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ENG237 September 19 - Aliens part 1

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University of Toronto Mississauga
Michael Johnstone

ENG237 – September 19, 2012 1 What is 'Science Fiction"?  Wells was refering to a particular genre when he refered to his books as 'scientific romances' o He meant a different kind of romance than we mean today  Speculative fiction is actually a big genre that includes sci-fi and horror even though Heilein didn't mean it to do that when he coined the term  Science fiction is a merging of 2 seemingly opposed terms that creates an oxymoron o Part of the reason why science fiction can be defined so broadly and differently  Historical/cultural approach to 'science fiction' o Some think that we can go all the way back to the Odyssey to date science fiction o Others think that it should be dated in the 1980s o Roberts in The History of Science Fiction pegs it as coming into being in the Enlightenment, post-Protestant time period  The steady cultural ideological dominance of Protestantism is crucial to creating the conditions that lead to Science Fiction  There is a distinction between the Protestant view of the world that is tied to the radical world view and then he ties Fantasy to Catholicism  Praise for humans rather than this 'magical' unexplainable thing  More about humans ability to mold the world and make it there own rather than succumbing to God's will  Suggests that science fiction can be defined as technology fiction not in the sense that its all about the gadgets but as a way of enframing the world  The genre expresses the enframing of the world  What do the gadgets express about our world and how we view it  Can talk about it going back all the way to ancient Greece  i.e. the Odyssey o Luckhurst is particular about science fiction beginning in the 1880s  There is however a similarity between his definition and Roberts'  Technology is central to how science fiction is defined but science fiction is more the 'impact of the mechanism on cultural life and human subjectivity'  Mechanism is the old school term for technology  Science fiction then is fundamentally concerned about the ways in which technology effects our daily lives  The basis of their definitions are kind of the same but the time and context of the beginning of science fiction is different because Luckhurst say because of mass literacy, print vectors, profession of science, and machines, science fiction didn't emerge until after 1880 and the Industrial Revolution  Emergence of a middle/working class that became more and more literate  The improvement and the changes in printing made it easier to get books and they therefore spread faster  Made texts cheaper and they were able to produce more of them  Science as a profession became more acceptable and legitimate ENG237 – September 19, 2012 2  Machines were leading the changes in the world and therefore radically influenced society  There was also a sense of wonder and amazement about the amount of 'progress' that Europe had made in the last century  Machines were a tangible way to mark progress  Then there were those who were scared of the change because it had happened too quickly for them and they therefore wanted to dismantle the machines and bring society back a few decades o When talking about Roberts' view it's more pertinant to talk about proto-science fiction that eventually leads to what we know as science fiction today o Luckhurst is more concerned with the pinpointing of the emergence of it and therefore is more 'acceptable' to us to day because we can see the changes in a very important way  Formal/aesthetic approach to 'science fiction' o There are tropes and conventions that make science fiction what it is as a genre o The icons are a flag for us that the world that we are going to encounter is different from our world in some way o Romance  Early on romance was essentially any fictional narrative whether it be prose or poetry  The structural foundation is an adventure or a quest  Links to how H.G. Wells called his books 'scientific romance'  The key is that the distinction is that the events are different from what appears in our known empirical world  The difference between the known familiar world and the world being described is a flag for science fiction o 'the encounter of difference'/'the encounter of the other'  Difference is signalled by some formal elements, the most obvious being setting and characters  We encounter different subjectivities on the world  Perspectives are different and through being different we can understand identities better o According to Le Guin, all fiction is a metaphor and science fiction is simply new metaphors that are drawn from the great dominants of our contemporary life o Metaphor is the taking of one meaning and transferring it over to another thing Aliens and Others  The alien is fundamentally not ours, something that is not from here  Something that is not like us, that comes from something else  It differs from, and is in conflict with what we consider to be normal o It's inconsistent with the desired norm  It can also be that which is repugnant and a monster therefore increasing our anxiety and fear  There is a defamiliarizing of human culture and society  There are allegories of threat and paranoia of invasion ENG237 – September 19, 2012 3 o Seen as a sly infiltrator of society  There are also stories of the benevolent alien who brings warning to humanity  The other as a term came into use mostly in the 1920s with feminism but it came to be used in many senses  The other is subjugated, different, objectified, silenced in some way  The other is also seen as essential to how the dominate group maintains its power  There ha sbeen a development so that it's not necessarily about there being a dominant group that needs the other in order to assert it's dominance and therefore the two rely on each other o It allows for there to be a destabilization of the 'norm' hierarchy  De Beauvoir argues that women can only be defined by explaining man and therefore they are forced to take the role of other Humans vs. Aliens: Weinbaum and Dorman  Look at the way the stories are concerned with the differences between humans and aliens and by the end these differences are distinguished  Wienbaum - Martian Odyssey o Early 20th century science fiction, the golden age of science fic
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