Embodiment and Technicity in Geoff Ryman’s Air
Abstract. In this essay I read Geoff Ryman’s novel Air (2004) as a rumination on the process whereby our orientation to the world is modified by the introduction of new media technology. The imagined technology in Ryman’s novel—Air—is the Internet without physical interface: it is the World Wide Web plugged directly into people’s minds. In terms of the logic of the narrative, Air is and is not the Internet. Ryman uses this gap between similitude and difference to open up some critical distance for readers to reflect on the physical and psychical effects of the Internet and other digital communications technologies.
Remembering the Disappeared: Science Fiction Film in Post-Dictatorship Argentina
Abstract. Produced after Argentina’s 1977-83 “Dirty War,” in which over thirty thousand citizens were murdered by a military junta, Eliseo Subiela’s Man Facing Southeast (1986) and his mentee Gustavo Mosquera’s Moebius (1996) are Latin American science fiction films that powerfully defy postdictatorship efforts to cover up the nation’s militarism, political corruption, and human rights abuses. While refusing to provide simple paths to restitution, the films use the sf motifs of alien encounter and time travel to offer a measure of meaning to the survivors of injustice, pushing both domestic and international audiences to confront memories of individual and cultural shame. At the same time, the films’ separation by a full decade suggests how differing political contexts may require distinct aesthetic choices. While the alien messiah of Man Facing Southeast directly pits Latin American liberation theology against Catholic complicity with the dictatorship—in the process remediating Adolfo Bioy Casares’s La invención de Morel (1940)—its filmic descendent, Moebius, confronts the political ideology of its own time through subtler allusions to Bioy Casares and a more abstract, transcendent mathematics and quantum physics.
A German Hero for the Cold War: Wolfgang F. Henschel’s Alpha Alpha (1972)
Abstract. Overlooked by critics of science fiction and historians of West German television, Wolfgang F. Henschel’s series Alpha Alpha brought together elements of science fiction and the spy thriller, two genres imported largely from the U.S. that dominated the West German television landscape. Reproducing this hybrid genre in a national register provided writer and director Henschel with the opportunity to depart from the stereotypical settings, characters, and plot lines. Using science fiction to access and interrogate the spy thriller, Henschel attempted to transcend and challenge the rigid binaries organizing Cold War politics. The series’ benign humanitarian postulate of individual ethical integrity overriding systemic technocratic and bureaucratic power makes the series symptomatic of a 1970s shift in German attitudes toward the U.S. in the wake of radical student protests against American foreign policy.