#71 = Volume 24, Part 1 = March 1997
Notes and Correspondences
Mary Shelley’s Hair? 1997 is the
bi-centenary of Mary Shelley’s birth. Few authors are as vital and relevant as
she at age 200. Her masterpiece, Frankenstein, can lay claim to be, over
the past twenty or so years, the most written about novel in the world. In 1997,
thanks to the late 1996 publication of Charles E. Robinson’s painstaking,
monumental two volume Garland edition of The Frankenstein Notebooks
(containing most of the Last Draft and concluding portions of the Fair Copy)
readers will have the opportunity to come to terms with the six "new"
versions of Frankenstein (which preceded the four versions we are
generally familiar with: the 1818, 1823, and 1831 editions, and the version
which incorporates Mary Shelley’s annotations in the copy of the 1818 edition
which she gave to her friend Mrs. Thomas). The "new" versions are: (1)
the transcription of Mary Shelley’s waking dream as described in her 1831
Introduction and as represented by the beginning of Chapter 7 of Volume I of the
two-volume Last Draft, (2) the short tale version in so far as it can be
reconstructed from the Last Draft, (3) an ur-version of the novel in so far as
it also can be reconstructed from the Last Draft, (4) the
pre-Percy-Shelley-revisions version of the Last Draft, (5) the
post-Percy-Shelley-revisions version of the Last Draft, and (6) the Fair Copy
version. All of this new information, readily available for the first time in
this, Mary Shelley’s bi-centennial year, will launch a new and much more
sophisticated stage of Frankenstein scholarship.
It is further fascinating to note that what may well be two
hairs (or eyelashes) from Mary Shelley’s head, and one from Percy Shelley’s,
have survived as features of the Last Draft. One might contemplate an sf story
about a hair-born Mary or Percy Shelley—a whole-from-a-single-part clone or
double (as distinct from the multi-part monster) based on the genetic
information contained in one of those hairs. What might be the fair,
curly-headed Percy Shelley’s hair (or perhaps their child, William’s?) is
described by Charles E. Robinson, in one of his fine detail footnotes to page 62
of Volume II of the Last Draft, as follows: "blond hair (barely visible
in photofacsimile) is affixed to ink in quitting, hair encircling
& in line 13 (my source here is a pre-publication photocopy of
Charles E. Robinson’s transcription for which I thank him). The words
"quitting" and "&" here derive from the central story in
the monster’s narrative—specifically when, "quitting the lovely
Arabian, he [Felix] hastened to Paris & delivered himself up..." (cf.
James Rieger’s line-numbered edition of the 1818 Frankenstein [1974;
Chicago: Chicago UP, 1982], 120.35-121.1).
As for the two possible Mary Shelley hairs, I will document
the second first. In a footnote to page 11 of Volume II of the Last Draft,
Robinson notes a "brown hair affixed to paper below old" in the
phrase describing De Lacey, "an old man"—whose "
was grey," according to a cancelled addition in the margin (cf.
Robinson records the presence of the perhaps more interesting
first possible Mary Shelley hair in a footnote to page 43 of Volume I of the
Last Draft: "brown hair (rather than line) to right of
is affixed to paper apparently by ink in the final stroke of d"[.]
The cancelled word "record" (a nice deconstructive touch) substitutes
for "mention" in the opening sentence of a cancelled passage which
precedes a description of the young Frankenstein witnessing an old oak tree
destroyed by lightning (Rieger 35.3-15; for a fuller account, see my article in
this issue of SFS). Before the passage was cancelled, that sentence read as
follows: "In this account of my early youth I wish particularly to mention
^record^ those circumstances which led to and nourished my taste for that
science which was the principal amusement of my boyish days and in the end
decided my destiny." The word "record"—now with a cancel line
through it—with the brown hair affixed to the "d," appears in the
page’s left margin (a second nice deconstructive touch).
If never exactly cancelled, Mary Shelley’s work was once
relegated to the sub-literary. Today, however, thanks to the changing fortunes
of the paper, microfilm, and electronic record of Frankenstein, she is a
canonical figure and that book a world classic. But it is the startling physical
record—those two brown hairs and one blond hair—which speak to us with a
particularly poignant force (even if they are actually only cat or animal
hairs!). We cannot today regenerate the persons—or animals, or person(s) and
animal(s)—from whom or which those hairs derived but the DNA they contain can
tell us a story about the sex, likely age, and health of those sources. What the
future cloning or other possibilities might be are matters for speculation.—David
Ketterer, Concordia University
Remastering Moxon.... I like Mr.
Canty’s ingenious interpretation of "Moxon’s Master" (SFS #70)
very much, and might even accept it, if the story were a different story,
perhaps by Herman Melville or Nathaniel Hawthorne—even Julian. But Bierce’s
"Moxon’s Master"? No. Canty ignores too much of the text in pushing
The text I used was taken from Bierce’s Collected Works, which
I believe was the last text published during his lifetime. I mention this
because there are differences between my text and what Canty reports. For
example, Canty refers twice to Haley as a blacksmith; my text refers to him,
once, as "a skilled metal worker," which is something very different.
Nor does my text support Canty’s statement that the narrator left in a rage.
Nor is the automaton wearing a turban, as Canty states, in my text; instead, a
Canty also misquotes or misinterprets what I said. I didn’t
state or hint that Moxon’s purported girl friend was jealous of the narrator,
although I would guess that she was impatient, waiting in the next room,
listening to Moxon’s spiel and wishing the young man would leave. Nor did I
explain the presence of Haley at the narrator’s bedside as "an attempt to
ascertain the accidental or criminal nature of the fire." I explained Haley’s
presence as due to worry about what the young man might say about the mysterious
events, possibly incriminating Haley, possibly another. Haley already had an
explanation for part of the events.
Strong evidence against Canty’s explanation—that it was
all a practical joke—lies in Bierce’s description of the strangled Moxon:
"his eyes protruding, his mouth wide open, and his tongue thrust out."
One can open one’s mouth; one can stick out one’s tongue; but can one
protrude one’s eyes at will? I can’t.
Or, is Moxon, in his desire to hoax the naive young man,
allowing himself to be strangled, fatally, in anticipation of Apollinaire and
snuff movies, for artistic perfection? I doubt it. In any case, what would be
the point of it all, since the young man couldn’t see it; it was taking place
in total darkness ("all was black dark") until momentarily and
unexpectedly revealed by the "blinding white light" of (undoubtedly) a
No, there is no reason to doubt that Moxon was strangled. The
question is, By whom?
As I said in my ancient article, there are problems in MM, no
matter what interpretation one makes. Bierce left ellipses and open ends, as he
often did in his fiction, but the best model, it seems to me, is that of murder.
A while ago I read, I think in the Weekly World News, that
Bierce had been sighted in Mexico, comparable to Elvis sightings. Possibly we
could get funding, track him down, and ask him what he meant, though that would
mean truckling to the unfashionable, premodern belief that authors often know
what they are doing.—Everett F. Bleiler.
To Set the Record Straight. Like
many other modest people, I am doomed to be famous for something I never wrote.
Here is the canard again (SFS 23:459, #70, Nov 1996): "A famous science
fiction writer/editor, Damon Knight, has defined science fiction as ‘that
literature which I point to and call sf.’" What I really wrote, on page 1
of In Search of Wonder, was:
1. That the term "science fiction" is a misnomer,
that trying to get two enthusiasts to agree on a definition of it leads only to
bloody knuckles; that better labels have been devised (Heinlein’s suggestion,
"speculative fiction," is the best, I think) but that we are stuck
with this one; and that it will do us no particular harm if we remember that,
like "The Saturday Evening Post," it means what we point to when we
How many critics have neglected every opportunity to read this
book? They will have another chance this winter, when Advent: Publishers will
bring forth the revised and expanded third edition.—Damon
A Masterpiece? The novel which most
effectively joins novelistic and sf traits that I have read in many years is The
Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which was published in late 1996 by Villard
simply as "A Novel" and will be issued later in paper by Ivy-Fawcett.
The author, an anthropologist, is evidently not a complete stranger in the sf
community, for she lists Stanley Schmidt among those who gave her encourgement
and advice. The book has had a favorable review in the NYTBR as a novel
(i.e., rather than as an sf novel in Gerald Jonas’ sf ghetto), but has not yet
been reviewed in any of the venues devoted to sf that I have seen. I would not
be at all surprised if this novel came to rival The Left Hand of Darkness
in popularity among sf academics —RDM.
SF Courses 405, 406. The following
course descriptions were received too late for inclusion in the listing that
appeared in SFS #70.
California. University of California at Berkeley.
Comparative Literature 40. Women’s Studies. Set for Stun:
Science Fiction, Experimental Genders. When writers imagine other
planets, time travel, alternate states and realities, they create possibilities
for fictive futures, and simultaneously challenge the social identities
available in the present and in the past. For the women authors we are going to
read in this class, science fiction becomes the medium for an intense
questioning of the present and of history, at the same time that it allows for
experiments with conventional forms, such as narrative structure and
referentiality. We will explore how these authors engage science fiction themes
and concerns through a variety of genres, from novels to short fiction, film,
plays, comic books and a manifesto. Beginning with the social terms of the
feminist utopia of Herland, we will consider the transformative versions
of sexual identities presented in The Female Man, and the way in which
the particular vocabulary of the theater illuminates questions about gender and
sexuality in Cloud Nine and Top Girls. How do these formal
renovations relate to questions of history? Why is science fiction the medium
for these experiments? What utopian and dystopian landscapes of gender
possibility do these authors posit? TEXTS: Atwood, The Handmaid’s
Tale; Bigelow, Strange Days; Butler XENOGENESIS (Dawn, Adulthood
Rites, Imago), Carter, The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman;
Churchill, Cloud Nine and Top Girls; Gilman, Herland;
Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto"; Le Guin, Left Hand of Darkness;
Lessing, The Marriages between Zones Three, Four and Five; Russ, The
Female Man; Sargent ed., Women of Wonder; Tsukerman, Liquid Sky;
Wittig, Les Guérillières.—Despina Kakoudaki, Department of
Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley, 4406 Dwinelle
Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720. "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Florida. University of Miami
MLS 611. Utopian and Dystopian Literature.
This seminar, which looks at ways in which writers have portrayed society in
either idealized or nightmarish terms, focuses on utopian and dystopian
(anti-utopian) fictions from the late 19th century to the present. We will
concern ourselves with literary, social, political, and philosophical aspects of
the novels, keeping in mind both the historical context in which a given work
was written and the way it responds to, and reshapes, our concept of utopia as a
literary genre. TEXTS: Butler, Erewhon; Bellamy, Looking
Backward; Wells, The Time Machine, When the Sleeper Wakes and
"A Story of the Days to Come"; Gilman, Herland; Zamyatin, We;
Huxley, Brave New World; Burdekin, Swastika Night; Skinner, Walden
Two; Orwell, 1984; Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; Piercy, Woman
on the Edge of Time.—Patrick A. McCarthy, English Dept., University of
Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124.
A Web Page. Stephen W. Potts has set
up a web page for his sf course: "http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/swpotts/sf179".
A movie application like "Quicktime" is needed to get the full
benefits of the page.
Science Fiction, Utopia, and the Fantastic in the MLA.
Launching a campaign to establish within the Modern Language Association a
Discussion Group (leading to a Division) on Science Fiction, Utopia, and the
Fantastic, some 40 members of MLA met at the Washington convention (December
1996) as representatives of the organizations SFRA, IAFA, and SUS and the
journals Extrapolation, Science-Fiction Studies,
Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and Utopian
Studies. Kenneth W. Roemer <email@example.com> is preparing the
petition. Peter Fitting (see the following note) will organize the 1997 meeting.
Beijing Conference. An international
sf conference will be held in Beijing July 26-29, 1997. Along with Chinese
writers and fans, representatives of more than 20 publishing houses will be
present for copyright negotiations with foreign writers. For more information,
write Wu Yan, College of Education Administration, Beijing Normal University,
Beijing, 100875, P.R.C.
The 1997 MLA Convention. As part of our effort to
establish an official MLA discussion group on "Science Fiction, Utopia and
the Fantastic," I have been asked to organize a special session for the MLA
meeting in Toronto in December 1997 (12/27-31). The topic of our session will be
"Science Fiction/ Utopia from a Canadian perspective." If you are
interested in proposing a paper could you please send me an abstract before
March 15.—Peter Fitting, 73 Delaware Ave., Toronto M6H 2S9; tel 416-531-8593;
fax 416-531-4157; <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The 1997 SFRA/Eaton Conference. The Science Fiction
Research Association and the Friends of the Eaton Collection will hold a joint
conference June 23-26 aboard the Queen Mary in the port of Long Beach,
California. The general topic of the joint conference is "World Enough and
Time: Exploring the space-time continuum of science fiction and fantasy."
SFRA Conference Topic: "Space." To the dismay of
many, "science fiction" is often equated with "space
fiction." For that reason, fanciful tales like Lucian’s True History
often figure in histories of science fiction; one popular symbol for science
fiction is a rocketship; and fact-based films like Marooned and Apollo
13 are still described as science fiction. This persistent association does
raise immediate questions: why does this connection exist? Should it exist? How
might it be sundered? However, one could also embrace this relationship and see
space travel as a central expression of the genre’s impulse to acquire
knowledge and achieve progress—although the venue of space also enables many
writers to critique that impulse, as the vacuum of space and alien planets
become new backdrops for analysis of human hubris in the face of the unknown.
The very ways that we describe space, as a new ocean or new frontier, demand
analysis; even in the Earth-bound fantasies of the New Wave, space travel
figures as a metaphor for personal exploration of "inner space," as
well expressed in J.G. Ballard’s famous statement, "The only alien planet
is Earth"; and the now-common description of computer networks as
"cyberspace" again suggests that space travel has today become both an
everyday activity and a powerful icon, in science fiction and in life. We
welcome proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspects of this topic, or related
topics. Please send papers or proposals by April 1, 1997 (early acceptance
available), to Gary Westfahl, The Learning Center, University of California,
Riverside, California 92521; email@example.com.
Eaton Conference Topic: "Time." Humans have always
been fascinated with time. Heraclitus taught that we could not step into the
same river twice, but Brigadoon somehow touches our world once and again. The
nineteenth century introduced the possibility of time travel, as Mark Twain took
us into the legendary past, and H.G. Wells built a machine to explore the
distant future. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Land That Time Forgot
underscores the intimate connections between changes in the nature of time and
the production of different worlds, as also suggested by stories of parallel
universes. Modern fantasies offer powerful images of time slowing down, moving
at different rates, or even submitting to the control of the individual will.
Such explorations of time have occurred in fantasy and science fiction
literature, fairy tales and myths, film and rock opera. The vicissitudes of
time, a motif central to science fiction, create worlds without ends, as in
Jorge Luis Borges’s "The Garden of Forking Paths," and worlds
without beginning, as in Robert A. Heinlein’s "‘——All You Zombies——.’"
And, as we approach the end of this millennium, we reflect on other moments when
time itself seemed about to stop or fundamentally alter the universe; at the end
of days, will we confront a Paradise Regained or Pamela Zoline’s "Heat
Death of the Universe"? We welcome proposals for 30-minute papers on any
aspects of this topic. Send papers or proposals by April 1, 1997 (early
acceptance available), to George Slusser, Curator Eaton Collection, Tomás
Rivera Library, University of California, Riverside, California 92521; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Society for Utopian Studies. The twenty-second
annual meeting of the Society will be held in Memphis, Tennessee, October 16-19,
1997. The Conference Coordinators are Professors Peter Fitting of the University
of Toronto, Lyman Tower Sargent of the University of Missouri-St. Louis and
Jennifer Wagner of the University of Memphis. For information about
registration, travel and accommodations, please contact Professor Wagner,
Department of English, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN 38152 (901- 678-4329; email@example.com). If you wish to organize a panel or present a paper,
please contact Professor Sargent, Department of Political Science, University of
Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis MO 63121-4499 (314- 516-5521; fax 314-516-5268; firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit the Society for Utopian Studies web site at
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