The Spaced-Out LIBRARY

Elmwood Kraemer

On Fantasy and SF


     The tendency is getting more toward the historical in SF publishing circles than it has been. This is particularly so where fantasy is concerned. New interest has awakened in Arkham House, and Lovecraft is being seriously discussed, along with his Circle and, of course, Cthulhu.  You can’t keep a good writer down. Next thing, there’ll be Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith collectibles.

     Prime Books brought out a collection of Smith’s tales in 2009 and it was distributed by the Science Fiction Book Club late last year. Introduced by Gene Wolfe, it is as representative a collection of stories by the author as may be had, and will give the reader insight into fantasy’s yesteryear. THE RETURN OF THE SORCEROR is its title, and although a story of that name is the first story presented in the book, one might consider it a reference to the popular resurrection of Smith himself in the title choice.

     More kinetic, more related to modern times while still hearkening back, and published just this year, is SPORES FROM SHARNOTH And Other Madnesses, by Leigh Blackmore. Don D’Ammassa and Darrell Schweitzer both appear as endorsers of the volume on the opening page. The compiler of the books is Charles Lovecraft, of Australia.

     Blackmore does several tributes to Lovecraft in the volume and is a worthy fantasy poet himself:

A priest there was of that unholy fane

Whose crooked frame and old grey eyes bespoke

Knowledge of things before the world awoke—

Primordial horrors queer as he would fain

Have left unknown—but now he  (like the din

Of waiting devotees without) is dead.

     Hard to find? It’s locatable on the net at www dot preapress dot com. That’s an easier job than J.K. Huysmans had in locating an underworld culture in LA BAS.

     A lot of e-book and self-published fiction is more representative of new trends than what is on the racks, and is nearly as well-written. I think readers would find them more interesting in terms of what’s doing than in terms of quality. Use of a search engine ought to bring these titles up fairly easily. There are none I would uniquely single out, as the authors are not trying to be unique, although they are trying to promote their volumes.

     Is there much sincerity in today’s science fiction? Do the authors, in other words, have a purpose in what they write? One major purpose in today’s sf writing is confrontation with doom and death, but that’s a mass purpose, ably consummated, perhaps, by Edward Lerner’s DARK SECRET.  Much of it is indictment of the human race.  We don’t see much of a redemptionist picture. But there is purpose in what they do, or there wouldn’t have been a re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The characters are completely different, responding differently to the same situation. (One thing I noticed about the re-make was they looked like they had been through the first version.)  The first version said the human race was doomed, but one day it would pass away. The second version said the human race was doomed.  So why make a film? one could ask.

     But I was thinking mainly of STAR TREK VOYAGER in terms of there being a purpose to what is written.  The earlier Star Trek had been loose about its purpose, looking rather aimlessly for redemption while getting farther from known reality. In VOYAGER there is a process into existentialism that was present off and on in the earlier Trek.  Notice that VOYAGER opens with Janeway looking for Paris in a place of penal servitude. She needs a pilot for a particularly long and bold trip. She wants a particular individual—this is an existential opening stressing the characters involved. The other Treks didn’t even show the crews being formed. Undoubtedly the makers of VOYAGER were aware of this and were laying it on the line.  The character of the crew as it is formed is closely studied.  (By the way, Paris, France, is a center of the existential philosophy; they were actually notating this existential approach.)  The characters go through numerous problems of identity, with the influence of WAITING FOR GODOT and IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR showing. Neelix doesn’t seem like a very existential character, but he seems to represent the perspective of Ionesco. Kes is totally unattached, a de-nationalized drifter through forms of existence.  Their time trips and inter-dimensional escapades are all existential experiences, their reality being that they are occurrances.

     What this contributes to the understanding of the viewer I wouldn’t know, but it’s an interesting trend in science fiction.

     See you again in January.