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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ellen Datlow has a blog at

Ellen Datlow's Profile at

Ellen Datlow, one of the most important editors of fantasy and science fiction, has a blog at

If you like what Ellen has accomplished and contributed as writer, editor, critic, reviewer, and so on,
chances are that you will enjoy reading her blog.
I do.

Alfred Bester, "Star Light, Star Bright": an appreciation.

Here is an appreciation of Alfred Bester's "Star Light, Star Bright" by Paul E. Oppenheimer.

"Genius". Socrates had a genius (he called it a daemon, since he spoke Attic Greek rather than Silver Age Latin). Places had genii locorum. Sacrifice was offered to the genius of the emperor. Everyone was given a genius at birth. When did we begin to mean by "genius" someone extraordinarily creative, someone who could make a new world from the everyday? In the fifties, we were much preoccupied with so-called genius, by which we seem to have meant the abilities that enabled a person to create new means of destruction.

The granting of wishes often involved in the European mind a pact with a god or spirit who was an evil genius. Bester was awarded the first Hugo in the year in which I was born. His childhood overlapped the Great War, the war that changed the world forever. Bester's work, life, and thought have been entwined inextricably with the Cold War --- his comic books involved fantasies of heroes of extraordinary powers. These heroes had wish-fulfilling powers.

The doomed man also finds/loses himself in a place of the infernal powers. They grant his wishes. Thus he is able to find the hero/villain of the piece (who serves also as a McGuffin) --- the genius who is not a genius in the sense of Lewis Terman, the sense that dominated our time. In the Yiddish culture of the shtetls, an ilui was a boy who exhibited extraordinary powers of memory and reasoning --- and of the ability to connect widely disparate texts. Confucian mandarinism had similar ideas. Bester turns the fifties' idea of genius on its head by reverting the the wish fulfilling talisman, the evening star, Astarte. "A genius at wishing": the fifties through a looking glass.

Paul E. Oppenheimer

The Ellen Datlow SciFiction Appreciation Project