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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 Archives (Jeremy Brett)

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Jeremy Brett

Science Fiction Archives

Libraries and archives are institutions representative of their particular historical and social moment. That is to say, as Terry Cook and Joan M. Schwartz once noted, they ‘are not passive storehouses of old stuff, but active sites where social power is negotiated, contested, confirmed’ (2002). By extension, memory is not something found or collected in archives, but something that is made, and continually re-made’. There has always been a great power in libraries and archives to shape the historical narrative simply by virtue of what they collect – or, in many cases, refuse or neglect to collect. Although traditionally archivists’ and librarians’ views of themselves hold that we are neutral distributors of information, objective professionals who exercise no prejudice or subjective decisions in choosing what we preserve, that is far from the case in reality. No library outside the pages of a Borges story will be able to collect absolutely everything ever published or created, no matter what the subject. No information management system yet exists that could arrange, describe, and make accessible all possible material on virtually any topic.

As a result of these physical and technological limits, every library and every archive makes conscious decisions about the kinds of materials it will collect. This necessary subjectivity has serious and lasting impact on the creation of historical memory. Libraries and archives that collect SF and fantasy-related materials have the same influence on future generations’ understanding...

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