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A Brief Surveyof Science FictionSession 2:the Future
OsherLifelong Learning InstituteWinter 2013Dr. AgathaTaormina
1
The Future on EarthThe Future in SpaceAlien Encounters
Session Overview: The Future
Science fiction as predictionGernsbackwanted accurate predictions of the futureCampbell wanted scientific plausibilityScience fiction as inspirationScience fiction as preparation for the future
Imagine Greater
Jules VerneMoon shot inFrom the Earth to the Moon(trans. 1873): close to Cape Canaveral, FLH. G. Wells“The Land Ironclads” (1903); use of tanks in warfareThe War in the Air(1908): aerial bombingRobert Heinlein“Waldo” (1942): remote controlled devicesMultiple predictions of nuclear bombs
Some Good Guesses
Space flightMoon landingSETI: Search for Extraterrestrial IntelligenceMedical devicesHypnospraySight visorsProsthetics
Self-fulfilling Prophecies
Star Trekcommunicator and flip cell phoneStar Trektricorderand smart phone
Compare
Term coined 1943 byOssipK.Flechtheim, German refugee, professor of sociologyForecasting the near future with extrapolation from current trendsUses statistical analysis and computer simulations
Futurology
Term coined by Isaac Asimov in his Foundation TrilogyRefers to a science of predicting the future with statistical analysis of human behavior in the massRequires that humans be unaware of the analysis
Psychohistory
Thematic purposes:To speculate about technology and life stylesGlorification of science and technologyColonization of solar systemTo reflect on current eventsTo warn of disturbing trends
The Future on Earth
Utopia:an ideal societyGenerally moral or political in intentionNot really science fictionDystopia:the opposite of utopiarigid governmental oversight and controldowntrodden societytotalitarian government
Future Societies
Plato (c. 427-c. 348 B.C.) wroteThe Republic, the first utopiaThomas More coined the term "utopia" from the Greek meaning "not a place," or "nowhere“More'sUtopiawas published first in Latin (1516) and later in English (1551)
Origins
Totalitarian societiesSocieties after natural disastersFeminist societies
Subsets of Future Societies
Totalitarian governmentBreakdown in governmentNuclear warEnvironmental disasterPlagueExamplesTHX-1138The Hunger GamesThe Day After TomorrowThe Walking Dead
Types of Dystopia
Developed by Diane Martin, editor ofAurora, a fanzineTool for measuring feminist content of a work
FeministSocieites:TheMartin Scale
1) Doubts about patriarchy; women escape victimization2) Men and women as equals3) Women better than men on some levels4) Women uniformly better than men5) Can’t live with ‘em/can’t live without ‘em6) Men are tragically flawed and pitiable7) Men as slaves8) Separatism necessary for survival9) Positive depiction of lesbian/feminist utopias10) Parthenogenesis and/or scenes of castration
Levels of the Martin Scale
The solar systemSpace operaGalactic civilizations and governments
The future in space
ExplorationOften marked by emphasis on realistic technologyColonizationRevolutionExamples from filmMoonSunshineJohn Carter
Common Themes
Lots of work goes into world-buildingStart with a galactic civilization; write stories that fit into that civilization and its historyTell a large story on a large canvasFans enjoy the familiarSeriesNon-sequels set in a familiar universe
The Galaxy and Beyond
Originally derived from references to soap operas and horse operas, i.e. westerns.Refers to colorful action-adventure stories of interplanetary or interstellar conflictTypicallyUnfold on a galactic scaleInvolve spaceships, space battles, and lots of action and adventure
Space Opera
Galactic empire as frameworkRobert A. Heinlein’s Future HistoryGalactic empire as sociopolitical entityIsaac Asimov’s FoundationseriesLots of episodic science fiction television is space operaStar TrekStargateSG-1
Galactic Empires
Stories spurredby two key scientific developments:Darwin’s theory of evolution leading to the perception that different environments required different kinds of beingsThe proof of existence of other life-capable planets
AlienEncounters
First ContactCo-existenceAlien InvasionFuture War
Major Categories
War with aliensReconsideration of our own planet and societyComments on contemporary human behavior and events
Types of Stories
Contact with aliens is a way of illuminating our human interactions, our biases, and our culturesThe exploration of alien languages is a way to discuss methods of communication and the difficulty of communication
Thematic Concerns
In some of these stories aliens come to Earth; in others humans travel to alien planetsIn some of these stories the encounters are peaceful; in others either we or the aliens are aggressors and invadersIn some of these stories the encounters are public; in others, aliens attempt to keep their existence secret from all or most of the population
Nature of Alien Encounters
First contactTerm popularized by MurrayLeinster’snovelette “First Contact” (1945)Close encountersFirst categorized by astronomer J. AllenHynekin 19721st: visual sighting of a UFO2nd: visual sightings with visual effects on objects3rd: visual sighting of UFO occupants
First Contact
We receive communication from outer spaceAliens arrive with or without warningWe travel to outer space and encounter aliens
Sources of first contact
Mutually beneficialThey conquer usWe enslavethemExamples from film and televisionE.T., the ExtraterrestrialClose Encounters of the Third KindAlien NationVDistrict 9
Types of Co-existence
Thematic concernsXenophobiaThreatsto our way oflifeExamplesIndependence DayInvasion of the Body SnatchersWar of the Worlds
Alien Invasion
Focus onThe nature and training of the militaryMilitary weapons and tacticsThe nature of the enemy
Future War
A focus on religious belief and the question of whether Christ is the savior of alien civilizations as well as humansA focus on the difficulty of communicating with aliensA focus on interspecies mating
Alien Encounters Subsets
Gort!KlaatubaradanictoFromThe Day the Earth Stood StillFirst example of alien language in film“ You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the originalKlingon”—Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Examples of Alien Language
We(trans. 1924) byYevgenyZamiatinBrave New World(1932) byAldousHuxley1984(1949) by George OrwellFahrenheit 451(1953) by Ray BradburyThe Hunger Games Trilogy (2008-10) by Suzanne Collins
What to Read: Dystopia
“When It Changed” (1972) by Joanna RussHerland(magazine publication, 1915; book 1979) by Charlotte Perkins Gilmanabout an island inhabited by a race ofparthenogenic(i.e., able to reproduce by themselves) females.The Handmaid’s Tale(1985) by Margaret AtwoodThe Gate to Women’s Country(1988) by SheriS.Tepper
What to Read: Feminist Societies
“The Machine Stops” (1909) by E. M. ForsterOn the Beach(1957) byNevilShuteA Canticle forLeibowitz(1960) by WalterE.Miller,JrLucifer’s Hammer(1977) by LarryNivenand JerryPournelleThe Postman(1997 )by DavidBrinLife as We Knew It(2006) by Susan BethPfeffer
What to Read:Post-Disaster Societies
The MoonThe Moon is a Harsh Mistress(1966) by Robert HeinleinMarsA Princess of Mars(1912) by Edgar Rice BurroughsThe Martian Chronicles(1950) by Ray BradburyMan Plus (1976)byFrederikPohlThe Mars Trilogy(1993-96) by Kim Stanley Robinson
What to Read: The Solar System
Space OperaTheVorkosiganSagaShards of Honor(1986)The Warrior’s Apprentice(1986)The Culture novels of Iain M. BanksConsiderPhlebas(1987)Galactic EmpiresThe Foundation Trilogy (1952-58) by Isaac AsimovDune(1965) by Frank HerbertTheHainishnovels of Ursula K. LeGuinThe Left Hand of Darkness(1969)The Dispossessed(1974)
What to Read: Galaxies
“A Martian Odyssey” (1934) by StanleyWeinbaumChildhood’s End(1953) by Arthur C. ClarkeRendezvous With Rama(1972) by Arthur C. ClarkeThe Sparrow(1996) by MaryDoriaRussell
What to Read: First Contact
The War of the Worlds(1898) by H. G. WellsTheDorsainovels of Gordon R. DicksonSoldier, Ask Not(exp. 1967)The Honor Harrington novels of David WeberOn Basilisk Station(1992)
What to read: Future War
Starship Troopers(1959) by Robert A. HeinleinThe Forever War(1974) by JoeHaldemanCobra(1985) by TimothyZahnOld Man’s War(2005) by JohnScalzi
Heinlein and His Followers
ReligionThePerelandratrilogy (1938-45) by C.S. LewisA Case of Conscience(1958) by JamesBlishStranger in a Strange Land(1961) by Robert HeinleinLanguageBabel-17(1966) by Samuel R. DelanyNative Tongue(1984) by Suzette Haden ElginEmbassytown(2011) by ChinaMievilleInterspecies MatingLilith’s Brood (Xenogenesistrilogy) by Octavia Butler (1987-9)
More toRead
Medical InterventionsGeneticsMutationsCloningArtificial intelligenceComputersRobotsAndroidsCyborgs
Coming NextWeek:Identity

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A Brief Survey of Science Fiction - olli.gmu.edu