Future Present: Ethics And/As Science Fiction

By Michael Pinsky | Go to book overview

Notes

INTRODUCTION: THE GAME OF ETHICS

1. Campbell, in his tenure as editor of Astounding during the 1950s, influenced what has become known as “hard” science fiction, in which plots situations tend to hang on known scientific principles. Prominent authors (some of whom first gained attention in Campbell's Astounding) include Isaac Asimov (the Foundation series), Hal Clement (Mission of Gravity), Larry Niven (Ringworld), and former scientists such as Ben Bova (Mars) and Robert L. Forward (Dragon's Egg). Campbell wrote a bit of fiction himself, and we will explore his most famous contribution to the genre “Who Goes There?” in Part 2.

Michael Moorcock (known for both his Eternal Champion fantasy cycle and his Jerry Cornelius science fiction series) led the New Wave movement of the 1960s during his tenure as editor of New Worlds in Great Britain. His work — as well as that of J. G. Ballard (Crash), Doris Lessing (Briefing for a Descent into Hell and the Canopus in Argos cycle), and in the United States, Harlan Ellison (prolific short story writer and editor of the two influential Dangerous Visions anthologies) — promoted a loose approach to science, experimenting with new narrative strategies and treating conventional science fiction images in a more consciously metaphoric fashion. Once the door was opened for a serious critical appraisal of less “rigorously scientific” science fiction, “soft science fiction” became the catchall phrase for any work that seemed to be science fiction but either broke Campbell's rigid rules or otherwise resisted comfortable characterization (including Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and writers who consistently deny in interviews that their work belongs in the genre, such as Anthony Burgess and Kurt Vonnegut).

2. Heidegger analyzes the twofold path of science in “The Question Concerning Technology.” We need not reiterate his points here, although when we approach Disney, the cultural uses of science, including the manufacture and deployment of technology, will become more apparent, and Heidegger will return to haunt us.

3. Eros, whose name seems to imply the Greek god of love, is played by an actor with the incredible name of Dudley Manlove, a former radio performer. His doughy, fleshy figure provides quite a contrast to the macho human heroes of the film, calling more attention to his body than theirs. As we shall see later, the alien's ability to incarnate in the flesh marks one of the crucial transitions from the undifferentiated Other to the accessible, but not completely assimilable, other.

4. Another reference, fast food from “Perky Pat's,” recalls the title of a Philip K. Dick story about a virtual reality game (“In the Days of Perky Pat”). This in turn recalls Cronenberg's abortive attempt in the 1980s to make Total Recall, based on Dick's “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.” The film was eventually directed by Paul Verhoeven.

5. And what is “car law?” In Part 2, we will examine Cronenberg's Crash in search of a Law of Chance, the potential fusions in car collisions.

-191-

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Future Present: Ethics And/As Science Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Acknowledgments 9
  • Introduction: The Game of Ethics 11
  • Part I - Space and Time 25
  • 1: Space: Self and Other 29
  • 2: Time: The Coming-Towards 42
  • Part II - The Future in Focus 51
  • 3: Machines, Animals, and the Law 53
  • 4: Anticipating Progress 72
  • 5: The Alien 95
  • 6: The Cyborg Body 119
  • 7: Ethics: Philip K. Dick 157
  • 8: Spacetime 183
  • Notes 191
  • Bibliography 205
  • Index 210
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