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Space odysseys

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context on Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Space odysseys

  1. 1. 2001 , 2010, and the Golden Age of SF
  2. 2. Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)  Like H. G. Wells, wrote scientific speculation AND science fiction  (Brit RAF) radar instructor (WW II): article in 1945 proposing idea of communication satellites  Ability to explain scientific ideas to lay audience (fiction + nonfiction)—over 100 books!  Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars (1995): nonfiction— predicts/explains we’re ready to explore/colonize Mars in new millenium
  3. 3. Space Odysseys: Fiction and History Clarke’s Space Odyssey series: published from late 1960s to 1990s  2001 (1968)  2010 (1982)  2061 (1987)  3001 (1997)  Space Age Milestones: (mobilized by the Cold War):  Oct 1957: Sputnik 1 (launches space race btw US and Soviet Union)  Dec 1968: circling moon (Apollo 8 mission)  July 1969: landing on moon (Apollo 11 mission—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin)  1974: Skylab (first space station)  Joint US-Soviet space mission:  Apollo-Soyuz--earth orbit connection of 2 spacecraft (1975)  1981: 1st space shuttle launch  1994: Mir (US-Russian Space Station)  1998: International Space Station (designed, built, and launched European Space Agency, NASA, and Russian Space Agency)  No Moon missions (orbitals or landings) since Dec 1972 (Apollo 17 mission)
  4. 4. ’60s SF: SF’s “Golden Age” + “New Wave” “Golden Age” SF (coined by fans)  1930s-1950s: LOTS of SF published, SF magazines and comic books founded  Heroic Plots: “hard SF,” “space operas,” technological adventures  Anthropocentric! (what we can DO with technology)  Male appeal—guys who solve problems out on the space frontier  Interest in military/industrial complex  Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, Isaac Asimov’s robots, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers  “New Wave” SF: 1960s-1970s Space Age  Writers react against simple heroism  uncertainties / human limits
  5. 5. Utopias and Dystopias in SF  SF: utopic and dystopic tendencies  Utopia: vision of an ideal form of human society (in fiction or philosophy)  Envisions people working together efficiently and peacefully for maximum benefit of society  Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) –His title was a pun on 2 Greek words:  eutopos: good place  outopos: no place  Much “Golden Age SF” tended to envision utopic technological possibilities—unite and advance humanity
  6. 6. Dystopias in SF  Dystopia: disturbing vision of human society  related to utopia: as vision of human social organization—efficient but totalitarian, degrading  Usually futuristic: speculation, warning  Develops in 1890s, early 20th c SF (more modern than utopia)  Some (especially British writers) wrote high-tech dystopias:  H. G. Wells, The Time Machine (1895)  Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)  George Orwell 1984 (1948)  Arthur Clarke, Childhood’s End (1953)
  7. 7. SF: Technology and Myth  Myth: narrative (or set of narratives) that help to explain  a culture’s worldview, sense of identity  understanding of nature, earth, cosmos, humanity  Via story plot, archetypes (representative characters)  Mythic aspects of Utopias + Dystopias:  PLOT oriented: Progress and Decline for Humanity  Fate / Destiny / Mysticism: “higher” powers  Mythic “Grand Narratives” of humanity  Reinforced, tested and/or creatively adapted in SF  Conversions of religion and myth into SF narratives…
  8. 8.  Is this evolution?  …or a popular teleology of evolution?  Teleology: explanation using the end result as the cause. applies a goal / purpose and a direction as an explanation of change  Evolution plotted in teleological terms—implies a mythical progress or decline, purposeful direction Image Source: http://www.kheper.net/evolution/ascentofman.html
  9. 9. Clarke’s Context for the “man- apes”  Raymond Dart: discovers Taung Child, first Australopithecine ,in South Africa in 1924  Dart formulates “Killer Ape” hypothesis:  Idea that hominids evolved to use WEAPONS  Bipedalism: to allow us to hold weapons! And CONQUER nature  Telos of Weaponry—idea of weapons as goal and prime mover of evolution—widely accepted in 1960s Image: Taung child (actual size of skull case = about a fist)
  10. 10. Arthur Clarke’s Three Laws:  1. “If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right, but if he says it is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  2. “The only way to find out the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.”  3. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Source: Clarke’s collection of essays, Profiles of the Future (1973)

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