As Jonathan Lethem recently advised Village Voice readers, the science fiction community is painfully ill-read and parochial. Mainstream academics and critics have expressed their adventurous open-mindedness in gestures ranging from the international fund that saved Philip K. Dick's life, through the famous split of the Pulitzer and the National Book Award between The Female Man and Dhalgren, to John Crowley's honorary doctorates and Karen Joy Fowler's recent MacArthur grant. But what has science fiction ever done for the mainstream? Besides giving them Jonathan Lethem, I mean.
Oh, foolish Gentiles, tear your eyes away from those gaudily-colored paperbacks and to this short but powerful reading list:
A decadent, sadistic, yet eerily attractive race of non-Judeo-Christian nobility enslaves a lovable race of Bovine University grads. Horrified, middle class suburban missionaries import the higher values of civilization, bringing pride to the doofuses and guilt to the sheiks -- but at what cost? A fascinating mix of Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus dished up in Oates's best wide-eyed style.
The most consistent volume of one-liners since Henny Youngman's Official Sitting on the Crapper Book.
The bad boy of The New York Review of Books shocks us again. Some Irish lads tour the bars of urban America, enticing both men and women with their lilting accents, drunken songs, violent rages, and inadequate genitalia. They're not very happy people! ... "And threw up."
Can you imagine Harpo Marx and Hildegard of Bingen as co-owners of an intergalactic bordello in the methane mines of Venus? Neither can DeLillo. Instead, he bitterly yet humorously limns an English professor who must decide whether he loves his wife, whether he likes his job, and what to do about his nubile teenage daughter. Meanwhile, giant strands of Christmas tree lights suddenly swoop down upon the campus buses and then just as suddenly disappear.
A bold literary experiment comparable only to the bold literary experiments of the 1970s, the 1960s, and the 1950s.
The Goddess of History chuckles to herself as millions of nineteenth century women die in childbirth, are locked into mental institutions, commit suicide, or are simply ignored. Meanwhile, Teddy Roosevelt becomes a famous politician. A hilarious antidote to the PC plague!
With its extensive network of little magazines run by Creative Writing departments, the mainstream provides the most intensely competitive and exciting short story market in the world. Here's a sampling of the best of the best. The gimmick? A challenge to the reader to guess which story is actually by Raymond Carver! The only possible criticism of this collection is its lack of people of non-colorlessness, but the Organization will soon be putting out a companion volume of poetry, My Sister's Voice in Mine: Where's Audre Lourde?
In this sure-to-be-influential history of the Hollywood screenplay, Axelrod once again publicly wonders what induced him to waste his entire life in competition with a mob of admittedly more successful fools! fools! whether male or female, maniacally right-wing or spinelessly liberal, talentless cretins, each and every one! In an unexpectedly upbeat ending, no writers of the past twenty years are mentioned.