Харийс Брантс (Harris Brants) illustration for Picnic on Paradise in Издательский дом Дейч — Коллекция «Фантастика» Аркадий и Борис Стругацкие 2008 Reading “The Second Marxian Invasion“ about the Strugatski Brothers by Stephen W. Potts. Apparently this was Potts’ thesis at UC Berkeley and it is fascinating reading indeed. Tracing the utopian, socialist, and totalitarian themes in Russian fantastika literature from it’s earliest origins in the late 18th Century, the author describes how various Russian writers reacted to events such as the failed revolution in 1905, and the victory of the communists in 1917. For every utopian vision of the early Russian SF, there were dystopias, horrors, and complexities. Zamaytin’s _We_, published in 1921, is considered the classic tale of dystopia under totalitarianism, but according to Potts, it was not a counter-revolutionary work so much as a complaint that the Bolshevik utopia had not gone far enough towards the total liberation and union of personal and political interests. The modernist craze of the Leninist years eventually was constricted by Stalin’s paranoia, resulting in a number of science fiction authors vanishing to the gulags. Only writers like Belyaev, who could “reduce their technological miracles to the level of fairy tales, and inject their work with starkly ideological plots” were able to survive. When the “thaw” finally took place in 1956, the subsequent launch of Sputnik propelled Soviet SF into a new hard science phase that eventually was characterized as “cold stream” SF. This cold stream was one in which SF was narrowly conceived of as optimistic, science-oriented, and upbeat; similar to our sense-of-wonder space opera days, but one emerging from the constraints of Stalinist censorship and therefore self-consciously regulating itself and focused on a sort of vanguard of hard science futurism. The Strugatsky brothers, whose themes were more diffuse, more challenging, and informed by anthropology, psychology and the “soft” sciences, as well as the nascent New Wave, were seen as “warm stream” writers. In the 60s there was an ideological battle between the cold stream and warm stream, which was conceptually decided when the warm stream became more popular and when important critics advocated for science fiction with a purpose that transcended mere prediction and imagining of future technological advances. Here Potts quotes some criticism from 1968 about SF, but which raises some interesting thoughts about the purpose of writing in general: …we take as a criterion in assessing the value of a work everything that promotes the development of the human personality, extends its horizon, inspires it with lofty ideals, ennobles it morally and intellectually, improves its aesthetic preception [sic] of the environment, helps to gain an insight into the good and evil of this world, and to respond to them more keenly — in short, it is everything that promotes the truly human in man. ** (E. Brandis, V. Dmitrevsky, “In the Land of SF,” Soviet Literature (no. 5, 1968): 148) This strikes me as just a brilliant way to write anything!
Watching the Republicans flail around in psychotic convulsions at the CPAC finally seemed to have convinced some Americans of what I have observed for most of my life, namely that the GOP is the party of the criminally insane. The recent bile-spewings of Rush Limbaugh and Alan Keyes, are nothing new. It is rather sick to watch, though, as if we are viewing the inside workings of a really lunatic fringe cult, played out live on national t.v. There are more than a few sociological parallels to the cult that figures in the book I just finished, _Imaginary Friends_ (1967), by Alison Lurie.
Who was R.T. Gault? As the editor of numerous websites on a range of subjects from literature to magic and the occult, Gault’s work became a magnet to seekers of esoteric literature. Gault’s essays and photographic galleries on the Tarot, Arthur Machen, and the Order of the Golden Dawn were extensions of his most ambitious work entitled Absolute Elsewhere, which was nothing less than a master list of all the visionary, esoteric and fringe works published in America during the second half of the 20th Century. Although extensive, Gault’s bibliography is not exhaustive — the works he selected and arranged in a year-by-year chronology and in order of their appearance — were carefully chosen and arranged. When viewed in sequence, the works capture an intriguing hidden history of American letters. Like a spider weaving an invisible web, Gault created a tapestry of strange, mind-bending, and mystical ideas, at once recognizable to those who have read the books being cited, and at the same time serving as a guide for newcomers. But who was R.T. Gault, anyway? No sooner had I become a casual addict of his website, Absolute Elsewhere, did the site vanish. After months of digging, I could find no information about R.T. Gault, and more than a year elapsed before I discovered that Gault was desceased. At that time, my attempts to find someone who knew R.T. Gault were fruitless, leading only to an obscure reference to Centaur Books and Comics in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Eventually, I decided to post my reconstruction of the _Absolute Elsewhere_ website, which I launched on New Year’s day 2010. Subsequently, I began to receive enthusiastic thank you emails from readers who had lost track of Absolute Elsewhere and were happy to see it back online. One of these messages came from Karen Price, who was married to R.T. Gault. It was a great to finally have a tangible lead to the mysterious editor of Absolute Elsewhere! Even better, Karen graciously agreed to conduct a wide-ranging interview on the Life and Times of R.T. Gault, which you can listen to or download here: an interview with Karen Price (May 2012) [37:37] http://www.yunchtime.net/podcast/KarenPrice_20120524.mp3 Richard Thomas Gault was known to most of his friends as “Ditch” Gault. He grew up around Indiana, Pennsylvania where his father, Thomas Gower Gault, was a Professor, and also served as Chair of the Geography Department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Ditch Gault was a true rennaissance man, surrounded by books, and he was an eternal student, having racked up college courses on every subject in the humanities for more than a decade without ever having earned a degree in any subject. In the 60s he was an enthusiastic member of the counter-culture at the University, and became obsessed with politics.