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Science Fiction. ‘Genre is a constant process of negotiation and change.’ David Buckingham Genres: lack proscriptive and rigidly enforced conventions exhibit inherent flexibility as well as a loose uniformity are fluid and dynamic in form, permeable and

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Science Fiction


  • ‘Genre is a constant process of negotiation and change.’

  • David Buckingham

  • Genres:

  • lack proscriptive and rigidly enforced conventions

  • exhibit inherent flexibility as well as a loose uniformity

  • are fluid and dynamic in form, permeable and

  • ever-changing

  • reflect a framework of repetition and re-interpretation

  • norms are countered by diversity and hybridization

  • are value-laden rather than neutral

  • can be revisionist or subversive as well as stereotypical

  • and formulaic

  • test the boundaries of what is familiar and what is new

  • lack a ‘single, categorical straitjacket’ or set of parameters

  • Calmini Salgado


Genres: marked by features of similarity and difference


Defining Science Fiction

  • ‘A good science-fiction story is a story about human beings, with a human problem, and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its science content.’Theodore Sturgeon

  • ‘Realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.’ Robert A. Heinlein

  • ‘SF eases the 'willing suspension of disbelief’ of readers by developing an atmosphere of scientific credibility for its imaginative speculations in physical science, space, time, social science, and philosophy.’ Sam Moskowitz


Science fiction

Common Elements

  • Space Travel

  • Extraterrestrials

  • Aliens, cyborgs and

    robots

  • Advanced Technologies

  • Dystopic visions of a bleak future

  • Superheroes or the hero’s journey


Mary Shelley’s archetypalis generally recognized as the first true science fiction novel.

The monster is a product of a scientific experiment gone bad.

It combines social criticism with new scientific ideas.

Hideous Progeny

“I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet…

The Progenitor


What if…the power to speculate and extrapolate

The best Science fiction represents an imaginative extension of scientific and technological knowledge, facts, theories and trends

It can cross boundaries found in other genres and show the best and worst of what humanity is capable of achieving


‘Modern science fiction is the only form of literature that consistently considers the nature of the changes that face us, the possible consequences, and the possible solutions. That branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.’ Isaac Asimov1920-1992


The ‘Golden Age’ of Science Fiction


‘Hard’ science fiction is both a descriptive and a evaluative term. Well-researched scientific components feature high-tech iconology. It values known scientific knowledge and facts, extrapolated to realize new fictional worlds.

‘Soft’ science fiction counterpoints hard science fiction by exploring a ‘human’ rather than a ‘technological’ focus.

Hard vs. Soft Science Fiction


Brought science fiction into the literary mainstream by typically showing greater concern for style than for scientific accuracy

Editors encouraged literary experimentation and the movement became the focus for a re-evaluation of genre standards

‘Soft’ science fiction was primarily concerned with sociological and psychological themes rather than ‘hard’ science or technology

New Wave


New Wave

 • pessimistic in tone and exhibiting a general distrust of science, technology and of mankind itself

  • fearful that issues and concerns could be solved

    • perception that mankind is fatally flawed


Some feared that the ‘New Wave’ could trigger the demise of traditional Science Fiction


Modern Science FictionFrank Herbert's 1963 classic ‘Dune’ presents a complex, densely detailed tale of political intrigue in a futuristic galaxy set on Arrakis.


What if…

Recurring Themes, concerns and issues


The Promethean Theme

‘The monster is the result of man’s tinkering with nature and his untamed desire to create and apply his knowledge.’Patrick Warrick

  • Notions of ‘monstrosity’ or something or someone seen as ‘other’

  • Ramifications of man playing God

  • Unchecked Science

As science penetrates the secrets of nature, with each discovery generating new questions, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein will sound its note of warning. Many scientific developments have provoked references to Frankenstein, a story that, for nearly two centuries, has gripped our imaginations and haunted our nightmares. How can society balance the benefits of medical discoveries against the ethical or spiritual questions posed?


Recurring themes in Science Fiction

1.The Promethean Theme

‘The monster is the result of man’s tinkering with nature and his untamed desire to create and apply his knowledge.’Patrick Warrick

As science penetrates the secrets of nature, with each discovery generating new questions, Mary Shelley's ‘Frankenstein’ will sound its note of warning.

Many scientific developments have provoked references to ‘Frankenstein’, a story that, for nearly two centuries, has gripped our imaginations and haunted our nightmares.


2. Ambiguity of Technology

‘Frankenstein’s creature is at first gentle: representing the hope for technology. The monster changes: representing the destructive nature of technology.’ Patrick Warrick

3. The irresponsibility of Science

No ethical concern for experimentation and creation

4. The Shifting Role of Master and Servant

‘The technology created to serve humanity instead becomes its master.’ Murphie and Potts, 2003)


Reversal of the roles of Master and Servant

‘We have programmed our own disappearance.’ Paul Virillio


Hybridization

of mankind and machine

Cyborg = CYBernetic ORGanism

Combination of human and

artificial parts in a single system

Popular idea from 1970s

Intimate connection to technology

High tech in 1980s became more commercialised, domestic & personal - CD player or Nintendo rather than threat of nuclear power


Questions the very meaning of humanity


Many Sub-genres ~ from space opera to steam punk and all places in between

Constant

process

of

hybridization


Recurring Themes…


Unchecked Science

Lack of ethical restrictions

Abuse of scientific and technological power


Many movie scientists aremad, obsessive, or clinically insane or evil

…some are heroic or noble…


Dystopia and the Machine Aesthetic

The late 19th/early 20th centuries saw mass productionchange labour practices for ever. Rather than being skilled individuals, workers were forced to adapt their working patterns to the machines that drove the production lines.

The fusion between human and machine became a major theme.

Metropolis (1927)


Dystopic Texts…

Paint a bleak but credible view of the future


Caste System

Alphas (Α)– highest, grey

Betas (Β)- bottle green/mulberry

Gammas (Γ)- leaf green

Deltas (Δ)- khaki

Epsilons (Ε)– lowest, black

“Over the main entrance…a shield [with] the World State’s motto: COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.”


Cyberpunk


The Birth of Cyberpunk


n. Fast-paced science fiction involving futuristic computer-based societies.

cyberpunk cy'ber·punk' adj.

“high tech

And low life”


Cyberpunk – Characteristics

Pervasive influence of computers

and data

Dystopian future worlds

Invasive body modifications

Conflict between human/machine


  • Bruce Bethke coined the term ‘cyberpunk’ in a short story of the same name

  • punk part reflects streetwise attitude

  • tone tends to be dark, cynical

  • subgenre of industrial rock music

  • settings are post-industrial dystopias

  • plots centre on conflict amongst hackers, artificial

  • intelligences


  • Common Themes

  • Immersion in computer generated, shared

  • worlds Alteration of human bodies, genes

  • Popular culture, music, media power

  • Critical of corporate power

  • Often rebellious protagonists


What is cyberspace?

"a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions

of legitimate operators, in every nation...

A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity.

Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding... "

William Gibson in "Neuromancer”


  • William Gibson

  • No particular knowledge of computers-uses typewriter

  • Imagines technology in very visual,

  • impressionistic kind of way

  • Vivid, spatial, seedy (film noir influence)

  • Mainframes are like skyscrapers

  • Valuable data is protected by “Walls”, “gates” “mazes” of “ice”

  • Illicit programs are like illegal weapons, “I felt like a punk who'd gone out to buy a switch blade and come home with a small neutron bomb.”

  • Death in cyberspace can be real death


  • Set in Chiba City, Japan, “the Sprawl”

  • Representation of futuristic urban decay, marked by an atmosphere that is physically, morally and spiritually dark, morbid and violent

  • Real world is juxtaposed with “jacking into the matrix”

  • Fast paced action

  • Cyborg enhancements have become the ‘norm’

  • Artificial intelligences are dominant characters


Gibson’s Concerns…

  • Gender ambiguity

  • Male characters tend to see the women as ‘meat’ but

  • Molly has become independent of men by using

  • technology to become the femme fatale; a cyber-

  • enhanced killing machine

  • Case is a flawed anti-hero who is self-destructive and

  • “Fueled by self-loathing”

  • He questions the meaning of love, highlighting the

  • lack of human connection possible in a world driven

  • by cyberspace and corporate exploitation


Self-directed AI

Wintermute is logic/Neuromancer is personality

Their agenda is to merge ‘minds’ and become a new, fully integrated hybrid entity

The matrix will thereby become conscious and independent

This new entity contacts others like itself on distant worlds (Centauri System)


  • Novel queries:

  • Ambiguous images of the future

  • Destruction of the natural world by urban development

  • Exploitative powers of corporate

  • hegemony

  • A future where AI has a ‘mind’ that

  • transcends human consciousness

  • “Where do we go from here?...Tonight the very matrix asks itself that question.”


Steampunk and beyond….


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