Science Fiction Studies

#21 = Volume 7, Part 2 = July 1980


Samuel R. Delany

Reflections on Historical Models in Modern English Language Science Fiction

Abstract.-- Historically, British and American "literature" and SF developed in very different sociological and institutional frameworks. As a result, the protocols of reading for each, the relationship between writer and editor/publisher, and the success/income curves of writers in the two fields are very different as well. This article questions the non-specific use of terms like "New Wave" SF and other historical models in SF criticism which have socio-political agendas. In response to Peter Fitting's analysis (in SFS #17), the author proposes an alternative model based on attitudes toward science and history and on on the specificity of the reader-writer- publisher dynamic present in 20th century English-language SF.

Jörg Hienger

Entertainment and Challenge in Science Fiction

Abstract.-- Good science fiction is both entertaining and a challenge to the mind; it is not only escapist and diverting but also intellectually stimulating. This article investigates how SF functions simultaneously as a vehicle for emotional exhilaration and as challenging thought experiment.

Gérard Klein

A Petition by Agents of the Dominant Culture For the Dismissal of Science Fiction

Abstract.-- For almost a half century, authorized representatives of the dominant culture have repressed science fiction, using three specific tactics: ignorance, containment, and what might be called petition for dismissal. SF is the expression of a unique subculture, having orginated and developed in a relatively tight-knit social group which spans the middle and lower-middle classes and is completely distinct from the ruling class, particularly in view of its special relationship with science and technology. It is SF's originality and vitality that these agents of the dominant culture find intolerable; in similar fashion, revolutionary and avant-garde intellectuals criticize SF's lack of desire for political power within the existing social hierarchies. This article examines those mechanisms used for the repression of SF: e.g., marginalizing it with labels of "popular literature" or "paraliterature," classifying "good" SF as "true" literature (the strategy of divide and conquer), and using other means of pressuring the SF subculture to become assimilated into the priorities and institutions of the ruling class.

Carlo Pagetti

The First Men in the Moon: H.G. Wells and the Fictional Strategy of his "Scientific Romances"

Abstract.-- In the "scientific romances" of H.G. Wells, the myth of scientific progress must not be examined within a contextual void but, rather, in terms of the author's role in the debate on the nature and functions of the novel which raged in England around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th. At at time when the concept of narrative communication was being deeply modified, Wells created a novel form worthy of comparison with the psychological experimentalism of James or Conrad, the adaptation of naturalistic modes realized by Gissing or Bennett, the still-influential mid-Victorian tradition, and the Stevensonian renewal of romance. This article analyzes the hermeneutic structure and role of the narrator in Wells's The First Men in the Moon as a turning point in Wells's literary and ideological evolution.

Alessandro Portelli

The Three Laws of Robotics: Laws of the Text, Laws of Production, Laws of Society

Abstract. --Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics" was a response to an anti-science tradition which treats science as a violation of nature and a dangerous act of human pride (the "Frankenstein complex"). The goal of the Asimov's "Three Laws" is to clearly show that robots, and machines in general, are merely man-made constructs and can be fully controlled. But these "Three Laws" also have implications in terms of the rhetoric used in Asimov's texts and the social ideology expressed therein.


Joe Sanders

Science Fiction and Detective Fiction: The Case of John D. MacDonald

Abstract.-- John D. MacDonald was a writer who was just as home in science fiction as he was in writing mysteries. Between the late 1940s and early '50s, MacDonald built a reputation as a talented SF writer, but he then abandoned the genre around 1953 and subsequently wrote only detective fiction. This article seeks to explain why MacDonald abrupt abandonment of SF: i.e., how and why the suspense format gave him a more comfortable way to work out his concerns. And it also seeks to analyze more fully, using MacDonald's case as an example, the implicit mechanisms of both SF and mystery fiction as two very different forms of "escape literature."

Elisabeth Vonarburg and Norbert Spehner

Science Fiction in Québec: A Survey

Abstract.-- The aim of this article is to present a preliminary survey of SF published in Québec. It proposes to take a census of the existing texts, to suggest a few possible directions for further research and some matters for reflection, and to provide a bibliographical foundation for the more extensive study that has yet to be undertaken.

[A response by Jean-Marc Gouanvic, and a reply by Robert M. Philmus, appear in SFS 22 (November 1980).]

Patricia Warrick

The Encounter of Taoism and Fascism in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle

Abstract. Philip K. Dick's novel The Man in the High Castle can be read simply as a political novel about the horrors of Nazism. But doing so would ignore the extraordinarily complex web of philosophical meaning embedded in the text. The central tension of the narrative is the encounter between fascism and Taoism. Each of the four major characters dramatizes this encounter: each faces a moment when he must choose his way through the chaos of political and economic violence, fraud, change, and intrigue in a technological near-future. Such a reading reveals The Man in the High Castle as Dick's most finely wrought novel, one where all the parts, intricately interlocked, are essential to create the fictional world mirroring reality as Dick envisions it.

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