THE ENGINES OF THE NIGHT: Science Fiction in the Eighties by Barry N. Malzberg

THE ENGINES OF THE NIGHT: Science Fiction in the Eighties

Email this review


Malzberg's last story collection, The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady (1980), featured a glut of ""afterwords""--in which this sf veteran bitterly railed against the publishing world and lamented his failure to win serious critical recognition. Here, then, is more of the same, with Malzberg's anguished self-regard (though only in his early forties, he speaks of his ""career"" in the mournful past tense) coloring almost all of these 40 mini-essays. Even the best pieces--about sf of the Forties (the pros and cons of anonymity) and the Fifties (that fleeting Golden Age which somehow left its talents burnt-out)--seem to suffer from this feverish subjectivity: when Malzberg turns maudlin in eulogizing past sf masters (""Cause of death: science fiction""), the effect is more self-dramatizing than compassionate. And elsewhere the personal stake is blatant--as Malzberg fumes over the current success of sword-and-sorcery/Star Wars-style sf; makes sarcastic lists of Do's and Don'ts for saleable sf; lambastes stupid editors and snobbish literati (""why the hell should critics or their media give a damn about talent?""); or repudiates an A. J. Budrys essay which sees modern sf as optimistic. Still, the appreciations--of sf writer-heroes, of the ten best sf stories--are exuberant, if not always persuasive. And despite the ostentatiously off-putting Malzbergiana here--sophomoric asides, defensive whining, in-jokes, numbing repetitiousness, cutesy prose--buffs will want to browse through these massively well-informed, occasionally funny, and undeniably energetic ramblings.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday