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Title: Science fiction and its past relations with the academy
Authors: Grech, Victor E.
Vassallo, Clare
Callus, Ivan
Keywords: Science fiction -- History and criticism
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: SPJ
Citation: Grech, V. E., Thake-Vassallo, C., & Callus, I. (2016). Science fiction and its past relations with the academy. Sci Phi Journal. Retrieved from:
Abstract: Science Fiction authors have traditionally spurned the disdain of critics who ‘sneer the ineradicable sneer’ at SF authors and assert that SF is too shallow for serious consideration, and such critics have been in turn accused of being ‘ignorant or afraid of science […] rejecting […] the universe in favor of a small human circle, limited in time and place to their own lifetimes’. In some ways, SF partakes of some of the properties of fantastic literature, as defined by Todorov, insofar as SF leads us to worlds that do not exist, and with readerly agreement, the narratee is ‘transported to a scenario more magical and uplifting than the real, coarse everyday world’. Tolkien calls this combination of fantastic, miraculous deliverance and poignant eucatastrophe, the sense of evangelium, a means with which authors impart good news and happy endings. This accords with Frederic Jameson’s contention that SF ‘give us ‘images’ of the future […] but rather defamiliarize [s] and restructure [s] our experience of our own present’. However, until recently, in the eyes of the academy, SF was treated with a degree of disdain by the assemblage of ‘serious’ mainstream and classical literature. Matters are confused by the fact that SF is inherently dichotomous, both authoritarian and antiauthoritarian, the former due to its traditionally male dominated leanings and its overall hard science slant, and the latter as it is antiestablishment and anticanon. It was thus for decades that the genre was marginalised and relegated to a subordinate role in literature studies, for being ersatz and escapist. However, ‘the real universe is […] too small […] for the expansion of escapist dreams, so SF has invented a lot of other universes’, and this is a major attraction to the SF writer, who has almost carte blanche for his creations. But despite being perceived as somehow ‘inferior’ and actively stigmatised and viewed with hostility by traditionalists, many SF works tend to be intertextual and engage recognised and acclaimed canonical texts, as already discussed, and conversely, a multitude of traditionally canonical texts engage icons and tropes that are typically associated with SF. Luckhurst remarks that there is a ‘sense that SF has been ignored, ridiculed or undervalued’ resulting in repeated attempts by readers and authors alike ‘to carve out a ‘respectable canon’. Clearly, this arriviste genre has metamorphosed, and ‘[w]hat was once virtually a secret movement has become part of the cultural wallpaper’, absorbed and embraced by the mass to the extent that many of us frequently utilise it tropes and expressions in everyday language.
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