Science Fiction Studies

#66 = Volume 22, Part 2 = July 1995


Andrea Bell

Desde Júpiter: Chile's Earliest Science-Fiction Novel

Abstract.-- Desde Júpiter (1878), by the Chilean author Francisco Miralles, is among the earliest known works of Latin American science fiction. Miralles adapted the emerging European genre to the peculiarities of South America: his novel, while structurally and thematically evocative of Verne, reflects many of the attitudes and concerns of Chile's urban elite at the time. Desde Júpiter is part scientific adventure story, part social criticism. Its premise (Jovian scholars who are studying Earth) provides a basis for the critical examination of Chilean society. The distancing which sf affords frees Miralles to pass harsh judgment on his country's political, social, technological, and philosophical failings. The future, he argues, must be guided by reason and science. Enlightened thinking will produce inspired technology, all to the greater glory of Chile. Miralles' novel fits comfortably within the Romantic aesthetic of the 19th century. With its endorsement of scientific invention, however, and its autochthonous focus, Desde Júpiter signals the commencement of Chile's science fiction tradition.

Thomas Bredehoft

The Gibson Continuum: Cyberspace and Gibson's Mervyn Kihn Stories

Abstract.-- This article examines William Gibson's concept of cyberspace, as it is elaborated in his novel Neuromancer, in the context of his Mervyn Kihn stories, "The Gernsback Continuum" and "Hippie Hat Brain Parasite." These stories deal directly with present-day survivals of the nineteen sixties and the nineteen thirties; Gibson's use of hallucinatory iconography associated with the sixties and "visionary futurism" associated with the thirties in his visual descriptions of cyberspace hints at the relevance of these stories for interpreting the construct of cyberspace. Ultimately, rather than presenting cyberspace as a liberatory, utopian space, as some postmodern theorists would have it, Gibson's treatment of hallucinatory and futuristic iconographies suggests that cyberspace functions as the embodiment of past "Dreams" of the future, dreams which, Gibson hints, are at least partially responsible for the "near dystopia" of the present.

Rob Latham

Subterranean Suburbia: Underneath the Smalltown Myth in the Two Versions of Invaders from Mars

Abstract.-- The two film versions of Invaders from Mars provide crucial insight into the historical trajectory of suburbanization in the United States. Beneath its surface confidence in the postwar suburban project as a geographical resolution of abiding class conflict, the first film, released in 1953 during escalating Cold War preparedness, evinces deep-seated anxieties about the ethical implications of suburbia's essential dependence upon militarist power. The remake, released in 1986 at the height of Ronald Reagan's reinvigoration of the military-industrial foundations of suburban life, offers a pointed satire of contemporary suburbia's jingoistic antagonism toward alien "others"--a mistrust which bespeaks a growing racial division within U.S. society that is the historical fallout of the suburbanization process. Both films display the power of the cinematic genre of science fiction to condense complex historical developments into visually arresting--even prophetic--images.

James W. Maertens

Between Jules Verne and Walt Disney: Brains, Brawn, and Masculine Desire in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Abstract.-- Periodic interest in Jules Verne's novels has often been sparked by film adaptations. One of the most famous of these is the 1954 Disney film of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This film may be read as a symbolic text exploring myths of masculinity, science, technology, and power. Reading the film against the original novel reveals a pattern of changes and shifts in the four main characters and their relationships. Produced under the shadow of the Cold War and the launching of the first nuclear submarine--named the Nautilus after Captain Nemo's famous boat--the Disney film of Leagues shows viewers a Nemo grown far less heroic. The enigmatic captain emerges as a desperate fugitive dogged by military and imperialist powers, rather than the infallible champion of science as a means to freedom from the surface world of European empires and warfare. Disney's film elevates the American, Ned Land, a working-class sailor and harpooner, to the level of hero, suggesting that brawn and not brains is the true source of male power. Analysis of the symbolic undercurrents of the texts reveals a struggle for the symbolic phallus of the fathers and the Promethean fire of intellectual and technological superiority. Between Verne and Disney, an ideology of individualism and anti-intellectualism struggles with the Vernian romance of technological man. An image of men as cooperating brothers sharing a love for Nature clashes with the image of men as inevitably subordinated to institutional brotherhoods founded on violence, competition, conquest, and the repression of the individual.

David Seed

The Postwar Jeremiads of Philip Wylie

Abstract.-- Wylie draws on partially secularized versions of the apocalyptic paradigm in his science-fiction writings in order to attack the failings of the American people. Disaster functions as a repeated test of national morale, inventiveness, and political preparedness. His collaborative novels, When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide, use biblical analogy to underscore America's manifest destiny to survive and then polarize the action into a struggle between the forces of freedom and despotism. In his 1942 treatise on contemporary morals, Generation of Vipers, Wylie most clearly exemplifies his desire to address his country as a whole, and in his fiction on the Cold War he repeatedly mixes genres or moves beyond the confines of realism to cope with the urgencies of the nuclear age. The Answer and The Disappearance use parables to examine dogma and gender rigidity, while his more famous novel, Tomorrow! (1954), attempts to address the civil defense issue by describing the immediacy of atomic attack. However, this novel takes description beyond the limits of credibility and then undermines the whole issue of civil defense by introducing a coda on the H-bomb. The attendant shift in scale informs the novel Triumph, which attacks the whole idea of superpower confrontation by showing a nuclear exchange where the entire northern hemisphere is destroyed. The End of the Dream, Wylie's last novel, also attacks national failure, this time by grafting the terminology of nuclear attack on to environmental destruction. Triumph evokes the bleak spectacle of the literal erasure of the USA from the continent; The End of the Dream foresees an equally dark future where America has slid into totalitarianism. The destructive potential of military technology now expresses itself as Nature's quasi-divine reactions to ecological upheaval.

George Slusser and Danièle Chatelain

Spacetime Geometries: Time Travel and the Modern Geometrical Narrative

Abstract.-- This essay considers the synchronous appearance of two similar narrative forms--time travel and the modernist geometrical narrative. In both traditional plot and character are reduced to games of logic and geometrical arabesque. And for both, the result is to transpose traditional story spacetime into the realm of temporal paradox. This comparison however leads to discovery of significant differences. If in both time travel and modernist narrative, time is subject to logical manipulation, the form and meaning of this act, in what are two quite distinct cultural contexts, is very different. What does it mean for the modernist to "manipulate" time? What can this mean in terms of the empirical or "physical" imperative of sf? These questions offer insight into the nature and extent of experimentation with spacetime categories in modern narrative. To answer them, we offer close readings of two contemporaneous works: Borges's "Death and the Compass," and Heinlein's "By His Bootstraps."

Marie-Noelle Zeender

The "Moi-peau" of Leto II in Herbert's Atreides Saga

Abstract.-- The "Moi-peau" of Leto II in Herbert's Atreides saga offers an interpretation of the enigmatic personality of Leto II, Paul Atreides' son, and may open new perspectives on the meaning of the whole cycle of Dune. From a psychoanalytical point of view, Leto's evolution and irreversible metamorphosis into a Sandworm, as de scribed in Children of Dune and God-Emperor of Dune, is a perfect illustration of a paroxysmal autistic behavior whose oedipal implications may be a key to the Atreides saga. By supplanting his father at the expense of his humanity and sanity, Leto eventually manages to satisfy his lust for absolute power and to achieve the great scheme which Paul himself shrank from. Based on the theory of the French psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu, whose best-known work, Le Moi-peau (1985), has had a considerable impact in France on the academic as well as psychoanalytical world, this study aims at showing that the monstrous skin of Leto is in fact a powerful metaphor of the Atreides psychotic universe. By isolating himself from the rest of mankind and proclaiming himself God and Emperor of Dune, he confirms the postulate according to which "Power attracts the psychotics. Always."

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