In-depth analyses and discussion of 15 Classic science Fiction titles.
117 50 10MB
English Pages  Year 1978
Mike Ashley's acclaimed history of science-fiction magazines comes to the 1980s with Science-Fiction Rebels: The St
437 97 6MB Read more
Welcome to The 11th Science Fiction MEGAPACK®! We hope you will enjoy the stories we have selected for you this time. Th
299 23 2MB Read more
From its beginnings in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne to the virtual worlds of William Gibson's Neuromance
250 71 4MB Read more
How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change. The world today see
327 34 2MB Read more
The Writers Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction offers a refreshing approach to the craft of fiction writing. It takes a
216 90 375KB Read more
Practical Creative Approach to Science Fiction in the Classroom
L. DAVID ALLEN, M.A. . Department of English The University of Nebraska
~ An Essay on the Teaching of Science Fiction
~ Anal~ses of Representative Works ~ Selected Bibliography of Critical Works ~ Categories of Science Fiction ~rojects
and Ideas for Discussions and Reports
The BALLANTINE Teachers' Guide to
SCIENCE FICTION A Practical Creative Approach to Science Fiction in the Classroom
L. David Allen, M.A. Department of English The University of Nebraska
A Del Rey Book BALLANTINE BOOKS • NEW YORK
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS "Categories of Science Fiction," and "Ringworld," are modified versions of essays that originally appeared in Science Fiction Readers' Guide (1974, Centennial Press; L. David Allen, au.) and Science Fiction: An introduction (1973, Cliff's Notes: L. David Allen, au.). A shorter version of "Under Pressure," appeared in Herbert'a Dune and Other Works (1975, Cliff's Notes).
A Del Rey Book Published by Ballantine Books Copyright © 1975 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Ballantine Books of Canada, Ltd., Toronto, Canada. ISBN 0-345-27989-1 Manufactured in the United States of America First Ballantine Books Edition: August 1975 Third Printing; JwJ.e 1978 .
Contents Introduction: Teaching Science Fiction Categories of Science Fiction Stellar 1 ludy-Lynn del Rey, editor The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum Introduction by Isaac Asimov DragonO.ight Anne McCaffrey The Ginger Star Leigh Brackett More than Human Theodore Sturgeon The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham Brain Wave Poul Anderson Childhood's End Arthur C. Clarke Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury The Space Merchants Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth Nerves Lester del Rey Under Pressure Frank Herbert Starman Jones Robert A. Heinlein Rendezvous with Rama Arthur C. Clarke Ringworld Larry Niven A Selected Bibliography of Critical Works
1 19 27 62 89 110 130 151 169 189 209 230 254 273 291 309 327 345
Introduction: Teaching Science Fiction THERE ARE NO magic words which will immediately make anyone a successful teacher of science fiction (that should probably have stopped with "teacher"). My experience in trying to do the job has been hit and miss, with new hits and new misses each time around; some courses have been sheer frustration because what worked last time with one group of people didn't work this time with another group. This, of course, is not peculiar to teaching science fiction, but the subject seems to provide some additional complications. Any essay on teaching science fiction also faces the problem that SF is eminently suitable to many other courses besides literature courses, and in those courses other methods of approach are more suitable than one which is predominantly literary in nature. What this essay will try to do, then, is briefly cover a variety of points that seem to me important considerations about science fiction that lie in the background of teaching SF; with some suggestions of possible approaches.
In some senses, the nature of the traditional audience for science fiction poses problems for the use of science fiction in the classroom. There are certainly casual readers of the genre, those who, in the course 1
2 TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION of their reading, includ~ several pieces of science fiction in their list; this tendency seems to be increasing. More usually, however, people who read science fiction read it quite intensely and quite exclusively, in the sense that the majority-often the great majoritY-of the books and stories they read are science fiction. These readers also tend to be more interested in science and technology than most readers, although there is some suggestion that this is gradually changing as the emphasis of science fiction itself shifts toward the softer sciences. On the whole, this audience seems to be more vocal and more vociferous than most other audiences for particular literary types. For example, no other group produces as many fan groups, fanzines (that is, magazines about science fiction by fans for fans), and conventions; each year, in addition to the World Science Fiction Convention (in Washington, D.C. in 1974, Australia in 1975, and Kansas City in 1976), most major cities, and some not so major cities, have a yearly convention for science fiction fans. Each of these factors can pose problems for the teacher, but the one which seems most important to consider is the hostility of SF fans toward an academic treatment of their field. To some extent this hostility seems justified. One aspect involved is the feeling that teachers approach science fiction with preconceived ideas and thus fail to recognize the genuine merits of their favorite reading matter. Put another way, they feel teachers are likely to apply standards to science fiction which it has no intention of living up to. For example, the major criticism by "outsiders" is that science fiction characters are flat and often like cardbo~rd. It has to be admitted that there is some truth to this, especially among older pieces of science fiction. It is particularly true in comparison with "mainstream" fiction. What is often forgotten, however, is the "mainstream" fiction has character as a primary aim and that in consequence other elements are less
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FiCTION
developed. Science fiction has other aims and should no more be judged by "mainstream" standards than should, say, medieval romance. Another aspect of this hostility is the feeling that many of the people who are beginning to teach science fiction do not know very much about the field and don't really care for it; there is truth in this also. It is, of course, to be hoped that anyone teaching SF will take the time to find out as much as possible and to at least treat it fairly (best would be to come to love the field). A third aspect is the old idea that talking about a work critically will destroy it. This can be argued, but closely related to it is the fact that many kids have discovered science fiction by themselves and feel that it is something of a special preserve of their own. Many have been very helpful in developing courses when they feel the teacher is really interested. Many others, however, have been turned off to literature in general when something they really enjoy has not been treated with respect. There are no best ways to get around this, except perhaps to avoid downgrading science fiction. Beyond that, a thematic or generic approach seems more likely to be successful than a formalistic or a mythic approach. As far as the generic approach is concerned, involving classes in trying to answer the question "What makes science fiction different from other kinds of fiction?" and variations on it is more apt to stir interest than providing some definition and working from there. This is particularly relevant, since I have yet to find a single definition, including my own attempts at it, that is really satisfactory. Comparisons also seem to create greater response than straight-line discussions of single works. If these considerations are kept in mind, it is possible to bring to bear the critical and analytical approaches of all the disciplines and courses in which science fiction might be taught; this application may be indirect, but it may be all the more effective because of it.
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
FANNISH VIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION
Judy-Lynn Benjamin del Rey, now Science Fiction Editor for Ballantine Books, has long been involved with science fiction in a variety of ways. In addition, she edited Stellar 1, an anthology of original science fiction. Her introduction to that volume, which expresses views that are widely held among people seriously involved with science fiction, raises several points important to the nature of that anthology and to the field of science fiction at large. In a sense, this introduction is a lament at the direction science fiction has tended toward in recent years; it is more than this, though, for it is also a resolve to see if something cannot be done about the matter. This concern is basically expressed in these questions: How long has it been since you found a new book full of good old-fashioned stories that are fun to read? You can easily find a plethora of stories designed to be meaningful, relevant, and even significant. But how about one that is genuinely entertaining? (Stellar 1, p. vii) It, is not that meaning, relevance, and significance have no place in science fiction; it is not that experimental writing should be removed from science fiction; and it is not that messages of doom and destruction ought to be eliminated: all of these things are a legitimate part of science fiction. The idea is that "without stories of honest entertainment ... there is no balance" (p. vii). The qualities which are important to this kind of entertainment are quite definitely set forth. The most important is the story, the sequence of events, the things that happen. "These yams should have beginnings, middles and-most important--ends! I want writers to solve the problems they postulate and not
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING ScIENCE FICTION
pawn off implicit endings as great art" (p. viii). The problem, and the way it is solved, is, of course, the crux of science fiction, one thing which helps make it a distinctive sub-genre. A second quality important to entertainment is that the characters need to be ones the reader finds believable and identifies with. As noted earlier, this has been a point on which science fiction has often been criticized; it is also a point on which misconceptions about the purposes and relative weights of fictional elements can easily arise. Thus, the charges made against characters in science fiction may be perfectly true, but they should not be made lightly and they should not be made without serious consideration of what basis is used for the judgment. A second major concern; which actually has two parts, can be seen in this statement, again from the introduction to Stellar 1: It seems to me that science fiction should again be fun and should offer some of that sense of wonder and achievement that we used to expect as a matter of course. That was before the secondrate academics-self-proclaimed critics-began picking the flesh off the body of science fiction, telling us that if a story is merely fun, it can't be any good. (p. vii) Several things need to be said about this, especially since it seems representative of the opinion of a large share of science fiction fandom. First of all, the "sense of wonder" has long been taken as the hallmark of science fiction, but it has never been defined. It has to do with the feeling of possibility, of something new to experience, ·of awe, of immensity, of intellectual and emotional excitement, and so on; indeed, like Matthew Arnold's touchstones, the sense of wonder is a highly personal thing, and to define it closely may well destroy such usefulness as it has. It is, however, the complex of
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
feelings summed by the phrase "sense of wonder" that seems to attract readers to science fiction and to be responsible for the fierce loyalty to the field. Second, it must immediately be admitted that there are many second-rate academics and critics who would destroy, not only science fiction, but literature itself, seeking to blindly impose rigid, often inapplicable, standards and criteria on literature and its various sub-genres, rather than trying to understand and evaluate each on its own terms. It is such people who proclaim that fun and enjoyment are irrelevant to literature; they are wrong, for these qualities must be present on some level in every work if it is to be read at all (this will, however, be a highly personal judgment). Third, it does seem reasonable to make some distinction between enjoyment and quality. For example, I thoroughly dislike Jane Austen's Emma, for I am not in the least interested in the machinations of a matchmaker who is wrong in most of her judgments about people. Nevertheless, I can in good faith also hold, and demonstrate, that it is one of the very best novels yet written in the English language. Indeed, while the process of reading Emma is a painful one for me, I do derive some enjoyment from an intellectual appreciation of the skill with which all the elements in the novel are developed and brought together. On the other hand, I thoroughly enjoy a great deal of sword and sorcery fiction whose only purpose is to provide a moment of adventurous escape; for most of this work, however, I would be ashamed to claim any literary quality. There are, of course, many approaches to the question of quality in literature, but those which are flexible, which avoid arbitrary standards, and which take into account possible differences between literary types are likely to be more satisfactory than others. Beyond this question, it seems to me that science fiction can gain a great deal from intelligent, informed discussion and criticism; there has been far too little
INTRODUCTION: TEACIDNG SCIENCE FICTION
of this applied to the field. The greatest danger is that many writers may listen to the wrong voices and forget the things which make science fiction distinctive, viable, and exciting. Nevertheless, the field seems strong enough and vital enough to withstand criticism, even of the worst sort. SCIENCE AND FICTION
Many people have proposed definitions of science fiction; all of them can be argued and nearly all of them are partial in one way or another. It may be impossible to frame an acceptable definition, but it is certainly possible to suggest some of the elements that must be considered in discussing the field. Probably the most obvious elements are to be found in the title "science fiction." Presumably this means that we are talking about fiction dealing with science; this reversal does not clarify much, but it does emphasize that science fiction is a branch of fiction which in tum is a branch of literature. This seems quite important. There are a great many ways of perceiving the world around us and many ways of organizing those perceptions so they can be communicated; each way of perception is closely linked not only with a particular method of organization but also with a particular area of the world and with a particular means of generating new knowledge and perceptions within that area. Science is one such perceptual system, literature another, psychology another, and so on. Each has, of course, subsystems: chemistry, biology, physics or drama, poetry, fiction, for example. There is also overlapping of perception, organization, subject matter; however, any time some piece of information moves from one system to another, no matter how close the systems might be, it must conform to the shaping factors of the new system. Thus, if science fiction is fiction about science, then fiction provides the perceptual frame, the method of organization, and a significant part of the subject
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
matter; science, the scientific elements, must conform to the shaping process of fiction, providing, in themselves, only a part of the subject matter. Reading science fiction is, therefore, much like reading any other type of fiction. Any fictional work is essentially a complex pattern composed of a number of other patterns which may also be, complex. The six basic factors constituting the work of fiction are character, story, plot, narrative point of view, setting, and language. These are rather standard points discussed in most theoretical and critical examinations of fiction, but two definitions may be helpful: story is the chronological-causal sequence of events, the skeletal outline of the action of the work; plot is the way the story is filled out, including rearrangement of chronology, character development, detailing the actions and the means of moving from one to the next, and so on. Each element embodies a complex of patterns; for example, each character might be a pattern in itself, so that the various relationships among characters forms a web of patterns. The total system of patterns is the literary work, but it is also the theme, the complex of meanings, that interpret the world and experience for the reader. Thus, the more complex a statement of theme is, the more likely it is to be accurate in its representation of the work. Of course, no human can hold the entire work, its multitude of patterns, in his mind all at one time, much less think about it under those conditions. To get around the twin problems of too much initial complexity and gross oversimplification, it has been helpful in .my classes to begin with one or more simple statements and progressively complicate and modify them so that they more and more closely reflect the book or short story under consideration. Any approach to these problems must take the impressions gained by a reader into consideration, but it should also involved a structured approach to the elements that compose the fictional work.
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
Where, then, does the science in science fiction enter into the picture? Perhaps the most common entry point is the setting. For practical purposes, the setting includes the initial situation facing the characters as well as the particular time and space involved. Thus, in a story such as Hal Cl'ement's "The Logical Life," science enters through the nature and description of the world on which the action takes place (that is, this world is unlike our world but is constructed largely from known scientific fact) and through the problem Cunningham has set for himself (finding the equivalent of the oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange) . This also slides imperceptibly into the plotting of the work and into the language used, for it is the development of details and the explanations of them that build the particular setting into something the reader can visualize. It should be noted that this is the point at which science is subordinated to the requirements of fiction in two ways. First, the natural medium of both chemistry and physics, and to a lesser extent biology, is mathematical notation and equation. This is, generally speaking, inconsistent with the medium of fiction, which is language, though it is possible to use equations as examples or in other minor ways, especially if they are also explained. Second, fiction involves people, and an equation does not. Thus the scientific information must be related in some way to· characters; it must affect them or be manipulated by them or be presented through their thoughts and actions. Together, these factors mean that the science involved is less pure and less "objective" than it would be within, say, a chemistry text. Furthermore, the elements used within a story or novel must be carefully selected so that they meet the needs of the literary work, its themes,and its interpretations; these needs are not the same as those of any of the sciences. Finally, it is extremely desirable in science fiction for the science to be as accurate as possible; nevertheless, when story needs conflict with
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
scientific accuracy, then that accuracy is fudged (see, for example, Larry Niven's footnote to "Singularities Make Me Nervous"). WHAT
KINo OF SCIENCE?
There are several facets to any answer to this question. For example, if scientific information is fudged or fuzzy, is it really scientific information? Just what is called a science? What functions are served by science in science fiction? Such questions as these are extremely pertinent to the field; even tentative approximations of answers tend to produce somewhat unexpected results.· Traditionally, the sciences have been chemistry, physics, and biology, for they are the fields in which the scientific method has been most applicable, in which experimental conditions can be most carefully controlled, and in which the complications caused by human beings have been most nearly absent (note, though, that it is human beings who set up experiments and who evaluate and interpret results). There are, however, relatively few short stories or novels whose premises and development are closely related to one of these sciences. Stellar 1, for example, is rather unusual in that two of the stories in it ("Fusion" and "The Logical Life") meet both these criteria, while another of the stories ("Singularities Make Me Nervous") takes its premise from physics, and two others ("The Birch Clump Cylinder" and "A Miracle of Small Fishes") are constructed around advances in one of the sciences. Even in these, the necessities of character and of linguistic exposition remove them progressively from the science in which they are based. In addition, in three of the five stories ("Fusion," "Birch Clump," and "Miracle"), there is a greater emphasis on the technological application of the scientific premise than on the premise itself.
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
Thus, only a small portion of the field called science fiction is actually fiction about one of the traditional sciences. On the one arc of the circle it moves into an exploration of technical application . and technological change. This, of course, is a perfectly valid direction for exploration. Furthermore, technology is both much more closely related to human affairs and represents the humanly effective aspect of science. In the other direction, the arc of traditional science shades into some of the newer sciences and on into some areas that lay no claim to science but are definite means of organizing perception and knowledge. For example, there are works considered science fiction whose premises come from linguistics, astronomy, psychology, sociology, history, theology, astrology, magic, parapsychology, mythology, and so on. These "soft" sciences in turn can be divided into two categories: roughly, the accepted ways of organizing knowledge and experience, and those ways that are not currently accepted. Acceptance or nonacceptance is primarily a matter of cultural tradition, so that at this time, stories based on astrology, magic, and parapsychology would be considered science fantasy because these forms of organizing knowledge are not seriously accepted by our society as a whole. (It might be noted that parapsychology, for example, is struggling to find a means to test and validate such phenomena as telekinesis, telepathy, and precognition, but it has not yet managed to make the breakthrough.) The more accepted forms of knowing provide the basis for soft science fiction, which probably accounts for the sizable majority of science fiction published today. CHANGE
In view of the broad range of organized bodies of knowledge that have been used to provide the bases and premises of science fiction stories, it becomes
'TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
quite clear that the science in science fiction must be very loosely defined. Perhaps more pertinent is a look at the functions served by science, broadly defined, in science fiction. The most prominent thing about science fiction is that it explores a situation which is in some way different from conditions as we now know them. In many caSeS, the science involved provides the basic element of change, whether it involves the creation of a new world, some technological device, or some new ability or bit of information; any of these can have profound effects on society and on individuals. Another possible function the science can serve is to provide the basis for the exploration and interpretation of a new and different situation. One example is Rendezvous With Rama, in which archeology provides the framework and the methodology for gathering as much information as possible about the alien artifact; another general class is alien contact stories, in which such bodies of knowledge as linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and sociology provide methods for gaining at least some measure of knowledge and understanding of an alien race. Another facet of this use of science is the existence and the application of the scientific method. Many characters in science fiction follow the steps of this process, and many stories and novels are structured by these steps; these statements are particularly true of "problems stories"-stories in which a specific problem is set forth at the beginning and solved by the end-but they also apply, to some degree, to a large number of other works. A fourth function of science in science fiction is to provide a sense of -possibility and of plausibility to a situation which might otherwise be strange and unbelievable. In large part, this function is built on our cultural conditioning. That is, our society seems to have a belief that it is possible to discover the secrets of the universe through science, that science has discovered and created many wonderful things and will discover
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
many more, that science is objective and a means to truth; in addition, there is a certain mystique surrounding science, and this can be triggered by scie.ptific-sounding language. For example, in H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, the explanation of time travel sounds scientific and plausible, even though it is completely impossible. Another aspect of this point is that the science often provides a measure of continuity between our world and the situation portrayed. THE HUMAN INTERFACE
The interaction between human beings and whatever change has taken place is at the center of science fiction. It seems to be commonplace to hear that literature is about people. It is also at times implied that science fiction is not about people, but this is patently untrue. What is true, though, is that science fiction's focus on human beings seems to be somewhat different from the focus of ·other genres. If it is possible to wildly generalize, it seems that "mainstream" fiction focuses on why people do things, whereas science fiction seems more concerned with how they do them; obviously, many examples from each area can be suggested to show that such a generalization is not even close to universally true, but it does suggest a part of the orientation of each field. For example, a primary focus in Rendezvous With Rama is on how Norton's crew conducts the exploration of Rama; in Starman Jones it is on how spaceships are piloted and on how the emergency is met. There are many other examples. In a sense, this orientation is particularly true of problem-solving science fiction, but it seems to apply to other types as well. In effect, this emphasis on how things are done, rather than on why, has three facets. Most, but not all, science fiction is set in some future time. One effect of this is that the author is not fettered by
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
historical fact, something which may weJl be one of the important features of science fiction. What this does is to allow a look at human actions as they could or should or might be, rather than being forced to admit that this is the way they were. For example, any piece of science fiction dealing with alien contact draws very heavily on our knowledge of what happened in contacts between races and culture groups in the past. However, because such stories are set in the future, the writer can explore a different way of making contact. In effect, then, he can suggest that this is the way we should do it if the opportunity ever arises again (assuming that this is not one of the stories suggesting humans never learn, and there are many of those). At the same time, the implied comparison and contrast between the projection and the past invites a critical examination of that past, of human actions in the past, from a fresh perspective. There is also more: through this projection, the present can also be examined and alternatives to present actions and conditions suggested. Alien contact provides only one example of this potential triple focus; other examples can be found throughout the field. It is certainly true that science fiction tends to give more weight than usual to the conditions in which the characters find themselves, and to the changes from current conditions. Nevertheless, the human reactions to and the human effects and human causes of these conditions share equal billing in the description and action. Thematically, however, the human element tends to dominate, as it should in any literary form, subordinating other elements. TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
All of the preceding should, hopefully, provide some possible handles for grasping science fiction and some possible directions from which to approach it. As
15 noted, many of the specifics of actually working with science fiction in a classroom situation will depend on the particular groups of students, their degree of sophistication, and the level on which the course is being taught; it will also depend on the course in which science fiction is being used. Some suggestions for the treatment of science fiction follow. Perhaps the most important of these is that kids should be allowed, and encouraged, to have fun with science fiction. Most pieces of science fiction -have an exciting sequence of actions, a very definite adventure story. This kind of thing can be a great deal of fun, and a response to it should be encouraged. Another element of fun in science fiction is the sheer joy of speculating about how things might be if some element in our world were to be changed. In almost every book there are many points for takeoff, for expansion of the speculation already in the book. Though it may not be completely fair to the work as it stands, this kind of reaction should be encouraged and followed wherever it leads. After this line is exhausted is soon enough to return to a discussion of the work as it is. It might incidentally be noted that science fiction is one of the few genres with a built-in hierarchy; that is, there are sword and scorcery tales for those who respond primarily to the action, space operas for those who can respond to both action and some surface view of themes, and a great variety of other works that emphasize various aspects of human nature and of man's place in the universe while still providing an action sequence of some interest. The various types of science fiction also provide materials that should be of interest to nearly any reader. The now-then doubleness of science fiction (or the past-present-future tripleness) is very important and should provide the basis for many discussions. The main thing is to uncover both the roots of a science fiction piece in the past and present, and its implications for today. One element of this, particularly in INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE F):CTION
stories set in the relatively near future, is to try to follow the steps through which the future is reached. It is also possible to work this in reverse, using known things like scientific developments or historical events or even educational processes. A variant on this which might be more valuable for the more speculative kinds of science fiction is to look at a common situation that the students know well and then to ask what would happen if just one element in that situation were changed; for example, take a look at your school and ask a question like "What would happen if grades were eliminated?" Part of the problem, of course, would be to make sure that steps are noted and reasons for resulting changes given, even though a bit of wild speculation throughout can provide good fun. One or the other-or bothof these processes are used by writers of science fiction in the process of creating their worlds, so that the student can participate in the same kind of activity. The questions of what science fiction is and why a particular work is science fiction can also be raised. There will be no final answers to such questions, but in the process of raising them a great deal of discussion about what is going on in the book or story can be indirectly achieved. It seems to me that some attention to what the book says and does is extremely important, that the integrity of the work should be respected. This does not mean, however, that this needs to be done directly or heavy-handedly; it may even be true that more indirect means are more successful. A great deal of this can be done by comparisons with other books and stories that the students have read, whether these are science fiction or not. The purpose is more likely to be to lay a basis for further explorations on the part of the student, to give him methods and directions for exploration, rather than to provide answers; the jury is still out on what science fiction is or does, but in
INTRODUCTION: TEACHING SCIENCE FICTION
the meantime there is a good deal of fun and stimulation in trying to determine parts of the answer. At the end of each of the discussions which follow I have deliberately attempted to suggest topics that are related to the books discussed in this guide but to stress peripheral matters and further speculation by the students. A more specific set of questions about the characters, the actions, the settings, and the themes can easily be developed from a reading of the books or of the discussions; these can then be adapted to the particular needs of the students involved and of the course in which they are reading science fiction. There are also some questions that can be asked about any piece of science fiction that are not particularly applicable to any other field of writing; they do seem helpful, however, in understanding both what is happening in the particular work and what science fiction is and does: 1. What makes this work science fiction? 2. What purposes do the science fiction elements serve in the work? Is anything gained or lost by using these elements? 3. What do you consider to be the motivating core of the work? That is, what question (usually of the "What would happen if ... " variety) or concept seems to have given impetus to the work? 4. What category (categories) of science fiction does this work fit into? Why? How do the factors from different categories interact? 5. Is the work plausible? That is, does it seem as though what happens might happen if the author's premises are accepted or come to pass? How is this plausibility accomplished? Or if it does not seem plausible, what makes it seem implausible? As noted, these questions can be used profitably with any piece of science fiction; those that conclude the chapters devoted to individual works are interchangeable to some degree, but they are aimed at specific works. Finally, a y.rord about history and biography as
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
teachers' tools. My feeling is that all but the briefest sketches will tend to get in the way of the student's response to the works themselves, partly because they have been so much a part of the traditional classroom and curriculum. The first order of business really seems to be responding to and getting something from the particular work. It is for these reasons that none of this kind of information has been provided in, this guide; the critical bibliography should, however, provide a number of sources for those who wish to dig into this aspect of the field. CONCLUSIONS
Science fiction is relatively new to schools and classrooms. It seems to be moving in partly because people who grew up reading science fiction are becoming teachers and partly because, with a new freedom, students are requesting courses dealing with something they like. A third factor is, of course, that other teachers and partly because, with a new freedom, are finding it a way to turn kids on to reading and' discussion. Whatever your reason for teaching science fiction, the best advice I can possibly. give is to try to enjoy it yourself and have fun with it above all else; if you do, the kids will.
Categories of Science Fiction AL THOUGH IT DOESN'T really prove anything, and although there are as many dangers to pigeonholing as there are advantages, it might be useful to have some kind of categories and subcategories to help one sort things out. It is important to remember that any label emphasizes some aspect of a work and plays down all the rest of the work; consequently, if such labels and the process of .sticking them on become ends in themselves, rather than momentary conveniences, the richness and worth of the literary work is virtually destroyed. Furthennore, many sets of labels take no notice of gradations in emphasis, leaving little room for a work that is not purely one thing or another-and few literary works, or anything else for that matter, are pure anything. Finally, any set of labels can be argued with and rejected by anyone with a different point of view (which is good, since it keeps one honest). Even with these caveats, it is with some trepidation that the following set of categories for science fiction are offered. The first category, then, might be called hard science fiction. This would be science fiction in which the major impetus for the exploration which takes place is one of the so-called hard, or physical, sciences-including chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, geology, and possibly mathematics-as well as the technology associated with or growing out of one of those sciences. Such sciences, and consequently any science fiction based on them, assume the existenCf" 19
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
of an orderly universe whose laws are regular and discoverable. ~ second general category can be labeled soft science fiction. This category encompasses science fiction in which the major impetus for the exploration is one of the so-called soft sciences, that is, sciences that focus on human activities, and most of which have not been fully accepted as being as rigorous or as capable of prediction as the physical sciences. Soft science fiction would include any stories based on such organized approaches to knowledge as sociology, psychology, anthropology, political science, historiography, theology, ,linguistics, and some approaches to myth. Stories about any technology related to these would also come under this heading. In this category as well, the assumption of an orderly universe with regular, discoverable laws is a basic criterion for inclusion. A third category that seems to be required is science fantasy. Under this heading would go those stories which, assuming an orderly universe with regular and discoverable natural laws, propose that the natural laws are different from those we derive from' our current sciences. What is sometimes called paraphysics, especially those branches dealing with telepathy and the laws of magic, most often provides these alternative laws. For a work to qualify as science fantasy, it is necessary that these alternate laws receive at least a minimum of direct exposition in it. The final category, fantasy, is somewhat controversial, for its connection with any of the sciences as such is minimal. Nevertheless, it borders on science fiction and helps round out this system of categories. In the sense used here, fantasy has this much in common with the other categories: it, too, assumes a universe which has order and a set of discoverable' natural laws, even though they are different from our own. Unlike science fantasy, where the laws are treated explicitly, in fantasy the laws are merely implicit; that is, if the reader is sufficiently interested,
CATEGbRIES OF SCIENCE FICTION
he can formulate the laws governing this fantasy world, but the author gives him little or no assistance in doing so in any direct way. These categories are not quite as neat as their definitions might lead one to believe; for use in detailed discussions of many works they must be divided into subcategories. Hant science fiction and science fantasy should each be subdivided into three types, and soft science fiction into two. Under hard science fiction, we have gadget stories, extrapolative stories, and speculative stories. Gadget stories are those in which the main topic is how some machine, or set of machines, works, or the development of a machine or other technological device. There are, fortunately, very few of these around any more. Extrapolative stories are those which take current knowledge from one of the sciences and logically project what might be the next steps taken in that science; also included here are those stories which take currently accepted knowledge or theory and either apply it in a new context to show its implications or build a world around a particular set of facts. Speculative stories are generally projected farther into the future than extrapolative stories, so there is some difficulty in filling the gaps in the logical development of the sciences involved; however, these sciences are similar to the ones we know now and are based in them. Under soft science fiction, we have both extrapolative stories and speculative stories; these are defined as above, except that they deal with soft rather than hard sciences. The naming of the types under science fantasy is more difficult. One might be called alternative stories, where the underlying natural laws differ somewhat from those we know; telepathy, other psionic powers, and the laws of magic would belong here. Another type uses scientific information which has already been shown to be incorrect at the time the story is written; it might, perhaps, be called counter-science
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
fantasy. Note that the science current at the time a story is written must be taken into account in classifying, not the science current at the time one reads the story. The third type under science fantasy is, perhaps, a type of alternative story, but it has traditionally been identified separately; this is the sword and sorcery story, which is primarily an adventure in which the culture requires the use of swords and other "primitive" weapons rather than modem weapons and, usually, the laws of magic operate in some way. Hopefully, these further subdivisions of what seem to be general categories of science fiction will help to determine what any work is doing and how it relates to other works that are also called science fiction; if they do not, they are worthless. The real worth of any such categorization is probably in the thinking about the work, and the struggling with it, that provides the rationale for placing it in a particular category. Once again, it must be recognized that every time relative weight is given to a set of elements, and every time categorization takes place, the subjective view of the person doing these things plays a very large part. It is because of this that one should -develop a rationale for what he has done and remain flexible enough to look at the merits of another's point of view and modify his own accordingly. With these parameters sketched out, it will be helpful to apply them to particular examples. Most of the novels mentioned here ~re discussed more fully in other parts of this guide; the short stories can be found in Stellar 1. "Mr. Hamadryad" is the only example of alternative science fantasy to be found here, but this story clearly belongs in this category. It is, of course, perfectly valid to interpret the course of human history according to a theological frame of reference and to accept the idea that man is on Earth _to undergo a testing of his faith. In "Mr. Hamadryad,"
CATEGORIES OF SCIENCE FICTION
however, elements are added to this framework which move it into the realm of fantasy because they are alternatives to accepted belief. That is, the long line of beings tested, the paired sets of beings, and the blind spot in the shadow of God's thumb are not aspects of accepted theology and are alternative to it. In addition, the history involved in the story is at least superficially different from our own and the geological facts (the drifting of Easter Island and its breakup) are not those we know. In this, "Mr. Hamadryad" moves along the axis toward counterscience fantasy, thought not far. The function of the alternatives created seem to be to create a different perspective and a different set of conditions for observing facets of current human existence. The Ginger Star is science fantasy of the sword and sorcery type, although there is very little sorcery involved since there is greater emphasis on the character of the hero than is usually found in this category. Nevertheless, the primary stress of the novel seems to be on the adventure and on the strangeness of the conditions in which the action takes place. At the other end of the spectrum are the hard science fiction stories. The gadget story once dominated the field, though few are written any longer. One recent example is "Fusion," in which nearly every aspect of the story bears on the scientific background, on the particular theory being tried out, or on the Toroidal Device Number 3. There are, of course, other elements involved, perhaps more than normally found; but these are clearly subordinated to the central gadget. "The Logical Life" is a good example of extrapolative hard science fiction, for it takes a number of known scientific facts and uses them as the basis for a kind of world that we have not yet found. The general premise of the story assumes: "If these elements are combined in this way, then this will be the result." Both Nerves and Under Pressure basically belong in this category, for they take known information-about nuclear physics on the one hand and sub-
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
marine technology on the other-and develop it a few, small steps to something not yet achieved at the time of writing but which could be in the near future. In a sense, speculative hard science fiction differs from extrapolative only in the distance of its projection into the future; it differs from alternative science fantasy because its projections are either consistent with current scientific knowledge or move into areas in which there is no solid evidence one way or the other in any of the accepted sciences. "Singularities Make Me Nervous" fits into this category. We know, of course, about black holes, and we are quite sure they distort the universe (hence, time and space) around them. It also seems consistent with current theory that time and space might be distorted enough to produce the events of the story-if a large enough black hole could be found. Although this kind of time travel and its paradoxes seem quite fantastic, it is nevertheless the result of speculation about current scientific knowledge and theory. The tenn soft science fiction is itself quite soft, for it covers a wide range, even though its primary focus is what might be called human development. Essentially, a soft science is any organized body of knowledge with a method of adding to that body but which does not have rigorous controls over conditions in which its experiments take place. Included are psychology and sociology, but there are many other possibilities as well. "Schwartz Between the Galaxies" is a good example of extrapolative soft science fiction, combining as it does elements of sociology and psychology and projecting them somewhat into the future. Thus, Schwartz is a sociologist. The situation in which he finds himself is in accord with the trend toward greater cultural confonnity around the world (a sociological observation) and with the human tendency to withdraw into a more compatible interior world when faced with intolerable conditions in the outside world (a psychological observation). In this case, the one is
CATEGORIES OF SCIENCE FICTION
a result of the other, binding them into a single vision of the future. Brain Wave is a fine example of speculative soft science fiction, though it uses speCUlative hard fiction both to provide the basis for the change in conditions and to assist several aspects of the exploration. The main thrust and focus of the novel is on how human beings might react to greater brain power. This is, of course, something we simply do not know about, so that it must be speculation to consider it. Beyond this, however, is the fact that the changes lie primarily in the human sphere-in human adjustments to change, in human social adaptations, in human attitudes toward technology and its uses, and so on. While it is thus not a "pure" example, Brain Wave does show the dominant characteristics of speculative soft science fiction. As the preceding brief discussions of novels suggest, there are very rarely "pure" examples of any of these categories or subcategories; short stories often come closer to this "purity" than novels do, but even they are usually a blend of types. This is to be expected, for science fiction has historically been primarily interested in tracing the human effects of scientific advances and devices. The usefulness of these categories, then, seems twofold. First, thinking about the books and stories in order to put them into the categories, and discussing the reasons for doing so, provide a way into them by focusing on important aspects of science fiction. Second, the categories help to provide points from which comparisons and contrasts can be made by recognizing different purposes. For example, "Fusion" and "Mr. Hamadryad" can hardly be talked about in a single frame of reference, but they can be discussed once their different purposes and bases have been established. At best, categories are stimuli to thinking, aids to determining major functions, and bases for comparison; at worst, they destroy the literary work. One further group of works that at least border on
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
science fiction must be mentioned, before finishing this topic. Usually these works are lumped under the heading of new wave. This is an impossible title, for it means something different to almost every individual who uses it. In practice, most every work which uses science fiction devices, stories, approaches, etc., differently than they have been used in the past has been labeled new wave at some time or another. It is possible, however, to break the new wave category into two basic groups; one of these groups is primarily concerned with experimenting with stylistic techniques new to the field of science fiction, while the other group combines such experimentation with the assumption that there is no inherent order in the universe we live in, or at least what order there is is not amenable to study and discovery through the scientific method. Although the first of these groups may upset the. science fiction traditionalists, works which fit the definition will nevertheless fall into science fiction proper and can be handled by the categories discussed above. The second group, however, should not, at this time at least, be considered as falling within the scope of science fiction, no matter how much similarity there may otherwise be, for tbis group of works denies the basic premise of science and of science fiction. It is absolutely essential in science fiction to assume that there is an inherent order in the universe and that this order can be discovered through the scientific method and expressed as natural law, for without order and this kind of discoverability, science is not possible. This is not to say that of fiction this kind is bad or uninteresting or irrelevantmuch of it is very good, very interesting, and even relevant; it is simply not science fiction, but rather another genre of fiction. The devices and the conventions alone do not make science fiction what it is; the underlying assumptions, the embodied intent, and the approach to the material are also important.
Stellar 1 Judy-Lynn del Rey, editor Stellar 1 is a good science fiction anthology. Whereas most anthologies and collections tend toward unevenness in quality and interest among the stories, those in Stellar 1 have a generally high interest and are generally well written. In addition, the stories in this anthology cover many facets of the broad area of fiction normally considered science fiction, ranging from very hard extrapolative science fiction ("Fusion," by Milton A. Rothman) to fantasy ("Mr. Hamadryad," by R. A. Lafferty), and covering seven variations between; this can be useful for teaching by providing a brief survey of types of science fiction either for the beginning or for the general reader. Even if the anthology offered nothing more, these would be sufficient reasons for publishing Stellar 1 and for reading it. However, in the editor's introduction, Mrs. del Rey sets forth the qualities she asked for when inviting submissions. These qualities include a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an endwith the end carrying the resolution of the problem postulated in the beginning; characters the reader can care about and identify with; sheer enjoyment; and a sense of wonder-a feeling of possibility, of the unusual, of achievement, of awe. To a remarkable degree, these stories meet these criteria and go beyond to hold significence for our world and for our personal lives; each accomplishes these things in a different way, but each does them. This is a measure of the achievement of Stellar 1. As noted above, all the stories in this collection are
28 TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION science fiction, but not all are of the same type; if they were to be arranged on the continuum from hard through soft science fiction through science fantasy to fantasy (as here) the nine stories in Stellar 1 would cover the entire spectrum, with "Fusion" at one end and "Mr. Hamadryad" at the other. The order between these two extremes would run from "Fusion" -"The Logical Life," "Singularities Make Me Nervous," "The Birch Clump Cylinder," "A Miracle of Small Fishes," "The Whirligig of Time," "Twig," and "Schwartz Between the Galaxies." This sequence is not, of course, absolute, since different perceptions of the stories may somewhat alter the relative order; for that matter, the earlier categorization of "Mr. Hamadryad" as fantasy can be argued and a case made that it is science fantasy. What arranging these stories along this continuum can do, however, is emphasize similarities both in subject matter and in treatment of that subject matter, which in tum provides a starting point for a discussion of their differences and of their relative achievements. HARD SCIENCE FICTION
Included in this group are "Fusion," "The Logical Life," "Singularities Make Me Nervous," and "The Birch Clump Cylinder." In various ways, each of these stories is based on a different aspect of the hard sciences; and, on a sliding scale, each examines the consequences of either some known scientific· fact or some scientific theory. Stories of this type were dominant during the early years of modem science fiction, particularly during the late 1920's and early 1930's.
"Fusion," by Milton A. Rothman As Rothman notes at the end of this story, only two of the elements that the action is built around are not yet facts, and nearly everything portrayed in the
..tory has been part of his experience as a scientist. Generally, the science in the story is physics, more particularly nuclear physics, and most specifically that branch of nuclear physics concerned with fusion reactions. Because so many elements in the story are based on actual experiments in physics, this is hard science fiction that is removed only one or two small steps from current fact. In his postscript to the story, Rothman indicates clearly what makes the story science fiCtion: "Simply the fact that Toroidal Device Number 3 has not-as yet-been built, so that the high temperatures and confinement times needed for thermonuclear fusion have not yet been reached" (p. 59). The story also qualifies as hard science fiction in its handling of the materials, with its emphasis on the facts on which the action is based, on the process through which the result is achieved, and on the machinery needed to reach the result. Two crucial facts-that machinery similar to Toroidal Device Number 3 is now planned, though it will probably have to be much larger than the device described in the story to achieve the desired results (a device the size of the one in Rothman's story is much more convenient for story-telling purposes); and that the process described in the story is a leading contender in actual projections of how fusion will be achievedadd realism to the story, as well as solidifying its impact as a projection. In a story of this sort, action and the characterization take a back seat to the science, the machinery, and the descriptions of each. Thus, quite a simple sequence of events is provided. At the beginning of the story, Russell Hertzberg and Bill Kramer are checking Toroidal Device Number 3 to find out where it is arcing. Following a review of the twenty-five years Hertzberg has been a plasma physicist, TD-3 is thoroughly checked out in preparation for experimental runs to see which, if any, of the .proposed methods will produce sustained nuclear fusion. Ron Warner, the boy wonder of the plant, gets the first
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
OPPOrtunity; he comes close to achieving sustained fusion, but fails. Hertzberg, after insisting on his right to run his experiment without delays, is up next, and also fails, although a number of experiments that are later to prove useful are performed in the time allotted. Warner's second attempt comes closer to success but does not quite reach it. Because he is very close to retirement, Hertzberg decides to go for broke on his second chance. He and his team prepare carefully. On the second day, things go smoothly and, after a few tense moments where the process could fade, they achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion. The main emphasis in "Fusion" is, of course, the possibility that sustained nuclear fusion is achievable in the near future. As Rothman's postscript indicates, the major hurdle is the building of Toroidal Device Number 3 or its equivalent in such a way that the necessary temperatures and confinement times can be reached. Thus, it would seem that funding and desire are all that are lacking before this projection can become a reality. In order to bring this about, it is necessary to convince the government that controlled fusion will repay the cost of development when it finally begins to supply power in a practical way. This question comes up in the story, though it is not dwelt on; there is the suggestion that fusion is both safer and more economical than either fission or breeder reactors. However, the emphasis of the story is on the process and on the machinery, rather than on desirability; the strength of this emphasis makes "Fusion" a gadget story, a venerable type of science fiction. What saves it from the sins of many such stories is that Russell Hertzberg's race against retirement gives the story some breadth of human interest-a characteristic often lacking in older stories of this type. Although he is not roundly characterized (for example, we do not see what he is like away from his job), Russell Hertzberg does manage to come alive enough for the reader to hope that he will be the one
to achieve sustained nuclear fusion first. As noted, the primary device by which this suspense is achieved is to put Hertzberg close enough to retirement to give him just three chances to prove his theory before he leaves. Moreover, he is seen as a man who entered the field when it was just beginning, when nobody really knew anything about fusion reactions. In addition, he is careful, methodical, thorough, and very quiet about his ideas. Because of this, he must play second fiddle to Ron Warner, a brash young man who throws out ideas rapidly and loudly: But perhaps that was better than the caution with which Hertzberg proceeded, with the result that very few original ideas emanated from him. Those ideas he did have were presented with such diffidence that very little attention was paid to them. And when, occasionally, he came up with a really important experimental result, it slid past the consciousness of his colleagues, hardly noticed at all. (p. 39) In addition to characterizing Hertzberg, this jockeying for position between Warner and Hertzberg and the contrast between their characters provide some thematic emphasis. Thus, the author makes clear throughout the story that scientists of both types are necessary: the idea man, on the one hand, throws out suggestions for exploration and experimentation; while the quieter, more plodding individual carries out these experiments and checks the accuracy and usefulness of the ideas. Furthermore, there is an element of institutional politics involved, a jockeying for position and power. Though the story seems to make no strong statement against this, there is a sense that Hertzberg has not been treated entirely fairly. More important, however, this situation does provide an opportunity for Hertzberg to surprise the reader when he insists that he be given his chance according to the rules set up for the experiment. His basic nature as well as the fact
'TEACHERs' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
that he is obviously the underdog allow the reader to sympathize with him; this identification may not be particularly deep or strong, but it does lift "F~sjon" away from being a straight lecture on what is necessary to reach sustained nuclear fusion. Perhaps the most important thing about this story is that it presents the entire process or preparation and experimentation in human, rather than mechanical or strictly procedural, terms; not only are human beings doing these things, they are also affected by them. This, in turn, emphasizes the fact that science is a human activity, undertaken by human beings for human ends-surely one of the major thematic elements of the story-and examines the reaction to this activity by outsiders. In addition, Rothman shows the reader that scientists are human beings with human emotions, who, among other things, jockey for position and attention, although they are able to subordinate much of this side of themselves to the job at hand. Thus, while "Fusion" is unquestionably a didactic story, designed to teach the reader about nuclear fusion and about the possibility of achieving it, this didacticism is modified and enriched by the presence of the human element.
liThe Logical Life," by Hal Clement Laird Cunningham, an explorer-scientist from Earth, and T'Nekku, a native of the planet Omituinen, are crossing a sea in search of the source which replenishes the elements used in the indigenous life processes, as in the oxygen-carbon dioxide cycle on Earth. They find an island, covered by the cloud Cunningham expected. Suddenly they run aground on it when the ammonia of the sea rapidly disappears. Cunningham attempts to right the boat while T'Nekku searches for the ocean. Cunningham also tries several experiments, one of which almost accidentally provides the solution to their predicament and the object of
their search: the "island" they are on is actually a huge plant. As they leave, Cunningham begins planning a larger expedition. Hal Clement has long been noted for taking valid scientific facts and putting them together to create an alien world, a world totally unlike the one we live in. In his stories, the action serves as a vehicle for presenting information about the particular world, thus gradually creating the picture in the reader's mind. Furthermore, the world Clement builds is internally self-consistent; that is, the facts he uses build upon one another and do not seem contradictory in any way. Thus, "The Logical Life" and most of Hal Clement's other writings are hard science fiction. However, since they postulate worlds that are unlike any yet discovered, and because they are peopled by beings unlike any we know, they involve an additional extrapolative step beyond a story like "Fusion." The story and the portrait of the world proceed in tandem. The first two facts noted about the world are that it is dark, lighted only by starlight, and that T'Nekku is very large and has four legs. The major consequence of the darkness is that Cunningham must wear infrared goggles in order to see at all. Several other facts about the planet are built on T'Nekku's size and appearance. For instance, the gravity of Omituinen is fifty percent over Earth-normal; the alien's size, his four legs, and his strength seem designed to compensate for this heavier gravity. Furthermore, most of the life forms on the planet seem built on a similar scale and vary just as much from Earth life as does T'Nekku. However, not all creatures are so completely different; the fish here must meet the same engineering requirements that fish on Earth must meet. Whatever the native life-form, however, it would find any kind of light for which Cunningham'S eyes would be suited to be a death-ray. After these initial ideas about the planet are suggested, a more complete description of the conditions and the nature of the planet are provided:
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
Omituinen was a sunless planet. It had condensed from cosmic dust, just as the solar system had, but lacked the mass or the hydrogen content to be a star. Its parent cloud, in the Orion area, had been rich-by astronomical standards-in heavy elements; there was enough K-40 and uranium-series matter to have warmed the planet hundreds of degrees over the billions of years it had existed. It seemed that the radio actives had concentrated, presumably through zone-melting phenomena, so that some restricted areas of the' world were actually volcanic. Indeed, Omituinen must have been much hotter at some time in the past, though radioactivity might not have been responsible-somehow it had gotten rid of most of its hydrogen, which was hardly more common than on Earth. (po 163) Further information about the planet and an explicit statement of the problem that Cunningham is trying to solve are provided a few paragraphs later: The animals got their nitrates, hydrazine, and, of course, ammonia from the sea; logically, since the planet was at least half as old as Earth, something must be replacing these compounds just as something was constantly replacing Earth's oxygen. Presumably something anabolic was fixing the planet's atmospheric nitrogen, but no one had found the organism yet. (po 164) Since the island just ahead of them is a heat source, Cunningham feels it is reasonable to check it in his search for- the organism no one has yet found. Though other facts about the planet are established as the story proceeds to the final discovery of the plant and its function, the major point is that all this information proceeds from the nature of the world and from its necessities. In the course of the action, we also discover Cun-
ningham's motivation for beginning such an adventure. He feels, quite simply, that a man must undertake some kind of meaningful activity to be a man; the implication is that many of the problems of life and production that we now face have been solved and that life on Earth has become stable and unchallenging. A second point of interest is a brief portrait of the intelligent life of the planet. Not only is T'Nekku physically large, he also has a large gusto for combat and apparently is willing to pit himself against any opponent. When he has vanquished the large sea beast, he eats it immediately-raw, bones and all; the point is thus made that he is not in as much control of his automatic responses as is a human adult, though he does have some measure of control. The other major facet of his character is a calmness in the face of any situation, which seems related to a logical, unemotional method of considering the situation and the problem. Certainly, he is extremely intelligent, for he was able to pick up Cunningham's idea and purpose, accept them, and then begin to develop ideas from that point. These features, and the interaction between T'Nekku and Laird Cunningham, are necessary to give the story a human frame of reference and to provide the structure of the story. Nevertheless, the main purpose behind "The Logical Life" is to create as thorough a portrait of an alien world based on known principles as possible within the confines of the short story format. Hal Clement has done that convincingly. "The Birch Clump Cylinder," by Clifford D. Simak Charley Spencer, Leonard Asbury, and Mary Holland-three alumni of Coon Creek Institute-have been brought back to help solve a problem. Spencer had the first glimpse of this problem, for as he had been driven up to Cramden Hall, he had noticed the pagoda missing; but as he got out of the car, he
'TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
thought he saw it again. Old Prather, the head of the Institute, informs them that the problem is what seems to be a time machine. The four of them talk the problem over and look at photographs. Spencer suggests that the device is an engine using time as a source of energy. The photographs reveal what seem to be controls. They discuss the need for means to control the energies if indeed it is an engine; but the need to try to turn the device off-if it can be turned off-seems the overriding concern. After mechanical means fail, they draw straws. Mary Holland loses the first draw, steps in, turns the dial clockwise-and disappears. When Asbury hesitates, Charley Spencer moves in and turns the dial in the other direction. He seems not to have moved, but it turns out that he came forward in time fifteen years. Coon Creek by then has dismantled the device (he did stop it), duplicated it, and gone on to send ships to the stars. The idea of time travel has, of course, a long and venerable history in science fiction. However, where the great majority of such stories use the time machine primarily as a device to explore other ideas and trends, "The Birch Clump Cylinder" deals much more direc!ly with time itself, with the nature and possible uses of time. In the process, the question of what would happen to people displaced in time is also briefly considered. Although there is a good deal of human interest in the exploration of these matters, the primary focus is on discovering what the device is and how to turn it off, and on uncovering the theory that might make such a device possible. Because of this focus, "The Birch Clump Cylinder" should be considered primarily as hard science fiction. But because of its stronger human interest-and because its scientific postulate, though clearly related to current knowledge and theory, moves beyond what is currently accepted-this story lies closer to fantasy than the first two stories. The problem of what the machine in the birch clump is is not particularly difficult to solve. Indeed,
the fact that it moves objects through time has already been established before . the. three alumni return, mainly through the existence of the book with a publication date well into the future. Although CharIey Spencer-once he has heard of the apparent crash landing of an airplane or other fiying object at almost exactly the same time as the appearance of the cylinder---quickly postulates the idea that this device is an engine using time as energy, the more immediate problem is how the device can he regulated, for without this regulation none of the other possibilities can be explored. Since the photographs reveal only one thing that might be a control, this exploration is simplified; but it must be undertaken strictly by trial and error because there is too little information on which to base a workable hypothesis. And although it would be nice if a mechanical device could be constructed to do the testing, after several attempts it becomes clear that some things must be done by humans because some abilities cannot be duplicated mechanically. The first actual trial, then, is to tum the control clockwise; this seems reasonable, since that is the direction a control designed by humans would turn. This is, of course, an error; and Mary Holland disappears (as we discover, backward in time). But the information provided allows Spencer to tum the machine off, even though he is thrown forward in time. When Kirby Winthrop orients Charley Spencer to the future, an interesting comment on one relationship between theory and technology is raised: although theory is often the forerunner, it is possible to build machines that work even though no one knows why they do. Nevertheless, enough has been learned. to support his earlier hypothesis. Although the reasoning behind this hypothesis is not given in much detail, it forms the basis for the story as well as giving expression to two very important points. The first of these is Spencer's notion that a clear idea of what one is dealing with is necessary before progress can be made in dealing with it. This
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
may require a fresh approach and a new perspective. In the process of shifting perspective, previous theoretical formulations, no matter how venerable and no matter what evidence supports them (or at least does not disprove them, which is more usually the case with scientific proof), may have to give way. This is the reason behind Spencer's suggestion that Einstein's space-time continuum may be misleading and that time should be examined separately. Spencer is not necessarily denying Einstein, but he is looking for a fresh position from which to work. The second point is the nature of the attitude of the scientific establishment toward such revisions of the theoretical structure of the field. Both in the story, when Charley is sacked, and in our own world, it is extremely difficult to move scientists from a previously held theory to a newly formulated one. Many, many true accounts support this fictional one. There are advantages to this situation, of course, for the opposition and the necessity of proof before acceptance tend to ensure both the stability and the validity of the total construct of reality provided by the body of scientific theory. Nevertheless, the nature of the oppositionvery often stubborn refusal to listen-and the slowness of acceptance, particularly if an idea ultimately proves valid, is dismaying. In this story, the characters are flat, existing primarily to serve the action. Nevertheless, they are not without interest. The information we receive about Limpy, for example, is rather touching, though there is little of it and we never see him directly; In some ways, Leonard Asbury is the most fully developed of the characters, although all his characteristics revolve around Charley's memory of him as a twerp. Enough is seen of Mary Holland to make her insistence on her right to go first seem real and reasonable. (Her presence her luck of the draw, and the subsequent bequest from the past all suggest fate, though nothing more is done with that theme.) Charley Spencer, the focal character, seems least alive of them all, but it is
still possible to align oneself with him and to fol1ow him with some interest. Thus, each of the characters in the story is functional, serving a definite purpose in the exploration of time; but they at least rise some small distance above functionality to believability and interest.
"Singularities Make Me Nervous," by Larry Niven The essence of this story is the paradox involved in time travel, with something of a twist at the end. Thus, George Cox returns home from space to visit himself-a younger self. They talk, the older convincing the younger that they are the same person. They also discuss the black hole phenomena responsible for this situation, the events that led up to it,· and the money to be gained in the stock market as a result of it. (It is revealed to the reader, but not to the younger George Cox, that this same situation has happened at least once before.) However, the pattern does not hold true; this time, one of the other astronauts in training is· picked for the flight. On the day of the flight, as the two George Coxes had planned, the older one goes through the gate with Frank Curey to check the ship, while the younger one comes onto the field through another gate. Frank knocks out the younger George before he can hit Frank; -however, the older George knocks out Frank and ties the two up. He then decides to take the ship through the flight plan, although he doesn't know what the result will be. Niven has said publicly that time travel stories are fantasies and that we have nothing in modern science that would support the building of a time-travel machine. Although this story would seem to give the lie, at least partially, to this statement, it does seem to be generally valid when applied to the ways the theme and the device have been used in the past. There is a difference in this story, however. Rather
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
than inventing a machine capable of somehow manipulating time, Niven has used a known feature of the universe, the black hole, and some of the phenomena thought to be associated with it. Furthermore, Niven provides no method of controlling the action of the black hole or of choosing the time one wanted to visit, as there often is in time travel stories. Though it might be argued that what happens to George Cox is fantasy, it seems much more persuasive to argue that, instead, Niven has speculatively pushed some of the currently believed facts and theories held by science about the nature of the universe to a logical conclusion. Thus, you start by accepting Einstein's general theory of relativity. Implicit in this theory is the idea that time and space are linked, that they form a continuum. Black holes are observed phenomena, and hence can be safely accepted without hesitation. If, as these observations have suggested, the tremendous mass and gravitational pull of the black hole actually distort the universe in the vicinity of the black hole, then this must mean that time and space are also distorted. This is the background Niven has used, with much of it explicitly mentioned in the story. The speCUlation begins within the Swartzchild radius of black hole: nothing is actually known about what happens within this singularity. There is, then, some question about what a black hole actually does: "A hole into another universe, maybe, or into another part of this one, maybe. That's in the equations too. And there's a path around a rotating black hole that brings you back to your starting point without even going through the singularity. That sounds harmless enough until you realize you're talking about event-pointspoints in space-time." (p. 150) What George Cox will be/was supposed to do on the mission for which he is/was training will be/was to circle the black hole and drop probes into it.
Instead, he will/did send his spaceship Ulysses throu..gh that path rather than sending the probe through. It is at this point that several of the paradoxes usually associated with travel in time become impor- . tanto One of the traditional questions has been whether or not a human being can meet himself-whether two versions of the same person can exist in the same time. Obviously, Niven's answer is that it is possible, an answer which is as frequent as the suggestion that it is impossible, for both have been explored in some detail. Much more basic to this story is the question of where this cycle started, for the older George Cox indicates that he was visited in the same way that he is visiting the younger version of himself and was prepared in the same way. The implication is, of course, that he who is now the younger Cox will return as the older and visit a younger version of himself. On the basis of this reasoning, the cycle seems endless and the actions leading up to it determined. The next question raised, then, is how determined this cycle actually is, for this time around Frank Curey is chosen to pilot the probe rather than George Cox. The older man, to be sure, manages to gain the spaceship and to take off; but both these elements are at variance with the process that he described as his experience the first time he went through this flight. There is, of course, no indication of what might have varied the situation. Weare left, then, with several possibilities for a resolution: (1) this is a part of the larger cycle and the same variability has manifested itself before at some point; (2) it is a genuine variation on the situation and there will henceforth be three George Coxes visiting one another; or (3) such cycles are unnatural and the universe is somehow trying to correct an imbalance. There may well be other possibilities. The major interest of the story is the way it takes accepted theory, moves into areas mathematically predicted by that theory, and then speculates about pos-
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
sible results if that prediction is accurate. Because it is predicated on the space-time continuum of the
general theory of relativity, as well as on observed features of the single black hole so far discovered, this story must be considered hard science fiction rather than fantasy, as most time-travel stories normally would be. Because these characteristics of black holes are not yet established, and because Niven moves into areas related to, but as yet unknown to, modem science, the story must be considered speculative rather than extrapolative. Whatever the facts actually tum out to be, if we ever discover them, "Singularities Make Me Nervous" provides interesting speCUlation on the possibilities.
SOFT SCIENCE FICTION
Included in this category are "A Miracle of Small Fishes," "The Whirligig of Time," "Twig," and "Schwartz Between the Galaxies." Basically, all these stories focus on the human element in the situationon the sociological, the psychological or the political reaction to some kind of change in the given situation. Undoubtedly, scientific or technological developments provide the basis of this change, but these lie in the background of the story rather than being explored for their own sake as in the hard science fiction stories. Stories of this type seem to predominate in presentday science fiction, whether in the novels or in the magazines.
"A Miracle of Small Fishes," by Alan Dean Foster The thrust of this story seems to be balanced between the effects of and the reasons for technological change on the one hand and the human reactions to that change on the other; the direct focus, however, is on the human beings involved. Thus, because of
the large harvesting factories, Grandfather comes home once again without sardines in his catch. This, and the attitude of others toward his keeping to the old ways, upsets his granddflughter J osefa Flores so much that she mentions it to Father Peralta in confession. He tells her that a rich catch for her grandfather would take a miracle, so she spends the rest of the day praying for one. Her plight so touches Father Peralta that he includes her story in a letter to his old friend Archbishop Estrada in Mexico City, along with a request that he use an old friendship with Martin Fowler to see if something can be done. Fowler, director of the North American Fisheries Control, has been trying to find some way to convince a Senate committee that a part of the sardine crop should be used to seed a new yellowtail fishery. He once again goes through all the logical arguments before the committee; and when they again have nc effect, he tells the story of J osefa Flores. Three of the five members grant Fowler and 10sefa their wishes. For five minutes during their current run, the sardines go past the factory. Grandfather comes home with a load of sardines. ~~A Miracle of Small Fishes" is a rather sentimental exploration of human responses to the adversity suffered by a proud old man and to the faith of his granddaughter. In these terms, the story has a number of elements in common with Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. However, Foster uses this surface narrative to explore several questions about science and technology, particularly as they relate to human beings. Clearly, the overall thematic interest of the story is concerned with ecosystems; that is, with the relationships among life forms. Although most people tend not to extend the idea of an ecosystem to the human sphere, man is very much a part of it; this point is emphasized by "A Miracle of Small Fishes." Thus, the story begins with an old man who has gone a long time without a catch of sardines. He has been successful at fishing; he is proud of his life,
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
and he refuses to consider working in a mechanized fishery. Particularly when we see his granddaughter's reaction to his run of "bad luck," we sympathize with him and tend to condemn the mechanization of fishing. That the mechanized fishery lets nothing through for him to catch only intensifies this reaction. However, these assumptions are rather drastically modified as the story focuses on the succession of characters who bring about Grandfather's catch at the end of the story. This chain of characters is somewhat analogous to the cause-and-effect sequences that characterize an ecosystem, for an action in one part of the system has broadening effects throughout the system. Thus, J osefa Flores wants only that her grandfather have one more good catch of sardines so he can retire with dignity. Her plea and her faith affect Father Peralta enough to influence him to include her story in a letter to the Archbishop with the request that he pass it along to Fowler; Archbishop Estrada is sufficiently affected by the story to pass it along. To this point, the action moves in a straight line. Once the action reaches Fowler, however, it begins to spread out. When Fowler relays the request to the Senate committee, he reaches five people, affecting three of them enough to determine a course of action affecting millions of people. The effect is complex. Because these three voted to allow a five-minute opening of a gate in the fishery operation, many people will have slightly less to eat at a slightly higher cost for a short time. On the other hand, this opening will also allow a yellowtail fishery to be started, which in the long run will feed these same people-and more-better and more cheaply. For Josefa Flores, however, the only result that she sees or knows about is that Grandfather once again comes home with a large catch of sardines; she knows nothing of the short-term price that many people paid for her miracle nor of the long-tenn gain made possible by it. The number of people fed by the mechanized harvesting of sardines and the cost to them of letting
even a small fraction of the school through modifies our disapproval of mechanized fishing somewhat. The discussion of what the Fisheries Control does further modifies it. The Fisheries Control seems to have been established because the fishing industry had been mismanaging the source of its livelihood to the point where the Alaskan king crab was nearly overfished to extinction; in addition, its methods were inefficient, so that the cost of fish foods was high. Instead, the fisheries now ensure a great quantity of fish foods by using excess heat and water from atomic plants to make nutrients on the ocean floor available to the fish. Even though the factories take the entire run of fish, it is possible both to control and to increase the fish popUlation. Thus, the mechanized fishing factories do indeed exploit the resources of the sea; but they do so in an ecologically sound and knowledgeable manner, so that the exploitation benefits not only man but nature as well. In so doing, they offset and reverse the errors of earlier methods of fishing. A strong suggestion is. made that many of our current problems caused by the confrontation between nature and the machine can be solved, not by eliminating machines, but by building them and using them more knowledgeably. Two other points of interest about this story might be mentioned. First, though it is very indirect, a portrait of the world to come is sketched. This world has a much greater popUlation than our world, necessitating increased exploitation of the sea. Its power needs, which must be enormously greater, are met by both fission and fusion nuclear reactors. There is considerably greater and more sophisticated knowledge about nature and natural forces, which allows nondestructive exploitation. Nevertheless, most of the population does not enjoy a very high standard of living; the numbers are apparently too great. Second, the story contains a tempered slap at government, which has not changed. Thus, Senator Petterson is interested far more in immediate benefit than in pos-
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
sible long-term increased benefit. Furthermore, her committee as a whole seems to be rather suspicious of science and to dismiss the projections of scientists contemptuously, even when they are important to the decision to be made. Finally, much as there is a verbal emphasis on the facts, decisions tend to be made for other reasons. All told, then, while "A Miracle of Small Fishes" seems to start out as a sentimental echo of The Old Man and the Sea, it goes its own way in an interesting and rather complex fashion. "The Whirligig of Time," by Vernor Vinge
Fifteen generations after American cities were destroyed by smuggled-in bombs, the world's emperor, his son, l'lnd the top three levels of the aristocracy are on a space cruise to celebrate the prince's birthday. A strange object is sighted by the crew, and the prince's expert on pre-Imperial spacecraft-Boblanson, non-citizen born in the Kalifornija Preserve-is brought in. He builds a case that this is definitely something the prince would like for his collection, for it may even be extraterrestrial. The captain begins the process of discovering the prince's wishes. Finally, the lord chamberlain orders Boblanson to the main deck to confer with the prince, whom he convinces of the value of the object; the prince convinces his father. The captain initiates the programing to retrieve the object. Only then does he begin to speculate on the object and on Boblanson's behavior. Though there is time to abort the procedure when he realizes that the object must be a weapon left over from the battle that destroyed America, he chooses to let it come on, destroying the aristocracy and once again giving ordinary men a chance. As the title implies, "The Whirligig of Time" is based on a cyclical view of history. First, just as the United States was brought down by a distracting show of missile power to cover internal sabotage, so, too, is
the' succeeding Empire destroyed by distraction until the destructive force can be utilized; the specific means may be different, but the principle is the same. Second, there seems to be the suggestion that democracy and tyranny follow alternating cycles: that is, the United States was destroyed, opening the way for fifteen generations of tyranny; at the end of the story, the Empire has been effectively destroyed, opening the way again for the possibility of individual freedom. Within this framework, the theme seems to focus on the power that the possibility of freedom has on the individual, motivating him to self-sacrifice and death; there is also a suggestion, however, that life and progress will continue, regardless of the political system dominant at any given time. The main focus of the story is on Captain Vanja Bildaze of the Emperor's space yacht, but the crucial character is Boblanson, the prince's expert on preEmpire spacecraft. Boblanson is a little man, balding and poorly nourished. He is one of the very few non-citizens of the Empire allowed outside the Preserves; nearly all of these remaining few are in the Emperor's menageries. He also has some spirit left in him, although he is careful to appear humble and obsequious when dealing with citizens. Boblanson is, of course, more than an individual; he is a member of a thoroughly oppressed group of people. When he replies to Bildaze's question about his expertise, Boblanson's reply is double-edged, though Bildaze does not realize it: "Yes, Eminence. I was born in the Prince's Kalifornija Preserve. For all these centuries, my tribes have passed from father to son the lore of the Great Enemy. Many times the. Prince has sent me to explore the glowing ruins within the Preserves. I have learned all I can of the past." (p. 88) On one level, this statement can be taken as a simple
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
statement of his credentials; this is certainly the level on which citizens of the Empire would take it, for they have been conditioned by centuries of looking down on the residents of the Preserves. On another level, however, this is a statement indicating that the heritage of these tribes, the greatness that was their ancestors', has not been forgotten. It would seem, then, that all the inhabitants of the Preserves have carefully cultivated the mask of ignorance and subservience, while keeping their own course; Boblanson seems to differ only in that he has greater than normal intelligence and dedication and in his luck in being chosen by the prince. Although he is a Citizen of the Empire, Bildaze is not really any freer than Boblanson. He, too, must watch what he says and how he acts, for the emperor's surveillance extends everywhere, even to such places as the alpine meadows where he had gone with Klasa. In fact, it seems probable that he must be even more careful, for where non-citizens are viewed with contempt, citizens are viewed with suspicion. Bildaze must go through the degradation of waiting for functionaries to decide that they will respond, all the while fearing that the prince will take offense at the intrusion and, in a fit of anger, have him killed. Such factors as these offset his position and privileges, leading him to decide to allow the bomb to destroy the ship and thus to destroy the tyranny of the emperor and his nobility. Boblanson's motivation seems primarily to be revenge and hatred for those who destroyed his ancestors. Captain Bildaze is, then, more the idealist, for he . makes the choice for change. He is not so idealistic, however, as to believe that the process of change will be smooth and nonviolent; nor does he believe in the natural goodness of man. Nevertheless, he chooses change, for freedom from tyranny will allow greater opportunity for each individual. "The Whirligig of Time" is a rather didactic story, though it is somewhat more complex than most such
stories. Thus, basically the emperor's court represents tyranny and decadence, while Bildaze and Boblanson represent two levels of those oppressed by the emperor. Nevertheless, the emperor is seen as a strong figure who, in another context, might well have been a very positive force. Furthermore, the motivations of Boblanson and Bildaze are neither pure nor idealistic. Finally, the strong suggestion of periodicity in political regimes considerably modifies the notion of good triumphing over evil-period-so often found in didactic stories on this subject.
"Twig," by Gordon R. Dickson Twig, a girl raised by the Plant Grandfather on Jinson's Planet after her parents died, dashes into the supply post to get Hacker out before a posse arrives. They must fight their way out and then run. Pausing at a spot of momentary safety, Hacker decides to lead the posse through the rocks while Twig goes to find John Stone, a Paraplanetary Government ecologist Hacker asked for. She finds him and they talk. In the morning, they hurry toward the meeting with Hacker, arriving just before the posse does. Stone halts them, puts Hacker and Twig under the protection of the law, and tries to talk to the croppers who form the posse. They back off, but they will not be deterred. Stone sends Hacker to the nearest town; on the way he is attacked. Stone himself goes to inspect some of the burned-off areas, while Twig-who refuses to tell anyone the location of the Plant Grandfather-goes to check the croppers' boast that they have found him; ironically, it is Twig who leads them to him. He tells her this, what has happened to Hacker, and where he is. Twig rushes to him, meeting Stone there. Both Hacker and the Grandfather die. Stone comforts Twig, reminding her that both Hacker and the Grandfather left her with a mission to all life, which she finally accepts.
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
The Plant Grandfather is the most interesting concept in this story, the one feature which actually extends the situation beyond current conditions. The assumption of such things as interstellar travel and communication, or even of the existence of other inhabitable planets, lies very much in the background and seems to exist more for the purpose of allowing human actions and human motivations to be examined without the otherwise necessary reference to current human affairs. For that matter, the Plant Grandfather seems to serve much the same purpose on a more symbolic level, for it is through him that the multiple interconnections between life-forms that characteri7.e an ecosystem are made vivid and explicit. The basis for such an entity, incidentally, seems to lie in the current interest in whether or not plants have feelings and responses to external stimuli; some of the findings to date seem to indicate that they do. If this is indeed the case, then it seems reasonable to speculate that a plant body of sufficient complexity might be capable of some kind of thought and of some ability to communicate with other life-forms. However, while this is interesting speculation, the major purpose of the Plant Grandfather seems to be to symbolize the ecosystem. One of the main topics to be explored in "Twig," then, is man's relationship to the ecosystem. The fact that linson's Planet has been settled fairly recently, though long enough ago to allow settlement of all the best land, stresses this; for any unsound practices do not have the sanction of absolute necessity for survival behind them. Thus, the rapacity of the croppers is seen clearly as unconcerned greed. Their practice is destructive: Those who came after found that the soil covered by the plant-children of the Grandfather (the existence of whom they never suspected) was a thin layer over rock, and relatively unfertile--~n less it was burned over. Then the ashes were nch
.in what was needed to make the soil bear. But two succeeding years of planting sucked all those nutrients from what had been the bodies of plant sisters and brothers into produce, which was then carried downcountry and away from the wooded areas forever. To the cropper, however, this was no matter. He only moved on to burn out a new farm someplace else. (p. 196) As they move on, then, the croppers leave behind them soil that may never be regenerated; in time the entire planet will be despoiled. There is, of course, a strong suggestion that this attitude has been brought with them from Earth, where we seem bent on the same course. There are other, more positive signs, however. Hacker, for example, is a reformed cropper because his weakness for alcohol led him to get acquainted with the land rather than despoiling it. John Stone is a strong figure, but even more important is the fact that the Paraplanetary Government has seen fit to have available a corps of ecologists and to give them significant powers of action. Finally, there is Twig herself. A large part of the story is focused on Twig and leads up to her role after the death of the Grandfather. Thus, she was raised wild by the Plant Grandfather who could reach her mind because she was young enough; she knows the plants and the other life forms directly and thoroughly because they have literally protected her. She has, however, no concept of people until she meets Hacker; she learns some things about them, but she has no ability to relate the two phases of her life to one another, though she can move from one to the other. However, when the Grandfather dies, she must make a change; she must move completely into civilization, because she no longer has the Grandfather to fall back upon. Another way of putting this is to suggest that she must assume an adult role. Her first step in this new role is to assure the growing things on Jinson's Planet that,
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
though the Grandfather has died, life will go on and she will be to them as the Plant Grandfather was. In the process of subordinating her private grief to the well-being of all the life-forms on the planet, Twig grows up, becoming ready to help those who, like John Stone, are attempting to create a respect for life on all levels among men. It is to the shame of mankind that they so often fail in this mission.
"Schwartz Between the Galaxie$," by Robert Silverberg Schwartz, a man very much in demand as a speaker because of his anthropological theories, alternates between reality and fantasy. The reality is that he is confined to a unified Earth; the fantasy is that he is aboard a starship among many different beings from many worlds. On the starship, he observes these beings, discusses their ways with them, and learns from them. He is interrupted when the stewardess of the rocket flight he is on gives him landing instructions; she talks with him and indicates that she is easily available. A little later, he has an argument with Pitkin, the Yale economist with whom Schwartz has shared his fantasy. Then, while waiting for his baggage with Dawn, the stewardess, he begins to expound on his theories, ending by passing out. He has a discussion with an Antarean about mortality. The Capellans are inviting him to dance with tpem outside the ship as he talks. Schwartz explains to Dawn how he started, what draws him on, and why he abhors the homogeneity of the unified Earth. He talks with three Spicans, offering to exchange drugs with them; they agree to do so, but only at the proper moment. Schwartz gives his many-times-repeated speech about a return to cultural diversity without the old drawbacks.
He gets confused trying to define J ewishness for' the Antarean. At the reception after his talk, he becomes ill; Dawn takes him back to the hotel. The Spicans decide that the time has come, and they exchange drugs with him. He has, apparently, a vision of himself continuing the endless round of useless talks. The Antarean announces that her name is Dawn. Together they leave the spaceship to dance with the Capellans. Schwartz calls the other out to dance with them, and they all come joyously. The simplest way to deal with this story is to conclude that' Schwartz is insane and let it go at that. A more profitable way to deal with it is to view it in terms of the fact that a great deal of science fiction portrays the human reaction to change and to conditions likely to be met in the future. In "Schwartz Between the Galaxies," Silverberg works from two basic assumptions about the world approximately a hundred and twenty years ("a dozen decades") from now. The first of these is that the trend toward imitation of the Western, especially American, style of living will continue, rapidly destroying ethnic and national differences and leaving a rather bland sameness wherever one goes. Japan and Germany are, of course, usually cited as the primary examples of this trend. The second assumption is that "the planets are barren and the stars are beyond reach" (p. 103). It is always possible, of course, for some tremendous breakthrough in science to occur in the next hundred years; but on the basis of current knowledge and theory, it is certainly unlikely that such a breakthrough would include faster-than-light travel, which is what would be necessary for man to reach beyond the planets to the stars. Thus, "Schwartz Between the Galaxies" is a story of a man's reaction to a world created by these conditions. In many ways, Schwartz is very much like Miniver Cheevy in Robinson's poem, for he is man born too
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
late, a man who longs for the days and the achievements of the past that are no longer possible. Thus, Schwartz is an anthropologist who must either study the dead past or look for minute differences in the sameness of the present. Given this choice, he looks back toward the days when anthropologists had a great deal of diversity in the present to explore. [He is] that true heir to Kroeber and Morgan and Malinowski and Mead, delightedly devouring their delicious diversity [that is, the diversity aboard his imaginary spaceship, although it could also apply to the diversity of these anthropologists]. Whereas aboard this prosaic rocket, this planetlocked stratosphere-needle, one cannot tell the Canadians from the Portuguese, the Portuguese from the Romanians, the Romanians from the Irish, unless they open their mouths, and sometimes not always then. (p. 104) Schwartz is, then, a romantic, one who looks for the strange, the different, the exotic. It is not, however, simply this that drives him. There is also a belief that an understanding of one's own culture comes only from knowing another one well: "But one way we've always been able to learn about ourselves is by studying alien cultures, studying them completely, and defining ourselves by measuring what they are that we aren't" (p. 113). Quite obviously, in a self-enclosed, homogeneous popUlation, such an outside measuring stick will be difficult to come by, and Schwartz is quite right to suggest that mankind will be the poorer for it. Schwartz reacts to his world in two ways, though it can be said that these are two variations on the same reaction. One is the creation of his starship, inhabited by beings from many different planets, all of whom are ready to talk with him and to teach him of their ways. The other way is the program he presented in his book, The Mask Beneath the Skin,
and on which he lectures. This program involves a "rebirth of tribalism without a revival of ugly nationalism." The quest for a renewed sense of kinship with the past. A sharp reduction in nonessential travel, especially tourism. Heavy taxation of exported artifacts, including films and video shows. An attempt to create independent cultural units on Earth once again while maintaining present levels of economic and political interdependence. Relinquishment of materialistic technological-industrial values. New searches for fundamental meanings. (pp.117-118) A number of problems are inherent in this program; perhaps the main one is shown when the Antarean of his fantasy tries to get him to define J ewishness: if Schwartz cannot do that without becoming greatly confused, can others revert to equally undefinable tribal folkways? In short, his book and his talk--endlessly repeated to endlessly similar audiences-are versions of his fantasy, applied to Earth and verbalized; all are equally impossible to bring to reality. As he gradually realizes this, Schwartz gradually retreats further and further into his fantasy until it completely absorbs him. FANTASY jSCIENCE FANTASY
At times the line between these two categories is rather thin, for the real difference seems to lie in the amount of explanation that the author provides about the world in which the story takes place. In both cases, the laws of the world of the story are different in some way from the laws that we accept as governing our own universe. In both cases, the laws of the postulated universe are orderly and discoverable, though that order need not be of the type that we
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
are used to. Fantasy also tends to have a more indirect connection with our world than does science fantasy. Because the line is so thin, and because "Mr. Hamadryad" lies so close to that line, the question of its categorization will be left moot.
"Mr. Hamadryad," by R. A. Lafferty The narrator, a traveler in coconuts, meets Mr. Hamadryad in the Third Cataract Club in Dongola, where they discuss the means by which ancient monuments were not raised. They also discuss Easter Island and the dread point, which is the shadow of God's thumb and toward which Easter Island is drifting. There is an altercation between Mr. Hamadryad and a Mr. Caracal, during which they both somehow vanish. The narrator and Mr. Hamadryad meet again five years later in Oklahoma City at the Sun Deck Club. They resume the conversation where they left off, continuing on into the creation and testing of the races, of which man is only the most recent. They also talk about faith which moves mountains and about a young puma who has moved Black Mesa nine inches in three days. Again Mr. Caracal enters, there is an altercation, and they somehow leave. Several years later, the narrator meets Mr. Hamadryad in Drill's Marine Bar in Rapa Nui on Easter Island. They talk of the change that is taking place. Mr. Caracal enters the room, Mr. Hamadryad becomes an absence, the narrator feels himself becoming an absence, and the narrator feels himself becoming a new person. Catlikeness has taken over from monkeylikeness. The rules which govern the universe of the story are not those we currently accept as ruling the universe we live in. Nevertheless, the story takes off from known elements and legends of our world and builds a world in which those elements are explained and
the legends are true. Furthermore, that world has value in focusing our attention on certain aspects of our own. Thus, the story itself might well be a response to a question much like "What is the significance of the huge statues on Easter Island?" But that response focuses our attention on two different ways of approaching our world. In order to do this, the story takes place just before and during a changing of the guard; the eclipse of beings epitomizing one approach and the emergence of beings epitomizing the other gives shape to the story. In fact, this is clearly indicated in the first paragraph of the story: For some time there had been the feeling of an immediate change in the earthy globe, of a great turning-over that might replace the scatterbrained, petty, irascible and inefficient, though somehow human tone of the world with something that was cool, fastidiously ordered, immeasurably cruel, suave, silky, feline and altogether devilish. But the closeness, the reality of that change didn't sweep over me till I first met Mr. Hamadryad. (p. 125) This changeover is not without meaning and without struggle; in terms of the story, behind this is an almost theological vision and explanation. Thus, man is but the most recent in a long line of bein.gs who have been created in pairs and had their faith tested to the breaking point. Mr. Hamadryad, who looks exactly like one of the statues on Easter Island, is a member of the line just before humanity, as is his feline counterpart, Mr. Caracal. Mr. Hamadryad explains their relationship in this way: "Our enemies serve as our angels and our slaves for an era. Then it all turns over, in a strange way and out of the sight of God. Then we must serve as angels and slaves to our enemies for a
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
long era. We will be forced to move and lift and carry, to hew and to shape." (p. 135) Whereas there are two clear races in this previous line, man was created with a shoulder angel, who could be seen only if we would; this shoulder angel stands in the same relation to man as Mr. Caracal stands to Mr. Hamadryad (or vice versa by the end of the story). Although the earlier tests were violent and' cataclysmic, each testing is gentler than the one before; in the case of the two races preceding man, the test seems to be for the faith that moves mountains-literally. Thus, in their second meeting, Mr. Hamadryad tells the narrator of a young, untrained puma who moved the Black Mesa nine inches in three days. This is then related to the movement of Easter Island (in our world, it does not), for the slaves and angels are moving it toward the dread point, in the shadow of God's thumb, the only place that God cannot see; only there can the slaves overthrow the masters. It is in anticipation that Mr. Hamadryad is seen trying to move small objects each time the narrator meets him. The parallelism of the meetings between the narrator and Mr. Hamadryad is interesting and emphasizes the changes that have taken place. The narrator is always there first. Double footsteps precede Mr. Hamadryad into the room. The drink he orders is the specialty of the club and he orders "the regular" for lunch. He attempts to move small objects. Mr. Caracal enters, and somehow the two of them disappear. Against this is the fact that Hamadryad and the narrator pick up their conversation exactly where they left off several years earlier, thus advancing the explanation and emphasizing the change that is occurring. This is also emphasized by the fact that the ending of the third encounter is radically altered, though the other elements remain parallel. Just what this Monkey-Cat alternation has to say about our life now is ambiguous. Particularly since
the Yin-Yang alternation is brought to bear (p. 131), it would seem to include all oppositions within the unity of the whole. Thus, it may be the opposition between logic (feline) and emotion (monkey), between compassion (monkey) and justice (feline), between science (feline) and the humanities (monkey)--or any of a great number of other similar paired opposites. Involved in all this is a cyclical view, that in the course of time one of the pair will wane and lose strength while the other gains strength and comes to dominance; this is a scheme which can be applied reasonably successfully to a number of things, including literary history and the history of science fiction. However, these are paired opposites, parts of the whole and necessary to it; thus, though one may be dominant, the other is never lost. Thus, though "Mr. Hamadryad" is not particularly true to reality as we know it, the story is fun to read and it may be truer to a deeper level of human experience than appears at first glance. CONCLUSIONS
These nine stories provide a good introductory survey of types of science fiction and of the varieties of approach within those types. Particularly if the differences between the types of stories are considered, they can profitably be compared and contrasted on many levels, including approach to their subject matter, characterization, literary style, vision of the future (or the present or the past, since these are often implicit), elements emphasized, and so on. To simply stress the teaching qualities of this volume would, however, be an error, for it has other good points. For example, Stellar 1 has a higher proportion of good, solid science fiction than most other anthologies available. There should be at least one story in this volume that will interest nearly every reader. And nearly all of these stories can be read for sheer en·
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
joyment on one level or another, even though they also speak to our world and the way we live. In short, Stellar 1 seems well worth reading and using in a variety of ways. I, for one, am looking forward to Stellar 2.
TOPICS AND PROJECTS
Imagine a member of some other profession whose chosen work might be drastically changed in the future. What forms might his insanity take if he, like Schwartz, could no longer do what he wanted to professionally? What changes might affect various professions in ways similar to the effect world homogeneity has on anthropology in the Silverberg story?
Look at our society and find contrasting pairs of opposites (or supposed opposites). What kinds of beings would aptly symbolize each member of the pair? Imagine a process by which one member took over from the other. What would be the differences in the way people live? Can you think of any way to prevent mankind from continuing its disregard for its environment, either here on Earth or on other planets (if we ever find any)? Develop your plan in as much detail as you can and try to determine whether or not it would work. Project an alien world different in some way from Earth (it would probably be best if the world had only one or two major points of difference rather than
being as complex as Omituinen in "The Logical Life"). What characteristics and adaptations would be necessary to live under those conditions? Would these affect the society and people's attitudes?
Can you think of other devices and techniques for using and gathering natural resources that might throw some people out of work but that would help many more people as well as preserving the environment better? What would the result of putting these into practice be?
Knowing what you know now, would you do anything differently if you were suddenly thrown back in time six months? a year? What would you do? Why? What do you think it would be like to be sent into the future? What would you do if you were?
• From the very few clues given in "The Whirligig of Time," can you expand the picture of what life on the Kalifornija Preserve is like? You can, of course, also use any other similar situations to assist you in doing this.
See if you can find out how close "Fusion" comes to actually portraying the means currently being tried to reach a sustained fusion reaction.
The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum Introduction by Isaac Asimov ALTHOUGH THE PUBLICATION date for this collection of stories is 1974, it should be noted that all of the stories included were first published between 1934 and 1937, before the so-called Golden Age of science fiction began in 1939. In spite of the age of these stories, however, and with some changes in the scientific data on which they are based, they might well be taken for contemporary writing by one who does not know when they were published; certainly, they stand up well when compared to all but a few present-day stories in the field. The science is often inaccurate in terms of current knowledge, but several things must be kept in mind. First, as Asimov points out in his introduction, Weinbaum's science was as accurate as possible at the time the stories were written. Second, with the rapid addition of new knowledge in the sciences, it is obviously impossible for a writer to know what will be known forty years later; the most a reader can reasonably ask of the writer is that he be as faithful as he can to what is known when he is writing. Third, the consequences Weinbaum develops from his premises are consistent with those premises. Although it is important in itself, the science also provides the setting of the story, the adventure, and the sense of wonder. Would that more modern science fiction followed this pattern and would still read as well in 2014. Though they do not encompass all the stories in this collection, two major groups, or types, of stories can be distinguished. The larger group might be called the planetary exploration stories, in which a planet,
THE BEST OF STANLEY
its characteristics, and the way that man must cope with its strange environment are presented; it is in these stories that the scientific knowledge of the 1930's is especially important. This group, in descending order of prominence of the exploration theme, includes "A Martian Odyssey" and "Valley of Dreams" (both set on Mars), "Parasite Planet" and "The Lotus Eaters" (both on Venus), "The Mad Moon" (on Jupiter's moon 10), and "Redemption Cairn" (on la's companion moon Europa). There is no easy label for the other stories; it is tempting to call them mad scientist stories, but it should be made clear that they are humorous rather than serious, mildly satiric rather than straight. Included among them are "Worlds of If" and "The Ideal" (both about Dixon Wells and Professor van Manderpootz), and "Pygmalion's Spectacles." What these three stories have in common is a rather nutty professor (though not quite of the Jerry Lewis type) and an incredible invention. The three remaining stories in the volume are all set on Earth and postulate a single change in the situation; two of these are related to the two major groups. "The Adaptive Ultimate" has slight ties with the mad scientist group, with the difference that the scientists involved are serious and conscientious researchers sympathetically portrayed. "Proteus Island" has even slighter ties with this group, in that it deals with the chaotic results of a serious experiment in mutation by a reputable scientist wlio was overwhelmed by his experiment. This story also has some relationships with the planetary exploration group, for the results of Callan's experiments after fifteen years are nearly as alien as anything found on Mars or Venus; Carver's plight is much the same as that of the planetary explorer, for he must both make sense of what he finds and survive. The final story, "Shifting Seas," is the clearest example of the "what would happen if . . . " type of story; it postulates a nearly simultaneous eruption of the Ring of Fire surrounding the Pacific Ocean, submerging half the Isthmus of Panama, most of Nicara-
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
gua, and Costa Rica, and then traces the consequences that would follow. These categories are largely for the sake of convenience and discussion, for within the similaritic~ it is the differences which make these stories distinctive, interesting, and just plain fun. THE
The three stories that most fully fall into this category seem to be mainly for fun and to very mildly dcJla\L' some of the grander pretensions of scientists and of science. This is particularly true of the two van Manderpootz stories, in which the good profe~s')J believes himself to be the culmination of all the scientific geniuses of the past and the discoverer (If the most hidden of the secrets of the universe. In "Pygmalion's Spectacles," Professor Ludwig believes that he has made a great discovery that industry has foolishly turned down, and he has a flash of the egoism that characterizes van Manderpootz, but the emphasis of the story is on the nature of illusion and reality and'of the effect of one on the other, which are treated quite seriously. Thus, though there arc some similarities in the treatment of the scientist and of his invention, the effect of these stories is quite different. "Worlds of If'
In this story, Dixon Wells is late for a flight to Russia for the opening of bids on the Ural Tunnel because of a chance meeting with Haskel van Manderpootz, his old physics professor. His regret at having missed the flight is tempered by the knowledge that the plane collided with another and lost all but one-fifth of those aboard. Shortly after this, he visits van Manderpootz in his laboratory. The professor
THE BEST OF STANLEY
announces that he has solved some of the mysteries of time and has invented a device to move sideways in time, to the conditional worlds that might have happened if some element were changed. Dick Wells is the first to use it, and his interest is in what would have happened had he sold his stocks a year earlier, when that sale would have made him a millionaire rather than dependent on his father; he- discovers that the actress he had been infatuated with at the time would have married him and made his life hell. Some time later, he begins to wonder what would have happened if he had caught the rocket to Russia, which had waited five minutes for him. He would have met an interesting and beautiful girl. They still would have crashed, and his session ends with the impression they both would have died. Finally, however, he discovers that she is alive, saved by the navigator. When he goes to press his suit, he is once again too late, for she has married that navigator. "The Ideal"
This time, van Manderpootz has discovered spations, chronons, cosmons, and psychons; these are the smallest units of space, the smallest units of time, the universal particle which provides the matrix for the universe, and the smallest unit of thought. With this knowledge, he has constructed the idealizator, which takes psychons and transforms them into quanta; this makes the idealized forms of a subject's thoughts visible. When van Manderpootz tries it on Dixon Wells-with the idea of ultimately saving the professor's more valuable psychons for mankind-his subject is thinking of girls. The vision of his ideal woman leaves Wells rather down. However, that vision reminds van Manderpootz of an old flame, whose daughter Denise is coming to the United States to study; he arranges a meeting between Dick and the girl. Unfortunately, the two young people are left
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
alone with the idealizator; Denise decides that she wants excitement and concentrates on horror. Additionally unfortunate is the fact that when Dick stops the machine because she is so terrified, his face is reflected in the idealizator, right in the middle of the young woman's worst fears. Denise marries the young psychiatrist who is helping her recover from her experience; Dick is left staring at the lips of Tips Alva, the only part of his current flame that matches his ideal.
The Foil In both of the van Manderpootz stories, Dixon Wells plays the straight man, the person to whom the scientist can-indeed, must--explain things. Dick is the scion of N. J. Wells, owner of N. J. Wells Corporation, Engineers Extraordinary. He is also an engineer himself, although his father has not given him many chances to prove it in the seven years since his graduation. It was in the course of his education that he first made contact with van Manderpootz, having taken physics courses from him; for some reason, van Manderpootz took a liking to him, probably because he needs to explain everything to him. Aside from the fact that his education doesn't seem to have taken too well, Dixon Wells has two prominent characteristics. First, he has a weakness for chorus girls and entertainers of various types. For example, in "The Ideal" he is pursuing Tips Alva, "the little blond imp who entertains on the Yerba Mate hour for that Brazilian company" (p. 219), while in "Worlds of If" he is concerned with Whimsy White. He also seems eager to marry, though not necessarily an entertainer. More important, Dixon Wells is always late, a fact which motivates both much of the action and a great deal of the humor in these stories. Thus, in "Worlds of If" he uses the subjunctivisor first to discover what would have happened if he had not sold his stocks
BEST OF STANLEY
too late, and the second time to find out what would have happened if he had caught the flight to Russia. In addition; he arrives late when he goes to see van Manderpootz (at one point, van Manderpootz is surprised that he is only ten minutes late; he 1tad planned on it being an hour), when he arrives home, when he gets to work, and when he finally tries to find the girl. All told, Dixon Wells is lovable but inept at nearly everything, though especially at being on time. The Nutty Professor
Even the name van Manderpootz provides the first clue to the attitude that must be taken toward him; somehow, that is hard to take seriously, particularly in a fictional context. This effect is enhanced by his explanations of things: "Simple, for van Manderpootz! I use polarized light, polarized not in the horizontal or vertical planes, but in the direction of the fourth dimension-an easy matter. One uses Iceland spar under colossal pressure, that is all. And since the worlds are very thin in the direction of the fourth dimension, the thickness of a single light wave, though it may be but millionths of an inch, is sufficient. A considerable improvement over time-traveling in past or future, with its impossible velocities and ridiculous distances!" (p. 152) The absolutely impossible is spoken of in terms of utter simplicity; the grander the claim, the easier its achievement is made to seem. Finally, there is van Manderpootz's colossal vanity and self-esteem. At one point he plans his autobiography; he also promises Dixon that he will get an autographed copy: " . . . It will be priceless. I shall write in some fitting phrase, perhaps something like Magnificus
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
sed non superb us. 'Great but not proud!' That well describes van Manderpootz, who despite his greatness is simple, modest, and unassuming. Don't you agree?" (p. 151)
This is one of the lesser paeans to himself in these two stories. The Satire
The calm assumption of superiority and the matterof-fact statement of impossibilities are the primary satirical elements in these two stories. Another is the way that van Manderpootz postulates a new and farreaching theory of the nature of the universe and immediately-if not sooner-slaps together a machine that embodies this theory and works perfectly, apparently using only the odds and ends lying around his laboratory; he discards the machine as rapidly when a new whim hits him. All of this can, of course, be aimed at genuine scientists, who sometimes give the impression that they know everything there is to know. However, it applies even more to many of the scientist-heroes of early science fiction. Although many of these characters were meant to be taken seriously and to be admired, it is only the author's attitude that separates them from van Manderpootz as they slap together (or hastily construct) vast new machines to save the world. In this way, Weinbaum successfully pokes mild fun at two targets that frequently took (take) themselves too seriously. "Pygmalion's Spectacles" In this story, Dan Burke has wandered out of a party for fresh air only to fall into the company of a tiny man who keeps talking to him about illusion and reality, mentioning Bishop Berkeley in the process.
THE BEST OF STANLEY
Finally, the man, who identifies himself as Professor Ludwig, tells him that he has developed a movie process that provides total sensory stimulation and makes the viewer a part of the scene. It has been turned down for business use, because it Is too expensive and only one person can use it at a time. However, the professor invites Burke to try it. On a whim, he does. After a brief explanation of the process, Burke puts on a rather odd pair of spectacles and steps into an idyllic world where everything is ordered and simple and beautiful. At first he remains aware of the "real" world of the room he is in, but gradually this fades and he becomes more and more engrossed with walking and talking with Galatea, the girl in this world. They fall in love and are about to go against the laws of the world-when the movie ends. Ludwig is gone, so Burke leaves the room and the hotel. He drags through some months, until he finds Ludwig, again by chance. In this conversation, he learns that Galatea was played by Ludwig's niece; the ideal world, he feels, is attainable after all. Comparisons The gadgetry involved provides the closest link between "Pygmalion's Spectacles" and the two van Manderpootz stories; the spectacles themselves and the process of making the movie are quite as fantastic as either the subjunctivisor or the idealizator: "I photograph the story in a liquid with lightsensitive chromates. I build up a complex solution-do you see? I add taste chemically and sound electrically. And when the story is recorded, then I put the liquid in my spectacles-my movie projector. I electrolyze the solution, the story, sight, sound, smell, taste, all!'' (p. 106) However, this is not presented as something quickly
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
put together, but rather as something that took a great deal of time and effort. The characters here are also not quite the same as their counterparts in the other two stories. Quile naturally, Professor Ludwig is proud of his efforts, but in talking about them he is not nearly as overbearing as van Manderpootz nor as self-glorifying; he may be as single-minded, but he is far more humble. Perhaps the main thing that separates Dan Burke and Dixon Wells is competence; there is in Burke none of the lateness or the mishandled situations that make Wells a humorous, pathetic figure. However, they each have a vision of a woman who is their ideal, and they react in similar ways to the loss of that ideal. But Burke's vision is much more complex than Dixon's, for it also includes a world he wishes existed, and the girl in his vision becomes a symbol for the larger world in which he sees her. Though this world is pastoral and impossible, it represents an order and a beauty and a peace which Burke cannot find in the world in which he lives. This vision is also the more complex since there is some recognition that a totally ordered society leaves no room for human choice and thus is limited. Finally, the end of the story seems to promise that Dan Burke, , unlike Dixon Wells, may not be too late to meet his Galatea and to make at least a part of his vision a reality.
THE PLANETARY EXPLORATION STORIES
Just over half the stories in this collection can be, at least loosely, placed in this category. It is these stories for which Weinbaum seems to be most remembered, for they do several things and do them well. As Isaac Asimov notes in his introduction, Weinbaum's first published story was "A Martian Odyssey" and, even though it was published in one of the minor magazines, it had an electrifying effect
THE BEST OF STANLEY
on the field of science fiction. Asimov attributes this to several things: it was well written, his science was accurate by the standards of the time, he had a consistent picture of the solar system in which the ecologies made sense, and, by far the most important, he created interesting and truly alien aliens. As Asimov puts it: The pre-Weinbaum extra-terrestrial, whether humanoid or monstrous, served only to impinge upon the hero, to serve as a menace or as a means of rescue, to be evil or good in strictly human terms-never to be something in itself, independent of mankind. Weinbaum was the first, as far as I know, to create extraterrestrials that had their own reasons for existing. (p. x) The two best examples of this, of course, are Tweel in "A Martian Odyssey" and "Valley of Dreams" and Oscar in "The Lotus Eaters," although the barrelpeople in the Mars stories also fit this description well. The scientific background and the ecological systems that are featured in these stories are also extremely important, for they are closely related to these marvelous aliens. Again, Asimov makes the point briefly and clearly: Weinbaum had a consistent picture of the solar system (his stories never went beyond Pluto) that was astronomically correct in terms of the knowledge of the mid-1930s. He could not be wiser than his time, however, so he gave Venus a day-side and a night-side, and Mars an only moderately thin atmosphere and canals., He also took the chance (though the theory was already pretty well knocked-out at the ... time) of making the outer planets hot rather than cold so that the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn could be habitable.
TEACHERS' GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION
On each of the worlds he deals with, then, he allows for the astronomic difference and creates a world of life adapted to the circumstances of that world. The super-jungle of the day-side of Venus as pictured in "Parasite Planet" is, in my opinion, the most perfect example of an alien ecology ever constructed. (pp. x-xi) Though there may be some who would hesitate at the phrase "the most perfect example," it is certainly true that the great majority of people now writilll: science fiction could learn from Weinbaum's creatioll of alien ecologies, as well as from his portraits of aliens and solid story-telling in these stories of planetary exploration.