Moreau's Tragi-Farcical Island
Abstract.-- The Island of Doctor Moreau, though it can be
thought of as allegorical in that it is clearly intended to "reflect upon" the human
scene, is not the sort of allegory which is reducible to a univocal interpretation. Just
as the work is indebted to the likes of Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels (especially),
Frankenstein, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so it is susceptible
to a wide variety of readings, more or less correlative to the diversity of generic
contexts that it suggests: adventure-story, utopian fiction, mythical narrative, etc.
Moreover, it calls for situation with regard not only to literary tradition(s) but to
history--specifically to the ongoing imperialist enterprise of "civilizing"
"inferior" races. Indeed, it may be that historical connection which best puts in
relief Moreau as a farcical tragedy.
James A. Connor
Strategies for Hyperreal Travelers
Abstract.--Hyperreality occurs in a culture when that culture loses
the distinction between image and thing, appearance and reality. By reifying the image,
the hyperreal culture opens a new level in ontology midway between textual reality and
object reality. The difference between original and copy, thing and mirror image
collapses, so that all stand at the same ontological level. In this way, a culture has
"More," viz. that added bit of hype-turned-sense-impression that is blended into the
original mixture to create a new experience. The colors on color TV are more colorful than
in real life, as the fake desert at Disneyland is more desert-like. Women and men in
magazines are more beautiful than real people, and a pinch of monosodium glutamate brings
out the flavor in every meal.
There are two strategies for creating hyperreal cultures. The first is
"apophatic," a term borrowed from Medieval mysticism, meaning "The Negative Way."
In this strategy, the real world is deconstructed into mirror images, its reality
undercut. This is the way used by Borges and Lem, Borges by associating the world with
mirror images, Lem by constructing a "carousel" form of reasoning, whereby each
argument leads to its opposite, and then leads back again to the original premise.
The second strategy is "cataphatic," or "The Positive Way," which raises
the sensory order of appearance until it approaches that of the default, real world. Here,
more and more of the real world is assimilated into the simulation, reproduced in the
reproduction, until the two versions of the world approach one another asymptotically.
This is the strategy employed by the creators of Virtual Reality technology. The real
world gradually becomes indistinguishable from the simulacra.
Hyperreal cultures are produced by both of these "ways." Gradually, image and
reality mix, until a new kind of reality is produced.
Censorship, Disguise, and Transfiguration: The Making
and Revising of Stapledon's Sirius
Abstract.--New manuscript evidence reveals that Olaf
Stapledon's 1944 novel Sirius was censored by editors worried about anatomical
explicitness and moral subversion in the attraction between an intelligent dog and his
human "sister." However, in the two-year process of revising Sirius to
avoid charges of obscenity, Stapledon managed to keep intact the central narrative
situation, deepening its psychological import and sharpening its satirical bite. As he
rewrote the book, he continued to draw on his own "tangled relationship" in an
extramarital affair as the immediate inspiration for a novel he described, with an
accuracy never full grasped by his readers, as "a fantasy of love and discord." In Sirius
Stapledon managed, at once, to pacify the censors, disguise the real-life models and
anxieties which underlay the novel's creation, and transfigure an unsuccessful private
love into a work of art that charts the spiritual landscape of loneliness and interrogates
our definition of humanity.
Dominick M. Grace
Rereading Lester del Rey's "Helen O'Loy"
Abstract.--Lester del Rey's "Helen O'Loy" has been subject to
criticism for its apparent sexism. The depiction of the ideal woman as a robot whose
personality has been formed by exposure to soap operas hardly accords with contemporary
ideas, but del Rey's story is subject to attack on such grounds only if one accepts that
the story presents Helen as a serious ideal, one to be desired by the reader as well as by
the emotionally-arrested men who idolize her in the story (the narrator clearly
acknowledges his adolescence of taste); such a reading misses the ironic nuances of the
tale. "Helen O'Loy," a satire on male fantasies, is far from the "classic of
sexist SF" it has been called by Peter Nicholls.
A Maze of Twisty Little Passages All Alike: Aesthetics and
Teleology in Interactive Computer Fictional Environments
Abstract.--Interactive fictions, particularly computer-simulation
games, engage the user as a co-creator of a fictional world. Recognizing that the
interactive freedom he or she experiences even in the most complex of interactive fictions
is a mirage, the user can become keenly aware of the teleology inherent in all fictional
works. At their best, however, these interactive fictions are less like novels and more
like children's games of make-believe in which objects and stories serve as props in an
intensely creative world-building environment or as extensions of real life with gamelike
qualities. The burgeoning technology of Virtual Reality serves as an environment conducive
to the creation of interactive fictions, but while VR is still in development, hybrids of
textual interactive fiction and cyberspace--MUDs--are currently available on Internet. As
discussion nodes configured as physical spaces, MUDs foreground the possibility for
interactive environments in which creativity is constrained not by available tools but by
selected rules, and in which computers are not artificial intelligences (AIs) but
intelligence amplifiers (IAs).
Carl D. Malmgren
Self and Other in SF: Alien Encounters
Abstract.--Alien-encounter SF involves the introduction of sentient
alien beings into the actantial system of the fictional universe; one or more of the
actants are nonhuman or superhuman or subhuman. By staging a confrontation between an
alien actant and a terran representative, alien-encounter SF broaches the question of Self
and the Other. The reader recuperates this fiction by comparing human and alien entities,
measuring the Self by examining the Other.
Alien encounters can be discriminated according to the extent to which the alien actant
adheres to or departs from anthropocentric norms; in simple terms, we can distinguish
between "human aliens" and "alien aliens." This article examines the nature of
human aliens by analyzing Orson Scott Card's Ender trilogy, a work which theorizes and
surveys possible sets of relations between terran and alien actants. It explores the
problematics of alien aliens by looking at appropriate texts by Lem, Benford, and Clarke.
What's the Story, Mother?: The Mourning of the Alien
Abstract.--Alien 3 concludes the trilogy begun by Alien
and Aliens; although each of the films has a different director, there is enough
thematic unity between them to consider them a single work. Previous criticism has
focused on the implications for feminism in the role of the protagonist, Ripley, and in
the presentation of images of the mother. This paper considers two further extensions of
the image of the mother in these films: its connections to narrative and to mourning. The
opening scenes of the first film thematize the connection between motherhood and
narrative. But whereas the first two films are dominated by their narrative drive, the
third film is more a meditation on guilt and mourning. Drawing on Jacques Derrida's
treatment of mourning, this essay presents a reading of Alien 3 which suggests
that the guilt Ripley feels as a "sole survivor" is incorporated as the
"alien" inside her. The closing scenes of the film finally resolve, in an ironic
mode, motifs that have been central to the wholes series.
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