Science Fiction Studies

#83 = Volume 28, Part 1 = March 2001


Lorenzo DiTommaso

Gnosticism and Dualism in the Early Fiction of Philip K. Dick

Abstract. -- The gnostic Christian themes that so characterize Philip K. Dick’s later writings find their first manifestation in his early fiction, albeit in simplistic and undeveloped forms. This essay identifies the dualistic elements in Dick’s pre-Time Out of Joint (1959) short stories and novels, thereby continuing the line of inquiry established by the author in earlier essays on the topic. Certain methodological issues are addressed as well, including the matter of employing Dick’s later writings and musings to interpret his earlier fiction, and the question of whether the idios kosmos/koinos kosmos dynamic favored by some commentators is an appropriate lens through which to interpret this fiction.

Robert M. Philmus

Matters of Translation: Karel Čapek and Paul Selver

Abstract. -- Paul Selver has frequently been attacked since the late 1980s for his treachery as a translator—particularly with reference to his renditions of two of Karel Čapek’s sf plays, R.U.R. (1920/21) and Bílá nemoc (1937). But Selver’s translation of the latter, as Power and Glory, shows him to have been as competent as most other translators, especially of sf; and this in turn reopens the question of whether he indeed bowdlerized R.U.R. That inquiry conduces to the discovery of evidence (mostly pertaining to a typescript now in the British Library) suggesting that neither of the two different editions of R.U.R. bearing Selver’s name, even when combined, represents his original work—that both "Selver" R.U.R.s were translations by committee, as it were. Nor can he fairly be charged, as he in effect has been, with unfaithfulness to the second, revised edition of R.U.R. (1921), given that he was working either from the original published Czech version or from what one witness calls a "manuscript." Meanwhile, the defects of the Selver, although not certainly ascribable to him, prove instructive with regard to perceiving the meaning of Čapek’s play.

Vernon Shetley and Alissa Ferguson

Reflections in a Silver Eye: Lens and Mirror in Blade Runner

Abstract. -- Blade Runner is a film centrally concerned with vision. Prostheses of vision—the Voigt-Kampff test and the Esper machine—permit detective Rick Deckard to probe physical and even mental space, and extend his search for android "replicants" into distant rooms and into the minds of the characters he encounters. In the Esper sequence, Deckard analyzes the photograph cherished by the replicant Leon, an analysis that turns on the presence of a convex mirror at the center of the image. This photograph echoes the mirror seen in Jan van Eyck’s famous painting, The Arnolfini Portrait. Both mirrors are signs of artistic self-consciousness, pointing to the way these works sustain an extended meditation on pictorial or cinematic vision. In Blade Runner, the form of vision embodied by the Esper machine—which is characterized as probing, dominating, and ultimately lethal—is played off against a mode of vision tentatively but crucially present in the moment when Rachael’s photograph "comes alive" in Deckard’s hands, a mode of vision that turns on imaginative empathy.

Elizabeth Small

Religious Institutions in Spanish Science Fiction

Abstract. -- This article discusses three recent Spanish sf works in terms of their shared focus on the role of religious institutions in social control and the mediation (largely failed) of cultural/alien contact. The stories employ references to Spain’s long religious and colonial history, as well as references to present-day conflicts, in expressing fairly bleak visions of possible roles of religious institutions in future human society. In discussing these stories, the article draws connections with major works of English-language religious sf by James Blish, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, and Walter M. Miller, Jr.

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