Science Fiction Studies

#85 = Volume 28, Part 3 = November 2001


Elena Del Rio

The Remaking of La Jetée’s Time-Travel Narrative: Twelve Monkeys and the Rhetoric of Absolute Visibility

Abstract. -- Through a comparative analysis of the mise-en-scène of time travel in La Jetée and Twelve Monkeys, this article explores the differences between Hollywood cinema’s reliance on full visibility and presence—a rhetoric of space and light—and the film’s use of a wider sensorial spectrum that destabilizes the metaphysical equation of represen-tation with vision while putting forth a rhetoric of time and darkness. Using Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics and Foucault’s theory of panopticism, the article argues that Twelve Monkeys reproduces the metaphorics of vision and power at work in the ontotheological tradition of Western representation. Twelve Monkeys’ rationalizing discourse transforms the anxiety of being in time into a game of illusionist realism. Second, the film substitutes technological instrumentality for the inherently transporting capacities of the psyche. And third, while potentially dislocating, the film’s time travel narrative ends up coercing temporality (and death) into a manageable, stable, and redeemable picture.

I.Q. Hunter

The Far Side of Moon Zero Two

Abstract. -- Moon Zero Two, made by Hammer Films in 1969, was British cinema’s last space opera. A modest and rather camp production aimed at juvenile audiences, the film has the rare distinction of being a "space western," which updates the iconography of the classic American Western to the setting of a colonized Moon. This article considers three key aspects of the film: its use of Western motifs to underline the ideological continuity of the Old West and the New Frontier; its symptomatic interest as an example of British sf’s continuing failure to match the ambition of American sf films; and its unexpectedly close thematic relationship to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Both films explore the boredom of space travel, the end of the space age, and colonization as an expression of restless male desire. The article concludes with a discussion of how British sf films of the 1960s reflected Britain’s withdrawal from the space race.

Nicholas Ruddick

"Tell Us All About Little Rosebery": Topicality and Temporality in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine

Abstract. -- The essay seeks to demonstrate that the events described in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine (1895) are deliberately and rigorously historicized by being placed in a specific temporal relation to a moment in history that corresponds very closely to the date of the short novel’s composition. It also claims that The Time Machine’s unusual narrative structure may be accounted for by the novel’s hitherto largely unacknowledged topicality. Moreover, it will be suggested that its topicality has perhaps paradoxically helped to endow The Time Machine with the formal and thematic durability of the classic.

Peter G. Stillman

Dystopian Visions and Utopian Anticipations: Terry Bisson’s Pirates of the Universe as Critical Dystopia

Abstract. -- This article examines the interplay of dystopian and utopian themes in Terry Bisson’s Pirates of the Universe, utilizing Tom Moylan’s concept of "critical dystopia." In the novel, Bisson maps out a number of discontinuous dystopias in a near-future US marked by rampant capitalist enterprise, out-of-control bio-technology, ecological decay, and a weak central state. These dystopias generally produce citizens with fragmented personal experiences, disinterest in social issues, and limited aspirations. Towards the end of the novel, when free and clean energy becomes available to all, Bisson explores continuing dystopian trends, articulates utopian possibilities, and emphasizes the importance of individual and collective imagination for choosing among alternatives.

Sherryl Vint

Double Identity: Interpellation in Gwyneth Jones’s Aleutian Trilogy

Abstract. – The alien in sf is a trope that allows for a complex exploration of the construction of human identity and the role that otherness plays in this construction. Gwyneth Jones’s Aleutian novels explore the idea of humanness through her characterization of the Aleutian aliens. Jones’s aliens engage in a cultural practice of finding oneself in cultural records, which I argue can be understood as a literalization of Althusserian interpellation. In the novels, Jones plays with the double meaning of identity as both that which uniquely identifies and that with marks sameness to explore and ultimately to deconstruct the boundary between human and alien subjectivity. In conclusion, I suggest that the novels also perform their own call for a new type of human subjectivity, a subjectivity articulated against that of the liberal humanist self-contained and autonomous individual. This new subjectivity, one that is more like than unlike the aliens, is founded on connections to other living beings rather than on the need to defend a boundary of self from other.

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