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Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction NOTES.pdf

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Department
English
Course
ENG237H1
Professor
Mike Johnstone
Semester
Winter

Description
Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction Reading Notes Introduction: Reading Science Fiction - science fiction is less a genre than an ongoing discussion - SF can extract plot structures from many different genres - SF is often centered on what was been termed the “sense of wonder” - this is the emotional heart of SF - in early SF, the tone was primarily descriptive - SF has not remained static - from the sense of wonder we get the “grotesque” (consideration of consequences) - the “what if?” is called the “novum” (Darko Suvin) - this is crucial to SF - in SF “the idea” is the hero - this is what led to SF being called “speculative fiction” - “cognitive estrangement” is the sense that something in the fictional world is dissonant with the reader’s experienced world - to be effective, SF must be subtle - layering, embedding, and shorthand is crucial to SF - SF is concerned with romance of the universe - “Nothing could have lived up to four thousand years of waiting. Except perhaps an original theorem.” - SF is a built genre; it is its history The Icons of Science Fiction - all SF is similar in the construction of a world other than our own - the writer must in some way signal these changes, and the reader must interpret them - “icons of SF” are the signs that announce the genre - they are artistically conventional/belong to the public domain - in SF the setting is a major character - rockets, spaceships, space habitats, virtual environments - rocket = symbol of energy and escape - can be weapon or innocent - spaceship is a contained world in itself - focused less on escape, more on exploration and adventure - space habitats can have cultures and societies of their own - can be a living organism itself - locus of human relationships - virtual environment is another icon - robots, androids (and gynoids), cyborgs, aliens - robot = worker - usually follow set rules or laws - android = replicant - humanlike entity with human personality - cyborgs = human beings entirely dependent on machine parts inserted into their bodies - machine intelligence will undoubtedly become equal or greater than our own - aliens in SF often reflect issues in the real world - the issue of otherness often considered in SF - animals, vegetables, and minerals - alien plant, artifact, and planet are all vital to SF - this often draws on Earth history, culture, and diversity - the most thrilling of imagined worlds combine characteristics of “real” ecologies with authorial meaning - SF is about human culture, but portrayed through alien characteristics - mad scientists and damsels in distress - SF relies on a set of stock figures - “mad scientist” represents an idea, a discussion about the nature of responsibility, a topic for debate - hero-tales generally involve the hero being rewarded after his trials with the desirable female - modern SF has seen the emergence of the female-hero icon - today, many icons of SF are changing to keep up with the changing world - much of what ma
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