Science fiction: The Routledge film guidebook
Bould, M. (2012) Science fiction: The Routledge film guidebook. Routledge.
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This book is divided into three chapters. Chapter One addresses the often misunderstood relationship between sf and science. Instead of fruitlessly berating the genre for its scientific errors, it begins by examining the ways in which scientific-sounding language and technological artefacts are deployed in sf films, and the ways in which ‘bad’ science nonetheless creates meanings and affects. Drawing on material from Science Studies, it then considers the representation of the scientist in relation to public and professional discourses about the proper (and the actual) functioning of science. It explores the dilemmas posed for scientific practitioners by economic, industrial, political, cultural and social contexts, and finds in the mad scientist a figure representative of modern subjectivity. In closing, it turns to the position of women in sf’s labs, who are far less likely to be scientists than experimental subjects. Chapter Two begins with the tension between sf’s spectacular and conceptual elements. It considers the relationship between sf and the cinema of attractions that emerged as part of capitalist-modernity, dominated by the shock of the new and a proliferation of spectacular commodity forms. Building on theoretical material from ‘the affective turn’ in Cultural Studies, it rethinks cinematic spectacle as more than just a mind-numbing, overwhelming force, focusing in particular on the complexity of special effects sequences. It then considers three varieties of sf spectacle: the sublime, the grotesque and the camp. In conclusion, it examines sf’s self-reflexive use of special effects and depictions of technologies of vision and representation. Chapter Three is more overtly concerned with the politics of sf. It begins with the colonialist and imperialist discourses prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when both cinema and sf emerged. It outlines sf films’ reproduction of and complicity in colonialist and imperialist ideology, paying particular attention to the late silent and early sound period, but also finding numerous recent examples. It explores the post-imperial melancholy typical of British sf after anti-colonial revolutions tore European empires apart, and considers Vietnam-era US sf as a tentative, contradictory articulation of countercultural anti-imperialist sentiments, particularly as the genre attempts to address US racial politics. The chapter – and the book – concludes with a discussion of the ways in which western hegemony has been maintained through globalisation, focusing on contemporary sf’s figuration of neo-liberal capitalism and its transformations of the experience of time and space.
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