Oct 29 2009

Science Fiction: The Last Piece of My Orals Puzzle?

My brain has been racing with orals/PhD application ideas and something just occured to me tonight: why in the world am I not looking at critical theory on science fiction as a genre? This is a huge oversight on my part. I mean, if I’m planning on looking at all of these example of speculative science in early American literature how could I not look at theory about science fiction as a genre? Plus, I think the sci-fi angle could also be an interesting way to begin my personal statement. It’ll help me contextualize my interests in these wacky, semi-obscure literary texts via a more approachable known, body of scholarship.

The impression I’ve got thus far of sci-fi theory is that it’s really messy. It’s difficult to really define what sci-fi literature is, but it’s definitely not just Star Trek and the Matrix triology. Criticism seems to be concerned with the history of this term “science fiction” and what it means for a text to exhibit sci-fi qualities before the actual genre, as a term, exists. Call it proto-sci-fi fiction, if you will. And if texts exibit moments of science, is this enough for them to be considered science fiction? Must a book take place in a sterile futuristic world where babies are concieved via external uteri and big brother is always watching in order to be considered sci-fi? What if the books takes place in an early American New Jersey, like Sheppard Lee, with no time traveling devices and no Marxist undertones? Can this work be considered science fiction? Is it sci-fi because it uses science to enter political questions about race and class? Hmm, I don’t know. I don’t know.

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