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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Science Fiction Research Association]
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Science fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
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SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 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 Newsletter, Arts, Communications, & Social Science Division, Kishwaukee College, Malta, II 60150. (Tel. 815-825-2086). Send changes of address and/or inquiries 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 (1 985-86) 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 -89) 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. 173 December, 1989 President's Messsage OF MICE AND MEN To prove that the best-laid plans gang aft agley, a recent phone call from Brooks Landon brought the news that he was withdrawing his bid to host the SFRAannual meeting in Iowa in 1991. Hewill submit another bid for 1992, but this leaves us with an unexpected opening a year and a half from now. Since the 1991 meeting will be on the West Coast in Long Beach, California, we would welcome a bid from the Midwest, the East, the South, or even the far Northwest or Canada, where we have never met. If you are interested in making a proposal, check into transportation, meals and housing facilities, and meeting space, as well as any local sightseeing, museums, natural attractions, or other tourist-type attractions. Many of you can use the facilities and expertise of someone at your school whose job it is to arrange meetings on your campus. Dates are somewhat flexible; we have established an early summer meeting for several years but are not strictly tied to that time if there are good reasons to move the dates. I believe that any of the former conference directors would be willing to share their experiences with people who are serious about making a bid for the meeting. The Executive Committee itself has much experience in this regard, with all of us having served either as director or on the conference committees for local arrangements. Walt Meyers and Mack Hassler also come to mind as people who have recently put on very successful conferences. If you have ever considered hosting an annual meeting for SFRA, now's a good time to make your proposal. I urge you to contact me and let me know of your interest, even if you are not yet ready to submit details to the Executive Committee for a decision. The EC plans to meet in late January and would appreciate receiving inquiries or preliminary proposals by then. I will, however, be unavailable from December 16 through January 3--we're taking off for South America. With all the news focused on Eastern Europe the past few months, events in South America have not been receiving the prominence they might deserve in quieter times. In Brazil recent elections have failed to give a majority to any candidate, so we expect to be there just in time for the run-offs. Argentina has of course just installed its new president early, attempting to minimize the trauma of the failure of the previous government's regime. And Peru will also be in the midst of its elections while we're there ... all of which sounds exciting. 3


SFRA News/etter, No. 173, December, 1989 I have been writing to and expect to meet with our members in Argentina and Brazil while we're there. No doubt our adventures (hopefully not too adventurous) will be thoroughly reported in Locus, since Charles Brown is traveling with us, but I'll undoubtedly have things to say about South American science fiction in this column when we return. Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, and all best wishes for 1990! --Elizabeth Anne Hull I N.BI British SF Association Welcomes Members The BSFA was founded more than 20 years ago and currently has roughly a thousand members. Membership brings bi-monthly mailings, which consist of: Vector, the BSFA's critical journal, which includes articles, reviews, and interviews. Issue 150 was published last summer, a longevity equaled by few other fanzines. Matrix, the newsletter, featuring not only membership news but news about SF books, authors and films, general articles, fanzine reviews, letters and free classified ads for members. Paperback Inferno, a collection of short paperback and magazine reviews. Focus, a how-to-do-it guide to writing SF. North American residents should send their annual dues to Cy Chauvin, 14248 Wilfred, Detroit, MI48213 (checks payable to Cy Chauvin BSFA). A one-year membership is $16via surface mail ($38 via air). Vector only may be subscribed to separately for $10/year. A sample package of publications is $3. BSFA members nominate and voteforthe annual BSFAj Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best SF published in Britain each year. There's nothing elegant about these neatly offset publications, and their content is highly variable in quality, but they provide a useful British perspective and several hundred reviews each year, often of British books later published in the U.S. The sampler is a cheap way of making up your mind. --Neil Barron 4


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 The Shape of Films to Come Theodore Krulik December 1989--The Christmas holidays have ushered in a pleth ora of science fiction movies for a number of years now, some good, others mediocre, a few that were wonderful. For some reason, however, the Christmas season of 1989 is nearly devoid of new SF films. There are two, both from the Steven Spielberg factory: "Back to the Future, Part II" and "Always." But, unless I'm mistaken, there is nothing else new to theaters resembling a science fiction film. I'm not sure what has happened. I imagine that the trend has changed for the moment, so that we are having a sudden spate of action adventure films with mismatched partners and dark comedies that hope to attract the holiday audience. Perhaps producers and writers are working on numerous SF films that will have big promotions meant to coincide with the new decade of the nineties. Whatever the reason, your SF viewing on the big screen is presently limited to a luke-warm sequel on time traveler a big, splashy remake of a fantasy that had starred Spencer Tracy but now stars Richard Dreyfuss in the same role. Rather than review either of these films, I would like to venture forth on a bit of fantasizing myself. If I were in a position to produce movies that represented some of the best in literature of science fiction for the 1990s, what would they be ... ? As a movie producer knowledgeable in the SF genre as well, I would want to choose the best from recent works, as well as some of the classics. I've always felt that many SF films have been about thirty years behind the literature in terms oftheme and plot and character development. Here, then, are my choices for movies that should be made in the 1990s, if I were a movie mogul: Contact between aliens and humans: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. It shows the subtleties in handling the multifarious aspects of alien cultures, and deals frankly with matters of politics and sexual mores. Yet its setting and special effects would be considered feasible by today's standards. Another book that could be a marvelously structured film is Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End. It would be a daring undertaking in showing the consequences of our contact with a superior race of beings over the course of generations. Robots: The exploration of robots living and working with human beings, and especially, the way robots might think of the human condition 5


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 once they are that far advanced, can be represented with Isaac Asimov's The Bicentennial Man. Post Holocaust Earth: Postman by David Brin. It's a witty and honest view of the scattered peoples of America trying to rebuild society, and their clinging to a hope made possible by the flim flammery of a man whose first concern is personal survival. Living in Space: Rite of Passage by Alexi Panshin. If a movie could retain the girl's-eye view of the novel, it will certainly have a distinct approach from that of "Star Trek on TV and in movies. The intricacies of society on board a multi-generational star ship could be enjoyably digested by a youthful audience if we see things as Mia sees them. A Society of Telepaths: Nothing could be more suitable to illustrate this than Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man. The techniques of film should be conducive to the mental telepathy conducted throughout the novel. Besides, it is a first-rate mystery story and a first-rate character story. What If: Lest Darkness Falls by L.Sprague DeCamp. Modern man bringing advances in communication to the Medieval world--what a brilliant, wacky concept. A faithful film version might help us forget the sillier anachronistic movies and television programs we've seen of similar themes. Religious Mythos turned SF: Steven Brust's To Reign In Hell. It tells of God and Satan and the split between the hosts in Heaven, done with the fantasist's approach that shows all the foibles of these beings. Horror: The Clone by Kate Wilhelm and Theodore Thomas. The creature in this is similar to "The Blob" but the human dilemma brought into the story is made up of fresh and touching insights. Anyway, it seems to me that most of these horror pictures have monsters that can't be told apart. I can't tell the difference between Freddy or Jason. And besides, this novel was a great read--if only the movie would keep some of the qualities of the book ... Fantasy: Early in my reading of SF I was much impressed by Jack Vance's The Eyes of the Overworld. It is made up of a series of adventures about Cugel the Cleaver, who pragmatically used magical spells he ac quired to ward off the effects of spells made against him. It may be another version of the Quest theme, but the character of Cugel has not, to my knowledge, been transferred to the screen. He is not an innocent boy-hero, but a tough-minded man concerned about preserving his skin while he goes looking for those things that will help him out of his troubles. 6


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Movie Remake: Since there are a number of remakes of films from the forties this holiday season, such as the aforementioned "Always" based on "A Guy Named Joe," I tried to think of a 1940s movie, related in some way to science fiction, that really deserved to be remade inthe 1990s. Ifyouthink about it, the really good SF films cannot be improved, and the bad SF stuff should be left alone. Still, I've come up with a movie, distantly SF-oriented, that was very good back then and could be equally good today with the right casting, proper updating, and careful treatment. It was a tense-filled little film with Tyrone Power entitled "Nightmare Alley," based on a novel by William Lindsay Gresham and written for the screen by Jules Furtham. The story recounts a young man's rise from apprentice barker in a circus to learning the ropes in a mentalist act to becoming a highly-paid and highly sought after clairvoyant, and then shows his fall into the lowest form of circus act. The movie allowed Tyrone Power to show his range as an actor, from young innocent to charismatic huckster to corrupt opportunist to over-the-hill drunkard. If the film were remade in the 1990s, there are several actors who could assay the role. My first thought was for Harrison Ford in the part, but he would be too old to play the young protagonist in the beginning of his career. The part calls for a youthful actor who could also play him as he matures and then grows into wasteful middle-age. It occurs to me, right at this point in time, that Tom Cruise undergoes a similar transformation as true-life Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic in the current film "Born on the Fourth of July." Cruise has shown himself to be a fine actor with a wide range; if he also can muster appropriate charisma to portray the hypnotically-attractive mentalist in "Nightmare Alley," then I'd give him the role. Why remake "Nightmare Alley"? There can be real relevance in today's world in a personality with such a magnetic personality that he can control the actions of others. And there is a universality in the telling of a young ambitious man seeking fame and fortune, and a bit of power, by using his personal magnetism, a little skill, and some simple trickery. There are lessons to be learned from such a remake in the 1990s. Perhaps the best lesson we can learn from this sudden dearth of science fiction films on the big screen is that we should pick up that SF novel we've been meaning to wade through for some months. But, if we'd rather not, we can always rent a videotape of something tried-and-true, or of something we missed. And if we must have our diet of popcorn-dark, auditorium-wide, screen-elbowing audience participation, we can always go to see Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman in "Family Business" or Robert De Niro and Sean Penn in ""We're No Angels" or ... --Theodore Krulik 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Mr. Richard Michaels c/o SFRA Newsletter Dear Mr. Michaels: I Feedback I I was amazed to read the following sentence in your review of Dean Koontz in the current Newsletter: "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." If you were talking about commercial schlock this would hold (as it would for adult fiction too), but you specifically say a "literary form." Lack of imagination and ethical oversimplification are precisely at the opposite pole of the imaginative intensity and moral complexitythat charac terize children's literature. I don't know whether your dismissal of the genre rises from ignorance of it (did you somehow grow up without reading Huckleberry Finn?) orthe desire so common among critics to disassociate themselves from anything so unchic and unmacho as kiddilit; but I find it unworthy of the journal you published it in. --Ursula K. Le Guin (contnued on page 47) Science Fiction Research Association Annual Conference XXI "SF in the Future: There and Back Again with SFRA XXI" THE VENUE: SFRA XXI will meet June 28-July 1, 1990, at the Hyatt Edgewater Hotel in Long Beach, California. Located in the picturesque Long Beach Marina, the hotel is less than a five minute walk from dozens of restaurants and shops, two movie theaters, one of the best beaches in southern California, and the longest sportfishing pier on the west coast. Through Supershuttle, the hotel is inexpensively connected to the whole of the Southern California region. CONFERENCE FEES AND COSTS: Full conference membership will be $80 to June 14th, $85 thereafter, and includes the cost of the Pilgrim Award 8


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Banquet, conference trip, the nightly hospitality suite and other conference events to be announced. PLEASE NOTE: Those wishing to go on the conference trip (a visit to the full-scale mock-up of the Freedom space station and then into LA to see the I MAX film "Blue Planet," shot "in orbit" by the shuttle crews) must register by June 1 st. Daily memberships will be $20. ($5 high school students, $10 college undergrads). Banquet: $20. Conference trip: $25.00. Please help us plan accurately by registering early. The Hyatt Edgewater Hotel has offered us rates of $68 per day, single or double. The Hyatt has also offered to extend its conference rates for those who would like to stay on after the conference. BOOK DISPLAY: To celebrate SFRA's "Coming of Age," Neil Barron will be organizing the book display this year with a special emphasis upon the "Highlights of SF Scholarship, 1930's-1980's." We also expect to have a dealer's area, with a selection of new and used paperbacks. There will be a signing period for guest authors. THE PROGRAM: Sheila Finch, Richard Lupoff, Frederik Pohl, Lewis Shiner, JackWiliiamson, and SF screenwriter Harry Kleinerwill be attending. We will be announcing other authors who will be in attendance as they give us definite commitments. We have been receiving paper, session and panel proposals and will give you an initial look at the program soon. The formal deadline for submission is January 15th, 1990. But if you intend to participate in SFRAXXI, don't delay! Get those ideas to the Land of LA now! Send proposals to us at 1017 Seal Way, Seal Beach, CA 90740. --Christine and Peter Lowentrout, Conference Directors (Because of late mailing, I am sure the deadline can be extended. Ed.) 1989 World Fantasy Awards The 1989 World Fantasy Awards were presented at a banquet on Sunday, October 29, 1989, in Seattle, Washington. Honors went to: Life Achievement Award: Evangeline Walton Best Novel: Koko, Peter Straub Best Novella: "The Skin Trade," George R. R. Martin Best Short Fiction: "Winter Solstice, Camelot Station," John M. Ford Best Short Story Collection (tie): Storeys from the Old Hotel, Gene Wolfe, and Angry Candy, Harlan Ellison Best Anthology: The Year's Best Fantasy: First Annual Collection, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, eds. Special Award/Professional (tie): Terri Windling, Robert Weinberg, Biographical Dictionary of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists Best Artist: Edward Corey Special Award/Non-Professional: Kristine Kathryn Rusch & Dean Wesley Smith (Pulphouse) 9


SFRA News/etter, No. 173, December, 1989 Completed Famtasy and Science Fiction Research Pending Publication Sam Moskowitz WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: Two volumes of uncollected fantasies titled The Haunted Pompero and Demons of the Sea. These supplement the previously published Out of the Storm (Donald Grant, 1975), which also contained a 25,OOO-word biography of William Hope Hodgson. The Haunted Pompero has a 20,000-word continuation of his wife's efforts to keep his name alive after his death plus 5,000 words on the background of the publications Hodgson contributed to. Demons of the Sea contains a 13,000-word introduction on his sister's handling of the estate after the death of his wife. Later, these three may be combined into a book of 60,000 words with photos comprising his life and literary career. The basis of the material is the papers in the estate of William Hope Hodgson now in my possession. Both new volumes will be published by Donald Grant in 1990. T.S. STRIBLING: An examination of a Pulitzer Prize winner (The Store, 1933), who was noted for his realistic novels of the South and the relation ship between the races there, searching for the reasons he wrote highly advanced science fiction as early as 1919 (' 'The Green S pi otches," Ad ven ture), that stands up as "modern" work even 72 years later, and finding the genesis of his science fiction in his grim works of realism. Almost all of his output was examined and his other science fiction and fantasies, little known, described. Some 28,000-words in length, scheduled for Fantasy Commentator (48 Highland Circle, Bronxville, NY 10708-5909, $4). W.C. MORROW: The most comprehensive analysis of William C. Morrow, San Francisco author, known primarily for the great horror stories reprinted from his book The Ape, The Idiot & Other People (Lippincott, 1897),includ ing "His Unconquerable Enemy" and "Over an Absinthe Bottle," demon strating that he was a primary influence on the short story writing of Ambrose Bierce (to whom he was in no way inferior), who was a close friend and one of his editors as well as a co-worker. Approximately 20,000 words in length to be included in Classic Horror I edited by Darrell Schweitzer from Starmont Books. Includes many previously unknown and uncollected works in review. DAVID H. KELLER, M.D.: Noted primarily for his science fiction and short horror stories, this author devoted a good part of his life to writing fantasy, much of which has never been published. This fantasy was highly autobio graphical, so the author has described critically the body of such work, 10


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 primarily novels, some of which remain unpublished, and matched it up to or extricated from it the format of his extraordinary life. The author had a personal friendship with Keller and his wife Celia for many years, has several hundred letters of his, and published and arranged for publication of several of his books. Close to 30,000 words in length, this will appear as "The Struggle to Create Beauty from the Horrors of Reality: David H. Keller's Fantasy Stories" in The Assaults of Chaos: American Supernatural Fiction Since 1920, edited by Douglas Robillard from the University of Georgia Press. HUGO GERNSBACK: The involuntary bankruptcy suffered by this man in 1929 played the major role in turning genre magazine science fiction into a field of publications instead ofthe private domain of one man, leading to the present diversity. The facts surrounding it have been murky and unclear; to clarify them, the actual bankruptcy records have been carefully studied and the facts in them are not only presented but interpreted. Along with them are given hundreds of previously unknown facts about the business and per sonallife of Hugo Gernsback. A substantial amount of the information was obtained from his son Harvey Gernsback as well as from former employees. Under the title of "The Rise and Fall of the First Gernsback Empire," this is about 22,000 words in length, and is scheduled for appearance in a new magazine titled The Argosy, published by Richard Kyle. NICTZIN DYALHIS: Very little was known and less written of this strange little man whose handful of stories, including "When the Green StarWaned," "The Sea Witch," and ''The Sapphire Goddess" (which may have been the popularizer of the modern sword and sorcery vogue of fiction), have attained enough popularity to have a number of them collected in an untitled volume edited by Karl Edward Wagner, probably for 1 991 publication. All known works have been reviewed; the only man who met him and knew him, Willis Conover, Jr. has been interviewed and a 6000-word analysis of his work and presentation of the known facts of his life has been written to accompany Wagner's volume. GHOST STORIES: Launched by Bernarr Macfadden with the issue of July 1926 and running for 64 issues, Ghost Stories was a bonafide fantasy magazine about which little is known and which few collect. An index with an introduction by myself titled Ghost Stories was published in May, 1973 by the Opar Press, Evergreen, Colorado. I have taken the Macfadden issues (at the end it was taken over by Harold Hersey) and done an analysis of its fiction with a description of many of its stories. At 15,000 words it is the most comprehensive information on that publication extant, and is scheduled for Fantasy Commentator. UNCANNY TALES: During World War II American magazines were banned in Canada unless printed in that country. This encouraged the creation of 11


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Canadian pulp magazines, including science fiction and fantasy, of which the most unusual was Uncanny Tales, running for three years with many original as well as reprint stories and new art work as well as editorials and reader's departments. I was a contributor to this magazine and from my file and correspondence with it present previously unpublished material con cerning its creation and publication. Scheduled for Science Fiction Studies. About 4,000 words. SCIENCE-FICTION PLUS: During 1953, Hugo Gernsback returned to the science fiction field with a slick-paper magazine. He asked me to bid for the editorship by writing a prospectus of what I believed the magazine should be like and a many-faceted resume of my qualifications to edit it. These two presentations, comprising 15,000 words, gained me the editorship and provide an utterly unique record of all the elements involved in launching a professional science fiction magazine. For the first time I have released them for publication to Outworlds magazine (Bill Bowers, 4651 Glenway Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45238, $4.00). THE IMMORTAL STORM: A HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION FANDOM. This book has been issued again, unchanged but with enlarged type size, from Hyperion Press, 47 Riverside Ave., P.O. Box 591, Westport CN 068800591, $34). I have major work in progress involving original research on John W. Campbell and Robert A. Heinlein, as well as a 20,000-word autobio graphical interview completed and under consideration for publication. --Sam Moskowitz I REVIEWS I Non-Fiction Albinski, Nan Bowman. Women's Utopias in British and American Fiction. Routledge, London and New York, 1988, 204p. $57.50. hc. ISBN 0-415-00330-X. (Books in Print listsas Women's Utopias in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Fiction.) Albinski's book, as far as I know the first comprehensive survey of women's utopian fiction, is set up as an historical comparison between the development of its British and American versions. Justifying such a study is 12


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 no longer necessary, as the issues that women have sought to deal with in presenting their more-or-Iess perfect Imaginary societies have obviously come out of their own peculiar social positions in relation to those of men and merit attention in their own right. I think Albinski's study is strongest when she is discussing the distinctions between utopian fiction by women and that of the mainstream (men), especially as she examines the more recent women's utopias. (In contrast, we have numerous examples of utopian historians, like the Manuels, marginalizing the position of women in the history of utopian literature while they laud the works of male utopian writers who themselves marginalize the position of women in the utopias.) Certainly, Albinski's accomplishment is to be applauded. She compares British and American women's utopias in three periods: Before 1920, 1920-60, and 1960-87, the same three periods outlined by Carol Farley Kessler in her anthology, Daring to Dream. She identifies over 250 works and discusses, in at least some detail, a large majority of these works. Such comprehensiveness, however, comes with necessary costs. Though AI binski covers a lot of ground, she has necessarily sacrificed a certain amount of depth to achieve breadth of coverage. Her study is centered primarily around explorations of themes--like women's suffrage, sexuality, marriage, religion, science and technology--as they are developed in the particular periods, and this approach, too, has its risks. If her study has a major weakness, it is in organization. The periods she uses to group her discussions of the works are somewhat artificial, based on the number of books published in a given period, and require a certain amount of repetition. For example, Albinski explores the pastoral nature of much women's utopian fiction, but there is no flexibility in her organization to compare a work from 1920 with a work from 1970 unless she is to repeat much of that discussion later in the book, which in some cases she does. Better that she had made her thematic discussions the focal point of the study, rather than subcategories of her three "eras." But I must admit that, considering the sheer number of works she touches on, any organiza tion would have its weaknesses as well as its strengths. I found the way she constructed her bibliography of primary materials at the end of each section--listing books in order of publication, not in alphabetical order as one might expect--to be confusing. She does, however, provide a good index. I am pleased that she is careful in her use of terminology, distinguishing between utopia, eutopia, and dystopia. But I find her use of the concept "feminism" to be somewhat vague, especially when she uses labels like "radical" feminist to refer tofeminists of the 1920s (107), given our more specific understanding of terms like "radical femi nism" today. Perhaps, too, it would have been clearer if she had delineated more clearly what makes a work, "feminist" as opposed to "non-feminist" or "anti-feminist." What I find exciting about work like Albinski's (and bibliographic research like Lyman Tower Sargent's) is that their studies will provide the 13


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 groundwork for many subsequent studies which will deal in some detail with the issues these scholars have only been ableto mention in passing. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in feminist or utopian studies, but with the caveat that this is a survey with all the strengths and weaknesses that this term conveys. --Douglas Stallings Rock Bottom for 1988 Crawford, Gary William. Ramsey Campbell. Starmont House, Mercer Island, WA, 1988, 74p. $17.95 hc. ISBN 1-557-42037-8. $8.95 trade pb. ISBN 1-557-42036-X. [Starmont Reader's Guide to Contemporary SF and Fantasy Authors, No. 48] A few ofthe volumes in the Starmont series of Reader's Guides have been fine instances of scholarship, Joan Gordon's 1986 entry on Gene Wolfe seeming to me still the best of the lot. Buttoo many of the books have been shoddily produced and incompetently edited, and a few have been examples of fan scholarship at its most amateurish and embarrassing. With Gary William Crawford's Ramsey Campbell, the series has hit rock bottom; from its cut-rate production design to its rambling, impressionistic, and frequently incomprehensible prose, the book achieves, at all levels, the dubious distinction of being the worst piece of putative criticism I encoun tered during 1988. Crawford, for many years the editor of the small press magazine Gothic, believes that Ramsey Campbell is "one of the finest writers in the [horror] genre" who has "produced effective, subtle, and haunting stories" that deserve greater attention from the fan and critical communities than they have thus far received. Anyone who has read any of Campbell's psychologically acute and brilliantly unnerving fiction--from early novels like The Doll Who Ate His Mother to 1988's masterpiece of terror The Influence (not to mention his many volumes of superlative short stories)--would agree with Crawford's estimate. Unfortunately, Ramsey Campbell does little to rectify its subject's neglect, save to fill the air with a lot of rhetorical white noise. In the first place, Crawford is obsessed with cramming Campbell into the Gothic niche, a Procrustean reduction of a writer whose work, though it has undoubtedly made use of Gothic material, seems much more a part of the tradition of contemporary urban psychological literature; like Hubert Selby, Jr. and Ian McEwan, Campbell's work verges on the Gothic with its obsessional deployment of paranoid grotesquerie, but even when his stories make overt use ofthe supernatural, Campbell always stays rooted in a modern milieu. For Crawford, though, "what Campbell ... [has] 14


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 done is to transform the Gothic motifs into modern settings," thus making him an heir of Ann Radcliffe rather than a genuine modernist (this despite the fact that, as Crawford himself admits, the author has been influenced by avant garde filmmakers like Alain Resnais). Still, perhaps this is simply a matter of emphasis, and I should allow Crawford the latitude of interpretation necessary to make his case. Yet when one attempts to determine precisely what this case is, one finds only disconnected assertions that verge on the unintelligible: "the blurred line between fantasy and reality is typical of Campbell's fiction"; "the prose style [of The Parasite] effectively expresses the gradual development of the occult"; "the nature of reality versus illusion and of humanity's relationship to them are brought into question [in the novel Obsession] with such skill that in its depiction transcends the other novels"; "the images of Campbell's prose style are marked by mental collusion." Sentences no less stupefy ingly opaque clot every page of the book; it seems clear that the text received little if any editorial supervision. Even at 62 scant pages (omitting the chronology, bibliography, and index), there is too much repetition and too little focused analysis. The introductory biographical chapter is essentially cribbed from Campbell's fascinating preface to the 1983 restored edition of The Face That Must Die; Starmont would have better served the author by reprinting his own words unchanged, for Crawford has reduced their blunt and terrifying impact to a series of disconnected, banal minutiae: Because of his continued ill health, Campbell was taken out of Christ the King school and enrolled at Ryebank, a private school. At this time, he began reading adult supernatural fiction in books his mother borrowed from the public library. In the summer of 1953, in an episode at home with his mother-in-law, Campbell's father threat ened to attack her with the crucifix that hung above the bed in her room. Other chapters examine Campbell's short stories, then proceed chronologically through the canon of novels, ending with a treatment of the author's film novelizations and non-fiction. The chapters are extremely short and generally unilluminating, Crawford's woefully inept prose ham stringing his efforts at analysis. The chapter on novelizations and non fiction, barely a page long, asserts that "in [his] later essays, Campbell reveals himself as a sensitive critic and theorist," but does not develop this point further. This is unfortunate, as anyone who has read the installments of Campbell's column in the late Fantasy Review magazine knows how much a hard-won, calculated aesthetic viewpoint informs the author's recent fiction. Perhaps Crawford did not mine this material because it might have forced him to qualify or revise his reductive Gothic reading. Or perhaps he simply couldn't be bothered, and the folks at Starmont House obviously didn't care one way or the other. --Jack Durant 15


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Was This Guide Really Necessary? Fletcher, Marilyn, ed. Reader's Guide to Twentieth-Century Science Fiction; consulting ed. James L. Thorson. Chicago: American Library Association. August 1989. xiv + 673 p. $55. ISBN 0-8389-0504-8. When I read of this work in this newsletter's pages months ago, I could not imagine why Fletcher felt such a book was needed. I therefore read her introduction for an explanation. She admits there are similar works available and lists nine "sources",fromthe Nicholls encyclopedia to Bleiler's Science Fiction Writers and Smith's Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers to my Anatomy of Wonder. What is absent from these works are extended plot summaries, although she notes that Masterplots provides them at length, Anatomy very briefly, but both largely omit biographical details. "This work intends to fill the gap, offering essays on the life and selected works of each author ... along with a summary of themes and style, followed by plot summaries of each author's major works and a selection of biographical and bibliographical readings" (p. x). That last phrase is notably imprecise. It refers simply to several citations to biocriticalj bibliographic sources about the author, which is quite different from "read ings". Fletcher is a librarian at the University of New Mexico and is one of 20 librarians among the 38 contributors, several of them identified as graduate students; seven are SFRA members. The 131 subject authors, who should have been listed before the first entry on Douglas Adams, were selected largely by excluding authors of pure fantasy, although authors who write more SF than fantasy were allowed; "authors who have crossed over to mainstream fiction, or who write primarily non-fiction works, were ex cluded"; and individuals who were primarily editors or compilers. The criteria are reasonable enough, but the results suggest they were frequently ignored. Bloch, Derleth, Howard and Lovecraft wrote a little SF, but that's not where their strengths lie or what they're remembered for. At least 90% of Asimov's 350 + books are unrelated to SF. Orwell is likely to be remembered more for Animal Farm and his essays than for his dystopia. Doris Lessing's efforts in SF are earnest but ponderous. Gernsback wrote execrable fiction and was little better as an editor. And there are a lot of minorwriters--Biggle, Cogswell, Dann, Gallun, Gansovsky, Lake, Longyear, May and Scortia. L'Engle is the sole writer of YA SF. You will not find Bishop, Butler, Christopher, Compton, Lupoff, K.S. Robinson, Sterling, VernorVinge, Wright or Zebrowski, although the best -known names are of course present. When we turn to individual entries the results are mixed indeed. Nowhere in the Silverberg entry is Dying Inside even mentioned, much less summarized. An arbitrary editorial limit of six novels or collections was imposed on all authors. Steve Potts says that Anthony Burgess "acknowl16


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 edged that dropping the last chapter improved the novel" (the American edition of A Clockwork Orange). If that's so, why did Norton/Ballantine recently reissue American editions with the chapter restored at Burgess's request? Harold Lee Prosser's entry on Bloch cites his own The Man Who Walked Through Mirrors: Robert Bloch as Social Critic (Bargo Press, 1986). Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, but his book exists only in unedited form at Bargo Press and is months from publication. There isn't room in a review to show examples of slack editing and simplistic writing throughout. Plot summaries take up roughly three-fourths of the book. Assum ing an average offive novels/collections per entry, that's about 650 summa ries. Fletcher cites Masterplots, the supposed bane of English teachers, but neglects to mention--though she certainly knows of--another Salem Press set, the five volume Survey of Science Fiction Literature (1979) which contains 513 essays discussing novels and short fiction by 280 authors. These are genuinely critical analyses, not the potted plot summa ries Fletcher offers. But the $250 cost of the Salem set limits it to larger libraries. The market for the Fletcher book is public and high school libraries, and its principal users, I am afraid, will be students writing "book reports." For them the plot summaries will be dandy and will all too often save them the trouble of reading the books. The imprimatur of the ALA will guarantee a respectable sale of this book to libraries, just as it did for Fletcher's atrocious short fiction index issued by ALA in 1981. Libraries which are more conscientious in their selection should reject this book and acquire the Curtis Smith book cited above and look forward to a hoped-for revision of Nicholls (negotiations over copyright problems were in progress last summer). --Neil Barron Embattled Artist Heinlein, Robert A. Grumbles From the Grave. Edited, with an introduction by Virginia Heinlein. Del Rey, January 17, 1990. 281 p. $19.95 hc. ISBN 0345-36246-2. In 1973, in a letter to his agent, Heinlein outlined a book of memoirs to be left uncopyrighted until after his death--the idea being to provide for his widow an immediate source of income. He never wrote the memoir--his Forrestallecture at Annapolis and several other projects intervened--but as usual he had a working title for it: Grumbles From the Grave by Robert A. Heinlein (Deceased). Virginia Heinlein has appropriated this title, quite fittingly, for a collection of excerpts from Heinlein's letters over the last 40 years. 17


SFRA News/etter, No. 173, December, 1989 And grumbles they are, most of them. Heinlein was of course writing confidentially to his agent, Lurton Blassingame, in the majority of these excerpts, though a collection of quite argumentative letters to John W. Campbell open the book. Heinlein disliked Campbell's habit of "telegraph ing" the paint of a story in the editorial blurbs and contents page synopses of Astounding, and said so, several times. When Campbell rejected "Goldfish Bowl" because he didn't like the downbeat ending, Heinlein blithely announced that he had "retired" from writing pulp fiction, effectively turning the tables on the old patriarch, who had just upped the size of his magazine and was counting on new Heinlein copy. Campbell not only published the story he had first rejected (with some revisions), but begged for more. Heinlein also let Campbell know, with considerable glee, that he had sold every story Astounding had rejected. Heinlein was obviously less than comfortable writing to Campbell's specifications; and his anger, as an ex-Naval officer, over Campbell's remarks about the culpability of Navy brass at Pearl Harbor led to an extremely hot letter. During the War the friendship cooled, and with Heinlein's success in breaking into "slick" markets during the forties, then hardcover juveniles during the fifties, he rarely wrote specifically for Campbell again, though Campbell did serialize several of his novels prior to their hardcover publication. Heinlein's later letters to his agent are peppered with denigrating remarks about Campbell's officiousness, and Virginia also echoes these in some of her editorial notes. Of course, Heinlein was never comfortable writing to any editor's specifications, although the pressures of earning a living from his fiction forced him to compromise many times. Not without a rumble, though. Complaints about editors and publishers are the dominant feature of these excerpts. Though he was grateful to Scribner's for the juvenile series that got him into the libraries, his honeymoon with editor Alice Dalgliesh of the juvenile division was extremely short-lived. Dalgliesh was "overpoweringly anxious to appease" the maiden-aunt librarians who controlled much of the hardcover juvenile market, and she was an "amateur Freudian" besides. She was forever demanding cuts of the most prudish nature, based on far fetched Freudian analysis of overtly innocent scenes. But when she insisted that he edit the "flat cats" of The Rolling Stones (they were "too Freudian in their pulsing love habits"), Heinlein blew his stack. The cats, he said, have no sex--they reproduce by parthenogenesis--and they are always referred to by the pronoun "it." The fact that they like to be petted is essential to the plot. He then attacked one of Ms. Dalgliesh's books for girls with a Freudian analysis which demonstrated "phallic symbolism and fetishism," and laid down the gauntlet: "Layoff my flat cats, will yuh? Your books and your characters are just as vulnerable to ... pseudoscientific criticism ... as are mine. So lay off--before I haul Jinks into this argument"(66). Heinlein agonized for years over this series, perpetually irked over "the very conditions of writing for kids" which involved "pleasing a bunch of 18


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 carping elders whose whims and prejudices I am unable to anticipate." (99) He finally lost all respect for Ms. Dalgliesh when she capitulated completely to complaints from Learned T. Bulman, a reviewer for Library Journal who "demanded that [The Star Beast] be withdrawn under pain of being lambasted" because it contained the notion that "children might be 'di vorced' from unsatisfactory parents," (98) a solution to the "battered child syndrome" which already existed in the juvenile courts of the day, but an idea which Bulman found subversive of family ideals. (70-71) The editor's failure to defend him rankled, and when Scribner's rejected Starship Troopers, his thirteenth book for them, "with a brisk little note which might as well have been a printed rejection," Heinlein vowed never to sell to Scribner's again. (Subsequent juveniles, including Starship Troopers and Podkayne of Mars, were sold to Putnam's, but the same trouble surfaced on Pod kayne; Heinlein was forced to supply a happy ending (in the original Poddy was killed through the negligence of her monster brother). He felt this was like insisting that Romeo and Juliet "live happily ever after," and gave up on the market at last. Ms. Heinlein has published the censored parts of both Podkayne and Red Planet, and it is easy to sympathize with Heinlein: by today's standards the passages are totally innocuous, even for children's books.) The portrait of Heinlein which emerges here is indeed that of an embattled artist. Others of his foes include demanding fans who waste his time, thoughtlessly imposing friends, faithless workmen (the Heinleins built two houses, one in Colorado Springs and another in Santa Cruz, both exhausting experiences), political action groups, critics, motion picture producers, and illnesses, of course. The Heinleins were frequently drawn into right-wing politics, most notably the Goldwater campaign, yet though he felt bound to serve, Heinlein grudged the time and effort these commit ments took away from his writing. Ms. Heinlein's book contains an apparently official bibliography of the artist's works, fiction and non-fiction, and a fair sprinkling of photo graphs of the artist, ranging from babyhood to old age. But it is oddly organized, divided into a series of not too apt topics, with the letters arranged chronologically in each section. This makes it difficult to gain any sense of the writer's life and times despite the brief biographical introduc tion. It would not be easy to relate Heinlein's travels, for instance, to his remarks about his writing, despite his assertion (somewhere, I can't find it now) that everything he does ends up in his novels. There is also a sense of deja vu as one reads through the sections, since we go back to the forties again with the start of each new topic. For a researcher interested only, say, in the background to Stranger in a Strange Land (one of the topics), the organization is helpful, but it will be a pain to a biographer, and we still need a good biography of Heinlein. --Adrian de Wit 19


SFRA News/etter, No. 173, December, 1989 Anti-Enlightenment Study Kroeber, Karl. Romantic Fantasy and SCience Fiction. Yale University Press, 1988, 188p. $20.00 hc. ISBN 0-300-04241-8. Karl Kroeber, Mellon Professor of Humanities at Columbia Univer sity and brother of famous SF writer Ursula K. Le Guin, has produced, in Romantic Fantasy and Science Fiction, an engaging and provocative study. Unfortunately, for contemporary scholars of SF and fantasy, Kroe ber's understanding of these genres will seem extremely narrow and limited. SF, for Kroeber, is largely a British phenomenon, beginning with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and culminating with Wells; the entire tradition of Anglo-American SF since the early part ofthis century is not discussed at all. Fantasy at least is brought up to the present in Kroeber's schema, as he draws connections linking nineteenth century British Romanticism with contemporary magical realists like Gabriel Garcia-Marquez and other postmod ernists; but, save for Tolkien, most of the writers who have influenced and participated in the development of genre fantasy are excluded. Thus, it should be said at the outset that Kroeber's conceptions of SF IF are resolutely "mainstream" and "literary"--a limitation of perspective that is lamentable since the author's critical observations and distinctions could clearly have been made relevant to an understanding of the contemporary relationship between these popular genres. Kroeber's basic contention Is that romantic fantasy represents a literary-intellectual rebellion against the Enlightenment's totalistic human. ism and scientism, reintroducing magical perspectives and a respect for extra-human "otherness" into a spiritually diminished world. SF, on the other hand, has attempted to work through the ominous consequences of the Enlightenment, exploring how humanity's complete vanquishment of wonder through instrumental reason and domination of nature through technology ultimately rebound to dehumanize and destroy mankind. Kroe ber elaborates this distinction between genres by means of a series of. excellent close readings, including texts like Frankenstein, Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Heinrich von Kleist's Michael Kohlhass, and Garcia-Marquez's "The Last Voyage of the Ghost Ship." (Marquez's story, along with H.G. Wells' "Aepyornis Island," are included in appendices, as exemplary illustrations of Kroeber's two genres.) Throughout, Kroeber argues against Freudian and structuralist treatments of fantasy, which seem to him reductive in their attempts to limit the radical otherness characteristic of the genre by absorbing it into mankind's own self-understanding. The hegemony of rationalist naturalism is consistently inveighed against by Kroeber in passages of often fervent eloquence; against it, he offers an understanding of "the magic in oxymo ron" which allows us, in fantasy, "to conceive the inconceivable." Science 20


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December,1989 fiction is also seen as a genre driven by a central paradox: the extrapolation of the dehumanizing effects of total reason and progress. It is unfortunate that Kroeber does not make use of the critique of instrumental rationality developed by the Frankfurt School, specifically byTheodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment, which might have further buttressed his argument. But it must be said that, however one feels about Kroeber's definitions of these genres and his brief for the significance and vitality of fantasy, one cannot help but be impressed by his sure command of a wide variety of texts and his obviously deep personal commitment to the subject. --Jack Durant A Promise Kept Pierce, John J. When World Views Collide: A Study in Imagination and Evolution. Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, No. 37. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, May 1989, xvii + 238p. $39.95 hc. ISBN 0-313-25457-5. Put simply, the colliding world views of the title are the Wellsian and the anti-Wellsian. It was Wells, Pierce believes, who, among other things, "summoned mankind to challenge the cosmos and to impose purpose upon it, to seek an evolutionary destiny of becoming rather than being"(78). For Pierce, the "Wellsian vision" is thus one of the foundation of modern science fiction, often much modified and manifested in terms Wells himself would not have recognized, but, nevertheless, a major influence on both those who subscribed to it and those 'v'(ho denied it. Opposed to the Wellsian view, as it had been to the Promethean view of Verne and his followers (a view assimilated by Wells, according to Pierce) is the "caution ary Gothic view that began with Frankenstein," which has been assimilated by the "anti-Wellsian literary intellectuals" (15). Followers of Wells consider progress as essential to truly human existence, but they do not always agree on what is meant by progress. Similarly, those who challenge the Wellsian view differ greatly about what they are challenging. Pierce considers these variations in some detail, with copious quotations and discussions of plot to support his conclusions. The writers considered are divided into nine basic categories, but such divisions are used less to point out sharp lines of demarcation than to hel p to organize a complex and unwieldy subject. Because many of the best writers of science fiction change their views from time to time (Wells's shift from optimism to pessimism, often in the same book, is well known), such categorization is not easy. Nevertheless, Pierce generally succeeds in making the case for the legitimacy of the labels he applies. 21


SFRA News/etter, No. 173, December, 1989 On the Wellsian side, Chapter 1, "A Tale ofTwo Wellsians," demon strates quite well why Clarke ("a spiritual Wellsian," 20) and Asimov ("a social Wellsian," 28) can be so designated. Chapter 2, "Among the Anti Wellsians," considers C.S.Lewis's statement of the dark consequences of following Wells's view, Walter M. Miller's attempt to integrate Christian values into science fiction, and Brian Aldiss's conflict between his "Rousselian" belief in the goodness of nature and the evil he sees resulting from mankind's unstructured search for knowledge. Taken together with the I ntroduction, these two chapters lay the groundwork for the rest of the book. Throughout, the chapter titles signal Pierce's classification of writers exam ined: "The Men of Feeling" (Simak, Sturgeon), "Darwinians--Social and Otherwise" (Heinlein, Budrys, etc.), "The Uterary Reformation" (New Wave), "Angry Young Men--and Women" (Ellison, Pournelle, and others), "Forthe Good of the Cause" (Soviet writers), "From Left Field--and Right" (Brunner, Pohl, Rand, etc.), and finally, the excellent "The Synthesists" (mostly Cordwainer Smith and Ursula Le Guin). Granted, these groupings often make for strange bedfellows, e.g. Ellison and Pournelle, Brunner and Ayn Rand, but, if we accept Pierce's characterization of Ellison as representing the militancy of the New Left and Pournelle the militancy of the New Right, of Brunner as representing a Marxist, even Wellsian view that the discipline of totalitarianism is necessary for the modern state and Rand as representing romantic confidence in free will and human capacity for greatness, they make sense. Noteworthy (though not unique to Pierce) are his classification of Pohl as "a social Wellsian ... torn [as Wells himself had been] between utopian optimism and dystopian pessimism"(154), his singling out of Heinlein's Darwinian empha sis on survival of the species, and his discussion of the success of Cord wainer Smith and Ursula Le Guin, two very different writers, reaffirming human values through a synthesis of the best of the Wellsian and anti Wellsian views. This volume concludes Pierce's study. Restricting in each volume to Foundations, 1987, Themes, 1987, and World Views, 1989, sometimes gets in the way. For example, I miss discussions that might have been expected--among others and, to choose at random--of Herbert, Lem, McCaffrey, William Tenn, and Williamson, even though they appear in the other volumes. Some of those included in this volume, Budrys, Charnas, Gearhart, and Schulman come to mind, seem less significant than many who have been omitted. No one will agree completely with Pierce's organization, presenta tion, or conclusions. Nevertheless, he has read extensively--the bibliogra phy is excellent--and he has, as Lester Del Rey points out in his foreword, "done something unique in attempting such a formidable study and in gaining such insights"(xiii). Most important of all, this volume concludes a study on which future scholars will depend for years to come. --Arthur O. Lewis 22


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Horror Films--Jung at Heart? Rockett, Will H. Devouring Whirlwind: Terror and Transcendence in the Cinema of Cruelty. Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1988. 204p. $39.95. ISBN 0-313-25998-4. Rockett proposes a Jungian interpretation of horror films as an alternative to the influential work of Freudian-Marxist Robin Wood (The American Nightmare, 1979; Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, 1984). Besides Jung, the ideas of theater director Antonin Artaud, film director Sergei Eisenstein and film theorist Hugo Munsterberg are cited. Rockett's argument is stated with a minimum of jargon but he admits that more than half of horror films do not meet his definition of "the cinema of cruelty" and are not explained by his theories. He disparages hundreds of films as mere vehicles for special effects; others, including Wood, have made more useful examinations of slasher films. After requiring that films contain supernatural or "supramatural" threats in order to induce "transcendence" in viewers, he claims unconvincingly that Diabolique (1955) and Psycho (1960) have supernatural plots. A few annoying errors mar the text; Rockett misspells Nicolas Roeg's first name, miscounts the number of deaths in Alien, and places the Bartholomew Day Massacre (1572, filmed in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance, 1916) in the 15th century. On the other hand, his discussions of individual films and especially of the development of atmosphere and character in some important works, are more illuminating than his theoreti cal generalizations. Recommended only for large collections. --Michael Klossner Suvin's Best Work Suvin, Darko. Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction. Kent University Press, September 1988, xviii + 227p. $26.00 hc. ISBN 0-87338356-7. Darko Suvin, professor of English and comparative literature at McGill University and co-founder ofthe journal Science-Fiction Studies, is the author oftwo previous major books on SF: Metamorphoses of Science Fiction (1979), a collection of critical essays, and Victorian Science Fiction in the UK (1983), a study of nineteenth century British SF that stands as one of the finest works of scholarship ever produced on the genre. His new book, Positions and Presuppositions in Science Fiction, is another gathering of thirteen essays, the earliest from 1973 and the most recent published in '84, eight of them from S-F Studies. The essays are written in 23


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Suvin's characteristically dense style, rich in allusion to theorists and texts across a broad spectrum of philosophical and literary discourse; the issues treated are often quite complex, and thus demand terminological precision and dialectical subtleties, but I must say that I felt, at times, as if the prose was more convoluted than it really needed to be. Still, despite this quibble, it is indisputable that Suvin has much of importance to say about SF as both a discursive system and an artistic and commercial practice. The two essays in Part One establish the "presuppositions" of the title: that paraliterary forms are worth studying for what they tell us about social history and reality, and that SF is worth studying specifically because of its cognitive qualities and utopian potentialities. The first chapter in Part Two--which proceeds from presuppositions to "positions"--explores the "degrees of kinship" between SF and utopian literature; after a careful and fascinating examination of their similarities and differences, Suvin con cludes that both forms, in their separate ways, constitute "an 'as if', an imaginative experiment, a methodological organ for the New in the history of human relationships toward society and nature, a cognitive modeL" Further "positions" in this section include a wide-ranging discussion of "Cognition and Ideology in SF and SF Criticism" (written with Marc Angenot), an exploration of "The SF Novel as Epic Narration," and a brief for a critical SF pedagogy (written with Charles Elkins). Perhaps the most interesting essay in this section, though, is "Narrative Logic, Ideological Domination, and the Range of SF: A Hypothesis," which is a searching exploration of "the interaction between [SF] text and context," and of how the "ideological givens" of historical periods inform the worlds created by fictional texts. Part three is devoted to the work of seven SF authors. One essay argues for the exemplary status of Isaac Asimov, Ivan Yefremov and Stanislaw Lem in defining modern SF in the U.S., Russia and Poland, respectively. Others examine the ouevres of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Johanna and Gunter Braun, Ursula Le Guin and Philip K. Dick, this last an excellent effort to argue for a hierarchy of achievement in the Dickian canon of novels up to 1975; it might have benefited, however, from an updating, taking into account the majorworks ofthe early '80's and the posthumously published mainstream fiction. (Two of the essays have been updated for their appearance here.) The final section bears a single essay, "SF as Metaphor, Parable and Chronotope," which, among other accomplish ments in its thirty rich pages, offers a provocative reading of Cordwainer Smith's story "The Lady Who Sailed The SOUl." As always, Suvin's theoretical approach--he is a Marxist, with a strong streak of formalism--may bother some readers. But even those who disagree with some of his conclusions will find, in Positions and Presuppo sitions in Science Fiction, the best work yet by one of the most erudite and rigorously critical minds in SF studies today. --Judith Catton 24


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Fiction Masquerade Anthony, Piers. Total Recall. New York: William Morrow and Company, September 26, 1989. 246 p. $16.95 hc. ISBN 0688-05209-6. A new "hard-SF" novel by Piers Anthony--creator of Macroscope, Chthon, Phthor, and other solid works of extrapolation and speculation--is an event worth anticipating. But when the title page bluntly announces that the new book is "Inspired by the works of Philip K. Dickand Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, and Steve Pressfield," the prospects forthe kind of reading experience Anthony at his best can deliver suddenly seem less sanguine. A few pages into the text, and the treatment confirms the suspicion--roiling not far beneath the surface of Anthony's trademark prose style (complete/ replete with emphatic exclamations!) is the skeleton of a film. Morrow's publicity sheet explains further: Total Recall is a noveli zation of a film script by O'Bannon and compatriots, based on Dick's "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" and transformed into an action adventure vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with either novelizations or Schwarzenegger action-ad venture films. Orson Scott Card's narrative based on Cameron's screenplay for The Abyss transcended its filmic genesis to achieve a uniquely novelistic sense--in some ways, the novel was more effective than the film. And surely Schwarzenegger has created a distinctive sub-genre of Action-Adventure Films, tailored to his impressive physique, his trademark (and easily paro died) accent, and his often surprising sense of comic timing. But Anthony's stylistic, narrative, and philosophical concerns are not those of an Action Adventure filmmaker. When he imposes his SF vision on the screenplay, the seams too often show. Action stops mid-stride while Anthony struggles to integrate a depth and complexity of characterization that the under-two hours film format can't support. Perhaps more damaging--Anthony actually remains too true to the original. Lines of dialogue are Schwarzenegger-ish from the beginning, but when Anthony re-creates in print form a play on words that can only succeed as an ephemerally surprising moment on film, the result is flat and overt: "A nearby demo-man saw Quail and came after him with his jackhammer. But this was Quail's weapon of choice. 'Am I boring you?' he inquired as he bored through his opponent, plus the two more who converged on him. .. (239-40). Lines that might have worked in the context of a film such as The Running Man simply do not work here. And worst of all--Anthony is not allowed to give full rein to his imagination. The aliens are telepathic ants writ large, their mysterious device, an atmosphere-creating generator that instantaneously provides 25


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Mars with breathable air. When one miner takes off his mask and breathes freely, he asks what the others think. "Maybe a miracle," one answers. And he is fundamentally right. Unlike the cosmic plausibility of equally mystical (and ultimately more powerful) devices in Macroscope, here we simply have a quick resolution for a movie--on the order of the absurdly inappropri ate rain-storm at the end of the film version of Dune. Anthony has done the best he could. The story moves rapidly, the twists and reverses in the plot generally support suspense. But what is missing is Piers Anthony. Instead, we get only the more irritating quirks of his style, masquerading as him. --Michael R. Collings History Derailed: Alternative Possibilities Benford, Gregory & Martin H. Greenberg, eds. What Might Have Been? Volume I: Alternate Empires. Bantam/Spectra, NY, August 1989, 291 p. $4.50 pb. ISBN 0-553-27845-2. Many of SF's classics, like Dick's The Man in the High Castle, have pivoted upon the variation of "what if?" that considers alternate possibilities for how history has unfolded. Indeed Benford, in his introduction tothis first volume in a projected series of original alternative history stories, points out the presence ofthis theme throughout and even predating the development of modern SF. Recognizing that the concept intrigues, Benford and co editor Greenberg have given commissioned authors free rein to play with it in this volume, imposing only one restraint: these explorations of changed history have had to be based on the idea of a "grand event that did not come about." A projected subsequent volume will treat the "great man" idea and explore the importance of individuals to the shape of history. The idea clearly has an appeal, and the authors represented in this volume are among the best-known: Poul Anderson, Kim Stanley Robinson, HarryTurtledove, James P. Hogan, George Alec Effinger, Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, James Morrow, Barry Malzberg, Karen Joy Fowler, Frederik Pohl, and Larry Niven. In fact, Pohl's story, "Waiting for the Olympians," which originally appeared in Asimov's, has been collected in Wollheim's 1989 Annual World's Best SF. The stories are masterfully crafted, their concepts thought-provoking. One story takes up the idea of a world in which the ten command ments were lost at their origin and in which their potential restoration is viewed as a negative possibility; another takes up a modern Egypt in which Hebrews who never saw the Exodus orthe crossing ofthe Red Sea now put their hopes in a prophet who sees freedom in an exodus to be gained by 26


SFRA News/etter, No. 173 December, 1989 space flight. Other stories show efforts to change history through time travel, which in one case results in the creation of the Hitlerian Reich, and in another, more positive outcome, alters history by keeping Robert A. Hein lein healthy enough to stay in the Navy. (Heinlein read the story shortly before his death.) All the stories intrigue; all engage the rational and ethical imagination. And yet. .. Even so, this fairly specialized kind of SF has, almost by definition, a fairly specialized, limited audience. One must know history, culture, civilization and all attendant permutations thereof to fully appreciate the kinds of speculations being made, the natures of the alternatives being projected. Without this richness of contextual insight on the reader's part, several of these stories run the risk of becoming puzzles to solve (where am I? what didn't happen? which civilization did this present come from?) orto dismiss in frustration (I'm tired of trying to figure this out, and there're lots of SF stories that I can follow!). This is a strong collection of strong stories by strong authors; it should have a strong audience among those especially steeped in the turnings of history and civilization. --Mary Kay Bray Close to the Worst Brooks, Terry. Wizard at Large. Del Rey, NY, October 1988, 291 p. $17.95 hc. ISBN 0-345-34773-0. Having primed the pump by reprinting the Shannara trilogy in mass market paperbacks, followed by the first two volumes of this new "Magic Kingdom of Landover" series (The Black Unicorn 1988) followed Magic Kingdom For Sale-Soldl 1986), Ballantine/Del Rey now dumps on the market Terry Brooks's sixth fantasy novel. It is sobering to realize that there must be hundreds of thousands of readers out there salivating at this fresh boon; Brooks's five previous novels have sold, on average, three quarters of a million copies. Brooks's first book, The Wishsong of Shannara, launched the Del Rey imprint in 1977, and Brooks is still going strong a dozen years later. Since we are informed, in the "About the Author" note at the back of Wizard at Large, that Brooks, formerly an attorney, "has now retired to become a full-time author," perhaps we have many more Brooks fantasies to look forward to from Del Rey. That, also, is a sobering thought. Terry Brooks may not be the worst fantasy writer alive, but he's certainly close. If, as many critics have said, the Shannara trilogy was third rate Tolkien, then the Magic Kingdom of Landover series is fourth-rate 27


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Christopher Stasheff. (Piers Anthony is Proust by comparison.) Landover is described thusly: "a kingdom really, not very big, but very far away. It is a crossroads for many worlds ... ,all leading into the mists where the fairy people live. The mists are the source of all magic. The fairies live entirely in the magic; other worlds and peoples do not--at least, notforthe most part." Got that? Such gassy generalities are Brooks's stock in trade, as are stone dumb characters with silly names fumbling the fragments of an idiot plot. Care to join incompetent wizard Questor Thews on a journey to save Lord Ben Holiday and his vegetable love Willow, while avoiding the spells of the dire witch Nightshade who has escaped from the realms of faerie and, at the behest of a liberated bottle imp, is now plotting to .... Oh, never mind. If this is your cup of thin gruel, you will sup regardless of the niggling cavils of critics like me, who certainly don't pay Brooks's bills (or Del Rey's either). Three quarters of a million fantasy readers can't be wrong. --Clark Carey "Things Fall Apart; The Center Cannot Hold" Bull, Emma. Falcon. Ace Books: NY, October 1989,281 p. $3.95 pb.ISBN 0-441-22569-1. Young Dominic Glyndwr, an eccentric minor member of the royal family of Cymru, an isolated planet founded to preserve the surviving vestiges of Welsh culture and language, finds himself increasingly misun derstood by and alienated from his family. Trying to solve the inexplicable discords plaguing his world, Nik becomes involved In mysterious political intrigues, which end abruptly with the murder of his family and the revelation that his most trusted mentor is an agent of subversion and murder. Fleeing his own assassination, Nik hides in the Central Worlds, where as "Niki Falcon" he undergoes radical surgical transformation to become a "gestalt pilot," a mechanically augmented navigator whose drug-heightened per ceptions of "cheatspace" allow him to convey high value cargoes incompa rably quickly--at the price of early death. Near death from his addiction, Falcon accepts a commission to deliver interstellar rock-video star Chrysan der Harris to his home on Lamia, a planet "Silenced" by the Central Worlds Concorde. In fact, it is Niki who is wanted on Lamia, his eccentricity the outward sign of a special genetic potential which frightens the Concorde and promises an evolutionary transformation for humanity. On Lamia all is explained, "changed utterly," and Nik reborn. Falcon does not repeat the success Emma Bull enjoyed with her first novel, the fantasy War For the Oaks. Here the plot is disjointed and 28


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 accidental, relying overmuch on implication. The personality and motives of the principal characters, especially Nik, are underdeveloped, and the style is pretentiously "modern," employing undeveloped Welsh allusions and epigraphs from W.B.Yeats's poetry (Falcon is, of course, named for the emblem of millennial disorder in "The Second Coming"). Moreover, the resolution is un persuasive; we have so little a sense of Nik that we simply do not believe in his transformation into a superman orthat he will change much of anything. This is one of those books that seems extracted from a larger body of text. One wishes that Bull or her editors at Ace had left more of the original narrative in or allowed a little more space for development; the story had possibilities. Not recommended. --David Mead Good Night, Shade, But Not Great Butler, Jack. Nightshade. Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1989. 276p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-87113-315-6. When I read Gregory Benford's highly favorable review of Night shade by Jack Butler in The New York Times Book Review, I was thrilled. I am an aficionado of vampire tales, and Nightshade promised to be an exciting addition to a body of work too often obvious, lurid, and coarse. It is none of those things, but a highly literate, sardonic, philosophic novel. However, it was not the grand success for me that it was for Benford. John Shade, the vampire, created in colonial America, now lives 200 years into our future, on Mars, where'he joins an underworld of semi cyberpunks in a convoluted conspiracy. The action is lively, the prose sprinkled with nifty bits of wisdom: "we live in our friends," "thought is the one genuine pleasure." The descriptions are compelling, particularly the highly icky flayings of the first chapter and the beautiful description of flying much later in the novel. There are some wonderful characters, especially the non-human ones such as Mandrake the artificial intelligence, and Nobodesk the woodenly officious desk-computer. Yes, this is an intelligent and entertaining work of SF. Yet, I have strong reseNations about Nightshade because it has a strange obliviousness to the genres within which it operates and an ideol ogic conseNatism at odds with the world it imagines. First of all, Night shade is a vampire novel: yet vampirism seems irrelevant to the novel, a device merely to endow the narrator with longevity and its concomitant moral perspective, and to endow the narrative with some succulent gore. As a fan of vampire novels, I waited in vain for a fresh approach to the myth. Nightshade is also a science fiction novel; it uses science with some 29


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 precision and wit in its vivid evocation of a brittle, stratified, technologically advanced future on Mars, and the science fictional elements are far from irrelevant. I nstead, they are often annoyingly familiar, a blend of Cordwainer Smith's Norstrilia with Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix. Benford suggests that this familiarity is a series of "adroit bows toward the corpus of science fiction." Instead, I found the effect more like the reinvention of the wheel. Similarly, the old bane of SF, the expository lump, pounded down and sanded out in modern SF, erupts here, as if all the techniques SF writers have devised to avoid the old, deadly, forced explanations remain to be discovered. This obliviousness in a novel philosophically and stylistically so aware disappoints. My other reservation has to do with the novel's ideologic conserva tism, only some of which can be explained by the ancient narrator's old fashioned perspective. In Butler's future, the Earth and Mars have been Americanized, and capitalism and democracy dominate and thrive. This seems a naively ethnocentric speculation. More justifiable in terms of character but more disturbing to me was the novel's male-centered ness. I would like to think the most sexist man would learn something about political change in the course of several hundred years, but our hero can still say "who knows what a woman sees when she sees a man to live with?" and he still uses "men" to mean "humanity." Women are luscious and expendable and all positions of power are taken by men. The narrator is sexist but his author is guilty of a limited, even quaint, vision of a future where sexual politics have lodged in the 1950's. N ig htshade, witty and erudite as it often is, is also naive and limited in its speculation. The result is a novel which does not live up to its promise. --Joan Gordon Campbell at His Best Campbell, Ramsey. The Influence. Macmillan, NY, 1988, 260p. $14.95 hc. ISBN 0-02-521160-9. Ramsey Campbell is, surely, the greatest living British horror writer, and probably the best writing in English today. His brilliant short storiescollected in Demons by Daylight, The Height of the Scream, Dark Companions, Scared Stiff, and other books--are among the most eerie and terrifying in the genre, exploring, with the paranoid intensity character istic of the author, a blighted urban landscape filled with stunted characters colliding with vast, malefic forces. His novels, beginning with the superlative The Doll Who Ate His Mother and continuing through the British Fantasy Award-winning The Hungry Moon, have shown an increasing mastery of 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 the longer form, allowing Campbell to develop his powers of characteriza tion and evocation of setting, while continuing his always sure command of tone and mood. Pre-eminently among horror novelists, Campbell's books circumscribe a coherent moral and social universe; the depth of detail Campbell brings to his portrait of the modern world only adds to the terror that erupts when unknown forces intrude on the landscape. In this regard, Campbell belongs to the British tradition of weird fiction extending back to Dickens and Wilkie Collins: like those earlier masters, his ghosts and monsters never seem gratuitous, but rather emerge believably from the social terrain, menaces spawned by human perfidy, anguish and tortured hope. So it is with The Influence, a novel concerned with the subtle undercurrents of dread and rage that seethe within the contemporary family. The eponymous force is the dead hand of Queenie, matriarch of a subtly disintegrating family, who attempts to control her favorite grandniece, Rowan, from beyond the grave. Or does she? As so often in Campbell's fictional universe, the ascription of supernatural provenance for the bizarre and inexplicable events of the plot is not quite certain, at least not until the horrible death of Hermione at her aunt's graveside more than halfway through the book. Until then, it is all hints and portents, paranoiac glimpses of an unseen world. How, for example, to explain the terrifying dreams that invade young Rowan's mind, turning her slowly away from Alison and Derek, her parents, and toward an unimaginable apotheosis? Is it the "influence" of dead Queenie, or is it the effect of the powerfully twisted emotions she bequeathed her family in death as she had in life? Campbell has never written better. From the first paragraph, which etches a Liverpool seemingly dissolving in rain, his prose is dazzlingly exact, yet suggestive of dimensions of meanir)g lurking beyond the literal. His characters. too, are flawlessly drawn, everyday folk caught up in events that test and change them irretrievably. The Influence, like its predecessor The Hungry Moon, should be a contender for major awards; it is certainly an important landmark in the contemporary horror renaissance, and, I think, Campbell's finest novel to date. I can hardly wait for his next book, Ancient Images, announced for 1989. --Judith Catton 31


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Destination Rama /I Clarke, Arthur C. and Gentry Lee, Rama II. Bantam Spectra, N.Y. December 1989,420p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-553-05714-6. In Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama, it was said that Ramans do everything in threes. It now appears that the authors plan their projects in splendid fours. Clarke's most recently released collaboration with Gentry Lee is the second of four Rama novels. If Rama II is any indication of work to come, then four novels may not be enough to satisfy fans of Clark and his writing partner Lee (The Garden of Rama and Rama Revealed are projected forthe 1989-1991 period.). Rama II is a strong return for Clarke after some rather disappointing efforts in the eighties. After a fifteen-year hiatus the Ramans have returned and Clarke has returned as a master of SF. With the help of fellow engineer, Gentry Lee, the second coming of the Ramans may surpass the Nebula and Hugo award winning Rendezvous With Rama. The journey to the second monumental space ship is ripe with a fresh plot, a revised style, and strong characterization. Unlike most sequels, Rama II's plot is fresh and entertaining. Clarke and Lee provide a snapshot of believable earth history from the time of the fi rst visit to fl esh out the background setting for the novel. The events lead ing up to the first sortie forewarn of problems ahead without revealing too many secrets. Once inside the alien ship, the plot does boil, but never leaves the reader confused about the order of events. Included in this intricate and' believable plot are the standard SF gadgetry, a love story, a mystery, a quest drama, and a devious conspiracy. The writing style of Rama II is lively and stronger than Clarke's more recent efforts. Presumably, the influence of Lee has helped considerably. The sterile, bland writing of Clarke has benefited from Lee's knowledge of English literature. With more fluid prose, Clarke's writing no longer reads like. a technical report. The literary allusions (Shakespeare, Blake, Lewis Carroll and others) add depth to the characters in both a subtle and comic manner. Clarke and Lee still manage to include plenty of technology in the novel, but more effort is put into the plot and characters. The aspect of Rama II that I was most pleased with was th,e strong characterizations. The authors provide detailed histories of all major participants in the novel. Although the dozen crew members represent different types, each of them has foibles and fears which humanize and plausibly motivate them. All interact and become more animated than characters in recent Clarke novels. Readers can follow the major ones with real interest: the fortunes and secrets of Nicole des Jardins, the French-32


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 African life science officer; Richard Wakefield, the electrical engineer who, for once, as an engineer is not painted as a plastic, cold freak but is given a multi-faceted personality; Shigeru Takagishi, the world's foremost expert on the first Ramadan expedition and a scientist-dreamer who refuses to let any obstacle prevent him from being part of the Rama crew; Francesca Sabatini, the beautiful but duplicitous video journalist; and General Michael O'Toole, the ever-so-curious creationist whose intellectual attributes and interests are remarkably similar to those of his creator, Arthur C. Clarke. Conse quently, Clarke and Lee have brought a very human drama to the "New York" of an immense, alien spaceship. Rama marks the return of Arthur C. Clarke to quality science fiction. How much credit should be given to Gentry Lee is not known, but hopefully, Lee will continue working with Clarke in future projects. Rama II is strong in plot, style, and characterization. I feel this is an excellent example of what science fiction can be when writers make an honest effort at the genre. I look forward to the next in the series to see where the giant craft is heading and what other adventures await the human race. I would recommend this novel to any reader. --Brian Dean An Embarrassment of Riches Farren, Mick. Their Master's War. Del Rey, NY, January 1988, 259p. $3.50 pb. ISBN 0-345-34554-1 Vickers. Ace, NY, July 1988, 263p. $3.50 pb. ISBN 0-441-86290-""X-.-Mick Farren is back. In fact, of course, he's never been gone, as fans of punkish comic books and glossy photo albums devoted to the beauties of leather can testify. But Farren has been a stranger to American science fiction since the mid-seventies, when The Texts of Festival was published. That book, with its tatterdemalion future replete with a pantheon of rock-and-roll gods (for years Farren himself sang scathing vocals for the infamous proto-punk band, The Deviants), prefigured much of the current post-Bladerunner sensibility: it was slick and nasty, vaguely noir-ish, with an acrid bitterness for tang. Farren's great, mad trilogy-The Quest of the DNA Cowboys, Synaptic Manhunt, and The Neural Atrocity--was never published in this country, despite its popularity with the New Wave gurus, and thus his American fans have not been exposed to the full force of Farren's uniquely twisted sensibility, nor to his imaginary universe which one critic has described as "pop culture pulped and served with a dose of acid." 33


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 However, in 1985, Ace Books took a chance with a Farren original, Protectorate, an odd and not really successful counterculture allegory disguised as an alien invasion story; then followed this up with a reprint of his British hardcover The Song of Phaid the Gambler, a funky picaresque which goes nowhere but has fun doing it and which Ace, bidding for extra bucks, chopped into two discreetly "revised" volumes: Phaid the Gambler and Citizen Phaid. (Phaid, originally published in 1981, is the book which most clearly establishes Farren as a precursor of the cyberpunks--a dubious distinction, since several of the reviews of the American paperbacks com pared him unfavorably with these hot new stars.) Ace's tentative foray must have enjoyed some success, since now the powerful Ballantine/Del Rey imprint has muscled into the Return-of-Farren sweepstakes, grinding out a series of mid list originals beginning with Their Master's War (followed closely by The Long Orbit and The Armageddon Crazy, early in 1989). Ace also sneaked in another title amid this flood--Vickers--thus providing a veritable embarrassment of riches for the Farren devotee. Not one of the new books was helped by its packaging. From its cover depicting shock-troop mercenaries prowling an alien landscape, the bookstore browser probably assumed Their Master's War was another of those dimwitted high-tech wardances a la Jerry Pournelle. In fact, this novel, though at times a bit war-pulpy and consistently marred by shoddy plotting, is hardly likely to please the right-wingers, inhabiting as it does a liminal political realm (call it "punk") where right and left met in an anarchic individualism suspicious of communal claims. Its central thematic tension is precisely howto strike a balance between these forces, and the novel itself achieves a tenuous balance between straightforward adventure story and grimly cynical social satire, as a group of hapless natives are whisked from their primitive planetto serve as mercenaries in the star-spanning wars ofthe Therem. While we follow them through their travails, we also pursue the thread of a painful question: if this endless battleground is galactic civiliza tion, then how does it differ, essentially, from the squabbling barbarism from which the natives emerged? Their Master's War is not quite The Forever War, but it is worth more attention than the average midlist throwaway. Vickers and The Long Orbit were, basically, marketed as second rate cyberpunk ("A new breed of killer in a dog-eat-dog future ... when tomorrow's cities are undermined by mega-corps and overrun with A-boys, ghoulies and gutterjumpers," Ace's cover blurb blurts), and in some sense I suppose they are. But simply to dismiss them as such is to miss the fact of Farren's precedence--the fact that his current works, though they speak intertextually with (read: crib from) William Gibson's and Bruce Sterling's, also carry forward the author's own themes and obsessions from the early 70's. Vickers, marginally the stronger ofthe two books, tells the tale of its eponymous "hero," a hired killer who "hated himself and the huge, devious, slithering mass of the corporation that owned him." The plot is wobbly but 34


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 intriguing, hopping about in an amphetamized trance through various grittily exotic settings, on and off earth, in what may now be called classic cyberpunk style. The novel's basic theme is whether resistance to social evil has any value in a world where all men are, at some level, always already pawns in an invisible, corrupting game of power. There is some loose, sloppy writing here, and Farren is a bit too keen on glib one-liners as a method of characterization, but Vickers is brainier and ballsier than 99% of the SF being peddled today. If Farren would only slow his pen a bit, taking time to develop a coherent plot and more rounded characters, his natural brilliance and eye for telling detail could produce a major work. In any case, if you're looking for more substantial fare than the SF paperback racks generally proffer, then by all means try these. --Judith Catton Solid SF Adventure Faust, Joe Clifford. The Company Man. Del Rey, NY, October 1988, 327p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-345-35242-4. Joe Clifford Faust is the author of the well-received A Death of Honor (1987), a sort of SF-detective story crossover. His new novel, The Company Man, is a sort of SF-espionage crossover which skirts the borders of cyperpunk. It tells the story of Andrew Birch, trouble-shooter for Astradyne, one of the sprawling multinational corporations that, in this near future (all too near, by my lights), have essentially usurped the power of governments. Birch is the eponymous, dutiful "company man", asking no questions as he moves from identity to identity (occasionally even changing his physical appearance), while acting as data-pirate and saboteur to undermine competing corporations. But he is forced to rethink his position when one of his illicit assignments backfires, enmeshing him in a complex web of counterplots and leading him to conclude that he has been hung out to dangle slowly, slowly in the wind by his superiors at Astradyne. How does a stolid company man react when his company cynically uses him?--this is the central question addressed by Faust's novel. The plot is standard stuff, but it moves briskly and efficiently, propelled by Faust's spare, ultra-competent prose. (Clearly, the author has learned much from the hard-boiled detective tradition.) Birch is a well-drawn character, sympathetic even in the early sections, when he is basically an amoral follower of orders; however, when he begins to doubt those orders and to question the motives and values of his superiors, he becomes almost an heroic figure. Faust handles the transition between these incarnations very well. The near-future technology of corporate data-control is also well 35


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 thought-out; it is certainly more convincing than William Gibson's extrapo lation of cyberspace, though also much less pyrotechnic. In sum, The Company Man is a solid SF spy-adventure story that broaches some major moral and social questions. --Clark Carey Launching a Promising Career Kadrey, Richard. Metrophage. Ace, NY, February 1988, 240p. $2.95 pb. ISBN 0-441-52813-9. [Ace SF Special] Metrophage is the last of the great Ace SF Specials line inaugu rated by Terry Carr. Fittingly for so fine a series, it ends on a high note, for Richard Kadrey's book is one of the best first SF novels of 1988, launching the career of a promising new writer. Metrophage is a dense, gritty portrait of near-future Los Angeles, owing much to William Gibson's Neuromancer in its vision of arty streetgangs and corporate chicanery, but managing to develop its own bright, skittish voice along the way. Jonny, our anti-hero, was formerly an enforcer for the "Committee for Public Health," the paramilitary organization that polices the povertyand crime-ravaged city; but, having grown revolted with his brutal and brutalizing job, he has returned to the streets from which he came, and now scratches out a meager living buying and selling drugs on the vast black market. A paranoid hophead himself, Jonny lives from day to dayuntil one day he is seized by the Committee and forced to help them discover precisely what sort of information the Alpha Rats, a pack of aliens from deep space who have taken over the moon (after destroying the various earth bases there), are transmitting to Conover, a black marketeer Jonny works for. Seems the Alpha Rats are proving a destablizing element in the already precarious international balance of power, threatening to benefit the New Palestine Federation and undermine the Tokyo Alliance (of which the fragmented U.S.A. now forms a part). And so Jonny is propelled into a steadily snowballing plot of infernal complexity. We have seen this sort of thing before: it is classic cyberpunk. And Kadrey knows it, dropping the de rigeur "mirrorshades" reference. But what makes the novel more than yet another Streetboy's Own Story is the wider range of reference Kadrey provides to various avant garde art movements; in essence, for Kadrey, future urban chic involves the whole sale appropriation of the avant garde into everyday life, as a form of inchoate resistance to the fragmenting bureaucratization of the world. ("Surrealism au Service de la Revolution," a street graffito reads, recalling the radical French anarchists of the 1960's.) One of the street figures Jonny joins up 36


SFRA News/etter, No. 173 December, 1989 with, for example, has taken to calling himself Man Ray (after the great photo-collage artist of the early 20th century) and conceives of his callingdemolitions work--as an art-form, releasing destructive fleurs du mal. Basically, this is Gibson's concept of the "Panther Moderns" writ large, but it is writ impressively, on an often brilliantly detailed canvas: The gangs ... were out in force that hot night: the Lizard Imperials (snakeskin boots and surgically splittongues). the Zombie Analytics (subcutaneous pixels offering up flickering flesh-images of dead video and rock stars), the anarchist-physician Croakers .... To Jonny, the [paintings of] the Ernsts and the Dalis could have been snapshots from an only slightly depraved tour book of Los Angeles. Kadrey also acknowledges, through his cleverly layered system of allusions, British New Wave SF's history of appropriating avant garde strategies. There are subtle nods to Michael Moorcock and J.G. Ballard as well as to the cyberpunks, allowing one to see a continuity in the tradition of post-modern Anglo-American SF. But even beyond the felicitous connec tions Kadrey's book establishes between various historical movements (in and out of science fiction), it must be said that the text is simply a pleasure to read, as we dazzle to the kinetic frenzy of ideas and images flashing across its pages. If, ultimately, the story doesn't cohere, or the characters seem less robustly drawn than they might be, well, this is only a first novel, after all. --Judith Catton Retelling the Myth Lee, Tanith. Women as Demons: The Male Perception of Women Through Space and Time. The Women's Press, London, 1989, xii + 272p. 4.95L. pb. ISBN 0-7043-4132-8. As a rule, I am not a reader of short stories, preferring the lengthier engagement of the novel to the brief effects of short fiction. Tanith Lee, however, is one writer whose short fiction I prefer to her novels--perhaps because she is capable of flashes of dazzling style in her shorter pieces which are almost impossible to sustain in longer works. I suspect, however, that it may simply be that she is one of the finest short story writers publishing in the field of fantasy and SF today. Like Angela Carter, another British writer who takes obvious pleasure in the power of language to do so much more than simply get through a plot, Lee has produced wonderfully baroque revisions of myths, legends, and fairy tales, focusing especially on those whose representations of women still have a certain power over us all today. 37


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Previous collections concentrating on these issues include her Red as Blood or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer (1983) and The Gorgon and Other Beastly Tales (1985). Women as Demons includes twelve stories previously published by Lee between 1976 and 1986, including the award-winning "Into Gold," a tale which explores the collision between world views when Eastern magic, in the person of an exotic sorceress, confronts Roman skepticism in an encampment deep in the primitive forests of northern Europe. Of the two new stories in this collection, I particularly like "The Lancastrian Blush," a haunting fantasy set in England during the Battle of Bosworth (Richard Ill's Waterloo) and predicated upon the legendary power of the woman-as virgin. In most of these stories, however, the figures of the demoness and the sorceress take center stage, as titles such as "The Demoness," "Deux Amours d'une Sorciere," and "Mirage and Magia" indicate. Even those stories which may be read as SF rather than as fantasy--such as "Gemini," in which the horror is probably only psychological, or "You are my Sun shine," in which madness rather than magic wreaks destruction--are con cerned with women characters of great, and usually evil, power. In her brief introduction to this collection, Lee writes of her interest in "the Demon Woman mythology" and her own attraction to the "glamour of the wicked lady." While archetypal images of women, arising as they do out of a "mythology of darkness, corruption and the uncanny," have frequently acted as oppressive representations in lived reality, in fiction, as Lee demonstrates here, such images can work for women, framed within a new context of authority and self-expression. Lee's intention in these stories is, "by retelling the myth, ... to investigate and pin-point the issue, ratherthan uphold the sham." Readers can decide for themselves whether she has succeeded or not in this fascinating enterprise of feminist story-telling. What is not at issue, however, is the fine writing and memorable stories she has created in the process. --Veronica Hollinger Fiasco Retold Lem, Stanislaw. Eden, Translated by Marc E. Heine. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY, 262 p. $19.95, ISBN 0-15-127580-7. The dust jacket of Stanislaw Lem's Eden describes the book as "a spellbinding horror story set in an alien landscape." Subtract the word, "horror," and the description becomes accurate. There are a couple of horrifying moments, just as there are in Lem's previous novel, Fiasco (1987), but in fact, this wonderfully entertaining novel is Fiasco, retold with a good deal of humor and at a less intellectually intimidating level, acces-38


SFAA News/etter, No. 173 December, 1989 sible by younger readers. As in Fiasco, an expedition from Earth encounters an alien civiliza tion on the distant planet of Eden. As in a number of Lem's science fiction novels--notably in Solaris (1961, trans. 1970)--the alien civilization is really alien, unique in almost every conceivable way, the product of a biology, ecology, and history so different from humanity's as to be virtually incom prehensible in human terms. Eden begins when an expedition that had planned simply to glance at Eden while passing near, fouls up and crash lands. The all-male crew survives the crash. They are the Captain, the Doctor, the Engineer, the Cyberneticist, the Chemist, and the Physicist--only the Engineer, Henry, is ever called by name. They slowly gain control of a situation for which they are absurdly unprepared, getting at and repairing equipment in their seri ouslydamaged, half-buried ship, then righting it so they can leave. Theyare also rather strangely isolated; they never consider signaling for rescue. As their curiosity repeatedly draws them away from the tasks of escape to explore the wonders of Eden, their strange isolation is heightened, for they are unable to use radio on the planet. Their peculiar predicament calls forth all the human strengths that Lem most often admires in his fiction: cooperation, persistence and courage in the most hopeless situations, humor, affection, ingenious technology, and unremitting, driving curiosity. As they come into contact with alien intelligence in their explorations, the expedition begins to display the more extreme positive and negative aspects of human nature that are key themes in Fiasco: imagination and fear, compassion and aggression, the will to order and the difficulty of recognizing the limits of rationality. Their explorations produce the most memorable and fascinating passages of the novel. Lem is justly admired for his ability to imagine and present tantalizing alien forms, just familiar enough to seem meaningful, yet maddeningly evading comprehension. The explorers find a beautiful, fully automated factory that apparently makes mysterious objects, then destroys them, only to make them over again. It operates as if it were a living body, according to completely unfamiliar principles, yet it is clearly some sort of factory. They also visit various other mysterious sites, including what they think is a city, but none of these ever quite make sense. During most of this exploration, the aliens seem to pay no attention to them at all, this despite two major battles that erupt out of confusing circumstances. These battles illustrate the same principles that are central in Fiasco. When humans prepare for aggression, they find it. In battle, their survival instincts take over; then they lose control and become incredibly lethal and destructive. Most of the novel alternates between efforts to repair the ship and trips to the mystifying artifacts of Eden's civilization. As the Doctor persis tently argues, this civilization is so utterly alien that they cannot hope to understand it without communicating with the aliens. When they have 39


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 almost completed repairs, an alien approaches them and communication begins. While they find they can easily understand each other in the areas of astronomy, mathematics, and the sciences, they quickly become incom prehensible to each other on subjects such as sociology, psychology, politics, and morals. What the expedition learns from their visitor strongly tempts them to use their superior fire-power to force human conceptions of social justice upon this alien civilization. Despite the temptations, this group of humans realizes that they simply cannot gain enough knowledge of this civilization at this time to understand how to intervene in a way that would be useful. While the details of Eden's culture are suggestive of injustice that humans find intolerable, they do not add up to a clear picture of how the culture functions and what its members desire. Unlike the visitors to Quinta in Fiasco, these men accept their limits and leave the planet without destroy ing it. While Eden's happy ending contrasts with the fiasco of Fiasco, the same thematic residue remains. The reader is left with a burning curiosity to understand Eden's civilization, a curiosity just as unsatisfied as in Fiasco. Lem again creates an alien culture, makes it internally consistent enough that one believes in its existence, then refuses to explain it. This procedure continues one of the central themes of Lem's artistic career: the essential mystery of a universe that compels wonder but finally does not satisfy curiosity. Impressive as is the human abilityto discover and use pattern and order in all phenomena, this ability is ultimately inadequate, not only to the infinite creativity of the physical universe, but also to the more mundane imagination that leads to different human cultures in the present on our own planet and that can imagine without understanding the worlds of its own creation in novels such as Eden. --Terry Heller A Book For Browsers Pringle, David. Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels. Foreword by Brian Aldiss. New York, Peter Bedrick Books, September 29, 1989. $17.95 hc. ISBN 0-87226-328-2; $8.95 pb. ISBN 0-87226-219-7. In his foreword, Brian Aldiss takes issue with some of Pringle's choices as the "hundred best," and so do I, and so I imagine will just about everybody who picks this volume up. The contents are listed chronologi cally, beginning with Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan (1946), and ending with John Crowley's Aegypt (1987), and thus the list lives up to its billing as "modern." I would not argue with either the first or last entry--Aegypt is my favorite candidate for classic of the century, despite the recency of its 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 publication--but like Aldiss I do not think Pringle has selected the best work by some of the authors included, and I think he is too often hemmed in by the necessity to choose a novel rather than a novella or shorter work by authors he wishes to include. The problem appears most acutely in cases like Vance's "Dying Earth" fantasies, where the later novels don't match the magic of the earliest story versions, or in the listing of Leiber's The Sinful Ones, which Pringle admits is inferior in the novel version to the original story in Fantastic: "You're All Alone." It might have made more sense to have selected 100 authors rather than titles, thus avoiding some double or triple entries (for Peake, Ballard, Beagle, Leiber, Crowley, Carter, Disch, Vance and others), but of course that would not have suited the monkey see-monkey-do marketing philosophy of the publishers. (Every genre now has its list of "one hundred best.") Fortunately, in practice, Pringle's short essays do not usually focus on the title selected, but upon the style and oeuvre of the author. I was delighted to see Thomas Burnet Swann included, not only for the selection of Day of the Minotaur, but for the favorable mention of a half dozen of Swann's other titles (though my personal favorite, Wolfwinter, never pub lished in England, was ignored). In fact, the most rewarding use of this volume for me has been as browsing material. Pringle's brief commentaries often include, besides the required plot summaries, quotations for style, references to themes, and comparisons to other works and other authors. An hour or two of sampling them gives a reader the illusion of an encyclo pedic familiarity with the field. --Robert A. Collins Thank you, Thank you! Salmonson, Jessica Amanda, eel. Introouctory essay by Rosemary Jackson. What Did Miss Darrington See?: An Anthology of Feminist Supernatural Fiction. The Feminist Press, City University of New York, NY, 1989, xxxvii + 263p. $29.95 hc. $10.95 pb. ISBN 1-55861-006-5. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" first appeared in 1892; it was republished once in the 1920's and then remained out of print for nearly fifty years. Since its "rediscovery" by feminist literary scholars in the 1970's, it has become acknowledged as a classic of both feminist writing and Gothic fiction. However, because of the lack of any recognizable "tradition" within which to place this chilling tale of a woman's oppression and madness, "The Yellow Wallpaper" has for many years been read as something of an anomaly within the history of writing by women. Not least among the many pleasures of What Did Miss Darrington See? is its demonstration of the existence of a large body of Gothic and supernatural 41


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 fiction written bywomen since the second half of the century. Reread within the context of the stories in Salmonson's anthology, "The Yellow Wallpa per" retains all its extraordinary power but no longer appears as an isolated work of genius. For this reason alone, What Did Miss Darrington See? is worth reading. Another reason is the quality ofthe stories, nearly all of which are well-written and entertaining. What Did Miss Darrington See? contains twenty-four stories; while only six were first published before nineteen hundred, fully sixteen of them were first published before nineteen-sixty. This is obviously not a collection which stresses the contemporary; rather it develops a sense of the continuities and differences arising in women's supernatural fiction since 1850, the date of the earliest story reprinted here, "La Femme Noir" by Anna Maria Hall. The most recent story included is Jules Faye's surreal "Pandora Pandaemonia," published here for the first time. Earlier pieces include well-known stories suchas Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's delightful and locally-colored "vampire" tale, "Luella Miller" (1902) and Olive Schreiner's visionary feminist prose-poem, "Three Dreams in a Desert" (1870), as well as the title story by Emma B. Cobb, a wonderful tale of love and death which re-writes the characters of the nineteenth-century governess and her By ronic lover in strongly feminist terms. First printed in 1870, it has remained out of print until its re-appearance here. Among the more recent stories are several Latin American magic realist pieces, including Luisa Valenzuela's horribly comic "The Teacher" (1976) and Armonia Somer's drastic revision of the Virgin Mary in "The Fall" (1967). Also included are recent stories by a range of writers such as Lisa Tuttle ("A Friend in Need" [1981]), Anne Sexton ("The Ghost" [1978]) and Phyllis Eisenstein (" Attachment" [1974]). The anthology ends with Joanna Russ's movingly autobiographical ghost story, "The Little Dirty Girl" (1983). While not all of these stories are overtly feminist, all are concerned with the lives of--and relationships amongwomen,and most demonstrate a skepticism towards conventional sexual politics which justifies their inclusion in a volume which calls attention to its feminist orientation. But this isn't all. What Did Miss Darrington See? includes not only Salmonson's own informative introduction, but also an introductory essay by Rosemary Jackson which places these stories within a critical framework of both feminist and fantastic literature. As the author of the excellent Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (1981), Jackson is particularly well suited to tackle these subjects. In addition, Salmonson provides detailed introductions for each story, placing them in both their biographical and literary historical contexts. And that still isn't all. The volume concludes with a long list of "Recommended Reading" which not only pOints out other writers and works to enjoy within the context of supernatural writing by women but serves also to emphasize the existence of a broadly based and historically coherent literary tradition of feminist supernatural fiction which the twenty-four stories collected here only begin to suggest. What Did Miss 42


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Darrington See? is both an entertaining collection of fiction and an impor tant example of the ongoing project of feminist literary history. Thank you, Jessica Amanda Salmonson. --Veronica Hollinger Wisecracks, Bodies, and Aliens Stith, John. Deep Quarry. Ace Books, NY, February, 1989, 186 p. $3.50 pb. ISBN 0-441-14276-1. Overthe past few years, a number ofwriters--George Alec Effinger, Mick Farren, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Gary Wolf, Richard Bowker, Mel Gilden, and Mike Resnick among many--have found the private eye's commentary on society an ideal vehicle for the ironic view of the world that is a hallmark of good sf. In the postmodern 80's, though, writers must both demonstrate their hip knowledge of the cliches and mannerisms of the private eye and subvert them, satisfying expectations and challenging them at the same time. With this book Stith, a career full of sf mysteries behind him, polishes his gaudiest patter and tries the game. His sf eye, Ben Takent, bears every known tic of his earthly counterpart. Sure he's so addicted to wisecracks that he insults and antagonizes everyone in sight, including his client, who is of course beau tiful, and naturally sleeps with him before the book is a third over. And yes, he's fast with a gun, known in every sleazy bar, and as poor but honest as a minority in a liberal's dream. But. The seduction scene is light and fun. When he's forced to shoot someone, the police believe it's an accident. Twice. And he uses his smarts to reason his way to solutions, avoiding the mayhem whenever possible. Both the world and the plot are somewhat less engaging and decidedly not of the Hal Clement school. Tankur is a planet with one side always turned toward its sun, populated by three alien races who like heat more than humans do, none of whom spend any time wondering where the atmosphere they breathe could have come from. The plot involves alien artifacts disappearing from an archaeological dig, but cuts to a long chase scene and some heavy moral points rather too early on in the telling. A heavy dose of action inside a most alien of artifacts should slide readers through any lulls in the detecting. Rewarding those who stick it through is an ending whose exposition is satisfyingly convoluted and a rare example of an eye whose beautiful client does not betray him. --Steve Carper 43


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Read and Re-read With Pleasure Sullivan, Tim, ed. Tropical Chills. Avon, NY, November 1988, 258p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-380-75500-9. This collection of fourteen weird tales set in the tropics (eleven of them original) wasa hit with the year's reviewers, manyofwhom cited it both for the quality of its contents and the freshness of its theme. Authors who made original contributions included Gene Wolfe, Susan Wiggs, Steve Rasnic Tem, Edward Bryant, Charles Sheffield, George Alec Effinger, Jack Dann with Barry Malzberg, Pat Cadigan, Greg Frost, and Dean R. Koontz. Reprints (from F&SF, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Twilight Zone) include stories by Brian W. Aldiss, Ian Watson, Avram Davidson, and Timothy Robert Sullivan (the latter Is, despite the disclaimer in his introduc tion, the editor himself). The collection is particularly remarkable forthe variety of its effects, beginning traditionally with the ominously downbeat "Houston, 1943" by Gene Wolfe (which didn't quite work for me, despite the fine writing) and ending with Dean R. Koontz's surprisingly uplifting "Graveyard Highway," a tale which turns a horror landscape into a lesson on the value of art vs. the futility of politics. Sullivan's story, "Zeke" (next to last), a Nebula nominee reprinted elsewhere, has both a tropical setting and an upbeat "sense of wonder" subtext. Similarly inspiriting in their effects are Bryant's "Chrysa lis" and Dann and Malzberg's tongue-in-cheek spoof of a fundamentalist actor /president who "saves the world from Communism" by shooting' holes in the Soviet Premier's forehead. On the other hand, Aldiss's "Flowers of the Forest," a voodoo tale with a terrible twist at the end, evokes genuine dread, as do Tem's "Grim Monkeys," Effinger's "Talking Heads," and Frost's "A Part of Us." Perhaps emblematic (in its ambivalence) of this highly literate anthology is Pat Cadigan's "It Was the Heat": her motif is an ancient evil (the devilish beast of unbridled passion) but the narrative poises delicately on the edge of mockery. A few of these stories (Sheffield's "Dead Meat," Davidson's' "Where Do You Live, Queen Esther?") present new twists onthe old "grisly poetic justice" theme, but if you love to hate and enjoy vicarious revenge, these tales will please. Without exception the narratives in this anthology are carefully wrought and relatively quiet. They will be read (and re-read) long after the noisy vogue for "splatterpunk" has faded. The editor and his publisher should be commended for the courage of their good taste. --Adrian de Wit 44


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 Children of the Wind Wilhelm, Kate. Children of the Wind. St. Martin's Press. NY. 1989,263 p. $16.95hc. ISBN 0-312-03303-6. Reading Kate Wilhelm has always been like watching a meteorite. You never know where in the sky she'll appear or just what path she'll takeali you can be sure of is thatthe effect will be brilliant. Children of the Wind, a collection of five novellas, is like a meteor shower. The concepts shoot everywhere, dazzling the eye and enlarging the mind. The title piece is the unannounced first streak across the mind's firmament. You might miss the flash if you're not paying attention. Its effect is based on a subtle building of unerringly observed, seemingly ordinary details of character and behavior. The horror is psychological, the culminat ing disaster only glancingly described, the total effect profoundly disturbing. She never makes the mistake even some excellent writers in this genre (e.g. Stephen King) fall into, robbing fantasy of its essential element of personal imaginative participation by over-articulating the central notion. We don't understand what is wrong with the twins in "Children of the Wind," but their undeniable Wrongness is therefore the more chilling. "The Gorgon Field" starts from an unexpected spot and moves in a different direction. It features the detective couple Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl, and begins with a standard thriller setup: what is the secret in oil tycoon Carl Wyandot's past that keeps him under the influence of the sinister Ramon? But the action quickly veers into sacred space and becomes directed by spiritual powers allied to the profound sense of place that is a Wilhelm hallmark. Next comes "A Brotherto Dragons, a Companion of Owls." This is the closest to classic science fiction in the collection, with its post-disaster world and apocalyptic vision. Still, the essence of its illumination is psycho logical: the nature of the catastrophe that has left a small group of survivors in a once-great city is never detailed, and the mechanical dodges the characters have devised for physical survival are treated as less important than their emotional adjustments. The structure of the story mirrors that of Genesis, but this Eden is illusory, the sin of its children incomprehensible, and its god of wrath a man trying to keep control of a senseless universe. With "The Blue Ladies" we are back in a contemporary world and a crisis bound ed by standard emotional parameters: will Cissy's need for her modeling job and desire to nurture the artistry of painter Daniel Borg override the pressure of his frustration and bad temper following a nearly incapacitating stroke? The Wilhelm touch is in the eerie blurring of the lines between artist and artifact, past and future, physical possibility and psycho logical immensity. 45


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173, December, 1989 Finally, "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky" recapitulates the previous fiery dazzlers and fixes them in a new constellation. There are elements of fantasy, horror, spiritual exploration, psychological growth, and plain old garden-variety mystery in this brilliant and satisfying tale of new loves transcending the circumstances of the lovers, old enmities outliving the lives of the enemies, dream-time merging into real time, and creepy objects and haunted places taking on lives of their own. A character in the last story says, "One ofthe women I interviewed back in West Virginia said people there had the mountains in their eyes ... You have the prairie in your eyes." Kate Wilhelm must have the heavens and the earth in hers. --Mary Helene Pottker Rosenbaum If C. J. Cherryh Went Cyberpunk Williams, Walter Jon. Angel Station. New York: Tor, July 1989. 393p. $18.95. ISBN 0-312-93187-5. Williams, the author of a half-dozen previous novels, including the widely-praised Hardwired and Voice of the Whirlwind, has a knack for writing fast-paced, hard-edged prose. His stories feature believable, though not particularly complex,characters and well-realized settings. Angel Sta tion and the two novels mentioned above also utilize many of the standard cyberpunk icons--physical and mental augmentation, designer drugs, trips through cyberspace, and punkish lowlife characters. Like most imitators of Gibson and Sterling, however, Williams makes no attempt to attain the complexity of plot, theme, and style which marks such masterpieces as Neuromancer and Islands in the Net. Most of the novels written in the cyberpunk mode have been set either on the Earth or in near-Earth orbit. Angel Station differs from these works, however, in that it is set in a galaxy-spanning milieu strikingly similar to that of C. J. Cherryh's Downbelow Station or her more recent novel Rimrunners. Indeed, aside from minor differences in drug use, spaceship design, and technical nomenclature, either writer's protagonists would feel about equally at home in both universes. Like Cherryh, Williams writes of gigantic, largely mercantile spacestations and a spacegoing culture that has become almost totally divorced from groundside life. Like Cherryh, he describes beaten up, cargo-carrying spacecraft, family owned, crewed largely by ill-educated misfits who live in constant fear of going bankrupt, losing their berths, losing their means of livelihood. Angel Station tells the story of two such misfits, Ubu Roy and Beautiful Maria, lovers as well as brother and sister, who run small cargo shipments from station to station, things with which the larger shipping 46


SFRA Newsletter, No. 173 December, 1989 cartels don't want to bother. Always on the edge of ruin, making one bad decision after another, they eventually get in trouble with the law and are forced to flee human space. Purely by chance they make a startling discovery, another spacefaring race, aliens who share with humanity a mercantile culture, but have almost nothing else in common with us. The final chapters of the book detail the siblings' attempts to understand the alien culture and capitalize on their discovery. In order to do this they must avoid both offending the aliens and being out-manipulated byatreacherous fellow spacer who has discovered their secret. Williams's Angel Station is excellent adventure fiction. Although he is not writing on a level comparable to the best of either C. J. Cherryh or William Gibson, this novel should appeal to fans of both writers. SFRA Newsletter c/o Betsy Hartst --Michael M. Levy I'm sorry that Ursula LeGuin took exception to comments in my review of Dean R. Koontz's Oddkins. By characterizing children's literature as "a literary form that calls for a scaled-down imagination and an oversimplified moral," I did not mean to impugn its merits or call its value into question, but ratherto strike a contrast between the narrative complexity of Koontz's adult thrillers and the simpler structure of his first children's book. My choice of words was not the best. But I do not agree that I dismissed children's literature out of hand, as Ms. Le Guin seems to feel. I think that the last paragraph of my review reflects my familiarity with the form and IT1Y appreciation of it. I referred to both Baum's The Wizard of Oz and Dickens' A Christmas Carol as classics and praised Tom Disch's The Brave UttJe Toaster as charming, noting that a well written book such as this appeals to children and adults. It I really believed that (in Ms. Le Guin's words) "lack of imagination and ethical oversimplication" were the hallmarks of children's literatuare, than clearly I would have held upa derivative and condescending book like Oddkins as a paragon of the form. What I hoped to communicate through my review was that I felt Dean Koontz underestimated both the potential of children's literature and the capabilities of its readers. --Richard Michaels 47


:ji:.'l\ i':8'.'!siett,'jr l'>la. j 73 Halfst, Ejitor {\it:;, & Social Science Division Co!!ege r\l1;,'1:[0[, I L_ 60150 DATED MAT.ERIAL PLEASE DO NOT DELAY 1--I NOII-Prol,lO.u:L1IZa" .. II c POC'T' t('r-.\),. 0 ;-\,-":1,.1 I PAID i I Permit NO.3 J MALTA,IL L-I __


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