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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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Animals in Science Fiction (Chris Pak)


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Chris Pak

Animals in Science Fiction

Societies depend on animals as an essential part of the planet’s ecosystems, as food, subjects for experimentation, pets, entertainment, and as a way to think about what it means to be human (DeMello 2012; Herzog 2010; Ingold 1988). Research in human–animal studies has become increasingly urgent in the light of the extinction events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly Earth’s sixth and ongoing mass extinction event, which can be traced to society’s exploitation of resources and the increasing severity of the effects of climate change (Ceballos et al. 2015; Kolbert 2014; Leakey and Lewin 1996). These events point to significant shifts in our cultural understanding of human–animal relationships over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The growth of the urban population, the decline of the rural, and the expansion of science and technology as ways to mediate between culture and nature involve new institutions and practices that influence our relationships with animals. These developments are rooted in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but the exponential growth of scientific knowledge and technological capabilities transformed these influences in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Science fiction is not popularly associated with inquiries into the animal relationship to individual humans or to societies, nor is it thought of as a locus of critique regarding the attitudes, stances and orientations toward different animals or classes of animals. Yet SF does take the question...

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