Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction on R. A. Lafferty:

‘R. A. LAFFERTY is possessed—a madman, a wild talent. He has created a grammar and syntax all his own, virtually a language all his own, despite the fact that taken one by one all the words he uses are English. One simply cannot begin a Lafferty story and mistake it for anyone else’s.

‘To detail the speculative elements or plots of his major novels would be meaningless, since plot, while undisputably present, has little or nothing to do with Lafferty’s charm and appeal. The speculations are toss-offs, believable in context but not real extrapolation. His novels are: Fourth Mansions, Past Master, The Reefs of Earth, The Devil is Dead, Space Chantey, Arrive At Easterwine, The Flame is Green, Strange Doings, Not to Mention Camels, and Apocalypses. They vary considerably, but the basic theme of Lafferty’s work is power: mental, physical, or political. The end result of his style is the complete annihilation of the fabric of reality.

‘In Lafferty’s world there are strange forces at work. Aliens studying Earth life who know that the planet will kill them. A corporation that leases miracle-makers and god-effects. People who are identified only by the color of their auras. Mindweaves that cause earthquakes. Killing machines that are activated by treasonous thoughts or actions, as defined by the machine. Land masses that appear and disappear at whim. Umbrella men who can change reality.

‘Lafferty’s world is not always comfortable, since he takes particular delight in subtly twisting the meanings of words. His world is usually delightfully absurdist, and often bristling with pins to prick the soap-bubbles of whatever you hold sacred. Lafferty is fun, sophisticated, and utterly insane.

‘(There is no one who writes like R. A. Lafferty, so if you like one of his books, find some more.)

- A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction (1979) by Baird Searles, Martin Last, Beth Meacham, and Michael Franklin, pp. 97-98

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'It was all strong talk with the horns and hooves still on it.'
(R. A. Lafferty, The Devil is Dead)