I still have not reviewed one of my favorite novels (tied with Christopher Priest’s 1981 masterpiece The Affirmation) that I read in 2016: Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972). I have an excuse—I successfully defended my PhD earlier this month and am currently revising the 300+ page dissertation for final submission later this summer! And, I must confess, the fear that I won’t be able to do The Infernal Desire Machines justice envelopes me….
On May 7th Angela Carter Online [an indispensable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about her life and works] posted a previously unpublished 1979 interview with Carter conducted by David Pringle for a New Worlds volume that never came together: “The conversation focuses mostly on the topic of science fiction, and includes discussions of the seminal Continue reading Fragment(s): Angela Carter on Science Fiction
(From Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969), 224)
First we must honor the book sacrificed in the making of this post: the spine of my Picador 1977 edition of Martin Bax’s The Hospital Ship (1976) needs some drastic surgery (glue) after I attempted to scan its dark interior….
As of late I’ve been fascinated by pseudo-knowledge in science fiction and speculative fiction–the scholarly afterward in The Iron Dream (1972), the real medical citations in The Hospital Ship (1976), the invented medical citations in Doctor Rat (1976), and “diagrammatic” SF covers filled with maps or anthropological diagrams.
Whatever form it takes, pseudo-knowledge—perhaps derived from our world or even “real” knowledge in our world modified and inserted into another imaginary one—adds, at the most basic level, a veneer of veracity. The most obvious category, and the one I am least interested in, is scientifically accurate Continue reading Fragment(s): Charts, Diagrams, Forms, and Tables in Science Fiction (John Brunner, Larry Niven, Christopher Priest, John Sladek, et al.)
(Ken Laidlaw’s cover for the 1977 edition)
I have fallen victim to hidden encyclopedic desires and delusions…
William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) was so compelling that I went through and marked each and every historical event and invented scientific article. Kotzwinkle might have believed one of the historical events was real (allegations of chemical warfare involving spiders and anthrax by the US in the Korean War) although most likely it’s a fabrication.
I examined at length in my review Kotzwinkle’s use of these two categories to create a “substrate” underpinning the world. This well-realized background causes the reader to, in my words, “increasingly wonder what is possible, what is happening, and what has already happened.” I suggest “Doctor Rat derives its power from not only the brutality of what unfolds but also the careful integration of both the historical and the imaginary.” Simultaneously, as the scientific citations are mentioned as part of Doctor Rat’s own “contributions” to the scientific world, they tend to operate as satirical indicators of cruelty done in the name of scientific progress.
These citations also add to the “compulsive syndrome” (175) of the novel’s conclusion as scientific tidbits, pseudo-scientific citations, historical events (both real and imaginary) collide….
Invented Scientific Articles
“It’s a 12-inch metal disc (for more, see my learned paper, “Rats on the Wheel,” Psy. Journal., 1963).” (10)
“Thank you, friends and fellow supporters, thanks for your confidence. As you know, the rat is man’s best friend. You’ve seen the advertisement in Modern Psychology magazine: “The Rat is Our Friend.'” (17) Continue reading Fragment(s): List of Historical Events and Invented Scientific Articles in William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976)
(Candy Amsden’s cover for the 1978 edition of The Crack (variant of: The Time of the Crack) (1973), Emma Tennant)
As I recently procured a copy of Emma Tennant’s The Crack (variant title: The Time of the Crack) (1973) in which a fault line appears under London destroying half the city, I decided to research her work.
William Grimes describes Emma Tennant’s fiction—in a New York Times retrospective on her life and works—as blending “fantasy, science fiction and social satire” that “explored the borderland between daylight and dreams, anatomized contemporary Britain.” Grimes quotes Gary Indiana’s 1990 The Village Voice article: “a startling procession of novels unlike anything else being written in England: wildly imaginative, Continue reading Fragment(s): Emma Tennant on the Influence of the 1970s British SF Scene