Science Fiction Studies

#75 = Volume 25, Part 2 = July 1998



Andrea Bell and Moisés Hassón

Prelude to the Golden Age: Chilean Science Fiction, 1900-1959

Abstract.--Science-fiction writing in Chile seemingly burst onto the literary scene from nowhere with the publication of Hugo Corea's Los altísimos in 1959. As this study shows, however, a number of Chilean writers, working largely in obscurity, had laid the groundwork for a body of national sf literature over the course of the previous decades. Most of these texts fall into one of three categories: novels of social criticism; space adventure tales; and lost world romances based on regional history and mythology. Although they borrow from the sf literary traditions being developed in Europe and the US, many of these works are explicitly set in Chile and feature Chilean characters, events, and national concerns. Some of the earlier works celebrate the potential inherent in change, while others are much more distrustful of "progress" and are pessimistic about technological solutions to social problems. The texts tend to de-emphasize scientific explanation and privilege the wondrous over the plausible--a common characteristic of Latin American sf, one which both utilizes and promotes the sense of mysterious reality fostered by the Latin American fantastic, and later, by magical realism.

Arthur B. Evans

The Illustrators of Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires

Abstract.--Jules Verne’s original Voyages Extraordinaires contained over four thousand illustrations—an average of 60+ per novel in the popular Hetzel red and gold "luxury" French editions. These Victorian-looking wood-cut plates and maps constituted an integral part of Verne’s early sf oeuvre. Intercalated into the text at intervals of every 6-8 pages, they provided a powerful and omnipresent visual support structure to the text’s fictional narrative, its embedded pedagogical lessons, and its "arm-chair voyage" exoticism. The world-wide popularity of Verne’s romans scientifiques was no doubt at least partly attributable to the presence of these illustrations in his works. Thus, given the hermeneutic and historical importance of the illustrations in Verne’s oeuvre, it is somewhat surprising that, to date, they and the individuals who created them have been virtually ignored in both sf and Vernian criticism.

This article discusses the many varieties and functions of the illustrations in Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires, the talented artists and engravers who produced them, their collaborative working relationship with Verne and the editor Hetzel, and the technological evolution of this craft itself from Verne’s earliest works in the 1860s to his final posthumous novel published in 1919.

View Accompanying Illustrations.

Carl Freedman

Kubrick's 2001 and the Possibility of a Science-Fiction Cinema

Abstract.-- Stanley Kubrick might be described as a metageneric filmmaker, since his major works tend to take apart and to reconstruct the inherited conventions of the pertinent filmic genre (horror in The Shining, historical romance in Barry Lyndon, and so forth). Kubrick's most intense and complex metageneric analysis is of science fiction in 2001. A historical and theoretical consideration of the science-fiction film reveals that it is structured on a central and virtually disabling contradiction: between the cognitive and critical structure of science fiction as a literary mode, on the one hand, and, on the other, the general association of science-fiction cinema with the dominance of special effects, which tend to induce an anti-critical intellectual banality. Nearly alone in science-fiction cinema, 2001 manages to short-circuit this contradiction by dialectically thematizing the whole matter of intellectual banality and thus, so to speak, solving the problem by raising it to the second power. 2001 is the first and last great masterpiece of science-fiction film.

Cyndy Hendershot

Darwin and the Atom: Evolution/Devolution Fantasies in The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, and The Incredible Shrinking Man

Abstract.-- This essay examines Darwinian implications of the atomic bomb as represented in three classic 1950s sf films. The Darwinian opposition between evolution and devolution finds shape in postwar American society as it structures many of the key issues of the time, including anxiety surrounding atomic power, fear of Soviet communism, and fear of McCarthyism. The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms and Them! focus on the dehumanization brought about by forces which threaten to devolve American society. The Incredible Shrinking Man explores Darwinian ideas from another angle, arguing that physical and social devolution resulting from the bomb may in fact provide an opportunity for mental evolution. The gender implications of this evolution/devolution are also addressed. 

David Y. Hughes

A Queer Notion of Grant Allen's

Abstract.--Both in The Time Machine and the later work, The Croquet Player, H.G. Wells owed a significant debt, previously untraced, to a ghost story by Grant Allen, "Pallinghurst Barrow." The attribution is solid, on internal and external grounds that apply to both books, and it is even clear that Wells expected his readers of 1895 to see his debt and to understand the nature of it. This debt is thematic, structural, and generic. Allen's theme is the Darwinian arrow of progress, inverted, looking back to savage ages past. He structures this theme by means of confronting a contemporary Englishman with inhabitants of the late Stone Age in Britain and then confronting him again with a largely sceptical audience for his tale. The genre is the ghost story, which provides the needed "vehicle" for the time-swap. In The Time Machine the same elements are shifted to the future. The degenerative arrow points forward rather than back; the Englishman encounters the savagery of the Eloi and Morlocks and returns to a sceptical audience; and his "vehicle" is his machine, the science-fictional "novum" that displaces the old creaky mechanisms of the ghost story. As to The Croquet Player, it too is a twice-told tale; its sceptical narrator calls it "a sort of ghost story"; and it concerns "Cainsmarsh," a contemporary fenland that harbors the evil of the palaeolithic and even earlier ages. Thus, through "Pallinghurst Barrow," one gets a new look at both of Wells's works. 

Jim Miller

Post-Apocalyptic Hoping: Octavia Butler's Dystopian/Utopian Vision

Abstract.-- In this essay I argue that Octavia Butler's work provides fine examples of what Tom Moylan has called the "critical dystopia," a narrative which points to the socio-historic causes of the dystopian elements of our culture rather than one which merely reveals symptoms. Butler works through the dystopian elements of the culture and then seeks to create new myths for the postmodern age. She does not offer a full-blown utopian "blueprint" in her work, but rather a post-apocalyptic hoping informed by the lessons of the past. In both the Xenogenesis trilogy and Parable of the Sower, Butler stares into the abyss of the dystopian future and reinvents the desire for a better world. In doing so, she places herself firmly within a rich tradition of feminist utopian writing while also speaking to some of the same issues as Marxist critic Fredric Jameson and postmodern feminist thinkers such as Donna Haraway and Gloria Anzaldùa.

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