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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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Disability in Science Fiction (Thomas Connolly)

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Thomas Connolly

Disability in Science Fiction

‘The genre of science fiction’, writes Michael Bérubé, ‘is as obsessed with disability as it is with space travel and alien contact’ (568). Initially, this might seem like a hyperbolic statement – yet a quick glance through some key works of SF soon reveals the ubiquity of disability in the genre. Luke Skywalker has his hand severed in A New Hope and replaced with a bionic substitute (see Figure 36). Professor X makes use of a wheelchair, while several other X-Men possess powers that can easily be read as analogues for disability. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? features ‘specials’, individuals with (implied) ‘low’ cognitive capabilities. Case, the protagonist of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, has his central nervous system medically impaired in order to prevent him from interfacing with cyberspace. John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids depicts a cosmic event in which the population of the Earth is rendered blind. Even Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can be read as a coded commentary on disability: the physical appearance of the Creature is prejudged by a society conditioned to accept certain kinds of bodies as ‘normal’, while James Whale’s reimagining of the Creature in the 1930s reimagines the Creature as a socially maligned individual with non-normative cognitive abilities.

Thus it appears that, once you begin looking for it, disability can indeed be found throughout SF. Alongside its ubiquity, however, what is equally remarkable about...

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