Locating Science Fiction

Locating Science Fiction

Locating Science Fiction

Locating Science Fiction

Synopsis

Locating Science Fiction is a ground breaking and potentially paradigm-shifting book, a major intervention into contemporary theoretical debates about SF. It effects a series of vital shifts in the way SF theory and criticism has conceptualised its subject, away from prescriptively abstract dialectics of cognition and estrangement and towards the empirically grounded understanding of what is actually a messy amalgam of texts, practices and artefacts.

Excerpt

I am by enthusiasm a science fiction fan and by profession a critical theorist, that is, an academic specialist in the theory of literary (and other) criticism. The first explains why I would choose to write about this genre, the second how I would do so, that is, by utilising the kinds of resource I canvass in my own earlier books on critical and cultural theory (Milner, 2002; Milner and Browitt, 2002). Like many other literary subfields, science fiction studies has been exposed to a wide variety of critical theories. So, for example, there are postcolonial and, more specifically, ‘Afrofuturist’ treatments of the genre (Rieder, 2008; Hopkinson and Mehan, 2004), feminist and post-feminist (Shaw, 2000; Melzer, 2006), Marxist and post-Marxist (Roberts, 2000; Bould and Miéville, 2009), postmodernist (Broderick, 1995; Best and Kellner, 2001), psychoanalytic (Žižek, 2001, 213–33) and ecocritical (Murphy, 2009, 89–118). No doubt, each provides very real insights, but each is also essentially the application to science fiction (henceforth SF) of a more general theory derived elsewhere. By contrast, the core critical approach specific to the genre, against which almost everything else has been obliged to define itself, remains that established by Darko Suvin in the 1970s. Mark Bould refers to Suvin’s near-contemporaneous publication of the essay ‘On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre’, in 1972, and co-foundation of the journal Science Fiction Studies, in 1973, as ‘the Suvin event’, which marked the beginning of what we now know as SF studies (Bould, 2009, 18). Suvin’s extraordinarily influential monograph, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, followed in 1979, extending the event both spatially and temporarily. Veronica Hollinger observed some twenty years after the book’s first publication that ‘Metamorphoses is the significant forerunner of all the major examinations of the genre’ (Hollinger, 1999, 233). Over a decade later, this continues to be the case. As Bould and Vint wryly comment in the opening chapter of their Concise History: ‘disagreeing with him [Suvin] is a considerable part . . .

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