Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Trying to Say Something True"

Back in 2003 ParaDoxa published an illuminating interview with Chandler Davis in its special issue on Fifties Fiction, edited by Josh Lukin and Samuel R. Delany. The interview, "Trying to Same Something True," is now available online through Ray Davis's Bellona Times Repress. Chandler Davis, though known principally as a mathematician, published several sf stories back in the fifties. (In fact, I discuss one of them, "It Walks in Beauty," which was reprinted by Ellen Datlow at SciFiction.com and could be called Tiptreean avant la lettre, in my essay "Old Pictures: The Discursive Instability of Feminist SF.") Interestingly, Chan Davis also published a proto-Writing-the-Other essay in a fan magazine.

In his intro to the interview, Josh writes:

For all that Herb Philbrick led three lives, the indefatigable Horace Chandler Davis puts him to shame, leading at least seven. He is Chan Davis, the writer of a dozen science fiction stories that probe deeply into social and ethical issues; he is the renowned mathematician Chandler Davis, longtime editor of The Mathematical Intelligencer and innovator in the theory of operators and matrices; he is an anti-war activist, having coordinated international protests against the war in Vietnam and been a director of Science for Peace; he is a composer, having cowritten the music for Theodore Sturgeon's song "Thunder and Roses" as well as more recent works; he is a member of the mighty intellectual family that includes his wife, the historian Natalie Zemon Davis, and his daughter, the literary and cultural critic Simone Weil Davis; he is the author of several acclaimed poems; and he is a lifelong civil libertarian who has organized for freedom of expression in Eastern Europe as well as North America.

In 1953, Chandler Davis was served with a subpoena as a result of his having paid for the printing of a pamphlet critical of HUAC. His subsequent ordeal included the loss of his job at the University of Michigan and a six-month imprisonment in 1960 for contempt of Congress. Blacklisted from full-time academic jobs in the US, he ultimately found employment at the University of Toronto in 1962, where he continues to work as Emeritus Professor of Mathematics. He and his wife have each written articles and given lectures recounting his case in the context of the Red Scare years.

Check it out!

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