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Science Fiction Studies numéro 136

Le numéro 136 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.

Numéro spécial sur la SF et le bouleversement climatique (Ed: Brent Ryan Bellamy & Veronica Hollinger)

Dès le XIXè et le premier XXè siècles, le topos du changement climatique intègre une rhétorique économique qui voit la politique climatique comme une compétition entre  nations rivales. Textes de Jules Verne, Mark Twain,  George Griffith. Les scénarios de contrôle, émergence ou monopole sont conceptualisés comme des grands récits capitalistes. A l’extrême, des récits de prise de contrôle armé. L’économie des premières fictions climatiques nous a préparés, et  potentiellement conditionnés, à voir le climat comme une ressource pour laquelle il est envisageable d’engager un conflit armé.

Carbon-fueled acceleration of global capitalism provides the main framework through which the interdisciplinary formation of the energy humanities approaches climate crisis. This essay attends to a no less consequential source of power, the atom, from an intersection of spaces, materialities, and enunciative positions that has received little scholarly attention. It focuses on the Russophone Kirghiz author Chingiz Aitmatov’s experimental hybrid of socialist realism, science fiction, and indigenous cosmology to explore a kind of atomic writing that emerged from the secret weapons development and testing sites zoned off on the “naked steppe” at the eastern margins of the Russian and Soviet empires. Challenging the logic of development, progress, sacrifice, and disposability in both capitalist and socialist modernity, the situated aesthetics of Central Asia’s nuclear fantastic generates a planetary consciousness of compound environmental catastrophe—even as it salvages the possibilities of a cosmopolitics for the Anthro-pocene.

This essay examines how Kim Stanley Robinson’s Shaman (2014) depicts the deep history of both humans and the Earth. Centered around humans living 32,000 years ago during the last ice age, it contributes to the genre of prehistoric fiction as well as, less obviously, climate fiction. As prehistoric fiction, it foregrounds the continuity of human identity across history, particularly our impulses toward art-making and science, and thereby challenges our sense of separation from the deep past. At the same time, Robinson’s novel may also be understood as climate fiction. Typically, climate fiction is associated with contemporary global warming, but this article approaches the genre in terms of its tendency to envision environments historically, a capacity referred to here as the “geohistorical imagination.” While Shaman shares this imagination with other climate fictions, it differs remarkably from most ice-age narratives because it describes the slow pace of glaciation and the persistence of daily life, rather than the apocalypse. Drawing out the consequences of this figuration of geohistory, this essay argues in conclusion that Shaman enables us to think historically about global warming and the Anthropocene.

Building on recent critical conversations about “science fictionality” as a quality that is present in, but not necessarily tethered to, the literary genre of science fiction, this essay articulates scientific and critical debates about the Anthropocene in terms of cognitive estrangement. It argues that the term “Anthropocene” acts simultaneously as nomenclature, as narrative, and as novum. Different definitions of and variations on “the Anthropocene” invoke varying narratives with specific origins, settings, characters, and resolutions. Meanwhile, each of these narratives has a distinct novum that produces different kinds of cognitively estranging relationships to hegemonic histories of Western modernity. The science fictionality of “the Anthropocene” as a concept reveals not only the strategic activation of cognitive estrangement beyond the bounds of science fiction, but also what is at stake in the way that science fiction focusing on climate change articulates a novum in relation to history, as well as futurity.

As a literature of the Anthropocene, contemporary narratives of terraforming and geoengineering draw on a rich tradition of stories that scrutinize the ecological, social, political, economic, and technological relationships that obtain between and within communities, institutions, and local and planetary environments. This article examines three contemporary terraforming and geoengineering narratives to investigate how such works theorize the Anthropocene. Drawing on Reza Negarestani’s “necrocracy” to understand how speculation about terraforming and geoengineering is both coherent with and antecedent to emerging theoretical concepts about climate change, this article examines representations of humankind’s expanding incorporation of the solar system in Ian McDonald’s Luna: New Moon (2016) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312 (2012), and its critique in Robinson’s Aurora (2015). This article seeks to understand how orientations toward the transformation of planetary environments are configured, how responses to such plans are represented, and how such texts imagine the conjunction of geological processes and human agency. Ultimately, it argues that terraforming narratives can help scholars of science fiction and the environmental humanities think through concepts such as the Anthropocene and the dissipative economies of closed life-support systems.


The Syfy television series The Expanse (2015-) transposes a form of combined and uneven development from Earth to the solar system, making the human reality of life lived in space a central concern. The Expanse envisions a colonized solar system, replete with a United-Nations-controlled Terra and Luna, a military dictatorship on Mars, and a densely populated asteroid belt. This essay proposes that The Expanse offers an image of a worlds-system, by which we mean an interplanetary system of capital accumulation that reproduces the structure of twentieth-century geopolitical-economy at the level of the solar system. At one and the same time, The Expanse imagines a new cycle of accumulation founded in the planetary system and premised on ecological crisis on Earth and it provides a re-narration of the end of the cycle of accumulation that has been called the long twentieth century or the American century, which exasperated the climate crisis in the first instance. The Expanse is a pivotal narrative that promises a new interplanetary cycle of accumulation and its decline all at once, a fantasy of continuity that simultaneously dramatizes the contemporary crisis of futurity.

This paper draws on recent global speculative film and fiction that highlight guilt and remorse to think about what good might come out of feeling bad, focusing especially on how these texts use negative affective responses to encourage positive communal action. Afrodiasporic, African, and Indigenous and Aboriginal futurisms participate in widespread cultural debates about humanity’s responsibility to the environment: Cree-Canadian filmmaker Danis Goulet’s short fantasy film Wakening (2013), Nigerian-American Nnedi Okorafor’s petrofiction Lagoon (2014), Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu’s short sf film Pumzi (2009), and Aboriginal Australian Alexis Wright’s climate-fiction The Swan Book (2013) explore alternative futures in which humans reestablish a sense of relation with their non-human counterparts. Negative emotions register not only as affective modes that signal constitutive relationality and an a priori responsibility to others, to the land, to other human beings and other species, but also invite reparative responses. Located in the interstices of environmental and postcolonial science fictions, these narratives can, at the very least, serve as antidotes both to complacency in light of the uneven planetary distribution of resources and to despair in the face of environmental devastation.

Since the 1950s, many Chinese sf narratives have explored facets of climate change and terraforming. This essay focuses on the atmospheric transformation project depicted in Chinese sf writer Zheng Wenguang’s Descendant of Mars (1983). I read the novel from two perspectives. The first situates it within the Chinese literary scene of the early 1980s, and I argue that Descendant reveals Zheng’s heartfelt skepticism about human interference with nature and climate, in the context specifically of Mao’s radical wars against nature in the 1950s and 1960s. Second, I situate Zheng’s Mars narrative within the topography of world sf. The novel features instances of geoengineering as a form of climate change mitigation and the characters’ different positions and debates about space colonization and terraforming resonate with ongoing debates about climate change and environmental ethics in today’s world.

Matters of politics and human history tend to be rendered meaningless when the climate crisis is described as a release of inhuman forces and/or something so complex as to be sublime. Why seek political power when the scale of climate change appears to dwarf human agency? Why adopt an historical perspective when the implications of global warming seem to stretch into deep time? Against these trends, this essay examines recent developments in weird fiction that move beyond some of the impasses afflicting the environmental humanities. More specifically, this essay turns to the ecological imaginations of Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom and John Langan’s The Fisherman. Each title ends menacingly with the promise of rising seas, but not before they illustrate crucial links between climate change and our racist and patriarchal status quo. Stressing, after China Miéville, the abcanny quality of this status quo, these fictions chart a new path forward for the genre in the aftermath of the New Weird. Indeed, climate-oriented weird fiction renders visible the unequal experience of climate change, connects the crisis to ongoing histories of trauma and exploitation, and critically addresses common reactions, from the paralysis that arises when encountering the sublime to the misperception that this abcanny force is just comeuppance for past crimes.

REVIEW-ESSAY

  • Terry Harpold. “À la Hogarth”: Verne’s Robur the Conqueror.    

BOOKS IN REVIEW

  • Garforth’s Green Utopias: Environmental Hope Before and After Nature (Gerry Canavan).          

  • Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable  (Ericka Hoagland).        

  • Streeby’s Imagining the Future of Climate Change (Conrad Scott).          

  • Ashley’s Science Fiction Magazines from 1981 to 1990 (Paul Kincaid).     

  • Benford/Westfahl/Hendrix/Miller’s Bridges to Science Fiction and Fantasy (Nicholas Ruddick).              

  • Bowler’s Prophets of Progress from H.G. Wells to Isaac Asimov (Patrick A. McCarthy).  

  • Burton’s The Philosophy of Science Fiction (Leslie J. Fernandez).              

  • Edri/Gurevitch’s Science Fiction beyond Borders (Keren Omry).

  • Garlington’s The Adventures of Acidman: Psychedelics and the Evolution of Consciousness in Science Fiction and Superhero Comics from the 1960s Onward(Eric Berlatsky).  

  • Hayles’s Unthought: The Power of the Cognitive Unconscious (Colin Milburn).

  • Hubble/MacCallum-Stewart/Norman’s The Science Fiction of Iain M. Banks (Chad Andrews).

  • James’s The Journals of Samuel Delany, Vol. 1 (Carl Freedman).               

  • López-Pellisa’s La Ciencia ficción en la cultura española (Sara Martín). 

  • Segaloff’s The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (Gary K. Wolfe).            

  • Telotte’s Animating the Science Fiction Imagination (Rick Cousins).       

  • Towlson’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (David Hollands).

  • Trudel’s Petit Guide de la science-fiction au Québec (Amy Ransom).       

  • Wilson’s J.G. Ballard and Sellars’s Applied Ballardianism (Rob Latham).              

NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE

  • Eulogy for Ursula K. Le Guin (Robert M. Philmus)            

  • SF and the Digital Humanities (Lisa Swanstrom)

  • Reply to Elana Gomel’s Review (Rob Latham)

  • Calls for Essays

  • Notes on Contributors

Science Fiction Studies numéro 135

Le numéro 135 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.

Michael Griffin and Nicole Lobdell

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at 200 (full text)

Jed Mayer

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.

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Science Fiction Studies numéro 133

Le numéro 133 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.

ARTICLES

Jeremy Withers

Bicycles Across the Galaxy: Attacking Automobility in 1950s Science Fiction

Abstract. This essay focuses on several works of science fiction from the 1950s that function as counter-narratives to the hegemony of the automobile during this decade and to the accompanying dismissive perceptions of the bicycle. In its analysis of a novel by Robert A. Heinlein (The Rolling Stones, 1952), a novella by Poul Anderson  (“A Bicycle Built for Brew,”  1958), and a short story by Avram Davidson (“Or All the  Seas with  Oysters,” 1958), it asserts that some of the leading  figures in  Golden Age  sf were not content to relegate bicycles to the status of a technological obsolescence fit only for children. Instead, they chose to portray bicycles as useful, potent, and agentic—images that counter the prevailing ideology of “automobility” that was crystallizing with such durability in postwar America.


Connor Pitetti

Uses of the End of the World: Apocalypse and Postapocalypse as  Narrative Modes

Abstract. Through a broad survey of fictional, religious, philosophical, and political end-time narratives, this essay identifies two strategies for telling stories about the end of the world. Apocalyptic narratives use the idea of the end to give structure to the experience of history. By narrating the end as a moment of rupture that creates  an  absolute division between old and new worlds, they frame history as a series of clearly defined and therefore comprehensible transitions between distinct moments or epochs. Postapocalyptic narratives complicate this neatly organized account by narrating “ends” as complex historical transformations that involve survivals and continuities and thus blur before/after distinctions. Rather than providing a comprehensive and therefore existentially stabilizing overview of history, they draw attention to the indeterminate nature of ongoing processes of historical change. By focusing on the conceptual understanding of historical change that underwrites different kinds of end-time narratives, the essay clarifies the theoretical terminology of apocalypse and postapocalypse, and articulates a clearer understanding of the ways in which different kinds of contemporary stories about the end of the world are used to  provide  conceptual support for political action  in  the  present.

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Science Fiction Studies numéro 132

Le numéro 132 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.

ARTICLES

SPECIAL ISSUE ON SPANISH SF
Edited by Sara Martín and Fernando Ángel Moreno

Domingo Santos is arguably the most influential and prolific personality in Spanish science fiction, and this paper provides an overview of his career. Although ideologically conservative, dating from his life before the political changes witnessed during the Spanish Transition, Santos initiated an entire process of both formal and thematic maturation that would culminate in Spanish sf’s Golden Decade (1985-1995). As a writer, he is the author of one of the best dystopian short-story collections written during the late Francoism of the 1970s: Futuro imperfecto [Imperfect Future, 1981]. Despite their dark endings, these tales raise new political and ecological issues and employ innovative narrative techniques non-existent until then in Spanish sf. Furthermore, Santos was also involved in some of the most prominent sf editorial projects in the country, from the leading sf magazine Nueva Dimensión [New Dimension, 1968-1983] to new sf book series by publishers such as Acervo, Orbis, and Ultramar. These sf editorial initiatives enabled the publication of many important sf works—including those by a host of New Wave authors—and launched the writing careers of many modern Spanish sf authors such as Gabriel Bermúdez Castillo and Rafael Marín.

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Science Fiction Studies numéro 131

Le numéro 131 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru.

 

ARTICLES

 

Cet article examine les différents registres politico-économiques du roman The Martian (2011) de Andy Weir en s’intéressant à la réponse symbolique proposée aux crises matérielles et idéologiques de la Grande Dépression. La crise financière de 2008 a mené à la perte du logement de millions de personnes et remet en question la légitimité des principes économiques traditionnels. Publié au paroxysme de la crise économique et représentant les difficultés colossales d’un homme à rentrer chez lui, le roman remet en question les discours économiques contestés au sein de la fable culturelle. Sur Mars, la culture des pommes de terre de Mark Watney renvoie au paradigme néoclassique de l’homo economicus, l’autarcique agent qui privilégie constamment les choix compétitifs plutôt qu’une répartition rationnelle des ressources. La Terre de la NASA, bien au contraire, est un monde fantastique aux ressources illimitées où, sont renversés deux siècles d’un principe éoconomique (néo-)classique : « chaque être humain a l’instinct primitif de l’entraide » (Weir, 368-69). Les tentatives confuses du roman de réconcilier l’homo economicus avec une idée viable du concept du bien commun peuvent être historicisées. D’autres importants documents de cette ère de crise – le rapport officiel du gouvernement des Etats-Unis sur la crise financière et la déclaration d’occupation de Wall Street parmi eux – manifestent le même désir de restaurer ce sens disparaissant du Commonwealth.

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Science Fiction Studies #130

Le numéro 130 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru. C’est un numéro spécial sur la science-fiction indienne : « special issue on indian science fiction », dirigé par Joan Gordon.

SPECIAL ISSUE ON INDIAN SF
Edited by Joan Gordon

Cet article propose une analyse thématique de la littérature indienne écrite en trois langues différentes – Bangla, Marathi et Anglais – pour parvenir à une théorie de la science-fiction indienne (kalpavigyan). Cette théorie est basée sur le concept de mythologerm. En m’inspirant des travaux de Barthes décrivant le mythe comme un type de discours, j’analyse les effets d’absorption et de transformation de la culture et l’apport scientifique de l’époque coloniale dans les connaissances scientifiques indigènes du sous-continent Indien et la façon dont cette connaissance scientifique imprègne les mythes locaux. L’essai explore la façon dont les auteurs écrivant dans ces trois langues associent les catégories du connaissable, le connu et l’inconnaissable dans leur mise en fiction des buts, des possibilités et des résultats de l’activité scientifique.

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Science Fiction Studies #128

Le numéro 128 de la revue Science Fiction Studies est paru. C’est un numéro spécial sur la science-fiction numérique : « special issue on digital science fiction », dirigé par Pawel Frelik et Rob Latham.

ARTICLES

Paweł Frelik. Introduction: Digital Science Fiction(s) (texte en anglais)

Symposium on Digital SF

Lisa Swanstrom. « External Memory Drives: Deletion and Digitality in Agrippa (A Book of The Dead) » (présentation en anglais)

Bien que la fiction cyberpunk de Williamn Gibson soit essentielle pour saisir la relation entre la « digitality » [« condition numérique »] et la science-fiction, je postule que l’œuvre « numérique » [« digital »] la plus importante de Gibson n’est ni du cyberpunk, ni de la science-fiction, ni même de la fiction. C’est plutôt un poème autobiographique, « Agrippa:(A Book of the Dead) », publié en 1992. « Agrippa » correspond à un moment de basculement pour l’écriture de Gibson du fait de son implication avec des techniques d’édition numériques réelles – plutôt que spéculatives – non seulement en ce qui concerne le disque qui contient le poème qui y est encodé, mais en ce qui concerne la tendance de Gibson à établir une relation triangulaire entre la numérisation, l’identité et la mémoire. « Agrippa » dans son ensemble – c’est à dire comme œuvre poétique, livre imprimé, et objet numérique destiné à s’auto-effacer – fonctionne au départ comme un monument moderniste élevé à la subjectivité au moment même où elle est démantelée et, à cet égard, se trouve en parfaite cohérence avec la fiction cyberpunk de Gibson, qui tend à traiter la technologie numérique de manière analogique. Pour autant, durant les vingt ans et plus qui ont passé depuis sa publication initiale, « Agrippa » a continué à évoluer, et une analyse de ce texte étrange de nos jours apporte différentes possibilités. Dans ce qu’on pourrait appeler l’au-delà d’« Agrippa », une forme plus fluide de mémoire s’est manifestée, une forme collective, participative, collaborative, et bien plus en harmonie avec la nature de la « digitality » [« condition numérique »].

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Science Fiction Studies #126

La revue Science Fiction Studies vient de faire paraître son cent-vingt-sixième numéro.

SPECIAL ISSUE ON ITALIAN SCIENCE FICTION

Edited by Umberto Rossi, Arielle Saiber, and Salvatore Proietti

ARTICLES

Arielle Saiber and Umberto Rossi. « Introduction: Italian SF: Dark Matter or Black Hole?

Salvatore Proietti. The Field of Italian SF

Symposium on Italian SF            

 Valerio Evangelisti. Science Fiction: A Narrative in Line With the Times

 Domenico Gallo. Fantascienza Outside the Ghetto: The Science-Fictional Writings of Italian Mainstream Authors

Quelques-uns des plus importants spécimens de la SF italienne du vingtième siècle, écrits par des auteurs aussi prestigieux et mainstream qu’Italo Calvino, Mario Soldati, Ennio Flaiano, Corrado Alvaro et d’autres encore, ne furent pas publiés par la presse spécialisée ou des revues de science-fiction ; ils furent présentés comme des « narrativa » (des romans) sans caractéristiques de genre, bien qu’ils appartiennent indubitablement à la SF. Les raisons de cette production de SF et de sa circulation en-dehors de son « ghetto » sont liées aux aspects spécifiques de l’histoire et de la culture italiennes et dont il sera question dans la première partie de cet article.

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