SOL Rising

Number 1, January 1987


Welcome To Sol Rising
Interview—Robert Hadji: Origin of the Genre
Fifty Words or less
Reviews
- Film
- Fiction
- Non-fiction

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Welcome To Sol Rising

Welcome to Sol Rising the quarterly newsletter of the Spaced Out Library. For those of you making the acquaintance of Spaced Out for the first time, the library was founded in 1976. Judith Merril donated her collection as the basis for a science fiction collection in the Toronto Public Library and TPL agreed to maintain and add to the collection. The main collection of some 16,000 books and 13,500 periodical issues is a non-circulating reference collection. Approximately 7,000 paperbacks are available in the circulating collection, making most science fiction and fantasy currently in print available to the public on a take-home basis.

 

In Sol Rising we hope to carry articles, reviews and news of interest to the Canadian SF community in general and the Friends of the Spaced Out Library in particular. The Friends of the Spaced Out Library is a group which has supported Spaced Out in a variety of ways over the years. We are always looking for new members, and we urge those of you who are reading this and are not yet members to show your support of North America's only public science fiction library by becoming a member of The Friends of the Spaced Out Library.

 

This issue contains the first half of an interview with Robert Hadji, a short article by John Robert Columbo as well as movie and book reviews. Bob Hadji is a well known Toronto book collector and editor of the dark fantasy magazine Borderland. John Robert Columbo, Canada's master-gatherer, is too well-known to need further introduction. Jane Starr is a librarian employed at Alberta's Dept. of Agriculture Library. Michael Skeet is a free-lance writer and syndicated film critic at the CBC. John Dunham works at the Spaced Out Library.

 

In the next issue we will add as a regular feature a listing of science fiction and fantasy written by Canadians. We will print the second half of the interview with Robert Hadji and our Staff Selection: SOL's best of 1986. All of the regular features will be present.

 

This issue of Sol Rising is brought to you courtesy of the Toronto Public Library. We welcome your comments. Please write us at:

 

The Spaced Out Library

40 St. George Street

Toronto, Ontario

M5S 2E4

 

Lorna Toolis

Collection Head

Spaced Out Library

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Robert Hadji: Origin of the Genre

Edited transcript of an Interview With Robert Hadji, 24 July, 1986 The interview was conducted by Lorna Toolis, Head of the Spaced Out Library. The transcript was prepared by Michael Skeet. The interview was edited and corrected by Robert Hadji.

 

TOOLIS: You have suggested that there was a time after which the fantastic was no longer accepted as valid, as playing any part in the literary field, and that this took place around the turn of the century?

 

HADJI: lt's certainly true that In the 19th century the biases had not become set and the generic divisions hadn't really developed except in certain prototypes of popular fiction—

 

TOOLIS: Penny Dreadfuls?

 

HADJI: Yes, Penny Dreadfuls, Dime Novels; before that, even, the Shilling Shockers at the beginning of the 19th century. Products of mass literacy, aimed at common people having spare pennies and wanting to read for pleasure, for entertainment—not just for instruction, which is really what people read for in the 18th century and earlier. If they could afford books. I guess the Gothics are the first true form of popular fiction as we know it, books that were simply read to pass the time—of course the serious-minded considered them 'timewasters,' mere romanticizing. At that time, literature was not thought of as being simply fiction; literature was anything in print, the world of letters; and real literature was philosophy, theology , history, the sciences—

 

TOOLIS: Once again, all instructional.

 

HADJI: Yes, that's right, scholarly. That was real literature. Popular literature was fiction of any kind: romances, sentimental novels, things like that. This was considered, well, common. Eventually, of course, literature emerged in the modern sense, during the 19th century, and critics to explain it, justify it—

 

TOOLIS: Or, more often, explain it away.

 

HADJI: That's really a late Victorian phenomenon, critics Like Gosse establishing the coda of literature as we understand it. And that's also where you also find the roots of genre distinctions. Although it's interesting—whereas the literary arbiters of the 20th century have been almost unanimously been hostile to genre fiction, be it fantasy, mystery, what have you—that wasn't true in the late 19th century. For example, Andrew Lang was a very influential critic in his time. The man collaborated with Rider Haggard on a fantasy, The World's Desire; he loved adventure fiction, fantastic romances, things like that. He delighted in such books. On the other hand he loathed Dostoevsky and Henry James, capital-L literature. As an illustration of changing attitudes, Edmund Wilson is the best example of a modern critic who was unusually savage to genre in all forms. He devoted major essays to complete and unqualified repudiations of fantasy, horror and mysteries. He considered them unworthy of serious consideration by a literate reader. Of course, the Victorians had a vastly different attitude toward supernatural fiction than we do because they were genuinely interested in the supernatural. They believed a great many things we don't believe in any longer: the existence of a moral and spiritual order. Dickens was not only keenly interested in establishing the form of the ghost story, he was also keenly interested in the supernatural itself, in…

 

TOOLIS: Ectoplasm?

 

HADJI: Yes, that's right. He didn't believe in spiritualism per se, but he was definitely fascinated with spiritual forces.

 

TOOLIS: [Arthur Conan] Doyle as well, I think.

 

HADJI: Yes, very much so. That was the key: when you read Victorian supernatural fiction now, it's important to remember that they had an assurance, a comprehensive world-view in which the supernatural was a continuation of this plane, psychically and morally: it not only underlies the occult romances and the ghost stories, but also the 'lost race' adventures and the utopian novels as well. And that began to break down, in the late 1880's, as 'decadence,' asserted itself in the English arts in a pronounced form. The European influence of things like, well, Huysman's A Rebours, which was a direct inspiration for Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Yellow Book became evident. It was very aesthetic, very amoral and morbid. Wilde in turn became very influential on continental Decadents and Symbolists during the '90s. These developments may have been symptoms rather than causes, though. A malaise ran deep beneath the assurance. But, just in terms of literary excellence, some of the fantasy produced in that period is of as high a quality as you're ever going to discover, both prose and poetry. The decadents were a very influential literary movement in their time—we're talking about people on the order of Baudelaire, Villiers De L'Isle-Adam, Huysmans not to mention their English-language counterparts, people like Swinburne, Yeats, and Machen. These were major literary figures, and all keenly interested in the fantastic. This is when many of the familiar symbols such as 'the fatal woman.' as well as the vocabulary and sensibilities we associate with Dark Fantasy, were developed and codified by the Decadents and the Symbolists.

 

And part of the reaction against the genre within the literary community is tied into the collapse of that movement, of that I'm firmly convinced. (I should mention, before I get off the subject—in America, we also find a Symbolist influence. Of course, Poe himself had heavily influenced the Decadents, and this legacy returned to America through writers like Robert W. Chambers, Ralph Adams Cram and W.C. Morrow, all of whom spent time in bohemian Paris in the 1890s, all of whom were deeply affected by the French culture of the time. There was a later, abortive decadent revival in the 1920's as well.)

 

Getting back to the breakdown of the Symbolist movement, this occurred in the late 1890s. There were many forces at work. In England, the Wilde scandal was the crisis, followed by a moral backlash. In France, it was probably a combination of the Dreyfus case—the Symbolists were basically apolitical; and the Dreyfus case forced them to address issues, to make certain choices. As a result they rifted along political lines, either to the Left or the Right. A great many of them actually went to the Right. Being attached to anachronisms, despising the common man and materialism, they discovered they could become conservative with surprising ease, once faced with that option. Also, there was a strong reaction within society against decadence as being diseased—you know, like they used to say about the Beats in the 1950s—'sick, sick, sick,' (they were, in fact, another avant-garde, a 'decadent' movement.) Well, this has always been something endemic to the avant-garde, a streak of morbidity; it asserts itself again and again. You find it in the Decadents; you find it again in the Avant-Garde—Jarry, and Apollinaire, a certain insolent depravity their work—you find it again in the Surrealists, in their fascination with de Sade—and we're back to the Beats again—William Burroughs, for example, now there's a lot of morbidity there, serious morbidity—It's there, you don't have to look very hard for it. There was a reaction against that, back at the turn of the century. An opposition had always been there, of course; the Naturalists, Zola and such had been rising through the 19th century, as a parallel movement. You know, the classic literary opposition—a vision of the world as 'dream', versus the representation of reality as it is, or at least trying to recreate in literature a reflection, a verbal commentary on what reality is; enhanced, perhaps more profound, more insightful—but definitely not a rejection of reality. Some basic assumptions of modern fantasy are, admittedly, rooted in the Decadents and Symbolists, particularly the primacy of the 'dream-vision' over reality, the perception of reality as being sordid, corrupt. Now, of course, the Naturalists and their realist successors took very much the opposite view; they saw the Decadents themselves as spoiled children. Their vision was corrupt, their public conduct confirmed this. There's a moral dimension that emerged in this conflict, and this was an area in which the Symbolists were open to criticism, because, frankly, as Poe had been before them, they were essentially amoral—not necessarily immoral, but amoral—they weren't concerned with moral questions in their work, to any great degree. They were concerned with sensation, with sonority, the richness of language, these were things that very much interested them. Good and evil were like words, jewelled toys, with which these clever men played. Art as play, life as play, life as art, this they took seriously. You'll find a reflection of this attitude in Lovecraft, too.

 

But, returning to the subject of our discussion, another factor to consider is the accompanying rise and fall of occultism as a cultural force during the fin-de-siecle.

 

TOOLIS: Do you want to pursue that a little bit?

 

HADJI: As I believe I mentioned earlier, in the 19th century, the supernatural was taken more seriously, and the late-19th century, in fact, saw a 'magical revival,' the proliferation of many occult societies in Europe and England. Around the turn of the century however, most of these imploded—they collapsed in on themselves, feuding and bickering. Occultists are prone to this.

 

TOOLIS: Was this the heyday of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, for instance?*

 

HADJI: That's right. This definitely parallels the development of fantastic literature during that period feeding the inspiration, and its collapse was accompanied by a deterioration of the fantastic element In literature; as it lost the last of its spiritual core, its purpose and ambitions diminished—but when it actually narrowed into genre; 'descended into' is condescending—but when it narrowed into genre, it was both internal and external pressures that brought that about. There were external commercial pressures, of course: the rise of the pulp magazines to supplant the glossy, illustrated magazines of the 1890's. which were becoming too expensive to produce, after about 1910. And of course, pulps—being much cheaper—could reach a much wider audience of readers. A number of them were probably semi-literate, but literate enough to know they liked a good read. And a good scare.

 

TOOLIS: What you're saying here is that the field connived in its own separation, with the pulps definitely catering to the lowest common denominator?

 

HADJI: Well, the market began to shape the medium. As the pulps emerged, a sense of genre developed from that, along with the embryonic forms of what we now call 'fandom'; a subculture specifically devoted to fantastic literature began to emerge through that period of the 'teens and '20s. H.P. Lovecraft was part of that formative process.

 

TOOLIS: And because of the communication channel the magazines formed, it became a sort of chicken-and-egg situation?

 

HADJI: Yes, certainly in America; the readers began to network among one another in the letter columns and the amateur press associations material. Before that—well, the books always had a small devoted readership, not very visible—the fantastic is not to everyone's taste.

 

TOOLIS: In the previous century, you have people like William Morris, and Edison ‑

 

HADJI: Yes, and the presence of fantasy in the literary mainstream continued well into the '20s. The '20s, were the last great period in which fantasy retained any real literary credibility. And it's interesting that the fantasy produced at that time—

 

TOOLIS: Give us some examples.

 

HADJI: Well, James Branch Cabell is a very good example from that period. And, of course, he had his own acolytes and imitators: Donald Corley, Paul Jordan-Smith, people like that; Heywood Broun, men of letters. Also, there were one-offs, like Elinor Wylie's The Venetian Glass Nephew, a lovely book. That's just in America, of course. In England, you had writers like E.R. Eddison, Kenneth Morris, Leslie Barringer and individual works like Lolly Willowe by Sylvia Townsend Warner, and Lud In The Mist, by Hope Mirrlees. As well, Dunsany's novels were written in the 20's, some of his best work. The thing that ties all of these together—although the Cabellian fantasies have unique features—is that these are very literate, sophisticated fantasies. These are very adult fantasies, in every sense of the word, and they were taken quite seriously by the literary establishment of the time, even the playfulness that was evident in these works. It was, in a sense, the twilight of fantasy as a part of modern literature, for some time, because, of course, it did not begin to recover any reputation until the '60s, and then it was a long, hard struggle back to literary respectability. A new dawning, as it were.

 

To be continued...

 

*English occult society founded by McGregor Mathews and Wynn Westcott in 1888; attempted a synthesis of Renaissance and later magical systems with Kabbala. Members included W.B. Yeats and Aleister Crowley. This group was the source of most modern occult practices.

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Fifty Words or less

by John Robert Columbo

Lately I have been collecting "miniatures," my term for ultra-brief literary compositions. These miniatures are so short that none of them exceeds 50 words in length! A "short story" is under 7,500 words, according to the Nebula Awards classification, and the "short short story" runs about 1,500 words. So, the short story and the short short story are wordy forms compared to the miniscule ones I collect. I have about 75 of these 50-word miniatures on file for use in a future anthology. But I am always on the lookout for more of them.

 

Science fiction is full of miniatures. In fact, the most celebrated of all miniature stories was written by an SF author, Fredric Brown. (Even his first name is a short form—Fredric rather than the more customary Frederic or Fredericki) Brown's well-known miniature, called "Knock," was originally published in 1948. It runs like this:

 

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door ....

 

Although "Knock" is only 17 words in length, one SF fan felt that it was too wordy, so he (or she) knocked off a single letter, changing the word "knock" (five letters) to "lock" (four letters)!

Among the innumerable feats performed by Forrest J. Ackerman was publishing a miniature by Ray Bradbury in his fanzine Shangri-La in the 1950s.

 

The story, called "The Year 2150 AD.," is one single sentence long. Here is Bradbury's "opus":

 

In the year 2150 A.D. instead of one sun there were two.

 

Bradbury's story is (in the words of editor Don Pfeil) "a 12-word tale of World War III."

 

The best miniatures may be fantastic tales written in prose, but there are also some good ones written in verse forms. One of my favourites is the limerick known as "Relativity," which was composed by A.H. Buller of Manitoba. Here it is:

 

There was a young lady named bright

Whose speed was far faster than light;

She set out one day

In a relative way

And returned on the previous night.

 

"Relativity" is the best-known "clean" limerick. It effectively dramatizes one of the paradoxes of faster-than-light travel, and it does so in only 29 words. (Prolix fantasy authors, please take note!)

 

Some excellent miniatures appear in detective fiction, especially in the Sherlock Holmes stories. In "The Sussex Vampire," the Master Detective addresses Dr. Watson and refers to a sailing vessel that figures in an earlier unpublished case:

 

It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

 

Those 23 words continue to intrigue Baker Street irregulars and Bootmakers. Indeed, the reference itself led Richard L. Boyer to write a novel-length Holmes pastiche called, Inevitably, The Giant Rat of Sumatra (1976).

 

Readers may help me to collect miniatures. I have the texts of two for which I lack sources. If anyone can identify the author of either of these intriguing miniatures, I would be grateful and would be willing to supply, the helpful reader with a copy of the anthology when it is published. The first miniature is only 9 words long:

 

"Whose funeral is that going by? Your own? Why?"

 

The second miniature, garrulous to comparison, is all of 30 words in length. Who wrote it?

 

"Thus do I conclude my account of how mankind vanished from the face of the Earth."

The reader turned the page and thought to himself: "So that's how it happened."

 

Miniatures are mines of metaphor and can teach concision. But let me conclude with a five-letter miniature of one sort or another, which goes like this:

 

THE END

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Reviews: Film

by Michael Skeet

The summer of 1986 has not been an especially good one for speculative and fantastic films. One monster hit, Aliens has dominated box offices, but that only serves to hide the fact that most other s/f films have done rather badly.

 

Not that most of them didn't deserve it. The summer of '86 has been notable mostly for the number of films that tried to prove what I have started calling The Lucas Theorem. Briefly stated, The Lucas Theorem posits that a successful film can be made in the s/f genre without the need to provide for those staples of story-telling, plot and character. All that's needed is a batch of flashy special effects—a monster or two; space battles, perhaps: something to pull the computer-generated wool over the eyes of the viewing public.

 

I would never suggest that George Lucas deliberately set out to make this kind of hollow, intellectually bankrupt kind of film. The Lucas Theorem gets its name from the fact that Lucas' vastly entertaining pastiche of the old Republic serials, Star Wars spawned a slough of successors most of which seem to have been made with this theorem in mind. Indeed, in the heat of an argument I have even been so emboldened as to suggest that Star Wars has been single-handedly responsible for the utter trivialization of the s/f genre.

 

Perhaps it's only fitting, then, that Lucas himself should be responsible for one of the bigger turkeys of this summer. Howard the Duck produced, directed and written by Lucas' friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, and with Lucas as executive producer, is literally built around special effects. The script is so taken with its centre-piece, Howard himself, that it gives his character only two dimensions. And at that, the fascination with this two-and-a-half-foot duck is wasted: Howard is a really bad special effect, simply a midget in a not-very-convincing duck suit. The second half of the movie is dominated by one of the most pointless and stupid chase scenes to appear on film in the last decade. And the story concentrates on its silly space monster plot to the almost total exclusion of the social satire that made the comic book original so funny. Humans Lea Thompson and Jeffrey Jones are wasted in a film that, in the end, is nothing more than Godzllla in feathers.

 

Another Lucas production was almost as disappointing, though I believe it did better box office and came within mere centimetres of being totally satisfying cinema. Jim Henson's muppet-movie Labyrinth is a beautiful film to look at and a technical marvel. It's just not a very good story. The problem this time is that there is so much technical dazzling going on that the amount of time left in the film for plot advancement and character development is so minimal as to be virtually non-existent. Labyrinth's wonderful design (courtesy of Brian Froud) and effects are wasted on a story that is to real fairy-tales what "processed cheese slices" are to real cheese. Perhaps Henson suffered a loss of nerve following the critical drubbing he got for The Dark Crystal that he was afraid to make Labyrinth a fantasy for adults, which is what it should have been.

 

I confess to being a little surprised by the box-office failure of two of this summer's s/f flicks. John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China is probably the most enjoyable, exciting film I've seen all year. This self-proclaimed mystical-action-adventure-comedy-kung-fu-monster-ghost-story provides the adult fantasy Labyrinth should have and didn't. Kurt Russell's performance out-Waynes John Wayne himself, and the non-stop narrative drive of the film literally pulls you into the fantasy and makes you accept it.

 

Tobe Hooper's remake of Invaders From Mars was so obviously an in-joke that perhaps its failure Isn't so astonishing—though the extent of that failure remains so. Invaders was painted with a broad brush—Karen Black, Larraine Newman, Louise Fletcher and James Karen all overact outrageously—but it was competently painted nevertheless. I still can't believe that nobody got the joke.

 

As far as I'm concerned, the whole essence of the summer of '86 is wrapped up in Short Circuit one of the summer's bigger successes. This John Badham film (emphasis on Bad) is another prime example of concentration on special effects to the detriment of everything else. The script was by a pair of Saturday-morning cartoon writers, and it showed in the characters, none of whom was in the slightest bit interesting, and one of whom (the pseudo-East Indian played by Fisher Stevens) was actively offensive. If you add bad science to bad characterization (and the so-called battlefield robot who is the central character wouldn't survive five minutes in West Edmonton Mall on Saturday, much less on a modern battlefield), with what are you left? Special effects, of course. Unbelievable as the robot is, he's the best thing in the movie, and director Badham knows it.

 

So Short Circuit which could have been a seriously amusing picture, devolves instead into a disconnected bunch of sight gags based on TV commercials. No plot. No characters. No believable science. Just bucks—lotsa bucks.

 

Once upon a time, speculation and fantasy was a reasonably honourable genre within the motion-picture business. Very little of that nature was in evidence in the summer of 1986.

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Reviews: Fiction

by Jane Starr

Killough, Lee. Spider Play. Popular Library, 1986. (Ouestar Science Fiction). Pbk. $4.50 ISBN 0-445-20273-4

 

Spider Play brings back Detective Joanna Brill and her (male) partner Mama Maxwell of the Shawnee County Police Dept. Crimes Against Persons Unit. They are assigned to investigate a possibly gang-related hearse-hijacking, and when the hearse is found the corpse inside it has been mutilated. It appears to be an attempt to disguise the removal of something smuggled inside the corpse from the space station where the man died. The detectives suspect murder and the trail leads to the space station itself and to something far bigger than smuggling or murder. This is basically a police procedural set in the not-too-distant future. The society is well-crafted and police technology hasn't replaced legwork or developed to the point where it becomes a deus ex machina. The language, or rather the slang in the book takes getting used to—the reader must figure out the meanings from the context in which the words appear. This impedes the story at first, but soon the reader simply accepts it. Those who have read the earlier book, The Doppleganger Gambit (Ballantine, 1979), probably won't even notice. Good characters and an absorbing plot with a slight twist at the end. Recommended.

 

 

Yarbro, Chelsea Quinn. A Baroque Fable. New York: Berkley Books, 1986. Pbk. $4.50 ISBN 0-425-09081-7

 

A witch turns a lovely maiden into a dragon. Humgudgeon IX, evil wizard and ruler of Addlepate, gives people who annoy him to his sidekick, Chumley, to "play" with. Sigmund Snafflebrain, absent-minded wizard of Alabaster-on-Gelasta, forgets his spells (and almost everything else). Dashing Prince Andre of A-on-G goes with his beautiful but bored sister, Princess Felicia, and a handsome crumpet baker named Leander, to kill the dragon in the Woebegone Wood. He ends up protecting the pathetic dragon (which falls in love with him) and capturing the witch, and they all head home (facing a few more perils on the way). Back at the palace Esmeralda (the dragon) is disenchanted and Leander conveniently turns out to be a prince, thus clearing the way for a double wedding. The witch reforms too, on discovering that the court astrologer is her long lost love (she was only bad out of disappointment). In fact, everyone lives happily ever after except Humgudgeon, who is dead. Normally revealing so much of the plot in a review would be frowned upon, but in this case, by the time the last of the main characters is introduced the reader will have figured it out anyway, and the only remaining challenge is guessing how many more songs the characters will sing and how much more time will be spent describing their clothing. The story is written in the present tense, as if it were a novelized play-script (it is). It is also a silly, irritating, heavy-handed parody of a quest fantasy. Borrow it from the library if you absolutely have to read it. It's definitely not worth $4.50

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Reviews: Non-Fiction

by John Dunham

Willis, Donald, ed. Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. Garland, 1985. Pbk. $21.50 Cdn. ISBN 0-8240-8712-7

 

What a welcome addition to any film lover's bookshelf! Variety's original science fiction film reviews are chronologically reprinted in their entirety, covering 1907 (Liquid Electricity) to 1984 (Historias Violentas). The scope is international and each of the 1000+ reviews is signed. Variety has long been recognized as the entertainment industry's leading publication and as such, the opinions expressed sometimes vary with those from other quarters. For example, the artistic acclaim often afforded 2001: A Space Odyssey was denied by Variety—"2001 is not a cinematic landmark." Yet the now much forgotten Tarantula was headlined "excellent."

 

Readers should enjoy browsing through this collection and comparing their personal views and recollections with Variety's analysis of quality, box office potential and performance standards.

Although no plans have been announced, companion volumes for mysteries, westerns and horror would be a welcome supplement.

[Includes index]

 

 

Dear, William. The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance Of James Dallas Egbert III. Ballantine, 1985. $23.95 Cdn. ISBN 0-395-35536-2

 

Mystery fans and those into Dungeons and Dragons should be pleased to learn that Dear's absorbing sleuth work is now available in paperback. The retelling of this peculiarly SF-related case renders a very personal account of a young man's disappearance and the steps taken to get to the bottom of it all. As Dear quite literally enters the world of Dungeons and Dragons the reader can feel the atmosphere and experience this all too real game.

 

After a brief brush with Star Trek Fandom and a trip through the dank, overwhelming and unpredictable setting of Egbert's escape route, we are confronted with the "why" of the mystery. Dear's investigative reporting is a notable first-hand and compassionate recounting with well spaced, real life twists and turns—more than enough to satisfy the SF/mystery/biography/gaming fans.

[Illustrated]

 

 

Crompton, Alastair. The Man Who Drew Tomorrow. Who Dares, 1985. HC, $25.65 Cdn. ISBN 0-948487-01-1 TPB

 

Dan Dare, the famous British comic character, is celebrated to this well-produced work. Frank Hampson, the artistic creator, together with the real life cast of behind-the-scenes characters are lovingly introduced and their various contributions recognized. Many illustrations, in both black and white and color bring the magic of this most successful strip to life. This book is not an anthology of Dan Dare episodes, rather an enlightening discourse about the production, presentation and success of the character. Unfortunately an index is lacking and many bits of information interspersed throughout the text might be better placed in an appendix. Without these, easy reference is impossible.

 

 

Pringle, David. Science Fiction: The Best 100 Novels. An English Language Selection, 1949-1984. Xanadu, 1985. HC, $19.95 US ISBN 0-947761-11-X

 

Compilations such as this inevitably give rise to comparisons, appraisals and debate, and Pringle's will certainly be no exception. Early reviews of this work have already questioned many of the works included and he has been accused of having an English (as opposed to an American) bias. Even Michael Moorcock in his introduction contents himself with a 50% success rate.

As a library resource this book will take its place as a useful tool. The short, usually two-page descriptions lend themselves to quick and concise reference. As a teaching aid it will serve as an adequate selection source.

 

If Pringle has displayed a British bias, it should be remembered that he is British and the book bears a British imprint. Any complaints may spring more from (American) sour grapes than from conscientious consideration.

 

There is of course no comparision with Magill's surveys of science fiction and fantasy, but Pringle's collection does lend itself companionable and will actually serve to update Magill's massive volumes.

[Includes index]

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