Science Fiction Studies

#92 = Volume 31, Part 1 = March 2004


Alan C. Elms

The Psychologist Who Empathized with Rats: James Tiptree, Jr. as Alice B. Sheldon, PhD

Abstract. -- Fans and scholars have been intrigued not only by Alice Bradley Sheldon’s sustained disguise as the male writer James Tiptree, Jr., but by her earlier activities in the secret world of Army Air Force Intelligence and the CIA. Less attention has been given to her major pursuit between her careers in intelligence and sf: graduate work, teaching, and research in experimental psychology. Though her work in psychology represented the fulfillment of long-term goals, she was forced to give it up because of health problems and psychological pressures. Her subsequent fiction often displayed the influence of her psychological training and interests. Earlier life experiences may have shaped both her career in psychology and her career as a writer.

Steffen Hantke

Raumpatrouille: The Cold War, the “Citizen in Uniform,” and West German Television

Abstract. -- Kept in the public consciousness by a devoted fan following, the series Raumpatrouille Orion, all seven episodes of which aired in 1966, stands as the first science fiction program produced by and for German television. With its critical exploration of insubordination in a military setting, the show reflects ambiguities among the German population about West Germany’s role in NATO in the wake of German rearmament after World War II. At the same time, the show’s critique of blind military obedience and its positive validation of insubordination prepared the way for a new form of competitive individualism. The program echoes central features of the brand of neoliberalism common in post-War West Germany.

Patrick A. McCarthy

The Genesis of Star Maker

Abstract. -- Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker evolved in the author’s imagination for more than two decades before its publication in 1937. This evolution may be traced first in poems, letters, and an unpublished philosophical manuscript, then in several stages of revision of Stapledon’s “cosmos book.” Examining evidence from the poems of Latter-Day Psalms (1914) through the author’s final corrections of page proofs, this article demonstrates ways in which Stapledon struggled first with the ideas, then with the narrative shape, of his vision of the cosmos and its relation to human life.

Livia Monnet

A-Life and the Uncanny in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

Abstract. -- Sakaguchi Hironobu’s Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) was the first entirely computer-generated film to produce a nearly perfect, cinematic photorealism. This article argues that the significance of this film lies less in the technological achievement of its computer graphics than in the questions it raises about the conceptualization and representation of life in analog and digital media, as well as in popular genres such as science fiction. I argue that a contingent, historically specific notion of life (and death) as artificial life, or a-life, provides continuity and cross-fertilization between analog and digital moving-image media on the one hand and information-based life sciences on the other. Articulated in varying forms ranging from cinema’s animism, or ersatz of life, to the life effect of computer-generated Artificial Life ecologies, this notion of a-life is uncanny because it is predicated on life excess, as well as on the constant reenactment of an absence. While this absence has as a rule been the result of the abduction of women’s (or of marginalized, disenfranchised groups’) agency and cultural contributions, Final Fantasy also alerts us to this violent erasure’s history of suppression in the cinema, animation, and software culture, as well as in science fiction, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. The conclusion of the essay argues that, in spite of all these traditions’ repeated attempts to eradicate the haunting memory of the missing woman, it is her stubborn return as life effect that produces a persistently unheimlich sensation, and an unheimlich aesthetics in much contemporary science fiction, as well as in other genres in our global network culture.

William L. Svitavsky

From Decadence to Racial Antagonism: M.P. Shiel at the Turn of the Century

Abstract. -- M.P. Shiel was influenced by the Decadent movement of the 1890s more lastingly than most of his contemporaries, in part because the tenets of Decadence resonated with his own personal history and racial views. As the movement faded, Shiel built on the underlying logic of Decadence to create adventure novels involving race-based conflict. Shiel’s racism is disturbing but complex, ultimately leading toward a vision of union between Self and Other. Shiel’s developing views are evident in five of his works from 1895-1901: Prince Zaleski, Shapes in the Fire, The Yellow Danger, The Purple Cloud, and The Lord of the Sea.

Gary Westfahl

Twelve Eighty-Seven: John Taine’s Satisfactory Solution

Abstract. -- John Taine, the literary pseudonym of mathematician Eric Temple Bell (1883-1960), was long recognized as one of the world’s greatest science fiction writers, praised for his scientific knowledge and imaginative narratives. While writers who published alongside Taine, such as John W. Campbell, Jr., Robert A. Heinlein, and Jack Williamson, have remained familiar to readers and scholars, Taine has proven less successful in keeping his name and reputation alive. His works have drifted out of print, and the 1935 novel, Twelve Eighty-Seven, featured in Astounding Stories, has still never been published in book form. One can readily understand why Taine has been neglected, and why this novel in particular has remained invisible. Paradoxically, however, reexamination of this apparently insignificant novel might help to rehabilitate Taine as a noteworthy science fiction writer, by demonstrating that his then-unusual status as a science fiction writer with ties to the scientific community led him to innovative attitudes about other races and the proper role of scientists in both developing, and limiting the use of, destructive superweapons. This article concludes with a bibliography of Taine’s work.

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