Number 1, January 1987
To Sol Rising
Interview—Robert Hadji: Origin of the Genre
Fifty Words or less
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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
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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
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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
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…
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
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
TOOLIS: And because of the
communication channel the magazines formed, it became a sort of chicken-and-egg
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
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
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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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":
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
Whose speed was far faster
She set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous
"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:
to top Home
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.
to top Home
by Jane Starr
Killough, Lee. Spider
Play. Popular Library, 1986. (Ouestar Science Fiction). Pbk. $4.50 ISBN
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
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
to top Home
by John Dunham
Willis, Donald, ed. Variety's Complete Science Fiction Reviews. Garland, 1985. Pbk. $21.50 Cdn. ISBN
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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