SFRA newsletter

SFRA newsletter

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SFRA newsletter
Alternate Title:
Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
Place of Publication:
[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
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Subjects / Keywords:
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 )
serial ( sobekcm )


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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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S67-00117-n038-1975-03 ( USFLDC DOI )
s67.117 ( USFLDC Handle )

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SFRA newsletter.
n No. 38 (March, 1975)
1 3 246
Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
[Eugene, Ore. :
b Science Fiction Research Association]
c March, 1975
Place of publication varies.
Science fiction
x History and criticism
v Periodicals.
Fantasy fiction
History and criticism
Science fiction
Book reviews
Fantasy fiction
Book reviews
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Science Fiction Research Association.
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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. 38 L. Sprague De Camp. LOVECRAFT: A BIOGRAPHY. New York: Doubleday, 1975. $10.00 A Review by Dr. Dirk W. Mosig, Dept. of Psych., GSWC, Americus, Ga. 31709 March, 1975 H. P. Lovecraft was perhaps one of the most intriguing personalities of the 20th Century. A child prodigy, losing his father to the insane asylum at three and raised by a psychoneurotic mother, he was in many ways a living anachronism belonging to the 18th Century, while at the same time exhibiting one of the keenest minds of modern times. Fascinated with science and literature from an early age, he became immersed in the amateur journalist movement and developed into a fine prose stylist, producing some 60-odd tales, mostly in the borderline between fantasy and science fiction, and regarded by some as superior to Poe's. A gentleman-artist, he scorned modern business practices and the entrepreneurial life-style, never becoming a true "professional" in his writing and meagerly supporting himself by ghosting. Although he later changed them, for many years he held ethnic views extremely unpopular today, yet all of those who knew him remember him as an extremely kind individual, even toward members of the very minority groups he disliked. His brief marriage was a failure, and ended in separation, although he would have preferred to continue it through correspondence. A brilliant epistolarian, he penned over 100,000 letters, some of 40, 60, and even 100 pages in tiny, crabbed script. A mechanistic materialist, he was at first a political conservative, but gradually changed into a supporter of F. D. Roosevelt and his New Deal. L. Sprague de Camp has done an impressive job of gathering fascinating factual information about Lovecraft, his friends, and his time, in the 448 pages of text and 29 pages of notes (plus bibliography and index) of Lovecraft: A Biog raphy. Such massive accumulation on data in a single volume is most praiseworthy, and will undoubtedly prove extremely useful to present and future students of Lovecraft and his works. Although this reviewer has spotted a few errors here and there, these are inevitable in a work of this magnitude. Sev eral non-sequiturs are in evidence, as for instance the author's assertion that Lovecraft developed his nocturnal habits and taste aversions because of the permissive child-rearing practices of his mother, which tells us nothing about Lovecraft, but a lot about de Camp's views on permissiveness ... Some amateurish psychodiagnoses are at best debatable, such as that Lovecraft


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 38 Page 2 suffered from xenophobia or neophobia. But in general de Camp's style is clear and concise, although somewhat rambling at times (we have to wait till the end of the first chapter to see mention of Lovecraft being born), and while the book does not read like a light novel, the text is certainly read able and highly interesting, even for those who are not Lovecraft fans. Rather than a dry chronology, it alternates biographical data--names, dates, places, and events--with anecdotes, quotations, and bits of speculation which tend to keep the reader on his toes. Nevertheless, the book suffers considerably because of the negative attitude of the author toward his subject. De Camp is not kind to Lovecraft, and frequently writes, not as an impartial chronologist, but as a severe judge, and a biased judge at that. Unable to achieve any significant degree of empathy with his subject, he harshly condemns him for not following a more entrepreneurial life-style, and at times the reader gets the impression that Lovecraft would have been all right had he felt, thought, and behaved as L. Sprague de Camp in his shoes. De Camp also overemphasizes Lovecraft's racial views, which after all were not HPL's leitmotiv, since he is not known to have ever behaved in a hostile manner against any individual as the result of racial prejudice, but at the same time de Camp strangely fails to elaborate on Lovecraft's materialistic philosophy, or on the ways this Weltanschauung expressed itself in his fiction. The author doesn't really like Lovecraft's stories, and hides that fact poorly, although all the literary criticism evident in the book is of a very superficial nature (typically the first paragraph of a story is quoted, a brief summary of the tale is given, we learn over and over again that Lovecraft suffered from adjectivitis, and are finally exposed to de Camp's subjective judgment of the relative position of the tale--low, middle, or high--with relation to the rest). If the average reader has the stamina to read through the over 500 pages of this volume, he may well wonder at the end why he went to all that trouble if Lovecraft was really such a bad writer ... And we may wonder why the author went to the trouble of writing a book about such an unlikely subject in the first place. Despite the above flaws, the present reviewer is more than glad to see this first full biography of Lovecraft in print, and is grateful to the author for his effort. Nevertheless, he also looks eagerly forward to other forthcoming biographies, memoirs, and critical studies of Lovecraft, which perhaps shall present him in a more impartial, and also more favorable manner, doing justice to the excellence of his dramatic fiction, which has already earned him what appears to be a sure place in American literature. J. M. Mosig Eva ns, Robley. k:..:..,l;....; t;..::e:...:...r-=-s_f.;...o-,-;r.,.,-t",h.-,;:e_70_' s Series, Warner Paperbacks, 1972. 206 pp., $1.50. Reviewing Robley Evan's J.R.R. Tolkien poses a dilemma. On the one hand, Mr. Evans has obviously read Tolkien's writings closely and loved them, and the things he says about them are true. On the other hand, every time I picked up the book to read, I was forcing myself. Editor Terence Malley says the Writers for the 70' s series is intended to introduce the authors discussed to readers who are not professional literary scholars, and to bridge the gap between young readers and parents or teachers.


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 38 Page 3 I don't think this book would do that. An inexperienced reader, or an adult keeping up with the kids, who turned to J.R.R. Tolkien for enlightenment would be making a mistake. (If such a person must read secondary material on Tolkien, lid refer them to Kocher's lucid and penetrating Master of Middleearth, which I have reviewed in a previous Newsletter.) Most of my trouble in reading Evans's book came from the writing. Not only that some sleepy proofreader has left the reader to be bombarded with sev eral annoying little clunkers like lithe Gollum" (passim); not only, even, the occasional misuse of a word or misstatement of a fact, e.g. that Smaug "exists because he is called into being by the desires of others" (153). I suppose the writer means that the dwarves I treasure, result and symbol of their desire for gold, brought Smaug to the Lonely Mountain. The real drag on the reader is that Evans writes abstractly and heavily (lithe ordered pre servation of the constructions of the imagination," 189), sometimes downright confusingly: liTo become invisible is to be without form, a tangible part of the community of imaginative beings, secret, hidden, alone, in isolated pride" (153). This seems to contradict Evans's great thesis, according to which any "part of the community of imaginative beings" is in something like a state of grace; for the Imagination is his shining-armored liberator from Time and Pos sessiveness (of which more anon). He repeats himself a good deal, which may help if one didn't understand the first time he said something. All in all, his style makes me feel as if I were walking in sand with my feet slipping back. Any study of Tolkien's massive work must narrow its focus somehow. Mr. Evans does so by pounding uncompromisingly on the morally significant truths which Tolkien implicitly states in his fiction, expanding on some of his explicit statements in liOn Fairy Stories ," especially that Imagination, through words, can mediate Recovery, the wholesome vision of good things apart from ourselves. Without this redeeming power of imagination, we fall too easily into the vice of Tolkien's antagonists, possessiveness (greed is an easier word). They and unredeemed we misuse our powers to attach and absorb things and even persons to our self, the only being whose validity we sense. Sauron's absorption of the Nazgul exemplifies this process. Evan's kind of criticism contrasts amusingly with that of Kocher when each speaks of Aragorn. Evans: "Another element in Aragorn's presentation which must be noted is the exercise of will which identifies him ... [Tolkien] wishes to provide Middle-earth with a political figure expressive of the order in society and Nature which has triumphed over chaos" (140). Kocher: "This is the ambitious, weary and apprehensive prince who impatiently watches the foolish antics of the hobbits ... the foregoing gives us some insight into the strong eruptions of rebellion and the hidden sensitiveness which Aragorn keeps under control by a yet stronger will II (133, 136). Both critics speak the truth; they even agree. But Kocher, so attentive to Tolkein's characterization that he even does a character-study of Sauron, recognizes the solidity of the secondary world by treating its people as "real.1I Evans stand off and emphasizes the figures' paradigmatic qualities and their relation to the primary universe. Not that Evans ignores the fact of Tolkien's ideas being embodied in art. He connects The Lord of the Rings with some other works of our tradition (Beowulf, The Tempest, Blake, Morris), speaks of the various characters and their places in the primary and secondary worlds, and notes the fit of the round ring with the there-and-back-again tale of which it is the central symbol. He has some nice insights along the like his comparison of Frodo


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 38 Page 4 and Sam in Mordor with Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot. Evans ends with a quotation from Carlyle, summing up Tolkien's theme: liThe Universe is not dead and demoniacal ... ; but godlike, and my Father's!" (202). This gem shines among a lot of matrix in a book whose contents I found generally more valid than interesting. Deborah Rogers Wilhelm, Kate, ed. Nebula Award Stories Nine. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. 241 p. LC 6620974 ISBN 0-06-014652-4 $7.95 The Nebula Award Stories have been consistently excellent, and the stories presented in this volume continue are not exceptions. The Nebula award stories are: liThe Death of Dr. Island," by Gene Wolfe; "Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand," by Vonda N. McIntyre; "Love is the Plan the Plan is Death," by James Tiptree, Jr. Rounding out the volume are runners-up or nominees "Shark," by Edward Bruant; "With Morning Comes Nightfall ," by George R.R. Martin; liThe Deathbird," by Harlan Ellison; "A Thing of Beauty," by Norman Spinrad; liThe Childhood of the Human Hero.1I by Carol Emshwiller; and non-fiction pieces liThe Future of Sci ence: Prometheus, Apollo, Athena, 11 by Ben Bova, "1973: The year in Science Fiction," by Fred Pohl, and Wilhelm's "Introduction.1I This book, and the rest of the Nebula Award volumes, should be a part of the library of every serious student or Teacher of science fiction. H. VJ. Ha 11 Texas A&M University Library Review of: LEGENDS OF THE EARTH: THEIR GEOLOGIC ORIGINS By Dorothy B. Vitaliano. 305 pp. With Plates, Text Figures, Bibliography, Appendices and Index. Hardbound: Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press: 1974. $12.50 Mrs. Dorothy Vitaliano brings to Legends of the Earth some very special qualifications: she works for the Translation Center of the United States Geologi cal Survey, technical translations in several languages, and she is married to a field geologist. with whom she has made many expeditions to the places she discusses the book under review. She has an exhaustive knowledge of mythology and lE:gend drawing on Greek. Roman, Amerindian, Polynesian, Egyptian, Norse, Biblical, Australian and Hindu myths and legends (to name only a few) to support the central thesis of her book: namely, that legends of the creation of mountains, and of the opening of chasms, of the loss of Atlantis and of the causes of earthquakes, have some basis in dimly remembered fact. Her arguments are extremely persuasive. especially in that her books are profusely and clearly illustrated and is carefully documented (she lists 277 items in what she describes as lIa partial list of works consulted in the pre paration of this book.") Obviously, Legends of the Earth is a labor of love. It is informative, entertaining and provocative. Mrs. Vitaliano has a readable style that enables yer to marshal huge quantities of facts so that they are delightfully easy to follow and to comprehend. To give SFRA Newsletter readers an idea of the quality of Legends of the Earth, to this reviewer it has much in common in its wealth of lr>arning and zest"fll"1 presentation of abstruse material, with


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 38 Page 5 L. Sprague de Camp's Lost Continents: The Atlantis Theme in History, Science and Literature Editton, 1970: New York: Dover Publication, Paper bound: $2.75). Mrs. Vita1iano is a scholar who combines learning with grace, and her Legends of the Earth should find a place on the bookshelf of anyone who is seriously interested in fantasy especially At1antean, Lemurian or Muvian fantasy or science fiction, and of course, on the bookshelf of those who love and study mythology. Veronica M.S. Kennedy Dailey, Jennie Ora Marriott. Modern Science Fiction. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Utah, 1974. 75 p. University Microfilm Order No. 74-17,699. $11.00. This dissertation is the justification for and report of a course in science fiction taught at the University of Utah. In Part I, the justification, SF is examined in relation to popular anthology and literature. This section would be of interest and help to the new teacher of SF, or to a teacher justifying his own course. Part II is a report of the course, covering objectives, requirements. methodology, the reading list, and evaluation of the course. Appendices include a course description, a pre-test, an outline of the course, the final exam, and selected classroom notes used by the teacher. A selected bibliography is provided. This is one of the most comprehensive descriptions of an SF course I have seen, and may prove to be helpful for both new and experienced teachers as a source of ideas. Ha 1 Ha 11 Texas A&M University Library REVIEWS: A DREAM OF DRACULA: IN SEARCH OF THE LIVING DEAD, by Leonard Wolf. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1972. Hardbound, with illustrations and bibliography. 327 pp. $8.95 and IN SEARCH OF DRACULA: A TRUE HISTORY OF DRACULA AND VAM PIRE LEGENDS. by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. Green wich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society, 1972. Hardbound, with illustrations, three appendices, bibliography and filmog raphy. 223 pp. $8.95. Two ambitious, well-researched, and well-documented books about the perennial favorite of a certain kind of fantasist Count Dracula appeared in 1972, the year of the 75th anniversary of the first publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Professor Wolf, the author of A Dream of Dracula, teaches in the English Department at San Francisco State University College; Professors McNally and Florescu teach in the Slavic and East European Center at Boston College. All three scholars have been drawn irresistibly to their bizarre and macabre subject, but the beaks their researches produced offer strong contrasts. Both books demand of the reader a strong stomach -it is not everyone who can read -even in the last quarter of the 20th Century of such horrors as the deeds and predilections of Vlad the Impaler and the Countess Elizabeth Bathory. Dr. Wolf's book is slightly more guresome, perhaps because it is less objective, than that of Drs. McNally and Florescu. He offers an impressionistic view of his gristly subject, and his interviews with real vampires (i .e. persons who derive sexual satisfaction only when actually sucking blood, preferably from the necks, of their heteroor homo-sexual partners) make the pages of KrafftEbing pale into insignificance. Drs. McNally and Florescu offer a more cautious,


SFRA NEWSLETTER No. 38 Page 6 perhaps more pedestrian, account of their souces, and they provide useful appendices containing summaries of German, Russian and Romanian folktales about vampires. Neither book, then, is for the squeamish, but both deserve a place in the collection of anyone interested in macabre fantasy beside the works of Ornella Volta and Montague Summers. However, for one reader at least, it is the fictional Varney and Dracula who will always have their fangs firmly in the throat. Veronica M.S. Kennedy Review of CREATING THE FUTURE: A GUIDE TO LIVING AND WORKING FOR SOCIAL CHANGE. Edited by Charles Beitz and Michael Washburn. 422 pp. New York: Bantam Books, 1974. Paperbound, $1.95. Creating the Future is an encyclopedic work, put together by Professors Beitz and Washburn, as a result of discussions with students, beginning in 1970, at Colgate University. It is perhaps damning with faint praise to describe the book as worthy and earnest, but those words express this reviewers reac. tion to a work which is lamentably the ovbious compilation of a committee -good in intention, dull in result. Within the space of 422 pages the compilers attempt to offer suggestions for change in every aspect of American and International society, with lists of useful organizations for interested persons to write to offer or to obtain help. With all due respect to sincere folk, this reviewer felt that the book was neither stimulating enough to challenge youth (which is the compilers express intention, stated on page 1) to effort, because it lacks spark, nor authoritative enough as a directory of services, owing to the ephemeral life of some of the organizations listed in its pages. It had all too much aura of yesterdays serious newspaper about it. Veronica M.S. Kennedy REVIEW COPIES SFRA members who wihs to review any of the books listed should request them from H. W. Hall, Book Review Editor. Wagenknecht, Edward, ed. The Letters of James Branch Cabell. Norman: U. of Oklahoma Press, 1975. 277 p. Donelson, Ken, ed. Science Fiction the English Class. (A special issue of the Arizona English Bulletin). 120 p. Lupoff, Richard A. Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. N.Y.: Ace, 1968. 315 p. Brunner, John. The Shockwave Rider. New York: Harper, 1975. Spinrad, Norman. The Iron Dream. New York: Avon, c. 1972. (SF Rediscovery Series) Budrys, Algis. Rogue Moon. New York: Avon, c. 1960. (SF. Rediscovery Sladek, John T. The Reproductive System. New York: Avon, c. 1968. (SF Redlscovery Series) Silverberg, Robert. The Man the Maze. New York: Avon, c. 1969. (SF Rediscovery Silverberg, Robert, ed. New Dimensions 2. New York: Avon, 1972. Meadows, Donella, et ale The Limits to Growth. New York: Signet, 1972. Farmer, Philip jose, Insiae-Outside.--New York: Avon, 1975. c. 1964. (SF Rediscovery Series)


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