Books to Look For
Fantasy & Science Fiction March 1989
By Orson Scott Card
Other Americas, Norman Spinrad (Bantam/Spectra, paper, 288 pp, $3.95).
This collection of our long stories would be remarkable just for bringing
together in book form several stories that won acclaim for Spinrad in their
original publication. But the introductory essays surrounding the stories make
this a coherent, powerful, and highly acidic look at America. I mean, the pH
factor would turn even Reagan's hair white.
Like all good satirists, Spinrad speaks from a moral platform of absolute
certitude. He not only knows what's wrong, he hates it and wants to destroy it.
Satire is not an art form for moderate people who are determined always to
understand and forgive the other guy. Spinrad seeks to understand only enough
to subvert, which is why even when the fiction stumbles and dies, you know that
it had fire in its veins.
The most disturbing story is the last one, "La Vie Continue," which
appears in print for the first time in Other Americas. As a story of an expatriate
American writer who heroically outwits both the brownshirts of a fascist
America and the KGB goons of the Soviet Union, it's dead-on satire and a
terrific sci-fi read.
But Spinrad has chosen to make the writer-hero a 60-year-old Norman
Spinrad. On the one hand, I have to applaud his courage in making explicit
what all writers secretly do: cast ourselves in the starring roles in our stories. On
the other hand, it's vaguely repulsive to read a story in which the author
describes himself as having "defiantly unkempt" hair and "dangerous looking"
eyes; in which the author declares his own writing as being so effective and
powerful that mighty governments would spend millions of dollars to silence
him; and in which the hero-author ends up in the catbird seat, having
Yet let's be honest about this. Heinlein's novels usually worked exactly
the same way -- he just had the good taste not to actually name his heroes
"Robert A. Heinlein." If Spinrad had such good taste and self-restraint he
wouldn't be Spinrad. It takes an arrogant, self-absorbed, cocksure sumbitch to
write satire that really gets under your skin.
This story will get under your skin.
Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ed. (Pulphouse
Publishing, Box 1227, Eugene, OR 97440; 1988, cloth, 267 pp; subscriptions
$17.95/issue, $30 half-year, $56/year)
Dean Wesley Smith has been the patron saint of new writers for the past
few years, with frequent issues of Pulphouse Reports, a networking fanzine for
writers. But none of that folksiness and fanzine look carry over into his new
publication, Pulphouse: The Hardback Magazine. Edited by Kris Rusch, this is a
quarterly story anthology, published in hardcover with a sewn binding. That's the
trade edition -- there's also a leatherbound collector's edition priced at $50 a
But you can't judge a book by its cover, right? So scan the table of
contents. Fiction by Harlan Ellison, Kate Wilhelm, Charles de Lint, Edward
Bryant, Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael Bishop, William F. Wu, Nina Kiriki
Hoffman -- have I mentioned any names you recognize? If not, what planet do
you live on?
I haven't finished reading the first issue yet, but so far I can attest that
these are not "trunk stories" -- the authors are turning in solid work. You look
for good short fiction, or you wouldn't subscribe to this magazine. So if the price
tag doesn't fell you at the start, give this book a try. Like any magazine, it's a
mixed bag -- you won't like everything in it. But if this first issue is a sign of
things to come, I think you'll like enough of the stories in Pulphouse to put it up
there on the "keeper" shelf with the dependable magazines and anthologies of