SFRA newsletter

SFRA newsletter

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SFRA newsletter
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
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[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Science fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
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University of South Florida Library
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S67-00116-n037-1975-02 ( USFLDC DOI )
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SFRA newsletter.
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
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History and criticism
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Book reviews
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SFRA newsletter ISSN 0048-9646 The SFRA NEWSLETTER is the official publication-of the Science Fiction Research Association, and is published monthly for the membership. Editorial correspon dence should be directed to the editors, Beverly Friend, 3415 W. Pratt, Lincolnwood, IL 60645 or H. W. Hall, 3608 Meadow Oaks Ln., Bryan, TX 77801. Books for review and announcement should be directed to H. W. Hall, Book Review Editor. SFRA membership inquiries should be directed to Dr. Tom Clareson, Box 3196, The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH 44691. No. 37 A HISTORY OF FANTASY LITERATURE A COURSE DESCRIPTION February, 1975 A History of Fantasy Literature (X247) was offered through the Experimental Curric.ulum Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana Univer sity--B1oomington. Its purpose was to develop a historical overview of fan tasy as an autonomous process in Western fiction from its origin in ancient myths to contemporary literary experiments. There were 15 weekly two-hour meetings, and the topics outlined below were intended to integrate the chron ological sequence with a focus on genre and theme. Each week there was a reading which always served as an illustration of the genre under consideration and as a point of departure for class discussion. The critical model for interpreting fantasy narratives was a simple and direct one, based mostly on Sigmund Freud's concept of "the omnipotence of thoughts" (Totem and Taboo): the "alternate reality" of a fantasy world is a mental universe--origirating as an abstract concept, dream, daydream, halluclnat;on, religious belief, or even mathematical theorem (as in the geometry of Abbott's F1at1and)--which is objectified in concrete, "real" terms. A totally figurative reality is thus depicted as if it operated like a flesh-and-blood world. As a corollary, too, our reading of fantasy took into account the major intellectual movements and key ideas in various eras as contexts for literary extrapolations: as, for example, the influence of the Renaissance explorations upon the origins of Utopian fiction; or, in the nineteenth century, the combined interest in primitive cultures and Darwinian evolution which led to the "Lost World" fictions of Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle. The course began with the ancient mythological narrative, specifically with two famous Near Eastern myths, the Babylonian creation story known as Enuma Elish and the Sumero-Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, both read in T.H. Gaster's attractive anthology, The Oldest Stories in the World. Both texts suggest a coincidence of myth and fantasy:-Tnsofar-as-both posit non-empirical causeeffect relationships between the obiects that comprise our world (popularly, this is referred to as "magic," though Ernst Cassirer's Language and Myth shows there is more to it than that). For the differentiation of myth and fantasy we turned to Lucian's True History, a voyage through a series of quasi-mythological Wonderlands which deliberately conflicts with contemporary knowledge of the world. Lucian also deliberately contradicts himself in the Preface by saying baldly that his entire story is a lie! In this earliest of Western fantasies, imaginative relevance is not determined by true/false or belief/non-belief or scientific/unrealistic contrasts.


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 2 Lucian was the point of departure for a four-week exploration of the origins and developments of major categories of Lucian himself provided the opportunity to discuss one highly philosophical "genre" of fantasy, "Menippean Satire," a literay'y type that includes the classic satires of Rabelais, Swift, Cyrano de Bergerac., and Voltaire (see my Epilogue, pp. 180-3, in Roman Satir ists and their Satire, written in collaboration with E. S. Ramage and D. L. Sigsbee). Next we briefly touched on the origins of Utopian fantasy in the Renaissance (Henry Morley's Ideal Commonwealths contains the seminal examples by More, Bacon, Harrington, and Campanella). In its very origins, the model of a perfect society is to be understood as an imaginative one, useful for speculation, but not to be taken literally. So More can pun on "Utopia," implying that it is both "a good place" (eu-topos) and "no place" (ou-topos). Third, we touched on the origins of Gothic fiction at the end of the eighteenth century (exemplified by Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto which is con sidered the first one). Here we emphasizea-the inteTTectual, speculative side of Gothic; which preternatural or otherwise inexplicable phenonema into our natural world as a means of making us re-think the metaphysical character of the world we often take for granted. The last novel in this sequence was William Beckford's Vathek, studied as an example of the "Oriental Romance" (I refer the reader to the brilliant comments on this work by the Structuralist Tzvetan Todorov in the recent English translation of his important critical book, The Fantastic). The rest of the course dealt with modern fantasy literature, from the end of the nineteenth century to present, a proper emphasis because of the explosive proliferation of this literature in the last century. Although it is readily acknowledged that science fiction developed so extensively in this period be cause of the tremendous growth of the physical sciences, fantasy proper has not been treated fairly in this respect, despite the overwhelming evidence that its fictions mirror the knowledge explosion in both the social and physi cal sciences, too--in psychology, archaeology, anthropology, aesthetics, literary crit-icism, comparative religion, theory of myth, or even symbolic logic-all those creative and imaginative intellectual disciplines which have forced themselves on our awareness in recent decades. This last phase of the course began with Will-jam Morris I The Wood Beyond the World because it is properly regarded as the first modern fantasy and because it is placed in a totally imaginary universe (despite the overall Medieval setting which reflects Morris first love) as opposed to one preconceived in myth or legend. James Branch Cabell IS The Silver Stallion was the next choice, though slightly out of historical sequence, partly because it was just one novel from the most extravagant fantasy series ever conceived, the 18-volume Biography of Dom of Poictesme. Taking Cabell out of chronological order also left all subsequent weeks in the course for more popular literature (even some "pulps!') as opposed to the classics. We began with Arthur Conan Coyle's The Lost World, a brilliantly witty novel, especially in the character of boisterous Professor Challenger, and a paradigm of the "Lost World" fantasy popularized by Rider Haggard and Burroughs. We then turned to Abraham Merritt's The fhi P of Ishtar as an example of the Demonic Universe, a fantasy genre thar-i lustrates our century's renewed interest in the weird, sometimes perverted conceptions to be found in myth and religion. The paradigm, of course, -is Lovecraft's Cthulhu-series which combines its own created but complex mythology with an extended form of Gothic. The "English Parnassus" of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Charles Williams deserved one session, and since the first two authors are, if anything, too


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 3 popular, the reading for the week was Williams' Shadows of Ecstacy. The novel explores the thesis suggested by religious experience. Williams proposes a quasi-scientific principle, lithe transmutation of energy," which connects life and death as parts of a greater whole and which also indicates that this novel is a fictional exploration of many themes of religion and anthropology. Then, for the most "popular" genre dealth with in the course, we turned to Sword and Sorcery, which began with Robert E. Howard's Conan stories. Lin Car ter's Flashing was selected to indicate the ongoing popularity and productivity of what is, in fact, an adaptation of an earlier type, the "heroic age" (easily recognized in Homer or the Scandinavian Eddas), with the displacement of the original supernatural atmosphere onto magic practiced by evil wiz ards or other necromancers as opponents of the heroes. Finally, the last two works, both experimental, suggest a coallescing of fan tasy with mainstream literature at last: Peter Beagle's The Last Unicorn, a fantasy about the significance of fantasy for the creative imagination; John Gardner's Grendel, a fantasy, told completely in first-person from the monster's point of view, about the existential anti-hero as the central type of character in our (mainstream) fiction for the last half-century. General class assignments also included a reading of Lin Carter's Imaginary Worlds, H.P. Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror Literature, J.R.R. Tolkien's essay, liOn Fairy Tales," and a class report supplementary to the regular reading list (preferably on a large fantasy series like Andre Norton's Witch world or Fritz Leiber's Nehwon). S.C. Fredericks Classical Studies, Indiana UniversityBloomington RESPONSE TO MR. CHAUVIN The modes of presentation at the Milwaukee SFRA CONFERENCE was as varied as the presentors. I agree with you on the deadly-dullness of read statements; but some people ca.nnot or will not do without. For example, on one panel (I will not and cannet mention names) participant #1 said she wouldn't read and everyone yelled. "Hurrah!) But that didn't daunt #2 who read, slowly, word by word, a paper 'tthich had been distributed to us beforehand (so we could follow along), E\'en audible groans didn't stop him. So what then? I'd like to know if this also the way this particular individual teaches? Perhaps if we would examine our teaching styles, we could use our most effective methods (if we had any effective ones) when presenting materials outside our On the method of prior distribution--the MMLA follows this procedure. You'd be amazed at 1) the number of people who request and receive papers but NEVER read them beforehand so that they a) ar'e totally mystified or b) read and rattle them throughout the discussion 2) The number who suddenly appear having never discovered that there was a prior distribution (from the woodwork, as it were). Frankly, the best presentations I've seen are the Pop Culture conferences, but that may be because they tend to be more effective with multi-media tech niques than we are. (Any suggestions there?) Beverly Friend


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 4 NEWS AND NOTES ***Mr. James Gunn has requested input from SFRA members as follows: Dear Colleague, I have been asked to prepare recommendations and sample permission forms for SFWA to cover use of science fiction stories in textbooks and anthologies to be used as texts. I would be pleased to receive your recommendation or coun se 1 on thi s lila tter. My present inclination is to recommend a minimum of two cents a word as an advance against a pro-rata share of fifty per cent of the royalties, but I could be persuaded that this is unfair or not enough. Other requirements will cover the problem of copyright notice. Your comments are solicited. Reply to Mr. James Gunn, Depay'tment of English, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas 66044. ***The Gregg Press (70 Lincoln St., Boston, Mass. 02111) has announced a science fiction collection of twenty titles selected "to illustrate the development of an important and increasingly studied literary genre,,1 The collection was chosen and edited by David G. Hartwell and L.W. Curry. The titles included are: Bester, THE STARS MY DESTINATION; Capek, Karel. THE WAR WITH THE NEWTS; Dake, Charles Romyn. A STRANGE DISCOVERY; Griffith, Mary. THREE HUNDRED YEARS HENCE; Hamilton, Edmond. THE HORROR ON THE ASTEROID AND OTHER TALES OF PLANETARY HORROR; Harben, William N. THE LAND OF THE CHANGING SUN; Lane, Mary Bradley. MIZORA; London, Jack. THE SCIENCE FICTION OF JACK LONDON: AN ANTHOLOGY; Locke, George A. THE MOON HOAX; Miller, Walter M. Jr. A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ; Shelley, Mary. TALES AND STORIES OF MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY; Stapledon, Olaf. TO THE END OF TIME; Sutphen, Van Tassel. THE DOOMS MAN; Thomas, Chauncey. THE CRYSTAL BUTTON; Tucker, George [IIJoseph Atterl eyll ] A VOYAGE TO THE MOON; Verne, Jules. AN ANTARCTIC MYSTERY; VonHarbou, Thea. METROPOLIS; Wells, H.G. THINGS TO COME; Windsor, G. McLeod. STATION X; Zamiatin, Eugene. WE. ***THE SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW, a journal devoted exclusively to critical reviews of new releases in the science fiction and fantasy field on a current basis, will begin publication in March. Edited by Martin Last, the magazine will provide coverage of all releases in this ever-growing genre of literature. All original books will be including re-releases of out-ofprint classics; routine anthologies of previously published material will receive mini-notices, and "ser'iesll books (Perry Rhodan, Cap Kennedy, etc.) will be listed. Major reviews will be reserved for major releases, but coverage will be as complete across the board as is possible. The journal will be digest size, and will appear monthly. It is $1.00 per copy, or $10.00 per year. Please send your subscription request to: THE SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW, 56 Eighth Ave., New York, N.Y. 10014. (H. W. Hall) ***T-K Graphics (Box 1951, Baltimore, MD. 21203) has initiated a new series, titled SF Author Studies. No.1, published in early 1975, is Dick the Unbrella of Light, by Angus Taylor. The series is 5 1/211 X 8 1/4, with 26 unnumbered The pamphlet has a curiously unfinished look, a title page and numhering. yet is otherwise well designed and prlnted. No announcement of forthcoming titles in the series is available for the Newsletter at thi5 time. (H. W. Hall)


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 5 ***A FANZINE PUBLISHING RECORD has been issued by Roger Sween, 319 Elm Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 49007. Exclusively bibliographic, it does not make evaluative comments on the zines. Rather, it lists contents and describes them where titles may be misleading. ($3.00 for 10 issues or exchange with fanzines.) For those who wish to locate information in fanzines, an invalua ble service. (Beverly Friend and H. W. Hall) ***There was a very interesting letter, attached as a supplemental page to SIRAT #6 (Will Norris, 1073 Shave Road, Schenectady, New York 12303). Written by Sandra Miesel, it announced the formation of a fan speakers bureau similar to the SFWA bureau with the goal lito assemble a list of qualified people who can offer their services to their local schools. Miesel herself has spoken on the History of SF, the Alien and Future History in SF, "BEM.s Barbarians, and Brass-Plated Brasil, in 40 minute talks which include books, magazines, fanzines, and Kelly Freas posters, as well as bibliographic material. Ms. Miesel can be reached at 8744 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46240. (Bever ly Fri end) ***Ivor Rogers (P.O. Box 1068, Des Moines, IA 50311) is currently updating the SFRA membership rolls for 1975. Individuals who joined or renewed after Octo ber, 1974, will be credited with 1975 membership. New members who joined in October or later should drop a note to Ivor Rogers so they are properly credited for 1975 membership. Please do so by March 15th (or renew your membership if you haven't done so). The April Newsletter will be the last mailing on the 1974 1 i st. ***From the Editors: The news from SFRA members has been slight. Please let us know what you are doing: plans, prospects, needs, projects, interests, or questions. Individuals interested in reviewing for the Newsletter should contact H.W. Hall for further details. WORKS IN PROGRESS ***Prof. S.C. Fredericks (Department of Classical Studies, Ballantine 547, In diana University, Bloomington 47401): My formal scholarly work in the area is really "'in progress: II it's a book-length study of the relationship between science-fiction and fantasy narratives on the one hand and myths, mythologies, and myth theories on the other. I'm not, however, doing any mythhunting--I'm only going to treat narratives in which the myths are obvious and immediately recognizable--no creative, personal mythologies like those of Lovecraft or Cabell, only traditional, pre-existent mythologies. Part of my critical purpose is to show how myths contain incipient fantasy or SF concep tions and then to turn back to the myths to see how the modern narrative acts as an interpretive commentray upon the myths. Indiana U. Press is considering a contract at the moment (based upon a 100-page syllabus of work in progress); the work is prospectively entitled, The Future of Eternity: Patterns of Myth Science Fiction and Fantasy. Tom Clareson has promised a preliminary study for the Spring issue of Extrapolation, based upon an SFRA con paper from last year. ***Dr. Marshall Tymn (3210 Bolgos Circle, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48105) is compiling The Checklist of Fantastic Literature II, scheduled for publication in the fall of 1975 bY-Fox Collector's Editions (Box E, West Linn, Oregon 97068). Checklist II is an updating of E.F. Bleiler's Checklist of Fantastic Literature, and will list all hardcover titles in science fiction, fantasy, and weird fiction published in the United States since 1947, plus corrections and additions to Bleiler's Volume. A comprehensive annotated bibliography of science fiction criticism is also planned. Contact Dr. Tymn for more infonnati on.


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 6 ***Beverly Friend (3415 West Pratt, Lincolnwood, 11. 60645) is seeking information about fan history between the days written by Warner and Moskowitz and the present time. This must be "findable" in the fan magazines--the question is, which ones? She will be happy to pay for photocopying relevant material on fanzines, convertions, etc. Of special interest are Robert Bloch's The Eighth Stage of Fandom, and the Fancyclopedia. -BOOK REVI EWS Allen, L. David. Science Fiction Reader's Guide. Lincoln, Nebraska: Centennial Press3 1974. (Originally published under the title Science Fiction: An Introduction, Cliff's Notes, 1973.) $1.50 299 pp. Allen's Science Fiction Reader's Guide is presumably the result of his teach ing SF at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (mentioned inside the front cover). It is certainly a professional survey of the modern field. He begins by establishing categories: Hard Science Fiction, Soft SF (that based on so ciology, psychology, linguistics, political science, etc.), Science Fantasy, and Fantasy. In the latter, he seems to be thinking of fantasy worlds rather than Dracula, but Fantasy is not important in his discussions, although some examples get into the Selected Bibliography (pp. 269-292). After this orientation to the field, Allen studies fifteen examples: Verne and Wells, six books from the 'fifties (by Asimov, Bester, Clarke, Leiber, and Clement), six from the 'sixties (by Miller, Herbert, Heinlein, Panshin, and LeGuin), and one from the 'seventies (Niven's Ringworld). His analyses involve plot summaries, followed by critical comments. He does not mention the death of-the-world scene in The Time Machine, for instance, but he does discuss the curious distrust of the working man symbolized in the Morlocks--curious in the author, a socialist. Sometimes Allen doesn't give enough information, as in a reference to Asimov's "fill-in-the-blank outline of history" (p. 67L without a citation of the origin--Asimov's essay in Reginald Bretnor's Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future (New York: Coward-McCann, 1953). But I am quibbling about only minor details. The analyses are not meant to be exhaustive, and many examples could be cited of Allen saying the intelligent thing in an analysis. For a single example, about the Gethenians in The Left Hand of Darkness: being both male and female, "their approach to government, to conflict, to any undertaking is ... cautious without being timid. They are also likely to be more sublte than direct, more concerned with concrete objects than with abstt'act"ions, less concerned with ideals than with results" (p. 189). He goes on to apply this to misunderstandings between Genly Ai and the Gethenians. After this survey, Allen offers a chapter "Toward a Definition of Science Fic tion"; a deeper analysis of Herbert's Dune than his earlier survey, involving, for example, a brief discussion of the womb imagery in Paul's night in the stilltent (p. 235)--although Allen feels he has to defend doing such a reading; fif-teen "Guidelines for Reading Science Fiction," a summary of his approach; and a discussion of verisimilitude and the suspension of disbelief in and for SF. Finally, in addition to the aforementioned selected bibliography, a list of Hugo fiction and Nebula awards and a brief annotated checklist of books about SF appear. The book concludes with an index. I think, over all. this book is a solid, if not particularly exciting, work. No one will fault what Allen says, and it is a useful survey for new teachers and


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Page 7 no doubt will be used as a text at Nebraska. The major limitation, it seems to me, is that Allen does not offer a chapter on SF as popular fiction. For example, isn't part of the appeal of Dune that of Paul IS rise to be Emperor of the Universe? Allen speaks of Duners-effect on lIyounger readers just becoming acquainted with science fictionll (p. 124). Like most popular fiction, this work appeals because it is a vehicle for day dreams: the adolescent dreams that he is, or will become, important, powerful, popular. This is the Horatio Alger formula. SF based on such adolescent formulas should be distinguished from works like A Canticle for Leibowitz and The Left Hand of Darkness, which arenlt. Further, works should be distinguished-on the basis of their being only an adolescent dream of importance--Burroughs Princess of Mars--or having other bases of interest, such as the ecological theme in Dune.--But with this one limitation, Allen's Science Fiction Reader's Guide is a satisfactory 'and useful introduction. --Joe R. Christopher, Tarleton State University Haining, Peter, ed. THE MONSTER MAKERS: CREATORS AND CREATIONS OF FANTASY AND HORROR. Illustrations by David Smee. 288 pp. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1 974. $7 95 Once more the indefatigable Mr. Peter Haining has prepared an anthology of fantastic works, ranging from an extract from Frankenstein (1818) to Carol Emshwiller's short story IIBaby (1962). Many of Mr. Haining's selections are perhaps over-familiar to the connoisseur of fantasy-horror --no matter how much we enjoy and admire Poe's liThe Facts of Monsieur Valdemar's Casell and Mr. Theodore Sturgeon's II It, II the fact remains that they are already in many accessible anthologies. Nevertheless, Mr. Haining's introductory remarks are always useful and often stimulating. The monster-makers (though its delicate line illustrations are not really very alarming --one longs for a Dore or a Cruikshank here) might very well serve as an introduction to Fantasy and Science Fiction for younger or timid readers. Mr. Haining's dedication of the book to Mr. Peter Cushing, 'Monster Maker Supreme,' is both graceful and appropriate. Veronica M.S. Kennedy St. John's University Turner, David G. The First Editions of Andre Norton. Menlo Park, California: David G. Turner-Bookman, P.O. Box 2612, 1974. [2J, 12 p. (Science fiction bibliographies -l) $0.75 (Calif. residents add 6% sales tax) This pamphlet contains chronological listings of first editions of books by Andre Norton (including contents of collections), and of her magazine fiction, anthologies edited by her (contents not given), and articles, as well as a listing of the volumes in her various series. Book and anthology listings give title, publisher, place of publication, date, and pagination. Magazine listings give title of piece, periodical title, volume and issue number, and date, but no pagination. The booklet is well printed and no errors were noted. Because of its shortness and simplicity, it might better have been published as a magazine article, but for those who like to keep author bibliographies together, and who dislike search ing through various issues of magazines, it is well worth the .7S. (Leslie Kay Swigart, California State University, Long Beach Library)


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 37 Merle, Robert. Schuster, 1973. MALEVIL. $10.00 New York: 575 p. Simon & Page 8 In Malevil, Robert Merle, the author of The of the Dolphin, presents the world of the near future (the catastrophe that destroys world civilization as we know it occurs in the novel in 1977, at Easter) in a novel epic in scale, rich in detail, and suffused with an irony that one can only call--I hope without provoking cries of Racist! --typically French. Mr. Merle has been bold enough to take the well-worn subject of survival after the destruction of a whole social order and almost of the whole of the natural order itself, and to use it to create a work that is fascinating on several levels. On the literal level the novel is, as has been pointed out elsewhere, comparable to Robinson Crusoe or The Swiss Family Robinson in the gusto and realism of its depiction of survivors struggling to remake a life under the most hostile and unpr.omising of circumstances. As a historical allegory the work compares very favorably with The Lord of the Flies. As a moral politico-religious allegory Ma 1 evil invites comparlson with Lord of the Ri ngs and Dune in scope and sweep. Further, the richness of the characterization of Emmanuel Comte and the people around him, with ironic counterpoint of the commentaries of Thomas, his follower and successor, achieves the depth and variety of that in the mainstream of fiction and provides a forceful and practical refutation of the old critical chestnut (alas, still with us!) that fantasy and science fiction stories always lack credible characters. It is precisely in the irony and humor of the novel that much of this strengh lies. The ending of the novel is wry and ambiguous: Thomas IS narrative tells us: In the end, the general assembly of La Roque and Ma1evil decided, on August 18, 1980, that practical research into the manufacture of .36 rifle bullets should be instituted immediately and given top priority. A year has passed since then, and I may say that results have so far exceeded our expectations that we are at present attacking other projects still in the realm of defense --considerably more ambitious in their scope. From now on, therefore, we feel increasingly able to put our trust in what the future has to bring. Though "trust," of course, may perhaps not be quite the right word. Mr. Merle poses the uncomfortable questions: Is mankind doomed to repeat the errors of the past? Is the course of history always cyclical? SFRA NEWSLETTER 3608 Meadow Oaks Ln. Bryan, Texas 77801 USA FIRST CLASS Veronica M.S. Kennedy St. John's University


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