The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader

The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader

The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader

The Essential Science Fiction Television Reader

Synopsis

Once confined solely to literature and film, science fiction has emerged to become a firmly established, and wildly popular, television genre over the last half century.The Essential Science Fiction Television Readerprovides insight into and analyses of the most important programs in the history of the genre and explores the breadth of science fiction programming. Editor J. P. Telotte and the contributors explain the gradual transformation of the genre from low-budget cinematic knockoffs to an independent and distinct televisual identity. Their essays track the dramatic evolution of early hits such as The Twilight Zone and Star Trekinto the science fiction programming of today with its more recent successes such as Lost and Heroes. They highlight the history, narrative approaches, and themes of the genre with an inviting and accessible style. In essays that are as varied as the shows themselves, the contributors address the full scope of the genre. In his essay "The Politics of Star Trek: The Original Series," M. Keith Booker examines the ways in which Star Trek promoted cultural diversity and commented on the pioneering attitude of the American West. Susan George takes on the refurbished Battlestar Galactica series, examining how the show reframes questions of gender. Other essays explore the very attributes that constitute science fiction television: David Lavery's essay "The Island's Greatest Mystery: Is Lost Science Fiction? "calls into question the defining characteristics of the genre. From anime to action, every form of science fiction television is given thoughtful analysis enriched with historical perspective. Placing the genre in a broad context,The Essential Science Fiction Television Readeroutlines where the genre has been, where it is today, and where it may travel in the future. No longer relegated to the periphery of television, science fiction now commands a viewership vast enough to sustain a cable channel devoted to the genre.

Excerpt

Todd Gitlin has suggested that too often today we “take a media-soaked environment for granted…and can no longer see how remarkable it is” (17). Certainly, that observation has much validity for any discussion of television, a media form that twenty years ago Mark Crispin Miller had already described as constituting “the very air we breathe” (8). But the point takes on an added weight when we consider science fiction television (SFTV). For although the genre has been a part of broadcast television practically from the medium’s inception, science fiction was early on often perceived as children’s programming or niche fare, and it has seldom enjoyed a dominant place in regular broadcast schedules. In part, it has suffered the same prejudice that, for many years, attached to science fiction literature, which was seldom seen as an equivalent to “serious” fiction and, in fact, as Edward James has observed, was more often dismissed “as escapism” (3). Yet clearly something has changed. Today, in the major television market area where I live, I could watch on a weekly basis as many as twenty-two science fiction series. Since television itself is so pervasive, it may well be difficult for many people to “see how remarkable” this relatively recent profusion of “escapist” fare really is or to register that development as anything more than another lamentable sign of cultural debasement. Certainly, it is still hard for many to recognize that the science fiction series might represent an important voice for an increasingly technologized and science-haunted world. But one symptom of that new presence is the very existence of this book, a volume called into being because of this inescapable shift. And a chief aim of this volume is to help us see this phenomenon, place it in context, and better understand it—in short, to remark on a significant cultural development.

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