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Science Fiction Introduction


The world of literature would be incomplete without the genre of science fiction. The vastness of possibilities brought to our lives by science fiction authors is infinite. Alternative worlds, various galaxies with various creatures, advanced technology beyond our imagination are only a small fragment this genre is able to provide. The possibilities we can accomplish are bound only by our creativity.

Science fiction as a genre is quite unique. As Philip K. Dick stated in one of his letters; the best science fiction is changed into a dialogue between an author and a reader. This dialogue is launched by a chain reaction of thoughts provided by the author who develops a text containing a new idea.

If we want to discuss science fiction further, it is quite essential to ask ourselves, why should we even waste time doing so. It is quite evident to say, that as our society entered the new millennium, our culture, lives and everything that surrounds us is somehow affected by the advanced technology. For example, in the IT industry, engineers are influenced by the ideas presented either in SF books or movies. We can mention not only the effort to connect a man into a computer world or plugging technical devices into our bodies. All these scenes are taken from the world of SF.

Evidence supporting this point of view that SF rules our lives can be seen in todays cinematography. Just by looking at what kind of movies are most demanding by audience, we would find, that majority of them are the genre of sci-fi or fantasy. But why is this so? One answer to this question could be that people living in the world today are trying to find a place to hide and is there a better place than a place where you find space heroes who are trying to save the galaxy from the nasty aliens or mutants. It is the pursuit of being somebody else, caused by the internal dissatisfaction of who we really are, or in other words, it is the escape from reality that is demanded. The other answer represents the mans curiosity to see what the future world would be like, and SF provides various pictures of the future reality.

Science fiction as other genres in literature as well has undergone some development, which shaped it into a form we experience now. In order to look at the present state of SF we need to define, what science fiction really is, therefore this topic will be discussed in chapter one. To achieve this goal, we need to analyze a real definition and make boundaries of good and bad SF. There need to be opinions of the critics presented in order to make the definition valid. Their presence during the analysis will be able to help us to understand the SF genre from different points of view and their opinions will draw a line which we will have to follow so as to succeed in the goal set.

Besides exploring the real definition of SF there are other aspects to consider while engaged with any literary genre. Studying origins of science fiction is necessary to provide the vital background to the development of SF genre and to the analysis of the contemporary SF. Answers to the rising questions concerning with the features of science fiction as such or why SF went just that particular direction could be found in its history and therefore the importance of history of SF should not be underestimated. The second part of chapter two focuses on four talented SF writers. Starting with H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Robert A. Heinlein. They all offered something out of the ordinary that attracted the readers of SF. Having a scope of the science fiction authors enables us with analytical and critical thinking to other authors and their works.

Chapter three of the thesis focuses on assigning science fiction as being part of a speculative fiction. Nowadays, science fiction literature is not considered to create a single literary genre. With its features and subgenres it satisfies the criteria of speculative fiction and is often regarded as such. Therefore the chapter discusses relations between SF and other literary genres. Analysis of the distinctive and similar features that are present in the works of SF, cyberpunk, dystopia and a similar genre of fantasy are presented. Significant authors of the genres are mentioned and examples of their significant works are provided.

Another chapter, chapter four deals with the influence of postmodernism on science fiction that is undeniable and it is essential to present it for anyone who is concerned with SF literature. The postmodern movement affected the course of science fiction and through its impact SF has taken a form it possess now. Influential postmodern philosophers with their ideas are introduced and their ideas characterized. Together with the features that are characteristic for postmodern literature, there is enough theoretical background provided in order to use it during the analysis presented in next chapters. The features presented are explained and examples of them are provided.

When having all the necessary informational background about the development of science fiction, its features, representatives and their works, a practical part of analyzing and finding the overlapping features between two famous works takes place. Two works are introduced, Aldous Huxleys Brave New World and Andy and Larrys Wachowski The Matrix.

The following chapter five focuses on characterizing postmodern features in The Matrix. The chapter is divided into three parts. The first one consists of introducing and explaining the work of The Matrix along with William Gibsons Neuromancer, whose work is essential in the analysis later introduced in this chapter. The second part of the chapter reintroduces two significant postmodern philosophers whose ideas are applied on the analyzed work. The final part of the analysis concerns with finding selected postmodern features in The Matrix, where examples of Gibsons Neuromancer are provided, which are vital for the purpose of the analysis.

Chapter six focuses on the genre of SF as such and the difficulties that may arise when one is trying to characterize a work as being part of science fiction literature. The current chapter introduces Aldous Huxleys novel Brave New World. Again the chapter is divided into three parts, where the novel is characterized and analyzed. After the proper introduction of the novel, a discussion is formed, whether the novel satisfies the criteria of science fiction. During the analysis various points of view are presented in order to provide an objective result. The second half of the chapter consists of analyzing the dystopian features of Brave New World, through which a conclusion regarding the importance of dystopia in SF literature is made.

The final chapter of the thesis concerns with the overlapping features of The Matrix and Brave New World with the focus on the genre. Similar features are highlighted and the analysis of them in the works is provided. Conclusion presented is based on the examples introduced during the analysis.

Through the particular chapters presented, the thesis uncovers the world of science fiction which is not bound by literature. It is the world around us; it is the world of today which is shaped by the influence of SF. To be able to see the features of SF and be able to critically address them gives us a better chance to understand the world we live in and also the effects the literature has on our world and lives.

1 Definition of Science Fiction

When studying science fiction literature, it is essential to possess a definition that will manage to distinguish between SF literature and literature of other genres. Therefore the aim of the chapter is to provide ideas presented by literary critics and authors of SF, who employed themselves in this matter. During the process of representing the proper definition, distinct ideas will be explained and suggestions of critics considered.

Genre of SF represents a unique kind of fiction that made literary critics a difficult time defining it. The most obvious definition that is suggested through its name is not correct as an uninterested person in science fiction might think. SF does not represent the kind of fiction, in which the main idea points towards technology as such. Literary critics argue that the world of science fiction is more than just technology.

The aim of the chapter is to present the most suitable definition of science fiction literature provided by literary critics and introduce several attempts provided by SF authors themselves and literary critics as well.

In order to define SF it would be appropriate to find out when this term was used for a first time. According to A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory the term science fiction was used for the first time in the year 1851 by William Wilson in his A little Earnest Book upon a Great Old Subject. Another name that is connected with the term is the name of a founder of a magazine Amazing Stories. Hugo Gernsback (1894 1967) used the term scientifiction in order to describe the genre, now known as science fiction.

For further studying of SF genre, it was more then inevitable to present a justifiable definition. A definition able to understand SF, able to point out its crucial features and characteristics. As it was mentioned before science fiction resists an easy definition. Even the definition from a literary dictionary is vague, not as clear as we would expect it to be.

A science fiction story is a narrative (usually in prose) of short story, novella or novel (qq.v.) length. Such stories include trips to other worlds, quests, the exploration of space, visits to other planets and interplanet