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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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Science Fiction, Metaphor, Parable, and Chronotope (with the Bad Conscience of Reaganism)



This essay, which I consider to be an essential “socioformalist” addition to and extension of my “poetics” of SF, was written first for a conference in Spring 1984 at the Université de Nice in France, organized by Denise Terrel-Fauconier and her colleagues there, on Metaphor in SF, at a time when I was often in France. I also got waist-deep into studies of metaphor, concluding here that metaphor is not an ornamental excrescence but a specific cognitive organon; such a focus culminated in my extensive discussion of Brecht’s Life of Galileo in various essays (I lectured on it in Europe and Hong Kong 1986–88, published two essays in 1990, and brought it to a head in The Cambridge Companion to Brecht, 1994), and it has been a constant undercurrent of my work since the 80s. My conclusion was that “In any prose tale, it must be possible to verify examined aspects of the central propositions which have by means of coherence, plenitude, and novelty created the narrative universe of that tale.” In particular, I fastened – both for SF and for drama, as can also be seen in a number of M.A.s written under my supervision at that time – on the parable, not only in its ancestral short form but as the depth shape of larger literary works, and on an action developing in space-time or chronotope, which importantly involves at each step choices (and narrative agents, with which I was much concerned from the...

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