the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Barry N. Malzberg’ Category

Please join me in welcoming Joachim Boaz of Science Fiction and other Suspect Ruminations (on twitter at @SFRuminations).  Joachim focuses mainly on science fiction from the 1940 through the 1980s. His indepth reviews often give background information about the author’s life and the social circumstances in which the book was written.   Many of us discovered Joachim’s blog because of his frequent posting of Vintage, Golden aAge, and New Wave science fiction cover art, much of it surreal and over the top.   artwork that could never be used today.  I asked Joachim to write a guest post for Vintage month, and Wow did he deliver! Even better, he writes about Barry N. Malzberg, an award winning author I’m not familiar with.  I’m sure after reading this post, you’ll be intrigued as well!  Scroll to the bottom for a list of  Joachim’s recommended titles and links to his reviews.

I also just recently learned that filming is scheduled to begin soon for Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo!

Enjoy!

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Barry N. Malzberg (1939 –): Metafiction and the Demystification of the Cult of the Astronaut

by Joachim Boaz of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations

In the World Book Encyclopedia Science Service publication The United States Astronauts and their Families: A Pictorial Presentation (1965), each astronaut is allotted a two-page spread replete with staged photos of their family life and hobbies. Otis L. Wiese, the editor of the volume, proclaims grandiosely “Man’s reach for the world of space is born of his insatiable curiosity about the unknown… his indomitable drive for accomplishment… his instinctive response to a challenge. Astronauts-Husbands-Fathers: these men are the men featured here but it’s essentially as family men that we portray them” (i).

The photographs are fascinating. Roger B. Chaffee’s wife Martha teaches him lunar geography (22), L. Gordon Cooper, Jr. sits at the helm of his speedboat Bluebonnet which is capable of reaching 80 knots (28), in another photo him and his family spend time with their German shepherd (29), Donn F. Eisele teaches his daughter “the finer points of marksmanship” (35), while Alan B. Shepard, Jr. plays piano tunes for his daughters (61) and in the facing image shakes hands with John F. Kennedy (61). Their families illustrate the epitome of the American family: the ultra-masculine man with his cars and boats, the supportive wife facilitating her husband’s heroic greatness, and a gaggle of adoring children. Many captions establish parallels between the job of being an astronaut and his family life. For example, under an image of Russell L. Schweickart playing blocks with his children it reads “Astronaut Schweickart supervises a building project at home – at the Manned Spacecraft center he works on very different “space” problems” (53). Remember, this was the age of astronaut trading cards; the age where children meticulously filled out charts of the participants in all the United States manned space flights; the age of the astronaut celebrity.

Beyond ApolloIn Barry N. Malzberg’s sci-fi visions there is nothing farther from these so-called “truths” presented by Wiese’ publication. Malzberg presents the American Space Program as a pernicious product of an encroaching mechanical age that warps its young naïve idealists who slowly go insane, become impotent, and destroy their families in frantic attempts to embody these ideals. In The United States Astronauts and their Families, the masculine ideal is further characterized by their utopian family existence. Malzberg portrays the family life of his anti-heroes as attempting to embody the ideals of the space program. But it is a dystopic family existence, a violent family existence, an existence characterized by desperate attempts to ferret out meaning…

All of Malzberg’s astronaut characters interact with their wives mainly through the experience of impotence. In The Falling Astronauts (1971), the first in a thematic trilogy of books on the space program, Colonel Richard Martin interprets a sexual experience with his wife, who may or may not be asleep, in terms docking spaceship: “he feeds into her slowly, feeling the tentative hold, the slow, circling motions of orbit, anxious to grasp, but fearful that if he does so the connection will be broken…” (7). In Malzberg’s most critically acclaimed novel, Beyond Apollo (1972), our astronaut anti-hero even dreams of the fierce sexual prowess of his Captain – who may or may not be himself depending on how you read the work’s layered metafictional turns – while in his own life his wife derives no satisfaction from his mechanical administrations and impotence.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.