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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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Preface to the Classics Edition: Contradiction and Resistance (2016)



… pity poor fleshand trees, poor stars and stones, but never thisfine specimen of hypermagicalultraomnipotence. We doctors knowa hopeless case if – listen: there’s a hellof a good universe next door; let’s go


Is the Earth so?Let her change then.Let the Earth quicken,Search until you know.



When Ernst Bloch decided the Stalinist East Germany had become too stifling for him and his work and defected to West Germany, he chose for his first course at the University of Tübingen an Introduction to Philosophy, that is, a summa – overview and development – of his 50 years’ work on the philosophy of utopian hope, its Marxist possibilities of realisation, and its categories. One of his developments was the introduction of the pair Widerspruch und Widerstand, contradiction and resistance (it sounds nicer in German, since in it both terms begin with wider – against, anti or ← xxxvii | xxxviii →contra, literally: counter-speaking and counter-standing).1 Both are variants of differential opposition (without which, paired with identity, writing and presumably thinking itself are impossible); both “would not exist were there not in the world something that should not be.”2 Contradiction is classically the key word of Marxian dialectics: as his teacher Hegel, who erected it into a central logical term, put it in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, the marvellous appears where there are contradictions, and earlier it was also the pulsation...

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