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Possible worlds: Fantasy, Science-Fiction


Possible worlds: Fantasy, Science-Fiction

The possibility to build other worlds, different from those we live in, is emphasised in two important streams of modern literature: fantasy and science-fiction. Fantasy literature became famous in the second half of the 20th century. Developing the theoretical hallmark set by J. R. R. Tolkien in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” (1947), researchers like C. N. Manlove, W. R. Irwin, Eric S. Rabkin, Roger C. Schlobin, Brian Attebery, Rosemary Jackson, Kathryn Hume, and more recently Lucie Armitt and Farah Mendlesohn tried to define this type of literature, by establishing its historical and cultural roots, and disclosing fictional/ rhetorical/ imaginary mechanisms that enable the construction of “secondary worlds” (in Tolkien’s own words). There are still questions that need answers and any theoretical contribution and attempt to clarify concepts in this field are welcome. How do space and time function in fantasy fiction? Which methods and concepts work best to interpret this type of fiction? How far can we go to establish its roots? How did the narrative structure of fictions about possible and impossible worlds change throughout time? What kind of relationship can emerge between fantasy literature, the digital environment that creates alternative worlds, and the filmic portrayal of well-known stories such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Neverendig Story, Harry Potter, and so on? What relevance does fantasy literature have for the modern and postmodern individual?

In what concerns the science-fiction literature, the volume envisages papers focusing both on different subgenres of SF and on the borderline works between SF and other genres. The first category includes articles that discuss and analyse works by the so called ‘Hard SF’ authors (such as, but not limited to, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Kurt Vonnegut), ‘soft’ and social SF that revolve around themes connected to economics, social sciences, political science, psychology and anthropology (Arthur C. Clarke, The Strugatsky Brothers, Stanislaw Lem, Janusz Zajdel), utopian / dystopian fiction (developed by or related to George Orwell, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Doris Lessing, Aldous Huxley or Karel Capek), Cyberpunk, Biopunk, Steampunk and Dieselpunk fiction (William Gibson, Steve Stiles, Bruce Sterling, Neil Stephenson, Pat Cadigan, and others), feminist SF (Ursula Le Guin or Margaret Atwood), time travel narratives similar to those written by H.G Wells, uchronias and alternate history novels (Ward Moore, Philip K. Dick or Murray Leinster), superhuman or apocalyptic Science-Fiction (Olaf Stapledon, A.E van Vogt, George R. Steward or Ridley Walker) or Space Opera (L. Ron Hubbard, Edward E. Smith or Joss Wheedon). Bordeline SF includes horror stories by authors that have incorporated in their narratives science fictional elements (such as Mary Shelley or Edgar Allan Poe), works that combine SF with fantasy elements (Ann McAffrey), or with mystery (Kurt Vonnegut and others). The volume also focuses on several forms of contemporary art and media, different from literature, that have incorporated fantasy and SF topics: movies, comics, pop music, computer games.

Marius Conkan & Niculae Gheran

 

 
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