Science Fiction Studies

#68 = Volume 23, Part 1 = March 1996


David Golumbia

Resisting "The World": Philip K. Dick, Cultural Studies, and Metaphysical Realism

Abstract.-- The manipulation of reality and appearance that figures so prominently in Philip K. Dick's fiction remain a subject of persistent interest. This interest extends from Dick's work through to some important themes in recent cultural studies. In both cases, purely philosophical speculation on the nature of 'reality' extends into theoretical and political reflection. In both Dick's work and cultural studies, faith in the existence of a single, present, 'given' world is shown to be theoretically questionable and politically compromised. Dick's Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch offers a particularly apt example of the interplay between metaphysics and politics in Dick's work, and a good example of the way recent cultural studies construes that interaction as well.

Gary Westfahl

Evolution of Modern Science Fiction: The Textual History of Hugo Gernsback's Ralph 124C 41+

Abstract.-- Hugo Gernsback's influential novel Ralph 124C 41+ first appeared as a twelve-part serial in Gernsback's Modern Electrics, otherwise a newsy magazine for inventors. The 1911-12 text is essentially two different stories: the first seven installments are a placid travel tale about Ralph's future utopian Earth; the last five installments feature more scientific facts and are a melodramatic, at times horrific, space adventure involving pursuit of two villains, three violent deaths, and revival of a corpse. The shifts to space and an emphasis on scientific education were inspired by Mark Wicks' To Mars via the Moon, reviewed in a 1911 issue of Modern Electrics, while the shift to melodrama reflected other popular fiction of the time. The 1911-12 text also had passionate romantic passages that were later shortened and toned down because Gernsback thought they were ridiculous, as shown by his parodies of Ralph published in the magazine. Revising the text for 1925 book publication, Gernsback added six new chapters, worked to better integrate the two parts of his story by including foreshadowing elements in earlier chapters, tried to make information-conveying conversations more plausible, added passages of satire, developed the contrasting characters of his two villains, and occasionally improved its prose. The 1929 Amazing Stories Quarterly version, edited by T. O'Conor Sloane, made no substantive changes but at times weakened its logic and worsened its prose style. For the 1950 Second Edition, Gernsback made minor changes to update its contents and improve its prose. The 1958 paperback edition, anonymously copyedited, removed all diagrams, slightly shortened the text, and modernized the prose in several places. A text that straddles traditional boundary lines in science fiction--science/literature, thinking/dreaming, utopia/dystopia--Ralph also encapsulates the modern history of science fiction, first beginning with travel tale and utopia, shifting to melodrama and Gothic horror, and finally striving to integrate those elements with the added genre of satire.

Brent Wood

William S. Burroughs and the Language of Cyberpunk

Abstract.-- The early works of William S. Burroughs, including Naked Lunch and the subsequent "science-fiction" texts Nova Express, The Soft Machine, and The Ticket that Exploded, embody principles of communication strategies which are central to the notion of cyberpunk writng. Burroughs ought thus to be understood as a writer of both theory and fiction in the same sense that Donna Haraway, Jean Baudrillard, Felix Guattari, and Gilles Deleuze are considered to be (Csiscery-Ronay, Bukatman). Burroughs' attempt to integrate the generative forces of chaos into his work have strongly influenced the theory of Guattari and Deleuze and the fiction of William Gibson. Burroughs demonstrates how contact with chaos is crucial for any communication which seeks to escape the normalizing forces of cybernetically-organized systems of domination, including language itself.

Rick Worland

Sign-Posts Up Ahead: The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and TV Political Fantasy 1959-1965

Abstract.-- The historical and political implications of the science-fiction/fantasy anthology television series The Twilight Zone (1959-64) and The Outer Limits (1963-65) in the Kennedy era are considered. Science fiction is usually a politically reverberant genre, frequently given to social allegory. These two fondly remembered programs often presented speculative and unsettling political visions of American society. The article considers the issues, events, and ideology represented in these programs in the early 1960s as the nation gradually slid from global Cold War into a hot war in Vietnam. A marked transition in the portrayal of Cold War themes in popular culture from the 1950s to the 1960s is illustrated by segments of each show that explicitly take contemporary issues as their subjects. The episodes surveyed both build on themes from cinematic science fiction of the 1950s and depart from them in important ways. The programs' treatment of such themes, for example, the portrayal of the nuclear war threat before and after the Cuban Missile Crisis, yields historically intriguing equivocations and textual contradictions in sharp contrast to the categorical anti-communism of such McCarthy era programs as I Led Three Lives (1953-56).

Josef Zarnay.

Science Fiction from a Dusty Shelf: A Short History of the Fantastic in Slovak Literature to 1948

Abstract.--The history of Slovak science fiction (and the Slovak fantastic genres generally) is an area which has been seriously neglected by sf scholars in the English-speaking world. While Czech sf--and especially its "star" writers like Karel Capek and Josef Nesvadba--has an extensive literature in English, to the best of my knowledge, only one article specializing on Slovak sf or fantasy has appeared in English to date. To some extent this is, of course, because the Slovak sf canon is much smaller than that of the Czechs, and because it has not yet produced a writer who would transcend national barriers in the way that Lem has done in Poland or the Strugatski Brothers in the former Soviet Union.

The following article was first published in the Slovak sf anthology Krutohlav '94, and reprinted in the Czech sf magazine Ikarie (April 1995). It offers a brief overview of the history of Slovak sf literature from its beginnings in 1855 to those works published just before the Communist take-over in 1948. Authors studied include Gustáv Maurícius Reuss, Alexander Vasko, Peter Suchansky, Ján Hofman Bukovinka, Pavol Piontek, Samo Tokes, Ján Hrusovsky, Václav Chlumecky, and Ján Kresánek-Ladcan.

moonbut.gif (4466 bytes) Back to Home