Lecture 18 - The Turn to Speculative Fiction


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Eighteenth lecture for my students in English 192, "Science Fiction," summer 2013 at UC Santa Barbara.

Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/m13/

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Lecture 18 - The Turn to Speculative Fiction

  1. 1. Lecture 18: The Turn to Speculative Fiction English 192 Summer 2013 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 life.” — Jean Baudrilliard, Cool Memories II: 1987-1990 (p. 43)
  2. 2. 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 yesterday. ● Grammar and formatting on paper two. ● Final exam format. ● Other questions?
  3. 3. Final exam format ● Two parts. ● First part: identifications (pick six from four categories, no more than two from any category). Total: 36 points. ● People ● Places ● Things ● Ideas ● 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.
  4. 4. Part I 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
  5. 5. Part II 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.)
  6. 6. Is Kindred a science-fiction novel? Under which definition of “science fiction”?
  7. 7. “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?” (1962) “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 edition)
  8. 8. “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 opening.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, Introduction to The Norton Book of Science Fiction (1993)
  9. 9. “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.
  10. 10. ● 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
  11. 11. 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
  12. 12. Dana's comparisons: ● “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.” (196)
  13. 13. 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.” (29) “If I was to live, if others were to live, he must live. I didn't dare test the paradox.” (29)
  14. 14. 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)
  15. 15. De-estrangement “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- 27)
  16. 16. “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)
  17. 17. “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 Godsake!” (46) “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)
  18. 18. “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)