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The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.

Publication Year: 2008

As the world undergoes daily transformations through the application of technoscience to every aspect of life, science fiction has become an essential mode of imagining the horizons of possibility. However much science fiction texts vary in artistic quality and intellectual sophistication, they share in a mass social energy and a desire to imagine a collective future for the human species and the world. At this moment, a strikingly high proportion of films, commercial art, popular music, video and computer games, and non-genre fiction have become what Csicsery-Ronay calls science fictional, stimulating science-fictional habits of mind. We no longer treat science fiction as merely a genre-engine producing formulaic effects, but as a mode of awareness, which frames experiences as if they were aspects of science fiction. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction describes science fiction as a constellation of seven diverse cognitive attractions that are particularly formative of science-fictionality. These are the "seven beauties" of the title: fictive neology, fictive novums, future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the Technologiade, or the epic of technsocience's development into a global regime.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Contents

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pp. viii-

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Introduction: Science Fiction and This Moment

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pp. 1-12

“These are the days of lasers in the jungle.” 1 SF has emerged as a pervasive genre of literature — and of film, video, comics, computer graphics and games — in the postindustrial North. Indeed, it elicits intense interest in the rest of the world. It is not so much that sf has grown into this position, as the reverse: the world has grown into sf. Gertrude Stein once pronounced the United States...

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First Beauty Fictive Neology

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pp. 13-46

Signa Novi. Readers of sf anticipate words and sentences that refer to changedor alien worlds. All fantastic genres make some use of fictive neology. Heroic fantasy invents words to evoke the archaic origins of its worlds. Phantas-magoric satire delights in word play that simultaneously masks and insinuatesthe objects of its derision. Gothic and supernatural tales invoke esoteric and...

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Second Beauty Fictive Novums

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pp. 47-75

The Novum and the novum. Few critical concepts have had greater influenceon sf theory than the novum, introduced by Darko Suvin in Metamorphoses of Science Fiction as the defining trope of the genre. For Suvin the...

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Third Beauty Future History

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pp. 76-110

Representing the future. SF writers sometimes place their stories in imaginary pasts and presents, but most science fictions are futuristic. They are set in a future time vis-à-vis the author’s present, or they include an event — an invention, a discovery, a seed — that will prove to be a history-transforming novum. SF readers expect illusions of prophecy. This expectation may miss the point...

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Fourth Beauty Imaginary Science

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pp. 111-145

SF’s free science. Science is sf ’s pretext. Every quantum-info-nano-bio-cyberastro- psycho-xeno-socio-physical infodump pumps up the illusion that sf stories are dramatizations of scientific knowledge. But even in the hardest of hard sf, sf ’s science is always figurative. It is an image of science, a poetic illusion...

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Fifth Beauty The Science-Fictional Sublime

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pp. 146-181

The sense of wonder: sublime/grotesque. The cognitive beauties we have been exploring would be merely formal schemes if they did not have strong emotional attractions. SF artists work in many styles and moods, but behind all the variations is a charged background against which they come into relief. This...

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Sixth Beauty The Science-Fictional Grotesque

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pp. 182-215

The SF Grotesque. Most works of sf develop under the canopy of a vast new idea of the order and possibilities of the material universe—a sublime novum. But the idea is made real, impinging, and intimate by the protagonists’ and audiences’ encounters with concrete phenomena that disrupt their sense of...

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Seventh Beauty The Technologiade

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pp. 216-261

No story of its own? It is often said that sf has no distinctive myth or storytelling formula, that it thrives by adopting the plots of other genres, punching them up with its distinctively exotic futuristic settings. SF Westerns, detective, andcrime stories abound, as do quests, farces, romps, picaresques, Kafkaesques,political parables, philosophical fables, fractured fairy tales, surrealist...

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Concluding Unscientific Postscript The Singularity and Beyond

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pp. 262-266

While writing this book, I came to realize that it was coursing inexorably toward the Singularity. Each of the beauties seemed to be headed into this most contemporary of technoscientific myths, like tributaries into a gulf, lives into the Borg. What does this attraction say about the genre of sf, and about its...

Notes

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pp. 267-294

Bibliography

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pp. 295-315

Index

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pp. 317-323


E-ISBN-13: 9780819571526
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819568892

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2008