The Nature of the Beast: An Analysis of the Genre of Science Fiction
All modes of inquiry correlate with each other due to their tendency to coalesce in their emphasis on questions, which raise issues on autonomy, justice, and politics. The differences of literary theories, for example, merely spring from their construal of the relationship between the exercise of power and the text. Structuralism views the relation in terms of the relationship of the formal elements in a linguistic system.
Marxism assesses the relationship in terms of the role of such relations in the existence of social structures.
The same method is used by Psychoanalysis, with the emphasis on the conscious and unconscious mind. Deconstruction, on the other hand, perceives the texts’ role in destabilizing oppositional modes of power. Despite of these differences amongst discursive procedures, it does not overshadow the fact that these theories give emphasis on their analysis of the political and institutional structures within society. A concrete example of this can be seen in the opposing theories of constructivism and essentialism.
Despite their adherence to competing narratives of oppression and resistance [constructivism places emphasis on multiple identities thereby opposing essentialism’s stance on singular categorization] both theories show interest on the subject’s position within society and how this position can affect the development of his identity. In fact, if one isolates the discussion of identity and narratives of oppression in both discourses, one will notice that the ultimate commitment of the theories they adhere to gives emphasis on the idea of political justice.
Politics within these discourses is seen as a collective action of resistance, which aims for change in the hopes of attending to the problems evident in the formation of identity and agency. It is important to note that literature as a repository of human experience has always been influenced by politics. Exercise of power within society is associated with and dependent on the mass production of certain kinds of literature, which allows the cultural qualification of ideas.
The relation between literature and politics can also be seen in literary theory’s assessment of the formation of consciousness and unconsciousness, which is related to the maintenance, and transformation of the predominant modes of power made possible by literary output (Eagleton 210). It is also dependent upon the ahistorical positioning of the literary text, since this allows the continuous creation of meaning for a particular text. This mode of relationship invokes the aesthetic character of literature. Literature as a form of discourse enables the perception of aesthetics as a process of communicating while remaking a work.
The aesthetic act becomes the incarnation of meaning rather than a demonstration of truth. This is possible since in the process of reading a text, the subject -which can be both the reader and the author- produces another text which is the same as the earlier text yet entirely different from it. Perceived within the dialogic process, the interconnectedness of completion and fragmentation can be understood by recognizing that it is in fact the fragmentation of the text, which allows the completion of the text itself.
Within this perspective, the aesthetic act becomes political through the social interaction necessitated by the creation and continual recreation of an artistic work. Literature, in this sense, becomes the locus of a condensed and social evaluation. Intersubjectivity precedes subjectivity wherein the production and repression of meaning is seen as a socio-ideological process rather than an individual process. In this scheme, the text is allowed the character of fluidity. No permanent theoretical stipulation and ethical meaning can be attached to it since to do so is tantamount to denying the ahistorical character of the text.
This character is invoked since in the end when one considers a text, what is given importance is not necessarily the historical reading of the text but the various readings made available by the literary theories and ethical standpoints that one may attach to the text. Within this process, there is an emphasis on the reassessment and creation of new standpoints since the interpretation of the text involves the consideration of both the act of writing and reading the text.
The re-conceptualization of a literary text through reading enables the individual to undergo a process of analyzing the truth connected with the discourse in which the text is situated, while at the same time reassessing its connection to his self. Due to this, assessing a text becomes a personal and political act wherein the common adage “the personal is political” can be phrased into an equally influential counter notion that “the political is personal”. It is important to note that there is a big difference between these two adages.
To say that the “personal is political” is only tantamount to equating political importance to personal experiences whereas to say that the “political is personal” involves following an ideology and political theory in making decisions in everyday life. The function of the verb” is” in both adages is not that of identification. This process, wherein the reading of a text becomes a vehicle for self-realization and self-transformation is emphasized within the literary genre of science fiction. The Genre of Science Fiction
Genres, as systems of classification, are means of strategic control. Within the field of literature, it is believed that the continuous division of literary works into different genres leads not only to the classification of the work and the text but also to the imposition of values and ideals to those people who read the works belonging to a specific genre. Through genre categories like ‘Romance’, ‘Horror’, or ‘Mystery’, those in control of the modes of production control both the reader and the author of the work.
By promising the readers a familiar set of meanings and controlling the demand for the production and formation of those meanings, those who are in control of the modes of production direct the construction of narratives. Within this context, it is possible for the stories that are produced within society to be a part of a broader form of social classification. Due to this, there is the construction of a particular set of meanings, which can only be understood within specific systems of classification. Genres in this sense become instruments of control.
This is evident if one considers that genres “encode rules that constrain the…production and reception of meanings…communicated through a large number of meta-texts” (Hodge 27). These meta-texts become the basis for the production of knowledge. All knowledge is positioned as knowledge in itself and knowledge produced from and within body. As soon as both forms of knowledge are connected to a knowing subject, the subject becomes ensnared to the poststructuralist dictum of the unity and independence of the self, which leads to the formation of the narratives of the self.
Narratives then display the imprint of culture and its institutions on the individual’s sense of identity. Since self and language are mutually implicated in an interdependent system of symbolic behavior, the language that one uses for the creation of literary narratives dictates the creation of identities. The modern era thereby places the individual in a kind of political double bind as it coerces the individual to conform to normalizing and disciplinary forms of narrative construction evident in the “domestication of literature” (Suvin 373). Science fiction, however, as a genre eludes the monopolizing character of other genres.
As a genre, it is at the intersection of various fields. It draws on the elements of popular culture, science, and all types of social relations (James and Mendlesohn 1). This is evident if one considers that it employs a methodology and an approach, which enables the specification of a new set of values through the depiction of a radical form of reality. In this sense, science fiction is less of a genre if one is to conceive of a genre as specifying a particular text’s subject matter and approach to themes. As opposed to the other literary genres, science fiction cannot be expected to employ a specific set of elements and tropes.
It may however be depicted as a form of ongoing discussion since the texts within the genre may be perceived as mutually referential due to their characteristic opposition towards a naturalistic and empiricistic conception of reality. Science fiction as a genre is thereby defined by its critical stance towards the normative depictions of reality. However, to state that this is the defining characteristic of the genre provides problems for the genre itself. This is evident if one considers that it leaves the genre open to other forms of literary texts with the aforementioned characteristics such as fantasy and myth.
Contrary to this, science fiction stands in opposition to the aforementioned forms of literature. Science fiction is neither totalizing nor deterministic as it presents a predetermined conception of the conception and end of reality [myth]. Furthermore, it is neither based upon a conceptual scheme that posits the impossible as ordinary [fantasy]. James and Mendlesohn state, “the sense of wonder is the emotional heart of science fiction” (3). David Nye refers to this as the appreciation of the sublime evident in science fiction texts.
Such a description further echoes Frederick Pohl’s description of science fiction as “a way of thinking about things” (qtd in Malzberg 38). Generally, this “way of thinking about things” may be… All of these will show that the spontaneous and habitual orientation of attention is inimical to the maintenance of reality. Therefore, scientific fiction provides a reorientation of attention and a kind of ontological conversion, which affects the aesthetic, ethical, and political perceptions of the reality. This reorientation also affects the ontology of the world.