Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Enchantress Of Venus’ by Leigh Brackett

with 2 comments

Brackett identifies herself as a space opera writer, giving the lie to the editors’ repeated assertion that no self-respecting person would do such a thing, but it doesn’t actually seem a very good way of describing this story. Indeed the editors acknowledge that it is basically a Martian version of Tarzan despite going on to describe ‘Enchantress Of Venus’ as an archetype for space opera. Much more compelling is Michael Moorcock who the introduction quotes as noting “her first love was science fantasy… a kind of bastard progeny”. In this she stands in opposition to the purer SF tradition represented by her husband, one Edmond Hamilton. It is a connection that the editors make in an extremely unsatisfactory manner:

By the mid-1970s, at least one European literary critic maintain (in “Le Space Opera et L’Heroic Fantasy”) that space opera has two poles, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edmond Hamilton. In the latter, “the combat spreads over at least a galaxy, mankind confronts a hostile, alien race and the destiny of the universe is in the balance”. The Burroughs type is more pictorial, “the anachronistic, baroque world of the first adventures of Flash Gordon.”

At least one? Who? Googling reveals that it was Jacques Van Herp and ‘Le Space Opera et L’Heroic Fantasy’ was a chapter in Panorama de la science fiction (1973). I found that information in Peter Fitting’s Science Fiction Studies review of the book and that is obviously where the editors found the information too since they have lifted the above quote verbatim from his review. This is lazy scholarship, at best.

Regardless of all that, the story itself contains nothing of interest.

Quality: **
Operaticality: *

As an aside, of Brackett’s script for The Empire Strikes Back the editors say: “The connection between Brackett, the queen of space opera, and Star Wars, the biggest SF film of its day, was very potent in establishing a link between space opera and commercial success.” No matter how many of these nonsensical sentences from Cramer and Hartwell I come across, they still have the power to surprise and perplex.

Written by Martin

10 May 2012 at 18:51

2 Responses

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  1. Moorcock ought to know. His work was frequently classified as ‘Science Fantasy’ – a genre description that I haven’t seen in a while! That said, given the increasing improbability of FTL, the lack of habitable planets and the fact that the universe seems to sparsely inhabited at best, it seems to me that Space Opera (as a genre) ranks alongside Burrough’s late-imperialist fantasies in terms of plausibility.

    Aonghus Fallon

    2 September 2012 at 10:02

  2. […] contemporary space opera and, as the title suggests, instead harks back to the science fantasy of Leigh Brackett and Clive Jackson. So the first sentence is: “They came upon the Earthling naked, somewhere […]

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