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SFRA newsletter
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
Science Fiction Research Association
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Science Fiction Research Association]
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
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Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
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Science Fiction Research Association newsletter
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The SFRA Newsletter Published ten times a vear bv The Science Fiction Research Associa tion. Copyright 1988 by the SFRA. Address editorial correspon dence to SFRA Newsletter, English Dept., Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431. Editor: Robert A. Collins; Associate Editor: Catherine Fischer; Review Editor: Rob Latham; Film Editor: Ted Krulik; Book News Editor: Martin A. Schneider; Edit01ial Assista1lt: Jeanette Lawson. Send changes of address to the Secretary, enquiries concerning subscriptions to the Treasurer, listed below. SFRA Executive Committee President William H. Hardesty, III English Department Miami University Oxford, OH 45056 Vice-President Martin H. Greenberg College of Community Sciences Univ. of Wisconsin-Green Bay Green Bay, WI 54302 Secretary Elizabeth Anne Hull Liberal Arts Division William Rainey Harper College Palatine, IL 60067 Treasurer Charlotte P. Donsky 1265 South Clay Denver, CO 80219 Immediate Past President Donald M. Hassler English Department Kent State University Kent, OH 44242 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) Pilgrim Award Winners J. O. Bailey (1970) Marjorie Hope Nicholson (1971) Julius Kagarlitski (1972) Jack Williamson (1973) I. F. Clarke (1974) Damon Knight (1975) James Gunn (1976) Thomas D. Clareson (1977) Brian W. Aldiss (1978) Darko Suvin (1979) Peter Nicholls (1980) Sam Moskowitz (1981) Neil Barron (1982) H. Bruce Franklin (\983) Everett Bleiler (1984) Samuel R. Delany (1985) George Slusser (1986) Gary K. Wolfe (1987) Joanna Russ (1988)


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 President's Column SCIENCE FICTION is popularly thought of as "the literature of the fu ture." We all know that's not really or universally true: think, for ex ample, of Ursula Le Guin's notion that SF is really a series of thought experiments about the present. Nevertheless, we do deal with the future in a lot of our activity. These remarks are by way of introducing some thoughts about future events within SFRA. Some of that future is predictable he cause it's scheduled. The News/ettel' issue containing the ballot for this fall's election has already been mailed: God and the mails willing. there will be a new set of officers chosen by you about the time this column reaches you, and they'll become the new executive committee in January. Also as I write, plans are being formulated for the next two SFRA annual meetings. As you may know, the 1989 meeting will be held on the campus of Miami University in Ox ford, Ohio, from 22 through 2() June. But you prohably don't know that the Executive Committee has accepted a proposal for the 1990 meeting. I am pleased to announce that it will take place in Long Beach, California. The organizers and co-chairs for the program will be Peter Lowentrout and Christine Smith Lowentrout, who are readying what promises to be an exciting weekend on the Pacific. More details on both meetings will be forthcoming. Meanwhile a Pilgrim Award Committee will begin work this fall to select the 1989 Pilgrim. Volunteers are always welcome for this pleasantbut-demanding task: if you'd like to be part of the effort this year or in the future, please write or call me. None of these future events can be assured, however, unless the Association remains healthy and vibrant. So, please take part. When the 1989 renewal form arrives late this fall, send your payment right away. Make known your desire to serve on one of the Association's committees. Plan to join the groups of members convening in Oxford and Long Beach. The Executive Committee can only plan for the future; all the members have to be involved to make it happen. --Bill Hardest\' 3


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 The Heinlein Individual Meets His Maker by M.H.P. Rosenbaum "77/(: yem:\' of a mail's life are three score alld lell, or fly reasoll of strellgth, jour scare. --Psalms I)() In /\/ethllselah's Childrell (195k), there's a statement that's pure Hein lein: "A man could live a long time just by believing that he was hound to live a long time ami thinking accordingly--." Well, eighty years is a long time. hut not as long as he'd hoped for. Robert Anson Heinlein never intended to die. He boasted of coming from a long-lived line, ami his favorite fictional alter ego was the cantankerous but indestructihle old coot. He toyed with solutions to problems that might crop up if everyone in fa<.:llived forever, hut it was dear he preferred endless complications in the here-and-now to anyone's conception of eternal other-worldly life. For the reader with a religious worldview. t his was one serious flaw in his work. For the reader with high literary standards, there were others. As a person with both religious and literary commitments. I must here confess to a somewhal shameful addiction: for years I have read every w\ lrd \ If Robert Heinlein's I could get my hands on. I still own all his books; indeed, you can Irace my financial history in my Heinlein collection, from the lallered paperbacks bought al Good Will stores in grad sl udent days to Ihe crisp new hardcovers I now succumb to because 1 can't wait till my name comes up on the library reserve list. Still I devour the volumes, usual ly in one silting. gnashing my teeth and swearing that next time I will kick the Heinlein habit. Suddenly, unless there's some posthumous tidbit for his literary ex ecutors to toss OUl' way, there will be no next time. So it's possible to regain my temper and begin taking stock of a remarkable legacy. Rohert A. Heinlein. typically referred to as "the dean of science fic tion." had an influence that went far beyond that of most popular writers. Not only did he impact technological civilization with the specifics


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 of --and vocabulary for -objects not yet invented ("waluoes," "waterbeds"), he also pul his mark on a generation's spiritual quest. H. Bruce Franklin, in his RolJel1 A. Heillieill: America as Sciellce Fic/ioll (1YSO), says thaI stuuents of his al Rutgers in 1978tolu him readingS/rallKerill a Strange Land (1961) had changed their lives; they spoke of the experience as of a religious conversion. Yet Heinlein's writing was marked by sloppy plot ting, patchy development, and stilted dialogue. To Sail Beyolld the SlIllset (1987), the lasl addition to the oellvre, is a case in point. The story line consists of the narrator's reminiscences of a life beginning in the nineteenth century American midwest, progressing to the present period, then being abruptly dislocated to a distant planet in Ihe far future. This is promising for a speculative fiction, but unfor tunately the promise is unf ullilled. We arc given very little in the way of alternate realities that might cast light on our own, or that might even simply stimulate the imagination. Instead, we arc treated to a picaresque progression of unlikely sexual exploits interspersed with opinionated diatribes on religion, politics and modcrn society. This is nol a new experience for Heinlein readers. His writing career, as noted by Alexei Panshin (in Heinleill ill Dimellsioll, 1965) and others, was marked by distinct phases: the groul1l1breaking short stories of the 40's, the 50's novels aimeu at an adolescent auuience but containing some of his most memorable creations, followeu by the more hortatory and socio-political books of the 60's and early 70's, finally shading into the vast self-retlexive texts of recent years which I, like many other critics, maintained wcre vitually unreadable. Yet I, like many other fans, continucu to read them. Give Heinlein his due. His women were among the first in fiction to holu auvanced degrees in mathematics, to command in combat, to pilot spaceships. His men were sheduing tears and professing love for one another long before male vulnerahility became a cultural staple. His characters' names reflected a careful ethnic mix before this became a cliche, anu one of his favorite tricks was springing on the reader late in a story Ihe facllhat a major character was not white. But the most competent, inuependcnt of his women came all over kit lenish when a Real Man appeared. Similarly, the tenderest, most expres sive of his men coulu only intcract as comrades-in-arms in the earlier works, "co-husbands" in the later -never in a serious, multi-faceted in timacy. Anu the very fact that the aUlhor could conceal a character's color means that he never attempted any real exploration of the internal im plicalions of race for the individual. Extrapolating from personal experience was both Heinlein's strength 5


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 and his weakness as a writer. His own wife of forty years was highly educated, his own friendships passionate, his own contacts varied. But where his experience was weak, he was not uiffiucnt ahout spinning a fantasy weh of wishful thinking. Apparently, he never hau children; however, this lack diu not stop him from expressing, through his fictional spokesmen, opinions on child-raising ranging from the alarming to the laughable. In Slal"5hip Troopers (196U), puhlic flogging of parents is adumbrated as the solution to juvenile delinquency; in Time Elloligh for Love (lll73), it is solemnly ueciueu that no baby shoulu ever wake alone. with the result that the story's adults constantly take turns absenting themselves from group sex in oruer to sleep in urine-soaked beds (this enlightened future having evidently lost track of rubber pants) with a conveniently small number of age-matched infants. Most peculiar, and perhaps most interesting from a religious point of view, arc the contradictions in Heinlein's picture of "right" sex. His extreme discomfort with, and oversimplification of, sex have been noted hy others (e.g. Ronald Sarti, in his essay "Variations on a Theme" in Olander and Gn:enberg's RobCl1 A. Heillleill. IlJ78). His ideas of erotic play returned obsessively to a few tired fetishes, ranging from high heels to spanking, with a pro fomla nod to a faddish bisexuality (soft-pedaled in the two most recent, post-AIDS books). and were generally dominated by a fascination with incest that often devolved into the disturbingly solipsis tic. Once the censorship lid came off in the GO's, his books became distin guishable from soft-core porn only by their high-tech sellings and their air of earnest proselytizing. They manifested the logical and desperate con clusion of the sexual revolution: intercourse as apotheosis. If Heinlein tended to equate sex with divinity, he treated institutional religion as thc bigest con game in history. His books' religious leaders are either repressive tyrants out for money and power (Revolt ill 2100, 11)53) or genial hucksters (Supreme Bishop Dighy in Strallger). The protagonist of Beyolld this HOIizvll ( I (42). following the lead of 17!e God 17wt Failed, explicitly equates religious enthusiasm and revolutionary politics, "differing only in verbal tags and creeds"; in context, it is not a compli ment. It also exemplifies Heinlein's besetting oversimplification of re ligious faith and its social manifestations. Zadkicl Feldstein in Magic, 111c. (1940) is a magician's agent whose "religion prevented him from practicing magic himself, hut... there was no theological objection to his turning an honest commission." This novella goes on to paint a tongue-in-cheek picture of a hell run along corporate lines, complete \\lith a demon who t urns out to he an undercover G-man. Magic was an early work (originally published as "The Devil Makes the


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 Law"), but its jokey treatment of the afterlife and the soul's immortality was to persist throughout Heinlein's work. Briefly in Stranger and else where, and at great (and tedious) length in JOB (1984), the author introduced a childishly literal heaven, ala Mark Twain, in order to poke fun at it. In n,e NlI11lbero!tlre Beast (1980), he solved the whole question of lives physical, metaphysical, and fictional by treating them all as equally valid and equally accessible to his characters, a conceit that was to prove literarily crippling. Heinlein's own idea of heaven, clearly, was simply perpetual life (with planetary pioneering and time travel solving problems of population and nurture). Salvation, in his fantasy, consisted of an undifferentiated orgy punctuated by gourmet breakfasts. Its doctrine was defined in speeches laying down the law on every conceivahle subject delivered by what Pan shin has called "the Heinlein individual," a beneficent if ornery avatar of the omniscient author. Given this "Heinlein-ocentric" view of the universe, it is hardly surpris ing that love of God was virtually the only manifestation of that emotion Heinlein found invalid. To many Heinlein characters, the ultimate goal is physical intercourse with him/herself, technologically aided gender-shift ing providing the apparatus for self-possession. If the Athanasian creed characterizes the incarnation as "not the conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but the taking of manhood into God," Heinlein's incarnate deities embody the reverse operation. "Thou art God," his characters are ever lastingly saying to each other in Stranger before eating each other up in one way or another. As for the sacraments, they are represented in the ideal Heinlein world by the practice of personal hygeim:. While a lillie of this gritty detail is refreshingly realistic, in Heinlein it hortlers on the obsessive. In the later novels, the author is unceasingly cataloging his characters' excretory ac tivities, describing their arrangements for bodily cleanliness in the sort of loving detail Thomas Wolfe used to described meals when he was starv ing in New York. Perhaps Heinlein at one time suffered from inadequate or unpleasant bathroom faciItics, but I wish he'd just installed the plumb ing he wanted and stopped haranguing us about it. As it is, he's left us with a picture of the lavatory as the central shrine of modern secular religion the necessary purgatory that hegins to be adored for itself (see especially Fliday, 1982). Like goldfish in a bowl, his well-washed characters seem unaware of any world beyond themselves. They may dive through galaxies and swim the eons, but their loves are limited to their own immediate experience. Sex is good clean fun, good exercise, good for everyone, good with everyone. Religion is no fun, no benefit, does no one any good. 7


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 And yet Heinlein always held --and held his characters to --a stringent personal cthic. A political libertarian and a sexuallibcrtinist, he never thclcss would not brook crossing somc very conventional lines. Truthtelling, loyalty, intcgrity, personal courage, and compassion are all hallmarks of the Hdnkin hero/ine. Rhysling, "the Blind Singer of the Spaceways" from 77re Greell Hills of Em1h (1951), gives first his sight, then his life, to save others. The hard edged entrepreneurs in "We Also Walk Dogs ... fall silent before the hcauty of thc Chincsc porcelain dish callcd "Flower of Forgctfulness." Mall Dodson in Space Cadet (194R) transcends human chauvinism to intcract respectfully with an alien culture. Thorby in Citizell of tile Gala.\)' (1957) refuses to profit from the trading of slaves. The heroine of PodkaYlle of !lIars (1961) walks into a dcathtrap to save a bad-tempered alien animal. All are evidently living out the philosophy contained in the words of thc otherworldly "Gray Voice" in Time EllolIgh for Lore: "Morals are your agreement with yourself to play hy your own rules." Thc authors I rcturn to again and again are those whose vision creates a world lhat seems to be a channel to the one we're all looking for: the world of peace and love, justice and mercy, true authority and true freedom. Creating such a world means bridging some hard contradictions, and pcrhaps the most amazing contradiction of all is that Robert Hcin kin, for all his nag-waving jingoism and ludicrous social schemes, for all his superficial egalitarianism and half-baked elitism, actually created such a world. As he himself said, in tp/1llded Ullil'ene (\9RO), of SF pioneer E.E. Smith: "IHellert us quile suddenly -urgent business a long way off. no lime to spare to tell us more storics." We can only respond, like the narrator of "All You Zombies" who has discovered that what had seemed to be other people was only other manifestations of him/herself: "I miss you dreadfully!" -:; 1988 M.H.P. RosenbaulII Warren Norwood Needs Help! Warren Norwood, a North Texas University grad and a prominent figure at the recent SFRA Convention in Corpus Christi, has been diag nosed with pancreatic cancer. With thc hclp of his wife, Gigi, family amI friends he is determined to beat the odds and survive. His positive attitude will not eliminate mounting medical bills, however, and so a benefit fund has been established. If you would like to make a contribution, write a check to the WllITell NO/wood Fund and mail it to Joy G. Spiegel, 3750 W. 4th St., Fort Worth, TX 76107. --Edra C. Bogle


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 Review Article GUNN MISFIRES: Nicholls Still the Standard by Rob Latham Gunn, .James, cu. 77ze New Eflcl'c/o{Jedia ofSciellce Fictiofl. Viking. NY, October 1988, S20p.1 proofsl $24.95 hc. 0-670-8104] X. lIIus. '.That a ureauful uisappointment this hook is. Years in the making, "l' featuring the work of over 1O() contributors, anu etlitetl by Pilgrim Awaru-winning SF historian anu critic James Gunn, 77ze New EIlLyc/opetiia of Scieflce Ficthm promiseu to supplant Peter Nicholls' pioneering work of 1979 with its updateu coverage of "tIll: uecade ... science fiction's greatest growth, in readership, in general popularity, in financial returns, in scholarship. in new authors --in practically every aspect by which changes in a genrc can be measureu" (as Gunn puts it in his editor's introduction). The title itself seems to suggest that Gunn's hook has replaceu Nicholls' as the ideal one-volume reference for fans and scholars of the genre. Well, it hasn't. Not by a country mile. Losses Outweigh Gains Let's begin by looking at some numhers. (For the figures that follow I have relied on Nicholls' own enumeration in the introuuction to his volume, while for Gunn's book I have had to count. since the euitor uiu not see lit to provide a quantitative summation. I thus cannot be positive that the figures for (funn's volume are absolutely accurate, but they are not off by more than a handful in either direction.) Nicholls' Science Fiction Ellcyclojledia had over 2ROO inuiviuual entries: Gunn's has about 960, for a loss of nearly 2()!y:7(" Of these totals, Nicholls devoteu 1817 to SF authors, editors, anu critics; (runn devotes 4()2. Nicholls had 362 entries on SF films and television programs, as well as relatetl personalities; Gunn has 340. Nicholls ran entries on 207 tlifferent magazines and fanzines: Gunn runs six. Sixty entries in Nicholls' hook of fered comment on SF artists anti illustrators; 39 uo in Gunn's. You get the 9


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 picture. In no category, save for film, does Gunn's coverage even come close to matching Nicholls' -this despite the fact that (Junn's book has to cover ten mon: busy years of gcnre production. A uscf ul innovation of Nicholls' encyclopedia were the 175 essays which offered broad historical discussions of significant themes in the genre. (,unn copies this practice, but with only 96 essays. Of these Wi, about (,() reproduce, either by name or by content, themes featured in Nicholls' bonk. Of the 16 others. five are devoted to non-American SF --British Commonwealth, France. (Jermany. Great Britain and the Soviet Union whereas Nicholls' encyclopedia ran separate entries for this material -and also featured Benelux, Eastern Europe, Italy, Japan, Scandinavia, Spain. Portugal and South America. (Nicholls also didn't attempt to struc t urally distinguish British from American SF, as Gunn seems to by means of his running of a separate "Great Britain" essay. This distinction has some disturbing ideological implications which I'll discuss below.) Of the other 31 essays in Gunn's volume, three (on cyberpunk, SF poetry. and music/videos) cover material that has come into prominence since the timc of Nicholls' hook. The remaining 2R may he claimed as Gunn's real contribution to the revision of Nicholls' thematic canon, but considering that this rcvision has been purchased by a net loss 01']]5 entries, it hardly seems worth the price. In his (rcally unhelpful) introduction, Gunn implies that some of the omissions of specific author and magazine entries might be due to their having been "broughttogcther fruitfully" in the theme essays, in order to keep the size and, consequently, the price of the volume within reasonable bounds. But compared with Nicholls' unstinting coverage of individual material, Gunn's compression is far from fruitful. The loss of detailed in formation is extensive and deplorable, especially when it comes to the SF magazines. Only SL;: major professinnalmagazines receive dclailed treat ment in separate entries. all the rest being consigned to two theme essays: "Maga/ines, Limited Run" and "Pulp Magazines" (for a total of600 lines of coverage). Nicholls, on the other hand. featured only two brief theme essays on magazines, but these were cross-referenced with his 207 separate entries, each deeply detailed. Gunn's book gives only a few major SF editors their own entries, cramming the rest into a theme essay ("Editors") of 352 lines, whereas Nicholls provided extensive individual coverage. I am not an expert on the SF magazines, but just casually perus ing the two volumes indicates clearly the vast dimension of difference. In this area alone, the puhlishers would hnve done us all a greater service by simply reprinting Nicholls' encyclopedia unchanged (or, better, by fund ing a revision) instead of bringing out this anemic alternative. Moreover, if Gunn had wanted to effect compression, why didn't he ](J


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 exercise it on SF films? There are, as I have saiJ, 340 film anJ TV entries -in other worJs, 3SST of the book. Nicholls still haJ 2() more, yet these compriseJ only 13% of his total. Now. it shoulJ he aJmiued that film is the one area where Gunn's coverage truly excels Nicholls', primarily be cause of the quality of his critics. The overall "Film" essay, hy Brooks Lan don. is extensive and excclknt, easily superior to Nicholls' own on "Cinema." The individual entries in C;unn, many of them wrillen by Landon and Bill Warren. arc generally beller than those in Nicholls. most of them penned by .Iohn Brosnan. AnJ C;unn provides good long entries on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, directors who were only beginning to remake the genre when Nicholls' book was puhlished. But I cannot understand why Ciunn would allow so much space to the films at the expense of the literature, especially when Phil Hardy's superlative encyclopedia of scicnce fiction movies (covering an international scene as compared to (Junn's general focus on British and American productions) was brought out in 19R4 and is not soon likely to be excelled. But then again, mayhe I do know. PromiseJ Land Productions, the book packagers who deVeloped this encyclopedia. might have chosen to sell the book to a small or scholarly press -the sort of venue which could be expected to allnw the editor the words pace necessary to Jo the joh right. since its publishing practices are not tieJ to the large market pn:s sures that force a mainstream press book to make back its investment al most immeJiatcly. Instead, Promised Land chose to sell the book to VikingiPenguin. a major publishing house. Doubtless the packagers got a better deal economically -they can expect that the book will be more widely promoted and thus will sell more copies -but their readers have gotten a raw deal in terms of contcnl.l'leariy, the excessive space devoted in the book to movies is due to the fact that SF film is a much more widely popular medium than SF literature and thus can he expected to sell more copies of an SF encyclopedia to a mainstream audience. The threepage essay on music video --five times as long as the next theme entry. on "Myth in SF" -indicates the market the volume is geared for. Promised Land's gain is the rcader's and researcher's loss. Organization and Execution Though the obvious restrictions imposed by his puhlishers might tempt onc to exculpate Clunn for his book's failings, it must be said that nothing can excuse this volume's general unreliability and disorganization. Like Nicholls' volume, Gunn's lacks a general index (though Gunn does promise a "checklist of all the t'ntries pertaining to film and tckvision" which was not included in my proof copy). Nicholls made up for this lack by an excellent system of cross-referencing that reproduced all names and II


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 topics citeu in inuiviuual entries in small capitals at each of their appearances in the teXl; he also proviued references to relateu material in the form of "See also" notations at the enu of entries. Gunn copies these conveniences, but the latter system of cross-referencing occurs, by my count, st'vell times throl/gh-ollf his clltire book. Givcn that (Junn much more than Nicholls relies on his theme essays to take up the slack of in dividualmaterial, this is a pretty woeful showing. Gunn is also not very helpful in his inclusion of bibliographic data. Nicholls' author cntries listeu all novels anu collections of SF anu fantasy. (Junn, on the other hand, attempts to excluue fantasy works (for polemi cal reasons uiscussed below), and occasionally, in the case of more prolific writers, provides only a list of "Notable Other Works." Also, Gunn does not specify what his cut-off uate was for the exclusion of material; 1987 anu even [1)88 books arc sometimes cited, sometimes nol. For example, Grcgory Benforu's Great Sky River is listeu among that author's works, while Michael Bishop's 771C Secret Ascellsioll is not, despite the fact that the laller was published one month earlier in 1987 than the former. Fur ther, while Nicholls exduued reference to works that hau not appeared hy the time of his volume's publication. Gunn sometimes lists titles which have only been announceu: thus, the entry on Samuel R. Delany cites 771t' Straits of Mcssilla which, at the time of this writing, has not yet been publisheu by Serconia Press, anu that on Orson Scott Caru lists the novel Prcl/tice Alvill, announceu but not published by TOR Books. This is a very misleading practice. as there is no sure guarantee these works will appear when scheduled (if they uo at all). In sum, Gunn's book is not all that reli able as a bibliographic resource. It also isn't fully reliable with regan.lto important dates. Clearly, despite Gunn's claim that "Every effort has he en maue to supply birth anu death oates for author entries," those efforts have in fact been somewhat sketchy. Thus, Robert Heinlein, who died in May of this year, shows a death date of 1988, while Clifford Simak and Lin Carter, whose ueaths precedeu Heinlein's, are still alive by Gunn's accounl. It isn't as if Gunn uiun't have access to this information. since his acknowledgements page cites the newsmagazine LOCI/s, which extensively covers author ueaths in the genre. Finally, the book contains inconsistent information in different entries --information that a rigorous job of euiting would have nOfmalizeu. For example, in (,unn's cntry on the International Association for the Fantas tic in the Arts, it is correctly indicateu that this organization'S scholarly conference was movcu from Houston to Fort Lauueruale beginning in 1988. However, if one checks the general "Scholarship" essay penneu by Thomas D. Ciareson, this move is not mentioned, anu Houston is still 12


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 given as the conference site. Furthermore, while we're on the subject of C1areson's essay, that author refers to Fa1l/asy Rel'iew magazine, edited by conference founder Robert A Collins, as the "journal" of IAFA, a status it never held (it was a semiprofessional magazine); the neW]Oll171al 011 /he Fa1ltasfic i1l the Am, which is the true organ of the association, is not mentioned. Even worse, Fa1l/asy Rel'ielV is discussed as if it still "ser ves the academic community as an annual review of both fiction and non fiction," when in fact it ceased publication over a year ago (in favor of an annual "yearbook" volume to be brought out by the Meckler Publishing Corporation) Theme Essays One significant difference between GUlln's and Nicholls' practices when it comes to theme entries is that Gunn has commissioned a high per centage of his essays not from SF critics and pedagogues but from prac ticing SF writers. I must register here my general disapproval of this prac tice, primarily because SF writers have obvious professional interests in the promotion of their native material. Gunn's permitting AE. Van Vogt to write the entry on "Serials" is understandable in that this author vir tually invented one of the major forms in the genre, the "fix-up" novel; Van Vogi's discussion is rather good, but surely there is some kind of con nict of interest involved when the aut hur of the entry has several works in the form currently in print. It should be admitted that Brian Stablcford, a British SF writer. wrote a large number of the theme entries in Nicholls' book; but Stablcford is an academic sociologist who has also produced major non-fiction works on the history of the genre. Stablcford also provides material for Gunn's book, but so do Poul Anderson, Gonion R. Dickson, Mike Resnick, etc., etc. Another effect of this commissioning of active SF writers to produce genre commentary is that these figures often have axes to grind. Probably the most embarrassing ideological fallout to issue from one of these theme entries comes from Orson Scott Card's discussion of "The Mainstream." Earnestly wrong-headed, Card fumbles out a pOlled history of twentieth century literature, roundly criticizing something he calls "modernism" while gazing with constant paranoid suspicion over his shoulder at some conspiracy known as "the academicliterary com munity." Against the "intense realism and flat-affect of Virginia Woolf, the calculatedly incomprehensible language games of James Joyce, the stodgy angst of Henry James" and all their dire progeny, Card champions "such plainsong storytellers as Robert A Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Larry Niven." He docs not mention himself, but he might as well. This is not the book's happiest moment. 13


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 But there are a few of them, sometimes provided by the genre writers. Two of the theme entries which clearly excel similar ones in Nicholls are (;reg Bear's discussion of "Biology" and Pamela Sargent's of "Women." These articles show two fine, disciplined intelligences at work; they offer broad historical mailer combined with superlative critical insight. Since these two themes -biology and women protagonists/writers -arc ones which have come to dominate the genre since the time of Nicholls' book, their excellcnt representation provides the argument Gunn can muster that his volume's coverage of the literature truly surpasses its predecessor's. Actually, Gunn's theme essays arc generally good, but they cannot make up for all that has been lost. Editorial Presence and Integrity Let's get back to the numbers. I haven't counted, hut I am willing to het that Nicholls wrote nearly half the overall entries in his book, including coverage of many of the most significant authors and subjects in the genre, whereas (Junn contrihutes a total of 50 (or 5%) on such odds and ends as hack writers John Jakes and Otis Adelbert Kline and TV ephemera like !IIy Fm"Olilc AfGl1iall and Mork (lIltl lIfilU(l'. Of thc crucialthcmc essays, (;unn penned only live (on cryogenics, the future of SF, intelligence, radio, and the social sciences) and contributed to another (on time travel) -for a total of 6(;(,; Nicholls, on the other hand, wrote no less than 58 of his volume's theme essays (or 33%) and contributed to six others, including such essential topics as anti-intellectualism, communications, conceptual hreakthroughs, crime and punishment, entropy, ESP and psionic powers, fantasy, forcelields, gods and demons, heroic fantasy/swords and sorcery, humor, imaginary science, messiahs, metaphysics, paranoia and schizophrenia, perception, politics, satire, sex, supernatural creatures, taboos, technology, and weather control--all of which have been omitted entirely from (Junn's volume as specific entries. In all, those listed as editors on the title page of Nicholls' book (Nicholls, general ed.: John Clute, associate ed.; Malcolm Edwards and Brian Stableford, contributing eds.) provided 138 of the theme entries, or 79'7(', whereas Gunn and Stephen A. Goldman (associate editor of the volume) contributed altogether only seven, or 7% Again, I haven't counted, but I am willing to wager that Nicholls' four editors were respon sible fur well over two-thirds of the tolal entries in his book, compared to Gunn and Goldman with Ih%. If alit hese quantitative discrepancies were made up for by a significant improvement in quality, one could easily for give them: unfortunately, they arc not. Moreover, while Nicholls' presence in his book was, [or good or ill, quite obvious and pervasive, Gunn's is more surreptitious; however, it is no less endemic a structuring presence, 14


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 which makes its disguised aspect somewhat troubling (more on this short ly). It should be pointed out here that Stephen Goldman's name has been omilled from the book's cover and title page; ] had to read Gunn's ac knowledgements to realize that Goldman is, in fact. the associate editor. I also, by counting the appearances of his hyline throughout, realized that he is the book's chief contributor, with LOS entries (or 11 more than twice Gunn's contribution). Given this. I would hope the title-page omis sion was simply a printer's oversight; however, the fact that Goldman is presently an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas, where Guno is a full professor and din:ctor of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, docs serve to raise unfortunate political questions --ques tions only fuelled by the fact that one of (Joldman's entries (an entry. I might add, just a line or two shortcr than the one the book devotes to John W. Campbdl) provides a slavishly detailed discussion of Gunn 's own con tributions t\) SF writing and criticism. Even while eonceding that the traditional notion of the encyclopedia as a purdy neutral catalogue of data is largdy a myth, and that any process of selection implies criteria of cvaluation which are open to debate (a point frankly admilled in the introduction to Nicholls' volume). one ought still to expect some degree of editorial sensitivity to the dangers implicit in this scenario. I n Nicholls' hook, entries on friends and associates editors and other contrihutors -were rigorous and brief (in the case of Nicholls' entry on himsdf, also willily self-effacing); those on writers and critics whose ideological orientation differed signilicantly from the vaguely New-Wavish slant of the volume's editors, were always of judicious lengths and almost unfailingly scrupulous and fair (so much so that no less an "Old Wave" light than Isaac Asimov predicted the book would "be come the Bible for science fiction fans"). Nicholls' introduction spent four dense, careful pages being "quite frank about what is in [the hook] and what is not"; one has only to examine the many entries to see that he did, as he claims. "err on the side of generosity" when it comes to the inclusion of disputcd material. In marked contrast to all this. Gunn's book is involved in the dubious activity of slighting ideological opponents and touting favorite sons. This involvement is expressed not only in a general critical hias, but also in specific instances of quite obvious puffery, including the overlong entry on Gunn and others such as the one on SF author Bradley Denton. Denton, who has produced only a few short stories and one novel since he entered the genre in 1 <)84, surely oughtn't to have taken up ten lines of the valuahle space Gunn claims is in such short supply --and he prohably wouldn't have, but for the luck of being a former student of Gunn 's at Kan-]5


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 sas (the writer of the entry, Ned Huston, is currently one as well). This literary nepotism, combined with C,unn's pervasive ideological bias, both compromises the editor's image of integrity and undermines his book's general reliaoilily as a reference tool. Gunn's Ideological Bias To his credit. Clunn docs allempt to make his own ideological animus clear in his introduction, but the muddled terms of his argument keep shooting his efforts at definition in the fool. (There arc some rather lame remarks aoout genre "protocols" that smack of reader-response theory, but they so reverently privilege the author as ultimate source of textual meaning that they sound more like cabalism than Wolfgang ]ser.) Still, anyone who has read enough of Gunn's criticism --including especially his history of SF, Altemate 'Vor/ds ( 1975) --can get a handle on his general orientation; indeed, Thomas Clareson, in his entry on SF scholarship. manages to peg Gunn perfectly when he says that "one senses he considers SF a lilc:rature of ideas and prefers the work inl1uenced oy John W. Campbell." This conclusion is borne out by a cardul comparison of the space devoted in Clunn's encyclopedia to Campbell and his authors and that devoted to the literary movcment which sought to openly challenge his inlluence in the genre: the British New Wave of the I%U's. Proceeding from the general to the particular is illuminating in that it draws out (,unn's hias 1110st forcefully. The theme ent ries on the "Gold en Age" and the "New Wave" (wrillen by SF authors Barry N. Malzberg and Richard A. LupofL respectively) arc of almost identical length, suggesting the equal significance of both movements to the history of the genre. But if one turns to entries within these broader rubrics. a different pallern emerges. Campbell himself n:ceives 91 lines of comment and the magazine he edited, Astolllldillg/Allalog, <>2; on the other hand, Michael Moorcock, arguably the most important figure in the genre since ]%0, is limited to an inexcusable 32 lines and his magazine, Ne11' Worlds, to 30. The most recognizable names from Campbell's stable, Robert A. Hein lein and Isaac Asimllv, receive and 134 lines, respectively; those in Moorcock's, Brian Aldiss and J.G. Ballard, lO3 and 56. Furtht:f, even minor figures of the Campbell years, from George O. Smith to Chris topher Anvil. get reasonably substantial entries, while minor NeJl' "'Vorlds writers get either tiny squibs (Barrington J. Bayley) or no individual entries at all (M. John Harrison, Langdon .lones, David I. Masson). Again, if the issue Wt:fe merely quantitative, it could possibly be made up by superior critical assessment. But alas, much of the coverage is not only suspect, it is sometimes frankly contentious and often airily dismis sive. The entry on Mooreoek, though generally luudat'ury, starts off with I(J


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 a crack about his hacked-out heroic fantasies (produced, it should be said, often under diflicult conditions to kcep the New Worlds expcriment afloat) which reads like an editorial intervention; clearly, the entry has been so assembled as to imply that Moorcock is primarily a fantasist and thus not worthy of extended coverage in an SF encyclopedia. Moorcock's brilliant science fiction is glossed over with a remark about its "ironic wit "; there is no discussion of its seminal speculative content, the implication being that the author is all style and no substance. This is not to imply a criticism of the entry's writer, Douglas Barhour; it is rather to question the logic of attempting to cover the career of one of the mosl prolific if not protean talents in genre literature in the space of two brief paragraphs. The entry on Ballard is even more disturbing, written as it is by Goldman who, clearly sharing much of (Junn's itkological bent, could hardly be expected to appreciate a writer who has so boldly and openly set the Campbellian tradition on its head. Thus, there is much made of Ballard's "submissive characters" and "despairing images" which sup posedly converge with the literary "mainstream's sense of unavoidable disaster." Appropriately, William Burroughs is invoked (though, inap propriately, that author receives no entry in the volume), but again only to raise the issue of "style" --Ballard then is a chic, pessimistic ironist threatening thc integrity of the genre's affirmative ethos. This, presumably, explains "the reluctance of traditional SF readers -\\lho have grown up with characters who fight the odds, even if they fail --to embrace Ballard's work." The general implication of Goldman's article, with its in vocations of Burroughs and "the French antinovelists," is that Ballard is more a "mainstream" writer than a science fiction writer --this despite the fact that Ballard has produced forceful. even moving, defenses of the genre as the most significant imaginative tradition of the twentieth cen tury, citing as precursors H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov as well as more experimental fictionists. It is hard to view this essay as just an unfortunate assignment, since the conlributors' page shows that a more balanced and sympathetic --as well as more obviously qualified --writer was available in Peter Brigg, who has published an entire book on J.G. Ballard. Distorting the Genre These two articles merely suggestlhe dimensions of the larger problem: Gunn's encyclopedia will provide a distorted view of the genre to naive or ill-informed readers. (And if an encyclopedia isn't designed to illIo1711 readers, what can its purpose be?) The fact that the book is being issued by a large mainstream press makes its hias truly alarming, in that one can reasonably expect --especially given the fact that Nicholls' volume is out 17


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 of print in this country --that Gunn will become the standard authority for casual readers interested in SF. I suppose it could he replied that at least important figures like Ballard and Moorcock arc duly noted, however briefly. and their majur works listed for further review. LupofPs theme essay even doses with the sug gestion that the SF genre, willy-nilly, will not he able to ignore the achieve ments of the New Wave. But if one attempts to pursue this influence throughout the encyclopedia, one is met by systematic silence and evasion. I have already mentioned the omission of many New Wave names; readers are thus deprived of detailed reference to some of the bravest and strangest SF works ever published, from M. John Harrison's TIle Celltawi Del'icc and Langdon Jones' TIre Eyc off"e Lells to David I. Masson's TIre Ca/traps of Timc and Mick Farren's n,C Texts of Fcstil'a/. A few of these works are very briefly cited in the curious general essay on "Great Britain," so one might conclude that Gunn was forced to omit this material in more detailed form for reasons of space. But I must say I think this ghettoization of British SF is unparuunabk on any account, especially considering that Gunn allows Clare son's complaint, in his "Scholarship" essay, that the "British origin" of Nicholls' book "influen ces some of the entries." Considering that Nicholls' coverage of American SF (which is included in the bO(1' of his compendium, not shuffled off into some "foreign" section) is actually more complete than Gunn's, such a remark really backfires. (To give a single example, American SF writer.lo Clayton, who had produced only one novel by the time of Nicholls' cut off date, got an entry in his book, whereas now that she has written more than a dozen volumes, and has a substantial fan following, Gunn omits her.) Moreover, the notion that the full run of New Wave Britishers have heen vanquished from ken due to space considerations does not account for the fact that lengthy individual entries cekbrate the productions of British hard-SF hacks like J.T. Mclntosh, James White, Colin Kapp and E.c. Tubb. Coverage of the so-called American New Wave is slightly more respon sible, with relatively long and fairly intelligent assessments of the work of Samuel R. Delany, Thomas M. Disch and Joanna Russ (though the entry on Delany seems to have been penned by a ghost: the initialed byline is not identified in the contributors' list). However. when one compares the space accorded these figures with that provided for more high-tech American writers of the same period --writers who may be seen as con tinuing the Campbellian tradition of hard-SF plotting and heroic action -one can again notice the perspectival skewing. Delany, possibly the hest American SF writer of the last twenty years, receives 103 lines of com ment, or ten less than star-wars shill Jerry PouTl1cllc. Thomas M. Disch -18


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 who, it shoulu hc pointcu out (sincc Cioluman's cntry uocsn't), is not only a finc writer but also the editor ofthc bcst scries ofthcme anthologies cver published in the genre (771(' Ruills Em1h, 77lc Ncw ImjJf"()I'cd SUII, etc.) -gl:ts 71lincs, to Larry Nivcn's I 10. Joanna Russ is accorued twenty fewer lines than Ben Bova, Anu again, lesser lights in the American New Wave, like Jean Mark Gawron, Joe L. Hl:nsley anu James Sallis. have disap pcared completely; this neglect cannot simply be uue to thc fact that their work is out of print anu forgollen, since Gunn is careful to preserVl: the names of Campbell ian seeonu-raters like Dean McLaughlin and Joseph L. Green. Contemporaneity and Competence When it comes to SF writers who emergeu Juring anu since the miu70's -the area where Gunn's hook can most reasonahly claim to excel Nicholls' --there is a similar iueologieal skewing, but here it is com poundcu hy what can only be ucscribeu as euitorial ignorance. In his in trouuction, Gunn outlincs thc criteria for sdection or such recent figures: "authors who ... promised, at this early stagc in their careers, to uevelop a body of work," Now this is a somewhat suspicious standaru, in that it presumes Gunn and Goldman arc in a privill:ged position to determine the future of genre writers, In a sensc, they arc. in that inclusion in their encyclopedia may be seen as a boon denied to other fledgling talents. And, as might be cxpcctcu, one can discern a pallcrn of bias in thcir sckctions. The "big name" authors of the period --the ones who have been singled out for awarus by rans anu pCl:rs --arc adequately rcprescnteu, regaruless of identifiable ideology: e.g. Michael Bishop, Gregory Bcnford. David Brin, Edward Bryant. Octavia Butkr, Georgc R.R. Martin. Vonda M. Mc Intyre, Kim Stanley Robinson, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, etc. The so called "cyherpunk" writers arc included too, probably because their ceaseless iueological self-promotion makes thcm difficult to ignore (espe cially for an euitor so alert to ideology as is Gunn). Thus. thcre are reasonably astute entries on William Gibson, Brucc Stcrling. Rudy Ruck er, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan and Walter Jon Williams. as well as a theme essay on cyberpunk wrillen hy SF author John Kessel (once a target of cyberpunk attacks for his purported "humanism," though Kessel creditably --docs not really allow this to inlluence his discussion). Unfortunately, writers not so gcncrally recngnizeu or so clearly as sociated with a coherent iueological paradigm must rely for inclusion on Gunn's and Goldman's sharp eyes --and we have alrcady secn the hlinu spots affecting their vision of the genrc. Hard-SF authors like Jayge Carr, Rob Chilson, Joseph H. Delancy, James P. Hogan, Donald Kingsbury, Barry Longyear, .lack McDevitt Mike McQuay, PJ. Plauger, Stephen 19


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 Robinett, Stanley Schmidt, Charles Sheffield, Steven G. Spruill, Andrew M. Stephenson, Harry Turtledove, Vernor Vinge, William F. Wu and Timothy Zahn (many of whom have been discovered by and steadily fea tured in and one of whom, Schmidt, is its current editor) appear in separate entries, while more experimental, NewWavish figures like AA Attanasio, Sharon Baker, John Calvin Batchelor, Michael G. Coney, M..I. Engh, Karen .loy Fowler, Lisa Goldstein, Russel M. Griffin, Marc Laidlaw, Josephine Saxton, Carter Scholtz, David J. Skal, Robert Thurston, Robert Charles Wilson and Nicholas Yermakov, do not. ()f course, the work of the writers on this second list is of quite variable sig nificance and quality, but then so is that of the first group; for what conceivahle reason have the former been featured while the latter have not, unless it is the strict ure of Ciunn's literary ideology? Or could it be merely ignorance? That seems possible, since even the representation of the hard-SF contingent shows some curious ellipses. Where, for example, is Jeffrey A Carver? Gary Kilworth? Michael Kube McDowell? Hilbert Schenk? J. Neil Smith? To include Robert L. Forward -a scicntist dahbling heavy-handedly in fiction --and yet omit from detailed mention these other writers, all of whom have much greater literary merit, seems inexplicahle save for general ignorance of their work. Moreover, one of the most intriguing developments of the last decade is the emergence of women writers operating in the Campbellian mode, a refunctioning of that typically all-male ethos that has had some fascinat ing results. Surely Gunn could have better represented these authors, especially since it would have provided some defense against the traditional charge that hard SF is sexist and appeals exclusively to adolescent males. But although Joan Vinge and .Iayge Carr arc featured, the volume is silent on Lois McMaster Bujold, Cynthia Felice allli Sheri S. Tepper (save for their being briskly ticked off on the list that closes Pamela Sargent's discussion of womcn writers). It would seem as if, in their representation of the contemporary period, (Junn am.l Goldman have merely treated us to an airing of their personal tastes, rather than a careful review of a complex sccne. SF and Fantasy Problems of editorial judgment must also he raised when it comes to Gunn's treatment of the intersection of SF and fantasy, a blending of genre traditions that has grown increasingly marked in the last few decades. Nicholls, in the introduction to his encyclopedia, recognized this trend when he said that "the readership of fantasy overlaps substantially with that of sf... landl many fantasy writers have been important influences within the sf field." These facts led him to provide long theme essays on 2()


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 fantasy in general. amI heroic fantasy amI sword and sorcery in particular. as well as substantial individual entries on Dunsany, Lovecraft, Cabell, Robert E. Howard, amI Clark Ashton Smith, along with many more contemporary ligures, from Tolkien to Shirley Jackson to Thomas Burnett Swann -all this despite the fact that Nicholls ob\'iously helieved that fan tasy could be, at least in principle, firmly distinguished from SF. Gunn, on the other hand, spends a peremptory paragraph in his introduction attempting to radically distinguish fantasy from SF on thc basis of the rationality of their separate treatments of discontinuity and change, and the relative causalities involved in their separate world-makings. As a typi cal example of their crucial difference, (iunn cites the following: "the SF character travels hy spaceship, say, or by time machine: the fantasy character falls down a rabbit hole or passes through a door in a cuphoard." Thus, fantasy "for reasons of definition, has been excluded" from his en cyclopedia. Now this is old stuff. going hack, again. to John W. Campbell, who edited a "sister" magazine (the scxist metaphor is pertincnt) to ASiOlilld illR, called U1l!

SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 weird or dark fantasy in genre literature, a development which has hred further generic confusion in the work of Sleven King, George R.R. Martin and K.W. Jeter. What these trends suggest is that someone with Gunn's ideological (lrientation is simply unsuitable to edit an encyclopedia that proposes to prm'ide responsible and comprehensive coverage of the contemporary SF scene. The average "science fiction" magazine today, from Isaac Asimol"s to Omni, and the average SF publishing line, from the newly established Foundation Books (named for Asimov's classic novel series) to the various paperback houses, feat ure work that, by Gunn's criteria, is clearly fantasy, yet it is billed and sold as SF. This year's Nehula Award-winning novel, presented by the Scicncc Fictiol/ Writers of America, was Pat Murphy's Thc Falling Woman, a work of fantasy by almost any definition. Scholarly work in the two genres procecds side by side in the International Associa tion for the Fantastic in the Arts and -despite Gunn's claim to the con trary in his entry on IAFA --also in the Science Fiction Research Associa tion (as a glanCl: at the staled specialties of many of the members listed in its directory clearly shows). In fact, Campbell's surviving progeny Analog has come to be seen by most fans, writers and critics as something of a dinosaur in its attempts to resist this connuence of genres, publishing SF with (allegedly) rigorous scientific credentials. (But really, traditional science fiction conveniences like "hyperspace" are as "irrational" as fantasy's "rabbit holes.") Today Campbelliall hard SF has become mere ly one subgenre among mallY, yet this is precisely theform GUllll wishes to foregroulld alld champion as the essellce of the gellre. The result is that his "coverage" is IlOt descriptive, bllt prescriptive; !lot comprehellsive, but exc!usiollUlY alld Further, the generic confusion I han.: detailed does not permit Gunn to be totally consistent in his efforts to exclude fantasy. His coverage of the pre-Campbell years forces him to include c.A. Smith and Lovecraft (the lalter lamely defended by Darrell Schweitzer as a "science fiction" writer), as well as Lewis Carroll, William Hope Hodgson, A. Merrill and others. Robert E. Howard, who is cross-referenced in the entry on Lin Carter (who himself ought to be absent from the volume for purposes of consistency), does 1/01 in fact appear --thus providing more specifically empirical evidence of editorial inallention. A different sort of inconsistency plagucs Gunn's coverage of the post(;olden Age period. For example, if.ferome Bixhy and Robert Bloch, two 50's talents who prefigured t he endemic generic drift of the contemporary scene, are allowed into the book, where arc Charles Beaumont and Gerald Kersh? If Mervyn Peake is here. where is Tolkien? If "literary" fantasists like Borges and Nahokov are featured, how can a host of others, from 22


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 Kafka to Angela Carter, be excluded'! And if recent genre writers whose work is more obviously fantasy of some stripe than it is SF (at least by Gunn's narrow definition) -writers like Robert Asprin, David Bischolf, Damien Broderick, Suzy McKee Charnas, John Crowley, Robert Holdstock, Lee Killough, Katharine Kurtz, Tanith Lee, Elizabeth Lynn, Anne McCaffrey, Thomas F. Monteleone, Andrew J. Offull, Tim Powers, Susan Schwartz, Christopher Stashdf. Craig Strete, and Lisa Tullle --are permilled entries, then what conceivable reason can there be for casting James P. Blaylock, Gregory Ffllst, Charles L. Grant, R.A. MacAvoy, Robert Stallman. Peter Straub. and countless others into the outer dark ness'? Why arc many fantasy films and illustrators listed along with their SFnal counterparts'? The effect of all this is often a slapdash patchwork of genre materials. Since Clunn seems generally so intent on his narrow ideology, he could have done a much beller job of prosecuting it. Finis I have focused, in my more detailed criticisms, on literary issues of the last twenty years because this is my genre specialty, and because one of the major claims this book makes toward supplanting Nicholls' volume is its coverage of this material. However, I am confident that critics with a deeper background in SF art and illustration, or pre-(iernsbackian sources. or the history of the SF magazines, will be able to rind similar gaps and inconsistencies in Gunn's record. Anyone who owns Nicholls' encyclopedia, supplemented by Neil Barron's most recent edition of nU! AI/atomy of WOl/der, has a much broader and more detailed account of the history and state of the genre than Gunn's volume provides. nrl' NelV EI/cyclopedia of Scicl/ce Fictiol/ is, alas, already old news. Rob Lat/ram 1989 Clarion Workshop The 22ml Clarion Workshop in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing will be held June 25 through August 5 at Michigan State Univ., East Lansing. Writers-in-Residence will be Tom Disch, Karelljo), Fowler, Octavia Butler, Spider RobillSOIl, Kate Wilhelm alld Damoll Kllight. For applications or further information write Albert Drake, Director, Clarion '8Y, Holmes Hall East. Lyman Briggs School, Michigan State University, East Lansing MI 488241107. Deadline for applications is April 3, 19iN. 23


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 The Shape of Films to Come By Theodore Krulik August 1 <)HH --Magic lives! and itlivcs side-by-side with reality, innuenc-ing reality, bending reality to meet seriously with the magical. This is true for two summer movies that have shown themselves to be big box-of fice hits, and they arc hits for good reason: they are good films. Both films find their source in fantasy, in magic, but both are grounded in the hard edged world of reality. In "Big," starring Tom Hanks, and "Who Framed Roger Rahbit?" with Bob Hoskins, the real world rubs elbows with fantasy. They are special mm'ies because they shine through a rather blase summer of big budget sequels and rehashes that has become a sad trend that hints at the dearth of fresh ideas out there in Movieland (wherever that is). "Big" is directed hy Pcnny Marshall (Lan:rne of the TV series "Laverne and Shirley"), written by (iary and Anne Spielberg, and produced by Robert (;reenhut and .I ames L. Brooks. Although it is a rehaslH:d idea used disastrously hy Dudley [vtoore and George Burns in other I1Hl\'ies in the past, the idea of a boy's mind in an adult body works remarkably well with Tom Hanks's character. An important factor is that "Big" drops the parallel-plot line of following two characters: a hoy in an adult hody and an adult in a boy's hody. But much of the credit must go to Hanks who delivers a convincing B-year old with all of the ingenuousness of youth in the body of an adult wlHl is a stranger to himself. The magical element in "Big" that initiates the storyline is a iortune telling machine named "Zoltan." Twelve-year olcl.losh makes a wish that he wants to he big, and the device, a moving, devil-like head, lights up and upens its mouth, then puts forward a card that reads: "Yollfwish has been granted." .Iosh notices, however, that Zoltan was not plugged in when it granted his wish. Hence, the fantasy clement. Josh wakes up the next morning, goes sleepily tothe bathroom, sees an adult face staring back at him, blinks, washes his face, looks again, looks behind him, looks behind the mirror, and is instantly alert with fear. A large part of the fun in watching "Big" is in the reactions of Tom Hanks as the suddenly adult .Iosh. He sees and acts with the natural ingenuollsness of a J2-year old. His reactions are true and natural as he tries to explain to his "mom" that he is really her son and he winds up heing chased hy her with a kitchen knife because "he views him as an intruder in her home. His relationships with people in the real world are genuine given his unusual circulllstances. At first, he seems an intruder, 24


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 a child-molester in facl. to his hest friend. but the adult Josh convinces him of his real identity by chanting a secret ritual song they share. Some of the best moments of the film arc the little. child-like actions he takes, such as dancing with his boss. played by Robert Loggia. on a "walking piano kL:yboard" in a toy store, or jumping on a trampoline in his new apartment with his girlfriend. a promiscuous status climber at his job. While he endears himself with some people at his job, he makes enemies of others. We see also, the subtle tug-of-war building up between his boyhood friend and the woman he begins to romance from work. The movie works so well because the writers (and probably the director) worked out many possihle permutations of what Josh would do and \vhat might confront him in the real world. The results arc satisfying. except t hat I would have loved to have found out what happened back at his job once the adult Josh disappeared. "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" comes from Steven Spielberg's stahle. with a screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, and directed by Robert Zemeckis. It cleverly leads the audienct.: into its fantasy-con nected world by opening with a standard cartoon short that. up to \ery recently. was a staple in movie theaters. The cartoon is a typically frantic potpourri of virtually fatal accidents to Roger Rabbit, but at its conclusion. the director yells "Cut!" and steps into the cartoon set to talk to Roger and Baby Herman. Reality suddenly intrudes upon a cartoon, and then our whole perspective become topsyturvy. Live people interrelate with "Toons." as they are referred to, and a real-life street becomes a hudgepodge of human and Toon aeti\ity. The main character. a hUlllan private eye named Eddie Valiant. playcd by British actor Bob Hoskins. makes the gritty side of life come together with the antic Toon side. The movie's plot is a near parody of any nUIll ber of mystery films of the 1 94th. but strikes me as being most like Bogart's "The Big Sleep." Besides the marvelous rapport the human actors create with the Toon characters. there is some ncar-undefinable SUBSTANCE that is drawn into the Toons. That is. somehow. the two-dimensionality of the cartoon figures has been drawn with an added depth. The remark able technical feat in this is demonstrated by the Toons's handling of human clothes. doors. and fine movements. At one point, Roger is about to sit in the untouched chair of Valiant's deceased brother. When Eddie stops him with a snarl, the Toon's fingers are seen to leave streaks in the dust on t he back of the chair. What amazes an audience initially is the substantiality of the Toons and the ease with which interact with real things. But a truly phenomenal scene occurs when Eddie Valiant drives his real car into Toontown. Everything has reversed itself: Eddie must react to a cartoon landscape 25


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 where nothing reacts the way it would in real life. As we enter with Eddie into this weird landscape, we fed slightly sinistn undertones. There is something claustrophohic in going into Toontown, and hesidcs, the accidents common to Toons that kave them unscathed could prove deadly to a human. In thinking ahout these films as take-ofr points for discussion in a science fiction class, we can look at the fantasy ekments as mere devices for examining human hehavior. We could marvd at the tcchnical expertise of "Roger Rahhit" and Tom Hanks's ability as an actor to carry off the necessary boyishncss in "Big," but these arc beside the point. Both films handle rdationships between charactns that we care ahout. and they dothat by cxploring the age-old SF thought of "What if---'?" Bob Hoskins gives real depth to his Eddie Valiant character, who hates Toons for personal reasons, but finds himself helping them nevertheless. Great care was given in scripting "Big" to what the adult Josh might do in a variety of situations. --771codore KlHlik By Neil Barron Due about summer 198() from (farland Publishing is a companion to Allalomy of Wonder. Fanlmy and Hom)/' Litel'lltllre: A Oilical Gliide (working title) is designed to he the most current. comprehensive and critically rigorous guide to English language primary and secondary materials yet published. The structure roughly parallels A Ow. Five chap tns are devoted to fantasy, one of them emphasizing fantasy (and some horror) wrillen for young adult readers; four to horror fiction, from (iothies to the latest original paperbacks. The research aids portion will critically sun'ey fantasy/horror publishing, refcrence works. history and criticism, author studies, lilm and TV. art and illustration, magazines, and library collections. A final chapter will include not only a core collection checklist but lists of awards, organizations and series. A theme index is hcing considered to supplement the author and title indexes. The IJ contributors rcviewed one another's preliminary lists of books tn he critically annotated, and their work was suppkmentcd hy knowledgeable outside readers to insure a hal anced and comprehensive sdection. If any memhers have litllcknown favorites they think might be overlooked, I'd welcol11c details. Particularly welcome would be informa-


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 tion about any libraries you know of which have "significant" collections of fantasy and/or horror literature, including author collections. manuscripts, letters, illustrations, etc. Alternatives to the working title shown would also be welcome. Contributors to thc guide will receve extra income as a rcsult of the generosity of the Atlanta Worldcon. Inc. commillee. who gave a $5.()()() grant to be distributed to contributors to supplement the royalties I could afford to share. The IYS(i Worldcon had a $911.01111 surplus. which is being given for "projects to promote the appreciation of science fiction and fan tasy art and literaturc" -to quote: thc announcement in the Deccmber LOCIIS (page 5), which provides full details as to hm\! to apply. Hnw much mnney remains to be distributed I don't know. but you can find out by writing: Worldcon Atlanta, Inc .. Attn: Jim Gilpatrick, Suitc 1 <)S(). 3277 Roswell Road, Atlanta, CiA 311?>05. Include an SASE for a reply. Nuclear Texts and Contexts Debuts An occasionalnewsletll:r. tentatively set to appear in September and .I anuary, Nlle/elll' Texts and CO/Hext.\' serves as an interchange of scholarship and teaching about nuclear war and relatcd issues. The initial eight page issue dated Fall, 1 l}S8, is available from co-editor Paul Brians I English Dept., Washington State University, Pullman, WA l}9164J. The first two issues arc free; the third will be modestly priced. Brians is the aut hor of Nllc/{'(ll' Holocallst: Atomic Wal'ill Fictioll. 1895-1984, an outstanding study. He is assisted on the newsletter by .lean Killrell of Southern JIIinois University. The publication is concisely edited and in formation-rich. Kansas SF Collection Profiled The Spring issue of Books lind Li/Jl'mics at the Uni\'(nir,\' of Ka/lsas Spencer Library, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence KS (J()1l45I is devoted to the SF holdings of the Spencer lirary. especially those in the Department of Special Collections. Ann Hyde. curator of manuscripts. wrote the issue The library's SF collect ions began in 1%8 with a $10 gift from an alumnus to be used to buy SF. Two decades later the collection is among the larger public holdings. with about ().()()(} hardco\'ers and paperbacks. and runs of the major magazines, acquired by gift, purchase and deposit. There are manuscripts by James (iunn. Lloyd Bigglc, T. L. Sherred, Cordwainer Smith, Lee Killough, Algys Budrys, A. E. Van Vogt and Joan Hunter Holly. Theodore Sturgeon's ami Fredcrik Pohl's papers have been promised. The collcction also includes 3(}O tapes from the SF Oral History Association, selected archives of the SFRA. SFW A. and the .Iohn W. Campbell Memorial Award, scriph by various hands for Gunn's 1111-27


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 11101101 television series, several hundred foreign language books deposited by World SF, and books given hy the SFWA to one of its regi(lnal depositories. The Gunn, Biggle and Killough archives may he consulted only with permission of their owners. Write the Department of Special Collections, address above, for additional information. --Neil BO/mll Hal Hall's Indexes On Sale Back issues of the Borgo Press paperbound editions of Hal W. Hairs Book Review and Research indexes arc now on sale. All the volumes listed below will go pe/7//olIcnth'ollt oj'tJlinttwo months after this announement appears in the Nc IVslclI cr. The issues available arc: Scicncc Fiction and Fantasy Book RCI'icw Index, Vol. 7 (11}7(1); Vol. 8 (1977), Vol. <) (1978). Vol. 10 (1979); Vol. 11 (l980); Vol.l2 (19R I); Vol. 13 (11}82); V(ll. 14 (198J); Vol. 15 (1984). Volumes are $2.50 each. Some volumes available in limited numbers only. Scicncc Fiction and Fantasy Research Indcx, Vol. 1 ($1); Vols. 2,3,4 ($3 ca.). For one or two volumes add 90 postage; for three or more add $l.25. Send checks to Hal W. Hall, 3608 Meadow Oaks, Bryan TX 77802. --Hal/V: Hall Eleventh Annual J. Lloyd Eaton Conference The 11th annual Eaton Conference will meet at the University of California, Riverside, 14-16 April. ItJ89. The theme of the mecling is "Styles of Creation: Aesthetic Technique and the Creation of Fictional Worlds." Papers should focus on mailers of style, language, and narrative ami descriptive technique in fantastic and speculative fiction and art in general. Papers of 10-15 pages (20 to 30 minutes for oral delivery) are solicited from scholars taking all approaches to the subject, considering works from all branches of fantastic literat ure. In addition, sponsors are especially eager to have suhmissions from stuuents of acsthdie techniques who have not before concentrated on works from these genres. Papers may concentrate on single works, deal with groups of works. or argue theoretical positions. Deadline for papers is 15 November 1988. For further information contact: George E. Slusser, Eaton Collection, P.O. Box :'i()()O, University Library, University of CA -Riverside, Riverside, CA 92517; or phone: 714-787-3233 or 787-3398.


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 September Paperbacks: ABBEY, LYNN. Unico017l & Dragon. $3.50. Avon, from the Avon trade paper. Fantasy. ADAMS, ROBERT. Stairway to Forever. $3.50. Baen Books. Fantasy. ADAMS, ROBERT, MARTIN H. GREENBERG, and PAMELA CRIPPEN ADAMS, ed. Robelt Adams' Book of Soldiers. $3.95. Signet. SF -anthology. ARONICA, LOU and SHA WNA McCARTHY, eds. Fill! Spectl1lm: 25 Stories all the Leadillg Edge of SF alld Falltasy. $4.95. Bantam/Spectra. SF -collection. BAEN, JIM. Nell' Destillies: Vol. V. $3.50. Baen Books. Science Fact & Fiction. BORTON, DOUGLAS. Mallstopper. $3.95. Onyx Books. Horror. BROOKS, TERRY. The Black Ullicu17l. $4.95. Del Rey, from the Del Rey hardcover. Fantasy. ---------. IIJagic Killgdom For Sale --Sold!. $4.50. Del Rey reissue. Fan tasy. CAIDIN, MARTIN. FOllr Came Back. $2.95. Baen reissue from Bantam. SF. DANN, JACK and GARDNER DOZOIS. Dogtales!. $3.50. Ace Books. SF and Fantasy -anthology. deCAMP, L. SPRAGUE and CATHERINE CROOK deCAMP. TIle 111cOIporatcd Knight. $3.50. Baen Books. Fantasy -humorous. DEWEESE, GENE. Star Trek: TIle Next Gelleratioll: TIle Peacekeepers. $3.95. Pocket Books. SF. DICKSON, GORDON R. TIle Last Drcam. $2.95. Baen reissue. Fantasy -collection. DICKSON, GORDON R. and HARRY HARRISON. TIze Lifeship. $2.95. Baen reissue. SF. ESTES, ROSE. Saga of the Lost Lallds: vol. III: Spirit of the Hmvk. $3.95. Bantam/Spectra. Fantasy. FARREN, MICK. TIle LOllg Orbit. $3.95. Del Rey. SF. GREEN, SHARON. TIle TIlief alld the Wal7ior #1: Mists of the Ages. $3.95. DA W Books. GUILLUL Y, SHEILA. Greellbliar #2: TIle Crystal Keep. $3.95. Signet. Fantasy. HAIBLUM, ISIDORE. TIze MWallts are Comillg. $3.50. Del Rey. SF. HICKMAN, STEPHEN. TIIC Lcmllliall Stolle. $3.50. Ace Books. Fantasy. HUGHES, ZACH. Life Force. $3.95. DA W Books. SF. JONES, DIANA WYNNE. lVitch Week. $2.95. Alfred A. Knopf. Y A -29


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 Halloween. KILIAN, CRAWFORD. Roglle Emperor, third in the Chronoplane Wars. $3.95. Del Rey. SF. ---------. The Empire of Time. $2.95. Del Rey reissue. ---------. 17,e Fall of the Repllblic. $3.50. Del Rey reissue. LEIGH, STEPHEN. Doctor BOlles #1: 17ze Secret of LOlla. $3.50. Ace Books. SF. MARTINE-BARNES, ADRIENNE. 17le Raillbow Sword, third in the Swords series. $3.50. Avon Books. Fantasy. ---------. 17le Fire Sword. Avon reissue. ---------. 17ze Oi'stal Slmrd. Avon reissue. McLOUGHLIN, JOHN. Toolmaker KomI. $3.50. Baen, from the Baen he. SF. PARKINSON. DAN. Stm:wllg. $3.95. TSR Books. Science Fantasy. PREUSS, PAUL. AI11wr C. Clarke's VCllliS P,ime: Vol. 2: Maelstrom. $3.95. Avon Books. SF. PRATCHETT, TERRY. Eqllal Riles. $3.50. Signet. Fantasy --humorous. ---------. 17le Light Falltastic. $3.50. Signet reissue. ---------. 17le ColOllr of Magic. $3.50. Signet reissue. ROBERSON, JENNIFER. Sword-Sillger. $3.95. DA W Books. Fantasy. ---------. Sword-Dallcer. $3.50. DA W reissue. ROESSNER, MICHAELA. Walkabollt Womall. $3.95. Bantam/Spectra. Fantasy. SILVERBERG, ROBERT. Up the Lille. $3.95. Del Rey reissue. SF. SIMAK, CLIFFORD D. 1..fIl,y Call 17,em Back From Heavell? $3.50. Avon reissue. SF. ST AMEY, SARA. Will, Lose, Draw. $3.50. Ace Books. SF. STOCKPOLE, MICHAEL A. Wanior: Riposte, The Warrior Trilogy Vol. II. $4.95. FASA Books. SF. TOLKIEN, J. R. R. Ullfinished Tales. $5.95. Ballantine, from the Houghton Mifflin hc. Fantasy. ---------. Ballantine/Del Rey commemorates the 50th Anniversary of 17,e Hobbit by reissuing their entire line of Tolkien paperbacks. WA Y, DR. JOHN H. and DAVID C. MILLER. Cardiac Anest. $3.95. Charter Books. Horror. WEIS, MARGARET and TRACY HICKMAN. 17le Darksword Tlilogy: Vol. Ill: Tlillmph of the Darksword. $3.95. Bantam/Spectra. Fantasy. WHELAN. PATRICK. $3.95. Pocket Books. Horror. WILLIAMS, TAD. Tailchaser's SOllg. $4.50. DA W reissue. Fantasy. ZAHN, TIMMOTHY. Time Boml) alld Zalllldl), Others. $3.50. Baen Books. SF --collection. 30


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 Trade Books: AICKMAN, ROBERT. The Wille-Dark Sea. $18.95 hc. Arbor House. Fantasy. October 24, 1988. ASIMOV, ISAAC. 17,e Robot Natels. $14.95 trade paper. Del Rey. SFomnibus edition. October 1988. ASIMOV, JANET. 17re Package ill H.\perspace. $13.95 trade paper. Walker and Co. Y A --SF. October 1988. BEAR, GREG. Etel7lity. $16.95 hc. Warner Books. SF. October 3,1988. BRADBURY, RAY. 17,e Halloweel/ Tree. $12.95 trade paper. Alfred A. Knopf reissue. Y A -Halloween. September 1, 1988. BROOKS, TERRY. Wizard at Large, Book III in The Magic Kingdom of Landover series. $17.95 hc. Del Rey. Fantasy. October 1988. CRABBE, KATHARYN W. J. R. R. Tolkiel/. $9.95 trade paper. Con tinuum. Biography. September 1, 1988. CROSS, RONALD ANTHONY. Prisoners of Paradise. $16.95 hc. Franklin Watts, Inc. SF. October 1988. DUANE, DIANE. Star Trek: Spack's World. $16.95 hc. Pocket Books. SF. September 1988. DVORKIN, DA VID.17le Seekers. $16.95 hc. Franklin Watts, Inc. SF. Oc tober 1988. EAKINS, PATRICIA. 17,e HlIngJ)' Girls and Other StOlies. $8.95 trade paper. Cadmus Editions. September 15, 1988. EDDINGS, DAVID. Demon Lord of Karam(a, Book III of The Mal IOJeon. $18.95 hc. Del Rey. Fantasy. September 1988. ENGH, M. J. M'heel of tire Winds. $18.95 hc. tor Books. SF. September 20, 1988. EVANS, ARTHUR B. JlIles Vel7le Rediscovered. $37.95 hc. Greenwood Press. Criticism. August 1988. FOWLER, CHRISTOPHER. Roof World. $7.95 trade paper. Ballantine. SF -near future. September 1988. GRANT, CHARLES L. cd. TIre Best vf Slradows. $15.95 hc. DoubledaylFoundation. Horror -anthology. October 1988. GUNN,JAMES, ed. 17,e New Ell cyclopedia of SF. $24.95 hc. Viking. Non fiction Reference. October 1988. HARNESS, CHARLES L.Krollo. $16.95 hc. Franklin Watts, Inc. SF. Oc tober 1988. HURT III, HARRY. ForA II Mankind. $22.95 hc. Atlantic Monthly Press. Nonfiction. October 1988. JAMES, PETER. Possession. $18.95 he. Doubleday. Horror. October 1988. 31


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 KING, STEPHEN. The Dark Tower: The GlIT/sliT/ger. $10.95 trade paper. Plume. Fantasy. September 1988. LA WHEAD, STEPHEN. MeriiT/, Book Two in The Pendragon Cycle. $10.95 trade paper. Crossway Books. Fantasy. September 1988. Le GUIN, URSULA K. BlIffalo Gals aT/d OtherAT/imal PreseT/ces. $6.95 trade paper. Plume. Fantasy --collection. September 1988. LEM, ST ANISLA W. Hospital of the TraT/sfigllratioT/. $17.95 hc. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. Fiction. October 1988. LOVECRAFT, H. P. T7le Best of H. P. Lovecraft: BloodcllrdliT/g Tales of HOI7'OraT/d the Macabre. $7.95 trade paper. Ballantine. Horror. Septem ber 1988. MacDONALD, GEORGE. T7le Day Boy al/d the Night Girl. $12.95 trade paper. Alfred A. Knopf. YA --Fantasy. September 1, 1988. MORAN, DANIEL KEYS, based on screenplay by WILLIAM and JOANNE STEWART. T71e RiT/g. $19.95 he. Doubleday/Foundation. SF. October 1988. NIGHBERT, DAVID F. Timelapse. $17.95 hc. St. Martin's Press. SF. 1988. RESNICK, MIKE. [VOl)'.' A LegeT/d of Past aT/d Futl/re. $17.95 hc. Tor Books. SF. September 29,1988. RUFF, MATT. Fool OT/ the Hill. $19.95 hc. Atlantic. Fantasy. October 24, 1988. SUVIN, DARKO. PositioT/s aT/d PresllPpositioT/s iT/ SF. $26.00 he. Kent St. Univ. Press. Criticism. September 16, 1988. TEPPER, SHERI. The Gate to WomeT/ 's COl/1Itry. $18.95 he. Doubleday/Foundation. Fantasy. September 1, 1988. TIPTREE JR., JAMES. CroWT/ of Stars. $18.95 he. Tor Books. SF. Sep tember 19, 1988. TURNER, GEORGE. DrowT/iT/g Towers. $18.95 hc. Arbor House. SF. September 1988. VINUE, JOAN D. Catspaw. $17.95 hc. Warner Books. SF. September 2, 1988. WHELAN, MICHAEL. Michael UIJ,elaT/ 's Works of WOT/der. $25.00 hc. Del Rey. SF and Fantasy --art. October 1988. WILLIAMS, TAD. T71e DragoT/boT/e Chair, Book I of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. $19.95 hc. DA W Books. Fantasy. October 1988. WILSON, F. PAUL. Black WiT/d. $18.95 he. Tor Books. Fantasy. Septem ber 19, 1988. -MmtiT/ A. SchT/eider 32


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 [Feedbacij Barr-Bashing? Editor: Re: the three-times-Ionger-than-others review of Prof. [Marlene] Barr's book [in #157] -isn't it sufficient to say "the author makes in cautious generalizations, fails to make necessary distinctions, omits consideration of authors like LeGuin and Lessing, and produces a book of very questionable merit; not recommended"? While "man-bashing" is counterproductive, its very over-generalized nature renders it fairly innocuous. Fifteen hundred words of "Barr-bashing" deprives all of us of at least two other reviews. --Roseman' Artmr [Ed. Note: We made a special effort to find a qualified reviewer for Barr's hook: Ka Tresca is associate professor of philosophy, a specialist in ethics, and a prominent figure in Women's Studies. Moreover, our goal in this newsleuer is not to provide bite-sized reviews, but substantial discussions; we fell Barr's book, even in its failures, was important enough to merit detailed criticism. Future issues will carry reviews of similar length when we feel they are warranted.] MLA Special Session Editor: Would you be kind enough to insert the following notice in the SFRA Newsletta? Jean Kiurell of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville will be chairing a special session at the December 1988 Modern Languages As sociation meeting in New Orleans entitled "Nuclear Texts and Contexts." Paul Brians and H. Bruce Franklin will be among the presenters, both reading papers on women authors of nuclear war fiction. --Pall I Blial/s Performance "s. "The Paper" Editor: The annual meeting of SFRA last July in Corpus Christi was one of the best I've ever attended, and it is the excellence of that conference that's got ten me thinking about problems wit h contemporary scholarly meetings (and, indirectly, with graduate education). Unsolicited and perhaps ar rogantly, I offer some analysis and advice. 33


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 I kept getting the feeling there was some Platonic ideal of "The Paper" that the presenter would have presented, given world enough and time. "The Paper" got in the way of presentation --i.e., what you can actually say to an audience in twenty minutes. This obsession with "The Paper" is silly to start with, on theoretical grounds. No one is going to do a "defini tive" work; even the best criticism needs to be redone as times change. On practical grounds, either the members of your audience have copies of your paper during your talk, or they don't. If they do, you don't need to waste time telling them you're skipping around in it and don't want them to try and read along. If they don't have a copy of your paper, they're not much interested in its structure as it lies there in your hands; they just need a clear presentation of the argument. In the hope that participants at future conferences might spend less time on "The Paper" and more on their presentations, I have some specific suggestons. (1) Participants should know fairly early just how much time they will have for presentation, and (2) once that time limit is established, panel chairs should hold participants to it. Readers must time their presentations and cut as necessary. (3) Participants should also rehearse their presentations, perferably in front of people who are competent to advise them on delivery. A paper is a paper, but a presentation is a performance and ought to be fairly professional. Finally, (4) participants should cut apologies and everything else inessential. A live performance is a luxury item nowadays, justified less by its excitement (will the per former screw up?) than by the opportunity it allows for interaction with the audience. This last point is important. Let's say Godzilla ate your computer, and you were mugged at the airport and had even your notes stolen. A live performance is still justified. Sit down and talk with us. You've spent days or weeks or months or years working on a topic of interest; you've got something to tell your audience, and maybe some members of your audience have something to tell you. Nobody expects you to do a definitive job on a topic in twenty minutes. If you've got a lot more to say, put it in writing. Have full copies of "The Paper" available, or arrange to mail them to anyone who wants one. Meanwhile, let's talk, a presenter-to-audience conversation; that, indeed, is the main reason why we bother to meet at al. --Richard D. ETHell 34


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 [Reviewsl [Notes. Last issue's expanded front matter forced the last-minute elision of non-fiction reviews, including my frequently promised --and frequent-1y delayed -review of Larry McCaffery's Postmodem Fictioll; that material appears here. This issue begins what we hope will be a more timely and comprehensive review section, covering all major non-fiction and selected fiction titles published this year. We also hope to include, each issue, one long review-essay on a major title; the current issue inaugurates this feature with my review of James Gunn's New Ellcyclopedia of Sciellce Fictioll. Readers of this newsletter are encouraged to contact me if they have suggestions for subjects for future review-essays -especially ones they would be willing to write for us themselves. --Rob Latham] Non-Fiction Delany's Masterpiece? Delany, Samuel R. T7le Motioll of Light ill Water; Sex alld Sciellce Fictioll Wlitillg ill the East Village, 1957-1965. Arbor House, NY, March 1988, xix + 302p. $18.95 he. 0-87795-947-1. I am gratcfulto Chip Delany for writing this book. I've known him since a Milford Conference long ago. We've read T7re Eillsteill [Iltersectioll in my science fiction classes. I've read or looked into such critical works as T7re Jewel-Hillged Jaw. Yet, until I got into this autobiography, Chip had been an enigmatic alien to me, his world vaguely intriguing but also vaguely sinister. Here, in this disarming autobiography, Delany invites us into that world. Neither the style-conscious magician of symbol and myth we know from his fiction. nor the erudite intellectual of his deconstructionist criticism, he writes plain but vivid and compelling prose, revealing him self as a human being we can like and understand, sharing the experiences of a very bright and literate gay black kid growing up in New York, educating himself, discovering varieties of sex, becoming the fine literary craftsman that Chip Delany is. We meet his parents, proudly independent upper-class black New Yorkers. Chip writes with a warm affection of the gifted poet Marilyn Hacker and their years of marriage, brightening the book with her quoted poems. With startling honesty, he describes his homosexual inclinations and adventures. He shares the toil and pain and joy of learning his literary 35


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 craft, his first novel published when he was twenty and six books sold by the end of the volume, when he is twenty-three and leaving for Europe to see Greece and begin Tile Eillstein Imersectioll. Some may be appalled or offended by his amazing candor, but more should be fascinated by this dazzling glimpse of a sensitive young artist awakening to life in the sixties. The book strikes me as a major achieve ment. If Delany has written anything destined to endure, I think this is it. --Jack U'illiamsoll Appreciating Levin Fowler, Douglas. Ira Levill. Star mont House, Mercer Island, WA, 1988, 87p. $9.95 trade pb. 0-9302fi1-25-9. [Starmont Reader's Guide #34J Although Ira Levin's fantasy and science fiction output has been small, it has also been influential. It's arguable that Rosel1la/)"s Baby, published in 1967, primed the pump for the success of William Peter Blatty's 17!e Exorcoist and the books of Stephcn King, and it's undeniable that 17te Stcpford H'ivcs and 17te Boys frol7l Brazil helped make horror fiction marketable in the mainstream. Thus, Douglas Fowler has every reason to be enthusiastic about his subject, but his insightful study of Levin's five novels and stage work seldom substitutes adulation for analysis. The only debatable points in Fowler's assessment are occasional digressions that tend to make Levin sound like he is doing more than he does, and that he's the only author doing it. For example, Fowler's second chapter discussion of horror fiction as "play" (fiction whose sole purpose is to gratify a taste, without reflecting the real world or attempting to be didactic), doesn't illuminate Levin's work better than it does the work of any other horror or thriller writer, and would have been bcttcr if in tegrated into studies of individual books. Presented as the perspective from which to view all of Levin's fiction, it fails to explain the streak of feminist satire that runs through his 1973 novel 17te Stepford Wives. Fowler's defense of the much-criticized ending of RosemaT)"s Baby leads him to compare it to less "skillful" stories like Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" (the ending of which he seems to have misread) and Machen's "The Great God Pan", to which it bears only a passing resemblance. Fowler also tends to read Levin's plot twists as emblems of unconventional genius when, really, they are the signs of a good thriller writer who knows what the form will bear. Fortunately, Levin's competcnce as a craftsman is what cmerges from this book, and Fowler's thorough dissection of the novels makes you want to go and read them yourself. --Stefall Dzicmiollowicz 36


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 A Marvelous Compendium McCaffery, Larry, ed. Post11lode17l Fictioll: A Bio-Bibliographical Gl/ide. Greenwood, Westport, CT, 1986, xxviii + 604p. Hardcover [price not listed]. 0-313-024170-8. [Movements in the Arts, #2] Editor McCaffery's mammoth volume provides a nearencyclopedic introduction to the complex problematic of "postmodernism" in contem porary literature. Excellently organized, the book opens with McCaffery's fine introduction, which lays the theoretical groul)dwork for the collec tion, followed by a series of well-conceived "Overview Articles" on essen tial topics and problems posed in and by postmodernism as both a literary and philosophical movement; then comes an alphabetically organized compendium of biographical/critical discussions of major post modern figures. The book closes with a "Selected Bibliography of Postmodern Criticism" which, while not as thorough as similar bibliographies con tained in works such as Jonathan Culler's 011 DeCOIIstlllctioll or Ihab Hassan's TIle Post17lode17l Tllm, does, when combined with the bibliog raphies that follow the overview articles and individual author entries, give a useful survey of its intricate subject. The interest of the volume for scholars of SF can be discovered in McCaffery's general conclusion that postmodernism has mounted a vigorous and sustained critique of realism in literature --a critique which has often valorized and empowered "paraliterary" forms like SF, for which "mimesis was never [a] guiding concern". McCaffery's discussion focuses attention not only on those "mainstream" authors who have bor rowed themes and strategies from traditional science fiction (e.g. Burgess, Calvi no, Pynchon, Lessing, etc.), but also includes individual discussions of major SF authors. McCaffery takes the late Philip Dick as paradigmatic of the convergence of interests between SF and postmodernism in his exploration of themes of "metaphysical ambiguity, the oppressive nature of political systems, entropy, [and] the mechanization of modern life". Also, the volume features an overview article called "The Paper World: Science Fiction in the Postmodern Era", written by Welch D. Everman, which analyzes the metafictional self-reflexiveness of contemporary SF through intelligent discussions of J.G. Ballard, Samuel Delany, Thomas Disch, Philip Farmer, Stanislaw Lem, Gene Wolfe, and Roger Zelazny. Everman's analysis centers around the notion that SF "is a literature of absence ... rooted in and dependent on the language that makes the im possible possible" --an emphasis which places it in opposition to the mimetic concerns of "mundane" realism, and thus squarely in a postmodern universe. Authors of genre SF featured in individual entries are Ballard, Gregory 37


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 Benford, John Brunner, Delany, Dick, Ursula LeGuin, John Varley, Wolfe, and Zelazny. Generally, the discussions are good (George Slusser's on Delany being excellent), though in some instances, as with Brian Stablcford's entry on Dick, the critic doesn't seem fully aware of what is expected of him --namely, exploring the author's specifically "post modern" concerns. One might \'ionder what Benford and LeGuin are doing here, when more obviously postmodern figures like Michael Moorcock and Joanna Russ have been omitted. but the volume makes up these lacks by usefully indicating the SFnal interests of many non-genre authors, from Thomas Pynchon to Don DeLillo to Raymond Federman. In sum, this book is of exceptional value not only to SF scholars intrigued by the dawning implications of the post modern movement but also to mainstream scholars only how coming to awareness of the centrality of SF in the post modern ethos. To both groups, Poslmode17l Fictioll: A Bio-Bib liographical Gllide is highly recommended. --Rob Latham Scheick, William J. and J. Randolph Cox, eds. H.G. Wells: A Reference GlIide. G.K. Hall, Boston, June 1988, xxxiii + 430p. $45.00 he. 0-81618946-3. "Wells is the Prospero of all the brave new worlds of the mind, and the Shakespeare of science fiction," argues Brian Aldiss in Billioll (and Tlil lioll) Year Spree. I agree. Wells has been the subject of uncounted reviews, articles and books since 1895, when four of his many volumes were published, one of them 17le Time Machille. Scheick, an English professor, and Cox, a librarian, have usefully surveyed a large mass of material about Wells, "but excluded most solely descriptive or enumerative items, reviews of secondary works, film reviews, undergraduate honor and M.A. theses." The guide begins with Wells' own writings, fiction and nonfiction, in book form. Contents of original collections are shown, but not all the col lected editions, such as the 1924 Atlantic edition or the 1927 short stories collection. The core of the book is the 3,019-item secondary bibliography, from several reviews of 171e WOlldClftcl Visit (1895) to David Smith's H.G. Wells, MOTta I (1986). One-third of the pieces have been published since Wells' death in 1946. The arrangement is by year, then by author, with an index to "authors, editors and translators of articles and books on Wells as well as any writers mentioned in the abstracts." The annotations range from ten to 250 words, averaging about sixty to eighty words. They are purely descriptive but suf ficiently detailed to judge the relative importance of the items described. I checked several sources and found most items listed. Some fanzine articles listed in Hal Hall's Sciellce Fictioll alld Falltasy Referellce Index, 38


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 1878-1985 were omitted. Zamiatin's long essay on Wells is cited, although not Zamiatin's 1970 collection A Sm'iet Heretic. The essays in the two edi tions of Smith's Twelltieth Cellflll)' Sciellce Fictioll W,iters aren't cited. But almost all the significant English language scholarship, and some of the foreign, is here. The lamentable weakness of this study is its indexing. The index provided is complete as far as it goes, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. It would have taken relatively little effort to have prepared an index to ar ticles and books about individual works, themes in Wells, general biographies, etc. Such an index would have required an extra five to ten pages, a trivial number which would have added negligibly to the book's length and cost. Cox, a reference librarian, should have known better, as should Scheick.ll's seemingly minor things like this which separate merely useful books from essential ones. Recommmended for larger libraries and Wells scholars. --Neil BOImll A Readable Guide Zahorski, Kenneth. Peler Beagle. Starmont House, Mercer Island, WA, 1988. 124p. $17.95 hc., 1-55742-009-2; $9.95 trade pb, -008-4. This is #44 in the Starmont Fantasy and Science Fiction Readers' Guide series, edited by Roger C. Schlobin. Zahorski follows the standard format, though both the typesetting and the prose are far more readable than average; there's an opening chronology, a brief life, separate chapters for Beagle's three novels, and chapters on his short fiction, movie and television scripts, and non-fiction articles and books. There are also annotated primary and secondary bibliographies, plus an index. Zahorski's account of Beagle's often nomadic early career is the most entertaining part of the book. The chapters on the major novels (A Fine alld P,ivate Place, The Last Ullico17l and The Folk of tire Air) begin with background sketches, and proceed into extended plot summaries, punctuated and/or followed by interpretive and occasionally critical sec tions. The best of the chapters is the first, which includes disquisitions on humor, character, style and the uses of ambiguity in the narrative. Least effective is the last, which is dominated by plot summary, very engagingly presented, but short on critical perspectives. Zahorski's precis of Folk of the Air is both detailed and interpretive, so that it gives the impression of a "frame by frame" audience response --a reader may well feel he has "seen the movie" whether or not he has read the book. The interpreta tion is designed to excite an appropriate admiration of the author, of course, but I have misgivings about this approach to criticism. 39


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 Treatment of the shorter works, which is proportionately fuller in criti cal interpretation, seems better balanced to me. Of course, the brevity of Beagle's "canon" is in direct contrast to the size of his critical reputation, so perhaps some padding was justified to fill out the book. --Ad/iall de Wit Fiction Away from Anthropocentrism Asimov, Isaac. Prell/de to FOl/ndatioll. Doubleday/Foundation, NY, 1988, 403p. $18.95 hc. 0-385-23313-2. The vision that Asimov over the years has implanted in his fiction is not as simplistic and human-centered as his critics have often maintained. Now the clever doctor has published the sixth book in the Foundation series that began with the long serials in Astol/ndillg during the 40's and that now, in the 80's, is heing tied in, through a group of new novels, with his robot books of the 50's. Asimov calls this new novel the "first" Foundation novel, alyhough he acknowledges that it is the last written. Not only is this publishing history complex, but also the future history of Galactic Empire, of decline and fall and revival through the two Foundations led by Had Seldon's psychohistory, fits together to form a vast jigsaw puzzle. Neither Asimov nor his fans ever want to see this puzzle fully completed, yet the new large piece does offer a significant background sketch, having to do with Seldon himself and his early life on Trantor. This planet at the center of the Galactic Empire is one of the heroes of this novel, just as primitive Earth haunts the later robot novels; and Asimov fully satisfies our hunger for more information about this Mal thusian monstrosity he first tantalized us with in the original trilogy. But the really significant effect here, I think, is the characterization (or lack thereof) that Asimov provides for Seldon; in this feature, the novel seems to offer a bold challenge to critics who have charged the author with simplistic writing. More than any of the earlier Foundation stories or the recent syntheses of Galactic Empire and robotics, Prell/de seems to openly ahandon the usual expectations of a human story or novel of character. Not only are central characters other than Seldon virtually immortal robots, but also the best passages in the hook are those ahout epistemology, methodology, and the celebration of accumulative partial knowledge. Asimov's text is rich in speculation about Seldon's original theories of psychohistory and of the power of accumulating data. Here is a dramatic climax that seems to me much better than, and much different from, any of the human 40


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 climaxes in the book. Seldon's girlfriend, who mayor may not be human, com;ludes to him at a tender moment: "We have found something far bet ter. We have histOly." In other words, what Asimov depicts here is the no tion that we cannot have grand, anthropocentric revelation. Therefore, small bits of partial knowledge, though often frustrating in their incom pletion, must satisfy us; and this flawed sort of story, filled with the author's continual futuristic trivia that reminds me of the historical trivia in a novel such as Pamela, must satisfy us as readers also. Such is the vision of hard science fiction. --Doll aid M. Hassler Collaboration is Flawed But Readable Pohl, Frederik and Jack Williamson. Lalld's E"d. TOR, NY, August 1988, 370p. $18.95 hc. 0-312-93071-2. Two of the best writers in the SF field have collaborated in this story of the aftermath of earthwide catastrophe. In the near future, the world is divided into four major parts: the AfrAsians, the European States, the PanMack Consortium (the Americas: four unequal fiefdoms, plus control of the Lagrange Habitats in space), and the Eighteen Undersea Cities, which trade oil, minerals, and food to the rest of the world. There is no love lost between the violent, constantly quarreling "Lubbers" and the "Webfeet" of the oceanic Cities, a major difference between them being their attitudes toward science. Those on land use science to create better weapons and consolidate power, whereas those in the sea power their homes with thermal springs, study the archaeology of the underwater realm, develop new pharmaceuticals from aquatic flora and fauna, and train squid to handle agricultural machinery. When PanMack scientists use a nuclear explosion to hreak up a comet headed for Earth, the resulting rain of debris knocks out electronic com munications, ionizes the ozone layer, and creates deadly storms. Most of humanity is wiped out, and the few survivors -the Lubbers dominated by brutal, warring Mack lords and the Webfeet eking out a difficult existence in a much changed world -are challenged by the previously unknown alien menace of the "Eternal" (an entity which bears some resemblance to "HE" of the authors' Cuckoo saga). The foreground story involves two lovers from the undersea city of PanAtlantica, separated by the cata strophe, and a small number of PanMack citizens of various ranks; this story is flawed by passages (especially near the beginning) detailing an tecedent action that reads as if it might be part of a juvenile series, by in terpolations about the mysterious -and inadequately described --Eter nal, and, above all, by too many stock, wooden characters. Depending on one's point of view, the ending is either still another, yet greater cata-41


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 strophe with even fewer survivors than the first, or miraculous escape to a new beginning. The earlier collaborations of Pohl and Williamson have received mixed reviews from critics; certainly, both writers have written better individually. Nevertheless, their joint efforts (the Starchild trilogy, the Cuckoo saga, and even the juvenile Undersea adventures) have always been both pro vocative and readable, and this latest effort, though flawed, is no excep tion. --Alfllllr O. Lewis The Invisibility of Women Tepper. Sheri S. The Gate to Women's COlllltI)'. Doubleday/Foundation, NY, September 1988, 288p. $18.95 hc. 0-38524709-5. Speculative fictions taking as their subject the shape of future life for women can be (and have been) variously classified: some see the future as generally pleasant, some as unpleasant, and many, many works view it ambiguously, seeing a price connected to possibilities of growth and validation for women. Of late, two trends have emerged: the examination of our historical or mythological past from the point of view of its female participants (d. Marion Zimmer Bradley's TIre Mists of Avalon and TIle Firebrand), and the exploration of some sort of post-catastrophe (tech nological, ecological, or sociological) future in which extreme forms of patriarchy have been empowered and women reduced to the status of ves sels and chattel (as in Suzette Haden Elgin's two volumes of TIle Native Tongue and Margaret Atwood'sA Handmaid's Tale). Tepper's novel clearly draws upon all these tendencies. It is set in a post-catastrophe future in which women live in cities, having children, maintaining the crafts and the arts, overseeing agriculture and the produc tion of goods and services, with men, except for a peace-loving few, living outside the cities in garrisons, serving as guardians and warriors motivated by glory in battle. On first view this society seems patterned on the Greek city-state of Sparta, with some variations. Localities are named after women --Marthatown, etc. --but women's apparent status is low. Male children must be turned over to the garrisons at age five, and are allowed only holiday visits to their female relatives. By age fifteen the majority of boys choose to remain in the garrisons and not return to the cities through "the women's gate" (whence the novel's title). A reader familiar with the tradition of this sort of SF narrative is not surprised to see that all is not what it seems and that the world of women's experience encompasses far more than what is noticed hy the men con tinually bound up in their war games. The key SF concept is lodged in an increasing number of non-violent men who choose to return to the cities 42


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 and an increasing proportion of city-dwellers, both male and female, who are endowed with paranormal powers; the narrative vehicle for this con cept is the gradual unfolding of the reason for this phenomenon in the life of a strong female character, Stavia, as she grows up, learns to separate her illusions from reality, and discovers what sacrifices women have chosen to make in the pursuit of a goal for human society as a whole. As in other novels of this sort, hope [or women and [or a future in which humanity can truly grow lies, ironically, in women's "invisibility." T7,C Gate to WomcIl's CO//TlII)' is constructed largely of flashbacks Stavia's memories, given continuity with the present by means of rehearsal scenes as she prepares to play her annual role in Women's Country's ritual staging of Iphigellia at Ilill17l, based on a "preconvulsion" story (and used here to emphasize the historical roots of the wrongs done women by male nature at its worst). For the most part elements of plot and concept cohere, but at least one section, an excursion into a male-dominated theocracy reminiscent of both Elgin's and Atwood's novels, is not well prepared for and seems tacked-on. Although this latest entry onto the growing list of SF works centered on women seems more to borrow from its tradition than to build upon it, its main characters are believably and sensitively portrayed, and suspense over what might be the women's secret is enough to hold the reader until hopeful answers are revealed. --MaTy-Kay Bray Rating the Nebulas Zebrowski, George. Nebllla Awards 22. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY, 1988, 363p. $19.95 hc. 0-15-164929-4. There's a healthy skepticism about literary awards these days, an awareness that not even the Nobel Prize is a sure guarantee of com petence, let alone immortality. A list of past awards is too often a catalogue of forgotten compromises among vested interests, tinged with moral ob tuseness, willful or otherwise. The SFWA's Nebula Awards, listed in an appendix to this volume, have done better than most at recognizing merit. So this new anthology should be approached seriously, in a spirit that recognizes that our love [or prizes will always outweigh our suspicion of the prizegivers' fallibility. Top prize, then, goes easily to Lucius Shepard's "R & R," the long novella which deservedly won the 1986 Nebula and which rightly occupies the center of this anthology. This story alone makes the book worth its price; it's a near-future war scenario, set in an American firebase in Guatemala, where the central figure, a young American artillery specialist, like the Central American people themselves, has become "trapped between the poles of magic and reason ... with the rectangular 43


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 computerized bulk of North America above and the conchshell-shaped continental mystery of South America below." "R & R" is, among many other things, a timely recapitulation of the process whereby logic and sanity at the level of the individual fighting man tend to get so utterly lost that the political goals of warring governments become absurdly unachiev able. Shepard's style is as dense and lush as the jungle of which he writes. He owes something to Ballard, but is free of the mannerism that frequently causes Ballard's analogies to descend into self-parody. This is a brilliant story. "Surviving", by Judith Moffett, a novelette nominee, takes second prize. It's about a psychologist who has made her academic reputation via work on a feral child brought up by chimpanzees, only to find that the now adult Chimp Child has been hired by her own university as a biologist. The story deals with the primate inheritance we all share and with which we must come to terms if we are to become whole --but with which we can never come to terms. The narrator's initiation into the ways of her primate an cestors is superbly done. The story also touches on the inadequacy of civ ilized sexuality and the tragicomic gulf between armchair theorizing about a subject and practical involvement in it. Third prize, but a long way behind the leaders, goes to the charming little parable "Robot Dreams," by the 1986 Grand Master Isaac Asimov. It's very much a piece of showing off (the Laws of Robotics get restated in reverse), but it has the virtue, not generally shared here, of concision. It's followed by a comic how-to piece by Asimov called "Seven Steps to Grand Master," which also reveals how charm can make up for deficien cies in profundity and may in the end earn Asimov his immortality. Next (equal) comes Greg Bear's "Tangents" and Katc Wilhelm's "The Girl Who Fell Into the Sky." The Bear story also has plenty of charm when it's an homage to Fadiman's Fantasia Matlzematica, but loses it when it tries at the same time to pay tribute to the tragic theoretical mathematician Alan Turing. Wilhelm won the novelette award with her brave attempt to find something numinous in the vast grasslands of the American prairies; the tale is full of fine description, but the numinosity is neither easily credible nor of itself a very gripping theme. The remaining stories have their merits, save perhaps for Orson Scott Card's "Salvage"; easily the weakest tale, it failed to get a final nomina tion and was allegedly substituted for Card's nominated novelette "Hatrack River," which had been reprinted elsewhere. I don't object to thc inclusion of the Rhysling SF poetry award winners, especially as Susan Palwick's short lyric "The Neighbor's Wife" is excellent, but there is little justification for the presence here ofBiII Warren's lengthy ramble through the SF movies of 1986. Though he writes amusingly enough, Warren's 44


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 struggle to be inclusive forces him to include comment on such titles as Revellge oj the Teellage Vixells from Oilier Space: really, eXc/lIsil'ily should be the keynote of the Nebula Awards. The message to next year's anthology editor Michael Bishop is clear: trust the SFWA's choices, avoid irrelevant filler, and resist pressure to include inferior work just so more big names can appear on the cover. This anthology could have been consistently first-rate; as it is, it is only partially so. --Nicholas Rllddick Dull Cutting Edge Zebrowski, Gem'ge, ed., S)'Ilcrg" II. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, NY, July 1988, 225p. $8.95, trade pb. 0-15-687701-5. "Backward, Turn Backward" [ ... 0 time in thy flight! / Make me a child again just for tonightJ, one of the last writings of Alice Sheldon ("James Tiptree, Jr."), is so transparently the waking nightmare of an old lady bent on the mercy killing of her beloved husband. that reading it now is almost unbearably painful. Sheldon was the product of a worldly and sophisticated circle, a woman of considerable heauty and international social con nections, who marricd an Army officer during World War II. In this "time-travel" story the author heaps scorn on the shallow values of the debutante she once was, punishes her alter ego for her upper-crust social myopia, and ends by condemning her to something like a witch-burning. The near-future world in which the denouement occurs is a grim socioeconomic chaos. in which the rich have finally commandeered the Army. Navy and Air Force to protect their walled enclaves of luxury against the savage incursions of a totally lawless and impoverished populace. The story's ambience throughout is one of fear and loathing. Its title. drawn from a once-famous sentimental verse ("Rock Me To Sleep," by Elizabeth Akers Allen, ca. 1860) is as ironically despairing as anything Sheldon ever penned. Next to this mega-shocker (also inclUtkd in CroWII oj Stars, Sheldon's last story collection, TOR. September 1988), the other pieces in Synergy II seem tame or trivial. The next best story in the collection is newcomer Daniel Pearlman's "Taking From the Top," another near-future dystopia focused on the world surplus of octogenarians. Pearlman's society thins the elderly through systematic "euthanasia" via Medicare -patients are "put down" (rather than mended) if they are hospitalized after 80 and can't produce enough "Social Value points" to merit another year of ex istence. The spectacle of aging scientists and scholars scrambling to col lect enough garbage off the streets to merit social value points is grimly comic and all too plausible. 45


SFRA Newsletter, No. 160, September 1988 Mildly inventive are Howard Waldrop's "French Scenes," a writer's story satirizing the creative artist's love-hate relationship with Hollywood, and .James Morrow's "Diary of a Mad Deity," in which "multiple personality psychosis" is extrapolated into an amusing burlesque of Global Realpolitik. The only story in the collection with any truly avant-garde ex trapolation, however, is also the most trivial. In my review of SYllergy I [SFRA Nelvsletter No. 154] I compared that first collection's lack of the advertised "leading edge" science to a more exciting non-fiction account of an emerging discipline, "Chaos theory." SYllergv 1I indeed contains a tale based on Chaos theory, Rudy Rucker's "Probability Pipeline," but it's superficial and affectless, as those famliar with Rucker's work might well suspect. Its "idea" concerns wave motions in a tidal basin, a perfect laboratory for chaos investigators of course, and Rucker's reverse extrapolation of "strange attractors" into "strange affec tors" capable of producing desirable patterns in the California surf is in genious. The idea is wasted, though, on a tired and trivial plot ("nerd makes good") and stale, Oat characters no reader could care about. Per petual adolescent horseplay gets tiresome rather quickly, and Rucker's work contains nothing else. His stories are like the old Rube Goldberg cartoons, in which some earthshakingly improbable series of causes and effects succeed in some monumentally trivial pursuit, like lighting a cigarette or kicking a cat. "Probability Pipeline" is a prime demonstration against Zebrowski's thesis that the most important ingredient in good science fiction is the science. Bob Col/illS A Universe of Pure Consciousness Zindell. David. Nevemess. David I. Fine, NY, 1988, 458p. $L8.95 hc. 0917657-97-7. First novels are often disappointing. One picks them up with a sense of anticipation, with the hope that this new author will offer something his predecessors have not. Often the anticipation and hope dissolve into frustration as one finds rough edges and unfulfilled potential. David Zindell's Nevemess is the rare exception, a first novel that delights and satisfies. Zindell's imagination bubbles over like a mass of fermenting yeast. He creates not one but a series of societics that interact with one another to depict a constantly changing universe of infinite possibilities. The result is a novel which deserves to be called epic in scope because it deals with such a wide range of situations and problems -from the daily lives of specific individuals trying to cope with very personal problems, to the al most timeless lives of transcendent, godlike beings trying to cope with


SFRA News/etter, No. 160, September 1988 problems of such abstractness and universality that they are difficult to even conceptualize. During his meteoric career, Mallory Ringess, the protagonist of Ne\'er ness, is forced to deal with a wide spectrum of the social levels in the novel --from the Solid State Entity (a being with mUltiple brains the size of moons) at one extreme, to the Alaloi (a primitive group of hunter gatherers perhaps based on the historical Aleutes) at the other. The tale involves Ringess and his fellow Pilots of the "Order of Mystic Mathe maticians and Other Seekers of the Ineffable Flame" in a quest for the Elder Eddas, which ostensibly contain the meaning of life. But Ringess is also involved in a search for his father and for himself. Suffice it to say that his many adventures lead him to perceptions and conclusions about all three questions. But the book is not all adventure. The characters are well drawn and fully rounded. Ringess is credible, he grows and develops. Soli, the Lord Pilot, a solitary and embittered man; Bardo, Ringess' best friend and something of a court jester; Moira, his mother; and Katharine, his lover all are impressed with the seal of conviction. This is a book full of suhtle allusions and resonances. One easily sees how it uses Arthurian motifs (the Pilots in their quest are like the Knights of the Round Table) and archetypal patterns (the bastard/orphan search ing for his father). Significantly, these motifs and patterns are used in in novative and enlightening ways; they are thematically related to modern problems. It is the themes which give the novel substance, a substance which is simultaneously scientific, philosophical and theological. The science is marvelous, awe-inspiring. Ringess lives in a time when almost instan taneous space travel is possible. He works in ships which link him directly to quasiintelligent computers. Yet his Order strictly limits technology. The science leads directly to the philosophical and theological questions. Since extreme genetic manipulation is possible, questions ahout ethical implications and about the basic nature of humanity arise. Since some of the beings in this universe exercise divine powers, one is invited to explore the nature of divinity and the ultimate ground of existence. Zindell docs not shrink from these questions. His answers to them may well become the subject of much critical controversy. As Mallory Ringess concludes: "TIle deep stlllctlire of the lIniverse is pllre consciollsness. Neve17lcss is a large, rich, and fascinating novel. I cannol recommend it highly enough. --Robelt 47


SFRA Newsletter No. 160 Robert A. Collins, Editor English Department Florida Atlantic University Boca Raton, FL 33431 Nonprofit Organization U. S. POSTAGE PAID BOCA RATON, FLORIDA Permit No. 77 DATED MATERIALPLEASE DO NOT DELAY


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