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A Companion


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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Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s Westworld (2016–present) – Virtual Life (Matteo Barbagallo)


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Matteo Barbagallo

Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s Westworld (2016–present)

Have you ever thought about behaving in a way that counters the established social conventions? Have you wondered how would it feel to let your instincts loose without giving up on rationality, unifying the Dionysian and Apollonian impulses? Jonathan Nolan, J. J. Abrams and Lisa Joy have considered all these questions in Westworld.

For those not familiar with it, Westworld is a TV show produced by HBO and based on the film of the same name, directed by Michael Crichton (see Figure 12). The titular Westworld, modelled after popular media representations of the American Wild West, is one of many high-tech theme parks present in the show’s world, in which robots called ‘hosts’ entertain human guests. The guests enter the park knowing that they can do anything they wish: they can follow scripted adventures, in which the hosts have been pre-programmed with certain behaviours and responses to tell an immersive story, or they can simply ignore the plotlines to interact with and even kill the hosts, with the certainty that none of the latter will hurt them in return.

This freedom of action is not something new: virtual life spaces have existed for years. The first ones that spring to mind are Second Life, Habbo Hotel, The Sims Online and so on, up to more fantastic examples, such as World of Warcraft or The Elder Scrolls Online. These...

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