Science Fiction Studies

#82 = Volume 27, Part 3 = November 2000


R.D. Mullen

Dialect, Grapholect, and Story: Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker as Science Fiction 

Abstract. -- Riddley Walker is a very good mainstream novel that attempts and achieves marvelous things in language. Since it is set some two thousand years in the future, after a nuclear holocaust has wiped out civilization, it is also a science fiction novel. With respect to the language, the sf critic would not be satisfied simply with finding it an artistic success, but would want to know how systematic it is in its deviations from standard and nonstandard present-day usage in writing and speech. This article examines the constructed language ("grapholect") in which Riddley writes, using linguistic analysis to suggest that the extrapolation of language in the novel betrays many inconsistencies. Four comments by linguists follow this article, which was found among R.D. Mullen’s papers following his death in 1998.

Charles DePaolo. 

Wells, Golding, and Auel: Representing the Neanderthal

Abstract. -- In their fiction, Wells, Golding, and Auel subscribe to the approved scientific models and principles of their respective eras. Their divergent representations of the Neanderthal hominid reflect the changing nature of paleoanthropology itself: drawing upon fossil records, the study of man’s origins and early development has been necessarily accretive, indefinite, and equivocal. These three writers all draw on major theories contemporary with their fiction, and the work of all three constitutes a useful and imaginative resource in our knowledge of early man.

Amy J. Ransom. 

(Un)common Ground: National Sovereignty and Individual Identity in Contemporary SF from Québec 

Abstract. -- The problems of colonialism, nationalism, collective will, and their particular effects on individual rights and identity figure as central themes in the science fiction of Québec. In fact, works by Jean-Michel Wyl, Jean-Pierre April, Élisabeth Vonarburg, Jean-Louis Trudel, Denis Côté, and Jean Dion reflect the complexity of these issues within the context of the political and intellectual debate over sovereignty for Canada's majority francophone province. Through speculative works of alternate history and near-future sf, the writers of SFQ (la science-fiction québécoise) explore the problematic underlying national identity closely tied to ethnic or religious identity and the dangers of a State, federal or provincial, that forces individual conformity to that identity through mental and physical control

Neil Gerlach and Sheryl Hamilton.  

Telling the Future, Managing the Present: Business Restructuring Literature as SF

Abstract. --This essay analyzes the techno-futurist vision of mid- to late-1990s business restructuring literature, arguing that the genre prominently employs sf strategies and assumptions. Three central figures emerge: the virtual organization, depicted as a revolutionary phenomenon that transcends the material constraints of the "real" corporation; the cyborg employee, seen as the ultimate fantasy of merging the worker with the technologies of capitalism; and cybernetic culture, characterized as the manipulation of transcendent symbols for the purposes of rational management. These sf figures in contemporary business writing work together to close the gap between the conceivability and the actualization of technology-driven social transformation, as well as between the present and the future—gaps crucial to sf as a critical undertaking. In this way, business discourse, with a very different social project than sf, brings the future into the realm of the knowable, the predictable, and the controllable

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