The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Rose was first published in the British magazine Authentic Science Fiction in 1953. No American publisher would accept the work. After failing to publish The Rose in the United States, Charles Harness suspended his science-fiction career. Thanks to Michael Moorcock, a fan of Harness’ fiction, The Rose was republished in book form (along with “The New Reality” and “The Chessplayers”) in 1966 in Britain. Harness then resumed writing science fiction.

Brief textual clues reveal that The Rose occurs in the United States around 1991. Harness nevertheless creates a future setting of indeterminate place and time, for The Rose is a science-fiction allegory about art, science, and love. It occurs in a xenophobic country in which a National Security Bureau rules with the power of scientists and their technology. The Via Rosa, a white, rose-walled artists’ colony, is tolerated because it is detached from political affairs. The major conflict of the novel is between art and science, which both flower in Renaissance II.

Anna van Tuyl, a psychiatrist-composer-ballerina, suffers from a mysterious disease that has humped her back and produced two bulges on either side of her skull. She has been unable to complete her ballet score, called The Nightingale and the Rose. The ballet is based on Oscar Wilde’s story about a nightingale who thrusts her heart against a thorn on the stem of...

(The entire section is 513 words.)