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TheBodyEclectic: RecentScience-Fiction Studies Thomas D.Clareson,comp. Science Fiction in America, ]870s-1930s: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources. Westport,Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1984. 305+xivpp. Richard D.Erlichand Thomas P.Dunn, eds. Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Envioronments in Science Fiction. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1983.369 + xiiipp. Richard D.Erlichand Thomas P.Dunn, eds. The Mechanical God: Machines in Science Fiction. Westport, Conn.:Greenwood Press, 1982.284 + xivpp. David Ketterer,ed. The Science Fiction of Mark Twain. Hamden, Conn.:Archon Books, 1984.385 + xxxiiipp. SethMcEvoy. Samuel R. Delany. NewYork: Ungar, 1984.142+ x pp. Christopher Petty Onlyan academic Rip Van Winkle could be surprised by the degree to which, inthepast twenty-five years, science fiction has shoehorned its way into the offerings ofmost English departments and, simultaneously, into a position of academicrespectability. If there are dissenting voices, they are quieter than theyused to be, and one may hope that in this more relaxed atmosphere teachersand scholars will continue to ignore the supposed utility of science fictionand to assert its artistic strengths- in other words, to treat it more like"mainstream" fiction. Certainly the flood of bibliographies, indexes, reader's guides and even concordances in recent years suggests that this transformative process iswellunder way.The fivebooksunder reviewrepresent somethingof the range of scholarship and criticism which has changed science fictionfrom one of the cottage industries of the academic world into a major literarycorporation. One of these books is a guide to materials in one section ofthe field, two are thematically-arranged collections of critical essays, one isa compendium of primary material, and one is a critique. Despite the growing amount of science-fiction scholarship, Thomas D. Clareson'sannotated bibliography of science fiction in America from the 1870s to the 1930sfills a real need for an objective overview of this formative period.As founder and editor of Extrapolation and compiler of a number of otherbibliographies and collections including the influential SF: The Other SideofRealism,Clareson's qualifications are excellent. Since he is concerned Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 17, Number 3, Fall 1986, 395-405 396 ChristopherPetty to show intellectual crosscurrents rather than to stress the uniqueness of American science fiction, Clareson's title points to science fiction inAmerica. Thus most of the major transatlantic writers (and some minor ones) arewell represented, as are such Canadian stalwarts as James De Mille, author ofA Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, and Robert Service.To keep the work down to a reasonable length, Clareson has omitted uncollected short stories. The strengths ofthe book are many. Most of all it is comprehensive, including even works which are not science fiction but the titles of which might mislead the reader. Indeed the non-specialist in early science fiction is likely to be surprised by the sheer mass of material which Clareson has discovered and, considering the unprepossessing nature of some of the summarized contents, by his tenacity in reading it. The annotations are extensive and only occa· sionally affected by the confusion resulting from over-compression. Whatis more, although some of the entries are simple summaries, Clareson evaluates the more important works, suggesting categories into which they fall and drawing parallels between related items. For books such as Wells's The Time Machine, where the plot is well known, evaluation and analysis largely take the place of summary. For those used to encountering only the fictional peaks of this periodWells , Burroughs, Verne, Haggard, London, Doyle-not only is the number of foothills amazing (the list includes even a novel by John Jacob Astor) but also the degree to which they are shaped by thematic concerns met at more exalted altitudes. Nor does the wind of influence blow only in one direction: Clareson shows, for example, that Burroughs' choice of Mars as a fictional venue was not particularly original. The list of major themes which, apart from utopian projections, includes "future wars, lost races, interplanetary voyages, prehistory, wonderful inventions and discoveries, and natural and man-made catastrophes" (p. xi) also suggests the degree to which the material collected prefigures modem science fiction. I found the summary of Charlotte Perkins Oilman's 1915novel Herland (in which women have created a society in which they reproduce by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 395-405
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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