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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 the Anthropocene (Mark Bould)

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Mark Bould

Science Fiction and the Anthropocene

Somewhere in the African veldt, a hominid ape uplifted into sentience by an alien monolith hurls a bone into the air; 4 million years later, in 2001, a nuclear weapons platform orbits the Earth. The entire Anthropocene (apart from its final couple of years, in which humans again encounter the alien technology and are uplifted into posthumanity) is to be found between the frames on either side of Stanley Kubrick’s celebrated match cut. Of course, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is not the only SF text to be interested in the origins and ends of humankind (the anthropos). Numerous novels, from Jack London’s Before Adam (1907) to Stephen Baxter’s Evolution (2003), explore the emergence of Homo sapiens as a species, and others, from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) to Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood trilogy (1987–1989), contemplate our further evolution into posthuman daughter species.

However, the ‘Anthropocene’ designates not the era of Homo sapiens but the period in which human activity has altered significant geological conditions and processes. The term has not yet been recognized as a geological epoch by either the International Union of Geological Sciences or the International Commission on Stratigraphy, and its precise parameters are still open to debate. But it has taken on a life of its own outside of official ruminations as a way of talking about the devastating impact on the biosphere of burning fossil...

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