Science Fiction Studies

#69 = Volume 23, Part 2 = July 1996



Cynthia Davidson

Riviera's Golem, Haraway's Cyborg: Reading Neuromancer as Baudrillard's Simulation of Crisis

Abstract.--In Gibson's Neuromancer, Riviera and Case serve as examples of two creators contrasted by Jean Baudrillard in "Simulacra and Simulacrum": the specular, discursive representational artist, and the operational adept who efficiently codes the machines which perform work that until recently would have been performed by the specular, discursive imagination. Case and Riviera can be categorized, respectively, as magicians who practice what William Covino has called arresting and generative magic. Case is a cyberspace cowboy who steals or "arrests" data, working for established power by operating technology, the brainchild of science and corporate power-two voices which constitute official knowledge. Riviera's holographic displays, on the other hand, recreate and disrupt the established flow of events as they are generated by the articulate powers around him. Baudrillard's four phases of the image mark a movement from arresting to generative magic, the most dynamic of these being the second, ripe for a simulation of crisis. The conflict between Molly and Riviera can be read as this kind, staged by the AIs, benefiting their final goal of unifying to become the matrix, that most adept of all generative magicians. Molly "arrests" Riviera's power by paralyzing him with poison--a simulated death.  

Arthur B. Evans

Literary Intertexts in Jules Verne's Voyages Extraordinaires

Abstract.--The unique narrative recipe used by Jules Verne to create his Voyages Extraordinaires is characterized not only by repeated reference to the theories and discoveries of real scientists, geographers, historians, and explorers, but also by a wide variety of purely literary intertexts--explicit or implicit allusions to hundreds of authors and works from the "great works" of Western literature. These literary references function so as to firmly anchor Verne's romans scientifiques to a recognizable cultural tradition, thereby broadening Verne's own literary authoritativeness by identifying his novels more closely with those of the canonical literature(s) of his time. Verne's intertextuality takes many forms: overt literary citations, passing authorial nods, thematic parallels, ideological biases, etc. And the sources come from many historical periods, genres, and nationalities: e.g., from Ovid and Virgil to Defoe and Dickens, and from Baudelaire and Victor Hugo to Goethe and Hoffmann. But the works of three writers, in particular, appear to have exerted a powerful influence on Verne and seem especially ubiquitous throughout the Voyage Extraordinaires: James Fenimore Cooper, Sir Walter Scott, and Edgar Allan Poe. 

Rafeeq O. McGiveron

Heinlein's Inhabited Solar System, 1940-1952

Abstract.--One aspect common to much of Robert A. Heinlein's early work, from the FUTURE HISTORY stories through the Scribners juveniles, is his depiction of a Solar System populated in the past or the present by four different extraterrestrial civilizations. These worlds, some extinct and some thriving, serve the purpose of humbling the brash young human species. The self-destructive failures of Luna and Lucifer and the unexpected flourishing of Venus and Mars remind us that humans still have far to progress both intellectually and morally.  

Wendy Pearson

After the (Homo)Sexual: A Queer Analysis of Anti-Sexualityin Sheri S. Tepper's The Gate to Women's Country

Abstract..-- This article foregrounds the notion of subcultural readings while at the same time interrogating the possibilities of locating and producing "objective" readings, in particular those readings which depend on a demonstration of authorial "intent." Siting itself within current work in Queer Theory, the article problematizes readings of Sheri Tepper's Gate to Women's Country as a feminist utopia by looking at the ways in which the text can be read as anti-sexual. In identifying a climate within Women's Country which is both essentialist with regard to gender and highly conflicted with regard to the idea of women's sexuality, the article demonstrates the way in which female desire is diminished, controlled and normatized. The production of a heteronormative discourse both within and without Women's Country serves, in the end, only to focus the reader's attention on the contradictions inherent in the imposition of a highly regulated heterosexuality on the women in Women's Country. The elimination of choice parallels the elimination within the text of the homosexual as both a potential identity for characters and as an identity embodied within a single character. The article interrogates the text's anxiety around the vanished figure of the homosexual which is present within Stavia's story and is seen at its most glaring in the absence of the figure of Patroclus from the annual play about Achilles that structures and reinforces the central paradigms of Women's Country. Finally, the article asks whether it is possible in the age of AIDS to be wholly accepting of a text that uses the dominant discourses of homophobia to create a world after the homosexual, which is inevitably a world after the sexual.

[A response by Sylvia Kelso, and Wendy Pearson's reply, appear in SFS 74 (March 1998)]

Timo Siivonen

Cyborgs and Generic Oxymorons: The Body and Technology in William Gibson's Cyberspace Trilogy

Abstract. The essay discusses the relationship between body and machine in William Gibson's Cyberspace trilogy. The merging of the discourses deriving from the organic and technological worlds in Gibson's texts creates a discursive tension that can be characterised as oxymoronic undecidability. At the level of genre these tensions are articulated between the rational and technological genre of science fiction and the corporeal genre of horror. This cyborg discourse occurs, at the level of experience where man situates him/herself in relation to his/her body and technology, as the tension between two world views, essentialism and culturalism. The central argument of the essay is that Gibson's texts can't resolve these tensions his texts articulate but, by forming generic hybrids, they problematize the traditional Nature-Culture conflict and seek to find new signification practices to conceptualize the new social and cultural space in modernity.

J.P. Telotte

Just Imagine-ing the Metropolis of Modern America

Abstract.--In his study of the cultural effects of technology, Robert Romanyshyn argues that it produces a sense of "distance from matter," a detachment from the everyday world we inhabit. We can observe both a consciousness of this "distance," as well as two different attitudes towards it in several closely related "utopian" films produced in the Machine Age. Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1926) in various ways evokes that sense of distance in order to interrogate the promise of a thoroughly technologized world. The result is what many see as the prototypic dystopian film. Closely modeled on Metropolis in its visual design, the American film Just Imagine (1930) similarly evokes distance, but with the aim of denying the distancing, alienating effects of modern technology. Viewed together, these two science-fiction films suggest the competing cultural attitudes towards science and technology at work in Western society during the Machine Age.

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