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SFRA newsletter
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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 )
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SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 The SFRA Newsletter Published ten times a year for the Science Fiction Research Association by Alan Hypatia Press, Eugene, Oregon. Copyright @ 1989 by the SFRA. Editonal correspondence: Betsy Hartst, Editor, SFRA Newsletter, Arts, Communications, & Social Science Division, Kishwaukee College, Malta, II 60150. (fel. 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 (1985-86) Past Editors of the Newsletter Fred Lerner (1971-74) Beverly Friend (1974-78) Roald Tweet (1978-81) Elizabeth Anne Hull (1981-84) Richard W. Miller {1984-87} Robert A. Collins (1987-89) 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 ) 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. 174, January/February 1990 President's Message Perspectives from the Belly-Button of the World With all the political changes that have been going on in Eastern Europe in the past few months, it's easier than ever to overlook some parts of the world, at least from the perspective of North America, or even Europe and Asia. In fact, we generally read, watch, and hear more complete news about events in South Africa than we do about South American activities. It was particularly frustrating over the holidays to be getting most of my news via CNN and the International Herald Tribune but hearing very little if anything reported on the continent I was on at the time. Nothing makes an area come alive more vividly than an actual visit to the site. Fred and I and Charles N. Brown (of Locus) spent the last two weeks of December touring Brazil, Argentina, and Peru (with a quick border crossing into Paraguay), seeing some of the natural sights, tasting food, and, best of all, meeting some people who read science fiction, both in English and in Spanish and Portuguese. Our Northern hemisphere biases were underscored for me, reading Rama 1/ by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee as I traveled, picking up on casual references to the "winter" of a two-year span or "summer" of a given year, concepts tied to the notion that winter begins in December and that summer runs from June through September. Would I have been sensitive enough to pick up the limited perspective if I had been reading the same novel way up north, say, in Dixie? Hard to tell. But once your consciousness is raised, you're never quite the same! We discovered the answer to a question asked in a popular song of my youth: what do they do on a rainy night in Rio?--we attended a publisher's party for a new anthology of Brazilian sf and talked to fans. Going back to the hotel, stuck in a traffic jam (a falling boulder had blocked the road), we heard from our driver, a doctor-fan-collector, about the frustrations of practicing medicine when the patients can not afford to fill their prescrip tions, and even a doctor must work three jobs to be able to afford to buy books. Another time we were caught up in traffic celebrating the election of the new Brazilian president, Coli or, a conservative, though most of the people we met had been Lula supporters. I got to meet Braulio Tavares. new SFRA member, and chat about his fiction and critical writing. 3


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 We flew one day to Sao Paulo and learned how difficult it is to stay in the publishing business in a country that experiences an inflation rate of nearly two per cent per day. We were told "Bel-India" is a nickname for Brazil; three percent of the population lives in "Belgium," the rest in IndiaCalcutta or Bombay. The people at Aleph Publishers are very interested in using sf to promote general literacy and interest children in middle schools in science and technology and in the possibility of changing the world forthe better through awareness of other cultures and alternative social systems. We marveled at the magnificent Iguacu Falls, and tried not to lose our patience when our flight to Buenos Aires was cancelled, compelling us to spend an extra night in the jungle. I gave up on indoor and night pictures after my flash attachment was jerked off its cord while I shopped in Paraguay. In Buenos Aires, local fans were disappointed at our delayed arrival which killed plans for a formal reception, but still met us at the airport, and I was presented a bouquet of roses byformer SFRA member Norma Dangla, who attended Jim Gunn's Intensive Institute for teachers of science fiction a decade ago. There is much interest in SFRA among the academics in Argentina, but inflation makes it difficult for them to obtain the dollars to pay membership fees. Scholarship does exist south of the border: one man has written a book on Cordwainer Smith which he is interested in having translated and published in North America. We were invited to share Christmas eve at the home of some teachers and writer-fans with their children and we went out to dinner and sightseeing with some other fans. Again we got varying political views on whether Mr. Menem, the local new president, would be able to halt the brain drain and get control of the economy before Argentina lost its best-educated people to immigration. All too quickly we were on our way to Lima, with an address of a local fan in Peru supplied at the last minute by an Argentine pen pal. We never did locate him, though, before we were off to Cuzco (which means the navel of the Inca empire) and, ultimately, to the fabled Machu Picchu. There's something intrinsically akin to sf (and the sense of wonder) in this lost-and found Inca engineering marvel. The archeological and anthropological museum in Lima gave a sense of the history which led up to Machu Picchu and the minds ofthe ancient engineers who civilized the Andes. We had less comment from the Peruvians on local elections (coming this spring), but 4


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 were aware of the contrast in the faded but still opulent Gran Bolivar Hotel in Lima, with the danger in the streets outside. By this time a cough that had been getting progressively worse as we traveled deepened and I developed a high fever (39 degrees c.), so I had the experience of getting an antibiotic shot from a Peruvian doctor who spoke no English. As I write this, I'm still recovering from the cough and an ear infection--which has the side effect of making the world turn upside down for me, a symbolic symptom, it seems. Fred developed the bronchitis too, and Charles got hundreds of infected bites on his legs by some unidentified insects at Machu Picchu. (Read Locus for his slant on the trip.) But an odd health sidebar. My own doctor just took a blood profile, and my cholesterol level dropped from 200 to 176 between the end of November and now--this after gorging on Brazilian and Argentine range-fed beef for two weeks, despite our best medical wisdom which says that beef raises cholesterol levels. There's surely a lot more we have to learn about each other, North and South America. By Neil Barron PWSurveys SF --Elizabeth Anne Hull Rosemary Herbert, who reviewed SF for the Library Journal for several years, surveyed SF today in an eight page article in the 10 November 1989 Publishers Weekly. Based partly on interviews with publishers, editors, authors, and agents who attended Boston's Noreascon, she pro vides a useful if superficial overview of the field as it enters the last decade of the millennium. There was a predictably wide difference of opinion as to SF's health, at least as a commercial genre. Brian Aldiss, interviewed by telephone at his Oxford home, argued that "the level of acceptance of SF by the outside world is much lower than it was in, say, the '60s." He cites Martin Amis's new novel (published only in Britain so far), as an example of pseudo SF. And he deplores the trend toward endless series. "I think they represent SF going back tothe kiddies, and the overall flavor of this kind of thing drives 5


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 out sensible writers and writers--who, if they have brass nerve, develop into Martin Amis. Its isolation has cost SF dear." Later in the same issue is an interview with William Kotzwinkle, a very versatile author known for his fantasies (e.g., Doctor Rat, 1976) as well as the novelization of E.T., which sold three million copies. New Volumes of Dick Letters The January Locus reports that Don Herron is editing for Under wood-Miller six volumes of The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, with correspondence from 1938-1982. The first volume, with letters from 1974, is tentatively scheduled for this summer. He would be interested in hearing from anyone with letters from Dick, particularly from the 1950s and 1960s but also some later years such as 1971, where current material is very sparse. Write Don Herron, Box 292, Glen Ellen, CA 95442; 707-996-9009. Marshall Tymn Recovering A Christmas letter from Darlene Tymn, Marshall's wife, reports that he is making encouraging, steady progress since he was in a serious auto accident on 10/20/89. The prognosis is very good for full recovery, al though he will probably be in the hospital for four to six more months. The Tymns are hoping to be able to attend the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts in Ft. Lauderdale in March. Presently, he is at the Rehabilitation Center of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, MI (Room 1148, phone 313-572-4424). During the week therapy sessions fill each day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visitors are welcome after 5 p.m. or on weekends between II a.m. and 8 p.m. Cards or letters may be sent to the hospital orto his home address: 721 Cornell, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. --Neil Barron Clarion West Writers Workshop The seventh annual Clarion West Writers workshop will be held June 17 to July 28, 1990 at Seattle Central Community College, Seattle, Washington. Writers in residence are Marta Randall, Pat Murphy, Lewis Shiner, Vonda Mcintyre, David G. Hartwell, and Gene Wolfe. Approximately twenty students will be accepted. Tuition is $995 until March I, 1990. Late applicants will be consid ered until April I, at a tuition of $1 095. Housing is available for about $650 for the six-week workshop, not including meals. Limited scholarships exist. 6


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Write or call for application and scholarship information: Clarion West, Suite 350, 340 15th Avenue East, Seattle WA (206) 322-9083. 1990 Clarion Workshop The 23rd Clarion Workshop in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing will be held from June 24th to August 4th at Michigan State University. Writers-in-Residence will be James Patrick Kelly, Joyce Thompson, Connie Willis, Michael Kube-McDowwell, Kate Wilhelm and Damon Knight. Clarion is the oldest and most successful writing workshop in the science fiction and fantasy field. Over a third of its graduates have since published, among them Ed Bryant, Michael Talbot, Octavia Butler, Vonda E. Mcintyre, and Kim Stanley Robinson. For applications or further information, write to Professor Albert Drake, Director, Clarion '90, Holmes Hall East, Lyman Briggs School, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824-1107. Application deadline is April I, 1990. Call for Papers Jane Donawerth and Carol Kolmerten are seeking essays for a book on the history of women's utopias and women's science fiction as a continuous literary tradition encompassing both genres. This collection may well include such diverse subjects as Christine de Pisan's City of Ladies, French island utopias, Margaret Cavendish's Blazing Worlds, Sarah Scott's Millennial Hall, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, Char lotte Perkins Gilman's fiction, C. L. Moore, black women writers, and post1960s feminist utopias and science fiction. We invite two-page abstracts, due to either one of us by April I, 1990. Send to Jane Donawerth, Department of English, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742; Carol Koimerten, Department of English, Hood College, Frederick, MD 21701. 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 1989 Collectors Awards The winners of the 1989 "Collectors Awards" are: The Most Col lectable Author of the Year: Salmon Rushdie; The Most Collectable Book of the Year: May Castleberry, Whitney Museum of American Art for My Pretty Pony, by Stephen King, illustrated by Barbara Kruger; and Lifetime Collec tors Award: to Harlan Ellison for a uniquely collectable body of work. The Collectors Awards, resting on a lucite pedestal, take the form of a solid travertine sphere (the special award being obsidian), and are presented annually in January by the rare book firm of Barry R. Levin Science Fiction & Fantasy Literature and are awarded to the science fiction, fantasy or horror author and book deemed "most collectable" by the firm's clientele. 8


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Editorial What's the Future of SF? In Neil Barron's column, this issue, he describes Rosemary Her bert's survey for PW which was concerned with the current health of SF as it enters the 1990s. It appears that some of those interviewed felt the 1990s was a crucial period and that SF had some things wrong. Brian Aldiss's remarks on the dangerous trend toward "endless series" and what it does to SF writers reminded me of A. J. Budrys's column in the December '89 Fantasy and Science Fiction. Although Budrys begins at a different point than Aldiss, both touch on some possible ills or problems. Budrys laments the lack of editors who would prevent writers from publishing works which are "incoherent--riddled with view-poi nt-switches, jumbled chronologies, overpopulations of needlessly introduced and un necessarily named characters, [and)anticlimactic plots." He believes that any writer "can write a stunning part," but a "pro writer ... is a writer who can make of the parts a whole. That I S the hard part." Without the proper editors, writers are not pushed toward the "central purpose of serving the reader, as distinct from parading before the reader" (22). After reading approximately a hundred book reviews the past four months, it seems that some SFRA reviewers are also pin-pointing problems of SF writers. Don't get excited. I am certainly in favor of critiques which honestly cite flaws as well as merits. What I am wondering about is the future of SF? Are there real problems facing SF writers today? If so, is it the fault of publishers, editors, writers, or something else? Or, is SF thriving; are these fears groundless? What do you think? Share yourthoughts about the future of SF in the 1990s. -Betsy Hartst 9


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 I Reviews I Non-Fiction Set Designs for Alien Giger, H.R. Giger'sAlien Film Design, 20th Century Fox. Ed. Mia Bonzanigo, trans. Hugh Young. Morpheus International, Box 7246, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-7246. 75p. $39.95. ISBN 0-9623447-0. Alien has been judged one of the most effective SF films, although it could be judged a horror film with SF trappings. The plot is not strikingly original, closely resembling that of It! The Terror from Beyond Space, 1958. And Twentieth Century Fox settled with AE. van Vogt, who threatened suit because of the film's similarities to his 1939 story, "Discord in Scarlet," later incorporated in his 1950 novel, The Voyage of the Space Beagle. What is original about the film are the set designs, which won an Oscar for its designers, of whom the Swiss artist, H.R. Giger (rhymes with eager, forthe record) is the best known. The account of Giger's participation in the film was published in 1979 by the long-defunct Big 0 Publishing and is now scarce. This new edition, which adds a publisher's note by James R. Cowan and a list of Giger's solo exhibitions from 1977 to 1988, is therefore most welcome. Giger's account is largely chronological and is necessarily partial, since his concern is almost exclusively with the set designs. Artists, like authors, are not usually accustomed to collaborative work, and Giger often expresses his disappointment with the many compromises which had to be made in realizing his designs. His outspokenness, although moderate, may be one reason he was not asked to work on Aliens, a much less effective shoot-'em-up sequel. In addition to the many photographs of the building sets are reproductions of many of Giger's sinister and marvelously effective paint ings. The book is the size of an LP; the original paintings are typically four to five times as large. This reduction in scale is probably unavoidable but is regrettable (reproductions of the paintings and drawings are available from the publisher; request a price list). Giger's work isn't widely available in the U.S. This is unfortunate, for his work is unique, disturbing and powerful, and J()


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 anyone interested in fantastic art and illustration should know his work. (Morpheus says another Giger book will be released in mid-1990.) --Neil Barron Fright and Social Thought Grixti, Joseph. Terrors of Uncertainty: The Cultural Contexts of Horror Fiction. Routledge, NY and London, 1989, 214p. $9.80 pb. ISBN 0-41502598-2. Grixti's book is a must-read for all scholars and casual readers who are interested in the connections between horror fiction, psychology, and the social sciences. His introduction immediately defines his methodologi cal focus when he outl ines the discursive field of the horror genre as deriving not only from the work of novelists, but also from the work of movie and television producers, video game programmers, and comic book artists. Here Grixti defines his limitations in that he states his examination will cover only the first two items listed. The first section of the text surveys the field from the popular perspective, with chapter one cataloging general trends and movements within the genre, from the 19th century evolution of such tales as Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to such modern creations as Blatty's The Exorcist and Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Chapters two and three survey two popular names in the publishing of horror fiction, James Herbert and Stephen King, examining in detail Herbert's The Fog and King's The Shining respectively. The second section of the book is more intellectually rigorous than what has preceded it, dealing in chapter four with the theory of catharsis and the "beast within" as it applies to the reception of horror fiction by its audience. Also of specific interest in this chapter is Grixti's discussion of Freudian theory and psychoanalysis. Chapter five deals with research work produced from the behavior ist and neo-behaviorist schools of thought, again focusing on audience reception and the conditioning of violent reactions within the individual audience member. Here Grixti strays from his subject matter, citing such examples as The Champion and Paths of Glory, which technically fall outside of the horror genre. Chapter six serves as a synthesis of the two parts of the book, attempting to join together the idea of horror as an artistic expression with 11


SFRA News/etter, No. 174, January/February 1990 its social and psychological context in England and America. However, Grixti again confuses horror with mere gratuitous violence, somewhat discrediting his final argument. --Joseph M. Dudley Cahill Study Riemer, James D. From Satire to Subversion: The Fantasies of James Branch Cabell. Greenwood Press, NY, 1989, 106p. $35. ISBNO-313-255695. James Branch Cabell was initially praised by leading critics and further acknowledged by being briefly banned in New York City. However, he has not been very widely discussed in recent years, despite a favorable reappraisal in the 1950's from the likes of Edmund Wilson and Edward Wagenknecht. Yet Cabell's work cannot be ignored by any serious student of fantasy or anyone interested in the relationship between imaginative literature and the history of ideas in the United States. A strong literary personality, Cabell has always elicited intense r.eactions from his readers. One need only recall that the illustrious Howard Pyle, who provided the art work for Cabell's early stories, eventually refused to further illustrate him, finding Cabell'S attitude toward the MiddleAges too lacking in "sincerity and reverence." If Cabell was ambivalent toward the Middle Ages, he also refused to treat southern life and values with romantic nostalgia, when he found literary inspiration in the historic materials of his childhood home, Richmond, Virginia. Cabell never lost his awareness of the discrepancies between myth and reality, treating his mythic materials with an irony and critical social awareness that many of his readers found jarring. Some complained that his narratives lacked wonder, that sense of awe conveyed not only by high fantasy but even by series romances. Cabell'S fantasies rejected reassuring religious and philosophical visions in order to ask some of the basic questions that were to achieve such attention a few decades later through the fiction ofthe Existentialists. Man's inability to discern a higher pattern to his existence, despite his constant attempts through art and the imagination to impose one, was a basic Cabell preoccupation. Riemer, an English professor from Marshall University, sees the "successful merging of allegory and subversion" as the hallmark of Cabell's achievement as a fantasist. If Cabell is examined only as a high fantasist, understanding and appreciation of him is limited. He is no Tolkien or Le 12


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Guin. Riemer finds the theories of Rosemary Jackson and Lance Olsen most helpful in the examination of the subversive, post-romatic fantasy of Cabell. Concepts of unique identity and linear time are dismantled in this fantasy, while boundaries between the real and unreal, the mundane and the magical, are dissolved, thus demonstrating the impossibility of discerning absolute reality or definitive meaning. Cabell further uses metaphorical and allegorical modes, along with magical events and supernatural beings. to satirize human nature and mock human behavior. Riemer concludes that Cabell'S unique achievement as a fantasist lies in his blending, with considerable literary finesse, of two streams of fantasy literature that have not often been merged. Cabell manipulates the conventions and assumptions of the marvelous fantasy tradition, drawn from fairy tales and medieval romance to explore themes we associate with subversive and post-modern fantasy. Riemer convincingly supports his ideas in a book which is a must for the serious study of Cabell or American adult fantasy. A chapter is devoted to each of the major fantasy novels: Jurgen. The Cream of the Jest, Figures of Earth, The High Place, The Silver Stallion, and Something about Eve. Riemer is a perceptive reader, with a rich background in philosophy and literature. Though his style makes no concessions to the less-than-serious reader, the material is well organized and concise. At this price. the book, however, like other volumes in the Marshall Tymn series. is only affordable for libraries or well-heeled admirers of Cabell. --Allene S. Phy-Olsen 13


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Structural Study of the Dune Series Touponce, William F. Frank Herbert. Boston, G.K.Hall (TUSAS). 1988. hc. 136 p. $17.95. ISBN 0-8057-7514-5. Unlike most volumes of the Twayne U.S.Authors series, this is a specialized study, focusing on the six volumes of the Dune series "and its compositional structure." That structure is seen as "ecological" in the broadest sense, incorporating an "open-ended dialog" covering linguistics, religion, psychology, economics, philosophy, theories of history, geology, anthropology, soil chemistry--"it's an open list," as the author says in his preface. Taking his cue from Herbert's own description of Dune as an "ecological fugue," Touponce reminds readers that Herbert "hated closed systems of thought," and shows us that nearly every theme advanced in the series is countered or "decentered" in context. Readers, he says, who admired Paul Atreides as a charismatic hero, and were disappointed at the debunking of such figures in later books in the series, were missing Herbert's point. "Herbert claimed that he was showing us the superhero syndrome and our participation in it." (29) Those who failed to notice the early undercutting were misled by their own escapist expectations as genre readers to ignore much of the dialog. Touponce's analysis is based on Mikhail Bakhtin's The Dialogic Imagination (1981), which defines the novel as a "diversity of individual voices, artistically organized by a principle of dialogue." This structure is in contrast to that of the "epic or mythic mode" which is "monologic" (Asimov's Foundation series is an example), presenting events, judgments and interpretations from a fixed authorial point of view: In a monological design the hero is closed, and the limits of his meanning are sharply outlined. He acts,thinks, experiences, and perceives within the boundaries of an image constructed in the world of the author. The hero's consciousness, in short, is contained within the fixed frame work of the author's consciousness, which defines and portrays the hero and remains inaccessible to him from within (15). Part of the dialog in the Dune series involves this authorial view. The many epigraphs preceding chapters, particularly those purported to be from Princess Irulan's "history" of the period, present just such a "monologic" 14


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 narrative. This view, which tends to build the "legendary" apparatus of the superhero syndrome, is countered by Paul's own reported consciousness of the events, which is open-ended and ironic. In fact, Paul's exit into the desert at the end of Dune Messiah is an attempt to avoid responsibility for the role thrust upon him. Herbert's text, Touponce says, was carefully revised to avoid the monologic effect, and to provide a genuine dialog. A key demonstration of such "multi-layered" dialog occurs in the banquet scene early in Dune, before the Sardaukar assassinate Prince Leto. Like 8akhtin, Touponce finds three different "modes for speech inscription: indirect discourse, direct discourse, and quasi-direct discourse." (19) All three modes appear in the scene described, as well as some "authorial narration." Through his method of reporting, Herbert makes the careful reader aware of conflict--in social, political and ideological spheres--between the voices articulated in the scene. At the same time Herbert, as author, avoids judgment. "Herbert never retains for himself an essential superiority of information. Instead he keeps that indispensable minimum of pragmatic, purely informative omnis cience necessary for the development of plot." (20) Though Herbert was lionized on college campuses as an early apostle of "ecology," T ouponce remind s us that he denied ever being a "hot gospel" ecologist. His attempt to show the interaction of elements in a system is hardly limited to biological/botanical ecosystems. Rather, he saw such "dialogical" interaction as characterizing every aspect of life,including the attempt to communicate. He was suspicious of language itself, as a misleading, imponderable element of social and intellectual interaction. Much of God Emperor of Dune concerns this attempt to "decenter" the unquestioned primacy of verbal discourse. This is a rewarding study, approaching Herbert's themes and techniques from a very productive vantage point. As a "reader-response" critic, Touponce takes his cue from Herbert's own remarks about his work, as well as from generally recognized themes in the novels, but his analysis nevertheless produces fresh readings of the series. However, as he says in his preface, the study is for the general reader. ''There is very little here to excite a 'Dune freak,' who in any case probably already knows the major and minor arcana of Dune Tarot." For those readers, Touponce recommends Willis McNelly's The Dune Encyclopedia. --Adrian de Wit 15


SFRA News/etter, No. 174, January/February 1990 I Fiction I A Master at Work Anderson, Paul. The Boat of a Million Years. Tor, NY, November 20,1989, 470p. $19.95 hc.ISBN 0-312-93199-9. Immortality, or at least extremely long life, has long been a favorite subject of science fiction and fantasy writers. Robert Heinlein dealt with it in Methuselah's Children, and it is an integral part of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's vampire novels. Part of immortality's appeal is that what at first looks like freedom from mankind's worst and most unavoidable fear can be more of a curse, as shown most graphically in the Kane series by Karl Edward Wagner, in which he grafts the theme with one of the best-known Bible episodes. The Boat of a Million Years is Paul Anderson's contribution to the literature of the immortal. It lives up to his reputation, and then some. Most of the novel consists of basically self-contained adventures of immortals from the classical period through World War II. There are very few of these people, and not all of them survive the violence as lethal to them as anyone else, or the pain of their souls, if anything more dangerous. His Survivors are a most varied breed, born into a variety of races and eras, as well as with highly individual personalities. The most important is Hanna, a Phoenician seafarer and businessman, possessed of a keen intelligence and the ability to get the most out of the knowledge gained through his centuries. By contrast his friend Rufus, a Roman of Gallic origins, is so much less gifted that he needs Hanno to do his thinking for him. Tu Shan is reputed to be a sage in ancient China, but is actually a simple man clever enough to be something different in the eyes of others. A measure of the author's skill is that Tu Shan is not a charlatan. In one Roman character Anderson departs as far as imaginable from the idea of the immortal adventure personified in his own Hanna and Wagner's Kane. Patulcius is a bureaucrat, who spends two thousand years in the sort of minor civil service jobs that would drive nearly anyone else crazy with boredom after a century or even less. The women are every bit as original as the men. One is a Syrian who is engaged in prostitution nearly as long as Patulcius is in shuffling papers. Another is a Russian who breaks the Survivors' usual pattern of avoiding military service to defend her country against the Wehrmacht. A third is a self-educated American escaped slave. 16


SFRA News/etter, No. 174, January/February 1990 The immortals are by and large loners. Often they meet, but do not always join forces, and sometimes do not even recognize each other for what they are. This section of The Boat of a Million Years is less of a grand tapestry than a fine mosaic. Also, Anderson has always been a writer with an excellent sense of the major recurring currents of history, and here this and an equally developed grasp of the details of the past serve him well. Much longer than any previous section, "Judgment Day" takes place in the 1970's and '80's. Scattered across the world, the immortals are drawn together to satisfy each one's need to find out if there are others of his or her kind. They must then decide whether the time is right to announce their existence to the world. This is the weakest installment ofthe book. Anderson makes some valid points about the erosion of freedom in a self-righteous world with the technology to spy and regiment as never before. However, a conflict with a left-wing radical politician central to "Judgment Day" is never really resolved; it just sort of drops into irrelevance. Fortunately this section, closer in fact to a novella, is less pivotal than transitional. The Boat of a Million Years ends with "Thule," a second long installment that shares its name with the first short one. In the first, Hanno leads an expedition of Greeks to the British Isles and Scandinavia. In the second the Survivors are a fellowship in a world in which immortality for all has been achieved, and thus they no longer have a need for their old secrecy. It is a paradise in which almost everything but space and children are available to anyone. For a writer with Anderson's sense of skepticism, there can be a paradise, but no utopia. For Survivors used to struggle and challenge, there is no place in the world. But there are other worlds, and they set out to find them. The Boat of a Million Years is an ambitious novel and a major accomplishment, probably the most significant in a long and justly ac claimed career. Beneath the history and the science, and even beneath the characters and the multiple plots and subplots, there is a quest for place that marks much of the very best fiction. Heinlein was able to tap this repeatedly, and it was a major reason for the appeal of his work, perhaps the most important of all. Poul Anderson shows that he can work this ground as well as anybody else. It is impossible to imagine a novel of such reach written by a less mature artist. Anderson has always been an inventive and entertaining writer, something that should never be denigrated. The Boat of a Million 17


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Years does appear to be a novel requiring a lot more than pure talent. It is as fine a work of science fiction as anyone could hope to write. --James P. Werbaneth A Pleasant Read Bear, Greg. Tangents. Warner /Questar, NY, August 1989, 290p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-446-51401-2. This anthology of Bear's short fiction reprints eight stories, includ ing the award winning "Blood Music," one essay published in 1 987 and includes one story, "Sisters," not published previously. The collection displays the wide range of subject and tone that Bear uses. "Tangents" and the essay "The Machineries of Joy" explore the possibilities, real and imagined, that the computer can create. In the case of the story, a computer program opens a window into the fourth dimension through which a music prodigy and his mentor escape the trials and politics of this world. Other stories explore fantasy worlds that border on the weird. "Webster" depicts a spinster who creates a man out of a dictionary. "Dead Run" follows a truck driver whose daily run consists of taking the damned to Hell. When he investigates why certain of the damned don't seem to belong, he finds that the operation of Hell has been turned over to one of America's most famous demagogues, a television evangelist who routinely damns those who disagree with his fundamentalist attitudes. In "Through Road No Wither," two arrogant Europeans stumble into the hovel of an ancient hag who characterizes herself as the "Scourge." Her task appears to be scouring the Earth of those who do not love their fellows, this urbane pair included. The other three stories are hard SF. "A Martian Ricorso" tells of the rebirth of a Martian civilization of rodent-like creatures (reminiscent of Niven and Pournelle's Moties) that do not think, but can build anything if provided a model. What they learn from the abandoned landers on Mars, and how quickly, is amazing. "Schrodinger's Plague" weaves a story from an idea from quantum electrodynamic theory: the final state of a quantum event requires observation to complete the event. It has the same effect as the question "If a tree falls in the forest where there are no ears to hear, is there any sound?" "Sisters" looks at possible outcomes of human genetic engineering and ramifications of the social stratification that results. When something goes awryin the genetic coding and the "beautiful people" begin dying, a different perspective rises. 18


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Tangents is an enjoyable anthology, providing a variety of fare for the reader, at different levels. There are both thought-provoking stories and amusing ones; straight SF and off-beat fantasy. There is much to ponder here, as Bear's wide ranging interests expose the reader to a number of disparate concepts, all of which have substance, all of which lead one to consider (or reconsider) our perceptions of existence. The element that binds the collection together is Bear's excellent writing: all of the pieces are pleasantly readable. Recommended for large collections. --Jerry L Parsons Potboiler or Comic Spoof? Bradley, Marion Zimmer, The Heirs of Hammerlel/, DAW Books, Inc., NY, December 1989, 300p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-88677-395-4. In the introduction to Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley expresses gratitude to Walter Breen who urged her to "stop playing it safe by writing potboilers" (viii). It appears that Bradley has returned to the safety of writing a romantic potboiler in Heirs of Hammerlel/. Or, perhaps she is writing a light-hearted comic spoof of her own Darkover novels. The Heirs of Hammerlel/ is set in Darkover, during the time of The Hundred Kingdoms when the bloody border conflicts wiped out countless generations of neighboring clans. Presumably, the narrative begins with the final death stroke in the ancient blood feud between two neighborsHammerfell and Storn. Not so; although Storn's forces kill Duke Hammer fell's only heir, his son Alaric, this deed is only the introduction to the plot. After mourning briefly, the middle-aged Duke Rascard Hammerfell marries his late son's intended bride, teen-ager Erminie, and fathers a second family, identical twin sons, Alastair and Conn. Storn, the villain, strikes again, burning Hammerfell Castle and slaying the Duke. Erminie, along with the Duke's loyal paxman, Marcos, escapes with the twins. Unfortunately, Erminie and Marcos are separated during the night of horror. The plot builds upon the separate lives of the twins, their mistaken identities, and the complications of ultimate reunion when both boys believe thatthe other twin is dead. If a straightforward reading is done, the novel has flaws. There is plot action, reuniting the twins and regaining the Hammerfeiliands, inter spersed with romantic entanglements. But these actions have no really serious or engrossing problems; they might just as well have come straight 19


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 from some of Shakespeare's romantic comedies-Midsummer Night's Dream or As You Like It. For instance, on his urgent quest to raise an army to assist him in regaining Hammerlell, Alastair discovers that he doesn't even know where the old homestead is or how to get there. His mother, Erminie, doesn't know either, but that's no problem. She just laran /magics Conn's horse and her dog Jewel to guide Alastair since both animals know where Hammerfell is. Consequently, since time is an important factor, the horse vaults over a fifteen-to-twenty-foot locked city gate and races a distance equal to two days' travel within one night. Yet this urgency is completely stalled as Alastair stops to talk with one of the legendary little tree men living in the lands across the river Kadarin. Moreover, Alastair climbs up into Adastor's Nest and the two tell riddles while they eat colored berries. Shades of Bilbo Baggins and Smaug! What does playa crucial role in this plot is coincidence. Before what could be an unfortunate handfasting for one twin occurs, the Queen just happens to have a stroke which prevents the ritual's completion. Later, as an arrow speeds towards the future Duke, Erminie's faithful dog, magically glamoured as a woman, throws herself into the arrow's path, since she just happens to be where she can romantically die the death meant for her adored master. After all, dogs are man's best friends! And, when King Aidan's presence is needed, Gavin, the singer-fop who just happens to come on the journey with Conn, reveals himself as Aidan's eyes-in-the mountains and obligingly uses his laran to send word to the King who promptly comes to the Hellers. Characterization, one element that Bradley normally does well, is mainly one-dimensional. The characters of the twins are unbelievable puppets. Of course, Alastair and Conn have general differences based on who raised them, Erminie or Marcos, and on the presence or absence of laran. But who cares? Conn is too good to be realistic; Alastair narrowly escapes being a villain in his own right. And their deserved mates are submissive women, shaded only with an occasional thread of independent thought or action. Even Erminie finds new love, her faithful heart, Valentine Hastur. The really interesting character is the villain Storn, and he is many things besides a villain. What is intriguing about him is that he changes his role in each appearance in the novel. At the beginning, he is the heartless villain ranting overthedeath of Alaric, Duke Rascard's son. At the fire-watch, Alastair admires the stubbornly courageous old man who has taken his "place on the lines every summer, man and boy, for seventy years"(195). Later, Conn is swayed favorably by Storn's "inescapable logic and clar20


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 ity"(245} as he explains his reasons for dispossessing his farmers and turning the fields to sheep grazing. Starn is also the avuncular grandfather who can be twisted around the fingers of the young, fair-haired flirt, Lenisa, his grand-niece/grand-daughter. And Starn becomes a pathetic old man when his own guards roust him out into the cold and rain along with the farmer's family with whom he has taken shelter from the bitter weather. Visually, minus his wig and fine clothes, and with bare legs protruding beneath a patched, borrowed flannel nightshirt, Ardrin of Storn is a scare crow whose righteous anger becomes comic, not villainous, as he berates his guards for their failure to recognize him and for their mistake in dispos sessing a farmer's family in the middle of the night and in such weather. The final vision of this character shows him solemnly pledging to end the feud and to seal the bond with the hand of his grand-niece as the bride of the future Duke of Hammerfell. Storn's inconsistent villainy could hold the interpretive key for the novel. If he is intended to be a villain, he fails miserably, for he has too many other roles, many of which are admirable, logical, or comic. That failure (for me, at least, but perhaps not for dedicated Bradley fans) would prevent reading this novel as anything other than a flawed, romantic potboiler. Conversely, there is a more charitable reading.1f Storn is given all these different faces intentionally, then the lack of depth in the main characters, the over-use of coincidence in the plot, the magical use of laran to aid the horse and dog/woman, and the riddling tree man all point to the possibility that Bradley is writing a comic spoof of her own earlier Darkover novels. --Beth Endicott More Union-Alliance Cherryh, C.J. Rimrunners. Warner, NY, June 1989, 327p. $19.95 hc. ISBN 0-446-51514-0. Told in Cherryh's terse, sometimes cryptic, tough-guy style, this is a spin-off from her Union-Alliance novels. The view-point character, Bet Yeager, is a soldier separated from her ship, Africa. Stranded and desperate on the dying space station Thule, she kills one man in self-defense and another to escape sadistic blackmail. Herluck changes, orso it seems: she gets a berth on the mysterious ship Loki. However, she must conceal her origins, because Loki is in the service of Africa's enemies. Bet becomes sexually involved with the ship's scapegoat, one of Cherryh's imperiled males, role-reversing the stereotyped "helpless hero-21


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 ine" device, and defends him from his enemies. When Loki closes with the enemy, Bet makes herself invaluable to the ship's second-in-command by repairing hijacked power-armor and then victoriously doing battle in it. Cherryh's use of Bet as the point of view character creates some problems. It is difficult to ascertain whether Bet's casual sexual aggressive ness is the norm for spacers, or whether she is something of a nymphoma niac. Nymphomaniac or no, Bet is a tough, dangerous character. Her concealment of her Africa allegiance, however, contaminates even her stream of consciousness, and sometimes the most careful reading does not help the reader to understand plot development. Familiarity with the Cyteen mythos is helpful. This reader could not tell if Bet is one of the azi or beta, Cherryh's "utility" people. Bet's unusual psychology and contentment to sUNive in spartan, dreary environments, sleeping in cramped quarters and nourished only by beer and vending machine food, might be attributed to such origins. Perhaps the shipboard personality conflicts and casual sex are diversions from such bleak surroundings. The novel's strengths are many: Cherryh's sinewy, tight prose and dialog and her completely credible ship and station setting. The reader feels what it is like to spend an entire life in manufactured containers, far from our own sun. The novel's weakness is its allusive terseness, which leads to incomprehensibility. Cherryh devotees will certainly want to read this; those not familiar with Cherryh should start with a different novel. --Mary Turzillo Brizzi Something Different Cherryh, C.J. Rusalka. NY: Del Rey, 1989. 374p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-34535953-4. C.J. Cherryh, prolific and talented author of hard SF, space opera, Celtic and heroic fantasy, and adventures in Hell, creator of numerous imaginary worlds, takes on an entirely new subject, medieval Russian legend, in her most recent novel. Her characters are folktale archetypes: Pyetr, the charming ne'er do well, his devoted companion Sasha, who turns out to have unsuspected magical powers, a churlish but very powerful wizard, and his beautiful daughter, with whom pyetr falls in love. Unfortu nately, she is a rusalka--the ghost of a murdered girl who unwillingly destroys all the living beings she encounters. The plot is also archetypal. Fleeing their native village after Pyetr 22


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 has a run-in with a jealous husband, the two come upon the wizard's cabin in a dead forest and are co-opted into his search to restore his daughter to life. This search involves an exhausting trek through the Russian forest and a climactic confrontation with the wizard's evil rival. The actual telling of the tale, however, is fresher and more original than the traditional themes would indicate. The world of pre-Christian Russia is vividly realized, a world full of spirits--domovoi and dvorovoi to protect the house, woodland leshys, a snakelike river monster, and the ghosts of the rusalka's victims. But it is also a natural world of river, field and forest, well described and believable. Although the quest drags on a bit too long, the denouement is satisfying and complete. Rusalka, if not Cherryh's best, is unhackneyed and enjoyable, a thoroughly good read. --Lynn F. Williams A Tale Worth Telling and Reading Clegg, Douglas. Goat Dance. Pocket Books, NY, July 1989, 422p. $4.50 pb. ISBN 0-671-66425-5. A hundred or so pages into Douglas Clegg's Goat Dance, one is struck bywhat a fine piece of storytelling it is. Having said that, one must add that Clegg's tale of deadly supernatural shenanigans in small-town America is a much-worked vein. The works of Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Robert R. McCammon (who praises Clegg and Goat Dance in a blurb on the paperback jacket) come easily to mind. Pontefract, Virginia, is blessed with a dark and dangerous pastcannibalistic Indians, witch-hunting white settlers, and a primordial creature called the Eater of Souls. The central character Malcolm "Cup" Coffey attended prep school in Pontefract and fell in love with the headmaster's daughter. Years later Cup receives a mysterious phone call from the beautiful Lily, the lost love of his youth, asking him to return to Pontefract. Once there again, Cup, to his bewilderment, discovers that Lily died months ago. In the next couple of hundred pages, the evil ofthe past, in the shape shifting persona of the Eater of Souls, visits itself on the present. Excellent character development plus a strong sense of physical place and time are reader-pleasing aspects of Goat Dance. Clegg also does an admirable job of running multiple story-lines that converge in the holocaust of the closing chapters. From the viewpoints of narrative com plexity and general spookiness, Goat Dance calls to mind some pretty 23


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 decent horror novels--Straub's Ghost Story, for one. On the questionable side, Clegg resorts to "gross-out" horror to add intensity to his closing climatic scenes. The specificity of those scenes seem at-odds with the "quiet" horror of much of the rest of this lengthy tale. One might also complain about the hackneyed cover art, the seemingly uninspired title (actually it's apt to the story), and God knows what else. Several cuts about the standard supermarket newsstand horror novel, Clegg's Goat Dance is a tale both worth the telling and reading. --James B. Hemesath let Eklund be Eklund Eklund, Gordon. A Thunder on Neptune. NY: Morrow, 1989. 224p. $16.95 hc. ISBN 1-557-10052-7. Eklund is best known for All Times Possible (1974), The Grayspace Beast (1976), and for "If the Stars Are Gods" (1974), a Nebula Award winning story (written with Gregory Benford); and he has more often dis played skill as an adapter of standard themes than as an inventor of the unusual. This skill an.d its limitations are both in evidence here in a competent contribution to that relatively small group of SF novels which treat of humankind colonizing the Solar System rather than the great beyond. A Thunder is marketed as a book "in the vein" of Robert Heinlein, "especially the 1950's novels such as Red Planet, The Star Beast, and Have Space Suit--Will Travel". The book indeed has many Heinleinesque fea tures--precocious kids, an older man of vision, a secret cadre of powerful people determining the future, and a ruling ethos of no-quarter-asked individualism. Moreover, homage is paid directly to Red Planet and the L-5 Society, but the result still does not come up to my memories of Heinlein. For one thing, it has no real grabber of a concept as do, say, Puppet Masters and Universe, or even the continuing presence of a lovable character like Willis. The main engine of the story is the possibility of molecular transfor mation of the human form into something that can withstand conditions on Neptune, an idea adapted clearly from Clifford Simak's "Desertion". This might work well enough, but we are kept waiting at great length for events on Neptune to unfold and hence we don't see very much of the "thunder" of the title. The book's most impressive feature is the development of two brothers and their changing relationship. Eklund might do well to key his next novel more closely on such human relationships, to let his writing be his alone and let Dean Robert Heinlein belong to the ages. --Thorn Dunn 24


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Shaping of a Future Queen Finch, Sheila. Shaper's Legacy. Bantam Spectra. August 1989. 279p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-553-28167-4. Volume II of The Shaper Exile finds the "ingenious Ganu" and "shape-shifting Liani" peoples joined to form the llian nation, while the Venn bioengineers, exiled from Earth, have been further exiled by their creations to a secluded island. Beryt, heir to the matriarchal Liani throne, hunts ferenti in the hills of Ganu land with her uncle, Ganu King Bar. Separated from the hunting party, she meets Rhodaru noble ReAth, who has gone into voluntary exile from his evil uncle Raasik, who has seized power in the Rhodaru desert lands. With the death of her aging grandmother and the imminent death of her ailing mother, Beryt is called from the Ganu city of Goron to assume her duties as Queen in the Liani capital of Tia-ta-pel. But before leaving she returns to the Rhodaru camp, to pursue her infatuation with ReAth. To further complicate matters, one of the Venn scientists is present in the camp disguised as an eccentric oracle, planning to breed a child from their union. After Beryt's departure, Rhodarus attack and claim Garon. In Tia ta-pel, Beryt, finding she is pregnant with ReAth's child, takes to her chambers under the continued care of the Venn woman, leaving the throne to her twin brother Col as the Rhodarus attack the city gates. As the siege continues, the prophet Indreon (himself a Venn halfling) brings bits of venn science to the aid of the llians, while at the same time proclaiming the approaching vengeance of an angry God on Tia-ta-pel. This is a nearly perfect novel, marred only by Beryt's tendency to be almost melodramatically concerned with her idea of "destiny," and an occasional blur of important themes due to the multiple layers of develop ment. Overall, however, it is highly entertaining and thought-provoking, foreshadowing much promise for volume III, Shaping the Dawn. --Joseph M. Dudley 25


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Milwaukee Mixer Greenhalgh, Zohra. Trickster's Touch. Ace Books, NY, 1989. 236p. $3.50 pb. ISBN 0-441-11441-5. Somebody must like Zohra Greenhalgh: this is the second in this series published this year. Like the earlier Contrarywise, Trickster's Choice is fantasy with a philosophic cast (and the same cast of characters). Its plot is easier to follow, and there is as well a talky disquisition on the background and history of the story and its setting that has the advantage of helping to clear up the murky plot line of the previous book. Unfortunately, it is also similar in its sloppy writing. One example of many is the introduction of the insects that are to form a fulcrum for the plot; they are referred to in the same paragraph as yellow jackets and as wasps. While this is not strictly speaking incorrect, in the context of totem-naming in which they're presented, the usage bespeaks a tin ear as well as a lack of appreciation for the power of the Name. There are lesser, but ubiquitous ineptitudes: "highfaluted," "cal\i graphied," "prophesies" for "prophecies." Greenhalgh's insensitivity to language also permeates her phrasing--a character is represented as thinking, "To feel anything was to open a veritable box of emotional trouble." (And the half-digested reference to Pandora is typically muddled.) The author is ambitious. Her story crosses the boundaries of fantasy and reality when its central Trickster character shows up in present day Milwaukee. But she doesn't have the transparent style of, say, Asimov in The Gods Themselves or the charm of Heinlein in The Number of the Beast needed to carry off such a tour de force. The appearance of the author herself as "the Obstinate Woman" is unbearably coy, while the inclusion of Milwaukee characters evidently patterned on her friends is simply self-indulgent. There is a similar attempt at confounding conventional divisions in the way characters move between life and death--in both directions. Alas, Greenhalgh's Other World is so banal the effect is not to give the reader a new appreciation for the unity of all spiritual states; one rather feels there's no use in pursuing broader perception, if it's all going to be like 1989 in Milwaukee. Toward the end of the book, Trickster's incursion (or reappearance, in accordance with what Greenhalgh naively calls "the Native American Religion," as though there were only one) into our world is celebrated as 26


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 follows: "The old mythology had been given a new infusion .... The problem is that this is not a new infusion, but leftover tea with weird and inappropriate spices added. What Tolkien did for the figure of the trickster-shaman in a chapter or two with Tom Bombadil, Greenhalgh has failed to do in, to date, almost 500 weary pages. Judging from her acknowledgments, Greenhalgh works long and hard to produce these unlikely pastiches. I wish she'd take a little time off for a writing course with a ruthless teacher before she undertakes the next one. I'd love to see how her work looks after judicious pruning and shaping. --Mary Helene Pottker Rosenbaum Maintain Sceptical Attitude Jarvis, Sharon, ed. True Tales of the Unknown: The Uninvited. Bantam, NY, November 1, 1989. 239p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-553-28251-4. There is a cemetery in Chicago, overgrown and abandoned, and populated by restless spirits. A close encounter of the second kind in rural Western Pennsylvania is also an encounter with sasquatch-type creatures seemingly impervious to bullets. A set of megalithic structures in New Hampshire is more consistent with ancient European ruins than anything known to be built by Native Americans, and is aptly called "America's Stonehenge. These and other accounts of the paranormal are collected in True Tales of the Unknown: The Uninvited. Just who has written what is also a mystery; even though some contributors are acknowledged, there is no specific credit given for any installment. Due to stylistic similarities and inferences gained from the introduction, it is clear that Sharon Jarvis' editorial duties extend to extensive rewriting. This is the first in a series of methodological shortcomings that severely reduce credibilitythatthese are indeed completely True Tales. Too often the accounts are taken literally, with no allowances for misapprehen sions born out of fear and confusion, let alone the purposeful hoax. Most disturbing is a recurring practice of placing "psychic reading," channeling, and other investigative techniques of at best unproven, and at worst laughable, merit, on the same level as scientific analysis. The chapter on the structures at Mystery Hill, New Hampshire begins with an examination of the scientific and archaeological record of the site, then proceeds to psychics' impressions of lost civilizations, ancient telepathy, and human sacrifice. The author-editor then urges additional "psychic exploration," dismissing the cost-effectiveness of archaeological excavation of the hundred acres or so 27


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 of Mystery Hill. Even disregarding that archaeology can yield impressive results without completely digging up a site, this is an infuriating equation of the scientific method with impressionistic pseudoscience. Serious investiga tion of the paranormal has a hard enough time maintaining credibility without recommendations that are undeserved evidence that it belongs in science's nut wing. True Tales of the Unknown: The Uninvited is, nonetheless, an interesting and even entertaining collection of stories. However, it should be read as nothing more than that, and certainly not as a legitimate examination of strange phenomena. --James P. Werbaneth An Alien Apocalypse Kessel, John. Good News from Outer Space. NY: Tor, October 1989. John Kessel is the author of the Nebula Award-winning novella "Another Orphan" and co-author of Freedom Beach, an uneven novel most noteworthy for its wildly funny conflation of Christopher Marlowe and Groucho Marx. Kessel's talent for erudite, off-the-wall black humor comes to full flower in Good News from Outer Space, a book calculated to set Christian fundamentalists to foaming at the mouth and good enough to deserve serious consideration for the Nebula Award. The year is 1999 and as far as most true believers are concerned the millennium is at hand. Environmental pollution, nuclear war in the Middle East, and a series of man-made epidemics have brought on a worldwide depression. Civilization seems likely to collapse under the weight of its own insanity. George Eberhart, a talented but self-destructive journalist em ployed by a computer network equivalent of the National Enquirer, is covering the rise of the Reverend Jimmy-Don Gilray, the most successful and virulent of the current crop of fundamentalist Bible thumpers, when Eberhart has what appears to be a fatal heart attack. New advances in medicine have made it possible to revive the dead but, under pressure from fundamentalists, Congress has made the process illegal. Risking her career, George's wife Lucy has him illegally revived, only to discoverthat the experience has left her husband apparently unstable, in the grip of an obsessive belief that aliens have landed on Earth and are behind the millenarian frenzy that has gripped the planet. As December 31 st approaches, Kessel follows George, Lucy, and Gilray back and forth across an American landscape increasingly torn by 28


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 sectarian strife and economic chaos. Actual aliens do make periodic, highly ambiguous, and symbolically charged appearances. Disguised as human beings, they sometimes help individuals in trouble, but more often intention ally cause them pain. An alien appears to Gilray disguised as the evangel ist's physician and momentarily convinces him that he's dying of cancer. Another alien appears to a black aeronautical engineer and bullies him into committing suicide. Still another alien teaches a minor league baseball player a lesson in humility, giving the man what he apparently needs to make the major leagues. Kessel has done a lot of research into both contemporary UFO cults and the millennial madness of past centuries. His book is richly textured with believable detail and his characters are people we can really care about. Even the evangelist Gilray, who could easily have been a strawman, develops a life of his own. We don't like him particularly, but we grudingly respect him. Like much of the best science fiction, Good News from Outer Space is firmly grounded in our own contemporary concerns. It deals brilliantly with such pressing issues as the rise of religious fundamentalism and humanity's apparent inability to police its own instinct for unlimited growth. Kessel has written an important book, one which deserves to be widely read. I strongly recommend it. --Michael M. Levy Carpe Crap Miller, Steve and Sharon Lee. Carpe Diem. Ballantine Books, NY, 1989. 292p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-345-36310-8. In their third collaborative novel Steve Miller and Sharon Lee continue to exploit the banal space opera universe of their previous efforts, Conflict of honors and Agent of Change. Carpe Diem adds reptilian aliens and an interstellar mafia to a fairly predictable story about two members of a technologically advanced civilization stranded on a backwater planet. Val Con and his lover Miri are on the run from just about everyone and everything in the universe. Wishing to escape their masters, enemies, families, and memories, they light upon an underdeveloped planet where they hope to blend in with the locals. But they cannot extricate themselves from interstellar intrigue, mafia vendettas, and family responsibilities, the consequences of which all descend upon them and their new found friends. The story is neither well written nor told in an interesting fashion--any reader interested in this kind of SF would be better advised to retreat to the pulp past and wallow in vintage Poul Anderson stories. --Peter C. Hall 29


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Finely Tuned Nightmare McCormack, Eric. The Paradise Motel. Viking [Canada], Markham, On tario, September 1989, 210p. $22.95 [Canada], $17.95 [USA] hc. ISBN 0670-82425-9. The Paradise Motel is the place where Eric McCormack's novel begins and ends. The book is actually about Ezra Stevenson, and his search to determine the veracity and aftermath of a strange and horrifying story bequeathed him by his wandering grandfather, who had come home at last to die. It is the tale of the Mackenzie children, Esther, Zachary, Rachel and Amos, victims of an unspeakable crime. As an adult, Stevenson leaves Scotland, but cannot escape the hold of old Daniel Stevenson's story. McCormack, a Canadian writer originally from Scotland, constructs a Scotland utterly devoid of joy. It is a place of industry and mines, a gray country cold and dead no matter what the season, populated by a people lacking both humor and imagination, a dull and dour nation from a place that could produce nothing more. Just as the grandfather's story follows Ezra Stevenson across the Atlantic to his new home, so the sullenness of his birthplace permeates the novel. The Paradise Motel is imbued throughout with a grim atmosphere. Stevenson's search is strangely and easily fulfilled, with the an swers to his questions practically thrust upon him in the most unlikely places. Along the way he meets other nightmares, most notably one of the most excruciating freak shows in print, viewed by a crowd of Mexicans both jaded and exuberant in their fascination for a truly disgusting brand of obscenity. The Paradise Motel ends with an appropriate whimper, the climax occurring seemingly as an afterthought. Stevenson finds his answers, though they might not be apparent at first, due to the author's subtlety. McCormack makes his reader think throughout the novel, nowhere more than at its conclusion. This is not a pleasant book by any stretch of the imagination. It is a chronicle of deception, delusion and a cruelty that is all the worse for its casualness. Here, some people's idea of a good joke is a strangulated hernia. The Paradise Motel is a finely tuned nightmare that fades slowly and stubbornly. --James P. Werbaneth 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Virtues of First Novel Rimmer, Steven William. Coven. Ballantine, October 1989, 295p.$3.95 pb. ISBN 0-345-35750-7. Steven Rimmer's first novel is set in a pagan community in rural Wales. Its heroine is Elspet, a young witch whose duty in the coven is to keep the books handed down from 17th century witches who fled persecution in Scotland. The coven becomes endangered, however, when a local murder with occult overtones points directly to Elspet. Coven is basically a mystery story, but not a very difficult one. Further, it is not convincing that Elspet should be blamed by the coven for the evils that befall it. But the novel shows some real strength in characteri zation (Elspet is likable, lively, and fully realized) and conception. Rimmer claims that the coven reflects practices of actual pagan communities extent in rural Britain. The residents are called "witches," but this is misleading: there is no magic in the book. Rimmer's novel is pro rationality. The magic contained in the archival books of spells doesn't work, and promotes evil actions in those who encounter it. Overall, Coven presents a very positive view of paganism, with lots of free and loving sex, ritual, and goddess worship--but no magic or powers of darkness at all. Coven shows some of the awkwardness of many first novels, but boasts some fine writing, too. It bodes well for future efforts from Mr. Rimmer. --Laurel Anderson Tryforos Silverberg Collaboration Silverberg, Robert and Karen Haber. The Mutant Season. NY: Doubleday Foundation, 1989. 304p. $8.95 pb. ISBN 0-385-26646-2. The Mutant Season is a first collaboration between Robert Silver berg and his wife Karen Haber, as he explains in an introduction tracing the development of the novel from a short story he wrote in 1973. I n this version of the mutant myth, set some time in the next century, mutants, after several centuries of hiding their telepathic and telekinetic abilities, have come out in the open. They are disliked and feared by most "normals," not without reason, for the mutants themselves are clannish and snobbish, living in ghettos, clinging to their own social customs and marrying only other mutants. Many of them use their abilities for business success, and a vocal minority would like to take control of the entire country. The echoes of 31


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 various sorts of racism are clearly not accidental. The plot involves the assassination of the only mutant senator while she and her assistant are investigating a secret plot to breed supermutants, and the meteoric rise of her replacement. Jeffers, also a mutant, is popular and plausible but clearly up to no good, willing to use his abilities to make a bid for the Presidency. There is also a sub-plot focused on a mutant family, one of whom becomes romantically involved with a "normal." Judging from the style, I would guess the book itself is mostly Haber; it lacks the Silverberg magic touch. The characters, human and mutant, are wooden, the turns of the plot predictable, and the world of Washington politics an unimaginative extrapolation of the present day. The Mutant Season is meant to be the first of a series; it leaves enough loose ends to supply a number of sequels. Karen Haber is a promising new writer who has a way to go before she matches her husband. Despite this novel's flaws. I look forward to her next collaboration. --Lynn F. Williams Alien, Yet Familiar Tepper. Sheri S. Grass, Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, New York, NY. September 1989. 426p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-385-26012-1. Never let it be said of Sheri S. Tepper that she chooses either a small scope or a small subject for any of her works. Her latest. Grass. is no exception. A plague (highly infectious, no cure) is ravaging the human race (now scattered throughout the galaxy). Only one planet remains unaf fected. the mysterious, beautiful and isolated Grass. Sanctity. a tremen dously powerful future version of the Catholic church, sends the Yariers to the seemingly idyllic world of Grass to find out why. The planet was originally settled by old Earth aristocracy. and their descendants, known as "bons", now live in great houses on the Grassian prairies, and build their twisted lives around The Hunt, a bizarre parody of fox hunting on Earth. The Hippae. large brutal and enigmatic. are the mounts, and the fox is an equally mysterious animal (or is it an animal?) that they hunt, while mounted by humans, and tear to pieces. When the Yariers arrive, they are appalled and intrigued by this ritual, but Lady Westriding, the wife of the ambassador, feels that the cycle of the Hunt hides many of the secrets of Grass. Are the Hippae intelligent? What are the fox en? Is there a cure for the plague on Grass? Does Sanctity really want a cure? Lady Westriding is compelled to find answers to these and many other questions. and must do it quickly, or the human race shall perish. 32


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Tepper once again proves that she is one of the finest writers today. While her novel is epic, embracing whole worlds and vast numbers, it is the lives of the individuals, and choices they face, that create the dramatic tension and release in her story. Each decision or interaction increases the possibility for success or failure, and history affecting thousands, even millions, relies on the turn of a leaf or a single mistake. The characters, especially Lady Westriding, are open to the reader. We experience their resentment, hopes, fears and dreams. We watch and wait with impatience as Lady Westriding pieces together the puzzle of Grass, and cheer as she plunges into action to save her daughter, Grass, and the entire human race. Each person in Tepper's novel is special, whether hated, feared, lOVed, or simply there. This is her real strength, and, combined with a wonderful, imaginative story, makes Grass a stunning novel. Grass is alien, yet human enough to be achingly familiar. All the ancient themes; hope, love, strength and perserverance, come together. It is a brilliant work, and will stay with you for weeks. --Ben Herrin Entertaining View of Witchcraft Turk, H.C. Black Body. Villiard Books, NY, 1989, 517p. $19.95 hc. ISBN 0394-57713-2. Black Body, H. C. Turk's second novel, is the story of a 17th century witch in the mode of Anne Rice's vampire books: it has the same strong delineation of character, eroticism, humor, and grotesquerie (the title refers to the burnt bodies of persecuted witches). The witches in this novel are wizened, evil-smelling crones--except for Alba, the heroine. She is a rare kind of witch: the beautiful sex witch, whom men cannot resist, who kills during intercourse. Alba has been abducted from her sisters by witch hunter Lady Rathel, who plans to use her as an instrument of revenge: Alba is to marry Eric, son of a man who jilted Lady Rathel. Naturally, Eric will not survive the wedding night. Turk's witches are fully realized: they shun cities, have a highly developed sense of smell, cannot cry, avoid men, are vegetarian, fear metal, and cannot swim (they walk on river bottoms instead). Most of the novel takes place in London, where Alba becomes used to her civilized surround ings. There are several bawdy sequences in which Alba lures unfortunate men to their deaths through sex. Magic is reserved for a few central scenes, and it is violent, shocking, and grotesque. The best scenes, however, involve Alba's growing love for Elsie, her chambermaid, and for her fiance/ 33


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 victim Eric. Turk conveys his milieu through language imitative of 17th century literature. The novel is talky and somewhat hard-going at times. Neverthe less, Alba is a well-rounded character. As the story is told in her words, we become very well acquainted with her and her sensibilities. She is a fresh, outspoken, compelling spirit. Villiard Books has produced Black Body handsomely, with an attractive cover and William Morris-like decoration inside. Turk's novel is an entertaining wallow, and a different view of witchcraft. --Laurel Anderson Tryforos Not Just Horror and Gore Williamson, Chet. Dreamthorp. Avon, NY, July 1989, 357p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-380-75669-2. InAsh Wednesday, Chet Williamson wrote a novel in which ghosts did nothing but appear, serving as the centerpiece, backdrop, and catalysts for the complex, and at times intensely violent, relationships in a small town near Philadelphia. Dreamthorp instead relies on two very common and much more active horror devices, the sinister Indian burial ground and the psychotic serial killer, vengeful souls converging on the idyllic Central Pennsylvania village of Dreamthorp. Again Williamson concentrates on the problems of belief and place within a small and rather insular community, which are accentuated by the supernatural, but would exist without it in any case. A frustrated sculptor struggles with losses beginning with the death of his wife and alienation from his son, while his neighbor is haunted by a horrifying encounter with a sex killer months before, an event connected with persistent questions of her own sexuality. Then a series of mysterious accidents and murders happen in Dreamthorp, ending a century of peace, even as the murderer works his way east, intent on exacting revenge on the victim who more than got away. Williamson adds these twin catalysts to his little world's normal tribulations, to an effect even more direct and dynamic than in Ash Wednesday. He creates a palpable ambience of fear and imminent violence, punctuated by stark, harrowing portrayals of gruesome death and mutila tion. Yet despite his skill in this area, Will iamson is no simple gore merchant, and the novel depends much more on strong characterization and deft narrative of internal conflicts than blood. In fact, he shows a rare ability to 34


SFRA News/etter, No. 174, January/February 1990 step back and put his psycho killer and dead Indians aside, letting his characters act and develop in a world without ghosts, but a difficult one not without its share of evil all the same. Dreamthorp is horror fiction at its best, both as horror and as fiction. --James P. Werbaneth Classic Dark Fantasy Reissued Williamson, Jack. Darker Than You Think. Collier Books, NY, 1989, 264p. [Originally published 1948.] $4.95 pb. ISBN 0-02-038350-9. Collier Books has reissued several worthy volumes in its Nucleus series. This one, Jack Williamson's 1948 werewolf tale, is a true classic of dark fantasy. In Williamson's novel, reporter Will Barbee meets the beautiful April Bell while covering a news story about an archaeological discovery. April, however, is a shape-shifting werewolf who recruits Will to her cause: Will must eliminate his archaeologist friends and destroy the age-old weapon they uncovered, to make safe thewayforthe Child ofthe Night, a mysterious leader who will reclaim the heritage of his "witch-people." Through his love for April, Will begins to discover some very disturbing things about himself. Part of Will's dilemma is determining what is real and what isn't, whether he is actually a lycanthrope or is only actualizing repressed psychological conflict. This dilemma is presented in a real and affecting manner, amidst fast-paced action. Williamson, a Nebula Grandmaster, isa wonderful writer. This novel is a finely crafted tale--suspenseful, full of feeling, and thoroughly engaging. It's a pleasure to see a master at work. Darker Than You Think is a masterful blending of dark fantasy and science fiction. (Williamson provides a genetic cause for lycanthropy, and posits the basis of psychic powers as the mental manipulation of probability.) Darker Than You Think has not aged at all over the years. It remains one of the best werewolf novels ever written, and is highly recommended to all readers of fantasy and science fiction. --Laurel Anderson Tryforos 35


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Latro's Further Adventures Wolfe, Gene. SoldierofArete. Tor, NY, August 1989. 354p. $17.95hc. ISBN 0-312-93185-9. At the beginning of Soldier of the Mist, Gene Wolfe explained that Latro's journal was contained in two papyrus scrolls. In that first volume we learned how Latro, the mercenary, sustained a head wound at the battle of Clay, which left him with a peculiar sort of amnesia. Each day, he forgets almost everything that has happened to him on the previous day. Thus the journal in which he records what happens to him so that he can retain some contact with his past. A very halting, disjointed, and somewhat repetitious narrative results. Some readers may find this disconcerting, but writing from the viewpoint of a man who sees the world fresh each day is a tour de force on Wolfe's part. As the war against Medes continues, Latro participates in the siege and capture of Sestos. Hypereides, captain of the trireme Europa to which Latro is attached, undertakes to capture one of the escaped Medes and to return him to Thought. The pursuit leads Latro, accompanied by "the black man" (Seven Lions), 10, Elata (a dryad). and Hegesistratus (a seer and sorcerer) on a long expedition into Thrace. There they rescue the Mede and help a group of Amazons collect four very special horses. They return to Thought loaded with booty. Technically, Latro and Seven Lions are slaves of Hypereides--a situation which is complicated by the fact that Prince Pausanias of Rope also claims to own Latro. Themistocles has arranged a deal which will free them both, but Latro must return to Rope as part of the agreement. He does. Pausanias really wants him as a contestant in the Pythian Games at Dolphins. When the competition ends, Latro helps a group of Phonecians escape because they have promised to take him home. On the enormously active surface of this narrative one adventure follows another with almost breathtaking speed--cliffhangers abound. But beneath that surface is another world entirely. This is a cosmos in which the physical and spiritual worlds merge. Here men live in a not always comfortable intimacy with the gods. Seers and sorcerers are men of actual perception and power, oracles and prophecies real. All this is lent an air of credibility by the absolutely matter-of-fact tone of the narration. Latro sees and converses with gods, demi-gods and ghosts. He is the focal point of a struggle between Cynthia and Gaea, constantly manipu-36


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 lated by the men and women around him, who want to use his heroic military capabilities to advance their own ends. Latro, however, wants only two things: to recover his memory and to return to his home. By the end of the novel he seems on his way to achieving both of these, but one cannot be sure that he will. Like much of Wolfe's work, this is a subtle and tantalizing novel. Often it is kaleidoscopic in effect, arranging and rearranging the same parts, producing beautiful patterns with puzzling meanings. It illustrates Wolfe's keen perceptions about language and demonstrates his joy in playing with it. It embodies an enormous wealth of classical allusion and a profound knowledge of the Hellenic world. One example of all of these diverse elements is his treatment of the Sphinx riddle, which he places in the palace of Mnemosyne and interprets in several different ways. No one should begin with this novel--by all means read Soldier of the Mist first. Once you have started on it you will not want to miss Latro's further adventures--adventures which are not yet ended. --Robert Reilly A Fragmented Family Douglas, Carole Nelson. Seven of Swords: Sword & Circlet 3. TOR, NY, February, 1989. 408p. $18.95 hc. ISBN 0-312-93142-5. In this, the third novel of the Sword and Circlet fantasy series, not only do I rissa, the T orloc Seeress, and Kendric the Wrathman confront their old enemy, the Wizard Geronfrey, yet again, but the children of all three, born and grown to adolescence since the events in Heir of Rengarth (1988), also find themselves drawn into the conflict. In a desperate attempt to heal Kendric, who is dying of poison, Irissa and their two children set out to recover his lost sword of power, but they encounter Geronfrey and his shadow "son" on the same search. Their rival claims are resolved in a climactic conflict of magic power. The author's fondness for splitting characters into two continues, with the result that some figures on her tapestry are insufficiently developed. Yet this fragmentation is an important aspect of the novel's concern with the need to reconcile divisions, both internal and external. It is a concern that leads to the exploration of the tensions found in family relationships, and it yields some lively and humorous bickering between the characters. This pattern of division and reconciliation needs to be worked out with more care, but its presence makes for an interesting and worthwhile series. --Ray Thompson 37


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 No Home Like This Place Wright, T. M. The Place. NY: Tor, July 1989. 278p. $17.95. hc. ISBN 0-31293146-8. T. M. Wright certainly knows how to press the right buttons. The Place is crafted fiction of the most effective kind, despite a rather fuzzy novum and a less-than-likable cast of characters. At the center is Greta King, a hostile subteen with a wild talent, a secret "place" to which she can retreat from a world that doesn't understand her and won't put up with her brattiness. Her father, Galway, is something of a dweeb, her mother one of those insufferable people who is almost always right. And who keeps reminding you of it. And then there's Harlan DeVries, a Manson-like cult leader whose followers have built an underground town, in preparation for the end of life on the surface. Just ordinary folks 'round Straub-King country. The fantasy aspect of Wright's work involves Greta and DeVries. He feeds on the supernatural gifts of others, and can get into Greta's Placeinside her head. He must kill her to possess her power (remember The Bad Seed? Maybe this is how she got that way). If that isn't bad enough, Greta is bedeviled by a kind-hearted neighbor who keeps pulling her out of her trances just when she needs to defend herself against DeVries most strongly. Wright uses your basic Van Vogtian jumpcut technique, rather like Dean R. Koontz but not as verbose. I'm grateful to his mastery of the well wrought horror novel for the fact that I enjoyed my read (as opposed to slogging through it to write an assigned review). When it appears in paperback, it should be a great airport seller, but as I never recommend investing in the cloth edition of any book one is unlikely to reread, I'd advise checking it out at the library or waiting for that inevitable pb. --Bill Collins 38


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Wizardry Overwrought Wurts, Janny. Sorcerer's Legacy, Bantam, NY, April 1989, 246p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-553-27846-0. This novel grows on one. Originally published in 1982 and "newly revised forthis edition," Legacy starts in an awkward, overly-mannered style characterized at times by inept diction, cumbersome metaphors and para phrases ("her eyes spilled their salty burden down her cheeks"), attempts at visual precision which result in bathos (in an ice-bound between-reality, fine ice crystals blow, "separate as table salt, over the abyss"), and abrupt mood shifts that leave the reader with the sense that something must be behind them, but what? However, by mid-novel, I had become involved enough in the heroine's relentless series of wizardry-occasioned setbacks to overlook the stylistic awkwardnesses, which also seem to dwindle as Wurts warms to her story. Basically, Elienne is rescued from recent imprisonment and widowhood by a sorcerer from the future who sacrifices himself in exchange for providing his prince with a pregnant Consort and heir (the prince has been condemned to sterility by Black Sorcery commit ted by the Regent as a result of court intrigues inlaid by rules of Sorcerer's Etiquette as intricate as a baroque fugue, and far more puzzling, at first, to the reader). After the rules, for the most part, have been set and the characters placed in position, some gripping events occur and the plot moves briskly. The question is, couldn't this revised edition have cleared up the awkward tangle of the opening half-clozen chapters? --Don Riggs 39


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 Sequel Maintains Excitement of Original Wylie, Jonathan. The Lightless Kingdom. Bantam, NY, 1989, 298p. $3.95 pb. ISBN 0-553-28147-X. Following the first book of Wylie's Unbalanced Earth Trilogy, The Lightless Kingdom is an excellent second novel for the series. It picks up from the neatly ambiguous ending of the first novel in the series, Dreams of Stone, and follows both the heroine, Gemma, and the hero, Arden, through their separate adventures. Their adventures are separate in this volume, because Arden was carried off underground by a flood of water at the end of the first novel, while Gemma was in the desert, restoring the magically controlled water supply to the Valley, a place of wondrous peace, harmony and beauty. In this new novel, the adventure begins with Gemma, already back in the now flourishing Valley, awaiting Arden's return and reminiscing over her adventures on her journey back to the Valley. Convinced that Arden is not dead because of recurring dreams she has of him in a dark, under ground chamber, she refuses to mourn him as her concerned friends suggest. Finally she sets off for the corrupt city"of Newport with revolution aries she and Arden met there in the last book, to aid in their attempts to bring some justice and peace to the troubled place. And that brings us to the only major problem with this novel: there is no synopsis at the beginning to fill the new reader in on what took place in the last novel. As this novel has been released many months after the first volume of the series, this oversight makes many references to people, places, and events quite obscure to a reader who is not familiar with the last book, or who read the first book when it was first released. This oversight is not, of course, the author's fault, but the editors should be more alert for this kind of need if they wish to keep readers interested in new authors. This novel, like the last, has a fast-moving, fascinating plot, and rests on solid and interesting characterization. The author's presentation of his female protagonist is still strong and delicately handled. This critic's largest source of unhappiness from the last book, the frequently trite dialogue, is not evident in this novel. All the good aspects are in place, while the few weak points have been redressed. Wylie is obviously a writer who learns his craft as he goes, and he learns quickly. What particularly interested this critic in the new novel is a strong theme of ecological concern. Much that happens in the early part of the novel has to do with people co-operating, or failing to co-operate, with the 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 natural forces around them, including animals. The major problem of the underground people with whom Arden stays for some months, for example, is caused by pollution which has worked its way into the underground water supply, and which is deadly to life, a pollution, it is obvious, which is sooner or later going to affect the humans who dwell above ground, as well as those who dwell below. Gemma's interaction with and, indeed, reliance on the meyrkats for survival, and their aid to Arden also, bespeaks Wylie's concern for environmental integration and harmony. This theme was present in the last novel, but in such a minor way it was not note-worthy. However, in The Lightless Kingdom it is more than obvious that this theme is strongly in the author's mind as he is writing. However, at no time is it presented didactically, nor is it intrusive. The theme does add a depth to this novel which was not present in the previous one, which, added to the many other excellent features of this novel make it a real must for any fantasy lover. Jonathan Wylie's third novel of the trilogy, The Age of Chaos, is due out in March of 1990. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to seeing what new surprises this flexible and talented author has to offer. --J.R. Wytenbroek Light/Dark Sequel Yolen, Jane. White Jenna. A Tom Doherty Associates Book, September 1989. 265p. $27.95 hc. ISBN 0-312-93195-6. Pick up the story of the Anna (Jenna to her friends) and her dark sister Skada a few days after Jenna, Petra, and others have left Selden Harne to warn other Hames of the goddess Alta that a prophecy is being fulfilled. You've forgotten the first part of the story? Worry not, a synopsis relates what happened earlier in Sister Light, Sister Dark. Their travel has scarcely begun when the party is led into another world where time moves at a different rate. On their return next morning to Garunia, seven years have passed there, but Jenna, and the others, remain the young teenagers they were before the visit. Their discovery of how much time has passed is coincidental with Jenna's reunion with Corum Longbow, now an adult but still fighting the usurper Lord Kalas. The unexpected discrepancy in their ages is one of several major difficulties that must be overcome by the protagonists before Lord Kalas and his sons are over thrown and Jenna and Corum live happily ever after. The particular difficulty of Corum's capture by Kalas and his being freed by Jenna and Skada is told in greater detail than in the short story in 41


SFRA News/etter, No. 174, January/February 1990 which the trio first appeared (Salmonson's "Heroic Vision", 1983). How other difficulties are solved or evaded is not adequately explained. Eitherthe publisher insisted the Jenna story be told only in two volumes or Yolen tired of her characters and hastened their story to an end as quickly as she reasonably COUld. White Jenna will undoubtedly appeal to younger, less critical read ers. To me, it is less rewarding than Cards of Grief and others. I find delightful the sly fun Yolen pokes at professional critics in "The Myth" and "The Legend" interludes between the longer chapters of "The Story". Folk musicians may enjoy "The Music of the Dales" at the close of the book. --Paula M. Strain Another Amber Chronicle Zelazny, Roger. Knight of Shadows. Morrow, November 1989, 251 p. $16.95 hc. ISBN 0-688-08726-4. With its ninth outing, Roger Zelazny's Amber chronicles trudge wearily on. Knight of Shadows is the fourth novel concerning Corwin's son Merlin and proves with its rambling storyline, as did the previous volumes in this new series, that once again Zelazny is taking five books to write a trilogy. Don't get me wrong. I love most of Zelazny's work and believe he's responsible for some of the very best writing the field has to offer. I also enjoyed the first couple of Amber books a great deal--the whole series is light adventure reading, undoubtedly, but Zelazny's skill as a stylist is such that they read smoothly and entertainingly. But the story ... It's taking forever for Merlin to track down his old lover/present enemy Julia and his lost father Corwin. With this outing, one can read the first few chapters and the last few, and still lose relatively little of the overall plot. The book itself merely marks time, rather than raising any insights or furthering the plot much more than a few steps forward. And that's not what this reader's looking for in a book. If you haven't yet started the series, wait until all the books are out and then read them as a whole. While doing so will either eliminate or aggravate the sense of sameness that the books have at the moment, you'll at least have the whole story in hand. --Charles de Lint 42


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 IYOUNG ADULTS I Authors Mutual Tribute Anthony, Piers, and Robert Kornwise. Through the Ice. Novato CA: Underwood-Miller, November 15,1989. 202p. $25.00 hc. ISBN 0-88733071-X. In true heroic-fantasy fashion, four heroes, the Chosen represent ing the four alternate planes of earth, are brought together in the magical frame to battle the evil Nefarious and thereby stop the incursions of evil polluting all of the frames. As individuals, the Chosen embody distinctly different sources of strength: physical, mental, scientific, and magical. In their own frames, each has experienced a trauma (in three instances including near -death) relating to the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Anthony and Kornwise weave these elements into a narrative that, while focusing on fifteen-year-old Seth, the representative of our frame, allows for satisfying episodes of adventure, mystery, and suspense. Intended as a "juvenile genre novel" (Anthony's own description in the "Author's Note"), Through the Ice uses the action-adventure format to develop deeper issues of maturity, responsibility, and conscience--indeed, conscience plays a pivotal role in the final reversal as The Chosen confront Nefarious and discover that he is more powerful than they and that he is the force that Called them from their respective frames. Robert Kornwise's original treatment for the novel appears to have been heavily indebted to Anthony's own fiction and becomes in part a tribute to Anthony. Anthony returns the tribute by expanding Kornwise's narrative and seeing to its publication as a fitting memorial to young Kornwise, who was killed in an accident in December, 1987. Highly recommended for fans of the Xanth and the Robot Adept series. --Michael R. Collings 43


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 What Interests Alien Reptiles? Longyear, Barry B. The Homecoming. Walker and Co., NY, December 1989,150 p. $15.95 hc. ISBN 0-8027-6863-6. The writer of this book had the distinction of winning the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, all in the same year. The novella that won him all of these, "Enemy Mine," was also the basis of a motion picture. The present book is characterized by its publisher as being for young adults. The length and the physical dimensions of the book do bear out this categorization, but the story itself makes enjoyable reading for an experienced adult reader of SF. The content, except for the brief lessons on proper care of the environment which are features of our own immediately past decade, is very much what one usually found in pre-1960 SF for any age-group. This is the tenth book in a high-quality series called "Millennium Science Fiction," to which Roger Zelazny, Robert Silverberg, and Paul Anderson, among others, have contributed volumes. Each volume under took to deal with a major theme of SF, such as 91ien life or first contact with aliens. The Longyear book falls into a marginal area of these themes, in a way, because the mighty fleet of technically advanced alien invaders from remote worlds shown here is manned by reptiles whose forebears devel oped and lived for long ages on our own Earth. Their ancestors had to leave, and now they want to repossess their planet. That is the problem. The problem is worked out as a result of talks between the leaders of the reptilians and the human representative to their invading fleet. Very interesting aspects of this narrative emerge from the efforts of the invaders to understand the human character and its moral aspects. The invaders have their own "sense of shame" and fables for passing it on from one generation to another. Theyare especially intrigued with, and impressed by, the human quality of mercy. The nature of human humorous expressions and feelings is most bewildering to the returning reptilians, but it attracts their fullest interest. They delve into the human media and archives to investigate this, and this quest makes for thought provoking dialogue. Of course SF literature has from time to time entertained the possibility that particular aspects of human culture--humor or music, for example--could intrigue extra-terrestrials far more than our scientific progress. This is a cleverly presented book, nicely illustrated too by Alan Clark. It is fine for young adult readers, but is in fact more thought-provoking than some fully-adult SF. --Frank H. Tucker 44


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 A Jarring "Postscript" Le Guin, Ursula K., Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea. Atheneum, NY, February 1990, 224p., $15.95 hc, 0-689-31595-3. Back in the early consciousness-raising days of the feminist move ment, so the legend goes, a friend asked Ursula K. Le Guin why she had not used feminine protagonists or a feminine pOint of view in most of her fiction. Le Guin, whose concept of fantasy fiction had been, perhaps uncon sciously, shaped by the male-dominated literary tradition, is said to have answered: "I'm not sure I know how to do that." T ehanu is proofthat she has learned. It is at least close to the sort of novel feminist critics have been demanding of her. Whether or not it will please those who most admire her Earthsea Trilogy is another matter. Applying feminist criticism to Earthsea's male-dominated SOCiety inevitably undercuts the heroic mythos of the work. "The Last Book of Earthsea" functions largely as a deconstruction of what has gone before. Tehanu picks up the plot of the trilogy immediately after Ged's final victory over Cob, as Ged, his powers spent in the struggle, departs Roke on the back of the dragon. On the isle of Gont, Ogion is dying, and Tenar, the heroine of The Tombs of Atuan, has arrived to comfort him in his last hours. She has been Ogion's pupil, but has abandoned the study of magic to marry a farmer (now dead) and raise a family. Tenar brings with her Therru (Tehanu), a hideously burned gypsy child whom she has adopted, and for whom Ogion prophesies greatness. Shortly after Ogion is buried near his hut, Ged arrives, borne on the back of the Dragon, Kalessin. He is near death, and Tenar nurtures him. But the loss of his powers humiliates him, and he will not be comforted. When emissaries from Havnor arrive, seeking Ged's return to Havnor to crown the new king, Tenar helps him hide. Meanwhile, both Ged and Tenar are treated contemptuously and with iIIdisguised hatred by an evil wizard, a follower of Cob, who has gained ascendancy over the Lord and Manor of Re Albi. Le Guin has lost none of her artistry: Tehanu is finely constructed and beautifully written. But as a "postscript" to the famous trilogy it strikes this reader as distressingly anti-climactic. The epic mythos of the trilogy is all but repudiated, its heroic archetypes aggressively compromised. Ged, the central figure of the trilogy, who was developed as a complex but reverently cherished savior/hero by the end of The Farthest Shore, is now relentlessly reduced to more "human" proportions; indeed, he is seen by the female protagonist as a weak, deluded, self-centered victim of the male power-games that propelled his heroism. She complains: 45


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 He had never cared or thought about her, only about power--her power, his power, how he could use it, how he could make more power of it. Putting the broken Ring together, making the Rune, putting a king on the throne. And when his power was gone, still it was all he could think about: that it was gone, lost, leaving only himself, his shame, his emptiness. (165) Tenar's hard-eyed feminist view of Earthsea's male-dominated culture inevitably recasts the status of most of the characters. If Ged is merely weak, narcissistic and despairing, most average males are evil or contemptible. Tenar despises the sly, opportunistic Townsend, who brings her news that Ogion is dying. She feels a filial devotion to Ogion, but contempt and resentment toward other male-chauvinist wizards, including the Mage of Roke who accompanies the young King Lebannen. For the king ("poor boy"), Ged's former disciple and ally, she feels a motherly pity, though she finds his seriousness a bit risible. The attitudes of other women, insofar as they accept and reflect the male hierarchic values, she resents also. The laws of primogeniture, and other conventions of the society which demean the status of women, are bitterly condemned as are the brutality and insensitivity of "macho" pirate seamen, tramps and gypsies, and even the bailies who arrive to restore the king's law. Her own son, who has run away to sea at an early age, and now reflects the male-chauvinist values of the culture, is presented as a monster of ingratitude and insensitivity. One cannot argue with Tenar's assessments: her injuries are genuine and believable, the evils of the culture familiar and odious. But the acid effect of social criticism within a mythic structure is jarring, disorienting. In the trilogy, Earthsea functioned as a good place, as a locus of light arrayed against the forces of darkness, as the patria for which Ged sacrificed his life and power in The Farthest Shore. In Tehanu the mythic structure collapses, the magic departs, only the dragons retain a measure of mystery. Le Guin even formulates a theory of mage power which sees it as filling a psychic void in the adolescent male, a void which might more constructively be filled with love and procreation, if the wizards did not necessarily choose, like med ieval monks, the pursuit of power in preference to the society of women. Ged, stripped of mage power, is presented, psychologically, as a "fifteen year old boy," a virgin, whose maturation is finally completed through T enar' s sexual generosity. These scenes would be funny if Le G uin were not a master of her craft, but she is, and they aren't. Tehanu is a deeply moving book--but the dominant emotions are pain, shame and humiliation, no doubt more "realistic" emotions than joy and wonder, which are in short supply. I am bothered by the essential incompatibility, in perspective if not in plot, of this "last book" appended to the trilogy. I have taught the Earthsea trilogy, admiringly, to two decades of 46


SFRA Newsletter, No. 174, January/February 1990 students in my fantasy class, and I have read it many times. For me, The Farthest Shore has long been a peak experience in twentieth century literature. I shall read it again. I do not think I will again be moved to open this "last book." I can admire it, but I cannot like it. --Robert A. Collins The Shape of Absence Finch, Sheila. The Garden of the Shaped. Bantam Spectra. NY. 2nd printing: July 1989. 217p. $3.95. ISBN 0-553-26801-5. Volume I of The Shaper Exile finds the Venn bioengineers exiled to the prison planet Beta Orbis IV, secretly injected with an immortality drug and possessing stolen human germ plasma with which to continue their experiments. Five hundred years later, three societies have developed from the Venn's work: the shape-shifting Liani in Tia-ta-pel, the scholarly Ganu in Gordon, and the mysterious Rhodaru who live in the desert lands on the far side of the Kai-weh mountains. Elsewhere, the Venn continue to observe their creations, having almost come to believe themselves the god-like beings of their own myths. Sivell, next in line to the matriarchal Liani throne, struggles to pass her Proving, a test of her shape-shifting abil ity to which all Liani queens must submit. Thereafter, seeing the inevitability of a war with Ganus, she journeys to Goron to meet with the Ganu king, Mordun. There she learns from the Ganus the true genesis of their civilizations, and determines to thwart the Venn by forging a union between the two races. In Tia-ta-pel, Sivell's half-brother Parvey and her cousin Kela plot to usurp the Liani throne. With science-magic learned from his Venn father, Askar, Parvey enslaves the Liani to fight his war against the Ganu, but it will be he and Sivell themselves in a contest of wits and shiftskills who will decide the fate of both their peoples. Finch's prose is strongest when dealing with action-oriented scenes in which tension is high. Straight-forward exposition, such as when the true nature of Parvey's world is presented to him by his father, is treated in a few short lines with only a shocked look on Parvey's face to denote his new understanding, indicating that at times Finch is more concerned with mood than the progress of her story. This treatment effectively leaves a gap in the narrative, as the reader has no sense of either character or the world shaking knowledge which is being transmitted. However, Finch regains control of her story before the final battle, presenting a chilling portrait ofthe power-mad Parvey and of the strength of a people united in order to shape their own future. 47 --Joseph M. Dudley


SFRA Newsletter No. 174 Betsy Harfst, Editor Arts, Communications & Social Science Division Kishwaukee College Malta, IL 60150 DATED MATERIAL PLEASE DO NOT DELAY Non-Profit Organization U.S. POSTAGE PAID Permit No.3 M,'\LTA,IL


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