Review By: Julian Desrochers
Submitted by: Lesmond
R.M. Philmus, Visions and Re-Visions: (Re-)Constructing Science Fiction
[Liverpool University Press, 2005, 288 p. ISBN: 0853238995]
This book makes a case for the novel idea that science fiction comes out of The Time Machine as a literature of re-visions as well as of visions.
ï¿½Re-visionï¿½ in the pertinent sense finds its analogue in the succession of hypotheses that the Time Traveller comes up with regarding a future which perpetually changes under his scrutiny. Rather than being another term for ï¿½recursivityï¿½, then, ï¿½re-visionï¿½ involves the imaginative reconception of some prior text so as to elicit from it a latent meaningful possibility which the original vision was, so to speak, either not fully conscious of or not conscious of at all.
In pursuing this thesis, Visions and Re-visions takes account of a number of the most original and highly esteemed writers associable with science fiction. It offers close readings not only of works by English-language authors from H. G. Wells to Ursula Le Guin (along with Jonathan Swift), but also by Evgeny Zamiatin, Karel Capek, J. L. Borges, Italo Calvino, and Stanislaw Lem. Each chapter can stand independent of the rest. But together they are designed to have a revisionary impact on one another. In that respect, the concluding analyses of Le Guinï¿½s The Dispossessed and Philip K. Dickï¿½s The Man in the High Castle are crucial, as is the discussion of Calvinoï¿½s ï¿½Priscillaï¿½ trilogy that precedes them, inasmuch as all of these works are revealed to be self-consciously revisionary fictions in and of themselves.
ï¿½Philmus succeeds in illuminating every work he discusses. . . The result is . . . some of the best close readings of SF texts that I have seen in a long time, but also a sustained contribution to the theory of genre and to the theory of literature itself.ï¿½