Science fiction has a rich and varied set of cultural and historical traditions. With reference to at least two different films and/or television texts discuss the evolution of Science Fiction as a genre. You should consider its literary origins as well as discussing how science fiction is a lens through which to view the social, political and technological progress and anxiety.
In this essay I will discuss the history and the creation of Science fiction and the journey it has travelled that has changed society and surroundings of today. I will talk about the Science fiction genre and also the birth of the genre and how it all was created. I will talk about the literary origin as well as the social change and political influences and messages that are encrypted in this genre, and how the political society we live in, is touched upon in this. I will also discuss how technology has had an impact in the way the world is changing through Science fiction, and how it has helped us see things that we could only imagine.
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I will start this question firstly discussing the science fiction genre. The science fiction genre is a collection made of intellectual and physical adventure which overlaps predominantly with other genres. It is difficult to define this genre with a simple definition that clarifies it relation to other genres. There is a debate about the difference between the two, fantasy and science fiction. The science fiction fans and those, whom are passionate in this genre, usually have strong and different views on what makes a science fiction, a science fiction.
Sci-Fi is known to be a genre that questions the “What If?” It always investigates philosophical, morals, and technological possibilities by making new and exciting realities. In the book, Genreflecting by Diana Tixier Herald, she defines science fiction deals with, “scientific topics, space travel, aliens and recognizably Earth-variant worlds of life forms that have not been touched by magic”. Also time travel is common theme in many of the sci-fi novels.
Science fiction can be traced back to the revolutionary works of Mary Shelly in Frankenstein which was in 1818. This is the story of somebody being made by a scientist from different body parts, and a person who discovers that in the eyes of the world he is a monster and wants to get revenge.
The idea that science might become an anti-social force and diabolical is one of the foundations for one of sci-fi most known assumptions. Even though many celebrate science as the end of lack of knowledge and superstition, SF can also remind us that it can be used as tool of violation, oppression and small minded destructiveness.
Certainly many critics of industrialisms explained the products of scientific thoughts did more harm than any good. Technology did not free workers in the nineteenth and early century; it was mainly mutilated and then mutated them. H.G Wells allegorized the social and physical mutations inspired by industrialisms in his portrayal of the cannibalistic, technology-obsessed Morlocks in 1895 the novel, The Time Machine.
In the early 20th Century we saw a large interest in this subject and it became more clearly defined and identified by the public. The emergence of the sci-fi pulp magazine helped develop a new generation of sci-fi writers, mostly Americans at the time. Also with fantasy writings, the use of art helped define the stereotypes in the public mind.
Hugo Gernsback became a cultural leader at this time as a founder of Amazing Stories magazine. In the 1930s late, John Campbell became editor of Astounding Science Fiction, and a number of new writers started to come forward in New York. They names themselves the Futurians, which including Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Fredrick Pohl, and many others. Sci-fi writing and art become cultural bed fellows, and lurid covers of books were now the norm.
During this time, authors such as Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein and A.E Van Vogt started making themselves a name. Campbell’s supervision of the Astounding Science Fiction magazine is thought to be known as the beginning of the Golden Age of sci-fi. This continued until after the war, when new magazines like Under Pohl Galaxy as editor, broke the old mold. Arthur C. Clarkes film 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) is well known as an all time classic film, which also succeeded in achieving a new cinematic high.
In 1950s, author William S. Burroughs came into his own and in the 1960s and early 1970s, writers like Frank Herbert and Harlan Ellison started experimenting with newer ideas and writing styles. In Britain we were not far away behind it, coming forward as the sci-fi new wave. In the 1970s, writers like Poul Anderson began to reshape so called hard sci-fi while Ursula Le Guin and others experimented with soft science fiction. Female characterisations were starting to eventually creep into this fiction increasingly.
Twentieth century sci-fi in the U.S owes a lot to the gothic tradition of Frankenstein, which has also returned to haunt the dystopian subgenre of “cyberpunk” with its electronically generated identity and bitter assumption about the consequences of human greed coupled with scientific “progress.” More current SF are still keeping in with Well’s vision, however speculative narratives about the life on other planets also human life in the future, dominates the market in sci-fi. “Tech Fiction” a whole subgenre has come out in the wake of Isaac Asimov most famous anthology, I, Robot (1950), which offered a way of imagining artificially-generated intelligence and consciousness. The Utopian sci-fi was heavily influenced by ecology, feminism and the TV show Star Trek. This was caught in the 1960s and created a slay of novels about the birth of a much better society made possible by the use of new technologies and a notion of science counterbalanced by humanism, spirituality, and democratic mulitculturism.
What continues to bring narratives’ in the sci-fi tradition is an urgent desire to reimaging human society, even if having to revise history, inventing possible new technologies, civilization and life forms or even creating a speculative future.
The term, “Science Fiction” was first used in the nineteenth century, arguably as the results of the “god father” of science fiction, H.G Wells, from his novels, Time Machine 1895, The Invisible Man 1897 and The War of Worlds 1898.
Cook and Bernink (1999) argue that science fiction did not become established until the beginning of the twentieth century, when the magazines started to produce science fiction in written format. Cook and Bernink argues that one of the first and most known contributions to putting science fiction in the realms of cinema is Le Voyage Imaginares (1926) which says, “..helped to establish the bond between science fiction, special effects technology and set design that has remained a feature of the genre ever since,” (Cook and Bernink, 1999:192)
Science fiction cinema achieved mainstream in the late 1960s and 70s, with the infamous film, 2001 Space Odyssey (1968) and also Star Wars (1977). Since then it has grown to become a much famous and popular genres moving away its previous status as of a B-Movie in the past. Some theorists have outlined a number of elements that are common within sci-fi. Using the semantic and syntactic conventions as mentioned above, an analysis of two specific films, The Fly (1986), story of powerful scientists Seth Brundle, who has a vision to change the limitations of space and time through the use of teleportation machine, however somehow manages to, when experimenting on himself, to combine his DNA with of a fly then produces a bad result. Also Even Horizon (1997) in which a crew travels into space in an effort to save a ship built by scientist Dr Weir, which while being abandoned in outer space, he has travelled into an unknown dimension and will be conducted in order to know weather, and to what extent, they conform to the conventions of science fiction as a genre.
You can say that some authors may not believe that sci-fi is just about science, but it’s about politics. A lot of authors’ have used this genre to explore their political beliefs or outrage the political machine. Authors such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and many more. Even if their main story is not meant to be political, political science fiction is quite important today.
In the sci-fi genre there are analogies to current and past politics and government organizations, allowing the authors to explore political possibilities that may never be tested. Almost every military sci-fi there is a political wheel that turns the war for example, Starship Troopers (1959). Also there is government regulation and oversight such as the regulation of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1959). Also other subgenres of science fiction, it is not mutually exclusive.
The film Avatar (2009) is a big blockbuster movie, with new 3D effects. It is not a movie that you watch normally but a movie that you immerse yourself, going through the adventure with dragons, hoping the good guys win and bad guys lose.
However I believe this film has hidden political message through it. There is no doubt the director James Cameron created the most expensive movie ever created with message about environment, government corruption and terrorism. Avatar (2009) overt it own message about the environment and how man’s interference with that area. The story is based on how humans have destroyed the earth and is now mining nearby planets for minerals including an unobtainium, on the Eden style Pandora.
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The area Pandora is a peaceful place, Na’vi, a race of blue humanoids whom live in peace with their exotic land and are linked to their ancestors in a way you might believe Aborigines, and Native Americans and other many tribes around the world. When the huge bulldozers cut down the Na’vis special spaces, you can imagine the same bulldozers cutting the many trees in rainforests in today’s society, ripping apart tribes and the forests as this happens quite frequently in today’s world.
Al Gore’s documentary in 2006 states that global warming is real, and it is caused by human activity, and that all humans and the government has to do something before it’s too late and our planet will move past the point of no going back. You can argue that it is kind of like what is happening in Avatar (2009).
Avatar (2009) takes many similarities of President Bush’s “War on Terror”, even in the film, Stephen Lang’s war manic Col. Quartich exclaims, “we will fight terror with terror!’. When the Na’vie is refusing to leave their land so the government can mine their mineral, the military will not stop until they achieve their target. Even if it requires to kill every Na’vi and replacing their plant life with an apocalyptic land of charred chaos and rubbles. They also have their own group of scientist to create the avatar program, to gain access to the tribe and report back with relevant information. A few of the scientists have hearts, however the military people are portrayed as cold-blooded people and just want to win and destroy. You can say to sum this up that the film is intending to give a political message as a sci-fi genre, to the audience by feeding them information of things going on in today’s world and how in the future life out can be gone.
Politics does not necessarily have a large influence on sci-fi. Sometimes science fiction has an effect on politics. A few government agencies have science fiction counterparts, both on a known level and on a more subtle level. Some events in our history have been influenced by sci-fi that came way before it. A good example of this is NASA’s Space Shuttle Enterprise was named after the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek after a letter writing campaign. While the Enterprise itself did not make it into space, it was in fact the first Space Shuttle every built by NASA and marked the beginning of Space Shuttles as we know.
The Political Science Fiction is the media through which we can explore potential government institutions, point out the errors of our own political system, and experiment with new ideas. It can play across the world stage, is the imagination. Usually political science fiction can be an instructive tale of a repressive government, but it can also try and prove that other political avenues are as viable. If it’s even purely political, or what seems afterthought, politics will always be behind a great deal of science fiction.
In the last 60 years the faster technological progress and events has changed the world. Even though all films are a subject to change at each point of sci-fi, has a close relationship with both technology and the real world. As Robert A. Heinlein a science fiction writer says, science fiction is a realistic speculation of future events based on knowledge of past and present real world. For this reason, the cause of the evolution of science fiction movies is the real world, put another way: Science fiction is reality.
In the 1960s the radical revolutions in technology and the technological achievements such as the Moon, had a large impact on sci-fi. Also the Cold War, Martin Luther King, JFK and the Vietnam War all have an influence in sci-fi during the decade. Some of the well known films of sci-fi films including 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Time Machine (1960) had an impact in a way by this occurrence during the 1960s. Most notably the spacecraft appears in 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) are very similar to the ship used in the 1960s.
When the production of films was improving, the success of science fiction in the 1960s quickly advanced the creation of science fictions in the 1970s. The popularity of the technology during the 1970s has changed the lives of many people, cars, pocket calculator, bar codes and the computer at home. Others technologies such as the Space Shuttle influenced neutron bombs and the Concorde. An increase population of 4.4 million people since 1978 has affected the genre. The atmosphere of the decade was featured in the sci-fi film Logan’s Run (1976), while the anxiety about overpopulation was made in the film Soylent Green (1973).
The increase of computer technology in films, more advanced films started to be produced in the 1980s. These new technologies gave a fresh new amazing special effect in sci-fi films like The Flight of the Navigator (1986), Predator (1987) and The Terminator (1984).
Blade Runner (1982) is a science fiction that first contained dystopia rather than of all apocalypse in the road warrior or the future of The Terminator (1984). One topic that usually seemed to be presented on a number of occasions has been the concept of powerful corporations and evil that rules the world. This can be found in Aliens (1986), RoboCop (1987), The Terminator (1984) and Blade Runner (1982).
Large technological advances during the 1990s all had the potential impact on sci-fi films. Some progress includes World Wide Web, text messaging, the computer generated films, cloning, photos of deep space and also the International Space Station. The ending threat of a third world war with Russia has been replaced by an increase number of small conflicts. The first war source was since the Gulf and Vietnam War took place, with some of the latest military technology used in the battle.
Teams began to engage in larger roles in special effects films producing in revolutionary films like Men in Black (1997) and Jurassic Park (1993). Films with storylines in natural disasters have been made quite frequently like Deep Impact (1998), Armageddon (1998) and 2012 (2009), as the currant global warming and save the world began to have an influence. The film Matrix (1999) came a new era of SF films with complex plot and special effect.
In the years 2000s, this was a decade of the availability of technological achievements related to space travel and also astronomy. The new solar systems and planets like Earth was discovered, countries like China have launched people into space, several robots have landed on Mars and exploring different planets was discovered in our solar system, recycling comet dust and many of unmanned probes have launched into space by organizations around the world. We are seeing the future of space tourism and the potential possibilities of space travel in the future. Also the politics climate has changed even more in events such as 9/11.
Also not to forget, the film Avator was written by James Cameron in 1994. In 1996 Cameron announced after the film Titanic was made he would film Avatar. However due to technology not have been ready for the story and vision Cameron had for the film, he decided to make this film for the future when these technology was ready which he eventually did and released in 2009.
To my conclusion on this essay, I have identified how far science fiction has come over time. Science Fiction has emerged over 100 years from the start of literacy novels, comics, magazine, television and films. I identified how politics and the surrounding of society and social have messages in science fiction films over time. Also how these films change of evolution in society and brings ideas to up and coming technology, making the world more advanced, constantly improving each day. Without sci-fiction films, and the whole genre, I believe that even today we would not have expanded and have the intelligence to bring out these technology machines, computers, phone and television today, as new ideas are still occurring in films every day. We would not have identified what is out in space, and now we can clear our minds with any superstitious thoughts of what is out there can be identified. We also can see the “what if” situation in the world if there was world disasters, to make us think of what can happen, and thanks to science fiction, technology is expanding and we can see more clearly and get ideas of what we can make the future and possibly create the future as we go along.
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