State of the Fantastic: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film

Nicholas Ruddick, Editor



State of the Fantastic: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Fantastic Literature and Film. [Selected Essays from the Eleventh International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts, 1990]. [Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Number 50.] Westport, CT & London: Greenwood Press, 1992. xvi + 210 pp. ISBN 0-313-27853-9.

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This collection of twenty essays originally presented at the Eleventh International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts contains five parts: on fantasists and their work, contemporary fantastic theory and practice, studies in the British and European fantastic, studies in American fantasy and science fiction, and sex and techno-horror in fantastic literature and film.

What all the essays here have in common is that their authors are all aware of the tremendous latent power, for good and ill, of the fantastic text. We are given timely reminders of the dangers, as well as the appeal, of elves and how narrators in fantastic fictions take advantage of our desire to be part of a narrative community. We learn how some contemporary fantasists assimilate literary and scientific theory, while others seem in their fiction to require a new sociology to account for it.




“Introduction: Learning to Resist the Wolf” by Nicholas Ruddick

Part I: A Manifesto for Fantasists

“Oh God, Here Come the Elves!” by Jane Yolen

Part II: Unreal Rhetorics: Contemporary Fantastic Theory and Practice

“Fantasy and the Narrative Transaction” by Brian Attebery

“Specular SF: Postmodern Allegory” by Veronica Hollinger

“Knowing about Knowing: Paradigms of Knowledge in the Postmodern Fantastic” by Peter Malekin

“Im/maculate: Some Instances of Gnostic Science Fiction” by Reinhold Kramer

“The Reproduction of the Body in Space” by Élisabeth Vonarburg

Part III: Recovering the Numinous: Studies in the British and European Fantastic

“M.G. Lewis and Later Gothic Fiction: The Numinous Dissipated” by Robert F. Geary

“The Taming of the Screw: Rohmer’s Filming of Kleist’s ‘Die Marquise von O…'” by Mary Rhiel

“Alain Robbe-Grillet and the Fantastic” by Tony Chadwick and Virginia Harger-Grinling

“Caricature, Parody, Satire: Narrative Masks as Subversion of the Picaro in Patrick Süskind’s Perfume” by Edith Borchardt

Part IV: From the Empire of the Senseless: Studies in American Fantasy and Science Fiction

“Reality, Fiction and Wu in The Man in the High Castle” by Jianjiong Zhu

“Zelazny’s Black: The Sidekick as Second Self” by Carl B. Yoke

“Suicide, Murder, Culture, and Catastrophe: Joanna Russ’s We Who Are About To…” by Patrick D. Murphy

“Getting a Kick out of Chaos: ‘Fortunate Failure’ in Greg Bear’s Future Histories” by Len Hatfield

“Out of Blue Water: Dream Flight and Narrative Construction in the Novels of Toni Morrison” by Grace A. Epstein

“Dominance and Subversion: The Horizontal Sublime and Erotic Empowerment in the Works of Kathy Acker” by Greg Lewis Peters

Part V: Machine Nightmares: Sex and Techno-Horror in Fantastic Literature and Film

“The Dawn Patrol: Sex,Technology, and Irony in Farmer and Ballard” by Gary K. Wolfe

“The Making of Frankenstein’s Monster: Post-Golem, Pre-Robot” by Norma Rowen

Westworld, Futureworld, and the World’s Obscenity” by J.P. Telotte

“The Animal at the Door: Modern Works of Horror and the Natural Animal” by Marian Scholtmeijer


About the Editor and Contributors



“For any reader interested in developing his or her understanding of the forms of fantasy, or any reader interested in serious study of fantastic literature, this book is an invaluable resource. I find the lists of sources are often of as much value as the essays themselves.” – C. Darren Butler, Magic Realism

“This volume does seem to deal with some critical concerns, in particular fantasy’s function as social criticism and its interface with traditional genres like folk narrative, the picaresque novel, and realism. In his “Introduction,’ Ruddick reinforces this function by pointing out the subversive power of the fantastic and the many ways it can be used to deconstruct reality. … Most of the articles are well worth reading. I recommend it to any reader seriously interested in fantasy.” – Lynn F. Williams (Emerson College), Utopian Studies

“Rating: Excellent. … As a critical collection about fantasy this collection belongs on every fiction author’s reading list. It proposes some important views about practice and levels of believability.” – The Reader’s Review

“Published batches of critical papers from such conferences most often result in fifty-dollar ‘smorgasbord’ reference books which, by attempting to span too wide a spectrum of interests, undermine their own critical purpose and are of questionable usefulness to
most readers. … In all fairness, however, it must be noted that the most recent volume in this series does exhibit (as its title suggests) somewhat more critical cohesiveness – and, incidentally, fewer proofreading oversights – than almost all of its predecessors.” –Arthur B. Evans, Science Fiction Studies

“I closed this book wishing that academics would stick to Beowulf and Milton where they cannot do much harm.” – Robert Irwin, Foundation