Erlich, Richard D

Tagged: Author | Critic

(1943-    ) US academic and critic who took his PhD in English Language and Literature at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign), moving in 1971 to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where he remained until his retirement in 2006 as Professor of English. His first essay of sf interest was "Strange Odyssey: From Dart to Ardrey to Kubrick and Clarke" (May 1976 Extrapolation 17.2), which centred on the use in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and its novelization use of Raymond Dart's theory, modified and popularized by Robert Ardrey, of "The Predatory Transition from Ape to Man", as imaged in Stanley Kubrick's well-known match-cut depicting a thrown bone rising to become a space satellite (especially if that satellite in an unreleased pre-final cut was identified as a nuclear weapon).

Erlich is best known for his Ursula K Le Guin scholarship, initially in collaboration with John H Crow and later on his own. This work culminated in Coyote's Song: The Teaching Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin (1997 ebook; probably rev in print form 2006), the first digital publication of the Science Fiction Research Association. Running to 658 pages, Coyote offers close readings of most of Le Guin's works from her first published story through 1995. Erlich rounded off his study of this author with "Le Guin and God: Quarreling with the One, Critiquing Pure Reason" (Winter 2006 Extrapolation 47.3) and "Always Coming Home: Ethnography, unBible, and Utopian Satire" (2008 Paradoxa #21).

In addition to John Crow on Le Guin and A Boy and His Dog (as film and novel), Erlich collaborated with Peter C Hall on Dystopian film, with his student Diana Perkins on Le Guin's The Eye of the Heron (in Millennial Women, anth 1978, ed Virginia Kidd; 1982), and with Alan Kalish et al on the student-executed project "'For Our Balls Were Sheathed in Inertron': Textual Variations in 'The Seminal Buck Rogers Story'" (Winter 1988 Extrapolation 29.4). Erlich later used a study of textual variations for literary and social commentary on Joe Haldeman's works in "The Forever War (1972-75, 1975/76, 1997) and Forever Peace (1997): Haldeman's Variations on a Theme by Haldeman" (in Flashes of the Fantastic, anth 2004, ed David Ketterer).

Erlich collaborated with Thomas P Dunn to compile the Clockworks volumes from Greenwood Press. The Mechanical God (anth 1982) was volume 1 in Marshall Tymn's series Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Clockwork Worlds (anth 1983) was volume 7 in the same series. The Mechanical God anthologizes essays by a number of scholars on Robots and relatively small Machines; Clockwork Worlds anthologizes essays on large machines and world systems. The third volume of this informal sequence, Clockworks: A Multimedia Bibliography of Works Useful for the Study of the Human/Machine Interface in SF (1993), is volume 37 in the same publisher's Bibliographies and Indexes in World Literature series, and carries over the previous checklist with many additions, but without correcting some errors from the early 1980s. Erlich continued adding to the annotated checklists through the on-line Wiki, Clockworks 2, which was last modified in April 2015; more than a thousand titles are notated in this suggestive context.

Erlich retired from teaching and most scholarship in 2006, but served as webmaster for Frederik Pohl's Writers' Guild website. [CPa/JC]

see also: Cinema.

Richard Dee Erlich

born Terre Haute, Indiana: 1943


works (selected)


works as editor

  • The Mechanical God: Machines in Science Fiction (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982) with Thomas P Dunn [nonfiction: anth: in the publisher's Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy series: hb/Mary Seehausen Bresler]
  • Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Environments in SF (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983) with Thomas P Dunn et al [nonfiction: anth: in the publisher's Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy series: hb/nonpictorial]


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