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SFRA newsletter
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Science Fiction Research Association
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
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SFRA Newsletter, 182/ November 1990 The SFRA Newsletter published ten times a year for the Science Fiction Research Association by Alan Newcomer, Hypatia Press, Eugene, Oregon. Copyright @ 1990 by the SFRA. Editorial correspondence: Betsy Harfst, Editor, SFRA Newslet ter, 2357 E. Calypso, Mesa, AZ 85204. 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 1. Remington English Department University of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614 Immediate Past President William H. Hardesty English Department Miami University Oxford, Ohio 45056 Pioneer Award Veronica Hollinger (1990) 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. Coli i ns (1987-89) Pilgrim Award Winners J. O. Bailey (1970) Marjorie Hope Nicolson (1971) Julius Kagarlitski (1972) Jack Williamson (1973) I. F. Clarke (1974) Damon Knight (1975) James Gunn (1976) Thomas D. Clareson (1977) Brian W. Aldiss (1978) Darko Suvin (1979) Peter Nichols (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 (1 988) Ursula K. LeGuin (1989) Marshall Tymn (1990)


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 President's Message THE HARVEST I have now appointed the Pilgrim Committee for next year: Liz Cummins (chair and continuity from the 1990 committee), Bob Philmus, and Art Lewis. I will of course pass along any suggestions for the committee which are sent to me, but you may contact the committee members directly, preferably in writing. Any member can nominate someone for consideration for the award, with or without supporting rationale. The Pilgrim Award recognizes a lifetime contribution to the field of science fiction criticism, but it is appropriate to discuss the merits of individual works which comprise the scholarship. Sometimes a short bibliography has been more influential than a longish one. Obviously, from the scope of winners of the award, various committees have valued some kinds of scholarship more than others. But this is the strength of the award: anyone who has devoted a career to science fiction may aspire to be chosen. One SFRA member recently expressed to me the opinion that we have no more scholars who deserve the recognition of a Pilgrim Award, since he felt we have used up all the likely candidates. I certainly do not agree. On the contrary, as time goes by I expect we will have a list of worthy candidates that grows every year, as more of us have been publishing for two decades or longer. On an international note, those who are interested in scholarly sf con ferences outside the U.S. will have several to choose from next year. The fourth conference (prev(ous conferences were held in 1983, 1985, and 1987) of the Centre d'Etude de la Metaphore, of the Universite de Nice-Sophia Antipolis at Nice, will be held 3-6 April 1991 at Valbonne, France. The topic is the relationship between the imaginary worlds of sf and the progress made by the sciences and techniques in all fields during the twentieth century. Request additional information from Dr. Denise Terrel, Mairie de Valbonne, Sophia-Antipolis, Rue Grande, 06560 Valbonne, France. World SF will hold a European regional meeting 9-12 May in conjunction with the Eurocon in Cracow, Poland. I have Eurocon registration forms and further information for anyone who wants it. The World SF General Meeting will be held in Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 20-24 May 1991. As North American secretary for World SF, I will request an official invitation to China for World SF members who would like to attend. Annual dues for World SF are $15. Membership is open to anyone who has a professional interest in sf, including teachers, critics, librarians, and booksellers, as well as writers, publishers, artists, agents, tv and movie producers, etc. If there 3


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 is sufficient interest, I may organize travel arrangements for a group from the u.s. After the Chengdu meeting, I am hoping to visit the chairperson of the English Department at Hohhot University, Inner Mongolia, who was a vis iting scholar at Harper College last spring and sat in on my science fiction classes then. We are also interested in a stopover in Japan on our way home. "Utopia: Past, Present, Futures" is the theme of a conference commemorating both the seven-hundredth anniversary of the Swiss Confedera tion and the opening of the Maison d' Ailleurs (House of Elsewhere), a museum of utopia and science fiction in Yverdon-Ies-Bains. Papers of ten to fifteen pages in either English or French are being solicited. The person to contact for more information is George Slusser, P. O. Box 5900, University of California, Riverside, CA 92517 U.S.A. In Winchester, England, 15-19 July 1990, a meeting will be co-hosted by the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association. For fur ther details, contact Ray Browne, Center for Popular Culture, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403. Although sf and fantasy have always been well represented at the North American PCNACA meetings, I was the only sf presenter at the last PCA meeting in Winchester in 1980. It would be nice if some SFRA people could attend this year. Word is that space will be limited on this one-better let Ray know immediately if you are interested in attending/presenting a paper. Obviously, no one person could attend all these conferences, but it's nice to have so much to choose from, isn't it? Elizabeth Anne Hull Recent and Forthcoming Books This list does not duplicate titles in any previous list. Year of publication is 1990 unless shown 1991; all publication dates should be considered j tentative except those denoted (P), whose publication has been confirmed. Reference Husband, Janet & Jonathan F. Sequels: An Annotated Guide to Novels in Series. 2d ed. American Library Association, October. Lacy, Norris J. ed. The New Arthurian Encyclopedia. Garland, January. Mallett, Daryl F. & Robert Reginald. Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards. 2d ed. rev & enl. Borgo Press, December. 4


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 History & Criticism DeLamotte, Eugenia C. Perils of the Night: A Feminist Study of Nine teenth-Century Gothic. Oxford (P). Ellison, Harlan. Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed: Essays. Borgo Press (P) Reprint. Jones, Libby Falk & Sarah Webster Goodwin, eds. Feminism, Utopia, and Narrative. Univ. of Tennessee Press (P). Knowles, Sebastian D. G. A Purgatorial Flame: Seven British Writers in the Second World War. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press (Pl. Explores wartime writings of T. S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, Louis MacNiece, J. R.R. Tolkien, Evelyn Waugh, Charles Williams, and Virginia Woolf. Pearson, Roberta E. & William Uricchio, eds. The Many Lives of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media. Routledge, fall. Price, Robert M., ed., The Horror of It All: Encrusted Gems from the "Crypt of Cthulhu." Starmont House (P). Rusch, Kristine Kathryn & Dean Wesley Smith. Give 'Em the Business: The Professional Writer's Guide to Writing Professionally. Pulphouse, summer. Savage, Jr., William W. Comic Books and America, 1945-1954. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, October. Scott, Randall W. Comics Librarianship: A Handbook. McFarland, fall. Tropp, Martin. Images of Fear: How Horror Stories Helped Shape Modern Culture (J 818-7978). McFarland, winter. Winter, Douglas. Faces of Fear: Encounters with the Creators of Modern Horror, Pan Books (UK) (P) Reprint of Berkley 1985 ed. with some revisions to appendixes. Author Studies [Andersen). Anderson, Hans Christian. The Diaries of Hans Christian Andersen, ed. & trans. by Patricia Conroy & Sven H. Rossel. Univ. of Washington Press (P). [Beaumontl. Nolan, William F. The Work of Charles Beaumont: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. ed., rev. & enl. Borgo Press, November. [Bloch). Larson, Randall D. The Robert Bloch Companion: Collected Interviews 1969-7989. Starmont House (P). [Bradburyl. Indick, Ben P. Ray Bradbury: Dramatist. Borgo Press (P) [Burroughsl. McWhorter, George T. Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection: A Catalog. Greenwood, winter? Formerly announced by Meckler. 5


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 [Dann]. Elliot, Jeffrey M. The Work of jack Dann: An Annotated Bibliog raphy & Guide. Borgo Press, (P). [Gallunl. Gallun, Raymond Z. & Jeffrey M. Elliot. Starclimber: The Literary Adventures of Raymond Z. Gallun, ed. by Paul David Seldis & Mary A. Burgess, Borgo Press, December. [Ing] Burgess, Scott Alan. The Work of Dean Ing: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide, Borgo Press, December. [Lovecraft]. Joshi, H. P. H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West. Starmont House, (Pl. [Lovecraft]. Price, Robert M. H. P. Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. Starmont Houses (P). [Milne]. Thwaite, Ann. A. A. Milne: The Man Behind Winnie-the-Pooh. Random House (P). [Smith]. Behrends, Steve. Clark Ashton Smith. Starmont House (P). [Strugatsky]. Potts, Stephen W. The Second Marxian Invasion: The Fiction of the Strugatsky Brothers. Borgo Press, December. [Williams]. King, Jr., Roma A. The Pattern in the Web: The Mythical Poetry of Charles Williams. Kent State Univ. Press (P). [Zebrowski] Elliot, Jeffrey M. & Robert Reginald. The Work of George Zebrowski: An Annotated Bibliography & Guide. 2d ed., rev. & enl. Borgo Press (Pl. Film & TV Briggs, Joe Bob, joe Bob Briggs Gets Wise. Random, January. Clagett, Thomas D. William Friedkin: Films of Aberration, Obsession and Reality. McFarland, fall. Mank, Gregory W. The House of Frankenstein: The Original Shooting Script. Magiclmage Filmbooks, December. Planet of the Apes Revisited. Image Publishing, early 1991. Riley, Philip & George Turner. Dracula: The Original Shooting Script. Magiclmage Filmbooks, October. Rubin, Bruce Joel. jacob's Ladder, Applause Theatre Books (Pl. Original screen play, text of deleted scenes, essay, credits, 150 b&w stills. Magazines Knight, Damon F., ed. Monad. Irregular. Pulphouse, 1 st issue,October 1990. Neil Barron 6


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Pilgrims Say Thanks As most of you know, our Pilgrim Award winners were presented com memorative plaques this summer. Those Pilgrims present at Long Beach were given theirs at the Banquet, where they expressed their gratitude, while living Pilgrims not attending were mailed their plaques. The awards to the deceased Pilgrims (Bailey, Nicolson) were placed in the SFRA archives at the University of Kansas. In recent weeks I have received several thank-you letters, all of which asked me to convey the writer's appreciation. Pilgrim Brian Aldiss (1978) wrote: "My handsome Pilgrim Award plaque has just arrived, safe and sound. I am delighted with it, and ask you to convey my thanks to the SFRA for their kindness. Winning this award has always meant a great deal to me .... Pilgrim Everett Bleiler (1984) wrote, "I am delighted to have it. It's very attractive, and it will ornament my fireplace." Pilgrim I. F. Clarke (1974) wrote, "Please tell the SFRA that I am most grateful for this permanent em blem of the Pilgrim Award which remains the academic distinction I value most." Pilgrim James Cunn (1976) said, "I am tremendously pleased to have" the Pilgrim Award plaque, which "was an excellent job of translating the Pilgrim Award sculpture into a one-dimensional representation." Pilgrim George E. Slusser (1986) said, "I was very happy to receive the Pilgrim Award plaque" and "I have a great respect for the award." Call for Papers Mythcon 22 David Mead The Mythopoeic Society has been around since 1967 and has held an annual conference for many years. The next one will be in San Diego, 26-29 July 1991, with C. J. Cherryh as the author CoH, with Stephen Potts the scholar CoHo Although the nominal focus of the society is the InklingsTolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams-you don't have to speak Elvish to attend or present a paper. The 1991 conference is devoted to the idea of the hero, male or female, in traditional or contemporary fantasy or SF. You can drop names like Joseph Campbell, Lord Raglan, or Sir James Frazer or develop your own independent ideas. Papers can be fairly general, but some should deal with Cherryh's fictions, or with any topics related to the Inklings. Figure 10-15 spaced pages, 20-30 minutes if read (but improve your pre sentation skills-you don't have a captive audience). Send abstracts by 31 7


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 March, finished papers by I June, to Papers, Mythcon 22, Box 17440, San Diego, CA 92117. Don't wait until those dates are on top of you; get busy now, for space for speakers is limited. Neil Barron Chicon V One feature of Chicon V, the WoridCon scheduled for 29 August to 2 September 1991, to be held in Chicago, Illinois will be an academic track of SFRA presentations. SFRA Pilgrim Winner (1987) Gary K. Wolfe will be Director of the academic track. Beverly Friend, former SFRA Newsletter editor (1974-78) will coordinate a Feminist panel and also one on Linguis tics. Send inquiries or proposed paper topics for either of these two panels to Beverly Friend, 3415 W. Pratt, Lincolnwood, II 60645. Proposals for other sessions may be sent to Gary K. Wolfe, 1450 E. 55th Place, Apt. 420 South, Chicago, II 60637. REVIEWS Non-Fiction Philosophical Chiaroscuro Beverly Friend Aldiss, Brian. Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's; a writing life. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990. 221p. .95. 0-340-53661-6 Brian Aldiss has written in the autobiographical mode before. "Magic and Bare Boards," his account in Hell's Cartographers (1975), provides one important segment. The other, more detai led account (61 pages) is h is ex pansion of a profile for Gale Research's Contemporary Authors -Autobiography Series, "The Glass Forest; An attempt at Autobiography," in ... And the Lurid Glare of the Comet (1986). You'd enjoy both pieces and gain a better understanding of his works and life, but I strongly suggest you begin with this new work, even if you have to order it from a British source (de livered cost should be about $27). Bury My Heart at W.H. Smith's (W.H. Smith is a large British bookstore chain, among other things) is autobiographical, but it's much less traditional in form than the two chronicles cited above. It's closer to a philosophical chiaroscuro, in which his writing life is highlighted, with other events sketched in. It reminded me a bit of Somerset Maugham's 1938 memoir, The 8


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Summing Up, in its mixture of anecdote, commentary and reflection. Maugham was 64 when his memoir was published; Aldiss is 65. You can learn a lot about the genesis and meaning of many fictions by Aldiss, much of which you could never deduce from the text alone. His train trip across India to Burma, where he fought in World War II, stimulated his preoccupation with time: ... the idea of passing time glides like a serpent through the words." Or: "Non-Stop stood, on the surface, for the way in which tech nology without humanitarian concern can imprison human lives. It had an inner meaning also, involving the way in which I found my circumstances constricting and my difficulty in discerning meaning to existence. Years later, in 1975, when Non-Stop was published in Poland, it went to the top of the best-seller lists. Why? Because the Poles interpreted the central image as applying to their own political situation, a reading I had not visualized almost twenty years earlier." The importance of Frankenstein in Aldiss's life is the subject of an ex cellent paper by Nicholas Ruddick, presented at the 1988 ICFA and reprinted as an appendix. There have been few book-length autobiographies of SF writers. I think Fred Pohl's The Way the Future Was (1978) was the first. Jack Williamson's moving Wonder's Child (1984), a much more narrowly focused account than Pohl's, provides many rewards. It has photos and an index (the latter would have improved the Aldiss book). Isaac Asimov told me a lot more than I wanted to know in In Memory Yet Green (1979) and In Joy Still Felt (1980). But for sheer pleasure, begin with Aldiss. The wit, the insights, the wisdom we know him for is here in abundance. He has achieved fame-of a sortbut he knows how fleeting that is, as he demonstrates in this delicious passage from the introductory ape'ritif: Writers must fortify themselves with pride and egotism as best they can. The process is analogous to using sandbags and loose timbers to protect a house against flood. Writers are vulnerable creatures like anyone else. For what do they have in reality? Not sandbags, not timbers. Just a flimsy reputation and a name ... She was very attractive and we were getting on famously. By mutual consent we crept away from the party and found ourselves in a little warm courtyard. There we fell into intense talk, touching, and looking deep into each other's eyes. The point came when I had to tell her I was a writer of novels. "Do you write under your own name?" she asked. Neil Barron 9


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 *[Bibliographic note: the September 1990 Locus, page 5, says there was a special 250 copy edition with six extra chapters and an Aldiss souvenir inside, such as a clipping, airline tickets, poetry, etc.. Avernus, 280p. 1-871503-04-3.1 Postmodern Modes of Seeing Carr, Helen, ed.From My Guy to Sci-Fi: Genre and Women's Writing in the Postmodern World. Pandora, London. 1989.224 p., .99 trade pb. 0-04440408-5. This anthology, inspired by a series of lectures at the Institute of Con temporary Arts in London, takes on the problematic task of defining both genre writing and second wave feminism within the theoretical "space" of postmodernist experience. Complexity arises here in that the feminist movement, even at the vantage of its twentieth anniversary, remains beyond simple definition. Also, what is signified in the "postmodern" condition remains an issue of debates, even though modernist theory (for the most part) has been found lacking and has thus been firmly rejected by the postmodern literary community. Roz Kaveney's essay dealing specifically with women in science fiction suffers from an insistence on the primacy of positivist history with its view of linear time and systems of binary opposition. Further, Kaveney's examples of Joanna Russ and James Tiptree (Alice Sheldon) as authors she believes to typify the feminist writer seems faulty. In the first case, this is due to Russ's concentration on lesbianism, which (although admittedly a prime example of the alternate female lifestyle) deraiis the stated focus by shifting concen tration to the discourse of homosexuality. In the second case, Sheldon's adoption of a male pseudonym and the context of her su icide appear to actively deny the validity of the feminine experience. Finally, unlike the essays exploring detective fiction, romance, poetry, etc., Kaveney's work makes no attempt to decode the female power struc tures in SF beyond a purely sexual context. Thus her article fails to meet Alison Light's challenge of "filling (a feminine) absence with presence," or more precisely, re-evaluating what female "absence" in SF signifies in terms of current social and political conditions. Thus Kaveney does not accom plish what Light believes to be the task of the feminist critic in the 1990s" to speculate on what true feminine "presence" of representation in the genre would do toward re-ordering gender perceptions for an audience composed mostly or (if we do not question Kaveney's research) adolescent males. Joseph M. Dudley 10


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 For Film Schools Only Donald, james, ed. Fantasy and the Cinema. BFI (British Film Institute) Publishing, London, distributed by University of Illinois Press, 1989. 289p he. $40.50, 0-85170-228-7; pb. $21.95, 0-85170-229-5. This is "primarily a reader to teach with" announces Donald, who adds that he hopes to get beyond "fandom and buffery" to ask "fundamental questions about cinema". Donald contributes no fewer than four introductions (one general and three sectional) as well as one of the eleven essays. Unhappily, all five of Donald's pieces and six of the ten essays by others are written in the most abstruse jargon of academic literacy, cinema and psychoanalytical studies. A perfectly representative sentence reads, "The symbolic, then, is never simply structure (indeed, if it were there would be no possibility of ever overcoming its questioned universality) and must be considered as the potential of structure-as structuration-as a play of signifiers bearing all the potential of the pluralism of signification." This is the sort offilm book in which the index contains more references to Bakhtin, Barthes, Foucault, jameson, Lacan, Levi-Strauss, Todorov and especially Freud than to any filmmaker, with the exception of Hitchcock and De Palma, favorite whipping boys on grounds of misogyny. The films considered are either horror, surreal fantasy or horrific SF such as The Terminator and Blade Runner. According to Donald, his collection is intended to be a more scientific psychological study of genre films than the "dangerous popularization" represented by Robin Wood's "well-known Freudian-Marxist criticism. Donald and most of his contributors are more explicitly feminist than Wood. Most of the essays traverse familiar ground, such as German silent horror films, vampire films and Hitchcock, and are as low on fresh information as they are high on jargon. Three pieces discuss little-known noncommercial filmmakers; two of these, on Lol V. Stein and Cecelia Condit, are as jargon-filled as the more theoretical essays but more informative. Michael O'Pray's article on Czech surrealist puppet filmmaker jan Svankmajer is readable and interesting. O'Pray relates Svankmajer's films to two Czech folk traditions, puppet-plays and a love of the grotesque. Four essays are accessible to the uninitiated, of which three are of special interest-O'Pray on Svankmajer, Constance Penley on The Termi nator and especially Carol j. Clover on the sexual conventions of slasher films. Clover finds that slashers are indeed male-oriented fantasies, but in far more complicated ways than is generally assumed. The male killers in slashers are usually overweight, unattractive and apparently impotent, while the "Final Girl", the invariably female last survivor who eliminates the killer, 7 7


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 is active and intelligent. Clover has no trouble preferring slasher heroines to the women in many of Hitchcock's and De Palma's most celebrated films. Clover is so erudite she can discuss the special significance of "the sixth kill ing in Friday the Thirteenth Part III". This detailed and valuable 37 -page study cries out for republication in a collection which will receive more use than Fantasy and the Cinema. For large academic film study collections. Michael Klossner A Doubtful Purchase Drew, Bernard A. Heroines: a Bibliography of Women Series Characters in Mystery, Espionage, Action, Science-fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Western, Ro mance and Juvenile Novels. New York: Garland Publishing, 1989. 400p. $52.00 0-8240-3047-8. Almost all one needs to know about this book is in the subtitle. It doesn't mention Drew has produced three other books on series fiction and series characters. A list of authors with the name of the series featuring a heroine begins the book, with an alphabetical list of the heroines with the titles in which she is featured occupying 278 pages,includinge series novels by type, a bibliography, and a title index of selected reference works and anthologies. Many of the heroines I isted were featured in serial books written for girls before 1950 and in paperbacks for juveniles and young adults written after 1950. Heroines from all other genres are in shorter supply, possibly because Drew is less acquainted with them. Certainly his acquaintance in science fiction and fantasy isn't wide. He lists Cherryh's heroine Morgaine and Clayton's Aleytis and Skeen, but misses Cherryh's Pyanafar Chanur. Clayton's Brann,Hodgells' Jame, Lackey's Talia, Tarma and Kethry, and Moon's Paksennarion, for instance. A doubtful purchase for libraries, especially considering its high price; an unnecessary one for the general reader. Paula M. Strain Still Following the Yellow Brick Road Fricke, John, Jay Scarfone and William Stillman. The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History. Warner, NY, 1989. x, 246p., ill., he. $29.95. 0-446-51446-2. The 1939 MGM production of The Wizard of Oz was one of the most difficult film projects of its time. Four directors took turns at the helm as the 12


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 film soared far above its budget and shooting schedule. A swarm of screenwriters produced seemingly endless rewrites. Actors and stunt per formers were injured. The producer decided to cut the song "Over the Rainbow" from the picture. The story of how the most popular of all fantasy films emerged from this torturous process is best told by Aljean Harmetz in her The Making of the Wizard of Oz (1937), one of the shrewdest and most revealing studies of the production of an individual film. Only about half of Fricke's unindexed, heavily-illustrated book covers the production of the movie. The second half details the film's reception by the public, including its two gloriously vulgar premieres, the MGM publicity campaign, reviews, box office returns, foreign distribution, collectible items and the annual television broadcasts of OZwhich began in 1956. In 1939, only two weeks before World War II broke out, it seemed only reasonable to the public for the New York World's Fair to stay open two extra hours speCifically to accommodate a visit by Judy Garland. Sadly, few of the publicity items reproduced here featured the cruel, green face of Margaret Hamilton's Wicked Witch, and few of the reviews mentioned her perfor mance, now recognized as the backbone of the film. Harmetz quoted several unfavorable 1939 reviews, pointed out that OZ lost money on its first release and claimed that the picture was considered a failure until it reached television. Fricke and his colleagues convincingly show that Harmetz was mistaken. They print excerpts from dozens of positive reviews, demonstrate in detail that the film did excellent business even though it failed to recoup its out-of-control budget and amass impressive evidence that Oz was a popular cultural icon at home and abroad from the beginning. This correction of Harmetz's only important error, and the dozens of well-reproduced illustrations, makes Fricke's Wizard of Oz a good supplement to Harmetz. As the 50th anniversary of The Wizard of OZ, 1989 saw several com memorative books, including a slightly revised reprint of Harmetz's Making from Delta. Delta also published The Wizard of Oz: The Screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. Stephen Cox's The Munchkins Remember (Dutton) consists of interviews with the midget ac tors who welcomed Dorothy to OZ. Most obsessive of all is Rhys Thomas's account of the ultimate film collectible, The Ruby Slippers of Oz (Tale Weaver Publishing). Oz has a place of honor second only to Gone With the Wind in Ted Sennett's Hollywood's Golden Year, 1939 (SI. Martin's) Harmetz is the first priority for I ibraries, followed by Fricke and the Screenplay. Michael Klossner 13


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Literary Criticism or Self-Indulgent Subjectivity? Hoffman, Daniel. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe New York: Athena Books! Paragon House, 1990. xvi + 335 p. $12.95 paper. 1-55778-274-1 One of Hoffman's theses in this reprint of the original 1972 edition is that Poe's obsession with language to communicate the indefinite and the in communicable interposes between Poe as artist and his readers. Unfortu nately, in this attempt at recreating Poe's life, works, and philosophies, Hoffman seems to fall into the very trap he defines. At times an intriguing work of subjectivism, offering some insights into particular works, for the most part Poe Poe ... is a difficult amalgam of pseudo-nineteenth century literary posturing, quaint (if not outright archaic) diction, and an idiosyncratic approach to Poe and his canon that reveals more about Hoffman than about his putative subject. Hoffman is direct about his attitudes toward Poe: "Now, I confess that one of the chief powers exercised upon me by the poems of Edgarpoe is the power to make me wince". This line suggests several difficulties. First, Hoffman seems not to particularly like his subject, an approach that makes the reader wonder why the critic even bothered. More to the point, however, Hoffman doses not suggest why Poe is to be disl iked; instead, he systematically trivializes "Edgarpoe" and his works. Especially frustrating are Hoffman's frequent cynical re-namings-Poe becomes 'Edgar Elan Poet', 'Hoaxiepoe', 'Idgar I Am Poet', 'Horror-Haunted Edgar', 'Editor A. Poe', 'Penni less Edgar', and even, in a number of inappropriate apostrophes, 'Poor Eddie'. His characters are 'Poetagonists'; those who teach him, 'Poefessors'. Hoffman's style reflects this ambivalence toward subject. Within the space of a single paragraph, it ranges from the rhapsodic to the colloquial, from the intensely personal to the objective and distanced. Indeed, on either side of a single period, the reader is expected to move from "'AI Aaraaf' is the best he ever did in the line of Jumbo Productions" to "Fractured though it is, we have here a far more convincing imaginative experience and a much more adept show of versification than in either of his other two elephantine failures". While Hoffman may be consciously imitating Poe's obsession with language, the results do not support a serious critical approach. The critical stance assumed by Hoffman is unsettling and awkward. For the most part, Poe Poe ... suggests self-indulgent subjectivity rather than lit erary criticism. For the first third, Poe and his works are subjugated to Daniel Hoffman. When Hoffman addresses Poe's works, he focuses on late-sixties Freudian interpretations that now seem too simplistic to define the com plexities of Poe, his personality, his life, and his works. Subjective, impressionistic, idiosyncratic-Edgar Allan Poe as digested and transmuted by 14


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 Daniel Hoffman-Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe seems sadly dated after only two decades, incapable of answering questions posed by a new generation of readers. Michael R. Collings Joshi on the Weird Tale-View One Joshi, S. T. The Weird Tale. Austin, Texas, University of Texas Press, May 1990, $27.50, 292 p., 0-292-79050-3. Joshi's thesis for his study of six classic weird fiction writers is very simple: these authors, he maintains, wrote fiction not with a genre in mind, but to express their world views. To prove his thesis, Joshi has analyzed not only the stories for which these writers are best known but virtually every piece of fiction (and a considerable amount of non-fiction) they ever wrote. Such thoroughness allows him to view their work from perspectives that are often strikingly original and always provocative. For example, upon seeing Arthur Machen's fiction and non-fiction as a single, sustained anti-materialist diatribe, Joshi concludes that "Machen would probably find it a sad irony that we now read the bulk of his fiction to gain a few pleasant shudders rather than to renounce the modern world of science and rationalism." His analysis of the later work of Lord Dunsany shows it to be more consistent in theme and tone with Dunsany's brilliant early fantasies than one might have gathered from reading Darrell Scwheitzer's Pathways to Elf/and (1988), and his analysis of the role nature plays in Blackwood's supernatural fiction reveals Blackwood to be much more akin in spirit and temperament to the Romantic poets than to any of his weird fiction contemporaries. As one might expect, Joshi's most thorough section is on H. P. Lovecraft. It is impossible to do justice to his discussion in this limited space, except to note that it is the first sustained effort to ex plore the classical and modern philosophical principles that inform (and sometimes misinform) Lovecraft's fiction. Joshi has since expanded this essay into an excellent book-length treatise, H. P. Lovecraft and the Decline of the West (Starmont House, 1990). Surprisingly, it is the briefest section of the book, concerning M. R. James, that is likely to cause the most controversy. In criticizing James for writing only ghost stories which give us no clue to his world view, Joshi almost seems to be chastising James for not having a world view to express. Yet Joshi doesn't consider that the moral balance implicit in the revenge motif that recurs throughout James's stories, or the terror of the random vindictiveness of some of James's ghosts, might very well express the world view of someone with James's conventional religious convictions. This 75


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 section in no way undermines the brilliance of the rest of Joshi's book, but it does beg the question of whether the fault lies with James, or with the critical methodology being applied to his fiction. Stefan Oziemianowicz Joshi on the Weird Tale-View Two Joshi, S. T. The Weird Tale. Austin: University of Texas Press, May 1990. 292 p. $27.50. 0-292-79050-3; $12.95 paper, -79057-0. The Weird Tale is essentially an extension and elaboration of the last chapter of H.P. Lovecraft's classic 1927 essay "Supernatural Horror in Lit erature." After an introduction devoted to defining the "weird tale," Joshi offers detailed analyses of the four figures cited as "Modern Masters" in Lovecraft's final chapter-Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, and, with serious qualms, M. R. James-adds a personal choice, Ambrose Bierce (only mentioned in passing by Lovecraft), and finishes with a discussion of H. P. L. himself. In doing this Joshi hopes to define and trace the development of the "weird tale," Particularly as it evolved into Lovecraft's cosmic horror. Since Joshi's approach is philosophical, he is at his best with the writers-Machen and Blackwood-whose world views are coherent and clearly prefigure the Lovecraft synthesis. He is less comfortable with Dunsany, whose influence on H.P.L. is undeniable, but whose credentials as a horror writer are questionable; with James, who, he feels, really doesn't belong in Lovecraft's pantheon, and with Bierce, whose oddly skewed horror is too self-consciously cynical to fit neatly into the pre-Lovecraft mold. Not sur prisingly, Joshi's most thorough and comprehensive chapter is reserved for Lovecraft. But as a definition and overview of the "weird tale," the book is much less successful. In his introduction, Joshi rejects Lovecraft's definition ("A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces") as too narrow, stating that "the weird tale must include the follow ing broad divisions: fantasy, supernatural horror, nonsupernatural horror and quasi science fiction." He does this primarily to admit those writersDunsany and Bierce-who don't qualify under Lovecraft's definition, but whose influence on H.P.L. and "world views" place them high in Joshi's pantheon. However, this definition is so broad that Joshi feels the need to refine and qualify it with a somewhat contradictory analysis of "the weird" in fantasy, before finally giving up in favor of a "philosophical" categoriza tion: "I am convinced that we can understand these writers' work ... only by 16


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 examining their metaphysical, ethical, and aesthetic theories and then by seeing how their fiction reflects or expresses these theories." But in this philosophical discussion, Joshi often seems to lose sight of the fact that, if it is anything at all, the "weird tale" is some kind of horror story. What Joshi is really tracking in The Weird Tale is not a sub-genre or type of story, but a number of precursors and influences on the cosmic horror of H.P.L., Dunsany's fantasies, Blackwood's novels and stories of "awe," even Bierce's ironic Civil War pieces can all be seen as relevant to Lovecraft's final synthesis, but have little to do with the general evolution of the modern horror story. If Joshi's overall discussion is fuzzy, however, his individual portraits are (excepting his uncomfortable pan of M. R. James) very fine. "What I have tried to do is give a picture of the totality of their world, its overall substance and philosophical direction. This involves doing something most critics seem in too much of a hurry to do: actually reading everything an author wrote and trying to understand how (or whether) it forms a unit." In this more modest goal, Joshi is quite successful. The Weird Tale will be a basic text for scholars of the development of modern dark fantasy. Keith Neilson NASA History Kerrod, Robin. NASA: Visions of Space: Capturing the History. Philadel phia, Running Press, September 1990. 168 p. $19.98. 0-89471-853-0. In 1962, NASA Administrator James E. Webb instituted the NASA Art Program by inviting seven artists to work with NASA to record its history. The first fruits of the program to reach the public were found in the massive coffee table book Eyewitness to Space (Abrams, 1976) which chronicled the events of 1963-69-from the construction of Cape Canaveral through Apollo 11. This book continues in the same vein. A number of the same artists are represented here, but there are also many new ones. A few of the pictures are repeated, but most are new. Beginning approximately where the first book ended, this one continues through early 1990, although not in strict chronological sequence. There are also paintings and photo transmissions of the other planets. The book is well designed, obviously by people who enjoyed the work, and who also had a sense of humor; the resemblance between Jamieson's painting of Gordon Cooper on page 39, and the Rogers cover (Astounding Science Fiction, November 1947) for "Chi Idren of the Lens" is striking, although certainly coincidental. The paintings are an excellent blend of art, ranging from the 17


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 "photographic realism" school, to abstractions almost bordering on the surrealistic. Although the book is an attractive addition to the history of NASA, it's obvious that it also serves as a NASA promotion at a time when one is sorely needed. The book doesn't omit the catastrophes that have plagued the or ganization (although this story stops just before the Hubbell launch), but neither does it dwell on them. The tone is definitely upbeat, and the message is plain that Man should continue in Space. Even if it is a commercial message, the medium that conveys it is an attractive one. At this price, the book is an excellent gift, and should be of interest to all those with an interest in space exploration, science fiction, or space art. W. D. Stevens Samples of Lafferty Work Lafferty, R. A. True Believers. United Mythologies Press, Box 390, Weston, Ontario,M9M 3N1, Canada: 1988. 36 p. $3.50 paper. 0-921322-06-2. $6.50, signed edition, -07-0. This booklet contains a mixed sampling of Lafferty'S work, all reprints. The principal part of the book consists of two sections, approximately equal in size. One contains seven reviews and an essay on "Tolkien As Christian"; the other is an autobiographical article describing Lafferty'S conception of SF. The remainder of the book consists of a short article on "The Shape of the SF Story," and the "True Believers" section-three pages of verse and prose that succinctly, wittily, and often savagely, reduce some of the more cher ished SF beliefs and authors to ashes. The essay on "Tolkien As Christian" makes some telling points that Tolkien's epic is not a Christian work. There are several points in the essay that can be disputed but, overall, the thought behind the article shows a keen mind at work. The verses in "True Believers" are worth the price of the book by themselves. Although these short pieces are only samples of Lafferty's work, they are a good indication of the type of prose to be found in his longer, fictional, efforts. Lafferty has a small but dedicated audience. These pieces show why. W. D. Stevens Solving the Riddles of Fantasy and life Macdonald, Michael H. and Andrew A. Tadie, eds., G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis: The Riddle of Joy. Grand Rapids, MI. William B. Eerdmans Pub lishing Co., 1989. 304p. hc, $18.95.0-8028-3665-8. 18


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 This substantial book contains seventeen essays originally delivered at a 1987 conference at Seattle Pacific University; their purpose is to assess the achievement of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. The subjects are two of the most widely read apologists for Christianity of this century-and, of course, two of the more popular authors of fantasy in English. Since both authors were celebrated converts, and both did polemical and intellectual battle with various forms of skeptical modernism, their theological writing and apologetics receive a good deal of the attention of the authors. But there are some essays that deal primarily with the imaginative writing of both men. Because an enormous body of scholarship on Lewis has appeared in the past twenty years, it is probably not surprising that Chesterton receives a little more attention than Lewis. While at least ten of the essays seem to be largely about Chesterton, Lewis is at center of only eight (one has a dual focus). So much discussion of Chesterton suggests that a rediscovery of his best work may be in progress. After all, it is now more than fifty years since his death and the sentimental image of Chesterton promoted by American Catholicism has largely faded. The book is divided into sections of varying focus. Five of the essays deal in part with biographical matters, but even here, the authors direct their gaze to philosophical or intellectual controversy. Walter Hooper's essay, for instance, is largely devoted to refuting some recent attacks on Lewis. Other sections deal with the social thought of Lewis and Chesterton; the apologetic writings; and the Romantic theology of quest and joy which each author worked out for himself. Only three essays discussing fantasy works are found in the "Literary Assessments" section. These three are fairly solid. Thomas Howard offers a trenchant review of Lewis's work which suggests that Lewis's literary criticism might outlast much of the current academic theory and practice. (An amusing thought offered by Howard is the possibility that students may be reading A Preface to Paradise Lost when Harold Bloom is forgotten.) But Howard's real love is the fantasies, and he argues the case that the Narnia books at least are en during classics. Actually, he makes a dramatic statement of faith on the matter, an existential leap of faith on the importance of Lewis. Even Gibson's essay on the importance of Perelandra for Lewis's the ology is interesting, though not as lively or controversial as Howard's. On the other hand, William Blissett's study of Chesterton and Max Beerbohm throws light on an unexplored area. The most fascinating revelation is the likelihood that Auberon Quin in Chesterton's early novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, may be modeled on Beerbohm. Moreover, the airy and whimsical tone of the novel may owe a good deal to Beerbohm as well. 19


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Nevertheless, there is an absence of analyses of The Man Who Was Thursday, the Father Brown stories, or further discussion of Notting Hill. Similarly, with Lewis, there are many references to the empty souls of the academics and administrators at Belbury in That Hideous Strength, but practically nothing on the rest of the space trilogy or Till We Have Faces. However, an essay by David Leigh relates The Man Who Was Thursday to Chesterton's autobiography. Leigh also discovers parallels between Lewis's The Pilgrim's Regress and his autobiography, Surprised by Joy. Even more rewarding in this section is a brilliant essay by Janet Blumberg Knedlik, a John Donne scholar, who uses the Father Brown stories to com ment on Derrida's literary theory-which in turn is used to draw the reader into a new discovery of the strength of Chesterton's theology and fiction. This is not inappropriate since Derrida may himself be one of the world's clever creators of fantasy ("a poet whose medium is theory," as Knedlik remarks). With a tough-minded paradox worthy of Chesterton himself-or of the "monarch of wit," Donne-Knedlik imagines the archetypal trickster and criminal Flambeau as a symbol of Derrida, and then develops a scenario in which Derrida's theory is deconstructed by Chesterton's dialectical theology, as Flambeau was gradually deconstructed (or reconstructed) by his nemesis, Father Brown. The essays are generally spirited and well written, especially Knedlik's,Blissett's, Howard's, and Alvina Stone Dale's essay on Chesterton's "disreputable" Victorianism. The book is also carefully edited by Michael Macdonald and Andrew Tade (except for a minor ambiguity in the Hooper essay). Its interest is probably limited to readers who like these two authors; and it is unlikely to convert those who don't like them-or their theology. Nevertheless, though only half a dozen of the essays are primarily devoted to analytic criticism of their fiction, The Riddle of Joy is a worthwhile edi tion to the scholarship on Chesterton and Lewis. Edgar L. Chapman Judicious and Useful Molson, Francis J. Children's Fantasy. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989. 97p. $19.95, 1-55742-015-7; $9.95 pb. -014-9. Molson has written extensively on children's literature, and this literary survey of the field displays a wide familiarity with both primary and sec ondary sources. Molson's stance is pragmatic and eclectic, "content to employ whatever is serviceable in available theory, analYSis and criticism," as he explains in his introduction. It is also conservative-Molson derives 20


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 a good deal of his opening essay on "Definitions" from Tolkien's seminal "On Fairy Stories" (1936), though he does not acknowledge the source, possibly because Tolkien's analysis is now so basic as to constitute con ventional wisdom in the field. Other critics are generously quoted, however: jean Piaget, Andre' Favat, Bruno Bettelheim, jack Zipes, Max L_thi, Ursula Le Guin, D. W. Harding, Margaret Blount, Robert Boyer and Kenneth Zahorski, etc. Molson treats the fairy tale as a genre apart, devoting an early chapter to both "folk" and "art" tales of this type. Then, after establishing Edith Nesbit's claim to be the progenitor of the "mixed fantasy" genre (a realistic perspective modified by elements of the fantastic, typical of children's literature today), he presents sections on four dominant motifs within this type: journeys, transformations, talking animals, and magic. Finally he devotes a chapter to "Heroic-Ethical" or high fantasy, again considered as a genre apart. His concluding chapter argues the case for the enrichment of children's minds through fantasy lit erature. This primary bibliography lists about 175 works, ranging from books by traditional favorites like Hans Christian Andersen to the latest volumes by Laurence Yep and jane Yolen. (Oddly enough, though frequently mentioned in the text, Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books are not listed.) Readers who are not familiar with some leading lights in contemporary children's fantasy (like Yep, Yolen, Susan Cooper, Mary Steele, Penelope Lively, jane Langton, etc.) may find the illustrations of some of his points obscure, though that should prompt the reader to fill in the gaps in his/her reading, of course. Whenever possible, however, Molson links these exemplars with better known ones: George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Kenneth Grahame, Madeleine L'Engle, Ursula Le Guin. The secondary bibliography includes about 60 entries, ranging from Tolkien to Marshall Tymn, and is notably short on works specifically oriented toward children's literature-perhaps because there aren't that many of them. There is also an author and title index. This is a judicious and useful survey, despite its brevity (there are only 78 pages of narrative text). All libraries and specialists should own it. However, if I may be indulged in a personal postscript, the text fre quently displays that breakdown in the graces of English syntax which I find all too common today, particularly among fellow academics. I do not think these lapses can be credited entirely to sloppy proofreading, though com puterized text has multiplied offenses of this kind. I refer to barbarisms in structure: "a reason why today her works are not widely read or recognized as they deserve to be (32)" (surely traditional grace requ ires" as widely read 27


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 as they deserve'?) -or in adjectival form: "on her twelve birthday Greta loses the ability (43)" (whatever happened to "twelfth"?). The author's or editor's tendency to condense subordinate phrases and eliminate commas often results in stumbling structures like "how many of them will find in teresting fiction that argues there today is a living link between transcen dentalism and Concord (34)." These are not isolated examples, though they are alii have room for. Perhaps you do not find them offensive? In that case, the battle I've been waging with student writers for forty years is indeed lost. Robert A. Collins Bowler Hats and Karate Chops Rogers, Dave. The CompleteAvengersSt. Martin's Press, NY, 1989.285 p., pb. $12.95. 0-312-03187-4. If you tied Dave Rogers to a tree and threatened to set him on fire unless he said something bad about The Avengers, he would reply, Sir, there is nothing bad about The Avengers." Rogers's work has all the ingredients of the best fan scholarship-infectious enthusiasm, accuracy, good writing and a clear understanding of what made the series one of the most fondly-re membered of cult TV series. The Avengers brought to television an amazing array of innovations, including feminist heroines who could outfight any man; playful repartee between strong, self-assured male and female characters; bizarre, comic espionage and science fiction plots; and above all John Steed, one of the few great characters developed for television, a secret agent who handled with aplomb more incredible situations than James Bond ever dreamed of. Even the costumes on The Avengers were more memorable than the people on most other shows. In addition to 200 excellently-reproduced black-and-white illustrations, Rogers provides credits and lovingly-detailed synopses for all162 episodes of The Avengers and the 26 installments of The New Avengers, the 1976 follow-up series. Long excerpts from memos between the show's producers and writers and intelligent interviews with the program's stars make clear the care with which plots and characters were developed. Rogers does not interject any criticism of his own, but the interviewees are fairly frank about the problems that beset both the last season of The Avengers and all of The New Avengers, All libraries with television collections should own either The Complete Avengers or Rogers's 19083 book The Avengers, which has substantially less information about the first series and does not cover The Avengers. Michael Klossner 22


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Biography of a Biographer St Clair, William. The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Bibliography of a Family. W. W. Norton & Company, NY, London, 1989. xvi + 527p. $32.00 he. 0-393-02783-X. The current industry in Shelley studies is richly infused by William St Clair's The Godwins and the Shelleys (see my summary of extensive re cent biographical treatment, especially of Mary Shelley, in a review of Emily Sunstein's Mary Shelley, Romance and Reality, 1989; SFRA Newsletter, March 1990, 15-16.) St Clair should be read along with Sunstein on Mary Shelley (1989) and Mary Wollstonecraft (1975), and Newman Ivey White's still standard Shelley (1947). St Clair's title is misleading. The work is a biography of William Godwin, on a virtually day-by-day basis, founded upon his 32-volume journal, kept meticulously and daily from 1778 to nearly the end of his life in 1836. The lives of his much more famous son-in-law, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and (vagary of late twentieth-century interest) even more famous daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, are presented exclusively in their relationship to Godwin. The title notwithstanding, the book is original, magnificently learned (it reports at least thirteen works not previously attributed to the Godwin canon), and a pleasure to read. The clear narrative is enriched throughout with a smiling wit so that even at its end we have St Clair reflecting on the prolific though mostly not lasting memorable Godwin (his double negative diction was inexorable) about how "alarming" it is lito speculate how many more [books] he might have written in his tormented fifties and sixties if Wedgwood or Shelley had solved the money problem." Although he was in nearly crushing debt for most of it, Godwin's life was long, busy and manifoldly connected with ideas, events and people that continue to be vastly interesting in the late twentieth century. From his fundamentalist Christian preparation for a dissenter ministry arose the (perhaps logically opposite) utopian anarchism of his most influential work, Political Justice (1973, eight volumes; five editions by 1798), with its radical individualism, prototypical feminism, and sensational advocacy of free love. His immense erudition came from his years in Grub Street writing, especially through his research for the historical section of the New Annual Register. He was transported with optimism for the prospects of the French Revolu tion. Indeed, for a time his own celebrity approached that of Thomas Paine whom he knew and whose revolutionary writings he endorsed and helped to disseminate. Shelley would take Political Justice for his Bible, and Godwin had substantial relationship with almost every major Romantic lit23


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 erary figure-Wordsworth, Coleridge, Hazlitt, the Lambs, and Leigh Hunt, in addition to Walter Scott, Thomas Malthus, Edmund Burke, Robert Owen, Henry Crabb Robinson, and Robert Southey. In later years Trelawny, Bulwer Lytton, Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, Carlyle, Macaulay, John Stuart Mill, and Babbage would meet and respect him. We know well of his marriage to Mary Wollstsonecraft and of her death at the birth of Mary Shelley in 1797. Less well known is his blisteringly candid Memoir of Wollstonecraft, whom he loved passionately, practicing the honesty he preached. In 1801 followed the marriage to Mary Jane Vial (Clairmont), and the birth of William Godwin, Jr. in 1803, making the couple legal parents of five children, each of whom had different parents. He was a caring parent, keenly interested in the education of his children, for which, of course, he had elaborately developed theories. The residence at the slum address in 41 Skinner Street, above their children's books company bookstore on the ground floor, saw the coming and going of Godwin as his money problems grew bewilderingly complex and large. He owed money until only a few years before his death. That he was not imprisoned for debt or sedition while many of his closest associates were cannot be explained. Perhaps there was in Godwin's universe a reciprocal justice." Over the years when he was not immediately desperate, and when he did have money in hand, he chose to rescue many friends and associates from prison by paying their fines or installments on their loans. To him this was not generosity; it was justice. Meanwhile, as he grew older he battled, increasingly, narcolepsy, catalepsy, constipation and piles. Amid the pedestrian and tumultuous, daily business and domesticity at the Godwins' Skinner Street home, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin meet and fell in love. Throughout his life Godwin wrote and talked and wrote and talkedpolitical philosophy, history biography, psychology, and fiction. Directly interesting to the historian of science fiction, he predicted a scientifically based achievement of immortality. His second novel St. Leon (1799) has a hero who learns the secret of alchemy and longevity. His sensibility moved from an early rigorous rationalism to one that moderated in favor of the mysterious power of feelings in life, but he never became particularly gentle in personality. He was rather, rudely and painfully truthful, a good listener, and a monopolizing talker. St Clair's book provides appendices. Two of these, "Godwin's Sexual Relationship. with Mary Wollstonecraft" (based on Godwin's journal code noting how often and at what times of day the two made love) and "Women: the Evidence of the Advice Books" (on a principle tool in the continued nineteenth-century suppression of women), are fascinating well beyond the 24


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 purview of a Godwin biography for their psychological and sociological interest. The book proper is more than a biography of Godwin. It describes the late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century book publ ishing en vironment. Further, it is a biography of a biographer who intended his own biography to be written, indeed, in a new and complete factuality-a stan dard not fully approved until the second half of the twentieth century. St Clair emphatically warms to the great collection of materials for the Godwin Shelley people that were and remain available very much because of Godwin's energy and respect for the written record. The huge basic holdings are in the Lord Arbinger archive in the Bodleian Library, to which St Clair had complete access. His book allows us to reconsider the enormous influence of William Godwin, not only through his parental role in Mary Shelley's life, and as mentor and in-law of Percy Shelley, but also in his own right. Not since the local experiment in democracy in ancient Greece had belief in human goodness and progress risen so sensationally as it did in Godwin's days. His Political Justice galvanized the imaginations and feelings of hundreds of important figures of the nineteenth century. It is one of the most important works in the history of political radicalism, although in its essential anarchy its extreme idealism would have to give way to the more moderate socialism that an industrial age in a massively populating civilization required. Godwin's virtue and example are his courageously belligerent truth fulness. His legacy is of relentless and transfiguring hope. St Clair's bio graphical history transmits the inspiration Godwin engendered. For all good libraries. John R. Pieiffer Overkill and Quod frat Demonstrandum Touponce, William F. Ray Bradbury. Mercer Island, WA: Starmont House, 1989. 110 p. $19.95 0-930261-23-2; $9.95 paper -22-4. Touponce, who has a doctorate in comparative literature, was probably not the ideal choice to write a reader's guide of this sort. Though he has previously published several articles and a UMI Press book on Bradbury, his approach in this study is too narrowly focused on the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche to serve the needs of the general reader. Though the book does contain the standard chronology of events in the author's life, the biocritical introduction is almost entirely concerned with deriving, from Bradbury's prose essays and introductions as well as his poems, the "Nietzschean rhetoric" which Touponce believes informs the author's aesthetics and philosophy. 25


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Unfortunately the introduction is not the end of it. Touponce also ex amines in the same terms five major works (The Martian Chronicles, Fahr enheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Halloween Tree) and some short stories, devoting a chapter to each. His focus on Nietzschean influence is relentless, so that the reader eventually learns more about the philosopher's canon (Beyond Good and Evil, The Birth of Tragedy, The Genealogy of Morals, Thus Spake Zarathustra) than Bradbury's. Indeed, where Bradbury fails to measure up perfectly to Nietzsche, Touponce is sometimes given to chiding him: "William Lantry (of "Pillar of Fire") is essentially motivated ... by the spirit of revenge, something Nietzsche hoped to deliver man from" (87). There is no doubt that Bradbury has absorbed Nietzschean concepts (who of his generation hasn't?), but the thesis, which was adequately dem onstrated in the introduction, gets more and more irritating through endless repetition. What's worse is the neglect of just about everything else about this popular author which doesn't fit into the comparative matrix. One searches in vain, for example, even in the bibliography, for a single reference to such a celebrated bit of slick science fiction as "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is, next to "The Veldt," probably Bradbury's most widely anthologized story. (Of course, it doesn't readily serve Touponce's dem onstration of the author's Dionysian "affirmation of life.") This study, then, is both interesting and repellent. It deserves a place in academic libraries as an exercise in comparative literature, but it won't serve students looking for an introduction to Bradbury's work. I can't imagine such a student getting past the first chapter. Adrian de Wit Statistics of Horror Films Tudor, Andrew. Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Basil Blackwell, Cambridge, MA, 1989. 239p. he. $39.95, 0631-15279-2. pb. $14.95, 0-631-16992-X. Too often histories of genre films concentrate on "quality" films to the exclusion of the much larger number of ordinary and poor works which year after year dominate film output and audience expectations. In Tudor's statistical study, everyone of the 990 horror and marginal horror films re leased in Britain from 1931 to 1984 is treated equally. Through this per spective, we learn for instance that genre films of the 1940s were charac terized not by the poetic films produced by Val Lewton but by cheap imi-26


SFRA Newsletter, 782, November 7990 tat ions of the Universal Gothic classics of the 1930s. Tudor analyzes his 990 specimens by applying several deceptively simple questions. Is the horrific threat "internal" (psychosis) or "external" (such as an alien invasion)? Is the threat created by accident, by evil or by unknown causes? Are scientists, the military and other figures of authority the heroes, the villains or irrelevant? Are the monsters objects of sympathy or real horror? Are the protagonists ordinary people or representatives of elite groups?" Is the ending "closed" (happy) or "open" (ominous)? All these questions can be answered without resort to esoteric psychological analysis. "The pleasures that interest me," Tudor declares "are rather more prosaic than those postulated by psycho analysis. They revolve around narrative, character, style, tension, identifi cation, verisimilitude, involvement: aspects of movie story-telling familiar to any movie-goer, if normally left implicit." Tudor introduces a misleading factor into his careful chronological tables by using the British release dates of films instead of the original dates in the countries in which the films were made. (Only 25% of the films are British; 57% are American; the rest are from Italy, Spain, France, Canada and Japan.) It is also unfortunate that Tudor usually gives statistical data without naming the individual films. For instance, he tells us that precisely 23 films about witchcraft and Satan ism were made from 1971 to 1974 but does not name any of them. Listing the films behind the statistics would have made the book much longer but more useful for further research. When Tudor does mention films by name he uses British titles without giving the original U.S. title. His readers may not know that Man and His Mate was actually One Million B.C. (1940) or that Monster was Humanoids from the Oeep (1980). Despite these flaws, Monsters and Mad Scientists will reveal a great deal even to those who consider themselves knowledgeable about the history of horror cinema. However, the most fundamental changes over more than half a century are not surprising. The 1930s, 40s and 50s were eras of what Tudor calls "secure horror"; basic social and moral norms went unques tioned, evil was punished and happy endings (except possibly for tragic, sympathetic monsters) were almost inevitable. The last three decades have seen. increasing paranoia and hopelessness. Doubt is everywhere," notes Tudor. "Gone is the sense of an established social and moral order which is both worth defending and capable of defense. Gone, too, is the assumption that there are legitimate authorities who can demand our cooperation in exchange for their protection. Instead we have become either isolated victims of human psychosis or doomed members of untrustworthy social institutions." Michael Klossner 27


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Interviews with Horror Authors Wiater, Stanley. Dark Dreamers: Conversations with the Masters of Horror. NY. Avon Books, October 1990. 227 p. $7.95 pb. 0-380-75990-X. A 405 copy numbered hardcover edition, signed by many of the subjects, was announced by Underwood-Miller for $125. 0-88733-100-9. In Dark Dreamers, Stanley Wiater talks to twenty-four contemporary horror writers ranging from the obligatory Brand Names (Stephen King, Pe ter Straub, Clive Barker) to Old Masters (Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson) to Splatterpunkers (John Skipp & Craig Spector), to relatively new and/or lesser known authors (Gary Bradner, Joe Lansdale, Richard Laymon), even to car toonist/writers (Gahan Wilson). The interviews are short, direct, and infor mative. Wiater knows his genre and his writers thoroughly and this famil iarity and personal relationship enables him to go to the center of each writer's work, stimulating responses that range from the provocative to the mundane. In the best exchanges, Wiater touches a nerve and stimulates responses that are especially insightful and, on occasion, quite moving, such as Dean R. Koontz' story of the fan who asked permission to read a passage from Twilight Eyes at her father's funeral or David Morrell recounting how the "fake horror" of King's The Tommyknockers helped him deal with the real horror of his son's death. At times the interviews take on a formulaic quality, and Wiater's pre occupdtion with writing hardware (how do you like your computer?) is a bit wearying, but on the whole, Dark Dreamers is an excellent introduction to the personalities behind today's dark fantasy. If the interviews are not as thorough as those in Douglas Winter's The Faces of Fear (Berkley, 1985), Wiater's range is broader and his straight question-and-answer format is much more direct and immediate than Winter's "profile" approach. In ad dition to the writers mentioned above, Wiater interviews Ramsey Campbell, Les Daniels, Dennis Etchison, John Farris, Charles L. Grant, James Herbert, Graham Masterton, Robert R. McCammon, Anne Rice, John Saul, Whitley Strieber, Chet Williamson, and J. N. Williamson. Wiater, himself, is inter viewed by Philip Nutman in a prefatory chapter. This book is to be followed by Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film. A good choice for public libraries, which should catalog the book like any hard cover. Keith Neilson 28


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Fiction Exciting Cloak and Sword Story Alexander, Lloyd. The Jedera Adventure. Dell Publishing, NY. 1989. 152p. $3.50 pb. 0-440-40295-6. Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly series remains fully and wonderfully in the Ruritanian adventure tradition. Although it generally drops the romance bits, these are exciting cloak and sword stories that emphasize a twisting plot, a large cast of quickly drawn characters, and a very fast pace. This fourth adventure in the series finds Vesper trying to return an overdue book to a famous and ancient library in the North African nation of Jedera. As usual Vesper finds herself kidnapped, followed, placed in the middle of simmering wars, and on a trek across a challenging piece of ge ography. Also as usual, Alexander takes as many Victorian cliches as he can and twists them on their ends, without disturbing their feel or flavor in the least. Vesper Holly is a hero in the traditional sense of the word. She seems so perfect as to be irritating-like Sherlock Holmes. This perfection is a cloak which separates her from us, and as with Holmes, it makes her less likeable yet more attractive. Of course, another reason why Vesper seems so perfect is because we see her through the eyes of her adoring guardian, Brinnie, the narrator. Brinnie, like a true Watson, is loyal to the point of being star-struck, and a bit dull witted. His fat-headed Victorian expectations make Vesper seem miraculous just for existing. These expectations are constantly shat tered, yet he believes in them as steadfastly as he is loyal to Vesper. The only problem this series may run into is predictability. Already there are patterns to the way Alexander twists the cliches and the plot. This type of story needs a balance between archetype and surprise. So far Alexander has achieved that. Here's hoping he'll keep it up. Camille Allen LaGuire Adult Anthony Anthony, Piers. Pornucopia. Houston TX: Tafford Publishing, Inc. (PO Box 271804, Houston TX 77277), 1989. 187 p. $19.95 hc. 0-923712-0-3. Shrink-wrapped, with an "IMPORTANT NOTICE" box on the back, Pornucopia is, in Anthony's own words, "not Xanth." Titled 3.97 Erect in the 1970 manuscript, the book parodies erotica so successfully that, as he indicates, he initially parodied himself out of every market. Twenty years later, 29


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 the novel appeared from Tafford Publishing (who also released Anthony's Hard Sell) as Anthony's seventieth book. In spite of graphic sexual content, however, Pornucopia is clearly an Anthony novel. This is not to understate its eroticism; Anthony substitutes sexual ity for plot, for characterization, and, to a large extent, for narrative. The hero, Prior Gross, engages in a heroico-comic quest for the return of his severed, minuscule member (after which the novel was originally titled). Gross is aptly 'armed' for the quest, with interchangeable prosthetic penises designed to service distinctly different needs on his quest for Mount Icecream in search of both the Cherry Tree and the purpose of the universe. Gross encounters characters to educate him in the intricacies of sexuality, climaxing in battles with the five virginal guardians of the Cherry Tree; each uses sexuality to destroy enemies and each can be destroyed only by a different form of sexual penetration. Pornucopia differs from Anthony's other works in that here sexuality is not only explicit but focal. In other novels, Anthony approaches sexual exploration, only to pull away at levels appropriate for his audiences. In the Xanth novels, adolescent male heroes are as intrigued by sexuality as Prior Gross, but they do not seem to know quite what to do with it. Gross not only knows, he demonstrates ('demonstrates', a pun found in Pornucopia). In the Cluster novels, adult sexuality more consistently resolves the narrative; An thony explores multiple-gender sexuality, alien sexuality, even transfer of male auras into female bodies. In Pornucopia, however, Anthony carries such suggestions to logical and graphical conclusions. Nakedness as symbol and image; the recurring theme of the blending of scientific and magical frames; outrageous puns; riddles and sexual double entendres; symbolic naming, most often with sexual or scatological over tones-ali are standards in Anthony's fictions, but here applied to subject matter that Anthony usually only touches upon. As a result, Pornucopia is an interesting oddity, demonstrating Anthony's vigorous prose, his fertile imagination, his interest in linguistic ambiguity, his dedication to certain persistent themes and symbolic treatments-all expended explosively in a jeu d'esprit that almost transcends its categorization as pornography. Sexuality is rampant throughout, but underlying that sexuality is a sense of prose that explores, examines, and elucidates. Not recommended for every Anthony fan, of course, but some may find it an interesting exercise in the excesses of physicality. Michael R. Collings 30


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Put on "Must Read List" Asimov, Isaac. Nemesis. Doubleday. NY. October 1989. 386p. $18.95. Cloth. 0-385-24792-3. This book is the author's first book since 1972 (The Cods Themselves) which has not been part of his Foundation, Robot, or Empire series. Al though there are robots in this book, they are functional in form, rather than humanoid, and are non-intelligent. Earth has established a number of space habitats, referred to as Settle ments, which have developed their own cultures and have disassociated themselves to some extent from Earth. Rotor, one of the settlements, has discovered a star which is much closer to Earth than any other, and which isn't known to Earth or the other Settlements. Rotor also has a mechanism which will let them make the two light year journey in only four years, so they have left Earth to establish their own colonies around the Neighbor Star, which they named Nemesis. Although they know that Nemesis is on a destructive path toward Earth, the Rotorian officials have elected not to tell Earth that Nemesis exists, nor of the danger. The daughter of the scientist who discovered Nemesis has developed several unsettling talents, not the least of which is an ability to tell if people are speaking the truth. She soon learns that Nemesis will destroy Earth, and that there is danger to Rotor itself. As Earth develops a superluminal drive in order to reach Nemesis and possibly take revenge on Rotor, several separate plot threads converge. As usual with Asimov's work, the scientific background is well worked out. The characters seem somewhat artificial and type-cast (naive scientisc evil. administrator, patriotic spy torn between love and duty), but the combinations work well. With several new ideas, and a wonderfully de tailed new solar system, this book should be on everyone's "must read" list. W. O. Stevens Fantasy Thirtysomething Brennert, Alan. Time and Change. Tor, NY, January 1990, 281 p. $17.95 hc. 0-312-93192-1 Here is a novel with a great deal going for it. Not only does it have great blurbs from Larry McMurtry, Parke Godwin, and Michael Moorcock, among others, but the writing is smooth, the characters and their emotions recog nizable and clearly drawn, the settings vivid, and the structure tightly orchestrated. This is a very skillful novel and it reads like a dream. But it has 31


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 two problems: the plot is agonizingly predictable and the novelistic details seem calculatedly yuppie. The result is a fantasy version of Thirtysomething and I'm not sure that's a niche which needs to be filled. Here's the story. Richard Cochrane is a successful New York actor who trades places with his alternate self, the man he would have become had he married his college sweetheart and stayed in his home town. Richard and his alter ego Rick have a chance to find out "what if," and, surprise, they learn a lot about themselves along the way. We learn a lot too. We learn about the Alcoholics Anonymous program, cocaine addiction, Christopher Marlowe, and stage craft. We also get to think about what makes a good husband, father, and friend. But none of it's very challenging-more like what we learn during problem-of-the-week TV drama series. (Alan Brennert writes for TV, by the way, but for Twilight Zone.) No, we don't have to think very hard. Instead we receive pleasant little shocks of recognition, if "we" belong to the target audience. Rick drives a Volvo, Richard likes George Winston, they both wish they'd been nicer to their parents, and each regrets not having "been there for" someone. That really says it all. Joan Gordon Annual WOlF Volume Budrys, Algis (Ed,). L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume V. Bridge Publications, Los Angeles.1989. 427p. III. $4.95. Paper. 0-88404-379-7 For the fifth year, the Hubbard Contest has produced its annual volume of stories by Contest winners. The fourteen stories here are by the first, second, and third place winners for each 1988 contest quarter, and by two Finalists. In addition, there are feature articles by Hubbard himself, and by Marta Randall,Jane Yolen, Hal Clement, and Frank Kelly-Freas. The articles, particularly those by Clement and Hubbard, are worth reading even by those who have no aspiration to write. However, the principal reason for this book, and its principle attraction, are the stories themselves. They represent a wide range of length (from less than a page to over sixty pages), subject (every variation of SF from "soft" to "hard", as well as fantasy), and talent. It's not possible to describe each story, but special attention should be paid to Nasir's The Noma/ers, May's Prosthetic Lady, and Shockley'S The Disambiguation of Captain Shroud which demonstrate the use of novel ideas in a well written story. In addition to all the above, Budrys provides a short introduction to each story and article, as well as a history and description of the WOTF Contest. The repeated paeans of praise for Hubbard ("master storyteller", "most 32


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 widely read SF author of all time", and other such descriptions) and for the Contest itself pall very quickly, but they should not be allowed to detract from the real accomplishment: the stories. This is a volume worth reading. W. O. Stevens Magical Worlds Carroll, Jonathon. A Child Across the Sky. Century, London, September 1989. 268p. .95 hc. 0-7126-2588-7. Carroll is a compelling writer; his words insist on being read. This is a small part of the magic that infuses the worlds he creates and leaks from the page. Weber Gregston, the film maker from The Bones of the Moon, hears of the suicide of his best friend, Philip Strayhorn. From that moment strange things begin to happen. Weber receives three video tapes from Phil, two of which are blank, the other an impossible film of the death of Weber's mother in a plane crash. Then a strange, pregnant child appears calling herself Pinsleepe and claiming to be an angel and Phil's imaginary, childhood friend, telling Weber that if he doesn't finish the film Phil was working on, in the right way, a lot of people are going to die. Phil was a maker of horror films, the main character of which has a vast following and has the same kind of role as Freddy from the Nightmare of Elm Street fi Ims. A Child Across the Sky is raising questions about the morality of such films, but subtly. There is no time that you feel that the author is preaching, he merely introduces an element of disquiet that hovers in the background, refusing to go away. This is a mark of Carroll's extraordinary talent. Pauline Morgan Fantasy/Detective/Mystery Story Cook, Glen. Old Tin Sorrows. NY, Signet 1989. 252p. pb. $3.95.0-45116013-4. One of the hardest challenges a mature fantasy writer faces is the mixing of fantasy literature with some other genre. The most popular, war fantasy, isn't too tough since, by definition, the combatants still use swords, shields, armor, etc. A much greater challenge is a mystery or detective fantasy, which can be done extremely well (Esther M. Friesner's Druid's Blood) or extremely badly. The author must not only be able to utilize a world of different laws and beings, but must know what makes up a good mystery. Glen Cook is an author that does this very well. So well, in fact, that the reader often takes for granted that his main character, Garrett, P.L, is in a world where there are elves, trolls, centaurs and other mythical 33


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 creatures that are a part of Garrett's everyday existence. Add to this some elements of a Gothic mystery (an old mansion, ghosts, hidden motives and plots) and you get Old Tin Sorrows. Garrett has been hired to protect the rich and eccentric retired General Stantnor, who is slowly dying and believes he is being poisoned. Someone is also killing a number of the hired hands on the general's estate, and Garrett must go undercover to try to narrow down the suspects. Living in the vast and cold mansion brings Garrett into contact with a half-human, half-troll cook, a brilliant artist, a number of suspicious employees, and the ghost of the beautiful Eleanor Stantnor that only he can see. Who is the murderer, and what is the motive? The plot thickens as Garrett himself becomes a target, getting closer and closer to an answer. Garrett is his usual cynical, sarcastic, self, the tough exterior hiding a soft interior in the true hard-boiled detective tradition. Morley Dotes is another interesting character that readers will recognize from the three previous Garrett novels, an enigmatic, dark half-elf that both I ikes and disdains Garrett's often altruistic motives. Cook seems to favor the Bogart type of character, as any reader familiar with Croaker of the Black Company series will admit. Garrett, like Croaker, is a mystery, with only tantalizing glimpses of his past coming to light in each of the books. Cook does a wonderful job of balancing both fantasy world, character and detective story in this series, and the series should appeal to those who want a change from the usual sword-and-sorcery brute force stuff. I look forward to the next adventure of Garrett, P.I. Ben Herrin Classical Space Opera Coulson, Juanita. The Past of Forever. Ballantine Del Rey: NY. October 1989. 327p. $3.95. pb. 0-345-28181-0. Children of the Stars, Book 4. Ward Saunder, the patriarch of the Saunder-McKelvey clan featured in this multi-generational series, was born in 1980. The present volume is set in 2155, five generations later. Dan McKelvey, a "poor relation" of the clan since his father lost the family fortune in unwise investments, is an inde pendent space pilot. He is tricked into taking a cargo to a xenoarcheological site on a distant planet; a trip which puts him in danger of losing his ship, due to the machinations of another branch of the family who are working a competing site. Unable to leave, Dan becomes interested in archeology, and becomes a valuable addition to the site crew. Pursuing their own theories, which are 34


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 in direct contradiction to the theories at the other site, they unearth an an cient alien threat which could allow mind-enslaving aliens to enslave all the sentient races. Although this is the stuff of classical space opera, it is well written. The details of inter-family politics and alien civilizations are well thought out. The archeological descriptions ring true, and the details of the Twelfth Xenoarcheological Assembly will be familiar to anyone who has ever at tended a technical conference. This book, and its predecessors, are fun to read. They don't demand anything except a willingness to suspend belief for a few hours, and a desire to read a good story. Recommended. w. D. Stevens Tanks for the Memories Drake, David. Hammer's Slammers-Rolling Hot. NY. Baen, September 1989.280 p. $3.95. 0-671-69837-0. In this book, the third or fourth in the Hammer's Slammers series, David Drake once again preaches neoconservative, he-man values and refights one of the classic tank battles in science fiction drag. The Slammers, a merce nary outfit with hearts of gold, have been hired by one of the warring factions on the planet Prosperity. Hampered by wishy-washy, liberal politicians and a hostile press, however, they at first meet with only mixed success on the military front. The novel's viewpoint character, Dick Suilin, is a typical liberal jour nalist and, as such, hostile to everything the Slammers stand for. Forced by circumstance to temporarily join the outfit, however, he takes part in a desperate three hundred mile race to relieve a besieged district capital and a series of gruesome, high-tech battles. Suilin, of course, soon finds that he likes the excitement of being in a kill or be killed situation and proves him self a real man after all. Jerry Pournelle does this kind of right-wing, macho military science fiction the best, but Drake is a competent second. Although I found the book's attempt to portray the mercenary life in moral terms repugnant, I was nonetheless caught up by the action scenes. Drake's use of female merce naries, including in this case a commanding officer, is also of some interest. Michael M. Levy 35


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 The Sympathetic Vampire Elrod, P. N. Bloodlist. Book one of The Vampire Files. Ace, NY, March 1990,200p. $3.50 pb. 0-441-06795. Elrod, P. N. Lifeblood. Book two of The Vampire Files. Ace, NY, June 1990, 202p. $3.50 pb. 0-441-84776-5. The Vampire Files, so clearly marketed as a cash crop-"Meet Jack Fleming. Newsman. Ladies' man. Vampire," says the cover blurb---promise less than they deliver, a welcome change from the usual situation. Granted, these novels are written to a formula, but it isn't the expected formula. They are set in depression-era Chicago, for one surprise; the vampire is an ex newsman and a regular guy, if dead, for another. In each volume Jack narrates, solves a mystery. looks for his long-lost vampire love, and works with a private investigator, Charles Escott. The formula results in two entertaining, fast-paced bon-bons, delectable enough that I plan to continue reading the series even though I don't expect much nutritional value. The narrator's voice is likable and smoothly handled, the setting is skillfully evoked, and the characters are charmingly reminiscent of Humphrey Bogart movies. Warning: these are not really novels of horror. After all, the monster, the vampire, is a mild-mannered, pleasant sort of fellow who gets his blood from the stockyards and doesn't even kill the cattle. Instead, the series introduces another version of the sympathetic vampire; see also Chelsea Quinn Yarbro;s Saint Germain series. Don't read The Vampire Files, then, to be frightened, though there are a few slightly icky moments. Read it instead for a pleasant diversion. Read it also if you are watching the career of this relatively new literary type, the sympathetic vampire. joan Gordon A Mixed Variety Evans, Christopher and Holdstock, Robert, eds. Other Edens III. Unwin, London, October 1989, 287p. .50 pb. 0-04-440400-X Although there are clever, well written stories here, coveri ng a wide range of SF, fantasy and horror, most of the sixteen are very downbeat, and while that need not interfere with reader enjoyment, it does so here. It seems that, in trying so hard to avoid the cliche's of the genre and to write English stories, some of the authors have omitted to be entertaining. Keith Roberts is one of the chief offenders in this respect. But there is entertainment here. Most startling of all the stories is "Country Matters" by Gill Alderman, an uncompromising horror fantasy full 36


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 of sharp writing and unexpected subtleties; it's worth the price of the whole book. There's a haunting collaboration, by Garry Kilworth and Christian Lehmann, about a mental ability (or disability), and another Vendavo story from Christopher Evans, who has produced some really fine pieces about that charader, an artist who makes invisible spirit-creatures into visible tableaux. Brian Aldiss's "A Tupolev Too Far" needs a mention-a parallel world tale with a difference. Other stories came from Lisa Tuttle, Louise Cooper, Ian McDonald and Chris Morgan. Also, it's good to see so many new names in an anthology: these could be the British writers to watch during the 1990s. Pauline Morgan Serious and Complex Haldeman, Joe. The Hemingway Hoax. A Short Comic Novel of Existential Terror. Morrow, NY. 1990, 155 p. $16.95 he. 0-688-09024-5. Joe Haldeman's new novel is subtitled A Short Comic Novel of Exis tential Terror, and while The Hemingway Hoax is definitely short (155 pages), sometimes terrifying, certainly existential, and often witty, I wouldn't call it comie. "Comic" suggests a final, happy resolution, a return to order, and a lightness of tone that The Hemingway Hoax doesn't offer. This novel is far more serious and complex than the subtitle suggests. It is also a very fine work. A Hemingway scholar, tempted by a con-man, decides to counterfeit the lost early works of Ernest Hemingway. However, a being who tinkers with the myriad alternate universes that run parallel to one another warns him against such a plan-it would bring doom. That's the basis of the plot but to explain much more would be impOSSible. Haldeman always experiments with novelistic structure and this time his model is a Mobius strip, Hemingway on one side, the protagonist John Beard on the other. The result is faSCinating but hard to explain. Haldeman has often talked of a novel he plans to write, called 7968, telling about that year from the fragmented viewpoint of a schizophrenic Viet Nam veteran. The Hemingway Hoax is a version of that novel. The frac turing of personality, however, occurs outside the mind of the narrator, in the novel's conceit about alternate universes. Alternate versions of the narrator John Beard and his alter ego Ernest Hemingway exist literally here. Beard is a Viet Nam vet who had been wounded, but the nature and severity of that wounding vary from universe to universe. Though other things change as well, the injury takes on major significance as Beard notes poignantly the gains and losses of his body each time he passes from one life to the next. 37


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 This is also an autobiographical novel, as War Year and The Forever War were. Haldeman himself was wounded in Viet Nam but that is only one aspect of the novel's autobiographical nature. Haldeman, like Baird, is something of a Hemingway scholar and for similar reasons. Both identify with Hemingway, using their war experiences as sources for their writing, and writing as a way out of their war experiences. Baird doesn't have the catharsis in writing that his creator (Haldeman) and his subject (Hemingway) have until he attempts to write his own Hemingway stories. That attempt transforms him-literally, as is the way with SF. And this is a novel about writing, about Hemingway's writing, its in fluence on Haldeman's, how autobiography informs but is transformed by fiction. And it's a novel about existentialism, living in the moment. But don't expect an orderly conclusion, a marriage, a happily-ever-after, because comic this novel is not. Instead it is a very sophisticated and complex ex amination of writing and living which, because it has plenty of funny lines and lots of action as well, entertains at the same time. Highly recommended. Joan Cordon The Writer and H is Shadow King, Stephen. The Dark Half. Viking. NY, 1989,431 p. $21.95, he. 0-670-82982-X. Fiction can exert a powerful, even destructive, hold on both reader and writer. This can be especially true of horror fiction in which the lines be tween reality and unreality must necessarily be blurred and crossed over time and again for the sake of the result of the creative effort. Seldom does any writer, especially the horror writer, explore this sometimes too powerful hold, but Stephen King, a contemporary master of the trade, has done it twice, first in Misery (1987) and now in The Dark Half. He is powerfully successful in both cases. In Misery, King explored the hold that fiction can have on the reader as he developed the chilling parable of the psychotic Annie Wilkes, so held captive by Misery Chastain, the fictional creation of Paul Sheldon, that she holds Sheldon captive to force him to resurrect her heroine whom he has just killed off in his latest novel. After a good deal of effort and terror and an incredibly violent ending, Sheldon successfully frees himself and emerges from his experience much the wiser, writing again after a while, but more in tune with what is involved in both process and result. In The Dark Half the issue is the forces at work within the writer himself, how they operate and how they determine the creative effort and even, in 38


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 the case of Thaddeus Beaumont, life itself. When he first started writing at the age of eleven Thad developed severe headaches and convulsions. Surgery revealed the remains of an incompletely absorbed twin lodged in his brain-a not that uncommon a phenomenon, according to his surgeon. At any rate, Thad survives and later thrives as a professor of creative writing and modestly successful author of such mainstream novels as The Purple Haze and The Sudden Dancers, his first and best which was nominated for the National Book Award. But all is not quite all it appears to be with the ordinary Thad Beaumont for in addition to works written under his own name he has also been writing blockbusters like Sharkmeat Pie and Machines's Way under the name of George Stark and featuring Alexis Machine, so named because he kills like one. When Thad tires of the double life and double effort he tries to "kill off" Stark, even holding a mock burial (Epitaph: "Not a Very Nice Guy") which is featured in "People" magazine. At this point both his past twin and his present alter ego merge into a terrifying reality which first merely haunts him and then finally terrorizes both him and his family. For Thaddeus Beaumont the writer's muse turns into an ugly and totally malignant demon and both he and his creator Stephen King try virtually every trick of the writer's trade to exorcise and destroy it. In the end he is successful, but the final pages and King's memorializing the novel to the "late" Richard Bachman, his own onetime pseudonym (and nemesis?) only serve to remind both writers and readers alike that muses may indeed turn into demons and that any person may be subject to both their creative and their destructive powers. May the good Lord save us from ourselves if not from others! This is an imaginative, yet tightly written and well paced novel, on a par with early King triumphs such as Carrie and Dead Zone and superior, at least to my mind, to the more lengthy It and the slow paced Tommyknockers. I can strongly recommend it as very classic and very good Stephen King. A final note. As I was re-reading The Dark Half for this review, I re ceived Four Past Midnight, a collection of four novellas written one by one over several years and now published together in 1990. Within these pages, in Secret Window, Secret Garden," I found yet a third study of the life and craft of a writer. In this work, King again looks at the creative process from the point of view of the writer and develops some aspects of The Dark Half into a different direction with a different, but still intriguing, result. Is he successful? I say he is, but you'd better read it-read all four-for yourself. J.R T. Moore 39


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 A Grand Adventure Kushner, Ellen. Thomas the Rhymer. NY. William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1990. $18.95 hc. 247p. 1-557-10046-2. Thomas, rhymer and harper, is a comely Scottish lad of wit and flirtatious ways. A master of words, the ladies cannot resist him, and he is only too willing to fulfill their desires. After once too many such escapades, he seeks a haven and finds it with a childless elderly couple, who become his foster parents. He also finds love in Elspeth, who lives over Eildon Hills, but he is not seasoned enough as a man yet to voice his love. Seasoning comes through seduction by the Faery Queen and the required seven years of service to her. She returns him to his adopted home, much changed by her gift that he can speak only the truth. There he marries Elspeth, now a widow, and they are happily married for seven times three years. On his deathbed, the Faery Queen comes to claim him, as she said she would. And Elspeth imagines him singing and harping before the Elvin host. This is a grand adventure, filled with colorful intrigue, a story that readers will not want to put down, and then they will be sorry it is over. Kushner weaves the ballad legend brilliantly into a novel worthy of a master. To read it is to love it. Mary Ann Lowry Filmlike Horror Laymon, Richard. Resurrection Dreams. NY. Onyx [NAL), June 1989. 319p. $4.50 pb. 0-451-40136-0. Richard Laymon has a justly deserved reputation for writing horror of the more violent, visceral, vivid sort-he is willing to take chances and does so with a flair that generally carries it off. In Resurrection Dreams, he estab lishes a premise that is potentially more graphic and daring than anything he has yet done. The local nerd-psychopath, Melvin, discovers how to create zombies and uses his knowledge to help him in his quest for the love of Dr. Vicki Chandler. The scenario provides everything that Laymon works bests at: opportunities for blood and gore, for explicit sexuality inextricably linked to the plot line, for unusual and often highly uncomfortable confrontations and blood-Iettings between interesting characters. Unfortunately, the novel does not quite live up to its promise. The dis covery of the secret formula for making zombies is asserted rather than developed, while the zombies themselves are nearly indistinguishable from living humans-something on the order of characters in the recent file Dead Heat, in which zombies are played more for laughs than for horror. And 40


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 perhaps that similarity provides the key to the most serious difficulty with Resurrection Dreams. It reads like a film. It depends upon long scenes that climax with a sudden shocker, as in a torture/murder scene that leads the reader to assume Vicki Chandler as victim, only to identify the true victim by name in the final line of the chapter. By using careful lighting and po sitioning, the same effect could be created in a film-<>nly the sudden rev elation of identity would be far more acceptable and more valid visually than it is verbally. In Resurrection Dreams, the reader feels cheated rather than frightened or horrified. Similarly, Vicki's long-lost childhood love-interest Paul is treated as a continuing thread in a soap-opera plotline, even to the sudden appearance of a Paul look-alike who is conveniently discarded offstage to provide an other of those oddly filmic pseudo-climaxes that might succeed on camera but seems flat in a novel. When Paul himself does appear, he does so suddenly and incredibly; the reunion of the lovers seems more forced than plausible, an action required for one last attempt at a stab of horror in the final chapter rather than inherent to the plot. Interesting enough, well written, solid and competent, Resurrection Dreams ultimately comes across as too tame for Laymon's talents, depending too heavily on filmic rather than narrative developments. Michael R. Collings [This review preViously appeared in Mystery Scene) Complex, Multilayered Novel McAllister, Bruce. Dream Baby Tor: NY. October 1989. 434p. $18.95 he. 0-312-93197-2 The study of man's behavior in battle is as ancient as the art of war itself, drawing to its classroom tacticians, strategists, philosophers, poets, and any number of wheel-chair generals. Psychiatry and psychology, in the nascent forms of the disciplines we know today, invaded the military during the American Civil War and gradually made inroads, with much difficulty, throughout the two World Wars. After W.W. II, advances in the fields of neurobiology, psychobiology and pharmacology found more willing ad herents, first in the moribund OSS and later in the fledgling CIA, especially in that agency's Chemical Division. It was a marriage of convenience, much like the pairing of Timothy Leary and G. Gordon Liddy on the college talk circuit. By the Vietnam era, there were psychologists using the theater of combat as laboratodes for their studies. 41


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 In Dream Baby, Bruce McAllister explores the effects of one such study that went too far. The novel is told in a series of interviews reminiscent of the oral-history genre used so effectively by Mark Baker in NAM. The focus of the interviews is 1 st Lt. Mary Damico, an Army nurse suffering from nightmares induced by exposure to grueling, meatball surgery; nothing unusual, under the circumstances, except her dreams foretell reality: she dreams about grunts, their wounds, and intimate details of their lives before they are wheeled into the hospital. Damico reveals her ability to Steve Balsam, a lieutenant from Special Forces, who, she discovers also has spe cial skills: during a firefight he can leave his body and "see" where to move to avoid being hit by incoming rounds. Once her ability is discovered, Damico suddenly finds herself transferred to a special operations unit somewhere in the Vietnamese highlands. Here she meets a group of other "Talents" (specially gifted individuals who have developed extrasensory abilities after undergoing traumatic, combat expe riences): a black corporal who has a mind-meld relationship with his Ger man shepherd scout dog; a former P.o.w. captain with a Kurtz stare who can read another person's thoughts, and, later, in Vientiane, a one-armed SEAL who can see "fire" on bodies about to be hit. Damico's love for Steve and her need to be with others who share her "curse" convince her to join the mission, despite her hatred of the team's coordinator, Colonel Bucannon. A Johns Hopkins psychologist with ties to the CIA, Bucannon sees these "Talents" in the cold, analytical light of evaluations and objectives. For him, the results of the operation, like any military objective, supersede the personal needs of the subjects involved. For him, war is just another laboratory. Bucannon's character is cut from the same white-linen suit as Graham Greene's Quiet American. And, by metaphorical extension, he represents the attitude of much of post-World War II America's foreign policy the Peace Corps in Hell. This paranormal A-Team's test is a secret mission, a special op that takes them deep into North Vietnam disguised as Russians (Cooper's AfroAmerican roots are handled ingeniously) to blow the Red Dikes and flood Hanoi, thus putting an early end to the war while simultaneously maintaining U.S. innocence for all the civilian suffering such an act would cause. The trick of the plot is that Lt. Damico has already dreamed a black end to their mission; and her dreams always come true. The ending is a well-crafted surprise, part mystical, part symbolic, and garrote-tight with tension. McAllister has dug deep into the psyche of Vietnam, creating a story with a factual basis and enough Special Forces action to satisfy anyone with a taste for Vietnam: Ground Zero adventure novels. But any similarities with that genre exist only on the surface: These characters are not wish-fulfillment 42


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 mouth-pieces for cammie-dressed, armchair adventurers, and the trip down the Red River has more in common with The Heart of Darkness then with The Last Run. Dream Baby is a complicated, multilayered novel, filled with insights and a lyrical, but, at times, rambling prose (the only distraction about the book). It's a novel of an America too long in a war that by the early Seventies (the time-frame of this book) had begun to establish its own rules, dictate its own terms, and create its own special type of soldier. Other critics have pointed out McAllister's themes of human suffering leading to an ultimate power. In Dream Baby, even that theme is re-exam ined. This is and isn't a novel about Vietnam. But only through this con tradiction can that most elaborate of all psyops begin to be understood. For McAllister'S small but growing following, this is the novel they've been waiting for. Barry H. Reynolds A Failed Kidnapping Moulton, Deborah. Children of Time. Dial, NY, 1989. 198p. $14.95 he. 08037-0607-3. The story opens with an apparently coherent, defined plot: the final war is imminent when sixteen year-old David Bennet is kidnaped by an eccentric recluse, Lady Anastasia Grey, who plans to train him and others to whom she is "Mommy") to rule the post-holocaust future. Thus far, so good-although the background society is only sketched in lightly, which is a fault, for it is not our own society; it is completely computer-run, with children being shared around a near-childless community. David's anguished parents hang dimly on the edge of the story, nominally searching for him. Much of the book describes David's brutal survivalist training at the hands of Lady Anastasia's henchman, Sarke. We hope, with this training, that the boy will turn on his captors and escape. Certainly he tries. But his success is not Moulton's intention. The story turns: the war breaks out. David, along with the rest of "Mommy's" drug ridden mock-medievalist "family," disappears into hibernation. Meanwhile, David's father leads a small community in an underground bomb shelter. Before we can settle to this new situation, the story turns again: some centuries later, David wakes amnesiac into a post-holocaust horror world. Most of the early supporting characters have drifted into limbo; his father is dead; Lady Anastasia has been mysteriously supplanted by Sarke. David's quest is no longer to return home, but to kill Sarke and save the mutant descendants of his father's underground community. 43


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 In a final dramatic non-revelation, we learn that the mutants' form of village government, the "way of the Demosee," is democracy's saviour. A trite conclusion to a story notable only for its weakly drawn background, cardboard characters, and muddled disunity. Greer Watson The Conspiracy Concludes Pynchon, Thomas. Vineland. Little, Brown, Boston, 1990, 385p. $19.95 he. 0-316-72444-0 For seventeen years, inquiring minds wanted to know where Thomas Pynchon was. With the publication of Vineland, they can now make a good guess: he was likely in northern California, a little south of San Francisco. Anyway, that is where he has tucked in the countryside where much of the book takes place. The community of Vineland is not, to be sure, any where real. Pynchon has shoehorned it in among real places which in the real world (if our world is the real world) are adjacent to each other. But Vineland has about it the feel of a real landscape. The slope of the land, the plants that grow there, the look of the houses, all of it seems right; and it may be, for all I know. There is a much stronger sense of place about Vineland than I recall from Pynchon's other books. There is also a deliberate awkwardness of style about much of the book. It reminds me of those earnest testimonials for tacky products by people who really did write the words themselves. In this context, it works very well. What else would you expect from burned out dopers left over from the 60s, and their former and present nemeses who are still wearily pursuing them? None of these folks were any too bright to begin with, and their lives have not led them to intellectual enrichment. loyd Wheeler and his cronies in Vineland are the spiritual descen dants of Tyrone Siothrop of Gravity's Rainbow. Siothrop wanted nothing more than to sink from the elite into the anonymous masses of the preterite; Wheeler has never been anything but preterite. But the worst of it is that the preterite have been unable to escape the conflicts of the elite. No one is too small to be noticed; and once noticed, the file is never closed. (It couldn't happen here? Have you checked to see what's in your FBI file?) The theme of Vineland is corruption and the erosion of integrity. loyd's personal tormentor of twenty years' standing is the drug agent Hector luniga. Hector has been trying all that time to make loyd an informant. It is not that loyd has any information worth having or otherwise unavailable; it's a matter of principle for Hector. His job will not be done until loyd is turned. 44


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Hector can bring considerable pressure on Zoyd, by framing him, which he does. But it is necessary that Zoyd choose to compromise his prin ciples, modest and weak though they be. The opposition must not be merely crushed, it must be coopted. Shades of 1984. But power corrupts, and Hector too has been corrupted. He has escaped from an institution which treats "tubal abuse ... and other video-related disorders." The devices which the elite have crafted to control the preter ite masses work equally well on their own minions. Here we begin to see what the passage of time has done to Pynchon's grand paranoid conspiracies. It has treated them with exquisite cruelty by permitting them to succeed; and the bad guys, insofar as it is possible to say that one group is worse than another, have won. The days of high heroism, of mighty forces locked in secret combat, which we saw in Gravity's Rainbow, are over. Victors and vanquished are equally blighted by loss of purpose. What will happen to the preterite is left unanswered. Pynchon shows us this by expounding on the history of the labor movement in California. The union men and women in the early days were giants who fought titans; no quarter asked or given. Many of them died or were maimed for their principles. In the second generation, there were compromises: the unions got a little from the bosses, but they were run by gangsters on the take from the bosses. Individuals decide they would rather feed their families than starve for their principles, even though they feel that to do so is wrong. In the third generation, the present, we have dropouts freelancing and barely making it, with no sense that things could or should be otherwise. So the game is over. Secure at last, the conspirators are dismantling their organization. Their loyal preterite followers, no longer needed, are aban doned, dropped from the federal payroll; just as the preterite masses, no longer restive, are being dropped from federal entitlement programs. That is the real point of the Reagan revolution. With their security assured, the elite can forget about the preterite. The injustice of this is too much for Brock Vond, a federal prosecutor and Zoyd's rival for the soul of Erenesi Gates, Zoyd's ex-wife. He knew he could never belong to the elite, but there must be enemies out there some where. He cooks up a massive operation to justify his existence, and that's what starts a lot of things moving. Did I say the theme was corruption? Trying to identify the theme in one of Pynchon's books is like trying to put a straitjacket on a jellyfish. The triangle consisting of Zoyd, Erenesi, and Brock Vond has as good a claim to centrality as corruption. 45


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 And none of these takes into account the Thanatoids, who are dead and in Bardo, although some of them haven't yet realized that they're dead. Bardo, by the way, is located in the hills not too far from Zoyd's place, and the living and the dead interact pretty much the way the living interact with each other. And then there's DL Chastain. It seems there are people who are look ing out for the preterite. In the normal course of events, Ninja training is given only to those who can be brought to the point where they will never make a mistake in putting their training to use. DL is chosen precisely be cause her master by his deep insight can see that she will make mistakes: this exemplifies the principle that people have the right to foul up as well as the right to succeed. That doesn't begin to cover the treasures to be found here, but there isn't time for everything. Read this any way you like. Better yet, read it several ways. No matter how you read it,there will always be pieces hanging out at the corners. But that's all right; the real world is not a tidy place either. Strongly recommended for everybody. William M. Schuyler, Jr. Lands Short of Potential Shwartz, Susan. Heritage of Flight. TOR, NY, April 1989,338 p. $3.95 pb. 0-812-55413-2. Susan Shwartz had a good idea-in fact she had several good ideas. Unfortunately, she didn't develop any of them well. As if unsure of her goals, she pivots the plot through several directions, none of which are ever wholly satisfied. The protagonist, Paulie Yeager, is a superior fighter pilot who is grounded in order to oversee the potential last vestiges of humanity that have been intentionally stranded on an uninhabited planet which, of course, is not uninhabited after all. There is also an unexplained war between the good guys and the "secessionists" which, besides providing a thin explanation for the plot, only serves to confuse and muddle the reader. A "Secess" pilot clone catapults in, his character apparently grafted from Brave New World, and nothing at all like the mean and nasty enemy he represents. There are also war-ravaged kids, good for a few sympathetic stabs at the themes of racial injustice, genocide, and the meaning and purpose of humanity. But in the end, Heritage of Flight, unfocused in its intentions, ultimately goes for the cheap emotional shot-and takes a nosedive. Margoleath Berman 46


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 First Novel Van Gores, Alida. Mermaid's Song, NY. New American Library, August 1989. 396 p. $4.95 paper, 0-451-16113-0. On those rarest of occasions a fantasy novel has a combination of ele ments that allow for a unique and interesting story, a new and different set ting, and an excellent read. Alida Van Gores manages to do this in Mermaid's Song, and, wonder of wonders, do it as a first-time novelist. Not to worry, though. There are enough of the classical elements in Van Gore's story, including a wise and beneficent seadragon, some really slimy villains (slimy in strict rhetorical sense, as they are merfolk), and even an ecological message that isn't too overdone. But don't think that this book is Tolkien-under-the-Sea, or another Walt Disney distillation of a fairy story. The evil elements are cunning, nasty and very clever, and there are several close calls. These are merfolk, who make love and hate and kill and feel as strongly as humans, perhaps moreso. The story begins with the daily routine of Elan, a beautiful merramaid. She, like all the other merra, are enslaved to the mogs, another underwater race. This has, over the centuries, caused an unbalance in the ecosystem of the underwater land, and now there are fewer plants, fish, and other underwater foodstuffs for both peoples. The one hope is the last remaining seadragon, who guards the Balance between good and evil. Every fifty years, there is a ceremony called the ChoOSing, a ceremony that bonds one of the merrafolk to the seadragons so that eggs are laid and the balance is stable. Elan is not really a candidate,but finds some unlikely allies, including an enormous squid. The remainder of the story is the precarious existence as the time runs out for the seadragon eggs, one of which (at the very least) must hatch. The best part of this book is not the storytelling, even though that is very good, but the believable characters. Elan is a real delight, although she has a good deal more backbone than a number of other contemporary female leads, which makes her all the more fascinating. The Elder Ghrismog Groff, the chief villain, is a fat (a fat merman?), repulsive, twisted individual with a ruthless streak and a cruel sense of humor. Each mog or merra is presented finely drawn, and no detail is too small for Van Gores. This is an outstanding first effort, and I hope that Alida will gift us with some more stories of the merra in the future. If not, then whatever she writes will more than likely be a delight. Ben Herrin 47


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Two Important Works Watson, Ian. The Embedding. Carrol & Graf, NY, January 1990.217 p. $3.95 pb. 0-88184-554-X. This is a reprint of Watson's 1973 first novel, which received high critical acclaim. As a near-future novel, it has born up well: the Amazonian political background is still a possible extrapolation from our world. Watson's major theme in this novel is the impingement of human technology on the natural world, through language, drugs, and heavy ma chinery. As in Watson's later work, human life is only a pawn in the search for ways to alter reality. Three Frankenstein stories intertwine: first, the protagonist Chris Sole participates in an experiment on human children, raising them in an environment where computer-altered language warps their vision of reality, but ultimately bestows ghastly paranormal gifts upon them. Second, an Amazonian tribe, the Xemahoa, use drugs to alter their own minds, their language, and reality itself, while the Amazonian basin itself is being flooded for corporate profit. Third, an alien race, the Sp'thra, offer humanity information about space colonization in exchange for six living human brains. The Embedding, like Watson's subsequent work, is furnished with horrifying images that continue to haunt the reader after particulars of plot are forgotten. Watson's inventive powers, particularly in the use of linguistic concepts such as embedding, are striking. This issue is a reprint from the same plates as the 1977 Bantam edition. Named by David Pringle as one of the hundred best science fiction novels, The Embedding is an important work by an important writer. Watson, Ian. God's World. Carroll & Graf, NY. May 1990, 254p. $17.95 hb. 0-88184-574-4. The fiction of Ian Watson, a highly metaphysical, idea-oriented British writer winner of the Prix Apollo and other awards, has been praised by Michael Bishop, J. G. Ballard, and Christopher Priest. God's World is a first American edition of the 1979 novel published in England. Watson's intellect again dazzles even the most sophisticated reader. The sheer inventive power of God's World seduces the reader, but there is, as always with Watson, more than pyrotechnic world-building and concept exploration. That something more is a subtle sense of horror always present in Watson's works. In the novel, humans are contacted by a spiritually advanced civilization which gives them space travel powered by love (or at least by orgasm). They 48


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 are invited to visit God's World, aliens' home world. When the human ambassadors arrive in the alien system of 82 Eridani through High Space, after a battle with supposedly soulless creatures, they meet the advanced God's World natives. These natives teach them of contact with a world beyond death, Askatharli, and invite them to join in loving immortal pairs through a rite that grants supernormal power. Things are not what they seem, however, and the humans discover they have been seduced by a dangerous alien power. The horrific undercurrent that runs throughout is the hint of deep danger to the human protagonists. In fact, the power of Askatharli can be reached only through a chillingly described death-rite. The female protagonist, Amy Dove (Watson can sometimes go overboard with symbolic names), learns that she can only tap the power of Askatharli through a duel to the death with her beloved. Watson's gift for frightening imagery is a major part of the appeal of this novel. He also teases us with plot concealment and disclosure, both of the real nature of Askatharli and of the ultimate fate of Amy Dove. Watson expertly juggles point of view and narrative sequence, no mean feat in a genre where both elements are so constrained by technical considerations. The scenic descriptions of God's World range from intriguing to genuinely majestic. Even Watson's world-play contributes to the novel's literary impact. If Watson has a weakness, it is in characterization. The humans on the ambassador ship Pilgrim are insufficiently differentiated and, except for Jacobik, lack the quirks that could make the reader care more deeply about their fate. The result is a bit cold, unconvincing, and over-intellectual. Such criticism is only quibbling, however. Watson's inventive powers raise him to the rank of a first rate literary science fiction writer. And this book, previously not published in the US, deserves more critical attention than it has received so far. Mary Turzil/o Brizzi Proceed Slowly Wingrove, David. Chung Kuo. Delacorte/Bantam Doubleday Dell, NY. 1990, xxx + 592p. $19.95 hc. 0-385-29873-0. I really didn't know whether I was going to make it through this one. It wasn't so much the length, although I think that's excessive, as the fact that this is just the first installment of a projected seven volume opus. I find that very discouraging. 49


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 As you will infer from the title, this is going to have something to do with China. It is set about two centuries in the future, in a world controlled by a Chinese government based on "New Confucian" principles. A population of about 39 billion lives for the most part in enormous arcologies; the rest of the world is devoted to agriculture. A crisis is in the offing: the population is rapidly approaching a level which cannot be sustained. A European faction, the Dispersionists, favors exploration and expansion into space. The government is against it. We are apparently going to be asked to watch them fight it out. It's not clear how either faction can expect to solve the population problem. I have very strong reservations about the plausibility of this. Two cen turies doesn't seem long enough to get the system up and running by the scenario which we finally get at about page 500, especially since the warlord founder of this society did a thorough job of genocide on dark-skinned and aboriginal races. Even if we ignore the issue of temporal compression, it's not at all clear how this society functions. Moreover, the arcologies them selves are suspect. They are very large (300 levels high in most places) and they are pure white. Even if we set aside the problem of whether such structures are physically possible, shouldn't they have some effect on the climate? Maybe everything will be explained satisfadorily in future volumes, but somehow I doubt it. As for the Chinese angle, the author does seem to have a fair amount of knowledge of Chinese history and culture, although it is not clear what bearing it has on what he is up to. So far, it appears to be no more than an exotic veneer on a plot that might just as well have had nothing to do with China. He has chosen to use an idiosyncratic version of the Wade-Giles system of romanization for Chinese words and names, thereby flouting present Chinese pradice while confusing more knowledgeable readers by his departures from the standard he has chosen. This volume is introductory. There are lots of incidents and characters, but so far they don't have much to do with each other, although one can see in a general way how they will. Maybe all this stuff will prove to be neces sary, but somehow I doubt it. The writing is pedestrian at best. It starts out worse than that, but ap parently practice makes perfect, because the author does improve as the book grinds on. By the end, we are getting some fairly plausible characters who have what seem to be plausible motives. Buying this book is a gamble. If it flops, the remaining volumes will not be published, and the reader has spent a lot of time on something that is too incomplete to be satisfying. If more volumes of similar length do appear, it 50


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 is not clear that the author will be able to bring his grand design to a satis factory conclusion-the evidence at hand is simply not enough to allow us to reach a conclusion about this. If I were a librarian, I would wait for a few more volumes. If they do come out, the publishers will have to reprint this one. Not recommended at this time, but further developments may change that verdict. William M. Schuyler, Jr. Young Adult Good vs. Evil in Third Book of Trilogy Charnas, Suzy McKee. The Colden Thread. NY. Bantam Books (Bantam Starfire Book). 19898206 p. $2.95 pb. 0-553-28553-X. Following the further adventures of Val and her friends, many of whom were introduced in The Bronze King (1985) and The Silver Clove (1988), this work is obviously the third in a trilogy. The sequence of titles does not lead one to expect more such adventures, but the plot resolution of The Colden Thread certainly does. This book, as with the other two, can easily be read alone and provides an imaginative adventure which never strays very far from everyday reality. Unlike th earlier books, Thread confronts good and evil as relative cat egories. Val's nemesis is a young creature, calling herself Bosanka Lonat, who seems at first a frightening and evil witch from another dimension. Bosanka appears in Val's school one day soon after the new spring semester starts. Val is feel ing lonely because her friend, Joel, has gone off to music school, her Granny Gran is in the hospital and her mother has found a new love interest. She has volunteered as a foreign-student guide, and thus Bosanka becomes her responsibility. While Val tries half-heartedly to assist Bosanka, who looks like our stereotype of the Eastern European girl, solid, short and badly dressed, she and her friends notice some very odd things about her. First of all, she's supposed to be a political refugee from Yugoslavia, but her name closely resembles the Yugoslavian words for 'leftover stew' that appear on working-class restaurant menus in that country. Second, she doesn't bother with many classes and the teachers don't seem to notice her absence. Third, she is elitist, prejudiced against black people and bossy. Fourth, she threatens Val and her friends with sorcery, like transforming people into familiar and unfamiliar animals. She tries to get Val and six 51


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 friends to form a power-circle and reunite her with her people, a reunion they fear because it could mean the appearance of more manipulators like Bosanka. But, by the end of the story, Val has understood the circumstances that might have made Bosanka both defensive and intolerant, and has taught and learned a valuable lesson in empathy. Thread is a fantasy novel, with wizards, magic and an heroic quest. It is also a novel about teenagers on the brink of adulthood and the many rites of passage they make. Val's Granny Gran who first taught her about magic and aided her in the first two adventures is not available for her in this ad venture. Neither is the wizard-vagabond, Paavo, except insofar as his vio lin makes a fragmented appearance. Val must learn to rely on her own in stincts and abilities, as well as her friends. She learns to look past first im pressions and examine her motives. Above all, this novel excels at showing magic as no match for, nor any substitute for, the difficulties of real life. Val's magic is not able to help her grandmother, make her friends understand her and trust her, or improve an understanding of Bosanka that allows Val and her friends to resolve their collective difficulties. This quality, a refusal to replace the need for personal growth with the trope of immutable, heroic stature, is what elevates Charnas' YA fantasy trilogy above others of its type. Jan Kaveny There's Music Here Chetwin, Grace. The Starstone: From Tales of Com in the Legends of Ulm. Bradbury/Macmillan, NY, 1989, 240p. $14.95 he. 0-02-718315-7. Before you begin to read The Starstone by Grace Chetwin, turn to the last six pages. There is Music! Musical notation which fills out the small lyrics scattered throughout this fantasy novel. Gom Gobblechuck, an unlikely name for our young hero-but one which grows endearing with repetition, is a well-intentioned young apprentice with powers beyond his own un derstanding. Like many young people, he has a sense that something big is going on out there, that he's a part of it, and that he has no idea how or where he fits into the scheme of things. Along with Gom, the reader learns the merits of patience, initiative, kindness, concentration, and clear thinking. It is a journey story attended by anthropomorphic companions and other-worldly visions, and the path Gom travels is one from childhood into young adulthood. Margoleath Berman 52


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 An Okey Dokey Genie Conford, Ellen. Genie With the Light Blue Hair. Bantam, NY, March 1989, 150p. $13.95 he. 0-553-05806-1. Okey dokey. What's so funny in here? Poor little jeannie, who's just become a high school freshman thinks she'll never be pretty, never be popular, and never have a boyfriend. That's so sad. When, however, a genie, looking like Groucho Marx even to the cigar, appears out of the teapot candle holder she received from her Aunt jean, jeannie thinks all her troubles are over. Unfortunately, she simply can't be specific enough in her requests, or the blue genie, Arthur, is just a klutz. Her wish to have her room become cooler results in six inches of snow turning to slush on her bed. And becoming Tiffany Tupperman was valueless. She didn't like having a boy's tongue in her mouth, and how could she learn to be popular while Tiffany was grounded. Asking to be loved by her teacher, she becomes his daughter. When she becomes a famous author, her books are banned. And so it continues, jeannie reports. Undeniably, this first person narrative at a fifth grade reading level has great appeal for ten to fourteen year old girls. The generally reluctant readers among them will be amazed at how quickly they finish the novel for Conford has a perfect ear for fast moving realistic young adult dialogue of which there's a high percentage and the experiences of jeannie, as she stumbles through the different roles she assumes, are hilarious. Nor does Conford make the mistake of having jeannie explain the events as purely wishful thinking by a fifteen year old girl who is not adjusting to high school and who had just seen a Marx Brothers movie the night before her genie appeared from the teapot, though skeptics could, if they wished, believe so. Unlike the fairy tale fisherman, jeannie's wishes appeared unlimited; yet, like him she had to learn certain lessons: that people should not be greedy and that rewards are greater when a person earns them. As Arthur, the blue genie would say, "Okey dokey?/I Sybil B. Langer Friendship from Penmanship DeFelice, Cynthia c., The Strange Night Writing of Jessamine Colter. NY. Macmillan, 1988. 51 p. he. $8.95. 0-02-706451-3. The title of this slight book for young adults seems almost longer than the story. Ms. DeFelice tells a brief but winning little tale of a lonely widow in 53


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 a small town whose later years are lightened by a friendship with Callie, a young girl from a broken home with an alcoholic mother. The two are brought together by an interest in calligraphy, or fine, old fashioned handwriting; but their friendship develops because of their com mon loneliness. What makes this a fantasy is the talent that Jessamine suddenly discovers for automatic writing which foretells the future. In many stories, the talent for prophecy is at best an ambiguous gift, since it permits the seer to foretell evil happenings as well as good. Here, how ever, the gift of second sight is a blessing since it enables both Jessamine and Callie to come to terms with disappointments before they happen not a bad theme for a simple story. DeFelice tells her story in an unpretentious but assured way. The nar rative is aided by some fine calligraphy by Leah Palmer Preiss. Its setting is vaguely that of rural New England, though it is not localized and really does not add a great deal. The author's strength is in describing characters and their relationships, and on that score the book is quite successful. Probably DeFelice would benefit from developing a narrative with a more substantial plot. But her reputation as an author for young adults is likely to grow. This small book is recommended for young readers. Edgar L. Chapman More to Come Hilgartner, Beth. Colors in the Oreamweaver's Loom. NY. Houghton Mifflin, 1989. 241 p. $14.95 he. 0-395-50214-4. Books for the young adult audience usually feature youthful protagonists with problems; Beth Hilgartner's books feature resourceful girls with unusual problems. A Necklace of Fallen Stars (1979) gave Princess Kaela a chance at independence; A Murder for Her Majesty (1986) allowed young AI ice Tuckfield to survive as a choir "boy" in Elizabethan England while solving the murder of her father. Colors in the Oreamweaver's Loom gives us Hilgartner's most attractive heroine yet: Alexandra Scarsdale, usually called Zan, teen-age daughter of a famous, self-centered, unkind novelist who has had the bad taste to die unexpectedly. Unable to face reporters who wish to eulogize her father, Zan drives off through the Vermont countryside-and finds herself literally in another world. As in most alternate world stories, the sudden arrival of an unexpected stranger heralds an equally unexpected crisis. Zan finds herself in a culture divided amongst city-dwellers, forest-dwellers, desert-dwellers, and shape shifters. These people share a common language but little else; they also 54


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 have problems we are quite familiar with on Earth. The city-dwellers have hired desert-dwellers as guards, promising to pay in fertile farmland; now, to obtain that farmland, they plan to annex and clear large tracts of forest, forcibly evicting the dwellers within. Young Zan does not discuss terrestrial analogs, though a number present themselves. She is still trying to make sense of a new culture. In order to save their way of life, she and her young forest-dwelling friends find themselves facing an unfamiliar ordeal: they must appeal for a judgment from the world's capricious gods. Zan's adjustment to her new circumstances is well if somewhat briefly handled; her character shows her response to the crisis as virtually inevitable. Each young person in the story has a serious problem, physiological or cultural; all have "gifts" they might cheerfully do without, but that drives them towards the quest. The quest theme itself is introduced with a twist that has been properly foreshadowed but that comes as something of a surprise anyway: while they have not achieved their goal (this book is clearly the first of a series), each has been granted a "boon"-one that makes their previous problems even more complicated. The next book, tentatively titled The Feast of the Trickster, was promised for 1990, but seems to have suffered a delay at Houghton. It may be a while before we find out how young Zan, left to handle yet another crisis, and her alternate worlds friends will fare. This is a shame. It's hard to keep an audience for a delayed series, and anyhow, I want to know how Zan's story comes out. Martha A. Bartter Children Kidnapped Hoover, H.M. Away is a Strange Place to Be. Dutton, NY. 1990. 167 p. $14.95 he. 0-525-44505-6. Although her parents are dead, twelve-year-old Amy Tabor is happy living with her uncle and helping him run his luxurious inn on 24th century Earth. That was untilshe meets Bryon Bishop, who is also twelve years old. Usually Amy "had no trouble getting along with people, but this boy was a challenge, for as old as he was, she thought, he certainly acted childish. Maybe being born off-Earth made a person's mind as well as body a bit different? Or, maybe he was just an ill-mannered, spoiled brat?" Both Amy and Bryan are kidnapped and imprisoned on VitaCon, a space habitat under construction. The two have become part of an illegal child-labor force building the habitat. H. M. Hoover excitingly relates how Amy, using here wits and courage, helps the two of them escape-and helps Bryan to become less self-centered. 55


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 H. M. Hoover has authored a number of science fiction novels for young people, all of high quality, and this novel is no exception. Hoover has the ability to build suspense realistically, keeping the upper elementary reader reading and creating a gripping "far out" story. Anne Devereaux Jordan Imaginary Gardens with a Rather Unreal Boy-Genius Lackey, Mercedes. Magic's Pawn. DAW, NY. June 1989. 349 p. $3.95 pb. 0-88677-352-0. This first volume in The Last Herald Mage series is clearly the work of a writer who admires Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea and J.R.R. Tolkien, whose complicated dictionary of Elvish can still be found on the shelves of university libraries. Lackey's fictional worlds are imagined in some depth and with a comprehensive energy that has already generated several books, some of the earlier ones equipped with maps and arcane glossaries. Magic's Pawn, though not accompanied by apparatus, reminds readers of LeGuin and : Tolkien in its combination of the medieval and the magical as the plot fol lows the young hero Vanyel Ashkevron from his ancestral castle, through the Herald-Mage school at the High Court of Haven, to the mysterious tree and fountain-dominated domain of the Hawkbrother Adepts. The central theme, the efforts of a boy to control the formidable magical forces he discovers within himself, should certainly appeal to the young adult reader struggling with the inner storms of adolescence. However, it is in this respect that the work gives one pause: in its presentation of its hero, it per haps caters too much to adolescent fantasy. For Vanyel is a highly roman ticized figure-nothing less than a boy genius-potentially, we are told, the greatest mage of them all. He is also strikingly handsome, and around him, as he suffers through the exceedingly photogenic anguish that his genius brings, most of the adults endlessly circle and fuss, worrying, nurturing, and admiring. The adult reader soon tires of all this adulation, and even ado lescent readers may eventually find such a complete acting out of their dearest fantasies cloying, the more so in that Vanyel actually comes over as a thinly imagined and rather trivial figure. He frequently seems more of a cry-baby than a soul in torment, and it is hard to credit that he has within him the powerful forces we are assured he possesses. Generally he lacks the depth and appeal of some of Lackey'S earlier and less inflated figures, like Tarma and Kethry, for instance in the Vows and Honor series. In Lackey's earlier works, women did become warriors, and the samesex bondings of magicians and mercenaries were crucial to the plot. Indeed, 56


SFRA News/etter, 182, November 1990 the fantasy novel is, of course, often noteworthy for its bold way with gen der. In fact, the frank incorporation of homosexuality treated with tact and liberal good taste may be instructive for older readers. Yet, when such bondings are specifically sexual, recommending those works to readers at the younger end of the young adult spectrum may create parent problems. Also good taste in describing Vanyel and some of the other males who are gay can bring disadvantages. Too much tact pressed into the service of fiction in portraying these same-sex love relationships can result in a lack of vigor and dimension, a feeling that emotional and psychological complexities are being skirted. Therefore, in its treatment of character and human relationships, Magic's Pawn is much less convincing than some of the author's earlier works. However, it is solidly created and complete-a major delight being its ability to move the reader through a series of richly detailed and distinct atmo spheric settings. For the depth and energy of its fantasy world, this book is to be recommended. Norma Rowen Heavy-Handed Handling of Teenage Issues Pfeffer, Susan Beth. Future Forward. Delacorte, NY. June 1989, 123 p. $13.95 he. 0-385-29740-8. The twins, Kelly and Scott Forrest, become wary of their time-traveling VCR. They had let a friend use it to go back in time in order to save her fa ther, who had been shot by a robber. Then, when Scott attempts to save a dog killed by a car earlier in the week, he is unsuccessful. He tries repeat edly, only to see the dog killed over and over again. If the VCR won't go back in time any longer, he ponders, will it go forward? To find out, he decides to travel ahead to see the winning lottery numbers of a forty million dollar pot. Pfeffer handles the humorous banter between Kelly and Scott quite well; yet, on too many occasions, actions are unrealistic and out-of-place. For example, midway through all the time-travel episodes, Scott feels bored. He takes an X-rated videotape from his parents' hiding place and plays it, for once, from beginning to end. Naturally, his parents had not purchased the tape; it was a gift to them. And, naturally, Scott has pored over their sex manuals a hundred times; yet, Pfeffer still has him puzzling over what the bodies in the tape are doing. Naturally, too, his mother walks in, and a skirmish follows. This particular teenage issue adds nothing; it detracts. 57


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 The cartoon ish drawings are another disappointment. The poignancy of today's important issues, with which the novel does deal, needed more serious illustrations. In one drawing the parents look like cookie-cutter grandparents, and you can't picture them ever having looked at a sex manual let alone a porn tape. The culmination of Scott's lottery escapade is handled more delicately. It seems appropriate and touching that the saving of his friend's father by means of the VCR time-travel machine results in Scott's examining his ethical values. Undeniably, this sequel to the 1988 Rewind to Yesterday would have been better had it focussed on and strengthened the science-fiction. Janine Hummel Love, Time and After-Life Experience Pike, Christopher. See You Later. Pocket/Archway, NY. August 1990, 226 p. $2.95 pb. 0-671-67657-1. This novel starts out as if it were the common triangle plot. A sickly eighteen year old fellow is attracted to a charming young girl. Unfortunately, she'll only be friends with him because she already has a boyfriend. But it's not a common novel. Mark Forum has had ten years to think about what happened after he met Becky and then Vincent and Kara. He already burned one manuscript. Yet, having thought of little other than that preternatural experience, it has been so engraved in his mind that a reader feels the dia logue is absolutely true to life and Mark's first person retrospective reporting of his feelings completely honest. It's forgivable that toward the very end Mark does philosophize for his conjectures are thought-provoking. It certainly had been a mystery to Mark why the gorgeous Kara, who lived with Vincent, was so dedicated to making sure Becky married Mark instead of Ray, Becky's current boyfriend. It's also a mystery why every time Mark came close to Vincent and Becky to Kara that each felt faint and had blurred vision, almost as if there were a time displacement. Saying more would give away the plot. Yes, it may be obvious, but there is a tricky end. It's a super story. The characters are interesting and recognizable. The plot is well-crafted even to handling the intricacies of time travel and its paradoxes. The "What If's," the "Might Have Been's," the portrayal of the extraterrestrials, the suggestion of planetary destruction appear as natural as the details of the every day life of any eighteen year old fellow in love, wanting to win the girl by any means. The youthful characters and the narrative voice keep this a young adult novel. It is one, however, that will appeal on various levels to the entire spectrum of readers. Joanellen Blakeley 58


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Skip the Book/See the Movies Powers, Tom. Horror Movies. Lerner, Minneapolis, 1989, 80p. $12.95 he. 0-8225-1636-5. $7.95 pb. This book for grade school and middle school readers offers a four-page introduction and then retells six "horror" movies. Its simple summaries with virtually no discussion make the book suitable primarily for readers who have not seen these films but have some interest in the horror genre. The author's reasons for selecting these six movies out of the hundreds available is never stated, nor can the reader infer it from the introduction. Dracula is followed by Walked With a Zombie, The Night of the Hunter is followed by Psycho and The Exorcist, and the volume is rounded off with A Nightmare on Elm Street. The introduction attempts to make a distinction between "monster movies" in which "beasts come from faraway places," and "horror movies," which flare about people with sick minds." While the second, third, and fourth films might be argued to be about people with mental problems, I find it hard not to classify Dracula, The Exorcist, and Nightmare as monster movies. Further, in discussing the characters with mental problems, Powers argues that "All these men were driven insane by the wickedness of their deeds," neglecting to consider the question of what led them to commit their original crimes. To say that Norman Bates is in sane because he murdered his mother is to confuse cause and effect. The summaries themselves are uneven. For example, nothing is said about the most shocking scene in The Exorcist in which Regan mutilates herself with a crucifix. Five or six black-and-white illustrations accompany each summary (most appear to be production stills although some are taken from frame enlargements), and at the end of each summary is a page or two of information about some aspect of the film-Lugosi's later career difficulties, Lewton's production problems, methods of shooting certain scenes in Psycho and Hunter. A bibliography of seven items for further reading is provided. Since all of these films are available on videotape (only Night of the Hunter might not be available at the corner video mart), I wonder what value a book of summaries can provide, other than practice in reading? Perhaps it enables early teens to anticipate the goodies they can enjoy when they are old enough to attend "R" rated films. While reading practice is certainly desirable, this volume is one case in which I can recommend, "Skip the book and see the movies-at least if you are old enough." Leonard G. Heldreth 59


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 Riddled with Problems Thomas, Jane Resh. The Princess in the Pigpen. Clarion Books, NY, 1989, 130p. $13.95 he. 0-395-51587-4. Jane Resh Thomas is an experienced children's writer, but this is her first attempt at fantasy. Unfortunately, it feels I ike a first attempt. The fantasy idea-someone from the past unexpectedly (and unexplainedly) transported to the present-is an old and well used one, and this book does little to go beyond the idea stage. Elizabeth, a noble child from Elizabethan times (not to be confused with the queen), is suffering from scarlet fever. In a flash of blinding light, she suddenly finds herself in a modern Iowa pigpen. She's confused, and the modern middle-class family who owns the pigpen are confused, and so are the doctor and the police. The author takes the premise no further than that, and she stretches credulity to the limit to get out of the situation. Elizabeth finally returns home in a way that makes no more sense than all the failed attempts. The failures seem to exist simply because it should not be easy. Another problem is that the research shows. We get accurate facts about Elizabethan England, but not a fully convincing Elizabethan mindset. For instance, Elizabeth marvels at the carriages that move without horses and put out a great cloud of smoke. Elizabethan fires and lamps put out a lot of smoke. The girl would not be impressed by the exhaust from a car. This is, admittedly, a minor quibble, but this sort of problem comes up too often to be ignored. This is a middle-readers story, but even at that age, children who read a lot of fantasy will notice these problems. Ms. Resh develops her characters well enough, and that may carry the book for those who don't normally read fantasy, but even there the premise is weak. Camille Allen LaCuire Graphic Comic Anthologies Zimmerman, Howard, Seymour Reit, and Barbara Brenner, The Bank Street Book of Creepy Tales. 189p. 0-671-63147-0; The Bank Street Book Of Fantasy. September 1989, 190p. 0-671-63146-2; The Bank Street Book of Science Fiction. 184p. 0-671-63144. All Pocket, NY. September 19889, $3.95 pb. The editors of these three of the four graphic comic anthologies with attractive covers (the fourth is The Bank Street Book of Mystery), Byron Preiss Visual Publications, have selected fast moving stories well suited for the 60


SFRA Newsletter, 182, November 1990 comic book format. My favorite creepy tales are Edgar Allan Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart," Algernon Blackwood's "Other Wing," and H. G. Wells's "Country of the Blind." The fantasies include Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," Anne McCaffrey's "Smallest Dragonboy," and stories by John Wyndham and C. J. Cutcliff Hyne among others. Thirteen of the science fiction stories are by well known sf writers Brian Aldiss, Isaac Asimov, Leigh Brackett, James Gunn, H. L. Gold, Damon Knight, Keith Laumer, Andre Norton, Mack Reynolds, Thomas Scortia, Clifford D. Simak, and again H. G. Wells. Reluctant readers and English as a Second Language students will easily read the limited number of words in the adaptations. The artistically talented readers will appreciate the use of different successive changes in the style of the artwork. For teaching purposes, each introduction succinctly defines the particular genre. Two to three intelligent questions and about a hundred word author biography follow each story. So as texts, for classroom libraries, or to buy, these trade paperbacks are a find. Do not be too surprised to find that the black and white graphics might be colored by the end of the school year. Sybil B. Langer 61


SFRA Newsletter Hypatia Press 360 West First Eugene, OR 97401 DATED MATERIAL DO NOT DELAY BULK RATE U.s. POSTAGE PAID EUGENE,OR PERMIT #317


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