Freedman, Carl. 1987. “Science Fiction and Critical Theory.” Science Fiction Studies 14(2): 180-200. (Available online here)
Roberts, Adam. “Chapter 1: Definititions” The History of Science Fiction. London: Palgrave Macmillan Limited, 2016.
Suvin, Darko. “On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre.” College English 34, no. 3 (1972): 372–82.
Jameson, Frederic. 2002. “Radical Fantasy.” Historical Materialism 10(4): 273-80.
Williams, Raymond. 1978. “Utopia and Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 5(3):203-14. (PDF Download)
1. Is it possible to create a work that is simultaneously realist and science fiction?
2. Do the phenomena within the work need to be given a scientific and rational explanation for the work to be considered Sci-Fi?
3. Is Pixar’s ‘Monsters Inc.’ a work of Sci-Fi?
1. Why is SF a genre instead of a style?
2. Compared with other genres, why is it especially difficult to accurately define SF?
3. Who has the final say on the genre of a piece? The authors, audiences, critics, scholars, publishers, or influential organizations?
1) Does Sci-Fi aim to create worlds and characters that can be timeless? Or, at some point does it age itself.
2) Are Sci-Fi readers more realistic individuals or do they prefer to see the worst scenarios so their reality doesn’t seem so bleak?
3) Science Fiction seems to have many definitions, and different ways to define the genre, but at the end of the day don’t we all just have our own personal definitions that attract us to Science Fiction?
1. Can scientific theories such as the Oedipus complex that are widely accepted, but which aren’t yet scientifically proven, be categorized as science-fiction? Scientifically, time-travel is impossible, but if that is still considered as science-fiction, shouldn’t fantasy/magic be considered sf too?
2. After reading all these definitions of sf and how it came to be, I became more confused about how the critics and theorists viewed science-fiction before the 20th century, but more convinced that science-fiction as a genre, should not be defined. Do you think we should spend so much of our time to define something that encompasses things, stories, etc. that are beyond explanation?
3. Do works of science-fiction have an expiration date?
1. If machines ultimately alienate humans from the modes of production, but are simultaneously portrayed as becoming human in Sci-fi text- What does that say about the future of being human? What qualities of ‘human’ must machines adapt?
2. How does Science Fiction play a role in our collective liberation? Does simply confronting our possible futures allow us to be free?
3. If Third World realism naturally depicts Science Fiction, as stated in Science Fiction and Critical Theory, How does Science Fiction function from a non-western perspective?
1. In the definition of Science Fiction, there is a modification suggesting the SF is “a shared game of signification that readers can apply to text” and the example sentences as “her world explodes” , “He turned on his left side”. It occurs to me that is it possible under certain circumstances the imaginary picture can actually be triggered by our minds bearing diverse experiences on speculative fiction which means that the manipulation of imagination is under our own control and we see different worlds from the same fiction?
2. SF can be projecting the different development backgrounds. If the gap between different regions has been broadened to extreme, is it possible that the present reality of some regions is already SF for the regions laying back?
3. How to distinguish between dystopia when the story context is actually a speculative future where a mixture of technological influence and political structure exist?
1. Darko takes on a critical take on the definition of science fiction as opposed to fantasy. Is he placing SF at a higher level of importance than the former?
2. What does Adams mean about “Instrumenting the logos”? How has SF created a space for truth to pre propagated as an “instrument”
3. In what was in the Man in the High Castle a soft-SF novel vs pure SF novel. What does that mean about the limits of the genre and the projection of where the genre is heading?
1. Sci-fi is often relegated to the realm of “genre fiction” with snide remarks regarding its lack of realistic placement in human life. Considering that traditional myths belong to fantastical realms and modern belief systems, including Abrahamic religions, highlight non-realist events, could the denigration of sci-fi be tied to a fear that as humans our essential thoughts, systems, and beliefs have not evolved beyond that of our ancient forefathers and will not evolve in the future? Doesn’t the faith of a predictable future point to the connecting thread of the human factor?
2. Now that we have truly entered the “scientific age”, how has sci-fi changed? Are we still using sci-fi to predict future technologies and their implications or does modern sci-fi achieve or seek to address something new?
3. In which ways do sci-fi and fantasy converge and diverge? Both use non-realist spaces with fantasy often being conflated with the reimagination of European folklore (the past) and sci-fi not so much tied to hard science or scientific discovery (the future) but a specific aesthetic (Star Wars). What examples are there of fantasy set in the present without being widely considered magical realism? Can sci-fi comfortably take place in the past? Can we give a definition to sci-fi that does not engage with science in a critical way? How can you separate the critical function of a genre from its aesthetic? Ie. Gothic literature addressing ideas of sin, morality, damnation, and literature that features Gothic castles?
1. To what degree can the definition of science fiction be stretched? Where do you think the line is drawn between the science fiction and fantasy genres?
2. Is there a way for science fiction to project an idea for a utopian future without that utopia having darker underpinnings?
3. How do you think today’s generational shifts will impact the way science fiction is written by our generations once we’re older?
1. In response to the reference in “Science fiction and Critical Theory” to the distinction between Sci-fi and realist literature, I have read a statement that Sci-fi is very fundamentally related to realism, only that it is “prior” to reality. That is, at the time of Sci-fi’s emergence, traditional realism like Balzac’s had little punch, but Sci-fi broadened people’s reality once again by describing unconventional, non-traditional space-time, i.e., can I regard sci-fi as not fantasy, but a realizable reality?
2. If I understand correctly, “Radical Fantasy”, through its reference to Feuerbach’s philosophy, states that Sci-fi is a radical fantasy, i.e., that elements of a common fantasy like religion are in fact an exaggeration of the productivity of human beings themselves. So, does this antecedently place one’s thesis under a Marxist perspective? We all know that Marxism is a refinement of Feuerbach’s philosophy as well as a critical inheritance of Hegel’s philosophy, which fundamentally changes people’s perception of modernity; after Marxism, we actually have no other philosophical system that can explain the modern world. In other words, our understanding of Sci-fi will inevitably lead to modernity, production, alienation, and other themes, as Carl Freedman puts it. How, then, can we understand Sci-fi from a perspective that is closer to the text?
3. We have been assuming that Sci-fi is describing the future, but I think that the retrospection of Eden is also an important force in Sci-fi, and perhaps the emphasis on the “future” began with the advent of Hegel? I think his philosophy requires finding an end of history for the absolute spirit. Moreover, I think the spiritual orientation of Eastern science fiction and Western science fiction is different, but how can we judge which narrative is purely Eastern? For example, How does the East tell such science fiction stories as “War of the World”? For example, “Three Bodies Issue”? It is also an invasion story, but with a different development. It is more about establishing a new interpretation of the order of the universe, so it aims to tell the story of changes all over the world. It is easy for the West to remain pure oneself in its own story because it has not been influenced much by the East, but for the East, there is no longer a perspective of decolonization, and we have to accept the reality that we have been changed and are being changed by the West. It is easy to think that it is much easier to refer to the West than to the West to us in the face of the world landscape.
1. In 1987, Carl Freedman claims that “Third world Science-Fiction” doesn’t exist. How historically accurate is that? He also claims that “to live in the Third World is virtually to live in an SF situation”, which seems far-fetched to me, but even if this is true, is this really an obstacle to the production of SF?
2. About Darko Suvin’s novum: does the novum have to be technical or even scientific? Does extrapolating rigorously on a “magical” or “unexplained” novum also qualifies as science-fiction?Gamers nowoday are widely familiar with the notion of so-called “psionic powers” and the like. This is obviously magic but could it still be science-fiction from a structural pov, as long as the heuristic method remains the same?
3. When asked to write an assignment on a classic Hollywood (30’s-70’s) genre in undergrad, I chose science-fiction, only to find carved in red ink on my sheet “SF is not a Hollywood genre”. Indeed, SF was largely divided “monster film” (Frankenstein), , “space exploration” (Destination:Moon!), “technological fables” (Metropolis) etc. Given the VAST heterogeneity of SF genres, is it at all relevant to try and unify all of these largely varied work under one label that has the pretention of grouping aesthetic, structural, methodologic and thematic criteria?