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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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Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011) – Posthumanism (Lars Schmeink)

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Lars Schmeink

Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011)

There is an argument to be made that one of science fiction’s key concerns is the question of what it is to be human, and therefore that a form of (post)humanist thinking lies at the heart of the genre. After all, one school of SF scholarship holds Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) as the genre’s origin text, dealing prototypically with ‘the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe’ (Aldiss 1973: 8; cf. Freedman). And Frankenstein certainly reflects upon the constitution of the human: the monster, scientifically created by man, but rejected as his equal, ponders his own state of being by asking, ‘Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination?’ (Shelley 128). Ever since this origin point, SF has dealt with questions of human nature and what to include in the definition of this category. But the genre has gone further, negotiating not just the ideal but also the changes to the boundaries established as human: changes that ‘are often the results of scientific discoveries and inventions that are applied by human beings to their own social evolution’ (Csicsery-Ronay 2003: 113). As a being created through scientific progress (inspired by Luigi Galvani’s research in bioelectricity) and both physically and cognitively superior to humans, Frankenstein’s monster represents the posthuman in its colloquial definition: a being replacing the human, coming after the human,...

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