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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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Science Fiction and Climate Change (Andrew Milner)

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Andrew Milner

Science Fiction and Climate Change

Climate fiction has increasingly become a matter for public commentary in both scholarly and popular circles. In academia, Amitav Ghosh’s 2015 Berlin Family Lectures at the University of Chicago mounted a very strong case for the necessity of climate fiction and an equally strong indictment of ‘literary fiction’ for its failure to rise to this challenge. In the media, the Taiwan-based blogger and activist Daniel Bloom has been an indefatigable propagandist on behalf of ‘cli-fi’, a term he coined in 2007 (Merchant). For Ghosh and Bloom contemporary climate fiction is essentially ‘about’ the kind of climate change described as anthropogenic or human induced. For Ghosh it is cause for regret that such fiction has been banished from the literary mainstream into the ‘generic outhouse’ of SF (2016: 24); for Bloom, it is cause for celebration that cli-fi has begun to emerge as a new genre in its own right. But contemporary cli-fi is actually most plausibly understood as a sub-genre of SF. Certainly, its texts normally satisfy the criteria stipulated in Darko Suvin’s famous definition of the genre as ‘distinguished by the narrative dominance or hegemony of a fictional “novum” (novelty, innovation) validated by cognitive logic’ (1979: 63).

Cli-fi in this sense is a comparatively recent SF sub-genre by no means co-extensive with the older tradition of climate fiction that stretches back to the stories of Ūta-napišti in the Sha naqba īmuru...

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