SFRA Review

SFRA Review

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SFRA Review
Alternate Title:
Science Fiction Research Association Review
Science Fiction Research Association
Place of Publication:
[Eugene, Ore
Science Fiction Research Association]
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Science fiction -- History and criticism ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- History and criticism -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Science fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Fantasy fiction -- Book reviews -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
serial ( sobekcm )


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Place of publication varies.

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Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
S67-00110-n224-1996-07_08 ( USFLDC DOI )
s67.110 ( USFLDC Handle )

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&1;'1 Review Issue #224, July/August 1996 IN THIS ISSUE: SFRA INTERNAL AFFAIRS: President's Message (Sanders) ............................................. 5 Editorial (Sisson) ................................................................... 6 NEWS AND INFORMATION ............................................ 8 FEATURES Feature Review: "Cosmic Engineering" Westfahl, Gary. Cosmic Engineers: a study of hard science fiction. (Orth) .......................................... 15 REVIEWS: Nonfiction: Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. (Gordon) ... 21 Beaulieu, Trace, et al. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. (Hellekson) ....................................................................... 22 de Camp, L. Sprague. H.P. Lovecraft: a Biography. (Wells) .............................................................................. 24 Disch, Thomas M. The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets and Poetasters. (Lindow) ........................ 27 Everman, Welch. Cult Science Fiction Films: From the "Amazing Colossal Man" to "Yog-Monster from Space". (Blackwood) Jointly reviewed with McGee volume ................................................................. 30 Gillett, Stephen L. World-Building: A Writer's Guide to Construction Star Systems and Life-Supporting Planets. (Bengels) ........................................................... 31 Krulik, Theodore. The Complete Amber Sourcebook. (Stevens) .......................................................................... 32 McGee, Mark Thomas. Faster and Furiouser: The Revised and Fattened Fable of American International Pictures. (Blackwood) Jointly reviewed with Everman volume ............................................................................. 30 SFRA Review #224, page 1


Ransom, Amy]. The Feminine as Fantastic in the Conte Fantastique: Visions of the Other. (Kaveny) .............. 33 Rotsler, William. Science Fictionisms. (Sisson) ............... 35 Schmidt, Stanley. Aliens and Alien Societies: A Writer's Guide to Creating Extraterrestrial Life-forms. (Cain) ............................................................................... 36 Sneyd, Steve. Flights from the Iron Moon: Genre Poetry in UK Fanzines & Little Magazines, 1980-1989. (Levy) ............................................................................... 38 Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. (Lindow) ........................ 39 Fiction: Card, Orson Scott. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. (Collings) ................................ 43 Dreyfuss, Richard and Harry Turtledove. The Two Georges. (McKnight) ...................................................... 45 Garfinkle, Richard. Celestial Matters: A Novel of Alternate Science. (Hellekson) ...................................... 47 Kessler, Joan c. (Editor). Demons of the Night: Tales of the Fantastic, Madness, and the Supernatural from Nineteenth-Century France. (Coulont-Henderson) ...................................................... 49 Marlow, Gordon Robert. Vincent's Revenge: "A Flurry of Rage" and "Crows and Laizzez-Faire: Next Ten l\Jiles". (Bousfield) .......................................................... 52 Noon, Jeff. Pollen. (Wright) .............................................. 54 O'Leary, Patrick. Door Number Three. (Davis) .............. 57 Saunders, George. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella. (Barron) .................................... 59 Thomson, Amy. The Color of Distance. (Monk) ............. 59 Weis, Margaret (Editor). Fantastic Alice: New Stories from Wonderland. (Sullivan) ........................................ 61 PUBLISHERS' ADDRESSES/ORDERING INFORMATION ............................................................. 62 SFRA MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION & APPLICATION ............................................................... 63 SFRA Review #224, page 2


EPir" Review Editor Amy Sisson Assistant Editor Paul Abell Assistant Nonfiction Editor -B. Diane Miller SFRA Review (ISSN 1068-395X) is published 6 times per year by the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) and distributed to SFRA members. Individual issues are not for sale. For information about the SFRA, see the description and application at the back of this issue. Please submit reviews, news items, letters, etc. to Amy Sisson, SFRA Review, 304 Fairfax Row, Waterford NY 12188; telephone (518) 237-4669; e-mail "sfraamy@aol. com". Sub missions are acceptable in any format: hardcopy, e-mail, Macintosh disk, or IBM disk (saved as text-only or ASCII). Please note the SFRA Review has an agreement with the Sci ence Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual (Robert Collins & Michael M. Levy, Eds.) under which reviews are exchanged between publications. If you do not wish your review to be submitted to the Annual, please indicate the same. Typeset by Amy Sisson on a Macintosh Performa 6205CD. Cover design by David Garcia. Printed by Century Creations, Grand Forks, North Dakota. SFRA Executive Committee PRESIDENT Joe Sanders 6354 Brooks Blvd. Mentor OH 44060 SECRETARY Joan Gordon 1 Tulip Lane Commack NY 11725 VICE PRESIDENT Milton T. Wolf University Library/322 Univ. of Nevada Reno Reno NV 89557-0044 TREASURER Robert J. Ewald 552 W. Lincoln St. Findlay OH 45840 IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT David G. Mead 6021 Grassmere Corpus Christi TX 78415 SFRA Review #224, page 3


SFRA Review #224, page 4


("jiM Internal Affairs PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE Sure enough, as I predicted last time, I've got a draft of my essay for the Eau Claire conference sitting in a file, waiting for revision. At present, it's 25 pages long, roughly twice the length that can fit into a conference session. The one option I've ruled out so far is trying to read the whole thing aloud very, very fast. I've been thinking, though, about the whole process by which writing is presented to the public. Last issue, I talked about the excitement of participating in a conference how, besides individual presentations, the combination of papers, panels, and informal conversation forms a culture medium in which ideas combine and/or branch out. Everything is fluid, full of possibilities. Later, trying to turn some of those ideas into new essays, a writer makes choices. Not all the possibilities are equally interesting, and discovering some new insights means that some of the original points must be discarded... We've all done this. It's different, however, when someone else tries to do it for us. Writing is a very personal act, amI teachers know how difficult it can be to nudge someone into truly looking again at a piece of writing, as "revision" literally means. When I edited a collection of papers from ICFA (Functions of the Fantastic; earlier, in keeping with other titles in the series, I'd thought of calling it Abstract Nouns of the Fantas tic but thought better of that), I first asked the writers if they'd like to make any changes before their essays were considered for publication, then sorted out the essays that looked publishable with a minimum of revision, then made suggestions and negotiated with the writers, then proofread desperately as the manuscript went through several stages on the way to camera-ready copy. This melange of general musing and personal experience is relevant because of the hopeful but threatening times in which we find ourselves. On the one hand, we have exciting opportunities to do new things; on the other, some fundamentally important things aren't being done very well. The St. james Guide to Science Fiction Writers is one example of SFRA Revie\\' #22-1-, page 5


what should at last have become a major reference book but that appears barely to have been edited and almost certainly never proofread. Look, for instance, at the garbled essay on Theodore Sturgeon, in which whole paragraphs are repeated. It appears that the ease of transmitting essays on disk, producing copy via printer, etc., sometimes encourages people to eliminate the attention to detail required in all activities involving us fallible humans. Just this morning, I was looking through the glossy, multi-colored text before a Netscape workshop and spotted a typo in the first paragraph of the preface. So I'm very hopeful but somewhat wary of the idea of SOL (Speculation On-Line), an electronic journal in our field. The people involved are knowledgeable and serious, and I'll be trying to help too. The important thing, though, will be what we put in the journal, not how it's circulated, and the most important aspects of that are how skillfully we can negotiate revisions and how carefully we can produce something that transmits our own excitement and even stirs some new thinking to advance this loving enterprise of scholarship. I know we can do it. I hope we will. Joe Sanders Editorial Hello, everyone. Many changes since the last issue! Paul and I got married in Grand Forks, North Dakota on April 13. We got engaged in January, and in spite of the short engagement we managed to have a wonderful wedding. Being a somewhat non-traditional person, I wore a short white dress instead of a wedding gown, and a good friend married us in a beautiful ceremony he created. The reception was a great party which went until the wee hours of the next morning. The wedding cake, made by SFRA member Diane Miller, was the talk of the evening: a deep blue starry sky with a streaking comet over a snow field, topped off by a big white-choco late Enterprise suspended overhead. There was also a little shuttle and two tiny figures on the snow field, and foilwrapped mints in the shape of the Federation insignia strewn about the table. The other memorable event was the surprise Star Trek skit put on by Paul's brothers and groomsmen, complete with music, sound effects, and costumes. They portrayed U.S. Immigration (with whom we have recently become quite familiar Paul is Canadian) as the evil Klingon empire, bent on preventing the union between two alien races, Sisson and Abell (I haven't changed my name, by the way). It SFRA Review #224, page 6


was very clever and hysterically funny. This rare footage has thankfully been preserved on video tape -maybe we can sell it years from now at a Star Trek con! The other big change is that Paul and I are moving to Waterford, New York (please note new address below) so that Paul can pursue a Ph.D. in Planetary Science, focusing on asteroids. I'm not sure what I will be doing when I get there, but hope to find a job that is both rewarding and which has a liveable wage. Hey, there's a first time for everything! Anyhow, our move shouldn't affect the Review too much. I'm taking this issue to the printer a few days earlier than usual to ensure that I can mail it before we move. By the time we get settled in New York, it will be time to start working on #225. As usual, the hardest part will be getting the address change out to publishers for the review copies. A question for the members about the Review. do you prefer to have your academic affiliations listed with your re views? I notice that many reviewers put it down automatically on everything they write. If you have any strong feel ings about this one way or another, please drop me a note or e-mail meat .. ... And don't forget that any news for "SFRA Members and Friends" or "Works in Progress" is always welcome. Happy Reading, Amy NEW ADDRESS: Amy Sisson SFRA Review 304 Fairfax Row Waterford NY 12188 (518) 237-4669 E-mail: (unchanged) SFRA Review #224, page 7


I IMAGINATIVE FUTURES I The Proceedings of the 1993 Science Fiction Research Association Conference is now available from Bargo Press. Learn why the Sci Fi Channel, as well as NBC and CBS affiliates, covered part or all of the SFRA conference held in Reno, Nevada. Featuring some of science fiction's well-known authors: 1) Frederik Pohl's "The Imaginative Future" 2) Kim Stanley Robinson's "Science Fiction as Fantasy" 3) joan Slonczewski's "Bells and Time" 4) Paul Anderson's "Epistle to SFRAans" 5) Lisa Goldstein's "The Imaginative Future" 6) james Gunn's "Imagining the Future" And some of science fiction's established scholars: 1) Gary Westfahl's "In Research of Wonder: The Future of Science Fiction Criticism" 2) Susan Stone-Blackburn's "Feminist Nurturers and Psychic Healers" 3) Rob Latham's "Youth Culture and Cybernetic Technologies" 4) Bud Foote's "Kim Stanley Robinson: Premodernist" 5) Anne Balsamo's "Signal to Noise: On the Meaning of Cyberpunk Subculture" 6) Mark Waldo's "Mary Shelley's Machines in the Garden" 7) Donald tv!. Hassler's "Machen, Williams and Autobiography: Fantasy and Decadence" If you like HUMOR and want some good SF laughs: 1) Fiona Kelleghan's "Humor in Science Fiction" is not only excellent scholarship, but a HOWL! 2) Paul joseph's and Sharon Carton's "Perry Mason in Space: A Call For More Inventive Lawyers in Television Science Fiction" is a provocative and highly entertaining examination by two lawyers. 3) Dr. JoAnne Pransky's "Social Adjustments to a Robotic Future" is a tongue-in-cheek tour de force by this self-styled ROBOTIC PSYCHIATRIST, ala Susan Calvin. And if you like ART: The text is enhanced by the works of RODNEY MARCHETTI, and a fine piece of original research by Dr. jane P. Davidson on "A Golem of Her Own: The Fantastic Art and Literature of Leilah Wendell" a denizen of Anne Rice's New Orleans. ORDER FROM: Bargo Press, Box 2845, San Bernardino CA 92406. Price: hardcover $41, softcover $31. Special price for SFRA members: hardcover $21, softcover $11. 5;FRA Review #224, page 8


and Information SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY RESEARCH INDEX A new cumulation of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Re search Index is now under contract and in progress, covering the years 1992 through 1995. Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Index provides broad coverage of history, criticism, film studies and review, news reports, and general commentary on the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Cov erage is as comprehensive as possible. In order to ensure completeness, the assistance of the scholarly community is again solicited. If you have published a book, article or report on the fields covered, please provide standard bibliographic information. If the item is article length, an offprint or photocopy would be particularly ap preciated, and would greatly speed inclusion, as I try to ex amine all material before entry. I have copies of the major critical journals, such as Extrapolation, Science-Fiction Stud ies, and Foundation; of the major news sources (Locus and Science Fiction Chronicle); and of most of the fiction maga zines, so those sources are covered. While coverage is focused on the years 1992 through 1995, I would be pleased to include items not included in previous editions of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Index. I rou tinely include earlier material when located, and I encourage you to check your entries in previous editions for completeness. As a reminder, the previous editions are: Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Index 1878-1985. (Detroit: Gale Research, 1987. 2 v., 1460pp. (Approximately 19,000 items covered) Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Index 1985-1991. (Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1994. 677pp. (Ap proximately 16,200 items covered) The new volume is tentatively scheduled for September 1997 publication, also by Libraries Unlimited. Please send any information to: Hal W. Hall, Head of Special Formats SFRA Review #224, page 9


Division, Sterling C. Evans Library, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-5000; telephone 409-845-2316; voice mail 409-862-1840; fax 409-845-6238; e-mail "HALHALL@TAMU.EDU". -Hal W. Hall COMIC ARTS CONFERENCE "The Comics Arts Conference is designed to bring together comics scholars, practitioners, critics, and historians who want to be involved in the dynamic process of evolving an aesthetic and a criticism of the comics medium." If that doesn't sound too off-putting, you may wish to attend the fifth com ics arts conference in San Diego next july 3, which is being held in conjunction with Comicon, scheduled for july 4-7. Sneer if you must, but Comicon attracts several times the number that attended the largest worldcon. Details about the academic conference, for which there's a $20 registration fee, are available from Peter M. Coogan, Comic Arts Stud ies, MSU Libraries, East Lansing, MI 48824-1048; telephone 517-485-8039; e-mail .. ... This information comes from issue 55 of Comic Art Studies, a quarterly newsletter co-edited by Coogan and Randall W. Scott, address as shown. MSU's immense comics collection was augmented last fall by the purchase of 11,000 comic books and albums from a Stockholm publisher and collector. The com ics items include 500 scrapbooks containing more than 300,000 daily comic strips, plus more than 5,000 Golden Age comic books on microfilm. Phone 517-355-3770 or fax 517-423-1445 for more details on this collection. Neil Barron RARE GENRE BOOKS ON DISK Mark Owings of Baltimore has available several public domain (but rare) genre books, from the late 1800s and early 1900s, now reissued on computer disks in ASCII format. All titles are available on 5.25" or 3.5" disks at $1.00 each, plus a $1.50 shipping charge per order. Some available titles are: Tourmalin's Time Cheques by F. Anstey (ps. Thomas Anstey Guthrie); The Ashes of a God, A Digit of the Moon, and In the Great God's Hair by r.w. Bain; Mr. Munchausen by john Kendrick Bangs; Tarry Till I Come by Alexandre Dumas; Douglas Duane and Solarion by Edgar Fawcett (Solarion was listed S'FRA Review #224, page 10


in Bleiler's SF: The Early Years as "an excellent story"); and Hallie Marshall, a True Daughter of the South by F.P. Williams. For a complete list with descriptions, or with suggestions of titles to be included in future offerings, write to: Mark Owings, 1113 West 40th Street, Baltimore MD 21211-1749. SFRA Review #224, page 11


f 99 VstIJ.R,t/ ,t/NN'U,t/.E e(jNq.CRCNeC The 1997 SFRA Annual Conference will be held June 23-26,1997, in conjunction with the 19th Annual Eaton Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. The contracts haven't been signed, but we will almost surely be on board the Queen Mary, docked at Long Beach, California. Our roster of guests is also a bit tentative at this early date, but we can offer this list of "Confirmed or Semi Confirmed Guests": science fiction writers Brian W. Aldiss, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Sheila Finch, Howard V. Hendrix, and Kim Stanley Robinson; Michael Cassutt, writer and former producer of The Outer Limits and Strange Luck; David Pringle, editor of Interzone and St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers; and a host of familiar faces from previous SFRA and Eaton Conferences, including Arthur B. Evans, Donald M. Hassler, Frank McConnell, and Eric S. Rabkin. The overall title for this joint conference will be "Worlds Enough and Time: Exploring the Space-Time Continuum of Science Fiction and Fantasy." The SFRA track of the conference will focus on "Space" -the problematic relationship between science fiction and space fiction, the ways we conceptualize space, stories of space travel and alien worlds, space voyages in fantasy, connections between fictional space programs and the actual space programs, and space travel as a metaphor for explorations of human problems on Earth. The Eaton track of the conference will focus on "Time" -the ways we conceptualize time, attitudes toward time, time as protagonist in science fiction and fantasy, theories of and stories about time travel, alternate worlds, and disSTUI\ Review #22-+, page 12


parate timestreams, and stories about time stopped, time moving at different speeds, or time moving backwards. A more detailed Call for Papers, and final conference information, will be mailed to SFRA members and other potential guests and will appear in the next issue of the SFRA Review. We are hoping that, with all of space and time to wander through, many people will find interesting things to say. Our tentative conference schedule, along with a few panels and Keynote Addresses, has room for 33 20minute SFRA papers on "Space" and 22 30-minute Eaton papers on "Time." That schedule may be drastically changed depending on the number, contents, and quali ties of the proposals we receive. Proposals for SFRA papers dealing with any aspect of "Space" should be sent to: Gary Westfahl The Learning Center University of California Riverside, California 92521 Proposals for Eaton papers dealing with any aspect of "Time" should be sent to: George Slusser Rivera Library University of California Riverside, California 92521 sl The deadline for proposals will be April 1, 1997, so you have a considerable space of time to develop your ideas. I'm sorry I can't be more definite about everything at this moment, but we are working very hard to get everything finalized, and to make this the best SFRA Confer ence and the best Eaton Conference ever! And we hope you'll be able to attend! Gary Westfahl S'FRA Review #224, page 13


SFRA Review #224, page 14


I if' II ltd Review COSMIC ENGINEERING by Michael Orth Westfahl, Gary. Cosmic Engineers: a study of hard sci ence fiction. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996,160 pages, hardcover, $49.95, ISBN 0-313-29727-4. Cosmic Engineers is a careful and useful analysis of hard science fiction. Gary Westfahl, who teaches at the Learning Center of the University of California at Riverside, is well known as a critic of science fiction and as a reviewer in these pages. His Greenwood Press contribution to the study of science fiction is welcome. Perhaps it will not make large differences in the way we understand science fiction, but it will be interesting to the many partisans in science fiction's old civil wars because Westfahl argues as much about what science fiction is as he does about what "hard science fiction" means. As you might expect, Westfahl considers hard science fiction to be the true faith, with the New Wave and later developments as heresies. Still, though Weslfahl clearly loves his subject, he makes no extravagant claims, once you grant his preference for near-space adventures told in the good old Golden Age way. Instead he offers a modest and reasonable study of the sort of science fiction which many traditional readers look for: those books with spaceships or BDOs (Big Dumb Objects) on the covers instead of mesomorphic swordpersons, cute elves, buffed-up femmes, or winsome BEMs (bug-eyed monsters). The plan is simple. Westfahl begins by tracing the development and use of the term "hard science fiction" from its origin in 1957 (in a review by P. Schuyler Miller) to its many uses in 1995. He focuses particularly on science fiction writers who recognize the commercial value of the label "hard science fiction" and who hope it will be applied to their stories. Next, Westfahl discusses in a chapter each several science fiction novels (Clarke's Fall of Moondust, Clement's Mission of Gravity, and Sheffield's Between the Strokes of Night). These are his defining examples of hard science fiction. SFRA Review #224, page 15


!-lis discussion of the novels is sensible, though not particularly ambitious as criticism. !-Ie wants most of all to defend hard science fiction against charges that it lacks humanistic and literary values. I-Ie does that vigorously, but he does not develop any new insights about hard science fiction as a literary type. I-Ie ends his book with a "preliminary de scription" of hard science fiction and a rather gloomy forecast about its future. Westfahl's history establishes the sub-genre of hard science fiction clearly and firmly in context of the evolution of science fiction in general. Early in the study, he quotes Hugo Gernsback and John Campbell, writing in the 1930s (p. 7). Their comments show that the elements of hard science fiction were already well recognized at the beginning of the Golden Age. Thus Westfahl agrees that hard science fiction is not a new genre of science fiction but rather a conservative form, re-emphasizing traditional concerns of SF readers. The "sense of wonder" often found at the core of traditional science fiction is, for Westfahl, the sympathetic center of hard science fiction too. He makes this claim clear enough, and in the context of his argument it is persuasive, so Westfahl succeeds in his goal of writing a history and definition of hard science fiction. He is willing to ignore issues about what "science" means, and he isn't concerned with literary analysis, but his detective work tracing the history of what various writers have considered the phrase "hard science fiction" to mean is solidly done. In the end, Westfahl is willing to go a little beyond the familiar definition of hard science fiction as "the form of imaginative literature that uses either established or carefully extrapolated science as its backbone" (Allen Steele, "Hard Again", New York Review of Science Fiction, June 1992). Westfahl's comprehensive definition of hard science fiction runs as follows: 1) hard science fiction writers identify strongly with their genre and audience; they want to be recognized as "hard" science fiction writers; 2) they write either one of two sorts of formulaic fictions -microcosmic stories ("near term space fu tures") or macrocosmic stories ("extravagant creations of a strange or immense environment"); and SF/V\ Review #224, page 16


3) they claim to be obsessed with scientific accuracy, and are always aware of a "game" of scientific knowledge underway with readers. Here the distinguishing feature of recent hard science fiction which Westfahl adds to older definitions is that hard science fiction writers identify their stories as part of "the ganle." By the "game" he means that writers of hard science fiction try to make the science in their science fiction as believable as possible, while fans try equally hard to discover where science stops and magic begins. The goal for authors is to avoid "mistakes" (according to Larry Niven), while the goal for readers is to find them. Westfahl emphasizes the community nature of this game and the intertextuality of contemporary hard science fiction. Readers and writers know each other, and they more or less know the "rules." To win this game, authors often choose microcosmic science fiction (near-term futures, limited settings and extrapolations) and often run the danger of writing "engineering science fiction," stories like those which David Brin mocks as "how to pull off a successful revolt in a space colony with a 98 percent independent recycling system" (p. 42). Westfahl does a thorough job of establishing his definition and placing it in context of science fiction writers and critics. His title indicates that he is aware of the limitations of his subject. Early in his study Westfahl tells us that most hard science fiction writers harbor queasy feelings about the literary limitations of their genre -they show concern, though not guilt, that what they write is not "serious literature" (p. 48). This might be a fourth identifying feature of hard science fiction, though Westfahl does not give it much attention. His book would make better literary criticism if he showed more concern for examples of deft handling of style or narrative techniques among his examples, or if he allowed more recent writers recognition among his canonized examples. Westfahl, like some of the writers he analyzes, feels he must defend hard science fiction against two enemies. The first is the accusation that it is more concerned with technology than with human values, and the second that it displays a tendency to cliche. This tendency is made evident in a quota-SFRA Review #224, page 17


tion from Norman Spinrad's "Dreams of Space" (p. 98) in which Spinrad parodies the "Space Frontier Novel" formula evident in microcosmic hard science fiction: The asteroids (colonial America or the Old West) were seen as the free frontier, the future of economic (and sometimes, political) freedom, colonized by rugged individualists who were usually fighting for economic and/or political independence from wicked, degenerate, collectivist, played-out Earth (old Europe or the effete East). Out there in the Belt, with its limitless mineral resources, its low gravity and its wide-open spaces, was the future of the species, and as for poor old polluted, overpopulated, screwed-up Earth, well, tough shit ... Not all this stuff had a right wing political message, and not all of it limited the frontier to the Asteroid Belt, but all of it displayed much the same attitude towards Earth and what it stood for. Poor old Earth was unsalvageable and at best must be left to stew in its own juices while the best and brightest headed in the direction of Pluto. Rather than imaginative laziness, Westfahl believes this standardized future history is a megatext demonstrating that hard science fiction writers display humanistic values because they struggle "to make their future worlds conform to ancient and comfortable patterns" (p. 99). Maybe so. But both Westfahl and some of his writers seem concerned with the dangers of stereotyped plotting and characters (evident enough in much hard science fiction). Fortunately, for every Stephen Baxter and Bruce Sterling there seems to be a Kim Stanley Robinson or a David Brin ready to use the megatexts of hard science fiction to develop new literary patterns. In general, Westfahl achieved his goals in this book. The trouble in judging the study comes in deciding whether his book was worth writing. I think it was, though not necessarily in the detail that he offers. He first addressed the definition of hard science fiction in his article "The Closely Reasoned Technological Story: The Critical History of Hard Science Fiction", which appeared in Science-Fiction Studies (July 1993). Westfahl improved his earlier article for this book by providing a more complete history and adding to his definition, but he seems unsure of the value of what he has done. At the end of his monograph he proposes that although overall "hard science fiction seems to represent an unconventional method of writing science fiction," it "does not necSFRA Review #224, page 18


essarily create unconventional stories," a conclusion which "will please no one on either side of the hard science fiction debate" (p. 109). So, in the end Westfahl's hard science fiction is not particularly special -even though it is in the broad mainstream of science fiction. Westfahl tells us that "these are not necessarily judgments I am pleased to offer" (p. 121). The style is as plain and unambitious as the thesis. Sometimes Westfahl labors over a question, and sometimes he de livers an answer clearly, but seldom is there any gratuitous flourish or glitter, nor any obscurity either. That's not a bad thing in science fiction criticism. Still, behind much of the monograph it is easy to see the note cards (probably today the database) from which he assembled it. It might have been more effective as a thoughtful critical essay rather than a cumulative research report. Overall, Cosmic Engineers is clearly written and sensible, and it engages a favorite issue in science fiction criticism. Though it is an academic monograph, with notes at the end of each chapter, fourteen pages of bibliography, and a good index, it is not dull or ponderous, and Westfahl does not press his evidence or inflate his conclusions. This is a valuable book which should be part of any good science fiction reference library. SFRA Review #224, page 19


1995 S']R-A eonference Videos This is a partial list of the footage available from the 1995 SFRA CONFERENCE; more will be made available as soon as the master tapes are converted to a different format. "The Atomic Bomb & the END of WWII" (AI Berger) Opening Ceremonies (Charles Wood, Chair of UND Space Studies; GoH john Brunner; Bruce Farr; Diane Miller; Lisa Mason's "The Elephant and the Netcruiser"; slideshow from Artist GoH Robert Pasternak) "Writing Genre Literature" (Jeffrey Carver, john Brunner, Amy Thomson, Ben Bova) "Are Women Taking Over SF and Why Would They Want To?" (Lisa Mason, john Brunner, Amy Thomson, Lynn Williams, jeffrey Carver) "What Makes a Classic?" (Neil Barron, Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Donna Camoesas, Batya Weinbaum) "The State of International SF" (Larisa Mihaylova, Ariane von Or/ow, janice Bogstad, Andrea Bell) "Sex and SF (Has Moral Decay Hit the Lit?)" (Jeffrey Carver, Eleanor Amason, Sandra Lindow, Amy Thomson, Ivlargaret McBride) "Teaching Literature Through Films -War of the Worlds, Blade Runner, Dune (Robert Blackwood) "The State of the Art in Teaching SF" (James Gunn, jeffrey Carver, Margaret McBride, Christian Moraru) Tapes are $22 each; please send orders to Shawn Miller c/o Diane Miller (1402 4th Ave. N., Grand Forks NO 58203-3145) specifying which footage you want. There will also be a memorial tape of john Brunner, featuring digitized photos by Robert Blackwood and possibly a photo composition of john's work. SfRA RcviclV #224, page 20


Reviews-Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: Uni versity of Chicago Press, 1995, 231 pages, hardcover, $22.00, ISBN 0-226-03201-9. When I taught in a small college in Montana, I would have felt quite deprived of intellectual companionship, given my interests in science fiction and feminism, had I not had the sustenance of two of Nina Auerbach's books, Communities of Women: An Idea in Fiction (1978) and Woman and the Demon: The LiFe of a Victorian Myth (1982). Neither dealt directly with my work, but both were very influential on my studies of feminist SF, and of what was to become a steady interest of mine, the vampire as metaphor. Now Auerbach has published a superb volume on that very subject. The title, Our Vampires, Ourselves, witty, succinct, and devoid of pretension, beautifully represents the attributes of the book itself. In only 192 pages of text, accompanied by 27 pages of highly readable notes, she lays out her thesis, that "every age embraces the vampire it needs" (p. 145). To the English romantics, for example, the vampire represented in timate friendship, but for the more repressive Victorians, it established xenophobic hierarchies. By the 1960s she sees vampires in the grip of Jungian archetypes, and by the 1980s in the equally powerful grip of families. Auerbach traces changes in vampires' attributes as well, from their nineteenthcentury dependence on the moon to their twentieth-century allergy to the sun, and considers the significance of the recent fictional phenomena of the half-vampire and the British alternate-history vampire. Using fiction, drama, and movies, Auerbach explores not only the blood-sucking creature but "the psychic vampires who look so ordinary that we can scarcely extract them from our lives" (p. 101). But whatever the era, whatever the avatar, the vampire represents the "po litical and ideological ambiance" of its time (p. 3). Auerbach offers readings of "Carmilla", Dracula, 'Salem's Lot, Carrion ComFort, Anno Dracula, and The Gilda Stories, as well as the inevitable Vampire Lestal novels -readings which not only substantiate her thesis but are brilliantly revelatory of the works themselves. Also brilliant are her acute S'FRA Rcvie\\' #22-+, page 21


analyses of the many Dracula movies and her concluding discussion of Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark. While I found the content of this book consistently stimulating, I was also very impressed by its tone. The book is clearly informed by a wide-ranging intellect, but its erudition is handled graciously, incorporated in a lucid prose with a controlled and illuminating use of personal reference. The result is criticism which takes personal responsibility and welcomes the reader into the community of scholars. That tone transforms the book into a great conversation, perhaps recreating some of the intimacy in friendship which Dracula, by her argument, destroyed. -Joan Gordon Beaulieu, Trace; Paul Chaplin; Jim Mallon; Kevin Murphy; Michael J. Nelson; and Mary Jo Pehl. The Jl.lystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide. New York: Bantam, May 1996, 174 pages, softcover, $16.95, ISBN 0-553-37783-3. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Amazing Colossal Episode Guide is clearly meant for fans who already know what the TV show is about. As a Mystie from back in what this text calls "the KTMA years" -that is, the mythical first season of the program aired on a low-budget channel in Minneapolis, and never shown on the Comedy Channel because the episodes were too terrible -I found lots to love about this book. But I get all the jokes in the program about the Pannekoeken Haus. I am a member of the MST3K fan club; bits of this book (like the take-off on The Name of the Rose in the prefatory note about the translation) seem to me to be partially cribbed from the fan newsletter. And though it's an episode guide and therefore a reference work, it's still tremendously funny. For those not in the know, MST3K is a television program with a simple premise: a man (first Joel, now Mike) is held captive in space on the Satellite of Love by Dr. Clayton Forrester and "TV's Frank", who force him to watch horrible movies while monitoring his brain. To help while away the time, Joel built several robots (played by puppets), including Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo. The program simply shows a terrible old movie, such as Kitten with a Whip, while Joel (or Mike) and the 'bots make fun of the movie. This is something we all do on our own sometimes, but we don't do it SFRA Review #224, page 22


with a team of well-read, TV-literate writers whose job is to be funny. Brief segments show Joel or Mike and the 'bots hanging out, exchanging bizarre inventions and the like. The show is created by Best Brains Co., out of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and Comedy Central shows the program. Despite a just-completed MST3K movie spoofing This Island Earth, Com edy Central recently failed to renew the program. MST3K staffers hope that fan outcry will result in its being picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel. Because MST3K is a cult favorite, this episode guide will feed the ravening hunger of fans who need to know all. The book is divided into seasons six full ones, plus brief sections on the mythical KTMA year and a chapter called "Whither Season Seven?" Each section begins with some sort of remembrance by a Best Brains person; for instance, Kevin Murphy writes about taking over the role of Tom Servo in Season Two, which was also the season where TV's Frank replaced the character of Dr. Larry Erhardt. This book also answers that lingering question: who has to screen all those horrid movies in order to find one good enough (of bad enough) to make fun of? (Frank used to do it, but he left so now Mary Jo does it). Most interesting is the list of the 50 favorite, most arcane comments and what they refer to. For instance, in Mighty Jack, there's the comment, "This is Leigh Kammand with The Jazz Image." The explanation: "Leigh hosts a late-night program on public radio. He's really smooth, and he knows everyone. He speaks in fragmented sentences." The episode guide helpfully numbers each episode. Each entry has a movie synopsis, rife with editorial comments ("This one wanders all over the place. Just a terrible movie... It's this movie's notion of a sympathetic character: an oily, oily man who wears a sweater-dress to bed"). Shorts (five-or tenminute mini-movies) are also synopsized. I was not surprised to learn that my personal favorite short, Mr. B. Natural, an inexplicable film "in which a shrill, peculiar succubus visits a young boy to teach him about the spirit of music," is a fave among Mysties. It features a Peter Pan-esque woman whom we are supposed to believe is a man, resulting in the comment that it's "not only uncomfortable, it's downright damaging. A boy with great legs and boobs is just plain wrong ... This unaddressed sexual confusion is the kind of thing that causes potentially well-adjusted young gay men to run screaming for the closet." So true. SFRA RevieIV #22-+. page 23


Visually, this book is intriguing. It provides plenty of photos, both from the source programs and from the host segments. The final "about the author" photos are great: each photo shows the writer (each wearing the same jacket) posing with the same mournful looking dog. Informational boxes also grace the pages; TV's Frank writes short bits that put the films into a larger cinematic context or that relive certain horrible or interesting experiences connected with choosing the film. Trace Beaulieu writes little blurbs about the films' monsters. And there's a special column honoring actress Beverly Garland. Lots of different typefaces and graphic boxes, not to mention shadowed photographs with text superimposed over the top, make this book busy, but it's awfully entertaining. I read it out of order, in a series of fits and starts. I will say that it is beautifully copyedited. My biggest complaint is that there is no index of movie titles. I wanted to look up that turkey Alien from LA (with Kathy Ireland and lots of Australians) and had to slog through the book to find it. And the summaries of some films do not do justice to the original plots of the films themselves -case in point is Secret Agent Super Dragon. This book reminds you of the fun of seeing the parodied film, by providing humor of a different sort as well as the insider perspective. If you want an episode guide in the truest sense of the word, however, this is not it. Go out and buy Leonard Maltin's guide if you actually need to know what happens in the movie. This book is on a whole other level. Warning: this book, while appropriate for the teenager in your life, does use some bad words -but nothing too horrible. After all, this is the program that said of TV's Frank, "That Frank sure has a cute shape." -Karen Hellekson de Camp, L. Sprague. H.P. Lovecraft: a Biography. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996, 510 pages, hardcover, $9.95, ISBN 1-56619-994-8. The publishing arm of the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain has brought back into print L. Sprague de Camp's fine biography of H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937). This edition is for the most part a reproduction of the 1975 Doubleday hardcover (originally titled Lovecraft: a Biography), including the illustrations, bibliography, notes, and index. It also includes alSFRA Review #22.+, page 24


most all of the minor corrections made by de Camp for the abridged 1976 Ballantine paperback, plus several more minor corrections which are new to this edition (see note on these corrections below). This extensive account of Lovecraft's life is unmatched by any other book, and de Camp also summarizes and brief1y analyzes Lovecraft's major and many of his minor writings. Some edition of this biography should be part of every collection even minimally devoted to the history of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and this affordable, corrected Barnes & Noble edition would be a worthwhile addition even to collections that already contain the original. With the perspective of passing time, Lovecraft can be eas ily seen as a major figure in the history of American genre fiction, deserving of de Camp's full-scale biographical treatment. In addition to writing supernatural horror stories similar to those of Poe and fantasies similar to those of Lord Dunsany, Lovecraft staked out his own territory by combining the gothic mood of horror stories with the wild ideas of science fiction in such stories as "The Call of Cthulhu", "The Colour Out of Space", The Shadow Out of Time", "The Whisperer in Darkness", and At the fo.'Iountain of Madness. While he was alive he was inf1uential on many of the next generation of SF and horror writers, including Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch, and Fritz Leiber, who called Lovecraft a "liter ary Copernicus" because he "shifted the focus of supernatural dread from man and his little world and his gods to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space" and to the "universes lying outside our own spacetime continuum." Since Lovecraft's death, there has been a waxing and waning but generally growing popular and scholarly interest in his work, which has been kept in print in hardcover by Arkham House since 1939 and in paperback by several publishers, currently Del Rey, almost continuously since the 1960s. Lovecraft's work has been adapted into movies, TV shows, and computer games, and is the subject of a scholarly journal, Lovecraft Studies, edited by S.T. Joshi. (For information on the resurgence of Lovecraft-inspired fiction, see Douglas A. Anderson's review of Cthulhu 2000 in the #222 Marchi April 1996 issue of SFRA Review.) De Camp portrays Lovecraft's life as a fascinating, diffi cult, belated, and ultimately unsuccessful emergence from the cocoon spun in Providence, Rhode Island by a neurotic. domineering, overprotective mother, and maintained after SFRA ReviclI'#224, page 25


her institutionalization and death by some doting aunts. He was able to venture out of that genteel suffocation far enough to become active in amateur journalism, make some money as a ghost writer, publish stories under his own name in such pulp magazines as Weird Tales, Amazing Stories, and Astounding Stories, travel on his own as far away as Quebec and Key West, and even marry Sonia H. Greene and live for a time in New York City (neither the marriage nor the NYC sojourn lasted). His slow metamorphosis was tragically cut short by his premature death at the age of 46. De Camp's portrait of Lovecraft and his milieu is thorough, informed, and vivid. De Camp does not shrink from depicting Lovecraft's shortcomings, including his adjective-heavy writing style, the snobbish and racist views he sometimes expressed in his writing, and his unrealistic pose as a gentleman of leisure, for which he lacked the necessary substantial inheritance. In fact, de Camp has been criticized for being too hard on Lovecraft. But as a Lovecraft admirer, I found de Camp's treatment to be on the whole sympathetic and respectful. De Camp is hardest on Lovecraft's impracticality, but only, I think, because it placed such tremendous, seemingly unnecessary obstacles between Lovecraft and happiness. De Camp is very effective at conveying Lovecraft's in telligence, his friendliness and kindness (shown in person even to members of classes he railed against in writing!), his slow m

cause as peritonitis (p. 230). p.284 The name of the author of The Moon Terror is given as A.G. Bird. The Ballantine correction has the last name as Birch (p. 300). The Barnes & Noble edition also includes several corrections that were not included in the Ballantine edition. The significant ones are: p. 141 The author of a line added to a letter from Lord Dunsany to Lovecraft is now identified as C.W. Smith. The previous edition identified the au thor as Lady Dunsany. p.273 The month and year Lovecraft wrote "Cool Air" is now given as February 1926. The previous edition said that Lovecraft wrote the story after writing "The Call of Cthulhu" in September/ October 1926. p.292 The month and year Lovecraft wrote The Case of Charles Dexter is now given as February 1927. The previous edition said that Lovecraft wrote the story in November 1927. p. 409 The year Lovecraft wrote "/\ History of the Necronomicon" is now given as 1927. The pre vious edition said that Lovecraft wrote the es say in 1936. Earl Wells Disch, Thomas M. The Castle of Indolence: On Poetry, Poets, and Poetasters. New York: Picador, 1995,229 pages, hardcover, $21.00, ISBN 0-312-13448-7. Thomas Disch, one of the most highly regarded SF poets writing today, has a very grim view of the state of poetry. In his essay, "Reviewing Poetry: A Retrospect", Disch writes: poets are regarded as handicapped writers whose work must be treated with a tender condescension, such as one accords the athletic achievements of basketball players confined to wheelchairs. Poets don't make the bestseller lists; they don't expect to earn a living from their SFRA Review #224, page 27


poetry. Their jobs at the fringe of a bloated educational bureaucracy benefit neither the larger economy nor the little commonweal of poetry. Rather, like other forms of "special education," poetry workshops exist to foster a self-esteem that, in its fullest flower, verges on delusions of reference. He goes on to say that due to the "marginalization" of poetry, none of it is taken seriously -almost as if it were all written by folks with the artistic talent of those who paint oil paintings on circular saw blades in shopping malls. The literary establishment sees poets as "stupid children" and treats them so gently that no poetry reviewer "ever says that a particular book is insipid, or inept, or downright stupid." This amounts to a "conspiracy of silence." In his reviews, Disch sets about to remedy this problem. No gentle reviews for Disch. He is the Cyrano of reviewers, and as a stylist, he is an excellent swordsman. He writes in quick jabs and slices, only to pull back into a snide aside or a smirk. He believes that poetry workshops teach mediocrity because "Mediocrity is easier to emulate than excellence, which is usually, sad to say, inimitable." Arts grants like the Guggenheim and the NEA sponsor a "free lunch" mentality and a "sense of entitle ment" that "poets ... have come to share with the homeless and other self-styled victims of the System." Poetic "risk taking" is a transparent attempt at political correctness designed "to make university tenure more likely." The collected works of poets are seen as "canon fodder" for libraries. "Rejectamenta" is Disch's word for minor poems from major poets as well as the best work of most of the rest. Editors of "century-wide anthologies" are described as kind enough to include minor poets and "set a place at the table for the lesser dead." May Swenson is described as "spinsterish"; Gerald Stern is criticized for writing poems about "fussing in his gar den." Critically acclaimed poets like Stern, Alice Walker, and Philip Schulz are described as writing poetry little better than [Rod] "McKuen's glop." The work of W.S. Merwin is criticized for its "snifTiness" and described as "more-holistic-than-thou." As a reviewer, Disch seems to like long narrative poems although he tends not to write them himself. John Hollander is praised for his music. Frederick Turner's SF epic The New World, David Budbill's .Judevine, Mark Jarman's Iris, and Les i'.Iurray's The Boys Who Stole the Funeral all earn Disch's usually miserly praise. He describes Vikram Seth's The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse as "a good read after the manner of SFRA RevieIV #224, page 28


the better sort of fiction in the women's magazines" (Disch is a master of the left-handed compliment). He also tends to like talented classicists like Pound disciple Peter Whigham. He has considerable praise for Christopher Fry's costume drama, The Lady's Not for Burning, but doesn't much like Fry's later work. In describing the works of Joseph Brodsky, he writes that his "own preference is for a poetry more secured to quotidian experience, more willing to indulge a mood of mere ebullience, less given to complainings of suffocation, but for those readers who read poetry as a kind of secular Sabbath, Brodsky provides a month of Sundays in the best tradition of Puritan New England." However, few of the previously mentioned poets write about (at least what this reviewer sees as) quotidian experience. The events they relate are rarer than daily life and the form is much more elevated (although Disch did like novelist John Updike's amply quotidian poem, "The Beautiful Bowel Movement", enough to quote it -an exception that proves the rule?). My own quotidian experience would probably be seen by Disch as the kind of garden-fussing he doesn't like. But then I'm just a minor woman poet who attends a monthly poetry workshop and is not particularly depressed that my work will eventually be lost in the library dust of time. What matters is the joy I get from writing and the pleasure and occasional aha's I give my readers. Garden-fussing aside, what Disch seems to dislike most are poems where writers seem to revel in their own "various foul moods." This makes sense to me because psychologists tell us that people are most critical of those who demonstrate their own worst failings. If these reviews are any indication, Disch seems to be in a foul mood a great deal. Even his tattooed, crossed-arm pose on the book's cover seems to radiate a certain foul-humored smugness. Too bad! Disch is a fine poet but as a reviewer he engages in too much name-calling. Further, by demeaning other talented writers, he seems to be engaged in a subtle act of self-aggrandizement. Too much Disch, not enough of anything else. For the serious SF reader, even the serious reader of science-fiction poetry, there is little in this volume of particular interest except the Turner re view. Read that if you're interested; avoid Disch's various foul moods by ignoring the rest. -Sandra]. Lindow SFRA Rcview#224, page 29


Everman, Welch. Cult Science Fiction Films: From the "Amazing Colossal Man" to 'Tog -Monster from Space". New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995, 256 pages, softcover, $17.95, ISBN 0-8065-1602-X. McGee, Mark Thomas. Faster and Furiouser: The Re vised and Fattened Fable of American International Pic tures. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996, 350 pages, hardcover, $40.00, ISBN 0-78640137-0. Welch's Cult Science Fiction Films is a once-over-lightly plot summary of 75 science fiction films with filmography data and some good black and white prints. He has limited his attention, for the most part, to low budget science fiction films -Westworld is one of the few exceptions -which are available on videocassette somewhere in the U.S. This is a companion volume to Welch's earlier book, Cult Horror Films. Among the films Welch examines are The Boys From Bra zil, Damnation Alley, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Hercules Against the Moon Men, The Island of Doctor Moreau, jesse james Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, Mysterious Island, and THX 1138. His comments are short, concise and to the point, and there is a four page proper name index, but more critical commentary would have been welcome. Without it, this book is largely one that is fun for the fans. McGee's Faster and Furiouser is a revision of his 11-yearold book on American International Pictures (AlP), the distributors of European muscle films, Japanese horror movies, and Hollywood's lowest budget youth exploitation flicks (some of which are also covered in Welch's book, such as The Amazing Colossal Man and The Day the World Ended). Among the other genres included in the McGee volume are horror (I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Godzilla vs. The Thing, The Abominable Dr. Phibes); gangster (Machine Gun Kelly); racing (Hot Rod Girls); Edgar Allen Poe horror (The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven); beach films (Beach Party, Bikini Beach); and motorcycle melodramas (The Wild Angels). McGee's AlP filmography alone runs 30 pages. AlP created a number of subgenres, but it often lacked either the budget or the vision to develop them fully. McGee often comments on the behind-the-scenes problems with each SFRA Review #224, page 30


film, evaluating both actors and directors. He did some solid research to get so much information about films which though often short lived, nevertheless had an influence on young viewers disproportionate to their budgets. Roger Corman, who started with AlP under the guidance of Jim Nicholson and Sam Arkoff, has certainly had a major influence on low budget and independent films. McGee's expanded revision contains a filmography, short biographies of AlP actors and other notables, and a proper name index. This volume is very useful to the professional researcher and the serious fan. Dr. Bob Blackwood Gillett, Stephen L. World-Building: A Writer's Guide to Constructing Star Systems and Life-Supporting Planets. Sci ence Fiction Writing Series, Ben Bova, Series Editor. Cin Cinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 1996, 198 pages, hardcover, $16.99, ISBN 0-89879-707-1. World-Building: A Writer's Guide to Constructing Star Systems and Life-Supporting Planets by geologist Stephen L. Gillett is, by turns, a vastly irritating but occasionally fascinating book that purports to be one thing yet seemingly is another. One reason this book irritates the reader is because it either has no conception of its audience or it unsuccessfully tries to appeal to both ends of the spectrum: on one page Gillett gives grade school definitions of "star" and "solar sys tem," yet three pages later he spouts complex mathematical formulas. Clearly the reader who requires those definitions will be turned off by the rest of the book. The title is also misleading. More than anything WorldBuilding seems to be an up-to-date review of modern astronomical thinking, with an occasional detour into speCUlative "thought experiments." His chapter headings even read like an astronomy text: "The Astronomical Setting", "The Earth", "The Other Planets", "Stars and Suns". Tellingly, his most interesting chapters are those that come closest to the book's promise: "Why World-Build?" (only five pages), "Making a Planet", and "Not as We Know It". Nowhere does he ask any SF writers how they've gone about creating their worlds (though he does refer briefly to Hal Clement's famous "WhirliSFRA Review #224, page 31


gig World" essay written to accompany l\1ission of Gravity), nor does he really give a clear how-to framework for the neophyte author. In fact, he refers to very few authors, Poul Anderson being his primary authority, mentioned time after time after time. Gillett's style ranges from classic text-book to self-conscious breeziness, and while he is clearly enamored of his subjectmatter, his "gosh-wow" sense of wonder is demonstrated by an over-abundant (read: annoying) use of exclamation points (frequently as many as two per page). The book does include scholarly apparatus in the form of diagrams, tables, references, resources, and a glossary of terms, and is handsomely produced with an attractive, evocative cover. Ultimately, Gillett has worthwhile information to impart, and interesting insights for the reader who sticks it out. He's convinced me not to hide 180 degrees away from the source of a severe cosmic impact, he's described to me the beauty of living on a ringed planet, he's intrigued me with the notion that a planet with an uneven orbital speed would experience a sun which occasionally moves backward in its sky. However, when I recommend a book, as I frequently do, to my college SF writers, would this be the one? Sadly, the an-swer is no. -Barbara Bengels Krulik, Theodore. The Complete Amber Sourcebook. New York: Avon Books, January 1996, xvii + 494 pages, softcover, $15.00, ISBN 0-380-75409-6 This guide to Roger Zelazny's Amber Universe is written as though by the King's Scribe in Amber, but published in the Shadow Worlds. This is an unnecessary fiction since it doesn't affect the content, which is itself more than satisfactory. The entries cover all ten of the Amber books and include items that might have passed unnoticed by the casual reader. Each of the major (and many of the minor) characters have extensive entries relating the adventures from that character's point of view. Corwin's entry, in particular, is very detailed and includes much information on his "lost years" on the Shadow Earth, which are summed up in a few lines in the original stories. STRA Rcvicw #22-1-, page 32


There are a few trifling inaccuracies (e.g., the number of bodies discovered by Benedict varies: two in one account; four in others) but they don't detract from the overall accu racy. The character biographies are sufficiently detailed that, by reading them and following cross-references, one can reconstruct the entire plot of the original stories. This is an excellent reference for Amber fans, and can also be interesting to those with no prior experience in that Uni verse. Krulik's material would be ideal for a computer CDROM, using hypertext links between the entries. If the text of all the original books could be included on the CD, also with hypertext links, it would be an invaluable resource and an excellent reading adventure. Until something like that appears, though, the present volume is an excellent choice. W.D. Stevens Ransom, Amy J. The Feminine as Fantastic in the Conte Fantastique: Visions of the Other. The Age of Revolution and Romanticism Interdisciplinary Studies. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1995,280 pages, hardcover, $49.95, ISBN 0-8204-2785-3. This work is based largely on Amy Ransom's 1993 University of Minnesota doctoral dissertation in French Literature, Visions of The Other: The Feminine As Fantastic in The Conte Fantastique. To my mind, the first question is to ask whether this volume works within the scope of science fiction criticism as we presently construct its boundaries. The second question follows: if it does work, is it of interest to those of us within that field? At first glance, it may appear that it would not be of interest, since we tend to think of science fiction primarily as a 20th-century phenomena, which ac knowledges its 19th-century roots by privileging Wells, Verne, Poe, Mary Shelly, and a few others (if we move into the field of popular culture) for consideration. Some might argue that it is a leap of faith to include a work which focuses on material produced in the French Language roughly from the French Revolution to the start of the First World War. Rather than hold you in suspense for the length of this review, I will answer my questions immediately in two parts: I offer a guarded yes for the historical period and body of literature that is the object of her study. I offer a resounding yes for the methodology with which Ransom views SFRA Review #224, page 33


the literature of her framed period of study. She views it as an object, and as a result of the process of cultural production. Her focus on the evolution and radicalization of the feminine as other is really the heart of her work. She takes us through a historical progression, as first the edifice of the old order in France is shattered by the revolution, and then as its foundations are eaten away by the processes of industrialization, urbanization, and polarization, which continue with cataclysmic force up to the Great War of 1914. A mere 20 years ago, Ransom's work would have been im possible. As she so aptly points out in her second chapter, her work is contingent upon the recent evolution of gender studies, along with the parallel evolution theories of the fantastic as they have reached (as she demonstrates) certain points of convergence. This phenomenon has allowed her to synthesize a methodology, in a sense almost an instrument, which she then passes across the texts she chooses to work with. I will leave it to the reader to determine whether Ransom's textual choices were perceptive. I myself must compliment her in that she included material in French followed by English translations. Though I have not seen her original dissertation, I find myself wondering whether the translations in the present volume were added to make it more ac cessible to the general reader. Ransom's implicit position seems to be Foucalt-like in that it suggests we can use literature to raise the context of the world in which it was created. In a reciprocal sense, we can go to the context of its generation to further inform on that same body of literature. It is a tricky approach which forces us to rely upon and trust the critic, as she must reduce the period she examines to certain essential basics simply because of the space limits imposed upon her. This approach also forces Ransom to reduce the arguments of the critics she employs to the salient aspects of their work. This can be both the greatest strength and the Achilles Heel of such studies; we must rely that the critic's assumptions accurately represent the period she studies. Ransom's approach also coincides with a position which I have been moving towards (although not exclusively) for the last several years. Brieny expressed, I feel that books (nov els, short stories, even tales) are objects of the production of material culture. Indeed, their very persistence of existence seems to signify that above all things. Books can even emSflU\ Review #224, page 34


body socio-economic and family relations as they have existed in their various iterations. This approach, even if not definitive, is certainly of great interest as what Ursula K. Le Guin referred to in Women of Wonder (1975) as a thought experiment. I would like to see more work such as this published, using methodologies akin to Ransom's, particularly as might be applied to science fiction written by women in the post-Le Guin era, addressing late 20th-century concerns such as bio logical sex versus social gender. If Ransom's methodology is sound -and I think it is -then results similar to hers should be reproducible. Hopefully, The Feminine as Fantastic in the Conte Fantastique can be seen as a foreshadowing of things to come. I consider this volume a must for any college or university library, and a supplementary recourse for those serious in developing new approaches to the field of science fiction. It will also be of some interest to the informed general reader whose scope of interest expands past the immediate present. In closing, I must say I have barely touched upon the content of this book; the depth of the work makes it unamenable to synopsis, since Ransom's conclusions are in fact inseparable from the supporting material. Philip E. Kaveny Rotsler, William. Science Fictionisms. Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1995, 144 pages, softcover, $5.95, ISBN 0-87905-693-2. Although Christmas is still half a year away, you might want to pick this book up while you can -the book's small size (5 x 6 inches) and content make it the perfect stocking stuffer for the SF fan on your list. Each of the 144 pages, printed alternately in white-on-black and black-on-white, contains two or three quotes from "the great science fiction writers." The book is divided into the following sections, or "isms": Witticisms, Futurisms, Politicisms, Educationisms, Lifeisms, Artisms, Militaryisms, Writingisms, Environmentalisms, Physicsisms, and Truisms. Some quotes are very familiar (Orwell's "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"), while others aren't as well known but still interesting or humorous (Gregory Benford's "Los Angeles goes on and on long after it has made its point"). SFRA Review #224, page 35


Of the 331 quotes I counted, it was no surprise to find Heinlein heading the list with 36 quotes; after all, his Lazarus Long was given to spouting "isms" at the drop of a hat. The other main pontificators include David Gerrold (29), Arthur C. Clarke (15), Frank Herbert (14), Isaac Asimov (13), and Kurt Vonnegut, ]r. (13). Some of the quotes are banal, and the disproportionate attention given to some less notable personalities (Gerrold with 29, Alexis A. Gilliland with 12, and Kathleen Sky with 9) gives the impression that Rotsler may have prevailed upon some friends to create "quotable quotes" specifically for this book. Nonetheless, for the science fiction reader and/or fan, this is one of those books that's just fun to have. -Amy Sisson Schmidt, Stanley. Aliens and Alien Societies: A Writer's Guide to Creating Extraterrestrial Life-forms. Science Fiction Writing Series, Ben Bova, Series Editor. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer's Digest Books, 1995, 226 pages, hardcover, $17.99, ISBN 0-89879-706-3. In this book, Schmidt intends to teach beginning writers how "to create worlds and futures (and aliens) that really could exist and do the things they describe." Thus, fantasy is not part of the scope of this book. Schmidt makes it clear that this is not a denigration of fantasy; rather, fantasy is simply a different game. For whom this book is intended is not entirely clear. Other books in the series are aimed at adults who want to write. Here the primary focus is on plausibility of the setting, and the list of preparatory chores spelled out for the novice writer will be more than a little daunting. To the experienced writer it is merely (or should be) a standard checklist. However, Schmidt's writing style seems to be aimed at someone in late adolescence; the glossary confirms this by including terms the average adult, much less a reader of SF, would consider common knowledge (Le. arctic zone, cell, DNA, ecology, nova, sonar, and virus). The book is likely to scare off all but the most precocious of students, even at the college level, and insult the intelligence of an educated adult or an established writer (not that a few "established" writers couldn't use a refresher course in plausibility). The difficulty is a conflict between the tone and the content. SFRA RcviclV #224, page 36


Schmidt develops a clear picture of what science one needs to know before sitting down to write the great American SF novel. He uses quite a few of his own stories as examples, which is not all bad, and he has the very good sense to employ some excellent writers for specific topics. He cites Hal Clements, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Poul Anderson on planet building, and Joan Slonczewski on biology, among many others. The first two chapters are essentially a justification for writing (and reading) this book. In a phrase, if you want to write science fiction, get your fictional science right! Don't end up with a world with a hydrogen-fluorine atmosphere circling a blue-white star, or alien languages in perfect English syntax. In chapter three, Schmidt moves on to geology and astrophysics, where he really shines. With his Ph.D. in physics, no one should be surprised. He covers much of the same material that Poul Anderson covers in his classic article, "The Cre ation of Imaginary Worlds". Schmidt includes charts on spectral class of stars, planetary distances from their respective sun, and axial tilt. There is also a beginner's guide to scientific notation. Chapters four and five deal with biochemical engineering. Am()ng those topics discussed are DNA structure, the squarecube law, convergent evolution, and the Fermi Paradox. Also, Schmidt includes numerous examples of life-forms from various SF authors, with L. Sprague de Camp's "Design for Life" as the cornerstone. Chapters six and seven develop social and language structures. Schmidt relies almost exclusively on his own knowledge here. His only references to linguists are a textbook and the Encyclopedia Britannica! Despite Schmidt's evident knowledge of the subject, the lack of standard references, such as works by Noam Chomsky or Otto Jesperson, or Walter Meyers' Aliens and Linguists, creates a very uneven effect. As for other writers, only Clement and Slonczewski are cited and then only briefly regarding pheromone communication. I would like to have seen mention of Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue, Vance's The Languages of Pao, or Delany's Babel 1 7. I would think these would be basic reading for a beginning writer. SFRA Review #224, page 31


Chapters eight and nine touch on the logistics, dynamics, and consequences of human/alien contact. Schmidt cites many examples of authors who are especially adept at characterization. He warns the reader not to create "humans in funny suits." However, he fails to mention any sources for individual or social psychology, as one might expect. For the novice author, this would have been useful. While the chapters are good, the topic is far too broad to be covered in a mere 27 pages. The last two chapters are case studies and suggestions for further stretches of imagination. Schmidt provides a quick description of the setting and mechanics of books by himself, Anderson, Clement, Nordley, and W.R. Thompson. Finally we come to "The Xenologist's Bookshelf", an appendix containing lists offiction (l05 titles) and non-fiction (69 titles), which if studied and understood ought to qualify a writer for a Bachelor's degree in SF somewhere. Did I like the book? Yes. Will it make someone a good writer? No, but it will at least make the very worst merely insufferable, and the mediocre, tolerable if not worth the time to read. The style of writing is highly conversational, and thus an easy read. The occasional tongue-in-cheek and humorous comments also keep this book from becoming an SF cookbook. -Thomas M. Cain Sneyd, Steve. Flights from the Iron Moon: Genre Poetry in UK Fanzines & Little Magazines, 1980-1989. Almondbury, England: Hilltop Press, 1995, 128 pages, softcover, .50/$6.00, ISBN 0-905262-12-3. Sneyd, one of the better known British poets working in science fiction and fantasy, has compiled what he calls a "gazetteer" of UK genre poetry published during the 1980s. This inexpensively produced, stapled volume consists of an alphabetical listing of: 1) fan magazines which include poetry; 2) important individual poems (Mike Johnson's "AE", A.c. Evans's "Neogea"); 3) major editors (Chuck Connor, Peter Presford); 4) key terms in fan publishing (such as APA); 5) SF poetry organizations; and 6) articles on British genre poetry. Oddly Sneyd does not supply individual entries for major poets. Each entry gives a bit of background on the editor, SFRA Review #224, page 38


author, or magazine, as well as publication dates and other relevant facts. Important or longer-running magazines (such as Back Brain Recluse and Star Wine) receive a separate entry for each issue. Sneyd quotes extensively from the poems themselves, commenting briefly on many of them and at greater length on poems he considers of special interest. He also includes excerpts from previously published interviews and critical essays concerning the works in question. This highly-specialized volume is also available on computer disk in a variety of formats. It can be ordered from Hilltop Press, 4 Nowell Place, Almondbury, Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England. US distribution is through NSFA, care of Anne Marsden, 31192 Amapola, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675-2227. Michael M. Levy Warner, Marina. From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and their Tellers. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995,463 pages, hardcover, $35.00, ISBN 0-374-15901-7. From the Beast to the Blonde may well be the most important work to date on the relationship between women and storytelling. Although well-known writers and scholars such as Joseph Campbell, Bruno Bettelheim, Jane Yolen, and Jack Zipes have given us enormous insight into the meanings of fairy tales, Marina Warner takes us behind the scenes to describe the relationship between women as storytellers and the tales they told. Warner, a feminist and an accomplished scholar, was educated in convents in Egypt, Belgium, and England and received her M.A. in Modern Languages from Oxford Univer sity. Alone of All Her Sex (1976), her brilliant work on the cult of the Virgin Mary, is a splendid, definitive study that expanded the boundaries of religion and feminism. Other works include the critically acclaimed joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (1981) and Monuments and Maidens: the Allegory of the Female Form (1986), as well as four nov els. Warner is an excellent writer with an enormous breadth of education and experience. Her prose is highly accessible and insightful. From the Beast to the Blonde is a remarkable compendium, a women's studies course in itself, although it would be impossible to cover everything Warner has to offer in a SFRA Review #224, page 39


single semester. The carefully selected illustrations, from medieval tapestries and eighteenth-century woodcuts to Rackham bookplates and Disney cartoons, are an education in themselves. To read this book is to keep intimate company with someone undoubtedly smarter than most of us. We are nourished on talk, Warner tells us. We need stories to educate and sustain us. Her first twelve chapters involve storytellers and their historic milieu. The first tellers tended to be women mothers, grandmothers, nannies. Women told stories to children to calm their fears and guide their moral development. Women told stories to each other to entertain and pass along insights into marriage and sexual ity. It was not until the invention of the printing press that men like Perrault, the Grimm Brothers, and Hans Christian Andersen became involved in collecting, editing, and expanding the tales. Suddenly, what women previously had done for love, education, and entertainment, men now controlled for purposes of monetary reward, social and professional advancement, and romantic nationalism. The changes that occur in the values and content of specific tales due to this switch are of particular interest to Warner. The focus, though, is on women's talk -old wives' tales, gossip, sweet talk, and riddles, as well as the sophisticated stories told by leisured French ladies in courtly salons. Particularly problematic for Warner is the role of the older woman; she includes an amaz ing series of meuieval woodcuts to demonstrate how misogyny and ageism tended to demean and undervalue older women's talk. Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-Three involve the tales themselves. What stands out here is Warner's compassion ate grasp of human relationships and how the personal can be transformed into story. A young woman moves into her husband's house when she marries. She and her now-wid owed mother-in-law compete for her husband's attention and for power within the household. Twenty-five years later that same intrusive mother-in-law becomes the witch or the evil stepmother in a tale told to her grandchildren. The mixed benefits of marriages where women were commonly abused, worked to death, or likely to die in childbirth also influenced the subjects and structure of the tales. As often as not, sto ries ended with a marriage -and they lived happily ever after because the reality of women's early mortality was too scary to take any farther except in fantasy. Warner sug gests that the widespread acceptance of psychoanalytic apSFRA Review #224, page 40


proaches such as Bettelheim's has "effaced from memory the historical reasons for women's cruelty within the home and ... made such behavior seem natural, even intrinsic to the mother-child relationship ... The archetypal approach leeches history out of fairy tales." "Blue beard", "Beauty and the Beast", and 'The Little Mermaid" are all examples of the mixed blessings of marriage. Warner describes the Sea Witch from Disney's Little Mermaid as "the shadow side of ... desiring rampant lust; an undulating, obese octopus, with a raddled barqueen face out of Toulouse-Lautrec and torso and tentacles sheathed in black velvet, she is a cartoon Queen of the Night, avid and unrestrained, what the English poet Ted Hughes might call 'a uterus on the loose.'" Particularly thoughtprovoking is Warner's discussion of the Beauty and the Beast craze as seen in the science fictional television series of the 1980s and the modernized Disney movie, where a close look at the Beast reveals his similarity to the endangered American buffalo. Warner also examines the changing societal reaction to incest. She explains that in the Old Testament, Lot's daughters are the ones who seduce their drunken father for the sake of the survival of the family line. Yet by 1694, when "Donkeyskin" was published, incest had become a grave ta boo, the damaging effects of which were understood at least by many of the tellers. "Donkeyskin" and "Silver Hands" are constructed in such a way as to make plain the grueling process of healing from such abuse. From the Beast to the Blonde clearly demonstrates how apparently simple fairy tales are in reality complex, multilayered works that can be analyzed in strata like rocks. Above a core of archetypal imagery and symbolism shared by all human beings, there is a bedrock layer of history and culture that Warner describes as "the interweaving of social custom and law with fantasy narratives" and "a microcosmic history of re-evaluated relations between humanity and animals." Running through the bedrock, the influence of religion and mythology appears as veins of gold and silver, transforming tales into holy legends and back again. Finally, near the surface are the story-tellers' own variations based on individual biases and experiences. As a result of their many layers of meaning, their disregard for logic, and their nonsequiturs and reversals, fairy tales most resemble dreams. Today, the tales, like dreams, exist as complex evolutions, proofs of a certain linguistic Darwinism. Also like dreams, there is a boundlessness, Warner suggests, where "anything can happen. This very boundlessness serves the moral purpose of SFRA Review #224, page 41


the tales, which is precisely to teach where boundaries lie." Dreams, too, teach us of boundaries and boundlessness. Dreams are sometimes unsettling due to personal issues we are unwilling to face. Sometimes a wise woman can see how a story can illustrate a dream truth in a more acceptable way. Warner begins and I will end at the bedside with the follow ing quote from Apuleius: The old woman sighed sympathetically. "My pretty dear," she said, "you must be cheerful and stop worrying about dreams. The dreams that come in daylight are not to be trusted, everyone knows that, and even nightdreams go by contraries ... Now let me tell you a fairy tale or two to make you feel a little better." -Sandra J. Lindow SFRA Review #224, page 42


'#AU.H' Reviews Card, Orson Scott. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. New York: Tor, February 1996, 352 pages, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 0-312-85058-1. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus comes four years later than planned; originally, Card's Co lumbus novel was to have appeared in 1992 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's voyage of discov ery. As it turned out, the half-millennium mark elicited much more controversy than commemoration as activist groups argued, picketed, and generally drew attention to the nega tive results of Columbus's voyages, often to the point of transforming him into a virtual villain. In one sense, though, the delay has worked well for Card's conception both of the novel and of its central character -not precisely a "hero" in conventional terms but certainly a figure of force, a personality so compelling that he not only alters the lives of those he contacts but ultimately alters the very history he helped create. In Card's view, Columbus is a great man living in a bad time, and throughout the pages of Pastwatch Card allows that greatness to show through as Co lumbus discovers not only new lands but new knowledge within himself, allowing him to create a future world far superior to the one in which we find ourselves. If this sounds as if Card is treating his Columbus more as a historical figure than as a literary creation, I suspect that such an assumption is warranted. To the extent possible, Pastwatch relies, particularly in the earlier chapters, on historical events, demonstrating who Columbus was and what he hoped to achieve; then, toward the end, as future technology impinges on fifteenth-century history, Card concentrates on those elements of greatness in Columbus that, coupled with a deeper understanding of humanity and the nature of true Christian ity, lead Pastwatch to a powerful and triumphant conclusion. Along the way, of course, Card draws a number of strong characters to guide, advise, and at times manipulate Colum bus into fulfilling both his potential and his destiny. Through devices that initially allow future scholars to view historical events, and later to interact with them, Card's characters SFRA Review #224, page 43


develop not only their own reactions to such horrific institutions as slavery, warfare, and the despoliation of the planet, but also to the lives of specific individuals. One character discovers the truth behind the Noah's Ark stories endemic in so many societies; another devotes her life to understanding the evils of slavery by scrutinizing the life of an African progenitor; a third focuses more generally on the status of the Aztec empire in the decades before the arrival of the Europeans. Remarkably, Card manages to develop each of these characters and their individual concerns into full narratives embedded in the texture of a larger story, a story that is nothing less than an imagining of how our world might have been had events taken a different turn in 1492. To further complicate matters, the Pastwatch characters eventually discover that the ostensibly utopian society in which they live, one that is restoring the ravaged earth while allowing individuals the freedom to develop as they wish, is in reality the final short burgeoning of a doomed planet. The damage caused by technological despoliation is too severe, and cannot be repaired quickly enough to save humanity from generations of starvation, with the accompanying war fare and gradual loss of knowledge. The only possible recourse is to alter history, to close off a failed branch and begin again. Aml this requires the redemption of Columbus. "Redemption" is ambiguous in this novel. Columbus himself must be "redeemed"; that is, all of Pastwatch's energy is concentrated on letting Columbus learn for himself where the myopia of his worldview will lead. In the process, he transforms from historical figure to mythic fulcrum, the one individual who can save uncounted generations from sorrow and suffering. This requires a transformation in his thinking, as he discovers that the "gentle Indians" are less savage than the presumably Christian Europeans: "These people are the children of God, waiting only to be taught and baptized in order to be Christian. Some of my men are worthy to be Christians along with them" (p. 325). At the same time, Co lumbus must "redeem" the world; through his new aware ness comes the possibility of a new future in which the two hemispheres work together in hope and peace. Card has handled a complex series of interlocking narratives with great skill. While at times some episodes seem SFRA Review #224, page 44


more summary than story (which is necessary, since it would otherwise have to be several hundred pages longer), he se lects those episodes carefully, surrounding them with precise, solid story-telling. He incorporates a number of his perennial concerns, including the importance of community and the inviolability of individuals to choose between right and wrong. At times Pastwatch suggests earlier novels as well, as in human manipulation, the central triadic relationship, and Columbus's deathbed scene all evoking the emotional power of Songmaster. Readers looking for another Ansset or Ender or Alvin or Nafai may be disappointed, as Pastwatch does not depend as much on a single near-epic character. Pastwatch is a fine novel, however, powerful in its storytelling and compelling in its characters. But it is also much more. It is a meditation on what is good and bad in our world, on what is good and bad in the legacy of the Christopher Columbus that we celebrate and/or excoriate. It is an exercise in defining true Christianity without involving the dogma of particular denominations. It is a paean to brotherhood and sisterhood of all humanity, to the community of all humanity, iconographically centered on the image of the black woman Diko and the white man Columbus as the two of them ultimately share responsibility for re-creating the world. Michael R. Collings Dreyfuss, Richard and Harry Turtledove. The Two Georges. New York: Tor Books, 1996, 384 pages, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 0-312-85969-4. When Richard Dreyfuss had an idea for an alternate history novel, he didn't fool around; he went directly to Harry Turtledove, the reigning master of the genre, and asked him to be his co-author. The result of their collaboration is The Two Georges, a mystery set in a world in which the founding fathers sought a diplomatic solution to their grievances, fore stalling the American Revolution and preserving the British Empire until the present day. When the stable relationship between the North American Union and the British crown is threatened by a radical separatist group's theft of The Two Georges, a Gainsborough portrait commemorating the historic meeting between Washington and King George at which the political settlement was reached, it is up to Colonel Thomas Bushell of the Royal American Mounted Police to find SFRA Review #224, page 45


the painting and save the day. In the course of recovering the stolen masterpiece, Bushell also provides the reader with a tour of British North America, from the borders of Russian Alaska to the Six Nations (a semi-autonomous native American province) and from the coal mines of western Pennsylvania to the capital city of Victoria. In contrast to The Guns of the South, Turtledove's previous effort at rewriting American history, The Two Georges focuses on the hypothetical present rather than the point of divergence from the actual past. The mere existence of the stolen painting is the closest thing to an explanation offered for the novel's altered history, and it is up to the reader to decide exactly how the renunciation of American independence could have led to the relatively placid present depicted here. This doesn't require an overly active imagination, how ever, as the authors suppose that very little would have happened in the last two hundred years. The world of The Two Georges seems to have arisen not from an altered history, but from an absence of history. Without the precedent of a successful American Revolution, "the ill-fated French uprising against Louis XVI" was crushed by a loyal Napoleon Bonaparte (p. 190). The genocide of native Americans was prevented by British restraint upon westward expansion, and under compulsion of Parliament the southern plantation owners reluctantly freed their African slaves. While there have been occasional border skirmishes between the KingEmperor's soldiers and the forces of the Franco-Spanish Holy Alliance, the rivalry between these mighty empires has apparently never erupted into a major war, and the tiny German States have not dared to develop nationalistic ambitions. Without the impetus of revolution, rebellion or world war, technological progress has been slow. After arriving in New Liverpool (named Los Angeles by its original Spanish settlers) aboard an airship, Bushell powers up his steam-powered car: "He turned the key. A battery-powered sparker lit the burner. A twist of a dashboard knob brought the flame up to high. Then he had nothing to do but wait and watch the pressure gauge" (p. 18). The novel is sprinkled with some slightly archaic-sounding British words, such as boots instead of trunks, serviettes instead of napkins, and lucifers instead of lighters; the closest thing to fast food in New Liverpool is fish and chips. While this adds to the novel's quaintness, it does SPRA Review #224, page 46


little to establish the sense of an alternative present. Apart from the date on the cover, the only indications that the novel takes place in the present are brief appearances by a usedcar dealer named Tricky Dick, a dissident publisher named John Kennedy, and the Governor General of the North American Union, Sir Martin Luther King. The authors quite properly thank Harry Harrison "for his thoughts on how a world without the American Revolution might look." However, while The Two Georges shares some fundamental historical suppositions with A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! it does not share that novel's starchily ironic sensibility. Harrison's hero, Gus Washington, was sufficiently two-dimensional to permit the reader to laugh at his rigidity even while cheering him on. Dreyfuss and Turtledove cleverly subvert their American readership's patriotic ideals by naming their villains the Sons of Liberty, and they include subtle references to everything from Casablanca to Princess Diana, but their hero, a divorced alcoholic who is married to his work, is just a little too fully rounded not to be taken completely seriously. By modeling The Two Georges upon a familiar British past rather than exploring some of the novel's speculative possi bilities, the authors make the story more accessible to the kind of reader who may be attracted by Richard Dreyfuss's name on the cover. In comparison to other recent alternate histories aimed at a general audience, The Two Georges is outstanding, offering a balanced view of a society that is both better and worse than our own; but for the reader in whom the name Harry Turtledove raises certain expectations, it may be something of a disappointment. Edgar V. McKnight Jr. Garfinkle, Richard. Celestial Matters: A Novel of Alternate Science. New York: Tor, 1996, 348 pages, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 1-312-85934-l. Celestial Matters is a book in the finest of science-fiction traditions: it is a novel of ideas. The jacket bills the story as both alternate history and alternate science. Its premise: the concentric crystal spheres Ptolemy posited as describing the nature of the universe are literal fact, as are the physics and biology of Aristotle. The Earth governed by these bizarre natural laws is also governed by two warring bodies: the SFRA Review #224, page 47


Delian league, representing a Greek empire that honors the name of Alexander and worships Greek gods and goddesses, and their adversaries, the mysterious inhabitants of the Middle Kingdom. The plot focuses on Aias, a Delian scientist and commander of the moon-matter ship Chandra's Tear, and his attempt to travel to the sun to construct a weapon that will destroy the Middlers' major city, 'AngXou. Mean while, he discovers a plot against his life as the Middlers strike at the Delian league by picking off their top scientists and leaders with inexplicable new weapons. The plot, however, is not really what the book is about. Much of the book is made up of stock betrayals, requisite traitors, and action-filled fights, though Garfinkle informs these with the presence of the gods and goddesses the characters worship. Thus Aias experiencing a moment of wisdom is expressed as Athena talking to him or descending upon him. Despite this, the first-person narration falls oddly flat. Aias thinks and acts, but we do not learn much about him. The prose is convoluted, as befits Aias's stuffy personality, with constant calls to the gods to forgive him for actions and the like. But despite the flat characters and predictable plot, I kept reading because of the fabulous premise -and because the thrilling conclusion melds action, suspense, and science. And science is the real focus of this book two competing sorts of science, and science's relationship to other diSCiplines, most notably (and appropriately) history, expressed here as Kleio and Athena speaking to Aias. The novel begins by focusing exclusively on Delian science, with bizarre explanations of certain chemical reactions. No less bizarre is the space travel. When Aias's ship Chandra's Tear travels, the people on board can breathe while in space, and the craft must stay right side up so the crew doesn't fall off. Falling overboard generally results in a tragedy, as the unfortunate person will splat against the crystal spheres that suspend the heavenly objects in the sky. The Delian league relies on Aristotelian and Platonic science, whereas their enemies, the Middlers, use a much different sort of science that focuses on understanding and manipulating Xi, the substance that flows through the universe. Aias and a Middler scientist/doctor, Phan, forced to work together after Chandra's Tear is partially destroyed and then set woefully off course, discover that both sciences work and SFRA Review #224, page 48


can be harnessed together. Perhaps, Aias realizes, destroying the Middler city is not the answer. Rather, studying the Middlers and using their models of explaining phenomena might result in understanding and harmony instead of war. This book contains bizarre world-building at its finest. The alternate history aspects are subsumed by the alternate sci ence, but it makes for fascinating reading. Hard science fiction fans will love this book and the way it plays on hard science premises, and I enjoyed the plays on religion, medicine, history, philosophy, and astronomy. This is an ambi tious book that succeeds in its execution of premise and theme but that succeeds less well in terms of character and plot. Karen Hellekson Kessler, Joan c. (Editor). Demons of the Night: Tales of the Fantastic, Madness, and the Supernatural from Nineteenth-Century France. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995, li + 347 pages, softcover, $14.95, ISBN 0-22643208-4. Heinrich Heine, the great German romanticist, claimed that the French did not have a disposition for the Fantastic. He implied that they were too faithful to Descartes and Voltaire's lessons. Well, you be the judge! Here is an anthology of 13 fantastic tales from the nineteenth century: Nodier's "Smarra, or the Demons of the Night", Balzac's "The Red Inn", Merimee's "The Venus of Ille", Gautier's "The Dead in Love" and "Arria Marcella", Dumas's "The Slap of Charlotte Corday", Nerval's "Aurelia, or Dream and Life", Verne's "Master Zacharius", Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's "The Sign" and "Vera", Maupassant's "The Horla" and "Who Knows?", and Schwob's "The Veiled Man". Around 1830 in France, the passion for mystery was great, and the vogue of the "fantastique" tale was stimulated by the great success of E.T.A. Hoffman (witness the enormous popularity of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique and Paganini). The instant fame of the word "fantastique" coincided with the newly emerging fashion of the tale and the short story. Many have speculated about the causes of such a literary craze. It seems that the 1830s generation was an anxious and disappointed one, wishing to turn away from the insupportable reality of politics, religion, and money. SFRA Review #224, page 49


Beginning with Nodier's "Smarra", we encounter a preoccupation with dream, a central figure of the French fantastic tale of the early period, and throughout the century, we witness an evolution "characterized by an increasing accommodation of the evolving theories of modern psychiatry," with its culmination in Maupassant's "The Horla". The word "fantastique" has had many fortunes in the last 20 years. It has been redefined from a work creating a sense of the uncanny to Todorov's well-known definition of the "fantastique" as the hesitation of someone who only knows natural laws when confronted by an event which appears to be supernatural. If we are to use Todorov's definition, the first truly fantastique tale in this collection is Merimee's "The Venus of Ille", where we see the statue of the "goddess oflove take revenge upon those who profane her with mercenary motives." Merimee, the witness, gives a first-person account, thus "rendering the supernatural element ambiguous and problematic." The dilemma for the readers is that if we reject the possibility of a statue coming to life, we must resign ourselves to a story without closure. If we want an explanation, we have no choice but to impute the crime to Venus. In order to elucidate a mystery, we have to accept a miracle. Merimee leads us to this impasse with relish; he constantly hints at logical explanations which we ignore, and ends up forcing Reason to contradict itself by accepting the Irrational. Theophile Gautier, the doctrination of ''L' Art pour l' Art", is also inspired by traditional themes. In "The Dead in Love" (a bad translation of the title, "La Morte Amoureuse"), we find exorcised vampires (as in Nodier), engaged specters, and dissociation of the self (as in Hoffman). Romuald, the priest, overcome by emotions bordering on necrophilia, dreams every night of the courtesan Clarimonde: Never had I experienced such bliss. I forgot everything in that moment, and had no more recollection of having been a priest than of having been in my mother's womb, so great was the fascination that the evil spirit exerted over me. From that night onward my very be ing split in two, as it were, and there were two men within me, each of whom was unknown to the other. At times I thought myself a priest who dreamed each night that he was a gentleman, at other times, a gentleman who dreamed that he was a priest. I could no longer distinguish between dreaming and waking, and I was uncer-SFRA Review #224, page 50


tain where illusion ended and reality began. The conceited and dissolute young nobleman scoffed at the priest; the priest loathed the profligacy of the young nobleman. Two spirals, one inside the other, inextricably bound together without ever touching, could quite aptly represent my monstrous double existence. Yet in spite of the strangeness of my situation, I do not believe that I ever for a moment verged on madness. Gautier gives us here a beautiful image of the fantastique. The image of spirals intertwined and yet never touching represents the hesitation and doubt on which all fantastique narration rests. Villiers de I'Isle-Adam, often called the French Edgar Allan Poe, filters his narrative through a hypersensitive personality predisposed to hallucinatory and visionary experience. "The Sign" "confirms the mysterious interpenetration of two parallel but disparate worlds." In "Vera", Villiers shows his debt to Hegel in presenting Ideas as living beings. Just as Balzac showed the relationship between thought and action in "The Red Inn", here we see Will triumph over the physical universe. In Jules Verne's "Master Zacharius", we are presented with the human/machine analogy, a recurrent motif in Verne's later work. All optimism has vanished, and science here only has the power to corrupt and destroy. The best of the selections, in this reviewer's opinion, is Maupassant's "The Horla", a compelling tale of the Uncon scious permeated by a Schopenhauerian sense of the Absurd. Maupassant, who would eventually go mad himself, was intrigued and impressed by Charcot's research into hypnotic phenomena, and he relates such an experiment in his tale. In "The Horla", the narrator becomes increasingly aware of a malevolent force while at the same time suffering "a progres sive disordering of his mental faculties, alienation from self and a slow agonizing descent into madness." In closing, I must recommend this volume especially for three stories which are among the best in all of nineteenthcentury French literature: "The Venus of Ille", "The Dead in Love", and "The Horla". You will not be able to put them down. SFRA Review #224, page 51


To return to Heine's comment, the French "weavers" of tales do indeed seem to care more for producing an expected result, constructing and deconstructing the mechanisms underlying terror. Unlike the German writers, they do not get carried away by the innate of the myth. At the end of her long and fact-filled introduction, Joan Kessler concludes: "In the 'postmodern' world, where so much has been logically charted and explained, the allure of the fantastic is as potent as ever -today most often via the genre of science fiction." I would like to enlarge upon this comment and submit that the "Fantastique" is, aptly enough, a metaphor for all literature. It is literature pushed to its extreme: a way to perceive reality and to express it, a way to transform it into an artistic creation while allowing the reader to see the mechanisms underlying the process by which it is transformed. Franc;:oise Coulont-Henderson Marlow, Gordon Robert. Vincent's Revenge: "A Flurry of Rage" and "Crows and Laissez-Faire: Next Ten Miles". Newport Beach, California: Baillie Caymar Publishing, 1996, 216 pages, softcover, $8.00, ISBN 1-887500-00-6. In an age of instant books and chain bookstores, I am overjoyed that books like Marlow's still exist. The exuberant, antiestablishment playfulness of Marlow's writing is complemented by Ronald Garcia's cover, illustrating the first of two novellas. The graves of the Van Gogh brothers, Theodore and Vincent, stand side by side with brightly colored irises and geraniums lined up in front. In the sky, black crows fly toward sunflower seeds falling from a circular image that is both the sun and a sunflower. Resembling a child's painting, the cover is totally lacking in perspective. The book begins with a mock biography: "He eked out a precarious living as lconoclast-in-Residence at the University of California, Irvine (where his benevolent ministrations were charitably ignored) and intermittently fired off squibs and lyrical stories of revenge into editorial darkness ... Mixing fact and fantasy, Marlow describes his activities as fossil restorer, story writer, photographer, and visual artist. His eclec tic learning is reflected in the two stories, which brim over with literary and artistic allusions. SFRA Review #224, page 52


At the beginning of "Vincent's Revenge," Van Gogh is awakened from death when film-maker Christoph Sonnwend plants irises above his grave: Irises towered over him. It was raining blue in the sunshine, showering him with blue, injecting his veins with blue, the petal veins becoming his veins, a filigree that branched and branched. He followed the flow back to its source. The leaves ... an indescribable creamy greygreen that sat on the tongue with a taste yes -that was the word -of a perfect suede, delicate and exotic, strange, something you might have to acquire an appreciation for, like avocado or artichoke. (p. 9) Synaesthesia, color imagery, and lyricism are among the delights of the novella's style. The plot of "Vincent's Revenge" echoes one of my own wishfulfillment fantasies: an artist or writer from an earlier time comes back to life and comments artistically on contemporary society. The real Van Gogh was passionately concerned with the plight of the working poor. In "Vincent's Revenge," he returns from the dead to "unpaint" some of his own works that had become extravagantly-priced commodities. The pigment he absorbs in the act of destroying his own masterpieces flows out of him into a new work, a multi-faceted successor to his depiction of a peasant family, The Potato Eaters. The new painting expresses his fury at seeing migrants harvesting lettuce, offices filled with row upon row of "computer slaves," and other exploited workers of the twentieth century. The second novella,"Laissez-Faire," relies much less on sensory imagery than the first and more on word play. It abounds in puns, personifications, and scatter-shot parodies of a wide range of classic science fiction works. Like Clockwork Or ange, "LaissezFaire" is narrated by a protagonist in whom aesthetic expression and violence are inextricably linked. Like Burgess's novel, characters speak in a wonderfully inventive future slang: "If you can keep this under your hat, I'll slip you a little dropsy in snide." "Laissez-Faire" is told in the first person by Kniva HeIden, a "Lifespan Adjuster" (professional assassin), who prides herself in making each contract an aesthetic masterpiece. The novella takes satirical pot shots at astrologers, vegetarians, feminists, and other groups. It is hard to find a consistent SFRA Review #224, page 53


satiric stance, and it is even harder to know what to make of Kniva. Endearing because of her energy, resourcefulness, and rigorous professional standards, Kniva holds startlingly inconsistent views. She is a committed vegetarian, whose idea of a luxurious meal is "two beefsteak tomatoes." At the same time, she is comforted by air pollution and insists on driving a gas-powered vehicle in an age when almost everyone else drives electric cars. While Marlow's novella suggests that many social institutions are foolish or even alarming, it is not strait-jacketed by a single satiric message. The cheapening of human life is, however, the most remarkable characteristic of Marlow's future dystopia. Toler ance, even aesthetic appreciation, of violence, results from the unchecked development of bioengineering and computer technology, both of which serve corporate greed. In Kniva's society, humans render themselves machine-like by using a wide array of mind-altering chemicals, and they interact with artificial intelligences as equals. Kniva frequently argues with her "Homey," living quarters programmed not only to protect and comfort her, but also to conserve natural resources (Homey ultimately destroys Kniva's gas-guzzling vehicle). Homey's computer-generated presence is more tangible than Kniva's Guild associates, who visit her as holographic images. In this society, people have ceased to make a distinction be tween turning off an appliance and taking a human life. A caveat to the reader: I found it well nigh impossible to summarize and analyze Marlow's novellas without distortions creeping in. Both stories are written with the same disregard of linear cause and effect that dreams have. Carried along by Marlow's lyrical style, off-the-wall humor, and sheer exuberance, I, for one, accepted uncritically inconsistencies and unexplainable details. While these novellas are not in the must-read category, readers (especially those with nostalgia for the sixties) will find Marlow's unique voice a treat. -Wendy Bousfield Noon, Jeff. Pollen. Manchester, England: Ringpull Press Ltd., 1995, 327 pages, hardcover, .99, ISBN 1-898051111-9. New York: Crown, 1996, 335 pages, hardcover, $23.00, ISBN 0-517-59990-2. After the startling psychopunk landscapes of Jeff Noon's debut novel, Yurt, the reader could be forgiven for expecting SFRA Review #224, page 54


something equally special from Pollen. Sadly, this book does not quite live up to the promise of its predecessor, which, taken as a whole, remains the more accomplished of the two. This is not to say that Pollen is a poor performance; rather it is a text which is, paradoxically, both an improvement upon and a lesser achievement than the remarkable Vurt. Set in the same strange Manchester as Vurt, Pollen opens with an extract from The Looking Glass Wars, a fictional history written by R.B. Tshimosa. By way of this brief introduction, Noon describes the Yurt, a strangely physical dreamland accessible through narcotic-like Yurt feathers, whilst locating the events of both novels in the historical context of the Looking Glass Wars. Set twelve years after Yurt, Pollen relates what "is generally believed to be one of the earliest skirmishes in [ ... J the terrible wars between the dream and real ity." The story unfolds at a time when Hobart's law of conservation (which describes how people accessing the Yurt may be exchanged for dream-creatures already in the Yurt) is being exploited by "Vurtuals" eager to colonize the real world. One such entity, John Barleycorn, is striking from Juniper Suc tion, an area reserved as a private heaven for the rich. Since Barleycorn is also Hades, he is cursed to spend two thirds of the year away from his wife Persephone, the daughter he stole from Ceres. It is Ceres who has decreed that Persephone should spend eight months of every year in the real world. In order to prepare Manchester for her coming, Barleycorn masterminds the invasion of the city by a virulent strain of pollen. It is obvious, even from this short synopsis, that Pollen has a far more complex story than Vurt, whose plot and story were in essence indistinguishable. This is where the novel's true strength lies. Noon's effective use of a mythic narrative in keeping with the collective unconscious-like Yurt is skill fully blended with hallucinatory shifts between dream and reality. Narrative and imagistic patterns form as boundaries between humans, dogs, machines, plants, and the living and the dead all dissolve. As the hybrid becomes the norm, discrete physical and psychological states are eroded until such divisions are irrelevant. If Noon's success resides in Pollen's kaleidoscopic story, then his failure lies in his incapacity to produce a coherent SFRA Review #224, page 55


plot. Barleycorn's efforts to reshape the real world using material from the Yurt are uncovered by means of a police investigation. The evocatively named Sibyl, a shadow cop and the offspring of the living and the dead, begins her discovery of Barleycorn's plans by enquiring into the death of Coyote, a half-dog taxi driver who also happens to be the would-be lover of Sibyl's estranged daughter, Boda/Belinda. When Noon adds this to a corrupt chief of police, a Westernrigged zombie called Bonanza, and Sibyl's love for her hybrid-dog partner ZululZero as well as her desire to protect her zombie son Jewel, the quest model becomes so cluttered that it threatens to collapse under the weight of its own subplots. In the hands of a more experienced novelist, many of these elements could have been woven more subtly around the main narrative. However, Noon's comparative inexperience begins to show when he attempts to move all of these inter-related (and often uninteresting) plots forward. As the novel progresses, the reader is left with the impression that Pollen is essentially a novella, fleshed out with irrelevancies that weaken the impact of the ongoing dialogue that leads to a neatly balanced, well-considered conclusion. Where Vurt succeeded because of Scribble's dynamic quest for his sister lover, Pollen fails because it lacks a similar narrative focus. Beyond the vagaries of Noon's plotting, Pollen works well as a metafictional dialogue with a number of science fiction's themes and movements. Just as Vurt hybridizes drug culture with the hyper-realities of cyberpunk to form the psychospace of the Yurt, so Pollen unites elements from the British SF disaster story with the New Wave's preoccupation with Jungian symbolism and neo-mythicism. It is not surprising, therefore, that Noon acknowledges his sources by providing a conspicuous allusion to ].G. Ballard's High Rise. Unfortunately, Noon's growing maturity, expressed in his synthesis of these traditions with the work of cyberpunk writers like Greg Egan, is destabilized by his frequently juvenile sense of humor. As the pollen count rises to 2000, bringing terminal hay fever to the Yurt-soaked citizens of Manches ter, "sneeze-bombs" leave people shell-shocked, snot (a ubiquitous substance in the novel) spatters the city, and those immune to the fever are subject to sneeze-rape, their lungs violated by people sneezing into their mouths. It is the exaggerated comicality of these images that also detracts from the novel's well-drawn dysfunctional characSTIV\ Review #224, page 56


ters and the surrealism of its transitions from reality to the realm of dreams. Noon's humor does not miss the mark on every occasion, however: where his satirizing of Coronation Street, Britain's longest-running soap opera, is mediocre, his characterization of Charon, Boatman of the Underworld, is sharp and witty. It seems possible that Noon is currently content to exploit the idiosyncratic creativity he expressed in Yurt rather than seeking to develop it further. However, if Pollen is the first in a series of novels chronicling the exchanges of the Looking Glass Wars, then he must seek to move both his poisoned and miasmic city and his not inconsiderable talents forward. Peter Wright O'Leary, Patrick. Door Number Three. New York: Tor, 1995,383 pages, hardcover, $23.95, ISBN 0-312-85872-8. "I fell in love with an alien, discovered the secret of forgotten dreams, saved the Earth from World War III, and killed myself." So begins Patrick O'Leary's cheeky and quite daring debut novel about no less than the subjective and the real. To this reader's delight, O'Leary manages to pull off his saucy plot without devolving into the "Son of a Hitchhiker's Guide" (although there are some close calls mid-way) or falling into lockstep behind Philip Dick (although the comparison is not unwarranted). More impressively, however, is the fact that we have here an SF novel grounded not in the field of biology or astrophysics or even anthropology but quite soundly in psychoanalysis, which compounds this reader's joy that O'Leary has fashioned his tabloid plot into a serious and surprising read. Imagine a space-alien-conspiracy-apocalypsetime-travel narrative whose plot progresses not by grace of temporal dynamics or interspecies relations but through the dynamics of the analyst-analysand relation, and whose denouement hinges not so much on a genetic anomaly but a twist of transference. In many ways, O'Leary's novel about an emotionally skewed psychotherapist confronted by a physically unique client -who must convince him that she is an alien mimics the progress of an analyst's engagement with a paranoid client. In this case, however, rather than the client rationally working through her paranoid delusion, the therapist must work through the paranoid reality into which he is drawn. Door S'fRA Review #22-1-, page 57


Number Three is written, in its best moments, much as a case history in which therapist john Donelly takes himself as his own subject in order to comprehend the significance of his "past relations" -both loaded terms in this case -for his present psychotemporal condition. The novel may be considered as presented in three sequential parts -an initial mystery, a chase, and the final rationalization -the first and third of which work quite well. Indeed, it is as a case history, a journal of subjective speculation and discovery, that O'Leary's novel is its most dramatic. Honestly, the action-adventure mid-section, with its fights, flights, romancing, throwaway characters, and quick travelogue segments on the decency of Deadheads, the goofery of inventors, the banality of Los Angeles (and even the gooey wonders of the future) may have been necessary to motivate the plot, but even with a few well-deserved "ooh ahhs," it all too soon gets in the way of the book's true intensity, which is the neatly-theorized exploration of the inner space of the main players' psyches, in particular the members of the Donelly family. In this regard, I imagine Door Number Three could be somewhat frustrating to readers of a hard-SF bent, as the psychotherapy not only takes center stage but steals the show from the rest of the sciences (O'Leary even provides us with a handy parody of a positivist physics-Iecturertype fresh from the Gernsback continuum, whom he dispatches in callous fashion). O'Leary displays a conscious disregard for the hardware aspects of his narrative, dispensing pseudo-physics in occasional dollops suited more to lubricate the plot rather than to set young boys off tinkering with circuitry and optics. This is a book about the physicality of dreams, not the other way around. Door Number Three is a heady trip and, at its best, a truly engaging read -even given the bald-faced smuggery inherent in a narrative in which world events serve ultimately as a means of self-satisfaction, and excepting some sadly off-putting moments of caricature and machismo. These are, after all, as much a part of the psychoanalytic case study as are the events related. Of course, now I want somebody to pull off the same thing not with jung but with Lacan (or did Dick already do that?). Even better, what could Felix Guattari show us about the SF subjective and the SF real -or would that be the end of this heady trip? -Richard Davis STRA Rcvic\\!#22-t, page 58


Saunders, George. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella. New York: Random, january 1996, 179 pages, hardcover, $22.00, ISBN 0-679-44812-8. Saunders is a geophysical engineer for a Rochester, New York environmental firm. These stories appeared in Harper's, The New Yorker, and possibly other magazines, although the book doesn't provide precise citations. The six stories occupy about half the book; Bounty, a novella reprinted from the April 1995 Harper's, the other half. Locus hasn't listed this book, but I suggested it do so; read on to see why. All the stories take place in a future America that Vonnegut might have imagined while on acid. But the humor, such as it is, is much blacker than Vonnegut's and has none of his resigned but good-natured acceptance. The landscape is generally toxic, the population divided between Normals and Fiaweds, the latter having genetic defects which subject them to slavery in parts of the western U.S. The tone is relentlessly despairing throughout, and none of the characters are developed or especially memorable. The viewpoint character in the novella serves simply as a narrator and a doormat. The jacket suggestion of him as a future Huck Finn is as grotesque as the tales themselves. We've had plenty of bleak dystopias before, and we'll see plenty more in coming years. This one's brittle superficiality doesn't contribute much to the tradition. Harper's has never been hospitable to SF and probably thought these stories didn't qualify as such. They do, albeit they're out on the margin, and are recommended only to someone contemplating a cocktail laced with cyanide. Neil Barron Thomson, Amy. The Color of Distance. New York: Ace, 1995,390 pages, softcover, $13.00, ISBN 0-441-00244-7. The Color of Distance presents the story of juna, a young woman marooned on a distant planet after crashing her small survey ship in its dense rain forest. The crew of the team's mothership, unaware that juna survived, has already left the system by the time juna succeeds in contacting them, and she therefore must remain with the Tendu, the indigenous amphibian sapients who rescued her and adapted her for survival in their environment. Although she misses human SFRA Review #224, page 59


company, luna slowly learns to live among the Tendu and be come a contributing member of their community. During the years of waiting until a ship can return for her, luna both an ticipates and dreads the probable effects on the humans and the Tendu as a result of their ensuing encounter. Thomson has skilfully combined a first-contact story with rite-of-pas sage narrative and produced an appealing and readable novel, although one which is not without some weaknesses. The novel's greatest strength lies in the loving and careful elaborative detail with which the world of the Tendu -the people themselves, their society, and their environment is developed. Thomson, in fact, allows us to inhabit for a while, as luna does, an elegant alien pastoral. Moreover, despite the naivete of the protagonist which is obligatory in rite-ofpassage narratives, luna herself is vividly presented and strong enough to carry the dual narrative effectively. She copes without whining, enjoys herself when she can, and speculates on her new environment more often than she retreats into egotistic introspection. Another intriguing technique employed by Thomson is the split viewpoint, shared by human (Juna) and alien (various members of the Tendu) in overlapping segments, so that much of what we see from one viewpoint is immediately reinforced and counterpointed by the same events seen from the other. These strengths produce an impressive fictional construct. Unfortunately, Thomson is, as I have suggested, not without her weaknesses. The two which impinge upon the narrative most inopportunely are her relatively shallow understanding of human psychology and her inability to produce true alterity (otherness) in her alien psychology. The human characters of the novel (other than luna), in the little that we see of them, are little more than stock characters in a rather simplistically and optimistically viewed society. Her alien characters, however, whom we see more often, are rather too human. Except for one or two striking differences (their attitude toward their young, for example), they might almost be an idealized humanity. The combined effect of these problems is to destabilize the reader's engagement with the story, particularly in the final chapters. On balance, however, this novel is worth reading. I enjoyed it much better than its outrageously overrated predecessor, Virtual Girl, and I look forward to Thomson's next effort. Patricia Monk SFRA Review #224, page 60


Weis, Margaret (Editor). Fantastic Alice: New Stories from Wonderland. New York: Ace Books, 1995, ix + 291 pages, softcover, $12.00, ISBN 0-441-00253-6. It may have been H.P. Lovecraft who started the shared worlds trend by allowing other writers, among them Clark Ashton Smith and Robert Bloch, into the world of the Cthulhu Mythos, but whoever it was might be surprised to see how shared world anthologies abound today. And not content to share with contemporary authors, writers are now actively sharing the worlds of authors long dead. Here, Margaret Weis has edited Fantastic Alice, an anthology of 17 "new stories from wonderland" by writers from Janet Asimov to the late Roger Zelazny. As with almost any anthology, the results are mixed. Weis's two-page introduction covers the barest highlights of Carrolls life and hints at none of the controversy surrounding him and his photography, nor does she say anything help ful about the logic of the Alice books. Some comments on Carroll's "logic" would have been helpful as several of the stories try, with varying success, to establish a Wonderlandlike logic themselves. The anthology leads off nicely with Lawrence Watt-Evans's "Something to Grin About", a quick little tale in which the Cheshire Cat helps a contemporary young woman get rid of an unsuitable suitor and become independent. There are a couple of stories in which fantasy (in this case wonderland) helps someone come to terms with the death of a loved one, and there are a couple of failed nonsense stories which do not catch the full flavor of Carroll's logical nonsense. There is also an abused-child-retreats-into-wonderland story, and a wonderland-as-alternate-universe story, but in the end, the high points certainly outweigh the lows. Lisa Mason's "Transformation and the Postmodern Identity Crisis" may well be the gem of the collection; it not only tells us what happened to all of Carroll's characters later in their lives, it also takes some much-needed shots at modern literary theory. I cannot help but think that Carroll himself would have liked this story. Roger Zelazny's "Epithalamium" is both Wonderland and Zelazny, bringing order, finally, to Carroll's world; "Alice's Adventures in the Underground Rail road", by Tobin Larson, is full of Carrollian puns; and Jane M. Lindskold's "Teapot" reverses the real world/wonderland SFRA Review #224, page 61


perspective through the eyes of the dormouse. An anthology is a difficult medium; not every story will appeal to every reader. Wonderlanders will certainly want this anthology, and there are enough fine stories in Fantastic Alice for anyone even mildly interested in "New Stories from Wonderland." C.W. Sullivan III PUBLISHERS' ADDRESSES/ ORDERING INFORMATION Baillie Caymar Publishing, 1280 Bison, Suite B9-317, Newport Beach CA 92660 Carol Publishing/Citadel, 600 Madison Ave, New York NY 10022 Gibbs Smith, Publisher, PO Box 667, Layton UT 84041 Greenwood Press, PO Box 5007, Westport CT 06881-5007 ( 1-800-225-5800) McFarland, Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640 Peter Lang Publishing, 275 Seventh Ave, 28th Floor, New York NY 10001-6708 University of Chicago Press, 11030 South Langley Ave, Chicago IL 60628 Writer's Digest Books, 1507 Dana Ave, Cincinnati OH 45207 SFRA Review #224, page 62


THE SCIENCE FICTION RESEARCH ASSOCIATION The SFRA is the oldest professional organization for the study of science fiction, fantasy, and horror/Gothic literature and film, as well as utopian studies. Founded in 1970, the SFRA was organized to improve classroom teaching, encourage and assist scholarship, and evaluate and publicize new books and magazines dealing with fantastic literature and film. Among the membership are people from many countries authors, editors, publishers, librarians, students, teachers, and other interested readers. Academic affiliation is not a requirement for membership. SFRA BENEFITS INCLUDE: Extrapolation. Quarterly magazine; the oldest journal in the field, with critical, historical, and bibliographical articles, book reviews, letters, occasional special topic issues, and annual index. Science-Fiction Studies. Trimesterly magazine; includes critical, his torical, and bibliographical articles, review articles, reviews, notes, letters, international coverage, and annual index. SFRA Review. Bimonthly magazine; an organ of the SFRA, this maga zine includes extensive book reviews of both nonfiction and fiction, review articles, listings of new and forthcoming books, letters, SFRA internal affairs, calls for papers, works in progress, and annual index. SFRA Directory. Annual directory; lists members' names and ad dresses, phone numbers, and special interests. Foundation. (For an additional fee see next page). Trimesterly magazine; discount on subscription price; includes critical, historical, and bibliographical articles, reviews, letters. AS A MEMBER YOU ARE ALSO INVITED TO: Attend our annual meetings, held in a different location each year. Members and guests many of them professional writers present papers, share information, and discuss common interests, all in a relaxed, informal environment. Much of the Significant scholarly literature, available at discounted prices, is displayed. The Pilgrim and Pioneer Awards for distinguished contributions to SF or fantasy scholarship are presented at a dinner meeting. Participate in the Association's activities. Vote in elections, serve on committees, and hold office. Join the SFRA section on GEnie, where the SFRT (SF Round Table) has a private category where SFRA members meet in "cyberspace" to conduct business, exchange information, or enjoy real-time discus sions. Contribute to the "Support a Scholar" program. SFRA members help needy young scholars here and overseas continue their study of SF/F. [Annual membership dues cover only the actual costs of providing benefits to members, and reflect a modest savings over subscriptions to the publications listed above. Your dues may be tax deductible.] SFRA Review #224, page 63


SFRA MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION Please mail this completed form with your check for dues, payable to SFRA (U.S. dollars only, please) to: Robert]. Ewald, SFRA Treasurer, 552 W. Lincoln St., Findlay OH 45840. Dues: U.S.A. Canada Individual 1 $60 $65 Joint2 $70 $75 Student3 $50 $55 Institution4 $80 $80 Emeritus5 $30 $35 Overseas $70 $80 $60 $80 $40 If you wish to receive the British journal Foundation (3 issues per year), add $17 ($20 for airmail). 1 all standard listed benefits 2 two members in the same household; two listings in the Directory, but will receive one set of journals 3 category may be used for a maximum of five years 4 all privileges except voting 5 receives SFRA Review and Directory This membership application is for the calendar year 1996. This information will appear in the 1996 SFRA Directory. Name: ____________________________________________ f\ 1ailing Address: ____________________________________ Home Phone: _________________________________________ Business Phone : ________________________________________ Fax n urn ber: __________________________________________ E-mail Address: _________________________________________ f\ly principal interests in fantastic literature are (limit to 30 words): Repeat last year's entry ___ ____ SFRA Review #224, page 64


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