Science Fiction Studies

#115 = Volume 38, Part 3 = November 2011




Andrew Milner

Science Fiction and the Literary Field

Abstract. Gustave Flaubert’s only historical novel, Salammbô, was published in 1862, roughly contemporaneously with the first of Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires, Cinq semaines en ballon [Five Weeks in a Balloon]. This near-coincidence inspired Fredric Jameson to observe that the moment in which the historical novel ceased to be “functional” was also the moment of the emergence of science fiction. For Pierre Bourdieu, by contrast, the moment of Flaubert was that of the emergence of the modern “literary field.” This essay attempts to develop a detailed account of the locus of science fiction in the genesis and structure of the modern literary field.

Charles Thorpe

Death of A Salesman: Petit-Bourgeois Dread in Philip K. Dick's Mainstream Fiction

Abstract. This paper makes the case for the importance of Philip K. Dick’s mainstream or realist works of the late 1950s in understanding Dick’s orientation as a writer and as an interpreter of American life. Analyzing four of Dick’s mainstream works, I suggest that the dread that pervades and characterizes Dick’s writing is rooted in the anxieties of the white, mid-twentieth-century, American lower-middle class.

Theo Finigan

'Into the Memory Hole': Totalitarianism and Mal d'Archive in Nineteen Eighty-four and The Handmaid's Tale

Abstract.Abstract: Drawing on Jacques Derrida’s deconstructive engagement with the concept of the archive, this essay offers a comparative reading of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1948) and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). Focusing on their depictions of the dystopian manipulation of history and memory, it argues that Orwell and Atwood both equate totalitarianism with the domination of the individual subject via the insidious control of the documentary record. Totalitarianism is thus exemplary of what Derrida would call “mal d’archive,” a “fever” in the archives that also amounts to an archival violence or “archive evil.” But “mal d’archive” can also be translated as a legitimate “passion” for the archive, and each novel features a resistant protagonist who attempts to create an archive of documents for a future history beyond the reach of the dystopian regime’s purview. This essay concludes, however, by casting doubt on such a utopian linking of the archive with the possibility of ideological critique. Specifically, metafictional framing devices are included at the conclusions of both novels to suggest that the seemingly liberatory scholarly discourse of “archival recovery” has the potential to produce its own troubling effects of totalitarian domination.

Elissa Gurman

'The holy and powerful light that shines through history': Tradition and Technology in Marge Piercy's He, She, and It

Abstract. While many critics interpret Marge Piercy’s He, She and It (1991) as an expression of a post-humanist worldview, this article argues that the interrelationships Piercy establishes between visions of the technological future and the religious past ought to be read more as rewriting than revision. The novel’s dual structure strongly parallels the story of the Jewish golem of Prague with that of the futuristic cyborg. Although this is often interpreted as a rewriting or reclaiming of traditional narrative, this essay argues that, rather than exploding conventions, Piercy’s novel is in fact highly traditional in its treatment of humanism, gender, and religion.

Charles Paulk

Post-National Cool: William Gibson's Japan

Abstract. This article reconsiders the role of Japan in the cyberpunk fiction of William Gibson. From his early short stories through the millennial Bridge Trilogy, Gibson has long portrayed Japan as the cradle of modern futurity. Many critics have traced this to so-called “techno-orientalism” and the anti-Japanese sentiment pervasive in the West during Japan’s late-twentieth-century boom years. This article seeks to address the insufficiencies of such readings and offers an alternative interpretation of Gibson’s Japan, linking it to the author’s affinity for Dada, remix culture, and the writings of Fredric Jameson. The final section considers Gibson’s impact on Japan’s post-bubble emergence as a pop-cultural exporter—particularly the growing global ubiquity of manga and anime—and the question of the nation’s continued relevance in the twenty-first century.

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