Science Fiction Studies

  #89 = Volume 30, Part 1 = March 2003


Anindita Banerjee

Electricity: Science Fiction and Modernity in Early Twentieth-Century Russia

Abstract. -- Through an examination of electricity in early-twentieth-century Russian literature, this essay demonstrates how science fiction provides a crucial discursive site for analyzing the continuity between constructs of technological utopia and concepts of modernity in the pre-Revolutionary and Bolshevik eras. It delineates the process through which peculiarities of technological development in Russia determined the emergence of a particular semiotic paradigm in pre-Revolutionary speculative fiction about electricity that was absorbed seamlessly into the rhetoric of the Bolshevik electrification plan of 1920. The essay pays special attention to the intertextual dependency of science fiction upon the many cultural discourses of the period, such as canonical and popular literature, mass media, advertisements, dictionaries and encyclopedias, popular philosophy, and aesthetic theory.

Aaron Dziubinskyj

The Birth of Science Fiction in Spanish America

Abstract. -- This essay explores the origins of science fiction as a literary genre in Latin America, specifically in Mexico. In 1775 in the colonial town of Mérida, Yucatán, the Franciscan monk Antonio de Rivas wrote a curious tale describing a voyage to the moon. While borrowing from such European sources as Johannes Kepler’s Somnium, Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moone, Cyrano de Bergerac’s Voyage to the Moon, and John Wilkins’ The Discovery of a New World, Rivas’s original treatment of the sf themes established by these better known works suggests that the Latin American intellectual community was perhaps not as disconnected from the scientific dialogues occurring in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as has been traditionally believed. The discovery of Rivas’s Syzygies proves that there was at least one pioneer of early science fiction in the New World who—knowingly or not—produced a foundational text for the genre in Spanish America.

Graham Murphy

Post/Humanity and the Interstitial: A Glorification of Possibility in Gibson’s Bridge Sequence

Abstract. -- William Gibson’s All Tomorrow’s Parties (1999), a novel completing the Bridge sequence that includes Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996), provides the opportunity to break a pervasive silence by critically engaging Gibson’s post-Neuromancer fiction. This essay demonstrates that Gibson’s complex Bridge sequence explores such notions as simulation, virtuality, presence, and pattern, tracking their impact upon the ongoing emergence of the post/human. Contrasts between the digital celebrity of Rei Toei and such corporate icons as Slitscan, rock-star Rez, mogul Cody Harwood, and contemporary digital celebrities Kyoko Date and Lara Croft establish and define the dichotomies of presence/pattern and simulation/virtuality that are foundational to Gibson’s work. Through such terminologies, Gibson charts the evolution of the digital figure into the post/human, a growth from simulation to virtuality that simultaneously disrupts the presence/pattern dialectic. The corporeal emergence of Rei Toei that concludes All Tomorrow’s Parties is a post/human figuration of information theory, the complexity of the digital pattern enwrapped in the presence of analogue flesh. Enabling this post/human emergence, however, is the importance Gibson places upon the digital Walled City of Idoru and the San Francisco Bay Bridge of Virtual Light and All Tomorrow’s Parties. These interstitial locales are further embodiments of information theory whereby the randomness and complexity of Toei’s post/humanity is projected on a larger communal scale. At the same time, Gibson wages a conflict between the molecular (Walled City; the Bridge) and the molar (multinational corporations; DatAmerica), the independence of the former struggling against the homogeneity of the latter. As a whole, Gibson’s recent sequence positions the molecular as central to ushering in new potentialities, manifest as the post/human emergence of Toei and/or the foundation of autonomous communities. In the end, Gibson is glorifying the possibilities inherent in the interstitial cracks of the post/human cultural pavement.

David Seed

H.G. Wells and the Liberating Atom

Abstract. -- Although the discovery of radium was promoted by the physicist Frederick Soddy as a major advance in human development, the narratives that describe its application stress its negative and destructive potential. H.G. Wells’s The World Set Free writes Soddy into the optimistic phase of the narrative and offers the first fictional account of nuclear war, setting a pattern for more sophisticated subsequent nuclear war novels in that the destructive force of the super-weapon is so massive that it undermines novelists’ capacity to produce coherent narratives. This proposition is tested out on a series of postwar writers, including Leo Szilard (who knew Wells’s original novel), Walter M. Miller, Jr., and Russell Hoban.

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