Volume 4. Issue 1. July 2020
This special issue is based off the fifth Fantastika conference - After Fantastika - which investigated how definitions of time are negotiated within Fantastika literature, exploring not only the conception of its potential rigidity but also how its prospective malleability offers an avenue through which orthodox systems of thought may be reconfigured. By interrogating the principal attributes of this concept alongside its centrality to human thought, this issue considers how Fantastika may offer an alternate lens through which to examine the past, present, and future of time itself.
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by Andrew Tate
IN THE RUINS OF TIME: THE EERIE IN THE FILMS OF JIA ZHANGKE
This paper uses Mark Fisher’s work The Weird and the Eerie (2016) as a starting point to read two of contemporary Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s films: Still Life (2006), a study of two intertwined lives just before the flooding of the Three Gorges, and A Touch of Sin (2013), a brutal dramatization of four recent criminal cases. Although the films reflect Jia’s documentary realism in their representation of today’s China, they also involve slippages in time and space that lead to weird and eerie effects: an Unidentified Flying Object speeds across the sky over the soon-to-be flooded Three Gorges; a building takes off into the night like a rocket; snakes slither through a town suddenly transformed into something much older and more violent.
The films depict the landscape of contemporary China as a place of ruins and violence, where the headlong rush towards the future has left ordinary people behind, and I argue that it is these irruptions of the weird and eerie that provide the films with their unsettling power, letting Jia explore the consequences of this speeding-up of time in the period of economic reform since Mao Zedong’s death. Whilst the work of Jia Zhangke has garnered much critical attention in recent years, the fantastical elements of his films have yet to be fully explored. Examining the role of time and space in these films can offer insights into how the real and the unreal intersect in his work, providing new possibilities for an exploration of the eeriness of the contemporary Chinese landscape, and enriching current scholarship on the weird and the strange.
THE TIME MACHINE AND THE CHILD: IMPERIALISM, UTOPIANISM, AND H. G. WELLS
H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) is filled with references to the figure of the child. This article argues for the temporal significance of these references. In it I explore the role of childhood in imperialist narratives of progress, in which the figure of the child is repeatedly used as a marker of that which is considered to be temporally other to the white, Western subject. The childlikeness of the citizens of the future, for example, is seen as a sign of their racial, cultural, and biological otherness; an otherness which is continually linked to their position in a distant time. However, this is by no means the only role played by the child in Wells’ writing. Drawing on the utopian philosophy of Ernst Bloch, I argue that the figure of the child – who evokes both the past and the future as mutually constitutive states – can be used to subvert these linear narratives of teleological development. While the figure of the child is often deployed in order to reinforce such narratives, the proximity of childhood and adulthood, which particularly occupied writers at the turn of the century, undermines any stagist understanding of history. When both childhood and adulthood are considered to be performative categories, the act of separating them in time is rendered futile. By exploring the fields of child studies, evolutionary biology and Marxist philosophy alongside Wells’ protoscience- fictional text I hope to draw out the utopian potential of the non-linear temporalities which the figure of the child in Wells’ writing does evoke. I see this as part of a larger project to rehabilitate childhood as a significant temporal, political and science-fictional category.
“TURN[ING] DREAMS INTO REALITY”: INDIVIDUAL AUTONOMY AND THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEHNSUCHT IN TWO TIME TRAVEL NARRATIVES BY ALFRED BESTER
Though originally derived from eighteenth century German Romanticism and present in cultural and literary spheres since then, the concept of Sehnsucht, or life-longings, has only been explored within psychology since around 2007. Sehnsucht in psychology is defined by Dana Kotter-Grühn et al in “What is it we are longing for? Psychological and demographic factors influencing the contents of Sehnsucht (life longings)” (2009) as a desire for alternative “experiences of life” which focus on “fantasies about ideal, alternative realities” (428). Considering these aspects of how Sehnsucht is meant to function psychologically, the relationship to Science Fiction is an interesting one, especially as it pertains to time travel. Science Fiction’s ability to literalise the metaphor can make desires for an alternative life less unattainable due to the genre’s capacity to fulfil longings that would normally reside outside of reality, especially when these fantasies are centred around escaping one’s current time period. In this article I explore the way in which Sehnsucht highlights this connection between time travel, escapism, and fantasy within Science Fiction. The desire to escape can be seen in numerous texts by Alfred Bester, but the ways in which Bester engages with the psychology of escape in “Hobson’s Choice” (1953) and “Disappearing Act” (1953) are particularly relevant when examining his work through the lens of Sehnsucht. In this article I use recent psychological research into how life-longings operate to reframe understandings of these texts by examining ideas of longing and fulfilment in Science Fiction and the relationship with Sehnsucht. Through this, I argue how ideas of time travel as escapist fantasy, and of literature in general which engages with the psychological desire for a better life, can be reformulated to consider how and why these fantasies are engaged with and fulfilled, for both the characters and readers.
DYSTOPIAN SURVEILLANCE AND THE LEGACY OF COLD WAR EXPERIMENTATION IN JOYCE CAROL OATES’ HAZARDS OF TIME TRAVEL (2018)
In her forty-sixth novel, Hazards of Time Travel (2018), Joyce Carol Oates turns to the genre of speculative fiction in order to examine the developing relationship between human identity and surveillance in the twenty-first century. However, Oates’ engagement with contemporary surveillance is not restricted to prophetic speculation. Instead, in her novel she constructs a temporal slide backwards from a not-too-distant future America, the inhabitants of which are subject to a strict regime of continuous observation and control, to a 1950s Wisconsin University Campus. In so doing, as this article contends, Oates returns the reader to an environment epitomised by psychological experimentation and behavioural conditioning, as well as an epoch that heavily informed the popularity and evolution of the dystopian novel, for the purpose of exploring the legacy of the Cold War era. This discussion reflects upon the dystopian future imagined by Oates, one influenced by a culture of post-9/11 securitisation, before examining the Cold War setting that Oates establishes following a narrative leap back through time. Crucially, and through a critical analysis of Oates’ retrospective speculations, this article explores how contemporary surveillance methods, typified in the twenty-first century by our relationship with digital technologies, can have a detrimental impact on a person’s identity. Oates engages with concerns surrounding surveillance, as many authors have done, through the use of the dystopian genre. However, and in contrast to speculative narratives that explore the present by looking ahead, Oates turns to the past in order to explore the present, fashioning in her novel a narrative timeline that connects issues of Cold War experimentation
with contemporary practices of surveillance and control.
“THE ONLYES POWER IS NO POWER”: DISRUPTING PHALLOCENTRISM IN THE POSTAPOCALYPTIC SPACE OF RUSSELL HOBAN’S RIDDLEY WALKER (1980)
This article looks to Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker (1980) to examine how its post-apocalyptic space can be read as a critique of the destructive phallocentric and hierarchical structures that contributed to its fictional breakdown. Through an exploration of the novel’s interactions with gender, sexuality, and maternity, I examine its critiques of the patriarchal culture that led to the repudiation of women and nature, the development of nuclear technology, and thedestruction of Riddley’s pre-apocalyptic world. By critiquing the phallic structures that led to apocalypse and examining the anxieties that fuel the patriarchal order, Hoban’s text reflects an attempt to undermine these enduring structures through certain evocations of sexuality and gender: abject figures such as the phallic woman and the castrated man expose the fragility of identity categories and hierarchies of Western culture. Ultimately, the novel situates the metaphorical understanding of the symbolic maternal body as a framework through which to embody opposites and complicate boundaries, thereby undermining and threatening dichotomous binary systems.
“THEN WHEN ARE WE? IT’S LIKE I’M TRAPPED IN A DREAM OR A MEMORY FROM A LIFE LONG AGO”: A COGNITIVE ANALYSIS OF TEMPORAL DISORIENTATION AND REORIENTATION IN THE FIRST SEASON OF HBO’S TV SHOW WESTWORLD
The filmic medium is inherently temporal, presenting information in succession. As David Bordwell highlights, formal conventions are used in classical narrative film in order to regulate the temporal relationship between shots or scenes, in order not to inadvertently confuse the spectator (1985, 74). Ellipsis, analepsis and prolepsis are common features, but usually signalled clearly in order to facilitate temporal orientation. A supernatural, fantastical or science-fictional element can disrupt these conventions, prompting a need for specific ways to signify temporal relationships. Time travel, temporal loops, memory wipes, and other devices can impact how spectators apprehend the information delivered, and the way they assign beliefs, memories and other mental states to a character at a given time.
Westworld tells the story of a Western-themed amusement park, in which ‘guests’ can interact with humanoid robots (‘hosts’) in a variety of often violent scenarios. The host’s memory is (initially) wiped after every ‘loop,’ which prevents character memory or development, enabling them to retain a positive worldview. This premise also allows for the twist of the first season’s ending where cross-cut scenes (which the spectator had been led to believe were happening concurrently) were actually taking place years apart. In both cases, the show guides the spectator’s temporal orientation, mobilising and subverting traditional conventions of the medium and genres it belongs to. In this article I analyse how the science-fictional premise of Westworld, linked to a remediated narrative structure that borrows from video games, disrupts conventions around the temporal delivery of information, and provides a movement from disorientation to orientation.
REWRITING MYTH AND GENRE BOUNDARIES: NARRATIVE MODALITIES IN THE BOOK OF ALL HOURS BY HAL DUNCAN
Hal Duncan’s The Book of All Hours is a labyrinthine exploration of a constellation of themes: time, space, alternate realities, mythology, psychological archetypes. Time is represented as nonlinear and as intricately intertwined with a host of other variables, some of which of semantic rather than of causal nature. Characters reprise or subvert their roles in slightly different iterations of the same stories across the fictional metaverse, mapping out the immense possibilities of story-space and genre. This article analyses the governing dynamics through which the text organises itself in a self-referential framework, and how it structurally reinforces the idea of rewriting history, of eliminating determinism. Writing and art come to signify an act of politically charged cognitive reorganisation. A mythological rebellion cast in modernist forms.
The analysis attempts to demonstrate that the byzantine plot articulates in parallel a kind of genre theory, or what is possible to write. This apparatus is interrogated through the theory of fictional semantics, building on the work of Lubomír Doležel, Thomas Pavel, Ruth Ronen, and Northrop Frye. Associated notions such as possible worlds, compossibility, narrative modalities, dual systems and salient structures are applied to Duncan’s imagined reality in order to elucidate how access to fictional semantics from within the text itself becomes its principal novum. This is in turn used to put into focus the constructed nature of demarcations between actual and fictional, which ultimately brings forward rather radical aesthetic and political implications. The article concludes by tentatively projecting its analysis of genre, world, and character to nonhuman modal systems.
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SCIENCE FICTION CIRCUITS OF THE SOUTH AND EAST (2018) EDITED BY ANINDITA BANERJEE AND SONIA FRITZSCHE
Review by Llew Watkins
Review by Esthie Hugo
Review by Marita Arvaniti
Review by Fiona Wells-Lakeland
GAMING THE SYSTEM: DECONSTRUCTING VIDEO GAMES, GAME STUDIES, AND VIRTUAL WORLDS (2018) BY DAVID J. GUNKEL
Review by Charlotte Gislam
Review by John Sharples
Review by Chris Hussey
Review by Charlotte Gough
Review by Beáta Gubacsi
Review by Chase Ledin
Review by Eleanor Beal
Review by Peter Cullen Bryan
MIND STYLE AND COGNITIVE GRAMMAR: LANGUAGE AND WORLDVIEW IN SPECULATIVE FICTION (2018) BY LOUISE NUTTALL
Review by Rahel Oppliger
Review by Kerry Dodd
THE LAST UTOPIANS: FOUR LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY VISIONARIES AND THEIR LEGACY (2018) BY MICHAEL ROBERTSON
Review by Peter J. Maurits
ONCE AND FUTURE ANTIQUITIES IN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (2019) EDITED BY BRETT M. ROGERS AND BENJAMIN ELDON STEVENS
Review by Juliette Harrisson
BODYMINDS REIMAGINED: (DIS)ABILITY, RACE, AND GENDER IN BLACK WOMEN’S SPECULATIVE FICTION (2018) BY SAMI SCHALK
Review by Polly Atkin
Review by Ben Horn
Conference and Event Reports
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Conference Report by Luke Turley
Conference Report by Paul Fisher Davies
Conference Report by Rose Butler
Conference Report by Oliver Rendle
Conference Report by Vicki Williams
Conference Report by Benjamin Miller
Conference Report by Brontë Schiltz
Conference Report by Phoenix Alexander
Conference Report by Heloise Thomas
Conference Report by Miranda Corcoran
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A Review of The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson (2019) by Emily Alder
A Review of From The Depths; And Other Strange Tales of the Sea (2018) by Daniel Pietersen
A Review of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018) by Shannon Rollins
A Review of Record of a Spaceborn Few (2018) by Ruth Booth
A Review of A Brilliant Void: A Selection of Classic Irish Science Fiction (2019) by Richard Howard
A Review of Game of Thrones Season Eight (2019) by T Evans
A Review of Black Leopard, Red Wolf (2019) by Kaja Franck
A Review of The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell (2018) by Rachel Mizsei Ward
A Review of Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017), Beneath the Sugar Sky (2018) and In an Absent Dream (2019) by Alison Baker
A Review of Blackfish City (2018) by Lobke Minter
A Review of Trail of Lightning (2018) by Madelyn Marie Schoonover
A Review of Aquaman (2018) by Stuart Spear
A Review of The Writer’s Block (2019) by Timothy J. Jarvis