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date: 26 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses the thematic antecedents of science fiction within the Gothic tradition of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Beginning with a reading of the two original Prefaces to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), it considers how Gothic-inflected science fiction characteristically exhibits an interest in the human condition rather than being preoccupied with technological change. The chapter then moves to consider how science and scientific professionals—most notably, the experimental surgeon or doctor and alienist—become recurrent icons of the institutional repression of the individual across the nineteenth century, expressions of an antisocial arbitrary power. Hughes concludes with a consideration of Gothic fictions of apocalypse from the earlier nineteenth century to the near contemporary, considering again how these direct reader attention to the plight of the afflicted and introspective individual, poised at the brink of personal (and species) annihilation.

Keywords: science fiction, Gothic, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, technology, experimental science, surgeon, alienist, apocalypse

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