JFA 24.1 (2013)

Editor’s Introduction

“Introduction: Techniques of Transport”
Brian Attebery

By the end of shakespeare’s Pericles, the protagonist has been through just about everything—courtship, betrayal, marriage, parenthood, shipwreck, rescue, and loss of all he holds dear—but it is happiness that nearly sends him over the edge. His daughter Marina, thought dead, is found, and as they recognize one another, Pericles asks his aide Helicanus to “strike me . . . give me a gash, put me to present pain; / Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me / O’erbear the shores of my mortality, / And drown me with their sweetness.” It is a powerful scene, but Shakespeare wants to take the emotion one step higher, to an intensity that cannot be captured in words. As he introduces Marina to Helicanus, he stops mid-thought to ask, “But, what music?” No one else seems to be aware of this “most heavenly music” that “nips me unto listening.” Honest Helicanus says, “My lord, I hear none,” and though the local lord Lysimachus says, “My lord, I hear,” we already know Lysimachus to be a bit of a sleaze, so he may be merely humoring his guest.

The audience hears, though. The script says “[Music]”: and bracketed by that music, the goddess Diana appears to foretell yet another reunion. As often happens in Shakespeare, music signals a transition to a higher state: vision, passion, ecstasy. And yet the work of taking the audience to that higher state falls on ordinary mortals: musicians.

I recently played in a concert featuring music based on Shakespeare: orchestral suites from Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. In translating the play into music, Prokofiev gave to my section, the cellists, some of the most tender, aching, soaring melodies ever written. There were moments as we played when I was definitely in an altered state: rapt; entirely in the moment yet outside of time; drowning, like Pericles, in sweetness. At the same time, I remember being aware of measuring my bow strokes, preparing for a particularly exposed octave jump, making eye contact with the other principal players, following the composer’s instructions for phrasing and dynamics. Playing is work, both technical and physical. Moments of ecstasy take years of practice. One must be grounded to soar.

And magic is related to music. Shakespeare signals this relationship by associating the goddess with the heard/unheard melody. Fantasy too invites us to step out of the daily world and into the realm of ecstatic vision, but the best fantasy does so upon a solid base of narrative technique and closely observed reality. Its strangeness is always one turn away from the familiar. Magic as a narrative trope is something like a musical cue in a play: it says that whatever is to follow is too powerful to be fully encompassed by words.

The lead article in this issue examines uses of music in fantasy. Musicologist Isabella van Elferen takes us from depictions of music in fantastic literature to the actual compositions that take up the work of transporting audiences as they watch films like the three installments of The Lord of the Rings. Looking at these and at other narrative forms that combine magic and musical performance, including operas and computer games, van Elferen discusses specific techniques used by composers to signal other-worldliness. When all goes well, ordinary notes combine with ordinary images, words, actors, and instrumentalists to produce something extraordinary.

Rowland Wymer looks at another kind of convergence leading to a kind of transcendence in his article on James Blish’s After Such Knowledge trilogy. Instead of music and magic, Blish brings together science, magic, and faith as well as past, present, and future. The techniques involved in creating such a narrative sequence include historical research and extrapolation as well as learning how to describe a thing so that it functions simultaneously within more than one world view and more than one generic code. The same object might be at once wondrous, demonic, and perfectly natural. The same act might lead to devastation, damnation, or revelation. For the most part, Blish holds this explosive mixture together: when it works, it works brilliantly to take us to places that might have been or that never were but should have been. But all is grounded in technique: the techniques of the scientist, the philosopher, the historian, the investigative priest, the writer.

Anne Connor examines a set of stories that have in common the magical transformation of woman into cat. Connor’s essay is more about transport than technique: the Latin American works she is discussing move from the plane of the ordinary into various higher states: arousal, awareness, magic, mystery, symbol. By looking at these stories together, Connor shows how they engage in a debate over gender, sexuality, storytelling, and control. The last of these seems to be the key and the part of the analysis most concerned with technique. The meaning of each story, especially in relation to the others, has something to do with who controls the metamorphosis. Within the diegesis, is it the man or the woman, the human or the were-cat, who is in charge? Outside the diegesis, are decisions being made by the narrator or the narrative convention within which he or she works? Or does the reader have the final say? Each artistic choice is both technical and significant: each takes a step further toward the truly strange and revelatory.

Finally, Elisa Segnini looks at techniques of reading in order to position Jean Lorrain’s novel Monsieur de Phocas within the field of the fantastic. Segnini reads the novel by superimposing Lorrain reading E. T. A. Hoffmann alongside Freud reading Hoffmann. Each link in the chain of readings marks a point of technical intervention as well as an exchange of viewpoints on the unconscious and the uncanny. Many recent theorists have observed that one need not believe Freud in order to make use of his ideas; as Peter Gay and others have said, “We all speak Freud.” That “we all” includes people who never heard of Freud, people who could never have read his work. Because we as readers have been constructed in a post-Freudian world, we bring to our part of the reading interaction a set of terms and techniques deriving from The Interpretation of Dreams, “The Uncanny,” and the like. Thus Lorrain speaks Freud to us, though he did not to his contemporaries; thus Hoffman inducts us into the uncanny and Hamlet flirts with the Oedipus complex, though in neither of these cases was that part of the writer’s equipment when the text was created. These reading protocols change the text. Perhaps they allow access to realms of mystery. Certainly they highlight and reconfigure and thus enable scholars like Segnini to articulate new visions of the text.

What all these essays have in common, besides attention to the fantastic and its techniques, is an interest in going beyond the limits of the speakable. Transcending those limits is not safe. It may lead to madness or damnation. We may find “the shores of our mortality” overborne and our mental levees breached. Most of us find it worth the risk if we get even an echo of “the horns of Elfland faintly blowing.”


Introduction: Techniques of Transport
Brian Attebery

Fantasy Music: Epic Soundtracks, Magical Instruments, Musical Metaphysics
Isabella van Elferen

Science, Religion and Magic in James Blish’s “After Such Knowledge” Sequence
Rowland Wymer

Taking the Bite out of the Vagina Dentata: Latin American Women Authors’ Fantastic Transformation of the Feline Fatale
Anne Connor

Reading Hoffmann: Mythmaking and Uncanniness in Jean Lorrain’s Monsieur de Phocas
Elisa Segnini

Review Essay

(Mis)representing Wells
Paul Kincaid


Mark L. Kamrath’s The Historicism of Charles Brockden Brown: Radical History and the Early Republic
Rev. by Sarah Blythe

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock’s Charles Brockden Brown
Rev. by Michael Cody

Mark Clark and Bryan Senn’s Sixties Shockers: A Critical Filmography of Horror Cinema, 1960-1969
Rev. by Cary Elza

Stephanie Bolluk and Wylie Lenz’s Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture
Rev. by Adryan Glasgow

Rocky Wood’s A Literary Stephen King Companion
Rev. by Angela Harrison

Jeffrey Weinstock’s The Vampire Film: Undead Cinema
Rev. by Jim Holte

J.-H. Rosny aîné’s Three Science Fiction Novellas: From Prehistory to the End of Mankind
Rev. by Melody Jue

Fernando Ángel Moreno’s Teoría de la Literatura de Ciencia Ficción: Poética y Retórica de lo Prospectivo [Theory of Science Fiction Literature: A Poetics and Rhetoric of the Prospective]
Rev. by Dale Knickerbocker

James M. Hutchisson’s Edgar Allan Poe: Beyond Gothicism Rev. by Paul Lewis

Wes Williams’s Monsters and their Meanings in Early Modern Culture: Mighty Magic
Rev. by Kristen McDermott

Matthew Beaumont’s The Spectre of Utopia: Utopian and Science Fictions of the Fin de Siècle
Rev. by Thomas J. Morrissey

David Huckvale’s James Bernard, Composer to Count Dracula
Rev. by Dennis R. Perry

Adam Rockoff’s Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986
Rev. by Shannon Blake Skelton

Spiro Dimolianis’s Jack the Ripper and Black Magic: Victorian Conspiracy Theories, Secret Societies and the Supernatural Mystique of the Whitechapel Murders
Rev. by Piers Michael Smith

Anne Billson’s Let The Right One In
Rev. by Hans Staats

David Roas’s Tras los límites de lo real: una definición de lo fantástico [Behind the Limits of the Real]
Rev. by Juan Carlos Toledano Redondo

Giselle Liza Anatol’s Bringing Light to Twilight: Perspectives on a Pop Culture Phenomenon
Rev. by Roslyn Weaver

Deborah Painter’s Forry: The Life of Forrest J Ackerman
Rev. by Matt Yockey

Elana Gomel’s Postmodern Science Fiction and Temporal Imagination
Rev. by Mark Young

Bliss Cua Lim’s Translating Time: Cinema, the Fantastic, and Temporal Critique
Rev. by Stephenie A. Young