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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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Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014) – Science Fiction Vampires (Simon Bacon)


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Simon Bacon

Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2014)

Vampires would seem to be more closely linked to superstition and the supernatural than science fiction. Indeed, Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula was depicted as being oppositional to science and technology. Yet the immortal beings’ innate tendencies to embody anxiety around otherness, and to envision humanity beyond the confines of its present state, see them able to embody characteristics of both science fiction and horror.

When thinking of science fiction and the blood- or energy-sucking undead, one might initially think of the more obvious vampiric entities from outer space, as seen in texts such as H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds (1897)1 and films such as Mario Bava’s Planet of the Vampires (1965), Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce (1985), or even Alex Proya’s Dark City (1998). Similarly, more Earthbound examples generally take one to the vampire/zombie horde of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (1954) and its many re- fashionings, which see science spiralling out of control and creating and/or releasing deadly mutations out into the world. This is also a way beyond the traditional configurations of what is considered human, positioning ‘degeneration’ as evolution – The Last Man on Earth (Ragona: 1964) in particular uses this idea from Matheson’s novel. However, the text which best captures many of the unique qualities and anxieties at the intersection of science fiction and horror is Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina, from 2014.

Ex Machina...

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