Mad Max: Fury Road touches on a timely element of science fiction that was we saw touched on in Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower: climate change. Mad Max envisions a world in which humans, through excessive use of technology and fuel, have depleted the earth of its natural resources and left earth’s inhabitants in a bitter struggle over the remaining water and petroleum. The battle over the earth’s resources leaves the humans in a barbaric state, in which the men treat women and other men as slaves. The lack of resources forces severe competition between factions, which is dramatically shown throughout the film.
Earlier science fiction does not focus on this topic since climate change had not entered the public eye and was not in popular discourse. As we have seen throughout this course, science fiction is a reflection of the issues and ideologies prevalent of the era; as such, it is unlikely that writers in the 40’s and 50’s would have written extensively about an apocalypse resulting from climate change. However, Mad Maxis one of the first works of science fiction we’ve seen from the 21stcentury, where climate change is one of the most pressing issues of the day. The characters entire lives revolve around finding and controlling the water and petroleum, and they are willing to risk everything to try and gain control of them.
SF has a long history of utopian and dystopian imaginings. If the larger world of Parable is clearly dystopian, would you say the Earthseed community emerging at the novel’s end has utopian traits? Why or why not?
Octavia Butler published Parable of the Sower in 1993, twenty-five years ago, as a critique of political and economic trends of the moment. Can you think of an element of Butler’s world that could be seen as a critique of our present politics and/or economics? Don’t feel obliged to talk about more than one similarity or point of comparison.
Ursula LeGuin intended for her Gethenians to appear genderless when outside of kemmer. Do you think she succeeds? Do you see these people as male, female, or gendered in some other way? If she succeeds, how does she convince you of their genderlessness? If she fails, is that a problem intrinsic to the text or a simply insurmountable difficulty insofar as many readers, (like the narrator of Chapter 7) find it extremely difficult or undesirable to avoid seeing gender wherever they look?
LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness probably creates the most fully realized of the alternative worlds and futures we have seen so far this semester, but it’s not an easy world to comprehend. What do you think is the single most important thing to know about this world? Why is it more important than other facts or customs to a reader’s understanding?
What are one or two specific ways in which Delany believes that SF is fundamentally different from what he calls “mundane literature”?
Mar 31st, 2014 by Michael Newbury Edit |
How would you position James Tiptree’s work relative to the pulp SF we have read to this point? What is one way in which “The Women Men Don’t See” is either different from or very similar to the style or content of earlier magazine stories (“The Roads Must Roll,” “The Cold Equations,” and “Helen O’Loy,” for example) that we have read? In particular, you might think about the explicit effort to think about gender conflicts and negotiations.
The readings, “Harrison Bergeron” and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” by Kurt Vonnegut, are very different than the previous science fiction works we have read so far. Rather than fixating on narratives about space exploration, alien contact, or even technological advances or discoveries, these two readings seem to be ideas about a dystopian future. As a matter of fact, they seem to all fixate around how absurd technological advances can become without human supervision. This begins to counter the previous perspective held that technology benefits the human race, and can, in fact, become a warning against trying to obtain a perfect world.
This clearly seen in “Harrison Bergeron and “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow”. Upon imagining the future, one would first imagine any new inventions or devices created as a way to support our daily life or further improve it. Yet, the exact opposite is being described in “Harrison Bergeron”. I don’t believe many people would wish to live in a society where one is restricted and managed over something they had absolutely no control over, like how smart they are or how they look. Although it was presented that this “better” society was free of sadness and competition, the once exciting and full of life future envisioned by so many is no more. Instead, the future is present as a false concept of improvement as the world becomes bland and boring. Similarly, “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” demonstrates the repercussions of abusing technology to define the laws of nature. Yes, people get to live a longer life, but at what cost. Future generations are miserable; food is terrible due to the overpopulation. This sounds like a miserable and horrible future many would not want to look forward towards.
In 1979, reviewers saw Alien as a radical departure from more traditional SF films such as Star Wars or TV shows such as the original Star Trek. How can we see this change in the ship itself, the Nostromo? How would you describe the ship? What does it look like, inside and out? How do characters move through it? Does it align with your idea of space travel in SF or differ from it?
We’ve discussed the emergence of the SF pulps and the distinctions between “hard” and “soft” SF that emerged in the 1940s and 50s. Does Lem’s novel read like a pulp SF story or not? If so, why? If not, why not?