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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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The Thirteenth Doctor, Doctor Who (2017–present) – Gender Roles and Sexism (Alec Charles)

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Alec Charles

The Thirteenth Doctor, Doctor Who (2017–present)

Despite the genre’s extensive associations with puerile entertainment, the most effective and enduring SF has always offered nuanced and complex perspectives on gender. As the works of such artists as Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Joanna Russ, Rona Munro and Tanith Lee clearly attest, SF has never been the exclusive province of adolescent male geeks, nerds or ‘fanboys’, nor is it an unequivocally and irrevocably patriarchal genre. SF has long explored issues of gender, often influenced by the speculative complexities of feminism, post-structuralism and psychoanalysis. Now that popular screen SF is catching up with its literary antecedents, we are witnessing the suddenly strange and wonderful fruits of its ideological conflictedness Yet, perhaps surprisingly, this is a set of issues with which such franchises as Star Trek and Doctor Who have been engaging and wrestling, fruitfully, for some time.

December 2017 saw the elevation of Daisy Ridley to the status of lead (and last surviving) Jedi (see Figure 32) and the accession of Jodie Whittaker to the role of lead (and once last surviving) Time Lord. Star Wars stalwart Mark Hamill had been reported as unhappy with the way his protagonist had been obliged to relinquish his lightsabre, as Ridley’s Rey moved centre stage. On 22 December 2017 the Daily Mail quoted him asserting that his character in The Last Jedi was ‘not [his] Luke Skywalker’. Many Star Wars devotees meanwhile...

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