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SFRA newsletter
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Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
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SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 In This Issue: President's Message (Lowentrout) ............................................................. 3 22nd Annual SFRA Conference (Bogle) .................................................... .4 Recent & Forthcoming Books (Barron) ...................................................... 6 A Conversation with Lisa Goldstein (Ingersoll & Kress) ............................. 7 Latham Bows Out (Latham) ..................................................................... 1 9 Miscellany (Barron, et al.) ....................................................................... 20 REVIEWS Non-Fiction: Burke, The Dark Man: Robert E. Howard Studies (B. Collins) ................ 24 Clareson, Understanding Contemporary American SF (R. Coli ins) .......... 26 Clarke, Astounding Oars: SF Au!o?iography (Stevens) ............................ 27 Guthke, The Last FrontIer: Imagmmg Other Worlds (Stevens) ................. 28 Hamilton, Arthur Rackham (Albert) ........................................................ 30 Inge, Comics as Culture (Liberty) ............................................................ 3 2 Langford, Contours of the Fantastic (Attebery) ........................................ 33 Lovecraft, Fantastic Poetry Cannon, Sunset Terrace Imagery in Lovecraft Faig, Parents of H. P. Lovecraft (B. Collins) .......................................... 34 Mank, Karloff and Lugosi (Dziemianowicz) ............................................ 36 McCarty, Modern Horror Film (Morrison) ............................................... 37 Minary and Moorman, Arthurian Dictionary (Sullivan) ........................... 38 Parish and Pitts, Great Science Fiction Pictures /I (Klossner) ................... 39 Rubin, Jacobs Ladder (Klossner) ............................................................. .40 Schweitzer, Pathways to Elfland: Writings of Lord Dunsany (R. Collins) ............ .40 Sternfteld, Look of Horror: Scary Moments from Scary Movies (f aormina) ......... .42 Feminist .............................................. .43 Wilson, C. S. LeWIS: A BIography (Collings) ........................................... .44 Fiction: Aldiss, Last Orders (Ruddick) ................................................................. .46 Anderson, Space Folk (Stevens) ............................................................... 48 Bova, Best of the Nebulas (Carper) ........................................................ .48 Boyer, Dragon's Carbuncle (Larrier) ....................................................... .49 Card, Folk of the Fringe (Heldreth) .......................................................... 50 Clarke, The Expediter (Hollinger) ............................................................ 52 De Lint, Drink Down the Moon (Rothschild) .......................................... 54 Effinger, A Fire in the Sun (Carper) .......................................................... 55 Llywelyn, Red Branch (Heldreth) ............................................................ 56 Wells, First Book of the Kingdoms: Wrath of Ashar and Second Book of the Kingdoms: The Usurper (Herrin) ................. 57 Williams, Facets (Levy) ........................................................................... 58


The SFRA Newsletter published ten times a year for the Science Fiction Research Association by Alan Newcomer, Hypatia Press, Eugene, Oregon. Copyright @ 1991 by the SFRA. Editorial correspondence: Betsy Harfst, Editor, SFRA Newslet ter, 2357 E. Calypso, Mesa, AZ 85204. Send changes of address and/or inquiries concerning subscriptions to the Treasurer, listed below. SFRA EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE President Peter Lowentrout Dept. of Religious Studies California State University Long Beach, CA 90840 Vice-President Muriel Becker 60 Crane St. Caldwell, NJ 07006 Secretary David G. Mead English Department Corpus Christi State University Corpus Christi, Texas 7841 2 Treasurer Edra Bogle Department of English University of North Texas Denton, TX 76203-3827 Immediate Past President Elizabeth Anne Hull Liberal Arts Division William Rainey Harper College Palatine, Illinois 60067 Pioneer Award Veronica Hollinger (1990) Past Presidents of SFRA Thomas D. Clareson Arthur O. Lewis, Jr. Joe De Bolt James Gunn Patricia S. Warrick Donald M. Hassler William H. Hardesty (1970-76) (1977-78) (1979-80) (1981-82) (1983-84) (1985-86) (1987-89) Past Editors of the Newsletter Fred Lerner (1971-74) Beverly Friend (1974-78) Roald Tweet (1978-81) Elizabeth Anne Hull (1981-84) Richard W. Miller (1984-87) Robert A. Collins (1987-89) Pilgrim Award Winners J. O. Bailey (1970) Marjorie Hope Nicolson (1971) Julius Kagarlitski (1972) Jack Williamson (1973) I. F. Clarke (1974) Damon Knight (1975) James Gunn (1976) Thomas D. Clareson (1977) Brian W. Aldiss (1978) Darko Suvin (1979) Peter Nicholls (1980) Sam Moskowitz (1981) Neil Barron (1982) H. Bruce Franklin (1983) Everett Bleiler (1984) Samuel R. Delany (1985) George Slusser (1986) Gary K. Wolfe (1987) Joanna Russ (1 988) Ursula K. Le Guin (1989) Marshall Tymn (1990)


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 President's Message The Boatswain's Warble The sea outside is unusually calm tonight as I watch it around the edges of my monitor and out my window. The tide is near full now and the moon lies fair upon Catalina. Indeed, from my second story vantage I can see the lights of Avalon gleam faintly. The twenty-two miles of channel between here and there seem as a tranquil bay, but such is not always the case. Christine and I were flooded out three times in the eighties, and while the weather at such times was admittedly unusual, my meteorologist friends seem to think that in the future unusual weather will become more the norm than not. The long, withdrawing roar is not our problem here on Seal Beach, I fear. As a scholar of religion and culture, however, the long, withdrawing roar of Arnold's "sea of faith" has been a human event of great interest to me, and I have been doubly blessed in having been able to blend my first love (sf) with my second (the phenomenology of religion) in a number of case studies of the processes of secularization. Sf as first love most of you will understand immediately. The first book I checked out of the library as a child was Spaceship under the Apple Tree. Not long after that, Jack Williamson's The Humanoids had a profound influence upon me as it opened me up to the play of ideas in adult sf and gave me my first experi ence of ... well ... the cosmic. Sf is special, and the people in it are special. Fan, writer, editor or scholar, we constitute one family held together by the still too rare way of seeing the world mediated by the genre. Sf is art, but it is more than art, too. As in any family, of course, there are tensions. Quantitative studies, for instance, have shown that sf fans tend to be anti-ideological in a literature of ideas, ideological strictures upon what one can properly think are un derstandably not much appreciated. Perhaps this is why fans often take umbrage at scholars of SF who are working in the field with one or another currently persuasive theory, method or hermeneutic. Scholarly work, I suspect, often strikes fans as too limited in perspective, too pat. In some cases, fans may be right. Fans, however, sometimes misunderstand the habit of analysis as experienced by scholars. It is difficult to juggle analysis and enjoyment of art. The enjoyment of art is mostly the result of art experienced as a whole. Analysis necessarily pulls the whole apart. One has to be pretty 3


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 good at analysis both to enjoy and analyze art. Scholars, of course, are pretty good at analysis in them, analysis is an almost reflexive act engendered by years of training. But I suspect that for some in the sf family, the difficulty of blending analysis and enjoyment produces a great deal of cognitive dis sonance, and thus we hear talk of sf and gutters. Sf as we know it today has resulted from the complex interaction of writer, editor, fan, and most recently, scholar it is a product of the whole sf community. Writer, editor, fan and scholar each offers the others a necessary hermeneutical corrective, and all of us contribute to and are necessary for the continued health of the genre. I believe that we in the SFRA can do a lot to strengthen the familial bonds of the sf community. Our conferences have a disarming warmth and inclusiveness that I have found nowhere else in the academy scholars we may be, but we're pretty regular folks with our heads screwed on straight for all that. Come to SFRA XXII in Texas, and get your sf friends involved in the conference. Show them the excellent SFRA Newsletter in its new format, and Extrapolation and SFS. Get them to join the SFRA. The new EC will be piped aboard by the SFRA boatswain in early Feb ruary when it meets for a two day skull session. I expect I will be able to pass the results of that meeting on to you in the next Newsletter. Until then, I will follow the advice implicit in Fred Pohl's observation that lithe first message of a new president is invariably devoted to an agenda for changes to be implemented during his or her term. Then nothing is done about any of these ideas ever after." In like a lamb, out like a lion. Peter Lowentrout 22nd ANNUAL SFRA CONFERENCE It's time to start planning a session or writing a paper for the 22nd An nual Convention of the SFRA. We will meet June 27-30, 1991, in Denton, Texas, located on 135 about 35 miles south of the Oklahoma border, or about 20 miles northwest of DFW International Airport. As usual, Thursday evening will include registration and a hospitality room (and possibly a session or two), all held at the Park Inn/Fantasuites Hotel in Denton. Friday's meetings will be at the University of North Texas, 4


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 which will provide a shuttle bus to all non-motel events. I'm making a special effort to schedule events of interest to teachers on Friday, since area colleges and summer schools take that day off. Muriel Becker has agreed to chair one session; let's have some proposals on specific authors, etc. That evening there will be an optional trip for dinner to the Trail Dust Steak House, a barn-like structure decorated with barbed wire and ties cut from too-formal male customers (chicken or veggie plate is also available). And of course, later at the hotel the hospitality room will resume. Saturday will feature more meetings at UNT and in the evening the Pil grim Banquet at the Inn and later the hospitality room. Sunday morning will conclude with the usual business meeting at the motel. And how much is all this going to cost? The Park Inn has given us a figure of $39.55 per night single or double, including tax and one full breakfast. (A limited number of dormitory-style rooms are available at UNT more cheaply-make arrangements early if these are needed.) The confer ence itself will cost $75 through May 31, $80 in June, and $85 for registration at the meeting. One-day memberships for meetings only (no hospitality room, etc.) will be $25. American Airlines is offering a discount on flights, details about which will be in a mailout you'll receive shortly. The airport shuttle from DFW to Denton is $22 each way (but consider that airport hotels are close to $100 a night minimum if this seems high.) $240 plus airfare and food would cover it. You should have more specifics and a mailing including a registration form, room reservation form, and instructions about airport shuttle and discount airfares some time early in February. So do block out that weekend, and outline your paper and send me a proposal right away (either at 201 Peach St., Denton 76201, or at the UNT Dept. of English, Box 13827, Denton 76203-3827.)! Some proposed topics besides sf for young people include Texas writers, especially Robert A. Howard; and the works of C. J. Cherryh, Ardath Mayhar, Chad Oliver, H. Beam Piper, and Roger Zelazny. As the natives would say, "Ya'all come." Edra Bogle, 1991 Conference Chair 5


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Recent & Forthcoming Books This list does not duplicate titles in any previous list. Year of publication is 1990 unless shown 1991; all publication dates should be considered tentative except those denoted (P), whose publication has been confirmed. REFERENCE Lewis, Anthony R. An Annotated Bibliography of Recursive Science Fiction, NESFA Press (P) Scott, Kathleen, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 2 vols. Oxford, December. [A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles, v. 6). HISTORY & CRITICISM Blue, Tyson, Observations from the Terminator, Starmont, April, 1991. Correa, Rafael, & Michael Burgess, eds. Quetzalcoatl & Co.: Essays on the Magic Realists, Starmont, 1991. Dozois, Gardner, ed. Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: Twenty Dynamic Essays by Today's Top Profe5sionals. St. Martin's, May 1991. Foote. Bud. The Connecticut Yankee in the Twentieth Century: Travel to the Past in Science Fiction. Greenwood, December. Garnett, Rhys & R. J. Ellis, eds. Science Fiction Roots and Branches: Contemporary Critical Approaches. 5t. Martin's (P). Harwell, Thomas Meade. Ranges of Romanticism: Five for Ten Studies. Longwood Academic (P). Hayles, N. Katherine. Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and Science. Cornell UP (Pl. Monlen, Jose B. A Specter Is Haunting Europe: A Sociohistorical Ap proach to the Fantastic, Princeton UP (P). Shippey, Tom, ed. Fictional Space: Essays on Contemporary Science Fiction. Humanities, February 1991 [Essays & Studies. v. 43, 1990). AUTHOR STUDIES [Carroll). Wallace, Richard, The Agony of Lewis Carroll. Gemini Press, October. [Chretien de TroyesJ. Staines, David. The Complete Romances of Chretien de Troyes. Indiana UP, December. 6


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 [Howard). Ellis, Novalyne Price. One Who Walked Alone. 2d ed. Donald Grant, Winter (?). [Le Guin). Le Guin, Charles A. ed., A Home-Concealed Woman: The Diaries of Magnolia Wynn Le Guin, 1901-1913. University of Geor gia Press, December. [Lessing). Cederstrom, Lorelei.FineTuning the Feminine Psyche: Jungian Patterns in the Novels of Doris Lessing. Peter Lang (P). [Orwell). Rodden, John. The Politics of Literary Reputation: The Making & Claiming of liSt. George" Orwell. Oxford UP. December. [Shelley). Behrendt, Stephen c., ed. Approaches to Teaching Shelley's Frankenstein. Modern Language Association of America, December. [Tolkien). Blackwelder, Richard E. A Tolkien Thesaurus. Garland (P). FILM & TV Hardy.Phil. Aurum Film Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Aurum Press, UK, November, Reprint (?). Larson, Randall D. Fantastic Film Novelizations and Movie Tie-Ins. Scarecrow Press, 1991, no date set. Nollen, Scott Allen, Boris Karloff: A Complete Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television and Recording Work, McFarland, February 1991 Rubin, Steven Jay. The Complete James Bond Movie Encyclopedia. Contemporary (P). Seeing the Magic in Everyday Life: A Conversation with Lisa Goldstein By Ear/Ingersoll and Nancy Kress Lisa Goldstein is the author of four novels and numerous short stories which have appeared in publications like Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine. Her first novel, Red Maqician, received the American Book Award in 1982. Her most recent novel is Tourists (Simon & Schuster, 1989). Ingersoll: I'd like to begin by asking you about the passage which you just read. I assume it is from the manuscript of a new work. Goldstein: It's an historical fantasy, set in Elizabethan England in about 1590. Ingersoll: Since most of your work has contemporary settings, I'm curious about what it was that got you interested in historical fantasy. Goldstein: I've done historical fantasy, but I've never gotten out of the 7


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 twentieth century. I've done Paris in the 1920s and Eastern Europe in about 1940. Suddenly I got interested in Elizabethan England. This is the way I start these historical fantasies: I start reading all I can about the time, and I always think, Well, I'm not going to write a book about this; I'm just reading this for pleasure. And then I always-I should get used to this by now-I always realize, yes, I am writing a book about this, and then I have to go back to all the books I've read and take notes. Kress: One common theme I've noticed in your novels is the Displaced Person, who suddenly turns up in a culture not his own-in Tourists, and in Dream Years, where Robert has to cope with a culture in the future, which is really not his own by several decades. But even in such short stories as "Ever After," which is a follow-up on the Cinderella story, and in your novel A Mask for the General, in which your main character, Mary, has to adapt to a new culture. Is this going to happen in your new historical fantasy too? Goldstein: I don't think so. I might be moving away from that. But I have noticed that too .. Kress: What do you think interested you about that theme so heavily for so long-the displaced person? Goldstein: Probably because my parents came from Europe, so they were displaced, and'i would hear a lot, when I was growing up, about differences in culture. And they came from different countries too, so I would hear a lot of comparisons between cultures. Ingersoll: Where did they come from, Lisa? Goldstein: My father was from Germany, and my mother was from Hungary. Ingersoll: And when did they come to this country? Goldstein: 1947. Ingersoll: Some background there for Red Magician? Goldstein: Yeah, it was based on stories that my mother had told me when I was a kid. Kress: Was either of your parents in the concentration camps? Goldstein: Yeah, they both were. But in different camps. Kress: So you were drawing on a lot of personal detail.. It's a very intense book. Ingersoll: It's the sort of powerful book that the reader senses must be coming out of a lot of personal involvement on the author's part. Kress: Why do you write science fiction and fantasy? Many people who have these kinds of backgrounds and stories to draw on have chosen to write historical novels or contemporary novels. Why in your case did it get transmuted into fantasy? Do you know? 8


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Goldstein: Yeah, because that's what I like to read. It's interesting because this week I've decided that I'm playing with a story having something to do with the difference between my parents' background and my back ground, and I've decided that the story has to be mainstream. Ingersoll: Speaking of your reading, who were some of the people you read when you were beginning as a writer? Goldstein: My favorite science fidion writer and probably my favorite writer is Ursula Le Guin. She really influenced me, partly because as a woman science-fiction writer she was a role model. Kress: Ursula served the same function for me. I think she did for a lot of us. Goldstein: I do too. Kress: She was the first woman to win a Hugo. She was the first woman to present a really literate approach to science fiction and to make it seem as though it was something we could do. Do you feel that as a woman writing science fiction and fantasy you face additional barriers, or alternatively-additional opportunities that male writers don't have? Goldstein: Well, I don't see that except in just one area. I've been noticing that when there are people listed in groups as new and exciting young writers women don't tend to get listed. Have you noticed this? Kress: I don't think I've read about any "groups" like that. Goldstein: Well, like cyberpunk-that's obviously mostly men. But people will make up literary categories and put writers in them. And they don't tend to think of women even. Kress: There's an old saw in science fiction and fantasy that men write science fidion and women write fantasy. Do you think that there's any truth in this, or is it just another stereotype that gets perpetuated? Goldstein: Well, there's probably some truth in it. I think more women write fantasy and more men write science fiction. But that doesn't mean that women shouldn't write science fiction but write only fantasy. Kress: Why do you think they do? Goldstein: I don't know. I don't want to go into that. Men have more sci entific background; they've been encouraged to have a more scientific background. Kress: So you think it's cultural rather than a matter of the way in which men and women look at literature. Goldstein: Yeah, probably. Ingersoll: One of the things that I've noticed in your fiction is-I don't know that I'd go so far as to call it anti-scientific but-at least a slight anti rationalist or anti-empiricist bias. 9


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Goldstein: I suppose that's going to be in this new novel, too, I notice. I don't really start out with that, though. It's not really anti-rationalist. It's just saying that there's another way of looking at things. I mean, I certainly don't believe we should turn back the clock and take away all the sci entific advances we've made. I just think that there's another-is it "right-brain"?-way of looking at things, a sort of mystical way, a way of seeing the fantasy in everyday life. Kress: Is it fair to say that one of the functions of fantasy literature, then, is to put us in touch with that? Goldstein: Yeah, I would agree with that. Kress: Then you would disagree with a critic like Gregory Benford who says that fantasy has its face courageously set to the past? Goldstein: I absolutely disagree with Gregory Benford, yes. He says that because most fantasy is sort of regressive and does deal with feudal so cieties. That bothers me. But I think fantasy has an incredible potenti31 that he doesn't even see. Kress: A largely untapped potential? Talk to that a little. What kind of potential? Goldstein: Oh dear! Just what we were talking about-a way of making people get in touch with the magic of everyday life, of seeing things in a different way. I actually think that rather than being a regressive genre it's a very progressive genre. It's radical: it says things don't have to be the way they are; they can be different. Kress: I can see the article in SF Eye: "The Radical Fantasist." You said something interesting the other night when we were talking about writing and publishing. You mentioned just a minute ago that the novel you would work on after the historical fantasy you're writing now-the one that might trace parallels or antagonisms between your parents' culture and yours-would have to be "mainstream." But you were saying the other night that you were very cynical about publishing, es pecially in terms of mainstream versus fantasy and science fiction. How do you see publishing as working to the advantage or detriment of sci ence-fiction writers? Goldstein: First of all, I want to say that the thing that I want to write that's mainstream is going to be a short story. But I do think that publishers will tie you into one or the other-into mainstream or science fiction-and one of the things they're always telling me is "I don't know how to market this." And I always want to say, "Well, you are the ones that are supposed to know; you are the publishers! I just write the stuff. Kress: Because you fall between categories. Goldstein: Right. But that's their job. That's what publishers do. Is that what I was talking about the other night? 10


SFRA Newsletter, 184/ January/February 1991 Kress: You were saying that if you try to publish "mainstream" it's difficult to cross over. You were cynical about the state of publishing generally. Goldstein: Yeah, what I've been told over and over again is that you can't sell a mid-list book, a book that's not either a big seller-type of book or a genre book like science fiction or mystery. Kress: And yet Tourists was marketed by Simon & Schuster as mainstream. Goldstein: I don't know that it did all that well; it hasn't found a paperback publisher-although it did get some good reviews. But you can't eat reviews. Kress: It got some very good reviews. Ingersoll: How do you feel about this dichotomy of mainstream and fantasy/ science fiction? Goldstein: I think it's very depressing, but it seems like it's not something we can change. It's the consumers out there-that's what they're looking for. There's a reason for these marketing categories, I think. I don't know how we can change it. Ingersoll: So it's really marketing that you think controls all of this? Goldstein: Yeah, I think it's what people buy. I'm very cynical about thisthis may have been what I meant the other night. A lot of people who read fantasy won't go out into the mainstream sections of the bookstores and pick up a mainstream book, even something like A Hundred Years of Solitude, which is fantasy but is kept in the mainstream section. Kress: The magic realism part of fantasy gets to be "respectable." But you write magic realism! What you write should qualify by any reasonable definition of magic realism. Goldstein: Well, I think people are just scared of touching that, unless you're a Latin American author. Ingersoll: One of the things that has struck me in working with Nancy and a number of other science fiction and fantasy writers, as well as some mainstream writers, is this ghetto-izing of fantasy and science fiction and frequently the way that those in the "ghetto" value the ghetto wall which brings them together in a mutual defensiveness against people out there in mainstream. Goldstein: The ex-wife of the editor of the science-fiction magazine Locus once wrote, "Let's keep science fiction in the gutter where it belongs." That's the way some science-fiction writers feel. .. Kress: You don't see this as a healthy thing, though, creating bonds within the genre? You see it as something that holds us back from going where we could boldly go. Goldstein: Yeah, because it's such an amazing genre. You can do anything with it. There's no limits, really. 11


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 Ingersoll: And yet there's such resentment against fantasy and science fic tion, especially among the poets. Goldstein: Well, I have to say that a lot of science fiction is really terribly written and if I was a poet who was sensitive to style and nothing else I wouldn't read a lot of it. Kress: Is it badly written because it's science fiction or is it badly written because ninety percent of most every genre is badly written? Goldstein: Probably the latter. Kress: Joanna Russ, among other people, has put forth the proposition that science fiction should be judged by other standards than mainstream literature. Her point was that it is primarily related to medieval literature and that it's a didactic literature, a literature of ideas, a working through of thought experiments and precepts, and therefore it shouldn't be judged by the same standards of style and characterization. Other writers have tended to agree with her. How do you feel about that? Is good science fiction or good fantasy different from good anything else? Goldstein: I would have to disagree, even though I really admire Joanna Russ. I would have to say that good writing is very important to me, good characterization is very important to me. I know that science fiction people tend to want to focus on the ideas, but if you write about the future it seems to me you're going to write about the people in the future, so you need characterization. I've heard the argument that ideas are the most important things and characters only get in the way, but I just don't see that. It bothers me to read literature with generic charac ters, especially generic women characters. Ingersoll: I'm wondering if the fantasy that seems to be most attractive to you isn't a kind of middle ground: you don't have to spend quite so much time developing a new world-it's there in Amaz, obviously-but you can concentrate perhaps more on characters because the world of Tourists is not a radically other-worldly place. Goldstein: Every so often I toy with the idea of writing a fantasy set in a completely different world, because when it's done weill really like it. I really like the Earthsea trilogy by Le Guin, and she does it extremely well. I don't see why you can't have a well-realized world and good characters. Why can't you have it all? But I guess most of what I've written is set in a concrete, here-and-now reality. Kress You've taught at Clarion, which is the preeminent science-fiction workshop for aspiring writers. Do you see any change in science fiction and the young writers who are coming to write it over the years that you've been working in the field? Goldstein: Not really. They're about the same. There is a percentage of hard science-fiction writers, a percentage of high fantasy writers-although 12


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 those don't tend to go to workshops that much-and one or two sort of magic realist writers, and I had to say, "I love your stuff, I think this is wonderful, but you're going to have a hell of a time marketing it." There was one story that I just thought was beautiful, and this woman still hasn't sold it. That was 1988. Kress: We have one in the workshop now [the Brockport Writers Forum Summer Workshop] that we both like very much but that we're not real sanguine about the chances of its selling in the field. Ingersoll: That's really depressing, isn't it, that marketing has so much to do with the quality of the material that gets published? Goldstein: Yes, it does! Kress: Who do you admire and like to read now? Not so much writers who influenced you when you were starting but writers you find really in teresting now. Goldstein: Right now my favorite fantasy book is Little Big by John Crowley. I've read it about four or five times. It's just an astonishing book. It's American magic realism. It takes place over about 100 years, and it's about this family in upstate New York and their relationship with magic. The prose is beautiful, and every so often I try to write a book like that and it always fails. I should know by now and stop myself by telling myself, "You're trying to write this book again. It's already been done. Stop it!" Ingersoll: Anyone else that you read? Goldstein: I've been reading The Handmaid's Tale, which I really likedanything by Margaret Atwood I like. Ingersoll: That's interesting to me, because I just published a collection of Margaret Atwood interviews. Goldstein: I got to interview her in Oakland. They did an interview for KPFA, and it was all men, and they wanted a woman so they asked me to come in and to interview her too. I think she's great. Kress: That book, The Handmaid's Tale, has been criticized in some quarters for inconsistency of its infrastructure. It's said that as a society it's not fully developed and wouldn't hold together. Is it fair to say that that doesn't matter to you? Goldstein: No, it does matter to me. But I do think that the society would hold together. I think that there was a bit where it was hard to tell where the transition happened. Remember they had a group like pinks, and then all of a sudden there was this new society. It seemed to happen awfully quickly-like it would have happened by now, if you followed the chronology in the book. And I didn't believe that. But other than that I was very surprised and pleased by how well she used the conventions 13


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 of science fiction. I thought she did a good job. I thought, she's been reading this all along and not telling us. Ingersoll: Would you consider her, then, a science-fiction writer? Goldstein: Well, that's her only science-fiction book, though. I don't really think so. Kress: We claim that book, though. We claim a lot of people who have no idea that they're being claimed by us. Goldstein: That book is, in fact, science fiction, I think. She said that, when we interviewed her, too. She had been going around saying it wasn't, but she said it was. Ingersoll: She actually admitted it? Goldstein: Yes. I have it on tape. Ingersoll: That's interesting. Kress: That makes a refreshing contrast to all the science-fiction writers who say that's not what they write. Ingersoll: Is there some kind of hierarchy here that is perceived, whether it exists or not, and somehow even science-fiction writers themselves see mainstream as perhaps on a "higher" level? Goldstein: Probably. I think mainstream writers, or people who are per ceived as mainstream writers, get better reviews, or get reviewed in better places-get more serious attention paid to them. Kress: That's almost too easy, though. It isn't that we see them on a higher ground; it's more that we sometimes feel that our ground isn't even in the picture. It's completely ignored. It takes a special kind of reader to like science fiction and fantasy: you have to be able to extend your mind beyond the ordinary and wrap it around the extraordinary acceptingly. And a lot of mainstream readers and critics and writers can't do that. And it infuriates us that because they can't do it they don't think it's worth doing. Ingersoll: So it's a defensiveness on their part. Kress: No, it's a defensiveness on our part for being ignored when we have all this wonderful stuff like Lisa's novels. Ingersoll: I want to go back to Red Magician. I'm really overwhelmed that you received the American Book Award ... Goldstein: So was I! Ingersoll: ... for a first novel at the tender age of 25. I was going to ask how you reacted when the announcement came. Goldstein: I thought I reacted pretty well, but now thinking about it I did kind of get pretty cocky, I think, in a bad way. I would think, Well, I'll just 14


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 write this and send it off and it'll sell because I'm this hot-shot writer. But I really wasn't. Fortunately I had editors who told me that I really wasn't, because I was really sloughing off for a while there. I don't think any thing bad got published, but now I'm more serious about my craft. Ingersoll: Did you have difficulty in the proverbial sort of way with the "second novel"? Goldstein: Well, the second novel was more or less finished when I got the award, but I had difficulty with the third novel, yeah. Kress: Which is your favorite of your own works, Lisa? Goldstein: Well, they all are for different reasons. Can I say that? Kress: Oh, please. What are the reasons? Goldstein: Red Maqician is because it was my first and because the subject matter is very close to me. And I like Dream Years because it's about surrealists in Paris and I got to "live" with the surrealists in Paris for a while, which I've always wanted to do. Tourists, I think, is the best written and the most serious, "mainstreamy" I've written. Ingersoll: And the third novel, A Mask for The GeneraR Goldstein: Yeah, I like that one. But it's not my favorite. I guess it's my only science-fiction novel. Kress: I'm not even sure I'd call it science fiction. Goldstein: It's my attempt at science fiction, but I couldn't really do it without throwing in fantasy. It takes place in the future; American society has collapsed, and it shows what happened to lower-class people. It's been criticized for not showing the government level, but that's not what I was concentrating on. I was concentrating on everyday people. A re ligion has grown up based on shamanism and mask-making; and the book is about how this works to try to overthrow the government, which is a dictatorship. Ingersoll: You mentioned critics and criticism. You read criticism of your work, I take it. How much does it influence you? Goldstein: I'm getting better. I used to be very depressed by bad reviews, but everybody gets bad reviews. Ingersoll: Gene Wolfe, I think, said during his interview here that he has a bad time for about 45 minutes and then he's over it. Goldstein: Yeah, that's about right.. Ingersoll: It's tough, isn't it, when someone doesn't value your efforts? Goldstein: Yeah, it is. There are people who say they don't read their critics, but I want to know what the critics are saying. 15


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 Kress: How about criticism closer to home? You mentioned that both of your parents had been in camps in World War II. How did they react to Red Magician? Goldstein: My father was dead; my mother was amazed that I'd remembered the stories that she'd told me-which surprised me, because I don't see how you could forget something like that. She didn't think I was even paying attention. She liked Red Magician, and she said she thought I did a good job, but she's not a fantasy reader, so the fantasy element both ered her. She said it was a little strange. And all her friends liked it toowhich was really nice. And then I told her I wanted her to write down her experiences, because I wanted to read it, and she said, "Oh no, I don't have to do that. You did that for me." Kress: That must have been lovely. Goldstein: But I still want her to write it down, but I guess it was nice. Ingersoll: I came to that novel not knowing anything about it, which is really the best way, I think, and I sensed the Holocaust was coming into that world, even though I don't think you indicate the time it's taking place at the opening of the novel. I had some uneasiness, because I'm mindful of what writers like Elie Wiesel say-that the Holocaust is sacred territory and ought not to be material for art. I take it you disagree. Goldstein: Well, I am sort of amazed at my gall in writing about it at this point, because it's such a big subject and I really don't think anybody can do justice to it. But it was important to me, and I wanted to try it. I had started a sort of generic Celtic fantasy, and I thought, Who am I kidding? This isn't my background. Why don't I try some Jewish fantasy? So that was my reason for starting it. Ingersoll: I was very interested in the magic element in the rabbi as well as in the red magician and the way in which the coming of the Holocaust is a variety of fantasy-it had to be fantasy to these people because they were saying there's no reason to be doing this to us so it can't be really happening. Kress: In addition to your mother's stories, did you have to do a lot of research for the book? I know for Dream Years you must have done a tremendous amount of research. Goldstein: Actually I didn't do much research for Red Magician. I did for Dream Years and even more for this one, so it gets worse every time. Kress: Do you like research? Goldstein: This book I'm working on now I love researching. Ifeellike this is my job: I go to the library and look things up. I'm reading about Elizabethan spies and counter-spies, and I think, Boy, this is great! 16


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Kress: How about criticism closer to home? You mentioned that both of your parents had been in camps in World War II. How did they react to Red Magician? Goldstein: My father was dead; my mother was amazed that I'd remembered the stories that she'd told me-which surprised me, because I don't see how you could forget something like that. She didn't think I was even paying attention. She liked Red Magician, and she said she thought I did a good job, but she's not a fantasy reader, so the fantasy element both ered her. She said it was a little strange. And all her friends liked it too which was really nice. And then I told her I wanted her to write down her experiences, because I wanted to read it, and she said, "Oh no, I don't have to do that. You did that for me." Kress: That must have been lovely. Goldstein: But I still want her to write it down, but I guess it was nice. Ingersoll: I came to that novel not knowing anything about it, which is really the best way, I think, and I sensed the Holocaust was coming into that world, even though I don't think you indicate the time it's taking place at the opening of the novel. I had some uneasiness, because I'm mindful of what writers like Elie Wiesel say-that the Holocaust is sacred territory and ought not to be material for art. I take it you disagree. Goldstein: Well, I am sort of amazed at my gall in writing about it at this point, because it's such a big subject and I really don't think anybody can do justice to it. But it was important to me, and I wanted to try it. I had started a sort of generic Celtic fantasy, and I thought, Who am I kidding? This isn't my background. Why don't I try some Jewish fantasy? So that was my reason for starting it. Ingersoll: I was very interested in the magic element in the rabbi as well as in the red magician and the way in which the coming of the Holocaust is a variety of fantasy-it had to be fantasy to these people because they were saying there's no reason to be doing this to us so it can't be really happening. Kress: In addition to your mother'S stories, did you have to do a lot of re search for the book? I know for Dream Years you must have done a tremendous amount of research. Goldstein: Actually I didn't do much research for Red Magician. I did for Dream Years and even more for this one, so it gets worse every time. Kress: Do you like research? Goldstein: This book I'm working on now I love researching. I feel like this is my job: I go to the library and look things up. I'm reading about Elizabethan spies and counter-spies, and I think, Boy, this is great! 17


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Ingersoll: How many years of rejections? Goldstein: Well, I wrote a short story which I showed to a friend who said, "Make this story into a noveL" So I did, even though I hadn't written a novel before. I sold that-that was the Red Magician-and that was when I was 25. So about five years. But I've always tried to write. Ingersoll: Always? How far back? I'm just curious. Goldstein: I remember when I was four, I thought I was writing a book. I think my mother still has it. I don't know what this book was; it was about snow. We lived in Los Angeles, and it was about people waking up and seeing snow out on their front lawn. Ingersoll: We were speaking about Margaret Atwood earlier, and she said she wrote her first book when she was four or five. Goldstein: Yeah, I put a cardboard cover on it and I was very disappointed that it didn't really look like all the other books I had. Kress: You switched publishers for your mainstream book-Tourists was published by Simon & Schuster-but this new work is historical fantasy. Does this mean that there's more publisher musical chairs coming up? Goldstein: I don't know. That's a real iffy question. I don't know who's going to be interested in this. Ingersoll: I'm interested in the main characters of Red Magician and Tour ists---both young women. Are you conscious in any way that you're writing to a young woman reader? Do you feel that you have something you want to say to such a reader? Goldstein: No, not really, although a lot of my main characters are young women. I'm trying to get away from that; I'm trying to do other things, partly because of marketing again, because people will read about young women and say, "Oh, this is a juvenile book." And I don't think that that's necessarily true-that writing about kids means you're writing for kids. Ingersoll: Mark Twain, for example. Goldstein: Yeah, there you go! So this book has a fifty-year-old woman in it. I'm trying to do it from the point of view of someone older. Kress: Now someone will say, "Oh, it is women's fiction." Goldstein: Yeah. Ingersoll: Does it bother you that people will try to pigeonhole you as the writer of women's fiction? Goldstein: Yeah, it does. Actually I've never been pigeonholed as a writer of women's fiction. 18


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Kress: The point I was trying to make was that you get locked in this way. Gene Wolfe just said the same thing. He's working on a book with a female teenage protagonist, and they told him, "Well, it has a female teenage protagonist so it has to be a juvenile." And he says, "But it is not a juvenile." They say, "No, it is, because it has a female teenage pro tagonisl." Goldstein: That's what I get. That's one of the reasons I can't sell Tourists. I actually heard from an editor, "Well, this is a kid's book." Ingersoll: We're back to marketing again, aren't we? Goldstein: Yeah. Kress: That's what happens. All of our students talk about Writing and Art. And whenever professionals get together, we talk about contracts and marketing and money ... Ingersoll: ... and rejection slips. Goldstein: And we have to tell the students, "No, you're goingto have a hard time selling this," or "You could market it this way." That kind of puts a damper on things, really. Ingersoll: What sort of advice would you give a student of writing who wants to make a lifetime career of it? Goldstein: I would say, Read everything you can. And if you're writing science fiction, I would say, Read other things; try to broaden your reading taste. Read a lot of mainstream and a lot of nonfiction. And write a lot. [Edited from the transcription of a videotaped interview conducted by Earl Ingersoll and Nancy Kr:ess on July 19, 1990, and sponsored by the Brockport Writers Forum, Department of English, State University of New York, College at Brockport. Copyrighted 1990 by SUNY. All rights reserved by SUNY. Not to be reprinted without permission.) Latham Bows Out Dear SFRA Members, At the SFRA Conference in Long Beach last June, I spoke with Betsy Harfst about the possibility of my assuming the duties of fiction reviews editor for the SFRA Newsletter, sharing responsibility for the review section with Neil Barron, who agreed to edit the non-fiction reviews. I told Betsy that I could probably begin this position sometime late in the Fall, after I had managed to get out from under various burdens-producing the manuscript of the third Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Annual, most cen trally, but also teaching, schoolwork and other chores. I was looking forward 19


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 to this job, since I feel the newsletter is, potentially, the most significant and useful source of comment on books in the SF and fantasy genres. Unfortu nately, though I somehow managed to get out from under my year-ending burdens, it has become obvious to me that every new school quarter just brings a further freight of responsibilities, and I'm afraid that, right now, I can't possibly undertake this editorial post. This notice, therefore, is to inform all SFRA members who have reviewed for me in my incarnations as newsletter editor and co-editor of the SF&FBRA that I will no longer be associated with those publications in the future. I'm deep into my second year of a four-year doctoral program here at Stanford, teaching composition, taking a full-class load, and trying to get into the hang of attending scholarly conferences and giving papers (not to mention working two part-time jobs), and I just can't make the time for other projects right now, much as I would like to. Bob Collins will continue to assign books and solicit reviews out of his offices in Florida (Dept. of English, College of Humanities, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431), and all fiction reviews and related correspondence (including reviewer applications and profiles) should be sent to him there. I will still be in touch with Bob, and I hope to contribute occasional reviews myself, but my connection with the newsletter will r:lOW be solely as an SFRA member rather than an editorial associate. In that capacity, I look forward to receiving future issues with curiosity and anticipation. Rob Latham P.5. I am currently outlining a paper on prophetic, extrapolative, and/or satiric depictions of television (as both a technical apparatus and a socio cultural institution) in modern science fiction. I would greatly appreciate it if SFRA members with references to specific SF stories or novels that dear with this theme would write to me with this information. My address is: 631 Kendall Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Thanks. RL. Miscellany Peripatetic Riverside Quarterly Leland Sapiro has edited the Riverside Quarterly since the early Neolithic period. The last time he sent me an issue he was somewhere in the trackless wastes of West Texas. The July 1990 issue (v 8, no 3, whole number 31), arrived 1 December, mailed from 807 Walters, #107, Lake Charles, LA 70605. This 72 page issue, 4 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches, is printed on goldenrod paper, still offset from unjustified typescript, readable enough but easily improved at modest cost. The mix of contents is what I recall from past 20


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 issues. In this issue Pat Hodgell examines The Old Curiosity Shop in the Gothic tradition; Colin Manlove discusses "Dualism in H. G. Wells's The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, Lance Robinson has a short story, with the balance filled by poetry, illustrations and a large selection of letters. $6 for 4 issues, or $2 will bring you a sample. Nuclear Movies That's the name of a filmography by Mick Broderick, who joined the SFRA when I wrote him inquiring about a book originally announced by UMI Research Press but cancelled when the press ceased publishing print ma terials. The filmography was published by Pose-Modem Publishing, 5 Gordon Grove, Northcote, VIC, Australia 3070, in 1988, 135 pages, unpriced, and is dedicated to Stanley Kubrick, "who taught me to start worrying." The much enlarged edition will have listings for more than 900 feature-length films released through December 19898 from more than 30 countries. McFarland will publish this, probably this winter, with few or none of the illustrations that make the Australian edition inviting. Mick is currently writing "a detailed textual history of nuclear cinema (with reference to other arts including MTV, performance, popular music, literature, etc.) titled The Apocalyptic Muse, which I hope to complete by the end of 1991." He was seeking a publisher at year's end. Australian Journal vs PageMaker Van Ikin is the editor of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Lit erature and is also an English teacher at the University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA 6009, should you wish to send him AUS $24 for the next four issues of his irregular journal, whose issues now number 30. All these issues have been produced by typewriter, but if he can get time on his university's computer and use its desktop publishing software, the graphics will improve somewhat, although the right justified text is quite readable as is. Issue 29 focuses on Australian writers, with Sean McMullen providing an interesting survey of the early work of Australian SF writers. The featured article in issue 30 is Russell Blackford's study of Lee Harding's novels, some of which have appeared in the U.S. Reviews, columns (one by Bruce Gillespie) and letters round out the issues. Send him $5 for a specimen issue. Papers Sought for MLA/Children's Lit Assn Seminar Nuclear Literature for Youth: Directions of Criticism, is the topic of a meeting of the Children's Literature Association to be held when MLA meets 21


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 in San Francisco in December 1991. The artistic, ethical, ecological, political, or reader response questions raised by the narratives of nuclear disaster and nuclear fear, fiction or nonfiction should be the subject of the papers, 8-10 pages (15-20 minutes reading time), following the MLA style manual. Possible topics include atomic adventure novels for teens, factual narratives, nuclear fear in picture books, depictions of nuclear winter, post-apocalyptic narratives, discussion of a particular book or author. Send 300 word abstract or completed paper to Millicent Lenz, School of Information Science and Policy, University of Albany, 135 Western Ave., Albany, NY 12222. Locus Press Offers Publishing Services Locus Press publishes Locus and its annual bibliography, both of which have become excellent examples of desktop publishing. The principal man behind the graphics and design, including the computer programming, is Bill Contento, co-editor of the annual and editor of two essential short story indexes published by G.K. Hall. Bill is offering a new service to authors or publishers having manuscripts in machine readable format (IBM PC format, 5 1/4" or 3 1 /2" disks preferred). He will turn your manuscript into near typeset camera ready copy using Aldus PageMaker, a laser printer and custom programming. Database publishing is a specialty, and Bill can ad vise you on the most effective design and format. Locus Press is also looking for nonfiction works and publishable articles about SF. Send your questions or proposals to: Locus Press 2960 Pacific Ave., #103, Livermore, CA 94550, attn: William B. Contento, 415-449-5830 [eveningsJ. Include a SASE for a prompt reply. Classic Film Scripts Series Reviewed in our pages have been or will be most of the publications from Magiclmage Filmbooks, 740 S. 6th Avenue, Absecon, NJ 08201, 609652-6500. Most of these are $19.95,8 1/2" x 11" trade paperbacks (a numbered and signed hardbound edition is also available at $60), and many are part of the Universal Filmscripts series. The latter include a detailed account of the making of the film, photos, interviews, a pressbook, and a copy of the original shooting script. Released to date are Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, The Ghost of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, and This Island Earth. Others include London After Midnight with Lon Chaney and My Hollywood-When Both of Us Were Young, memoirs by Patsy Ruth Miller, who starred in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Many additional books are forthcoming, many of them chronicling fantastic films. If you order direct, 22


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 add $3 per book ($5 for the collector's editions, and provide a street address. My Modem or Your Modem? Last November's newsletter had my survey of markets for articles and books about fantastic literature or film. Negotiating directly with possible/ likely book publishers tends to be slow, especially if you send a proposal to one, wait for a reply, then to a second, etc. (Broadcasting the same proposal to a number of publishers simultaneously isn't considered quite kosher, al though it's a common practice.) The age of computers has arrived for those seeking a publisher, especially though not exclusively of a trade book, ie, a book sold in a bookstore or similar trade outlet, or a mass market paperback. The Literary Connection, Inc, 6421 Congress Ave, Suite 102, Boca Raton, FL 33487-9873,800-749-7668, hopes to streamline this slow process. It works this way: You send them your name, address, brief biography, title of the work, 150 word synopsis, five page sample from the fiction, nonfiction, play, TV or film script, etc. TLC indexes the work by category (fiction, nonfiction, play, etc.) and by genre and by keywords. They dump this into an online database which can be accessed at no charge by agents, publishers, pro ducers, which, if interested, leave a message with TLC that is passed on to you. If it sounds too good to be true, it's because I didn't tell you that it costs you $195 a year to be in the database. That's the only fee-no 1 0% agent's percentage or other costs-but $195 buys a lot of postage. I sold my back file of SFRA newsletters, so I can't check, but I recall sending in a summary of a similar, non-electronic arrangement. TLC is very matter of fact about their services and doesn't overstate their possible benefits. If you carefully research your market, I think a rifle rather than a shotgun approach is likely to be more effective, but if you've got a manuscript in a drawer, give them a call. lovecraft Lives A Lovecraft Centennial Conference was held in Providence in mid August, apparently sponsored by the John Hay Library of Brown University, which displayed some of its extensive Lovecraftiana. The gathering of scholars and enthusiasts was international. In addition to the usual panels, there were films and walking tours. A plaque was dedicated. The Necronomicon Press, 101 Lockwood St, West Warwick, RI 02893 will publish a commemorative booklet featuring transcripts from some of the panels and other material. NP is itself 15 years old and is one of the more important specialty presses in the horror field. Published last summer from 23


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 them is a revised edition of T.E.D. Klein's "The Events at Poroth Farm," a 1972 tale which became the basis for The Ceremonies. This revision has an author's note and illustrations by Jason Eckhardt. H.P. Lovecraft: The Fantastic Poetry, ed. by S.T. Joshi, collects 37 poems, all the poetry other than that appearing in Fungi from Yuggoth. A short monograph by Kenneth W. Faig, Jr. The Parents of Howard Philips Lovecraft. Peter Cannon, a recent SFRA member and author of the excellent Twayne study of HPL, collects 12 of his essays in "Sunset Terrace Imagery in Lovecraft" and Other Essays. Published last fall were a double issue of Lovecraft Studies, another issue of Studies in Weird Fiction and of The Dark Eidolon (devoted to Clark Ashton Smith) and the first issue of The Dark Man: The journal of Robert E. Howard, ed. by Rusty Burke. Neil Barron SF/Fantasy Reference Index Gale Research has declared Hal Hall's Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index 1878-1985 out-of-print. The remaining 6 sets of the reference book are available from Hal Hall at a cost of $50.00 per volume (sets only), $75.00 less than the Gale Research price. Any SFRA member who needs access should encourage their local library to order the sets directly from Hal Hall, 3608 Meadow Oaks Lane, Bryan, TX 77802. Hal Hall NONFICTION New Robert E. Howard Journal Burke, Rusty, Ed. The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies. Number 1, August 1990. Irregular. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press. 40 p. $4.50. Editor Burke seems to have responded to the same mystical message as did Ray Kinsella in Shoeless Joe, filmed as Field of Dreams: "If you build it, they will come." Here the "it" is not a baseball field in the north forty, but a scholarly journal devoted to the works of Robert E. Howard (on the order of Necronomicon Press's Lovecraft Studies, recently recognized by and its contents included in the annual bibliography of the Modern Language As sociation, right up there with journals devoted to Hemingway, Twain, and Woolf); the "they" are academic critics rather than the Chicago Black Sox, 24


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 although both the editor and Howard scholar Don Herron appear to regard academics about as Judge Landis viewed the erring baseball players. Unlike supporters of Lovecraft, who have always felt that their day would come within the elitist confines of academe, Howard's fans seem to have a deep-seated mistrust of "serious" criticism, exemplified by Herron's grumpy but largely accurate assessment of academic attitudes toward their favorite author. As a legitimate target of his wrath, based on my having reviewed the Starmont guide to Howard without knowing of Herron's published collection of fan criticism, The Dark Barbarian, I concede sheepishly that he has some reason to be apprehensive. But there exists a body of Howard "criticism" which, despite its enthusiasm and, especially in its biographical research, value, seems honor-bound to make of their author a Conan figure himself. Suggestions that his un married state may have disguised either covert or suppressed homosexual ity (probably untrue) are reacted to with homophobic zeal. An Oedipal connection between his suicide and his and his mother's incurable illness, despite the fact that the mass of "amateur" biographical research pretty much demolishes the idea, cannot be suggested without some defender calling Freud a dirty old man. In order for the true believers to bed down with us suspicious academics, the existing Howard industry is going to have to lighten up and join the twentieth century. Nobody in academe thinks less of Hart Crane because he was a gay alcoholic; closer to home the fact that Lovecraft, according to his wife, was "adequately excellent" as a lover doesn't impact in the slightest on one's response to his prose. Steven R. Trout gets the idea in an essay on Howard's political thought as expressed in Conan's kingship of Acquilonia. It's not as rigorous a study as one would like, but he's on the right track. Other than the pieces by Burke and Herron, Trout's is the only other substantial essay in this brief first issue. It will be a long time before tenure-track scholars will be able to count submissions to The Dark Man (please, Rusty Burke, drop the fannish part of the journal title!) on their curriculum vitae, but there is a great deal more to Howard than the common academic view of him as a purveyor of fascistic misogyny and gore (that's John Norman, next to whom Howard assumes the stature of Marcel Proust), a great deal that needs to be said about his works by those with the professional tools to do so. Prospective writers should buy a copy of the journal first; corrupt texts have forced the editor to require some idiosyncratic but justifiable rules of reference to Howard's works to be fol lowed in submissions. Bill Collins 25


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 History Versus Literary Criticism Clareson, Thomas D. Understanding Contemporary American Science Fiction: The Formative Period, 1926-1970. Columbia: Univ. of South Carolina Press, 1990. vii + 300 p. $22.95. 0-87249-689-9. I have bones to pick with this series: the books are tiny (they remind me of the "Big-Little" books of my childhood), and they are designed with huge margins to boot. They provide little room to develop an argument, and so the texts assume a didactic tone like an encyclopedia. Most of what they contain reflects conventional wisdom anyhow, but the effect in this case is to establish a rather narrow canon for the genre. None of this is exactly Clareson's fault, of course. He is aware of the constraints: "Perhaps each decade deserves closer study than is possible here. But that is perhaps impossible-perhaps unnecessary." (5) Clareson limits his coverage to "an overview of the period from the 1930s through the 1960s, when science fiction was published primarily in specialist maga zines." He also says he has "tried to remain as neutral as possible" in what we all know is a highly contentious field. Nevertheless he reflects (how could he help it?) the familiar biases of "traditionalists" who venerate the "Golden Age" of the genre. His coverage is limited also to "those texts which have historical Significance," i.e. works "praised for their influence" by writers and editors, and those voted awards by the SFWA or the fans. As might be expected, the focus is primarily on content or "ideas." Following Brian Aldiss, Clareson distinguishes early SF from utopianism-the "voyage into the unknown and the dream of an ideal state"-by its technological topicality, beginning with Mary Shelley'S Frankenstein. In a very brief sketch, of SF before 1926, he emphasizes "future wars" and "lost race" motifs as topical hooks, along with the rise of the scientist as a literary figure, but identifies the beginning of American SF with the appearance of Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories, and Gernsback's "discovery" of E. E. "Doc" Smith. Here are all the old "Golden Age" names: Campbell, Leinster, Williamson, Simak, van Vogt, Asimov, Heinlein, etc. The great contribution of the era, he says, was the "future history," a "complex mythos" shared by writers and readers. Moreover, the rational protagonist of pulp SF, Clareson feels, provided the period with a "culture hero." Indeed, the worlds of heroic fantasy and the galaxies of science fiction may well have been the only epic stages where heroic action could take place in the twentieth century. (27) This view of the virtues of science fiction continues among most mem bers of the SFRA, which Clareson founded. Clareson himself is clearly 26


SFRA Newsletter, 784, January/February 1991 nostalgic for it throughout his survey. Against the naturalist's view of man as "the victim of nature," SF asserts the power of the scientist hero to control nature and lead "humanity outward to the stars." Science fiction is thus "shamelessly optimistic. .. an extension of the utopian vision" (37). I have described only the first section of the book, "Flowering of a Tradition." Clareson covers the aftermath of World War II ("post-holocaust" fiction and the rise of the dystopia) in "Decades of Transition." Philip K. Dick is presented as emblematic of a "Cui De Sac" in the late '50s. The American echo of the New Wave and the controversy over it provides the main theme for "Revolt and Innovation" in the late '60s. Despite its teasing brevity, this isn't a bad historical survey. Clareson manages a paragraph or at least a few lines upon a vast range of topics, including eminent SF critics James Blish and Damon Knight whose restricted focus on "content" engendered a criticism that "remains at the sociological level" (263) as Clareson's own survey remains primarily a history of analo gous matters. Clareson even devotes a few lines, following Delany, to the textual "code which enthusiasts recognize ... but to which newcomers must be initiated." But there is really very little literary criticism here, despite a fair number of plot summaries. Of course, the format itself precludes the luxury of textual analysis. The operating premise in this work, then, seems to be that a chronological survey of who wrote about what and when will somehow enable the reader to "understand" the literature. This premise strikes me as a bit absurd. Clareson's book, however, is very efficient at what it aims to do, i.e. provide a brief "overview" of a vast and complex genre. I can't see how it will contribute much to "understanding" it, though. Arthur Byron Cover does a much better job at "understanding" the New Wave controversy, for ex ample, in the lead article in The New York Review of Science Fiction (No vember, 1990), and in many ways the most enlightening book on the nature of science fiction is still Gary K. Wolfe's The Known and the Unknown 1979). Robert A. Collins International Flavor Clarke, Arthur C. Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography. New York: Bantam Spectra, March 1990. 258 p. $8.95 0-533-34822-1. Reprint of Gollancz, 1989 first edition. It's interesting to note the variety of approaches taken by the "elder statesmen" of SF authorship as they write their memoirs. George O. Smith 27


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 interspersed personal historical notes among selected stories; Asimov wrote a voluminous and excruciatingly detailed autobiography; Pohl and Knight used the teen-age Futurian group, to which they both belonged, as a peg on which to hang their reminiscences; Heinlein used his fictional characters as semi-autobiographical analogues, except in his last book which was pri marily correspondence. Clarke has taken a different, and novel, approach. He uses the American magazine Astounding Science Fiction as a back ground for his development, in Britain, as a major SF author. Beginning with the first issue of ASF he ever saw (March 1930-al though, in those days, it was called Astounding Stories of Super-Science), he describes each issue in some detail, through 1945. If this book were just a summary of Astounding, it would be a minor event; there are better sum maries available. What makes this book valuable is that Clarke describes the issues in relation to his own life and his own stories. Along the way, there are a number of anecdotes about his relationships with other writers and scientists, footnotes on historical incidents, how the science of the stories relates to "real" science of the times, and glimpses of his personal life. That issue of ASF was not his first encounter with an SF magazine; two years earlier, he had borrowed the November 1928 Amazing Stories from a friend. It didn't make a great impression at the time but two years later, when Clarke discovered a copy of ASF in a study room at his school he suc cumbed to the lure of SF and became an avid reader. Although the maga zine wasn't easy to find in Britain, Clarke managed by scouring Woolworth's regularly, and by buying from, and swapping with, other fans. Reading the magazines led to his contact with SF fandom and rocket enthusiasts, which led to letters to the magazine, then to Clarke's beginning to write SF himself, and finally, in 1945, to his first sale to the magazine that had kept his interest in SF alive for the past 15 years. Taken together, the memoirs of all the noted authors paint a fascinating glimpse of the development of SF and its effect on various lives. Clarke's book adds an international flavor to an otherwise almost all-American story. As usual, Clarke writes with warmth and an attention to detail that make the book difficult to put down. As an addition to history, the book is valuable; as something to be read for enjoyment, it's good entertainment. Every serious student of SF should have a copy. w. O. Stevens Very Readable Translation Guthke, Karl S. The Last Frontier: Imagining Other Worlds from the Co pernican Revolution to Modern Science Fiction. Trans. by Helen Atkins of 28


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Der Mythos der Neuzeit, 1983. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990. xi + 402 p. $35.00. 0-8014-1680-9. Paper, -9727-2. In this very readable translation from the original German, Guthke quotes heavily from various works, concentrating on their underlying phi losophy and theology. He devotes only a few pages to the probabilities of the existence of extraterrestrial life, and to the scientific issues involved. The subtitle is misleading; 323 pages bring us barely into the 19th century. The section on "Modern Times" deals primarily with several books from 1897 (especially Wells's The War of the Worlds), and briefly discusses Wick's To Mars via the Moon (1911); there is nothing more recent except occasional brief references scattered here and there. The translation was reviewed in typescript by Michael Crowe, whose own book (The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, 1750-1900; Cambridge University Press, 1986) is considered by both authors to be complementary rather than competitive. However, Crowe's book-although almost 70% longer-also ends long before what most of us would think of as modern times. This is the most serious shortcoming of both books. Crowe also concentrates on philosophical and theological issues. In spite of Crowe's much longer work, Guthke uses sources such as Aristotle, Copernicus, Darwin, Descarte, and Galileo much more extensively---even throwing in several references to von D_niken. Crowe's work contains a few illustrations and an excellent bibliography (pre-1917), that are lacking in Guthke's work. The conclusions of both books might be summed up by an observation that man tends to reflect his own nature in the things which he imagines. Thus, the literature of the past has viewed the possibility of extraterrestrial life in man's own philosophical and theological, if not physical, image. Man either coexists with the aliens successfully because of their basic common ality, or wars with them because their beliefs and practices are antithetical to his. That this conclusion speaks more of the limitations of human imagination than it does of the possibilities of extraterrestrial intelligence is a point not well addressed. Although this latter point seems to deserve ex tensive treatment in its own right, it doesn't receive it here. Crowe's book, although longer and more extensively annotated, reads more like a textbook than does Guthke. Surprisingly, since it originated in German, Guthke's book is much more readable, undoubtedly due to an excellent translator. Guthke manages to incorporate, in a much shorter space, a significant discussion of the scientific theories which caused the revolution in thinking that led to the postulation of other life, while retain ing his intended emphasis on theology and philosophy. It is a successful blend. Although the book will be of interest only to the serious scholar, it is an excellent addition to the literature. w. D. Stevens 29


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 Most Satisfying Book Hamilton, James. Arthur Rackham. New York: Arcade, September 1990. 199 p. $45. 1-55970-096-3. British art historian Hamilton's biography of the noted book illustrator (1867 -1939) is the fullest account to date of Rackham's I ife, even though the acknowledgements often read like a replay of those in Derek Hudson's Arthur Rackham: His Life and Work (Scribner's, 1960), particularly regarding the generous cooperation of Barbara Rackham Edwards, the artist's only child: "any merit [this book] may possess is due largely to the encouragement of...Barbara Edwards" [Hudson]; and "\ am hopelessly indebted to Mrs. Barbara Edwards" [Fred Gettings, Arthur Rackham (Macmillan, 1975)]. And when one reads in Hamilton that his "research would have been impossible without the constant encouragement, hospitality and friendship of Dr. John Edwards and ... Mrs. Barbara Edwards," even an inattentive reader may wonder whether this successive series of intrusions into the Rackham family privacy could justify three biographies of a man whose life was, by most accounts, "uneventful." What is intriguing about Rackham is the contrast between his work and the official portrait of the punctual craftsman, working calmly in his studio, unflustered by the constant flow of visitors and household members, as he conjures up a fantastic world seasoned with more than a pinch of Gothic darkness. This world is most in evidence in the great series of pre-World War \ picture books, in his The Rheingold and the Valkyrie (191 0) and Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods (1911). This darker strain surfaces again late in his life in his controversial illustration of Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination (1935), characterized by Hamilton-in his search for the darker side of the Rackham persona-as a "masterly interpretation." This is the book that Hudson dismisses as "one of the few commissions that Rackham did not really enjoy" while Gettings finds the illustrations "indicative of a grandeur and vision one might not so far have perceived in Rackham." Echoing Hudson's conviction that "the heroic did not really suit his talent [although the] gods and Rhine-Maidens were realized on a high plane of imagination," Hamilton simply quotes a letter of Rackham to a "young friend" in which Rackham fears that she may not find his "Ring of the Nibelungs" well-suited to her tastes. Whatever reservations one might have about the accuracy of Hamilton's comments on Rackham's artistic achievement, there is no doubt that this study of Rackham includes much material that is not to be found in Hudson or Gettings. The sections on Rackham's childhood and early years-before his sumptuous books made him as beloved a figure in the drawing room as 30


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 in the "nursery"-and on his relationship with his wife, a well-known artist in her own right, flesh out the sparer accounts of Hudson and Gettings. The moving description of Rackham's work on his last commission The Wind in the Willows, as he was dying from cancer, does give an heroic quality to Rackham's life that seemed to be lacking in his work. In spite of Hamilton's suggestion that there is another side of Rackham than the semi-official portrait he described in the introduction, this other face does not really emerge in his book. He quotes one startling letter from Rackham to his wife (p. 137), which he interprets as a reference to "past infidelities": "How outside, how unrecorded, how without influence my wanderings have been to me ... [butl the reality of my life has been that with you, and its happiness has far exceeded its pain and I cannot damn myself right out & down." Hamilton does not allude to this letter again, nor does he present other references to "document" his allegation. One is left with the troublesome feeling that Rackham's "wandering" could have been physical flights. (He vacationed without his often ailing wife and this letter was written during a protracted visit to America to obtain new commissions.) Rackham often drew nude figures of young females with undeveloped breasts and of androgynous youths, but there is as yet nothing in the Rackham bibliography-or in this book-comparable to Alma Gilbert's revelation of Parrish's long relationship with his favorite model in The Make Believe World of Maxfield Parrish (Pomegranate, 1990) to suggest that Hamilton's comment is anything more than idle-if provocative-speculation. As for the selection and number of illustrations from Rackham's work, Hamilton's study is nothing less than astonishing. If the quality of the re productions does not, as Hamilton and his publishers claim, offer "greater fidelity to Rackham's artwork than those published during his lifetime," the color reproductions ("whenever possible ... newly color separated from the original artwork") are of a quality that might have pleased Rackham, who was always exacting and often despairing in his dealings with printers. The several appendices-among them, a biographical chronology and family tree, a list of books illustrated by Rackham, and analytical data on his earnings-add to the book's usefulness. The collector will always turn to the Hudson for its illustrated endpapers and tipped-in color plates and to Gettings for the more generous supply of black-and=white illustrations from the early years. But both of these books are out of print and command ris ing prices in the second-hand market. Hamilton's Arthur Rackham is in print and, with the extraordinary selection of published and unpublished color work, the most satisfying book on a popular illustrator in recent years. Walter Albert 31


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 What Interests Us the Most Inge, M. Thomas. Comics as Culture. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, February 1990. xxi + 1 77 p. $32.50 0-87805-408-1. Fourteen million of us recently watched Ken Burns' remarkable docu mentary, "The Civil War". Fourteen million is an impressive number but it is eighty-six million shy of the one hundred million of us who daily read the comics. That one hundred million consists of people of all educational and social levels. Without doubt, as M. Thomas Inge points out in his excellent new book, Comics as Culture, the comics reflect who we are and what we are about as a people. Inge contends that "Along with jazz, the comic strip as we know it perhaps represents America's major indigenous contribution to world culture." Comics as Culture is not a chronological survey of the development of the art, although Inge is knowledgeable about this development and uses material from many periods to support his ideas. The book is refreshingly arranged about thematic points which gives the comics aficionado as well as the lay person new perspectives on a powerful part of American life. One chapter is devoted to comic books and SF. Inge reveals the many concerns and values reflected in comics through this arrangement and shows the depth of the authority of comics in our culture. The influence of comics varies widely from simple entertainment to the craft of visual composition, to serious social and political criticism. In Inge's capable hands, Comics as Culture gives us insight into the Perennial Questions as reflected in this popular art form. One of the best chapters of the book is "Comics and the American Language." If language, as Alfred Korzybski contends, stands in relation to' the world as a map does to the territory it is supposed to represent, then comics help us map the territory of our existence by describing our world in unique and inventive ways. From "whap" to "horsefeathers," from "Keep on Truckin'" to "Happiness is a warm puppy," the language of the comics combined with unusual images has provided a barometer of our internal state as well as a large basis for allusion in American life. Lavishly illustrated with excerpts from original strips, Comics as Cul ture is fun to read as well as intellectually stimulating. The mixing of images and information from numerous historical periods vividly demonstrates Americans' ongoing concerns and the numerous ways we have reacted to these concerns. Inge's detailed "Suggestions for Further Reading" and his bibliography are invaluable resources for anyone wishing to pursue the serious study of comics. 32


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 If there is a weakness to Comics as Culture it lies in its shortness. Inge doesn't leave his reader hanging. He sums up his conclusions with insight and economy. As a sociological survey, which Inge intended, the book is superb, but I wanted more because the topic is really interesting in addition to being so well handled. I hope there is a second book in the works. This one is socko! Buy Comics as Culture. Lou Liberty A Lot of Marbles and a Few Blocks Langford, Michelle K., ed. Contours of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Eighth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. Westport, CT: Greenwood, May 1990. xiii + 232 p. $45. 0-313-26647-6. This eighth volume of papers is one of the best to date. I found no weak entries among the 22 chosen from the two hundred or so presented. The majority examine individual texts or authors, and one could describe them as marbles: small, polished, well-rounded, self-contained treatments of their subject. The trouble with marbles is that they do not stack, and these marbles neither build on existing studies nor encourage further development. However, among the marbles are a few blocks, papers that one could use as platforms for further study. Peter Malekin's, for instance, manages the considerable feat of making the ideas of Barthes and Oerrida seem both comprehensible and useful as tools for investigating fictional modes. As he describes the narrative practice of the authors like Lem and Delany, the reader (this one, anyway) begins to extend the categories to a host of fantastic and self-referential texts. What Malekin does with French literary theory, Michael Clifton does with experimental psychology. From investigations of the visions produced by various altered states Clifton derives a sort of typology of benign and threatening imagery which he then uses to analyze the peculiar power of Baum's Oz stories. What is most interesting is not merely that Baum's im ages fit the schema but that it identifies those scenes that linger long after one has forgotten the fI imsy plots of the later Oz books. Furthermore, the visions of jewels, flowers, and stars and the sensations of flying, floating, and shrinking that characterize such psychological states are to be found not only in Baum's stories but in practically all fantasy. Clifton's suggestion practi cally demands further examination. Other suggestive entries are the guest of honor speeches by Nancy Willard, Brian Aldiss, Brian Stableford, and Vivian Sobchack. Despite its brevity, Willard's description of the sources for Things Invisible to See is a must-read for those who know her great novel. Aldiss propounds a theory 33


SFRA Newsletter, 184, january/February 1991 connecting the break with reality made by writers of the fantastic with dis ruptions in their own lives, especially in childhood. His examples are well chosen (others might not support the thesis quite so firmly), and he handles writers' lives with exactly the generosity and insight that he recommends at the end of his speech. Stableford's piece is marred by the most egregious editing problems in the book: a whole section is printed twice and the dwindling of the British empire on which much of his argument is based is transformed into "swindling." Nonetheless, his distinction between British scientific romance and American science fiction is well supported and useful. Sobchack's speech, which is largely drawn from her Screening Space (1986), is, if anything, even more compelling than the book, partly because it avoids some of the postconstructionist jargon that makes the book rather rough sledding. This essay further establishes Sobchack as the most original and profound commentator on science fiction film. The last essay in the volume is the most blockish of ali-having gener ated the metaphor, I'm stuck with praising David M. Miller's entry in seemingly uncomplimentary terms. What I mean is that Miller, more than any other writer here, is aware of and builds upon the work of Kathryn Hume, Christine Brooke-Rose, Ann Swinfen, and other major fantasy scholars, and for that reason he also provides one of the most secure plat forms for future researchers. Miller's essay analyzes Beagle's The Last Unicorn, but its significance is not limited to that book. His distinction between ontological and epistemological fantasy is more useful than many of the taxonomies suggested for the genre, and he makes good use of his categories. Miller convinced me that Beagle's story is better than I had thought, which is probably one of the highest achievements a critic can hope for. Since this collection includes a number of potentially useful essays, I began to wonder whether its writers had benefited from earl ier collections. Are there many citations from conference volumes one through seven? There are none. Itmay be that the very qualities that make this a substantial entry in the field-the breadth of topic, the multiple approaches, and the library-quality hardcover format-will keep researchers away. That would be a pity, since it ensures that the marbles will continue to outnumber the blocks. Brian Attebery More Lovecraftiana Lovecraft, H. P. The Fantastic Poetry, ed. by S. T. Joshi. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, July 1990. 63 p. $7.95 paper. 0-940884-30-5. 34


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Cannon, Peter. "Sunset Terrace Imagery in Lovecraft" and Other Essays. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, July 1990. 42 p. $5.50 paper. 0940884-32-1. Faig, Kenneth W., Jr. The Parents of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. West Warwick, RI: Necronomicon Press, July 1990. 47 p. $5.95 paper. No ISBN. From Necronomicon Press come three more publications in its ongoing series of lovecraftiana, both primary and secondary. Probably the most valuable, in terms of restoring to print a body of lovecraft's writing that has been unavailable since the Arkham House volume of his Selected Poems sold out, is the Fantastic Poetry, though both its editor, the distinguished lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi, and I agree that poetry was not only HPl's weakest suit, it is more often than not downright embarrassing, especially coming from the pen of a writer both of us feel to be a major, neglected talent. I'm not sure just how Joshi (or Derleth before him) chose these poems. By my count just over half (18 of 33) appeared in the Arkham House col lection; others may have been distributed among other lovecraft Arkham books, and a couple have different titles here than in Derleth's volume. Joshi's too-brief introduction does not mention that book, but does account for the absence of the one lovecraft poetical work with any merit, the "Fungi From Yuggoth" cycle. As Joshi says, the poetry is most important in the light it sheds on the fiction; thus this volume is perhaps best suited for scholars only. Peter Cannon's collection of 12 brief critical essays, despite the truly awful title with which it is saddled, is a delight. I found myself frustrated only by the brevity of most of the contributions, probably dictated by the ap pearance of most of them in fanzines rather than in academic journals. Steven Mariconda's introduction gives us Cannon's life story up through his M.A. at Brown, under Barton St. Armand, but doesn't tell us what he's doing now. Whatever it is, he should be teaching. Perhaps the funniest of the essays, written with tongue as far into cheek as possible, straight-facedly discusses a manuscript collaboration between HPl and Henry Miller. It alone is worth the price of the book, but given the humorlessness of aca deme, I have a feeling that someday someone will take it seriously. Kenneth W. Faig, Jr.'s biographical research contains both the strengths and weaknesses of amateur (in its best and original sense of a lover) criticism. Faig has not had access to some documents which would have assisted him: letters quoted in part in the Arkham House Selected Letters volumes and more important, certain holdings of the lovecraft Collection at Brown University's John Hay library. Faig notes the facts available and leaves the 35


SFRA News/etter, 184, january/February 1991 conclusions to readers. Regarding the Brown U. collection, if lack of academic affiliation on Faig's part was the reason he was denied access to the day-book of Lovecraft's mother, shame on the librarians. Though not labeled as such, this is obviously a work-in-progress, published in incomplete form in order to engender collateral research as well as informing parallel researchers as to what has been already collected. At the same time, it's a monograph that cries out for a strong academic editor. Faig refers at length, and on numerous occasions, to material he has already acquainted the reader with in almost the same words pages earlier. Fortu nately, he has a pleasing writing style that makes the uncontrolled repetition seem less annoying than it should be, but he really will need to exercise more control over the number of times he describes in detail (for example) HPL'S childhood outdoor doll house. He also over indulges in speculation, but it must also be noted that his speculation is always clearly grounded in the available facts and is always labeled as speculation rather than as fact. Much of the psychosexual biographies of Winfield Scott Lovecraft and Sarah Susan Phillips Lovecraft is speculative, but shows Faig's command of a reasonable deductive method. Obviously, these volumes will have a limited market, Lovecraft scholars and rare book speculators being at the front of the line. I trust that their return will eventually justify their initial publication; Necronomicon Press is per forming a continuing and valuable service to Lovecraft and his supporters, one which deserves support even if, sometimes, the subject matter verges on the overly esoteric. Bill Collins Karloff-Lugosi Rivalry Mank, Gregory William. Karloff and Lugosi: The Story of a Haunting Col laboration. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., February 1990. xii + 372 p. $35. 0-89950-437-X. Although many good actors have played in horror films, none have generated the same mystique that surrounds Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Gregory William Mank's book purports to be a chronicle of these two actors' unique "collaboration" in eight films and several short subjects, but it is only a rehash of the well-known story of Karloff's triumph and Lugosi's tragedy. In 1931 Lugosi, still reveling in the acclaim for his performance in Dracula turned down the offer to play the monster in Frankenstein because a non-speaking part was unthinkable for a star of his stature. Karloff, seeing the monster as a challenge, accepted the role and vaulted to stardom. This moment defined the personalities of the two actors and the rivalry that would 36


SFRA Newsletter, 784, January/February 7997 develop between them: Lugosi, the actor of limited talents, would always hold out for quality roles that constantly eluded him; Karloff, the skilled character actor who could bring insight and depth to nearly every role he played, would always get the plum parts. As Mank shows, Lugosi never recovered from his poor decision. Beginning with the first Karloff-Lugosi vehicle, The Black Cat (1934) and ending with The Body Snatcher(1945), Lugosi always received lesser billing and lower pay, even for the film The Raven (1935) in which he was on the screen nearly twice as long as Karloff. By the time Universal conceived the ideas for The Invisible Ray (1936) and Son of Frankenstein (1939), it was laboring to come up with roles for Lugosi in what were essentially Karloff showcases. Eventually, Karloff could choose to do a trifle like You'll Find Out (1940) as lark; Lugosi had to do it in order to eat. Mank is an enthusiastic fan of both Karloff and Lugosi, but he over reaches in his efforts to explore their rivalry, constantly extrapolating what they might have thought of one another from their on-screen behavior (they were almost always cast as adversaries) and seeing inconsequential events in their personal lives as reflections of their professional relationship. Excepting the synopses of the films, much of this book is frivolous. Reminis cences of family, friends, fellow actors and fans are frequently un illuminating, and Mank devotes too much space to the data on production studios, directors, producers and co-stars that have little or no bearing on his subject. The book is interesting for the minutiae the author has culled from the Universal and RKO archives, concerning salary scales, budgets, shooting schedules, edited scenes and unused script material, and it is useful for its comprehensive credits for all of the Karloff-Lugosi collaborations. However, Richard Bojarski's The Films of Boris Karloff(with Kenneth Beals, 1974) and The Films of Bela Lugosi (1980) remain the best cinematic references, and Cynthia Lindsay's Dear Boris (1975) and Arthur Lennig's The Count (1974) the best biographical sources. Stefan Dziemianowicz Planks of Unreason McCarty, John. The Modern Horror Film. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, July 1990. 244p.$15.95. 0-8065-1164-8. Unlike McCarty's popular histories of Splatter Movies (St. Martin's, 1984) and Psychos (St. Martin's, 1988), his latest volume is a collection of commentaries on 50 films from Terence Fisher's The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) to Ken Russell's The Lair of the White Worm (1988). The format, which is identical to that of William K. Everson's well known volumes on Classics of 37


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 the Horror Film (Citadel 1974, 1986), almost guarantees incoherence and superficiality: huge, well-reproduced, largely familiar stills crowd around disjointed mini-essays about films the author likes. But while the overly conservative Everson at least justifies his selections, McCarty often fails to convince us that his choices, which include such unlikely films as House of Long Shadows (1983) and Scream of Fear (1961), warrant a second look, let alone inclusion in a list of "classics." Most of McCarty's commentaries consist of half plot summary-which readers familiar with the films won't need and those using this book as a viewer's guide won't want-and half hodgepodge of history, production details, opinion, slams at unnamed other critics, and the odd insight. His best pieces are the few that abandon this model for a well-constructed essay: a comparison of the 1958 and 1988 versions of The Blob, a defense of Russell's Gothic (1986), or remarks on the mis en scene of Wes Craven's Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The Modern Horror Film is interesting and readable enough that films fans and larger public libraries will want a copy. But as a chronicle and critique of the modern horror film it is eclipsed by Kim Newman's Nightmare Movies (Proteus 1984, Bloomsbury 1988); Newman's achievement is illu mination of the very trends and connections that elude McCarty's format and emphasis. Unlike the classic Universal horrors of the 1930s and 40s, the modern horror film, like the modern horror novel, has been defined and shaped less by some canon of "classics" than by a horde of more-or-Iess accomplished minor films (and some outright failures)-films that, although trivial in themselves, add up to a multiplex art form merely hinted at by McCarty's patchy mosaic. Michael A. Morrison Good, Basic Arthurian Dictionary Minary, Ruth, and Charles Moorman. An Arthurian Dictionary. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1990. 117 p. $7.95. 0-89733-348-9. This slim paperback reprint of the 1978 original is a rather bold chal lenge to The Arthurian Encyclopedia, ed. by Norman Lacy and due in an expanded version this winter. The encyclopedia is much larger, contains more total entries, and includes kinds of references which the dictionary does not, especially references to modern Arthurian fantasies. The dictionary's most obvious advantage is its price, roughly one-eighth the projected $65 of the revised encyclopedia. Second, for the student of Arthurian literature, especially a beginning student and one not interested in fantasy, it contains the basic references and many more besides. Third, 38


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 details about secondary and tertiary items, places, and characters are suffi cient; and accounts of source materials and discussions of various Arthurian narratives are surprisingly complete. Anyone interested in a volume which includes references to modern Arthurian fantasies should spend the extra money for the encyclopedia. The dictionary, however, is a good, basic volume for students of the Arthurian materials or for someone interested in possible Arthurian backgrounds of or source materials for modern fantasy. c. W. Sullivan III From Poverty Row to Megabudgets Parish, James Robert and Michael R. Pitts. The Great Science Fiction Pic tures 11. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990. x + 489 p. $49.50. 0-81082247-4. This volume follows Parish and Pitts's The Great Science Fiction Pic tures (1977) and covers approximately 400 genre films from 1977 through 1987, the years of Hollywood's big-budget SF boom. The major films of the period-three Star Wars films, four Superman films, four Star Trek movies, three Mad Max efforts, Alien, Aliens, E. T., Close Encounters, and The Terminator-define science fiction for millions of people. In addition the au thors include a large number of older films not in the 1977 book, mostly very minor B-films and serials, the pathetic output of Poverty Row. A few of the oldies are goodies-Aelita (1924), Solaris (1972) and The Man in the White Suit (1951). The second volume also contains many horror-SF hybrids, including all movies featuring Frankenstein, the Golem and the Invisible Man. One notable film, Brother from Another Planet (1984), is missing. Most of the important genre films are in the 1977 book. For each film the authors provide a very (perhaps unnecessarily) com plete list of credits and casts, down to cameramen and small-part actors, plus the names of the characters. The synopsis for each film is more detailed than in most books on genre films. Parish and Pitts's critical comments are terse and usually conventional; for most films they also quote other, more incisive critics. Only for collections which have the 1977 book and which need more detailed credits and synopses than are found in the better critical works-Phil Hardy's Science Fiction (1984), Peter Nicholls's The World of Fantastic Films (1984) and Don Willis's Horror and Science Fiction Films (three volumes, 1972, 1982, 1984). Michael Klossner 39


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Ghost Writer Rubin, Bruce Joel. jacob's Ladder. Applause Theatre Books, 211 West 71 st St., New York, NY 10023, November 1990. x + 209 p. $10.95, paper. 155783-086-X. Years before the film was made by director Adrian Lyne, Rubin's jacob's Ladder, concerning a Vietnam veteran who is apparently persecuted by demons in New York City, was hailed in American Film and Cinefantastique magazines as one of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. After this buildup, the film's 1990 release proved anticlimactic. jacob's Ladder received mixed reviews and moderate boxoffice returns and was over shadowed by the imr:nense popular success of Ghost, the other 1990 film written by Rubin. Besides the final shooting script (and dozens of black-and-white stills), the Applause book includes ten scenes deleted from earlier versions of the screenplay. Since the film differs substantially from even the "final" script, this book, used in conjunction with the videocassette of the film, will provide an unusually clear overview of the evolution of a film through the long process of multiple rewrites, filming and editing. Those who agree that jacob's Ladder is a thinking man's horror film will certainly want the screenplay. Even those who were unimpressed by the movie (as I was) will value Rubin's revealing 50-page account of his long struggle as a novice screenwriter and of his close collaboration with Lyne during the film's production. Such cooperation between writer and director is unusual and Rubin professes himself well satisfied with the results, even though many of his original ideas (derived from Eastern religions) were eliminated or drastically simplified in the film. Some will conclude that Rubin was ready to compromise on everything except his salary, but his stories of Hollywood duplicity should convince anyone that he was fully justified in taking whatever he could get. Michael Klossner Dunsany Judged Schweitzer, Darrell. Pathways to Elf/and: The Writings of Lord Dunsany. Philadelphia: Owlswick Press, 1989. 180 p. $25.00 0-913896-16-0. As literary criticism, this is a dismaying performance; one can hardly imagine why Schweitzer bothered, since he clearly has little affinity for Dunsany's work. His discussions of the writings strike me as both obtuse and patronizing, peppered with contemptuous denigrations. Since Dunsany is hardly in fashion, the reader might assume that Schweitzer is more con40


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 cerned with preventing attacks on his taste than demonstrating the real virtues of his subject. Of The King of Elfland's Daughter, Dunsany's "most famous" novel, Schweitzer concludes: In conception the novel is certainly magnificent, but there are just too many unicorn-hunting scenes, and quite a few more nature descriptions than any but the most patient reader can stand. Some of these are beautiful, but they pale from repetition. (81) The language, he continues, is affected and precious. Dunsany described it as "as close to poetry" as he ever got, which was not a good thing coming from him, since his poetry was the least impressive area of his writing. (82) .Iml The flip tone of these quotes is typical of the book as a whole. Schweitzer is also given to opaque, unexplained judgments, which certainly add nothing to the reader's understanding of the works. Dunsany's later plays, he says, were '"'not nearly as good as his earlier ones" (73). "It took him a while to learn that a novel is not a short story only made longer" (76). Dunsany's second novel showed improvement because "it had a co herent plot under all the padding" (85). The Blessing of Pan is "mostly padding ... its natural length is on the order of 20,000 words, a novella at best" (86). Schweitzer frequently lectures Dunsany (and/or the reader) on proper technique: "Content should dictate length, not the other way around" (78). "Seeing the scene is very much what fiction is all about [butl the above passage contains nothing concrete or visual" (82). Schweitzer has enjoyed (through long persistence) a modest success as author and editor, and ap parently now feels entitled to "instruct" Dunsany and anyone else who will listen on just how it should be done. In another context, I would not object to this posturing. But the book in question is supposed to be a critical study of Dunsany's works, and the very least I would expect of it would be a demonstration of Dunsany's very re markable achievements. Schweitzer is long on advice and judgment, and stingy with explication, a process he probably considers "too academic" (the book also contains routine academic-bashing, de rigeurfor genre writers). For a fantasy writer, Schweitzer seems strangely oblivious to most of Dunsany's subtler achievements. Long before Tolkien's famous essay, "On Fairy Stories," Dunsany gave a virtuoso demonstration of what Tolkien later called "Recovery" the power of a fantastic perspective to make old things new again. In The King of Elf/and's Daughter, for example, since the deni-41


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 zens of Elfland exist in virtual stasis-the King preserves his idyllic domain by nearly stopping time-the bustle of life in "the fields we know" fascinates them. In several passages Dunsany gives us their perspective of our world in electrifying detail, creating for us a fresh apprehension of the beauty and vitality of the mundane. These passages, which advance theme but not plot, are no doubt among those which Schweitzer classifies as "padding," mere "nature descriptions" of which there are "too many." Let me try to be fair. I have a special admiration for Dunsany, and for me this book is considerably worse than no book, as criticism. But Schweitzer is an indefatigable researcher, and his study has its uses: almost everything Dunsany ever wrote is described or mentioned somewhere. If only the compiler had not felt it necessary to judge everything, mostly negatively, I could appreciate his work better. Schweitzer'S rather savage "expose" of Dunsany's poetry seems particularly gratuitous. I have no doubt that my reaction will surprise him-he probably feels that he is merely being "realistic" in his assessments. Still, as a Dunsany partisan I cannot recom mend his judgments, or his book. Robert A Collins Coffee-table Volume Sternfield, Jonathun. The Look of Horror: Scary Moments from Scary Movies. Philadelphia: Courage Books/Running Press, October 1990. 144 p. $14.98. 0-89471-831-2. This slim, handsome, coffee-table volume generous with photographs from the British Kobal Collection provides plot synopses, screen credits, and some brief analysis of and commentary on 70 scary movies from the first seven decades of film. Of interest are the many references to special effects and cinematic techniques, the acknowledgement of sequels and remakes, and assessment of a films' historical importance. However, anyone looking for a systematic discussion of the aspects of horror on film will be disappointed by the breadth and organization of the volume. Films ranging in subject matter from Frankenstein to Fatal Attrac tion, from I Married a Monster from Outer Space to Jaws, are arranged in sections with titles such as "Aliens," "Creatures," "Bad Kids/VVeird Kids<" and "Ghosts and Demons." Some groupings seem especially idiosyncratic. "Monsters" includes Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, two films which could just as comfortably be placed among the "Murderers, Maniacs and Mad Doctors." Other minor annoyances include out-of-se quence references to films that are discussed later in the volume and an inexplicable decision not to group films chronologically within a section. 42


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 However, any horror fan will be thrilled by a book full of beautifully reproduced photographs, many in color, some gory, of terrified women, disembodied limbs, and monsters and aliens of all types. Unpretentious, well-designed, well-edited, inexpensive, with indexes by title, director and some key actor/actresses. Public and larger school libraries should consider. Agatha Taormina Feminist Promise; Critical Failure Walker, Nancy A. Feminist Alternatives: Irony and Fantasy in the Contemporary Novel by Women. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, May 1990. 220 p. $35.00. 0-87805-430-8. $14.95, paper, -442-1. Where would we begin to look for secondary material if we were un dertaking research in the area of feminist speculative fiction? As SF readers, most of us would begin by examining studies like Natalie Rosinsky's Feminist Futures: Contemporary Women's Speculative Fiction (1984) or Sarah Lefanu's In the Chinks of the World Machine: Feminism and Science Fiction (1988). We would be less likely, I think, to turn to a study like Rachel Blau DuPlessis's Writing Beyond the Ending: Narrative Strategies of Twentieth Century Women Writers (1985), since there's no obvious indication that her discussions might include SF texts. In fact, however, the final chapter of Writing Beyond the Ending is devoted to feminist speculative fiction. It is significant of Feminist Alternatives that Walker's bibliography in cludes Writing Beyond the Ending, but not the studies by Rosinsky or Lefanu (not to mention Marleen Barr's earlier Future Females: A Critical Anthology [1981 J). Feminist Alternatives, which includes quite detailed analyses of several works of speculative fiction, examines these works less as genre literature than as examples of a tendency in some feminist fiction to abandon the conventions of realism for the more flexible structures of fantastic lit erature. This for me is what makes reading Feminist Alternatives interesting and, to a certain extent, worthwhile, the fact that it "reads" novels like Russ's The Female Man, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time, and Lessing's Memoirs of a Survivor as members of a literary "set" which also includes Margaret Drabble's The Waterfall, Fay Weldon's The Rules of Life, Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Gail Godwin's Violet Clay, and Erica Jong's Serenissima. What is common to all these texts, Walker argues, is their recourse to narrative strategies which combine elements of irony and fantasy; these two elements "represent, respectively, intellectual and intuitive challenges to 43


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 perceived reality that reflect in the form of narrative the socio-political challenges to the status quo that the women's movement has launched" during the last twenty years or so. Readers of SF, and in particular of feminist SF, will appreciate Walker's perception of the ways in which feminist speculative fiction is part of a broad range of contemporary writing by women who have little or no obvious connections to genre literature. In this, her study, like Blau DuPlessis's before her, is a useful and worthwhile enterprise. Unfortunately, it lacks both the depth and scope which help to make Writing Beyond the Ending a genuinely enlightening work of feminist criticism. The most disappointing aspect of Feminist Alternatives is its neglect of the several kinds of theoretical frameworks which would have helped to add such depth and scope. For example. it barely takes into account any of the current issues in feminist theory; recent feminist examinations of subjectivity and gender construction, for example, have everything to do with texts like The Female Man and The Handmaid's Tale. Nor does Walker deal with any contemporary postmodern/post-structuralist critical theory; the postmodernist problematization of binaries such as realism/fantasy or high/ low literature is also crucial to an understanding of the ways in which many of these recent novels by women refuse easy generic categorization. Another significant weakness is Walker's aforementioned neglect of the work already accomplished in the field of feminist SF scholarship; I often felt that she was re-inventing the wheel in her discussions of women's SF, which rarely went beyond what seem to me to be fairly obvious commentaries about the po tential for re-envisioning the future inherent in the shift to speculative fiction. Feminist Alternatives includes some very good readings of its chosen fictions; not surprisingly, perhaps, the analyses of feminist SF are among its' weakest. While it is gratifying to read a "mainstream" academic study which includes discussions of speculative fiction, I was, finally, disappointed by Feminist Alternatives, which promises much but lacks the critical and theoretical wherewithal to deliver what it promises. Veronica Hollinger Valuable Views of C. S. Lewis Wilson, A. N. C. S. Lewis: A Biography. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990. xviii + 334 p. $22.50. 0-393-02813-5. Having enjoyed Wilson's The Life of John Milton (Oxford 1983, 1987), I approached C. S. Lewis: A Biography with high expectations. Wilson's earlier work had treated a difficult subject with unusual dexterity, balancing appreciation of literary achievement with awareness of Milton's human limitations. The result was readable and valuable. 44


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Approaching C. S. Lewis required perhaps even more skill. Only 27 years after his death, Wilson indicates in his preface that many versions of C. S. Lewis already exist. Walter Hooper's has a "distinctly Catholic bias ... which not everyone who knew the man would find completely be lievable" (xv-xvi). Another, focused at Wheaton College, preserves an image of a largely Protestantized Lewis Wilson describes visiting Wheaton as stepping "through the wardrobe into the world of make-believe" (xiv). Wilson treats these two as polarities; between them I ie varying and various Lewises, many at odds with particulars of his biography. Christian readers frequently ignore his drinking, his smoking, and his unusual rela tionships with two married women; literary scholars prefer to ignore his forays into Christian apologetics; readers of his fantasies prefer to ignore the rigor of his doctrinal tracts. Wilson's attempt to bridge the poles and in corporate the multiple facets of Lewis's life-private and public-is admi rable. While adhering to voluminous data from letters, interviews, biographical and critical studies, and Lewis's life records, he reconstructs as accurate a portrait as possible of a human being. He discards a sanitized 'Saint" Lewis, noting instead not only Lewis's compassion and his dedication to his faith, but also his short-tempered ness, his argumentativeness, his in sistence that students participate in periodical "binges," the point of which was to get as drunk as possible and sing off-colored songs. The result is a readable and believable biography, balanced as well as sharp-edged, complimentary as well as critical. Wilson understands the multiple possi bilities that co-existed within Lewis and willingly follows data to logical conclusions: "If we ignore the kind of man Lewis was, in our anxiety to dismiss him as a fraud or canonize him as a plaster saint, we miss the un mistakable and remarkable evidence of something like sanctification which occurred in him towards the end of his days" (292). In its balance, C. s. Lewis: A Biography approaches as close as any to understanding C. S. Lewis. There are some idiosyncrasies, of course. Wilson's starting point is the death of Lewis's mother in August, 1908; he sees the rest of Lewis's life as a constant search for a mother-image. As might be expected from this initial decision, Wilson's interpretation is heavily influenced by Freudian psy chology and imagery. The book is also occasionally judgmental. Wilson mentions Kathryn Lindskoog's The C. S. Lewis Hoax, noting that the book "amounts to one of the most vitriolic personal attacks on a fellow-scholar, Walter Hooper, that I have ever read in print" (xiv). He then asserts that "the details of Lindskoog's book are unimportant to the general reader" (xv) without specifically stating why this attack on Lewis's primary editor is "unimportant." Later, Wilson notes that he wrote the biography "at the suggestion oLWalter Hooper, the literary advisor to the C. S. Lewis estate" (311). 45


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 His treatment of Lewis's works can be equally abrupt. Of Perelandra he writes that "Not even John Milton's imagination had attempted such a theme. It is no wonder that Perelandra is an artistic failure. How could it have succeeded?" (183); yet he fails to point out precisely how and where it fails. Nor is Lewis exempt from such assessments. In recounting Elizabeth Anscombe's debate with Lewis, Wilson argues that "It was not Lewis's Christianity which she was attacking; it was his sheer inadequacy as a phi losopher" (213). Yet none of these weaken the book too seriously. It remains, on the whole, even-handed and objective. When Wilson does deliver judgments, they frequently add to our understanding of Lewis, as in Wilson's perception of the disparity between Lewis's rational, logical, externalized books of Christian apologetics and his far more successful-because inwards and emotional-re-creation of Christian conversion and faith in his novels. Along the way, we are introduced to J. R. R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, to Charles Williams and the Inklings, to Mrs. Moore, to Joy Davidman, to Warnie Lewis-to the entire complex that became the life and person of one of the most influential writers of our age. On many levels, C. S. Lewis: A Biography repays its readers, not the least being an increase in regard for the multifaceted talent that was C. S. Lewis. Michael R. Collings FICTION Singin' the Science Fiction Blues Aldiss, Brian. Last Orders. NY: Carroll & Graf, 1990,223 p. $3.95. 0-88184617-1. Published in Carroll and Graf's "Masters of Science Fiction" series, this is a collection of some of Aldiss's most interesting short stories of the mid1970s, the period after Frankenstein Unbound (1973). The stories were published individually between 1974 and 1977 and collected as Last Or ders and Other Stories (London: Cape, 1977). a volume that did not see American publication. This volume does not differ in any important way from the original British collection, so is a useful gap-filler for libraries. The collection reveals Aldiss in the process of freeing himself from the obscurantist mannerisms of the New Wave, but in the process of revealing that he has assimilated some of the more valuable strategies of what was coming to be referred to as postmodernism. In general, the least effective stories are tarnished by a willful obscurity-in particular the five tripartite 46


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 fictions called "Enigmas," that have subtitles like "Diagrams for Three Sto ries" and sub-sub-titles like What Are You Doing? Why Are You Doing It?" that emphasize the provisional nature of the fictions. Yet even these stories, rife with extremely indirect allusions and haunted by the ghost of Anna Kavan (who was becoming then for Aldiss what earlier Mary Shelley had been), are never dull, and though we secretly may hanker for fiction "the old story-book way, with beginning, middle, end and lots of character ... (the way they liked it back before the Post-Renaissance Age!)" (61), we know very well that we can't take very seriously any writer who presumes to give us that and nothing more. Aldiss has struggled with the issue of form, and these stories bear the scars. The title story, which is also the most conventional narrative, is ap pealing in its affirmation of human community in the face of apocalypse but is also an ironic gloss on what Aldiss in Trillion Year Spree calls the "cosy catastrophe." "Creatures of Apogee" is possibly a preliminary sketch for Helliconia. "Live? Our Computer Will Do That for Us" asks whether a world in which events can be predicted by "destimeters" has a place for humanity. Aldiss's answer, here and elsewhere, is that life will always be infuriatingly unpredictable, and how art probably should be too, if it is to be honestthough it may lose popular appeal in the process (see "A Cultural Side-Effect" p.69). Indeed life would be comic if it were not so terrible, as "The Expensive Delicate Ship," with its allusion to Auden's Mus_e des Beaux Arts" and through Auden to Brueghel's picture of the appalling insignificance of the literal (as opposed to the mythic) fall of Icarus, makes plain. In the Author's Note to Last Orders, a man in a sharp suit protests at the gloominess of Aldiss's Science Fiction Blues: "people want to be cheered up. They want to hear about real things;" the author retorts: "one or the other you can have. Not both" (9) There could be no plainer statement of the serious function of a science fiction that, perhaps more uncompromisingly than the other arts, articulates the predicament of our unprecedented age. And that, of course, is why Aldiss writes it. The most interesting story of the collection is the last, "Journey to the Heartland," because it most ambitiously engages the question, raised fre quently in the collection, of the effect on meaning and 'truth' when the reader is not allowed to keep faith in the continuity of narrative mode and style from the beginning of a story to the end. In the author's emergence at the end of the narrative to 'resolve' the destiny of the characters, Aldiss shows that he does not feel science fiction should be immune from the fundamental questioning about the relationship between reality and fiction that charac-47


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 terizes the postmodern journey-Qne that fails to get to the Heartland, of course, but one that does at least annoy the border guards. These stories are quintessential Aldiss, and consequently will appeal to anyone who really cares for sf as a fiction of ideas, a fiction that can get to places that the cosy old mainstream just can't reach. Nicholas Ruddick Space Futures Anderson, Poul. Space Folk. NY: Baen Books, 1989, 303 p. $3.50.0-67169805-2. The name of Poul Anderson should be enough, by itself, to ensure the sale of this book. This collection of short stories is unabashedly intended to promote the idea that space travel is-and must be-in mankind's future. All the stories, except one, reflect the usual story line of "Man, the Invincible." That one is Murphy's Hall, and it deals with man's failure in space, a failure that is all too likely unless something changes. Anderson's Commentary, immediately following that story, explains the problem and the challenge. Although Murphy's Hall is the only story of that type in the book, it's memorable in its own right. The other ten stories range from the slightly comedic, through the problem-to-be solved, to the frankly adventurous. As a welcome bonus, Quest deals with the further adventures of the band of knights which was kidnapped by aliens in Anderson's earlier book, High Crusade. The stories were written in the years between 1953 and 1985; some of them under the "Winston P. Sanders" pseudonym. Commentary and the opening poem Cradle Song were written for this book. The span of years shows a remarkable consistency in Anderson's style and viewpoint, reflected in stories written for a variety of markets. This is a collection for Anderson fans, SF readers in general, and for space boosters. It's highly recommended. W D. Stevens The Best of the Best Bova, Ben, ed. The Best of the Nebulas. NY: St. Martin(Tor, 1989. 593 p. $19.95.0-312-93184-1; $14.05. 0-312-93175-1. In 1955 Pocket Books had the job of promoting its paperback version of an unusual book by a little-known French author, Vercors. Its solution was to splash the words READ THIS across the face of the book in 88 point type. 48


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 If it weren't that a Nebula photographs so pretty, the publishers could have done the same here. Nothing more needs to be said. Rash claims. But consider. In 1987 the Science Fiction Writers of America invited its members to vote on what they thought were the very best Nebula award winning books and stories for the years 1965-1985. Ten novels, six novellas, six novelets and nine short stories clearly received more votes than the rest. All the short works are included herein. The novels are represented by statements from their authors (or others in the cases where that was not possible.) This exact mix would not have been-in fact, was not-what I would have chosen but quibbling is silly. Several of the all-time greatest classics of the field-Moorcock's "Behold the Man," Russ's "When It Changed," Sturgeon's "Slow Sculpture"-are here mixed in with two Zelaznys, three Ellisons, two Delanys, two Leibers, two Tiptrees, Silverberg, McCaffrey, Le Guin, Mcintyre, Varley, Simak, and Martin, stories that are in no way lesser. Most of you will already have all these stories in your collections, sev eral times in the case of many. Despite that, this anthology should be considered a cornerstone of any science fiction library and should be pressed upon those looking for a place from which to enter the field. Twenty years from now, if a similar poll were to be done, most of these stories would still make the ballot. They are seminal, their influence clearly to be seen on the authors dominating the awards in the field today. Nothing more needs to be said. Read this. Steve Carper A Lame Sequel Boyer, Elizabeth H. The Dragon's Carbuncle: Book /II of The Wizard's War, NY: Ballantine Books, June 1990. 311 p. $4.95. 0-345-35459-1. In this book, The Wizard's War, Sorkvir has been brought back from the dead. He has taken Ljosa and is using her to manipulate Leifr into freeing Thurid from the Fire Wizards so that he can gain the Blue Orb. While there is a lot of action, this book is not enjoyable. The primary reason is that the main character has become an idiot. He makes mistakes that my eight-year old nephew would not; he cannot contain his impetuous nature even when it endangers the one he hopes to rescue; he does not relay important information and ignores all intelligent advice. In short, by chapter two I was rooting for the bad guys. This book is a perfect example of what can happen to a good idea that gets extended beyond its limits. The action, and even the story, should have taken up a chapter, instead of 311 pages. The principal way the story is not 49


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 resolved is by having the main character, Leifr, not implant the dragon's carbuncle, in his possession, so that he can remain weaker than his oppo nent. Then, whenever anyone else had a good idea or a way of freeing josa, Leifr has to bungle in and destroy that chance thereby allowing Sorkvir to retain her possession and also escape. The characters move from place to place seemingly to fight Sorkvir, and lose, or to fight some accomplice of Sorkvir. The in-between scenes are filler, and at times, overwritten filler. The other characters sum up the entire book when almost each, in turn, castigate Leifr for complicating their plans. Unfortunately, they have to remain captive in the narrative with him, but we do not. The best thing to do, if you are interested in the outcome of the Wizard's War series is to skip this install ment and go on to the finale. Believe me, you won't be missing much at all. W. R. Larrier Alternative History Stories Card, Orson Scott. The Folk of the Fringe. NY: Tor August 1990. 273 p. $4.95. 0-812-50086-5. Orson Scott Card's Mormon alternative history, portrayed in his Alvin Maker series, takes a more conventional turn for the future in Folk of the Fringe. Here, Card extrapolates a limited nuclear exchange that has not killed everyone, although its aftermath is in the process of destroying civi lization. Through the plagues of disease, raving mobs, and altered climate, Scott posits the survival of the only American organization still viable: The State of Deseret, in Utah, the Mormon Promised Land. As a Mormon character tells a gentile,"' ... out there Mormons are in charge. I promise you that wherever there's four Mormons, there'll be a government. A president, two counselors, and somebody to bring refreshments.'" For readers who are not familiar with the mileu of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, the author's note at the end will be helpful, as will Michael Collings's "Afterword." But the stories stand quite well by themselves, having gained Hugo and Nebula nominations as magazine publications with no supporting commentary. The author's note, which traces the evolution of this connected series of five stories, should be valuable as a tool for writing teachers. It portrays the process of a theme in search of plots and characters in edifying detail. I have a distinct philosophical problem with theocracies of any kind. Sooner or later they either grow to be like Iran, controlled by a demagogue 50


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 who thinks he's God incarnate, or, if they are truly democratic, like the So ciety of Friends, they fracture into hundreds of subgroups. Nonetheless, I must commend Card on creating a three-dimensional speculative future that does not hedge the thorny issue or portray its Saints of the Latter Days as literal saints. Cannily, he has cast each story's pro tagonist as an outsider, observing the closed Mormon communities of "The Fringe (an area of former desert being converted to grassland) from a psy chological distance. Of the two who are initially LDS members, one is se verely crippled and the other is in a state of angry adolescent rebellion. Thus the non-Mormon reader shares the protagonist's point of view, and experi ences any sense of bafflement at names like Lehi or Nephite along with the similarly baffled or alienated main character. The stories are arranged not in chronological order, but in an order which develops the concept of the State of Deseret. In the first story, a roving mountain man in North Carolina falls in with a group of Mormon refugees who have escaped a massacre of their people in Greensboro, only to be exiled to certain death in the bandit-infested countryside. Parallels with 19th century Mormon history are intentional; Card even revives the handcarts they travelled with, built of bicycle parts this time. "West" is the story of strangers learning to survive by trusting one another, and of one man's learning to live with the memory of evil he was forced to commit in childhood. In the next story, "Salvage," a young gentile refugee, product of a series of foster homes, tries to get by as an outsider in Mormon territory; his dream of finding the legendary gold in the flooded Salt Lake temple comes to an unexpected fru ition. The title story, "The Fringe," was the first of the group to be published. It is the story of a crippled teacher and rebellious students, of attempted murder and black marketeering in a community that can afford neither crime, and it shows the teacher's confrontation with his conscience and with his contempt for his own diminished life. While "West" is the longest novella in the collection, "Pageant Wagon," with its greater complexity of relationships, seems more extensive, more fully-developed than any of the others. Deaver Teague, the young outsider of "Salvage," returns as an Outrider for Deseret, a scout who rides the fringe of the developing land, checking on erosion, on the progress of the ex panding grasses. When his horse dies, he falls in with a family of travelling players, who have revived the medieval pageant wagon with an old truck and a salvaged generator, drawing on the Mormon tradition of church pageants such as the one Card himself wrote, "America's Witness for Christ." But travelling players, Mormon or not, are considered outsiders by the farming folk of The Fringe; Deaver Teague finds that these seemingly 51


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 glamourous people have deep family conflicts that he can help salve, if not heal. At the same time, the Aal's difficulties throw into relief Deaver's own problem of finding a permanent focus for his existence. Because Card does not deal in cynical endings, life begins to work itself out for Deaver, but because Card is not a Pollyanna, everyone is not made blissfully happy, either-just enabled to go on living relatively productive lives. The story's theme, at least in part, is a community's need for all its members, not just the most respectable or successful. Chronologically, the first part of the last story in the group belongs at the beginning of this anthology. But because it provides a wider context for the stories that precede it, "America" makes an effective period to the collection, and its conclusion qoes draw the chronology ahead several years. In "America" an angry Mormon adolescent tries to escape his physical desires, only to be driven directly into them by a force much stronger than he. Young Sam Monson is sensitively portrayed, his conflicting urges shown as both pleasure and torment. Of the plot, I will only say that Card makes of Sam an unexpected link between this alternative future and extant Mormon prophecy, a prophecy which comes true in a way that neither the Church nor the gentiles might anticipate. I have no idea what the officials of his church may think of the Mormon focused fictions of Orson Scott Card. I do know that I admire good stories from many philosophical contexts. These are good stories. Enjoy, whether you are Catholic, Baptist, Quaker, Mormon, or Zen Buddhist. Lillian Marks Heldreth Underdoing the Overmind Clarke, J. Brian. The Expediter, NY: DJW Books, 1990, 255 p. $3.95. 088677 -409-8. The Expediter is genre SF with a vengeance, from its middle-of-the-road prose style" to its two-dimensional characterization (of both human and aliens), to its fast-paced plot (which speeds along at velocities guaranteed to render in-depth development out of the question). I don't know who J. Brian Clarke is, nor does this particular edition indicate any previous publications, so I'm guessing that this is a first novel. As such, it's competent enough, with which faint praise I am satisfied to damn it. Somewhere in our universe there exists a vast being, a unity composed of the members of an unimaginably advanced race. This unity seeks others of its kind; not finding them, it is willing to engineer a vast sequence of complex events involving (at least initially) three very different races, whose eventual interactive evolution may perhaps lead to the production of an 52


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 Other, equal to the original One. The narrative voice is that of the original unity, as it traces the initial contact between humans and the alien Phuili, their difficult but eventual co-operative efforts to populate the galaxy, and their discovery of the lethally dangerous Silvers, another alien race dedicated to the extermination of all life-forms not themselves. As the book ends, the combined efforts of human and Phuili seem to be making headway against the "anti-life" impulses of the Silvers (at least, those who haven't already been wiped out by the combined human-Phuili forces, in self-defense, of course). Perhaps we are supposed to look forward to a sequel, one con tinuing this saga of interactive evolution among varying sentient species on their way to developing what the omnipotent narrator finally terms lithe Overmind." Shades of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, you may well conclude. But Arthur c.'s novel also has a kind of emotional and metaphysical depth totally lacking in The Expediter. Indeed, at times I thought I had mistakenly embarked on a re-reading of some old Asimov or Heinlein tale, so deter minedly gung-ho is this book for so much of the time. J. Brian sidesteps most of the philosophical issues addressed in Childhood's End (issues which are at the heart of the earl ier novel), many of them centered around the question of human free will. The Overmind of this novel simply advises us "Do not resist that inevitability which is the universal mind. Individuality is not diminished, indeed it is enhanced" (255). Hey, no problem. It's this same kind of sidestepping that allows Clarke 0. Brian, that is) to solve the problem of overpopulation on Earth through the convenient discovery of Gates which allow instantaneous travel between widely separated planets. Focussing on more specific details, we still see the same kind of facile optimism. The Phuili are kind of canine-like and speak with funny accents (which I consider a really serious cop-out); although they're stiff-necked and rigid in their ways, the more flexible (!) humans manage to get along with them when the chips are down. All the central human characters are at tractive and reasonable (why the important women characters all seem to wear perfume is beyond me, although, to be fair, Clarke gives them equal billing with their male confreres). Only the broadest strokes are used to delineate the two alien cultures to which humanity is introduced, so, al though we are assured repeatedly that there are vast differences among the three races, the reader never actually "experiences" these differences to any Significant degree. The Expediter is rather determinedly irrelevant to contemporary reality and demonstrates a fine propensity for facile solutions to complex problems. As such, I suppose it's not any worse than lots of other novels on the SF/ Fantasy book racks, but I don't recommend it. Veronica Hollinger 53


SFRA Newsletter, 784, January/February 7997 Fiaina Sidhe, Droichan, and More deLi nt, Charles, Drink Down the Moon. NY: Ace Books, June 1990, 216 p. $3.95.0-441-16861-2. A sequel to de Lint's Jack the Giant-Killer, this book can be enjoyable, but self-indulgence on the author's part slows it down. The fiaina sid he (wild faeries), unaligned with the forces of good or evil, are being attacked, their luck-gathering rades disrupted and their numbers murdered. After their nominal leader, Jenna Pook, is killed, Jacky Rowan and Kate Hazel (from the first book) are asked to investigate. Being inexperienced, they end up inviting the murderer, a droichan (rogue wizard), right into their tower. Jacky is taken prisoner, but escapes just as Kate and several sidhe arrive to rescue her. They regroup in a safe place to discuss what to do. Jacky sneaks back for some potent magic left behind. However, her disguise is penetrated and she is caught again. Her friends, trying to rescue her, are also caught. Meanwhile-a big meanwhile, because the two stories are separate and intertwined-Jenna's sister Jemi is determined to find the murderer. She sets off to talk to Jacky, but is ambushed and almost killed by the droichan. Now knowing who she fights, she calls up the rest of the fiaina to make war on the droichan and his forces. While they face the enemy, Jemi climbs into the tower to kill the droichan who is immortal until you find his heart and destroy it. She arrives to see him trashing Jacky and Co., but Kate manages to show Jemi a picture of the droichan's heart, which is hanging around his neck. Jemi grabs it, steps on it, and evil is vanquished. If the book focused mostly on the characters mentioned above, it would be a well-written and interesting work, though not very original. However, the book is weighed down by much unnecessary action-mostly that set in the normal world-and characters whose functions could have been assigned to a fourth of their number. The main male character, fiddler Johnny Faw, is more or less a tag-along, feeling all the time but not doing too much. His role could have been vastly expanded. He doesn't even lead the rade at the end, that privilege being given to a friend who was little more than an observer. Moreover, almost every character is named and described, re gardless of whether that character has a speaking role. The description of the members of the band All Kindly Toes is particularly unnecessary, since Jemi is the only one from it that matters. (I get the sense de Lint was giving some friends free publiCity. In the context of the story, it flattens like toothpaste.) The droichan graduated from the school of oily, ranting villains (liDo you see your friends? You've saved one, but my darkness will feed on the souls of the others." [po 192)). His minions are the basic crude, smelly, mildly foulmouthed goblins and such. This book has a fairy-tale quality about it, 54


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 but even so, bad guys like that get tiresome after a few lines. Where de Lint hasn't overcrowded his story with characters and de scriptions, he has produced quite a pleasant work. I hope that in the future his villains will become a bit more real and his minor players will shrink to a manageable few. O. A. Rothschild Mommys and Daddys and Moddys and Daddies Effinger, George Alec. A Fire in the Sun NY: Bantam Spectra, 1990. 290 p. $3.95.0-553-27407-4. Some two dozen science fiction private eye novels have appeared in sudden spate over the past couple of years, most no more than good-natured hard-boiled parodies and pastiches. Then came Effinger's When Gravity Falls, the first (except for Richard Bowker's marvelous Dover Beach) sf eye work to be a full-fledged novel on its own. In his quirky and admittedly sometimes less-than-Iogical style, Effinger fused cyberpunk with the private eye genre to create a world of scope and possibilities. The archetypal eye novel makes its city a character. In Gravity it is the Budayeen-the hard core of an imaginary Arabic city in a Balkanized future, populated by hustlers, drifters, low-lifes, and sex-changed dancing girls, almost all wearing moddies and daddies-plug-in personality modifiers and add-ons. Mar_d Audran is the honest man of the plot, living on his wits as an eye, totally unmodified or implanted. Circumstances force him to abandon his deepest convictions and even question his unbelieverhood in a religiOUS Islamic society. His reward is to be turned into a cop against his will, alienating him beyond hope from all his friends. Now a creature of the Budayeen's Godfather, Friedlander Bey, in this sequel, Audran is forced into the middle of a complicated power struggle between Bey and a rival, punctuated by a series of grisly murders. To no one's surprise Audran eventually solves the crimes and apportions the power appropriately. Several subplots underscore the adion, two of which playoff Audran's search for his parents and his dependency on his new plug-in modules: in short, Effinger crosscuts mommys and daddys against moddies and daddies and smiles, waiting to see who notices. Obviously, Effinger's purpose in Fire is less plot than the exploration of Audran's slow transformation from a man between cultures to a power fig ure in his own right, no doubt setting the stage for his role in the third novel. Effinger's game is to use as his model the Chandleresque private eye, tra ditionally acted upon by larger forces as his case unfolds until he turns tail and starts a series of actions of his own. Audran starts as a man belligerently 55


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 in control of his own destiny in Gravity and is converted in Fire first to a pawn and then to a piece on the larger chessboard. Interesting intellectually for buffs, this device unfortunately distance the reader from the protagonist for half the book. Nor is the power struggle as compell ing as those in Chandler or Chinatown. Effinger may have more mastery of his world and of his psychological underpinnings, but the spectacular inventiveness of the previous book is missing. The compromised eye is such an interesting idea that I wish more had been done with it in this sequel. A third book is in fact planned and Fire has that time-marking feel of all middle books of trilogies. Even so Effinger has a popular success: Fire was nominated for a Hugo, an excerpt for a Nebula. Despite its flaws, Fire is well written, psychologically complex, and a convincing evocation of another culture. Perhaps when the trilogy-or even series-is complete, Fire's place in it will take on added meaning. A man who can derive subplots from puns is capable of anything. Steve Carper *An earlier review appeared in Issue 180, September 1990. Impressive Historical F,mtasy Llywelyn, Morgan. Red Branch NY: Ivy Books/Ballentine, February 1990, 483 p. $5.95. 0-8041-0591-X. The sheer weight of research Morgan Llywelyn must have performed in order to write this version of The Cattle Raid of Cooley is in itself impres sive. Equally impressive is Llywelyn's skill in weaving the details of time and place into the story. The reader gets a strong sense of authentic detail in clothing, food, customs and battle tactics, with minimal expository intrusion' into the momentum of the action. Extant legends of the hero Cuchulain are episodic and discontinuous, but Llywelyn has mortared them into a coherent heroic saga that even Joseph Campbell might admire. There is almost no trace of historic anachronism. The book is solidly crafted and quite readable. Llywelyn, commendably, does not attempt to explain its magical elements by scientific means. Llywelyn's historic skill is especially evident in a climactic scene in which Cuchulain must meet his closest friend in formal Single combat. Extrapolating rationally from the many legends of heroes like Gawain or Cuchulain fighting one opponent for several days, she demonstrates how evenly-matched contestants, each displaying his skills in formal battle-feats, could indeed prolong such a match for three days. Llywelyn's battle nar ratives are terse and graphic, sportscast-like in their gripping immediacy, but restrained in language. 56


SFRA Newsletter, 184, January/February 1991 All in all, I found the book engaging even on second reading; I recom mend it. But Red Branch raises one difficulty that I've seen in recent historic fiction. The use of twentieth-century psychological insight to motivate legendary characters from 2,000 years past (or from the Pleistocene, for that matter) is often jarring. When the character development continually brings to mind contemporary buzzwords like "rejected child" and "father-figure," I experience a sense of psychological anachronism. Every now and then I almost expect a hero to say to a friend, "I'm O.K. and you're O.K., so what are we arguing about?" Morgan Llywelyn is by no means the worst offender in this; in fact, she hides the seams better than most (for a real sense of patchwork, try Jean Auel), but a truly successful recreation of another world or time has no seams to find. But even with that caveat, I found Red Branch to be worthy of a high rating among its peers in historical fantasy. Lillian Marks Heldreth Familiarity Breeds Boredom Wells, Angus. The First Book of the Kingdoms: Wrath of Ashar. NY: Ban tam, March 1990. 404 p. $4.50. 0-553-28371-5. _____ The Second Book of the Kingdoms: The Usurper. NY: Ban tam, August, 1990. 356 p. $4.50. 0-553-28566-1. See if this sounds familiar. In a deep, dark forest, an evil god calls up his servant of fire. The servant has the power to grant men much of what they wish for. He is the Messenger. Taking command of the barbarian hordes, he leads them against the peaceful kingdoms outside of the forest. The only hope for salvation is the child of a young priestess who, it is written, will repel the evil and restore order to the world. Ring any bells? Now, how about this? The child of the prophecy, now grown, is the hero of the war. Tragically blinded by the leader of the bar barians, the young hero is in despair. Aided by a beautiful young priestess (vowed to celibacy, of course), the young hero descends into the Netherhells. Here he must ask for the return of his Sight. Meanwhile, the Messenger is corrupting a vile noble to attack the High King. Will the hero return to kill the Messenger and save the kingdoms yet again? Tune in next week, etc. Replace the evil god with Ashar. Replace the Messenger with Taws, and the kingdoms with Tamure, Ust-Galich and Kesh. The Young hero is Kedryn. There you have the Books of the Kingdoms by Angus Wells. I don't mean to sound cynical or cruel. Mr. Wells has the ability to create characters that are truly alive, if stilted. His descriptions of the abode of the dead are chilling. However, there are two problems with these books. 57


SFRA News/etter, 184, January/February 1991 First, as high fantasy, there is nothing new about this story. Read Mallory's Morte de Arthur, or listen to Wagner's Gotterdammerung. Find a book of Grimm or a collection of American Indian stories. Almost any collection of folklore, for that matter. The elements of what we now call high fantasy never change. We follow the young and untried hero, his romance with a beautiful maiden, his descent into Hell and the powerful evil versus the precarious good. We never tire of these stories because they are a part of who we are or who we wish to become. High fantasy must be clear and concise. Above all, the author must know his world far better than the reader. Finally, it is a help if the story can occasionally laugh at itself. Angus Wells, unfortu nately, does none of these. He wastes his excellent characters with the plodding plot lines that last for pages and pages. We have heard it all before, and where Mr. Wells tries to be profound, he is merely dull and pompous. Secondly. Mr. Wells has the habit of using metaphors in his descrip tions. This occurs not just once every few pages, but in nearly every para graph. His use of lias if," such as ... the shrubs crouched as if trying to repel the cold" drive the reader to distraction. If you'll pardon me, it sounds as if Mr.Wells found inspiration in Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, or in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. I'm willing to give Angus Wells the benefit of the doubt. He has the potential to become an excellent writer, if only he would work with the language, instead of against it. Also, perhaps he needs to outline his world completely before writing. Then the reader won't say to himself that he's heard it all before. Ben Herrin Fine Short Story Collection Williams, Walter Jon. Facets. NY: Tor, 1990. 321 p. $18.95.0-312-85019-0. Williams is the author of the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Knight Moves (1985), the much praised Hardwired (1986), its sequel Voice of the Whirlwind (1987) and, most recently Angel Station (1989), as well as a number of other sf novels. Although he is not a member of the cyberpunk movement per se, much of his fiction has featured the sort of futuristic gutter atmosphere, heavy-duty computer-interface technology, and hard-edged, lowlife characters that are usually identified with that increasingly codified subgenre. In general his books have been extremely well-done adventure novels., but have lacked the intellectual and moral seriousness that marks the work of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Despite his achievements at the novel-length, however, it is entirely possible that Williams is at his best as a short story writer. This meaty col-58


SFRA News/etter, 184, january/February 1991 lection of his work features fiction published between 1985 and 1989 in Isaac Asimov's, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and else where. All of the stories contained in Facets are excellent and several of them are of award quality. The best known piece in the book is undoubtedly the novella "Surfac ing," a complex tale of human-whale-extraterrestrial communications that received nominations for both the Nebula and the Hugo Awards. "No Spot of Ground" is a well-done alternate universe story that involves Edgar Allan Poe in the Civil War. "Dinosaurs" is a riveting tale of human-alien conflict. "Flatline" is a short, but successful excursion in the cyberpunk mode. Also contained herein are "Video Star," "Side Effects," "Witness," "Wolf Time," and "The Bob Dylan Solution," as well as a brief introduction by Roger Zelazny. Facets is one of the best Single-author science fiction collections of 1990 and deserves wide readership. Michael M. Levy 59


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


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