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Shockwaves of Possibility

Essays on Science Fiction, Globalization, and Utopia

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Phillip E. Wegner

Shockwaves of Possibility explores the deep utopianism of one of the most significant modern cultural practices: science fiction. The author contends that utopianism is not simply a motif in SF, but rather is fundamental to its narrative dynamics. Drawing upon a rich array of theory and criticism in SF and utopian studies, the book opens with a global periodizing history that shows the inseparability of SF from developments in other cultural fields. It goes on to examine literature, film, television, comics, and animation in order to demonstrate SF’s unique effectiveness for grappling with the upheavals brought about by globalization. Shockwaves of Possibility proves SF’s vitality in the brave new world of the twenty-first century, as it illuminates the contours of the present and educates our desire for a radically other future.
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Chapter Two: If Everything Means Something Else: Technology, Allegory, and Events in Roadside Picnic and Stalker

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CHAPTER TWO

If Everything Means Something Else: Technology, Allegory, and Events in Roadside Picnic and Stalker

My title for this chapter comes from a passage early in Fredric Jameson’s The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (1992), one of his first and still most significant interventions in the debates concerning the phenomenon that would soon more popularly be referred to as globalization.1 Jameson writes, “If everything means something else, then so does technology” (11). What Jameson is referring to here is the allegorical investments of any figure of technology, which in and of themselves, like the figures of nature they seem to displace, are devoid of significance. Of course, allegory itself is one such figure of technology, and as Jonathan Culler points out, the opposition of allegory and symbol, like that of fancy and imagination, served for Coleridge precisely as one way of coding the increasingly charged opposition of technology and nature (Culler, “Literary History” 263).

Jameson’s claim functions as another one of his productive axioms, the unfalsifiable “all” statements that are at the basis of any significant theoretical intervention: that is, our point of departure is the absolute presupposition that all figures of technology, and especially those found in science fiction, mean something else. This axiom also refers back to a similar proposition advanced in Jameson’s earlier landmark analysis of contemporary culture, the 1984 essay “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” In this essay, Jameson...

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