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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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New Worlds and Jerry Cornelius (1964–1976) – The New Wave (Tom Dillon)

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Tom Dillon

New Worlds and Jerry Cornelius (1964–1976)

The ‘New Wave’ was a loose association of UK and US writers, initially based around the London SF magazine New Worlds under the editorship of Michael Moorcock, during the mid- to late 1960s (see Figure 7). This movement included such authors and anthologists as J. G. Ballard, Brian W. Aldiss, Thomas M. Disch, Pamela Zoline, James Sallis, Damon Knight, Judith Merril, Harlan Ellison, and Samuel R. Delany. New Wave writing is generally characterized by the inclusion of a range of images taken from popular culture and the wider media landscape, set within experimental forms, often depicting societal decline through the metaphor of entropy (the movement of energy from high to low levels of concentration and order). The movement aimed to both expand the SF idiom and to add avant-garde techniques to the genre, to better represent contemporary society.

Though a succinct definition, almost every clause has been questioned, both by those involved, and by the host of reviewers, critics, and academics who have sought to understand the ephemeral but influential movement. Its periodization in the 1960s has been problematized by Rob Latham, who has shown how in the US, writers such as Fritz Leiber and Philip José Farmer had included challenging subject matter as early as 1950 (Latham 2006: 252). In the UK, writers such as J. G. Ballard, and Brian W. Aldiss had been experimenting with form and content in...

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