Science Fiction Studies

#74 = Volume 25, Part 1 = March 1998



Brian Attebery

Super Men

Abstract.--The superman story has long been a staple of science fiction, combining wish-fulfillment fantasy with the scientific rationale of Darwinian evolution. Under the prodding of John W. Campbell, Jr., nearly every writer of the Golden Age produced at least one such story, and some, like A.E. Van Vogt, wrote little else. In a story that critiques the superman scenario, Philip K. Dick revealed the gender assumptions underlying both the literary and the scientific traditions. Dick's "The Golden Man" (1954) takes off on themes developed in Van Vogt's Slan (1940), Norvell Page's "But Without Horns" (1940) and other Campbell-era fiction, showing that the superhuman characters therein say more about gender roles than about evolutionary advancement. In doing so, Dick also echoed the earlier work of Stanley Weinbaum, whose pre-Campbell The New Adam (1939) depicts a superman whose masculine traits are precisely his points of weakness.  

Roger Luckhurst

The Science-Fictionalization of Trauma: Remarks on Narratives of Alien Abduction

Abstract.-- The cultural phenomenon of alien abduction narratives has been met with silence or contempt by most of the academic community. This is an understandable response, given the mix of credulity, pseudo-scientific legitimation and uncontrolled paranoia surrounding the discourse of abduction. This essay argues that however outlandish the claims of UFOlogists and abduction researchers, the phenomenon is worthy of study for its evidence of an increasing "science-fictionalization" of certain aspects of contemporary American culture. Four vectors are identified as being responsible for the emergence of abduction stories: shifts in conceptions of memory and subjectivity in American psychiatry (particularly claims surrounding "recovered memory" and hypnotic regression); increasing fears around the intrusiveness of a technologically saturated world, and subsequent extension of the discourse of the American technological sublime; the emergence of a distinctive counter-cultural New Ageism, which articulates the visitation of UFOs in larger discourses of spiritual evolution; an intensification of post-war American conspiracy theory and suspicions of "big government." Ending with a reading of the way in which these elements are synthesized by The X-Files, the essay concludes by suggesting that abduction narratives are the science fictionalized products of a felt intermittency of subjectivity in contemporary America. 

J.P. Telotte

"So Big": The Monumental Technology of Things to Come

Abstract.--The Machine Age brought enormous changes which were freighted with a great deal of cultural anxiety, due to a lingering technophilia and a growing sense of the sort of challenge we faced in a world dominated by the machine. One strategy the arts employed for addressing this challenge was what Dickran Tashiian terms "monumentalization," that is, the tendency to depict machinery through extreme close-up views or with accentuated dimensions. In this way we could suggest the size and power of our technology, while also drawing it out of its normal context to better examine and assess its implications. British science fiction films of the 1930s, particularly works like The Tunnel (1935) and Things to Come (1936), draw heavily on this approach in depicting their near-futures our technology might make possible. What results, though, is less an embrace of the technological spirit than an emphasis on the distance we still felt from the technology itself: a wariness of its supposed powers and potentials. In the monumental style of Things to Come especially, then, we can see traces of how difficult the cultural construction of the technological was proving to be in this period. 

Allan Weiss

Separations and Unities: Approaches to Québec Separatism in English- and French-Canadian Fantastic Literature

Abstract.-- Political themes have been a major focus of Canadian fantastic literature since its beginnings in the nineteenth century. One of the issues both English and French authors have dealt with is the possibility of Québec separation; how might the dissolution of Confederation take place, and what would be the consequences? French and English writers exhibit marked differences in their approach, with English authors seeing the possibility in more negative and pessimistic terms. Yet both linguistic groups are equally motivated by fear--of what would happen if Québec did separate in the case of the English, and what would happen if it did not in the case of the French. Also, a number of common tropes can be discerned in the fiction of both groups about this theme.

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