Posts Tagged ‘Slusser’

An Interview with: Professor George Slusser – by Cristian Tamas

Published by Gregory Benford on August 9th, 2014

SLUSSER PICIf The Stars Are Gods by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund

George Slusser is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at the University of California in Riverside (UCR, CA, U.S.A.), Ph.D., Comparative Literature (Harvard University), the first Curator (Emeritus) of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction &Fantasy Utopian and Horror Literature (UCR, CA, U.S.A. –  the world’s biggest SF collection),   Harvard Traveling Fellow,  Fulbright Lecturer, Coordinator of twenty three Eaton SF Conferences, Author of numerous books, studies and articles in the science fiction studies domain.

Dear Prof. George Slusser,  thank you for accepting this interview! Kindly tell us about the circumstances of the SF collection’s curator position offered to you at the University of California in Riverside in 1979?

In the 1960s, UC Riverside library acquired a collection of science fiction and fantasy materials. It was purchased from J. Lloyd Eaton, a San Francisco physician and fan, and contained some 4,000 hardback books, from 1900 to 1950. There were a number of rare books in this collection, and it offered a solid base for a future SF collection. The collection was buried in the library basement for 12 years, gathering dust. I was alerted as to its existence by several people, notably Mike Burgess, future editor of Borgo Press. We had a visionary librarian at the time, Eleanor Montague, who accepted to fund a conference on SF in 1979; if it was successful, she would consider bringing the collection out of obscurity and building it. I had a superb team–Gregory Benford, Eric Rabkin, Mark Rose–and the First Eaton Conference was a huge success, the essays published in an academic press, and the tradition underway that was to last 25 years. Eleanor decided to build the collection. I signed on as curator. It was a second job, and at first there was no pay. But over 25 years I managed to grow the collection from 4000 to some 135,000 hard and paperback books, in some 24 languages. It was the library and not my academic colleagues who supported this collection. In fact, many academics were actively hostile to it. But soon it, like today’s banks, was “too big to fail,” and UCR had to accept it.

Were you a science fiction fan ? Has science fiction any literary relevance?

I was not a fan in the formal sense (conventions, fanzines, etc). I was however, as teen ager, an avid reader of SF. I chose to study English Literature at UC Berkeley, and Comparative Literature at Harvard. This was in the 1960s and 1970s, and science fiction did not exist within those hallowed halls.

This leads to the second half of your question. If you mean by “literature” high realism, then SF is seen as trash. In late 18th century England, critic Samuel Johnson rejected all forms of “fantasy” (including the budding literature of moon travel and future times and places) as unworthy of consideration. Thus began the “great tradition,” the realistic novel as “novel proper.” SF has never recovered from this stigma. In the US, the literary situation was different. Nineteenth century romanticism produced frontier adventures, and Whitman’s call for a “passage to more than India.” The archetypal American novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, is a “boys book.” It is easy to see SF carrying this grand tradition into the 20th century. Science fiction in the US is not only relevant, but highly significant, perhaps the reason why it is now, at the beginning of the 21st century, a dominant cultural form. This is becoming a world-wide phenomenon, resisted only by those who feel it violates their sacred cultural canons. And, by anybody’s standard, SF has produced some very fine narrative works.

Why should a scholar be interested by science fiction? Isn’t it the “realm of ephemeral literature” or “a very minor literary world”?

Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of stories and novels, written in many languages and national cultures, is not something “ephemeral.” What we identify as science fiction today has been developing over centuries in Western culture, and today flourishes as the literary form that (re: Asimov’s famous definition) recounts the impact of scientific and technological advancement on human beings. This is a major literary world. For the defenders of the canon, it remains the proverbial 400-pound gorilla in the room.

Why did you accept a position that could have had jeopardized your career?

I rapidly realized that what I was trained to do was not very interesting. I wrote a dissertation on the artist in Diderot, Balzac and Hoffmann, but at the time could not see where this kind of work was leading. To make matters worse, American academia was invaded by French theoreticians, which opened the door to “le derridisme a l’americaine,” a lot of neo-scholasticism and amateur politics. I wanted to get my hands on something concrete, a large body of texts and a vast cultural vision. When science fiction came along, I jumped on it. I have absolutely no regrets, it has been a lot of fun. After all, how many scholars have the opportunity to create a huge research repository, to help put an entire genre on the map.

What had been the science fiction status within the american academic world in the ‘60s? What had been the science fiction status at the american general societal level? And today?

It didn’t exist for the American academic in the 1960s. In many ways, it still doesn’t. A recent edition (2005) of the Heath Anthology of American Literature contains every conceivable form of literature–slave narratives, bird songs, rap lyrics. But NOT A SINGLE WORK OF SCIENCE FICTION. For these folks, it’s bug eyed aliens and “sci-fi.” Yet science fiction icons and themes dominate American written and visual culture today. Somebody’s out of step with reality.

Did you start your curator’s activity with a strategy or you just adapt to the existing situation?

I had a strategy in mind. And I did have allies in the library, who found funds to buy books, even when academics sought to block purchases. Librarians love books, and SF had a lot of them, with interesting covers and formats. In a sense SF publishing contains the entire history of the book in the 20th century, and I recreated this history on the shelves of Eaton. What I did is called “collection development,” and Eaton became a prime example of this. Of course, I had to adapt to personnel changes, unenlightened head librarians and such. But this is par for the course for any bootstraps operation within an established bureaucracy. Sometimes it felt we were running an underground operation. But I won a couple of large grants that allowed us to catalog huge amounts of material, and we were on our way.

How did you succeed to transform the Eaton SF Collection in the world’s biggest?

By silence, exile and cunning. We gradually acquired several massive collections from private parties–an example is the Douglas Menville collection of SF paperbacks, some 30,000 books in mint condition, which the collector had to sell because the foundations of his house were sinking under the weight of the books. Other collections were outright gifts. We are lucky to be located in the greater Los Angeles area, where collectors abound. Our collections of pulp magazines (nearly complete and in mint condition) was a gift. Gradually, through the conference, I made contacts with collectors and writers. This way I was able to target choice materials–an example is the Terry Carr fanzine collection, a veritable roadmap to the fanzine jungle (there are hundreds of thousands of these publications, how to know which ones are significant? Terry Carr’s collection let us set parameters. I was not trained as a librarian, but certainly learned to be one.

And the concept of the SF research center just popped up?

It didn’t pop up. It was the fruit of 25 years of Eaton conferences. Nor is it functional today in a way which I find effective. I have been pushing for years for a multi-linguistic approach to SF, and feel this aspect has been abandoned for an anglophone approach. It was through graduate students from different countries (comparative literature students) that I did some of my best collecting. I had students in the Soviet Union, Israel, East Germany and other unlikely places in the 1980s buying books for me (we would give them several hundred dollars and they would buy on the black market, or find book dealers, etc). Eaton is unique for its “foreign” language holdings. Any center should have been built around this vision. Nul n’est prophete dans son pays.

 

Is any difference between Fantastika (la litterature du fantastique) and Fantasy?

This is a big question. The French fantastique is presented by Tzvetan Todorov as a precisely defined literary form, that developed in the 19th century, whose distinguishing feature is “hesitation” between two possible interpretations of the phenomenon at hand–the étrange (rational science explains the phenomenon) and the merveilleux (the phenomenon belongs to a different order of reality, outside the laws of known science). Fantasy (from phantasein–to figure in the mind) is a more general category. Wordsworth distinguished “imagination” from “fancy.” These terms have much the same relation one to the other as SF and fantasy today: the former reaching outside the mind to new visions, the latter arranging and rearranging the “furniture” of the mind within that mind. At its best, fantasy exchanges worlds for our own; at its worst it cultivates escapism.

 

When and how did you have the idea to organize the yearly Eaton SF conferences?

As I said above, it was the way to launch the collection, and to bring together scholars, writers, scientists, people from all around the country (and ultimately world) to discuss a new form of literature. In a sense, these conferences, all tightly focused on central themes and forms of the genre) allow us to build–organically–a poetics of science fiction, and to create an academic discipline where none existed before.

What had been the feedback at UCR management level and at the general american academic level concerning the Eaton SF conference’s launching?

Except for the librarians, and for a few enlightened academic colleagues, notably the great comparatist Jean-Pierre Barricelli, UCR “management” generally ignored its existence. Because we networked, the conference needed little money to run. We remained “invisible” to UCR administration people until very recently. The new head of Special Collections, Melissa Conway, had a lot to do with influencing opinions at the level of deans and chancellors. But that has occurred only very recently. On the national and international level, recognition gradually snowballed. In the 1980s and 1990s we were doing joint Eaton Conferences with the Sorbonne, the University of Neuchatel, University of Leeds,  Imperial College in London. UCR remained generally indifferent.

What about the results of the Eaton conferences?

As stated above, we produced a solid body of academic material, and in a sense laid the groundwork of “science fiction studies.” Also, because we nurtured graduate students and young scholars, we gave people the opportunity to publish, thus to achieve recognition and, in a number of cases, get teaching jobs.

Science Fiction : writing, publishing, study, and research. One critic said that even without anymore SF writing, the mechanism will continue to produce research, what is your opinion ? Are science fiction studies necessary?

This critic is probably correct, the academic machine grinds on, even when there is no longer grist for the mill. Many SF writers in fact have felt from the start that “science fiction studies” are not necessary. For example, the scholarly review Science-Fiction Studies, because it began with a certain idea of what science fiction should be, focused attention of a few choice writers (usually writers like Ursula Le Guin who essentially wrote for academics, or a writer like Philip K. Dick, certainly talented but perhaps marginal to the genre). From this, a sort of canon grew, which excluded other talented writers. Today academic journals are doing the same thing, often on blatently political grounds. Writers like David Brin, Gregory Benford, Robert A. Heinlein are rejected on “politically correct” grounds. The whole mechanism seems to turn on empty, emphasizing a divide between writers who must sell to make a living, and ivory tower intellectuals who look down from olympian heights on anything “commercial.” We tried to be more catholic in our Eaton approach to criticism. We had writers and articulate people from other fields than academic (science, medicine) writing criticism. It was a “big tent.”

You are a Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature. Who had studied under your coordination?

I have had lots of people work with me at the PhD level. Because of Eaton, these were mostly from other institutions. I have often been asked by other universities to serve on PhD committees for SF students. I directed theses in Comp Lit on other topics than science fiction. Among people who have become stars in the SF field, I worked with Howard Hendrix and Gary Westfahl

You had teached and wrote and you’re continuing to write. What are you’re main areas of interests?

Science and literature, and the international origins of science fiction as a genre. I have completed this year two book manuscripts: one titled Science Fiction: The Origins and Fortunes of a World Literature; the other titled The Left  Hand of Reason: The Science Fiction of Continental Rationalism. The second deals primarily with that “other science fiction,” the French tradition. France and French rationalism contributed so many things to the origin of science fiction, yet remain virtually unknown to anglophone readers (and to the French as well). It remains an “occluded genre.”

What are your main published works?

I’ve published some 33 books (written and/or edited)  and well over 100 substantial articles. Most recently I’ve collaborated with my partner Daniele Chatelain on two translation/critical editions forWesleyan University Press. One brings to light, through translation and over 100 pages of essays and notes, Balzac’s early work The Centenarian (1822, four years after Frankenstein). If science is the criterion, this is the first SF novel. The other is a translation of three works by J.H.Rosny, whom we argue is the creator of “hard” or scientific SF. These have gotten a lot of attention in the critical press. It was said that, through the lens of science and science fiction, we renewed Balzac studies. Also, my book Gregory Benford: The Scientist as Writer is appearing this winter with U Illinois Press. I also have forthcoming, with Slavic scholar Gary Kern, a book on the science fiction of the Strugatsky brothers, Stalkers of the Infinite, e-book and paperback, with Xenos Press. I’ve got several other projects on science and literature underway.

Is science fiction an american invention?

As I said, SF is the product a number of cultures as they react in specific ways to the paradigm shifts brought about by the development of science. There is the Cartesian paradigm, the Evolutionary Paradigm, and in American SF the Emersonian Paradigm. It seems to me that science fiction flourished in America because this Emersonian vision is both dynamic and open-ended, thus better able to negotiate scientific discoveries that impact the so-called “human condition.” Emerson’s vision of center-circumference and power and form, a dynamic focused on the individual monad, seems marvelously adaptable to the advent of visual and electronic media, which is the principal venue of SF today. It’s not an American “invention,” but as Emerson says, we have built a better mousetrap.

The intellectual life must be brought down to the lowest common denominator, the consumers?

American culture has always flourished, and created art, in the matrix of consumerism. The great jazz of the 1950s moved silently among jazz clubs during the dull Eisenhower 1950s. The same is true for Hollywood cinema. The great directors became greater because they had to struggle against studio bosses. The artistic phoenix springs from consumerist soil. Science fiction is no exception. It moved in its own circles, where writers in order to live have to sell books. Editors and publishing houses are an integral part of the creative picture. where creative editors like Terry Carr and David Hartwell moved the genre in significant directions. European intellectuals tend to think of artistic creation from the top down, and often see theory preceding practice. You create “schools” of literature, or cultural tzars orient and subsidize writer’s guilds. In the past, American culture has grown very nicely from the  soil of consumerism. Whether this is still the case is doubtful, given the insipid nature of commerialized music and literature today.

Is the american science fiction the world’s best or it has the best marketing strategy relying on global popular culture consumerism?

I don’t know about the “world’s best.” But it is possibly the most dynamic and capable of transformation. I have a great appreciation for the American SF of the Golden Age. During the 1940s and 1950s, when writers like Heinlein and Bradbury were producing masterpieces of literature, there was no marketing machine for SF. Nor was its audience “consumerist” in any way. Granted we know how to market culture. But the result is increasingly disastrous. Bad special effects movies. Rap music, insipid pop singers, a stream of garbage. But in what is for me the great “classic” period of SF, it was a literary movement like any other. It had its own serious (sercon) critics in semi-pro and professional magazines. It had discriminating readers, from varied walks of life.

In your opinion what are the world’s best science fiction writers and why?

I was surprised, when I read some of your other interviews with American SF scholars, that when asked what SF writers they liked or thought best, they named Borges, Calvino and other writers I would not categorize as SF writers, nor hold up as paradigms for the genre. For yes, there is a science fiction genre, with identifiable parameters, themes, forms, modes of operation. For whatever reason (academic “respectability”, political correctness) the writers of the American Golden Age are rarely mentioned. Nor even are Verne and Wells. Nor Stapledon and Rosny. This is not an American hegemony by any means. I would put all of the above on my list. But I would also put Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, Bradbury, Blish, Silverberg, Bear, Brin, Benford–the classic American writers and their “progeny.” Science fiction is all about science, and the way scientific concepts of the world interact with conventional belief systems. All the writers mentioned above, and innumerable others, have this “scientific focus” in diverse ways. They are not playing mind-games with the universe, but are, as Benford says, “playing with the net up.” So when we say “best” writers, I use as criterion, rather than literary “excellence,” adherence to the forms and conventions of the genre.

What about the rest of the world’s science fiction, what deserves to be read, what’s your opinion?

All of it. Here, in the US, the focus (academics and fans alike) in on English language writings. This is perhaps understandable for a culture that feels everybody else should speak English, and makes little effort to learn other languages. I am fascinated by other national forms of SF, and how other cultures react to scientific “advancement.” French-language SF for instance is a genuinely alternate tradition, but is known here only to a handful of readers. Marginalized by its own culture, it has few adherents in France itself, though the way it operates is central to the Cartesian vision that shapes it. I have had the same experience with Russian SF and the Strugatskys. I wish I could read Chinese, as my graduate students tell me SF is flourishing there. There ultimately will be no way to understand how SF has evolved without putting together its world profile.

Do you know something about an “exotic considered issue”, for example the romanian science fiction?

I’m not sure what “exotic issue” means. In the final chapter of my book on SF as World Literature, however, I deal at such length with Romanian SF. I do not read Romanian, but do know French, Spanish, Italian, and can draw on Latin (dacia felix). So I have a sense of the language. I was fascinated with the tenacity and wide-ranging knowledge of SF of Romanian critics, many of whom, like Hobana and Cornel Robu, were active under Ceauscescu. I obtained a copy of Bogdan Aldea’s Worlds in the Making, a superb analysis of SF, from a background not just of American and UK SF, but French SF and theories of SF as well. I had copies of the Nemira volumes from the mid 1990s, with their Romanian-English translations back to back Ace Double style–a remarkable attempt to breach the language barrier and make new generation (post 1960) Romanian SF available to the English language reader. I discovered writers like Sebastian Corn and Iulia Anania. I had a sense of a mix (is this the “exotic issue”?) of modern science and deep and violent cosmic myths that remained alive as a sort of alternate “science.” Strange phenomena like Vlad Dracula live on in the future worlds of Romanian SF. My knowledge is superficial, but I see clearly a vibrant tradition that needs to be known.

Do you know Paul Kincaid’s concepts of SF’s exhaustion and decline related to the general western decline? If yes, is such a thing as the gradual US decline as world’s superpower?

Ah yes, the Untergang des Abendlandes. I hardly think we’re there quite yet, and will work quite hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. True, SF has changed a lot in the new millenium. Not all changes do I like (for instance the repeated attacks on Western science by people who have mightily benefited from it). But I don’t see “exhaustion” by any means. There are excellent new writers like Ted Chiang, Charles Stross, Neil Stephenson, Howard Hendrix. Fine novels like Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Paolo Baciagalupi’s The Windup Girl, strong work by Greg Bear and Greg Benford in the classic hard SF vein. There is also an “anglophone” current, typified by Amitav Gosch’s The Calcutta Chromosome. Much of this is a “rewriting” of Western scientific history, and its “undercurrent” of oppression of “unscientific” cultures. It is flying under the banner of SF, and that is fine. One can understand that there are “many sciences” at work today.

In any event, I see vibrant things happening in “SF,” even though the generic label is stretched thin. As for the decline of America’s superpower “status,” I don’t see this in the immediate future. Read Gregory Benford’s and Michael Rose’s blog. All I hope is that the power is used wisely.

In the next decades?

No.

In your opinion has the human species a chance to survive all the next challenges (overpopulation, the resources’ exhaustion, the planet’s climate change, etc.)?

Just as SF is not a literature of prediction, nor can I predict. It is certain however that, if as many claim science and technology has provided the means for creating this mess, only science and technology can offer ways to remedy it. Again, Benford and Rose offer some fascinating solutions.

Do you consider that the western type of intellectual and academic humanist will continue to exist in the future ? What about the future  role of the financiers and hard sciences specialists?

The “financiers” need to be muzzled, and we need new economic models that operate on a world-wide basis. Right now we pit system against system. The French blame plant closings on greedy capitalist bosses. What they don’t realize that these “bosses” are the American retiree. The UC Retirement Fund invests in businesses that pay good dividends. The retiree does not realize that when the fund “divests” holdings in a failing factory or business, thousands of people lose their jobs. But again, in the global marketplace, can governments afford to nationalize and sustain with taxpayer money “rust-belt” industries?

The “hard science” people continue to invent and discover. For many of them however, these “makers” find the so-called “humanist academics” increasingly irrelevant, an obsolete luxury that, in times of tight budgets, can be eliminated. One must say, however, that the humanists, at least in American universities, have in large part nurtured this perception. English departments don’t teach classic English-language writers. As in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, special interest groups and politically correct censors reject work after work because they “offend” someone. Soon there are no courses on Shakespeare, but many seminars on theoretical issues such as “women’s studies.” This plays right into the hands of the technocrats looking for an excuse to get rid of things that don’t prepare students for the “workaday world.” The whole idea of a broad humanist education goes out the window. Because of such excesses, I think some budget cutting is a good thing. If we are vigilant, possibly the marketplace will bring some balance into a system wildly out of order.

What is the relevance of science fiction for the human species?

Science fiction, in its classic form, is the philosophical forum for the age of modern science. I’ve learned a lot about the “human species” from reading it.

Is any difference between Fantastika (la litterature du fantastique) and Fantasy?

This is a big question. The French fantastique is presented by Tzvetan Todorov as a precisely defined literary form, that developed in the 19th century, whose distinguishing feature is “hesitation” between two possible interpretations of the phenomenon at hand–the étrange (rational science explains the phenomenon) and the merveilleux (the phenomenon belongs to a different order of reality, outside the laws of known science). Fantasy (from phantasein–to figure in the mind) is a more general category. Wordsworth distinguished “imagination” from “fancy.” These terms have much the same relation one to the other as SF and fantasy today: the former reaching outside the mind to new visions, the latter arranging and rearranging the “furniture” of the mind within that mind. At its best, fantasy exchanges worlds for our own; at its worst it cultivates escapism.

Why do you think Fantasy had succeeded to arrive at approximately 75 – 80% of the world’s publishing imaginary domain and SF had diminished to only 20 – 25%?

This is regrettably true. Of course there are different kinds of fantasy. SF coexisted quite nicely with “space opera,” a sub-genre whose American lineage runs from Edgar Rice Burroughs to “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series (an epic future full of scientific theory and gadgetry)  to Greg Benford’s  scientifically sophisticated Great Sky River. There is also heroic or “sword and sorcery” fantasy, medieval settings transposed to distant planets. SF can parody this kind of fantasy (Heinlein’s Glory Road), or use it in situations where future mankind has regressed (Benford’s  Tides of Light). Since the 1980s however the publishing industry has churned out numerous fantasy series–historical fantasy, military fantasy a la L. Ron Hubbard. This stuff ends up in role playing and video games. It has none of the future imagination and philosophical depth of classic SF, yet has become the opiate of our time.

The french SF writer Gérard Klein had recently declared to me via an interview that he is very concerned about the phenomenal rise in sales of the so-called “BitLit” (Bite Literature) featuring vampires, zombies and werewolves, this meaning to him that “the traditional superstitions and the irrational had conquered the young generations’ mind”. The italian writer Alessandro Baricco had called this attitude of splitting between an over-technologized reality and the evasion towards the ancestral irrationality, “neo-barbary” (The Barbarians. An Essay on the mutation / I Barbari, La Repubblica, 2006) . Is something to be concerned of or it’s an exaggeration?

I think this is a good analysis of what is going on today. As society and the workplace become  over-reliant on sophisticated, specialized technology, the escape into violent, barbarian fantasies is increasingly tempting. This is part of a trend that began with Nietzsche and André Gide’s L’Immoraliste, where Western rationalism and “science” is rejected for barbarism, primitive ‘cultures’. But today the “entertainment” industry has magnified this tendency thousandfold. Children play violent videogames all day long, killing straw figures without the least thought. What if the game were real? Orson Scott Card foresaw this possibility in Ender’s Game. Today this translates into mass killings of children in American schools.

Are rationalism and cartesianism related to the advancement of science? Are there any relationships?

Descartes’s “method” and his idea of nature as res extensa, a realm to be examined in terms of quantitative mathematical analysis, are crucial to the development of modern science. But his systematization of human experience as rational mind (a unique human quality) in a mortal body subject to the conditions of a material res extensa provided a scientific model for what Pascal later called the “human condition.” The existence of this “rational soul” has all but been eradicated by modern science. Yet it abides as “Cartesian ghost” today, as something that suggests that “we might matter” in a universe of matter. It offers the possibility, not only that the universe has order, but that by means of reason we can understand that order. Pierre Versins defines SF as the “literature of rational conjecture.” This definition does not fit American SF, centered on the upward striving monad and the “worlds” it not only rationally defines, but physically creates. It does seem to fit the tradition of fiction, and ultimately science fiction, that derives from the quest of Descartes and Pascal to define to role of reason in the physical world, and preserve reason as the determining aspect of human existence.

What about science and fiction? Science fiction without science? Is science dull and boring? Are the tech gadgets fun and cool? Is there any advancement way besides science and technology?

I know my definition of science fiction seems limiting. But in the many attempts –pre Gernsback– to define the genre, science is the common element–Wells’s “scientific romance,” Rosny’s “merveilleux scientifique,” the Russian “science fantasy.” So it seems that any definition of the genre must include science. American academics have succeeded in substituting “SF” for science fiction. It can mean “science fantasy,” “speculative fiction,” ‘subversive fiction,” all sorts of things that take us away from the scientific core. I argue here, and have done so elsewhere at length, that the paradigm shifts brought about by science in terms of human value systems, have allowed its new and ever changing “world view” to impact the matter of fiction. For closed value systems such as Christianity we substitute the open-ended process of science. This allows fiction to become “experimental,” to question and examine the human condition rather that reiterating known patterns.

What you seem to be saying with “cool” technology and boring science is, in terms of fiction, partly true. Dr. Robert L. Forward, a physicist, has said that writing science fiction is simply the working out of a scientific concept. You write the scientific paper, and the fiction is written. But such a case of “science writing the fiction,” makes for bad fiction. The “science” in science fiction must be thoroughly digested, must become part of the landscape and mindscape of a given narrative. A writer like Gregory Benford is master of this kind of “re-visioning” the world in new and startling, but scientifically plausible, manner. Alas, with cyberpunk, the technology overtook the science, we do not even care how computers are conceived and “work,” we simply use them. However, we must remember Asimov’s definition: it’s both scientific AND technological advancement that impact human beings and change their concept of the universe. In 19th century England, it was primarily advances in technology that began to challenge the conventional literary landscape. Science only entered the picture with the advent of evolutionary theory. In this sense Wells’s The Time Machine is the first British “scientific” SF novel.

As to whether there is advancement without science, SF as literature, as fiction, is all about human beings reacting to change (perhaps a better word than “advancement”), and seeking to use science and technology to create a liveable if not always better world. What is at stake here, in the realm of morality as well, is the ability to use change to advance the human condition. As literature, it has utopias as well as dystopias.

Kindly address some words to the european SF fans. Thank you!

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to present my views. I am also very impressed with the high quality of the interview questions. I enjoyed responding to them.

© Cristian Tamaş & George Slusser

„From 1979 to 2004, George Slusser held a joint position as Eaton SF Collection’s curator and professor of comparative literature. During his tenure the collection grew in printed titles and other materials, including the acquisition of the major fanzine collections.

A prolific scholar in the field, Slusser taught the first courses in science fiction studies at UCR and originated the Eaton Conference, which he chaired for more than 20 years. It was Slusser‘s dream for UCR to become a center of science fiction studies, with the collection he helped build as the nucleus. Establishing UCR as a center for science fiction studies is still part of the long-range vision at UCR.”: http://eaton.ucr.edu/about.html

„A curator was hired for the collection. The choice was Dr. George Slusser, who held a doctorate in comparative literature from Harvard University. Dr. Slusser launched the Eaton Conference in 1979, bringing noted writers and scholars annually to the Riverside campus, and producing more than 20 volumes of conference proceedings.

During George Slusser‘s 25-year curatorship, the Eaton collection grew to more than 100,000 volumes, ranging from the 1517 edition of Thomas More’s Utopia to the most recently published titles in all languages. The collection also includes journals, comic books, and 300,000 fanzines, enriched by donations from collectors Terry Carr, Bruce Pelz, Fred Patten, and Rick Sneary. In recent years, films, videos, DVDs, film scripts, and illustrated narratives have been added, most of which have come as donations. The archival holdings comprise the papers of leading science fiction and fantasy authors, including Richard Adams, Gregory Benford, David Brin, F. M. Busby, Sheila Finch, Michael Cassutt, Robert L. Forward, Anne McCaffery, Lewis Shiner, Colin Wilson, and James White.

From its humble and controversial origins, the Eaton Collection has established itself as the largest publicly accessible collection in its field, visited by students, scholars, filmmakers, and enthusiasts from around the world. Dozens of dissertations, hundreds of monographs, and thousands of scholarly articles have been produced from its holdings. Curator George Slusser, now retired but still active in the collection’s development, is considered the leading scholar in science fiction studies.”: http://www.celebratingresearch.org/libraries/riverside/eaton.shtml

http://scifiportal.eu/professor-dr-george-slusser-eaton-science-fiction-collections-curator-emeritus/

http://scifiportal.eu/professor-dr-george-slusser-eaton-science-fiction-collections-curator-emeritus/