Thursday, September 29, 2016

Bruce David-A Speculation

On July 4, 2016, I wrote the introduction to this series on the art and artists of the Bellerophon issues of Weird Tales from 1984-1985. I have moved through the categories of art reprinted from other sources (Clare Angell, Edd Cartier, and Rod Ruth) and art reprinted from previous issues of Weird Tales. I will leave a few names in the latter category--Joseph R. Eberle, Jr., Virgil Finlay, and Frank Utpatel--for another day. Instead, I would like to move on to the five names in the category of artists new to Weird Tales with the Bellerophon issues. First is Bruce David. And what I have written here is based on the speculation that the Bruce David about whom I write is the same Bruce David who contributed to the magazine. I can say at least that it is a speculation with a little force.

Bruce David
Journalist, Writer, Editor, Cartoonist, Screenwriter
Born 1941
Died June 17, 2016, presumably in Los Angeles, California

Bruce David was born in 1941 and served in the U.S. Army, in Germany and elsewhere. When he and his sister graduated from college, she asked him what he would like to do with his life. "[B]asically because I'm a shallow person," he remembered, "I said[,] '[U]ltimately I'd like to be the editor at Playboy magazine'." (1) David didn't quite make it to Playboy. Instead, he worked for Hustler for nearly forty years. Publisher Larry Flynt remembered how David arrived at Hustler:
Bruce was working for Screw and wrote a review of the very first issue of Hustler back in 1974. He said, "The new men's upstart, Hustler, has just nudged out Refrigerator Monthly as the most boring publication in America." So I called him up. I told him, "I love your review. And I agree with you, by the way. Why don't you come to Columbus and help us out." He worked for Larry Flynt Publications for nearly four decades. He was stubborn, arrogant . . . very creative. He was Bruce." (1)
Before going to work for Mr. Flynt, Bruce David wrote for Screw and Penthouse, was founding art director of Andy Warhol's Interview magazine, and produced and sometimes co-hosted a television show called Midnight Blue in New York City. David returned to television in the mid 1980s with scripts for Family Ties, ALF, Mr. Sunshine, and MacGyver. He was a fan of science fiction and was interested in UFOs and mythology. "I came up through the underground press," David said, and that influence showed in his comic strips, including S.M.O.G., which appeared in Weird Tales in 1984-1985. (3) Although I have not seen every issue of Weird Tales (far from it), I think it pretty likely that S.M.O.G. was the only comic strip ever to appear in the magazine.

Bruce David retired from Larry Flynt Publications in about 2013 and died this year, on June 17, 2016, presumably in Los Angeles, at age seventy-five. He was well remembered at his death and is keenly missed by those who knew him.

Notes
(1) Quoted in "Interview with Bruce David" by Bruce David in Genetic Strands, November 3, 2008, originally in Hump magazine in the 1990s, here.
(2) Quoted in "Hustler Editorial Director Bruce David Passes Away" by Ariana Rodriguez in XBiz: The Industry Source, June 21, 2016, here.
(3) Quoted in "Interview with Bruce David."

Bruce David's Comic Strip S.M.O.G. in Weird Tales
Two installments each in the issues of Fall 1984 and Winter 1985

Further Reading
The sources shown above in the notes; "Former Hustler Editorial Director Bruce David Passes" by Mark Kernes in AVN, June 21, 2016, here; and other sources easily found on the Internet.

S.M.O.G., Bruce David's comic strip about a man who immerses himself in a sensory deprivation chamber in order to face his fears, from Weird Tales, Winter 1985, page 87.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fred Humiston (1902-1976)

Commercial Artist, Illustrator, Writer, Author, Local Historian
Born July 20, 1902, Jersey City, New Jersey
Died March 27, 1976, Portland, Maine

Frederick S. Humiston, Jr., was born on July 20, 1902, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and grew up in Hillsdale, New Jersey. He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 1920 and went to work as a commercial artist at the Vitaphone Company in New York City. The young artist's uncle, Walter J. Rich, was president of Vitaphone at the time, and the company was engaged in developing sound for movies during the 1920s. In 1922, Humiston's parents purchased the Hotel Riverside in Popham, Maine. For many years afterwards, the family alternated between Maine and New Jersey, then between residence at the hotel and a house in Popham. After the deaths of his parents in the early 1940s, Humiston sold the hotel but still alternated between homes in Maine and New Jersey. He finally settled in Portland, Maine, where he wrote stories and drew pictures for the Portland Herald Press. He also wrote and illustrated Blue Water Men and Women, published in 1965.

Fred Humiston created illustrations for Weird Tales beginning with "The Crowd" by Ray Bradbury in May 1943 and ending with the poem "Suspicion" by Harriet A. Bradfield in November 1953. One of those illustrations was reprinted in the magazine in the Winter 1985 issue. Humiston also contributed to Short Stories, including a cover for the November 10, 1947, issue (shown below).

Fred Humiston died on March 27, 1976, in Portland, Maine, at age seventy-three.

Fred Humiston's Illustrations in Weird Tales
See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, here, for a full listing.

Further Reading
See David Saunders' Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists, here, for a more full biography of Fred Humiston. My article is merely a condensed version of his, and I am entirely indebted to Mr. Saunders.


Text copyright 2016 by Terence E. Hanley and based entirely on the research of David Saunders.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hannes Bok (1914-1964)

NĂ© Wayne Francis Woodard
Aka Hans Bok
Artist, Author, Illustrator, Poet, Astrologer/Occultist
Born July 2, 1914, Kansas City, Missouri
Died April 11, 1964, New York, New York

There has been much written about Hannes Bok. Just two weeks ago, I wrote about him myself in my posting on his friend and sometime collaborator Boris Dolgov. (You can read what I wrote by clicking here.) I won't go over too much of what has been written on Bok, but I would like to offer information specific to his contributions to Weird Tales.

Hannes Bok was born Wayne Francis Woodard on July 2, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri. His father, Irving Ingalls Woodard (1888-1975), was an insurance salesman. That might explain the itinerant lifestyle of the Woodard family. In 1920, they were in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1930, in Duluth. Wayne Woodard graduated from Duluth High School in 1932 and departed for Seattle, according to Wikipedia to live with his mother, Carolyn Bantiz Woodard. According to that same source, Wayne Woodard was estranged from his father. His problems in life--sexual, personal, professional, spiritual, and otherwise--suggest an unhealthy or dysfunctional family life early on.

In 1937 or 1938, Woodard moved to Los Angeles and became associated with the science fiction scene there. He was friends with Emil Petaja, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman, and others. In 1938, he returned to Seattle and worked for the WPA painting murals. His artist contacts in that city included Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Mark Tobey (1890-1976). Assuming the name Hans or Hannes Bok, Woodard moved to New York City in December 1939, the same month in which his first cover and interior illustrations appeared in Weird Tales. Bok would remain in that city for the rest of his too-brief life. Again, he was in contact with others engaged in writing and illustrating science fiction and fantasy. Towards the end of his life, he seems to have lost contact with many of them. If that was the case, it was probably owed in no small part to his peculiarities and his difficulties with personal relationships.

Hannes Bok created seven cover illustrations for Weird Tales. One, for the issue of July 1941, very likely includes a self-portrait. His interior illustrations for the magazine numbered in the dozens and include collaborations with Boris Dolgov, which were attributed to "Dolbokov." Bok's first interior illustrations were for "Nymph of Darkness" by C.L. Moore and Forrest J Ackerman and "Escape from Tomorrow" by Frank Belknap Long, Jr., in December 1939. The last was for "Brenda" by Margaret St. Clair in March 1954. Bok also created the headings for the interior main title and for the Weird Tales Club feature.

Bok was multitalented and wrote five stories for the original Weird Tales, plus one story published in the paperback editions of the 1980s and a poem published in July 1944 (in collaboration with an author named Nichol). Bok's contributions to Weird Tales tailed off in the mid to late 1940s, but he remained very active in fantasy and science fiction into the 1950s. Curiously, his last interior illustrations and among his last cover illustrations in those fields came in 1957, well before his death. By then, Bok was in decline, separated from former friends and acquaintances and living in poverty so extreme that his teeth had rotted, his dentures had fallen apart, and his diet consisted of the simplest of fare. Hannes Bok died alone in his apartment, either of a heart attack or starvation, on April 11, 1964, at age forty-nine. He has not been forgotten, however, for his art lives on, and he is recognized as one of the foremost illustrators of fantasy and science fiction of the twentieth century.

Hannes Bok's Stories and Poem in Weird Tales
"Poor Little Tampico" (July 1942)
"The Evil Doll" (Nov. 1942)
"Dimensional Doors" (Jan. 1944)
"Tragic Magic" (Mar. 1944)
"Weirditties" (poem, July 1944, with Nichol)
"The Ghost Punch" (Nov. 1944)
"Someone Named Guibourg" (Spring 1981)

Hannes Bok's Interior Illustrations in Weird Tales
See the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, here, for a complete list.
Editor Brian Forbes reused Bok's main title heading on the interior of his two Bellerophon Weird Tales issues of 1984-1985. He also reprinted an illustration of a rocketship around a planet, signed by Bok and dated 1949. I don't know whether that illustration originally appeared in Weird Tales or not.

Hannes Bok's Cover Illustrations for Weird Tales
See below.

Further Reading
Any number of sources and collections, including A Hannes Bok Treasury (Underwood-Miller, 1993) and A Hannes Bok Showcase (Charles F. Miller, 1995).

Weird Tales, December 1939, Hannes Bok's first cover for the magazine.

Weird Tales, March 1940. Artist Gary van der Steur refashioned this image for his cover of Weird Tales for Fall 1973. Mr. van der Steur replaced the profile on the bottom with that of Richard Nixon.

Weird Tales, May 1940.

Weird Tales, May 1941.

Weird Tales, July 1941, a rare science fiction cover for the magazine and one that includes what is almost certainly a self-portrait of the artist.

Weird Tales, July 1941, another effective war cover.

Weird Tales, March 1942, Bok's last cover for the magazine.

Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Golden Anniversary of Star Trek

If this were fifty years ago, you could tune in tonight to a new television show called Star Trek. (And unless you were Al Gore, you would not be reading this on the Internet.) Yes, half a century has passed since that first episode was broadcast on September 8, 1966, and although Star Trek would last only three years in its original run--the last episode, a repeat, was broadcast on September 2, 1969--the show has become an enduring global phenomenon. Witness the thirteenth movie in the series, released this summer, and the impending debut of the seventh TV series.

That first episode from September 1966 was "Man Trap," an outer space monster story. I think more than a little of Star Trek was owed to the previous television series The Outer Limits (1963-1965). Both shows were known not only for science fiction but also for their monsters. Many of the actors and some of the props and other visual elements from The Outer Limits also appeared in Star Trek. I suppose that the people in charge decided to launch Star Trek with a story of a monster in order to grab viewers. The more cerebral episodes could wait. Of course, one of the beauties of television from the 1960s and '70s is that it worked on two levels: plenty of thrills for the kids and something to think about (including sexual situations) for the adults.

I have written before about the connection, however tenuous, between Weird Tales and Star Trek. You can read my article "Weird Tales and Star Trek" by clicking here. In that article I mentioned the writers who were in Weird Tales who also wrote for Star Trek. One was Robert Bloch, author of three episodes, one of which was called "Wolf in the Fold." "Wolf in the Fold" is from the second season and was broadcast on December 22, 1967. It concerns a serial killer who, as it turns out, has traveled through time and space to carry out his depredations. In one of his incarnations, he was Jack the Ripper. That plotline may have sounded familiar to readers of Weird Tales. Nearly a quarter century before, in the issue of July 1943, "The Unique Magazine" had published Bloch's story "Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper," which proved to be essentially the source for "Wolf in the Fold."

That's only one connection between Weird Tales and Star Trek. Another, or I guess I should say a similarity between the two, is that both have survived their own demise many times over (like Bloch's Jack the Ripper). Weird Tales is currently defunct. I imagine it will be back. As for Star Trek: the original run came to an end on September 2, 1969, as I mentioned. Fans must have been in despair, but less than a week later, on September 8, 1967, the show went into syndication, and so today is a double anniversary of beginnings. So Happy Anniversary, Star Trek! Now we can look forward to the Diamond Jubilee--or maybe we should call it the Dilithium Jubilee--twenty-five years hence.


Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Monday, August 29, 2016

More on Boris Dolgoff . . . But Only a Little

I attacked the problem of Boris Dolgov from a different angle and found one tantalizing piece of information. In a telephone directory of New York City from 1957, there is the following listing:

Boris Dolgoff, 630 East 14th Street, Manhattan

That address is in the East Village, a place for artists, musicians, students, and bohemians. Could that be the artist for Weird Tales? There were other Dolgov families in New York City in the early twentieth century. Maybe Boris was from one of them.

Dolgov appears to be a somewhat common name. The Dolgovs in America may have come from Belarus or surrounding areas of the old Russian empire. The name, if Google Translate is correct, means debts. Fitting for an artist.

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Boris Dolgov (?-?)

Artist
Born ?
Died ?

Boris Dolgov did not exist. The man who bore that name may have existed, but there never was a man in the United States with that name until 1956, too late for Weird Tales. At least that's what public records say. Search for Boris Dolgov or Dolgoff or Dolgova or Dolkoff or any other permutation you can think of and you're likely to come up empty . . . except for a Russian-American farmer who now lies buried in a Jewish cemetery in Washington State.

It seems likely to me that Boris Dolgov was the assumed name of a man who, for whatever reason, wanted to remain or was satisfied to remain unknown. He was friends with the artist and writer Hannes Bok. They sometimes collaborated, signing their joint work "Dolbokov." Dolgov had his first interior illustration in the genres of fantasy and science fiction in Science Fiction Quarterly for Summer 1941. His first illustration for Weird Tales followed in September of that year. His last came thirteen years later, in July 1954, the penultimate issue of "The Unique Magazine." In between, Dolgov created dozens of interior illustrations and five covers for Weird Tales. His only known book cover was for Destination: Universe! by A.E. van Vogt, published in 1952. After 1954, he disappeared forever.

Like his artist friend, Hannes Bok also worked under an assumed name. Born Wayne Francis Woodard on July 2, 1914, in Kansas City, Missouri, he was known for his odd ways, including his evasiveness. Despite early promise, despite success as an illustrator and author of science fiction and fantasy, and despite strong connections to others in his field, Hannes Bok went into steep decline late in his career. On April 11, 1964, at age forty-nine, he died alone in his apartment in New York City. His body was not discovered right away. If not for the intervention of his friend and collector Clarence Peacock, his art may very well have been thrown out with the trash. The official cause of death is supposed to have been a heart attack. Forrest J Ackerman and Donald J. Wollheim claimed that he starved to death. Shades of H.P. Lovecraft. Shades also of Hugh Rankin.

Hannes Bok's first work for a major magazine (what science fiction fans I think would have called a prozine) was for Weird Tales. He had his first cover and his first interior art published in the same issue, December 1939. "In 1939," wrote Frederik Pohl,
Hans Bok was all of twenty-five years old and thus a senior citizen among us, but he looked younger. He looked--well, "elfin" is the word that others have used to describe him, and it does as well as any. It wasn't just his a matter of physical appearance. His manner was both reserved and, well, flighty, not to say downright evasive; there were obviously huge hunks of Hannes's internal life which he did not care to share even with friends. (1)
As I said, Wayne Francis Woodard, later known as Hannes Bok, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In the censuses of 1920 and 1930, he was listed with his family in Minnesota, in 1920 in St. Paul, in 1930 in Duluth. Woodard graduated from Duluth High School in 1932. He left for Seattle that same year. In 1937 or 1938, he moved to Los Angeles, where he knew Emil Petaja, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman, and others in the Los Angeles science fiction scene. In 1938, he returned to Seattle and worked for the WPA painting murals. His artist contacts in that city included Morris Graves (1910-2001) and Mark Tobey (1890-1976), both of whom, like Woodard, were interested in mysticism or non-traditional religion. In December 1939, assuming the name Hannes Bok, he moved again to New York City. There he knew Frederik Pohl, Isaac Asimov, Damon Knight, Frank Belknap Long, and others. Knight, an artist himself, called Bok, "certainly the most talented artist ever to work in science fiction illustration." (2, 3)

Dolgov and Bok were both artists of imagination and whimsy. Both worked in black and white on coquille board. Unlike much of Bok's work, Dolgov's is devoid of sexual imagery, which, in Bok, clearly indicates to me that the artist had psychosexual problems. Boris Dolgov was, in comparison, an artist of innocence. Both knew and admired Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966). As evidence, there is a photograph of Dolgov and Parrish together, presumably at Parrish's house in Plainfield, New Hampshire, taken by Bok. You can see it at a blog called Null Entry, here. Hannes Bok was greatly influenced by Maxfield Parrish. Perhaps no artist has worked with such great effect in the manner of Parrish. Dolgov, on the other hand, seems to have taken a different path.

Boris Dolgov is supposed to have lived in New York. You won't find him there in the census. Nor will you find there Wayne Woodard or Hannes Bok. That's a terrible development for the researcher, as finding Bok in 1940 might very well lead to Dolgov. But what if they had a connection predating their years in New York City?

Now begins the part where I clutch at straws.

Boruch Dolgoff, also known as Baruch, Bora, and Boris Dolgoff, was born on November 27, 1897, in Alexandrovik, Russia. I suspect he fled his native land because of periodic pogroms. After living in Harbin, China, Dolgoff arrived in the United States on January 23, 1916, aboard the Yokohama Maru out of Yokohama, Japan. On October 14, 1933, Dolgoff married twenty-four-year-old Minnie Samuelson in Seattle, Washington. Dolgoff (1897-1989) and his wife (1909-1991) are buried together at Herzl Memorial Park in Shoreline, Washington. For decades he was a farmer and a poultry dealer in Seattle. Hannes Bok lived in Seattle in 1932-1937 or 1938 and in 1938-1939. Could he have known Boris Dolgoff? Could he have also known in Seattle the artist later known as Boris Dolgov? And could Boris Dolgov have gotten his name from Boris Dolgoff, the poultry dealer? If so, why? More to the point, who was Boris Dolgov?

The world may never know.

Boris Dolgov's Illustrations in Weird Tales
Once again, I will refer you to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database for a full listing of Boris Dolgov's genre illustrations. Note the error in the artist who created the cover for the May 1947 issue of Weird Tales. It was actually Matt Fox.

Dolgov had two illustrations in Weird Tales for Winter 1985. These were published with Steve Rasnic Tem's story "August Freeze," but the drawings were almost certainly reprints from old issues of the magazine.

Further Reading
Boris Dolgov on the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, here.
Boris Dolgov's art in Weird Tales and a photograph of him with Maxfield Parrish on the blog Null Entry, here.

Notes
(1) From "Remembering Hannes" by Frederik Pohl in A Hannes Bok Showcase, edited by Stephen D. Korshak (Charles F. Miller, 1995), p. ix. Pohl went on in his remembrance to describe the last time he saw Hannes Bok, circa 1953. By then, Bok was living in poverty and "had become something fairly near a hermit." (p. xi) He had lost most of his teeth and had broken his dentures so that he was barely able to eat. Pohl again: "For a man who spent so much of his life producing pretty things for the rest of us to enjoy, the last stages of Hannes's life, and especially his death, were lacking in prettiness of any kind." (p. xi)
(2) From The Futurians by Damon Knight (John Day, 1977), p. 53.
(3) Woodard's family, Irving Ingalls Woodard, Carolyn Bantiz Woodard, and their son William Grant Woodard, were back in Missouri in 1940, living in Kirkwood. In the 1940s and '50s, Irving and Carolyn lived in Omaha, Nebraska. Irving I. Woodard died on November 26, 1975, in Galveston, Texas, as a result of being burned while smoking in bed. His younger son, William, preceded him in death on July 25, 1972, in Beaumont, Texas. I don't know the fate of his wife.

A gallery of covers by Boris Dolgov, first, from November 1946.

March 1947.

September 1947.

January 1948.

And last, from May 1950.
Text copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, August 26, 2016

More Utopia, More Dystopia

I have heard and read more about Utopia and Dystopia lately. Before I begin on that, I would like to ask a question: What is Dystopia? The reason I ask is that the terms Dystopia (or dystopia) and dystopian are thrown around pretty readily these days. There isn't any precision in their use. It seems to me that too many people call any unpleasant future a dystopia. If Utopia is a perfectly good society, then it seems to me that Dystopia is a perfectly bad one, where there is complete order and control. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1921, 1924), Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932), Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (1949), and the movies THX 1138 (1971) and Logan's Run (1976) are dystopian. Mad Max (1979) and The Walking Dead depict unpleasant futures, but they are not dystopian. In the futures they postulate, there is only disorder. People's lives are not controlled by an overarching State. Mad Max, The Walking Dead, and stories like them are instead post-apocalyptic. That's not to say that a post-apocalyptic story cannot also be dystopian, but if there is no order and no control, there is no dystopia. Perfect order requires a totalitarian State. Where there is no State, there can be no dystopia, unless individual people themselves impose order upon themselves and upon each other, something they are unlikely to do given that we are by our very nature free and resistant to impositions of order or attempts to control us. The current trend towards political correctness is an attempt at control of people's thoughts, words, and actions. It is essentially a movement towards totalitarianism, i.e., dystopia. It has also shown signs of succeeding.

Utopia came first of course. Although the word itself means essentially no place, utopia has come to mean a place of perfection or where government and society match some lofty ideal of what is good. The term dystopia is used in reaction to that. It's a place where government and society are perfectly bad. (As a parallel, a functional family is a good one. A dysfunctional family is a bad one.) Alternative terms for dystopia are cacotopia, kakotopia, and anti-utopiaKakos is from the Greek, meaning bad or wicked. In Italian and in English, we have the word caca, meaning to defecate or excrement. I don't know what etymological relationship those words--kakos and caca--might have, but it brings new meaning to Robert De Niro's character Harry Tuttle in the movie Brazil (1985). Harry is a sort of ninja heating engineer who works outside the law and wastes (rim shot) two functionaries of the State by drowning them in sewage. One, played by Bob Hoskins, is named Spoor, which is of course another word for scat or droppings.

So, let's call things what they are. An unpleasant future is not necessarily dystopian. It might just be unpleasant. And, as the meaning of the word implies, Utopia does not exist. There is no such thing and there can be no such thing. (I would add, as a message to anybody who carries around in his little brain any kind of utopian scheme: quit trying to bring it about.) Utopia cannot exist for the simple reason that a perfect government or society requires that the people composing it or instituting it be perfect. How do you expect to make a perfect thing out of imperfect parts? Alternatively, Utopia imposes perfection upon imperfect people, making them, in essence, no longer human. In short, every Utopia is a Dystopia, and every person in pursuit of Utopia is, whether he realizes it or not, an incipient tyrant.

So, in 2015, the French publishing house Flammarion issued Soumission, a novel of the near future by Michel Houellebecq. Soumission may not be exactly dystopian, but it describes the run-up to what must be a dystopian society, an Islamic State that requires, by its very name, submission (the meaning of the title and roughly the meaning of the word Islam, i.e., surrender). I have written about Soumission before. Now there is a novel by a Muslim Arabic writer to match it. The novel is 2084: La fin du monde and the writer is Algerian Boualem Sansal. Mr. Sansal's book is set in a more distant future, in an overtly dystopian religious society. I have not read this book, but I'd like to give it a try. The title refers to George Orwell's dystopian novel of the twentieth century. The plot, summarized in several reviews, makes me think of Planet of the Apes (1968), a story that is definitely post-apocalyptic and vaguely dystopian.

Finally, I just happened to hear part of Science Friday today. For those who haven't heard it, Science Friday is a weekly show on public radio in which the host, Ira Flatow, discusses science, technology, and, I have to point out, merely pseudoscientific or science-like topics. (If Ira Flatow is not an atheist, he at least tolerates atheistic malarkey from his guests. He's also an unquestioning adherent to the cult of global warming. Now I find out that he is, like "Bill Nye the Science Guy," not a scientist at all but an engineer.) Today (August 26, 2016), Mr. Flatow and his guests discussed Margaret Atwood's 2003 novel Oryx and Crake as part of their SciFri Book Club series. They used the words dystopia or dystopian several times in reference to Ms. Atwood's book. I haven't read it so I can't say for sure, but Oryx and Crake sounds to me more post-apocalyptic than dystopian. I should point out that her novel from 1985, The Handmaid's Tale, is in fact dystopian, and like Boualem Sansal's book, set in a totalitarian religious society, in this case a Christian rather than a disguised Islamic society. In its form, The Handmaid's Tale is something like The Iron Heel by Jack London (1908). I should also point out that one of Ira Flatow's guests today was Annalee Newitz, who is also about to have her own dystopian novel, Autonomous, published by Tor Books.

I guess there is some irony in calling for precision (i.e., order) in the use of the term dystopian. Then again, imprecision in language, or to change the meanings of words, is one of the goals of the mind reaching for totalitarian control over people's lives. In any case, again, let's call things what they are, and let's have more dystopian fiction.

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley