Slaves of the Death Spiders and Other Essays on Fantastic Literature
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by Brian Stableford
Category: Science Fiction/General Nonfiction
Description: This new collection of critical essays on science fiction and fantasy literature and media features the following pieces: "Slaves of the Death Spiders: Colin Wilson and Existential Science Fiction," "Is There No Balm in Gilead? The Woeful Prophecies of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale," "A Few More Crocodile Tears" "The Adventures of Lord Horror Across the Media Landscape," "Filling in the Middle: Robert Silverberg's The Queen of Springtime," "Rice's Relapse: Memnoch the Devil," "Field of Broken Dreams: Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings," "The Magic of the Movies," "H. G. Wells and the Discovery of the Future," "The Many Returns of Dracula," "Tarzan's Divided Self," "Sympathy for the Devil: Jacques Cazotte's The Devil in Love," "The Two Thousand Year Odyssey: George Viereck's Erotic Odyssey," and "The Profession of Science Fiction" (an autobiography). Brian Stableford is the bestselling writer of 50 books and hundreds of essays, including science fiction, fantasy, literary criticism, and popular nonfiction. He lives and works in Reading, England.
eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, 2007 USA
eBookwise Release Date: June 2007
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [305 KB]
Reading time: 187-262 min.
The first eight essays in this collection all began life as glorified book reviews. In the first two instances the "glorification" in question was added at the behest of Edward James, the editor of the journal Foundation, who had discovered that publishers could be persuaded to pay for Foundation to use full-color reproductions of cover paintings as cover illustrations in return for his giving special prominence to "feature reviews" of the books in question. The reason he asked me to do the first such feature review was that it had to be written to a very tight deadline--something that I can reliably do.
The publisher of Colin Wilson's Spider World: The Tower apparently had mixed feelings about the publicity value of "Slaves of the Death Spiders: Colin Wilson and Existentialist Science Fiction," which appeared in Foundation #38 (Winter 1986/87), but by then I had already been asked to do the second article in the series. "Is There No Balm in Gilead? The Woeful Prophecies of The Handmaid's Tale," which appeared in Foundation #39 (September 1987) was even less well-received than its predecessor, and I was never asked to do another one, but among the letters it provoked was one from Gwyneth Jones, to which I thought it appropriate to reply at some length. I am indebted to Gwyneth Jones for giving me permission to reproduce her letter herein to provide a bridge between my original review-article and "A Few More Crocodile Tears?," which eventually appeared in Foundation #43 (Summer 1988).
The seed of "The Adventures of Lord Horror Across the Media Landscape" was sown by a review I wrote of David Britton's Lord Horror for The New York Review of Science Fiction. The book was reviewed elsewhere, but most of the other comments were brief and ill-tempered insults whose hostile sentiments were given active expression when the Greater Manchester police seized copies of the book on the grounds that it was obscene. Because I was one of the few people who had actually read the book, I was asked to prepare a further report on it for use in the appeal against the seizure order; the fascinating experience of appearing as a witness for the defense when the appeal was heard prompted me to expand the review and the report into a fuller consideration of the remarkable career of Lord Horror. An early version was published in Other Dimensions 2 (Fall 1994), the version reprinted here being an updated one prepared for use in an issue of the Meng & Ecker comic book.
The remaining reviews reprinted herein were extended into broader commentaries at my own whim, each of the books in question seeming to me to raise matters worthy of more elaborate discussion than is usual in a review. The review of The Queen of Springtime by Robert Silverberg appeared in Foundation #47 (Winter 1990). The review of Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice first appeared in The Penny Dreadfull 5 (September 1995) before being reprinted, in the slightly expanded version which appears here, in Necrofile #19 (1995). The review of Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop appeared in Necrofile #14 (Fall 1994). "The Magic of the Movies" was written for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Review Annual 1990 edited by Robert A. Collins & Robert Latham, published by Greenwood Press in 1991.
"H. G. Wells and the Discovery of the Future" originated as a talk which I gave to a student society at Imperial College in 1987 (to mark the centenary of Wells's attendance at the college's parent institution, the London School of Normal Science). I repeated the lecture at the 1987 World Science Fiction Convention in Brighton. Since then I have had occasion to give several other talks and write several other articles on Wells, most recently to celebrate the centenary of the publication of The Time Machine, and I have taken advantage of the ease with which word-processed documents can be cut and spliced to import some of the fresh meat from the later ventures into the original talk, which was never published.
"The Many Returns of Dracula" was originally published as part of my series of articles on "Yesterday's Bestsellers" after the series had been transferred from Million: The Magazine About Popular Fiction to its sister publication Interzone. It appeared as "Bram Stoker's Dracula" in Interzone #81 (March 1994). "Tarzan's Divided Self" also appeared, in a slightly different version, as part of the same series in a special combined issue of the two magazines: Million #5/Interzone #51 (September 1991). It was, however, closely based on the article which I did on "The Tarzan Series" for The Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature, edited by Frank Magill, published by the Salem Press in 1983. The present version has been revised in order to correct a significant error which passed unnoticed in the Salem Press essay, but was pointed out by Million's editor, David Pringle, in a footnote to the second published version.
"Sympathy for the Devil" is based on the introduction which I wrote for an edition of The Devil in Love published by Dedalus in 1991. The present version is revised.
"The Two Thousand Year Quest" was the last of the "Yesterday's Bestsellers" series, which had no future once the subscribers to Million had been paid off in issues of Interzone. It appeared in Interzone #86 (August 1994).
The final item in the collection was my contribution to a long-running (and still-extending) series of articles in Foundation, whose purpose was to give SF writers the opportunity to offer personal accounts of their involvement with the genre. Attempting to analyze one's own eccentric obsessions can be uncomfortable, and one can never escape the suspicion that the "analysis" in question is merely one more neurotic symptom, but it would probably be optimistic to suppose that any of the other inclusions in this collection are any more objective than this one. It was originally published as "The Profession of Science Fiction, 42: A Long and Winding Road" in Foundation #50 (Autumn 1991) but my son Leo--the only member of my family to have read it--cruelly suggested that it might have been more appropriately called "A Long and Whining Road," so I have dropped the subtitle. Fans of Douglas Adams will doubtless be disappointed to learn that in this particular instance the number 42 has no significance beyond the fact that the article was the forty-second in the series.