Science Fiction Studies

#79 = Volume 26, Part 2 = July 1999



Yolanda Molina Gavilán

Alternative Realities from Argentina: Angélica Gorodischer’s "Los embriones del violeta"

Abstract.-- Angélica Gorodischer is one of the most prominent science fiction writers in Argentina. Her short story "Los embriones del violeta" (The Embryos of the Violet) from the collection "Bajo las jubeas en flor" (Under the Flowering Jubeas, 1973) has been widely anthologized and is considered by some a masterpiece of Argentinian sf. The story is a good example of the kind of sf we have come to expect from this author, one that is thematically related to the Anglo-American New Wave or feminist sf of the 1960s and 1970s. "Los embriones" speculates in general about the nature of desire and the search for happiness and specifically about the traditional Argentinian equation between military power and masculinity by presenting a world of ex-service men who must resort to transvestism to fulfill their sexual needs. Gorodischer proposes an alternate reality where men can act like gods, reproducing anything they desire except for women. Therefore, those men whose objects of desire are women have no choice but to engage in sexual practices with transvestite beings they have fashioned as substitutes. By problematizing sexual desire and its relationship to political and social power, the text draws attention to sexism as it relates to both males and females and, ultimately, enables the reader to analyze and question received values and ideas.

Kamila Kinyon

The Phenomenology of Robots: Confrontations with Death in Karel Capek’s R.U.R.

Abstract. -- This essay examines how the robots’ various confrontations with death in Karel Capek’s science fiction drama R.U.R. reflect the author’s explicit response to prevailing philosophical concepts of his time, especially those of Kant and Hegel. The robot Radius, for example, is a classic instance of the Hegelian master who risks death for recognition, asserting his authority over human slaves. By contrast, the robot Damon initially follows the Kantian categorical imperative in his submission to inflexible ethical law, only to apprehend and affirm his individuality at the moment of death. Damon’s philosophical importance as an exemplification of Capek’s critique of the Kantian precept of duty was lost to English-language readers when the character was cut from Paul Selver’s 1923 translation. Claudia Novack-Jones, in her 1989 translation of R.U.R., restored the excised passages, though some of her other decisions, especially regarding the rendering of key terms, eliminated suggestive ambiguities in the original Czech. This essay, in addition to its philosophical examination of the play, also discusses linguistic issues in the various translations, restoring a sense of the verbal subtlety, as well as the ideational complexity, of Capek’s classic work.

Domna Pastourmatzi

Hellenic Magazines of Science Fiction

Abstract. -- Science fiction in translation began appearing in popular science magazines during the mid-1970s in Greece, but the first Greek magazine devoted exclusively to sf (Andromeda) appeared in 1977. Launching subsequent magazines and fanzines has been a risky business, often plagued by financial difficulties, irregular circulation, limited readership, and an unfavorable critical climate. Several devoted fans have tried their luck in sf publishing, but only Christos Lazos (Andromeda) and Yiorgos Bazinas (Apagorevmenos Planitis) have managed to sustain a viable circulation for their magazines. The most pressing challenges for Hellenic sf publishing (especially magazine publishing) in the coming century will be to break out of the ghetto, unite the scattered fans, appeal to a wider readership, increase sales, counter prejudice against science fiction as "escapist trash," and achieve respectability for the genre.

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Philippe Willems

A Stereoscopic Vision of the Future: Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century

Abstract. -- Although often neglected by sf scholars, Albert Robida deserves recognition as a highly original and important figure in the history of science fiction. In this essay, I analyze the link between Robida’s unique narrative strategies and his skill in endowing his fictional speculations with verisimilitude. Robida’s vision of France in the 1950s is striking in its overall organic coherence—a sense of wholeness that is paradoxically brought about by his use of hermeneutic heterogeneity. Multiple factors enhance the impression of realism in the novels of his Twentieth Century trilogy: their historical dimension, the depth of Robida’s cultural and social insights, the network of different narrative voices used, and the innovative multimedia format of these works, superbly illustrated by the author himself. Robida’s artwork often supplements his narrative descriptions hypertextually, supplying peripheral information and avoiding the redundancy of conventional illustration. The distinctive characteristics of Robida’s sf that set him apart from other early sf novelists are perhaps best illustrated by an analogy with an apparatus that was contemporary to him, the stereoscope. Like stereoviews, Robida’s snapshots of the future are multi-dimensional, creating the illusion of both depth and substance.

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