A SF work which may well
seem on the surface to be quite "realistic" but which deals with a "what
if" in which historical events have turned out differently. Examples include
Man in the High Castle
(Germany and Japan win WW II) and Gibson
(in which computers become prominent in the Victorian
An all-encompassing symbolic
tale in which virtually all elements of the tale, and the tale as a whole,
can be understood to have another symobolic meaning.
A reference in a work of
literature to something outside the work. To get the full the meaning of
the text, the reader will need to get the reference.
An automaton made to resemble
a human being.
term for the ever-recurrent road markers of human experience; images, forms,
patterns, symbols, rites of passage that transcend particular cultures.
The body of works deemed
acceptible (usually by high culture elites like academics and critics)
for study and serious consideration. Once outside the canon, SF (or some
of it at least) has now become "canonical"--follwing a path similar to
literature by women, minorities, etc.
|Clarion, the Workshop.
Six week intensive summer
workshop for aspiring SF writers (sometimes called a "SF boot camp"), originally
held at Clarion State College (now Clarion University) in Pennsylvania,
founded by Robin Scott Wilson (a Clarion English Professor), Damon Knight,
and Kate WIlhelm in 1968. Considered a seminal factor in the development
of modern SF.
A pre-ordained way of doing
something. Each and every art, including literature, has its own conventions.
In opera, for example, people sing. A particular genre/or sub-genre
is identifable, in part, by its particular conventions.
A work, either book or film,
that develops a fanatic following, a group whose members identify
with the work, usually knowing it by heart, able to quote it and discuss
it (at conventions, on the internet) exhaustively, even patterning their
lives after its characters. Works as dfiferent as Star Trek and
Star Wars, Liquid Sky and Repo Man have attained cult
Prominent late 20th Century
SF postmodern subgenre, tracing its
origins back to the early work of William
Gibson (some make J.
G. Ballard and William
Burroughs the originators). Characterized by 1) noirish depiction
of urban landscapes (often in decay), 2) ambivalent take on technology,
3) hardboiled characters, 4) emphasis on international crime, 5) preoccupation
with cyberspace, into which its
characters, anxious to escape the "meat," becoming
pure consciousness, can enter and travel about. Several of the stories
in the NASF are by Cyberpunkers (the stories by Gibson, Dorsey,
Sterling, Cadigan, for example). The current film The Matrix is
a cyberpunk movie. Academic interest in cyberpunk has helped to unmarginalize
Gibson's term for the virtual reality
created by computers and the internet.
A human being modified for
life in a hostile or alien environment by the substitution of artificial
organs and other body parts, or a part human/part robot hybrid.
A SF subgenre--most prominent
9n SF film--which focuses on natural or human disasters and their aftermaths.
The opposite of a utopia.
Any tale, usually set in the future, in which scciety has become, in its
denial of human freedom, nightmarish and oppressive, and a denial
of human freedom. Classic examples include Le Guin's "The
New Atlantis" (in NBSF), Orwell's1984,
New World, Atwood's
Handmaid's Tale, and Bradbury's
A moment of awareness, of
revelation. Joyce believed that short stories, by their very nature, tend
to be about epiphanal moments.
A Russian formalist term,
coined early in the century: The power--central to all art--to make things
strange/unfamiliar and thus open to new understandings. Translation of
the Russian word "ostranenie."
To arrive at (conclusions
or results) by hypothesizing from known facts or observations. According
to LeGuin, extrapolation
gives rise to much of SF.
stories written by fans of a book, a series, a movie, making use of already
existing characters in news plots. A postmodern
Todorov's term for that art
(especially literature) which deals with supernatural or quasi-supernatural,
"fantastic" things. According to Todorov, the fantastic exist only until
science comes up with explanations that will suffice. The biggest conference
annually (held in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) that brings together both fantasy
and SF scholars and writers is called the International Conference on the
term, literature that is grounded in a supernatural, non-scientific, magical
worldview. For LeGuin, fantasy is the "grandmother"; SF is one of the "kids."
A narrator who speaks in
his own voice; when "I" tells a tale.
When later developments in
a narrative are hinted at early on. The famous Pushkin law--"Never plant
a gun in the first act unless you intend to use it in the last"--is really
conventional styles of plot/imagery/setting, etc. routinely/conventionally
followed by an author/artist. Probably every narrative form--from literature
to opera--develops formulae.
Largely formulaic fiction
with pre-ordained character types, conventions, motifs, iconography. In
traditional assessments of the canon, genre fiction--including SF--ranks
low and is often not considered art. According to Thomas Schatz (Hollywood
Film Genres) Platonic models for a given genre might be thought to
SF from (roughly) 1930-1960,
and the Kids.
special desgination for fantasy (the Grandmother)
and all the literary forms it has spun-off over the centuries.
SF from the
Golden Age, characterized by the overwhelming predominance of male
writers and its almost scientistic faith
in science, technology, and the future. See also soft
A recurring image/imagery
or motif(s) of a particular genre.
argues that SF is in some part identifiable by its iconography. Bear in
mind that the term "icon" originally referred to religious relics (a statue
of the Virgin Mary, for example); hence "icon" as a metaphor carries
Literally "in the midle of
things." Describes a narrative in which the story begins after some of
the key events have already taken place.
When a work of art requires
other "texts," to which it refers--by allusion
and or quotation-- in order to establish its own meaning and significance.
Commonplace in postmodernism.
A perceived discrepancy between
appearance and reality or between expectation and reality. If Jeff Gordan
is killed on the way to buy a loaf of bread, his death would be ironic.
Sarcasm is a form of verbal irony.
Literary style emanating
from Latin America which mixes without explanation the supernatural and
the mundane. Not SF, though it is one of the "kids."
Probably best understood as a form of the fantastic.
The tendency to put aside
(and not allow in the canon) the literature/culture.artistic
forms of minority (women, African Americans, Native American) voices and
genres. SF has traditionally been marginalized.
slang for the body.
The overarching (bigger than
the story itself) "mother" tale (LeGuin
would say grandmother):
the source on which literature perpetually draws. For LeGuin,
the megatext that governs SF may well be the story of science itself.
which tends to be about itself--and about the process of writing fiction.
Common in postmodernism.
An expressed "poetic" comparison
between two things, one known and understood, the other known/not yet understood,
which seeks to illuminate the latter by drawing on the characteristics
of the former. From a Greek word for "bridge." According to LeGuin,
literalized metaphors are the seed crystal for many SF story.
The specified or unspecified
person to whom a narrator is supposedly speaking.
The fancy, more scientifc
word for storytelling. The critical study of narrative is called narratology.
The teller of a tale.
In fiction, the perspective from which a narrator speaks is known as point-of-view.
A "new thing" introduced
into a story, with resulting estrangement.
According to Darko Suvin, the presence of a novum(s) identifies a work
A narrator (usually in third
person) who has god-like knowledge of characters and their motives.
A form of satire that sets
out to spoof another work of literature (or other art).
icons, formula. Distinctive signature of
(according to Jameson). Similarly, media critic Todd Gitlin has noted
tendency toward the recombinant.
The voice in which a a writer
speaks in a work. From the Greek word for mask.
The perspective from which
a story is told. Common povs include
first person: in which an "I"
tells a tale, usually from a limited, subjective vantage point, usually
about events in which the "I" is involved
third person; in which the story
is told by an outsider, either omniscient
or a central intelligence (who knows about the events of the narrative
as an observer of them but lacks comniscient knowledge).
End of the Twentieth Century
artistic sensibility/cultural mindset, characterized by self-referentially,
derivitiveness, excessive quotation--by an overpowering awareness of what
Eco has called "the already said." The advent of Postmodernism has lead
to an increased interest in--and decreased marginalization
A school of literary criticism
which argues that the reader is as responsible for the construction of
a text as the author.
A particular logic that governs
the way we read. We read poetry by a different protocol than we read fiction.
We read SF by a different protocol than we read realistic fiction. According
to Samuel Delany, in
fact, the RP with which we must approach SF is in large part what defines
it. Such an approach to literature is generally called reader-response
Judith Fetterley's designation
for a reader/viewer who reads a text against the grain, finding in it uncommon,
often counter-cultural meanings.
"Toward a Definition of Science Fiction" on this site.
The tendency to turn science
into a belief in science as a be-all and end-all. Science as a quasi-religion.
accuses much hard SF of being scientistic.
When a work of art knows
that it is a work of art, referring, like a snake biting its own tail,
to itself in its presentation. Characteristic of postmodernism.
Often pornographic, always
edgy fan fiction which transplants the
characters of an existing work into radically different kinds of stories,
changing, for example, their sexual orientations, making, for example,
Spock and Kirk lovers. A postmodern
The opposite, obviously,
of hard SF; since the 1960s SF had tended
to be "soft," that is non-scientistic, concerned with themes like
gender, self-identity, ecology, reality/illusion, etc. Soft SF has arisen
simultaneously with the greater prominence of minority and women writers
An old-fashioned SF tale
(or an imitation of it) involving all of the givens of the classic
Age tale: spaceships, ray guns, brave men, evil aliens, robots.
history cyberpunk in which modern
technology is transplanted back into earlier periods of history. Gibson
(in which computers become prominent in the Victorian
era), or the film Wild, Wild West are good examples.
An underlying, emergent theme
in a work or works.
A narrator (usually first
person) who is not to be trusted. As readers, we are invited to doubt his/her
presentation of facts and intepretation of them.
A tale depicting a perfect
human society. The name derives from Sir
Thomas More's 16th century book, though the Latin word "utopia"
actually means "nowhere." Prime examples include Butler's Erewhon ["nowhere"
spelled backwards] Bellamy's Looking Backward, and Russ' "A Few
Things I Know About Whileaway" (in NBSF). A dystopia
is an inverted utopia.