Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, 31 May-3 June 1990. Papers of 10-15 pages (20 minutes reading time) are solicited on relevant authors (notably Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, London, Bellamy, Twain, and neglected women), works, or topics. They should be mailed to Ketterer, Dept. of English, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West, Quebec, Canada H3G 1 MS. The deadline is 31 January 1990. The 12th Annual J. Uoyd Eaton Conference on Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature--which will be held April 21-25, 1990, at University of California, Riverside--is seeking papers of 10-15 pages in length on Science Fictions & Market Realities: Conditions of Production and the Products They Condition, for oral presentation. The conference seeks to 11


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 explore the full range of issues coupling the conditions of production with the products artists produce. Deadline for submissions is Novem ber 20, 1989. Send papers to Dr. George Slusser, Eaton Conference Coordinator, Attention: Editor, University Ubrary, P.O. Box 5900, UC Riverside, Riverside, CA 92517. Place phone inquiries to (714) 787-3233. Directory Update SFRA Secretary David Mead has supplied the following list of names and addresses of persons who renewed or joined after the Directory 'closed' on July I. Joseph Francavilla 3711 Armour Ave. #28 Hardaway Sq. Columbus,GA 31904 Gail Larsen Peterkin 1029 Melody Drive Metairie, LA 70002 James S. Harper Susan Stone-Blackburn 37 Mt. Vernon St. English Dept. Apt. 1 Univ. of Calgary Boston, MA 02108-1405 2500 University Drive NW Calgary, AB T2N 1 N4 Canada Terry L. Heller English Dept. Coe College Cedar Rapids, IA 52402 London N16 lTD UK Susan J. Markowitz 3775 Street Road Doylestown, PA 18901 Rego Park, NY 11374-5141 Also note address change: Frank Dietz 1003 Justin Road Austin, TX 78757 Rob Latham 86 Renato Court, Apt. 14 Redwood City, CA 94061 415-367-7210 David John Wingrove 47 FarJeigh Road Stoke Newington Donald and Elsie Wollheim 6617 Clyde Street 12


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 1989 Hugo Awards The 1989 Hugo Awards Winners announced at Noreascon Three, the 47th World Science Fiction Convention were: Best Novel: Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh; Best Novella: "The Last of the Winnebagos," by Connie Willis; Best novelette: "Schrodinger's Kitten," by George Alec Effinger; Best Short Story: "Kirinyaga," by Mike Resnick; Best Non Fiction Book: The Motion of Light in Water, by Samuel Delaney; Best Professional Editor: Gardner Dozois; Best Professional Artist: Michael Whelan; Best Dramatic Presentation: Who Framed Roger Rabbit; Best Semiprozine: Locus; Best Fanzine: File 770; Best Fan Writer: Dave Langford; Best Fan Artist (tie): Brad W. Foster, Diana GallagherWu; and John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo) for Best New Writer of 1987-88, Michaela Roessner. --Elizabeth Anne Hull Corrections/Apologies Brian Aldiss has offered some corrections on the subject of the awards given in San Marino (May 1989), reported on in the July/August Newsletter. He notes, "There is no 'Harry Harrison Award for Contributions to Science Fiction'. What we have is a Harrison Award for Improving the Status of SF Internationally .... Nor is the President's Award for 'Special Efforts in Promoting SF in the World'. It is for Independence of Thoug ht in SF .... The Harrison Award certainly went to Vladimir Copman. However, the President's Award went to Neil Barron. There was no monolith for Roger de Garis." [Sorry for the inaccuracies.--Ed.] Editorial Beginner's Notes This first issue under my editorship has been challenging, frustrating, rewarding, and humbling. As a challenge, it is an awesome task to follow after someone with Bob Collins's editorial expertise. As a frustration, federal work-study approval delayed and prevented Kish waukee from putting my computer skilled student worker on the payroll for this issue. (My daughter, Sue Ann, helped me keyboard this one, while my husband, Ernie, was ourveryresourceful computer expert.) As a rewarding experience, all of the SFRA officers and editors (Betty, Neil, David, Tom, Bob, and Rob) have given generous assistance in getting me started. As for humbling, well, what I didn't know about this task would fill a newsletter in itself; what I still have to learn would fill a second one.What are my goals for the future? First, after the transition period, 13


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 I need to establish a regular scheduleforthe newsletter. Whatthis means for submission deadlines is that I want material six to eight weeks ahead of publication. For instance, reviews reaching me in November would be published in the January jFebruary issue. If deadlines can be shortened later,l will let you know. Let me test the time spans with that parameter. Second, if any of your columns or reviews can be sent through on disks, using any Wordstar or Wordperfect, it would help shorten the newsletter preparation time. Disks would, of course, be returned to you. Third. I hope that all of the special editors and reviewers will continue sending copy, for your written commentary and reviews are what make the SFRA Newsletter something worth reading. The November issue will still be part of the transition process, but it should reach you in December. The contents look exciting: Rob Latham's review-article covering Darko Suvin's new book is on the schedule. Also, the results of Neil Barron's SFRA Market Survey will be featured, plus a lot of reviews which Bob has forwarded to me. By the December issue, a reviewarticle on Karl Kroeber's Romantic Fantasy and Science Fiction should be completed. One conference "call for papers" was lost in the editorial transition. Brigham Young University's "Life, the Universe, and Every thing VIII, 1990 Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy," 4-10 February 1990, in Provo, Utah, had an October 15 deadline date for submission of 20 and 45 minute abstracts. Papers due by 6 January. Contact Dr. Marion K. Smith, 3163 JKHB, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 for further information. I regret the deadline was missed, as it is an interesting conference. I presented a paper there last year. The guest authors included Paul and Karen Anderson, David Brin, Orson Scott Card, Octavia Butler, and A. J. Budrys. One of the unique features was the audiences' diversity which ranged from adults to school children. Junior high and high school students were encouraged to attend sessions and write reports on the material presented. Their teachers felt that the conference SUbjects were worthy enough to replace regular classes. Let's all be optimists and say that things will get better and easier each issue. On to the next one! --Betsy Harfst 14


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 I REVIEWS I Non-fiction A Starting Point for Lovecraft Cannon, Peter. H.P. Lovecraft. Boston: Twayne, 1989.xv + 153p. $18.95.0-8057-7539-0. TUSAS 549. Although Cannon has proper academic credentials, including a masters from Brown, his pieces on HPL have appeared mostly in fan magazines such as Lovecraft Studies, Crypt of Cthulhu and similar eldritch journals. Cannon notes that few articles about HPL have ap peared in mainstream academic journals. He addresses himself to two audiences, HPL buffs like himself, who he hopes "will find some fresh insights here, besides coming away with a renewed sense of how ripe the gentleman from Providence remains for analysis. Into the second category I put the nonfans--including most English professors--those who may think of Lovecraft as a second-rate, twentieth-century Poe but are open-minded enough to consider looking past the "pulp" surface of his fiction. I hope this study will help persuade them that Lovecraft is more than a mere horror writer, that at the very least he deserves recognition as one of America's greatest literary eccentrics" (p.xi). Cannon writes clearly, with humor and balanced judgments replacing the defensiveness typical of too many Lovecraft enthusiasts. His arguments gain credibility by his frequent admission that many Lovecraft fictions are deficient. This is important in a volume in the Twayne series, which is found almost exclusively in libraries. Cannon's approach departs from Twayne's usual chronological one. The "other" works--journalism, travel pieces, letters, poetry--are discussed first to place the fiction in perspective. A chapter is devoted to the earlier apprentice fiction. Because of the crucial role of place in HPL's works a handful of chapters are arranged by dominant locale. A useful concluding chapter places Lovecraft in literary history. For many he is still invisible. Last year's Columbia Literary History of the United States has no mention of him. Yet he is the subject of endless essays, but these appear in sources regarded with suspicion by the academy. The annotated secondary bibliography is current (Joshi's excellent translation of Levy, 1988, is included) and his comments are judicious. Chapter notes, good index. For someone knowing little of Lovecraft, Cannon is an excellent starting point. --Neil Barron 15


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 Why Is Stephen King So Popular? Hoppenstand, Gary & Ray B. Browne, eds. The Gothic World of Stephen King: Landscape of Nightmares. Bowling Green Univ. Popu lar Press, Bowling Green, OH, 1988, 143p. $25.95 hc. 0-87972-410-2. $12.95 pb. 0-87972-411-{). Reino, Joseph. Stephen King: The First Decade. Twayne, Boston, 1988, xvii + 162p. $17.95. 0-8057-7512-9. TUSAS 531. H&B's introduction, the longest ofthe 14 original essays, mostly by academics, insists on trying to explain King's widespread popularity. They argue that the paperback audience generally rejects horror fiction, even though they cite Rosemary's Baby (1967) and The Exorcist (1971) as apparent anomalies. And critical judgments have been mixed at best. So why the immense sales? They stress storytelling ability, or the "dazzle effect," but this begs the question, since several other popular horror fiction writers, such as Dean Koontz, are skilled storytell ers. They suggest the appeal in their brief discussion of the social melodrama (a seminal term in John Cawelti's study of formula fiction) present in all of King's works, whose appeal far transcends that of a typical horror writer, and the presence of adolescents with whom younger readers identify. And of course they note that King is working In, not inventing, a long-established Gothic tradition, what Harry Levin called the power of blackness in a 1958 book of that name. Finally, they speculate that Misery may be strongly autobiographical. The remaining essays range from the general (allegory and adolescent revolt in King) to short studies (8-10 pages) of individual works--"The Body," Salem's Lot, Christine, The Dark Tower, and Pet Sematary. Each essay has notes, but the book lacks an index. H&B is one of several collections published in the past few years. Tim Under wood and Chuck Miller edited Fear Itself (1982) and Kingdom of Fear (1986), Darrell Schweitzer edited Discovering Stephen King (1985), Bare Bones (1988) collected 25 interviews, and Michael Collings has written a half dozen studies of King for Starmont. The H&B collection isn't notably better or worse than similar collections, and I have difficulty recommending one over the other. Reina's study examines the first ten years of King's fictions, measuring not from 1977, when his first story appeared, but from his first published book, Carrie (1973) to Pet Sematary (1 983)--nine novels, two collections, and Danse Macabre. Films based on the fictions are wisely ignored. (Tony Magistrale is working on a companion study of later King for Twayne.) "Primarily thematic and favorable, this book strives for critical objectivity, highlighting in-depth examinations of psychology, symbol ism, imaginative wordplay, and mythic and current cultural analogies" (preface). That's a pretty good summary. The chapters discuss one or two novels each in considerable detail. Thorough notes, bibliography, index. Reina assumes readers know the texts, although some plot summary is provided, a change from the usual Twayne gloss. I found most interesting his examination of King's careful use of language, 16


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 although occasionally the analyses strained my sense of credibility. Reino sees many virtues in Kin9,'s fictions but balances his praise with these concluding comments: 'But having acknowledged this, one is compelled to point out that much of his work is entrapped in the absurd confinements, crude vulgarities, and simple-minded exaggerations of late-twentieth-century gothic fiction .... Such penetrating works as Salem's Lot, "Apt Pupil," "The Body," "Night Surf," "Last Rung on the Ladder," and "Reaper's Image" prove that Stephen King has the genius to overcome the too-constrictive limitations and exaggerations of the gothic imagination" (p.139). Recommended to critics who tend to dismiss King too thought-and to most libraries. A useful companion to Reino is another 1988 study, Tony Magistrale's Landscape of Fear: Stephen King's American Gothic, (Bowling Green). --Neil Barron Religious Fantasy In a Secular Time Sammons, Martha C. A Better Country: The Worlds of Religious Fantasy and Science Fiction. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1988, 168p. $35.00 hc. 0-313-25746-9. Despite its subtitle, A Better Country examines Christian fan tasy, not the logically broader "religious fantasy and science fiction." As Sammons defines it, however, "religious fantasy ... integ rates aspects of Christianity with elements offantasy, including science fiction." (p.1) In her book, Sammons successfully, if somewhat indirectly, shows the disproportionately great impact this subgenre of fantasy has had on speculative fiction. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is its updated overview of Christian fantasy through the middle 1980s, exam ining such recent authors as Madeleine L'Engle, Joy Chant and even Robert Heinlein (for his Job: A Comedy of Justice). Borrowing heavily from Tolkien and Lewis, Sammons speculates upon the impact the subgenre has had on faith in our secularized times. As in her earlier A Guide Through Narnia (1979), she is able to evoke in us something of the joy and wisdom of Christian fantasy even as she analyzes it --quite a trick in a scholarly work. She pulls together and explicates throughout A Better Country the' 'T olkien /Lewis" theories of speculative fiction (her book takes its very structure from those theories), noting the differences between the two scholar-fantasists, but also and most especially empha sizing their theoretical congruence. Too, she pulls other writer/theorists into the mix: George MacDonald, GK Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Madeleine L'Engle, and Ursula Le Guin. Sammon's lively synopses of Christian fantasies, many of which you will not have read, add much to the book. But there is a didactic and confessional strain in Sammon's book, and it is sometimes difficult to decide whether it is more a scholarly effort to locate and understand Christian fantasy or Christian apologet ics. In the last sentence of A Better Country, for example, Sammons asserts that "the similarity between fantasy and the Gospels, perhaps 17


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 more than any other, gives this genre its legitimacy and true purpose." (p.151) And one wonders atthe exclusion of Charles Williams, who is not mentioned once by Sammons. Surely, Williams was a Christian fantasist of some influence but just as surely, he was not an orthodox Christian whose fantasy mirrored the assumptions of Christian religious ortho doxy. It seems at least possible that it is not literary influence alone, but also some test of orthodoxy that has determined who has been included for consideration in A Better Country. The application of such a test would not be wholly inappropriate in a book dealing with Christian fantasy --one must decide what Christian fantasy is and what it is not. But excluding Williams needs at least a brief justification by Sammons. A Better Country raises many fascinating questions that have only occasionally been pursued in sf studies since Tolkien and Lewis: what is the relation of the spiritual, the religious and the aesthetic? What are the ontological assumptions which lie implicit in the most satisfying fantasy? How do fantasy and science fiction affect us and whyt Transposing the analyses of Tolkien and Lewis from their Christian metaphor into the metaphors of philosophy and the phenomenology of religion would, I believe, further our consideration of such questions by giving us a greater heuristic parallax upon them and by making the religious/literary theories of Tolkien and Lewis more widely available for the meta-aesthetic consideration of fantasy and science fiction. But the didactic and apologetic intent of A Better Country, a strength in the book's sympathetic survey of Christian fantasy, does not allow such a project: if religious fantasy is most truly Christian fantasy, and if Christi anity is most deeply true, any translation of Christian categories of understanding into philosophical or religious phenomenological cate gories must be seen as diluting and diminishing our understanding, not increasing it. Perhaps some Christian scholars and fantasists will embrace this book. The rest of us, while finding it interesting as a reference to recent Christian fantasy, will also find its incomplete at tempts at theoretical synthesis frustrating and at times even disconcert ing. Still, I recommend this book for its updated overview of Christian fantasy. --Peter M. Lowentrout Surprising New James Series Entry Tintner, Adeline R. The Pop World of Henry James: From Fairy Tales to Science Fiction. UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 1989, xxv + 317p. $44.95 hc. 0-8357-1855-7. In his famous essay, "The Art of Fiction," Henry James pro claimed that the best authors were those upon whom "nothing was lost." James, of course, was referring to the artist's ability to see the fullest significance in the smallest nuance of experience. But he was also calling on writers to be open to a wide range of possibilities and to reject those who would restrict them to certain types of subject matter and treatment. Some of James's critics, however, have tried to enclose James within a temple of high art --separate from and even alienated from the popular culture of his own time. Adeline R. Tintner's latest book 18


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 refutes that assumption, replacing the isolated artist with a man who seemed to have absorbed every possible influence from every possible source, including fairy tales and science fiction, and triumphantly trans formed the raw material into his own intellectual property. The Pop World of Henry James is the third in a series of books in which Tintner explores the influence on James' imagination. In The Museum World of Henry James (1986) and The Book World of Henry James (1987), Tintner charted James's use of the visual arts and literary classics. The Pop World, which is the most original and surprising of the three volumes, extends our awareness of James's sources to new areas, specifically: fairy tales, oriental ism, Greek and Roman myths, fOPular literature In England and America, Kipling, press reports 0 public scandals, and the science fiction of H.G. Wells. The mix of subjects may seem eccentric, but Tintner succeeds in enlarging conventional defini tions of popular culture. Furthermore, her close readings of numerous texts are supported by fifty-six illustrations that provide conclusive visual evidence for her assertions about the nature of the popular imagination. Critics will find new insights in each chapter, but the most impressive section of her book is the lengthy discussion of how James's childhood reading of fairy tales made a lasting impact on the imaginative artist. The weakest section is probably the one on Wells and science fiction, in which Tintner's arguments seem less developed and less original. Even here, however, she modifies the work of previous scholars by convincing us that Wells's influence on James extended far beyond The Time Machine. The sections on American and British popular literature show James's imagination stimulated by such diverse figures as Braddon, Dickens, Oliphant, Whyte-Melville, Cummins, Hale, Alcott, Fawcett, Crawford, and others. While these writers represent only a fraction of James's immense reading in nineteenth-century fiction, they do suggest the range of popular subject matter that intrigued James: sensation novels, magazine stories, children's books, the novel of society, the historical romance, etc. The result is a more complete picture of James as a reader open to a remarkably wide range of themes and genres. In detailing the nature of influence, Tintner usually finds specific points in which James's text alludes to or echoes that of a predecessor, but more important is the skillful way in which she shows James transforming a source to fit his own preoccupations. The primary audience for this book is the scholar devoted to the life and works of Henry James. Tintner's book will seem less useful to the reader who knows only a handful of James's masterpieces orthe student who is only beginning to study the master. Nevertheless, the scholar who knows James --orthought he did --will find Tintner's work extremely valuable. Although many of the essays that appear in her three books on James have been published separately, the books form a sustained argument which assumes a significance far beyond that of mere source hunting. Tintner successfully demonstrates that popular culture helped to shape the "great good place" of the Jamesian imagination. Further more, she argues persuasively that James felt driven to rewrite almost every interesting text that he ever read. Her enterprise is thus part of the recent critical movement which sees the meaning of any text as emerg ing from its dynamic relationship to other works. Although she avoids 19


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 the jargon that often accompanies and vitiates many treatments of "intertextuality" or the "anxiety of influence," her analyses are detailed and sophisticated. In discussing the psychological implications of this act of rewriting other writers, Tintner is especially interesting when she focuses on the differences between the texts, explores the ways in which James modifies a source, and describes the psychosexual implications ofthose variations. The Pop World of Henry James and Tintner's other books not only illuminate James's fictional worlds but also provide a useful model for dealing with the complex question of literary Influence. --Alfred Bendixen The Future of Stevenson Criticism Veeder, William and Gordon Hirsch, eds. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde After One Hundred Years. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988, xx + 312p. $47.50 hc. 0-226-85228-8. $16.95 pb. 0-226-85229-6. In producing a collection of essays on Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, William Veeder and Gordon Hirsch are not celebrating a long tradition of rich critical insight. In fact, they acknowledge that Stevenson's position in the literary canon is at best uncertain and that his famous short novel has received surprisingly little first-rate critical attention. Their collection, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde After One Hundred Years, is more concerned with the future of Steven son criticism than the past. Veeder and Hirsch attempt to launch a Jekyll and Hyde revival by providing a series of new essays that approach Stevenson's novel from a wide range of critical positions. The result is a book far superior to the usual collection of critical essays. It is clear that Veeder and Hirsch have done more than gather together essays --there is a consistent thoroughness of analysis and cogency of argument that show the work of good editors as well as good critics. Furthermore, these essays prove triumphantly that scholars can employ the insights of literary theory and post-structuralist criticism without becoming pretentiously dense or hopelessly confusing. In fact, I would recommend this book to anyone who wanted an accessible introduction to recent critical theory. Veeder and Hirsch's book is divided into ten chapters, which are grouped into five pairs of essays focusing on questions of text, voice, repression, genre, and context. The book also contains a useful bibliography and a series of stunning illustrations showing how artists, actors, and directors have captured Stevenson's vision of a divided soul moving within a world of surreal nightmare. In the section on textual questions, William Veeder provides some valuable source material for future scholars --a collation of the surviving sections of manuscripts that reveal the dramatic changes Stevenson made during the process of composition. Both the collation and Veeder's commentary on the way revision eliminated a more daring treatment of sexuality deserve serious attention. The treatment of voice in the essays by Peter K. Garrett and Ronald R. Thomas is exciting even when their arguments are not fully conVincing. Garrett explores the way 20


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 in which the novel sets up and then subverts principles of order and unity. Thomas offers intriguing insights into the relationship between writing and identity, but his analysis does not convince me that Stevenson's treatment of the disintegration of personality brings his "work closer to that of Beckett than that of Dickens. II His argument simply ignores the complexity of the Victorian novel which rarely moves to the kind of facile unity he attributes to it. William Veeder's very long essay on patriarchy begins by asking why Stevenson's fictional world lacks women but is filled with profes sional and celibate men. It then uses both psychoanalytical and feminist theory to delineate the ways in which a patriarchal society results in confused emotions, alienation, and the breakdown of community. Veeder s analysIs is acute and ground breaking. The question of repression also receives detailed attention from Jerrold R. Hogle, whose complex argument seems to me most rewarding when it focuses on the details of the text and less valuable when it converts the speculations of recent theorists (especially Kristeva's comments on abjection) into truths about the nature of birth and death. The section on genre relates the novel to the gothic mode, the detective story, and science fiction. Gordon Hirsch traces the similarities between Jekyll and Hyde and Its most important gothic predecessor, Frankenstein, but his analysis is most useful in revealing how Stevenson explodes the presumptions underlying most detective fiction. Donald Lawler asserts that the novel's power stems partly from the "mythic transformations" of Gothic science fiction. An essay by Patrick Brantlin ger and Richard Boyle shows how the ambiguities in the novel and in Stevenson's own self-image may derive from the author's need to "mediate between an ideal of literature as high art and a desire for mass market success." Virginia Wright Wexman explores Mamoulian's film version of the novel (the one featuring Frederic MarCh), which she argues is the most accomplished of the at least 69 films inspired by the text. The essays in this collection pay tribute to Stevenson's achieve ment in diverse ways, but they share a sophistication of approach and an admirable commitment to exploring the artistic complexity of a ne glected masterpiece. Furthermore, this excellent collection of critical essays demonstrates that recent critical methodologies --feminist, marxist, psychoanalytical, and deconstructionist -are especially suited to the study of science fiction, the gothic, and the fantastic. --Alfred Bendixen New Names/Familiar Theories Widmer, Kingsley. Counterings: Utopian Dialectics In Contemporary Contexts. UMI Research Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 1988, 196p. $34.00 hc. 0-8357-1861-1. Mr. Widmer makes no secret of his political bias as a libertarian. He neither makes claims that Counterings presents a theory of utopias 21


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 or a definition of utopia, nor, for that matter, does he define most of the terms he coins for groups of utopian (or eutopian) and dystopian works that are the core of his study. This is fortunate, as the work is a loosely connected series of essays on a small body of novels in the utopian/ dystopian canon. He offers little that is new in Counterings, other than to give his own opinion on this canon discussed competently elsewhere, and to dazzle the reader with a plethora of terminology, some legitimate but most invented. The critiques of well-known works such as Zamaiatin's We and Le Guin's The Dispossessed are not particularly revealing. Even in the first chapter of five, entitled" Diatopianism: Soma Dialectics of Utopianizing," he doesn't present a coherent theory to counter the definitions of Darko Suvin, Michael Holquist, and Gary Saul Morson which he competently critiques. His theory that "Utopian" is continuous countering sounds suspiciously like the theory of continuous revolution. Since we all know of this theory, we really don't need a new name for it. Finally, he does not develop countering as a critical or political theory, nor does he unify the five chapters which include, "Diatopianism (see above), "Revtopianism: Some Reversals in Utopianizing", "Femtopian ism: Some Gendered Utopianizing", "Primatopianism: Some Pastoral Eutopianizing", and "Entopianism: Some Ends of Utopianizing." Widmer does a satisfying amount of what he does best, discus sions of novels, stories and films with utopian, dystopian and anti utopian elements. But since one chapter of five is an introduction and one is a conclusion, the substantive chapters are a bit thin. His most insightful critique occurs in this first chapter. Mosquito Coast probes the relationship between megalomania and the common tropes of pastoral and technological perfection found in this kind of fiction. Least insightful are his 'counterings' of what he calls feminist speculations. This is surprising, as the critic's avowed theory of utopian creation is dialectical and yet he seems incapable of accepting feminist speculations as dialectical stages. For some reason, he finds male speculations of imperfect utopias to be more acceptable as reactions to their respective socio-political periods than feminist ones. The general Utopian work is allowed a symbolic dimension while Femi nist and separatist works are reduced to a mimetic or prescriptive intent with statements such as, "This femtopian assumption seems to be that women are inferior in their ability to imagine societies with men for women's pleasure or domination." Widmer has missed the point of contemporary feminist utopian and dystopian speculations on several levels, which include that of the utopia as a countering, a radical critique of the author'S own socio-political sphere and a stage in the dialectical process. Widmer hasa good, solid knowledge of utopian, dystopian and anti-utopian writings, both classical and modern, but displays little grasp of the dialectic that he insists on calling "countering". While I found the book entertaining reading, I can recommend it only to critics who wish to have the completist's knowledge of Utopian critical works and not to the general reader dabbling in Utopian critical theory. --Janice M. Bogstad 22


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 I FICTION I Walk into the Past Appel, Allen. Twice upona Time. Carrol & Graf, NY, 1988, 351 p. $18.95 hc. 0-88184-384-9. Twice upon a Time is marketed as a "novel," not as sf, and it is missing some elements sf readers take for granted, particularly any explanation of how its main character, historian Alex Balfour, walks into the past (not for the first time), into the bizarre landscape of the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876. But explanations aren't missed. Alex's adventures in the past: living with "colored" men (to whom the word "black" is a racist insult); witnessing the oppression of native Americans; ultimately tearing across the country with Sam Cle mens (though bringing in as colorful and overused a figure as Mark Twain could have been unbearably cute, Appel manages to pull it offperhaps by shaving the man's trademark wild hair and moustache) on a desperate mission to catch Custer at Little Big Horn, make one subplot. Alex's lover, Molly Glenn's journalistic assignment to the modern Little Big Horn, which leads to a growing, dangerous involvement with the spiritual mission of an apparent madman who may be Crazy Horse's descendent, makes the other. Appel interweaves these subplots to successfully couch good, complex thinking about the nature of race relations within a rip-roaring fantasy adventure plot. The prose is better than average, and Alex and Molly each get some nice erotic moments in the story. Therewill undoubtedly be more Alex Balfour stories (the dust jacket promises one forthcoming): I can't object. --Martha Soukup A FRENETIC LIFE Attanasio, A.A., Wyvern. Ticknor & Fields. NY. 1988, 422 p. $19.95, hc. 0-89919-409-5. A. A. Attanasio's early success was ensured by a sizable, post nuclear holocaust novel, Radix whose self-analytic hero endured a vast number of physically, spiritually trying adventures. His newest contribu tion, Wyvern, an historical and fantastic work, set in the early 17th century is nevertheless thematically and stylistically similar. Broad, sweeping adventure is often part of Attanasio's novels, and here Wyvern conforms. The novel begins in the jungles of Borneo in 1916, when Jaki Gefjohn, or Matubrembrem, is seven. By page seven, we are back in 1607 and on the high seas with his father, a Dutch sailor. Between 1607 and 1630, when the novel ends, Jaki's frenetic life has encompassed Borneo, Burma, Mongolia, Malaysia, the coast of Africa and the high seas, coming to rest finally in the new world. Jaki's spiritual and social journey is equally arduous, as he becomes shaman, pirate, merchant, lover, husband and father, moving from one role to the other 23


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 as if in some part of a drugged dream. His charm, as a character, emanates from a positioning as both student and teacher. This is most startling in his relationship to a trader's daughter, Lucinda Quarles. Lucinda acts as Jaki's transition from the role of a shaman and pirate outcast to civilized European. She becomes the reason for his survival and displays intelligence, constancy and stamina, qualities often left unsaid of the women in stories like Wyvern. Attanasio's knowledge of both the history and geography of the 17th century is enviable. While the hero survives, as a half-breed, the beginnings of modern trade relations between Europe and the rest of the world, the reader is assaulted with a native perspective of its tragic face, the decline of tribal cultures in the tropics and Africa that had existed since the beginnings of remembered time. While Jaki takes his cue from culturally diverse father figures, Dutch traders who are his physical and first spiritual fathers, Jabalwan, a skilled shaman in Borneo; Pym, a pirate captain; and other unlikely sources, the reader is constantly conscious of an authorial hand weaving together a panorama of philosophy, emotion, spirituality, and self-knowledge. The fact that all this introspec tion is played against a fantastic backdrop that includes every day dreamer's idea of the most attractive lives of high adventure doesn't thematically detract from Jaki's story. Attanasio's portrayal of sophisti cation in the 'savage mind' and in non-European forms of science lends depth to what is otherwise a tale reminiscent of Odysseus or Aeneas. If some of the characters seem too good, or too bad, to be true, the story itself hangs together compellingly from beginning to end to form a portrait of the human struggle to maintain sanity in a world that is not naturally organized around its needs. Attanasio has achieved a novel that can be read, reread and appreciated on multiple levels, and from multiple moods. --Janice M. Bogstad Slice of Future History Bear, Greg. Eternity. Warner Books, NY, October 1988, 432 p. $16.95 hc. 0-44-651402-0. The adventures Bear began in Eon are here continued if not concluded, with many of the characters from the earlier novel returning or reaching their individual ends. Eternity fits into a future history that Bear has been building since his early stories, encompassing a develop mental line from the present. This larger narrative takes a path through two nuclear holocausts and beyond to the far future earth of the Nexus Hexamon and the political struggles of the Geshels and Naderites. At the same time, this is no series book--the hooks and cliff hangers of the earlier novel don't embroider the end of this one. Moreover, while we might expect here the comforting plot and character resolutions common to sequels, Bear vigorously resists those tempta tions. Vasquez, the brilliant yet vulnerable physicist who ends Eon 24


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 stranded in a parallel earth, never finds her way home, and neither does her surrogate granddaughter. On the other hand, Pavel Mirsky seems to return home (this time looking rather like Clarke's David Bowman in 2010), yet turns out not to be quite the "old" Pavel, but a variously embodied/disembodied spirit or mental entity "returned" from the distant future of the Hexamon itself. Just when we think the writer has finally killed off Lanier, the chief administrative whip of Eon turns out to have been translated. We also expect a fuller view of Olmy, the intriguing secret agent figure in Eon, but while Bear allows us a virtually complete internal view of Olmy, he complicates this perspective by melding that character's consciousness with that of the alien Jart. All of which says that at the level of character development Eternity struggles successfully with the expectations posed by its being a sequel. Bear is successful in enriching our experience of the novel's plot, and his design is especially important in this success: the charac ters appear in multiple interlinked (though not necessarily linear) sketches, briefly drawn and set to work, but purposefully lacking the more sustained focus we have seen in some of the earlier work (e.g., Blood Music or Infinity Concerto). In this respect, Eternity functions more like a discontinuous symphony than a unified concerto, an ap proach Bear used in Forge of God, and one which serves its own aesthetic purposes. In effect, he gives us a future history in linked slices and demon strates the ways his extrapolations from current science (especially information theory and the study of chaos) playas vital a role in organization as is common in the novel of ideas, where characters are often flattened as a result. But Eternity has greater success because of its innovative design: here characters and ideas seem equally alive (even though partial), together forming a compelling gestalt, even if a complex and diverse one. --Len Hatfield Not Krazy, Just Annoying Cantor, Jay. Krazy Cat: A Novel in Five Panels. Alfred A Knopf, Inc., NY, 1987 (issued Jan., 1988), $16.95, cloth. 0-394-55025-0. The subtitle of Jay Cantor's Krazy Cat calls it a "novel in five panels", but it's not a novel; it's closer to an essay or lecture in which Cantor works out his ideas about men and women, fiction and life, sex and death, art and America. The five panels refer to five episodes in the adventures of Krazy and Ignatz, the cat and mouse of George Herriman's joyous and surreal comic strip, Krazy Cat. In the first, Krazy and Ignatz witness the first atomic test, which is for Krazy (and for America, Cantor keeps insisting) the Fall from innocence, the beginnings of a knowledge of death, of an interior self, and of the desire for "roundness"--not to be flat (or simple) as she has been. Depressed, she refuses to work any longer. In the next three "panels" Ignatz, who has ambitions toward both high art and popular success, tries to get her back to work. These 25


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 chapters are basically satiric, attacking (and frequently belaboring) psychoanalysis, the empty of Hollywood ("mirrors reflecting mirrors"), and the narrowness, selfishness, and media fascination of terrorists. The last "panel", "Venus in Furs" (the title of a 19th century novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, eponym of "masochism"), is a drawn-out needlessly sexual episode in which Ignatz and Krazy con struct human identities in order to explore sex, and create a fiction about these identities that mirrors their comic striP life. Mr. Cantor is by no means a bad writer, but he does have flaws. Steeped in both "literary" and popular culture, history, and film, he exhibits the kind of elitist eclecticism that feels all the past is there to be cannibalized. His regurgitated themes, motifs and ideas are chewed over but not their parts still identifiable. The writing is self conscious, at times pretentious and showily clever. His thinking is plagued by a fascination with seemingly every trendy junk idea possible. Still, it is not what he says that is bad, it is that he says it. The book becomes a series of obvious jabs in the satiric sections, and overarching pontifications otherwise. In the fifth panel particularly he indulges in psychobabble statements about women, parents and power with no hint of Ironic distance, interspersed with statements about Art and America. The best response is to quote another comic strip character, Opus the Penguin: "Perfect! EI Barfo!" Cantor's academicism (he teaches at Tufts) seems to have spoiled his writing; it's only a few steps beyond the sort of cute/clever stuff written by English professors who are convinced that Criticism is Just as Important as the Works it Criticizes. He can't not analyze and explicate. He comes to fiction backwards, ideas first, giving us not fully fleshed fictional life, but a sort of walking skeleton which he uses to display those ideas. For him, all is defined and explicit. And he will not let the reader alone with even that: the last extended scene in the book has Ignatz (as human) reading Kate (Kat) a critical piece in the Times about their nightclub act, in which Cantor neatly discusses, ties up, and puts to rest (or to sleep) all the book's important themes. Cantor is like a waiter who brings your food, then pushes you out of the chair, eats it himself, tells you about it, and thinks that's as good as you having a meal. And he expects a tip. Cantor tries to work out a solution for the problems of modern life, particularly the problems of men and women together, and there is something almost admirable about his attempt. However, he does not, as Art Spiegelman does in Maus, give us something new by using comic strip characters, but trivializes his themes by abstracting them from real life. His portentous phrases and well-phrased observations are weary ing and, finally, boring. Despite the problems with this book (and his first, the unreadable Death of Che Guevara), Mr. Cantor is clearly bright and talented. If he gets over displaying his cleverness and decides whether he wants to write essays or fiction (or at least comes to perceive the distinction), he may produce something interesting and worthwhile. --William Mingin 26


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 Soul Theft Fergusson, Bruce. The Mace of Souls: A Novel of the Six Kingdoms. William Morrow, NY, 1989, 352p. $17.95 hc. 0-688-Q8477-X. Like his first novel, The Shadow of His Wings, this work is a sort of quest set in a fantasy world called simply the Six Kingdoms. Fergus son has not chosen, as other less talented and imaginative authors have, merely to grind out a trilogy, but rather to recount another story with similar historical and cultural assumptions--in this sense his work is reminiscent of Delany's "Neveryona" tales, but without the burden of their enormous philosophical and temporal complexity. Falca Breks lives in the slums of Draica, capital of Lucidor, where he exists by running a "protection" service for Treelimbs (a monkeylike race who are the local drug dealers). His is a world of cruelty and violence, dominated by the "look out for number one" rule. It is a world he wants out of. He saves his money and dreams of moving out of Lucidor's cold drizzle to the warm, tropical climate of Gebroan. He dreams of finding the "one mark" who can be conned out of sufficient cash to make his move possible. Amala Damarr, the rich, beautiful, upper-class woman who voluntarily works at a relief center for Treelimbs, seems to fit Flaca's idea of the "one mark." He intends to use and discard her. But love and hate intervene. Falca has unsuccessfully tried to poison Saphrax, one of his muscle men. Determined to be revenged, he falls in with the Spirit Lifters, a quasi-religious group who have the ability to steal souls, leaving the living bodies of their victims to roam as "Empties." Saphrax takes his revenge by lifting Amala's soul. Falca determines to get it back. Thus he embarks on a quest that not only takes him (by means of a series of adventures) to Gabroan, but also forces him to examine his own inner life. This is a fast paced work, full of action and rich in detail. At the same time, it is a novel which also explores the way character develops. Falca is convincing, fully rounded and capable of growth. Molded by the society in which he has been dragged up, he is still capable of remolding himself. He seems at first to be governed by completely reprehensible moral principles, but he gradually discovers new ones. The Mace of Souls should appeal to a wide audience because it draws an imaginative and attractive world in which characters cope with interesting problems. Moreover, it manages to be convincingly moral without being preachy. Recommended. --Robert Reilly Through the Looking Glass With Gun and Camera Ford, JohnM. The Scholars of Night. TOR, NY,1988,313p.$16.95hc. 0-312-93051-8. 27


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 It's hard to see how a book by the author ofThe Dragon Waiting could be allowed to go unnoticed, but TOR has managed to keep this one a secret. Perhaps it's not entirely their fault. This is one of those books that is barely science fiction, being more of a spy story than otherwise, and set In or very close to the present. Still, there is just enough technological innovation to qualify it as science fiction, should you need an excuse to read it. Unless you are an extreme purist, you shouldn't need one. Ford is an excellent writer, this is a well-done thriller, and those are reasons enough. James Bond would have been a lousy spy, and not just because he was noticeable. Most intelligence work is drudgery. Bits of informa tion are culled from prosaic public sources and put together to form patterns which usually confirm just what any sensible person would have expected all along. Nevertheless, seeing the patterns requires a certain flair; a feel for what fits and what doesn't. Some people have it; most don't. Nicholas Hansard has it. Hansard is an historian. (The pieces of patterns do come from some out -of -the-way sources.) He does free-lance analyses for a private consulting firm. Many of them make use of his specialized training; all of them make use of his feeling for patterns. He IS well aware that this is intelligence work. Is the firm truly independent, or is it a government front? No matter. Hansard does it because it's fascinating work, not for the romance of knowing secrets. The money is good, and he's not really involved, is he? To Hansard, it's a game. He enjoys games; he's good atthem. He especially enjoys role-playing games. Perhaps that makes it easier for him to discount the little touches, such as disguised couriers, which should tell him that he's playing for keeps. Then a friend and mentor dies -is assassinated, in fact, al though very discreetly. Who did it? And why? The man was working on a newly-discovered play by Christopher Marlowe. What could that have to do with spying out secrets 400 years later, and how could it have anything to do with "moles" who have been burrowing into Western intelligence agencies since World War II? Hansard is drawn into the investigation of his friend's death. Who was he working for? What was he working on? Whatever it was has taken on a life of its own and is known to be proceeding on a completely free-lance basis. It is out of the control of any nation's intelligence system. No one, except perhaps some of those involved, knows what the scheme is, but all except those who know have an urgent desire to scotch it. The new Marlowe play is about spies. Was Marlowe a spy? Did he get in too deep to escape before he realized what was being done to him? Was his death a "termination with extreme prejudice?" There are unnerving parallels with Hansard's own situation. Hansard is drawn in deeper and deeper. His employers know that he is nottruly committed. How far would they go how far would they have to go --to own him? And for whom are they working? Ford has taken a basic plot and done something remarkable with it. Everywhere there are parallels and echoes: Hansard and Marlowe, games and plays, actors and spies, characters and lives. The 28


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 harmonies and resonances are rich and complex. Although it may seem a strange epithet to apply to a spy story, Ford's style has a lyrical quality to it. Not for him the grittiness of LeCarre or the amoral cynicism of Trevanian, but neither is he a romantic. This is a tale of corruption and betrayal. If there is an iridescent sheen about it, that is the superficial glamour of decay. I do not think the book is perfect. There is a tendency which can also be seen in Ford's other works to connect things for no reason apparent to the reader. One is willing to accept that they are connected, but it would be nice to know why. But these are second thoughts. There is a lot going on here. Once caught up in it, the play's the thing. Ford does a fine job of building suspense with all the key players in plain sight, an impressive feat of considerable technical difficulty. Read the book. And if anyone asks you to join a role-playing game, think twice! --William M. Schuyler, Jr. A "Trilogy" Completed Harrison, Harry. Return to Eden. Bantam/Spectra, NY. August 1988, 348p. $18.95 he. 0-553{)5315-9. [Now a Bantam/Spectra, July 1989,448p. $4.95 pb. 0-553-27700-6.] Because it begins with a short Prologue recounting the gist of earlier events (in West of Eden, 1984, and Winter in Eden, 1986), readers can easily follow the story in this last of a trilogy--although they will miss much of interest--without having read the earlier volumes. Return to Eden continues Harrison's account of the struggle between humanity: Tanu (hunter-gatherers), Sasku (cliff-dwelling farm ers), and Paramutan (furry, tailed, fishermen) and the reptilian Yilane (brutal, female-dominated, advanced genetic engineers) in a world where the dinosaurs did not become extinct and the ice age has begun. It is a carefully constructed, imaginary world, based, as Harrison ac knowledges, on advice from experts in language, biology, and philoso phy. A 72-page appendix, "The World of Eden," treats in some detail the history, languages, and zoology of "our world as it would be if a meteor had not struck the Earth 65 million years ago. In Return to Eden, as in the earlier volumes, the Tanu are led by Kerrick and the Yilane by Vainte,who had held him captive during his youth and come to hate him when he escaped. Kerrick's comfortable island existence is broken when a small hunting party from the Yilane city of Alpeasak, now re-occupied by the city of Ikhalmenets (forced from its island base by approaching cold), breaks the truce by attacking the two Male Yilane who are Kerrick's friends. Once more Vainte, rebelling against authority, launches an attempt to eliminate the hated Kerrick. Much of the book, however, is taken up with the scientific experiments of Ambalasei in her new city in South America and with the growing power ofthe Daughters of Life who worship the "Spirit of Life," led by Enge, who had been Kerrick's teacher. And, once again, the brilliant scientific and 29


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 technological talents of the Yilane are contrasted with the less sophisti cated, but rapid adaptability of the Tanu to demonstrate why only those who follow Kerrick and Enge can mediate between the two hostile races. Publishing the Eden story was, as Harrison points out (letter to me 23 January 1987), the publisher's idea, "just for identification." Harrison intended it as a single, SOO,OOO-word novel; fortunately, "two natural breaks" that would not leave "the reader feeling cheated by contrived or cliffhanging endings to parts one and two" permitted splitting it into a "tripartite novel." As a result of these decisions each volume can stand alone as a fascinating and eminently readable work, but the work taken as a whole is much more interesting, much better written, and deserving of consideration, from that paint of view. Given that the dinosaurs did not, as in the Earth we know, perish in some natural disaster, the world of Eden is carefully portrayed. Cold blooded animals (murgu, to the Tanu) have dominated the world except for North America (Gendasi) where mammals (ustuzou, to the Yilane) have been supreme. The Yilane are an erect, carnivorous, highly intelligent species evolved some forty million years earlier from the "large and handsome" Tylosaurus which had earlier evolved from a primitive thecodent sea-creature through the marine-lizard mososaurs. The Yilane are careful planners who have genetically engineered both flora (their cities are grown from seed) and fauna (for example, hesotan, the monitor lizard modified to shoot poisoned darts when squeezed) to suit their own needs. Human beings are much more primitive, having progressed little beyond the hunter-gatherer, simple agriculture, and fishing stages of our own early ancestors, though, under Kerrick, they are quick to take advantage of captured hesotan and other Yilane technology. The coming of the Ice Age threatens all species and leads to the conflict upon which the story depends. Throughout the novel Vainte's pursuit of Kerrick and his followers, both his own people and the friendly Sasku and Paramutan, forces the humans to stand and fight and to mount attacks at the very heart of Yilane civilization. West of Eden ended with the Yilane outpost-city of Apeasak burned--the Yilane then knew nothing of flre--by Kerrick and his band of Sasku and Tanu, but Vainte's escape and Kerrick's refusal to allow the killing of Enge, for whom he still feels a powerful affection, and two surviving male Yilane had so angered the Tanu that they depart, leaving Kerrick and the Sasku to restore the city for their own habitation. In Winter in Eden Vainte, recovered from disgrace, leads a ferocious attack to exterminate the Tanu and Sasku, using newly developed poisonous plants and animals. With the aid of the Paramutan, Kerrick crosses the ocean and forces the leader of Ikhalmenets, off the coast of Entoban (Africa) who has supported Vainte, to accept a truce permitting Yilane re-occupation of Apeasak in return for forbidding further attacks on humanity. It is this truce that is broken at the beginning of Return to Eden. Characters, both human and Yilane, are carefully drawn and plausible. Among the humans the most important is Kerrick, who once thought of himself as Yilane and must not only lead the Tanu but establish bridges between them and the Sa sku, the Paramutan, and, where possible, the Yilane. Other significant human characters are 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 Kerrick's mate, Armun, and son, Arnwheet; Herilak, his closest compan ion, the great hunter who had begun the humanization of Kerrick; Kalaleq, the Paramutan leader, happy-go-lucky like all his people, but loyal to his friends and expert seaman; Sanone of the Saskus who quickly sees the advantages of allying with mastodon-keeping Tanu. Anthropological research has told us much of what early man must have been like, but there has never been, as far as we know, a non human civilization, and portrayal of Yilane society is consequently more interesting. Individuals stand out from the mass of Yilane: Vainte is consumed by a most un:Yilane-like hatred and is the ferocious enemy of Kerrick, her one-time ward; Lanefenuu, leader (eistaa) of Ikhalmenets, must reluctantly deal with the hated enemy for the greater good of her city; Enge, teacher and friend of Kerrick, turns from loyal advisor to Lanefenuu to equally loyal follower of Ambalasei and becomes increas ingly more devoted to the newer, kinder religion of the eight principles at Ungenenapsa; Ambalasei is the dedicated scientist, who will not be moved trom her path by either politics or danger and who with Enge represents all that is best in the Yilane world. Nadaske, changed by Kerrick's friendship leaves behind the trembling, fearful subservience of a typical male and becomes independent, self-asserting, and coura geous. In his final volume, Harrison brings to a satisfactory conclusion his tale of Earth as it might have been. On the way he has written a stirring tale about conflict between implacable enemies. The contrast between the strict caste system of the reptilian Yilane and their advanced knowl edge of biology and the democratic, pragmatic humans and their drive toward the physical conquest of their surroundings offers at least partial explanation for the innate mutual hatred of the two races. The world ot Eden is not only fascinating but eminently believable and belongs with the best imaginary worlds, triumphs like Arrakis, Helliconia, and Pem. In truth, this is the best of Harrison's work to date, and it takes its place with the best science fiction of recent years. Highly recom mended. --Arthur O. Lewis Inventive Mosaic Jennings, Phillip C. The Bug Life Chronicles. Baen, NY, January 1989, 304 p. $3.50 pb. 0-671-69801-X. These fifteen stories cover a thousand years in a future history that includes Jennings's 1988 novel Tower to the Sky. While there are some recurring characters in this collection, the story is discontinuous; in fact, despite the title, Chronicles is a mosaic, showing the origins or implications of ideas and technologies rather than offering a fully developed history, so that it bears roughly the same relationship to the earlier book that Larry Niven's Tales of Known Space does to Ring world. As was the case with Tower, this is not the Introductory or Orientation course for beginners and out-ot-towners, but no-holds-31


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 barred hard SF for readers already familiar with the mix of techno-socio political ideas and conventions available to the post-NivenjVar1ey gen eration. Here are (in no particular order) identity recording with all its implications (body-swapping and buying, deprivation of body as legal punishment, human minds, in machine bodies, human minds runninQ in computer-managed imaginary environments); exploration and exploita tion of the solar system by convict cyborgs (and the revolt of the convict laborers); reconstructed and resurrected personalties; governments and societies run by and for splinter groups of misfits and weirdos (the loonies of "Mondo Bizarro"); mysterious and powerful aliens (the Gate keepers). And so on. Jennings has a great deal of fun with the varieties of what might be called personhood. In addition to the bugs of the title (convict minds implanted in mechanical spacecraft bodies), we have the vast legions of the dead. These identities salvaged from physical mortality have no biological place to go, so they are radioed off to Mercury for storage in an electronic necropolis and entertained with role-playing computer games. Fictoids never were alive at all--artificial souls, characters originally developed for computer game/environments for the living, now granted legal status and corresponding rights. And schneggsshort for schwarzeneggers--are soldler-fictoids, unstoppable, one-di mensional fighting machines. This partial catalog of inventions and adaptations suggests what kind of SF this is--ingemous, busy, playful, sometimes in jokey, as in the case of Professor Bethke and his specialty of psychoneu rocybernetics, or PNC, pronounced "punk". While these stories require a solid background in state-of-the-art hard SF, they are more accessible than the sometimes-cryptic Tower to the Sky, and might be read as a preamble to that book as well as for their own (not inconsiderable) sake. --Russell Letson Keltiad Prequel Kennealy, Patricia. The Silver Branch. New American Library, NY, 1989. 445p. $18.95 hc. 0-453-00627-2. In The Silver Branch, Patricia Kennealy takes a step backward from her previous Keltiad novels, The Copper Crown (1984) and The Throne of Scone (1986). This new novel is set in the years immediately previous to the events in The Copper Crown and deals, briefly, with the parents, Fionnbarr and Emer, and, more completely, with the upbringing and education of Aeron Aoibhell, the main character in the previous novels. As before, Kennealy takes traditional materials, places them in a future setting, and tells a good story. The Silver Branch is very much a coming-of-age novel, and Kennealy describes Aeron's education in various disciplines, giving the most space to her training as a druid and, then, as a warrior. Along the way, the reader is introduced to characters who will be important and sees signs which presage events in the chronologically-later books. And partly because this is a coming-of-age novel, there is more emphasis upon Celtic traditions and less on the science fiction elements 32


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 than there was in the other two books. In many ways, Kennealy's books are similar to the best of the Dune series, especially Dune itself. She knows the traditional Celtic materials well and is able to fashion them into a science fiction (or, perhaps, science fantasy) series in such a way that the ancient materials blend well with their future setting. And in this book, as in the others, she provides a full array of maps, glossaries, histories, and other commen taries in almost 40 pages of appendices. It will not be awkward for those who have already read The Copper Crown and The Throne of Scone to now go back and read The Silver Branch first. For those who like a medieval future in which the traditional elements, this time Celtic, are conscientiously developed, the Keltiad series is highly recommended. --C.w. Sullivan III Imagination Fatigue Koontz, Dean R. Lightning. Putnam, NY, 1988,351 p. $18.95 hc. 0-399-13319-4. Koontz, Dean R. Oddkins. (Illustrations by Phil Parks; created by Christopher Zavisa.) Warner Books, NY, 1988, 183p. $17.95 hc. 0-44651490-X. In novel after novel, Dean R. Koontz has used complicated, suspenseful plots to deliver very simple morals. Of late, though, Koontz has forsaken the use of the complex characters and situations that thickened the texture of books like Whispers and Phantoms to fall back on gimmicks. Last year's bloated Twilight Eyes toyed with the figure of the unreliable narrator and then, having exhausted its potential, ran on (and on) as a drearily obvious tale of the triumph of good over evil. Lightning is a marked improvement over Twilight Eyes, but it too relies on a gimmick--the time travel paradox--to keep the reader from dwelling on its superficiality. With the aid of "the Lightning Road," a time travel project shrouded in secrecy for the first half of the story, Stefan Krieger makes periodic visits to the years 1955 through 1988 forthe express purpose of serving as a guardian angel to Laura Shane. Although initially bewil dered by Stefan's random appearances, Laura eventually comes to trust him and accept the control he has over events that shape her lifeespecially after she and Stefan discover that others are using the Lightning Road to track down and kill them both. It would be unfair to Koontz to give away any more of the plot, except to say that it turns on two revelations: the full identity of Stefan Krieger, a bad guy turned good guy; and the reason why Laura Shane and her son Chris are so earnestly sought by the time travelers. To put off having to address these matters as long as possible, Koontz milks the time travel paradox--the understanding that a person cannot go back in 33


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 time to change the present-for all it's worth. Indeed, the story's suspense holds up reasonably well as Koontz has characters presumed dead reappear at other times and in other places. In one instance, he even sabotages reader expectations by pursuing an alternate time line to show something that could never really happen in a Dean Koontz novel. But when he finally has to put all his cards on the table, Koontz reveals his book to be built upon the very sort of paradox it appears to be taking pains to avoid. The faulty logic of Koontz's story aside, Lightning's biggest drawback is its familiarity. Never mind that Robert Heinlein wrote the ultimate time travel paradox story over 40 years ago--more important is that any reader of Koontz's work will recognize Lightning as a recycling of set pieces that have appeared in his other books. For example, The House of Thunder, a novel published under Koontz's Leigh Nichols pen name in 1982 and reissued this year by Dark Harvest, has as its hero a former Russian spy who, like Stefan Krieger, becomes disenchanted with his country's politics (the better to emphasize Koontz's respect for the freedoms guaranteed by a democratic society). Likewise, in Servants of Twilight, another 1988 Dark Harvest reissue, the booty over which the forces of good and evil fight is a child who, like Laura Shane's son, serves as a figure of uncorrupted innocence. Koontz is beginning to show imagination fatigue, and the increasing simple-minded ness of his themes only underscores this. It comes as no surprise, then, that this year Koontz has written his first children's book, a literary form that calls for a scaled-down imagination and an oversimplified moral. Oddkins refers to a special line of toys that serve as friends to gifted children. When their toymaker dies, they must venture out into the wor1d to seek a new one. Doing their best to thwart the Oddkins is an old line of evil toys that live in the basement of the toy shop and who want the run of the store. This battle of the two sets of toys is carried out on a human scale between the old toymaker's curmudgeonly son, who is gradually softened by the selflessness of the Oddkins (not to mention their chOice of a beautiful new woman toy maker), and Nick Jagg, a sinister ex-con who wants to become the new toys hop owner and master of the evil toys. Oddkins calls to mind several children's classics, including The Wizard of Oz and Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. The one it echoes most obviously is Thomas Disch's The Brave Little Toaster, but where Disch's charming story of five appliances in search of an owner addressed life values, and in such a way that it appealed to both children and adults, Oddkins goes straight for the moral jugular, with a heavy didacticism and cloying preciousness reminiscent of some of Dickens's more sentimental work. Phil Parks's illustrations are quite captivating, if a little frightening for children, but only the very young will sit still for this story. --Richard Michaels 34


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 Back to the Future McCaffrey, Anne. Dragonsdawn. Ballantine/Del Rey, NY, 1988,337 p. $18.95 hc. 0-345-33160-5. The "Dragonriders of Pern" series has provided Anne McCaf frey's public identity. Since "Weyr Search" won the Nebula in 1967, stories about Pern and its dragons have commanded a large and dedicated audience. "Weyr Search" was followed by the Hugo-winning "Dragon Rider" in 1967-8, and the two were enlarged into Dragonflight in 1968, followed by Dragonquest in 1971. McCaffrey also created the young adult "Dragondrums" books and various other spin-offs, continu,ng the original series with The White Dragon in 1978, Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern in 1983, and Nerilka's Story in 1986. None of her other books has created the audience that the Pern series commands. It is not surprising that, having systematically worked backwards in Pernian history, she has now written the definitive "prequel," supplementing the brief explanation included with the earliest books and enlarged in Moreta. Perhaps wisely, in Dragonsdawn McCaffrey does not bind herself to that history. Unfortunately, however, she does attempt to set the whole galactic scene for the settlement of Pern, tie up loose ends, and generally answer every question, whether her readers had asked it or not. Thus "Landing," the first section of Dragonsdawn, drags along, introducing us to a large (and largely unnecessary) cast of characters. with motivations cut to fit. Although a number of these characters do play some role in the future of Pern, once the story develops its actual protagonists and gets moving--with the discovery of the fire lizards--the relevant action could be inserted with far less didacticism (and more realism, as well). For instance, we find that Pern has been settled by contract "free holders," but the shift to the feudal system or the "later" (earlier) books is never even hinted at. But young Sean and Sorka, once allowed to take over the story from their elders (Paul Benden and company), do make charming and vital protagonists. We see through their eyes the development of the dragons, and the (bare) survival of the first years of Threadfall. The book does have some serious flaws aside from the opening. It seems to have been written in haste. Several situations are described but left hanging (one with possibly tragic consequences); the grubs are developed by a madman who leaves no recognizable notes--an explana tion of the discovery on the Southern continent in unbelievably, he simultaneously (and without motivation) provides Pern with its first large carnivores; people about whom we have learned a great deal simply disappear, while some to whom we have barely been introduced suddenly claim large parts of the action. The book could perhaps have used a formal "cast of characters," like that supplied with Nerilka's Story. Better yet, it could have used careful revision. There is. fortunately, action in plenty. once McCaffrey lets her story take the bit in its teeth. Those of us who learned long ago to love Pern can put up with clumsiness and non sequiturs (we've had to before). But Dragonsdawn looks and feel like the first (or perhaps the 35


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 second) work in a series. We may be in for yet another prequel. --Martha A. Barter Unusual Short Fiction Rusch, Kristine K., ed. Pulphouse: the Hardback Magazine, Issue One: Fall Horror, 1988, 267p., and Pulphouse: the Hardback Magazine, Issue Two: Speculative Fiction, 1988,267 p., both from Pulphouse Publishing, Box 1227, Eugene, OR 97440, $20.00 trade hc., $60.00 signed and boxed leather edition. Specializing in short fiction that transcends genre categories, Pulphouse proudly proclaims themselves "dangerous fiction," and does its best to live up to the claims. A unique concept, a limited-edition quarterly hardcover with leading-edge fiction. Don't be fooled by the word "magazine" in the title--this is not a flimsy, cardboard-cover read it-and-toss-it pulp, but a high-quality limited-edition hardcover on acid free paper, with stories by major writers side by side with talented up and coming new writers. Pulphouse Publishing--which consists of Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, both writers themselves--seems to have identified a niche for original short stories in the specialty book market, and figured out exactly the article to fill it. Pulphouse is published in a limited edition of 1,250 copiesenough that everybody who wants one can find it, but few enough that when the print run is exhausted, collectors can hope for appreciation. Most of the stories are original for Pulphouse, with a few published only in foreign or obscure sources you're unlikely to have read before. To her credit, Kris Rusch's conception of horror is wide, ranging from conventional supernatural stories to subtle tales with no fantasy elements at all. In fact, I don't usually even like horror--but I liked these. The horror volume contains 21 stories and four short essays (I found the essays slightly less interesting than the stories, but they account for a negligible fraction of the book), with an exceptionally high percentage of excellence. Volume one includes stories by Bishop, Bryant, Cirilo, Tern, Raison, Taylor, Sproule, Johnson, Monteleone, White, J. N. Williamson, Webb, Wu, Epperson, Hopper, Wilhelm, Drizhal, Goulart, de Lint, and Ellison, and essays by Jack Williamson, Kim Antieau, and Jon Gus tafson. The most memorable stories include Michael Bishop's main stream story, "A Father's Secret," with a quiet subtlety that punches you right between the eyes, and Ed Bryant's violent wish-fulfillment urban adventure "While She Was Out," a story that would almost fit Redbook, if Redbook stories grew fangs and broke their chains to terrorize the neighborhood. Gary Raisor's "Cheapskate" combines both horror and humor so deftly that the final line leaves you unable to know whether to laugh or scream. Not to mention Jeanette M. Hopper's poignant story of innocence and the supernatural "We Lose It, Somehow," Kij Johnson's unusual vampire story "Ferata," the unfulfillable yearning of "Faith of our Fathers," J.N. Williamson's gross-out horror fantasy "Public Places," or 36


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 a dozen others. This is horror fiction that does its best to transcend boundaries and redefine what "horror" really means. Volume two, "speculative fiction" is the volume that fits in all the stories that are clearly fantastic or science fictionish or something, but can't easily be pigeonholed into any of the other niches. Volume two includes stories by Perry, Oltion, Davis, Landis, Swanwick, Wu, Resnick, Di Filippo, Hoffman, Easton, Hogan, Goulart, Bieler, Cross, Schlich, de Lint, and Robinson, with essays by Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, and Jon Gustafson. The most memorable story from the speculative fiction volume was certainly Michael Swanwick's "Foresight," a story which might have been just-another cyberpunk story of industrial datatheft and double-crossing, except for the peculiar and brilliantly successful re verse-time setting. Several of the stories exhibit an offbeat humor,. including just-plain-wacky stories such as Nina Kiriki Hoffman's "Savage Breasts," whose title says it all and Steve Schlich's "The Dogfather," which purports to tell just what really does lie behind the "aimless spontaneity" of the wandering of neighboring dogs. Both these are reputedly underground classics, and quite certainly would have been unpublishable in almost any other market I can think of. Satirical stories range from Steven Bieler's light satire "Writing with Pad and Pencil" to the dark satire of Paul de Filippo's "Billy." The series will continue in 1988 with quarterly hardcover editions. Pulphouse is highly recommended to anybody interested in uncatego rizable, off-beat, and cutting-edge speculative fiction. --Geoffrey A. Landis Cause Celebre Rushdie, Salman. The Satanic Verses. Viking, NY, 1989, 547p. $19.95 hc. 0-670-82537-9. Impossible as it may finally be in considering The SataniC Verses, let's try to separate the Book from the Event. As a novel, then, The Satanic Verses is very much in the current of magical realism, intensely-described realistic action interrupted and frequently overwhelmed by fantastic events. The main characters are two men from India, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, who have become entangled in British culture. They find themselves stuck be tween cultures and identities, especially when they are miraculously saved from an aerial disaster but are given physical attributes of Good or Evil. Saladin, who of the two has been leading the more Upright, Correct life, suddenly has horns, sulfurous breath, and cloven hooves. Gibreel, the rakehell wastrel, has a halo and an aura of Niceness. And now, exploring the social situation and their own true natures, they must work out their salvation or damnation. The plot--and Rushdie's purpose--is much more complex than this summary suggests. In fact, every time a character begins to feel certain he has worked out a formula for living, Rushdie violently shatters that certainty. There are, it seems, no absolutes. Each human being contains hordes of selves, some positive and some negative, all strug37


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 gling to seize control or at least to be noticed, thus interfering with the calm observation that each of us needs. Each human being must have something to believe in and someone to love. But how to choose, how to be sure that one is seeing clearly enough in the first place--that's the dilemma Gibreel and Saladin face. There are no easy answers, and Rushdie certainly doesn't ease the complexity, adding supernatural attributes and multileveled visions to his characters' already confused struggles. Sometimes a reader is baffled, too; it's hard to work through The Satanic Verses as a narrative because there is no central norm for the fantastic to playoff. What holds attention through this chaos, though, besides Rushdle's audacity and wit, is his prose, which is vivid, supple, energetic, a lively part of the action itself. Whoever is telling the story, a reader feels is someone who is thoroughly engaged with life, even though bitterly disappointed at how he has been (self-) deluded in the past. To say that Rushdie is having a lover's quarrel with reality would diminish his feelings; he's mad as hell, and he wants to share his massive efforts to control and embody his furious fascination with the ways we live and evade life. He has produced a book that is as bewildering, startling, joyous, painful, and wonderful as life itself. Which brings us, inescapably, to the Event. The Satanic Verses is an international sensation, over twenty weeks on the NY Times bestseller list as I wrote, not because of its impressive literary qualities but because it has been loudly condemned as blasphemous. If religion demands unalterable, unquestioning faith, the book is blasphemy. In particular, it that the people who found or follow religions are just people, sUbJectto mortal contradictions and confusions. Rushdie understands the cruelty that accompanies any rigid creed. Even if we must believe and love, he seems to be saying, let's not forget that situations change and a different portion of our nature may need to be satisfied later. Because he's saying this powerfully, at a time when religious people feel threatened by secular relativism and react with desperate violence, Rushdie now is a fugitive, threatened with death. Perversely, this may be seen as a measure of his success. He knew what he was doing. As one of his characters, the frequently ignoble but occasionally genuine poet Baal, says, '''A poet's work ... To name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world and stop it from going to sleep' (97). But is this blasphemy? Another character comments that '''God chooses many means ... many roads by which the doubtful may be brought into his certainty'" (240). Perhaps. Personally, reading the Book and observing the Event, I was reminded of some lines I copied many years ago from Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript: I contemplate the order of nature in the hope of finding God, and I see omnipotence and wisdom; but I also see much else that disturbs my mind and excites anxiety. The sum of all this is an objective uncertainty. But it is for this very reason that 38


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 the inwardness becomes as intense as it is, for it embraces this objective uncertainty with the entire passion of the infinite ... an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness is the truth, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual. God help us if we imagine the way to overcome this life's uncertainties is by brewing venom in our minds and turning our hearts into stones. --Joe Sanders Baroque Romance Shaw, Bob. The Wooden Spaceships. Baen, NY, 1988, 304p. $15.95 hc. 0-671-65419-5. After making his reputation with scrupulously realistic sf of the British school, Shaw has turned to extravagant baroque romance in a series that began with The Ragged Astronauts (1986). The Wooden Spaceships is set a couple of decades after that novel, in which a low-tech culture on a world called Land managed to escape a devastating plague by sending balloons to neighboring Overland --to which it is, fortunately, linked by an atmosphere bridge. Toller Maraquine, hero of the migration, is now leading a boring life as a lord: about the only excitement he can find is in trying to prevent the execution of a lowly farmer for offending one of his fellow-lords, and all that gets him is a death sentence of his own. But fate intervenes: a threatened invasion by mutants from Land, who have survived the plague, and are now carriers. Remember the old space operas where there always seemed to be an invention a minute? Maraquine and his old comrade liven Zavotle are given only weeks to conceive, design, build and deploy a space defense system: wooden fortresses to be stationed in the gravity-free zone halfway between the worlds -and they do it! They even invent jet planes to attack the invading dirigibles, and they make short work of the enemy. Such short work, in fact, that Shaw must develop a subplot that grows into a main plot: a "haunting" of an Overland farming settlement that turns out to be linked to Farland, a more distant world in the same solar system as Land-Overland -and draws Maraquine into yet another round of invention and derring-do. Although all this provides an heroic conclusion to a hero's life, having two main plot lines in one novel is annoying. On the surface, The Wooden Spaceships reads a lot like a Jack Vance adventure, but beneath the surface there seems to lurk a hard science background reminiscent of Robert F. Forward. The psychology of Shaw's more realistic work, however, still shows through in the 39


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 characterization of Maraquine, and in a feel forthe fragility and instability of human relationships. It's a nice combination. --John J. Pierce Pleasant Fantasy Van Scyoc, Sydney J. Feather Stroke. Avon Books, NY, March 1989, 264p. pb. 0-380-75438-X. As in her earlier books, Van Scyoc continues to provide a narrative which is constantly inventive. Descriptions are especially vivid, though the characters are stock figures from narrative romance rather than believable people. Dara is a suitable heroine of fantasy, a child of seemingly simple folk yet with a mysterious birth, psychic powers, and a strange affinity with the creatures of the air. The narrative begins with the death of her sister, who chooses suicide rather than marriage to Rinari, a cruel and demanding figure from a frightening other province. The rest ofthe story follows Dara's own adventures with Rinari, who turns out to be more of a Byronic hero than a genuine villain. Readers of Van Scyoc's nine earlier science fiction and fantasy novels will not be disappointed with the new one. Despite Drowntide (1987), her publishers claim this to be her first true fantasy. She would seem to have a genuine gift for the genre, with a narrative that is evocative and poetic and a bardic prose style easily read aloud. Though there are hints of political and religious satire, there is still little here that would interest a reader who is not a fantasy enthusiast. This is a pleasant entertainment for an anticipated audience rather than an "important" novel. --Allene S. Phy-Olsen Not Just Another Pretty Fable Wrightson, Patricia. Moon Dark. American edition: McElderry Books, NY, 1988, 169p. $13.95 hc, 0-689-50451-9. The most wonderful thing about Australia is not its age alone, but the fact that people remember and recite at least 40,000 years of its long history. Patricia Wrightson, winner of the 1986 Hans Christian Andersen medal, makes this accessible. She doesn't write animal fables, though the most effective characters in Moon Darkareanimals. She simply tells stories, allowing those of us who are not in touch with the aboriginal memory to overhear as she explains that the creatures who share the world with us were once Men of Power. Moon Dark is set in contemporary Australia, along an isolated river, where a Ranger does his best to maintain a healthy balance of nature as more and more humans move in. Mort Davis has lived and fished there for years, with no company but his Blue Heeler dog, Blue. Most wild animals are protected from humans and know it; but they are 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 not protected from "natural" overcrowding, even when the crowding is caused by human migrations. Gradually the natural forage gets de pleted, and the animals who normally cohabit peacefully find themselves literally battling each other for survival. The Bandicoot War involves more and more innocent bystanders, and in desperation a wallaby who remember, "from far away and long ago, that it had the blood of Eminent Men" summons Keeting, Brother Moon. As she did in her science fantasy series, The Ice Is Coming (1977), The Dark Bright Water (1978), and Journey Behind the Wind (1981), Wrightson blends contemporary Australian problems and abo rigine myth with full respect for both. There are no easy answers; calling upon ancient powers does not magically solve problems; hard work, cooperation, and sacrifice are required from everyone, but most particu larly from those with the most to offer. In Moon Dark, the dog Blue (whose dingo blood ties him to the land as his long domestication ties him to humankind), must take the lead in planning the campaign to keep humans safely asleep while Keeting removes the predatory flying foxes. He has already been wounded in a battle against a marauding Red Dog, and will get no praise for his efforts from the animals or from Mort. Alternately gently serious and wildly funny, the solution to the Bandicoot War is shown as blessedly nonviolent and believably temporary. Like several others of her books, including Balyat (1989), The Nargun and the Stars (1987) and A Little Fear (1983, winner of the Boston Globel Horn Book Award), Moon Dark is probably aimed at a Young Adult audience, but like all the best YA literature, it is highly recommended for anyone young enough at heart to handle it. --Martha A. Bartter Flames and Flickers Zelazny, Roger. Fire & Frost. Morrow, NY, 1989, 288p. $16.95 hc. 0-688-08942-9. Zelazny may be our most gifted sf jfantasy writer, and the stories in his new collection all display his strengths; prose that snaps and glitters and sings; intelligence; fast, sharp perception. They also show the difference between stories in which Zelazny sets his skills on automatic pilot and ones in which he seriously engages himself in what's going on. Take, for example, "Mana From Heaven," a novelette written for Niven's anthology The Magic May Return. Zelazny's intro mentions how he had to hit the tale with a two-by-four to keep it from stretching out into a novel. Reading the story, one can feel how easily it could have just kept going, spinning along through episode after episode, as entertain ing and lo-cal as Madwand. It would have been an entertaining novel to read; a reader would have wondered, though, while later trying to recommend it to a friend, what the heck was the name of that thing? On the other hand, "Permafrost" looks for all the world like familiar Zelazny territory, another variation on the theme of humans' 41


SFRA News/etter, No. 171, October 1989 need to change vs. our tendency to remain static. The plot also seems familiar: the rotter redeemed. However, Zelazny has some neat, un pleasant things to say about "love" this time, and the story vibrates nastily in the reader's mind long after the reading. By the same token, "24 Views of Mt. Fuji, By Hokusai" is a consummately skillful look at how human experience can be shaped or distorted by art. It reminded me of Yeats's ambivalent meditations on entering "the artifice of eternity." In other words, since forming experi ence into art may encourage us to face new perceptions or to disguise our evasion of fresh challenges within a glittering Pattern--how best can we see? How best act? And find joy in both? Not inappropriate meditations for an artist with a dazzling mastery of technique .... In all, there are ten stories here, plus two essays and graceful introductory comments. Each is a pleasure to read. A few are consid erably more, proof of what an artist can do when skill and soul are joined. --Joe Sanders IYOUNG ADULTS I Beautifully Written Downbeat Fantasy Cormier, Robert. Fade. Delacorte, NY, 1988, 310p. $15.95 hc. 0-44050057-5. I have never believed a writer writes only for himself. Certainly the market and reader preferences affect writers output. Robert Corm ier, one of today's most outstanding and respected young adult writers, can be no exception. He himself often tells the story of his surprise at being told that his 1974 novel The Chocolate War would best be marketed for young adults. In an interview reported in the May 5, 1985, New York Times Book Review, he says, "I didn't think I was writing a downbeat adolescent novel. I thought I was writing a novel that reflected the truth of life as I saw it, being aware of the manipulations and the agonies of adolescence." This attitude and superlative style results in the finest young adult literature. In the last fifteen years all Cormier's novels have been suc cesses. All his subjects were difficult ones--misuse of power, betrayal, social terror and corruption, among others equally depressing. Yet the current market for young adults is promoting numerous unrealistic romance and horror novels and there could be the concern that new readers may not be attracted to novels by Cormier, who has never permitted a Hollywood ending nor the ambiguity that allows readers to choose the saccharine over the honest. Fade, a supernatural novel of a French Canadian family living in the French section of a Massachusetts factory town, may be a response to the market, but it is much more. It is compelling fantasy. From uncle to nephew, each generation has a fader, a teenager who can become invisible. Yet Cormier maintains his on-going, strong underlying mes42


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 sage, that although good does not always triumph and the bad aren't always punished, the struggle is worth it. While the child's idea of invisibility is fun--oh, the tricks one could play--the reality in literature, film, and Fade confirms its tragic aspects. There's no wish-fulfillment here--nor any compromise in the treatment of family relations, male sexual development, or religious commitment. Neither is the style less complex than most adult novels. Fade is divided into five parts: Paul, Susan, Paul, Ozzie, and Susan. The primary plot centers around Paul and is told from his viewpoint. In 1938 when Paul is thirteen and in the throes of first love, he learns that, like his Uncle Adelard, he can be invisible. The flash of pain and the cold he experiences as he fades are minor in comparison to the anguish of loving and losing his Aunt Rosanna; of losing his faith in friends, teachers, and church; and of recognizing that a price must be paid for misuse of power. In 1963, in the second Paul segment, Paul becomes aware of the existence of the next generation's fader, Ozzie. The point of view in the Ozzie section changes to third person, and then returns to that of Paul as Uncle Paul finds his nephew. And the conflict between power contained and power uncontrolled is brilliantly por trayed. The Susan sections differ from the common literary frame structure. A reader has already been completely entrapped in the fiction when, in the summer of 1988, Susan and the reader learn that this is an unpublished manuscript of the deceased successful novelist, Paul Roget. Is the work a novel or an autobiography? Could the fantasy be a reality? Should it at least be questioned? Ask any reader whether Robert Cormier has been convincing. The answer will be a terrified YES. It is indeed a game of dice we play. So Fade. Highly Recommended. --Muriel Rogow Becker Why Are They Here? Jacobs, Paul Samuel. Born Into Light. Scholastic Hardcover, NY, 1988, 149p. $11.95 hc. 0-590-40710-4. In 1913 New England, in a blaze of blinding light, a wild, naked child bursts into the lives of Roger Westwood, his sister Charlotte and their widowed mother. Dubbed Benjamin, the boy is at first bestial, crawling on all fours and speaking no English, but he learns with stunning rapidity under the tutelage of his foster mother and the country doctor / scientific essayist who becomes his stepfather. Soon the family acquires another equally brilliant wild foster child, Nell. It appears that such children have shown up all over, although most of them soon die, their internal organs ill-formed. As the children continue to grow and to learn at an extraordinary pace, it seems there is a greater purpose to their presence on Earth. This book, the first for its author, combines a touch of Staple danian sweep with the dignified human warmth of a Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are few surprises in the book except for the continuing pleasure of 43


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 its old-fashioned elegant writing and the unfolding love, intelligence and kindness of its characters. Born Into Light is a humanistic tonic for a cynical time. One hopes to see more from Jacobs. --Martha Soukup Calculated Kiddie-Lit Osborne, Victor. Moondream. William Heineman, Lorxion, 1988; Lothrup Lee & Shepard, NY, 1989. $11.95 hc. 0-688-08778-7. When pre-pubescent Rupert quarrels with his cousin Katie over "the best tennis racquet," he more-or-Iess accidentally pushes her into the fish pool. Sent supperless to bed, he has a nightmare, and calls for help; Katie promptly rushes into his bedroom to grapple with a "Grabbly" trying to kidnap him, and is carried off herself. Rupert's sense of honor then demands that he set out to rescue her. This conventional lesson in gentlemanly behavior is obviously designed for upper-class English schoolrooms. I can't believe any intelligent child would find it compelling, however. Osborne's powers of invention are thin and tired; his characters are the usual kiddie-lit cartoons (Captain Dog of the flying pirates, Porko the pig, Beaver, Owl, etc.); and the narrative, though fast-paced, is utterly unconvincing. If a "secondary world" (Tolkien's term) fails the moment it loses credibility, Osborne's bottoms out almost before it's begun (on page 5). The "Grabbly," it seems, is indeed a child's dream, but dreams are an "all purpose" natural force in Osborne's world. Besides kidnapping chil dren, dreams "buoy up" the flying pirate ship (like a sea), and also fill up its sails (like wind); they also power the evil wizard's massive computer system (like electricity); finally, in a blinding flash of light, they pop out of the computer as dark blobs of protoplasm which form members of the wizard's goon squad (yet signal flares destroy them). None of this makes much sense, even as dream logic, nor does Rupert, a singularly dull and conventional protagonist, ever question any of it. The wizard/villain, who is said to be "programming" conquest of the whole world with the aid of the kidnapped children, is also a less-than-memorable adversary. Captured at last and charged with his crimes (before the Lion King of the woods), he resorts to a hoary gagline: "Would you like to buy a second hand computer system? Very good, very cheap." There is, of course, nothing in this calculated kiddie-lit which will terrify; there is likewise nothing which might stimulate thought or imagi nation, or linger in the memory. Although I read much of the text twice, I could barely recall enough to compose this review. Osborne writes for the BBC World News; this is his first fantasy novel, and though it's had a wide distribution on both sides of the Atlantic, it is not recommended. --Adrian de Wit 44


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 The Human Species Reborn Sargent, Pamela. Alien Child. Harper & Row, NY, 1988, 246p. $13.95 hc. 0-06-025202-2. Sargent's cautionary tale, Alien Child, is adequate SF for the young adult audience. Its basic premise is interesting and original: Nita and Sven are human children being raised in the Kwalung-lbarra Institute by their "guardians," the aliens Uipel and Uare. The Institute is an automated birthing center where human genetic material and embryos have been stored awaiting donors' orders to begin gestation. But when the aliens discover our world and the Institute, the human species has been long extinct, having destroyed itself in a terrible final war. As the children discover the history of our species, they are burdened with the guilt of their past. Should they use the Institute to repopulate the Earth? Will (and should) their guardians allow them to do so? As a meditation upon peace, violence, and the results of war, the ideas Alien Child presents to kids are indeed important. The problem with the novel is that its interesting basic premise is not entirely thought through, nor is it as well-supported by convincing characterization as it could be. The aliens, for instance, are portrayed as non-human, but we never learn enough of them, their life patterns, and their motivations for them to seem to be much more than a deus ex machina. The flatness of the characterization in Alien Child is in part intentional. Of the seven characters in Sargent's novel, five are non humans most distinguished by their lack of deep emotional response. This allows Sargent to raise the question of whether we must in Spock like fashion leave emotional response behind in order to become a more pacific species, or whether we can somehow harmonize our emotions rather than dilute them to achieve the same result. This mix of charac ters, of course, makes the fullest possible development of the human children all the more necessary forthe sake of good and satisfying story telling. Unfortunately, there is little in the character of either that would give us any hope for the future of a reborn human species or pOint the way for child readers to effect in themselves the necessary harmoniza tion of emotion to which the story implicitly points. Given the gentle creatures by whom they are raised, the human children of the tale seem unnecessarily suspicious and much too ready to resort to violence. They never seem to convincingly engage in themselves the death of their species through violence and the significance of that terrible fact for them. And that of course, is what the story sets them up to do. But though Alien Child finally seems a tad hasty, it still gets enough right to be worth reading, and the young will find its consideration of our species' aggressiveness important and interesting. --Peter M. Lowentrout 45


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 Growing Up Witch In America Springer, Nancy. The Hex Witch of Seldom. Baen, NY, 1988, 276p. $1S.9Shc.0-671-65389-X. It used to be that what separated the girls from the women was a husband. The narrative pattern of adventure-courtship leading to marriage that defines fairy-tales like "Snow White" and "Cinderella" still holds in Sweet Valley High-type romances, but not in the best contem porary juvenile fiction, and certainly not in fantasy. In The Hex Witch of Seldom, Nancy Springer has joined Patricia McKillip, Diane Duane, and Robin McKinley in redefining a girl's coming-of-age. Bobbi Yandro lives on a horse farm in Pennsylvania. She has been raised by her grandfather because her father was killed in Vietnam and her mother is in a mental institution suffering from the delusion that she is Scarlett O'Hara. For her sixteenth birthday, Bobbi's grandfather buys her a horse, a magnificent black mustang with a reputation for viciousness, who nonetheless obeys Bobbllike a lamb. That mustang turns out to be the archetypal Dark Hero, Shane, bound in his horse's shape by evil magic. When her grandfather wants to geld him, Bobbi helps Shane escape and rides him out into a world in which myth rises very close to the surface of the everyday. This book is both very realistic and very magical. Shane is equally a real horse that can be dangerously crippled bya cracked hoof and a figure of romance. Hazel Fenstermacher, the old woman Shane and Bobbi turn to for refuge, is equally a powerful sorceress and a fat, eccentric old widow-woman. The local blacksmith is an evil wizard who wants to bind all the beneficent forces in the area to his service. Bobbi's task is to find and fulfill her own role in the endless mythical struggle between good and evil. And after she has found it, she must choose between staying with the Hex Witch of Seldom and returning to her grandfather and the mundane World. Springer is a real pro, and this novel shows it. There's plenty of exciting action balanced by quieter passages in which Bobbi thinks about her adventures and the meaning they have for her. Springer manages to bring up and explore many of the central questions of adolescence--individuality, loneliness, responsibility, sexuality--without preaching or supplying pat answers. She draws her characters from universal cultural archetypes, but succeeds in making them both human and North American. In short, this is a fine book. Go out and read it. --Delia Sherman 46


SFRA Newsletter, No. 171, October 1989 Gentle SF and Social Comedy Williams, Walter Jon. House of Shards. Tor, NY, 1988, 309p. $3.95 pb. 0-812-55783-2. This novel continues in the SF-as-comedy-of-manners vein of The Crown Jewels (1987), to which it is a sequel. As before, impover ished nobleman and Allowed Burglar Drake Maijstral and his associates go a-thieving both for swag and for the ratings and revenues that the recordings of their adventures will bring later. This time the setting is an exclusive space resort with a view of a black hole devouring its compan ion star, and the excitement (and ratings potential) of the various capers is increased by the presence of a rival burglar. As Maijstral and Geoff Fu George try to top each other, various non-burglar characters carry on the life of the idle rich of the far future in a manner remarkably similar to that depicted in the genteel mystery fiction and Wodehousean comedy of a half-century ago. It is, in fact, interesting to see formulas and character types from such distant genres inhabiting a science-fictional milieu that might as easily be the setting for dead-serious adventure melodrama or Frank Herbertian intrigue. In the Human Constellation, Khosali High Custom, and the Diadem, Williams has come up with some Genuinely Interesting SF ideas: After a long period of domination by the Khosali Empire, humankind has managed to break away and reassert itself as an autonomous political entity, the Constellation--except that millennia of living under alien High Custom has left humans with a hybrid culture, so that well-mannered folk greet each other by sniffing ears. What is genuinely human is the way ordinary people follow the activities of their social elite, the Diadem, who as much as Maijstral spend their lives on camera--that is, "media globe" --in a constant National Enquirer of the ether. These books must inevitably be compared to Alexei Panshin's Anthony Villiers novels of twenty years ago (Star Well and The Thurb Revolution, 1968; Masque World, 1969) for their mixture of SF and social comedy. Like the Villiers books, and despite a bit of violence, the Maijstral stories are basically gentle, even sensitive, with characters discovering things about themselves and changing their lives accord ingly. The Khosali explorer-celebrity Zoot decides that life in the Diadem is not for him, finds a bride (a Khosalikh who decides that a career in security is not for her), and returns to xenobiology. Advert, the protege of Diadem member Pearl Woman, learns something of intrigue and manipulation and develops a bit of independence of spirit. Geoff Fu George decides that it's time to retire. In this, the Maijstral books strike me as (at least a grown-up's idea of) good Young Adult fare. And I rather like them myself. --Russell Letson 47


SFRA Newsletter No. 171 Betsy Harfst, Editor Dept. of Arts, Communication & Social Science Kishwaukee College Malta, IL 60150 DATED MATERIAL -PLEASE DO NOT DELAY Non-Profit Organiztion U.S. POSTAGE PAID Permit No.3 MALTA,IL


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