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eleven Pilgrims of the Fall Since 1970, the Science Fiction Research Association (sfra) has presented an annual award, the Pilgrim, for lifetime achievements in science fiction scholarship, and since 1986 another academic organization, the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (iafa), has presented a similar annual career award for the somewhat more broadly defined field of scholarship in ‘‘the fantastic.’’ While the genres of fantastic literature in general—science fiction, fantasy, horror—have become known for a bewildering plethora of awards, these two in particular can be interesting for the ways in which they reveal the multiple discourses and venues that have come to comprise the critical dialogue in this field. The relationship between the arts of fantastic literature and the arts of scholarly inquiry has long been a vaguely distrustful one from both directions; some might dismissively call it a marriage of convenience born out of the science fiction or fantasy writer’s yearning for acceptance in the literary community and the academic’s need for fresh critical material. But in fact, both the Pilgrim and iafa awards appeared rather late in the game, after decades of spirited debate and amateur scholarship (in the root meaning of ‘‘amateur’’ as ‘‘lover’’) had established a tradition of critical discourse almost entirely in isolation from both mainstream literary culture and the imprimatur of the academy. In order to understand how this tradition came into confrontation with the world of more formal academic scholarship in the 1970s—and how it eventually gave rise to a new kind of synthesis of critical discourse in the work of critics such as John Clute—it might first be helpful to trace briefly the early development of both writer- and fan-based criticism and that of academic scholars. From the beginning of the pulp era, letter columns such as ‘‘The Eyrie’’ in Weird Tales (founded 1923), ‘‘Discussions’’ in Amazing Stories (1926), ‘‘The Reader Speaks’’ in Wonder Stories (1929), and ‘‘Science Discussions’’ (later ‘‘Brass 190 CRITICS AND CRITICISM Tacks’’) in Astounding Stories (1930) debated the merits of stories from previous issues, as well as artwork, editorials, layout, scientific and pseudoscientific matters , and—inevitably—the nature and characteristics of ‘‘scientifiction’’ as a genre (although a term like ‘‘genre’’ would have seemed radically out of place in such columns). It did not take long for correspondence with the magazines and with each other to seem inadequate for some fans, and individually produced fanzines began to appear by 1930, with organized fan meetings and conventions only a few years behind. The science fiction folk culture, with its passion for neologisms and grand debates, was under way—and since many of these early fans became professional authors themselves, the vocabulary of fandom became conflatedinpartwiththevocabularyoftheprofessionalauthor,andinturnwith the vocabulary of the publishing industry. ‘‘sf‘‘ (or the earlier ‘‘stf’’ for ‘‘scienti fiction’’) became shorthand for science fiction, and ‘‘space opera,’’ ‘‘sword and sorcery,’’ and ‘‘hard sf‘‘ for specific themes or subtypes. Later academic critics, confronted with this makeshift critical tradition that had grown in virtual isolation from (and innocent of) any conventional literary or critical discourse, found themselves in an almost unprecedented situation, e√ectively inheriting a literary tradition that came complete with its own idiosyncratic critical lexicon, even though a few of the pioneer scholars in the field had themselves long been involved in fandom; both Everett Bleiler and Thomas D. Clareson, for example, were members of ‘‘First Fandom,’’ a loose organization of fans who had been active in the field since the early days of organized fandom.∞ Perhaps the most significant critical work to emerge from the early fan publications concerned itself more with fantasy than with science fiction. H. P. Lovecraft’s long essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, was first commissioned for an amateur publication in 1924 and later revised for a fanzine in the 1930s (although the fanzine folded, and the essay finally appeared in the 1939 omnibus volume, The Outsider and Others, from Arkham House—a publishing house that itself originated from the devotion of Lovecraft fans August Derleth and Donald Wandrei). Lovecraft’s work was in part derivative of earlier studies and was as resolutely eccentric as his fiction, but it brought to fandom a tradition of what Lovecraft himself would no doubt have termed ‘‘gentlemanly scholarship’’ and demonstrated that works of academic significance could emerge from the community of pulp magazines and fan writers. Later fan undertakings would range from ambitious philosophical histories of the genre (such...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780819571045
Related ISBN
9780819569363
MARC Record
OCLC
726747951
Pages
280
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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