Lecture 18: The Turn to Speculative
4 September 2013
“Wherever you are, even in California, nothing is more demoralizing
than being there and nowhere else. One of the pleasures of travel is
to dive into places where others are compelled to live and come out
unscathed, full of the malicious pleasure of abandoning them to their
fate. Even their local happiness seems tuned to a secret resignation.
It never compares, at least, with the freedom to leave. This is when
you sense that it is not enough to be alive; you have to go through
— Jean Baudrilliard, Cool Memories II: 1987-1990 (p. 43)
Some administrative matters
● Make-up “Quiz.”
● Shannon Brennan's email address is
shannonbrennan at umail dot ucsb dot edu
● She encourages you to email her with any
questions or doubts!
● Thank you for being such a good audience
● Grammar and formatting on paper two.
● Final exam format.
● Other questions?
Final exam format
● Two parts.
● First part: identifications (pick six from four categories, no
more than two from any category). Total: 36 points.
● Second part: short essay/long short answer (pick two from
approximately five). Total: 64 points.
● Bonus questions:
● will not have their format discussed in advance.
● will be hard.
● Will give the lowest payoff for effort of any questions on the exam.
Pick six options from the four sections below,
including no more than two items from any
particular section, and write an identification of the
term you choose according to the directions for that
section. (6 points each.)
Section A: People. Pick no more than two of the
following items. For each, explain in your blue book, in
approximately four to five sentences, in which text the
named person occurs and what his/her/their
significance is within the broader concerns of that text.
Example: Therem Harth rem ir Estraven
Pick two of the following questions. In your blue
book, answer the questions you have chosen in
two to three paragraphs. Each answer that you
write must make reference to at least two large-
scale course texts from the syllabus (novels, play,
or film) and one short story or novella from the
syllabus. Your second question must discuss at
least two texts not discussed in your first question.
(32 points for each question.)
Is Kindred a science-fiction novel?
Under which definition of “science
“science fiction should turn its back on space,
on interstellar travel, extra-terrestrial life forms,
[and] galactic wars.”
— J.G. Ballard, “Which Way to Inner Space?”
“the props of SF are few: rocket ships,
telepathy, robots, time travel...like coins, they
become debased by over-circulation.”
— Brian Aldiss, Trillion Year Spree: The
History of Science Fiction (revised 1987
“Without in the least dismissing or belittling
earlier writers and work, I think it is fair to say
that science fiction changed around 1960, and
that the change tended toward an increase in
the number of writers and readers, the breadth
of subject, the depth of treatment, the
sophistication of language and technique, and
the political and literary consciousness of the
writing. The sixties in science fiction were an
exciting period for both established and new
writers and readers. All the doors seemed to be
— Ursula K. Le Guin, Introduction to The
Norton Book of Science Fiction (1993)
“New Wave” SF (1960-1980)
● British-originated in the early 1960s.
● One good periodizing argument begins New Wave with
Michael Moorcock's editorship of New Worlds in 1964.
● “Let's have a quick look at what a lot of science fiction
lacks. Briefly, these are some of the qualities I miss on
the whole – passion, subtlety, irony, original
characterization, original and good style, a sense of
involvement in human affairs, colour, density, depth,
and, on the whole, real feeling from the writer.”
(Moorcock, guest editorial in New Worlds, April 1963.)
● Sees itself as turning away from Golden- and
Classical-age tropes of “traditional SF,” often
taking literary modernism as its ideal model.
● Brian Aldiss: “galactic wars went out; drugs came
in; there were fewer encounters with aliens, more
in the bedroom. Experimentation in prose styles
became one of the orders of the day, and the
baleful influence of William Burroughs often
threatened to gain the upper hand.”
● Explicitly concerned and involved with youth-
related politics at the time.
● Notable authors:
● Philip José Farmer
● Judith Merril
● J.G. Ballard
● Philip K. Dick
Claim: “Time travel isn’t merely a
device, but is particularly suited to
‘doing’ a history of slavery”
● Recall from yesterday:
● The disturbed relationship to time in the novel.
● The de-estrangement that the novel exhibits.
● The persistence and presence of history.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
—Gavin Stevens in William Faulkner’s Requiem for a
Nun, act I, scene iii
● “Maybe I'm just like a victim of robbery or rape or
something—a victim who survives, but who doesn't
feel safe any more. […] I don't have a name for what
happened to me, but I don't feel safe any more.” (17)
● “I was working out of a casual labor agency—we
regulars called it a slave market.” (52)
● “I found my thoughts shifting to Nazi book burnings.
Repressive societies always seemed to understand
the danger of ‘wrong’ ideas.” (141)
● “South African Whites [in 1976] […] were living in the
past as far as their race relations went. They lived in
ease and comfort supported by huge numbers of
blacks whom they kept in poverty and held in
contempt. Tom Weylin would have felt right at home.”
The SF mechanisms of the text
“Not that I really thought a blood relationship
could explain the way I had twice been drawn
to him. It wouldn't. But then, neither would
anything else. What we had was something
new, something that didn't even have a name.
Some matching strangeness in us that may or
may not have come from our being related.”
“If I was to live, if others were to live, he must
live. I didn't dare test the paradox.” (29)
Putting the “travel” in “time travel”
“he [Kevin]'d be in another kind of danger. A place like
this would endanger him in a way I didn't want to talk to
him about. If he was stranded here for years, some part
of this place would rub off on him.” (77)
“And I began to realize why Kevin and I had fitted so
easily into this time. We weren't really in. We were
observers watching a show. We were watching history
happen around us. And we were actors. While we
waited to go home, we humored the people around us
by pretending to be like them. But we were poor actors.
We never really got into our roles. We never forgot that
we were acting.” (98)
“Once—God knows how long ago—I had worried
that I was keeping too much distance between
myself and this alien time. Now, there was no
distance at all. When had I stopped acting? Why
had I stopped?” (220)
I was startled to catch myself saying wearily,
“Home at last.”
I stood still for a moment between the fields
and the house and reminded myself that I was
in a hostile place. It didn't look alien any longer,
but that only made it more dangerous, made me
more likely to relax and make a mistake.” (126-
“I kept quiet. His father wasn't the monster he
could have been with the power he held over
his slaves. He wasn't a monster at all. Just an
ordinary man who sometimes did the
monstrous things his society said were legal
and proper.” (134)
“You're reading history, Rufe. […] That's history.
It happened whether it offends you or not. Quite
a bit of it offends me, but there's nothing I can
do about it.” (140)
“that which hurts”
“To me, it's getting more and more believable. I don't
like it. I don't want to be in the middle of it. I don't
understand how it can be happening, but it's real. It
hurts too much not to be And … and my ancestors, for
“The wall of my living room. I was back at home—in my
own house, in my own time. But I was still caught
somehow, joined to the wall as though my arm were
growing out of it—or growing into it. From the elbow to
the ends of the fingers, my left arm had become a part
of the wall. I looked at the spot where flesh joined with
plaster, stared at it uncomprehending. It was the exact
spot Rufus's arms had grasped.” (261)
“History is therefore the experience of Necessity,
and it is this alone which can forestall its
thematization or reification as a mere object of
representation or as one master code among many
others. Necessity is not in that sense a type of
content, but rather the inexorable form of events […]
History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and
sets inexorable limits to individual as well as
collective praxis, which its ‘ruses’ turn into grisly and
ironic reversals of their overt intention. But this
History can be apprehended only through its effects,
and never directly as some reified force.”
— Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious
(end of ch. 1)