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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 interplanetary warfare. utopia dystopia past They are also concerned with technological change and development, with scientific experiment, with social, climatic, geological and ecological change. (Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 791).
There is another definition presented by the literary dictionary. It quotes Brian Aldiss and his point of view.
Science fiction is the search for a definition of mankind and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science) and is characteristically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mode. (Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 791).
Both of these definitions introduced are not able to satisfy an interested person in the world of science fiction. The former one only lists series of ideas presented by SF authors in their stories/novellas. Since the spectrum of the authors imagination is without boundaries and the ideas presented by the authors so far are more than enough. Therefore the former definition does not succeed in providing us with the proper definition of science fiction.
The latter one, introduced by Brian Aldiss is more abstract. The element of science as a crucial part of a science fiction plot is here the leading factor. Though this may be correct, but not in all circumstances, as it will be more discussed later in this chapter. The only focus on the science/knowledge may be limiting and hiding other forms of science fiction.
Book Science Fiction written by Adam Roberts also focuses on providing a definition of science fiction. He thinks that:
science fiction as a genre or division of literature distinguishes its fictional worlds to one degree or another from the world in which we actually live
(Roberts, A., 2000, p. 1).
He also stresses the importance of the new concept introduced in any science fiction story as a crucial separator between science fiction and other fantastic/imaginative literature. In his studies he concentrates on three definitions from literary critics.
The first definition is introduced by Darko Suvin who elaborated the concept of novum (Latin for new). Novum represents a new thing or a new phenomenon, which is also used as a distinguishing element between SF and the rest of the literature. Suvins idea is as Roberts explains it that every science fiction story consists of one novum or a number or interrelated nova. Therefore Darko Suvin defined SF as:
a literary genre whose necessary and sufficient conditions are the presence and interaction of estrangement and cognition, and whose main formal device is an imaginative framework alternative to the authors empirical environment. (Suvin, D., 2004, p. 375).
There are two new terms introduced by Suvin. The former one is the term of cognition. Here Roberts defines it as form of rational and logical, which enables the reader to understand the concept of the novum. He also states his idea that if only the element of cognition was presented in the text, it would have to be classified as a documentary or as scientific. Suvin also adds on the account of cognition:
this term does not imply only a reflecting of but also on reality. It implies a creative approach tending toward a dynamic transformation rather than toward a static mirroring of the authors environment. (Suvin, D., 2004, p. 377).
The latter term introduced in Suvins definition is the one of estrangement. The concept of estrangement was used by Bertolt Brecht whose aim was to write plays for a scientific age. Suvin quotes Brecht as he defined estrangement (Verfremdungseffekt) in his Short Organon for the Theatre (1948) as:
A representation which estranges is one which allows us to recognize its subject, but at the same time makes it seem unfamiliar. (Suvin, D., 2004, p. 374).
Roberts explained the term estrangement as it is used in the English-language criticism as alienation. He inclines to Brechts explanation and agrees on estranging of the familiar or the known. The strength of Suvins definition lies in the embodiment of a common-sense tautology (2000, p. 8) as it is argued from the Roberts side. It is the science fiction that is presented as a scientific fictionalizing (2000, p. 8).
Suvins definition of SF is quite popular by the literary critics who are interested in the genre of science fiction. Carl Freedman in his Critical Theory and Science Fiction also used Suvins point of view in a chapter defining science fiction.
science fiction is determined by the dialectic between estrangement and cognition. The first term refers to the creation of an alternative fictional world that, by refusing to take our mundane environment for granted, implicitly or explicitly performs an estranging critical interrogation of the latter. (Freedman, C., 2000, p. 17).
He argues that the character of the interrogation is based on cognition, which allows us to access the text logically and rationally. If the concept of estrangement was not present, Freedman points out that the text would represent ordinary realistic fiction. On the other hand, if the concept of cognition was missing, the text would be a fantasy or a text estranging only in an irrational and illegitimate way.
A following critic introduced by Roberts is Robert Scholes. The definition provided by him differentiates from Suvins. As Roberts states, Scholes in his book Structural Fabulation:
has stressed the metaphorical strain of SF. He defines Fabulation as any fiction that offers us a world clearly and radically discontinuous from the one we know, yet returns to confront that known world in some cognitive way.
Roberts, A., 2000, p. 10).
According to Roberts, Scholes put more emphasis on the literary features of the science fiction texts. For him science is only a starting point, the real focus is based on the process of fictionalisation.
The last critic presented by Roberts is Damien Broderick, whom Roberts also quoted, is also a SF author and a theoretically-engaged critic, defined SF as following.
SF is that species of storytelling native to a culture undergoing the epistemic changes implicated in the rise and supercession of technical-industrial modes of production, distribution, consumption and disposal. It is marked by (i) metaphoric strategies and metonymic tactics, (ii) the foregrounding of icons and interpretative schemata from a collectively constituted generic mega-text and the concomitant de-emphasis of fine writing and characterization, and (iii) certain priorities more often found in scientific and postmodern texts than in literary models: specifically, attention to the object in preference to the subject. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 11-12).
Roberts explains the terms metaphoric strategies and metonymic tactics with the occurrence of a novum in a SF tale. The novum, on one hand represents a part of the imagined world, which is a representation of the whole environment and on the other hand the whole SF text functions metaphorically. Example from the movie Blade Runner is also provided. The androids (novum) from the movie are connected with the main idea of the movie and the movie itself is taken as Roberts suggests as a metaphor for the alienated existence of the contemporary life (2000, p. 13).
Another problem Broderick sees with science fiction texts is that it does not offer things to the reader that are normally found in a main-stream literature (detailed analysis of characters, ). Broderick argues for the focus of SF texts on the object rather than subject.
From the point of view introduced by another SF author and critic Gwyneth Jones the unease presented by Broderick is not that disastrous. She simply says that:
SF avoids the trappings of mainstream fiction so as not to distract its readership from the conceptual experiment it represents; fine writing is de-emphasised in order to allow content and concept to come more obviously to the fore.
(Roberts, A., 2000, p. 14).
There have been more attempts to come up with a good definition of science fiction. There are those provided by the literary critics or even the SF authors themselves. SF writer Philip K. Dick stated what can be used in order to define science fiction. Dick argues that it is the presence of an imaginary world created as an alternative to our own, which is one of the crucial parts in defining science fiction. The shift between the alternative and the real is according to Dick the essence of science fiction. It is the reality of unknown that the readers mind is shocked by.
All the definitions provided either by the critics, the authors and the members of science fiction community, manage to have one concept in common in the definitions provided by them. They agree upon that it is the phenomenon of the novum that is needed to be present in any science fiction story. The success of the story depends on the use of the novum. As to quote Roberts again:
The more expertly the nova are deployed, the more thorough this imaginative encounter with difference can be. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 20).
Of course the process of characterizing any work as a piece of science fiction literature is not an easy task, as it was suggested during the chapter. The ideas and suitable definitions provided in this chapter will be reused in later chapter of the thesis.
2 History of Science Fiction
To portrait the development of science fiction may not be as easy as it seems. As it is difficult to present the perfect definition of science fiction, it is also problematic to illustrate its history. The main difficulty lies in finding the starting point, or the historical term, where SF has emerged for the first time. The current chapter will discuss the origins of science fiction genre, introduces its development stages with their characteristic features. Authors with their significant works will be provided for each stage and at last four significant authors who influenced the course of SF literature will be introduced in detail.
2.1 Origins of Science Fiction Literature
As Adam Roberts puts it in his book Science Fiction, it is not easy to decide where to start with the historical development of SF. There are lots of options to choose from. H. G. Wells, Jules Verne could be defined as the fathers of science fiction. What about the ancient literature?
There are journeys to the Moon or heroic protagonists seeking out new worlds and strange new civilizations in the oldest epics of human culture, from the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (written perhaps in 2000 BC). (Roberts, A. 2000, p. 47).
According to A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory there are numerous predecessors of modern science fiction. The example this book provides is a book Vera Historia (True History) from Lucian of Samosata. Roberts also mentions this work. He labeled this book as a popular example of proto-SF writing. This book presents features like interplanetary warfare and interplanetary travel.
There are some forms of early periods of writing, which could be regarded as the predecessor to modern SF. Some of these genres are mentioned in A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. They occurred during the Middle Ages and were called vision literature. Vision literature was quite popular and widespread and it was interested in exploring the metaphysical worlds like heaven, purgatory, hell. The most popular one and easy to describe was hell. Exploration of hell represented the early form of horror story and a predecessor to scientific romance.
There are also other works and authors that were influential for the development of SF genre. It would be unwise not to mention Thomas Mores Utopia (1516) which is also mentioned by Roberts in his book and also in A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Roberts considers Mores Utopia as a starting point in the SF development and names it a proto-SF, because there are not visible any futuristic forms and there is no encounter with otherness. A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory considers Mores Utopia:
to be a kind of prototype of all sorts of utopia and utopian schemes, plus adventure quests, including expeditions into space. (Cuddon, J. A., 1998, p. 792).
On the other hand some science fiction critics may think otherwise. Adam Roberts in his book introduced two literary critics, Nicholls and Clute and their contributions.
SF critic Peter Nicholls thinks that SF proper requires a consciousness of the scientific outlook, and that a cognitive, scientific way of looking at the world did not emerge until the 17th century, and did not percolate into society at large until the 19th. He adds that there is no sense at all in which we can regard SF as a genre conscious of being genre before 19th century. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 48).
Nichollss ideas presented in the above quotation are quite logical. He sees SF from the technological point of view, where technology forms a significant part of the SF story. Therefore his assumption that the genre of SF has emerged during the 19th century is correct.
Stress the relative youth of the mode, and you are arguing that SF is a specific artistic response to a very particular set of historical and cultural phenomena:
(Roberts, A., 2000, p. 47).
This quotation also supports Nichollss idea. It argues that works of SF could only take place in countries which have experienced any form of Industrial Revolution. Through Industrial Revolution we mean any form of technological progress and this progress is somehow portrayed also in the literature. Technology as such could represent a fundamental part of science fiction, since technology itself can represent the encounter with the novum, or it could be the novum itself.
There is one more literary work that is considered as a turning point in the development of SF genre and that is Mary Shelleys Frankenstein (1818). Roberts considers this book very influential and according to him the crucial part of this book forms the central character the monster. Everything that is connected to the monster is a part of the novum that this book has brought up. It is the monster itself who resembles the encounter with otherness. It reminds an alienated existence that is so popular in todays science fiction.
As mentioned in A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, the creation of the monster is carried out in the scientific terms, where:
monster created by Dr Frankenstein is the product of scientific research, knowledge and skills. The doctor imparts life to a composite being constructed from bits of corpses. (Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 793).
There is one fact, which A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary History considers being a great pity and that is:
that Mary Shelley did not give the monster a name; many who know the basic story but have not read the book refer to it/him as Frankenstein.
(Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 793).
Despite the fact mentioned, there occurred several imitations of this book since its publication because the impact it left on literature is significant. Even after hundred years we can recognize the symbols occurring either in literature or cinematography. The best example to provide is the movie The Terminator (1984) directed by James Cameron. The robot machine completely resembles the monster from Shelleys book.
2.2 Era of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne
Adam Roberts devoted part of his book to the history of SF genre. He recognizes several stages Jules Verne and H. G. Wells, Pulp SF, The Golden Age, New Wave.
The first stage presents two, quite famous writers whose contributions are undeniable. Jules Verne (1828 - 1905) is popular for his fantastic voyages that are set (as Roberts says) into the present version of his world. His greatest works are Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), From the Earth to the Moon (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1869) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1873).
A major part of Vernes success was his ability to make scientific expertise plausible. (Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 794).
Or as Roberts says, Vernes SF technology is taken from existing scientific principles; therefore it is better understood and accepted by his readers and satisfies the criteria of SF set by Darko Suvin.
The other author mentioned in this so called contribution stage is H. G. Wells (1865 - 1946).
one of the great originators of science fiction ideas many of which have been refashioned by other writers since. (Cuddon, J.A., 1998, p. 795).
The most famous and popular works written by Wells are The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr Moreau (1896), The War of the Worlds (1898).
Through his writing H. G. Wells mastered several themes such as time-travel, the biological mutation, alien invasion, etc.
And it is through Wells, , that fiction centrally concerned with the encounter with difference is most thoroughly developed. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 55).
As Roberts shows in his book, Wells dealt with the encounter with the otherness, for example meeting the new life forms (aliens, beast people).
; it is Wellss dialectical sense of the interrelationship between sameness and otherness that gives this work much of its potency: the cognitive estrangement. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 63).
Roberts dedicates some time to analyze Wellss greatest book: War of the Worlds. He argues that the nova presented in this book is concerned with the present version of his world. It is the violent method of building a British Empire. Aliens from the book resemble imperialists who use their power to invade other nations. He adds that the whole book is connected to the Age of Empires. There was British Empire at his time, which represented the model of civilized behavior. Nowadays we face the impact of the American Empire that treats everybody as a sort-of-American. To support his ideas Roberts adds examples from the recent cinematography. Those are the Independence Day (1996), where the earth is attacked by the species from other planet and the whole world unites in order to defeat their new enemy. The whole movie is very similar to Wellss book. Another example he provides is the always popular TV series Star Trek, where the confederacy takes over the other planetary systems. It is a form of an empire building.
Roberts in the end quite originally interprets the success of Wells novel, which is based on the balance between the familiar representation of the known and the strangeness of its novum. He thinks that the development of SF is closely related to the cultural history of that particular country and that the novum symbolically relates to the key concerns of the society.
2.3 Pulp Science Fiction
Another stage introduced by Roberts in his book Science Fiction is the Pulp SF. Development of SF is associated with the popular fiction, and the market dictated the way SF had to go. It all started during the 1890s that Frank Munsey introduced the first pulp magazine Argosy.
Advances in the manufacture of paper out of wood-pulp in the 1880s fuelled a boom in cheap publishing, and a wide range of magazines grew up, printed on a cheap, thick paper that shreads easily and yellows quickly. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 67).
The era of pulp magazines was on its peak during 1920s and 1950s. According to a Wikipedia.org pulp magazines introduced variety of genres. The most popular were detective/mystery, science fiction, adventure, romance, war, horror/occult, Srie Noire stories. Science fiction magazines appeared first in the United States, but later they became available for the readers all over the world. As a first pulp magazine to specialize in SF introduced by Roberts was Thrill Book. It was published during the year 1919 and unfortunately it was canceled the same year. After couple years later a new science-fiction magazine appeared. The magazine was called Amazing Stories and it was published by Hugo Gernsback in 1926. Gernsbacks aim was to make SF educational almost dialectic. Through this magazine science fiction material was introduced to ordinary readers. During the first issues this magazine published reprints of famous writers, such as H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe. Later on, young talented writers, SF fans or scientists began publishing their works through these magazines. The most outstanding ones according to Wikipedia.org were Dr. Miles Breuer (The Gostak and the Doshes), Stanley G. Weinbaum (A Martian Odyssey), Buck Rogers, Philip Francis Nowlan (The Warlords of Han), E. E. Doc Smith (The Skylark of Space) and Mrs. Lee Hawkins Garby.
It was after 607 issues of the magazine, in the year of 2005, that Amazing Stories stopped publishing.
Another important name occurring with the pulp SF magazines is John Campbell. He was the editor and publisher of the first pulp science fiction magazine. He named it Astounding Stories. It started in January 1930 and since then the magazine changed names to Astounding Science Fiction, Astounding Science Fact and Fiction, Analog. According to Roberts, Campbells main pursuit was to make SF educational, entertaining and analyze how people reacted to the ideas presented in the magazine. In those days:
Most pulp science fiction consisted of adventure stories transplanted, without much thought, to alien planets. And most of it was so badly written that even today science fiction still carries a slight whiff of its pulp heritage. The classic image of pulp science fiction is a beautiful, scantily-clad, large-breasted woman being carried off by a bug-eyed monster. (Wikipedia, 2006).
He tried to change several stereotypes used by the authors; for instance the overuse of Wellsian symbol of an alien invasion.
John W. Campbell, Jr., is credited with turning science fiction away from adventure stories on alien planets and toward well-written, scientifically literate stories with better characterization than in previous pulp science fiction. (Wikipedia, 2006).
Among the famous writers whose works were published through this magazine were Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein (Future History), Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity), Frank Herbert (Dune).
There are two more authors Roberts introduces during this stage of development of science fiction. Here belongs Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 1950) and E. E. Doc Smith (1890 - 1965). Burroughs is famous for creating a hero Tarzan. He also concentrated on writing different genres and published his stories in pulp magazines. The first story he published in a pulp magazine was Under the Moons of Mars. Wikipedia.org lists other genres introduced by him; such as SF or fantasy stories set on various planets, lost islands, westerns and historical romances.
The next author is E. E. Smith. He is considered to be the founder of space operas. The significant works produced by him are the Skylark series and Lensman series. As Wikipedia.org suggests E. E. Smiths is best known for the unique elements he managed to include in his writing.
the extrapolation of known science and, often, the extrapolation of existing and historic social and political patterns of the early to mid-twentieth century. Smith himself expressed a preference for inventing fictional technologies that were not strictly impossible (so far as the science of the day was aware) but highly unlikely: the more unlikely the better was his phrase. (Wikipedia, 2006).
Smith was one of the greatest figures of SF that influenced the popular culture. Not only George Lucas took inspiration from Smith, but also groups of scientist who took his creative ideas.
After the 1950s the pulp era began to decline. It was due to introduction of television, rising printing costs and because of their new competition comic books. Pulp era can be definitely considered among the crucial periods of development of SF. It introduced not even new ideas but also some creative works that are still read today.
2.4 Golden Age of Science Fiction
Golden Age as the next stage of the development of science fiction is also connected with John Campbell, the editor of the SF magazine Astounding. It is mostly agreed that the time span of this stage goes from the late 1930s to 1950s. This time period is also known as the era of American Pulp publishing.
John Campbell as one of the main figures of the golden age managed to control the most talented writers and by laying out his criteria of SF writing, he managed to control the direction of science fiction.
Write me a creature that thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man. (Wikipedia, 2006).
His ideas and the requirements he lay on his authors influenced the course of science fiction literature and made him the influential SF figure.
Campbells thoughts on science fiction are stated in Roberts book:
That group of writings which is usually referred to as main-stream literature is actually a special subgroup of the field of science fiction for science fiction deals with all places in the Universe, and all times in Eternity, so the literature of the here-and-now is, truly, a subset of science fiction. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 75).
With authors like Isaac Asimov (Foundation (1942-50)), Arthur C. Clarke (Childhoods End (1953)), Robert A. Heinlein (The Puppet Masters (1951)) under his control, science fiction started to get recognized.
science fiction began to gain status as serious fiction. (Wikipedia, 2006).
Also authors who were not initially interested in science fiction managed to add respectability to the genre with their works. Among these authors were Karel apek, Aldous Huxley, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
The end of the golden age is signaled by authors writing for other magazines than Astounding, in order to have more freedom in their writing. It is the rise of the magazine Galaxy that is recognized as the final moment of the golden age of science fiction.
2.5 New Wave Science fiction
It was during the 1960s that science fiction acquired new dimensions. Influential works appeared which changed its development. Authors shifted to new ideas to enrich their writing. It is the period of the New Wave science fiction.
Quite groundbreaking is the year 1960 when Kingsley Amis published his New Maps of Hell.
, a literary history and examination of the filed of science fiction. This serious attention from a mainstream, acceptable writer did a great deal of good, eventually, for the reputation of science fiction. (Wikipedia, 2006).
New Wave can be characterized as a period of a change. According to Wikipedia.org and its sources, authors during the 1960s started to experiment with the form of SF. Through their writing, they managed to connect SF with the mainstream literature and borrowed features from each other.
Authors were also taking an interest in the topics, which the older writers did not consider. Long avoided sexuality became a topic widely spread in science fiction works during this time. The most influential new wave work was Frank Herberts Dune (1965) and Robert A. Heinleins Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). Heinlein managed to switch from the golden age style to the more complex style of the new wave SF. Other outstanding authors that deserve to be mentioned are Michael Moorcock who is also considered to be an influential figure of the 1960s. His famous works are The Final Programme (1968), A Cure for Cancer (1971), The English Assassin (1972), The Condition of Muzak (1977). Famous short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (1967) written by Harlan Ellison. And of course the legendary Philip K. Dick with his legendary novels The Man in the High Castle (1962), Martian Time-Slip (1964), A Scanner Darkly (1977).
During the 1960s writers shifted their interest from magazines to books, which automatically meant a decline of magazines. Authors created their ideas in a novel length and paperback production became widely used.
According to Adam Roberts the New Wave period experienced two significant moments. One of them is the growth of authors of color the other is the rise of women authors, which ultimately led to a growth in popularity of the science fiction genre. Roberts also argues that it is not only literature and its literary works that attracted new readers to science fiction.
But a more significant factor, in terms of the sheer numbers of people attracted to SF, has been TV and cinema. (Roberts, A., 2006, p. 84).
The New Wave SF can undoubtedly be considered as the most flourishing time of SF, during which authors experimented with the genre and a variety of significant works came into existence. It is also a time when SF gained a noticeable number of readership.
According to John Hunstington, , it was not until the 1960s and what is called New Wave SF that the genre became genuinely mass popular phenomenon. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 80).
With the New Wave era of SF, science fiction literature started to take part in the popular culture, where its importance was growing stronger with time.
2.6 Era of Cyberpunk and new space opera
The next stage that ultimately follows the New Wave SF is the science fiction of the 1980s. It is the time of cyberpunk, which according to Wikipedia.org maintained the style of New Wave science fiction, but it created its own themes and style.
The influential year in the development of cyberpunk is the year 1984 when William Gibson published his masterpiece Neuromancer, for which he received both the Nebula Award and Hugo Award. During the era of cyberpunk, the whole society was affected by the coming trend of computers, technology itself.
Next to cyberpunk a new sub-genre of science fiction emerged from the traditional Space Opera. As it is stated by Wikipedia.org the New Space Opera featured with more realistic science, more detailed characters and it still used the epic settings from the original genre. Both genres cyberpunk and new space opera were widely preferred by writers during the 1980s and 1990s, and are even used during the present days.
There is more information provide on cyberpunk as a sub-genre of science fiction literature in chapter three of the thesis.
Contemporary SF and the Future SF are quite difficult to discuss. The contemporary SF is still much influenced by cyberpunk, which has widely spread since the 1980s. It even influenced media such as TV, cinema and therefore it was introduced to the mainstream culture as is stated by Wikipedia.org.
Both contemporary and future SF has come into a conflict. It is nicely portrayed by Answers.com that the dividing line between science fiction and the rest of the literature is getting thinner. Now in the world of technology, we find works that were classified as science fiction, but now they could be considered a mainstream fiction. Also works that state what has actually come to pass are not surprising. It seems that the older works of science fiction have described the world we are living in now the world of science fiction and therefore science fiction may loose its significance or interest in this process. Consequently it would be rash and difficult to predict the trend science fiction is going to take in the future.
2.7 Authors of Science Fiction
The list of authors writing (who were writing) science fiction is quite tremendous. There are some whose contributions should be remembered since they changed the course of science fiction. This chapter deals with several authors who considerably contributed to the world of science fiction and who do not deserve to be forgotten. The four authors presented are symbols of almost all development stages of science fiction literature. Their works are considered of high value and their presence in literature shaped the course of SF genre. Therefore the aim of the chapter is to provide a detailed background on SF authors whose writing influenced the sphere of SF literature to a great extent. The information presented in the current chapter is used from Wikipedia.org.
2.8 Herbert George Wells
Herbert George Wells was born in Bromley, Kent in the year 1866 and died in London in the year 1946. Wells had a troublesome youth, which also led him to writing. Most of his inspiration for his SF books Wells acquired, was from Jules Verne. It was in the year 1893, when he became fully interested in writing. Wells first debut was The Time Machine (1895), which was followed by The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897) and The War of the Worlds (1898) all of which were filmed.
The latter book is now of a great significance, since it was recently directed by Steven Spielberg. The War of the Worlds is a book about a Martian invasion who came to London with only one aim and that is to eradicate the human nation. Later in the year 1938 Orson Wells broadcasted The War of the Worlds, which caused panic in the United States.
H. G. Wells was not only a writer of science fiction, although without any doubt the contribution made by him is sometimes undervalued. He also wrote non-fiction. The Outline of History (1920), A Short History of the World (1922), The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1931).
Throughout his life Wells could be characterized as a novelist, historian and socialist. He was also a president of the International PoetsEssayistsNovelists Club.
The scope of Wells influence in the world of science fiction is enormous. The topics he introduced (Martian invasion, time travel ) were and are used still today by some authors. There is no doubt about his classification as a pioneer of science fiction.
2.9 Robert Anson Heinlein
Robert Anson Heinlein was one of the most extraordinary SF writers ever living. He was born in Missouri, United States in 1907. During his life he joined Navy where he gained much experience which we can find also in his books. Later he was discharged due to tuberculosis. He tried to join Navy again, but without success. Three wives, Heinlein married throughout his life had an enormous impact on his writing.
Heinlein turned to writing SF in 1938 in order to pay off his mortgage. His stories were published in the magazine Astounding that was edited by John W. Campbell at that time. With Isaac Asimov, Heinlein belongs to one of the most successful SF writers of the golden age. One of his first novels is Rocket Ship Galileo (1947) which belongs to a childrens science fiction. In the year 1959 he produced Starship Troopers which also made it to a movie. For this controversial book he received a Hugo Award. The best know novel, which is also regarded by some as Heinleins masterpiece is Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). It is also the bestselling science fiction ever published. The book portrays ideas as counterculture, organized religion and sexual freedom. Another fine example of science fiction written by Heinlein is a book Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). It pictures a battle of independence carried out by the lunar colonies. Other not as much known books are Glory Road (1963), I Will Fear No Evil (1971) and Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985).
According to Wikipedia.org, Heinlein was one of the most controversial authors of SF, who with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke formed the group Big Three of science fiction. In his writing he analyzed social themes such as: radical individualism, libertarianism, religion, aspects of emotional and physical love. His contribution was left unnoticed and he was awarded seven Hugo Awards and one Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. It was then in the year 1988 that he died in his sleep.
2.10 Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov also a member of the group Big Three of science fiction. Born in Petrovichi, Russia in the year 1920. At the age of three his family and he emigrated to United States. As a talented child he managed to read before he entered school. During his childhood he spent most of his time in library reading books. Throughout his life he received a professor degree.
Asimov started his writing career as a SF writer for the pulp magazines and through his writing he received a reputation for being one of the most influential writers of the golden age of SF. Among the best stories written during golden age is a story Nightfall (1941), which is also considered by some as the best SF story of all time. During 1940s he began to write his Foundation stories, which made it to a trilogy: Foundation (1951), Foundation and Empire (1952), Second Foundation (1953) that deal with an interstellar empire in the future. Later he added Foundations Edge (1982), Foundation and Earth (1986), Prelude to Foundation (1988) and Forward the Foundation (1992).
Among his other influential works belong The Gods Themselves (1972) and the Robot stories, where he included The Three Laws of Robotics: (i) A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; (ii) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law; (iii) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Most of his Robot stories are collected in a book I, Robot (1950) and The Rest of the Robots (1964). Among his Robot stories, we may find SF mystery books such as The Caves of Steel (1954) and The Naked Sun (1957).
Besides SF stories Asimov was interested in writing about history. The well known history books written by him are The Greeks: A Great Adventure (1965), The Roman Republic (1966) and The Roman Empire (1967). Asimov also wrote non-fiction, but mostly on science topics.
During his life Asimov engaged several themes in his stories. Those themes are paternalism, social oppression, and rational thought and their presence is evident in his mystery SF stories. Asimovs writing was also left unnoticed and he also received Hugo and Nebula award for his writing. Books written by Asimov are by some considered of great influence and he is often praised as a giant in a world of science fiction whose reign ended in the year 1992 when he died.
2.11 Philip Kindred Dick
Philip Kindred Dick is one of the most distinguished SF writers. He was born Chicago, Illinois 1929. His twin sister died only in few weeks later. This event affected Dick, which is also visible in his writing. During his life, Dick was praised by his colleagues, but not by the literary public. This of course changed after his death, when several of his stories made it into movies. Even now his stories do not lack the interest they roused among the SF writers during his life.
Dick became full-time writer during 1950s when some of his stories were published in pulp magazines. He often suffered from financial crisis, which he tried to change through his writing. The first published novel was Solar Lottery (1955). The Man in the High Castle (1962) brought him recognition. Other quite well known novels are Martian Time Slip (1964), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) a movie Blade Runner was based on this novel, Ubik (1969) and A Scanner Darkly (1977). Dick also wrote short stories, amongst the well known are Impostor (1953), Paycheck (1953), Minority Report (1956), We Can Remember It For You Wholesale (1966), Faith of our Fathers (1967).
Dick experienced several visions and the power of recurrent dreams during his life. He also stated that he lived a double life. All his states-of-mind are visible in his stories, where the focus was on reality/sudden realization of reality, humanity and sociology. His writing came to an end in the year 1982 when Dick died of a heart failure.
3 SPeculative Fiction
When studying science fiction, a term speculative fiction occurs in various theoretical texts frequently. Speculative fiction as such is a fiction consisting of several overlapping genres. These genres are closely related and influence one another. Among these genres we rate science fiction, fantasy fiction, supernatural horror, alternative history and magic realism. It is therefore quite essential to discuss the relationship between science fiction and other speculative genres in order to acquire a better understanding of the genre SF, to eliminate the confusion they create and enable readers to make distinction between them. This chapter focuses on discussing the genre fantasy, sub-genre cyberpunk and dystopia as in contrast to science fiction.
3.1 Science fiction and Fantasy
In order to lay distinct borders between science and fantasy fiction, a definition is required. To provide the definition of fantasy, is less challenging that to do the same with SF. In this case even a layman may present a correct definition that would be able to draw a visible line between SF and fantasy. Such definition could be stated as: Fantasy, as a sub-genre of literature represents a kind of writing where authors imagination sets the plot of a story into a world (fantasy world), which does not resemble the authors own world. It is a world of various characters or creatures, where the use of magic or any kind of unexplainable power is used. This definition is quite straight-forward and it is not so distinct from those that are provided by more valuable sources. According to C. Hugh Holman, William Harmon and their A Handbook to Literature:
fantasy is usually employed to designate a conscious breaking free from reality. Te term is applied to a work that takes place in a nonexistent and unreal world, such as fairyland, or concerns incredible and unreal characters,
(Holman, C. H. & W. Harmon, 1986, p. 198).
As we may see, these two definitions presented so far are of the same kind. They both see fantasy fiction set in an obviously distinct world, where the reader encounters characters of various kinds and where some element of supernatural is present. By providing other definitions (e.g. Wikipedia.org), the similarities revealed, will be again supported, therefore we can assume that fantasy fiction and its definition does not have so many obstacles tied to it as does science fiction.
As the definition of fantasy has been laid down, the border between fantasy and SF can be made visible. Again from the laymans point of view the main distinct feature between science and fantasy fiction is rooted in the name of the genres. The world in fantasy is based on some kind of supernatural force. It represents an unknown element that has not been explained in that particular world and is taken for granted. On the other hand a science fiction world is based on laws of science and everything else is explained and governed by them.
To come up with a more reliable distinction, a definition provided by Darko Suvin may be used. Once again Suvin believes that science fiction is the literature of cognitive estrangement (2004, p. 372). The element of estrangement is a significant part, both in SF and fantasy fiction. On the other hand the element of cognition is an attribute that creates the border between science and fantasy fiction. Suvin argues that fantasy portrays the elements it includes from the point of supernatural, where science fiction obeys the rules of cognition.
As a literary genre, SF is just as opposed to supernatural estrangement as to empiricism (naturalism). (Suvin, D., 2004, p. 375).
Suvins suggestion seems to be correct. Anything in the world of fantasy is possible. The limit is only set by the authors imagination. On the other hand, the reality in SF world is based on scientific facts not on imagination. Also the fantasy world, the world without boundaries could never represent our own, a world where we live. SF world is of the opposite quality. It could easily represent our world, since everything is based on the laws of science.
To sum up Suvins ideas, it is the element of cognition that plays an important part in the process of distinction between the two genres. Cognition suggests (as Suvin agrees) that the imagination in fantasy literature is not used (in a cognitive sense) in order to explain the qualities of reality as it is done in SF literature.
There is also a different point of view on the distinction between these two genres presented by SF writer Philip K. Dick. He believes that such a thing as a border line between science and fantasy literature does not exist. In order to support his idea, he presents a speculation. Dicks speculation is presented by using mutants (characters) from a book More than Human written by Theodore Sturgeon. He states, that a reader can treat this book as a fantasy or science fiction. This distinction is based on the readers assumption of the mutants. When the reader believes that such creatures could exist, he treats Sturgeons book as SF. On the other hand, if he believes in the opposite (such characters do not exist and could not exist), then he is reading a fantasy novel. Dick continues on stating that fantasy is concerned with a phenomenon that majority of us consider as impossible. Science fiction on the other hand includes a phenomenon that could take place under the proper conditions. The assumption that Dick believes is only based on the subjective opinion of the reader and the author.
The influence science and fantasy fiction have on each other is evident. It may be observed, when concerned with the classification of fantasy subgenres. Among them, a subgenre science fantasy is present. This subgenre emerged as a connection of both SF and fantasy. The setting in this genre is similar to the one of SF story but with visible elements containing the essence of magic rather than of science. The best example of science fantasy story is George Lucas Star Wars.
Fantasy fiction as a genre is quite prolific throughout its existence and it was after J. R. R. Tolkien (significant representative) published his trilogy The Lord of the Rings, fantasy gained wider readership and was recognized by the literary critics. Other authors worth to mention are William Morris, C. S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Ursula K. Le Guin.
Science fiction and fantasy represent two genres of literature that are at the same time so closely connected and so far away from each other. The influence they brought upon each other is unquestionable and it is visible in several either SF or fantasy novels. Therefore it is not striking to find them both grouped in a collection of genres called speculative fiction where they can share their similarities and distinctions.
3.2 Science Fiction in relation to Cyberpunk
The phenomenon of cyberpunk emerged during the 1980s and since then it influenced almost all aspects of the world. The features of cyberpunk are now visible not only in literature, but also in cinematography, fashion, music and much more. Throughout its existence it gained such influence that the world of today resembles a version of cyberpunk. Current stage of science fiction literature is characterized as an era of cyberpunk. The current part of the chapter will provide information on cyberpunk, covering the themes occurring in cyberpunk literature, represent its characteristic features and introduce significant authors and their works.
The term cyberpunk, falls out of the ordinary literary terms. Its features and their presence in our lives gained strength and invulnerability not only in the world of literature.
The origin of cyberpunk goes back to a year 1984 when William Gibson wrote his masterpiece Neuromancer. The kind of literature he produced was later addressed as cyberpunk. A Dictionary of Literary Terms characterized cyberpunk as a sub-species of science fiction (1998, p. 200). Then continues on defining the words of which cyberpunk consists of. Cyber / cybernetics connote technological communication and study connections between the living bodies and the world of technology.
According to Wikipedia.org, cyberpunk is characterized as a sub-genre of science fiction, which possesses features of dystopian literature. It is the kind of science fiction that focuses on advanced technology but considers different aspects of technology. Todd English elaborated on this idea. He proclaims that cyberpunk not like ordinary SF does not speculates about the possibilities of the technology. It portrays the technology as a part of the world and is not interested in speculating about the positive or negative changes the technology has made. Typical cyberpunk fiction also includes the elements such as: breakdown in social order, sense of a rebellion, corruption of governments, surveillance technology, failing of corporations, virtual worlds, etc. Wikipedia.org states that the protagonists of cyberpunk often represent hackers who are displayed as lone heroes fighting for justice. They are the normal people found in an extraordinary situation who do not seek adventure and are often manipulated or used in the end.
There is one term that is associated with cyberpunk and it is of a great significance in almost any cyberpunk novel. The term cyberspace may be defined as Adam Roberts puts it:
Cyberspace is the notional space of the internet and virtual reality, a computer-generated environment into which human beings can enter through a computer or a virtual-reality suit. (Roberts, A., 2000, p. 187).
Through cyberspace, cyberpunk has created a new dimension, which introduced a new theme, now hugely considered in cyberpunk novels. It represents the conflict of the actual and virtual reality. It is the connection of a human brain into a computer generated world where the possibilities are limitless. There are novels where the plot takes place mostly in the cyberspace. Among the best examples of a cyberpunk-cyberspace story is the movie trilogy The Matrix, which will be analyzed in later chapters.
Since the introduction of cyberpunk the number of authors interested in writing cyberpunk increased quite rapidly. The ones worth to mention are William Gibson with his notorious Neuromancer (1984), Bruce Sterling and his Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology (1986), John Shirleys A Song Called Youth aka. Eclipse Trilogy (1985-1990), Rudy Rucker with his Ware Tetralogy (1982-2000) and Lewis Shiners Glimpses (1993). These are the authors who influenced the way cyberpunk took and shaped to the form it has now.
During the development of cyberpunk several other, in some ways different sub-genres of SF emerged. All of them influenced by cyberpunk, took its core features and stretched them to justify their means. Cyberprep as stated above is a sub-genre of SF and also assumes the importance of technology, but the world is portrayed as a happy one, not dangerous or gritty. Main representative is Iain Banks The State of Art (1989). Biopunk is a sub-genre of SF, focuses more on biology rather than on technology. A well-known biopunk author is S. Andrew Swan and his Moreau Series (1993-1999). The term postcyberpunk was first used to address Neal Stephensons Snow Crash (1992). It is also a sub-genre of SF which emerged from cyberpunk. The plot is much more concerned with the characters trying to improve the society and the way of life. It also has a more realistic description of computers. The final sub-genre of SF is steampunk. This fiction is set in the world of our past, with the focus on technology. In steampunk the technological devices are constructed through the science of that particular time. It is also influenced by cyberpunk since it possesses its attitudes towards authority and human nature. The main representatives are K. W. Jeters Morlock Night (1979) and William Gibson & Bruce Sterlings The Difference Engine (1992).
The scope of cyberpunk is enormous. Not even in literary world but also in cinematography (Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott), music, fashion and more. There is no other genre of literature that has been so influential in so many aspects of life. Through this influence cyberpunk gained power that enables it to take a new form, which will guide the course of the science fiction in the future.
3.3 Dystopia in Science Fiction
The two following literary kinds (science fiction and utopia) are undoubtedly closely connected and often referred to by those concerned with science fiction as a literary genre. Before the emergence of science fiction, there were several attempts to recreate Thomas Mores idea, but it was during the end of the 19th century, when science fiction and utopia merged in order to include utopia into contemporary literature. The following text will discuss the influence of dystopian features in SF literature.
As it is introduced in A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory written by J. A. Cuddon, utopia is coined by Sir Thomas More in his book Utopia (1516). The word is of a Greek origin, consisting of two words ou meaning not and topos meaning a place, therefore the result is no place. The whole concept of utopia is also in relation with a word eutopia, meaning a good place. To sum up the main idea of the word, utopia lies in pursuit to create a better place, where everything is well, without death or suffering and etc. but also in a failure of humans efforts to do so.
The most noteworthy pre-science fictional utopias are those written by Thomas More and Jonathan Swift (Gullivers Travels (1726)). The turning point in the evolution of utopia is by some associated with the emergence of science fiction.
According to Carl Freedman who studied the genre of science fiction in relation with utopia:
utopia tends to function more strongly in the more critical and novelistic genre of science fiction than it the older genre of the literary utopia, which necessarily lacks novelistic resources. (Freedman, C., 2000, p. 80).
Freedman argues that among the literary figures, who were the most influential in the development of genre utopia is H. G. Wells. Based on his studies, Freedman considers Wells to be the second founder of science fiction (2000, p. 82), who managed to lay down several forms between SF and utopia that will be put into use by authors in the future.
Authors who were concerned with utopia and are worth to mention are: Ursula Le Guin and her The Dispossessed (1974), Samuel Delanys Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand (1984) and Theodore Sturgeons Venus Plus X (1960).
Since the invention of the term utopia, there were several attempts to create it. As A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory mentions, the failure of the attempts resulted in the originating of the term dystopia. Dystopia is often regarded as the opposite of utopia, but this may not be a correct assumption. According to C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon dystopia is:
Literally bad place. The term is applied to accounts of imaginary worlds, usually in the future, in which present tendencies are carried out to their intensely unpleasant culminations. (Holman, C. H. & W. Harmon, 1986, p. 162).
The definition presented above is quite similar to the one presented by Wikipedia.org. It suggests that the word dystopia is associated with John Stuart Mill, who considered it simply as bad (either things or places), rather than as being opposite of utopia.
As Holman and Harmons definition states, dystopian worlds are usually set in the future. This assumption brings us closer to the literary genre of SF, since it is closely related to the future and technology. In utopian or dystopian works, the better society is usually developed by the use of technology, but it often fails to. It is often the cover of the society that misleads us into believing that the society created is utopian. Only after looking deep inside, the real truth is revealed. The main features of dystopian fiction are (used from Wikipedia.org): some kind of a cover story that people are made to believe in; corporations rule over the society/world; inventions of technology, which might resemble a tool enabling the rulers to keep order in a society; protagonists who are unable to follow the accepted norms of the better society; absolute surveillance of the people living in the society; military force as a source of power; a state figure, who everyone in the society worships; caste system and more.
During the last couple years, dystopia gained on influence in the literary or film industry sphere. It has been accepted and widely used by science fiction, cyberpunk authors or movie script writers, who use it in order to portray our future world according to their visions. Among the best know dystopian authors belong Aldous Huxley and his Brave New World (1932), George Orwells Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Philip K. Dicks Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), William Gibsons Neuromancer (1984) and Robert A. Heinleins Starship Troopers (1959).
The power of utopia and dystopia in science fiction literature is enormous. SF writers consider them as a number one source in their writings, in order to draw a picture, how our society may look like in the near future. On the other hand, utopia and dystopia are in some way also indebted to SF, since only through the genre of SF literature, dystopia and utopia could flourish and uncover the new themes and forms.
4 Science Fiction and Postmodernism
In order to understand the world of science fiction better, and the ideas authors are/were trying to convey in their works, it is essential to explore the cultural changes of the world and the influence these changes brought to us. Throughout the time, the mankind lived through several cultural movements. Among these movements there is one closely related to the evolution of SF genre and that is Postmodernism. Postmodernism influenced humankind in various spheres of life, and none of them were left intact philosophy, politics, architecture, art, literature, music and etc. The current chapter presents postmodernism as a cultural movement, introduces its influential figures and characterizes its features. The later part of the chapter is concerned with popular culture and inclusion of SF into it.
According to Stuart Sim and his The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism, postmodernism is a form of skepticism:
skepticism about authority, received wisdom, cultural and political norms, etc. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 3).
Sim continues on explaining the term skepticism. He sees it as a negative feature, which is trying to undermine the theories which have uncovered the way towards ultimate truth and is opposed to anything as being a part of the ultimate truth. Stuart Sim continues on presenting the characteristics postmodernism
postmodernism is to be regarded as a rejection of many, if not most, of the cultural certainties on which life in the West has been structured over the last couple of centuries. (Sim, S., 2001, p. vii).
Both these quotations introduced by Sim are in comparison to the definition provided by Wikipedia.org, quite similar. Wikipedia.org suggests that to come up with a definition of postmodernism is not an easy task. It is characterized as a form of criticism of ultimate truths and grand narratives. In order to understand the whole concept of postmodernism more deeply, it is vital to study modernism from which postmodernism emerged or is in reaction to it.
While studying postmodernism, the term grand narrative often occurs. The term is closely related to the whole concept of postmodernism and it will be used in analysis provided by later chapter, therefore it is vital to characterize it. In Sims book they are given the name and explanation of universal theories. Wikipedia.org also considers other name of grand narrative and that is of metanarrative.
a metanarrative, is a grand overarching account, or all-encompassing story, which is thought to give order to the historical record. (Wikipedia, 2006).
The use of the term grand narrative is closely related to Jean-Franois Lyotard. It is because of his book The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979) that he became the leading figure in the theoretical field of postmodernism. Lyotard argues that:
we should reject the grand narratives of Western culture because they have now lost all their credibility seems to sum up the ethos of postmodernism, with its disdain for authority in all its many disguises. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 3).
According to Sim, Lyotard sees that the power of the world lies in knowledge and he believes that knowledge is communicated through a narrative where he goes on arguing against the so called grand narratives. He does not criticize the narratives themselves. It is the theory behind the narratives that controls them and claims to have a possession of the ultimate truth. This approach is authoritarian and Lyotard strongly opposes it. Therefore he introduces little narratives, which will be later introduced in the analysis provided by later chapter. They represent a final result he was searching for. Lyotard thinks of the little narratives as of:
the most inventive way of disseminating, and creating, knowledge, and that they help to break down the monopoly traditionally exercised by grand narratives.
(Sim, S., 2001, p. 9).
To overcome the force of grand narratives, Sim introduces Lyotards advice, who suggests to stop believing in them, in which case, they will be assumed to wither away (2001, p. 9). He continues on presenting a solution on how to present knowledge without the help of grand narratives, in order to let others accept it as truthful. What he suggests is a system of antifoundationalism:
a rejection of the idea that there are foundations to our system of thought, or belief, that lie beyond question, and that are necessary to the business of making value judgments. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 9 -10).
Another important figure of postmodernism is Jean Baudrillard. Baudrillards introduction in the current chapter is vital, since his philosophies represent a base of an analysis introduced later in the thesis. He introduced a term that is now widely used during postmodernists discussions. By the word simulacra, Baudrillard sees the postmodern world, where one is not able to differentiate between the reality and simulation.
Simulacra represented nothing but themselves: there was no other reality to which they referred. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 11).
He went on and argued that the Gulf War did not take place and was a mere simulation. This point of view of course did not stay unseen and suffered a great deal of criticism.
Another controversial idea introduced in Seduction (1979) was that systems of any kind should not be opposed but seduced. This idea called in a large amount of criticism from feminists who argue that the word seduction encourages sexual stereotypes.
Baudrillard defines postmodernism in the terms of simulacra and simulation.
Baudrillard conceives postmodernism as an endless circulation of signs from which any sense of reality has fallen away, a world in which there are simulations and only simulations. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 20).
He continues on explaining the use of the signs. First they represented reality, later they were related to signs which referred to reality and the last postmodern vision of signs is that, they have nothing to do with the real, and they are even more real than reality itself. Baudrillard names them hyperreal as the last form signs can take.
4.1 Postmodern cinema and literature
As mentioned above postmodernism influenced all spheres of our culture. Among those, which are closely related to science fiction are literature and cinema. Since science fiction is both manifested through the movies which are now becoming a leading media for representing SF ideas and the last to mention are books, which cannot fully satisfy the visual criteria.
The cinema has undergone several changes throughout its development. The most visible ones acquired during the postmodernist era are the following.
As Sim argues in his book, film theory tried to put the spectator in the world surrounded by capitalism, patriarchy and heterosexuality. The first kind of movies Sim mentions are those influenced by the Second World War. Other movies are film noir, films influenced by the Vietnam War (Apocalypse Now (1979), Taxi Driver (1976)) and conspiracy films (All the Presidents Men (1976)). The last kind of films was influenced by paranoia and the following sentence introduced by Sim confirms this:
You mean theres a CIA inside the CIA? (Sim, S., 2001, p. 102).
In later parts of his book, Sim continues to characterize the themes that are associated with the postmodern cinema. He argues for the influence of America and its products but in order to satisfy the global demand the American film needs to reduce the cultural specificity and allow a form a difference. By difference Sim means the difference within the structure of the text (2001, p. 103) and visibility of representations of difference within the play of the text (2001, p. 103).
After defining the major themes in postmodern cinema, Sim concentrates on providing the typical features. The first and most obvious one is that of difference which plays a crucial part. It is based on introducing new forms of otherness. The next feature defining the real character of postmodern cinema is a transmutation of otherness. An example is provided from the movie Blade Runner (1982) where humans are set against cyborgs. A feature of the female corpse is also of a great significance. It is usually stripped from the weight of a sexual difference and according to Sim it represents the loss of distance in postmodern cinema. This feature is often visible in some cyberpunk novels. The last feature introduced conveys the notion of time and with the abolition of the limit of time. This abolition also includes cheating the death. In this essence Philip K. Dicks Minority Report may be considered to convey the feature of cheating the death, since the work deals with foreseeing the crime scene or in other words, preventing people from dying.
All the features mentioned above resemble a shift in a structure of the cinema, which may be associated with the influence of postmodernism.
Literature or postmodern literature as well as cinematography experienced several impacts in a form of postmodern influences. There is however a wild discussion about the date when postmodern literature came into life. According to Stuart Sim a period of time around the year 1960 is considered to be the time when postmodernist writing appeared. On the other hand Wikipedia.org considers the death of Irish novelist James Joyce (1941) as a rough time-point when postmodern literature started to be recognized.
During the time of postmodernist writing several authors with their works became recognized by the public. If we are to discuss the variety of postmodern authors, it is essential to mention as Sim does, that the fiction during the postmodern era is an international phenomenon. There might be a misunderstanding about that the postmodern fiction is only a matter of American authors since the list representing them is quite long (William Burroughs, Kurt Vonnegut, ). Among the non-American authors who are considered to be of great influence are Stanislaw Lem (Poland), Umberto Eco (Italy) and more.
Postmodernism as a cultural movement brought several changes that had to mirror in the way of writing and also in the ideas authors adapted. Sim lists several that were the most dominant ones and continues on explaining them.
Some of the dominant features of postmodernist fiction include: temporal disorder; the erosion of the sense of time; a pervasive and pointless use of pastiche; a foregrounding of words as fragmenting material signs; the loose association of ideas; paranoia; and vicious circles, or a loss of distinction between logically separate levels of discourse. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 123).
All the features listed above arose from the postmodernists core and can be identified in several works of not only science fiction authors. The element of paranoia is quite dominant in several SF and cyberpunk novels. Also several authors experienced with the time or to be more specific with the timeline of their history. This is similar with the feature of temporal disorder.
The first feature mentioned above is the feature of temporal disorder. Here Sim focuses on the destabilizing convention of postmodernism. He strongly points out the term of anachronism which distorts the set order by series of inconsistencies of detail and setting (2001, p. 124). The time in postmodern writing does not present an already set order. Through postmodern fiction, the present or the past is disrupted.
Another feature presented was pastiche. Sim quotes Frederic Jameson who believed:
the writers and artists of the present day will no longer be able to invent new styles and worlds only a limited number of combinations are possible; the most unique ones have been thought of already. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 125).
Jamesons quotation absolutely satisfies the whole philosophy of postmodernism. He simply believes that there is a problem to produce anything original, not in the form or style but original in the sense not seen or used before. The presence of pastiche is also quite visible in SF.
Fragmentation represents another postmodernist feature in fiction. As it is normal in postmodern thinking, authors are against any grand conventions or norms. Therefore the norms of writing are not followed and authors prefer different ways of structuring the narratives. Sim provides several examples. The first one is an example of multiple endings and the other one is a division of texts into fragments with the use of symbols, numbers, titles, spaces.
The next feature mentioned is the looseness of association. According to Sim authors experience with the production and perception of texts. They disrupt them by applying changes in the composition process. Two examples are taken from William Burroughs who used the cut-up and fold-in form in writing.
The feature of paranoia deserves also an attention, since it is the most clear one and easily definable in the text. It is a:
threat of total engulfment by somebody elses system, is keenly felt by many of the dramatic personae of postmodernist fiction. (Sim, S., 2001, p. 129).
Paranoia as such, absolutely belongs to the postmodern culture, since the impact of Cold War and what people experienced left some implications on them. There are several forms of paranoia that takes place in the postmodernist fiction. Sim illustrates the fear of an external force (society), obstruction caused by another individual or a place and conspiracy against someone or something.
The last feature mentioned by Sim is Vicious Circles. By the term he means an indefinableness of the world and the writers text. This situation occurs when the author himself or a historical figure appears in the text. By Vicious Circles, Sim believes in the fusion of the world and the text. Reader is caught in a contradiction. He cannot tell the difference from the world and the fiction.
The features of postmodernist writing provided by Wikipedia.org are quite similar to Sims. It states that postmodern literature explores the subjectivism. It is concerned with the character development and its inner states-of-consciousness. The process of fragmentation is also mentioned and it is aimed at the narrative and the development of characters.
Wikipedia.org also stresses the influence of computers and how they affected the whole cultural movement and the shape their effects had on literature. The result was an emergence of several literary genres/sub-genres. Postmodern literature expanded with cyberpunk, excrement literature, electronic literature, hypertext literature.
All the elements that define postmodernism are visible in all spheres of life that postmodernism has not left intact. Some (among them S. Sim) argue for the representation of postmodernism as a mental illness. It may be portrayed on the example based on the relationship of postmodernism and science fiction. They both might represent a hemisphere of a human brain confronting with each other. The result of their strike are the features of temporal disorder, looseness of association, paranoia, which are present in both of them. Through their strike they complete, characterize each other and take on the forms they have now.
4.2 Science Fiction and Popular Culture
The position, science fiction genre occupies in the world of literature now, has undergone a series of changes since its beginnings. SF shifted from a position of a total outsider, often criticized by the literary critics, to a true equal partner of a mainstream literature. Through this classification shift, science fiction managed to enter the world of popular culture. The aim of the chapter is to discuss the influence of popular culture on SF literature and the course of SF dictated by the mass demands.
In order to continue portraying the connection of SF genre into the sphere of popular culture, its definition may be presented. According to Wikipedia.org:
Popular culture, or pop culture, is the vernacular (peoples) culture that prevails in any given society. The content of popular culture is determined by the daily interactions, needs and desires, and cultural moments that make up the everyday lives of the mainstream. (Wikipedia, 2006).
The definition is quite straightforward. The spectrum popular culture covers is enormous and absorbs any activities from all aspects of our lives. As Wikipedia.org suggests, todays popular culture (in the postmodern era) is strongly influenced by mass production and mass consumerism. Products emphasized by the companies, are appealing to a wide audience, which constitutes the base of the popular culture today. These products and the culture itself are also affected by the growth in technology and science. It is this era of our lives, so closely similar to the stories of SF, where the technology and science play a crucial part, and it is also through this technological power that SF is recognized and included into the popular culture.
The process of entering SF in the popular genre was studied by Brian McHale. In his extract POSTcyberMODERNpunkISM, McHale uses a book Columbia Literary History of the United States (1988), where he refers to Larry McCaffery who considers SF as an influential genre of the contemporary fiction and that SF sets the direction of recent American fiction. McHale continues on explaining the sudden acceptance of SF. In order to explain the relationship between SF and mainstream fiction, McHale points out to the years between 1920s and 1940s, when these two genres existed in isolation from each other. He sees the period of 1950s as a turning point. In this time, SF writers tried to improve the status of SF, by applying stylistic norms of mainstream fiction and some mainstream writers adopted their new norms from SF. McHale mentions R. H. Heinlein, I. Asimov, T. Sturgeon, A. C. Clarke from the SF side and N. Shute, W. Tevis from the mainstream fiction side.
Another turning point in the acceptance of SF is the time during the 1960s and the early 1970s. This is a period of a New Wave SF. During this time SF interacted with the postmodernist mainstream fiction. However this interaction was of a different character. McHale refers to it as a regressive interaction, since the New Wave SF absorbed the norms of modernist fiction during the years of 1920s and 1930s and the postmodernist mainstream fiction absorbed the norms of the early SF. It was not a current interaction of the themes from both genres. This came into existence during 1970s when current themes were adapted by both SF and postmodernist mainstream fiction. Names like Philip K. Dick (Ubik (1969)), Samuel R. Delany (Dhalgren (1974), Triton (1976)) are worth to be mentioned. There is one more turning point mentioned by McHale. It took place during 1980s, and he refers to the interaction as a feedback loop (2000, p. 250). What happened during this interaction is that SF adopted some already science-fictionized postmodernist features and postmodern fiction adopted features already postmodernized SF. The process of features adaptation resulted in recognition of SF literary genre and its inclusion in popular culture. The names of W. Burroughs and T. R. Pynchon are of a great significance during this era of the feedback loop interaction.
It is during these three eras of the development of the SF genre, that the process of involvement into popular culture took place. The process of acceptance of SF into the mainstream fiction became a reality when booth SF and the fiction of the mainstream started to adapt each other features into their works.
Another theory may be presented to illustrate, how SF literature became part of the popular culture today. The point of this theory is to portray a connection between the SF in cinema and SF in literature. It all refers to the growing influence of film industry in popular culture. Films as such became the final products of the mass production and consumption. Since they appeal to a broad audience, (according to Wikipedia.org) filmmakers are trying to maximize their profits by emphasizing their appeal. During our era of technology and science, filmmakers shifted their interest towards SF, to develop a SF movie. As any unbiased movie fan may notice, the genre of SF in the film industry has gained on influence. When we look back, it started as a harmless film genre. A movie noteworthy is Blade Runner (1982). But now the list of movies that are running in the cinemas during these couple years is quite long. The recent ones are Paycheck (2003), I, Robot (2004), The War of the Worlds (2005).
It is through these movies (mostly based on a SF book), that SF literature is recognized by a viewer. The viewer is compelled to find out more about the movie itself and therefore reaches for a book. Since there are more and more movies based on books, more and more books are explored by the people. By the growing number of movies, the appeal of SF literature is growing and the postmodernist industries again in pursuit of maximizing their profits emphasize the appeal of SF books.
It is throu