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Title: “Not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be” : medicine in science fiction
Authors: Grech, Victor E.
Vassallo, Clare
Callus, Ivan
Keywords: Medicine in literature
Science fiction -- History and criticism
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Science Fiction Research Association
Citation: Grech, V. E., Thake-Vassallo, C., & Callus, I. (2011). “Not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be” : medicine in science fiction. SFRA Review, 297, 33-39.
Abstract: DOCTORS AND MEDICAL ADVANCES have been fair game since SF’s inception with Shelley’s Frankenstein (1918), Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), often as crucial components, giving birth to the mad scientist/doctor trope, with commensurate appalling and godlike powers, such as the skill to create or transform living beings, including humans. Inevitably powers are not only used but also abused, and inexorably, hubris paves the way for tragedy in all of these narratives. Interestingly, the medical profession has not only been depicted more frequently overall in Campbellian and post-Campbellian SF, but has also been portrayed in a much better light than in mainstream literature. No Cure for the Future: Disease and Medicine in Science Fiction and Fantasy (2002), edited by Gary Westfahl and George Slusser, comprises the first authoritative attempt to appraise this aspect of SF in any detail. This work examines medicine in SF, commencing with the pessimistic axiom that both medicine and doctors have been oddly marginalised within SF. No Cure for the Future includes contributions from two SF authors and several distinguished scholars in the field, who have examined the nature of canon formation, the role of scholarly journals in legitimising academic inquiry, and the cultural politics of intellectual gate-keeping. This book will be considered, along with various depictions of doctors and medicine that feature broadly in SF narratives. An interdisciplinary slant will intrude throughout as the first author of this essay is a medical doctor, such that real-life parallels will be pointed out, as well as excesses that go beyond the bounds of reasonable poetic license.
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