Gothic Science Fiction 1980-2010

Article excerpt

Sara Wasson and Emily Alder, eds. Gothic Science Fiction 1980-2010. Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2011. Pp. xix, 219. [pounds sterling]65.00.

Gothic Science Fiction 1980-2010 (published by Liverpool University Press' Science Fiction Texts and Studies Series) is a timely collection of eleven essays on works that combine the "disturbing affective lens" and "confined or claustrophobic environment[s]" of the Gothic mode (Wasson and Alder 2) with the cognitive estrangement of science fiction to explore the troubled boundaries of bodies and nations in the last three decades. Focusing on recent films, TV series, short stories, novels, graphic novels, and a trading card game, these essays make a compelling case for the hybrid genre of Gothic science fiction, showing how it is particularly attuned to the impacts of increasingly invasive technologies and complex globalized politico-economic networks.

Editors Sara Wasson and Emily Alder situate the collection amongst "the 'hyphenated' Gothics that have abounded in recent years" (7) as critics attempt to historicize Gothic studies, but it can be placed just as easily in the context of recent efforts to historicize science fiction studies. The collection's move to examine the relatedness of the Gothic and science fiction has the potential to reinvigorate criticism of both. Divided into three sections--Redefining Genres, Biopower and Capital, and Gender and Genre--the collection identifies four dominant preoccupations of Gothic science fiction from the 1980s onward: the rise of global capitalism, the proliferation of new technologies, the boundaries of the human (and posthuman), and possible apocalyptic scenarios. While the essays offer insight into how different works explore these concerns, the collection's most significant contribution lies in its exploration of the complexities of genre formation and interrelation.

The most persuasive and effective essays in the collection are those that carefully attend to what the editors call the "the complex mesh of forms and cultural developments" (3) that accompany the emergence and continuing transformations of science fiction. In addition to providing interpretations of primary texts, such essays also offer a more nuanced understanding of the genre and history of science fiction and its kinship with other genres. For example, in what is perhaps the most compelling case for the collection's hybrid focus, Roger Luckhurst argues that, although we cannot point to a time of generic purity, it has become increasingly difficult to ignore the genre blurring of the last three decades. His essay on "the post-genre fantastic" (the recent hybridization between horror, Gothic, science fiction, and dark fantasy [22]) examines the "strange spatial zones" (23) of numerous works as signalling both "generic hydridization" (25) and a changing world. More specifically, he suggests that such changes in genre, or "generic pile-ups" (23) as he calls them, may reflect geopolitical transformations and be characteristic of the literature of "a risk society" (33). …