Science Fiction Studies


#80 = Volume 26, Part 3 = November 1999



Wong Kin Yuen

On the Edge of Spaces: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Hong Kong's Cityscape

Abstract.-- Sf films such as Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell take a deep interest in the Hong Kong urbanscape at the turn of the century. With its history of dislocation, migration, and marginality in its colonial days, Hong Kong emerges as a model city for the sf genre of "future noir"; its overcrowded, disjunctive cityscape provides a perfect setting for multiculturalism in a postmodern context. This article takes readers on a guided tour of a unique shopping mall at the hub of Hong Kong urbanscape, Times Square, as an illustration of how we can read out of it an "urban secret located at the intersection" of sf and the postmodern.

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Joshua La Bare

The Future: "Wrapped ... in that mysterious Japanese way"

Abstract.-- The recent economic difficulties in Japan make now the perfect time to look back on Japan's role in recent science fiction. Japan has dominated the future in sf of the last twenty years due to its association with industry and technology and with apocalypse in the form of the atomic bomb. The Japanese are associated with three sf tropes: technology, the alien, and apocalypse. Even the traditionalism associated with Japanese culture allies Japan to sf's futures: attached to the past, they will bring us along with them into the future. "Other Asias" may assume the role of embodying the future only at the cost of taking on this reflective form of otherness.

Michael Fisch

Nation, War, and Japan's Future in the Science Fiction Anime Film Patlabor II

Abstract. -- Oshii Mamoru's film Patlabor II engages questions of Japan's future and its involvement in United Nations peacekeeping forces within a science fiction narrative that allegorically reflects--and critiques--the politics and society of postwar Japan. In addition, the film muses upon the nation's experience in World War II and the nature of the ensuing peace under the American treaty. What is at stake in Patlabor II is nothing less than Japan's current and future international position: while the film represents the country's dominant pacifist mood as well as recent debates over participation in regular UN peacekeeping operations, what finally emerges is a nationalist voice supporting the idea that Japan take responsibility for its own self-defense and expand its role in international affairs. This voice often employs a strong, if implicit, anti-American rhetoric, evoking the imperative for national unity by situating the US as a potential threat. These rhetorical postures and ideological viewpoints are weighed and analyzed in the context of Andrew Tudor's influential distinction between the "secure" and the "paranoid" subgenres of the sf-horror film.

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Ross Farnell

Attempting Immortality: AI, A-Life, and the Posthuman in Greg Egan's Permutation City

Abstract. -- This paper argues that the combination of "hard" and "metaphysical" sf in Greg Egan's Permutation City provides a unique exploration of digital modes of being and immortality. His use of multiple paraspaces and subjective cosmologies challenges many assumptions regarding objectivity, the body, and identity, in a mediation of philosophy, theology, science, technology, and fantasy. The novel's spatio-temporal disruptions and the subjective fragmentation of digital topologies question what it is to be human, to be alive, and to be immortal. Juxtaposing AI Copies with evolved A-Life swarm-like entities, Egan explores the differences between these paradigms in the context of science fiction's quest to "live forever." Crossing the line between self-transformation and death, the Copies struggle against timeless time and trial by space, their panic bodies demonstrating ontological dislocation. Through abstraction, the Copies' non-bodies deny the most fundamental phenomenological experiences of corporeality, the viscer(e)al. Ultimately, they confirm that only the finite is bearable. The novel's A-Life reverse the logocentric (digital) gaze, removing the posthuman from center and exposing the Copies' hubris. Where the cybernetic posthuman falters, the non-human paradigms of A-Life adapt through enactive evolution to survive being immortal. Permutation City demonstrates how A-Life can offer a viable chance to narrate a true alien alterity divorced from Western metaphysical traditions, thus providing a valuable reflection on the human and the posthuman condition.

Mikael Huss

Hesitant Journey to the West: SF's Changing Fortunes in Mainland China

Abstract. -- Sf in mainland China is often assumed by Chinese scholars to be either non-existent or not worth studying because of its poor literary quality. This article outlines the development of Chinese sf during the twentieth century, emphasizing the constraints under which it has periodically suffered. Despite a sometimes hostile climate, the sf culture of today's China is burgeoning, with a large fan base and an openness to new ideas that bode well for the future. In this essay, I have concentrated on first-hand Chinese-language materials, including fanzines, newspaper articles, and internet home pages.

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