A SHOW-OFF SPIDER, sensing the end of summer, has spun an incredible web on my back porch, hoping to ensnare flies who might otherwise make it through the autumn. The spider/fly relationship, no disrespect intended to either party, is not unlike the rituals enacted by the publishing and bookselling industries each year, as September arrives.

Who, then, are the lures this time around? Nonfiction is well represented: history, foreign policy, biography, plus a long shelf of books set to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. And books by and about entertainment celebrities--John Travolta, say, or Placido Domingo, or Bette Midler--are in abundance; these last, after all, are flashy bait in the book biz just as they are on newstands. But, despite the continual affirmation one hears about the strength of the novel, and the fact that one can come up with a lot of authors and titles, in the fall of 1983 fiction is not at the heart of the web.

In fact, looking at the titles to be offered through Christmas, one is struck first of all by the lack of important fiction. If you're still reeling from those "ancient evenings" spent with Norman Mailer, whom can you turn to? Well, take Anthony Burgess, Paul Theroux, John Updike, and Alice Walker, certainly a distinguished quartet of novelists. Each of them is offering nonfiction this season. And best-selling author Michael Crichton has for us Electronic Life: How To Think About Computers (Knopf/Sept.) Ken Follett, too, has temporarily switched to nonfiction--his On Wings of Eagles is a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction account of an escapade in Iran staged by Texas millionaire Ross Perot (Morrow/Oct.). However, Philip Roth's The Anatomy Lesson (Farrar Straus Giroux/Nov.) brings back Zuckerman, the protagonist of The Ghost Writer and Zuckerman Unbound, and from the same publisher comes The Penitent by Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer (Sept.). V.S. Pritchett, Donald Barthelme, Robertson Davies and Bernard Malamud do have story collections due out, and there is The Collected Stories of Noel Coward (Dutton/Oct.) to anticipate. SLEEPING GIANTS?

Mark Helprin has been getting a great deal of love-it/hate-it advance word-of-mouth for his Winter's Tale (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Sept.), and a first novel about Vietnam, Meditations in Green, by Stephen Wright (Scribners/Sept.) received strong praise from Publishers Weekly. Fans of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time can look forward to a new novel, O, How the Wheel Becomes It! (Holt Rinehart Winston/Oct.) by the author of that elegantly mesmerizing series. But there's only a small amount of other fiction that is truly tempting (small, when you consider just how many books come out): Pitch Dark by Renata Adler (Knopf/Oct.); DelCorso's Gallery by Philip Caputo (Holt Rinehart Winston/Sept.); LaBrava by Elmore Leonard (Arbor/Nov.); In the Land of Israel by Amos Oz (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Nov.); Disturbances in the Field by Lynne Sharon Schwartz (Harper & Row/Oct.); Cynthia Ozick's The Cannibal Galaxy (Knopf/Sept.); Ross Thomas' provocatively titled Missionary Stew (Simon & Schuster/Oct.); Fools of Fortune by William Trevor (Viking/Oct.); Shame by Salman Rushdie (Knopf/Nov.); The Whale of the Victoria Cross, a Falklands novel by the author of The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Pierre Boulle (Vanguard); Exit Lady Masham by Louis Auchincloss (Houghton Mifflin/Oct.) and Rates of Exchange by Malcolm Bradbury (Knopf/Oct).

There are posthumously discovered "new" novels by Nelson Algren (The Devil's Stocking, Arbor/Sept.) and Henry Miller (Opus Pistorum, Grove/Sept.). Also on the lists are books by Stephen King, Harold Robbins, Mary Stuart, Danielle Steel, and, inevitably, new novels by Victoria Holt and Victor Canning. (The new Jean Plaidy --she's one and the same as Victoria Holt--is described as being the 14th volume in a saga about the Plantagenets!) Other fiction that might lure you includes: Ernest J. Gaines' A Gathering of Old Men (Knopf/Sept.); Kate Wilhelm's Welcome, Chaos (Houghton Mifflin/Sept.), Joseph Hansen's Job's Year--about a homosexual actor nearing 60--(Holt Rinehart Winston/Sept.); Carolyn Banks' The Girls on the Row (Crown/Sept.); Isaac Asimov's The Robots of Dawn (Doubleday/Oct.); Harry Stein's Hoopla (Knopf/Oct.); Jamaica Kincaid's At the Bottom of the River (Farrar Straus Girous/Dec.); Michael Malone's Uncivil Seasons (Delacorte/Oct.); John Brunner's The Crucible of Time (Del Rey/Sept.) and Thomas Perry's clever caper, Metzger's Dog (Scribners /Sept.).

And there are yet more novels--dramatic, fantastic, mysterious, comic--worth a mention: James Webb's A Country Such as This (Doubleday/Oct.); Thomas Boyle's thriller The Cold Stove League (Academy Chicago/Sept.); Firefox Down! by Craig Thomas (Bantam/Oct.); Foggage by Patrick McGinley (St. Martin's/Oct.); The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (Doubleday/Oct.); William Prochnau's Trinity's Child (Putnam/Oct.); Michael Stewart's Monkey Shines (Freundlich/Sept.); David Wise's The Children's Game (St. Martin's/Marek/Oct.); Penelope Gilliatt's Mortal Matters (Coward/Oct.) and Brian W. Aldiss' Heliconia Summer (Atheneum/Nov.). The most eye-catching titles surely have to be Singapore: A Novel of the Bronx by Joe Bernardini (Harmony/Crown/Sept.), The Ballad of Typhoid Mary by J.F. Federspiel (Dutton/Dec.) and Puck Is a Four Letter Word, a novel about the National Hockey League, by Frank Orr (Morrow/Oct.). THERE'S NO BOOKS LIKE SHOW BOOKS

Now, what about those celebrities promised above? Well, the newly muscled John Travolta wants us to learn from The John Travolta Exercise Book (Simon & Schuster/Oct.). Bette Midler's The Saga of Baby Divine (Crown/Sept.), illustrated by Todd Schorr, is a sort of ballad, in drag. Placido Domingo, showing that he's not all tonsils, has penned an autobiography, My First Forty Years (Knopf/Sept.). Other entertainment figures hoping to trap part of your book budget are British actress Diana Rigg (No Turn Unstoned, Doubleday/Oct.); Helen Hayes (A Gathering of Hope, Fortress/Sept.); Dirk Bogarde (An Orderly Man, Knopf/Sept.); Andr,e Previn (Andr,e Previn's Guide to the Orchestra, Putnam/Nov.); and Michael Redgrave (In My Mind's Eye, Viking/Nov.).

In addition, Knopf is offering an autobiography by Spanish film director Luis Bunuel, who died this summer--a book presciently titled My Last Sigh (Sept.). And Walter Cronkite has produced the text for a lavishly illustrated (80 reproductions of original Ray Ellis paintings) book on sailing in southern waters (South by Southeast, Oxmoor/Sept.). Then there are the lives of the great, as seen by others. For example, Cary Grant: A Celebration by Richard Schickel (Little, Brown/Oct.); Louis Armstrong: An American Genius by James Lincoln Collier (Oxford/Oct.); and Diane Johnson's Dashiell Hammett: A Life (Random/Oct.). Plus volumes on such notables as D.W. Griffith (also by Richard Schickel), Buddy Holly, Vita Sackville-West, Wilhelm Reich, Barbara Hutton, Margaret Rutherford, Bernard Baruch, Sean Connery, Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Vanessa Bell, Vita Sackville-West, Marilyn Horne, Ivy Litvinov, Georges Simenon, Superman, Thornton Wilder and Waylon Jennings.

Edith Head's Hollywood (she put Dorothy Lamour into that sarong) is coming from Dutton in October. Lord Snowdon's stunning camera portraits--of Meryl Streep, Iris Murdoch, baby Prince Williams--are collected in Sittings, a November release from Harper & Row. And the secrets of the best-tressed are revealed in Nouveau is Better Than No Riche at All (Putnam/Nov.), by reporter Marylin Bender with Monsieur Marc (one of the keepers of the First Hairdo). TURNING PAGES

Ronald Blythe, best known for Akenfield, has written Characters and Their Landscapes (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Sept.), and Laura Z. Hobson, best known as the author of Gentleman's Agreement, has gotten a PW advance rave for her utterly frank autobiography, Laura Z (Arbor/Oct.). Paul Theroux has written about England in The Kingdom by the Sea (Houghton Mifflin/Oct.). John Updike has collected his critical pieces (Hugging the Shore, Knopf/Sept.), while Anthony Burgess meditates on music and language in This Man and Music (McGraw-Hill/Sept.). Willie Morris looks south toward home and into the matter of the recruitment of a young black football player in The Courting of Marcus Dupree (Doubleday/Oct.). And, as long as we're on the subject, three "Bowls" are studied: the Orange (Fifty Years on the Fifty by Loran Smith, East Woods Press/Dec.), the Sugar (Sugar Bowl: The First Fifty Years by Marty Mul,e, Oxmoor/Sept.), and the Super (Super Sunday: The Official Photographic Celebration of the Super Bowl, NAL/Sept.).

There are two works on Queen Elizabeth II, one from Knopf (The Queen: A Life of Elizabeth II/Nov.) by Elizabeth Longford, who's herself a reigning queen of biography. The other is "a behind-the-scenes account of the British royal household" by Ann Morrow (The Queen, Morrow--no, you're not seeing double-- Sept.). As for America's royal family, among books about the Kennedys are One Brief Shining Moment: Remembering Kennedy by William Manchester (Little, Brown/Nov.); A Hero for Our Time: An Intimate Story of the Kennedy Years by Ralph Martin (Macmillan/Sept.); Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times by Lynne McTaggart (Doubleday/Dial/Oct.); Kennedy by Reg Gadney (Holt, Rinehart and Winston/Nov.) and JFK: Ordeal in Africa by Richard D. Mahoney (Oxford/Nov).

A number of books, in some of which the lines are blurred between the personal and the political, will be of more than passing interest to Washington readers. Here's a sampling: Edward Bennett Williams for the Defense by Robert Pack (Harper & Row/Oct.); The Roots of Treason: Ezra Pound and the Secrets of St. Elizabeths by E. Fuller Torrey (McGraw-Hill/Oct.); Humor of a Country Lawyer by Sam J. Ervin Jr. (University of North Carolina/Nov.); Dismantling America: The Rush To Deregulate by Martin and Susan J. Tolchin (Houghton Mifflin/Oct.); On Reagan: The Man and His Presidency by Ronnie Dugger (McGraw-Hill/Nov.); Conversations with the Enemy: The Story of PFC Robert Garwood by Winston Groom and Duncan Spencer (Putnam/Oct.); Channels of Power: The Impact of Television of American Politics by Austin Ranney (Basic/Sept.).

General Sir John Hackett had a best seller with The Third World War; now he's bringing out The Profession of Arms (Macmillan/Nov.). Not for nail-biters is the alarming S.I.O.P.: The Secret U.S. Plan for Nuclear War by Peter Pringle and William Arkin (Norton/Oct.). A book upsetting in a different way is "How Can You Defend Those People?": The Making of a Criminal Lawyer by James S. Kunen, a former D.C. public defender (Random House/Oct.). Other public-policy-oriented volumes include: The Alliance: America, Europe, Japan-- Makers of the Post-War World by Richard J. Barnet (Simon & Schuster/Oct.); The Barbaric Counter-Revolution: Cause and Cure by W.W. Rostow (University of Texas/Nov.); Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead by Irving Kristol (Basic/Oct.); The World Atlas of Revolutions by Andrew Wheatcroft (Simon & Schuster/Oct.); Delta Force by Army Colonel Charlie A. Beckwith, who commanded the ill-fated Iranian rescue mission, and Donald Knox (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Oct.); The Making of the New Deal: The Insiders Speak, an oral history edited by Katie Louchheim (Harvard/Oct.).

Some other upcoming nonfiction titles with beguiling titles are In Search of Our Mother's Garden: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich/Nov.); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House, a collection of two centuries of political humor by David E. Johnson and Johnny R. Johnson (Beaufort/Nov.); Wild Justice: The Evolution of Revenge by Susan Jacoby (Harper & Row/Oct.); The Well Made Book: A Personal Essay by the highly regarded independent publisher David R. Godine (Godine/Oct.); While Reagan Slept by Art Buchwald (Putnam/Oct.); Follies and Foibles: A View of 20th Century Fads by Andrew Marum and Frank Parise (Facts on File); Deadly Business: Sam Cummings, Interarms, and the Arms Trade by Patrick Brogan and Albert Zarca (Norton/Oct.); The Politics at God's Funeral: The Spiritual Crisis of Western Civilization by Michael Harrington (Holt, Rinehart & Winston/Oct.). And you should be aware of the long awaited Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, in nine volumes (Oct.). OF THE MAKING OF BOOKS

A critical look at The Burger Court: The Counter-Revolution That Wasn't, edited by Vincent Blasi, is coming from Yale University Press. And these reporters for The Washington Post have produced books: The Winning Horseplayer by Andrew Beyer (Houghton Mifflin/Sept.); The Baby Chase by Tony Kornheiser (Atheneum/Oct.); One Billion: A China Chronicle by Jay and Linda Matthews (Random House/Sept.) One expects scholarship and wit in John Kenneth Galbraith's The Anatomy of Power (Houghton Mifflin/Oct.). Then there's Volume I of the Selected Letters of E.M. Forster, edited by Mary Lago and P.N. Furbank (Harvard University Press/Nov.); Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia by Arnold R. Isaacs (Johns Hopkins/Oct.); Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow (Viking/Oct.); and Gimme a Break! Warner Wolf on Sports, by Warner Wolf with William Taafe (McGraw-Hill/Oct.).

Here are two works on society and the psyche --The Healing Heart: Antidotes to Panic and Helplessness by Norman Cousins (Norton/Sept.) and People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil by M. Scott Peck (Simon & Schuster/Oct.). And then there's Peter Biskind's (he's editor of American Film) Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood Taught Us To Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties (Pantheon/Oct.), as well as Daniel Boorstin's (he's Librarian of Congress) The Discoverers (Random/Nov.). William Phillips has penned A Partisan View: Five Decades of the Literary Life (Stein & Day/Oct), while Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler has compiled The Best of Modern Humor (Knopf/Nov.). And from Random House comes a revealing look at poet Wallace Stevens, Parts of a World: Wallace Stevens Remembered, in the form of interviews selected and arranged by Peter Brazeau (Nov).

Nor are live poets neglected. New volumes by Derek Walcott, Howard Moss, Richard Howard, Louis Simpson, Ntozake Shange, Czeslaw Milosz, James Tate and Norman Dubie, among others, are being published. And so are previously unpublished e.e. cummings works and a collection of the late Richard Hugo that aims to be "definitive." There are also books on geishas and girlie magazines, eggbeaters and kazoos, Chinese paper dolls and Long Island windmills, bygone Baltimore and forgotten Texas, and even a waterproof songbook to carry with you into the shower. But, in case you were feeling overwhelmed by too much originality, please note that Real Cats Don't Do Talk Shows by Mort Gerberg (Price/Stern/Sloan) and Real Dogs Don't Eat Leftovers by Lee Lorenz (Pocket) are already in the stores.