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Metamorphoses of Science Fiction

On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre


Darko Suvin

Edited By Gerry Canavan

Returning to print for the first time since the 1980s, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction is the origin point for decades of literary and theoretical criticism of science fiction and related genres. Darko Suvin’s paradigm-setting definition of SF as «the literature of cognitive estrangement» established a robust theory of the genre that continues to spark fierce debate, as well as inspiring myriad intellectual descendants and disciples. Suvin’s centuries-spanning history of the genre links SF to a long tradition of utopian and satirical literatures crying out for a better world than this one, showing how SF and the imagination of utopia are now forever intertwined. In addition to the 1979 text of the book, this edition contains three additional essays from Suvin that update, expand and reconsider the terms of his original intervention, as well as a new introduction and preface that situate the book in the context of the decades of SF studies that have followed in its wake.
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“The Suvin Event”



In “What Is an Author?” (1969), Michel Foucault proposes a category of authorship that goes beyond the creation of a single text: the “founder of discursivity,” who produces “the possibilities and rules for the formation of other texts.”1 Founders of discursivity establish both the theoretical template for the works that follow in the tradition they have called into existence, as well as setting the terms for what will not be included in that tradition, what will be thought of as beyond or outside or heretical to the newly created discourse. Foucault’s primary examples, Freud and Marx, suggest a heuristic that might partially distinguish this kind of foundational thinking, the widespread adoption of one’s name as an adjective, which might in turn prompt us to recognize other examples beyond the two he gives: “Nietzschean,” “Lacanian,” “Deleuzean,” almost certainly even “Foucauldian” itself. In contrast to the vision of “foundation” that one might find in the sciences – in which “the act that founds […] is on an equal footing with its future transformations” – the founder of discursivity becomes a “heterogeneous” origin point to which “its subsequent transformations” must situate themselves in relation.2 We do not seek to explain how, despite their apparent gaps in knowledge or incorrect calculations, Galileo or Newton really understood modern physics in its fullness after all – and yet this is precisely the apologetics that is characteristically performed on behalf of the founder of discursivity, whose apparent errors are always only the chance for...

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