restricted access British Science Fiction
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BOOK REVIEWS mation of features which make it distinct from earlier forms, mainly in its individual and social psychological themes that exploit the weird, the eerie, the uncanny. The chapters that follow delve into Paget's "Amour Dure," Pater's "Apollo in Picardy," Yeats's "Rosa Alchemica," Stevenson's Olalla," Symons's 'Extracts from the Journal of Henry Luxulyan," and James's "The Turn of the Screw." The contributions to the genre of Paget, Pater, Yeats, and Symons reveal a unique blending of the psychological, the mythic, and the occult, whereas the psychomythic tales of Stevenson and James, on the other hand, manifest the tradition of the Victorian ghost story blended with the features of earlier Gothic tradition. The tales of all six authors clearly reflect an amalgamation of supernatural and psychological motifs distinguishing the type. In his conclusion, Block maintains that the tales explicated are "minor masterpieces" whose worth should be more fully appreciated. As the bromide has it, knowledge precedes appreciation; and it follows that Block's study provides a key to the comprehension of the structure and impulse of psychomythic fiction. When better understood, dated elements may be overlooked or absorbed as part of a peculiar exotic symbology of the nineties. Only then will serious readers be able to experience the deeper shock of psychological recognition which these minor classics evoke. G. A. Cevasco _______________ St. John's University British Science Fiction Nicholas Ruddick. Ultimate IsL·nd: On the Nature of British Science Fiction. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993. χ + 202 pp. $47.95 BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION? Why British science fiction? Is there any particular distinction to be made between the science fiction produced in America and that produced in Great Britain? Well, Nicholas Ruddick obviously thinks so or he wouldn't be devoting an entire book to the subject of defining (as he puts it right up front in the subtitle) "the nature of British science fiction." This is not the first time that anyone has made a study of the science fiction written by British authors, but it may be the most extensive consideration of just what the term "British science fiction" has come to mean. The author, an associate professor of English at the University of Regina, Canada, has chosen to look at the subject, not as a genre (as it is usually viewed), but as a field, implying "a loose association of 571 ELT 37:4 1994 diverse elements by contiguity." That this distinction was necessary seemed to be more evident to Professor Ruddick than it did to this reviewer, but it appears to have given the author greater freedom in choosing texts and themes for consideration. Ruddick's parameters are stated in his preface. He chooses the Island "as a site of Darwinian struggle" as his motif and what many readers consider to be the prevailing characteristic of British science fiction, the catastrophe or disaster, and attempts to show how they are intimately associated. The use of the island setting is clever. It suggests the island that is Great Britain and allows Ruddick to deal with island literature from Robinson Crusoe to Lord of the Flies and relate British science fiction to mainstream British literature without stretching his metaphors. He relates this to British insularity, beginning with passages from John Donne and William Shakespeare, before getting to the Darwinian theme found in H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, which he also finds dealt with in several of Wells's subsequent works. Ruddick's initial island as metaphor in science fiction is, of course, the setting of Wells's Island of Dr. Moreau, but he also covers S. Fowler Wright's IsL·nd of Captain Sparrow, George T. Chesne^s The Battle of Dorking, Jacquetta Hawkes's Providence Island, J. G. Ballard's "The Terminal Beach," and Concrete Island as well as Golding's island in Lord of the Flies. Ruddick argues at length and with conviction for the existence of a distinctive British science fiction that traces its roots to H. G. Wells. He would disagree with Brian Stableford that British science fiction is a post-World War II phenomenon and is largely indistinguishable from American science fiction before that...