Science Fiction Studies

#62 = Volume 21, Part 1 = March 1994


H. Bruce Franklin

Star Trek in the Vietnam Era

Abstract.--Star Trek emerged from a specific cultural matrix: one of the most profound crises in the history of the United States. At the center of this maelstrom was the Vietnam War, which was radically reshaping the American consciousness during the months when the series was first broadcast between 1966 and 1969. In some senses the war was the subtext for the entire series, with the universe of the aptly-named starship U.S.S. Enterprise serving as both happy sequel and alternative to the actual world of viewers in the America of the 1960s. In Star Trek, the prewar faith in a triumphant future for 1950s American values is displaced from an historical Earth to the enclosed world of the Enterprise and an imagined space. Star Trek was also one of the first dramatic series to confront the Vietnam War explicitly. Four episodes in particular express a swiftly changing vision of the war, part of the metamorphosis of American society as it faced defeat in Vietnam and disintegration at home.

Roger Luckhurst

The Many Deaths of Science Fiction: A Polemic

Abstract.--One notable element of SF criticism is the constant repetition of pronouncements suggesting the impending death of the genre. From academic criticism to magazine columns, the threat of the death of SF is a persistent motif. The polemical proposal of this article is that these panic narratives are not attempting to arrest this death, but in fact desire nothing else. SF is ecstatic at the prospect of its own death. This is argued by attending to the way in which SF "legitimates'' itself according to criteria derived from "high'' art. In accepting these criteria SF accepts the equation of the generic with the "low,'' and thus must proceed to "kill'' itself in order to be con sidered legitimate literature. In the three modes of legitimation that are considered, a particular emphasis is given to narratives of the history of SF which posit some kind of prior mythic moment of SF as undifferentiated from the "mainstream'' of Literature. In that the prospect of death promises a return to that state, the desire of SF is to "restore an earlier state of things.'' This in fact proves to be the exact definition Freud accords to the death drive. The article proposes, then, to follow the curious logic of the detours that constitute the death drive of SF.

Umberto Rossi

Images from the Disaster Area: An Apocalyptic Reading of Urban Landscapes in Ballard's The Drowned World and Hello America

Abstract.-- A recurring image in J.G. Ballard's fiction is the Dead City. The deluged London of The Drowned World (1962), the anonymous metropolis in "The Ultimate City'' (1976), and the desertified New York City and the tropical Las Vegas of Hello America (1981) represent four specimens of this apocalyptic symbol. A "stratigraphic''--i.e., comparative-- analysis of these urban landscapes reveals a profound change in Ballard's attitude. The first two works mentioned draw their deep structures from an archetypal and anthopological reading of the English literary tradition (T.S. Eliot, Joyce, and Shakespeare). Hello America, by contrast, offers a visionary paraphrase of American history and pop mythology. That novel distinguishes itself from the earlier two titles in transcending the historical horizon, but not in a sense that would make "transcendence'' synonomous with "obliteration.''

Kôichi Yamano

Japanese SF, Its Originality and Orientation

Abstract.--This essay offers a thematic and theoretical analysis of three phases of Japanese sf, as viewed up to 1969. Japanese sf writers made their debuts in the early 1950s and were deeply influenced by traditional Western definitions of sf. Instead of creating their own worlds, they immersed themselves in and emulated the translated major works of Anglo-American authors like Asimov, Heinlein, Brown, and Bradbury. Somewhat like living in a "ready-built" home, the sf genre in Japan thus grew into Japanese culture regardless of whether there was a place for it. Writers like Shinchi Hoshi and Ryû Mitsuse, specializing in sf short stories and tales of "future history" respectively--along with their fanzine Uchujin (Cosmic Dust)--were in the vanguard of this first phase of Japanese sf. During the 1960s, the second phase was characterized by an attempt to "remodel" the prefabricated house through the works of writers like Sakyô Komatsu and Yasutaka Tsutsui who expanded the world-view of Japanese sf to include socio-political and multi-temporal themes, evolutionary and information theory, and new (and sometimes quite existential) patterns of reader-text interaction. But, in so doing, they often distanced themselves from traditional Japanese cultural perspectives, foregrounding a Western-style "rationalistic" and objectively macroscopic world-view. What will constitute the third phase in the evolution of Japanese sf? Of utmost importance is the need for Japanese sf to develop its own cultural identity, to move away from imitating Anglo-American models, to focus on questions of the human--ideology and metaphysics instead of rockets and robots--and to present actuality informed by the writer's own consistent subjectivity in the context of the Japanese civilization. The sf works of Kobo Abé reflect many of these aspects, as do the sf stories by writers like Taku Mayumura, Kazumasa Hirai, and Koji Ishikawa. Such authors may yet pave the way for Japanese sf to find its own originality and voice.

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