July 3 , LECTURE 1, ENG237H1S
The Problem of Science Fiction
Technology that we don’t really have or not as advanced yet. Interacting with
Imagining not yet or come to be. Scifi is based on what is plausible, Fantasy are
essentially impossible in our world today.
Space. Extrapolation. Explorative. Clear conventions and tropes. Aliens. Androids.
Scientific principles. Invested in world view. Rationalists, enlightenment more than
religious. Scientific eyes and more of a world view.
Human and machine, humanity.
What is scifi? What distinguishes it from other genres?
Scifi as a literary genre, and how we experience it through different mediums still
seem to have a vex of place in our culture.
Status and perception. Community. Why science fiction novels are not getting
nominated for Booker prize? “These novels are not about now in the way science
fiction is.” Robinson is pointing out that the Booker prize is only a genre prize for
Historical novels, to the exclusions of modes of fiction, despite claiming to be best
fiction. Robinson, key distinction, value of scifi is about now. As much as scifi is
about the future, it is about now. Reflection and commentary about now. Relevance.
Cultural value that other genres don’t. Distinct problem that at least scifi written in
common wealth is not being recognized.
Scifi gets kind of ignored, actively dismissed. Science fiction tends to be
marginalized, kept away from the center of true proper literary worthiness.
Adam Roberts, supporting Robinson’s opinion. “The literary apartheid keeping
genre science fiction away from the respectable literary establishment.”
Alison Flood. “not aware of science fiction, arguing that science fiction has become a
self-enclosed world. According to Mullan, “it is in a special room in book shops,
bought by a special kind of person who has special weird things they go to and meet
each other.”” Community that appreciates and reads science fiction. Separated itself
and talks to itself. Culture and community related to science fiction. Isn’t
mainstream, legitimate. Revealing not just ignorance. “What [The Year of the Flood]
absolutely is not, [Atwood] insists, is science fiction- a statement she has made
repeatedly since the 2003 publication of Oryx and Crake, a novel that shares the
same future as Flood and some of the same characters. Science fiction takes place
“somewhere far in space, far, far away in a distant galaxy,” she explains…” she writes
speculative fiction. Backlash from science fiction. Sees this at very political. If it is
not science fiction, can be considered for award like for the Booker.
Science fiction can be devalued. Valued as vital commentary on modern world,
profound impact on science and technology.
Introduction to the Course Reading Science Fiction: Madeline Ashby’s “The Education of Junior Number
How and when do we know (or suspect) that a work is SF?
What are the signs or codes or clues that tell us a work is SF?
What expectations and assumptions do we bring to works of SF?
“You’re a self-replicating humanoid, vN.” (PDF 2)
What this story does right away will get clue or indication that we’re reading
this, but the world is different from ours. Right in the first sentence, immediately
situates in the world that is not his or her own. We don’t have self replicating
humanoids called vN. Important significance of humanoid: something human
characteristics, resembles a human but not one. Shift the meaning. Good parallel.
Distinctions are being challenged and blurred. Still not “human”. Concerns about
what is human and what is not. Difference and similarity. vN is an entirely new term
and coinage in this particular story. Identify this new thing is. Indicate what kind of
world we are in.
Our world is different from our own. Signals this difference, advanced technology,
space flight, anything like that. Signaling that it is science fiction and their world is
different from our own in some way.
“Javier always spoke Spanish the first few days… That part’s titanium. You with me,
so far?” (PDF 2)
Builds the world. Techno-science language. Slightly not human, not truly
organic either. Suspicion that it’s a machine, something technological. Machine that
seemingly human like, skin and muscle and skeleton. It is also compared to organics.
About robot android figure. Start to bring expectations to the story to see the story
at work. Language and science fiction often functions in specific ways. Normal
familiar words and meanings of words can take on new significance in scifi.
Repurposed and repositioned in science fiction. Clear concepts of scifi language at
the start. Self-replicating humanoid, even the notion of muscles come very difficult.
What are muscles? Language gets repurposed. Creates new meanings and new
“Junior nodded. He plucked curiously at the clothes Javier had stolen from the
balcony of a nearby condo…. Havier had stripped out of its plastic. His son sucked on
the chipset.” (PDF 2)
New world. Changes. Javier is talking to someone or something, explaining
what it is and how it is constructed. Technology and science, Javier is a point of view
character, seeing through his eyes. He is our access to this world. Third paragraph