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Sci-Fi

A Companion

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Edited By Jack Fennell

What is Sci-Fi?

Science fiction is a non-realist genre that foregrounds a sense of material plausibility, insisting that despite seeming outlandish, it is consonant with history and the laws of nature. By turns subtle and bombastic, sci-fi revels in discovery and revelation, whether through human ingenuity or world-altering paradigm shifts. The same impulse informs both the idealism of Star Trek and the existential terror of Frankenstein.

Each chapter of this book examines a specific trope or theme through a different critical lens – including eco-criticism, feminism and historicism – while also providing a historical overview of the genre, from its disputed origins to the pulp era, the New Wave, and the exponential growth of Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurisms. Revered masters such as Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Iain M. Banks are considered alongside newer talents, including Rebecca Roanhorse and N. K. Jemisin. Other chapters provide overviews of different media, from television (Doctor Who, Westworld) to comics/manga (2000AD, Métal Hurlant), video games (Deus Ex: Human Revolution) and theatre (Alistair McDowall’s X).

Sci-Fi: A Companion not only provides an accessible introduction to sci-fi for general readers and researchers alike, but also illuminates new approaches to a familiar genre.

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H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1936) – Weird Fiction (Juan L. Pérez-de-Luque)

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Juan L. Pérez-de-Luque

H. P. Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ (1936)1

It is not a new discovery that secrets are an essential part of horror and Weird literature, and H. P. Lovecraft’s narrative is not an exception: there are monsters hidden in a farm attic in Dunwich; there are secret ancient cities that hide the origins of humanity in the South Pole; there are characters that hide awful truths, such as Pickman’s models or the Old Man that owns a terrible picture at home. However, secrecy and mystery are also integral to SF, a genre that is nominally all about investigation and discovery, and Lovecraft’s work – with its unknowable alien gods and unfathomable scales of time and space – is ideal for demonstrating the kinship of these genres. This chapter will explore how the secrets present in Lovecraft’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’ configure a complex communitarian development that can be read from different perspectives, fulfilling several of the criteria proposed by Jean-Luc Nancy, Matei Calinescu and Maurice Blanchot (see Figure 4).

In the particular case of ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, there are two key secrets, interconnected but of a different nature, that completely shape the plot and the narration. The first one is the secret held in the seaport of Innsmouth. The interbreeding between humans and the fishlike ‘deep ones’, brought about by the town patriarch and cult leader Obed Marsh, is the cause of the town’s isolation; this...

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