Fiedler, Leslie A

Tagged: Author | Critic

(1917-2003) US critic whose piercing and mythopoeic views on the relationship between US culture and literature were first expressed in "Come Back to the Raft Ag'in, Huck Honey" (June 1948 Partisan Review; assembled in An End to Innocence: Essays on Culture and Politics, coll 1955), where he argued that the inexpressive but obvious homoerotic (often interracial) doublings embodied in so many American novels exposed a profound tendency to escapism and denial in the American psyche: it has not been difficult to apply this analysis to American sf. In Love and Death in the American Novel (1960; rev 1966), Fiedler further describes sf as a "typically Anglo-Saxon" form, although later, somewhat less convincingly, in Waiting for the End (coll 1964), he states that "Even in its particulars, the universe of science fiction is Jewish". His reasons for this claim relate to his general sense that sf comprises a transgressive, transformative set of texts which recruit and supply screed to The New Mutants – see "The New Mutants" (Fall 1965 Partisan Review) – whom, less than presciently, he associated with the 1960s counterculture. Consistently with this line of thought, he long espoused the work of sf writers who seemed to embody this transgressive newness, most notably Samuel R Delany.

In Dreams Awake (anth 1975) assembles sf stories of interest, though almost all of them were extremely familiar to experienced readers. Olaf Stapledon: A Man Divided (1983) is an invigorating if sometimes eccentric examination of Olaf Stapledon. Fiedler was himself an infrequent writer of fiction. A short story, "What Used to be Called Dead", was sold in the early 1970s to Harlan Ellison's «Last Dangerous Visions» project, and remains unpublished. The Messengers Will Come No More (1974) is an sf novel whose backstory – Forerunner races who embody the Male and Female principles contend over the nature of human (and other) planetary societies, shaping them (see Uplift) in the course of their aeons-long dispute – hearkens back to the long strife between opposed Secret Master cultures that shapes E E Smith's Lensman sequence; but the surface, which tends to ornate Fabulation effects, does differ significantly.

In 1994 Fiedler was awarded the Hubbell Medal for Lifetime Contribution to the Study of American Literature, given by the Modern Language Association. Other awards include the Chancellor Charles P Norton Medal (1989), the Alumni Award of New York University (Heights) (1985), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1970-1971), two Fulbright Fellowships (1951-1953 and 1961-1962), the Kenyon Review Fellowship in Criticism (1956), the Christian Gauss Fellowship at Princeton (1956) and a Rockefeller Fellowship (1946-1947). [JC/CPa]

see also: Definitions of SF.

Leslie Aaron Fiedler

born Newark, New Jersey: 8 March 1917

died Buffalo, New York: 29 January 2003

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