Friday, August 17, 2018

Arthur Hlavaty, fiction critic



[Arthur Hlavaty (aka Supergee) is, among other useful qualities, a rather good book critic.

He recently dug through his voluminous back pages to produce a new ezine, Archive I: Down by the Old Slipstream, which reprints past writings about many interesting authors. Arthur should consider putting enough of these writings (or any of his other writings) together to put out a book. Maybe an ebook, maybe also a paper book. Any such volume presumably would include Arthur's writings on Robert Anton Wilson.

It's the best zine I've read in awhile (I can't give you the best example without providing an unforgivable spoiler -- just read it), and you can get your copy here, in a nicely-formatted PDF. 

Here is Arthur's short piece on Barrington J. Bailey, a writer I apparently ought to get to know.

--The Management]

Barrington J. Bayley

By Arthur Hlavaty

Philip K. Dick is dead. No, he’s outside, looking in. A friend called up the other night to announce that he’d heard that Dick had checked out of consensus reality with a stroke.
    I mourn him as the inventor of what is now my favorite kind of sf­the philosophical kind. The emphasis on him as a drug writer has always been a misleading form of sensationalism. I suspect that none of the many people who describe The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (perhaps his masterpiece) as “the ultimate acid book” have ever tried acid. Dick’s subjects are more like metaphysics and ontology. There is little agreement as to which of his books are the best--indeed, I do not always agree with myself on this matter--but Time out of Joint, Ubik, Eye in the Sky, and A Maze of Death remain in my mind.
    Dick leaves a couple of heirs to his tradition. One is my old pal Rudy Rucker, whose Software I recommended last installment. The other is a man who gets a whole lot less recognition than I for one think he deserves: Barrington J. Bayley.
    Bayley is an unusual writer in a variety of ways. One can see him as a strange sort of amphibian, in that he has been most published by New Worlds and by DAW. He is not a writer one seeks out for literary merit, characterization, elegant prose, adventure, or sex. If anything, he can be compared with writers such as Clement, Niven, and Hogan,* who seek to do only one thing in their sf. But while the others speculate scientifically, Bayley deals with philosophical and spiritual questions, matters of the essence of reality.
    Bayley has been largely concerned with the nature of Time in his writings, and perhaps his two best books until now, Collision Course and The Fall of Chronopolis, presented new approaches to this problem. More recently, he has incorporated such occult studies as Gnosticism, alchemy, and the Tarot in his work. A recent collection, The Knights of the Limits, offered a variety of remarkable inventions.
    His latest, The Pillars of Eternity (DAW pb), may be his best. He pulls together a number of themes from his past writing, adds some new and startling possibilities, and ties them all together into a satisfying resolution. If you like philosophical sf, don’t miss this one. [1982]

*In 1982 James Hogan was considered a hard-science writer, rather than a crank.


3 comments:

Adrian Reynolds said...

Where Dick is a plate-spinner who makes it up as he goes along, often to wonderful effect, Bayley excels at detailing a big picture before he shows you any of it, and then revealing it in a way that shows it to best effect.

Arthur Hlavaty said...

Thanks for the kind words.

Roman Tsivkin said...

Tom, you absolutely must read Bayley!!! A rare writer unlike anyone else. I have a bunch of his short stories on my computer....when you're ready to read some of his stuff, let me know.