Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia

By Tom Moylan | Go to book overview

2
Absent Paradigms

In SF, the attitude of estrangement--used by Brecht in a different way, within a still predominantly "realistic" context--has grown into the formal framework of the genre.

-- DARKO SUVIN, "ON THE POETICS OF THE SCIENCE FICTION GENRE" (375)


I.

As with any imaginative mode, science fiction is not essentially progressive or conservative. It does not automatically come down on the side of angels or devils. Often, sf is implicated in the ideological apparatus of mainstream society and does its bit in reproducing that social order and its subjects. Certainly the sf of Jules Verne played into the technological logic of his time, and Edgar Rice Burroughs's novels privileged empire and patriarchy. Critics such as H. Bruce Franklin, Constance Penley, and Andrew Ross have demonstrated the ways in which sf in the United States has helped to create the very imaginary of the military-science-industrial complex that has managed the Pax Americana in its Cold War and post-Cold War manifestations, and many feminist critics have exposed the legitimation of masculine privilege and power within the world of sf publishing itself. 1

Connected to its role in the reproduction of these hegemonic logics, the sf imaginary has also, and perhaps more pervasively, contributed to the interpellation of consumer subjects in the United States and around the globe. Especially with recent claims for the triumph of finance capitalism and its attendant technological marvels, uncritical sf images and narratives do not bring readers and audiences into brave new worlds, whether worse or better than the present, but rather spin them around within the one and only "paradise" that is allowed to exist. From literary series to special-effects-laden films, from video games to fashion

-29-

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Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Permissions ix
  • Preface xi
  • Part One - Science Fiction and Utopia 1
  • 1 - Dangerous Visions 3
  • 2 - Absent Paradigms 29
  • 3 - Daring to Dream 67
  • Part Two - Dystopia 109
  • 4 - New Maps of Hell 111
  • 5 - The Dystopian Turn 147
  • 6 - The Critical Dystopia 183
  • Part Three - Dystopian Maneuvers 201
  • 7 - Kim Stanley Robinson's Other California 203
  • 8 - Octavia Butler's Parables 223
  • 9 - Marge Piercy's Tale of Hope 247
  • 10 - Horizons 273
  • Notes 285
  • Bibliography 333
  • Literary Bibliography and Filmography 367
  • Film and Video 373
  • Index 375
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