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Science-Fiction Studies

Volume1
Part 3
Spring 1974
Stanislaw Lem.
TheTime-Travel Story
and Related Matters of SFStructuring ... 143
JohnHuntington.
TheUnity of Childhood's End ... 154
Douglas Barbour.
Wholeness and Balancein
theHainish Novels of Ursula K. LeGuin... 164
Peter Fitting.
SFCriticism inFrance... 173
Ursula K. LeGuin.
EuropeanSF: Rottensteiner's
Anthology, theStrugatskys, and Lem ... 181
Manfred Nagl.
SF, Occult Sciences, and Nazi Myths ... 185
David Ketterer.
TheSFElement intheWork
of Poe: A Chronological Survey ... 197
Robert Scholes.
Change, SF, and Marxism: Openor Closed Universes? ... 213
Robert M. Philmus.
A DialogueBetweenIdeaphilos and Philologos ... 214
Notes, Reports, and Correspondence.
Ravmond Williams and SF(DS) ... 216
Ketterer onSFas ApocalypticLiterature(S.C. Fredericks) ... 217
A ReactiontoSFS#2 (DamonKnight) ... 219
Bretnor Returns (Charles Nicol) ... 220
H.G. Wells and Earlier SF(DS) ... 221
AnIndex toAmericanMass-Market Paperbacks (RDM) ... 222
A Special SFIssue(RDM) ... 223
SomeContemporary Material onFrankenstein(RDM) ... 223
A Correction(RDM) ... 223
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142 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES, Volume 1, Part 3, Spring 1974, Copyright ?1974
by R.D. Mullenand DarkoSuvin.
SUBSCRIPTION: $5.00 per volume; subscriptions beginwith thefirst part of
thecurrent volume. Volume1 will consist of four parts (Spring, Fall, Spring,
Fall 1973-74). Volume2 will consist of threeparts (March, July, November
1975). Theparts ordered separately are$2.00 each.
ADDRESSall communications toScience-FictionStudies, Department of
English, Indiana StateUniversity, TerreHaute, Indiana 47809.
EDITORS: R.D. Mullen, Indiana StateUniversity; DarkoSuvin, McGill Uni-
versity (onleavethrough July 1974). A SSOCIATE EDITOR: Charles Nicol, ISU.
MANAGING EDITOR: Elaine L. Kleiner, ISU. EDITORIALCONSULTANTS: James
Blish, Harpsden; GaleE. Christianson, ISU; Peter Fitting, University of
Toronto; H. BruceFranklin, MenloPark; Northrop Frye, University of To-
ronto; Mark R. Hillegas, SouthernIllinois University; FredricJameson,Uni-
versity of California, SanDiego; David Ketterer, Sir GeorgeWilliams Uni-
versity; James B. Misenheimer, ISU; Patrick Parrinder, CambridgeUni-
versity; Robert M. Philmus, Loyola Collegeof Montreal; Franz Rottensteiner,
Vienna; David N. Samuelson, California StateUniversity, Long Beach;
Donald F. Theall, McGill University.
SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIESpublishes articles resulting from the study of
sciencefiction-including utopianfiction, but not, except for purposes of
comparisonand contrast, supernatural or mythological fantasy. Articles in-
tended for Science-FictionStudies should bewritteninEnglish, accompa-
nied by anabstract of fewer than200 words, and submitted intwocopies
conforming totheMLA stylesheet, except that for cheap paperbacks or
other editions not likely tobefound inlibraries, references should beto
chapter rather thanpage(cf thenext paragraph).
BIBLIOGRAPHICALDATA. Unless thereis indication tothecontrary, each book
cited inthesepages was published inhardback intheUnited States and/
or theUnited Kingdom intheyear specified. Informationof greater particu-
larity is givenonly whendeemed necessary tothevalidity of a page-ref-
erence. Whenthework inquestionhas beenpublished invarious formats
and henceinvarious paginations, references aremadenot topages but to
chapters or such other divisions as theauthor has provided.
5:4 = Volume5, Page4.
?5 = Chapter 5-or thefifth of thesmallest divisions
numbered continuously throughout thework.
?5:4 = Book 5, Chapter 4-or somesimilar combination.
?5 = Note5-or Secondary Work Number 5.
#5
=
Primary Work Number 5.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. The essay inthis issue by Stanislaw Lem appears
as thechapter "Struktura swiata i struktura dziela, II" inhis Fantastyka
i futurologia, Vol. 1 (Cracow 1970). Theessay inthis issueby Manfred
Nagl is from his ScienceFictioninDeutschland (Tiubingen1972, pbd as
Band 30 der Untersuchungendes Ludwig-Uhland-Instituts by theTiibinger
Vereinigung fiir Volkskunde, D-74 Tiibingen, Schloss, Germany).
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 143
Stanislaw Lem
The Time-Travel Story and Related Matters of SF Structuring
Let's look at a couple of simple sentences which logic, by virtue of a "discon-
nected middle" or by virtue of a tautology, asserts are always true, and let's
investigate whether there can be worlds in which their veracity ceases. The
first will be the ever real disjuncture: "John is the father of Peter or John is
not the father of Peter." Any logician would acknowledge that this dis-
juncture satisfies at all times the requirement for truth since tertium non
datur, it is impossible to be 40% father and 60% non-father.
Next, let's work with a complex sentence: "If Peter has sexual relations
with his mother, thern Peter commits incest." The implication is a tautological
one since, according to the semantic rules of language, to have sexual re-
lations with one's mother is tantamount to committing incest. (Our con-
junction is not a complete tautology since incest constitutes a concept broader
than sexual relations with a mother, referring rather to relations with any
person of such close kinship. We could bring the sentence to a perfect
tautology, but this would necessitate complexities which would in no way
alter the essence of the matter and merely make the argumentation more
difficult.)
To simplify matters we shall investigate first the impact of changes on
the veracity or falsity of the statement "John is the father of Peter." We
should point out that what is involved here is a truly causative biological
relation to the birth of a child, and not the ambiguous use of the designation
"father" (since it is indeed possible to be a biological father and not be a
baptismal father, or conversely, to be a godfather, but not a parent).
Suppose John is a person who died three hundred years ago, but whose
reproductive cells were preserved by refrigeration. A woman fertilized by
them will become Peter's mother. Will John then be Peter's father? Undoubt-
edly.
But then suppose the following: John died and did not leave reproductive
cells, but a woman asked a genetic technician to make up in laboratory a
spermatozoon of John from a single preserved cell of John's epithelium (all
the cells of the body having the same genetic composition). Will John, once
fertilization is complete, now also be Peter's father?
Now suppose the following case: John not only died, but did not leave
a single bodily cell. Instead, John left a will in which he expressed the desire
that a genetic technician perform the steps necessary to enable a woman to
become the mother of a child of John, i.e. that such a woman give birth to
a child and that the child be markedly similar to John. In addition, the genetic
technician is not permitted to use any spermatozoa. Rather, he is supposed
to cause a parthenogenetic development of the female ovum. Along with
this he is supposed to control the genic substance and direct it by embryo-
genetic transformations in such a way that the Peter born is "the spit and
image of John" (there are photographs of John available, a recording of his
voice, etc.). The geneticist "sculptures" in the chromosomal substance of
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144 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
the woman all the features John craved for in a child. And thus, to the
question "Is John the father or not the father of Peter?" it is now impossible
to give an unequivocal answer of "yes" or "no." In some senses John is indeed
the father, but in others he is not. An appeal to empiricism alone will not in
itself furnish a clear answer. The definition will be essentially determined
by the cultural standards of the society in which John, Peter's mother, Peter,
as well as the genetic technician, all live.
Let's assume that these standards are fixed, and that the child realized
in strict accordance with John's testamental instructions is generally ac-
knowledged to be his child. If, however, the genetic technician either on his
own or at the instigation of others made up 45% of the genotypical features
of the child not in accordance with the stipulations of the will, but in accord-
ance with an entirely different prescription, it would then be impossible to
maintain that John, in agreement with the standards of a given culture, either
is or is not the child's father. The situation is the same as when some experts
say about a picture reputed to be a work of Rembrandt: "This is a canvas
by Rembrandt" while others say: "This is not a canvas by Rembrandt."
Since it is quite possible that Rembrandt began the picture, but that some
anonymous person finished the work, then 47% of the work could be said to
originate from Rembrandt, and 53% from someone else. In such a situation
of "partial authorship," tertium datur. In other words, there are situations
in which it is possible to be a father only in part. (It is also possible to achieve
such situations in other ways, e.g., by removing a certain number of genes
from a spermatozoon of John and substituting another person's genes for
them.)
The possibilties of the transformations mentioned above, which entail a
change in the logical value of the disjunction-"John is the father of Peter
or John is not the father of Peter"-lie, one may judge, in the bosom of a not
too distant future. Thus a work describing such a matter would be fantastic
today, but thirty or fifty years hence it might indeed be realistic. However,
the work by no means needs to relate the story of a definite, concrete John,
Peter, and mother of Peter. It could describe fictitious persons in a manner
typical of any form of literary composition. The relational invariables be-
tween father, mother, and child would not have at that time the fictitious
nature they have in the present. The invariables that concern paternity are
today different from those of a time when genetic engineering would be
realized. In this sense a composition written today and depicting a given
situation without a "disconnected middle" in the predication of paternity,
may be considered a futurological prognosis or a hypothesis which may
prove to be true.
For a real tautology to become a falsehood, the device of travel in time
is necessary. Suppose Peter, having grown up, learns that his father was a
very vile person, viz. that he seduced Peter's mother and abandoned her
only to disappear without a trace. Burning with the desire to bring his father
to account for so despicable an act and unable to locate him in the present,
Peter boards a time vehicle, sets out for the past and seeks out the father in
the vicinity of the place where his mother was supposed to have resided at
that time. The search, although very thorough, turns out to be in vain. How-
ever, in the course of establishing various contacts related to his expedition,
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 145
Peter meets a young girl who attracts him. The two fall in love and a baby
is conceived. Peter, however, cannot remain permanently in the past; he is
obliged to return to his old mother, for whom he is the sole support. Having
been convinced by the girl that she has not become pregnant, Peter returns
to the present. He has not succeeded in finding traces of his father. One
day he finds in one of his mother's drawers a thirty-year-old photograph and
to his horror recognizes in it the girl whom he loved. Not wishing to impede
him, she committed a white lie, and hid her pregnancy. Peter thus comes to
understand that he did not find his father for the simple enough reason that
he himself is the father. So, Peter journeyed into the past to search for a
missing father, assuming the name of John to facilitate his search by
remaining incognito. The upshot of this journey is his own birth. Thus, we
have before us a circular causal structure. Peter is his own father, but, as
against a superficial judgment, he did not commit incest at all, since, when
he had sexual intercourse with her, his mother was not (and could not be)
his mother. (From a purely genetic point of view, if we forget that-as is
today believed-the causal circle is impossible, Peter is genotypically identical
with his mother. In other words, Peter's mother for all practical purposes
gave birth to him parthenogenetically since, of course, no man inseminated
her who was alien to her.)
THIS STRUCTURE constitutes the so-called time loop, a causal structure char-
acteristic of an enormous number of SF compositions. The composition which
I described is a "minimal" loop, yet there is one still "smaller," created by
Robert Heinlein in the story "All You Zombies" (1959).1 Its plot is as follows:
a certain young girl becomes pregnant by a man who then promptly disap-
pears. She bears a child, or more correctly, gives birth to it by Caesarean
section. During the operation, the doctors ascertain that she is a hermaph-
rodite and it is essential (for reasons not explained by the author) to change
her sex. She leaves the clinic as a young man who, because he wasuntil
quite recently a woman, has given birth to a child. She seeks her seducer
for a long time, until it comes to light that she herself is he. We have the
following circular situation: one and the same individual was in time Ti
both a girl and her partner since the girl, transformed into a man by surgical
intervention, was transferred by the narrator to time Ti from a future time,
T2. The narrator, a time traveller, "removed" the young man from time T2
and transferred him to time Ti so that the latter seduced "himself."
Nine months after time Ti the child was born. The narrator stole this
child and took it back in time twenty years, to moment TO, so he could leave
it under the trees of a foundling home. So the circle is completely closed:
the same individual comprises "father," "mother," and "child." In other
words, a person impregnated himself and gave birth to himself. The baby,
born as a result of this, is left behind in time, bringing about in twenty
years the growth of a girl who has in time Ti sex with a young man from
time T2. The young man is she herself, transformed into a man by a surgical
operation. The fact that a sexual hermaphrodite should not be able to bear
a child is a relatively small hindrance, since the puzzling situation of a
person's giving birth to himself is considerably "more impossible." What we
are dealing with here is an act of creatio ex nihilo. All structures of the time-
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146 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
loop variety are internally contradictory in a causal sense. The contradicto-
riness, however, is not always as apparent as in Heinlein's story.
Frederic Brown writes about a man who travels into the past in order to
punish his grandfather for tormenting his grandmother. In the course of an
altercation he kills his grandfather before his father has been engendered.
Thus the time traveller cannot then come into the world. Who, therefore, in
fact killed the grandfather, if the murderer has not come into the world at
all? Herein lies the contradiction. Sometimes an absent-minded scientist,
having left something in the past which he has visited, returns for the lost
object and encounters his own self, since he has not returned exactly to
the moment after his departure for the present, but to the time-point at
which he was before. When such returns are repeated, the individual is sub-
ject to multiple reproduction in the form of doubles. Since such possibilities
appear to be pointless, in one of my stories about Ion Tichy (the "7th
Journey"),2 I maximalized "duplication" of the central character. Ion Tichy's
spaceship finds itself in gravitational whirlpools that bend time into a circle,
so that the space-ship is filled with a great number of different Ions.
The loop motif can be used, for instance, in the following ways: someone
proceeds into the past, deposits ducats in a Venetian bank at compound
interest, and centuries later in New York demands from a consortium of banks
payment of the entire capital, a gigantic sum. Why does he need so much
money all of a sudden? So that he can hire the best physicists to construct
for him a thus far nonexistent time vehicle, and by means of this vehicle
go back in time to Venice where he will deposit ducats at compound interest...
(Mack Reynolds, "Compounded Interest" [1956]). Or another example: in the
future someone comes to an artist (in one story to a painter, in another to
a writer) and gives him either a book dealing with painting in the future or
a novel written in the future. The artist then begins to imitate this material
as much as possible, and becomes famous, the paradox being that he is bor-
rowing from his own self (since he himself was the author of that book or
those pictures, only "twenty years later").
We learn, further, from various works of this sort how the Mesozoic
reptiles became extinct thanks to hunters who organized a "safari into the
past" (Frederic Brown), or how, in order to move in time in one direction,
an equal mass must be displaced in the opposite direction, or how expeditions
in time can reshape historical events. The latter theme has been used time
and again, as in one American tale in which the Confederate States are
victorious over the North (Ward Moore's Bring the Jubilee [1952/1953]).
The hero, a military historian, sets out for the past in order to investigate
how the Southerners gained victory near Gettysburg. His arrival in a time
machine, however, throws General Lee's troop formations into disarray,
which results in victory for the North. The hero is no longer able to return to
the future, because his arrival also disturbed the causal chain upon which the
subsequent construction of his time machine depended. Thus, the person who
was supposed to have financed the construction of the machine will not do
this, the machine will not exist, and the historian will be stuck in the year
1863 without the means to travel back into the original time. Of course
here also there is an inherent paradox-just how did he reach the past?
As a rule, the fun consists in the way the paradox is shifted from one segment
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 147
of the action to another. The time loop as the backbone of a work's causal
structure is thus different from the far looser motif of journeys in time per
se; but, of course, it is merely a logical, although extreme, consequence of
the general acceptance of the possibility of "chronomotion." There are
actually two possible authorial attitudes which are mutually exclusive: either
one deliberately demonstrates causal paradoxes resulting from "chrono-
motion" with the greatest possible consistency, or else one cleverly avoids
them. In the first instance, the careful development of logical consequences
leads to situations as absurd as the one cited (an individual that is his very
own father, that procreates himself), and usually has a comic effect (though
this does not follow automatically).
EVEN THOUGH a circular causal structure may signalize a frivolous type of
content, this does not mean that it is necessarily reduced to the construction
of comic antinomies for the sake of pure entertainment. The causal circle may
be employed not as the goal of the story, but as a means of visualizing certain
theses, e.g. from the philosophy of history. Slonimski's story of the Time
Torpedo3 belongs here. It is a belletristic assertion of the "ergoness" or
ergodicity of history: monkeying with events which have had sad conse-
quences does not bring about any improvement of history; instead of one
group of disasters and wars there simply comes about another, in no way
better set.
A diametrically opposed hypothesis, on the other hand, is incorporated
into Ray Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" (1952). In an excellently written
short episode, a participant in a "safari for tyrannosaurs" tramples a butter-
fly and a couple of flowers, and by that microscopic act causes such pertur-
bances of causal chains involving millions of years, that upon his return the
English language has a different orthography and a different candidate-not
liberal but rather a kind of dictator-has won in the presidential election. It
is only a pity that Bradbury feels obliged to set in motion complicated and
unconvincing explanations to account for the fact that hunting for reptiles,
which indeed fall from shots, disturbs nothing in the causal chains, whereas
the trampling of a tiny flower does (when a tyrannosaur drops to the ground,
the quantity of ruined flowers must be greater than when the safari partici-
pant descends from a safety zone to the ground). "A Sound of Thunder"
exemplifies an "anti-ergodic" hypothesis of history, as opposed to Slonimski's
story. In a way, however, the two are reconcilable: History can as a whole
be "ergodic" if not very responsive to local disturbances, and at the same
time such exceptional hypersensitive points in the causal chains can exist,
the vehement disturbance of which produces more intensive results. In per-
sonal affairs such a "hyperallergic point" would be, for example, a situation
in which a car attempts to pass a truck at the same time that a second car
is approaching from the opposite direction.
As is usually the case in SF, a theme defined by a certain devised
structure of occurrences (in this instance pertaining to a journey in time)
undergoes a characteristic cognitive-artistic involution. We could have dem-
onstrated this for any given theme, but let's take advantage of the oppor-
tunity at hand.
At first, authors and readers are satisfied by the joy of discerning the
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148 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
effects of innovations still virginal as far as their inherent contradictions
are concerned. Then, an intense search is begun for initial situations which
allow for the most effective exploitation of consequences that are potentially
present in a given structure. Thus, the devices of chronomotion begin sup-
porting, e.g., theses of history and philosophy (concerned with the "ergo-
dicity" or non-ergodicity of history). Then, grotesque and humorous stories
like Frederic Brown's "The Yehudi Principle" (1944) appear: this short
story is itself a causal circle (it ends with the words that it began with: it
describes a test of a device for fulfilling wishes; one of the wishes expressed
is that a story "write itself," which is what just happened).
Finally, the premise of time travel serves frequently as a simple pretext
for weaving tales of sensational, criminal, or melodramatic intrigue; this
usually involves the revival and slight refurbishment of petrified plots.
Time travel has been used so extensively in SF that it has been divided
into separate sub-categories. There is, e.g., the category of missent parcels
that find their way into the present from the future: someone receives a
"Build-a-Man Set" box with "freeze-dried nerve preparations," bones, etc.;
he builds his own double, and an "inspector from the future," who comes
to reclaim the parcel, disassembles instead of the artificial twin, the very
hero of the story; this is William Tenn's "Child's Play" (1947). In Damon
Knight's "Thing of Beauty" (1958) there is a different parcel-an automaton
that draws pictures by itself. In general, strange things are produced in
the future, SF teaches us (e.g., polka-dotted paint as well as thousands of
objects with secret names and purposes not known).
Another category is tiers in time. In its simplest form it is presented in
Anthony Boucher's "The Barrier" (1942), a slightly satiric work. The hero,
travelling to the future, comes to a state of "eternal stasis," which, to
protect its perfect stagnation from all disturbances, has constructed "time
barriers" that foil any penetration. Now and then, however, a barrier
becomes pervious. Rather disagreeable conditions prevail in this state which
is ruled by a police similar to the Gestapo (Stapper). One must be a slightly
more advanced SF reader to follow the story. The hero finds his way imme-
diately into a circle of people who know him very well, but whom he does
not know at all. This is explained by the fact that in order to elude the
police he goes somewhat further back in time. He at that time gets to know
these very people, then considerably younger. He is for them a stranger,
but he, while he was in the future, has already succeeded in getting to know
them. An old lady, who got into the time vehicle with the hero when
they were fleeing from the police, meets as a result her own self as a young
person and suffers a severe shock. It is clear, however, that Boucher does
not know what to do with the "encountering oneself' motif in this context,
and therefore makes the lady's shock long and drawn out. Further jumps in
time, one after another, complicate the intrigue in a purely formal way.
Attempts are begun to overthrow the dictatorial government, but everything
goes to pieces, providing in the process sensationalism. Anti-problematic
escapism into adventure is a very common phenomenon in SF: authors
indicate its formal effectiveness, understood as the ingenious setting of a
game in motion, as the skill of achieving uncommon movements, with-
out mastering and utilizing the problematic and semantic aspects of such
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 149
kinematics.
Such authors neither discuss nor solve the problems raised by their
writing, but rather "take care" of them by dodges, employing patterns like
the happy ending or the setting in motion of sheer pandemonium, a chaos
which quickly engulfs loose meanings.
Such a state of affairs is a result of the distinctly "ludic" or playful
position of writers; they go for an effect as a tank goes for an obstacle:
without regard for anything incidental. It is as if their field of vision were
greatly intensified and, simultaneously, also greatly confined. As in Tenn's
story, the consequences of a "temporal lapse" in a postal matter are every-
thing. Let us call such a vision monoparametric. At issue is a situation
which is bizarre, amusing, uncanny, logically developed from a structural
premise (e.g., from the presupposition of "joumeys in time," which implies a
qualitative difference in the world's causal structure). At the same time
such a vision does not deal with anything more than that.
This can be seen readily from an example of "maximal intensification"
of the subject of governments in time or "chronocracy," described by Isaac
Asimov in his novel The End of Eternity (1955). "The Barrier" showed a
single state isolating itself in the historical flow of events, as once the Chi-
nese attempted to isolate themselves from the disturbing influences by
building the Chinese wall (a spatially exact equivalent of a "time barrier").
The End of Eternity shows a goverment in power throughout humanity's
entire temporal existence. Inspector-generals, travelling in time, examine the
goings on in individual epochs, centuries, and millenia, and by calculating
the probability of occurrences and then counteracting the undesirable
ones, keep in hand the entire system-"history extended in a four-dimensional
continuum"-in a state of desirable equilibrium. Obviously, presuppositions
of this sort are more thickly larded with antinomies than is the scrawniest
hare larded with bacon. While Asimov's great proficiency is manifested by
the size of the slalom over which the narrative runs, it is, in the end, an
ineffably naive conception because no issues from philosophy or history are
involved. The problem of "closed millenia," which the "tempocrats" do not
have access to, is explained when a certain beautiful girl, whom an inspector
falls in love with, turns out to be not a lowly inhabitant of one of the
centuries under the dominion of the tempocracy, but a secret emissary from
the "inaccessible millenia." The time dictatorship as a control over the con-
tinuum of history will be destroyed, and a liberated humanity will be able
to take up astronautics and other select suitable occupations. The enigma of
the inaccessible millenia is remarkably similar to the "enigma of the closed
room" found in fairy tales and detective stories. The various epochs about
which the emissaries of the chronocracy hover also recall separate rooms.
The End of Eternity is an exhibition of formal entertainment to which sen-
timents about the fight for freedom and against dictatorship have been
tacked on rather casually.
WE HAVE already spoken about the "minimal time loop." Let us talk now,
simply for the sake of symmetry, about the "maximal" loops.
A.E. van Vogt has approached this concept in The Weapon Shops of
Isher (1949/1951), but let's expound it in our own way. As is known, there
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150 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
is a hypothesis (it can be found in Feynman's physics) which states that
positrons are electrons moving "against the tide" in the flow of time. It is
also known that in principle, even galaxies can arise from atomic collisions,
as long as the colliding atoms are sufficiently rich in energy. In accordance
with these presuppositions we can construct the following story: in a rather
distant future a celebrated cosmologist reaches, on the basis of his own
research as well as that of all his predecessors, the irrefutable conclusion
that, on the one hand, the cosmos came into being from a single particle
and, on the other, that such a single particle could not have existed-where
could it have sprung from? Thus he is confronted with a dilemma: the
cosmos has come into being, but it could not come into being! He is horrified
by this revelation, but, after profound reflections, suddenly sees the light:
the cosmos exists exactly as mesons sometimes exist; mesons, admittedly,
break the law of conservation, but do this so quickly that they do not
break it. The cosmos exists on credit! It is like a debenture, a draft for
material and energy which must be repaid immediately, because its existence
is the purest one hundred percent liability both in terms of energy and in
terms of material. Then, just what does the cosmologist do? With the help
of physicist friends he builds a great "chronogun" which fires one single
electron backward "against the tide" in the flow of time. That electron,
transformed into a positron as a result of its motion "against the grain" of
time, goes speeding through time, and in the course of this journey acquires
more and more energy. Finally, at the point where it "leaps out" of the
cosmos, i.e. in a place in which there had as yet been no cosmos, all the
terrible energies it has acquired are released in that tremendously power-
ful explosion which brings about the Universe! In this manner the debt is
paid off. At the same time, thanks to the largest possible "causal circle,"
the existence of the cosmos is authenticated, and a person turns out to be
the actual creator of that very Universe! It is possible to complicate this
story slightly, for example, by telling how certain colleagues of the cos-
mologist, unpleasant and envious people, meddled in his work, shooting on
their own some lesser particles backwards against the tide of time. These
particles exploded inaccurately when the cosmologist's positron was pro-
ducing the cosmos, and because of this that unpleasant rash came into being
which bothers science so much today, namely the enigmatic quasars and
pulsars which are not readily incorporated into the corpus of contemporary
knowledge. These then are the "artifacts" produced by the cosmologist's
malicious competitors. It would also be possible to tell how humanity both
created and depraved itself, because some physicist shot the "chronogun"
hurriedly and carelessly and a particle went astray, exploding as a nova in
the vicinity of the solar system two million years ago, and damaging by its
hard radiance the hereditary plasma of the original anthropoids who there-
fore did not evolve into "man good and rational" as "should have happened"
without the new particle. In other words, the new particle caused the degen-
eration of Homo sapiens-witness his history.
In this version, then, we created the cosmos only in a mediocre fashion,
and our own selves quite poorly. Obviously a work of this sort, in which-
ever variant, becomes ironical, independently of its basic notion (i.e. the
"self-creative" application of the "maximal time loop").
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 151
As one can see, what is involved is an intellectual game, actually fantasy-
making which alters in a logical or pseudo-logical manner current scientific
hypotheses. This is "pure" Science-Fiction, or Science-Fantasy as it is some-
times called. It shows us nothing serious, but merely demonstrates the con-
sequences of a reasoning which, operating within the guidelines of the
scientific method, is used sometimes in unaltered form (in predicting the
"composition percentage of paternity" we have in no way altered the scien-
tific data), and sometimes secretly modified. And thus SF can be responsibly
or irresponsibly plugged into the hypothesis-creating system of scientific
thought.
The example of "self-creation" reveals first of all the "maximal pro-
portions" of a self-perpetrating paradox: Peter gave birth only to himself,
whereas in the universal variant, mankind concocted itself, and, what is
more, perhaps not in the best manner, so that it would be even possible to
use "Manichaean" terminology. Furthermore, this example at the same time
demonstrates that the conceptual premise of essential innovations in the
structure of the objective world presented is central to a science-fictional
work (in the case of journeys in time, a change in causality is involved,
by admitting the reversibility of that which we consider today as universally
and commonly irreversible). The qualities of fictional material which serve
a dominant concept are thus subject to an assessment based on the useful-
ness to this concept. Fictional material should in that case be an embodiment
of a pseudo-scholarly or simply scholarly hypothesis-and that's all. Thus
"pure" SF arises, appealing exclusively to "pure reason." It is possible to
complicate a work with problems lying beyond the scope of such an intel-
lectual game: when, e.g., the "Manichaeism of existence" is interpreted as
due to an error of an envious physicist, then an opportunity for sarcasm
or irony arises as a harmonic "overtone" above the narrative's main axis.
But by doing this, we have forced SF to perform "impure" services, because
it is then not delivering scientific pseudo-revelations, but functioning in the
same semantic substratum in which literature has normally operated. It is
because of this that we call SF contaminated by semantic problems "re-
lational SF."
However, just as "normal" literature can also perform high and low
services-produce sentimental love stories and epics-relational SF shows an
analogous amplitude. As was noted, it is possible to interpret it allegorically
(e.g., Manichaeism in relation to the creation of the cosmos)-and this will
be the direction of grotesque or humorous departures from a state of "intel-
lectual purity" which is somewhat analogous to "mathematical vacuity."
It is also possible to overlay the history of creating the cosmos with
melodrama, e.g., to make it part of a sensational, psychopathological intrigue
(the cosmologist who created the Universe has a wicked wife whom he
nonetheless loves madly; or, the cosmologist becomes possessed; or also,
faced with his deeds, the cosmologist goes insane and, as a megalomaniac,
will be treated slightingly in an insane asylum, etc.).
THUS,
in the end, the realistic writer is not responsible for the overall-e.g.,
the causal-structure of the real world. In evaluating his works, we are not
centrally concerned with assessing the structure of the world to which
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152 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
they nonetheless have some relation.
On the contrary, the SF writer is responsible both for the world in which
he has placed his action, and for the action as well, inasmuch as he, within
certain limits, invents both one and the other.
However, the invention of new worlds in SF is as rare as a pearl the
size of a bread loaf. And so 99.9% of all SF works follow compositionally a
scheme, one of the thematic structures which constitute the whole SF reper-
toire. For a world truly new in structural qualities is one in which the causal
irreversibility of occurrences is denied, or one in which a person's individ-
uality conflicts with an individual scientifically produced by means of an
"intellectronic evolution," or one in which Earthly culture is in commun-
ication with a non-Earthly culture distinct from human culture not only
nominally but qualitatively, and so forth. However, just as it is impossible
to invent a steam engine, or an internal combustion engine, or any other
already existing thing, it is also impossible to invent once more worlds with
the sensational quality of "chronomotion" or of "a reasoning machine." As
the detective story churns out unweariedly the same plot stereotypes, so does
SF when it tells us of countless peripeties merely to show that by interposing
a time loop they have been successfully invalidated (e.g. in Thomas Wilson's
"The Entrepreneur" [1952] which talks about the dreadful Communists
having conquered the USA, and time travellers who start backwards at the
necessary point, invalidating such an invasion and dictatorship). In lieu of
Communists, there may be Aliens or even the Same People Arriving from
the Future (thanks to the time loop, anyone can battle with himself just as
long as he pleases), etc.
If new concepts, those atomic kernels that initiate a whole flood of
works, correspond to that gigantic device by which bioevolution was "in-
vented"-i.e., to the constitutional principle of types of animals such as ver-
tebrates and nonvertebrates, or fish, amphibians, mammals, and birds-then,
in the "evolution of SF," the equivalent of type-creating revolutions were
the ideas of time travel, of constructing a robot, of cosmic contact, of
cosmic invasion, and of ultimate catastrophe for the human species. And,
as within the organization of biological types a natural evolution imper-
ceptibly produces distinctive changes according to genera, families, races,
and so forth-similarly, SF persistently operates within a framework of
modest, simply variational craftsmanship.
This very craftsmanship, however, betrays a systematic, unidirectional
bias: as we stated and demonstrated, great concepts that alter the structure
of the fictional world are a manifestation of a pure play of the intellect. The
results are assessed according to the type of play. The play can also be "re-
lational," involved with situations only loosely or not at all connected with
the dominant principle. What connection is there, after all, between the
existence of the cosmologist who created the world, and the fact that he has
a beautiful secretary whom he beds? Or, by what if not by a retardation
device will the cosmologist be snatched away before he fires the "chrono-
gun"? In this manner an idea lending itself to articulation in a couple of
sentences (as we have done here) becomes a pretext for writing a long
novel (where a "cosmos-creating" shot comes only in the epilogue, after
some deliverers sent by the author have finally saved the cosmologist from
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THE TIME-TRAVEL STORY 153
his sorry plight). The purely intellectual concept is stretched thoroughly out
of proportion to its inherent possibilities. But this is just how SF proceeds-
usually.
On the other hand, rarely is a departure made from "emptiness"or "pure
play" in the direction of dealing with a set of important and involved proW
lems. For in the world of SF it is structurally as possible to set up an
adventure plot as a psychological drama; it is as possible to deal in sen-
sational happenings as it is to stimulate thought by an ontological impli-
cation created by the narrative as a whole. It is precisely this slide toward
easy, sensational intrigue which is a symptom of the degeneration of this
branch of literature. An idea is permitted in SF if it is packaged so that
one can barely see it through the glitter of the wrapping. As against con-
ventions only superficially associated to innovations in the world's structure
and which have worn completely threadbare from countless repetitions, SF
should be stimulated and induced to deviate from this trend of
development,
namely, by involution away from the "sensational pole." SF should not op-
erate by increasing the number of blasters or Martians who impede the cos-
mologist in his efforts to fire from the "chronogun"; such inflation is not
appropriate. Rather, one should change direction radically and head for the
opposite pole. After all, in principle the same bipolar opposition also pre-
vails in ordinary literature, which also shuttles between cheap melodrama
and stories with the highest aesthetic and cognitive aspirations.
It is difficult, however, to detect in SF a convalescence or outright
salvation of this sort. An odd fate seems to loom heavily over its domain,
which prompts writers with the highest ambitions and considerable talent,
such as Ray Bradbury or J.G. Ballard, to employ the conceptual and rational
tools of SF in an at times admittedly superb way, yet not in order to ennoble
the genre, but instead to bring it toward an "optimal" pole of literature.
Aiming in that direction, they are simultaneously, in each successive step,
giving up the programmatic rationalism of SF in favour of the irrational;
their intellect fails to match their know-how and their artistic talent. In
practice, what this amounts to is that they do not use the "signalling equip-
ment" of SF, its available accessories, to express any truly, intellectually
new problems or content. They try to bring about the conversion of SF
to the "creed of normal literature" through articulating, by fantastic means,
such non-fantastic content which is already old-fashioned in an ethical,
axiological, philosophical sense. The revolt against the machine and against
civilization, the praise of the "aesthetic" nature of catastrophe, the dead-
end course of human civilization-these are their foremost problems, the
intellectual content of their works. Such SF is as it were a priori vitiated
by pessimism, in the sense that anything that may happen will be for the
worse.
Such writers proceed as if they thought that, should mankind acknowl-
edge the existence of even a one-in-a-million or one-in-a-billion chance
transcending the already known cyclical pulsation of history, which has
oscillated between a state of relative stabilization and of complete material
devastation-such an approach would not be proper. Only in mankind's
severe, resolute rejection of all chances of development, in complete ne-
gation, in a gesture of escapism or nihilism, do they find the proper mission
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154 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
of all SF which would not be cheap. Consequently they build on dead-end
tragedy. This may be called into question not merely from the standpoint of
optimism, of whatever hue and intensity. Rather, one should criticize their
ideology by attempting to prove that they tear to shreds that which they
themselves do not understand. With regard to the formidable movements
which shake our world, they nourish the same fear of misunderstanding the
mechanisms of change that every ordinary form of literature has. Isn't it
clear what proportions their defection assumes because of this? Cognitive
optimism is, first of all, a thoroughly non-ludic premise in the creation of SF.
The result is often extremely cheap, artistically as well as intellectually, but
its principle is good. According to this principle, there is only one remedy for
imperfect knowledge: better knowledge, because more varied knowledge.
SF, to be sure, normally supplies numerous surrogates for such knowledge.
But, according to its premises, that knowledge exists and is accessible: the
irrationalism of Bradbury's or Ballard's fantasy negates both these premises.
One is not allowed to entertain any cognitive hopes-that becomes the un-
written axiom of their work. Instead of introducing into traditional qualities
of writing new conceptual equipment as well as new notional configura-
tions relying on intellectual imagination, these authors, while ridding them-
selves of the stigma of cheap and defective SF, in one fell swoop give up
all that constitutes its cognitive value. Obviously, they are unaware of the
consequences of such desertion, but this only clears them morally: so much
the worse for literature and for culture, seriously damaged by their mis-
take.
-Translated from the Polish by Thomas H. Hoisington and Darko Suvin.
NOTES
'The dates given in this essay are either for first publication whether
in serial or book form or for serial/book publication. -RDM.
2"The Seventh Journey of Ion Tichy" is available in several Polish
editions, such as Dzienni qwiazdowe (Cracow 1966); it has not yet been
published in English. -DS.
3Antoni Slonimski, born in 1895, Polish poet and essayist; his Torpeda
czasu (i.e., Time Torpedo) was first published in 1967. -THH.
John Huntington
The Unity of Childhood's End
Childhood's End is a novel which on one level may be merely an exercise
in satisfying a special market but on another engages ideas of deep concern
to the author himself. Quite aside from its frequently banal slickness, the
novel renders with clarity and completeness an idea of the nature and
importance of progress that lies at the center of Clarke's imagination. But an
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THE UNITY OF CHILDHOOD'S END 155
idea alone does not create successful art. In Childhood's End Clarke succeeds
in a way he does not in any of his other novels, for, though he develops
versions of the same myth of progress in other works, only in Childhood's
End does he overcome the myth's intrinsic duality and create a unified work
which does justice to the complexity of the issue by expressing the exhila-
ration of progress and at the same time giving full recognition to the limits
of mere human aspiration and to the tragic sacrifice involved in transcending
the human. The serious myth behind Childhood's End gives the novel weight,
but it is in its shaping of that myth that the novel stands out as a special
work of art.
Clarke's myth of progress consists of two stages: that of rational, techno-
logical progress, and that of transcendent evolution.1 Many of his novels
remain on the first stage and render technological speculations in painstaking
detail. As his numerous non-fictional essays on the future attest, Clarke finds
such speculation satisfying in itself, and ideologically he seems to have
complete faith that an efficient technology will produce a better future. But
in his most far-reaching novels technological progress fails to satisfy, and
mankind advances, not by inventing more competent machinery, but by
mutating into a higher form of being. This transcendental vision offers, not
the detailed ingenuity of mechanical invention, but powerful hints of modes
of understanding and perception and of mental powers and controls that so
completely surpass those which we ourselves experience that they are incom-
prehensible to us. Such a realm of being can only be hinted at; it needs a
language of symbol and suggestion in place of the technological vision's
concrete detail. Whereas the latter offers the excitement of comprehension,
the former offers the excitement of obscurity.
In Clarke's myth the transcendent state is not simply the highest stage of
technological progress. Though there exists a sequential relation between the
two worlds-the transcendent always follows the technological-there is no
structural similarity which would allow for communication between them.
The transcendent world represents a completely different order of being and
perception, an order which, instead of subsuming the technology that has
preceded it, obliterates it. The model for the relation of the two visions is
that of the Pauline promise that forms the basis for Childhood's End: "When
I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man I put away childish things. For now we see through
a glass darkly; but then face to face."2 Just as the mature man "put away
childish things," transcendent consciousness completely dispenses with the
attainments of rational science and the inventions of technology. The
children, having entered the Overmind at the end of Childhood's End,
destroy the Earth. This higher state is thus very different from that of the
Platonic seer who, after he has escaped the cave and seen the sun, is still
able to return-is even obliged to return-to his benighted fellows and to
communicate his insight as best he can given the limits of language and the
prejudices of his hearers. In Clarke's scheme no such communication is
possible between the two states of insight; they represent steps in an evo-
lutionary progress, but they have nothing structurally in common.
There is also an important difference between normal technological
progress and the kind of evolutionary leap that leads to the transcendent
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156 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
vision. Clarke repeatedly describes the elevation from normal human reason
and preception (i.e. the technological state) to the transcendent state as
generated, not by the powers inherent in man, though without those powers
nothing is possible, nor by man's own achievements, but by a genetic
transformation in man caused by the interference of some higher being. The
leap from human to Overmind is achieved by grace, not by man's own
works. We see the basic pattern in 2001: A Space Odyssey when higher
being by impressing a vision in one ape's mind changes his brain's structure
and makes him a man (?3). Clarke implies that the laborious process of
natural selection is insufficient for true progress, that any progress an ape
or a man achieves on his own merely earns the privilege of attaining higher
states and does not actually lead to that higher state.
The gratuitous nature of transcendence and the fact that it always follows
the technological state leave man no choice but to pursue the technological
vision,3 but with the important awareness that technological progress is not
true progress, merely a test of man's moral and intellectual energies. As we
shall see, technological progress alone leads to a dead end. True progress
comes only as a kind of reward infused by the Overmind into man's history.
At the end of "The Sentinel," the story that forms the basis for 2001, this is
made explicit: higher beings, the narrator tells us, would not be "concerned
with races still struggling up from savagery. They would be interested in our
civilization only if we proved our fitness to survive-by crossing space and so
escaping from the Earth, our cradle."4 Technology does not itself lead any-
where important; it merely proves "our fitness to survive." Thus, at the end
of 2001, when Bowman reaches Saturn, he simply leaves behind the fancy
machines that have occupied his and our attention for the major part of the
novel. He doesn't need them.
This myth of progress functions as a given in Clarke's work. While we
may object to the myth as an interpretation of actual reality, it is part of the
fictional reality that we accept when we begin reading and agree to suspend
disbelief. It seems to me, therefore, that the myth itself lies beyond criticism
insofar as we are interested in the artistic pattern of the novel as opposed
to its ideology.
2001: A Space Odyssey eloquently renders Clarke's basic myth of pro-
gress, but it does not make it clear why, if technological progress itself
delights him as much as it seems to, Clarke should find the transcendent
stage necessary. In that novel we experience the myth without any sense of
what its absence might entail. In an earlier novel, The City and the Stars,
Clarke explores more explicitly the insufficiency of technological progress
alone, and, though the novel itself stumbles around a lot, its failure to
create a coherent myth illuminates, perhaps better than a more successful
work might, Clarke's need for a mythology that will value technology with-
out limiting itself to it.
Clarke begins The City and the Stars by imagining technological per-
fection, the eternal, self-sufficient city of Diaspar, which caters to all its cit-
izens, creates every imagined pleasure, and in which men do not die but
merely return to the "memory banks" of the "Central Computer" for a few
thousand years to be reissued from the "Hall of Creation" full grown and
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THE UNITY OF CHILDHOOD'S END 157
capable of remembering all their past existences. On one level Clarke seems
to admire this technological marvel in which the various sciences have worked
together to create a world in which everybody-except Alvin, the adolescent
hero of the novel-is happy. But, if Clarke can admire Diaspar as an
engi-
neering feat, he finds it morally repulsive. He accuses its inhabitants of
being
"sick" and "insane." We are told that Diaspar represents a "cowardly" "fear"
of the unknown. It is man's retreat from "reality." The problem with
Diaspar
is that the activities that went into the utopia's creation, the scientific exper-
iments and the intellectual daring, have been rendered useless by the
city's
success. Diaspar, in depriving man of "that spark of curiosity that was
once
Man's greatest gift" (?7), represents a paradox that is inherent in the
very
notion of technological progress: the more successful such progress is, the
less need will there be for more of it. The very activity that proves man's
"fitness to survive," as it achieves its perfection, undermines that
fitness.5
Let me make it clear that Clarke does not condemn Diaspar because it is
totalitarian. The theme of the perfection of machinery leading to some kind
of political repression is a common one in science fiction, but what is curious
here in terms of the tradition is that Clarke does not attribute any such
tyranny to this machine. The Central Computer of Diaspar is much less
totalitarian in its enforcement of its own idea of order than is the machine
in Forster's "The Machine Stops" or the "Well-Doer" in Zamiatin's We.
The computer never obstructs Alvin; when he learns to use it it even aids him.
Thus the usual political objection to such a utopia seems irrelevant here.
Nor is the problem Clarke envisions a result of any kind of misfunction
of the machine. Forster's machine stops, but the Central Computer of Diaspar
seems truly eternal. Some years before Clarke invented Diaspar, John W.
Campbell had created situations roughly like Clarke's but with two important
and illuminating differences. First, Campbell's stories make it clear in a way
that Clarke's never does that the very survival of the race is in danger. Second,
Campbell solves the problem simply by improving the machine.6 For Clarke,
however, the problem is not so easily described or solved. There is no flaw
to technological perfection here which needs correction; it is technological
perfection itself that is objectionable.
Clarke does not claim, however, that all technological progress neces-
sarily leads to such a paradox. At the end of The City and the Stars he
places the blame for Diaspar's failure on the shortsighted cowardice of that
conservative element of mankind which, when millions of years ago the
chance was offered man to leave the galaxy in the company of some
incomprehensibly transcendent being, refused to go and tried to protect them-
selves from higher realities by building Diaspar. Finally, therefore, the bind
of perfection derives, not simply from the nature of technological progress
itself, but from the conscious plan of the founders and their fear of tran-
scendence. Technology is a trap only when it tries to preclude higher re-
alities. In 2001 and Childhood's End man's transcendent metamorphosis
restores the openness that the technological perfection of Diaspar obviates. In
The City and the Stars, however, transcendent possibilities are treated more
ambivalently, for though they are clearly outlined, they are finally envisioned
as totally alien and incomprehensible: "To Alvin, the thoughts of Vana-
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158 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
monde were as meaningless as a thousand voices shouting together in some
vast, echoing cave" (?24). At the end of the novel Alvin, weary of the stars,
turns aside from seeking transcendent being in favor of the more modest
task of restoring the Earth, now a desert, to fertility:
"No; I want nothing more of space. Even if any other civilizations still
survive in this Galaxy I doubt if they will be worth the effort of finding.
There is so much to do here; I know now that this is my home, and I am not
going to leave it again."
He looked down at the great deserts, but his eyes saw instead the waters
that would be sweeping over them a thousand years from now. Man had
rediscovered his world, and he would make it beautiful while he remained
upon it. And after that-
"We aren't ready to go out to the stars...." (?26)7
The higher forms of progress are now open in a way they never were so long
as Diaspar was a success, but they are not conceived of as really possible
objects for contemplation yet, and the novel falls back on a version of the
technological vision.
The disjunction that exists between the two stages of progress raises a
serious aesthetic problem, for, since there is no structural connection between
the two stages, any novel that tries to encompass both will probably find
itself falling into two distinct and unconnected parts. In The City and the
Stars Clarke tries to avoid this artistic problem by having Alvin decline the
transcendent level and remain on the technological level while the potential
for transcendent progress is left open. The effect, however, of going back to
the beginning and starting again, whatever may be said for such humility in
real life, is partly to render irrelevant the space travel and the search for
higher being that have gone before. Ironically, a somewhat similar criticism
holds for 2001 where the successful shift into the transcendent vision, in
effect, junks the technological vision that has occupied us for most of the
novel. Just as from Alvin's point of view Vanamonde is incomprehensible,
from the perspective of the Star-Child at the end of 2001, technology is
merely trivial.8 We can see the rationale for the shift from one stage to the
other, but neither novel offers a satisfactory artistic rendition of the myth.
Childhood's End, while by using the two-stage myth of progress it satis-
fies the demands of progress and avoids the frustrations of attainment,
escapes the disabling dichotomy of structure of 2001 by introducing a middle
term which joins the two states of vision. In Childhood's End the transcendent
evolutionary leap both opens new prospects and, importantly, conserves past
achievement; the final destruction of the Earth, while it calls up tragic
emotions, also represents a continuation of the human spirit.
The plot element in Childhood's End that importantly distinguishes it
from 2001 is the presence of the Overlords.9 They function as both a prospect
of the possibilities of technology and as figures of tragic limitation, and in
doing so they mediate between the two stages of progress. At the beginning
of the novel they represent an advanced technology, admirably rational, a
model for mankind, a goal for progress. By the end of the novel we discover
that they represent the dead end of technological progress, and they become
admirable mainly for their refusal to succumb to despair. While we can ad-
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THE UNITY OF CHILDHOOD'S END 159
mire their superior science and morality at the start, we can admire their
stoicism at the end.
The Overlords are masterful themselves, and yet they are mere servants
of the Overmind. This servitude of Titans raises some difficult problems. A
parallel with Satan, suggested by the situation itself, is underlined in the
novel by the physical appearance of the Overlords'0 and may at first make us
pause and seek for darker purposes in their seemingly benevolent actions.
But the Overlords, unlike Satan, for all their frustration with being limited
to a technological state, and for all their envy of the mysterious heights of
transcendence, ultimately acquiesce to their fate:
For all their achievements, thought Karellen, for all their mastery of the
physical universe, his people were no better than a tribe that had passed
its whole existence upon some flat and dusty
ptlain.
Far off were the
mountains, where power and beauty dwelt, where the thunder sported above
the glaciers and the air was clear and keen. There the sun still walked,
transfiguring the peaks with glory, when all the land below was wrapped in
darkness. And they could only watch and wonder; they could never scale
those heights.
Yet, Karellen knew, they would hold fast until the end: they would await
without despair whatever destiny was theirs. They would serve the Overmind
because they had no choice, but even in that service they would not lose
their souls. (?24)
Though both Devils and Overlords are denied Heaven, in place of Satan's
vow of everlasting war, his heroic non serviam, the Overlords assert a
spirit of stoic resignation. They understand the Overmind enough to acknowl-
edge the futility of rebellion. Ducunt Fata volentem, nolentem trahunt.11
Like Stormgren who in the first section of the novel, in spite of doubts,
submits to the overwhelming power of the Overlords, they submit to the
Overmind.
The basic structure of Childhood's End can be represented by an
equation: Humans/Overlords = Overlords/Overmind. Whereas the first two
sections of the novel develop the Human/Overlord relation, the last section
develops the Overlord/Overmind relation. When the Russian rocket scientist,
Schneider, first sees the ships of the Overlords, "for the first time in his
life he knew despair" (?1). We discover that this same despair in the face
of the unattainable is what the Overlords themselves have to fight. But the
novel as a whole does not preach despair because, while it repeats the
initial situation on a higher plane, it also performs the miraculous trans-
formation of human into Overmind so that the first and the last terms
of the proportion are seen as spiritually the same. The Overmind is both a
mysterious transcendence and an expression of qualities potential in man-
kind.
The important point is that logically Clarke is having it two ways here. If
human and Overlord are not equal, then human and Overmind cannot be
equal; and yet they are. The Overmind, thus, represents both progress and
stasis. While on the one hand we are moving higher and higher, from man
through Overlord to Overmind, on the other we are also returning to the
same level. The Overmind here represents a kind of magical solution to
the problem we discover at the end of The City
and the Stars. In that
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160 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
novel the transcendent being, Vanamonde, 12 is a creation of man, but be-
cause he is seen as something completely other than man Alvin loses interest
in him. In Childhood's End it is as if Alvin had made the effort to accept
and become Vanamonde with all the denial of human concern that such an
act entails.
What in the basic structure of the novel constitutes a logical incon-
sistency generates an artistic whole, and this unity is mirrored and supported
by the smaller details of imagery and character. My purpose here is not to
interpret in detail these lesser structures, but simply to suggest a line of
analysis which, if developed fully, would reveal that the novel resolves log-
ical inconsistency on many levels, not merely on the level of the large
structure with which we have been concerned. Throughout the novel, for
example, images of destruction are associated with progress: just as the
Overmind destroys earth, so too the rocket "Columbus," at the beginning
of the novel, will, in achieving its breakthrough into space, destroy the atoll
from which it is launched. The volcano of the novel's opening line recurs
as the presence of the Overmind on the Overlord's planet, and in their com-
munal suicide the New Athens people imitate the volcano. It is thus themat-
ically important that man's potential for self-destruction should be the mark
of his potential for transcendence. The Overlords, who arrive to prevent the
former, due to their complete rational competence, are denied the latter.
The question whether chaotic self-destruction and creative progress are so
related in actual fact does not really apply here; we are concerned at this
point, not with thematic truth, but with thematic pattern. The images of the
novel engage contradictory ideas and repeatedly unify them.
The major human characters in Childhood's End share the Overlords'
doubleness, but because they fail to generate the unified response that would
allow us simply to accept them, they make us aware of the inadequacy of
our conventional solutions to the problems the novel raises. Stormgren seems
a wise man, and yet at times one is made to wonder whether he is not
simply a quisling.13 On the other hand Wainwright is a religious fanatic
and, in part, an object of satire, but at the same time, as an advocate of
independence, he is a spokesman for attitudes close to Clarke's own as
expressed elsewhere. The humans engage the same issues we see in the sit-
uation of the Overlords, but when put in purely human terms these issues
become irresolvably ambiguous. The Overlords, perhaps because their intel-
lectual and moral superiority seems to lift them above the dichotomies that
torture Stormgren and Wainwright, do not generate ambivalence. The Over-
lords mediate between rival positions of independence and service and
reconcile the dilemmas that we experience when faced with the human
figures.
Similarly, the paradox that the magical structure of the whole novel
resolves appears as a problem, another source of ambivalence, in the middle
sections of the novel. Before the existence of the Overmind has been re-
vealed and before the midwife function of the Overlords is apparent, Clarke
makes us puzzle through some of the conventional solutions to the problems
of technological progress. In essence, he offers us two possible, but unsat-
isfactory, solutions to the challenge of the boredom of perfection. One,
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THE UNITY OF CHILDHOOD'S END 161
the New Athens Community, attempts to reinvigorate the creative activities
that have constituted man's glories in the past by retreating from the smooth-
functioning and technologically sophisticated world run by the Overlords and
setting up a consciously primitive society. The other possible solution is
embodied in Jan Rodricks, an Alvin-like character who, frustrated with a
world without adventure, sets out to explore despite the prohibitions of
the Overlords.
The idea behind New Athens is to preserve the spirit of humanity by a
kind of artificial primitivism and an artistic focus. Clarke's ambivalent
attitude towards this attempt is revealed in a small joke he makes when
George and Jean, the young couple we watch throughout this section, arrive
in the colony. Jean wonders whether she will be able to stand cooking
in a kitchen after a life of being able to dial "Food Central" and getting
her order five minutes later (?15). The joke here is an easy one, but like many
jokes it conceals an uneasiness, an ambiguous attitude, on its maker's part.
On the one hand, by expressing contempt for the pampered future which
judges what we consider luxury a curse, the joke implies that the tech-
nology of the future has been not only frivolous in creating such work-
savers as "Food Central," but has actually weakened man's ability to face
even the most trivial hardship. At its center the joke engages an important
theme that we have looked at already in The City and the Stars: that tech-
nology, insofar as it creates luxury, beguiles man of his basic moral fiber
and leads him to avoid struggle, risk, and adventure. Like Marie Antoinette
dressing up as a shepherdess, the technological aristocrat needs to get away
from his ease and back to some real, human identity. But the other side
of the joke ridicules this whole attempt at recovery of the primitive integ-
rity. Just as Marie Antoinette's pastoralism is ultimately a sentimental escape
from reality, so the self-conscious primitivism of technologically sophis-
ticated people is false. The New Athens attempt to get back to nature is
here revealed to be, in part, a denial of technological reality, a kind of
sentimental and reactionary pastoralism. The joke about Jean's kitchen holds
together diametrically opposed insights into the debilitating effect of tech-
nological progress and the liberating possibilities of it.
The other human escape from utopia is viewed less ambivalently than the
New Athens experiment, but it too has a futile resolution. Jan Rodricks,
like Alvin in The City and the Stars, frustrated by the limits put on his
curiosity by the Golden Age imposed by the Overlords, breaks free to ex-
plore other worlds. His heroic and brash act obviously has the author's
sympathies, but it leads to tragic isolation, not to renewal, for Jan returns
to an earth completely empty of human beings. The whole episode would
seem merely a nostalgic excrescence to the main theme of the novel were
it not that at the end Jan offers us a human perspective for the final
metamorphosis and thereby powerfully brings to bear the awareness of loss
that man's triumphant progress into higher being entails. The annihilation of
mankind in the form we know it, a catastrophe which at the end of 2001
Clarke dismisses as an ominous and conventional joke, is here given a more
considered weight by the presence of a human figure who finds value in
the technological vision and who devotes himself to exploring the unknown.
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162 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
Jan gives us a scale by which we can measure the sacrifice transcendence
involves.
Pastoral retreat and individual daring both fail to resolve the dilemma
of progress. While the inquiry into their potentials sheds light on the prob-
lem and gives urgency to the issue, it takes the transcendent stage to save
the human energy that leads to progress from futilely wasting itself. And,
then, it takes in addition the magical agency of the plot to create an image
and a situation which, while recognizing their incompatibility, can unify the
two stages of technology and transcendence. The Overmind, which con-
serves the human spirit as it destroys it, and the Overlords, who are both
masters and servants, combine to render a complex paradox which expresses
our hopes for progress as well as our doubts about it. That the literary
solution Clarke has arrived at should be so profoundly paradoxical need not
alarm us; it is, after all, a commonplace of literary criticism that paradox
of sorts works at the center of much literature, and the disciplines of psy-
chology and anthropology, to say nothing of philosophy, have repeatedly
shown us how often imaginative fictions, whether they be dreams, primitive
myths, poems, or stories, accept and resolve the contradictions experienced
in life. The first question that has to be asked of the artist is not, have
you appealed to contradictory truths? but have you created a pattern of
meaning that is coherent in itself ?
That we can view the basic structure of the novel as coherent and can
perceive how other elements of the novel may support that coherence
does not mean that Childhood's End is without faults. As Samuelson well
notes, the banal style of the novel is not adequate to the theme. The
characters, while one doesn't expect fine detail in their portraits since the
main concern of the novel is with larger issues of progress, are alter-
nately pretentious and trivial. One might argue that the frivolousness of
much of the middle section of the novel is intended as an ironic foil to
emphasize the gap between human and Overmind, but, even if that is the
intention, the device remains clumsy and distracting. Most important, as a
presence the Overmind, inevitably, frustrates. We can have only vague
hints of value and power; we can know it only by its consequences. But,
given the coherence of the novel's large structure, these specific complaints
diminish in importance. Childhood's End, whatever detailed faults we find,
seems to succeed at the end. Though after numerous readings, as I can attest,
the basic structure may no longer surprise and delight and the flaws may
begin to distract, the conclusion of the novel still brings together in a power-
ful way the thematic threads and solves the problems that, however mechan-
ically and clumsily, Clarke has raised. None of his other novels succeeds so
well.
NOTES
'David N. Samuelson in his article "Clarke's Childhood's End: A
Median Stage of Adolescence?" SFS 1(1973):4-17, uses the word mystic
to describe this state. I prefer the term transcendent because it seems less
prone to misinterpretation as being opposed to reason. The transcendent
state is not irrational; it is superrational. The distinction is important.
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THE UNITY OF CHILDHOOD'S END 163
2The language of the Pauline text is echoed early in Childhood's End,
though the radical implications of "maturity" are not at that point under-
stood: "'What does anyone know of Karellen's powers?' retorted Storm-
gren. 'When I was a boy, the Federation of Europe was a dream-but when
I grew to manhood it had become reality. And that was before the arrival
of the Overlords. Karellen is merely finishing the work we had begun' " (?2).
3Samuelson argues that in Childhood's End "the reader is almost forced
to make a choice between two positions," that of the "scientifically oriented"
"Devil's party" and that of the "mystically-oriented" Overmind-God (p9). In
fact, though one can contemplate the two modes of cognition, there is little
room for choice here. According to Clarke's myth, we have no choice but
to follow reason and science, for only by holding on to reason now can we
hope to transcend it in the future.
4The story appeared first in 1951 and is reprinted in Clarke's collection
Expedition to Earth (1953).
5The theme is not at all new to science fiction. Wells's Time Travel-
ler, meditating on his first experiences in the future, postulates that the
decadence of the Eloi results from technological success. "We are kept keen
on the grindstone of pain and necessity" (The Time Machine, ?4/?6).
6In "Twilight" (1934) a time traveller simply reprograms the machine
to generate curiosity. In "The Story of the Machine" (1935) the machine is
so wise that when it sees that man has become overly dependent on it, it
simply turns itself off.
7The City and the Stars varies the basic myth we have traced by suggest-
ing that perhaps man may be able to attain some form of transcendence
on his own. Vanamonde, the childish supermind, is a human creation.
Also, at the end of the novel Alvin sends his space ship, piloted by the
robot, out beyond the galaxy: "One day our cousins will receive my message
and they'll know that we are waiting for them here on Earth. They will return,
and I hope by then we will be worthy of them, however great they have
become" (?26). Though the concern for worthiness echoes the concern for
fitness at the end of "The Sentinel,"the situation is importantly different.
First of all we initiate the signal and invite them to find us. Second, it's a
kind of by-your-own-bootstrap theory of evolution, for the superior race who
will elevate us if we are worthy is a branch of the human tree, our "cousins."
8At the very end of 2001 Clarke reverts to one of the oldest diches
of science fiction: the vague threat of awful things to come. If we take the
threat seriously we must conclude that the novel constitutes a warning
against engaging in the kinds of scientific activities and explorations that
will lead ultimately to transcendence. Since such a moral seems highly un-
likely given Clarke's ideology, and since nothing else in the novel supports
such a reading, one suspects that the end of 2001 merely signifies a turning
away from the real issues that the novel might raise. Not only does the
novel end up trivializing technology, it trivializes transcendence too.
9Hal, the computer for the Jupiter probe in 2001, might be seen as
structurally similar to the Overlords, but though Hal is technologically mar-
vellous, he merely parodies the humanitas that allows the Overlords to unify
Childhood's End.
10Samuelson (p7) notes other parallels, among them the similarity be-
tween the Overlords' home planet and Hell.
"lSo Spengler concludes The Decline of the West, quoting Seneca's
translation (in Epistle 107) of the Stoic philosopher Cleanthes.
12Vanamonde is a high form of being, but The City and the Stars posits
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164 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
the presence of much higher beings so that, on the scale we are used to
from 2001 and Childhood's End, Vanamonde is quite a modest level of
transcendence.
13The issue is raised obliquely in chapter three when Stormgren ponders
whether in supporting the Overlords he isn't acting like an Indian tolerating
British control and thereby destroying his own culture.
Douglas Barbour
Wholeness and Balance in
the Hainish Novels of Ursula K. Le Guin
The five stories by Ursula K. Le Guin with which this essay is directly
concerned-Rocannon's World (1966), Planet of Exile (1966), City of Illusions
(1967), The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), and "The Word for World is
Forest" (1972)1-are all set in what may be called the Hainish universe, for
it was the people of the planet Hain who originally "seeded" all the habit-
able worlds of this part of the galaxy and thus produced a humanoid universe
that is single, expanding, and historically continuous, but at the same time
marvelous in its variety, for each planetary environment caused specific
local mutations in its humanoids as they adapted and developed. The result
is a universe full of "humans" who display enough variety to provide for
any number of alien encounters, and since any possible stage of civilization
can be found on some particular planet, new definitions of "civilization"
can be made in a narrative rather than a discursive mode.
In Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile Le Guin sketches in the back-
ground of the League of All Worlds, which is preparing to fight an Enemy
from some distant part of the galaxy, and prepares the reader for City of
Illusions, which is the story of the man who will eventually "rescue"
humanity from the Shing, the mind-lying aliens. The Left Hand of Darkness
is set in an even further future when the Shing have been defeated and most
of humanity has once again united, this time in the Ekumen of Known
Worlds-a subtler and humbler title than the former one. "The Word for
World is Forest," being set in the first year of the League, brings the Hainish
universe comparatively close to our own time.
Besides the continuous time-space history, these narratives are bound
together by a consistent imagery that both extends and informs meaning.
Although Le Guin has used particular images which emerge naturally from
the cultural and ecological context of her imagined worlds as linking devices
within each work, she has also consistently used light/dark imagery as a
linking device for the whole series. Again and again, good emerges from
ambiguous darkness, evil from blinding light. Thus there is a specific local
imagery in each novel, and a pervasive light/dark imagery in all of them.
In Rocannon's World the local image is the "Eye of the Sea." This
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THE HAINISH NOVELS OF URSULA K. LE GUIN 165
jewel, the efficient cause of Semley's actions in the "Prologue," appears
throughout Rocannon's adventures until, when he has accomplished his task,
he gives it, as a final sign that he has found his home, to the Lady Ganye, who,
at the end of the story, appears as "his widow, tall and fair-haired, wearing
a great blue jewel set in gold at her throat."
The light/dark imagery is more pervasive and more complex. From the
very beginning the interdependence of light and darkness are made clear.
Take Kyo's explanation of the difference between his people and the Gdmiar:
the Fiia chose to live only in the light, the Clayfolk chose "night and caves
and swords" (?7), and both lost something by their choice. The image of
the Fiia dance, "a play of light and dark in the glow of the fire" (?7),
reflects a pattern which Rocannon realizes had existed between Kyo and
himself. This dance of shadows and light is the proper image for their
interplay in all Le Guin's work: both the light and the dark are necessary
if any pattern is to emerge from chaos (see Left ?16). When Rocannon meets
the Ancient One, he must enter the "dark place" to gain the gift of mind-
hearing (?8). Later he enters the FTL ships on "a night when of all the four
moons only the little captured asteroid...would be in the sky before midnight"
(?9). The success of his mission, the explosion destroying the enemy base,
is marked by "not the light but the darkness, the darkness that blinded
his mind, the knowledge in his own flesh of the death of a thousand men
all in one moment" (?9). Clearly and consistently light/dark images dance
through the whole novel.
The title of the first chapter in Planet of Exile, "A Handful of Dark-
ness," refers to Agat's dark hand against Rolery's white one. The alliance
of farborns and hilfs, of black and white, is touched on throughout the
novel: Agat's and Rolery's growing love is imaged in these terms. As Rolery
"seemed to hold against her palm a handful of darkness, where his touch
had been" (?1), so Agat "recalled briefly...the light, lithe, frightened figure
of the girl Rolery, reaching up her hand to him from the dark sea-besieged
stones" (?3). Rolery feels a "little rush of fear and darkness through her
veins" (?5) because she is a natural telepath and has been "bespoken" by
Agat; later, when Agat is attacked and wounded and sends out calls for
help, "Rolery's mind went quite dark for a while" (?6) and she is the one
to find him. Both are young and fear the Winter, for they have only "known
the sunlight" (?5). That oncoming 5000-day cold spell provides some of
the local image patterns of this novel, as do the customs of the Askatevar,
but the light/dark imagery weaves its way from book to book.
"Imagine darkness. In the darkness that faces outward from the sun a
mute spirit woke. Wholly involved in chaos, he knew no pattern." Thus
begins City of Illusion, and thus begins Falk's book-long search for the cor-
rect pattern, one made up of light and darkness as all good patterns must
be. Naturally enough, in a story of lie and paradox, light and dark seldom
carry ordinary meanings. Falk begins and ends in darkness, yet the two
darknesses are opposed: the first a mental chaos, the last an important part
of the whole pattern he has sought. As the images gather, we begin to
see the pattern, and the play of paradox and illusion within it. The old
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Listener's warning about "the awful darkness of the bright lights of Es Toch"
(?3) presents one of the central paradoxes, one Falk must resolve if he
is to survive. In Es Toch it is "the word spoken in darkness with none
to hear at the beginning, the first page of time" to which Falk turns as
he tries to outmaneuver the Shing (?8).
The two major local images are the "patterning frame" (??1, 5) and
the "Way" of the "Old Canon" (i.e., the Tao-te ching). References to Falk as
a stone within the frame appear throughout the story, as do quotations from
and allusions to the Tao. Falk-Ramarren's final recognition that "there's
always more than one way towards the truth" (?10), which is his personal
resolution of the dark/light pattern, is an "open" one. Yet it has been implicit
in the imagery of the patterning frame and the Tao, which has been very
carefully organized, and which leads directly to the novel's final para-
graph:
On the screen dawn coming over the Eastern Ocean shone in a golden
crescent for a moment against the dust of the stars, like a jewel on a great
patterning frame. Then frame and pattern shattered, the barrier was passed,
and the little ship broke free of time and took them out across the dark-
ness.
"Tormer's Lay," from which The Left Hand of Darkness takes its title
(?16), suggests the importance of the light/dark image pattern in that
novel. When Ai finally comes to accept and love Estraven as a whole person,
he shows him the Yin-Yang symbol: "Light, dark. Fear, courage. Female,
male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow." (?19). This
list of opposites yoked together expresses precisely the deep meaning that
the image pattern points to; it clearly owes much to the Tao sensibility of
Chuang Tzu who similarly yokes opposites together on the Way.2
When Estreven says that the word Shifgrethor, which Ai has found impos-
sible to understand, "comes from an old word for shadow" (?18), a clear
light is cast back across the novel, illuminating passage after passage where
shadows or the lack of them are mentioned with particular emphasis
even Ai himself had said of the Orgota that it was "as if they did not cast
shadows" (?10). This sequence of images is solidly grounded in Gethenian
psychology and philosophy, yet it simultaneously fits into the larger pattern
that connects all the novels. In Left Hand shadow images concerned with
personal integrity indicate what kind of person is being referred to; they
are also deeply embedded in the ecology of the planet, the warm shadows of
the hearths opposing the snow, the terrible cold, so bright with danger: no
wonder the Handdara is a "fecund darkness" (?5).
The essential unity of light and darkness is always implicit in the imag-
ery, as in the description of the Foretelling: "Hours and seconds passed, the
moonlight shone on the wrong wall, there was no moonlight only darkness,
and in the center of all darkness Faxe: the Weaver: a woman, a woman
dressed in light" (?5). The Foretelling emerges from the Darkness, the very
darkness the Handdara rely on, as is shown by their "short and charming
grace of invocation, the only ritual words" Ai ever learns of them: "Praise
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THE HAINISH NOVELS OF URSULA K. LE GUIN 167
then darkness and Creation unfinished" (?18). "Dothe," the special strength
Handdarata can call up in their bodies, is the "strength out of the Dark,"
and "thangen," the sleep of recovery, is "the dark sleep" (?14). Yet Faxe the
Weaver shines with his own light, even in noon sunlight (?5). As the Lay
says, "Two are one ... like the end and the way" (?16).
Having heard Estraven recite Tormer's Lay, Ai speaks of the difference
between Gethenians and Terrans:
"You're isolated, and undivided. Perhaps you are as obsessed with wholeness
as we are with dualisms."
"We are dualists too. Duality is essential, isn't it? So long as there is
myself and the other."
"I and Thou," he said. "Yes, it does, after all, go even wider than
sex...." (?16)
As wide as the universe of meaning itself, the images say: wholeness and
duality, together and separate at once, a pattern of life itself, woven through
an artist's fictions, the matrix of her vision.
As THE DISCUSSION of imagery has shown, Le Guin's artistic vision is multi-
plex, dualistic, and holistic. That she has never sought simplistic philo-
sophical solutions for the human problems she explores in her narratives,
could be demonstrated in her first three books, but I wish to concentrate here
on her artistic handling of balance as a way of life in The Left Hand of
Darkness and "The Word for World is Forest."
Very few SF books have succeeded as well as The Left Hand of Darkness
in invoking a whole environment, a completely consistent alien world, and
in making the proper extrapolations from it. Le Guin has chosen a form that
allows for various kinds of "documentation": six of the twenty chapters
(not to mention the Appendix) are documents separate from the actual
narrative-three "Hearth tales" (?? 2, 4, 9), a report on Gethenian sexuality
(?7), excerpts from a sacred book (?12), and "An Orgota Creation Myth"
(?17)-each placed so as to aid our understanding of the narrative at a partic-
ular point in its progression. And the narrative itself is a document, consisting
partly of Ai's transcription of passages from Estraven's notebook and partly
of Ai's direct report to his superiors in the officialdom of the Ekumen. The
whole is a masterful example of form creating content.
Quite early in the story, immediately after a "hearth tale" concerned
with their Foretellings, Ai spends considerable space reporting on his exper-
iences at a Handdara Fastness, and it soon becomes obvious that he considers
the Handdara a religion of considerable profundity. I think it is safe to assume
that Le Guin means us to agree with this opinion, partly because of the
way in which Handdara thought reflects the Tao-te ching, which is explicitly
drawn upon in City of Illusions. In Left Hand the basic Handdara religious
philosophy is influenced by the specific paraverbal talent the Gethenians
have, yet there are many allusive connections between this invented religion
and Taoism.
"The Handdara," says Ai, "is a religion without institution, without
priests, without hierarchy, without vows, without creed; I am still unable to
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168 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
say whether it has a god or not. It is elusive. It is always somewhere else."
(?5). Similarly, the Tao-te ching:
The thing that is called Tao is eluding and vague.
Vague and eluding, there is in it the form.
Eluding and vague, in it are things.
Deep and obscure, in it is the essence.
(?21; translation by Wing-tsit Chan)3
Although Taoist-influenced Zen Buddhism has many points in common with
the Handdara, Le Guin has created in this "elusive"religion something that
is still alien as well as very human. The Handdara's "only fixed manifestation
is in the Fastnesses, retreats to which people may retire and spend the night
or a lifetime" (?5). Ai visits the Otherhord Fastness to investigate the "fore-
tellings" for the Ekumen; these predictions, which must be paid for, are
apparently completely true. Ai arrives a skeptic and departs a believer, hav-
ing participated unwillingly in the Foretelling by virtue of his own para-
verbal talent. He remarks that although the humanoids of the Ekumen have
certain paraverbal abilities, they have not yet "tamed hunch to run in harness;
for that we must go to Gethen." But this chapter also reveals basic Handdara
beliefs and attitudes which later clarify Estraven's behavior, for he has been
Handdara trained. The response of young Goss to what Ai intends as an
apology for being "exceedingly ignorant"-"I'm honored!...I haven't yet
acquired enough ignorance to be worth mentioning."-is important in that
it introduces the central doctrine of Handdara life:
It was an introverted life, self-sufficient, stagnant, steeped in that singular
"ignorance" prized by the Handdarata and obedient to their rule of inactivity
or non-interference. That rule (expressed in the word nusuth, which I have
to translate as "no matter") is the heart of the cult, and I don't pretend to
understand it. (?5)
Most readers will sympathize with Ai's last small complaint, but these ideas
have much in common with the Tao of both Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu. Tao
?37 says, "Tao invariably takes no action, and yet there is nothing left
undone," and Chuang Tzu writes: "I take inaction to be true happiness, but
ordinary people think it is a bitter thing.... the world can't decide what is
right and what is wrong. And yet inaction can decide this. The highest hap-
piness, keeping alive-only inaction gets you close to this."4 The time that
Ai spends at the Otherhord Fastness is the happiest he has known.
The Handdarata, Estraven tells Ai, are perhaps, in comparison with the
Yomeshta of Orgoreyn, who are somewhat further into the pattern of the
ecology-breaking cultures of other worlds, "less aware of the gap between
men and beast, being more occupied with likenesses, the links, the whole
of which living things are a part" (?16). This preoccupation with wholeness
and likenesses is found throughout the Tao, for the Way unites all things.
Tormer's Lay, which Estraven recites for Ai in ?16, brings to a focus the
light and dark imagery which has operated which such poetic subtlety
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THE HAINISH NOVELS OF URSULA K. LE GUIN 169
throughout; it also expresses in highly charged and culturally consistent
imagery the ideas of wholeness and balance which have been implicit in the
language of the novel:
Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.
LIGHT AND DARKNESS sharing the world and our apprehension of it: this is
a deeply Taoist insight, but it is also a deeply holistic/artistic one. On Athshe,
the world of "The Word for World is Forest," it is one of the bases of
life for the natives, and a lost fragment of old knowledge for the Terran
colonists. Here Le Guin departs from any obvious use of Taoism; instead, she
approaches the theme of balance, of the light and darkness joined together,
through a highly dense and specific creation of an ecology and culture
inextricably entwined, and through the ideas of Dement and Hadfield on
the nature of dreams.5 In creating a culture in which people balance their
"sanity not on the razor's edge of reason but on the double support, the
fine balance of reason and dream" (?5), she has also created a power-
ful image of holistic duality. The sanity and balance of Athshean society,
the Athshean's awareness of "the whole of which living things are a part"
(Left Hand ?16), stands in stark contrast to the emotional and mental imbal-
ance of the Earth-imperialist colonial culture which represents a logical
extension of certain present-day technological and political trends. Despite
the fact that the Earthmen come from all parts of the globe (ironically,
their leader, Colonel Dongh, is from Viet Nam), they are all imbued with
the attitudes of the "Judeao-Christian-Rationalist West," as Haber will so
fondly call it in ?6 of The Lathe of Heaven (1972).
The Terran colonists are xenophobic despite their knowledge of other
star-traveling humanoid races (the story is set in the period in which the
league of All Worlds is first founded): they still believe they are kings of
the universe. They have no desire to understand, or, more important, learn
from, the hilfs. With the sole exception of Lyubov, the military men of the
colony see the Athsheans as "creechies," animal-creatures; that is, as non-
human and therefore to be treated as animals. Although the group is pre-
sented in general terms, the foci of interest are the individual psychologies
of Davidson and Lyubov. These are extreme types, at opposite ends of the
Earth-human spectrum, and in each we can see those attitudes and behavioral
mannerisms which, in a mixed way, are the heritage of a civilization given
over to the acquisition of material goods and power, the attitudes of which
are fixed in the Hobbesian vision of man. Davidson's nearly incoherent
"reasoning" provides a spectacular instance of how a man's psychosis (in
this case, paranoia) correlates to the excessive exploitation of a world's
inhabitants and natural resources. Lyubov's tortured soul-searching, eager
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170 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
reaching out to others for knowledge, and final refusal of Selver's proffered
gift of dreaming, reveal a mild, humane, liberal, and finally weak man. Selver,
the Athshean who becomes a "god" and acts with violence to protect his
people when necessity so dictates, reveals by contrast the weakness of
Lyubov's position.
These contrasts of character are partially exposed in light/dark imagery
and partially translated into balance/imbalance imagery. The brightness of
Don Davidson's mind, intense, paranoid, and in love with the fire that kills
others, especially "creechies," is frighteningly unbalanced. Seeing "water
and sunlight, or darkness and leaves" only as opposites, he chooses to "end
the darkness, and turn the tree-jumble into clean sawn planks, more prized
on Earth than gold" (?1). Earthmen, trying to balance their sanity "on the
razor's edge of reason," fail to comprehend "the fine balance of reason and
dream" and thus live in fear of the dark forests of the Athsheans, where
"into wind, water, sunlight, starlight, there always entered leaf and branch,
bole and root, the shadowy, the complex" (?2). The complex is that fusion
of light and darkness which represents wholeness. The concept of living
in both dream-time and world-time reflects this wholeness. Lyubov's re-
flection on his original fear of the forest and his gradual acceptance of
it reveals how much the Earthmen, from a technological, well-lit, treeless
Earth, have lost in their relentless pursuit of power. They would clean out
the forest, burn it off, to let the light shine on the barren ground that they
mistakenly believe will bear growth again. Driven by the "yumens" to
struggle for survival, the Athsheans have "taken up the fire they feared
into their own hands: taken up the mastery over the evil dream: and loosed
the death they feared upon their enemy" (?8). Truth is complex, dark and
light at once, and the various images attached to the forest, that place of
no revelation, "no certainty," all contribute to our understanding of this.
The Athsheans are at home in the complex, and sit under a big tree to meet
with the yumens: "The light beneath the great tree was soft, complex with
shadows" (?8). This complexity is deeply embedded in their culture, in
which everyone lives in both times, that of the dream and that of the world.
Although specific references to darkness and light are not as numerous as
in some of the other stories, the pattern is definitely there, in the ambiguous
forest, behind the words and images that do appear. In a very important
sense, the disturbed balance of dream-time and world-time is the local
image-system in this work.
Selver, recognizing the necessity of armed resistance (of fighting a war
of liberation that has obvious parallels with Third World struggles, espec-
ially that in Viet Nam), is the dreamer who becomes a god, translating
to his people the terrible but necessary new dream of killing one's own kind
(for the Athsheans, unlike the yumens, have recognized the essential oneness
of the two races). Their survival depends upon it, but their innocence has
been forever lost, and he recognizes what a terrible price that is to pay
for freedom (?8). Le Guin's handling of this specific political problem is re-
markable, at least in the world of popular SF, for its intellectual toughness:
Lyubov's death results directly from his "liberal" inability to face the reality
of the situation as the Athsheans have seen it. Selver survives, together
with his people, because he rigorously follows the logic of the situation to
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THE HAINISH NOVELS OF URSULA K. LE GUIN 171
its necessary conclusion: fight or be exterminated.
Le Guin's fictions are all imbued with great sympathy for the strange
"human" cultures they present. Nevertheless, the Athshean culture of
"Forest" is her clearest example yet of a culture presented as in basic and
violent conflict with present-day "Earth-normal" standards but still as un-
equivocally the saner of the two. Thus the culture of the Athsheans, the
ecology of Athshe, and the profound connections between them, are the
focus of this novella. The ecological balance of Athshe, though not quite
precarious, is delicate, as is revealed in ?1 by the complete devastation of
an entire island and indirectly by Davidson's thoughts on the exploitative
value of this "New Tahiti." The Athshean vision emerges in a thick poetic
prose at the beginning of the first Selver chapter (?2) in a description whose
beauty and complexity stand in stark contrast to the prose associated with
Davidson or even Lyubov. The forest is presented in a series of concrete
images; then there is this:
Nothing was dry, arid, plain. Revelation was lacking. There was no seeing
everything at once: no certainty. The colors of rust and sunset kept chang-
ing in the hanging leaves of the copper willows, and you coul not
say
even whether the leaves of the willows were brownish-red, or reddish-green,
or green.
Selver came up a path beside the water, going slowly and often stumbling
on the willow roots. He saw an old man dreaming and stopped. The old man
looked at him through the long willow-leaves and saw him in his dream.
We have been introduced to the ecology from within, and to the major aspect
of the culture: all that follows will merely fill out the sketch before us until
it is a full portrait.
The clan system that is tied into tree names, the small village systems,
the special male and female roles that have been devised to maintain the
society, the major part that dreaming plays in the lives of the Athsheans,
their use of "a kind of ritualized singing to replace physical combat" (?3),
and many other aspects of their culture, are all brought out as the novella
progresses. Lyubov explains the Athsheans in this way:
"They're a static, stable, uniform society. They have no history. Perfectly
integrated, and wholly unprogressive. You might say that like the forest
they live in, they've attained a climax state. But I don't mean to imply that
they're incapable of adaptation." (?3)
But even though he sees that the Athsheans might be able to adapt to
meet the challenge of the Earthmen, he does not really know their culture.
The most important aspect of Athshean culture is the use of dreams.
Selver says that Lyubov, despite his attempts to understand Athshean ways,
"called the world-time 'real' and the dream-time 'unreal,' as if that were the
difference between them" (?2). Le Guin's extrapolations from Hadfield's
theories have resulted in a marvellously different culture in "Forest." If
it lacks "progress," Athshean culture possesses in abundance the sanity
Earth culture so obviously lacks. Lyubov's thoughts on this matter in ?5
add some interesting scientific "facts" to the speculative enterprise, yet all
he can see is that the Athsheans have learned to dream in a brilliant and
complex fashion. The Athsheans, however, see the situation in different
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172 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
terms: they have learned to live, sanely, in both times.
The whole question of sanity, or balance, is argued in the concrete
terms of fiction throughout the novel. There are two forms of art on Athshe,
dreaming and singing, and both are specialized cultural activities which serve
to nullify aggression against other humans. The Athsheans recognize a
necessity for controlling one's dreams, for dreaming properly, but the dev-
astating impact of the Terrans has resulted in a deep cultural trauma:
"And all men's dreams," said Cora Mena, cross-legged in shadow, "will be
changed. They will never be the same again. I shall never walk again that
path I came with you yesterday.... It is changed. You have walked on
it and it is utterly changed.... For you have done what you had to do, and it
was not right. You have killed men. (?2)
Having done what "was not right," Selver has become a god-"a god that
knows death, a god that kills and is not himself reborn"-and for the
Athsheans such a person is "a changer, a bridge between realities" (?2).
The concept is clarified further by Lyubov's hesitant articulation of the im-
plications of "sha'ab, translator" to the point where he sees that Selver is "A
link: one who could speak aloud the perceptions of the subconscious. To
'speak' that tongue is to act. To do a new thing. To change or to be changed,
radically, from the root. For the root is the dream." (?5). Although Selver's
godhead enables him to lead the Athsheans to victory over the Terrans, it is
a burden that brings him nothing but pain, loss, and insanity, and at the end
he renounces it. That he should be allowed to do so is a significant example
of the sanity of his culture.
His culture's sanity-the awareness that balance must be sought where
dark and light meet and mix, in the ambiguous center where simple-minded
"we-they" solutions fail-emerges organically from its total context in the
fictional world of the novel. Yet that balance, though no longer clearly Taoist,
is paralleled in the Taoist insights of City of Illusions and The Left Hand
of Darkness, in the teachings of the Handdarata in the latter book, in the
joining of the races in Planet of Exile, and in the lessons learned by Rocannon
in Rocannon's World. For Le Guin's artistic vision, her deep understanding
of the real meaning of culture, has always been ambiguous, multiplex,
subtle, and dualistic/holistic in the sense that it has always recognized the
cultural relativity of "truth." Always, in her work, the representatives of
different cultures meet, interact, and, in the cases that count, learn of each
other (often through love) that they are equally human, part of the great
brotherhood of "man."
NOTES
'The first three of these books have been published only in paperback;
"The Word for World is Forest" appears in Harlan Ellison's anthology, Again
Dangerous Visions (1972).
2Burton Watson, tr., Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings (US 1964), pp32-33,
38, 39-40, 70.
3The version of the Tao-te ching followed here is that of Wing-tzit Chan,
ed., tr., The Way of Lao-Tzu (1963).
4Watson, p112.
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SF CRITICISM IN FRANCE 173
5See J.A. Hadfield, Dreams and Nightmares (Harmondsworth 1966),
pp 66, 72; and various of Dement's articles. Further on Dement's researches,
see Brian Aldiss, The Shape of Further Things (UK 1970),
pp 37-39,
42,
with its pertinent discussion of how the lack of REM sleep leads to
insanity.
Peter Fitting
SF Criticism in France
From Verne until the 1950s, SF has languished in France where it eventually
reappeared largely as an Anglo-American phenomenon. From then on, the
majority of books and stories published are translations, and SF criticism is
based primarily on American writing (though there has been a renewed crit-
ical interest in the work of Verne during the last decade-see the article by
Marc Angenot in SFS #1). Critical interest awakened brusquely in the 1950s.
(In what follows all translations are my own-except the passages from
Butor's essay.)
It began with an enthusiastic article in Sartre's influential periodical Les
Temps modernes, co-authored by Stephen Spriel and the noted writer Boris
Vian, "Un nouveau genre litt6raire: la science fiction" (October 1951). Spriel
and Vian use as their starting point Groff Conklin's 1946 anthology The Best
of Science Fiction (also reviewed by the leading writer and critic Raymond
Queneau in the March 1951 issue of Critique), and Conklin's classification
of stories according to thematic groupings. They claim for SF the special
quality of "disorientation": "SF is a new mystique, for the simple reason
that it is the resurrection of epic poetry: man's continual surpassing of
his own limits, the hero and his exploits, the struggle against the Unknown."
That same year the first series of paperback SF, "Fleuve Noir-Anticipation,"
was launched, soon followed by two more collections, Gallimard's "Rayon
fantastique" (from 1952) and Denoel's "Presence du futur" (from 1953).
In 1953 two SF magazines also began publication: Galaxie, limited almost
entirely to translations from Galaxy, and Fiction, which used material
from The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as some original
French material. During the next few years there were SF articles, and some-
times stories (usually translations) in some of France's most important intel-
lectual reviews. In March 1953 the Marseilles quarterly Les Cahiers du Sud
presented a special number on SF under the title "Nouveaux aspects d'une
mythologie moderne." This issue included an article by Michel Carrouges,
"Le spectroscope des anticipations," which describes "anticipatory litera-
ture," a genre which includes, according to the author, SF as well as utopian
fiction, surrealist poetry and the writing of such authors as Raymond Roussel
and J.L. Borges. Although there is little discussion of SF itself, the essay is
an empassioned and poetic plea for writing which is "oriented towards the
future."
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174 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
This current of anticipatory literature...is infinitely more characteristic of the
20th century than the thriller or the literature of the absurd. Like an
ostrich,
one can pretend that it does not exist, one can delay momentarily its develop-
ment, but its accession to the forefront of current interest will not be
stopped. For it is irresistibly borne forward, by the movement of scientific
revolutions, by the turmoil of modern thought confronted with the extensive
metamorphoses of human life, by the unending appeals of distress and desire.
This literature is not a reliquary of memories nor a mirror moved along a
road or through a bedroom, it is the burning spectroscope of the future...
(p16)
For that same issue the novelist and critic Michel Butor (whose study of
Jules Verne figured significantly in the current revival of interest in
Verne) wrote his essay "Science Fiction-the Crisis of its Growth," which
created a controversy when it appeared, fourteen years later, as translated
by Richard Howard, in Partisan Review (reprinted in T. Clareson, ed., SF:
The Other Side of Realism). Butor defines SF as "a literature which explores
the range of the possible, as science permits us to envision it"; and the
range of the possible is "life in the future, unknown worlds and unexpected
visitors" (p158). In the most original part of his essay, the author warns
that SF is in a crisis: SF writers have become unimaginative, they have come
to rely on the simple invocation of SF themes to evoke an imaginative
response in the reader. The SF writer's freedom to use any setting he wants
Butor calls a false freedom:
If we flee infinitely far into space or time, we shall find ourselves in a region
where evervthing is possible, where the imagination will no longer even need
to make the effort of coordination. The result will be an unpoverished
duplication of everyday reality. [In SF of this sort] the author has merely
translated into SF language a newspaper article he read the night before.
Had he remained on Mars, he would have been obliged to invent something.
(p160)
Furthermore, because each writer describes a different future, the result for
SF as a whole becomes, "an infinity of variously sketched futures, all inde-
pendent of one another and generally contradictory"
(pl64). Butor's de-
scription of the crisis seems questionable, and his solution would seem even
more so. He proposes a collective effort by SF writers to correlate their
future worlds, each taking into account the descriptions given by others in
order to introduce his own new ideas.
In May, 1953, there was a special SF number of the Catholic journal
Esprit which contained both stories and articles, including a second en-
thusiastic presentation by Spriel and a negative appraisal by B. D'Astorg,
who concluded that SF was "an alibi for modern despair." Then in 1954
Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles was published in France where it met
with immediate critical acclaim and commercial success. As far as many
Frenchmen were concerned, this was the first instance of SF writing with
real literary merit, and in France today Bradbury is still the best-known SF
writer.
By the late 1950s there had been many more articles dealing with this
"new" genre, including a special double number of the review Europe
(July-August, 1957), which devoted almost 100 pages to SF. There were ten
articles in that issue, including several historical essays dealing with SF
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SF CRITICISM IN FRANCE 175
prior to Verne, essays about the SF audience, two studies of individual
authors (Bradbury and Capek), and a comprehensive review of the genre
by J.-C. Pichon, "Science Fiction ou realisme irrationel?" Science and tech-
nology have given us, according to Pichon, "a universe without dreams, with-
out suffering and without the irrational [where] the gravest danger is not
sudden death, but living badly" (p35). And Pichon considers SF the only
literary genre which may be able to help in rediscovering the lost meaning
of our lives and deal with our present despair and anxiety, "by surprising
us, forcing us from our usual patterns of thought, and thus preparing us for
the inexpressible through a more profound realisation of the relativity of
all things. In order to penetrate the forbidden universe where the sub-
conscious secretes its monsters, SF has not only renounced all scientific
method, but reason itself' (pp38-39).
Another attempt at defining SF in terms of its ability to put into question
traditional ways of thinking was undertaken by the novelist and philosopher,
Maurice Blanchot, in his essay "Le bon usage de la science-fiction" (Nouvelle
Revue
Franqaise,
January 1959). Unlike Pichon, Blanchot stresses the re-
lationship of SF to science, not in its techniques or prognostications, but as
the literary equivalent of the challenges to traditional ways of understanding
science and reality following the theories of thinkers like Einstein.
Jacques Bergier, better known for his subsequent sensationalist Matin
des magiciens (with Pauwels, Paris 1960; published in English in 1963 as
The Dawn of Magic), takes an almost completely opposite perspective in
his article on SF in the third volume of the Pleiade Encyclopedie de la
Litterature (Paris 1958). He stresses the importance of SF as a problem-
solving or predictive medium, devoting much of his article to descriptions
of inventions and predictions from early stories in Astounding and their
subsequent realisations.
DURING THE 1950s there were two noteworthy books published in France
dealing with SF: J.-J. Bridenne, La Litterature
frangaise
d'imagination scien-
tifique (Paris 1950, 280pp); and Jacques Sternberg, Une Succursale de la
fantastique nommee science fiction (Paris 1958, 70pp).
Bridenne's study is concerned with all French literature which uses
"scientific imagination." From this perspective he reviews French literature
from the beginning, looking at the scientific attitudes and creative writing
of such diverse authors as Voltaire and Balzac before turning, in the second
third of the book, to the works of Jules Verne and his literary posterity.
There are subsequent chapters devoted to scientific propaganda, medical lit-
erature and the detective novel, but the longest and most useful part of
the book is the omnibus chapter, "La presence de la science en litterature
contemporaine." Here he surveys from his scientific perspective the works
of "scientific" writers like Zola, as well as works which we think of as SF.
This chapter is valuable, not so much as a discussion of well-known French
SF authors (such as Rosny or Barjavel), but as a checklist of little known
authors and works which might be considered SF.
Jacques Sternberg is a prominent SF short-story writer and novelist (La
sortie est au fond de l'espace, 1956) and scenarist (Alain Resnais' Je t'aime,
je t'aime), and his is the only descriptive work in French from an active
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176 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
SF writer. This brief and lively book includes reproductions of U.S. cover
illustrations and stills from films exemplifying SF's major themes. Steinberg
argues that SF is a modern form of fantastic literature which is concerned,
not with science, but, like all fantastic literature, with the mysterious. He
sees today's SF writer as the heir, not of Verne, but of Jarry's 'Pataphysics
and of Surrealism. In Sternberg's view, the great SF writers are united, "by
their violent pessimism, their lucidity, the apprehension with which they
view their century, their anguish and, finally, their hatred of science"
(p44). His reactions to SF, like those of many other Frenchmen, appear to
be based primarily on the works of Bradbury and Lovecraft, rather than on
SF as a whole.
In 1960 Kingsley Amis' New Maps of Hell appeared in translation and
was well received. But there are few articles in the 1960s and none by
creative writers of the stature of Blanchot, Butor, Queneau or Vian, major
figures in their own right whose interest in the genre seemed to herald
a literary event of major importance. The same slackening of interest might
account as well for the failure of the first all French SF magazine, Satellite
(1958-1962). Only one short book on SF appeared in the 1960s, G. Diffloth's
La Science Fiction (Paris 1964); similar, but far inferior to Sternberg's work,
this book is composed mainly of photographs and listings of themes and
titles.
THERE HAS BEEN a revival of interest in SF since the late 1960s. In 1967
the German exposition of SF opened at the Museum of Decorative Arts in
Paris (and the French catalogue includes an introduction by the French SF
writer Gerard Klein, "La science-fiction est-elle une subculture?"). And the
last five years have witnessed the rise of fandom as well as the introduction
of SF into university and lycee curricula. This new attitude towards SF
has produced two important studies published in inexpensive format:
Jean Gattegno, La science-fiction (Paris 1971, 128pp), and Henri Baudin,
La Science-fiction (Paris 1972, 160 pp).
Gattegno's work is the more traditional of the two. It is divided into three
parts, the first of which is a concise historical survey including sections
on Verne, Wells, early American SF, the "golden age" and the "second
revolution of American SF"; as well as brief descriptions of French and
Soviet SF.
In the second and most substantial part of his study the author examines
SF under three major thematic headings: 1) "l'homme et la societe," 2)
"mondes etrangers et extra-terrestres" and 3) "le temps." Under the "Man
and Society" heading he distinguishes utopian fiction, which, he writes, is
concerned with the static description of another society, from SF, which is
concerned with the possible evolution of society. The concept of the evolution
of man and society involves, according to Gattegno, three different kinds of
development: the evolution of society, the evolution of knowledge and the
evolution of man himself. Western SF has, since Wells, frequently viewed
the evolution of society with apprehension, a tradition which contrasts
markedly with the optimism of Soviet SF. In the 1950s this pessimism be-
comes the antimodemnism of novels like Fahrenheit 451 and Canticle for
Leibowitz. Recent SF, Gattegno concludes, often depicts a future similar
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SF CRITICISM IN FRANCE 177
to ours, though the author's attitude towards that society is no longer one
of indignation and though the future society is usually far from an ideal
one. Under this heading, too, he considers the mores of the future as de-
picted in SF. Discussing the evolution of knowledge, Gattegno surveys the
role of science and technology in SF, from the optimism of Verne through
Campbell's editorial interest in the effects of technological change on man,
to future machines, computers and robots. Finally, in his discussion of the
evolution of man, he examines the superior man (the mutant) as seen for
instance in Slan and More than Human, which becomes, in recent SF, the
"man-god," with the reworking of ancient myth by writers like Farmer and
Zelazny; this category also includes the end of Earth and the end of man.
Under the second heading, "Other Worlds and Extraterrestrials" Gat-
te'gno writes that until the 1940s the "other world" was usually seen as
inimical, either a threat or a world to be conquered. Later, a less belligerent
attitude began to coexist with the first: writers began describing the "other
world" as more humane and ideal than ours. In recent SF there has been,
on the one hand, a growing feeling that it is "the Earth and its inhabitants
which are truly strange" (p80), and on the other hand, a new interest in
other worlds for their own sake. Studying the treatment of extraterrestrials
in SF, the author notes the predominance in Western SF of BEMs, aliens
as political, racial or psychological menace, as well as some modifications of
earlier, hostile relations between aliens and humans. In Anglo-American
SF, Gatte'gno writes, extraterrestrials do not usually resemble humans; they
often have superior technological and mental powers, but "the harmony and
coherence of form and function, as well as the fullness of faculties, are
finally reserved to human beings" (p85).
In the short chapter for his third heading, "Time," the author distin-
guishes between those who attribute to SF a prophetic role, from Verne to
Campbell, and those who see in it a symbolic function; the former underline
the importance of the science, and the latter the fiction of science fiction.
The chapter also discusses time travel and parallel universes. In his con-
clusion, Gatte'gno raises some general questions with some tentative answers
about SF-its relation to science, to literature, its distinctive genealogical
and ideological aspects.
Henri Baudin's La Science-fiction is less academic and more speculative,
and finally less satisfying. Rather than give a definition of SF, Gattegno
defines it indirectly, by describing and classifying its themes. Baudin, on the
other hand, begins with a series of examples and traditional definitions and
arrives at a set of characteristics that define SF. He then takes the expression
"science fiction" and asks about the relationship between science and fiction,
determining three approaches to SF: 1) a "rationalist perspective," works in
which fiction is subordinate to science; 2) an "intellectual perspective,"
philosophical SF where the message is more important than either science or
fiction; and 3) a "literary perspective," works where literary features and the
imaginary have become more important than science.
From the first perspective, Baudin distinguishes four types of fiction
in which science provides the rationale for SF and which are determined
according to the proportion of science to fiction. There are works which are
almost entirely science, the category of "vulgarisation," as well as three
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178 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
categories of works with diminishingly less rigorous scientific content, cat-
egories which he calls "anticipation," "prospection" and "extrapolation."
Writing of "vulgarisation," Baudin does not deal with SF, but with the
strangeness of much of today's science fact. "Anticipation," according to
Baudin, is the rigorous use of science in SF and is found in those works
which describe technical innovations and future inventions. The social sci-
ences, which are less exact then the natural sciences, provide the material
for a more speculative and generalized kind of SF prognostication which he
calls "prospection." And scientific paradoxes (Einstein's theory of relativity,
the Moebius strip) lead to the most extravagant and imaginative speculations
(time travel, parallel universes) which the author, perhaps inappropriately,
labels "extrapolation."
Baudin's "philosophical perspective" comprises SF works "the rationale
of which is an ideological, utopian, political or moral thesis." And within
this perspective he makes three distinctions: "fiction in which the thesis
predominates (the allegorical co-opts the imaginary), the fusion of fiction and
thesis (the projection of an implicit ideology into the imaginary) and the fic-
tional exploration of an ideal" (p50). To explain his first distinction, the
author identifies SF in which the thesis predominates as utopian-dystopian
fiction and discusses at length how such SF "usually works in favor of
rationalism and relativism" (p55). In discussing "the fusion of fiction and
thesis," Baudin examines how SF works are informed by different implicit
ideologies: although, for instance, the message of a novel like The Space Mer-
chants might appear to be explicit rather than implicit, the ideological
message of such works, which are read primarily as entertainments, is
discernible only after a more critical reading. By "the fictional exploration of
an ideal," Baudin means fiction in which the depiction of a sociological,
political or ideological future is one of the interests, but not the primary
purpose of that fiction. Examples of such works include Heinlein's "future
history" series and Asimov's Foundation trilogy.
The third perspective is that of literary SF, "where science is subordinate
to fiction." Literary SF is more than the development of the adventure tale,
more than a meditation on science and its powers. Like other French critics
I have mentioned, Baudin writes that SF is today's literature of the fan-
tastic: more specifically, it is an expression of man's unconscious needs and
desires, as revealed by the presence in SF of basic human archetypes.
Thus, for Baudin, SF is especially appropriate as a medium for the pres-
entation of moral (Case of Conscience), religious (C.S. Lewis) and meta-
physical (World of Null A) themes. Under the heading of literary SF, he
also studies the relationships of SF to literature and culture. As different
from the traditional novel, which expressed the imaginary through the char-
acter, in the SF novel, it is the setting, the fictional universe itself which
brings the reader into "immediate contact with the structures of the imag-
inary" (pl19).
In his concluding chapter, "Science fiction et realite," Baudin briefly
acknowledges that SF may be seen as the ideological reflection of the reality
which has produced it, and that much SF is a compensation for a repellent
reality. But what interests him is SF's propaedeutic function, the pedagog-
ical role SF can play in preparing us for the future: "SF is a less extreme
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SF CRITICISM IN FRANCE 179
response to the confining rationalistic positivism of our times than is the fan-
tastic; without denying the validity of rationalism, it enlarges and comple-
ments it through the use of the imaginary" (p152).
While Baudin's work is more ambitious than that of Gattegno, it is
also more disappointing, at least for this reader. The theoretical frame-
work of his approach to SF is an interesting one, but the categories
and definitions he sets up seem vague and do not always correspond to
what he does. In the first section, for instance, he discusses "vulgarisation"
without mentioning SF's role as a means of diffusing scientific ideas and
theories. Similarly, in the section on literary SF he discusses moral, religious
and metaphysical SF without explaining how this is different from the philo-
sophical SF he described in an earlier chapter. Although Baudin's work pur-
ports to be a discussion of SF in general, the scope and range of his research
and therefore his viewpoint seem limited in several important ways. He tends
to quote or paraphrase needlessly and over-extensively; while, on other oc-
casions, he makes assertions for which there are no examples or analyses.
Since SF is (as Baudin points out) a predominantly American genre, too
many French works and too few American ones are used in this study.
Moreover, most of the stories to which he refers are taken from Fiction (fifteen
of the twenty-five French stories, ten of the fifteen American stories) while
he ignores the other French SF magazine Galaxie.
WHILE THERE have been fewer articles dealing with SF in the last few years,
one should be mentioned here: Gerard Klein, "Entre le fantastique et la
science-fiction, Lovecraft," in the special Lovecraft volume of "Les Cahiers de
L'Herne" (Paris 1969, 380pp). In this long essay, the author first attempts
a literary analysis of Lovecraft's work. But, he writes, it is not possible
to understand this work or "its unique position between fantastic literature
and SF through internal analysis alone or even through reference to literary
history.... It seems necessary to us to look outside literature, at the develop-
ment of society and of the relationships between social groups, for the deep-
est and perhaps the least hidden meaning of his work" (p58). Using the
Marxist literary sociology of Goldmann and Lukacs, Klein defines SF as
follows:
Fantastic literature translates the survival of religious and medieval values
while registering their progressive liquidation.... On the other hand, SF
corresponds to monopoly capitalism and its evolution parallels the evolution
of that society. Since its inception SF has predicted the dissolution of the
individual who is fated to become the 'invisible man,' he who sees, who still
possesses consciousness, but who finally dies because he is not acknowledged
and cannot act. In SF, as in society, the individual is dissolved while the
position of things becomes determinative. Well before the "Nouveau Ro-
man," SF has conferred on objects-the robot, the time machine etc.-a nv-
ileged status.... Moreover SF confers easily upon the individual, without
thereby becoming necessarily pessimistic the status of object....
But in this,
SF already heralds, beyond the death oft the individual, the birth of new,
transindividual values. Thus in Sturgeon's More than Human, a Gestalt,
that is a collective being, is shown to represent the true future of man
rather than the isolated superman, the heir of the individualistic liberal
tradition." (p62)
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180 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
Klein then uses these methods to analyse closely some of the major fictions
of Lovecraft, concluding that they correspond "to the transition from a lib-
eral bourgeois society to a monopolistic one, at a time when the autonomy
of the individual is threatened, a time when he finds himself deprived of
the positive individual values which had been conferred on him during the
earlier period of 'free market' capitalism" (p64).
We have seen the special liking of the French for Bradbury and Lovecraft
as well as the repeated description of SF as an offshoot of fantastic literature,
and, not surprisingly, a number of interesting studies of the fantastic lit-
erature have appeared in the last decade which I will list here: (1) Louis
Vax, L'art et la litterature fantastique (Paris 1963) and La s6duction de
l1'trange (Paris 1965). The first is an inexpensive and useful survey of fan-
tastic art and literature; the second, a penetrating study of what causes the
sensations of strangeness and disorientation in the reader. (2) Tzvetan
Todorov, Introduction a' la litte'rature fantastique (Paris 1970). In this form-
alist study Todorov distinguishes fantastic literature from other genres which
have often been included with it. In fantastic literature there is, according to
Todorov, uncertainty about whether or not an apparently supernatural
event can be explained naturally, whereas, in SF, the supernatural event is
explained by reference to science. (3) "Le Fantastique," Litterature (De-
cember 1972). This special number on the fantastic includes a very difficult
article by Jacques Favier, "Les Jeux de la temporalite' en science fiction."
I would also like to mention G. Bouyxou's La science fiction au cinema
(Paris 1971). This inexpensive paperback includes both a chronological
history of SF films by country of origin and reviews in depth more than
thirty films arranged in generic categories. It is a more stimulating and
valuable study than any of the three or four recognized works on the subject
in English. And finally, I must mention Pierre Versin's monumental (and
very expensive) 990 page Encyclopedie de l'Utopie, des Voyages extraor-
dinaires et de la Science-Fiction (Lausanne 1972). This "encyclopedia in
gestation" treats, in some 900,000 words, "utopias, extraordinary voyages
and science fiction," a comprehensive literary genre which the author defines
as the literature of "rationalistic fictional conjectures" (p5) and which began
at least 4000 years ago with an anonymous Egyptian prophetic tale and
the Epic of Gilgamesh. This vast work demands a lengthy review, which I
will attempt in a later issue of SFS, contenting myself here with only a
few comments. It is an entertaining and useful work, once one accepts what
it is and is not: it is not a complete, definitive, authoritative or objective
overview of this field, nor was it written primarily for scholarly use. It is a
very personal, subjective and sometimes exasperating compilation which
should be measured, as the author cautions us, not so much in terms of
its dimensions or ambitions, but as the first step towards delimiting the
parameters of the field. The work is divided into approximately 1500 alpha-
betically arranged entries which include the expected author listings as well
as generic, thematic and topical entries which are at time substantive essays
in themselves. The choice of items is extremely heterogeneous, ranging from
the obvious to the arbitrary, the whimsical and the absurd: in company with
listings on "Contact," "Robots" or "Time," we find items like: "Billards"
(pinball machines with a SF motif); "Allaitement" (breast-feeding in utopian
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EUROPEAN SF 181
fiction); "Alpinisme" (mountain climbing); "les Beatles" ("It is surprising
that this instrumental and vocal group, unlike others...has not interested
itself more in SF," p102); and "Aisance, Lieux d"' (400 words on the absence
of privies in SF).
Arbitrariness and subjectivity are apparent in the substance of these
items as well as in their selection, and there is often an abrasive facetious-
ness, especially in his opening sentences: writing on the theme of immortality,
for instance, he begins: "and here, Ladies and Gentlemen, mankind's
oldest theme" (p453); on R4ne Daumal, "French writer, victim of the Great
Benighted, Gurdjieff" (224); on "The Future of SF": "There is no reason
why it should not have one" (p82); and finally, the complete listing for
"Science Fiction": "If you have read this far and still don't know what it
is..." (p802). There are also many omissions and oversights: although he
surveys the development of fictional conjectures under different national
headings (e.g. France, Germany, U.S., but also Brazil, Roumania etc.),
there is no listing for England. And his limitations are especially apparent
in the area of contemporary Anglo-American authors: he includes the names
of Bob Olsen, F.M. Robinson, William Sloane and Donald Wandrei on his
list of "the most important American SF authors" (p296), without listing them
elsewhere, but there is no mention on that list nor listing elsewhere for:
H. Harrison, R.A. Lafferty, U.K. Le Guin, B. Malzberg, L. Niven, L. Padgett,
A. Panshin, J. Russ, N. Spinrad (John Brunner is credited with having written
Bug Jack Barron, p626) or T. White. He does mention Norman Kagan, how-
ever, whom he describes as, "probably the most important of the young
American authors" (p488).
To sum up then, I would certainly recommend this book despite my
many reservations. It is a seemingly limitless source of fascinating and useful
information, but since there is no index and since his system of classification
is so idiosyncratic, the book is more rewarding and enjoyable when it is
simply perused rather than when used as a reference work. In the latter
case, it is likely to lead through frustration and anger to reflections on what
this encyclopedia could have been....
Ursula K. Le Guin
European SF:
Rottensteiner's Anthology, the Strugatskys, and Lem
Three cheers for Seabury Press. Seabury's "Science Metafiction," a series
of hard-cover translations of European SF into English, has started off
splendidly. If this door stays open, American science-fictioneers will be able
to read freely in the world movement in literature to which they belong,
but which has been mostly closed to them until now. The translations have
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182 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
tended to run all one way, from English into other languages; at last we get
some feedback. And what a pleasure it is to listen to new voices.
FIRST cheer for Franz Rottensteiner's anthology, View From Another Shore
(1973; $6.95): eleven stories from both East and West Europe, ranging in
quality from the chic self-indulgence of Andrevon's "Observation of Quad-
ragnes" to the grave honesty of Gansovsky's "The Proving Ground." It is a
genuinely various anthology (even the skill of the translations, almost neces-
sarily, varies-eight different languages are involved). Each voice is highly
individual. Some of the stories are experimental, some old-fashioned; some
are subtle, some simple; and one is, I think, beyond praise-"A Modest
Genius," by a modest genius, Vadim Shefner of the USSR. Mr. Rottensteiner's
selection from Stanislaw Lem is less interesting than the Lem stories Darko
Suvin chose for Other Worlds, Other Seas (1970), but any Lem seems to
be worth reading; and at least the story, "In Hot Pursuit of Happiness,"
gives some foretaste of the zany wit of The Cyberiad (which Seabury will
publish in 1974), and a sample of Michael Kendel's superb translation.
One great virtue of the book is that Mr. Rottensteiner doesn't dig back
into the dead past as translators so often do, but gives us what is being
written now-the earliest copyright date is 1964 and the latest 1971. His
introduction is highly interesting and informative. The anthology is a
valuable supplement and extension of what Other Worlds, Other Seas began,
and a fascinating collection in itself, though perhaps, like all good anthol-
ogies, more tantalising than satisfying.
SECOND cheer: Hard to Be a God (1973; $6.95), by Arkady and Boris Stru-
gatsky (Query: Why do Seabury spell Russian names with the Polish -i
ending-"Strugatski" for example? I thought we had got free of the old
jungle of Dostojevskis and Tourgueneffs and Tschekofs, and all such non-
English intrusions into the transliteration problem. I realise that the Library
of Congress has chosen to transliterate out of the Crillic into some quite
private language, so that Chekhov, for instance, turns up as "Cexov," which
sounds like an anaphrodisiac breakfast cereal; but these weird pedantries
needn't infect the rest of us.)
At last, a Strugatsky novel! And it's a beauty.
The genre is one familiar to American SF readers: Terran observers of the
future, bound to non-interference, among (extraterrestrial) human beings
whose society and culture resemble that of mediaeval Europe. A double
estrangement, and the best of both worlds-the romance of future tech-
nology, plus the romance of feudalism. Something similar has been done by
several American authors, including Marion Zimmer Bradley, myself, and
Poul Anderson. The resemblance to Anderson is in fact striking, and not
superficial, for it lies in that strong and rather somber romanticism. But
this likeness also brings out a rather funny contrast. Mr. Anderson's heroes
often represent a blending of the aristocratic-heroic virtues with bourgeois-
capitalist values. The Strugatskys' hero is about as far as you can get from
that combination: he is, of course, a communist-Red to the core. And yet
they're so much alike! Mr. Anderson's heroes hark back to an idealised
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EUROPEAN SF 183
past, a time when "men were men"; the Strugatskys' hero harks forward to
an idealised future, the classless utopia of Marx's furthest vision, when men
will at last be men.... Both kinds of hero are genuinely sympathetic,
but I prefer the Strugatskys', because he doesn't do any ideological preaching
about the virtues of his way of life. The referent of Mr. Anderson's social
comment is narrow and often merely political; the satire of the Strugatskys,
more reticent and more generous, gets closer to the general human condition,
past, present, and to come. They are wise, I think, for ethics flourishes in
the timeless soil of Fantasy, where ideologies wither on the vine.
In some of Mr. Anderson's best stories, the real subject is the moral
and psychological strain set up between the protagonist and the alien culture:
a subject capable of the resonance of tragedy. So it is with Hard to be a God.
The forays and adventures are told with great pace and style, but the book
is really about what happens to the adventurer-not what he does, but what
he is, and how he is changed. And here the national literary tradition of
the Strugatskys proves its strength. They write not only like SF novelists,
but like "Russian novelists." There is a sureness of touch, a perceptiveness
to their psychology, an easy, unrestrained realism about human behavior,
which is admirable, and seldom met with in SF. To me there is a flaw in the
book: the girl whom the hero loves, and on whom his tragedy hinges, is a
rather vapid figure. If she had the vitality of the Terran girl, Anka, whom we
glimpse only in the prologue and epilogue, the book would be not only a
first-rate romance but that even rarer thing, a first-rate love story. But why
carp? This is a thoroughly good book-a sweet-tempered, melancholy, ro-
bust, imaginative, satisfying book.
THIRD cheer, fortissimo: The Invincible (1973; $6.95), by Stanislaw Lem.
Again, a fine choice for hooking the wary American, staring askance at all
these furrin names on the SF shelf. Hard to Be a God is for the romantics,
Invincible is for the SF hard-corers. The hardware is elaborate and impec-
cable; the science is solid, and central. Any Analog reader will feel at home
with the crew of the spaceship "Invincible," courageous, resourceful, tac-
iturn, and strictly male. (To be sure they're not called Jones and Brown and
Robinson, but Rohan, Jordan, Horpach are at least safely international).
Anybody who likes a tight, increasingly tense plot-line rising to scenes of
dramatic violence will be satisfied. Anybody who likes a mystery will find
it here-and its solution. The reason for Lem's great popularity in Eastern
Europe is brilliantly clear with this publication: he is a story-teller.
That he is also an original and stimulating thinker is clear to anyone
who has read Solaris. But Solaris is, at first glance anyway, a rather for-
bidding book; while Invincible is an irresistible one. Solaris is allusive,
elusive, ironic, complex; Invincible is straightforward, active, a classic ad-
venture in the technological mode. Solaris is introverted, Invincible extra-
verted. But they are, in their very different ways and weights, about the
same thing.
In Invincible we are shown a universe where-to put it crudely-man
is not the measure of all things: a cosmos not wholly comprehensible to
the human mind, either now or in the future, either through the techniques
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184 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
of science or the intuitions of mysticism. And yet in this terrifying open
universe, this abyss of the inexplicable, the mind is not simply lost. Lem
is no obscurantist rushing breathlessly to embrace the Absurd. The human
scale is not destroyed-it is not even shaken. For no matter whether we under-
stand the how, the why, or even the what, we have to act, and our acts
retain, in the very depths of the abyss, their unalterable moral value. The
center of gravity of Lem's books is ethics.
The act of personal courage ultimately demanded of Rohan, the pro-
tagonist of Invincible, is no mere test of virility a la Hemingway, nor a demon-
stration of self-sacrifice for a cause or of unquestioning obedience to
duty. It is a genuine, complex, ethical choice, made by an individual. The
adventure is a moral one; it is, therefore, extraordinarily moving. The long
last chapter of the book is magnificent, not only in its dramatic tension,
but in its emotional power.
The profound modesty of Lem's view of the cosmos is a pretty new thing
in SF, and I wonder if it will outrage some American readers when they
realise what he is saying. We are not yet used to hearing that there are
things that we don't understand and can't even make plastics out of.
If we do get that message at all, it is likely to be in the falsetto flourishes of
the neo-surrealist piccolo, or in the bull-roarer voice of SF Jeremiahs shouting
Woe! Catastrophe! Pollution! Damnation!-a note compounded of fear, de-
spair, and sheer anger. It still makes us Westerners mad to realise that we
can't remake the universe to suit us.
It doesn't make Lem mad. I think it makes him happy. Running through
Invincible is a half-hidden vein of beauty, truly unearthly beauty. It comes
out most clearly when he describes the inhabitants of the planet where the
"Invincible" has landed, the implacable enemies of her crew: they turn out
to be cybernetic organisms-machines. The central "gimmick," the science-
fictional idea, of the book, is bold and elegant. The independent evolution of
mechanical devices is the idea, and it is developed with fine logic to a con-
clusion as inevitable as it is unexpected. But there is not only logic;
there is sympathy, and when the two meet, intellectual elegance deepens and
becomes perceived beauty. Lem achieves a vision of a possible reality
which is not to be understood, but which can be seen, and felt, and praised.
Both clouds flared up in this light for a few seconds, like myriads of silvery-
black crystals arrested in their flight.... The air underneath grew dark, as if
the sun had set, and at the same time blurry fleeting lines made their appear-
ance inside. It was some time before Rohan understood what it was that con-
fronted him there: the grotesquely contorted mirror
image
of the bottom of
the valley. In the meantime, the mirage below the cloud bank surged and
expanded,
until all at once he perceivec a gigantic human figure whose head
projected into the darkness. The figure stared straight at him without mov-
ing
although
the image itself quivered and danced ceaselessly, flaring
up
and dying down in a constant, mysterious rhythm. And once more several
seconds passed before he recognized in it his own mirror image.... (pl77)
Here is the "sense of wonder" that our traditionalists rightly cry for; here
it is, as authentic as the great final vision of The Time Machine. Will it be
recognized in this strange new world?
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SF, OCCULT SCIENCES, AND NAZI MYTHS 185
There is a good deal of facile optimism in SF, and a good deal of equally
facile despair. Lem does not buy his affirmations cheap. It is only after the
total defeat of the "Invincible," and after Rohan's impossible and uncom-
pleted quest, that we realise that an affirmation has been made, and that Lem
has remarked quietly, somewhere between the lines, that after all there is
something that remains invincible, perhaps.
A NOTE on the translations: both are by Wendayne Ackerman; the Lem
(and presumably the Strugatsky) is translated from the German translation.
Both read easily, though connoisseurs of the originals assure me that they
have lost much of their texture, style, and impact. It is a pity that we had
to get these novels at two removes from the original, but I am told that
Seabury will not have to repeat this proceeding.
Manfred Nagl
SF, Occult Sciences, and Nazi Myths
It is not my intention to make light of National-Socialism
by interpreting
it in terms of picturesque fantasies. However, to
neglect
and to view as
harm-
less the totally irrational elements of
Nazism,
evident from its
very in-
ception, has at least partially helped to conjure up
a
seemingly "incompre-
hensible nature"1 of the Nazi actions.
In National-Socialism the contradictions and irrationalities of a classical
capitalist socioeconomic system and its power structures were transmuted
into an apparently "natural" ideology and apology. The exploitative and
class-bound power became racism, with a master race and its leadership
mystique; cycles of economic crisis and other-directedness became the cosmic
law of recurrent cycles; the alienating character of science and technology
misused as means for ruling became central concepts of pseudo-religious
secret cults; the backwardness of economy and technology as well as of pre-
vailing social conditions became an obscure mixture of industrialism run wild
with a "Blood and Soil" theory. The continuation of obsolete ruling classes
was safeguarded by myths of "conspiracies," while the oppressed masses
were offered scapegoats as an outlet for repressed aggressions.
Anyone who is unwilling to identify the apologies for irrationality in
"serious" philosophy (from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Spengler or Jung)
as leading to obscurantism, will naturally be stunned to see that such fantasies
are suddenly taken very seriously indeed when fascism comes to power.
By 1919 the German bourgeoisie must have felt any means to be justified
in the defense of its power. As of this time, myths and magic moved out
of the drawing-rooms and coffee-houses to fight against reason and revo-
lution. The flood of pseudo-scientific pamphlets and treatises became over-
whelming. SF, read by the social classes that were not reached by pseudo-
scientific and philosophic pamphlets, also succumbed to such irrationality.
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186 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
The idea that the time was ripe for a "spiritual re-orientation" in literature
too was ceaselessly suggested by such authors. They called for sensations and
imaginative fantasies that would help to conquer gross "materialism" and its
literary counterpart, realism. One seemingly non-political articulation of
these tendencies went as follows:
There are many indications that mechanistic materialism-derived from the
exact sciences-which has impressed its stamp on the last decade, is at last
dying out, due to the recent spiritual revolution. Obviously, the transcendental
longings of the majority of humanity cannot be suppressed in the long run....
To begin with, we have again arrived at the point of view of "wonder"-i.e.,
we no longer dismiss as nonsense all things that are not explicable in terms
of the known laws of physics. Mysterious connections between human
beings, independent of spatial and temporal separation, spooks, the appear-
ance of ghosts, all are again in the realm of the possible.2
This quotation comes from the magazine Der Orchideengarten which was
devoted to publishing only fantastic fiction and drawings-analogous to Amer-
ican "weird" and "fantasy" SF magazines. Max Valier, the later rocket
pioneer and chairman of the "Society for Space-Flight," who toured the
country lecturing about the end of the world, about Atlantis and Lemuria,
about Glacial Cosmogony and the breakthrough into Space, and in 1929
made an unsuccessful attempt to interest Hitler in the military potential of
rockets,3 was even more explicit, whether writing alone-
Our present time, more than any other, requires a truly cosmic source and
center for spiritual orientation. We need a tremendous, even super-Terran
shock, in order to regain a sense of our identity which we have lost in the
whirlpool of everyday selfishness.... On the basis of a new theory of cognition
we will seek a more profound knowledge; and for our emotions, we will seek
sensations of truly primaeval shock, so that even the end of the world
and of this Earth shall be a constructive experience.4
-or together with G. W. Surya:
We believe that astronomy and astrophysics among the natural sciences
are by the nature of their subject-matter particularly suited to give rise
to that elevation of thought that
spiritual
revolution, which we so desperately
need if the fate of our Fatherland, yes, even that of the entire world, is to
take a turn for the better.... Only the return to a profound, transcendental
world-view can hope to heal our wounds from the inside.5
Valier went on to make his nebulous metaphors of contemporary polit-
ical and social realities more precise by stating that "he felt obliged to regard
Einstein.. .as a representative of the extreme left."f6 A new publication of
Surya's, The Metaphysical and the World War, which attempted to prove
that world wars are not due merely to human activities but that "other
forces" were also at work, was more forthrightly touted as "an extremely
important political treatise."7
The political function of such seemingly highly transcendental theorizing
is clearly demonstrated in the works of the former Cistercian monk, Adolf
Joseph Lanz, alias "Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels," alias "Dr. Jorg Lanz." He
was the founder of "Theozoology" and the "Ordo Novi Templi" (ONT). In
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SF, OCCULT SCIENCES, AND NAZI MYTHS 187
his works, terms like "materialism" and "egoism" become cyphers for
rational politics, socialism, revolution, and "Judaeo-Bolshevist intellectu-
alism." "Spiritual revolution," "Faith in transcendence" and "idealism," on
the other hand, stand for social appeasement, reactionary domestic policies
and a nationalist foreign policy:
in the course of its further development, the Talmudic-Tschandalic Empire
succeeded in harnessing the intelligence of the Aryan Christians to its
purposes by way of the...secret societ of Free-Masons. This society of obscur-
antists is responsible for the so-caed "Enlightenment," the various rev-
olutions, liberalism, socialism and materialism in the 19th century, and for
the Bolshevism in the 20th.... During the Middle ages...there was no proletariat
and no proletarian problem. This class only came into being through the
daemonic efforts of modern Free-Masons and their false doctrines of the
so-called "Enlightenment."a8
Anyone who sees reason as the highest activity of the human mind is as
backward as those Renaissance scholars who regarded the Earth as the centre
of the universe.9
The conceptual manure-heaps, the mental excrement that is materialistic-
rationalistic-socialdemocratic-Bolshevist-Tschandalic philosophy and science
of the modern peridd will not be of even historic interest in future gen-
erations.10
Lanz derives these insights from his "theozoology" and "racial meta-
physics," each of them a kind of occult science. If one subtracts the no
longer fashionable overt racism, racial metaphysics could be seen as the
blueprint for a considerable part of the SF produced nowadays:
Practical race-metaphysics are concerned with research into the history
of the races before their earthly development cycle (pre-terrestria) ... into the
future of the races following their earthly period (post-terrestrial), and finally
with research into the extra-sensory, extra-terrestrial, cosmic forces that
influence racial development in the present.11
The inherent contradictions of this or similar systems will not be dis-
cussed here. An analysis of such items as the simultaneous rejection of
Darwinism and the acceptance of the pseudo-Darwinist "survival of the
fittest," or the arguments for a universe peopled with intelligent beings
which are contradicted by the concept of a racially ethnocentric universe,
would merely illustrate the irrational basis of these insane systems in detail.
It seems more fruitful to point out the striking congruence of such constructs
with the psychotic symptoms and fascist tendencies of the "authoritarian
character" such as (1) the sado-masochistic desire for submission to an
irresistible external force (variously interpreted as an "agent" of Providence,
or Nature, or Fate, etc.), with the concomitant desire to make weaker people
pay in compensation for it; (2) the projection of one's own destructive and
primitive drives onto unpopular minorities; (3) the rejection of rational
politics, indeed, of any and all intellectual enlightenment; (4) the legends
of "conspiracies."'12
The degree to which conspiracy fantasies were pure projections of
their own secret intentions is demonstrated by the way they were first
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188 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
nurtured in occult-science groups of a secret society kind. These groups
and their obscurantism were of considerable significance in the early devel-
opment of the Nazi Party, its ideology, and its later cadre organization
in "orders."'13
From the confused mass of abstruse concepts that were used in SF,
four vague attempts at systematization can be abstracted: "Glacial Cos-
mogony," the Atlantis/Thule myth, Theozoology, and the Hollow World
theory. These systematizations could mingle, and lean one on the other.
Glacial Cosmogony or the Universal Ice Doctrine (Welteislehre) and the
Atlantis myth had a particularly close relationship. Atlantis (or Thule)
represented the Earthly Paradise and the original home of the Teutonic
Aryans, while the cyclic recurrence concept of Glacial Cosmogony ensured
that Atlantis would rise again. Thus the Atlantis myth and Glacial Cosmogony
became the dominant themes of German SF in the 1920s and 1930s. Either
the re-emergence of Atlantis caused the submergence of the countries of the
Entente14 (possibly according to the principle of communicating vessels),
or remains of Atlantis, which had been destroyed by cosmic events, were
discovered in space, admonishing the German astronauts to reconstruct
the legitimate Aryan (i.e. German) global empire, to return to racial purity,
to a leadership mystique and to irrationalism called "Aryan science":
Human beings were much closer to the soil in those days. They controlled
the mysterious forces of nature not by virtue of their knowledge, let alone
their science, but by virtue of their very being. The more humanity learned
to think rationally, the more they lost their visionary powers. They delighted
in their cleverness and failed to notice the waning of their primaeval
powers.
15
Naturally, the various crashes of the Moon onto Earth in Glacial Cosmogony
always occurred at times of racial and ethical turpitude.
The Atlantis-faith and Glacial Cosmogony also inspired the about 600
members of the "Society for Space Flight"16 who wished to escape from the
German misery by means of spaceships. They wanted to discover "new
worlds, as modern conquistadors";17 they planned to augment Germany's
greatness by building a space-station whose "strategic value" was among
other things to consist, as Willy Ley wrote, in "creating tornadoes and rain-
storms, destroying marching troops and their supply-lines, and burning entire
cities."18 Thanks to the active propaganda of this society, the idea of space-
travel grew so popular that moon-rockets became a regular item in carnival
parades, and Fritz Lang was stimulated to make the film The Woman in the
Moon (1928) for which he asked the Society for expert advice.
The leading Nazis had a special weakness for the Atlantis myth. The
racist professor and pamphleteer Herman Wirth played a leading role in
this connection, advocating in their inner councils "a tremendous turning
back of culture, away from the age of reason and consciousness, toward
the age of a 'sleepwalking certainty,' the age of supra-rational magic."
Heinrich Himmler and Wirth founded the "Study Group for Spiritual History"
"Deutsches Ahnenerbe" (German Heritage)-which propagated such pseudo-
sciences and which was, for example, responsible for the deep-freeze exper-
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SF, OCCULT SCIENCES, AND NAZI MYTHS 189
iments (with subsequent coition, "an ancient folk-remedy"!) in the concen-
tration camps, as well as for the collection of skeletons in Strasbourg
plentifully supplied from murdered "inferior race" specimens.19 Thus they
found praiseworthy the efforts of Government Building Counsellor (Regier-
ungsbaurat) Edmund Kiss, one of the most successful exploiters of the
Glacial-Cosmogony/Atlantis themes. Apart from general adventure novels,
he wrote a tetralogy20 in which he presented a mythologized version of the
fall of the German empire, its reconstruction, and its coming world supremacy
under fascist rule.
In Kiss's first volume, The Glassy Sea, John's apocalypse, which "embod-
ies the primaeval knowledge of the cosmos and our world,"'21 is
re-interpreted
as a description of the global catastrophe which resulted from the fall of
the "tertiary moon." Before that event there had been order in the world:
slaves had been trained with the "mammoth whip" (p120). Now the time
has come for the "blue-eyed blonds" to "keep their heads high under the
bludgeonings of fate" (p169), and to ensure "the continued existence of the
human race" by seizing the available women-motto: "Make them trust you,
then grab them" (p240).
In the second volume, Spring in Atlantis, the "Ases" (i.e. Aryans) have
succeeded. They have multiplied rapidly in their northern kingdom, to
the point where they have built the "organic community of a world-wide
empire" (pll) with its centre and capital in Atlantis. "Slant-eyed brown-skins"
work for the "blonds with the narrow skulls." Thanks to an effective "spiritual
guidance," the Ases are revered as "white gods" (p12, p18). "The slave
nations visit Atlantis in order to take the profound and ineradicable
impression of the overwhelming and irresistible might of the Nordic will
back to their distant homes" (p41). (Hitler had the same ideas concerning
the measures he would employ to inculcate a "master-consciousness"
in the "non-German population of the occupied Eastern zones": "He also
thought that superstition was a factor that had to be reckoned with in the
business of leading men, even if one is oneself quite superior to it and
laughs at it"; "the only allowed purpose of geography lessons should be to
teach that the capital city of the Empire is called Berlin, and that everybody
should have visited Berlin at least once in his life"; "once a year a troup
of Kirghizes will be given a guided tour through the capital city in order to
impress their imagination with the might and power of its stone monu-
ments.")22 Back to Kiss: the "Racial Bureau of Asgard" (p17) supervises the
maintenance of racial purity in the master race;23 however, the leaders
have to make the same concessions that the Nazis found unavoidable:
The desire of millions [is] to create a granite racial cornerstone as the foun-
dation of the empire, not a block of absolute racial purity-the sins of our
forefathers have made that impossible-but a block of precious racial assets
with the wealth of the Nordic soul as its important heritage. (p278)
The hero already has the fixed "Fuhrer stare" that Hitler is supposed
to have practiced in front of his mirror, and that is strongly reminiscent
of the results of a hyperactive thyroid:
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190 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
But in the same moment...the golden spark shone again from the depths of
the grey compelling eyes, the spark that constituted the mystery of the child-
like radiant essence of this man. When this spark died, the eagle features
set into an expression of iron-willed and predatory determination, and the
pale-grey icy glare compelled many an enemy, not usually given to such
actions, to avert his eyes. (p72)
The third volume, The Last Queen of Atlantis, shows the empire of the
Ases at the height of its power. The "Nordic men" live in "isolated castles
and fortified farmsteads on the border marches." Atlantis continues to
provide them with "racially pure" or pedigreed women (p28)-as we can
see, precisely the way of life that the Nazi elite envisioned for itself in
occupied East European territories:
We watched the labourers for a while, those strong, animal-like Zipangus,
whose skulls are bound in early infancy to develop backward so that they
can be kept as the group designed for physical labour. (p48)
We Atlantians knew from our millenial history, so full of conquests and
defeats, that only a caste of higher human beings can effectivelv govern the
globe that is our beautiful Earth. Inferior races must be trained and shaped
to fulfill the needs and purposes that promote the growth of the realm.
(p49, and similarly p258)
Alas! The "hammer of fate" (p101) "strikes with mighty blows" (p118),
the appearance of a new Moon (ours) dooms Atlantis, and the Ases are once
more reduced to a people who must "fight for their place in the sun" (p192).
In The Singing Swans from Thule, the surviving Atlantians fight their
way (bearing with them, naturally, the blue and white swastika-banner of
Atlantis) back to the country of their origin. In their "struggle for life, ter-
ritory, and power" (p27) the principle of leadership is re-asserted: "Desperate
situations can only be saved if one man commands and the others obey" (p65).
In order that even the dimmest reader will understand the reference, the Ases
find "Teutenland" inhabited by a "Nordic peasant population of...fairly good
race" (p208). With the genetic help of the natives, the Ases breed-in a
world full of "coloured rabble," "human animals" and "useless men"
(p183)-"a new, hard and chill nobility" (p188). In order to achieve this, they
occasionally raid neighbouring tribes for "blood stock" (p169), to use Hitler's
terminology.24 The novel culminates in the following statement:
Only a man who will protect both his aims and his freedom with a keen
sword in attack and defence, can retain mastery over his life on this earth.
Attack is his best policy. It is never a question of our right to do so. This is
ours by virtue of our existence. It is a question of might. (p206)
The things which Kiss projected into the distant past, and which Hitler
and Himmler wanted to realize in Eastern Europe, were projected into the
near future by Paul Alfred Mueller (pseudonym "Lok Myler") in his
pamphlet series Sun Koh, The Heir of Atlantis, and Jan Mayen.25 The heroes,
charismatic leader types, have been chosen by fate-and also provided by it
with the resources of a sophisticated and extremely powerful technology.
It is their vocation to create new and arable territories for the German
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SF, OCCULT
SCIENCES,
AND NAZI MYTHS 191
people and the White races. This they achieve by raising Atlantis out of the
ocean and by making Greenland (Thule) arable. The manner in which "Sun
Koh" and "Jan Mayen" treat the rest of humanity in the pursuit of their aims
is distinguished from Nazi methods only insofar as the fictive inferior
peoples speedily submit. Mueller was also one of the authors who propagated
the "Hollow World" theory. This theoretical import from the USA ex-
perienced the height of its popularity in 1941-42, when the German Fleet
Ministry apparently actually performed radar experiments, that would have-
were the theory correct-permitted them to observe the Scapa-Flow from
Reugen in the Baltic Sea. The Hollow World theory was tolerated by the
Nazis27 but had only a few adherents in the party's higher echelons. Thus
Mueller had to manoeuver carefully when he tried to make the Hollow World
theory into the official world-picture of the Nazis. In his novel, the high
Nazi party functionary who has been converted to the theory has a fatal
accident on his way to speak to the Fuhrer.
"Theozoology," propagated by Josef Lanz in the Ostara pamphlet series,
The Library of Blonds and Males'Rights,28 was not overtly adopted in official
Nazi treatises, and was only rarely exploited in SF.29 However, this theory
shows the most obscure motivations of racist Manicheanism, ideas that are
still widespread in SF today. Lanz cannot even lay claim to being the origi-
nator and inventor of this sexually-neurotic delusion system. A textbook case
for psychoanalysis, Lanz merely reinterpreted the theosophic anthropogen-
esis of Blavatsky and Besant in sexual terms, In theosophy, mankind fell
because the men copulated with female animals; in Lanz's system "all
calamities in the history of the world...have been caused by the liberated
woman."30 According to his theory, first announced in 190531 (August
Strindberg was one of the first converts):
The race of full-blooded and whole Aryan Man was not the result of natural
selection alone. Instead, as the esoteric writings indicate, he was the result
of a careful and conscious breeding process by higher and different kinds
of being, such as the Theozoa, Elektrozoa, Angels, et sim., which once lived
on this Earth.32
They were perfect electro-biotic machines, characterized by their super-
natural knowledge and power. Their knowledge encompassed everything to
be found in the universe and beyond, in the metaphysical spaces of the
fourth, fifth and nth dimensions. They perceived such objects
by
way of
their electro-magneto-radiophotic eye on their forehead, the rudiment of
which is the human pineal gland. They had knowledge of all things, and
could read past, present and future from the ether. This is why they performed
the office of oracles until well into historical times and live on, even today,
in mediums. They possessed supernatural, "divine" powers whose centre is
located in the lumbar brain. (Note: see the "magic belts?' that conferred
inordinate power on gods and demons; the "invisibility hood" of Siegfried
and Alberich.) Their bodies exude rays of fire and light, which...materialize
on the one hand and dematerialize on the other, breaking down atoms and
reconstructing them, cancelling out gravity.33
All harmful and useless species of plants, animals, and humans are
naturally the work of the "Daemonozoa" (i.e. fallen angels). The original
sin of the "Homo sapiens or, more precisely, the Homo Arioheroicus"34 was
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192 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
caused by the women of these blond, god-like Aryans, who-then as now-
were attracted, "because of the magnitude of the member," to the male
"anthropo-saurians" (with their "penis bone"!) and to their descendants, the
"man-animal races" (Negroes, Mongolians, Jews, etc.). The women cop-
ulated with these lower beings "more sodomitico."35 Especially the facial
features of the "Bolshy-Jewish blood-hounds...remind us even today of the
horrible faces of antediluvian dragon-monsters"; they are the direct "de-
scendants of...the two-legged dinosaur-hominids" and properly still belong to
"the animal kingdom"; Rosa Luxemburg, the murdered leader of the German
left and Jewish by origin, was a "small, pure-breed Bezah-dwarf"-"just
like those bred 2000 years ago in the temple-zoos of Palestine."36 Bolshe-
vism, Marxism, Sovietism, Communism, Socialism, Deomocratism.. .are off-
shoots...of these primaeval, base, and inferior racial origins."37 In order to
correct these racial and political conditions, the Aryans must practice
scientific racial purity and breeding:
Through conscious and goal-oriented influencing of the secreting glands,
we shall be able in the coming two centuries to rebuild atoms and cells of
all living beings, and...finally to create a new human race, which will develop
out of the Aryoheroical one.38
Any such technique, "the technology...[and] all higher scientific wisdom...
is to remain the secret knowledge of a numerically small, pure-bred, heroic-
Aryan ruling elite":39
A newly bred slave being with crude nerves and strong hands whose
mental potential will have been
carefully
limited...will perform for us all
those jobs for which we have not invented machines.... e
proletariat
and
the under-humanity cannot be improved or saved or made happy. They are
the work of the Devil and must simply be-of course humanely and without
pain-eliminated. In their place, we will have biological machines whose ad-
vantage over mechanical machines will be that they repair and rocreate
themselves.... This 'robot' will be the key to the future since his exist-
ence will solve not only the technological but also the social and racio-
economic problems-and thereby allpolitical problems-that beset us. Total
equality is nonsense!... The social question is a racial question and not an
economic one.... Who can say where the equality of rights should stop?
Why should it stop with the Australian aborigine? Gorillas, chimpanzees
and bats have exactly the same claim to socialist "human rights."40
Lanz found himself in illustrious company with such ideas. Oswald
Spengler articulated the fascist-technocratic concept of technology, science,
and philosophy as instruments for domination in much the same manner-
the Aryans were to again become "the learned priests of the machine"4'
and cultivate the sciences as a ruling-class religion:
The group of Fuhrer-natures remains small. They constitute the pack of the
true beasts of prey, the pack of the talented, which will dominate the growing
herd of the others in one fashion or another.
There are.. .not only two kinds of technology...but also two kinds of human
beings...those whose nature it is to command, and those who obey, subjects
and objects of any political or economic processes.
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SF, OCCULT SCIENCES, AND NAZI MYTHS 193
The most significant symptom of the impending decline and fall is to be
found in what I would like to call the betrayal of technology.... Instead of
keeping scientific knowledge secret, the knowledge that represents the most
precious possession of the "White" peoples, it was boastfully revealed to all
and
sundry
in universities, in conversations, lectures, and publications....
The irreplaceable advantages that the white peoples held have been wasted,
dissipated, betrayed.42
Himmler and Hitler
43
wanted to prevent the imminent break-down of
"Western" civilization, in the conquered East-European territories at
least, by means of precisely those methods that they imputed to the Judaeo-
Bolshevists: "try to eliminate the national carriers of intelligence within a
few years, in order to make the peoples.. .ready for a lot of permanent
slavery and oppression."44 The population of the "Eastern Territories" was,
according to the ideas of Hitler and Himmler, to live in isolated village
communities and develop their own "magic cults": "It would be best to teach
them to understand only a sign language. Radio would provide unlimited
music, which is good for such communities. They are not to learn to use
their brains."45
Lanz's disciple Hitler also considered "pure and applied science.. .an
almost exclusively Aryan achievement."46 Only "when knowledge re-acquires
the character of secret, initiate knowledge, and ceases to be accessible to
all and sundry, will it again fulfil its normal function, namely that of
being
the means and the power to control both human and non-human nature."47
With his undeniable instinct for what was publicly acceptable, Hitler
discussed his favourite theories only among intimates. These ideas proved
to be garnered almost exclusively from "popular scientific" treatises such as
those of Boelsche and Lanz:
I have been reading a work on the origin of human races. I used to think a
great deal about this subject in my younger days and I must say that if
one looks more closely at the traditional myths ana legends.. .one arrives at
most peculiar conclusions. Nowhere is there a
development
within a species
that is comparable in degree and kind to that which man must have
undergone in order to cover the distance between a quasi-simian state and
his present mode of being.... Myths cannot have been constructed without
any foundation. Any concept must be preceded by the phenomenon from
which it is derived. There is nothing to stop us, and indeed I believe we
would be right, to assume that mythological characters and situations are rep-
resentations of a former reality.48
A new type of human being is beginning to manifest itself, very much in
the scientific sense of a new mutation. The old, hitherto extant species of
man now necessarily enters into the biological stage of degeneration....
The one will sink underneath man and the other will rise far above present-
day man.... Yes, man must be transcended.... The new man lives among us.
He exists!... I shall tell you a secret. I have seen the new man, fearless and
pitiless. And I was afraid.49
Lanz could not only claim to be one of the "grandfathers of Fascism
and National Socialism,"50 he is also a legitimate ancestor of modern SF. As
he himself stated in 1930, "a whole new generation of authors is already
living off their exploitation of 'Ostara'-ideas."51
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194 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
A science and technology functioning as a mass religion and the "tran-
scending of man" are even now the favourite concepts of precisely those
technocrats (and their literary allies) who think of themselves as particularly
progressive and unprejudiced. Just as in fascism, frequently they also
propagate a sane-way-of-life pseudo-philosophy, usually consisting of a
Social-Darwinist barbarism as style of government and principle of social
organization. As Hitler said: "Yes, we are barbarians. We actually choose
to be such. It is a princely title. It is we who will renew the world. This
world is dying."52 The epitome of all counter-revolutionary slogans, Lanz's
"In our most distant past lies our most modern future,"53 was the socio-
political motto of fascism. In SF-German and U.S.-this concept is still
constantly utilized and reanimated (as for von Daeniken's bestselling title
Memories of the Future, one could almost start a copyright-suit against him).
Its traditional conjunction with racism has no doubt become less prevalent,
but the programmatic combination of "sword and sorcery" as power-style
and social structure with "science fiction," standing for uninhibited cap-
italist and technocratic industrialism, is still with us.
-Translated by Sabine Kurth, edited by DS.
NOTES
'See Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Der hilflose Antifaschismus, Frankfurt 1967.
2Der Orchideengarten, Vol. 1, No. 2, p23.
3See Bernd Ruland, Wernher von Braun: Mein Leben fuer die Raumfahrt,
Offenburg 1969, p56ff. Valier is also the author of Der Verstoss in den Welten-
raum, Munchen and Berlin 1924 (the 5th and 6th edns appeared in 1928 and
1930 with the title Raketenfahrt).
4Max Valier, Welt-Untergang (augmented edn of Untergang der Erde,
Munchen 1923, pp7-8.
5G.W. Surya (i.e., Demeter Georgievitz-Weitzer) and Max Valier, Okkulte
Weltallslehre, Munchen 1922, p294.
6Valier (?14), p19, notel.
7Surya and Valier (? 5), p352.
8Joerg Lanz-Liebenfels, "Der zoologische und talmudische Ursprung
des Bolschewismus" in Ostara, No. 13/14 (2nd edn 1930), p8ff (italics in the
original).
9Idem, "Rassenmystik, eine Einfuehrung in die ariochristliche Geheim-
lehre," in Ostara, No. 78 (2nd edn 1929), p1.
'0Idem, "Theozoologie oder Naturgeschichte der Goetter, IV," in Ostara,
No. 15 (2nd edn 1929), p14.
"Idem, "Einfuehrung in die praktische Rassenmetaphysik," in Ostara,
No. 80, 1915, pl (italics in the original).
I2See also Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom (Die Furcht vor der Frei-
heit, 2nd edn, Frankfurt 1968, pp2O3-234); Erik H. Erikson, Childhood and
Society (Kindheit und Gesellschaft, 2nd edn, Stuttgart 1965, pp320-346);
Theodor W. Adorno et al., The Authoritarian Personality (Der autoritaere
Charakter, Amsterdam 1968, 1:88-187).
'3See also Joachim Besser, "Die Vorgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus
im neuen Licht," Die Pforte 2, 1950; Wilfried Daim, Der Mann, der Hitler
die Ideen gab, Miinchen 1958; George L. Mosse, "The Mythical origins
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SF, OCCULT
SCIENCES,
AND NAZI MYTHS 195
of National Socialism," Journal of the History of Ideas 22 (1961), No.
1;
Reginald Phelps, "Before Hitler Came: Thule Society and Germanen Or-
den," Journal of Modern History 35 (1963), No. 3; Dietrich Bronder, Bevor
Hitler kam, Hannover 1964; Allan Mitchell, Revolution in Bayern 1918/1919,
Munchen 1967, p9lff; Friedrich Heer, Der Glaube des Adolf Hitler: Anatomie
einerPolitischen religiositaet, Munchen and Esslingen 1968; and Karl Diet-
rich Bracher, Die deutsche Diktatur, Koln and Berlin 1969, pp52-98.
I4E.g.: F.O. Bilse. Gottes Muehlen, Berlin 1924.
15Otto Willi Gail, Der Stein vom Mond, Breslau 1926, p269ff (pbd
in the USA as Stone from the Moon in Science Wonder Quarterly, Spring
1930). See also O.W. Gail, Der Schuss ins All, Breslau 1925, and Hans Hardts
Mondfahrt, Stuttgart 1928; this juvenile book (an abbreviated version of
the above mentioned novels) was translated into Danish, Finnish, French,
Dutch, Norwegian, and Hungarian. The last German edition (21st-30th
thousand) was in Stuttgart 1949. Excerpts of this novel appeared in Die
Rakete, the journal of the Society for Space-Travel. Der Schuss ins All was
serialized by numerous German daily newspapers and published in the USA
as The Shot into Infinity twice (in Science Wonder Quarterly, Fall 1929, and
Science Fiction Quarterly, 1941). For the Glacial Cosmogony doctrine see, e.g.,
Ph. Fauth ed., Hoerbigers Glazial-Kosmogonie, 2nd edn, Leipzig 1926 (1st
edn 1913).
16Jts perhaps most prominent member, Hermann Oberth, author of Die
Rakete zu den Planetenraumen, 1923 (3rd edn Berlin and Munchen 1929 with
the title Wege zur Raumschiffahrt) continued in the same tradition after the
Second World War. He propagated the belief in flying saucers, wrote the
Katechismus der Uraniden, Wiesbaden-Schierstein 1966, and occasionally
functioned as a figurehead for the NPD (neo-Nazi party).
17Hans Dominik, Das Erbe der Uraniden, Berlin 1928, p137.
18Willy Ley, Die Fahrt ins Weltall, Leipzig 1926, p67.
19The quote is from Hermann Rauschning's account of his talks with
Hitler Gespraeche mit Hitler, Zurich and New York 1940, p215. On the Nazis
and Atlantis see their leading ideologist Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des
20. Jahrhunderts, Munchen 1936, pp24-28. See also, Michael H. Kater, Das
"Ahnenerbe", Diss. Heidelberg 1966 (for material on a secret meeting about
Glacial Cosmogony from July 12-19, 1939 see p102/394, notes 21-22); Rein-
hard Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner, Stuttgart 1970, pp178-
250; Helmut Heiber ed., Reichsfuehrer!
-
Briefe an und von Himmler,
2nd edn, Munchen 1970 (about Atlantis, see letters 58 and 59; about Glacial
Cosmogony, see letters 26, 33a and 87). Concerning Hitler's belief in Glacial
Cosmogony-he wished to put a commemorative statue to its author Hanns
Hoerbiger in Linz, beside those of Ptolemy and Copernicus-see Henry Picker,
Hitler's Tischgespraeche, ed. P.E. Schramm, 2nd edn, Stuttgart 1965, p167
and 298. The theosophic and anthroposophic competitors in matters concern-
ing Atlantis, who had originally inspired the Nazis, were forbidden during
the Third Reich-e.g. Rudolf Steiner's Die Kosmische Vorgeschichte der Men-
schheit, Dornach 1941. Today, Juergen Spanuth-Das entraetselte Atlantis,
Stuttgart 1953, Und doch! Atlantis entraetselt, Stuttgart 1957; Atlantis,
Heimat, Reich und Schicksal der Germanen, Tubingen 1965-and former
employees of the Rosenberg Bureau are still propagating a Germanophile
Atlantis-theory in the West German fascist press such as Deutsche Nach-
richten, etc. See Bollmus, op. cit., p259ff, note 3, and p3l5ff, note 158.
20Edmund Kiss, Das glaeserne Meer, Leipzig 1930 (4th edn 1941); Frueh-
ling in Atlantis, Leipzig 1933 (2nd edn 1939); Die letzte Koenigin von Atlantis,
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196 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
Leipzig 1931 (4th edn 1941); Die Singschwaene aus Thule, Leipzig 1939
(3rd edn 1941). Early on, Kiss received a prize for this work.
21Kiss, Das glaeserne Meer, p305. In the subsequent text, numerals in
brackets refer to the pages in the last named novel.
22In Picker (?19), pp462-469 and pl43.The "ethnologist" Himmler on the
same subject: "We must do even more in order to inculcate a peaceful
and non-militant attitude towards us in the minds of the people behind our
lines.... We must support all religions and sects which encourage pacifism.
For all Turkish peoples, Buddhism is most suitable. For other nations, Bib-
lical pietism should be helpful"-in Heiber (?19), letter 330.
23Hitler: "A true domination of the world can only be founded on one's
own race"-Picker (?19), p168.
24Ibidem, p253.
25Lok Myler, Sun-Koh, der Erbe von Atlantis, series of 150 pamphlets
(1933-39); Jan Mayen, 120 pamphlets (1935-39). The Sun-Koh serial was so
successful (average edn 60,000; largest edn 90,000), that Jan Mayen was
written as a kind of echo. Both series appeared in several printings. (Espe-
cially the Sun-Koh serial contained blatantly plagiarized passages from
Robert Kraft's prewar serial novels.) Both series reappeared after 1945. Jan
Mayen-now the "Master of Atomic Energy" (edn Utopia-Zukunftsromane,
1949/50)-only lasted for ten sequels, but the Sun-Koh series managed an-
other 110 sequels between 1949 and 1953. At that point, the publisher, Planet
Verlag, discontinued the series because a law against "youth-damaging
books" was imminent. (This publisher also produced The Sixth and Seventh
Book of Moses.) Between 1958 and 1961, the series appeared in a lending-
library edition of 37 volumes, published by Borgsmueller in Muenster. Under
his post-war pseudonym "Freder van Holk," Mueller has written another two
dozen SF novels, published by Biel Verlag and Weiss Verlag, both in Berlin.
He managed to publish a number of rewritten Sun-Koh sequels in the Utopia
pamphlet series of the Pabel-Verlag and co-authored the series Mark
Powers der Held des Weltalls.
26See Johannes Lang, Die Hohlwelttheorie, 2nd edn, Frankfurt 1938,
p281; also K. Neupert, Welt- Wendung!
- Inversion of the Universe, Augsburg
1924, and Geokosmos
-
Weltbild der Zukunft, Zurich and Leipzig 1942.
27Lang's Welt, Mensch und Gott, Frankfurt 1936, was examined under
File P/100 by the Supervisory and Advisory Branch for Astrological and Re-
lated Publications in the Reichsschrifttumskammer, Berlin, and passed. Lang
subsumed in his work the Atlantis myths, astrology, glacial cosmogony,
theozoology, hollow world theory-they are all there in concord.
280stara, Buecherei der Blonden und Mannesrechtler, was pub-
lished from 1905 to 1930. Individual issues sometimes went to three print-
ings According to Heer (? 13), p701, Lanz claimed a total of 500,000 printed
copies.
29E.g., in St. Bialkowski, Krieg im All, Leipzig 1935; implicitly in Gail's
Stone from the Moon (?15); transferred to another planet in Dietrich
Kaerrner, Per Krag und sein Stern, Berlin 1939.
30Ostara No. 33: "Die Gefahren des Frauenrechts und die Notwendigkeit
der mannesrechtlichen Herrenmoral," 1909, plO.
3'Lanz-Liebenfels, Theozoologie oder die Kunde von den Sodoms-Aef-
fligen und dem Goetterelektron, 1905.
32Idem, Bibliomystikon oder die Geheimbidel der Eingeweihten, Vol. II:
Daemonozoikon, Pforzheim 1931, p158.
33Ibid., Vol. III: Theozoikon, Pressbaum bei Wien 1931, p40.
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 197
34Ibid., Vol. I: Anthropozoikon, Pforzheim 1930, p90.
35"Woman has thus been responsible for a 2000 year selection in the
direction of larger genitals"-Ostara No. 21: "Rasse und Weib und Vorliebe
fuer den Mann der minderen Artung," 1909, p9.
360stara No. 13/14, picture-page 1, and p13, note 27.
37Ibid., pl.
38"Theozoologie IV: Der neue Bund und der neue Gott," in Ostara No.
15 (2nd edn 1929), p12. See also "Theozoologie VII" in Ostara No. 19 (2nd
edn 1930).
39"Die Blonden als Traeger und Opfer der technischer Kultur," in Ostara
No. 75, p18; quoted according to Heer(?13), p715.
40Ostara No. 19, p5f.
41Oswald Spengler, Der Mensch und die Technik, Munchen 1932, p70
(italics here and in his other quotes are Spengler's).
42Ibid.,
p27,
p50, and pp84-86.
43Hitler never openly mentioned that he had read the Ostara publi-
cations during his Vienna period, but see his Mein Kampf, Munchen 1942,
p21 and pp59-63. Daim (?113) and Heer (?13) found a number of blatant
plagiarisms straight from Lanz.
44Hitler (?43), p358.
45Picker quoting Hitler (?19), p190. See also ibidem, p271, and Himmler's
memoir concerning the administration of the occupied "Eastern Territories"
(in Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 5, 1957, pl97).
46Hitler (?43), p317.
47Hitler, as quoted in Rauschning (?19), p40.
48Hitler, as quoted in Picker (?19), p166.
49Rauschning (?19), pp230-233. The Strasbourg skeleton collection, for
which "perfect specimen," selected from among concentration camp prison-
ers and Soviet commissars, were slaughtered, had, one must suppose, the
purpose of proving Lanz's "zoological origin" of the "Bolshy-Jewish race."
50Lanz, Bibliomystikon (?32), 2:145.
510stara No. 12/14, from the appendix, without page numbers.
52Hitler, quoted in Rauschning (?19), p78.
53Lanz, Bibliomystikon (?32), 3:28.
David Ketterer
The SF Element in the Work of Poe: A Chronological Survey
After an initial listing of the books of Poe published during his lifetime, this
survey includes seventy-three tales, ten essays, and three poems listed in
order of first publication, whether in serial or book form, together with one
letter entered by the date of writing. The listing of the tales is complete,
but from the other writings I have included only those of SF interest or
interpretive relevance. Likewise, the only secondary materials listed, aside
from bibliographies, are those relevant to the SF elements of Poe's work. The
only dates given are those of first publication, but it should be understood
that Poe's tales and poems, almost without exception, underwent a series of
revisions; for details, consult the standard editions and bibliographes listed
below.
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198 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
STANDARD EDITIONS AND PRIMARY BIBLIOGRAPHIES
?11. James A. Harrison, ed. The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe.
17v. 1902. The Bibliography is at 16:354-79.
?12. John W. Robertson. Bibliography of the Writings of Edgar A. Poe.
2v. 1934.
?3. C.F. Heartman and J.R. Canny.
A
Bibliography of First
Printings
of the Writings of Edgar Allan Poe. 1940.
?4. John W. Ostrom, ed. The Letters of Edgar Allan Poe. 2v. 1948.
?5. Thomas Ollive Mabbott. Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe. Volume
1: Poems. 1969. Gives bibliographical details on the poems.
BOOKS BY POE PUBLISHED DURING HIS LIFETIME
Bi. Tamerlane and Other Poems. By a Bostonian. 1827.
B2. Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. 1829. See #1.
B3. Poems. 1831. See #2.
B4. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. 1838. See #28.
B5. The Conchologist's First Book. 1839. An embarrassing item in the
Poe canon: for a financial consideration he allowed his name to appear as
the author of what is essentially an economy reissue of Thomas Wyatt's
A Manual of Conchology (1838); Poe contributed the title page, the preface,
and a shell classification plagiarized from The Conchologist's Text-Book
(1833) by Captain Thomas Brown.
B6. Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque. 2v. 1840. Contains ## 3-17,
23, 25-28, 30-34. Fundamental to all Poe's creative work is the philosophical
assumption that man exists in a state of total deception as a result of the
idiopathic nature of his awareness, limited externally by his circumscribed
position in space and time, and internally by his personal experiences, eccen-
tricities, and, in particular, his unreliable, gullible, and dissecting reason. The
corollary distinction, formally introduced by the title of this volume, is used
interpretively in the annotations that follow. In the grotesque tales Poe is
concerned with revealing the heterogeneous, deceptive, and therefore gro-
tesque nature of everyday reality, which is understood as a fabricated pro-
duct of the coordinates of time, space, and self. However, the blurring per-
spective of the "half-closed eye" (see, in
?
1, 7:xxix ["Letter to B-,"
1831]; 8:215 [1836 review of The American in England by Lieutenant Slidell];
4:166 [#40], 14:189-90 ["A Chapter of Suggestions," 1845]; 16:164 [1849
Marginalia entry]), an image initially for the imagination and subsequently
for that combination of reason and imagination that might be called intuition
(see #40), facilitates a process of fusion which, while destructive of this
illusory reality, allows for the perception of that true reality which is fluid
and unified. Because, to the half-closed eye, reality is comparable to an ara-
besque tapestry with its completely interwoven, convoluted, and fluid
design, that superior reality may be appropriately designated arabesque
reality. The arabesque tales, then, may be identified as those oriented toward
the evocation of arabesque reality.
Two further aspects of Poe's underlying rationale are of particular rel-
evance to the SF concerns of this essay. First, Poe rejects the post-Cartesian
opposition of matter and spirit; there is no spiritual reality (see
## 60 &
62);
all existence is material-and paradoxically what is falsely considered
spirit-
ual pervades all matter. The arabesque realm, is a material
state,
and is thus
comparable to the alternative dimensions of SF. Second, the transition from
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 199
grotesque to arabesque reality is often effected by a process very similar to
the space-time warp of SF in that the translation may be effected accidentally
by natural phenomena (vision- and reason-disorienting "arabesque" land-
scapes, as in #42, or the dizzying experience of falling, whether down a whirl-
pool, as in #8, or in love, as in #47), and in that such phenomena may be
mechanically duplicated in chambers furnished along arabesque lines (as in
## 9, 26, 37) or in an artfully landscaped garden (as in #50). If Poe's creative
work can be accepted as a unified totality-and current scholarship seems
to endorse this view (see, for example, Modenhauer ?45, Lynen ?151, and
Hoffman ?158)-then the two SF features color the entire corpus. Thus, in
a sense to be assumed throughout this survey, all of Poe's creative work is
marginally science-fictional.
B7. The Prose Romances of Edgar A. Poe. 1843. Contains ## 31 & 40.
B8. The Raven and Other Poems. 1845.
B9. Tales. 1845. Contains ## 12, 32, 34, 38, 40, 41, 43, 51, 54, 55, 62, 75.
B10. Eureka: A Prose Poem. 1848. See #80.
TALES AND MISCELLANEOUS PIECES
#1. Al Aaraaf. 1829. In this the longest of Poe's poems, the nova observed
by and named for Tycho Brahe is identified by name with "Al Aaraaf, among
the Arabians, a medium between Heavenand Hell" (15, p99) and converted
into a planet that wanders through interstellar space. Poe presents this
planet, now momentarily at rest and illuminated by four suns in the con-
stellation Cassiopeia, as an aesthetic realm(approximating arabesque reality)
inhabited by lesser angels and exceptional mortals like Angelo, whose
business is to mediate between heaven and the many worlds of God's uni-
verse. It is the "happier star" mentioned in "Sonnet-To Science," which
functions as a proem to "Al Aaraaf'; here the world of myth, displaced on
earth by science, has taken refuge. Following Angelo's death on earth and
the close approach of Al Aaraaf, "the world.. .was into chaos hurled...and
rolled, a flame, the fiery heavens athwart" (?2:233-36). This application of the
worlds-in-collision concept, here presumably a metaphorical equivalent of
the apocalypse of mind that Angelo experiences, may be compared with a
similar event in #33. See Stovall ?12 for the argument that Poe intends
an allegorical adumbration of his theory that Passion (represented by the
fall of Angelo and Ianthe, unfortunate because merely metaphorical) and
Truth (various forms of science and intellectualization) have nothing to do
with Beauty, the subject of Poetry; and see Pettigrew and Pettigrew ?16
for a rebuttal of Stovall's notion that the earth is literally destroyed by the
near collision.
#2. The City in the Sea. 1831 (as The Doomed City). A poem of SF
interest, given its relation to myths of sunken cities like Atlantis and
Gomorrah. Compare the sinking house in #32.
#3. Metzengerstein. Jan 14 1832. Arabesque. An ancient prophecy relating
to a family feud fulfilled through metempsychosis, a horse's stepping out of
a tapestry into life, and the fiery destruction of a great house. Compare the
destruction of a house in #32, the art/life dichotomy of #48, and the appro-
priate conflation of the three tales in Jean Epstein's famous film, The Fall of
the House of Usher (1928).
#4. The Duc De L'Omelette. Mar 3 1832. A satiric grotesque on the
refinements of sybaritism (directed at N.P. Willis and parodying Disraeli's
The Young Duke [1831]), which involves a card game with the devil; cf #7.
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200 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
#5. A Tale of Jerusalem. June 9 1832. A grotesque on human gullibility
(burlesquing an episode in Horace Smith's historical novel, Zilla, A Tale of
the Holy City [1928]) in which the city of Jerusalem, beleaguered by the
Romans, is made emblematic of man's imprisoned perceptions. This is the
first of three pieces set in the past (see ## 16, 17).
#6. Loss of Breath: A Tale Neither in nor Out of "Blackwood." June 9
1832. Grotesque; a surrealistic fantasy in which the idea that death involves
not loss of life but merely loss of breath is combined with a whimsical
but, for biographers of Poe's psyche, revealing equation between loss of
breath and loss of sexual potency on the narrator's wedding night.
#7. Bon Bon. Dec 1 1832. A satiric grotesque on metaphysical systema-
tizers in which the devil (cf #4) rejects the soul of the protagonist, a phi-
losopher-chef, and expresses his preference for fat philosophers.
#8. MS. Found in a Bottle. Oct 19 1833. Proto-SF on one level; voyage
from the grotesque to the arabesque; the first of three sea tales (see ## 29 &
41). The whirlpool serves to introduce the narrator to a supernal or arabesque
reality which transcends his previous reliance on reason. The narrator finds
himself on a huge and weird ship made of porous wood, which seems to be
a stretched version of his original vessel, a composite of all ships, and even
related to the cork with which he stops the bottle containing his man-
uscript-the bottle that he throws overboard before the final descent. A
spurious end-note indicates Poe's knowledge of Svmmes' "holes at the poles"
theory and allows for the possibility that the "DISCOVERY" towards which
the narrator is headed will be of a world within a hollow earth, like that
depicted by Captain Adam Seaborn (John Symmes) in Symzonia (1820).
The concluding reference to "ramparts of ice.. .like the walls of the universe,"
together with the whirlpool motif, may be taken as evidence that this tale,
like many of the others, is an allegorical foreshadowing of Poe's cosmology
in Eureka and thus SF in a very literal sense. See comment on #79.
#9. The Assignation. Jan 1834 (as The Visionary). Arabesque. The pro-
tagonist, a decorist whose apartment compares with the one described in #26,
q.v., demonstrates his mastery of the paths between this life and the after-
life, whereupon he and his mistress escape the tyranny of the jealous husband
by committing suicide.
#10. Berenice. Mar 1835. Arabesque. In this most gruesome of tales, the
narrator's obsession with the teeth of his "dead" cousin Berenice derives from
their whiteness. Poe consistently uses the omni-color white to connote the
unified arabesque dimension, and often uses women as symbols of a pro-
tagonist's propensity for arabesque awareness; cf ## li, 26, 32, 47, 55, 82.
#11. Morella. Apr 1835. Arabesque. The identity of the narrator's wife
passes into the daughter that is born at the moment of the mother's death;
i.e., in an arabesque context, dying and being born are the same.
#12. Some Passages in the Life of a Lion: Lionizing. May 1835. A gro-
tesque on the vagaries of fashion and literary reputation.
#13. The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall. June 1835. SF on
one level; journey from the grotesque to the arabesque. In the context of a
satiric hoax (the journey begins on April 1st), this tale describes in minute
physical detail a journey by balloon to a moon inhabited by diminutive, mute,
earless beings. A passing reference to the concavity of the north pole could be
an allusion to Symmes' theory (see #8). In an end-note Poe compares his
hoax with the famous "Moon Hoax" perpetrated by Richard Adams Locke
in the same year, explaining why Locke's more immediately successful
deception is the inferior work. For the sources of Poe's scientific information
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 201
see Baileyl?20.Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (1867) is heavily indebted
to "Hans Pfaall."
Although "Hans Pfaall" is overtly the most science-fictional of Poe's
tales, I have argued in?55 that the satiric attack on the limitations of human
knowledge exemplified by the opening description of the Dutch burghers
(cf #30) is inconsistent unless the account of the trip to the moon is not
the hoax many of the burghers assume it to be, and that Pfaal dies in
the explosion at take-off, the trip to the moon being an allegorical rend-
ering of his transference to an arabesque after-life. The hoax form, in pro-
viding objective evidence of human gullibility, carries for Poe the phil-
osophical implication that reality itself is a hoax. Hence a hoaxical realism is
present in Poe's work and ties in with an overall technical strategy of de-
ception (cf ## 8, 29, 41, 59, 61, 69, 74, 83).
#14 King Pest: A Tale Containing an Allegory. Sept 1835. A grotesque
low-life farce and anti-Jacksonian political satire cast in terms of a con-
trast between a deceptive pestilential realm, made so by King Pest and five
characters representing man's distorted perceptions, and the liberated ara-
besque reality represented by the sea and two sailors. As in "The Masque of
the Red Death" (#49), the plague can be interpreted as life itself.
#15. Shadow: A Parable. Sept 1835. The first of six poetic, metaphysical
pieces (see ## 25, 34, 43, 70, 80). Oinos describes the entrance of the shadow
of death while he and six companions were in a room with the corpse of a
friend "in a dim city called Ptolemais" (cf #49). De Falco in ?49 suggests
that this parable makes analogical use of the supplanting of the Ptolmaic
system by the Copernican and points to an astrological reference; cf #79.
#16. Scenes from Politian. Dec-Jan 1835-36. The only play by "the his-
trionic Mr. Poe." Although having such Poeish characteristics as the obsessive
awareness of deception and the suggestion of man's doppelganger nature,
this unfinished verse melodrama, set in Rome, is based on an historical
murder in Kentucky arising from a triangle of jealous relationships.
#17. Four Beasts in One: The Homo-Cameleopard. Mar 1836. A grotesque
on human dignity with political implications, this tale, set in the past,
characterizes in spatial, temporal, and idiopathic terms, the contradictory,
deceptive, and heterogeneous nature of the human state and the grotesque
nature of man as represented by the King of Antioch in the form of a
cameleopard (i.e., giraffe).
#18. [Review:] Mrs. K. Miles's "Phrenology." Mar 1836. Attests to Poe's
belief in phrenology (cf #20). References to the organs of causality and ideal-
ity inform Poe's criticism, while a number of the tales incorporate satire
on phrenology (## 12, 36, 66, 69). See Hungerford ?13.
#19. Maelzel's Chess Player. Apr 1836. An essay demonstrating that the
Automaton Chess Player, invented by Baron Kempelen and later owned by
Mr. Maelzel, was not a machine and depended on the agency of someone
concealed within the box on which the chessboard rested. Von Kempelen
reappears in #83, a science-fictional tale. See Wimsatt
?
18 for a discussion
of Poe's copious and unacknowledged use of Sir David Brewster's analysis
of the Automaton Chess Player in his Letters on Natural .Magic (ca 1832).
#20. [Review:] Robert Walsh's Didactics-Social, Literary, and Political.
May 1836. Objects to the author's ridicule of phrenology (cf #18).
#21. [Review:] Sheppard Lee. Sept 1836. This review of a tale of met-
empsychosis instructs its readers that such a tale should be written "as if
the author were firmly impressed with the truth, yet astonished at the
immensity of the wonders he relates," which of course applies to all SF but
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202 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
bears here particularly on ## 3 & 58.
#22. [Review:] J.N. Reynolds' South Sea Expedition. Jan 1837. Relevant
here because of Poe's apparent interest in the Symmes theory (see ## 8 &
13), the importance of the south pole in Pym (#29), and Poe's deathbed cry
for someone called Reynolds.
#23. Mystification. June 1837. Grotesque. Baron Von Jung's satiric ex-
ploitation of the distinction between appearance and reality in the interests
of "that species of grotesquerie" called mystification may be read as Poe's
artistic manifesto on the grotesque.
#24. [Review:] J.L. Stephens' Arabia Petraea. Oct 1837. Reflect's Poe
interest in cryptic and prophetic pronouncement; cf the messages carved on
the rock near the conclusion of Pym (#29).
#25. Silence: A Fable. 1837. This second of the metaphysical pieces (see #4)
might be described as surrealistic, existential, or supernatural fantasy; an
enigmatic devil's version of Christ's temptation in the wilderness.
#26. Ligeia. Sept 1838. Arabesque. The dead Ligeia, who was the nar-
rator's first wife and who represents arabesque reality, usurps the form of
the narrator's more mundane second wife while the latter is dying. The
weirdly furnished chamber in which it takes place appears in some cabalistic
fashion to be the agency of the transformation. Critics differ as to whether
the events should be taken in supernatural terms or as indicating that
the narrator, subject to hallucinations, murders his second wife. Many of Poe's
tales, and all the arabesques, employ a technique of "fluid form" whereby
the reader is encouraged to maintain a variety of interpretations, often
contradictory, in a state of suspension. The surface of such a tale thus be-
comes the equivalent of a shifting arabesque tapestry. Cf ## 10-11.
#27. How to Write a Blackwood Article. Nov 1838. A satiric grotesque
in which Mr. Blackwood, the famous editor, advises an aspiring authoress
either to get herself into, or imagine herself in, a predicament such as "no
one ever got into before," and then to describe the sensations she experiences
with an "air of erudition." See #28.
#28. A Predicament: The Scythe of Time. Nov 1838. Grotesque com-
bining surrealistic fantasy with a parody of the Gothic tale. Having ex-
perienced or imagined the literal impact of time's more usually meta-
phorical scythe, the authoress of #27 is able to describe some truly heightened
sensations. Cf #53.
#29. The Narrative of Authur Gordon Pym. 1838. Proto-SF on one level;
voyage from the grotesque to the arabesque; the second of the sea tales
(see ## 8 & 40). In this, Poe's only completed novel, the motifs of imaginary
voyage and strange catastrophe are combined with many marvelous ele-
ments, including a death ship, a black land whose black inhabitants have
black teeth, variegated water, white and red animals, mystic script carved in
rock, all culminating in a land of total whiteness.
The novel wcls written in part as a hoax, and for securing verisimilitude
Poe relies heavily on books relating to the sea, such as Reynolds' South Sea
Expedition (see #22, and Bailey ?120). There are at least two sequels to Pym:
Verne's science-fictional, materialistic The Sphinx of the Ice Fields (1897)
and H.P. Lovecraft's somewhat more visionary, perhaps more Poesque
At the Mountains of Madness (1931). Believing Pym to be incomplete, Bailey
in ?20 suggests that the conclusion would have involved the discovery of
an inner world similar to Symzonia (see #8) but called Pymzonia. This
would greatly enhance the SF aspects of the tale, but most critics now believe
Pym to be complete.
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 203
O'Donnell's case for the completeness of Pym, probably the best that can
be made, depends on narrative parallels which suggest that the last half of
the tale folds back over the first half and thus provides a clue to how Pym
escapes from the concluding predicament (see ?135). (A forthcoming article
of my own-"Devious Voyage: The Singular Narrative of A. Gordon Pym"-
corroborates O'Donnell by showing that, leaving aside ?1 which is a micro-
cosm of the whole, in broad thematic terms, ??2-13 are exactly parallel in
reverse order to ??14-25. And the number of chapters allotted to these match-
ing themes corresponds exactly.) O'Donnell goes on to draw an analogy with
the concept outlined in Eureka (#80) of an expanding and contracting uni-
verse. The overturning of the boat in ?13 appears to correspond to the
bouleversement in "Hans Pfaall" (#13) when the gravitational pull of the
earth gives way to that of the moon, and to a similar moment in Eureka when
the force of repulsion gives way to that of attraction.
#30. The Devil in the Belfry. May 18 1839. This grotesque allegorical
fantasy, which describes the consternation caused by the arrival of an out-
sider, a French devil, at an enclosed Dutch village, points to the illusory
conception of reality that man enjoys as a consequence of his limited position
in time and space. The locale of Verne's Dr. Ox (1874) may derive from this
tale and #13; the oxygen-invention in the story may owe something to the
nitro-extraction of #34.
#31. The Man That Was Used Up. Aug 1839. A grotesque political
satire in which the deceptive nature of reality and the "inventive nature"
(in a dual sense) of the age are typified by a general whose impressive
appearance and reputation depend on artificial limbs and other mechanical
apparatus. Compare the androids and cyborgs of modern SF.
#32. The Fall of the House of Usher. Sept 1839. Arabesque. Usher, and
by extension his house, torn between the desire for arabesque reality rep-
resented by Madelaine, and the hold of common reality represented by
the narrator, succumbs finally to the arabesque impulse. The story can be
read as a dramatization of the collapse into unity of the Eureka universe (#80);
see Beebe ?27. The sentience of all matter, as proposed in #62, as well as in
#80, provides a science-fictional rationale for the sentience of Usher's house;
see Robinson ?33 and St. Armand ?57. For vampiric interpretations of
Madelaine that make the tale supernatural fantasy on one level, see Kendall
?137 and Bailey ?38.
#33. William Wilson. Oct 1838. This allegorical fantasy of an externalized
conscience is the first seven grotesques centering on a supernatural or
psychological double-a doppelganger (see ## 38, 52, 55, 72, 77, 82). On the
importance of the doppelg'anger motif in Poe, see Quinn ?129, passim, and
MoldenhauerI?45, in which the motif is shown to be integral to a unitary con-
ception of Poe's work. Compare Verne's "Master Zacharius, or the Clock-
maker Who Lost His Soul" with both this tale and #30, and "Fritt-Flacc"
which is an inferior imitation of this tale.
#34. The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion. Dec 1839. SF in part;
the third of the metaphysical pieces (see #15); a transcription of a post-
apocalyptic conversation between two angels that in some ways anticipates
Eureka (#80). The end of the world occurred when a passing comet (cf #1)
deprived Earth's atmosphere of its nitrogen and thus caused it to ignite,
which is of particular SF interest because, in Moskowitz's words, "Earth had
never before been wiped out in fiction in quite this astronomical and scien-
tifically sound fashion" (?36, p55). Compare Wells's "The Star" (1897) and
especially In the Days of the Comet (1906).
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204 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
#35. The Journal of Julius Rodman. Jan-June 1840. An unfinished novel
(a "western"); in some ways a land-locked version of Pym (#29) with
the same black-white opposition and treacherous natives. In a voyage
of discovery and adventure beyond the Rocky Mountains, the protagonist
journeys through a deceptive temporal reality, typified by the shifting sand-
bars, to a presumably arabesque realm perhaps prefigured by the occasional
descriptions of bucolic retreats, arabesque landscapes like those of #41.
#36. The Business Man. Feb 1840. A grotesque in which the protagonist,
thanks to an unusually well-developed organ of order (see #18), is adept at
the remunerative business of double-dealing.
#37. The Philosophy of Furniture. May 1840. This essay describing a
bedroom is relevant to the transforming function of the arabesque rooms in
the tales.
#38. The Man of the Crowd. Dec 1840. In this second of the doppel-
ganger grotesques (see #33), the double, an old man whom the narrator
feels impelled to follow, seems to embody unacknowledged guilt. But the con-
tinuing gathering and dispersal of the crowd, seen in terms of dualities or a
totality, suggests the contraction and expansion of the Eureka universe
(#80), and the old man's love of the crowd seems to indicate an impetus to
unity, a positive force in Poe (cf #52).
#39. Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling. 1840 (?). A
grotesque on idiopathic deception: each of two suitors thinks he is holding
the hand of the lady seated between them.
#40. The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Apr 1841. The first of five tales of
ratiocination (see ## 51, 54, 65, 75). The defeat of the plodding Prefect of
Police by the brilliantly analytical Dupin in the solution of a murder case
points, in rather complicated allegorical terms, to the difference between a
deceptive reality contingent upon conventional reason and the awareness of
arabesque truth by way of that combination of reason and imagination
called intuition. On the relationship between Poe, Dupin, Usher, God, and the
universe of Eureka (i.e., on reading the detective tales as shadowy drama-
tizations of Eureka), see Daniel ?26; Davidson ?128, pp213-22; Wilbur ?43;
and Moldenhauer ?45.
#41. A descent into the Maelstiom. May 1841. Proto-SF on one level;
the third sea tale involving a movement from grotesque to arabesque reality
(see ## 8 & 29). The narrator escapes the whirl (see comment on #8 for
the relationship to Eureka) not so much because of the behavior of a cylinder
in a vortex (the scientific information here is spurious and part of Poe's
hoax on rationalistic readers) as because of the changed apprehension of
reality which he gains from the experience: an awareness of arabesque
reality abolishes the distinction between life and death. There is a whirlpool
episode derived from this tale in Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under
The Sea (1869), which is also indebted to ## 8 & 29.
#42. The Island of the Fay. June 1841. The first of five arabesque land-
scape pieces (see ## 50, 67, 78, 85). Here everything is indefinite and
fusion-oriented.
#43. The Colloquy of Monos and Una. Aug 1841. The fourth metaphysical
piece (see #17). In a post-apocalyptic state, Monos tells Una about the growing
reliance on reason which preceded the end of the world and about his sen-
sations while dying (cf #28). Aspects of the account anticipate Eureka (#80).
#44. Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral. Sept 1841.
Grotesque; a surrealistic satire on Transcendentalism. Toby Dammit bets the
devil his head that he can jump over a turnstile, but abstract speculation is
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 205
undercut by fact: when he jumps an overhanging brace severs his head from
his body.
#45. A Chapter on Autography. Nov 1841. An essay indicative of Poe's
interest in the pseudo-sciences: "a strange analogy does generally exist be-
tween every man's chirography and character."
#46. Three Sundays in a Week. Nov 27 1841. Grotesque. On a Sunday
two sailors who have just returned from trips around the world in opposite
directions provide the narrator with the opportunity to fulfill the condition
set by his uncle for consent to his marriage: when "three Sundays came
together in a week!" Truth stranger than fantasy department; cf the business
of the time differential at the end of Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days
(1872).
#47. Eleanora. 1842. Arabesque. The narrator's loss and ultimate recovery
of his cousin Eleanora in the form of his wife Ermengarde, together with
the changing condition of their valley, is an allegorical reflection of the con-
test between sexual and spiritual love within the narrator, and ultimately the
contest between temporal and arabesuqe reality.
#48. The Oval Portrait. Apr 1842. Arabesque. The girl who sat for the
portrait and died at the moment of its completion now lives in it transcenden-
tally. Cf ## 3 & 49.
#49. The Masque of the Red Death, a Fantasy. May 1842. Arabesque.
Prince Prospero attempts to escape the plague of life and avoid the trauma
of death by living in a self-created world of arabesque art. Cf ## 3, 14, 15,
48. Related to world-plague catastrophe SF.
#50. The Landscape Garden.Oct 1842. The second arabesque landscape
piece (see #38); here art has been used to enhance nature, and the landscape
gardener is equivalent to God (see references cited for #40).
#51. The Mystery of Marie Roget, a sequel to the "Murders in the Rue
Morgue." Nov-Dec 1842. Dupin "solves," on the basis of a dubious logic, an
historical unsolved murder case which was being investigated while the tale
was published in serial form. From what we know of the case today Dupin
seems to be wrong. See comment on #40.
#52. The Tell-Tale Heart. Jan 1843. In this third of the doppelganger
tales (see #33), the narrator's rationalistic attempt to "murder" that aspect of
his personality which is oriented toward temporal reality embroils him in the
paradoxical perverse-perverse because his actions aim at his self-destruc-
tion, paradoxical because the destruction will bring him to the realm of
arabesque unity. See Moldenhauer ?45, pp294-95.
#53. The Pit and the Pendulum. 1843. Arabesque. Symbolically con-
sidered, the General Lasalle who effects a last-minute rescue of the narrator
is an analogue of the room in which the narrator undergoes an educative
experience encouraging that elasticity of mind whereby the pit is recognized
not as a horror but as providing for a fortunate fall, a means of arabesque
release, which occurs when the contest between temporal and arabesque
reality (the pendulum and the pit) is resolved in favor of the pit.
#54. The Gold Bug. June 21 & 28, 1843. The third ratiocinative tale.
Poe's interest in cryptographic analysis figures in this exceedingly compli-
cated account of a search for buried treasure that symbolizes arabesque
reality-hence the attainment of the treasure is associated with death in the
form of the skeletons buried alongside. See St. Armand
?
?56-57 for an
argument pointing to a consistent alchemical symbolism in this tale and #32,
and then see #82.
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206 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
#55. The Black Cat. Aug 1843. In this fourth doppelgainger grotesque
(see #33), the result of the narrator's mutilating his black cat (a projection
of those aspects of his personality he wishes to exorcise) is a series of
catastrophes culminating in the death of his wife-i.e., his potential for ara-
besque awareness.
#56. Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences. Oct 1843. Gro-
tesque satire. A succession of increasingly elaborate diddles demonstrates
the value of deception, man's propensity for diddling, and his susceptibility
to being diddled; cf ## 31 & 36.
#57. The Spectacles. Mar 27 1844. A grotesque on the limitations of
human perception: the vain narrator refuses to wear spectacles and as a
result "marries" his great, great, grandmother; cf #39.
#58. A Tale of the Ragged Mountains. Apr 1844. Pseudo-science SF;
the first of three mesmeric tales (see ## 62 & 74). This is not a tale of
metempsychosis: the life of Oldeb/Bedloe has been preserved after his ap-
parent death by the mesmeric powers of Dr. Templeton. See Thompson ?53
on the tale as a hoax, Lind
?
23, and especially Falk ?150, which corrects
Lind's interpretation and distinguishes between mesmerism and hypnotism.
Mesmerism, or animal magnetism, depends on a physical fluid similar to
electricity which is presumed to pervade the universe (see comment on #80).
This concept points to the ambiguous relationship between Poe as a writer of
SF and Poe as a transcendental visionary in that it establishes the arabesque
realm as material, not spiritual. Poe seems to have valued mesmerism as a
scientific means of putting to the test his belief in an alternate reality. Clearly
Poe's interest in the pseudo-sciences of mesmerism, phrenology (see ## 18 &
20), graphology (see #44), astrology (see ## 15 & 79) and alchemy (see ## 54
& 83) is akin to the SF cast of his imagination.
#59. The Balloon Hoax. Apr 13 1844 (as Astounding News by Express,
via Norfolk!-The Atlantic Crossed in Three Days!-Signal Triumph of Mr.
Monk Mason's Flying Machine!...). Grotesque; SF hoax. Published in the New
York Sun, as was Locke's "Moon Hoax" (see #13), and with similar success,
this is a detailed account of the construction and navigation of the first
dirigible balloon. Verne's Five Weeks in a Balloon (1863) owes much, and
Around the World in Eighty Days (1869) owes something, to this tale.
#60. [Letter to Robert Lowell]. July 2 1844. Expresses, in different form,
the SF theory of unparticled matter embodied in #62.
#61. The Premature Burial. July 31 1844. Grotesque; an inverted hoax
like #13. After four supposedly genuine cases of premature burial, the nar-
rator recounts his own experience, which is bogus. The enclosed area turns
out to be the berth of a sloop. Fear of claustrophobic entombment recurs
in Poe; cf Pym's confinement in the hold of the Grampus (#29?2).
#62. Mesmeric Revelation. Aug 1844. Pseudo-science SF. This second
mesmeric tale (see #57) is basically a vehicle for the cosmological and met-
aphysical theory later amplified in Eureka (#80). Having put his dying subject
into a death-like trance, the mesmerist-narrator questions him about the
after-life and learns that there is no such thing as spirit, only "infinitely
rarefied matter" or, in the case of God, "unparticled matter." Death is only
a "painful metamorphosis" like that of the worm into the butterfly.
#63. The Oblong Box. Sept 1844. Grotesque on man's liability to de-
ception. In attempting to discover the reasons for the strange behavior of a
friend, the narrator comes to a number of erroneous conclusions. This tale
is a transmogrified version of the ship, tomb, and premature burial motif in
#61.
#64. The Angel of the Odd. Oct 1844. A satiric grotesque on the idio-
pathic nature of man's state, in which the common-sensical narrator,
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 207
under the ministrations of the Angel of the Odd (in a dream?), is made to
realize that reality exceeds the bounds of his unimaginative mind. Includes an
episode with a manned balloon; the SF possibilities of travel by balloon are
also exploited in ## 13, 59, 81.
#65. "Thou Art the Man." Nov 1844. This fourth of the ratiocinative
tales (see #40) combines, in the manner of a parody, the murder-in-a-small-
town and least-likely-person motifs.
#66. The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq. Dec 1844. A satiric gro-
tesque probably directed at Lewis Gaylord Clark in which literary success is
shown to be based on chicanery and deceit.
#67. The Elk. 1844. The third arabesque landscape piece; cf the elk with
the fay in #40.
#68. The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade. Feb 1845. Mar-
ginal SF; the first of three time-displacement grotesques demonstrating that
man's deceptive situation is in part attributable to his limited place in time;
only the fact that the first is presented as a corrected fantasy, the second
(#69) as a dream, and the third (#81) as an April Fools' hoax prevents their
being classified as straight SF. In this corrected version of the Arabian
Nights, Scheherazade recounts further adventures of Sinbad, in which he
comes up against such marvels of 19th-century technology as a manned
balloon (see #64), a voltaic pile (see #69), and Maelzel's Automaton Chess
Player (see #19), all of which he fails to understand; infuriated by such non-
sense, the King has her strangled. Apparently the facts of future ages may
be less credible than the fantasies of the present; i.e. the past's sense or
"knowledge" of the future is inaccurate.
#69. Some Words With a Mummy. Apr 1845 (a number of Poe's hoaxical
pieces were published in April; see ## 19, 58, 59, 83). Marginal SF; the second
of the time-displacement tales (see#68). Here time past is shown to be as
much a closed book as time future. In a dream (?) the narrator witnesses
the revivification of a mummy by means of a voltaic pile (which has some
electrical connection with mesmerism; see #58) and learns that the ancient
Egyptians had not only anticipated and surpassed much 19th-century knowl-
edge but had also discovered the secret of suspended animation-hence the
revivification.
#70. The Power of Words. June 1845. In this fifth metaphysical piece (see
#15), Oinos (who appears in #15), in a post apocalyptic state, is informed
that the vibrations of words effect "secondary creation," a notion that recurs
in #80.
#71. [Review:] The Coming of the Mammoth, by Henry B. Hirst. July 12
1845. The work reviewed is of some SF interest.
#72. The Imp of the Perverse. July 1845. This fifth of the doppelganger
grotesques (see #33) is largely an essay on the paradoxical imp of the per-
verse, which operates in furtherance of both good and evil (see #53). The
narrator is in jail, having perversely confessed, in a moment of suffocation,
to the murder, by asphixiation, of his doppelgiinger (cf #52).
#73. The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether. Nov 1845. A grotesque
(which includes a satiric allegory concerning the southern US, as does #29)
on the equivocal distinction between appearance and reality. The narrator,
who may himself be a lunatic, tells of an asylum where the erstwhile
inmates have become the keepers and have subjected the erstwhile keepers
to a tar-and-feather treatment.
#74. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. Dec 1845. Pseudo-science SF;
hoax? This third and last of the mesmeric tales is like the first (#57) in
that the life of the protagonist is prolonged beyond the point of "death"
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208 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
by mesmerism. When reprinted in England this tale was taken as fact and
may indeed have been intended as a hoax, as Poe maintains in two letters.
In Mathias Sandorf (1855), the revitalizing of a dying man by hypnotism
derives from Verne's reading of this tale, which, as with the rest of Poe,
he took literally.
#75. The Purloined Letter. 1845. In this the third and last of the Dupin
ratiocinative tales, which describes Dupin's discovery of the place where the
Minister D- has hidden a compromising letter, the connection between the
detective and the criminal (or the resolvant and creative faculties), a relation-
ship that becomes increasingly apparent in the ratiocinative tales, is particu-
larly obvious. Contrast this with the corresponding increasing obscurity of
relationships in the doppelganger tales, particularly "Hop-Frog" (#82).
#76. The Sphinx. Jan 1846. A satiric grotesque on the idiopathic nature
of man's perceptions. In a state to see horrors, having come from a plague-
ridden city, the narrator, a reader of gothic novels, imagines the insect in front
of his eye to be a distant monster.
#77. The Cask of Amontillado. Nov 1846. This sixth doppelgiinger gro-
tesque, too well-known to need much comment, is concerned with a man tor-
mented by the image of a former, supposedly more fortunate, self.
#78. The Domain of Arnheim. Mar 1847. This fourth arabesque landscape
piece (see #42) is an enlargement of #50.
#79. Ulalume. Dec 1848. A poem of some SF interest in that it indicates
Poe's knowledge (whether accurate or not) of the pseudo-science of astrol-
ogy. For differing views, see Mabbot ?24, Davidson ?128, and Stovall ?152.
#80. Eureka: A Prose Poem. 1848. SF in the most literal sense. Using the
scientific knowledge of his day in a way that appears to anticipate many sub-
sequent theories, Poe describes his "intuitive" cosmology in this last and
longest of the metaphysical pieces (see #15). To ensure that his theories can
withstand any kind of logical attack, Poe makes equivocal use of a compli-
cated web of irony and of the causality-nullifying principle of reciprocity
of adaptation. From its primal state of ultimate arabesque unity the universe
has reached its present dispersed, heterogeneous condition by a process of
irradiation. It is being maintained in this unnatural state by a balance of
the forces of gravity and electricity, but will eventually collapse into its
primal state, followed by a new process of irradiation, and so on. The uni-
verse is comparable to an expanding and contracting heart, and man is equiv-
alent to God-a notion similar to the universal-mind concept of Stapledon and
many other SF writers, as is pointed out by Moskowitz
in!?36.
Connections between Eureka and contemporary or subsequent science
have been made by Bond ?10, Alterton ?11, Norstedt ?14, Wiener ?15,
Hoagland ?17, Quinn ?19, Connor ?25, and Braddy 1131. And there have
been various arguments that all Poe's creative work should be understood as
dramatizing Eureka: Wilbur
?
32, O'Donnell ?135, Rans ?39, Moldenhauer
?45, Broussard ?48, Lynen ?51. While this seems equivalent to putting the
cart before the horse, there are some real connections between Eureka and
specific tales: "Hans Pfaall" #13, "The Fall of the House of Usher" #32, "The
Man of the Crowd" #38, "Mesmeric Revelation" #62, the sea tales ## 18,
29, 41, the Dupin tales ## 40, 51, 75, and the post-apocalyptic colloquies ##
34, 43, 70. If Eureka is SF in the most literal sense, and I think it is, these
tales may be regarded as displaced SF.
#81. Mellonta Tauta. Feb 1849. SF; "utopia"; April Fools' Hoax. (The
title appears as an epigraph for #43, where it is glossed as "These things are in
the near future.") This third of the time-displacement tales (see #68) shows
future knowledge of Poe's present to be inaccurate. Aboard a balloon that
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 209
left the ground April 1, 2848, the wife of an antiquarian pens a diary-type
letter to a friend which she finally corks in a bottle and throws into the sea.
Material on the superiority of intuition to inductive and deductive reasoning
is quoted from this letter as part of the burlesque introduction to Eureka
(#80). Consistency is not the letter-writer's forte, and her admiration for the
reliance of her age on intuition as the road to truth is undercut by her and her
husband's complete misinterpretation of past history and certain 19th-century
artifacts. (In Eureka the skein of irony renders this contradiction inoperative.)
Much of the tale, in standard "utopian" fashion (a la Wells according to
Olney ?30), sets the marvels and revelations of the future-speedy travel by
balloon or train, a population crisis that makes individual life valueless,
floating telegraph wires, diminutive lunarians erecting a temple on the moon
with ease because of the lesser gravity, the "binary relation" between the sun
and another star (Alpha Lyrae), the destruction of Long Island by an earth-
quake in 2050-against the primitive standards and knowledge of the present.
This tale is of particular SF interest in that it may well be the first to open
directly in the future, i.e., with no frame narrative describing the transition
to "utopia" from the author's present world. The connection between this
tale and Eureka supports the SF quality of that larger work, while the
statement in Eureka that "what is obvious to one mind at one epoch may be
anything but obvious, at another epoch, to that same mind" provides a
gloss for "Mellonta Tauta" and the two other time-displacement tales.
#82. Hop-Frog. Mar 17 1849. The seventh and last of the doppelg'anger-
perverse grotesques (see #33). (Of course, there are doppelganger elements
in a large number of Poe's tales, aside from the seven tales each directly
exploring a fragmented personality; e.g., ## 10, 11, 26, 29, 32, 40, 47, 51,
75). Just as the frivolity of Hop-Frog as dwarf court jester provides a "counter-
balance" to the wisdom of the seven ministers, so the chandelier in the grand
salon (the artificial light of wisdom) is lowered or elevated by an unsightly
counterbalance on the roof. By means of a game Hop-Frog arranges the fiery
deaths of the king (his alter ego) and the seven ministers (cf King Pest and
his crew, #14) who have suspended themselves from the chandelier, while he
escapes to another country with his betrothed, who represents arabesque
awareness. The doppelgainger connection is more obscure in this tale than in
the previous six (cf comment on #75), in part because this is the only one
not told in the first person, and because this is the only tale in which
the protagonist succeeds totally in expelling his alter ego.
#83. Von Kempelen and His Discovery. Apr 14 1848. Pseudo-science SF.
Von Kempelen's alchemical success in turning lead into gold results in gold
being no more valuable than lead. (See ## 19 & 54, and St.Armand ??56-57.)
This tale was conceived as a grotesque hoax in reaction to the California
gold rush. The theme of transformation is specifically related to the ambig-
uous nature of a reality that may itself be transformed.
#84. X-ing a Paragrab. May 12 1849. The absurdity of a newspaper editor's
[o]bstinate idiopathic fondness for the letter"o" is satirically shown up when
the printer is required to substitute "x's" for "o's" in the editorial para-
graph (or paragrab as the printer pronounces it) because someone from a
rival newspaper has stolen all the "o" letters.
#85. Landor's Cottage: A Pendant to "The Domain of Arnheim." June
9 1849. The fifth and last arabesque landscape piece (see #42). Precise em-
phasis on point of view and compass-point specification paradoxically have
a dizzying effect on the reader and thus encourage an arabesque fluidity
in the reading of this description of an ideal cottage furnished along the
lines of "The Philosophy of Furniture" (#36).
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210 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
#86. Poe's Introduction to "The Tales of the Folio Club." 1902 (in ?1).
Planned as a framing device for a collection of Poe's early tales, which, as
reconstructed, would have included the following probably in this order: ##
56, 9, 7, 25, 8, 3, 6, 4, 14, 17, 12. Never used.
#87. The Lighthouse. Apr 1942 (published by Thomas Ollive Mabbott in
Notes and Queries. In this unfinished narrative related to the sea tales (## 8,
29, 41), the narrator-diarist, relieved to have escaped society through appoint-
ment to a lighthouse, is disturbed to find that the lighthouse is built on
chalk.
SECONDARY MATERIALS
?6. Robert E. Spiller, et al. Literary History of the United States:
Bibliography. 3rd edn. 1963. Best source for material prior to 1942.
? 7. J. Laslie Dameron.
Edgar
Allan Poe: A Checklist
of
Criticism 1942-
1960. 1966. Annotated, comprehensive.
?8. Richard P. Benton. "Current Bibliography on Edgar Allan Poe,"
Emerson Society Quarterly 38(1965):144-47 & 47(1967):84-87, transferred
to and continuing in Poe Newsletter, now renamed Poe Studies.
?9. J. Albert Robbins. Checklist of Edgar Allan Poe. 1969. Categorized
but not annotated.
?10. F.D. Bond. "Poe as an Evolutionist," Popular Science Monthly
71(1907):267-74.
?11.
Margaret Alterton. Origins of Poe's Critical Theory. US 1925.
Specifically pp 112-22, 132-69.
?12.
Floyd
Stovall. "An
Interpretation
of Poe's 'Al
Aaraaf,"
Texas
Studies in English 9(1929):126-33.
?113. Edward
Hungerford. "Poe and Phrenology," American Literature
1(1930):209-31.
?
14.
George Norstedt. "Poe and Einstein," Open
Court
44(1930):173-80.
?15. Philip P. Wiener. "Poe's Logic and Metaphysic," Personalist 14
(1933):268-74.
?116. Richard Campbell Pettigrew and Marie Morgan Pettigrew. "A
Reply to Floyd Stovall's Interpretation of 'Al Aaraaf," American Literature
8(1937):439-40.
?17.
Clayton Hoagland.
"The Universe of Eureka: A
Comparison
of the
Theories of Eddington and Poe," Southern Literary Messenger 1(1939):
307-13.
1118.
W.K.
Wimsatt, Jr. "Poe and the Chess Automaton," American Lit-
erature 11(1939):138-51.
?19. Arthur Hobson
Quinn. Edgar Allan Poe: A Critical Biography. US
1941. Specifically pp555-56. Remains the best biography.
?20. J.O.
Bailey. "Sources for Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym, 'Hans Pfaal,'
and Other Pieces," PMLA 57(1942):513-35.
?21. Howard P. Lovecraft.
Supernatural
Horror in Literature. US 1945.
Specifically pp52-59. This evaluation by a disciple of Poe is of particular
interest because he too combines gothic, visionary, and SF elements in his
work. See #28.
?22. J.O. Bailey. Pilgrims Through Space and Time: Trends and-Patterns
in Scientific and Utopian Fiction. 1947. This survey includes ## 8, 13, 14,
29, 34, 40, 49, 54,59, 68, 69, 74, 81, 83.
?23. S. E. Lind. "Poe and Mesmerism," PMLA 62(1947):1077-94
?24. T.O. Mabbott. "Poe's 'Ulalume'," Explicator 6(June 1948), Item 57.
?25. Frederick W. Connor. Cosmic Optimism. US 1949. Specifically pp67-
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THE SF ELEMENT IN THE WORK OF POE 211
91, "Poe's Eureka: The Problem of Mechanism."
?26. Robert Daniel, "Poe's Detective God," Furioso 6(Summer 1951):
45-54.
127. Maurice Beebe. "The Universe of Roderick Usher," Personalist 37
(1956):147-60.
?28. Edward H. Davidson. Poe: A Critical Study. US 1957. Specifically
pp213-22.
?29. Patrick F. Quinn. The French Face of Edgar
Poe. 1957.
?30. Clark Olney. "Edgar Allan Poe-Science-Fiction Pioneer," Georgia
Review 12(1958):416-21. Claims that Poe was "the first writer of science-
centered fiction to base his stories firmly on a rational kind of explanation,
avoiding the supematural" (p417); counts seven of the tales as SF: ## 13,
58, 59, 62, 74, 81, 83.
?31. Haldeen Braddy. "Poe's Flight
from
Reality," Texas Studies in
Literature and Language 1(1959):394-400.
?32. Richard Wilbur. Poe: Complete Poems. 1959. Specifically the Intro-
duction and Notes.
?33. E.A. Robinson. "Order and Sentience in 'The Fall of the House of
Usher'," PMLA 76(1961):68-81.
?34. Ingvald Raknem. H.G. Wells and His Critics. 1962. Specifically
pp366-77. A poor treatment of what is almost a non-subject; but see #34.
?35. Charles O'Donnell. "From Earth to Ether: Poe's Flight into Space,"
PMLA 77(1962):85-91.
?36. Sam Moskowitz.
Explorers of
the
Infinite. 1963.
Specifically pp46-
61, "The Prophetic Edgar Allan Poe." Divides Poe's SF into those tales in
which scientific rationality is secondary to the aesthetic aspect (## 8, 41,
58) and those in which the reverse applies (## 13, 68, 81); also emphasizes
the connection between Poe and Verne: see #4 13, 29, 30, 33, 41, 46, 59, 74.
?
37. Lyle H. Kendall. "The Vampire Motive in 'The Fall of the House of
Usher'," College English 24(1963):463-64.
? 38. J.O. Bailey. "What Happens in 'The Fall of the House of Usher'?"
American Literature 35(1964):463-64.
?
39. Geoffrey Rans. Edgar Allan Poe. 1965.
1140. Leslie A. Fiedler. Love and Death in the American Novel. Rev
edn 1966. Specifically "The Blackness of Darkness: Edgar Allan Poe and the
Development of the Gothic." In this and his later studies (?? 46 & 54) Fiedler
develops his conception of Poe as a writer of pop literature who failed to
write a successful "Westem" but invented the detective story and science
fiction.
?J41. I.O. Evans. Jules Verne and His Work. US 1966. Treats Pym (#29)
and "The Balloon Hoax" (#59) as SF tales to which Verne was indebted
(pp 115-17, 155, passim).
?142. H. Bruce Franklin. Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the
Nineteenth Century. US 1966. Specifically pp93-103, "Edgar Allan Poe and
Science Fiction." Following a review of past critical treatment of Poe as
a writer of SF (particularly Olney and Moskowitz,
??
30 & 36), Franklin
envisages Eureka, "Mesmeric Revelation," and "The Fall of the House of
Usher" (## 80, 62, and 32) as a continuum expressing a movement from
"science" to fiction: "The three forms may be called pure speculation, pure
speculation in a dramatic frame, and dramatized speculation" (p102).
Franklin concludes somewhat oddly by finding. Poe's SF rather one-di-
mensional in comparison with Hawthorne's.
?143.
Richard Wilbur. "The Poe Mystery Case,"
New York Review 9
(July 1967)16,25-28.
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212 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
?44. Monique Sprout. "The Influence of Poe on Jules
Verne," Revue
de Litterature Comparee 41(1967):37-53. Argues that Verne was indebted to
Poe for method, incident, and character.
?145. J. J. Moldenhauer. "Murder as a Fine Art: Basic Connections
Between Poe's Aesthetics, Psychology, and Moral Vision," PMLA 83(1968):
284-97.
? 46. Leslie A. Fiedler. The Return of the Vanishing American. US 1968.
Specifically ppl27-36. See comment on?40.
? 47. Donald C. Burt. "Poe, Bradbury, and the Science Fiction Tale of
Terror," Mankato State College Series 3(1968):76-84. Argues that both Poe
and Bradbury write of the destruction of the world, the first by nature,
the other by technology; also notes that in the chapter "Usher II" in Brad-
bury's The Martian Chronicles (1950), an attempt is made to reconstruct
Poe's story on Mars, while in Fahrenheit 451 (1953) the hero commits Poe's
tales to memory.
?148. Louis Broussard. The Measure of Poe. 1969.
?49. J.M. De Falco. "The Source of Terror in Poe's 'Shadow: A
Parable',"
Studies in Short Fiction 6(1969):643-48.
?50. Doris V. Falk. "Poe and the Power of Animal Magnetism," PMLA
84(1969):536-46.
1151.
John F.
Lynen.
The
Design of
the Present:
Essays
on Time and Form
in American Literature. 1969. Specifically pp205-71, "The Death of the
Present: Edgar Allan Poe."
?52.
Floyd
Stovall.
Edgar
Poe the Poet:
Essays
New and Old on the Man
and His Work. US 1969. Specifically p229.
?53. G.R.
Thompson.
"Is Poe's 'A Tale of the
Ragged
Mountains' a
Hoax?" Studies in Short Fiction 6(1969):454-60; revised in Poe's Fiction:
Romantic Irony in the Gothic Tales, 1973, ppl47-52.
?54. Leslie A. Fiedler. American Dreams, American Nightmares. US
1970. Specifically pp23-24. See comment on?40.
?155.
David Ketterer. "Poe's
Usage
of the Hoax and the
Unity
of 'Hans
Pfaall'," Criticism 13(1971):377-85.
?
56. Barton Levi St. Armand. "Poe's Sober
Mystification:
The Uses of
Alchemy in 'The Gold Bug'," Poe Studies 4(1971):1-7.
?57. Barton Levi St. Armand. "Usher Unveiled: Poe and the Mysticism
of Gnosticism," Poe Studies 5(1972):1-8.
?58. Daniel Hoffman. Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe Poe. 1972. One of Hoff-
man's seven Poes is the inventor of science fiction, but it is argued
that the various facets of Poe's work make up a unified totality.
?159.
Brian W. Aldiss. Billion Year
Spree: The True
History of Science
Fiction. 1973. Specifically ?2, "'A Clear-Sighted, Sickly Literature': Edgar
Allan Poe." Claims that the Poe pieces which are "most likely to pass muster
as science fiction"-## 13, 29, 34, 41, 43, 58, 59, 62, 68, 74, 81-are not his
best. "Poe preempted a science fictional content, particularly its transcen-
dental content, yet mishandled its form" (emphasis added). Cf
?
61.
?60. Jack D. Wages. "Isaac Asimov's Debt to Edgar Allan Poe," Poe
Studies 6(1973):29. Such novels as The Caves of Steel (1954) and The Naked
Sun (1957) and the stories in Asimov's Mysteries (1968), which amalgamate
the detective story and science fiction, are influenced by Poe's work in these
genres and "contain the kind of minute scientific explanation that is the
hallmark of Poe's science fiction, in combination with most of the elements
in Poe's detective storeis."
?61. David Ketterer. New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination,
Science Fiction, and American Literature. 1974. Specifically ?3, "Edgar Allan
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CHANGE, SF,
AND MARXISM 213
Poe and the Visionary Tradition of Science Fiction," which argues that Poe's
relationship to SF has been misconstrued largely because of the notably
mechanistic use Verne made of ideas in several of Poe's tales thereby ob-
scuring that yoking of the science-fictional and transcendental imagination
which is Poe's main contribution to the development of SF.
Change, SF, and Marxism: Open or Closed Universes?
ROBERT SCHOLES. NOVELS BY BRUNNER AND LEVIN
Two recent, strong works of SF should be mentioned in relation to your
ongoing discussion of change and Marxism: Ira Levin's This
Perfect Day (1970)
and John Brunner's The Sheep Look Up (1972).
Though it is the weaker of the two (and degenerates badly at the end),
Levin's book is interesting because it contemplates a specifically Marxist
"utopian" society ("Christ, Marx, Wood, and Wei / led us to this perfect
day.") and rejects it. In doing so, it follows a familiar path traced by Zamyatin,
Orwell, and Huxley, but its Marxian "utopia" is more interesting than theirs
in some ways, because it is more gently and kindly perceived. It is by no
means altogether horrible, though it makes clear the price in lost individuality
exacted by the perfection of its socioeconomic arrangements. Beyond this,
Levin's work surprised and pleased me by presenting the capitalist island of
freedom in the novel as a place at least as odious as the socialist paradise.
Levin's criticism of capitalism as it functions on the island of "Liberty" is
devastating, and might quite properly be called Marxist. Thus his book crit-
icizes socialism from the perspective of individualism, and individualism
from the perspective of socialism-and this is a genuine achievement. If
Levin has no final answer, this is because final answers are very difficult to
come by. And I should add that they are especially difficult to come by in
fictional form, for reasons that are very interesting in themselves.
When a utopia is imagined concretely, as it must be in fictional form, the
price it exacts for its improvements in the human situation becomes clear.
Thus all utopias, however ideally intended, have something repellent about
them, and even the most generously conceived socialist or individualist utopia
in fictional form will reveal certain repellent features as the price for its
utopian qualities. This same principle applies with much greater force to
attempts to realize utopian dreams in actual societies. What is America
today but the fictional intentions of Jefferson and Hamilton, realized and
shaped by the interaction of social forces with individual men of power from
Washington to Nixon? And what is Russia but the similar ideals of Marx
and Engels as enacted by Lenin, Stalin, and others? Mr. H. Bruce Franklin
has received treatment in America which is shameful. (It makes me
ashamed, anyway.) Others, like Solzhenitsyn, have been treated at least as
badly in Russia. Are we to blame Jefferson and Marx for this? I think
not. Both Jeffersonian democracy and Marxian socialism are noble ideals
which seem difficult to enact and sustain even in fiction, let alone life.
In fiction, it seems clear, both socialistic and individualistic ideas
function better when used critically than when used for utopian projection.
Thus Marxism is most useful to writers of SF who aim at producing a
critique of capitalism, and individualism is most useful to writers criticizing
socialism. This presents a special problem for writers in socialist countries.
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214 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
If Marxism is the reigning ideology, and if it is assumed to have largely
succeeded, there is not much critical maneuvering room for the writer. The
problem can be seen in a novel like Altov and Jouravleva's Ballad of the
Stars (which is included in Bergier's anthology, Science-Fiction Sovietique,
Paris 1972), where Marxist criticism can only be directed at the evil part of
humanity, since the revolution has been completed and the present admits of
no criticism. In short, I am ready to embrace Soviet and Polish SF, but I won't
expect it to present a Marxian critique aimed at changing contemporary
Polish or Soviet society, or a vision of the future socialist paradise which is
either fictionally satisfying or markedly different from contemporary life in a
socialist state.
In the West, on the other hand, the SF which is most effectively critical
of contemporary social structures is not purely Marxist but has adopted
ecological perspectives that have been developed since Marx produced his
critique of capitalism. Clifford Simak's A Choice of Gods (1972) is a case in
point, and so is John Brunner's extraordinary The Sheep Look Up. The latter
is as pure a piece of extrapolation as one could imagine, and it deals with
the pressing problems of the immediate future as powerfully as only fiction
can. In its criticism of capitalistic exploitation of man and nature it is as
thoroughgoing as any work of literature could be. It is not Marxist in any
programmatic way, but suggests an ecological assimilation of certain
Marxian ideas. It is passionately concerned with change, however, and shows
us how such a concern can function in a richly structured fictional context.
By giving us a work of naturalism set in the near future, Brunner allows
us finally to contemplate the destruction of his fictional America with a dis-
turbing combination of horror and satisfaction. And above all he inspires
us to work, to change our future, to avoid this nightmare he has painted
for us in such vividly harrowing detail. This is exactly the kind of future feed-
back we so desperately need right now, and which only SF can give us.
Robert M. Philmus
A Dialogue Between Ideaphilos and Philologos
(Intended to Prove Little and Clarify Much)
NOTE. In the following dialogue, no corres ondence is intended between the
fictitious characters therein and any particular students of literature, living or
dead. It is admissible, however, to read the general term literature as a
surrogate for the more specific science fiction.
The opposite of a true statement is a false state-
ment. But the opposite of a profound truth may
be another profound truth. -Niels Bohr.
Ideaphilos. I confess to being more than a little annoyed with you for your
refusal to take sides in my argument with that no-good Idiokrasios over the
outright reactionary tendencies of so much modern literature.
Philologus. I explained to you the reason for my refusal.
L So you did. And I must say I am a bit more puzzled by it than I was
chagrined by your not expressing the sympathy I know you have for my
point of view. What is this distinction between criticism and interpretation
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IDEAPHILOS AND PHILOLOGOS 215
that so obsesses you?
P. It is, my dear Ideaphilos, quite simple, really. Criticism, as I see the
enterprise, orients itself primarily and overtly towards value judgments,
which may have-in a more or less narrow sense of the terms-a moral,
esthetic, or ideological basis-and bias. As an interpreter, on the other hand,
I aim principally at understanding literature rather than imposing normative
criteria on it.
L You will, I hope, excuse the bluntness of my observing that what you
say is as naive as it is pretentious. Surely this pretense of neutrality on your
part is just that: a pretense. You will not be so disingenuous as to deny
that the interpretative effort is hardly value-free, as you call it.
P. Admittedly, the dividing line between criticism and interpretation is in
practice sometimes as obscure-or obscured-as that separating pedantry
from precision. Still, from the fact that the distinction is not always clear it
is fallacious to infer that it altogether doesn't exist. You will not contend
that it is pointless to distinguish music from noise merely on the grounds that
the one occasionally modulates into the other?
I. Is that to say you concede the difference to be a matter of degree rather
than of kind?
P. If you wish.
L Well then, let me press the point. What is the degree of difference
between criticism and interpretation? Surely if you elect to give your time
and attention to a work of literature you imply a judgment of value? And if
you choose to attend to this work rather than that you are making a normative
discrimination?
P. True enough.
I. In which case, your professed neutrality is really hypocritical. You
assume certain values but don't bring them out into the open.
P. If a hypocrite is anyone who assumes some things without explicitly
saying what they are, I shall have to accept the epithet. And indeed it is
true that the profession of neutrality is a hypocritical evasion in all too many
instances. But I did not claim, you may recall, that an interpreter is neutral:
what I said is that the interpreter, unlike the critic, does not deal in overt
value judgments. Moreover, if I am a hypocrite, you may be one also-or
something worse.
L What do you mean?
P. Exactly this: you admit that you have a weakness for literature that
is good by literary standards? That just as I have some sympathy for your
politics you have some for my aesthetics (excuse my using the terms loosely;
we both understand that epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics tend to shade
into one another)?
L I suppose I can make that admission.
P. You suppose so? I certainly hope that is true, for otherwise you would
be something of a hypocrite yourself, wouldn't you? After all, it is a bit
hypocritical to devote your life to the study of literature, as you do, and not
be interested in the stuff at all? Do you begin to see how the other side of
the argument you used a moment ago begins to cut you?
L I guess so. But look here, I don't see that there's any problem or
difficulty in being concerned with literary and non-literary values at the
same time.
P. Maybe not. But let's examine the matter. When you were arguing with
Idiokrasios, you remember, you denounced the ideological bent of certain
literary works, thinking it your duty as a critic to do so.
I. Yes, though by the way your distinction does not seem strictly valid
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216 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
here, since criticism in this instance requires interpretative understanding.
P. In this instance, perhaps-though that is not always true. But I will
grant the point for the moment since I am trying to get at something else.
Now: the works you inveighed against you disapprove of, of course?
I. Of course.
P. You think them pernicious and would not want others to read them
and be influenced by them: It would be well if they were consigned to
oblivion?
L True.
P. But isn't that end more likely to be effected by ignoring them alto-
gether instead of carping about them and thus preserving their names for
posterity as well as giving them currency in our time? [Pause] I assume your
silence indicates assent, and will therefore proceed to another, related matter.
Do you suppose that your concern with the ideas expressed in a work of lit-
erature will persuade our writers to adhere to high literary standards and in-
crease the demand for such standards on the part of their readers?
I. Isn't that self-evident? Obviously an insistence on well thought out
and responsible ideas will ultimately produce great literature.
P. No doubt Idiokrasios would go along with you there, though the two
of you could never get together on the meaning of your terms. But if your
assumptions were correct, any of our philosophers should have produced
works of greater literary value than have our poets; and on the same grounds
treatises on, say, law or economics should be preferred by your would-be
literary criteria to works of "pure literature" themselves. If you are not willing
to accept that consequence, you must, I fear, admit to the error of your
critical ways, which ignore what makes literature literature.
L I shall admit no such thing. Apart from the fact that you seem to be
reformulating the anathema of literature for literature's sake, the kind of
literature I am interested in does deal with ideas, clearly and undeniably.
P. I have not denied it. What I have said, however, is that critics should
not expect that by insisting on ideas they encourage good literature-indeed,
they may discourage it. As for your anathema, I consider it equally heretical
to divorce what a work of literature means from how it means-in effect,
your practice when you abstract what you judge to be its ideational content.
L But surely that is the function of criticism: to identify and elucidate
the ideas in a literary work.
P. The function of criticism, possibly, but not of interpretation-unless
idea is defined in a very special sense, one which connects it with structure
and so on. In any other sense, literary merit has no essential relation to
ideational content per se.
L I cannot accept that, but I begin to see that the differences between
us are greater than I had supposed.
Notes, Reports, and Correspondence
RAYMOND WILLIAMS AND SF. The most recent book by Raymond Williams,
The Country and the City (US: Oxford, 1973, 335p; also UK: Chatto &
Windus, perhaps with different pagination), is a mammoth survey of these
complementary themes and locations in English literature, with all their con-
notations. Whatever one's proximity to or distance from Dr. Williams's clearly
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NOTES,
REPORTS, AND CORRESPONDENCE 217
enunciated and superbly sustained viewpoint, it is one of those studies
that will henceforth be a must for every student of English literature and
of the country vs. city theme in human history. For the critic of SF, it
has a particular twofold relevance. First, it shows the strengths of a
methodology which does not sunder literature from history and present day
life: Williams's constant procedure is to compare the images, biasses, sym-
bolical systems, ideologies and value-judgments induced in the readers by a
body of literature with the total documentation of the historical reality of
its age, as known from other records. In other words, even such a genre
as Pastoral is not simply a "secondary world" but a structure whose ele-
ments have been obtained by careful selections from historical reality and
which presents an idealized, elegiac, etc., version of certain aspects and val-
ues from such a historical reality. This approach could be a very useful
corrective especially for studies of SF, which often generates the optical
illusion of dealing with hermetically closed worlds of its own as a pure game,
without relevance to important facets of our common and increasingly in-
escapable historical reality.
Second, Dr. Williams-a man with an exquisitely English feeling for roots
and traditions who is yet open to winds of change-deals directly with SF
in some places. His comment on Thomas More-whom I think he misreads as
the ideologist of an "upper peasantry," equally inimical to the capitalists
and to the poor-is among the least satisfying pages of the book. But he is
illuminating on Blake's "new way of seeing the human and social order"
(ppl48-50-surely it's time that we claimed for Blake an SF relevance as great
as More's); he has written what are, so far as I know, the best pages on
Richard Jeffries, putting into perspective for us his seminal After London,
the first "post-catastrophe" story in SF (ppl91-196); and at the end of the
book, he has a chapter on "The City and the Future" (pp272-278), in which
he proceeds from Morris and Wells not only to Forster, Huxley and Orwell,
but also to Campbell, Aldiss, Clarke, Blish, and Damon Knight's anthology
Cities of Wonder. Though Dr. Williams has here only touched on some of the
most prominent aspects of urban SF, his chapter is a useful capsule
presentation of such aspects, and a welcome acknowledgement from one of
the most exciting scholars and critics of the last 20 years that a survey of
any major national tradition of modern literature from the Renaissance to
our day cannot be written without taking SF into account. -DS.
DAVID K ETTERER ON SF AS APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE. The title of David
Ketterer's book-New Worlds for Old: The Apocalyptic Imagination, Science
Fiction, and American Literature (Anchor/Doubleday, paperback $2.95; Ind-
iana University Press, hardback $10.95; 1974; same pagination)-incorporates
an effective double meaning. In the more literal sense it refers to those
writers (both mainstream and SF) who exemplify the "apocalyptic" mode of
literature, meaning that literature which involves a symbolic transformation
of our normal, lived reality-or Old Worlds-into visionary New Worlds:
"Apocalyptic literature is concerned with the creation of other worlds which
exist, on the literal level, in a credible relationship with the 'real' world,
thereby causing a metaphorical destruction of that 'real' world in the reader's
head" (p13; author's italics). At the same time the title anticipates the author's
unique reading of science fiction vis-a-vis the traditions of mainstream Amer-
ican fiction, which constitutes a New World literature with its own peculiar
emphasis on visionary and prophetic trends of thought.
So apart from explications of individual works, this book offers a new
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218 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
theory and a new comparative method which deliberately abandons idea-
oriented criticism that looks to a Verne or van Vogt as typical or even
exemplary authors (see pp x and 182). The aesthetic component in literature
and evaluative criticism remain important to Ketterer (ppl25 and 260),
and throughout he is concerned with the texture of language and images
beyond one-dimensional plots, themes, and ideas. Representative image-
studies are those of arabesques in Poe, sexual innuendo in Lem's Solaris, and
spirals in Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan.
Another of Ketterer's innovations consists in developing an entire new
critical framework around the religious heritage of America. The Biblical,
Prophetic, and Millenial elements in New World thought are as influential
for science fiction as the materialistic, pragmatic, empirical, and scientific
side of American experience. This in turn leads Ketterer to countenance a
recent trend that regards SF as a "new mythology" on the one hand and as a
secular displacement of the religious consciousness on the other (see pp
76 and 333 respectively.).
Part One begins with a theoretical justification of the term "apocalypse,"
followed by a trial comparison between William Blake's America, A Prophecy
and Norman Mailer's Of a Fire on the Moon. Although St. John's Book of
Revelations plays some role in the scheme of interpretation because it en-
visions man and his world transformed, yet Ketterer's definition is more de-
pendent upon recent critics Northrop Frye (Anatomy of Criticism, empha-
sizing apocalypse as a positive, heavenly vision), Ihab Hassan (The Literature
of Silence, stressing the negative, chaotic aspect of apocalypse), Frank
Kermode (The Sense of an Ending, explicating the temporal rhythms of the
apocalyptic process), and R.W.B. Lewis' seminal essay, "Days of Wrath and
Laughter," in Trials of the Word.
Part Two encompasses a substantial reassessment of the writings of Ed-
gar Allan Poe as "marginally science fiction," including Poe's cosmology in
Eureka, followed by a major essay on Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of
Darkness in light of Northrop Frye's correlation between the ironic mode of
literature and the archetypal mythos of winter: "Le Guin's book effects a
philosophical apocalypse...by presenting a radically different image of man,
by pointing to the existence of a previously unsuspected outside manipulator,
and...by radically altering man's vision of human reality" (p81). Ketterer then
turns to utopian and dystopian narratives insofar as they impinge on his
theme of satirical, philosophical, or visionary transformations of present
realities. Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward is used to explore the thesis
that utopian fiction necessarily fails to present a credible alternate reality
and must degenerate into fantasy, a non-credible alternate reality, or in the
role of devil's advocate, suggests itself as, in fact, a dystopia: "While science-
fictional dystopias abound, there are no genuinely science-fiction utopias"
(p118). Conversely, Theodore Sturgeon's Venus Plus X, Jack London's
The Iron Heel, Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz, and Robert
Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are all regarded as successful, if
quite distinctive, literary formulations of the actual transformation of reality.
Part Three constitutes over one half of the book, and is given over to what
the author considers the most "philosophical" of apocalypses-the present
world viewed in other terms, with a subsidiary issue in the redefinition of
man himself. The two major works are Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland
("Confrontation with mysterious phenomena leads Brown to distinguish be-
tween aspects of experience that can be explained with reference to either
internal or external factors and between those aspects of experience that
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NOTES, REPORTS, AND CORRESPONDENCE 219
cannot presently be explained with reference to internal or external factors"
[p179]) and Stanislaw Lem's Solaris ("A clear line between man and reality...
is hard to draw. We can't finally know to what extent any interpretation of
reality, however far out, is preferable to man's phenomenological or anth-
ropomorphic limitations" [p203; cf pp 185, 187, 202]). To the extent that
Ketterer interprets Lem in terms of a phenomenology of knowledge, Solaris
is an especially significant instance of science fiction as an epistemological
literature: e.g., "science fiction is not primarily valuable as prediction; rather,
it teaches an adaptability and elasticity of mind in the face of change" (p25).
Ketterer shifts naturally enough to phenomenological universes and their
limitations. Works on time-travel for close analysis include Mark Twain's
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (the revelation is that "the
sixth century does not displace the nineteenth century in any real sense,
nor does the nineteenth century displace the sixth century, because there is
no essential difference between them" [p225; cf p213]) and John Boyd's The
Last Starship from Earth. Subsequent chapters deal with the parallel-world
theme in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle and two instances
of the "new wave" style in Brian Aldiss' Report on Probability A and Bare-
foot in the Head ("Stone Age sensibility and mental equipment.. .cause us to
retread circular patterns of behavior and thus avoid a genuine confrontation
with the new" [p258]). The final section of the book then deals with the apoca-
lyptic implications of the alien manipulator theme, particularly in two sub-
stantive interpretations of Herman Melville's The Confidence Man, which
points to "the unreliability of experience as a guide to truth" (p286), and
Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan, a work of visionary and religious nature
(p332) and the only work for which Ketterer explicates elements derived
from Graeco-Roman mythology.
I have mentioned only those novels that Ketterer explicates definitively.
A number of other authors and their works come in for briefer, but no less
interesting, consideration. The book is well indexed, and although there is no
bibliography the footnotes are more than an adequate guide to Ketterer's
authorities (especially on mainstream American literature) and to further
reading. Finally, I can draw no more reasonable generalization about this
exciting new book than that it represents an apocalyptic transformation of
science-fiction criticism, too. I believe this work will generate anew the con-
troversy over the uniqueness and significance of science fiction, the phil-
osophical implications of change, and the role of the religious vision in a
secular age. -S. C. FREDERICKS.
A REACTION TO SFS #2. It seems to me a mistake to treat Franz Rottensteiner
as a serious critic or to respond to him more elaborately than by pointing out
his errors, e.g., "that no American or English author has written a story
that would endorse a Marxist view of change, or at least contain an intel-
ligent discussion of it." Mack Reynolds, in a long series of stories published
in Analog in the sixties, has done just what is demanded in the second
clause. Rottensteiner also says "the disinterested observer [Are his initials
F.R.?] will find a total innocence of SF writers as far as real problems and
likely developments of the future are concerned." Again, this is just plain
wrong-see recent work by Edward Bryant, Richard E. Peck, Dave Skal,
Charles Platt, and Kate Wilhelm.
I was disappointed in the discussions of Aldiss, Heinlein, and Farmer.
Jameson's article is interesting, but the jargon in it is awful-worse than
anything in SF. I don't find anything to quarrel with in Rottensteiner's
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220 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
essay on Farmer, but it doesn't take much critical intelligence to notice that
a lot of Farmer's work is crude, etc. What would be really interesting, and
much more difficult, would be to try to find out why these crude efforts
are so popular. That could not be done in a vacuum-the critic would have
to examine published responses to the work, talk to readers, perhaps even
interview the author. I left a similar job undone when I wrote my essay on
van Vogt in the forties. Van Vogt has just revealed, for the first time as far
as I know, that during this period he made a practice of dreaming about
his stories and waking himself up every ninety minutes to take notes, This ex-
plains a good deal about the stories, and suggests that it is really useless to
attack them by conventional standards. If the stories have a dream con-
sistency which affects readers powerfully, it is probably irrelevant that
they lack ordinary consistency.
Thus I am bothered by what seems to me a tendency to treat SF stories
as if they were another kind of essay-as if only the content mattered. When
this is done, everything that is alive in the story slips through the critic's
fingers. In fact, in a lot of cases it's a mistake even to take the content as
primary-what looks like content may be something the author whipped up
on the spur of the moment to fill a hole in the story. It may be what Hitchcock
calls a McGuffin-some gadget or plot device that has to be there or the
machinery wouldn't work, but it doesn't matter at all which gadget or
device it is. This is the case in the Asimov story, "Little Lost Robot,"
cited by Plank on page 75. The parallels between robots and black slaves
are there quite explicitly, but are there purely as a plot device in a formal
puzzle story. -DAMON KNIGHT.
BRETNOR RETURNS. Twenty years after editing Modern Science Fiction: Its
Meaning and Its Future, Reginald Bretnor has organized and edited a new
collection, Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow (Harper & Row, $8.95).
The essays are original with this book and, although written to fill Bretnor's
own table of contents, highly eclectic; generally, they may be said to con-
gratulate SF as being science, prophecy, and mythology rolled into one, al-
though several authors expressed doubts that SF was fulfilling its potential
in all these areas.
Like many of his contributors, Bretnor is in favor of "hard-core" SF:
"Science fiction cannot and must not be divorced from science." His own
essay is both provocative and irritating, since it includes an unnecessarily
large number of attacks on everything in sight, especially Marxists, Freud-
ians, the counter-culture, the bad pay of SF writers, and the supposedly good
pay of teachers of SF courses. Fortunately, this collection also includes val-
uable essays dealing with the last two, the economics of SF publishing (Fred-
erik Pohl) and the problems of SF teachers (Jack Williamson).
Two "hard-core" essays are equally solid: Poul Anderson demonstrates
how to calculate the orbits and gravity of imaginary planets, and Hal Clement
discusses the anatomy of extraterrestrial beings. Bretnor and other hard-
science advocates in this collection consistently invoke C.P. Snow's
"two cultures," finding that SF is significant chiefly because it single-
handedly and heroically bridges the gap. James Gunn, however, suggests
that the two-culture concept is detrimental to SF, keeping it in a ghetto
separated from "mainstream" fiction. He sees both of these divisions fading
away, to the benefit of SF.
To Bretnor's credit, he unflinchingly brings in the opposition to science
as well. Alexei and Cory Panshin flatly state that "modern SF is fantasy."
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NOTES, REPORTS, AND CORRESPONDENCE 221
While Ben Bova argues (not very convincingly) that SF has become a "mod-
ern mythology" by interpreting science for mankind, the Panshins argue that
SF can provide this mythologic power only by developing a "sensitive sym-
bolic vocabulary that can be generally understood and that is capable of
representing all aspects of the unconscious." For them, the promise of SF
lies not in its mimetic nature but in its ability to provide a new "World
Beyond the Hill."
All of these essayists hope to see SF evolve into even more powerful
and imaginative forms, although they disagree as to whether this can be done
by prophesying significant scientific futures, creating new worlds of fantasy,
studying mainstream fiction for stylistic innovations, or providing deeper
characterization (Anne McCaffrey, Gordon R. Dickson). Noting that
"power rests in getting masses of people to accept your interpretation
of events," Frank Herbert states this most clearly; Brave New World and
1984 are touchstones of modern SF not because they predict the future,
create memorable characters, use mainstream style, or evoke the uncon-
scious, but because they help define the way in which we look at the world.
-CHARLES NICOL.
H.G. WELLS AND EARLIER SF. There are some interesting parallels to Wells's
First Men in the Moon in a book published in London in 1864: The History
of A Voyage to the Moon, With an Account of the Adventurers' Subsequent
Discoveries: An Exhumed Narrative Supposed to Have Been Ejected From a
Lunar Volcano. First, the main narrative is signed by and deals with two
protagonists. One, Stephen Howard, the first-person narrator, is a man of
literary propensities and the financier of the enterprise. The other, Carl
Geister, is partly a scientist-dreamer and partly an explorer and man of
action. The Bedford-Cavor opposition in Wells is not too dissimilar, down
to the foreign sounding name of Cavor. Second, Geister and Howard find a
"mineral-repellent" mixture of clays which they use to coat their space-
vehicle. The repellent power is counteracted by iron shields that can be
lowered into place to stop the repulsion. This would make sense of Cavor's
sphere, which as described would, it seems, immediately fly off from any
center of gravitational attraction regardless of Wells's "shutters." Third,
Geister sets up a test to see whether the vegetation enclosed in their flying-
house-to-be would supply enough oxygen. Though this test is not as clear a
parallel as the others, it does correspond compositionally to Cavor's (unin-
tentional) test which raises the roof of the house while proving the efficacy
of Cavorite. Finally, when Howard and Geister are preparing to send their
manuscript to Earth (by sealing it in a metal ball and putting the ball
into a volcano that is about to erupt), they are beset by doubts that if they
communicate their "repellante" recipe, "the jackals of all great discoveries...
the sneaking traitor...the idle, unprincipled offspring of Earth's rank society-
the adventurers par excellence" (pp280-81) would invade the Moon. There-
fore they leave the key elements of their mixture undescribed. All this, if
used by Wells at all, was obviously refashioned very thoroughly, but it may
still have given him some stimulus for Cavor's final message.
This is a rather indifferently written book, worth no more than a foot-
note even in the most generous history of SF, and I do not think much of
influence-hunting as such, unless the different uses of the same motif are
stressed as much as the motifs continuation. The present book uses More and
Kepler, I think, and possibly also Francis Godwin and Poe's "Hans Pfaall,"
yet it does not approach their interest. But it is rather curious to note how
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222 SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES
evidence is accumulating for Wells's having had a much more thorough
knowledge of the whole SF tradition, including obscure sub-literary works,
than students of his SF have so far noted. We have, of course, known of
his antecedents in Swift, Mary Shelley, Kepler, and Plato, because he told us
of them-as he also told us of Blake, Percy Shelley, Hawthorne, Bellamy, and
Morris-but we have not taken this seriously enough.
Professor I.F. Clarke has reminded us how The War of the Worlds could
and should be read-as a culmination of the "future war" species. Sam
Moskowitz has pointed to E.P. Mitchell's "The Crystal Man" as a stimulus
for The Invisible Man. I would add not only The History of a Voyage to the
Moon but also Greg's Across the Zodiac (itself possibly picking up the re-
pulsion force from the former book) as a stimulus for both The Time Machine
(Greg's Eveena, the tiny child-bride, is, as the name indicates, a proto-
type of Weena, up to the prominent flower-plucking episode; and the se-
quence of Martian social formations may have helped to suggest the history
of the Eloi) and The First Men in the Moon (the windows of Greg's space-
craft act as lenses, and there is an interview with the superior king of
Mars, who wants to know about the new energy and its warlike potentials).
The War in the Air seems to me indebted to George Griffith, and the future
orientation of eroticism at the end of The World Set Free to Tarde's Fragment
d'une histoire future (1896; tr 1905 as Underground Man) to which Wells
wrote a revealing preface. Finally, Wells was clearly in a much more intimate
love-hate relationship to Verne than has so far been allowed for. To give just
one example, A Journey to the Center of the Earth abounds with passages
pointing to the underground worlds of both The Time Machine and The
First Men in the Moon, which look more and more like twin works. After a
rereading of Verne's opus, I for one am convinced that the galling references
to "the English Verne" prompted Wells in a number of his best SF works to
go Verne one better: e.g., Cavorite versus the Moon cannon, "In the Abyss"
versus Nemo's underwater visits.
Thus a meticulous reading of 19th-century (and perhaps earlier) "sub-
literary" SF in Britain, France (e.g., Flammarion), and the USA (possibly
even dime-novels) would yield some good studies and Ph.D. theses on
Wells's antecedents. This would not at all detract from his stature. Indeed,
it would enable us by comparison to fully iinderstand that Wells's sig-
nificance, of epoch-making proportions in SF, is precisely in fusing and raising
to a higher literary and philosophical level almost all the motifs and strands
of anticipatory, utopian, and adventure-story SF between Swift and him-
self. -DS.
AN INDEX TO A:MERICAN MASS -MARKET PAPERBACKS. I can remember the ex-
citement I felt in 1939, first when reading of plans for Pocket Books, and
later when a display rack with the first ten or fifteen titles appeared at a local
newsstand: henceforth I would be able to buy books for 25? rather than
75? (the price of "popular copyrights") or 95? (the price of Modern Library
books)-for me, a difference great enough to make the buying of books
something it had never been before, a comparatively casual matter. Pocket
Books, Inc., had the field to itself for a year or so, but Avon was established
in 1941, the New American Library (as the US branch of Penguin Books)
in 1942, Dell and Popular in 1943, and Bantam in 1945. Although Donald
Wollheim's anthology, The Pocket Book of Science Fiction, appeared as early
as 1943, SF was virtually unrepresented in the paperbacks until the 1950s.
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NOTES, REPORTS, AND CORRESPONDENCE 223
The first Heinlein appeared in 1951, the first van Vogt in 1952, and the first
Asimov in 1953, which was also the year in which Ballantine launched its
distinguished line with The Space Merchants, and perhaps the year in which
Ace began its exercise in quantity. Such facts can be discovered by perusing
R. Reginald and M.R. Burgess, Cumulative Paperback Index 1939-1959: A
Comprehensive Bibliographic Guide to 14,000 Mass-Market Paperback Books
of 33 Publishers Issued under 69 Imprints (Detroit: Gale Research Company,
1973, $24.00). The second volume, covering the 1960s, is planned for 1977.
-RDM.
A SPECIALSF ISSUE. The Fall 1973 issue of Studies in the Literary Imagi-
nation (Department of English, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Ga. 30303)
contains articles by W. Warren Wagar on Wells, Peter Wolfe on Skinner's
Walden Two, Robert 0. Evans on Anthony Burgess, David Skilton on Trol-
lope's The Fixed Period, Howard Fink on Orwell, Robert M. Philmus on
Swift and Orwell, David Ketterer on "utopian fantasy," Sylvia E. Bowman on
utopian views of man and the machine, and Darko Suvin on utopias as a
literary genre-all in all, a very satisfactory collection. No price is given for
the issue: "Copies will be sent to selected institutions, libraries, and indi-
viduals upon request," whatever that means. -RDM.
SOME CONTEMPORARY MATERIALON FRANKENSTEIN, AND A NEW SF HISTORY
FROM FRANCE An 1818 review of Frankenstein, from Blackwood's, and an
1838 parody, "The New Frankenstein," from Fraser's, together with two
pictorial illustrations from the 1831 edition, ascribed to Mary Shelley her-
self on the basis of what is perhaps a misinterpretation of the title page,
appear in Paradox #9 (Bruce Robbins, PO Box 396, Station B. Montreal 110,
$1.50). Mr. Robbins, a part-time dealer specializing in European material
on SF, advises us of the publication of Histoire de la Science Fiction Moderne
by Jacques Sadoul (Paris 1973), "a year-by-year history of 20th-century SF
in the English- and French-speaking worlds," with "60 slick pages of book
covers, magazine covers, photos, fanzine covers, etc." Write to Mr. Robbins
for price and other details on this and other foreign-language works on SF.
-RDM.
A CORRECTION. In the note entitled "An Award for Lem" (SFS 1:139), the
characterizations of the two books were interchanged: His Master's
Voice is an SF novel: Hard Vacuum is a collection of reviews of non-
existent SF books. -RDM (with apologies to DS).
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FMOtDATION
THE REVIEW OFSCIENCE FICTION
Subscriptions for this quarterly journal are available from the
Administrator, The Science Fiction Foundation, North East
London Polytechnic, Longbridge Road, Dagenham, Essex,
RM8 2AS, England.
One year's subscription: United Kingdom ?2.00; U.S.A. surface mail
56. 00; U.S.A. air mail 510. 00; Canada surface mail 56. 00; Canada air
mail 510.00; Elsewhere surface mail?2.30 if paying in sterling, local
equivalent of ?2.70 if paying in local currency. Air mail rates by re-
quest for the rest of the world.
Foundation is in A5 format, usually over 100 pages per issue.
Foundation 3: Articles by John Brunner, A.E. Van Vogt, David Ket-
terer, Peter Nicholls. Story by James Tiptree Jr. Subjects covered
include The Demolition of SFPigeon Holes, Lem's Solaris, J.C.
Ballard.
Foundation 4: Articles by L. Sprague de Camp, Ursula Le Guin, John
Sladek, Brian W. Aldiss, Tom Shippey, Angus Taylor, David Pringle.
Subjects covered include SFand the Idea of History, Philip K. Dick,
J.G. Ballard, the film of Solaris, Fossil Astronauts.
Foundation 5: (due out December 1973.) Articles by Poul Anderson,
Peter Nicholls, Ian Watson, David Ketterer. Reviews by David
Masson, Brian W. Aldiss, Christopher Priest, John Brunner, Brian
Stableford, Philip Strick. Subjects covered include The Great
Tradition of Proto Science Fiction, Rogue Moon, Sf
-
Entertain-
ment or Instruction.
Foundation 6: (due out March 1974.) Special Brian Aldiss and S.R.
Delany issue. Including articles on the work of both writers, and a
piece by Delany himself. Contributors include Mark Adlard, Doug
Barbour, G'oran Bengtson. Also Robert S. Chapman on SFand
and Social Prejudice in the U.S.A. in the 1950s.
Foundation is a journal of comment and criticism, carrying
many book and film reviews. It seeks to mediate between aca-
demic and popular views of science fiction. It is, we hope,
scrupulous without being dry, entertaining without condes-
cension.
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