So What is Science Fiction? Themes and contexts part 1

Science fiction or science fact? For me it’s a case of science fact to come… It’s a speculative future based around what is already known, what is being discovered and possibly what  could be if  humans continue with over consumption or certain kinds of technological advancement.

According to KING & KRZYWINSKA science fiction can be broken up into different themes. I will look at each of these in turn over the next week or two:-

Human versus science (technology)

Dystopian versus Utopia

Travelling in space and through time

Gender and sex

Images of the scientist: from nerd to madmen

Others: Aliens, Cyborgs and Artificial Intelligences

Horror

post modern

“Spectacle and speculation sum up two key dimensions of the genre. In imaginatively figuring the future(or an alternative past or present) science fiction films can be seen to some extent as measures of the hopes and fears of the cultures in which the films are produced and consumed”(KING, G., KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000)

I think that this statement does go some way to explain what the genre is and  the reasons behind the popularity of science fiction as a whole.

It is educating and allowing us to test our fears, push them to the limits. Science fiction is about the good and bad in society and my project  sub genre of the dystopian and post apocalyptic story  takes the audience or reader into the realms of terror, albeit as a result of man  or as an act of God ( meteors, earthquakes, viruses).

“Many science fiction films can be read as explorations of the fate of humanity in a world often depicted as increasingly dominated by the products of science, technology and rationality.” (KING, G.,KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000)

A brief description of the themes:-

Human versus science (technology)

Within this theme we see films that show the central character as a human, usually fighting against or having to deal with technological advancements, good or bad including aliens, cyborgs, artificial intelligence etc.. They often use the fear of technology as storyline and show the potential or fate of humanity. These stories usually show human emotion and intuition as obsolete and the rational thought of science as the dominant  force.

Dystopian versus Utopian

Two complete opposite worlds. Utopia is shown as perfect untroubled worlds in which there is no crime or disease. Science is seen as the saviour of mankind. These worlds are idealistic but are often  soulless and less human. In Utopia, the scientist is heroic and a visionary. But, there is a tendency to use the utopian film to show that perfect usually means oppression.

“Science is supposed to offer a means of challenging ancient superstitions, beliefs and prejudices, providing a more rational way of understanding and behaving” (KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000. p 13)

But this approach to science removes the human and is a form of oppression. This leads to dystopia.

logans

Image above from Logan’s Run (1976) picture courtesy of MGM available at http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3395655680/tt0074812?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_3

A perfect example of utopian becoming dystopian, an idealistic life with one draw back–that life has to end at the age of  30.

Dystopian worlds are utopian worlds that have failed. In these films science and the scientist are seen as evil. Technology is a threat to  humanity which in turn puts the human and human emotions back in the centre of the story. This is probably one reason why Dystopia is more dominant in cinema as the characters are more believable and easy to relate to. It also provides the emotion needed for good story telling.

“Any kind of realised utopia might be rather tedious., lacking the tension and conflict often basic to narrative” (KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000. p 16)

Both the themes of human versus science and dystopia versus utopia can overlap, as the central driving force of science and the control/advancement of technology are present. Films like The Matrix (1999)  fall into both themes as humans are used as energy to power a race of machines.

the-matrix

Image sourced from http://www.repugnant-conclusion.com/the-matrix.html courtesy  of Warner Bros

References:-

KING, G., & KRZYWINSKA, T., 2000. Science Fiction Cinema: From Outerspace to Cyberspace. London: Wallflower press

http://www.repugnant-conclusion.com/the-matrix.html [sourced on 21/01/14]

http://www.imdb.com/media/rm3395655680/tt0074812?ref_=ttmi_mi_all_sf_3 [sourced on 21/01/14]

Categories: Dystopian and post-apocalyptic philosophy, General research, Science fiction research | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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