Wrapping Things Up

Hello, all!

I hope that the end of the semester is wrapping up in a positive way for you all.

As you know, today at midnight is the official deadline for everything due in our class. This includes the weekly summaries, final notebooks, research essay, and final exam. You can scroll through below for details on each of these or click on “Assignments” in the menu to the left.

Some folks have asked for extensions for a few days, which I have happily granted. If you need some extra time and haven’t touched base with me yet, please send me an email with some details on what you need to get done and when you can complete it. My email address is jellis at citytech.cuny.edu.

The latest that I can agree to is Tuesday, May 26 as grades are due and I need time to complete grading before the deadline. But, as I said, email me if you need that extra time so that I know to expect your work, otherwise I will submit grades when I have received everything that I am expecting to see submitted late.

Above all else, email me at jellis at citytech.cuny.edu if you have any questions. I’m near the computer, so I’ll get back to you relatively quickly.

Good luck with everything, and remember to stop by and see me when we’re back on campus. I’d like to find out how everyone is doing and we can talk Science Fiction.

Best, Professor Ellis

“Is A Clockwork Orange Science Fiction?” By Joan Nunez

Joan Nunez

Professor Ellis

ENG2420 E573

26 May 2020

Is A Clockwork Orange Science Fiction?

Science Fiction is a genre that focuses on imaginative science applied to a society or individual. It is one of the most popular genres to do this day. It is seen in novels, films, comics, tv series, and other forms of entertainment. The genre is so vast that it can be difficult to point to one exact definition. Science Fiction is more than just aliens, outer space, robots, and teleportation. Throughout the semester I used to think that’s all there was to Science Fiction but I was proven wrong because there are many sub-genres to Science Fiction. The sub-genre that interests me was cyberpunk. According to Paul Youngquist, article “Cyberpunk, War, and Money: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon” it said, “It has been over twenty-five years since Gibson hacked his way onto the science fiction continuum, creating a subgenre that became instantly infamous: cyberpunk. It was dystopian. It was hip. It was Goth angst meets digital wizardry”(Youngquist 319). The novel, “A Clockwork Orange”(1962) strongly displays the themes of cyberpunk.

 There were many great Science Fiction definitions by famous writers of the genre, the one that stood out was Ray Bradbury’s latest definition, “Science Fiction is the fiction of ideas. Ideas excite me, and as soon as I get excited, the adrenaline gets going and the next thing I know I’m borrowing energy from the ideas themselves. Science Fiction is any idea that occurs in the head and doesn’t exist yet, but soon will, and will change everything for everybody, and nothing will ever be the same again. As soon as you have an idea that changes some small part of the world you are writing science fiction. It is always the art of the possible, not the impossible(Bradbury par. 8). This definition closely related to A Clockwork Orange because the idea of a near-future dystopian society in the future that contains extreme acts of violence by the youth and the government combatting this by performing scientific experiments on the youth to turn them “good” is not as far-fetched as some might think.

 “A Clockwork Orange”(1962) by Anthony Burgess is about the protagonist, Alex, and his ruthless teen gang or as they referred to themselves as “droogs” go in society committing violent crime after crime. One horrendous crime they attempted was to rob an innocent elderly lady. Alex barged into the lady’s home and gets into a scuffle with her leading him to murder her. Alex pays the price as he is caught and sentenced to prison for a long time. As time passes, Alex settles into his new reality in prison but then gets into an incident beating up a prisoner and he is then picked to go through an experimental treatment called, “Ludovico’s Technique”. It is a form of therapy that injects Alex with a substance that makes him sick, then is forced to watch a series of violent films including Nazi savagery. As time passes, the therapy settles in as Alex associates violence with nausea and headaches from the shot. After a couple of more years in prison, the experiment is deemed successful and Alex is no longer a threat since he can’t attempt vicious acts without feeling ill. Alex bumps into his past gang members, Dim and Billyboy who are now police officers, they notice how defenseless Alex has become and they get revenge on him by driving him to a field and brutality hurting him. The helpless Alex tries to look for help and discovers a home and begs for help. To his surprise the man that opens the door is the same person that Alex and his crew had viciously attacked and raped his wife in the past. Luckily for Alex, the man does not recognize him because at the time the inhumane act was committed, everyone had a mask. The man is F. Alexander, a political protester and he decides he can use Alex’s recent treatment experience as a way to stop the government. Alex does not agree with the idea and argues to F. Alexander in his teenage slang called “Nasdet”. F. Alexander recognizes the strange language and realizes that it was the same language used the day he and his wife were viciously attacked. F. Alexander retaliates by locking Alex in an apartment and blasting classical music that causes Alex excruciating pain. He hopes this will lead Alex to commit suicide so the government is to blame for the death. The plan does work at first because Alex does jump from the window but he does not die and ends up at the hospital. The treatment is undone by the doctors, resulting in Alex going back to his normal violent self. Now Alex is back committing the same violent acts with a new gang but there is a sudden change of heart as Alex has had enough of the violence and decides he wants a normal life with a future son in mind.

A Clockwork Orange is part of the cyberpunk genre because it contains punk sensibility. Throughout the semester, I have learned about each sub-genre of Science Fiction and so happened to learn about the characteristics of cyberpunk. One of the characteristics of cyberpunk is punk sensibility. According to the article “Common Punk Rock Ideologies and Philosophies” it said,” In its original incarnation, the punk subculture was primarily concerned with concepts such as rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism, free thought, and discontent. Punk ideologies are usually expressed through punk rock music, punk literature, spoken word recordings, punk fashion, or punk visual art. Some punks have participated in direct action, such as protests, boycotts, squatting, vandalism, or property destruction”(P.I.S. Blogging 1). In the novel countless ultra violent acts are being committed by the punk community. The youth culture has no remorse for innocent citizens as they take it upon themselves to assault, rape, rob, etc anyone because they can do so. In “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess, the protagonist Alex said, “Soon it was trees and dark, my brothers, with real country dark. […] We filled around for a while with other travelers of the night, playing “Hogs of the Road.” Then we headed west, what we were after now was the old surprise visit, that was a real kick and good for laughs and lashing of the ultra-violent”(Burgess 15). Alex and his gang were riding around in a stolen vehicle and driving recklessly, putting civilians’ life at risk because it was their form of entertainment.

According to Charles Sumner from the University of Southern Mississippi, her article “Humanist Drama in A Clockwork Orange” said, “ Yet the assertion that he commits crimes because he likes to only begs the question of why he likes to do it. Alex believes that he courageously defends his individuality, never realizing that his criminal desires, along with his more mundane likes and dislikes, his aesthetic tastes, even, are all socially or institutionally conditioned. Put differently, Alex does not act so much as he reacts, and it is this dialectical movement between action and reaction, freedom and servitude”(Sumner 50). This shows that ultra violence is the youth’s way of expressing themselves in the midst of the dystopian society. It has become a norm for the youth to beat up the homeless, rape girls, and rob innocent old ladies because it brings them happiness. They have the freedom to do as they please and they prefer to do bad instead of good. Now that the “punk” part of the genre has been addressed, let’s discuss the “cyber” aspect. 

Some people are saying that A Clockwork Orange is not cyberpunk because there is not enough “cyber” element to it. That is complete blasphemy and to those critics I want to introduce them to the Ludovico technique. In the novel it said, “It’s not been used yet,” he said, “not in this prison, 6655321. Himself has grave doubts about it. I must confess I share those doubts. The question is whether such a technique can really make a man good. Goodness comes from within, 6655321. Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man.”(Burgess 48). An unconventional type of therapy that requires the patient to be injected with drugs all while being in a skull cap wired to machines and forced to watch awful films is the government’s solution to all the madness occurring. The technique takes full effect because in every situation Alex tries to act violently he is met with overwhelming sickness. This is an example of “cyber” because it is advanced technology immersed in a dystopian society to combat violence.

There is a dilemma involving the Ludovico Technique because criminals are forced to be treated against their free will. This can connect to the dystopian society element of cyberpunk. In the society of A Clockwork Orange the government decides what your fate is, it is not under your control. That signifies that Alex’s society is imposing harmful and oppressive acts towards its member. According to Minodora Otilia Simion, Ph.D. Lecturer at the University of Târgu-Jiu in their article, “Freedom of Choice and Moral Consequences in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange” it said, “In spite of his experience as a victim of human violence F.Alexander has remained committed to the belief that man is “a creature of growth and capable of sweetness.” That is why he rejects the techniques of conditioning used in criminal reform believing that man is capable of sweetness and should not be turned into a piece of clockwork. On Alex‟s visit F. Alexander does not recognize him(as he and his droogs were wearing masks when they committed the rape.). He sees in Alex only another “victim of the modern age” and he is very compassionate”(Simion 67). Even F. Alexander, a victim to ultra violence agrees it is morally wrong to reform a human against their say. The totalitarianist rule over an oppressed society shows why the novel is part of the cyberpunk genre.

Science Fiction is more than aliens, time travel, and space. There are various sub-genres to Science Fiction because it is too enormous of a genre to describe in a couple of words. One key sub-genre is cyberpunk, Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange shows the characteristics of cyberpunk from dystopian society, advanced technological use, punk sensibility, and more. The novel goes in depth into what society would be if overrun by the barbaric youth and the government’s idea of retaliation is by forcing incriminated juveniles through aversion therapy. If you ask me the novel doesn’t sound impossible for the near future. A Clockwork Orange is a form of cyberpunk literature.

Work Cited

Bradbury, Ray, “Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203. “By Sam Weller. The Paris Review 192 (Spring 2010). Web. 10 May 2014.

Burgess, Anthony. “A Clockwork Orange (Uk Version) .” Antilogicalism, antilogicalism.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/clockwork-orange.pdf.

Charles Sumner. “Humanist Drama in A Clockwork Orange.” The Yearbook of English Studies, vol. 42, 2012, pp. 49–63. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/yearenglstud.42.2012.0049. Accessed 27 May 2020.

P.I.S. Blogging. “Common Punk Rock Ideologies And Philosophies.” Punx In Solidarity, 15 Sept. 2017, punxinsolidarity.com/2013/11/02/common-punk-rock-ideologies-and-philosophies/.

SIMION, Minodora Otilia. Annals of the Constantin Brancusi University of Targu Jiu-Letters & Social Sciences Series. 2013, Issue 2, p65-68. 4p.

Youngquist, Paul. “Cyberpunk, War, and Money: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.” Contemporary Literature, vol. 53 no. 2, 2012, p. 319-347. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/cli.2012.0011.

Travelers: A work of Science Fiction

Alex Cartagena

Professor Ellis

ENG2420 E573

26 May 2020

Travelers: A Work of Science Fiction

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term Science Fiction as “Fiction in which the setting and story feature hypothetical scientific or technological advances, the existence of alien life, space or time travel, etc., esp. such fiction set in the future, or an imagined alternative universe.” (Science Fiction, 2020).  The origin of Science Fiction can be traced back to Frankenstein, or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1797-1851), a revolutionary novel including elements of Gothic literature, mythology, and travel narratives, that portrayed its main character as a forward-thinking scientist that moved away from the antiquated beliefs of the past, which were centered around pseudoscience and the supernatural, and adopted a modern belief system influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and Romanticism.  The novel cautioned society about the negative consequences that could result from a hubristic and irresponsible approach to science and technology.  The SF genre, which commenced with Frankenstein, is now comprised of various subgenres that all contribute to it in unique ways.  

Science Fiction differs from other works of fiction in that all content found in SF must be able to be logically explained, while in fantasy fiction for instance, it is not a requirement. John W. Campbell Jr. (1910-1971), a notable SF writer and editor, describes this when he states, “To be science fiction, not fantasy, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made.  Ghosts can enter science fiction- if they’re logically explained but not if they are simply the ghosts of fantasy.  Prophetic extrapolation can derive from a number of different sources, and apply in a number of fields.  Sociology, psychology, and parapsychology are, today, not true sciences: therefore instead of forecasting future results of applications of sociological science of today, we must forecast the development of a science of sociology” (91).  In the television series Travelers, available for streaming on Netflix, the creator does an excellent job of explaining his science saturated story in a logical way.

The Science Fiction series Travelers is Canadian-American in origin and consists of three seasons released between 2016 and 2018. It was created by Brad Wright, a Canadian producer, screenwriter, and actor, who is well-known for co-creating Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe, all science fiction television series, as well. Travelers stars, Canadian actor Jared Abrahamson as Trevor Holden aka Traveler 0115, Canadian actress Nesta Marlee Cooper as Carly Shannon aka Traveler 3465, Canadian actor Reilly Dolman as Philip Pearson aka Traveler 3326, Canadian actor Patrick Gilmore as David Mailer, Canadian-American actor and singer Eric James McCormack as Grant MacLaren aka Traveler 3468, and Canadian actress and musician MacKenzie Porter as Marcy Warton aka Traveler 3569.

Travelers is reflective of the type of SF described by Isaac Asimov as Hard Science Fiction when he stated: “By hard science fiction, I mean those stories in which the details of science play an important role and in which the author is accurate about those details, too, and takes the trouble to explain them clearly” (299).  Like Asimov’s definition, Wright explains the scientific aspects of the story in detail and ensures that they are accurate and do not conflict.  The story takes place in the present-day United States where the consciousness of operatives from a post-apocalyptic future arrive suddenly and inhabit the bodies of pre-chosen individuals at the historical moments of their deaths.  The Travelers are sent by an AI known as the Director to change specific events from the past in an attempt to prevent the future destruction of society.  Having historical knowledge of the past and advanced technology, the Travelers are successful at funding their operations by placing gambling bets, curing themselves when injured, and manipulating present-day technology, but also struggle as a result of raising the suspicion of those closest to them due to the sudden change in their personalities, caused by their taking over of foreign bodies without possessing the memories and the small details of the hosts day to day lives. While performing their mission the Travelers must follow protocols that have been established by the Director such as, the mission comes first, leave the future in the past, don’t take a life; don’t save a life, unless otherwise directed, do not interfere, do not reproduce, in the absence of direction, maintain your host’s life, and do not communicate with other known Travelers outside of your team unless sanctioned by the Director.  Doing so affects the timeline, which results in changes to the future, and subsequent changes to the mission, and can also result in death.  The Travelers also engage in armed conflict with a rebel group from the future known as the Faction, which disagrees with allowing the AI the power to control their lives, and wants to give authority back to humanity.  The rebel group is not per se “bad” but they do attempt to sabotage Traveler missions and use violent means in an attempt to accomplish their goal of disruption.  The team must also confront their nemesis Vincent Ingram, Traveler 001, who is the leader of the Faction,  and the first traveler to arrive from the future on September 11, 2001.  Traveler 001 was supposed to die in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, but escaped the attack and went into hiding from the Director, and has attempted to destroy the AI and preserve his life by doing so, ever since.  The Traveler team ultimately fails its mission, allowing Ingram to transfer his consciousness into cyberspace, from where he causes the nuclear destruction of civilization, but not before Traveler 3468 is able to travel further into the past, to a time minutes before Traveler 001 is scheduled to arrive. Traveler 3468 sends the Director a message telling it that the mission has failed and should be aborted, canceling Traveler 001’s scheduled arrival and saving the world from nuclear destruction.

 The Travelers series includes several elements that allow it to be categorized as SF.  The first element is time-travel using technology, first demonstrated by H.G. Wells (1866-1946) in his famous SF novella, The Time Machine (1895).  In the novella, an English scientist builds a device that allows him to travel forward and backward in time.  Dr. Sorchá Ní Fhlainn, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University further explains Well’s contribution to SF in an article published in the August 2016 issue of the magazine Adaptation where she writes, “His fictional invention, a sled-like yet static machine capable of gliding through the fourth dimension of time, to the future or the past, has been noted by scholars as being the first popular instance of fictional time travel based on scientific method and theory rather than wishing or dreaming methods associated with time travel in earlier narratives” (165).  Just as in the Time Machine time-travel in the Traveler series is accomplished with the use of technology.  The characters all travel to the present-day from hundreds of years in the future, but unlike in the Time Machine only their consciousness is transferred, and traveling is unidirectional, from future to past.  The second element of Science Fiction that is present in Travelers is the use of body enhancements.  The Travelers team-members use devices that are embedded in their heads to communicate with each other, which technically makes them cyborgs.  Two examples of cyborgs appearing in Science Fiction are the characters, Automatic Jack and Rikki, in the Cyberpunk short story Burning Chrome, written by William Gibson and published in the science and science fiction magazine Omni, in July of 1982. Automatic Jack is a cyborg because he has a prosthetic arm due to an accident and Rikki becomes a cyborg by getting cybernetic eye implants for cosmetic reasons (pp. 72-107). The third element of SF found in Travelers is the strict protocols the team must follow.  They seem eerily similar to the rules established in the short SF story “The Cold Equations”, a short SF story written by Tom Godwin (1915-1980), and published in the August 1954 issue of Astounding Magazine.  In “The Cold Equations” a young woman named Marilyn must perish because the ship she has stowed away on does not contain enough fuel to complete its mission with her aboard.  Those in charge will not even consider trying to save her and she is ultimately disposed of into space where she dies (pp. 62-84).  The protocols in Traveler must not be broken under any circumstances as well.  The Director has calculated every move the team must make and breaking protocol can be punished by death.  The fourth element of SF found in Travelers is the transfer of consciousness which occurs when the Travelers time-travel into host bodies and also when Traveler 001 transfers his consciousness to cyberspace.  The transfer of consciousness into another body has occurred in SF for a long time but the transfer of consciousness into cyberspace is a more recent development and an example of it can be observed in The X-Files, Season 5 Episode 11, “Kill Switch,” where two computer hackers transfer their consciousness’ into cyberspace where they will exist indefinitely.  Finally the fifth element of SF found in Travelers is the existence of an AI that controls the actions of humans.  An example of an AI in a work of Science Fiction is in the short story “Reason”, written by Isaac Asimov, published in the April 1941 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction.  In the story, two men build a robot capable of reasoning that eventually takes control of the space station on which they are deployed.  The robot does not harm the men but does infringe on their ability to do as they please (pp. 33-45).

When you compare Travelers to other works of Science Fiction you quickly realize that it contains many elements that can be found throughout the SF genre and its subgenres.  The show is science saturated and its plot is explained clearly and logically, with no unexplained conflicts existing in the storyline.  It contains technology that is more advanced than that which is available today but not so far-fetched that it won’t be possible in the future.  When compared to Shelley’s Frankenstein with which the genre started, the series continues the forwarding-thinking and always advancing direction that Shelley envisioned.  Travelers represents a modern-day work of Science Fiction.  It follows established and accepted rules of what SF is and does so in an entertaining and understandable way.  

Works Cited

Asimov, Isaac. “Reason.” Astounding Science-Fiction, Apr. 1941, pp. 33–45. https://archive.org/details/ Astounding_v27n02_1941-04_dtsg0318/page/n43/mode/2up

Asimov, Isaac, editor. Stories from the Hugo Winners. vol. 2. New York: Fawcett Crest Books, 1973. 

Campbell, Jr., John W. “The Science of Science Fiction Writing.” Of Worlds Beyond: The  Science of Science Fiction-Writing. Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 89-101. Print

Gibson, William. “Burning Chrome.” Omni, July 1982, pp. 72–107, https://web.archive.org/web/20190519005941/http://www.housevampyr.com/training/library/books/omni/OMNI_1982_07.pdf.

Godwin, Tom. “The Cold Equations.” Astounding Science Fiction, Aug. 1954, pp. 62–84, https://archive.org/details/Astounding_v53n06_1954-08_Sirius-Starhome/page/n59/mode/2up.

“Kill Switch.” The X-Files, season 5, episode 11, Fox, 15 Feb. 1998.

Ní Fhlainn, Sorchá. “‘There’s Something Very Familiar About All This’: Time Machines, Cultural Tangents, and Mastering Time in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine and the Back to the Future Trilogy.” Adaptation: The Journal of Literature on Screen Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, Aug. 2016, pp. 164–184. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1093/adaptation/apv028. Accessed 21 May 2020.”science fiction, n. and adj.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2020, www.oed.com/ view/Entry/172674. Accessed 21 May 2020.

Shelley, Mary W., Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, London, 1831. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/42324/42324-h/42324-h.htm. Accessed 21 May 2020.

Wells, H.G., The Time Machine – Abridged Version. The World’s Greatest Books. William H. 

Wise Co., New York, 1941, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1302961h.html.

Wright, Brad. “Travelers.” Netflix Official Site, 23 Dec. 2016, www.netflix.com/title/80105699.

Life is The Walking Dead by Khoury Archibald

In learning about the Science Fiction genre this semester our lives were thrown into some disarray by the Covid-19 Pandemic, it has was common to think of our own world as a kind of Science Fiction story. As the virus basically shut down the world for a time I became interested in writing about the Walking Dead franchise. The Walking Dead is a franchise focused on the world after a global pandemic turns most of the population into zombies. Survivors are then shown trying to navigate the new world and find some way to gain a semblance of normal life. The Walking Dead is based on decision making the people are basically proxies for the viewer, they navigate their new world and search for the best in their new reality.
The Walking Dead Franchise is a series of comic books, video games, television and web series. It was created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The original comic series was first published in 2003. The various editions of the comic and the series in its different mediums focuses on different casts of characters as they try to gather resources, and people to fight for survival. The TV series follows the plot of the comic series closely and is the most popular form of the franchise. The story from the comic and TV series follows Rick Grimes, a sheriff who awakens from a coma to the world in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. He joins a group of survivors which includes his family who then travels throughout America in search of shelter. The comic series was pitched by Kirkman and Moore as an homage to the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead. It was published by Image Comics and ran until 2019.
The Walking Dead story fits the genre of Science Fiction in various ways. I feel it could fit in multiple eras of Science Fiction history including Proto and New Wave Science Fiction. The story is set in a dystopic world based on our own which shows no sign of improvement. This concept is similar to the concept of utopian stories which were prevalent in the Proto-SF era which gave way to dystopian stories. A dystopian story displays a society that is worse than our own. The Walking Dead shows a future society that was altered by a disease that changed the world we know. The Proto-SF era produced dystopian imagery in stories such as H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine which showed a world appearing happy and peaceful while hiding a dark underbelly. Many Walking Dead arcs have survivors together in camps living as normal and attempting to find a stable life and believing they have found one that works for them, then having something change which throws them back on their own. Dystopian works are also found in the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Issac Asimov’s Reason explores the fear of society being taken over by robots. A lot of Golden Age dystopia focuses on the suspicion of technology or government as the motivation of the characters. Though The Walking Dead does not feature a direct antagonist in that way, the characters could be considered to be revolting against the world as it exists as they try to find a cure or some hope of changing their situation.
The video game based on The Walking Dead was first released in 2012 by Telltale Games. The game series ran for four “seasons” until 2018. The game is story based, where the player makes decisions for their characters that effect the story as it progresses. The story advances through the seasons allowing the player some control of the story. The decision making element and importance of human choice is what makes The Walking Dead franchise Science Fiction. Many rules of Science Fiction that have been established over the years apply the plot of the series. In John W. Rules for good Science Fiction he feels the story’s conditions should be different than current times and drive the story’s plot. The Walking Dead fills all of the requirements as well as adhering to science. The Walking Dead also follows several rules of New Wave Science Fiction and it’s shift toward more serious psychological storytelling. The Walking Dead tends to focus more on phycology. The actual violence and acton of killing zombies serves as the constant burden of the characters. The toll of always fighting for survival and it’s mental strain is the main idea of the franchise.
Watching The Walking Dead during this time in the world was interesting. Many SF stories we read during the semester warn of wild futures that are vastly different and dangerous. The reality we face now during the pandemic is the kind of plot we would see in SF. People have likened it to The Walking Dead or I Am Legend. The similarities pushed me to write about The Walking Dead and also my own experience dealing with an altered reality. I personally have not been overly affected by the pandemic. My work and general family life have been stable so I feel fortunate at this point. There has still been a feeling of apathy towards the world and questioning the importance of everyday things if they can be stopped so suddenly. Basic time management and summoning the motivation to do certain tasks have become a process. I think of people with real struggles, who have lost work, and important people in their lives and consider my good fortune, but still getting myself to do things I need to do can be a struggle. I watched The Walking Dead, trying to put myself in the characters shoes and understand their decisions and motivations. I believe that is the best way to experience the franchise as a whole, putting yourself in the shoes of the character. Being in a similar situation as the characters I feel enhances the overall experience of the show. Questioning whether it would be worth rebuilding the world in the show which is often portrayed as having no hope of returning to normalcy was an interesting thought process to consider during this period of time.

“Outbreak” – Action Film or SF? – V. Munoz

Victoria Munoz

Professor Jason W. Ellis

ENG2420-E573 – SF

Spring 2020

“Outbreak” – Action Film or SF? – V. Munoz

Friday, March 13, 2020 marked an important date in history for New York. For many and most New Yorkers, jobs were halted, schools, restaurants, bars, music venues, sports events were shut down and canceled. Closures were happening left and right, and the city (and the world) as we knew it was on its way to undergo some drastic changes due to the novel virus COVID-19. Twenty-five years and three days earlier on March 10, 1995 Warner Bros released a box office hit, “Outbreak,” whose plot follows the destruction of an airborne virus similar to the one we are dealing with today. The question I will attempt to answer is this: may we consider this blockbuster film a work of Science Fiction? Or is it just another explosion-filled surface-level Hollywood action film?

When we think about Science Fiction as a genre we usually imagine an alien invasion, traveling to the future using a time machine, or giving life to a scientist’s creation by means of galvanism. SF is often difficult to define and for that purpose acts as an umbrella to other subgenres. The list of definitions of SF may be endless but for this paper, I will focus on Ray Bradbury’s definition which states the following:

“Science fiction pretends to look into the future but it’s really looking at a reflection of what is already in front of us. So you have a ricochet vision, a ricochet that enables you to have fun with it, instead of being self-conscious and superintellectual” 

Having related his definition to the tale of Medusa this well-known writer notes these works don’t necessarily have to follow science to a tee. There is room for “fun,” and there is room for mistake. Outbreak contains both scientific-related instances and measures taken for the spread of a viral disease, as well as the exaggerated truth we are used to seeing in Hollywood films. It is a film that is on Netflix’s most viewed due to our current pandemic. People have become curious by way of movies to see what insight they may contain about a virus.

The film, Outbreak was directed by Wolfgang Peterson and is loosely based on the nonfiction book “The Hot Zone,” written by Richard Preston in 1994. The movie tells the story of a virus outbreak. It begins on a United States Army base in the African jungle where the soldiers are taken over by the disease called Motaba, which causes a deadly fever and other symptoms. The US government decides to destroy the killer virus by dropping a bomb onto the camp. Nearly three decades later it returns and an Army Virologist, Colonel Daniels is sent to Africa to investigate. There is a conflict between Daniels and his superior about his fear of the virus spreading. Hell breaks loose after a monkey who carries the virus is brought into the States from Africa and is stolen by one of the workers at the animal testing lab and infects the man who had taken her.

Ironically enough a Weekly Report from the CDC, reported an Ebola outbreak that occurred months after the film was released in theatres.

“On May 6, 1995, CDC was notified by health authorities and the U.S. Embassy in Zaire of an outbreak of viral hemorrhagic fever in the Kikwit area of Bandundu region, Zaire. On May 10, testing of blood specimens from ill patients confirmed that the outbreak was caused by Ebola virus.”

Given that pandemics or viral outbreaks are something we as a human race are presently dealing with and have dealt with in the past it was fairly easy to spot commonalities of the measures taken to prevent Motaba and COVID-19 from spreading. We currently being told to follow Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines which include: social distancing, staying indoors, placing cities around the globe on lockdown, to wear personal protective equipment such as face masks, gloves, etc. Outbreak uses valid science and proper procedures to avoid further spread like the techniques we are using today.  

Much like the scientists in the film, we see on television our doctors and nurses (and our neighbors) wearing face masks and body covers when they are around the infected. They also use contact tracing to find the point of origin of the virus. Contact tracing is disease control measure used to prevent further spread of COVID-19. It is a process in which an infected person works with public health staff to recall everyone they came in contact with during the timeframe they may have been infected. The staff then reach out to those who were exposed and inform them of the potential threat they face, while educating and suggesting ways to stop further spread. In Outbreak, we see the virus being traced it to the loading dock where a man had contracted the virus, to the pet store where the monkey was brought to be sold, then the theatre where people were informed of potential infection and were advised to quarantine. Later the government also places the entire town of Cedar Creek under lockdown to prevent the spread to anywhere else in the country. 

Also similar to the likes of COVID-19, Motaba has a zoonotic origin. Meaning it’s an infectious disease that is caused by bacteria passed on from an animal to a human being. The novel Coronavirus, was discovered when a cluster of pneumonia-like cases turned up in Wuhan, China in December 2019. While there are few scenarios scientists created on the origin of COVID, an article from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s EurekAlert! states the following:

“The researchers proposed bats as the most likely reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 as it is very similar to a bat coronavirus. There are no documented cases of direct bat-human transmission, however, suggesting that an intermediate host was likely involved between bats and humans.”

The Motaba virus however originated in the African born monkey named Betsy who had been smuggled into America after the US military returned from their investigation. The mentioned article also quotes a leading researcher Josie Goulding, Ph.D., saying that scientists had concluded COVID-19 was the outcome of natural evolution and reassured the press that it was not an apart of any intentional scientific experiment or as the article states: “deliberate genetic engineering.” This contrasts to Outbreak since the American Government, although it is not said they created Motaba, they were well aware of its existence and had kept it locked away under tight security for means of biological weapon.

The way the viruses spread is another trait the two share. Both Mutuba and COVID-19 are easily and sustainably spread between people, which means it is able to go from one person to another without stopping. They both may be contracted through respiratory droplets from an infected person – by coughing, sneezing, or even simply talking. 

Although it follows some of the necessary precautions for a situation of that matter, Outbreak also holds a warped, fictional view of reality. For instance, the militarized reaction to the spread of the disease. The small town, Cedar Creek, California had been placed under lockdown with armed guards preventing its residents from leaving. Not to mention the government’s “Operation Clean Sweep,” which was a plan to bomb the town and it’s population to destroy the virus and prevent the public from finding out about their biological weapon. This is not the first of biological weapons or warfare we have seen in SF. In James Tiptree Jr.’s “The Last Flight of Dr. Ain,” published in Galaxy Magazine in March 1969, a doctor travels the world and intentionally spreads a killer disease that will kill the human race. Not even the investigators that captured Dr. Ain survived his virus. Although it has been “ruled out” that COVID-19 started from an animal, seeing how we have reacted and the way the Motaba virus was handled in Outbreak, raises the concern that as a society we are not prepared for such terror – whether such virus is manmade or not. 

Save the helicopter fight scenes, the all too convenient discovery of the monkey who was the point of origin of the virus, and the fact that they were able to get the antiserum back to the town in the span of all but a day; Outbreak’s storyline proves to be a reasonable take on widespread disease. And thus, leads me to believe it is a work of Science Fiction. It mixes both truth and exaggeration that doesn’t quite seem far off from the reality we are living today. Now if only we had an outstanding hero, such as Dustin Hoffman, to swoop in on his piloted helicopter with the cure.

Cited Sources

  1.  Bradbury, Ray, “Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction.” By Arthur Unger. The Christian Science Monitor 13 Nov. 1980. n.p. Web. 10 May 2014.
  2. “The COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin, scientists say—Scripps Research’s analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS‑CoV‑2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered”. EurekAlert!. Scripps Research Institute. 17 March 2020. 
  3. “Update: Outbreak of Ebola Viral Hemorrhagic Fever – Zaire, 1995”. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 44 (20): 399. May 26, 1995.
  4. “Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)”. World Health Organization (WHO). 17 April 2020. Archived from the original on 14 May 2020. 
  5. Huang C, Wang Y, Li X, Ren L, Zhao J, Hu Y, et al. (February 2020). “Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China”. Lancet. 395 (10223): 497–506.

“Is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Science Fiction?” by Saván De Jesus

Saván De Jesus

Professor Jason W. Ellis

ENG2420 E573

20 May 2020

Is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Science Fiction?


Science Fiction is a highly debated literary genre due to the scope of writing that it encompasses. A universal definition of the genre has been difficult for scholars to agree on. This has led to a multitude of definitions and a slew of subgenres of Science Fiction. One of these subgenres is known as Social Science Fiction. Social Science Fiction criticizes the contemporary world through the lens of a future society impacted by the advancements of science and technology. Social Science Fiction examines the sciences and technologies of the present day and imagines how those sciences and technologies may be used by humans and governments and how those uses will change society. Through the analysis of several definitions of Science Fiction, from multiple reputable sources, this paper will render Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World an indisputable, legitimate work of Science Fiction that can be further classified into the Social Science Fiction category.

Farfetched but Plausible

Robert Heinlein, (1907 -1988) sometimes referred to as the “Dean of Science Fiction,” was an American Science Fiction author whose stories were those of future history, a technique that he helped pioneer, in which an author uses the current state of the world to speculate a logical arrival at their postulated future. Heinlein defines Science Fiction as being “different from the here and now;” he goes on to explain that this imagined future and the theory of how it came to be must “be rendered reasonably plausible,” when examining the established facts of the here and now. “It may be far-fetched, but it must not be at variance with observed facts” (Heinlein 17). Some ideas in Science Fiction may sound outlandish; however, if there is a rational reasoning between the present day and the imagined future, these concepts can be considered Science Fiction.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World takes place in the year 2540, or as it is referred to in the book 632 A.F., (After Ford) in a farfetched imagined future society run by the “World State.” In this future society, mankind has advanced their technology far enough to take control of some of the most fundamental parts of the human condition. This future world portrays human beings as no longer born but rather factory-made and conditioned in “hatcheries” through a series of government-controlled scientific processes. Surgically removed ovaries that produce ova, or mature female reproductive cells, are instead fertilized by spermatozoa, or mature male reproductive cells, in laboratory receptacles.

The Hatchery then determines the social class or caste that the fetus will belong to in the World State and bottles the embryos accordingly. The upper caste members are known as Alphas and Betas and the lower caste members are called the Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons. The embryos are placed in bottles, and sent to travel along a conveyor belt for a gestation period of 267 days. During this time, the fetuses will undergo different treatments depending on the caste that they belong to and the job they are expected to perform once fully grown. Later in life, Alphas and Betas perform the intellectual jobs in society, such as managing the factories or nursing, therefore, they are given the most pristine prenatal treatments. The three lower castes are expected to perform menial work, going through several processes to lower their intelligence and stunt their growth, such as oxygen deprivation and alcohol treatments. Afterwards, fetuses are conditioned according to the labor that they will be providing when grown. Those predestined to work in tropical areas are given heat treatments to accumulate to the weather. Future chemical workers are conditioned to tolerate lead, caustic soda, tar, chlorine, and other chemicals. Rocket-plane engineers’ containers were kept in constant motion in order to condition them to associate abnormal movement patterns with well-being. Every future occupation has a corresponding conditioning program that suits its future workers.

Through this manufactured, assembly line-produced birth, the World State is able to control traits and predetermine the future of their citizens. However, the World State takes conditioning one step further in order to ensure the desired results. After the gestation period, the babies are then decanted from their bottles at which point, they are sent to undergo “Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning.” Here, the World State further conditions the moral beliefs of every citizen in their society.

Babies are not raised by families but rather by State Conditioning Centers. Eight-month-old babies from the lower caste are given books and flowers but upon touching them are scared by the sound of alarm bells and physically shocked by electricity. The process is repeated 200 times ensuring that an instinctive hatred for books and nature is instilled in all of the minds of the lower castes. This ensures that they will never waste society’s time by reading and will prefer cities and factories to country and nature. It ensures that they will happily provide their predestined labors. It serves to make sure that no one ever reads something that may decondition them, causing a possible opposition of the World State. Each caste undergoes a different version of Neo-Pavlovian conditioning specifically selected by the World State.

In addition to Neo-Pavlovian conditioning, citizens of the World State are also conditioned through hypnopedia or sleep-learning. Hypnopedia is used to condition and teach the children of the World State moral consequence while they are sleeping. This occurs by playing a repetitive recording that recites the World State’s desired morals and beliefs at predetermined points in a child’s conditioning. While in conditioning centers, growing children are subject to countless repetitive mantras that will shape their beliefs and behaviors. The process is repeated “Till at last the child’s mind is these suggestions and the sum of these suggestions is the child’s mind… the adult’s mind too.” (Huxley 90). Their minds are eternally and completely conditioned to wholeheartedly hold these predetermined beliefs as their own.

The hypnopedia that the citizens are subjected to as growing children will shape their moral beliefs and ways of living throughout their adult lives. They are conditioned through hypnopedia lessons in hygiene, sociability, and class consciousness. They are conditioned to view other caste members as superior or inferior. They are conditioned to appreciate technological progress and to consume transport and products to support the economy which is kept afloat through mass production and mass consumption. They are conditioned to be happy with their positions in life regardless of what caste they belonged to. Most importantly, they are conditioned not only to do the work that they are predetermined for, but to enjoy the work that they are predestined to provide for the World State. This hypnopedia conditioning ensures that citizens in the World State will happily serve their purpose in society no matter how important or insignificant it may be.

Manipulative ectogenesis, Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning, and Hypnopedia are the technologies that the World State in Brave New World uses to keep their society happy and wholly subservient. However, as an added measure they tighten their grip on the population through the means of chemical persuasion. All members of society are given daily rations of an addictive recreational drug called soma. Soma in small doses causes extreme bliss, in large doses causes hallucinations with a sense of timelessness, and in larger doses can cause one to fall into a pleasant and refreshing sleep. Soma can be used to cure pain, discomfort, embarrassment, sadness, anger, or any negative feelings and at the same time it can be used to enhance joy, arousal, and an overall sense of wellbeing (Huxley 70). Soma provided this future society with a means of escape through the positive effects of the drug, while harboring no physiological or psychological effects on the user. Through hypnopaedic persuasion, the World State citizens are conditioned to consume soma on a daily basis, especially when feeling any type of negative emotion about themselves or the society that they live in.

Kingsley Amis (1922 – 1995) was a novelist and critic who defined Science Fiction as “that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudoscience or pseudo technology” (Amis 8). Similarly, the legendary Science Fiction writer and editor of Astounding Science Fiction, John W. Campbell (1910 – 1971) said that in order for a piece of work to be Science Fiction “an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made.” He went on to say that “Prophetic extrapolation can derive from a number of sources, and apply in a number of fields” (Campbell 91). Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World satisfies all of these criteria. While the idea of creating subservient humans through the means of ectogenesis, Neo-Pavlovian Conditioning, Hypnopedia and mind-altering drugs may sound farfetched, in 1931 when Huxley was writing his novel, several sciences and technologies made these concepts seem like rational and plausible possibilities to Huxley. The sciences and technologies that influenced Huxley’s extrapolation process will be discussed in further detail below.

In 1913, Henry Ford (1863 – 1947) revolutionized the world with his moving assembly line which led to mass production taking the world by storm. Ford’s assembly line shortened the time that it took to make a Model T car from 12 and a half hours to 1 and a half hours. The efficiency of the assembly line caused the prices of the vehicles to drop drastically which led to mass consumption and mass production. The assembly line method was applied to a vast number of products over the years, leading to a shift in society toward a direction of mass consumption (Nye, 2013). In 1923, an English biologist named John Burdon Sanderson Haldane (1892 – 1964) first proposed the idea of an egg being fertilized and developed outside of the womb through artificial means, coining the term ectogenesis (Schwartz, 2019). After Sanderson’s first mention of ectogenesis at the Heretics Society of the University of Cambridge, the concept began to gain notoriety and was discussed in certain circles and by biologists of the day.

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley hypothesizes what would happen to society if a technologically advanced form of ectogenesis were to mesh with a perfection of Ford’s assembly line. He eventually arrived at a vision of a future in which humans are no longer viviparously born, but made in government-controlled factories through scientific and technological means. Huxley used the basis of these two forms of innovative science and technology as an extrapolation point from which to begin his novel. The assembly line is so instrumental to the people of the World State that its creation designated a new era and their calendar was restarted from 0 A.F. (After Ford).

In 1897, a Russian physiologist named Ivan Pavlov (1849 – 1936) had made great strides in the field of classic conditioning and behaviorism and developed the Pavlovian theory. The theory suggests that it is possible for the stimulus of an object or event to be indefinitely paired with a conditioned response or reflex by repetitive training with repetitive actions (McSweeny, 2014). In 1927, Alois Benjamin Saliger (1880 – 1969) invented the Psycho-Phone for sleep learning. Saliger claimed that it had been “proven that natural sleep is identical with hypnotic sleep and that during natural sleep the unconscious mind is most receptive to suggestions” (Barron, 2017).

Huxley applies the known sciences of physiology and hypnopedia when imagining what would happen if a perfected form of the Pavlovian method were combined with a style of sleep learning that catered to moral learning instead of educational learning. He envisioned a future in which a superior power, the World State, has taken control of these methods, using them to condition citizens through the Pavlovian method and hypnopedia to like or dislike certain aspects of life and society. Although hypnopedia today has been widely discredited and labeled as a pseudoscience, in 1931, it was a new revolutionary science that opened up new possibilities. 

In the early 20th century, society had begun to experiment and become addicted to mind altering drugs such as opium, morphine, cocaine, and heroin. Then, in 1921 the Dangerous Drugs Act was passed giving the government control over the import, export, distribution, and possession of the mind-altering drugs (Woods, 1922). In 1920, David Macht (1882 – 1961) a pharmacologist working out of the famous John Hopkins Hospital coined the term psychopharmacology when he conducted pharmacologic experiments to test the effects that these drugs could have on the brain as well as one’s mood, sensation, thinking, and behavior. (Lehmann, 1993). In 1930, scientists began to study addictive behavior, this was the birth of the science of addiction which attempts to understand the links between our brain and compulsive drug use (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2010).

Brave New World takes the recent societally, politically, and scientifically developments regarding the drugs of current society and imagines how culture and communities could be affected if all these developments advanced towards each other. If scientists could improve their understanding of psychopharmacology and addiction, would it be possible for the government to manufacture a drug that could cure all negative emotions and facilitate an excess amount of bliss, while having no physiological or mental cost to the user? If such a drug were created, how difficult would it be to get an already addiction riddled society hooked on this miracle drug? Huxley’s extrapolation from the developments in drugs during the years prior to Brave New World manifests itself into a fictional future where the wonder drug known as soma is not only the people’s drug of choice, it is also a political institution. The World State creates, distributes, and demands that people use the drug daily and society has no objections due to their conditioning.

In 1931, Aldous Huxley’s used the extrapolation points of the revolutionary technologies behind the assembly line, the new scientific discussion regarding ectogenesis, the recent discoveries in physiology, the pseudoscience of hypnopedia, and the science of drugs to arrive at his postulated future in his novel Brave New World. Huxley uses these five innovative scientific, technological, and societal breakthroughs of his time and hypothesizes their advancement and the effects that these advancements would have on the society of the future. Huxley takes the most recent known information of his time, from a number of sources and different sciences, and makes an effort at prophetic extrapolation. Huxley used the current state of the world he was writing in, examined the established facts of his “here and now,” and arrived at a farfetched but reasonably plausible and Science Fictionally sound future.

Social Science Fiction

Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) an extremely talented writer, professor, and polymath defined Science Fiction as “that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings” (Asimov 148). Similarly, Robert Scholes (1929 – 2016) a literary critic and theorist defined Science Fiction as “a fictional exploration of the human situations made perceptible by the implications of recent science. Its favorite themes involve the impact of developments or revelations derived from the human or physical sciences upon the people who must live with those revelations or developments” (Scholes 214).  Asimov and Scholes believed that Science Fiction did more than just talk about future technology, they believed that it should also discuss how future technology will affect the development of future humans and societies.

Thomas Henry Huxley (1825 – 1895), Aldous Huxley’s Grandfather, was a scientific humanist who had earned the nickname Darwin’s Bulldog. T. H. Huxley ferociously fought for the evolutionary ideas of Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) to be listened to and sought the proof required to change those theories into facts. T. H. Huxley influenced the seminal Science Fiction writer Herbert George Wells (1866 – 1946) to think about the effects of future technology through the lens of biological evolution. In Well’s debut novel, he writes about a Time Traveler who travels far into the distant future and discovers that science and technology has led to a shift in the biological evolution of mankind leading to two distinct species.

Wells’ novel is one where technology changes the evolutionary road of mankind. Aldous Huxley’s novel is one where technology allows mankind to take control of the evolutionary process. Aldous Huxley was influenced by his grandfather, much like H. G. Wells was, but in a different fashion. Wells imagined how technology and society would alter biological evolution. Aldous Huxley imagined how science and technology would allow mankind to gain control over their own biological evolution. Perhaps Aldous Huxley would agree with one of Wells’ criticizers, Edward Morgan Forster (1879 – 1970), who believed that Wells’ insistence on evolution, and not technology, being the driving force in historical development was misguided. Forster countered that the main force propelling humanity was technology and the effects that it had on human beings.

Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World examines the consequences that could come about when powerful new technologies are controlled and regulated by the government. Huxley and Wells’ work are part of a subgenre of Science Fiction known as Social Science Fiction. Social Science Fiction uses the present-day sciences, technologies, and societal norms when extrapolating to a more often than not, farfetched, and exaggerated future that allows the author to make speculations about contemporary society. Social Science Fiction often imagines the future governments, social systems, and systems of control that can come about when the government holds authority over new and powerful technologies.


After analyzing the definitions provided by Heinlein, Amis, Campbell, Asimov, and Scholes, it is clearly stated that Science Fiction may be farfetched as long as it is hypothesized on the basis of various recent innovations in society, science and technology and the author makes a reasonably, plausible, honest attempt at a rationally prophetic extrapolation of the future. One must conclude that Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World satisfies this criterion and should be labeled as an indisputable and legitimate work of Science Fiction. Since the novel extrapolates from the technological and social sciences of the time it was written, as well as criticizes contemporary society by speculating on how technology can affect the future of government, social systems, and systems of control, it can be further classified into the subgenre known as Social Science Fiction.

Works Cited

Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. New York: Harcourt, 1960. Print.

Asimov, Isaac. “Other Worlds to Conquer.” The Writer 64.5 (May 1951): 148-151. Print.

Barron, Frank. “The Psycho-Phone.” Center for the History or Psychology, 23 Feb. 2017, centerhistorypsychology.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/the-psycho-phone/.

Campbell, Jr., John W. “The Science of Science Fiction Writing.” Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science Fiction Writing. ED. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 89-101. Print

Heinlein, Robert. “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.” Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science-Fiction Writing. Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 11-19. Print.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Brothers, 1932.

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. Chatto & Windus, 1959.

Lehmann, E. Heinz. “Before They Called It Psychopharmacology.” Neuropsychopharmacology, vol. 8, no. 4, 1993, pp. 291–303.

McSweeney, Frances K. “Principles of Pavlovian Conditioning.” The Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Operant and Classical Conditioning, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford, UK, 2014, pp. 1–25.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2010.

Nye, David E. America’s Assembly Line, MIT Press, 2013. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/citytech-ebooks/detail.action?docID=3339576.

Scholes, Robert. “The Roots of Science Fiction.” Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Eds. James Gunn and Matthew Candelaria. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005. 205-218. Print.

Schwartz, Oscar. “On the History of the Artificial Womb.” JSTOR, 11 Sept. 2019, daily.jstor.org/on-the-history-of-the-artificial-womb/.

Woods, Hugh. “DANGEROUS DRUGS ACT, 1920.” British Medical Journal, vol. 2, no. 3226, 1922, pp. 826–826.

Terminator vs the Paranormal.

Ahmad Abuameir 

Prof.Jason Ellis 

ENG 240


The term “science fiction” is one of the most diverse and expressive terminologies in all of literature. It’s kinda like it has its own character to it with so many different ways to express it and we are still to this day adding new substances to the terminology it’s self “Science FIction” better know as “SF” is a seen as the literature of “change”. And an ongoing conversation. It’s seen as “Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imaginative science on society or individuals or having a scientific factor as an essential orienting component”. Sf has been broken down by hundredths of different writers and authors. But I see the primitive and native definition broken down by the one and only Isaac Asimov “science fiction can be defined as that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology”- Isaac Asimov. Which perfectly fits my argument.

Terminator one of the most fulfilling and quenticental Science Fiction films in the history of cinema. “The terminator” a 1984 American Science fiction film directed by the one and only (James Cameron)and starts the good old (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as the terminator “ a person or thing that terminates something” an assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 all the way back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor played by the lovely Linda Hamilton whose son will one day become the one a true savior against the machines in the dark and gloomy post Apocalyptic future. When it is bad it is good. (Kyle Reese )played by Micheal Biehn a soldier sent to protect (Sarah).

Now to me that screams Science Fiction. This low budget flick at the time managed to capture a true science fiction experience like no other. A film that revolves around time travel that has killer Ai robots from the future with futuristic laser guns trying to undo or erase the future that humans caused. It just fits the narrative perfectly in practically every way possible or imaginable. “Reactions of human beings to changes in science and technology” humans were responsible for the collapse of humanity in the Terminator films. “Sky net” a fictional artificial neural network created by “cyber dyne systems” based Conscious group mind and artificial general “superintelligence system” that serves as the main antagonist for the entire Terminator franchise. Sky net goes on to develop itself into more sophisticated versions that ultimately gain an upper hand on humanity. Sky net was the world’s first automated defense network that would process information at a whooping 90 teraflops. That was the main controlling force behind all of the battle units. It would develop tactics and precisely coordination attacks which lead Skynet to have control over everything and anything. (Skynet became self-aware and view humanity as a detriment threat).

Terminator to its core is about a life long war between man and machine. Or you can go as far and call it the relationship between man and machine. Throughout our 13 online lectures when crossed main stories that feature the same idea or in the same realm of storytelling for example. “Reasons” by Isaac Asimov is about two intellectual scientists putting together a robot. The robot is unable to understand the fact it was pieced by two different humans. And it sees two inferior beings and concludes through its own reasoning. It builds its reputation up as being a profit among other robots at the station. The reason why I’m bringing this story up is “reasons” is considered an all-time SF classic story for the ages and is a reminder on what Science Fiction is truly about.

As time and time passes the true legacy of the 1984 Terminator slowly starts to deteriorate into oblivion. More and more articles are popping up claiming that “Terminator 1984” isn’t a true Science fiction story. But more of a horror/slasher type film. Now if that isn’t the biggest pile of bullshit I ever heard I don’t know what is. Maybe considering the return of the Jedi a good movie but that’s a topic for another day. And I’m here to prove that dead wrong.

Statements of Terminator not being a true Science fiction story but a horror story started around the early 2000s when we would get a half-assed generic Slasher film every other week. And that’s where the comparisons slowly started to creep in. Looking at this from the other side of the spectrum and why people make these nonsensical claims can be quite convincing at times even though most of the time it can sound delusional. 1. The comparisons to other slashers. People starting to refer the t-800 also known as the terminator as another unstoppable slasher like Jason Voorhees or Freddie Cougar. This is pretty damm easy to debunk. The T-800 is a specially modified assassin configured to accomplish one goal. It doesn’t go around murdering other people for amusement as like other slashers do. “That will kill anyone in its path, is relentless in its pursuit, and can’t be barged or reasoned with”. This is also debunked. The T-800 doesn’t go on killing sprees it has one target. In the first film yes multiple innocent people die. But that doesn’t make the T-800 a slasher the innocent people that due die is under the name of Sharah Conner a mistake made by the terminator. The T-800 isn’t a stone-cold killer. “ As usual in slashers, the police are useless, not believing that an inhuman killer is loose and providing no match for the villain”. This is typical storytelling you can find this in any genre or any form of media. Is it lazy writing. Absolutely, is it exclusive to horror films? Absolutely not. Just a cheap way of progressing the story or adding any form of tension between multiple characters. That type of narrative isn’t exclusive to the “horror” genre at all. Finally they final point these analysts try to point out “The door is even left open for a sequel, with the terminator arm that’s later found by Cyberdyne systems”. At this point they are forcing the narrative on how Terminator is actual slasher set in a horror universe rather than an SF adventure. This is a common tactic used in the film industry. To set up a sequel or to set up a grounded universe for other films to take place in therefore continuing the lore.

Before I dive deeper into this I want to set the standard definition for “horror” and what attributes are linked with this genre. Just like Sf horror has multiple definitions, The most basic definition of horror as a genre is: fiction that aims to frighten, disturb, or unsettle its readers (or viewers). This isn’t terminators’ main purpose, the film isn’t out to frighten or disturb you. It doesn’t make the reader feel “Unsettling”. It’s meant for the complete opposite. It’s meant to fully immerse you in this fiction Sf world. I’ve explained what SF. The “true” definition. But to me of stories are all about the immersive experience that intertwines with immersive storytelling. There’s a reason why Star Wars Is the most profitable Franchise of all time. Why Terminator is considered a classic of true cinema and possibly the most anticipated video game of all time “Cyberpunk 2077”. All these different forms of entertainment all have one thing in common and that’s “immersions” takes us to form shitty ass reality and puts us in a unique world with imagination being the only limit. 

And that’s what SF is to me and that’s what terminator is to be a True SF experience and a film where imagination is a character itself where the world is a character itself, not some horror fantasies or a “slasher” film. It has purple lasers for fuck sake how is that not Science Fiction.

A massive plot of terminator or really the main Emphasis of it. The story all together revolves around Artificial Intelligence. A standard for any Sf entry. And a machine that has a mind of its own belongs under the SF category not Horror. According to (Dr.Perkins) (2008). “Artificial Intelligence is a simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems”. In 2020 A.I is pretty common in our everyday life whether it’s a personal assistant on our mobile/handheld devices or something along the lines of a self-check-in. Terminator was released in the early 1980s and according to (Ray Bradbury) ” I define Science Fiction as the art of possible. Fantasy is the art of the impossible”. This beautiful fits in with the 1984 terminator. This was written in the realm of possibility who knew Artificial Intelligence would become prevalent in modern-day society and who knows how it will be prevalent in the next 20 for better or worse. How A.I and time Travel intertwine. Is a recipe for a classic Science Fiction story. 

Work Cited

CORNEA, CHRISTINE. “Frankenheimer and the Science Fiction/Horror Film.” A Little Solitaire: John Frankenheimer and American Film, by MURRAY POMERANCE and R. BARTON PALMER, Rutgers UP, 2011, pp. 229-43. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/j.ctt5hjd67.20. Accessed 19 May 2020.

Reeke, George N., and Gerald M. Edelman. “Real Brains and Artificial Intelligence.” Daedalus, vol. 117, no. 1, 1988, pp. 143-73. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/20025142. Accessed 19 May 2020.

Los, Fraser. “The Terminator.” Alternatives Journal, vol. 32, no. 3, 2006, pp. 24-26. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/45033209. Accessed 20 May 2020. 

Frick, Thomas. “Science Fiction.” Agni, no. 26, 1988, pp. 189-91. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/stable/23008809. Accessed 20 May 2020.

“Contact: Less Like Science, More Like Science Fiction” by Philip Burkhard

Philip Burkhard

Prof. Jason Ellis

ENG 2420  E575

May 20, 2020

Contact: Less Like Science, More Like Science Fiction

Director Robert Zemeckis’s 1997 film adaptation of the 1985 Carl Sagan novel Contact is, at its core, a story about how modern day humans would contend with their first contact with extraterrestrial, intelligent life. The film is set in a world identical to our own – one with the same technological capabilities, same conflicting ambitions of political and personal interests and same familiar dissonance between what seem to be adversarial camps of religion and science. It envisions a world no different than our current one, but for the addition of a single variable, the detection of a radio signal that is determined to be extraterrestrial in origin. Contact, therefore, is a work of science fiction because it presents us with an imagined future where human beings struggle to find a way forward in a world augmented by the discovery of new technology and the prospect of meeting an alien race for the first time.

Contact revolves around the life of Dr. Ellie Arroway, played by Jodie Foster, an astronomy post-doc working for the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The film presents Arroway as a born explorer and critical thinker. As a girl of nine years old, Arroway tinkers with her hand radio in her bedroom after dark, mapping out the farthest points of contact she reaches on her bulletin board map of the United States as she converses with strangers over the airwaves. Arroway’s character is curious, persistent, skeptical and honest. Even as a young girl, she is a natural scientist that is not easily deterred by discouragement or low probabilities of success.

When Arroway’s father dies suddenly of a heart attack while she is upstairs in her bedroom, we see a foreshadowing of the adult scientist she is to grow into. A priest attempts to calm a young Ellie’s distress with words that are meant to be spiritually comforting: “We aren’t always meant to understand. Sometimes we just have to accept it as god’s will.” Ellie, all but ignoring the priest, replies: “I should have kept some medicine in the downstairs bathroom – then I could have gotten to it sooner” (Zemeckis “Contact”). Arroway, as an adult scientist, is no different from her younger self. She believes her destiny is in her own hands, that logic is king, and that events should attempt to be understood empirically, and not with guesswork or blind faith. In that way, the story grounds the viewer in the reality of the world of the protagonist, who is a true scientist, and presents her in contrast to the “fantasies” of the supernatural and the unexplained.

Ellie eventually becomes Dr. Arroway, a driven astronomy post-doc, with degrees from MIT and Caltech, who turned down a lucrative teaching job at Harvard in order to join the SETI Institute’s research program. The SETI Institute is a real-life, privately funded research organization that originally used grant money to search for narrow-band radio transmissions that would “betray the existence of technically competent beings elsewhere in the galaxy” (SETI). It now performs its research along multiple avenues of discovery. In the film, the bulk of SETI’s funding came from government sources. With the majority of Dr. Arroway’s time on the SETI project spent “listening” (with software programs and her ears) for radio waves that might be of extraterrestrial, intelligent origin, her research is largely ridiculed by her superiors, who dismiss it as a waste of government funding and a distraction from potentially more profitable alternative projects. In this way, the story grounds the viewer in the real-life obstacles facing scientific researchers and the limitations they face given our current body of scientific knowledge, which is relatively small when compared with those of future interplanetary societies depicted in many, more imaginative science fiction narratives. In an argument between Arroway and her supervisor David Drumlin, played by Tom Skeritt, Drumlin embodies the skeptic’s view of the search for alien life, further grounding the viewer in the hard science and probability that serve to make the science fiction narrative seem at best unlikely, and at worst, silly.

“There’s 400 billion stars – and only two probabilities. One, there is intelligent life out there, but it’s so far away you’ll never contact it in your lifetime, and two… there’s nothing out there but noble gases and carbon compounds, and you’re wasting your time. In the meantime, you won’t be published, you won’t be taken seriously, and your career will be over before it’s begun.” (Zemeckis “Contact”)

            Throughout the film, the viewer is repeatedly reminded of the unlikely nature of Arroway’s ultimate discovery, both with facts and with the current state of the art. These reminders serve to frame Arroway’s discovery of the extraterrestrial signal in the limitations of our current reality. In this way, Contact might be considered a work of “Hard Science Fiction” (or “Hard SF”). A subgenre of science fiction, Hard SF has been described as “the form of imaginative literature that uses either established or carefully extrapolated science as its backbone” (Nicholls). When Arroway and her team of researchers eventually lose funding for their SETI project, she is forced to pitch her proposals to private sources of funds, foundations and private companies with an interest in technological discovery. In her final meeting with the board of directors of “Hadden Industries,” the corporate conglomerate that eventually funds Arroway’s continuing research, one of the board members ridicules Arroway’s proposal with a not-so-subtle nod to what might be a criticism of more fantastic forms of the genre: “We must confess that your proposal seems less like science and more like science fiction.” Arroway responds, “Science fiction. Well, you’re right, it’s crazy. In fact, it’s even worse than that, it’s nuts” (Zemeckis “Contact”). This may have been a moment of self-deprecation for the screenwriters.

            After Arroway successfully procures funding for a new privately-backed research endeavor, she, along with her team, begins to lease the use of the “Very Large Array” (VLA), which is a real-life radio telescope consisting of a constellation of 27 massive radio antennae located in New Mexico. It is with the power of the VLA that Arroway picks up on a strong, repeating signal that the team determines must be coming from deep space. In their determination that the signal is of intelligent origin, it is explained that the pattern of the signal’s pulse sequence matches the sequence of prime numbers from 1 to 101, a sure sign of intelligence. The signal is found to be layered and matching that of a visual transmission. Eventually the team determines the signal to be a transmission of Aldolf Hitler’s opening speech at the 1936 Olympic Games. At the same time that they determine the celestial origin of the signal, the Vega star system, Arroway deduces that the content of the transmission was not important, but that this transmission was simply the first signal originating from earth that was strong enough to be interstellar, and that here it was being reflected back to us. The explanation for why they would be receiving such a signal at that time: it was determined by the time it took for the signal to arrive at Vega and be reflected back to us on Earth; a receipt notice from an intelligent life form.

As the film progresses, the plot supplies explanations that render the story scientifically plausible, one of the distinctions separating science fiction from “fantasy,” loosely described by the seminal science fiction writer Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) as “weird stories or horror stories or tales of the supernatural.” He continues, “The best definition of s-f [science fiction] that I know of is, indeed almost sociological in its gravity…Science-fiction is that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings” (Asimov 148). While the carefully placed scientific detail in Contact’s screenplay serves to distinguish the film from more imaginary genres of fiction, it also serves to provide an air of plausibility, one of the five conditions set forth by the influential science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) in his consideration of what defined a work as belonging to the genre. In 1947, he wrote:

Let’s gather up the bits and pieces and define the Simon-pure science fiction story: 1. The conditions must be, in some respect, different from here-and-now, although the difference may lie only in an invention made in the course of the story. 2. The new conditions must be an essential part of the story. 3. The problem itself—the “plot”—must be a human problem. 4. The human problem must be one which is created by, or indispensably affected by, the new conditions. 5. And lastly, no established fact shall be violated, and, furthermore, when the story requires that a theory contrary to present accepted theory be used, the new theory should be rendered reasonably plausible [emphasis added] and it must include and explain established facts as satisfactorily as the one the author saw fit to junk. It may be far-fetched, it may seem fantastic, but it must not be at variance with observed facts… (Heinlein 17)

As Arroway and her team begin to process the gravity of this new discovery, the role of Arroway’s love interest Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, along with the human problem referred to by Heinlein, begin to take shape. As a writer and spiritual advisor of sorts, Joss makes a fleeting appearance at the start of the film as a reporter insistent on getting an on-record interview with Arroway’s boss Drumlin. Joss’s character is presented as an agnostic theologian who believes that the enormous amount of funds and time spent on scientific pursuits is clouding our ability to maintain a relationship with a higher power – that searching for explanations scientifically is interfering with our capacity for spiritual growth, as it were. Joss’s exact religion and goals are not made definite in the film, positioning Joss as the representation of all religions and therefore religion itself, which has historically been viewed in contrast rather than in complement to science. After Arroway’s team discovers the signal, Joss reintroduces himself to Arroway as the spiritual advisor on the President of the United States’s task force set up to deal with the implications of the alien signal. The human problem of the story – how we as a human race should respond to receiving this new technology and how that decision should be determined – begins to come into focus.

In Arroway’s presentation of the research team’s findings to the task force, she discloses an additional discovery. The signal itself contained a key, a “primer” that allowed them to deduce the meaning of the patterns embedded in the signal. They determined that the signal was in fact a set of instructions, much like an engineering schematic. A debate ensues about what the meaning of these instructions could be. When it is suggested by Arroway that the instructions could be for the construction of a machine, potentially some kind of transportation device, there is dissent in the room about what the intentions of these aliens might be. Projecting our own human capacity for pillaging and war onto the unknown, the military and legislative advisors are alarmed by the prospect that the instructions could be for a machine that is itself a kind of “Trojan horse,” that we would dutifully build whatever it is the instructions directed, and that out would pour an army of aliens or a weapon of some kind. The skepticism of the electorate is apparently reflected in the polls, and an advisor warns Arroway: “We know nothing of these creatures’ values. The fact of the matter is we don’t even know whether they believe in god” (Zemeckis “Contact”). Arroway attempts to assure the task force that the discovery is not of religious concern: “The message was written in the language of science. If it had been religious in nature, it should have taken on the form of a burning bush or a big booming voice from the sky.” As the representation of religion and spirituality in the story, Joss interrupts: “But a voice from the sky is exactly what you found, Dr. Arroway” (Ibid). Here we see revisited themes that were foundational to the emergence of science fiction. As early works were formed in part as a response to and in light of the Scientific Revolution that was catalyst for the onset of the Age of Enlightenment, we see that the struggle between the “dark” and the “light,” between the superstitious & dogmatic and the reasonable & logical, still exists and is in fact at the forefront of our concerns when we encounter a discovery of such existential importance. Contact reminds us that, despite all of the modern technology that we take for granted and have been able to incorporate seamlessly into our individual and varied belief systems, none of it had revealed our deepest existential concerns until we felt truly threatened by an external intelligent force. Therefore, the film might be making the point that it is not science that the spiritual is at odds with, but rather fear, the unknown, and in this case the prospect of being conquered. In a New York Times review of the film, contemporary with its 1997 release, film critic John Noble Wilford remarked on how, notwithstanding the adherence to hard scientific principle that bridges the gap between the “here and now” and a future where we’ve been “contacted,” perhaps the most implausible part of this science fiction film is how we might react as a society to being contacted.

Astronomers who have seen the movie are impressed by how, on a scientific level, it is remarkably faithful to the spirit, strategy and techniques of the quest known by another acronym: SETI, for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. They give the film high marks for authenticity, at least in its first half. When it shifts to the frantic public and political reaction to the discovery and the launching of an intergalactic spaceship built to alien instructions, the movie becomes far more speculative. (Wilford) [Note that the Vega star system is not in another galaxy, and therefore the “spaceship” is not necessarily “intergalactic”]

After it is confirmed that the signal is in fact a set of instructions for a transportation device of some kind, a conflict ensues over who first should test the vehicle, that is, who should be the representative of the human race to an unknown intelligent species. Arroway’s discovery of the signal, and therefore the new technology contained therein, makes her a shoe-in to be the world’s first interstellar traveler. However, concerns develop about how the human race would be represented if a scientist were to be sent. Should the traveler be one that believes in a higher power, as most of humanity does? Is this an important attribute for the introduction of ourselves as a race? When Arroway refuses to betray her reason, stating that while she does not believe that there is no god, she acknowledges that there is a lack of evidence to support one’s existence, she is passed over by the selection committee in favor of her former boss, David Drumlin, who is willing to pander to the committee’s concerns. The conflict within the story’s human problem, that “impact of scientific advance on human beings,” comes to a climax when a religious fanatic posing as an engineer blows himself up on the premises of the machine, destroying it and killing Drumlin. This serves as a strong metaphor for the relentless adversary that religion has posed to scientific discovery over the ages. Theologian Bryan Stone, writing for the Journal of Religion and Film, believes that while the film attempted to destroy the notion of a permanent incompatibility between religion and science, it ultimately served to dismiss religion as an obstacle to be overcome.

At a number of points in the film, the audience is sent the message that a positive relationship is possible between faith and science. Indeed, the two are often treated as similar to one another in basic structure and, perhaps, even in need of one another. Implicitly, however, at the level of standard filmic conventions, Contact offers no clear and compelling vision of religious faith and ultimately the relationship between faith and science breaks down as the former is reduced to a caricature. (Stone 2016)

After the destruction of the vehicle, Arroway, having not been near the explosion, is sent out on a backup mission in a second vehicle, which had been secretly built by her benefactor at Hadden Industries. In Arroway’s perception, she is jettisoned through a worm hole to a distant solar system, where she makes contact with an alien being, who takes the form of her late father. The entity explains: “We thought it would be easier for you this way” (Zemeckis “Contact”). Upon her “return” to Earth, Arroway is met with the explanation that her vessel never even left the planet, and that her perceived 18-hour journey was in fact a failed mission wherein her vehicle fell into the ocean in a matter of seconds instead of taking off. While Arroway refuses to deny what she experienced on her journey, she remains true to her scientific principles, acknowledging that it is possible that what she had gone through was a hallucination or an episode of psychosis. At the conclusion of the movie, two government officials, in discussion over a secured line, reveal that while Arroway’s personal video recording device did not provide any proof of her supposed journey, it did in fact contain 18 hours of static.

            It is never revealed to Arroway that the length of her journey is confirmed by the data on her recording device. After the trial of the vehicle is completed and Arroway is debriefed by Congress about mundane matters such as the funds that were “wasted” in the fruitless endeavor and whether or not the signal was in fact a hoax created by the industrialists paid to build the vehicle, it is as though the journey never happened at all. For the viewer, there is no resolution to the suspense of what might happen when two worlds merge or when the secrets of the universe are revealed. We are instead left only with the debris from the impact of a scientific advancement that human beings were not ready for.

Works Cited

Asimov, Isaac. “Other Worlds to Conquer.” The Writer 64.5 (May 1951): 148-151. Print.

Heinlein, Robert. “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.” Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science-Fiction Writing. Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 11-19. Print

Nicholls, Peter. “Hard SF.” The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Eds. John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls and Graham Sleight. Gollancz, 19 Mar. 2019. Web. 21 May 2020. <http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/hard_sf>

SETI. SETI Institute, www.seti.org/seti-institute/Search-Extraterrestrial-Intelligence

Stone, Bryan. “Religious Faith and Science in Contact.” Journal of Religion & Film, vol. 2, no. 2, 18 Dec. 2016, p. 1. Digital Commons, https://digitalcommons.unomaha.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1854&context=jrf.

Zemeckis, Robert, director. Contact. Warner Bros., 1997.

Wilford, John Noble. “In ‘Contact,’ Science and Fiction Nudge Close Together.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/20/movies/in-contact-science-and-fiction-nudge-close-together.html.

Why is Captain Marvel considered Science Fiction

Tenisha Walcott

Science Fiction


Why is Captain Marvel Science Fiction?

        Science Fiction is a genre that is based on futuristic and imaginative stories, stories involving time travel, technology and advanced science, space exploration, alien life, and parallel universes. “Science Fiction demands that everything in your story is scientifically based, if not confirmed, especially if you’re writing a story about teleportation, or space travel. In Science Fiction everything needs an explanation that will make complete rational sense. (“5 Key Elements of Writing Science Fiction Stories,” 2015)” Hard Science Fiction is more scientific, it deals with physics, astronomy, math, engineering, and chemistry. The stories are more realistic and reasonable relative to science. Soft Science Fiction deals more with anthropology, sociology and psychology, the stories are not scientifically accurate and they don’t focus much on science but more on the stories of the characters. Space Opera’s are stories that involve big conflicts between a hero and the villain. Alternate History’s are stories that extrapolate things from the past, and choosing a different route then the one taken before. Dystopias are stories that explore political and social issues in a dark and bad world, the choices humanity makes, with the good and bad outcomes. Some other sub genres of Science Fiction include Cyberpunk which focuses on “high tech and low life” featuring advanced technology and social order. Alien invasion deals with extraterrestrials invade earth in which to wipe out human life.

        “Epic of Gilgamesh” was one of the earliest cited writings of Science Fiction. Written in 1800 BC in Mesopotamia, the text was Sumerian, Pierre Versins argued that Gilgamesh was the first Science Fiction piece because the story features a quest for

immortality and the scene resembles the end of the world. The first novel of Science Fiction was Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly “Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus”. Published in 1818, Frankenstein is about scientist Victor Frankenstein who creates a creature from dead materials, he brings the creature to life using electricity, Frankenstein abandons the creature, the creature learns to speak and adapts to human life on his own, he then ask that Victor creates a mate for his loneliness. In fear of what the two might cause on the world, he destroys the creature’s mate, in revenge the creature follows Victor throughout his life killing everyone he loves. When Victor dies the creature feel regret and sorrow for what he has done. The term Science Fiction or SF was popularized by American publisher Hugo Gernsback in the 1920’s. He created a Science Fiction magazine “Amazing Stories” March 1926. Gernsback also referred to Science Fiction as Scientifiction, a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision.

        Captain Marvel is a superhero filmed based on Marvel comics character Carol Danvers. The film came out in 2019, produced by Marvel studios. The film is about star force member Vers who suffers from amnesia, during a rescues mission, Vers is captured by skrull commander Talos. Vers escapes and crash-lands on earth, where she attracts the attention of S.H.E.L.D agent Nick Fury. Vers and Fury team up to recover her memories and save the skrulls existence.

        The movie begins in a typical setting of a science Fiction movie, usually on space, in a space station, space colonies, and ship or on another planet other than earth. Vers

wakes up on Hala, the capital of the Kree planet. While she stares out of the window there is the scenery of the planet and spacecrafts flying around. This scene shows that Captain Marvel is Science Fiction because it begins on an alien planet. Other planets are usually the primary scene of events, its where most of the battles take place. The planets are to show the culture and environments. The movie also open up with flying spaceships, spaceships are space vehicles used to transport people and to fight battles. Vers and Yon-rogg are in combat training, when Vers shows her unhuman like powers by forming a blue fist of fire. Vers goes to speak with supreme intelligence, the artificial intelligence that rules the kree nation, a women appears to her in her subconscious, telling her that her powers was a gift and they can be taken away. This shows an example of advanced technology because they have made another way possible of speaking to each other through the mind. Advanced technology is a newly developed IT innovation to improve processes and products. Vers and Yon-rogg and the rescue crew go on a mission to saved one of their own from the skrulls which are shape shifting aliens that keree are at war with. Shape shifting is the ability to change into anything or anyone, it is the powers of supernatural creatures in Science Fiction. Vers is captured by Talos, he infiltrates Vers memories looking for an advanced technology like speed engine, a probe of her memories leads them to earth. The skrulls are in search of Dr. Lawson, they believe she has discovered the code of light speed technology; Vers is on a mission to find her before the skrulls do. The race between the two species in search of advance technology is an example of Science fiction.

        Kinsley Amis (1922-1995) an English teacher, poet, novelist, and critic, known for his comedic novels, he explains his definition of Science Fiction as being a set of circumstances that could not possibly happen on earth as we know it but can be possible in others worlds with aliens, advanced science and technology. “Science Fiction is that class of prose narrative treating of a situation that could not arise in the world we know, but which is hypothesized on the basis of some innovation in science or technology, or pseudo- science or pseudo- technology, whether human or extra- terrestrial in origin.” (Amis8). Vers catches the attention of Nick Fury, the two teams up in order to find Maria, who can help Vers find her memories. Vers remembers gaining her powers when she tried to destroy the energy core that Dr. Lawson built, instead of the blast killer her the energy id absorbed in her body, giving her supernatural powers. This is an example of technomancy also known as technomagic. It is the gaining of magical powers through the use of technology.  “Technomancy is a collection of physical art-forms surrounding the use of technology in such a way the user appears to possess superhuman powers. (“| Technomancy,” n.d.) ” This is an example of Science Fiction because Vers gains her supernatural powers from the advanced technology energy core and the coordinates that Dr. Lawson found will be strong enough to power the light speed ship.

        The film can be considered soft Science Fiction because it concerns mostly with the characters, their culture and their society and their planets. “Soft Science Fiction consists of scientific or futuristic elements, but does not delve deep into the technical details of the science. (“What is Soft Sci Fi and How Does it Differ From Hard Sci Fi?,” 2018) “The

film does not go in depth of the making of the light speed engine; instead it explains the purpose for it and why the characters seek to find it. Vers uses technology built into her spacesuit to unlock Dr. Lawson’s laboratory she kept hidden in space. J.O. Bailey describes Science Fiction as “a piece of scientific fiction is a narrative of an imaginary invention or discovery in the natural science and consequent adventures and experiences, it must be scientific discovery, something that the author at least rationalizes as possible to science. (Bailey10)” Dr. Lawson uses science and technology to create to create the tesseract, which is a cosmic cube that can destroy an entire planet. Mr. Goose is a cat, in truth he is a kind of space creator, he eats the tesseract to keep it safe. In Science Fiction there is usually some sort of extraterrestrial creatures in the story, there are the kree and skrulls who’s appearance lets you know that they are alien, Mr. Goose appears to be a normal pet but he is a alien taking the form of a cat. In identifying Science Fiction, there is usually a fight between good and evil, and some kind of betrayal. The fight between the kree and skrulls are in a fight of good and evil, with the skrulls being portrayed as the bad guys and the kree trying to stop them. The betrayal comes from Yon-rogg killing Dr. Lawson, reveling that the kree have been the villains all along, trying to destroy the entire Skrull race.  The movie ends with Vers stopping the kree from destroying the skrull nation with her superhuman powers. The ending of Captain Marvel is showing that good always prevail in most Science Fictions.

Work Cited


| Technomancy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 20, 2020, from unchartedsuns.com website: https://unchartedsuns.com/inventories/technomancy/

5 Key Elements of Writing Science Fiction Stories. (2015, July 27). Retrieved May 20, 2020, from Writing Tips Oasis website: https://writingtipsoasis.com/5-key-elements-of-writing-science-fiction-stories/

fiction, M. W. M. W. has over 30 years of experience as a science, Weekly, fantasy writer H. work has been published in S. F., TheaterWeek, newspapers, various N. J. -base., & Wilson, among other publications our editorial process M. (n.d.). What Are the Different Types of Sci-Fi? Retrieved May 21, 2020, from LiveAbout website: https://www.liveabout.com/what-are-the-kinds-of-scifi-2957790

Sterling, B. (2019). science fiction | Definiton, Examples, & Characteristics. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/art/science-fiction

What is Soft Sci Fi and How Does it Differ From Hard Sci Fi? (2018, April 26). Retrieved May 21, 2020, from Kay L Moody website: https://kaylmoody.com/soft-sci-fi/ �

“The Science Fictional Designs of Superstudio” by Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson

Professor Jason W. Ellis


20 May 2020

The Science Fictional Designs of Superstudio

            Superstudio, an architectural firm that started in the late 1960’s and was a product of a generation that came out of World War II, questioned the ideas of mass consumerism and the cultural unification of our world.  The science fictional designs of Superstudio could be considered a form of science fiction because their expression through visual mediums dig out prophetic information regarding cultural issues of their time. As Joanna Russ (1937-2011), a well-known female science fiction writer states regarding the identity of science fiction literature, “It draws its beliefs, its material, it’s very attitudes from a culture that could not exist before the industrial revolution, before science became both an autonomous activity and a way of looking at the world” (Russ 25). Collages and urban fanciful renderings were the main visual language they used to express their questions on a utopic and a dystopic society’s environment. Examining Superstudio’s work and the subjects they address parallel to many common themes that can be found in science fiction literature.

            Superstudio’s work emerged from the same influential sources that science fiction literature stems from, the first being “The Age of Enlightenment.” Superstudio’s project, “Reflected Architecture”, was influenced largely from a term that came about during the French Enlightenment period, “speaking architecture” or “Architecture parlante”. The terms meaning is, “architecture that gives an idea about its purpose through its form or appearance. Refers to a building that in some way obviously or overtly states its purpose” (Przybylek). This term was first used by French architect and visionary Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806), who imagined among many other things, “a tube with water running through it to be used for the director of a waterworks” (Przybylek).  Superstudio adapted this technique graphically, a literal illustration of their ideas and concepts. Their “Reflected Architecture” correlates to a conceptualized city they published in “Twelve Cautionary Tales for Christmas: Premonitions of the Mystical Rebirth of Urbanism.” Their fifth city described by Superstudio wrote:

             The city is a dazzling sheet of crystal amidst woods and green hills. On nearing it, one realizes that it is made up of the covers of 10,044,900 crystalline sarcophagi, 185 cm long, 61 cm wide and 61 cm deep… Inside each sarcophagus lies an immobile individual, eyes closed, breathing conditioned air and fed by a bloodstream — in fact, the blood system is connected to a purifying and regenerative apparatus which, through toxin elimination and doses of hormones, prevents ageing (Frassinelli).

From Superstudio’s Collection “Reflected Architecture”

Using visual mediums and writings, they were able to create a “speaking architecture” that reflected their conceptualized ideals of a futuristic world and how society would connect and communicate with one another.

            If it had not been for the periods in history such as, the Scientific Revolution or the Industrial Revolution, Superstudio would not have had the concepts that fed and influenced their futuristic notions on culture and society. It could be argued Superstudios work is a form of speculative fiction matching with Robert Scholes (1929-2016) definition of what science fiction is, he wrote:

               The tradition of speculative fiction is modified by an awareness of the universe as system of systems, a structure of structures, and the insights of the past century of science are accepted as fictional points of departure. It is a fictional exploration of human situations made perceptible by the implications of recent science. Its favorite themes involve the impact of developments or revelations derived from the human or physical sciences upon the people who must live with those revelations or developments (Scholes 214).

Superstudio was greatly influenced by scientific events of their day, which is illustrated in their collection called “Interplanetary Architecture.” Alessandro Poli one of Superstudio’s members created this collection based on his fascination of space exploration and the major historical event, the landing on the moon. In this collection he illustrates a highway from earth to the moon. This project was also a spinoff of their earlier project from the “Twelve Ideal Cities” correlating to their fourth city called Spaceship City, where Superstudio describes this project as, “A ring of sleeping inhabitants moving towards a planet thousands of light years away where descendants of the sleeping crew will wake and found a new land.” (Superstudio p.8) This project reflects similar concepts derived from the famous science fiction film “2001 Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick (1929-1999) released in 1969. This film, though it may not be the main them of the plot, explores this theory of space travel being a common accessible option in the future. The landing on the moon in the 1960’s had such a huge impact on the culture of that day. It is logical that Superstudio also would correlate this subject with an architectural program posed for a design in space and theorize humanity may inhabit that frontier one day.

2001 Space Oddesy
“2001 Space Odyssey” Space Craft
Space Ship City
Superstudio “Space Ship City”

               Romanticism is another key ingredient that can be found in science fiction literature as well as in Superstudio’s work. They produced several manifestos that correlate to their renderings and collages, which illustrate their concepts of social change and revolutionary ideas of consumerism and mass production. In a Superarchitecture exhibit that was held in the Italian city Pistoria in December 1966, Superstudio wrote the following polemic manifesto, “Superarchitecture is the architecture of superproduction of superinduction to superconsuption of the supermarket, of the superman, of the super gasoline” (Quesada 23). These concepts differ from the Pop Art culture that was a major dominate scene in the 1960’s. This manifesto claims, “that the figurative or formal data of images have a revolu­tionary potential. Hidden behind an intention to demythologize, the Pop myth of the image as an almighty tool” (Quesada 23). Superstudio believed that an image is meant to trigger and inspire a person to think, to gain a line of conscientiousness, which in turn gives the power back to the individual. In a way you could see this argument Superstudio poses in their exhibition as a form of Conte Pilosphque. They tried to debunk Pop Cultures influence and concept of being the end all main attraction and not continuing the thought any further than what it presents. This idea that Superstudio argues, bringing the power of thought to the individual, correlates to the romantic notions of individuality in romantic literature. These ideas also coincide with Hugo Gernsback’s (1884-1967) notion that science fiction literature is a combination of an idea that is meant to inspire, “charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision” (Gernsback 3). These elements all can be found within Superstudio’s works.

            Further connecting to these romantic notions of individuality can be seen in their series of films they developed called “Five Fundamental Acts.” This compilation touched on five major themes they felt were what being human was, which are, life, education, ceremony, love, and death. In two series “Life” and “Ceremony” they further developed this argument to give the power back to the individual through the absence of objects or architecture. They developed this idea called the “invisible house.” They felt taking away the emphasis of inanimate objects and a physical form to inhabit space gave man certain freedoms of choice. Superstudio felt it could bring mankind back to an authentic way of living, void of any emphasis to the object. This theory further emphasis what one science fiction scholar argues regarding the subject of what good science fiction is, Damien Broderick (1944) wrote:

               SF is that species of storytelling native to a culture undergoing the epistemic changes implicated in the rise and supersession of technical-industrial modes of production, distribution, consumption and disposal. It is marked by metaphoric strategies and metonymic tactics, the foregrounding of icons and interpretative schemata from a collectively constituted generic ‘mega-text’ and characterization, and certain priorities more often found in scientific and postmodern texts than in literary models: specifically, attention to the object in preference to the subject (Broderick 155).

Superstudio was addressing these same issues Brodercik mentions, namely where he makes connection with “a culture undergoing the epistemic change” and the impact it has on “modes of production, distribution, consumption and disposal”. Superstudio was creating a visual narrative through their exhibition pieces as a medium theorizing on the impacts that these subjects had on the cultural scene of that day.

Superstudio Collage
From Superstudio’s “Five Fundamental Acts”

               Further it can be argued that Superstudio is a form of “Gedankenexperiment” or a “thought experiment” which is also a characteristic of science fiction literature. In Superstudio’s own words regarding their goal they write, “We produced didactic projects, architectural critiques; we used architecture as self-criticism, endeavoring to inquire into its promotional mechanisms and its ways of working” (Superstudio 5). Visually this is illustrated in their collage entitled “Education” which again was part of the series of films they were trying to develop called “Five Fundamental Acts”.

Superstudio Education
From Superstudio’s “Five Fundamental Acts” entitled “Education”

Although the subject “Education” never ended up receiving funding to make the film, this collection illustrates visually an idea that humans have this unique ability to form intellectual connections and is a major characteristic that defines our species.  Superstudio draws upon multiple layers making connections with this subject of “thought”, the work in itself illustrates a “mind experiment” that stands on its own just as that. John W. Campbell (1910-1971) also felt that a mind experiment could be made from multiple sources when he stated:

               To be science fiction, an honest effort at prophetic extrapolation from the known must be made. Prophetic extrapolation can derive from a number of fields. Sociology, psychology, and parapsychology are today, not true sciences: therefore, instead of forecasting future results of applications of sociological science of today, we must forecast the development of a science of sociology (Campbell 91).

Campbell touches on this point that you can use different means and come from different schools of study to theorize upon certain outcomes.

               In a book entitled “Futuropolis”, written by a well-known science fiction writer Robert Sheckly (1928-2005), he uses this idea of having different schools of thought examine the subject of our built environment. In “Futuropolis” Sheckly compiled artist, writers, philosophers, architects and film makers visions and theories of futuristic cities. Within the book he features several pieces of Superstudio’s works. Sheckly believed most science fiction especially regarding future urban life was more about what would not work. He wrote “They are impressionistic rather then realistic. Its function is to suggest what you should avoid rather than what you should include” (Sheckly 7). Sheckly explores this topic, that science fictional designs are a didactic form of extrapolating what possibilities might or could be derived for our future, based upon a visual study many artist and architects have explored. Sheckly features Superstudio’s rendering “Continuous Monument” in the opening pages. Further on in the book Sheckly also takes portions of Superstudios project “The Twelve Ideal Cities.” From this collection he features the “2,000 Ton City” where individuals live within a cell whose brain is hooked up to an analyst which compares and collects desires. If an individual has rebellious thoughts against the utopic life society deemed to be a 2,000-ton force will crush them. Sheckly further expands on the issues these visual theorists are exploring which are the impacts politics and religion tyranny have had in their day. Superstudio was impressing upon their viewers the negative affects when a society allows an extreme utopic ideal to become a system we live by.  A second city out of the twelve he features from Superstudio’s work is the “City of Order- where the inhabitants are programmed to fit the city, so that no one complains about the unpunctuality of the buses, or ever parks on a double yellow line” (Sheckly 55). This visual theory hints at a subject addressed in a short story written by Harlan Ellison (1934-2018), another well-known science fiction writer with his piece “” Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman.” Ellison also posed a dystopic society where all the citizens needed to fallow a timely system. He wrote an anthem in this piece where it states “And so it goes tick tock, one day we no longer let time serve us, we serve time and we are slaves of the schedule, worshippers of the sun’s passing, bound into a life predicated on restrictions because the system will not function if we don’t keep the schedule tight” (Ellison 150). Both Superstudio and Ellison pose the question in their works whether perfection is utopic, or could it be dystopic for our species.

            In conclusion Superstudio’s work is still important and relevant for architects and designers today because they have addressed many important cultural issues that still connect with us. Society, though technology may have advanced or evolved, still questions the importance of popularized culture and its impacts on the art and the design community. We still are confronted with popularized opinions and questions of our built environment and the effects it has on us. There will always be periods of instability that will create radical movements that question what works and does not work for humanity regarding the environment we inhabit. As designers we are constantly confronted with questions on how society will interact in the future as did Superstudio with their “Connected Monument” project. Through Superstudios didactic illustrations and visual mediums we can extrapolate key lessons for moving forward with future thinking designs that will hopefully in better us.

Work Cited

Broderick, Damien. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1995. Print.

Campbell, Jr., John W. “The Science of Science Fiction Writing.” Of Worlds Beyond: The Science of Science-Fiction Writing. Ed. Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Reading, PA: Fantasy Press, 1947. 89-101. Print.

Ellison, Harlan. “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman. knape.weebly.com/uploads/1/2/9/3/12935004/ellison_repent-harlequin-1.pdf.

Gernsback, Hugo. “A New Sort of Magazine.” Amazing Stories April 1926: 3. Print.

Prina, Daniela. “Superstudio’s Dystopian Tales: Textual and Graphic Practice as Operational Method.” Writing Visual Culture n. 6. Special Issue: Text/Cities, Edited by Daniel Marques Sampaio, Michael Heilgemeir, www.academia.edu/13233018/Superstudio_s_Dystopian_Tales_Textual_and_Graphic_


Quesada, Fernando. “Superstudio 1966-1973: From the World Without Objects to the Universal Grid.” FOOTPRINT [Online], (2011): 23-34. Web. 20 May. 2020

Russ, Joanna. “Towards an Aesthetic of Science Fiction.” Science Fiction Studies 6.2 (July 1975). n.p. Web.

Scholes, Robert. “The Roots of Science Fiction.” Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Eds. James Gunn and Matthew Candelaria Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2005. 205-218. Print.

Sheckley, Robert. Futuropolis. Bergström And Boyle/Big O, 1979.

STUDY.COM, study.com/academy/lesson/architecture-parlante-definition-examples.html.

Superstudio, et al. “Superstudio on Mindscapes.” Design Quarterly, no. 89, 1973, p. 17., doi:10.2307/4090788.

“Twelve Cautionary Tales.” R / D, www.readingdesign.org/twelve-cautionary-tales.