Image credit: Victor GAD
Marija Dalbello
Reading Interests
of Adults
Science fiction
Rutgers
School of Communication and Information
[email protected]
Overview
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Introduction
What is Speculative fiction?
Science fiction and Fantasy: Points of comparison
The literature of “What if?”
World-building
Fandom and fan communities
History and types of science fiction
Conclusion
What is speculative fiction (SF)?
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Speculative literature or speculative fiction
Umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction,
supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian
fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate
history
Popularized by writers of the New Wave movement in the
1960s-1970s - genre as literary production
Term originates from Robert A.Heinlein (1947) - synonymous
with science fiction, to exclude fantasy
Revival in the past decade to include fantasy - emphasis on
literary and critical perspectives of SF writing
Comparing science fiction and fantasy
The literature of WHAT IF …?
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Science fiction
Imagination provides access to experience and social
experiment
“Access to understanding and experiencing our past,
present, and future in terms of an imagined future” (Cramer
1994)
Argument for an imagined world-order
Science fiction is any story that argues the case for a changed
world that has not yet come into being. (Herald 2006, 313)
Fantasy
An allegorical springboard for nostalgic leaps to the past
or into alternative worlds
The Difficult truths can sometimes only be told through the
medium of fantasy. (Herald 2000, 267)
Comparing science fiction and fantasy
World-building
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Tolkien’s definition of the fantasy genre elements (from: On
Fairy-Stories):
Creation of an internally consistent secondary world
(the “subcreation”)
The use of Faerie (the use of magic and enchantment)
World is accessed by the narrative skill of the author
and the imaginative willingness of the reader
Comparing science fiction and fantasy
World-building
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Extrapolative fiction - Science fiction
Abrupt transition from our world to the fantasy world
Transitions initiated by scientific mechanisms that transport
us from our world to the fantasy world
Evocative fiction - Fantasy
Another world is presented as clean and whole
Another world is the place where the reader lives in for the
length of the reading
We learn not only about an alternative world but also an
entire and parallel world history, with myths and values,
villains and heroes
Relevant approaches and theories
Fields of cultural production
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Fields of cultural production (Bourdieu) expanded beyond the
producers of texts to producers of meanings around texts
Camille Bacon-Smith’s study of the culture of Worldcon
conventions and fandom - ethnographic approach to describe the
lived reality of science fiction community (readers and consumers of
cultural products, creators and the industries)
Production and consumption in science fiction connected
Cultures of association exemplified in fandom - provide space
outside of mainstream culture
Genres: science fiction, fantasy, costumers
SUCH AS IN …
Relevant approaches and theories
Fields of cultural production
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Historical development
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Precursors (19th century)
1818 Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells
Science fiction (SF) term coined in 1929 and commonly
accepted by 1930s
The Golden Age of science fiction (1930s-1940s)
Celebrates the world of patriarchal technological
modernity
Focus on the mechanical, and how machines would
change the world
Technology is the essence and basis for characterization,
plot is subsidiary
Alien contact (1950s)
Concern with what is out there
Gives rise to BEM (bug-eyed-monsters)
Historical development
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The New Wave (1960s-1970s)
Non-mechanical sciences (novels deal with psychology,
sociology, and how humans relate to their world and to
change) - 1960s
Feminist utopian and dystopian narratives - 1970s
Cyberpunk (starts in 1980s)
Technology is portrayed as being limited
Dystopian visions of technology and progress
Scientific advances (starts in 1990s)
New technological developments (nanotechnology, AI,
bioengineering) become a visible force of the field
The Future at Risk (last decade)
Technology themes, dystopian visions, eco-terrorism,
identities, etc.
An overview
Types and Trends
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Hard SF
Stories set in near future - focus on plausible science
Scientists and their families, and those immediately
affected by science
Includes:
Space travel and planetary exploration
Utopian science fiction
New Wave
Stories set in the near future - focus on the soft
sciences (sociology, psychology, even religion)
Focus on social order and politics (morality in focus)
The “imaginative vision” for the present
Literary in nature (speculative fiction)
Slide based on handout developed by Bonnie Kunzel
An overview
Types and Trends
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Science and Sociology
Social consequences of technical and scientific change
Focus on biotechnology, computers, robots,
nanotechnology, artificial intelligence
Cyberpunk
Technology of the internet and hacker culture set in the
near future, including elements of popular culture
The Future at Risk
Social consequences of technical and scientific change focus on disaster or socio-economic focus
Includes:
Disaster fiction (response to natural occurrences such as mutation)
and apocalyptic end of everything
Dystopia: consequences of everyday behavior taken to extremes (a
negative vision of politics, society, economy, and science and
technology; feminist perspectives
Slide based on handout developed by Bonnie Kunzel
An overview
Types and Trends
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Space opera
“Westerns in Spacesuits” on other planets, with
stereotypical characters
Including: Galactic Empires, Military Science Fiction, The
Great Conflict, After the Fall
Inner space and special powers
Focus on the human mind and its powers, verging on
fantasy
Including: extrasensory powers, religious and messianic
fiction
Slide based on handout developed by Bonnie Kunzel
Conclusion
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Science fiction is closely related to fantasy
Imagining an alternative social order and society
Reflecting on the consequences of technological modernity
Reflecting on the consequences of techno-scientific progress
Imagining the limits of humanity and its dystopian futures
Imagining transcendent humanity and its utopian advancement
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