Category Archives: Readings



Not my TvTropes post yet, only that I kept forgetting to post this ever since I found it last Thursday and thought it was interesting in terms of worldbuilding: his name is essentially ‘Henry Love’ transmuted through three changes in two existing Earth languages. In her introduction, Le Guin casts herself in opposition to the tendency to define science fiction as inherently extrapolative, but what else is this but one potential development of human language? Not predictive, sure, but there’s that inclination to want to push existing culture in a direction, to see where it could go; I was  really surprised to see her blanket dismissal of extrapolation, considering.

(And in a way it reminds me of the system of names in Lovecraft. ‘Francis Wayland Thurston’ sounds as likely to be a foreign devil-worshipper as ‘Henry Love’ sounds like a time-jumper from an interplanetary space democracy. Use a different name – Castro, Genly Ai – and suddenly the whole character is more plausible. It’s connotative shorthand.)

insider language

Among both the advertising upperclass of The Space Merchants and in the reader ‘forum’ of Brass Tacks, an ability to consciously form ‘beautiful’ language. A reader comment (Bob Tucker, page 157) could easily encapsulate the desire of Mitchell and others to write the words which unconsciously convince consumers to consume:

shows an admirable talent of word-arranging

Just as a later part of the same letter, in which the reader mocks another reader-writer who had contributed to Brass Tacks, could serve as a mirror to the ‘common’ way the consumers themselves speak:

i think yer book is lousy and i want my monie back. the stories are punk and they ain’t even good stories. yer wholed mag is punk awful.  i dare yew to print this!

Although, while Bob Tucker intends this comparison to reflect badly on the Mr. Avery in question, in The Space Merchants the consumers’ way of speaking, in its marked difference from Mitchell’s carefully-wrought elite literary professionalism – in fact serves to make him the outsider, for a time.

(and mitchell’s way of speaking is the way i’ve been conditioned to write for classes but if i was talking about this to anyone else at all it’d probs look more like this)

Going mainstream (for Thursday 10/3)

For Thursday, we are considering the inner world of science-fiction readership through the reader-discussion columns in Astounding 21, no. 6 (check the syllabus for the link and page references. At the same time, we should consider not just the subfield of SF but the large-scale literary field.

I have culled some results from searching some historical databases for "science fiction" in the 1940s. Please read these excerpts, mostly from the New York Times, with an eye to the image of science fiction being presented to a large-scale, non-specialized newspaper-reading public by book reviewers and reporters. Bring to class a couple of notes on what you have noticed (I will print up some copies for class, so we can look at them together).

Read in chronological order:

Prescott, Orville. "Books of the Times." New York Times, June 7, 1946.

Lissner, Will. "Men from Mars Give Soviet Jumps." New York Times, May 14, 1948.

Parke, Richard H. "Street & Smith Giving Up ‘Pulps’." New York Times, April 9, 1949.

"Here is the World of Tomorrow." Advertisement. New York Times, October 30, 1949.

Prescott, Orville. "Books of the Times." New York Times, December 26, 1949.

Review of My Best Science Fiction Story, edited by Leo Margulies and Oscar J. Friend. Washington Post, January 15, 1950.

Pierce, J. R. Review of Best Science Fiction Stories: 1949, edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty. Science n.s. 111, no. 2872 (January 1950): 44-45.

Grove, Lee. "Pen Pals Meet at a Scientific ‘Disclave’ here." Washington Post, May 1, 1950.

Jackson, Joseph Henry. "For the Writer, California is a New Bucks County." New York Times, May 7, 1950.