Le numéro 135 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.
Michael Griffin and Nicole Lobdell
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200 (full text)
The Weird Ecologies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Abstract. As many critics have observed, Frankenstein was composed during a dramatic and calamitous, and for many years unexplained, climatic shift in 1816, the so-called “year without a summer.” This essay argues that Shelley’s imaginative response to that “wet, ungenial summer” produced a novel that may be read as the first imaginative response to climate change, its concern with disturbing developments in science and technology strangely tied to its preoccupation with weird weather. H.P. Lovecraft has famously described the weird as “a malign and particular suspension or defeat of [the] fixed laws of Nature,” and I argue that this quality makes weird fiction the most appropriate imaginative literature for our current predicament. Calling Frankenstein the first work of weird fiction offers us a longer and more substantial history for this seemingly marginal subgenre and further emphasizes the genre’s ongoing relationship with the emerging ecologies of the Anthropocene. It also enables us better to theorize the role of fear and loathing in confronting the effects of climate change and to recognize these responses with an ethic of care for the more-than-human world.
Shannon N. Conley
An Age of Frankenstein: Monstrous Motifs, Imaginative Capacities, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Abstract. Using approaches from Science and Technology Studies (STS), political theory, and literary criticism, this paper investigates the use of monstrous motifs in British approaches to the governance of reproductive technologies and the role of the literary imagination as an “anticipatory” governance capacity in thinking through new and emerging technologies. The analysis is divided into three cases. The first case discusses the social and scientific context from which Frankenstein (1818) emerged. It draws from insights in literary criticism to explore motifs related to reproduction, birth, and monstrosity within the text and Mary Shelley’s own life. The second case discusses the context surrounding the publication of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932). It serves as a transition, linking Shelley and Frankenstein to modern considerations of reproduction and technology. The third case examines the context leading up to the birth of “test-tube baby” Louise Brown in 1978 and the how the stories, metaphors, and themes generated by Frankenstein and Brave New World permeated the debates around the innovation of reproductive technologies in Britain.
The Trans Legacy of Frankenstein
Abstract. With the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein in 2018 and the upcoming 25th anniversary of Susan Stryker’s influential essay “My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage” in 2019, the intersection of Gothic literature with gender studies has had a lengthy history. Stryker’s essay profoundly shifted interpretations of Frankenstein and altered the view of the Creature’s gender malleability in literary criticism. This essay examines the influence of Stryker’s essay on studies of gender and Shelley’s novel. Written in the early 1990s, Styker’s essay powerfully expressed her transsexuality, her physical transition, and her alignment with the Creature. This personal, bold exposure of transgender experience paved the way for various memoirs and narratives about trans identification and the journey to embodiment. Like Frankenstein and its creature, her essay has been morphed, resurrected, disseminated, cut, dissected, sutured, and (re) birthed. I argue that suturing science, medicine, reproduction, and science fiction with trans embodiment stimulated a positive monstrosity, exposed the unlimited body, and created a space of radical possibility.
Frankenstein in Baghdad: Human Conditions, or Conditions of Being Human
Abstract. This article is an intervention into studies of the legacy and longevity of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through an analysis of one of its most recent reinterpretations, Ahmad Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad (2018). In this article, I examine Frankenstein in Baghdad through the lens of biopolitical theorization by Judith Butler and Isabell Lorey, focusing on the novel’s depiction of forms of unliveable life and living death engendered by large-scale violent conflict in twenty-first century Iraq. I argue that by using Shelley’s original creature and its various iterations as intertexts, Saadawi’s Whatsitsname allegorizes a collective feeling that “every day we’re dying from the same fear of dying” in Iraq under conditions of governance through precarization, offering a dystopian pronouncement on the unequal distribution of vulnerability within a post-war environment of sociopolitical instability.
Unmaking People: The Politics of Negation in Frankenstein and Ex Machina
Abstract. This paper traces the circularity of animation and de-animation in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) in order to investigate the novel’s contrast between political and ontological definitions of being. Although its main storyline revolves around the artificial construction of a new man, Shelley’s Frankenstein contains a number of animating and de-animating scenes. In what quickly becomes an obsessive return to making and unmaking people, the novel traffics in premodern epistemologies, in which life and death may present a form of continuity or be generative for each other, and also modern ones, which insist on binary oppositions and distinct states of being. Because of this ambivalent merger of old and new, the novel’s focus on animation offers important insights for the way political categories of being are codified in the modern era, when scenes of animation and de-animation become allegorical conduits for depicting the conferral and withholding of human rights. As the monster in Frankensteinwas first made through science and then unmade through social and political rejection, so do legal and social processes, colonial projects, racial epistemologies, and other forms of oppression constantly make and unmake people. In the novel’s multiple scenes of negation we thus find an emotional and epistemological context for understanding modernity’s political technologies of distinction. Through close analysis of Frankenstein, and drawing from contemporary sf texts such as the film Ex Machina (2014), this paper explores how the discourse of the artificial person specializes in defining and often policing the limits of the human.
Transparent Subjects: Digital Identity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Charlie Brooker’s “Be Right Back”
Abstract. In the twenty-first century, when we interact with corporeal and digital identities alternately, we need to examine whether the distinction between them makes sense anymore. This paper argues that re-reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein alongside a contemporary reinterpretation, the episode “Be Right Back” from the television series Black Mirror (2012-), provides a new perspective on Shelley’s prescient vision. Both texts expose the inherent problems of the concept of identity, shaped by the Enlighten-ment, that emerged during Shelley’s time. The contemporary text, as well as testifying to the endurance of the novel’s ideas, updates the narrative by offering a possible future acceptance of techno-subjectivity.
- J. Stephen Addcox. The Frankenstein Family Tree: Friedman/Kavey’s A History of Frankenstein Narratives and Frayling’s Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years
- Marcin Wołk. Stanisław Lem, Holocaust Survivor: Gajewska’s The Past in Lem’s Fiction and Orliński’s Lem, Life from Another Planet
BOOKS IN REVIEW
- Guston/Finn/Robert’s Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds(Kate Holterhoff)
- Mulvey-Roberts’s Historicising the Gothic Corporeal (Kasee Laster)
- Smith’s The Cambridge Companion to Frankenstein (Rebecca Nesvet)
- Smith’s Gothic Death 1740-1914: A Literary History (Shannon Scott)
- Buss’s Willy Ley: Prophet of the Space Age (De Witt Douglas Kilgore)
- Claeys’s Dystopia: A Natural History (Patrick Parrinder)
- Clarke/Rossini’s The Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Posthuman (Moritz Ingwersen)
- Czigányik’s Utopian Horizons (Cameron Ellis)
- Guynes/Hassler-Forest’s Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling(Benjamin J. Robertson)
- Hamner’s Science and Fiction and the Genome Age (Rebekah Sheldon)
- Jones’s Science Fiction Cinema and 1950s Britain (J.P. Telotte)
- Küchler/Maehl/Stout’s Alien Imaginations: Science Fiction and Tales of Transnationalism (John Rieder)
- Lavender’s Dis-orienting Planets: Racial Representations of Asia in Science Fiction(Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay)
- Mazierska/Suppia’s Red Alert: Marxist Approaches to Science Fiction (Andrew M. Gordon)
- Page’s James Gunn: Writer, Teacher, Scholar (Thomas Connolly)
- Pierce/Mondal’s Connections to Octavia E. Butler (Ritch Calvin)
- Schmeink’s Biopunk Dystopias (Rebecca Wilbanks)
- Whitson’s Steampunk and Nineteenth-Century Digital Humanities (Jaymee Goh Sook Yi)
- Withers’s H.G. Wells and the Bicycle (Lisa Swanstrom)
NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE
- Ursula K. Le Guin, 1929-2018 (SFS editors)
- Frankenstein200 (Bob Beard)
- Lenin and The Time Machine (Patrick Parrinder)
- Report on the George Slusser Conference (Gary Westfahl)
- Calls for Papers
- TLS Remembers Le Guin (SFS editors)
- 2018 Mullen Fellows Announced