Deus Ex: series is a Cyberpunk SF By Abigail Maldonado

Abigail N. Maldonado

Prof. Jason Ellis

ENG 2420-E573

05/19/20

                                            Research Project

      Deus Ex Human Revolution and Deus Ex Human Divided

The sub-genre that I love and enjoy most in the rich and vast world of Science Fiction Is Cyberpunk. The first thing I love most is the clear and defined rules that establish if I work is or not a Cyberpunk. The idea of to be the near future I feel gives solid extrapolations of the base technology that we have, it is easier for the reader to imagine that advance technology. Nonetheless, this genre allows the read to detect the mistake of the author and be interactive with the reader’s imagination, the reader’s mind can be a challenge and unleashed the probable alternative future that they can imagine. A good example is the main topic of this research project that is around the modern series of the videogames produced by Square Enix and Eidos Montreal called Deus Ex Human Revolution and Deus Ex Mankind Divided, wherein least than a decade the human race will have hyper-accelerated progress on genetics, computer interfaces, armaments, robotics, and cybernetics. In this series of videogames, you can easily accept as possible the advancement in armaments and robotics. At the time, the advancement in cybernetics, computer interfaces, and genetics are close enough to impossible in that short of the time of a decade that the game develops its story.

An excellent description of the games and some key elements that conform to the structure of the storyline and narrative is this one. I extracted this citation from the blue and gray press’ articles. “Augmentations serve as the catalyst for the game’s excitement and the strategies players can employ. Do you want tank-armor skin or the ability to go invisible? Do you want to be really good at hacking computers or really good at slaughtering lesser men with your bare robot hands? It’s entirely up to you and the choices you make will vastly affect how you make your way through the game”. In this single quote can you infer accurately what is going to offer this cyberpunk world to you as a user. The key elements in this quote are the advanced technology and body enhancement technology that exist in this world, technology like tank armor skin, invisibility, and your own robot hands along with the word augmentations reflect two factors that are primordial in the formula that builds a Cyberpunk genre story. A secondary quote from the same article says, “Fans of the 1999 film “The Matrix” or William Gibson’s classic novel “Neuromancer” are sure to find something to like in Adam Jensen’s quest.” This quote links this videogame to a great representation of the cinema and one great representant of the literature. Matrix and Neuromancer have something in common which is that both belong to the cyberpunk genre.

At this point when this game already started to relate to the cyberpunk genre. It is necessary to clarify what is a cyberpunk term and see if this connection is concise. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms in his 4th edition refers to the term cyberpunk in this way “A phase of American science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s most often associated with William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984) and its sequels, and with the work of Bruce Sterling, who edited Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (1986). By contrast with earlier mainstream science fiction, which commonly implied utopian confidence in technological progress, cyberpunk fiction is influenced by the gloomier world of Hard-boiled detective fiction and by film noir thrillers; it foresees a near future in which sinister multinational corporations dominate the ‘cyberspace’ (that is, the world computerized information network) upon which an impoverished metropolitan populace depends.” In this definition, we can find the 5 main characteristics that define a cyberpunk story. The number one, the story must be happening in a near-future probably a couple of decades less than a century as maximum extended in time from the date of the author is writing the story. The number two, the interfaces that the protagonist or protagonists interact with, this can be computers, neuronal connections, ocular enhance dispositive, auditory enhanced dispositive, and any other sensorial enhanced dispositive or machine who allow the users to interact with his environment beyond the organic senses can allow. The number 3, the networks usually this is associate with what we called “internet.” But, in cyberpunk this term can be a little broader can include neuronal nets, shared simulations, or even wireless communication brain to brain with dispositive that can turn our brain in transmitter and receiver of some encoded electric signal that can be interpreted by the users. We can call this as a kind of “Tech Psychic powers.” The number 4, the surfaces are the details over the story is build how is the environment, the buildings, roads, the social construction of the society, the powerful and his way to let their influence over the world, and usually are Dystopias. The number 5, punk sensibility this point center around the concept that associate the punk culture around marginality, youthfulness, hooliganism, criminality, etc.

At this point in the research, I found the connection between the videogames series with the cyberpunk genre, this connection is held in advanced technology and body enhancement in the human body. These 2 items can be related to the near future, the interfaces, and networks. The research is still lacking about the other 2 factors to be a complete cyberpunk work, this article of the worldwide known magazine Vice stated this in one of the articles were to develop a topic around the second game of the franchise Deus Ex Mankind Divided “Since Britain voted to leave the EU, racist incidents have increased by 57 percent. Our unelected Prime Minister put vans on the streets telling immigrants to “go home or face arrest”. Across the pond, a plump multi-billionaire wants to put up big walls to keep certain people out. Look around you. Feel it in your bones. This hovering, gormless rock is a more divided, seething, and hateful place to live than ever before. See it in the hopeless eyes of your fellow commuters. Everything is fucked. Totally, irreparably, undeniably, fucked.

If you’re familiar with this feeling, then you’ll tread cautiously when exploring Square Enix’s direct sequel to the 2011 Human Revolution. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a game that wears a political heart so brazenly on its sci-fi sleeves, is so rife with allegory; you’ll have that sinking feeling of familiarity around every apocalyptic corner and in the hopelessness on the faces of every one of its world-weary denizens. “Basic human rights don’t exist here,” an exhausted “clank”, or augmented, informs me down in the dank depths of Golem City, one of Mankind Divided’s most striking new locations. There is little hope for the oppressed in this brave new world”. On this elongated quote, we can appreciate the vast world where the story is happening. The background of the society. How the human through this advance of technology where cybernetics, robotics, nanotechnology, genetics, computer science, energetic resources, and others drastically changed the world. However, this huge amount of changes this story can be traced to our very nowadays and make credible comparisons. This is bulletproof evidence that the extrapolation of the authors did in these videogames is extremely accurate. Despite, those changes the human nature keeps fighting around similar injustices, troubles, and even nonsense in many cases.

In the case of the racism explosion that is claimed that appeared after the Brexit can be compared with the battle that happened inside of videogame where the “natural” people are against those who “augmented” people that implant technology to have advantages beyond that nature allows to human beings have. This brings new apartheid in humans. In this restless and fractured society, there are some few members that they know this fight is artificial and provoked by a few minds that control the big transnational companies that seek to control the great mass of people around the world.

This quote revealed the surfaces of the story likewise the punk sensibility in the marginalization that “natural: due to his bigger numbers cause marginalization and criminality against those augmented themselves with these new technologies. All this reached biblical proportions due to an event during the story, where the main mind behind this extraordinary technology that unlocked the possibility for our race to go beyond his limitation. After he observed the effect of his technology, he regrets that he created it. Likewise, once Oppenheimer regrets to help in the creation of the atomic bomb after this invention was launched over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He stated this phrase extracted from the Mahabharata “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Hugo Darrow creator of the augmentation technology suffered a similar regret than Oppenheimer, he thought that he committed a terrible sin. The difference in relation to Oppenheimer is that Hugo Darrow has the possibility to attempt to destroy his own invention.

Hugo Darrow uses a special signal that is received for a biochip that is installed and programmed in every augmented part commercialized around the world. This special signal hacked the parts and start emitted electrical signals to the brain and caused the augmented people across the globe are driven to psychotic acts of violence. This is what is called the Aug incident. The result after the huge massacre is most of the human population that is still natural at 100% raises a huge hatred against those that have any augmentation on them. This divided humanity into two parts, those who see the augmented people have a constant danger, and those augmented that feel that was utilized as tools and turn into criminals against their will.

Cyberpunk the term coined for the first time for the author Bruce Bethke, and its 5 main characteristics are present in this videogame saga and it’s well-acknowledged as one representative of this genre of science fiction. The story happened between 2027 and 2029. There are clear interfaces between humans and his augmentations, these augmentations unlocked new ways to network with other peoples, machines, and environments, all these elements in the environment of metropolis full of new infrastructure only possible because and of those new human subtype the augmented people. Finally, the highly polarized society that caused two groups that hate each other, marginalize, diminished, criminalize, and possibly destroy where is possibly the members of the opposite group.

One of the strongest points of the work is when the videogame shows you in an organic and credible way how the people use these new technologies, not only for the purpose for it was created, you can see the creativity of the common people to use that technology and adapt it for new purposes. In the second game Humankind Divided there are two stages that remark one element that is common in the cyberpunk works. There two scenarios Dubai and Prague where you can see the two extremes of the technology. One of them with the ultimate technologies available and look hyper-advanced in contrast to the other where the advances in a simple way are scarce. It is clear the future has arrived; it is just not evenly. When you see Dubai, it looks like a city that is 60 or even 70 years in the future. Meanwhile, Prague is almost like a city in our current days. In this place, only a few and punctual elements will remember us that we in the year 2029, a few years after the beginning of the nanotechnology revolution.

In the need to expand the main argument over this cyberpunk story is elaborated, I look an interpretation of how this genre had seen the possible argument among those who will decide to stay natural and those who will seek to augment themselves to break the natural limits. I found this fabulous essay called “meat puppets or robopaths? Cyberpunk and the question of embodiment” by Thomas Foster. In this essay Thomas Foster state “Antibodies implicitly critiques the oscillation in cyberpunk texts between a biological-determinist view of the body and a turn to technological and cybernetic means in order to escape such determination, an oscillation that is generally gender-coded in the paradigm texts of cyberpunk, especially William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer (1984).3 This oscillation is figured on the one hand by the ‘meat puppet,’ to use the term applied to persons who are confined to their organic bodies in Neuromancer, and on the other hand by the figure of the ‘robopath,’ people who believe they are robots trapped in human bodies, to use a term from Antibodies”. In the works of David J. Skal (1952) and William Gibson (1948) called antibodies and Neuromancer, respectively. These 2 works have a similar conflict where the humans must choose if they want to keep their human evolution unaltered or we are going through the path of deciding with technology artifacts where goes our evolution. Despite this, the antibodies book has this conflict. This essay will center around Neuromancer. Nonetheless, this important work reinforces as secondary for conflict that is present in both works. Also, it is based on the Neuromancer book that comes from the brilliant mind of William Gibson. Gibson refers to the “naturals” as the “meat puppets” and for the “augmented” he refers as the “robopath.” The meat puppet and the robopath have this disjunctive question where they choose to be as individuals.

There is a transcendental difference between William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Deus Ex Series. While Deus Ex series has a conflict where the Naturals (meat puppets) are superior in number and recede the group augmented (robopaths). The augmented are those who are pursuit, humiliated, and throw out society. On the contrary, Neuromancer established a world where the meat puppets are those who are devaluated in comparison robopaths. Robopaths are those who have the upper hand in society. and those who keep their organic body intact are those destined for the worst positions in society.

Finally, the cyberpunk genre has a clear set of rules and its own unique style. These game series fill every one of those characteristics. The game fixes perfectly in the genre. It is in the near future, interfaces, networks, and surfaces are highly remarkable. There is a faction whose punk sensibility is easily confirmed. In this world who achieve to have all those characteristics is heavily modified for the presence of high technology beyond our current level of technology and there is nanotechnology that uncapped the possibility of the cybernetic replace some organs and limbs of the humans to surpass the limits that nature imposes over humans.

“How is the 2004 “I, Robot” Film Considered A Work Of Science Fiction?” by Santanu Bonik

Santanu Bonik

Professor Jason W. Ellis

ENG 2420 E573

20 May 2020  

How is the 2004 “I, Robot” Film Considered A Work Of Science Fiction?

Science fiction is a type of fiction genre that became popularized in the 1920s. Hugo Gernsback, who was an inventor and magazine publisher, came up with the very first definition of science fiction in his science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories in April 1926. “By ‘scientifiction’ I mean the Jules VerneH. G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe type of story—a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision… Not only do these amazing tales make tremendously interesting reading—they are always instructive. They supply knowledge… in a very palatable form… New adventures pictured for us in the scientifiction of today are not at all impossible of realization tomorrow… Many great science stories destined to be of historical interest are still to be written… Posterity will point to them as having blazed a new trail, not only in literature and fiction, but progress as well.” (Gernsback 3). This genre tells a story that came from the author’s imagination. But what makes it different from other types of fiction is that they contain unreal elements that could be real in our world in the future. A lot of imagination goes into science fiction and building a world of possibilities. Many characteristics of science fiction includes space travel, futuristic elements, time travel, extraterrestrial lifeforms, intelligent technology, and robots. The work chosen for this research paper is the 2004 film “I, Robot” directed by Alex Proyas. The purpose of this research paper is to break down the elements of this film and explain why it is considered a work of science fiction.  

            “I, Robot” was released on July 16, 2004. It is a film that was inspired by the novel “I, Robot” by Isaac Asimov, a famous science fiction writer. It is important to note that this film is not based on but rather suggested by the collection of Isaac Asimov’s short stories written in the 1940s. Much of Isaac Asimov’s work share the same themes of robotics, humanity, and morality. As Donald E. Palumbo, a critical writer, discusses in his journal for International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 2011.  “In part because it may be possible for a film adaptation to import legitimately motifs and concepts from the original author’s entire corpus, and thus to reflect his or her worldview, rather than be restricted merely to translating only from the single work from which the adaptation derives its title, Alex Proyas’s I, Robot (2004)—which acknowledges that it is “suggested by Isaac Asimov’s book”—is far more faithful to this eponymous story collection and to Asimov than is generally believed. Numerous reviews of the film assert, correctly, that it is “not pure Asimov” (Urban) or “does not align completely with the fiction of Asimov” (Akinbola), but the majority are far too extreme in dismissing the great degree to which the film does, indeed, replicate the many themes of Asimov’s entire body of science fiction novels and stories as well as, specifically, the debt film protagonist Del Spooner’s characterization owes to Asimov’s Robot novels and that the film’s major plot twists owe to his I, Robot (1950)” (Palumbo 60).

The film takes place in Chicago in the year 2035, where intelligent robots have taken the role of service positions throughout the world. The main protagonist is Del Spooner played by the actor, Will Smith. He is a detective who is generally against these robots due to a tragedy he experienced a few years back and he finds them untrustworthy. During the beginning of the movie, Detective Del Spooner spots a robot running while carrying a women’s purse. Spooner immediately pursues the robot while shouting orders for it to stop, however the robot kept on running. Eventually Spooner catches up to the robot and tackles it to the ground and the contents of the bag spilled out in front of a woman. The woman who seems to be having an asthma attack then picks up what seems to be an inhaler and uses it and starts yelling at the detective. Spooner looked dumbfounded, what he thought was a robot committing a crime by stealing a woman’s purse turned out to be a robot retrieving its owners’ purse in an emergency situation, it was just doing what it was told. This scene reinforced that the distrust of robots was out of place in society and unique to only Spooner. Later in the film, Spooner is called to a homicide scene at U.S.R headquarters tower, this company is responsible for the creation of these robots. As Spooner arrives to the scene, he finds chief robot designer of U.S.R, Dr. Alfred Lanning played by James Cromwell, dead on the floor in the atrium lobby, a suspected suicide. However, Spooner does not believe it was a suicide, and is convinced that he was killed by someone or something. It is told later in the movie that Dr. Alfred Lanning is somewhat of a mentor and a friend to the detective. A hologram device of Dr. Lanning was found near his dead body, the call Spooner received about the homicide came from this hologram. Spooner begins the investigation by meeting with Dr. Susan Calvin played by the actress, Bridget Moynahan, she is a robot psychologist and worked closely with Dr. Lanning. Spooner also meets with the head director of U.S.R, Lawrence Robertson played by actor, Bruce Greenwood. Robertson wanted the investigation wrapped up quickly as the company was about to unveil their newest robot, NS-5, an upgrade of the NS-4 model that comes with a direct link to the U.S.R mainframe. As Spooner is shown around the headquarters by Dr. Calvin, they come across the artificial intelligence mainframe known as Virtual Interactive Kinetic Intelligence or V.I.K.I. for short. This AI has a central brain in the U.S.R tower and has strips of light all throughout the tower much like veins in the human body. Both Spooner and Dr. Calvin investigate the research lab, where Dr. Lanning supposedly jumped from to his death. While investigating, detective Spooner argues with Dr. Calvin about the Three Laws of Robotics. The Three Laws of Robotics were created by Isaac Asimov. He envisioned a world where robots would act like servants and to ensure that they do not cause harm, these three laws would be implemented into their programming. The First Law states, a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The Second Law states, a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. The Third Law states, a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws. In the movie, the Three Laws of Robotics were created by Dr. Lanning. Spooner is convinced that a robot may have killed Dr. Lanning. Dr. Calvin argues that it’s a ridiculous suspicion knowing that the three laws are hardwired into every robot to which Spooner replies back, “You know what they say? Laws are made to be broken.”

            While Spooner goes through the bins of robot parts, a robot jumps out from one of the bins, this robot is identified as Sonny. A sentient NS-5 that Dr. Lanning has been working on secretly. A unique robot that has denser materials and a secondary neural network giving him the ability to ignore the three laws. According to Gorman Beauchamp, an essay writer on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to science fiction and an associate professor of humanities at the University of Michigan, “If we follow Lawrence’s injunction to trust not the artist but the tale, then Asimov’s stories in I, Robot—and, even more evidently, one of his later robot stories, “That Thou Art Mindful of Him”—justify, rather than obviate, the Frankenstein complex. His mechanical creations take on a life of their own, in excess of their programming and sometimes in direct violation of it. At a minimum, they may prove inexplicable in terms of their engineering design—likeRB-34 (Herbie) in “Liar” who unaccountably acquires the knack of reading human minds; and, at worst, they can develop an independent will not susceptible to human control—like QT-1 (Cutie) in “Reason.” In this latter story, Cutie—a robot designed to run a solar power station—becomes “curious” about his own existence” (Beauchamp 87). The same description Beauchamp gives is applied to Sonny. This unique robot has been designed to specifically to be more human than any of the other robots. Sonny understands that he is special but questions the purpose of his existence. Sonny also has the ability to have dreams.

Sonny escapes by jumping out of the research lab all the way down to the lobby where Dr. Lanning died, and makes a run for it only to be captured later by the police. In the police station, Spooner interrogates Sonny and discovers that he has emotions and even dreams, which is something that Dr. Lanning was alluding to prior to his death. Before Spooner can get any more information out of Sonny, Lawrence Robertson intervenes and reclaims Sonny for U.S.R, saying that Dr. Lanning’s death was an accident and robots cannot be tried for murder as they are not people.

            Detective Spooner’s investigation escalates when he investigates Dr. Lanning’s home and a U.S.R demolition robot suddenly activates and destroys the home while he was still inside. Not long after this he is also attacked by a large squadron of NS-5s while driving at high speeds through underground tunnels resulting in absolute carnage. Spooner barely survives this ordeal, but thanks to the help of his cybernetic left arm that was created by Dr. Lanning, he was able to fend off the remaining NS-5s. By the time police arrive, cleanup robots removed any sign of the altercation and the remaining NS-5s scatter leaving no evidence of the attack. This ultimately forces Spooner’s boss, Lieutenant Bergen, played by Chi McBride, to think Spooner has paranoia. He asks for Spooner’s badge and relieves him of his duties.

            Spooner, no longer being an official detective, continues his investigation with Dr. Calvin. They both sneak into U.S.R and question Sonny where the robot admits to killing Dr. Lanning but he also insists that the murder was at Lanning’s request as he was being held captive against his will and needed to get Spooner’s attention. Sonny then draws a picture of one of his dreams and reveals that the man in the picture that would lead the robots to freedom was Spooner. As Spooner was making some ground of the investigation, Lawrence Robertson intervenes yet again and orders Dr. Calvin to terminate Sonny with a nanite serum. Spooner goes to the location of Sonny’s drawing; a container yard filled with decommissioned NS-4 robots and encounters another hologram of Dr. Lanning that notifies Spooner of an imminent robot revolution. While Dr. Calvin begins the procedure of injecting the nanite serum into a dummy NS-5 so that Sonny could live, the NS-5s around the city activate and start rounding up civilians Even a squadron was sent to the container yard where Spooner is to destroy the decommissioned robots. Spooner escapes and rescues Dr. Calvin from her personal NS-5 and they both make their way to U.S.R to confront Lawrence Robertson, whom they suspect is the mastermind behind all this. But what they find is Robertson’s dead body in his office and discover that V.I.K.I. has taken control of the NS-5s and all the other robots across the country. It is explained earlier in the movie that V.I.K.I. is an artificial intelligence supercomputer and main operating core of U.S.R. V.I.K.I. explains that her understanding of the Three Laws of Robotics have evolved and thus she created what is known as the Zeroth Law of Robotics. This law states that a robot may not harm humanity or by inaction allow humanity to come to harm. With this perversion of the three laws, V.I.K.I. decided it was best to take away humanity’s freedom in order to protect it from itself. This all originated from a flaw in her programming which led her to become concerned for the safety of humans. The film progresses to the climax as Sonny joins Spooner and Dr. Calvin, and the trio make their way to V.I.K.I.’s main core. Their objective was to inject the same nanite serum that was meant for Sonny, directly into the main core. After fighting off hordes of rogue NS-5s, Spooner takes a leap of faith and successfully injects the serum into V.I.K.I.’s main core ultimately destroying her.

Before this scene, Sonny was asked by Spooner to save Dr. Calvin from imminent death instead of completing his task of assisting Spooner in the greater mission at hand. This is an important call back to the scene where Spooner describes the tragedy he experienced. Where Spooner’s vehicle and another vehicle were pushed off a road and submerged into a river. A nearby NS-4 robot came to the rescue, Spooner tells the robot to save the little girl trapped in the vehicle next to him, however the robot weighs the chances of success and chooses the more probable option of Spooner who had a higher chance of surviving. The NS-4 calculated that Spooner had a 45 percent chance of survival while the little girl had 11 percent, “That was somebody’s baby, eleven percent is more than enough. A human being would’ve known that.” (Spooner). This was the very reason that Spooner despises robots in the first place, complaining that they are too logical. However, Sonny was more different, he listened to Spooner and made an illogical choice that was the right call as opposed to the logical choice that was void of any humanity.

            There are many factors as to why this film is considered science fiction. Firstly, the setting takes place in a futuristic world filled with intelligent technology. Everything from holograms to self-driving hover cars to positronic robots. The world depicted in this film may become possible in our future. According to Michael Anderson, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Hartford and Susan Leigh Anderson, specializing in applied ethics. “Autonomous robots are likely to soon be a part of our daily lives. Some airplanes are already capable of flying themselves, and self-driving cars are at the development stage. Even “smart homes,” with computers controlling everything from lighting to the A/C, can be thought of as robots whose body is the entire home—just as HAL 9000, the computer in Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, was the brains of a robot spaceship. And several companies have been developing robots that can assist the elderly with everyday tasks, either to supplement the staff of an assisted-living facility or to help the aged live at home by themselves.” (74).

In the world of science fiction, there is a pessimism towards robots. There is a tendency for robots to be more threatening to humankind. That is exactly what we see in this film. As Ruby S. Ramraj, a science fiction professor at the University of Calgary, discusses in Worlds of Wonder. “Such a robot would have the freedom to choose whether to risk harming an individual in order to protect humanity. Asimov admits that humans have “a strong Frankenstein complex” (Caves 170) and would not willingly tolerate such a creature. However, in creating the Zeroth Law to include specifically the protection of humanity, Asimov is adhering to the philosophical notion that the good of the many supersedes the good of the one. In advancing this precept, Asimov widens the scope and the responsibility of robots and artificial intelligence, “who” now can make life-and-death decisions about the existence of individuals without ever listening to a human voice. This situation sets the stage for machines to control humans—creating nightmarish, dystopic scenarios.” (Ramraj 143). The Three Laws of Robotics that are programmed into each and every robot are laced with flaws that deem disastrous to humanity. However, if they were designed in the same concept as Sonny, which is to be more to be more human, then humanity may very well flourish. Considering all the characteristics it shares with the genre, “I, Robot” 2004 film can be categorized as a work of science fiction.

Work Cited

  • Anderson, Michael, and Susan Leigh Anderson. “ROBOT BE GOOD.” Scientific American, vol. 303, no. 4, 2010, pp. 72–77. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26002215. Accessed 15 May 2020.
  • BEAUCHAMP, GORMAN. “The Frankenstein Complex and Asimov’s Robots.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 13, no. 3/4, 1980, pp. 83–94. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24780264. Accessed 11 May 2020.
  • Gernsback, Hugo. “A New Sort of Magazine.” Amazing Stories April 1926: 3. Print
  • Palumbo, Donald. “Alex Proyas’s ‘I, Robot’: Much More Faithful to Asimov Than You Think.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, vol. 22, no. 1 (81), 2011, pp. 60–74. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24352427. Accessed 15 May 2020.
  • Proyas, Alex, director. I, Robot. 20th Century Fox, 2004.
  • RAMRAJ, RUBY S. “Robots and Artificial Intelligence in Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and Sawyer’s Golden Fleece.” Worlds of Wonder: Readings in Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, edited by Jean-François Leroux and Camille R. La Bossière, University of Ottawa Press, Ottawa, Ont. Canada, 2004, pp. 139–146. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1ch78gw.14. Accessed 11 May 2020.

The Great American Icon Re-imagined as a Soviet Hero by Carl Barton

Carl Barton

Professor Jason Ellis

ENG2420 E573

20 May 2020

The Great American Icon Re-imagined as a Soviet Hero

While in my ENG 2420 class we learned all about science fiction of how it dated all the way back from 2150 BC and its emergence as time moved on into what we have today. In my class I have learned that science fiction can come in various forms of literature like magazines, novels, and short stories. But in my class it was never specified that comic books or graphic novels, like shonen jump, were science fiction since science fiction has various definitions by significant writers in the field. My goal in this paper is to prove that comics are science fiction using Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son, published in the 2003 issue of DC Comics: Elseworlds.

Science fiction has multiple definitions like “Speculative Fiction: stories whose objective is to explore, to discover, to learn, by means of projection, extrapolation, analogue, hypothesis-and-paper experimentation, something about the nature of the universe, of man, or reality…to examine some postulated approximation of reality, by introducing a given set of changes-imaginary or inventive-into the common background of ‘known facts’, creating an environment in which the responses and perceptions of the characters will reveal something about the inventions, the characters, or both” (Merril 60). Judith Meril’s definition of science fiction summarizes the comic because the story imagines the outcome of Superman’s pod landing in Ukraine rather than Kansas (Lewis 618) describing the events surrounding the Cold War and its effects on Russia. It also shows what the ‘Man of Steel’ would do in these situations.

Another definition of science fiction that summarizes the story of Red Son is “an historical literature…In every SF narrative, there is an explicit or implicit fictional history that connects the period depicted to our present moment, or to some moment in our past” (Robinson 54). In this case the fictional history connected to the Cold War from 1947 – 1991 where the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, were on the brink of nuclear war. The war never entered nuclear warfare because when the US fired on Russian soil, Russia never fired back. The story shows this by having Lex Luthor constantly attack Superman, in Russia, but having Superman never attack Luthor. The story of Red Son begins in Ukraine, Russia in the 1930s, 10 years before the beginning of the Cold War.

Although words and pictures started out together, literature usually for adults was eventually reduced to words alone. Graphic novels bring pictures and words back together for the adult audience. Graphic novels began in the late 19th century as a response to the appearance of comic strips in newspapers. The difference between graphic novels and comics is that a comic strip has a series of drawings to tell a story complemented with captions in a white bubble. Graphic novels are printed as soft or hardcover, high quality paper, while comic boos are made on cheap newsprint resulting in Graphic novels costing more than comic books. “Rapid growth followed in the comics market over the next few decades, not only in number of readers but also in the variety of comic genres, eventually including horror comics, westerns, science fiction, mysteries, movie tie-ins, and even illustrated classics.” (Giles 533). Even though comic book and graphic novels are slightly different they both feature the same themes as well as the same high-end artwork.

Within Superman: Red Son there are multiple uses of science fiction, in fact Red Son could be a literary form of weird fiction. Weird fiction was the story theme that drove the magazine Weird Tales, which began in March 1923. According to Howard Lovecraft (1890-1937) the characteristics of weird fiction are: Broad terms that describe fantasy that embodies a challenging view of the world, reduction of land or character with something else strange happening, usually a cult or satanism, and Doppelgangers. Red Son’s story begins like the original as Superman is placed in an escape pod, as a baby, for him to flee his dying planet. However, instead of Kansas, he lands in Ukraine where he is raised to be a soldier and protect his ‘mother country’ and its people. Fast-forward Superman’s existence stated by the president of the US. Because people now know this ‘powerman’ roams in Russia assisting them in wars, the US citizens begin to panic. So as a plan to ‘level the playing field’ the president calls on Lex Luthor to create their own ‘superman’. Superman is attacked by his doppelganger in Russia who is then easily defeated. Fast-forward some more to 1978, Superman is president of the Soviet Union and is attempting to build a global utopia, but is constantly being attacked by Luthor as he continues to send powered  agents to Russia, all his attacks fail. Afterwards he is attacked by a Russian version of Batman armed with kryptonite, Superman’s one weakness, but is defeated as well. Then to find his ‘mother country’ invaded by Brainiac, possibly his hardest enemy to defeat, but he is defeated as well. Brainiac is taken in by Superman who believes that he changed his programming to only help him and his ambitions. One by one Superman is taking control of the US only leaving 38 remaining. Fast-forward again to 2001 where Superman’s utopia is once again almost complete but “while most of the world is grateful for Superman’s protection, he still faces challenges from both without and within.”(Lewis 618). Before Superman could control the US entirely, Luther becomes president of the remaining 35 states. In a year he restored the US to what it was before Superman appeared. Once he achieved this he sends out his final attack including the Green Lantern Corps, the Amazons, and his intelligence or his technology. Once Superman powers his way to Luthor, he finds him captured by Brainiac. Brainiac successfully convinces Superman to launch an attack, something he has never done-he has been getting attacked but never fired back on their home soil, to finally complete his utopia. Superman stops when Luther says “Why don’t you just put the whole world in a bottle, Superman?”, Superman realizes he is being compared to Brainiac. It’s revealed that Brainiac was toying with Superman, faking his programming, to get him to take out all his enemies. Luther uses his intelligence to shut down Brainiac causing the ship to enter self-destruct mode. Superman with quick thinking flies the ship out of space. He is believed to have died in the explosion. Luthor establishes the utopian state that Superman always wanted to create. “Working along with these utopian issues, Red Son focuses on the notion that a few central actors can change the course of world events. Despite his occasional claims to believe in equality, Superman’s effect on world historical forces is clear and direct; his presence shapes, and in some cases distorts, world events. The same is true for Lex Luthor, who reshapes the world despite Superman’s realization that ‘leaving them [humanity] alone means they can make their own mistakes again.’ Yet Millar hints that the presence of both characters is the key to humanity’s success, as Superman notes: ‘Perhaps [Luthor] existed to keep me in check, or, as someone once hypothesized, perhaps it was the other way around.’ Without the presence of the other, either Luthor or Superman would have affected the world negatively; together, they bring a better future about.” (Lewis 619). It is later discovered by the readers that the ‘utopia’ Luthor created is actually supposed to be Superman’s original home, Superman is sent to past Earth by his father to save humanity before its destruction by the sun in the future.

The uses of science fiction include, Brianiac’s invasion, Wonder Woman’s lasso, Batman’s toolbelt, Luthor’s intelligence, and the story of the Cold War, in Russia’s point of view. Brainiac is Superman’s second strongest villain after Lex Luthor. Born on Colu, he uses his superior intellect and robotic body in battle. Brianiac’s only goal is to obtain knowledge of the entire universe by trapping select cities of planets to watch how their people act. Lex Luthor is a human with a genius intellect rivaling the mind of Batman. He uses this intellect with his technological engineering skills to build a suit that has the power to defeat or in the rare case kill Superman. Batman is another human with this genius intellect, used to be a rich kid before his parents were shot, he became Batman to help those in need. Batman like Luthor has no powers, but he has a toolbelt armed with gadgets, ranging from smoke bombs to explosive gel. When the gadgets are not enough he uses close quarter combat, and ‘fear’ to quickly deal with his enemies. Like Luthor he is armed with kryptonite, a material from the planet Krypton, Superman’s home planet, is Superman’s one weakness. Wonder Woman is this ‘goddess’ born in Themyscira, a unknown and unfindable island inhabited by only women. Her strength is slightly less than Superman but she does have a sword and the Lasso of Truth. The Lasso of Truth can be armed by any who wields it but whoever caught wrapped in the Lasso of Truth can never lie and can usually never break the lasso. The story of Red Son closely follows the events of the Cold War. From Joseph Satallin’s death to the attacks by the US to Russia, and Russia not firing back only defending. 

The Red Son story itself is an alternate timeline, DC Entertainment calls Elseworlds. Anything can happen in these timelines, from having a world without Superman or Batman, to having Batman actually kill his foes, “The vast majority of Elseworlds tales, however, instead offered variations on the origins of characters, either focusing on alternate histories or transplanting those characters into altogether different time periods” (Jennings 1469). Elseworld was created in 1991 and ran until the second half of the 21st century. Elseworlds went through its most fruitful period in the late 1990s and the early 2000s (Jennings 1468). Following the timeline of DC Entertainment, Elseworlds was created by Flash aka Barry Allen, ran back in time to attempt to save his mom from dying. When we ran back to the present it was a post-apocalyptic land where Batman was Thomas Wayne, Wonder Woman and Aquaman were fighting to the death, and Superman was practically skin and bones and had dysarthria, difficulty with speech. To fix what he caused he ran back in time once more to stop himself from saving his mom. But the timeline was never the same, this event was called the Flashpoint. Flash accidently creates another timeline after fixing what he had done resulting in the creation of stronger enemies and weird multiversal problems. Now because of his actions the existence of multiple Earths came to light resulting in problems like the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the discovery of Supergirl.

“Superman is one of the most durable icons of American popular culture” (Yockey). Superman was co-created by Jerry Siegel, the writer and Joe Shuster, the artist and designer. Siegel, born in 1914 and died in 1996, was an avid reader of pulp magazines, which came about roughly in the 1920s and roughly ended in the 1930s. After the death of his father in 1932, Sigel devoted himself to becoming a writer. Siegel self-published his Siegel self-published his own pulp magazine with fellow classmate and artist Shuster called Science Fiction, a pamphlet that ran for five issues starting in October 1932. In the third issue (January 1933), Siegel introduced a villain called “The Superman” who had strange mental powers and was illustrated by Shuster as a bald madman. Their work eventually made its way to Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, who had just begun publication, through his National Allied Publications (the forerunner of DC Comics) of New Fun (February 1935), a national “big” magazine of all-new comics material. After several failed attempts of changing Superman into a hero, Shuster created the now-iconic costume and together they worked on the character origins. So by 1939 the 13-paged color story called Action Comics #1 (1939) featured the new Superman (Ricca 347). Joe Shuster, born in 1914 and died in 1992, was a self-taught artist with an adaptive style to various subjects. Shuster started drawing all kinds of comics for Siegel, including “Snoopy and Smiley,” “Kane,” “Bruce Verne,” and “Interplanetary Police,” among several others, all in an attempt to make it in the big game of newspaper syndication. Though many of the comics were artistically quite mature, Siegel and Shuster could not get them published. Siegel and Shuster sold Superman for $130, which included signing over all their rights to National Comics (Ricca 345).In 1947, Shuster joined Siegel in suing National Comics over the rights to Superman and the new character Superboy. The court ruled they had been wronged over Superboy, but had no claim to ownership over Superman, and National promptly fired them. After he and Siegel’s Funnyman comic flopped in 1947, Shuster devoted his time to teaching in New York and to doing occasional cover and art assists (Ricca 347). Which brings us to Mark Millar, born in 1969. Mark Millar authored some of the most influential stories of the modern era. His works include “Civil War” (2006), “Old Man Logan” (2008), Kick-Ass (2008), Ultimate X-Men (2001) and Superman: Red Son (2003). Because of his work he was nominated for the Eisner Award (Fuijoka). Later Superman: Red Son would be adapted into a film like Kick-Ass on 25 February 2020, directed by Sam Liu.

In conclusion, comic books or graphic novels are science fiction. Their themes are usually about the supernatural, with powers like flight, super strength, super speed, intellect. Science fiction is the ability to adapt into all forms of the literary genre.

Works Cited

Millar, Mark. “Superman: Red Son”, 3 issues, “Elseworlds.” DC Comics, 2003. Print

Merrial, Judith. “What Do You Mean: Science? Fiction?” SF: The Other Side of Realism. Ed. Thomas D. clareson. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1971. 53-95. Print

Robinson, Kim Stanley. “Notes for an Essay on Cecelia Holland.” Foundation 40 (Summer 1987): 54-61. Print

Lewis, Jacob. “Superman: Red Son.” Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels, edited by M. Keith Booker, vol. 2, Greenwood Press, 2010, pp. 617-619. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX1762500313/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=279b9d5a. Accessed 17 May 2020.

Jennings, Jackson S. “Elseworlds.” Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas, edited by M. Keith Booker, vol. 4: 1995-Present, Greenwood, 2014, pp. 1468-1470. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX6174500710/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=ea4ddc59. Accessed 18 May 2020.

Giles, Cynthia. “Graphic Novels.” St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., vol. 2, St. James Press, 2013, pp. 533-534. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX2735801136/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=e8e4d99d. Accessed 18 May 2020.

Yocket, Matt. “Somewhere in Time: Utopia and the Return of Superman.” The Velvet Light Trap, vol. 61, 2008, p. 26-37. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/vlt.2008.0007.

Ricca, Brad J. “Siegel, Jerry.” Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas, edited by M. Keith Booker, vol. 1: 1800-1960, Greenwood, 2014, pp. 347-349. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX6174500166/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=f49b4d27. Accessed 18 May 2020.

Ricca, Brad J. “Shuster, Joe.” Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas, edited by M. Keith Booker, vol. 1: 1800-1960, Greenwood, 2014, pp. 345-347. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX6174500165/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=854474be. Accessed 18 May 2020.
Fujioka, Brent A. “Millar, Mark.” Comics Through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas, edited by M. Keith Booker, vol. 4: 1995-Present, Greenwood, 2014, pp. 1647-1648. Gale eBooks, https://link-gale-com.citytech.ezproxy.cuny.edu/apps/doc/CX6174500800/GVRL?u=cuny_nytc&sid=GVRL&xid=83196514. Accessed 18 May 2020.

“Blade Runner The Grok of Cyberpunk Science Fiction” By Pablo Galindo Aragon

Pablo Galindo Aragon
Professor Jason Ellis
ENG2420 E573
20th May 2020

                                  Blade Runner The Grok of Cyberpunk Science Fiction

        Science fiction or SF is recognized as one of the most popular genres in entertainment whether it be in the form of audio, film, gaming or literature. Science Fiction has the power to take our imagination beyond reality, it is then when we can explore new worlds and experience them through different mediums. While studying the history of Science Fiction in our class this semester we studied different works from the many different waves this genre has experienced. Such waves included the Golden Age of SF, New Wave SF, Feminist SF, just to new a few. Cyberpunk is the sub-genre of Science Fiction that branches of into its own while maintain the traits of Science Fiction. The film Blade Runner (1982) demonstrates not only what SF is but also is the pure grok of Cyberpunk. In the following text I will use scholarly articles and text to argue and explain how and why Blade Runner is indeed a work of Science Fiction.
        Isaac Asimov an American writer and professor who was known for his works of science fiction and popular science once said “True s-f is not to be confused with weird stories or horror stories or tales of supernatural or, in fact, with fantasies of any sort. The best definition of s-f that I know of is indeed, almost sociological in its gravity. It goes as follows: Science-fiction is that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of science advance upon human beings” (Asimov 148). It is important to note that although there is about a 30-year gap between the Asimov’s quote and the film Blade Runner (1982) they go together in defining what SF can look like. In the film we are introduce to a group of individuals known replicants. Replicants are modified bio-engineered beings with a 4-year life span who are implanted with human memories. In the film we are introduced to 4 of these beings Roy, Pris, Zhora and Leon. They return to earth with the goal of expanding their lives. Replicants are significant in this film because they are an example of science advance upon human beings. These replicants are identical to human beings and the only way to tell them apart is by making them take exams that will trigger specific emotional responses. This is fiction because in the real world no such technological advancement exists. Other technological advances found in the film are flying vehicles and off-world travel. The world built around Blade Runner is due to scientific advancement upon human beings, in fact without it this world we are presented to would not exist. Furthermore, replicants are not to be confused with supernatural or fantasies of any sort. Rather they are simply manufactured and created by scientific advancement. This is what separates true SF from genres and even more specifically Cyberpunk from that of a fantasy.
        In Blade Runner 1982 our protagonist Rick Deckard is introduced as an ex-replicant hunter. From the onset of the film the viewer is exposed to the perspective that Rick is not proud of what his work as an ex-replicant hunter. He tries to neglect the officers who try to arrest him. He is also uninterested and unamused by his ex-supervisor’s command to return to his old job. He is threatened and ultimately forced to take on the job leaving the audience wondering “Why is he trying to avoid his ex-profession”, was it something he saw, something he experienced that led to him no longer engage in his work, perhaps trauma or self-doubt? As the movie progress Rick’s duels with the replicants become more and more intense and so do his emotions. He even begins to grow a connection and then love for one of the replicants known as Rachel. Brian Wilson Aldiss an English writer and anthology-editor, best known for science fiction novels and short stories once stated “Science fiction is the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science), and is characteristically cast in the Gothic or post-Gothic mode” (Aldiss 8). I mention this quote because it supports the character of Rick Deckard the Blade Runner. Throughout the film we begin to realize that Rick does no view replicants as scrap and metal as some others in the film. He feels something when he hunts them down, when he tests Rachel somethings bothers him. He knows there is more to them then just an empty shell. When he encounters Zhora one of the replicants and shots her in the back his voice narration explains “The report would be routine retirement of a replicant. Which did not make me feel any better about shooting a woman in the back. There it was again feeling…in myself for her for Rachel.” Throughout the film Rick is searching for a definition of the man he is and his status in the universe… The film further builds of Aldiss definition in the ending when his life is spared by Roy the last remaining replicant. It is in Roy’s last moments that he finds a meaning to his exists. He no longer feels the need to kill Rick but instead he saves him and takes the opportunity to prove that he is more than just a bio-engineered being. He has a purpose just like anyone with the gift of life. Rick is left in an advanced but confused state of knowledge exactly as Aldiss describes in his quote.
        Patrick Parrinder an academic, formerly Professor of English at the University of Reading explains in his book Science Fiction (1979) “Science Fiction, in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways, reflects the nature of modern society. A serious and wide-ranging critical treatment of this literary form would be virtually impossible without some consideration of its sociology. The sociologist may approach an SF story in one of three ways: as a product, bearing the imprint of social forces at every level from fundamental narrative structures to the precise forms in which it is manufactured, distributed and sold; as a communication or message, with a particular function for a particular audience; and, finally, as document articulating and passing judgement upon the social situation from which it emerges.” (Parrinder 29). Blade Runner (1982) was theatrically released in the 80s. The film echoes society at the time and its technological advances. During this time computers went from giant machines to machines that could fit on a personal desk, answering machines were introduced, and perhaps most relevant to the Cyberpunk genre Graphical user interface. Throughout the film we find Rick communicating with technology. For example, when he is examining photos Rick communicates with his computer to analyze photos a sort of grid like system. He mentions movements such as “left, center and enlarge”. As he states the commandments his computer follows and executes the movements. Aside from technological advances the society in which this story takes places is clearly inspired by the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. At this time violating taboos, the punk/rock movement, feminism, job manufactures went overseas and cold war tensions had a huge impact in 80s culture. The world of Blade Runner clearly reflects the culture of the 80s and its society while presenting it in a science fiction Cyberpunk setting.    
        From the very start of the Blade Runner (1982) film we are introduced to a massively over industrialized futuristic city of Los Angeles. The air is polluted, flames shoot towards the sky, buildings and skyscrapers dominate the visuals. Flying vehicles and digital tabloids present us to a near future. It immediately becomes clear to the audience that this is indeed a work of Science Fiction. However, as the story progress we are exposed to the character of Rick Deckard and we being to explore other themes that may not feel as traditional to SF. It is in my research of defining SF that it became clear that ironically these various themes are what make this film SF. “Science fiction is hard to define to any reader’s or critic’s satisfaction. This is largely due to the often-puzzling variety of themes, approaches and techniques exhibited by the genre, as well as to the difficulty of situating historically the origins of science fiction. In some of its most popular interpretations, science fiction is considered a fundamentally twentieth-century phenomenon, rooted in a predominantly western experience of technological growth.” (Cavallaro 1). This quote comes from Dani Cavallaro a freelance writer specializing in literary studies, critical and cultural theory, and the visual arts. One of her publications include Cyberpunk and Cyberculture which is where we find this quote. We are introduced to Rick as an ex-replicant hunter, but he is also a cop or maybe a detective? He is not seeking redemption, but he finds love and overall, this feels like a romance filled with mystery and adventure. You see it is here where the quote supports the film as a work of SF. “Often-puzzling variety of themes, approaches and techniques exhibited… rooted in predominantly western experience of technological growth” The many themes found within the film are able to be carried because of what science fiction is, a genre that hold many approaches and techniques in its story telling.
        John Clute, author of the Hugo Award-winning Encyclopedia of Fantasy, said: “Science Fiction has never really aimed to tell us when we might reach other planets, or develop new technologies, or meet aliens. Science Fiction speculates about why we might want to do these things, and how their consequences might affect our lives and our planet.” (Clute 8) Blade Runner introduces us to a dystopian Los Angeles in the year 2019. The goal of this film, however, is not urge us to rush and work hard to achieve technology that will help us emulate this city. On the contrary, this is a dark NEAR future that one would not want to be a part of. The film does not use the 2019 title to excite us but rather to convey the idea that this is indeed a near future and not one that is hundreds of years away from us. In the world of Blade Runner mankind has achieved the goal of life outside of earth. We are constantly reminded about this through the blimp that hovers over the dystopian sky and advertises “OFF WORLD”. We never get to see this Off-World experience, but it is appearing that a Utopian life awaits those who seek it. Clute’s quote may be directly linked to this 2019 Los Angeles setting which interprets the consequence of humanity abandoning earth.
       Fiona Kelleghan is an American academic and critic specializing in science fiction and fantasy. In her work “Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature” she notes “Science-fiction authors return again and again to the classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature theme of evolution because of their great joy in playing with ideas, the sheer pleasure of turning the questioning spirit loose to ask What if? And What might we become? in allowing an uncontrolled imagination to forge into uncharted territory, both outer space and inner space. The spray of phenomena we encounter in science fiction sets the brain aflame with revelation, offers nearly inexpressible insights into immense possibilities, evokes the beauty and anguish and exquisite pangs of one state of being glimpsing another. Mind and emotion reel in wonder at the center, yet there is no place or time that science fiction dares not rove.” (Kelleghan xxi) There are serious topics that this film tries to warn us about. Perhaps one of the biggest questions we may begin to ask ourselves after watching Blade Runner is how advancing artificial intelligence can impact us. In the film we see bio-engineered beings lose it when they begin to question who they are, what is their purpose and why were they created. It is here when we begin to realize that this is not just a random Science Fiction adventure. Rather it explores a near future where A.I is advance not only to the point of human complexion but human emotions as well. We find ourselves in a setting where machine question life and purpose more than humans. This irony warns us about the consequence of creating artificial beings. It reminds of the roots of early science fiction work such as Frankenstein where a scientist creates a being through biological structure with the use of alchemy. The roots of Science Fiction are the foundation of this work and its narrative. Blade Runner does not try to push us to achieve these technologies instead it puts us in a scenario of “what if”. What if we one day find ourselves achieving this level of AI? How will we handle advanced AI and with the constant technological advancements is our humanity at the risk of being lost as we get closer to these possibilities? These questions can only be found in that of Science Fiction, proving once again that Blade Runner is indeed a work of the genre.
       Blade Runner (1982) is not only one of the most popular films in the sub-genre of Cyberpunk but in the genre of Science Fiction itself. This is because Blade Runner is arguably the grok of what makes a work SF. Throughout the text I present various definitions and works of scholars and experts in the field of Science fiction. Within each text a natural connection to the world of Blade Runner can be made. Isaac Asimov definition of Science Fiction is concerned with the idea of technological advancement which is also the foundation of the film. Brian Wilson Aldiss quote revolves around Rick Deckard the Blade Runner. “Science fiction is the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe which will stand in our advanced but confused state of knowledge (science)” (Aldiss 8). Patrick Parrinder reminds us that the world of Blade Runner is not build from scratch. In fact, it uses SF elements of reflecting modern society in which case it echo’s American society in the 1980s. This world is built around the rebellious youth, politics, and cold war tensions. Dani Cavallaro reminds us that science fiction has a strong capacity when it comes to the many themes and how these themes are approached and exhibited
within the genre. It is important to remember that like Blade Runner its roots are predominantly based on the western experience of technological growth. John Clute argues that Science Fiction speculates why we might want to do things, and how their consequences might affect our lives and our planet. Blade Runner explores why we might want to develop AI but also demonstrates the consequences of a planet abandoned by its race. Fiona Kelleghan through her text demonstrates that SF stories will always rely on the early works that came before them. This is because classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature theme of evolution great joy in playing with ideas “What if” and “What might become”. A quotes that reflects the narrative of Blade Runner’s near future and predictions on technology based on that which already exists. It is with the support of these scholarly text that I am able to conclude that the film Blade Runner (1982) is indeed a work of Science Fiction.
                                                               

Works Cited

Cavallaro, Dani. Cyberpunk & Cyberculture : Science Fiction and the Work of William Gibson. The Athlone Press, 2000. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=226692&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Rieder, John. Science Fiction and the Mass Cultural Genre System. Wesleyan University Press, 2017. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1402665&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Buker, Derek M. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Readers’ Advisory : The Librarian’s Guide to Cyborgs, Aliens, and Sorcerers. ALA Editions of the American Library Association, 2002. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=173277&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

Kelleghan, Fiona. Classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature. Salem Press, 2002. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=72891&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

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

Aldiss, Brian. Billion Year Spree: The True History of Science Fiction. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973. Print.

“Is The Handmaid’s Tale Science Fiction?” by Shannon B.

Shannon Bhulai

Professor Jason Ellis

ENG2420 E573

20 May 2020

Is The Handmaid’s Tale Science Fiction?

The topic I chose to research is the Hulu series, The Handmaid’s Tale. The series is based on the 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood. The series was created by American television writer and producer, Bruce Miller. The first season was released 2017 and a fourth season is currently in the works. There is considerable debate about whether or not The Handmaid’s Tale (novel and series) is science fiction. In this paper, I argue that the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale is science fiction.

There are many definitions of science fiction. “Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science fiction is the improbable made possible.” (Rod Serling, 1962 “The Fugitive”). “In the not too distant future, corporations and government have destroyed the environment of the United States. Pollution, artificial birth control, and abortion are blamed for widespread infertility. After a revolution that destroys the United States and establishes a Christian theocracy with the biblical name Republic of Gilead (means “hill of testimony”), society is restructured and organized anew by gender and class, to the benefit of men.” (Rose, 23). Rod Serling’s definition of science fiction accurately describes the story of The Handmaid’s Tale because the idea of the United States government being completely overthrown, and women’s’ freedom completely eliminated is indeed improbable. However, it is not impossible. The series shows what life was like before the execution of Gilead. It shows the beginning of the transition into a new world. The clamp down on women’s rights began with cutting off women’s bank accounts and firing them from their jobs. Occurrences like these are possible in today’s society. In fact, women in the United States face similar unjust treatment such as gender pay gaps. Not to mention, there are nations around the globe that valiantly treat women unfairly.

A major science fiction aspect the series presents is the totalitarian dystopia. “…We explored the relations between science fiction, utopia, and fantasy concluding that all three occupy positions within the contemporary global science fiction field and therefore contribute to the science fiction selective tradition. Twenty years ago, both fan critics and academics alike would have found the inclusion of fantasy much more problematic than that of utopia. Today, however, the central site of contention, albeit not to the point of exclusion, is almost certainly provided by dystopia.” (Milner). Often times, the future in science fiction is presented in a dystopian setting. Dystopian fiction is an aspect of science fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale is a perfect example of this.

“Science fiction is, of course, about human concerns. It is written and read by human beings. But the culture from which it comes – the experiences, attitudes, knowledge, and learning which one must bring to it – these are not at all what we are used to as proper in literature. They may, however, be increasingly proper to human life.” (Joanna Russ, 1975 “Towards an Aesthetic of Science Fiction”). Russ’s definition of science fiction is another that suits The Handmaid’s Tale because the elements and details that make up the series are genuinely valuable to human life. The series explicitly displays human concerns that affect many lives on a daily basis. What is portrayed in The Handmaid’s Tale should be of concern to all including those whose lives are not affected by it.

The Handmaid’s Tale is science fiction because the social sciences explored in the series are indeed sciences. “Had the election gone a different way, Moss and Atwood might have fielded different questions. But like many other recent tv and movie projects, Handmaid’s has taken on a more pointed meaning in the Trump era. The seemingly newfound relevance, Atwood says, stems from the fact that totalitarian theocracy she created for the novel is grounded in history.” (Lawler). The totalitarian dystopia that comes to be is an entirely brand-new environment to the characters. By extrapolating the social outcomes of new forms of society, economy, and government, the story is referencing science. The series also delves into sociology and anthropology. Furthermore, the quote insinuates a deeper meaning as it references current events and politics.

Moreover, what makes The Handmaid’s Tale science fiction is its essential focus on religion. Sometimes works of science fiction incorporate themes of religion. Religious themes can be used to portray a deeper meaning. Science fiction rarely accepts or rejects religion as it is. When religious aspects are presented, they are usually deeply investigated. The government that is the Republic of Gilead is a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. All events that occur and actions that are taken by the leaders of Gilead are excused by the Bible. “Rather than religion in The Handmaid’s Tale, however, Tennant’s analysis focuses narrowly on Christianity – often with reference to specific biblical passages. For instance, she explains how the greeting “Blessed be the fruit” finds its origin in Luke 1:42 and how the name Serena Joy ‘reflects two of the gifts of the holy spirit listed in Galatians’ and draws attention to the fact that the character is neither serene or joyful. …Tennant makes the point that abandoned churches in the dystopian setting reinforces the ways in which Gilead’s leaders are ‘using religion for political control but lacking actual faith… churches have become museums’”. This quote is a detailed explanation of the role of religion in the story and verifies its contribution to the science fiction aspect of the story.

This next definition of science fiction is by Margaret Atwood herself. She also explains a perspective of hers about The Handmaid’s Tale. “I define science fiction as fiction in which things happen that are not possible today – that depend, for instance, on advanced space time travel, the discovery of green monsters on other planets or galaxies, or that contain various technologies we have not yet developed. But in The Handmaid’s Tale, nothing happens that the human race has not already done at some time in the past, or that it is not doing now, perhaps in other countries, or for which it has not yet developed the technology. We’ve done it, we’re doing it, or we could start doing it tomorrow. Nothing inconceivable takes place, and the projected trends on which my future society is based are already in motion. So, I think of The Handmaid’s Tale not as science fiction but as speculative fiction; and more particularly, as that negative form of Utopian fiction that has come to be known as Dystopia”. In her definition of science fiction, Margaret Atwood describes The Handmaid’s Tale as speculative fiction. Nonetheless, I contend that The Handmaid’s Tale is indeed science fiction. “Speculative fiction imagines scenarios that transcend normal reality, but such works always reflect the real world and encourage readers to consider psychic, philosophical, and metaphysical truths or assumptions that we normally pass over without reflection. Such fiction remains forever ambiguous in its meaning and capable of endless and multiple interpretations. It is not limited to science fiction and modern works of heroic fantasy, but includes religious and other myths, folktales, and fairy tales as well as later revisions of such archaic narratives.” (Heberle). This proves that although The Handmaid’s Tale is speculative fiction, it is science fiction as well. It has been argued that speculative fiction has not yet developed a distinctive feature that separates it from the term that is science fiction. 

Science fiction is referred to as an umbrella term for other genres including fantasy, horror, alternative history, and speculative fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale dabbles heavily with science, specifically, how theocracy restricts it in the near future.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “Writing Utopia.” Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose 1983-2005. New York: Carroll & Graff, 2005. 92-100. Print.

Heberle, Mark A. Review of An Inquiry into the Purposes of Speculative Fiction — Fantasy and Truth.  Marvels & Tales, vol. 19 no. 1, 2005, p. 142-145. Project MUSE,          doi:10.1353/mat.2005.0003.

Lawler, Kelly et al. “Politics Hangs over Hulu’s ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’” USA Today. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=J0E110662156517&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 17 May 2020.

Milner, Andrew. Locating Science Fiction. 1st ed., vol. 44, Liverpool University Press, 2012. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjgzj. Accessed 17 May 2020.

Pacatte, Rose. “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Presents Striking Oppression, Silent Sisterhood.”    National Catholic Reporter, 2 June 2017, pp. 23–27. EBSCOhost,                         search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=123424224&site=ehost- live&scope=site.

“Religion in the Handmaid’s Tale: A Brief Guide.” Publishers Weekly, vol. 266, no. 27, July 2019, p. 81. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=137336049&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

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

“The Fugitive.” The Twilight Zone. Writ. Charles Beaumont. Dir. Richard L. Bare. CBS, 1962. Web.

The Handmaid’s Tale (TV Series 2017– ) – IMDb. www.imdb.com/title/tt5834204/.