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date: 14 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Utopianism is fundamental to science fiction. The narrative utopia contributes SF’s materialist orientation, a fact underscored by Darko Suvin’s notions of cognitive estrangement and the novum. A novum represents a total break from the present, and a primary labor of SF is to give it narrative form. This drive quickly bring the genre up against its representational limits, however, a fact highlighted in Arkady and Boris Strugatskys’s Roadside Picnic (1972). Out of such failures emerge different narrative operations. Every SF narrative unfolds through three stages: critical estrangement; an encounter with the limits of representation; and a leap into a void where signification breaks down. A similar dynamic is evident in Mark Rose’s reading of apocalypse and Alain Badiou’s concept of the event. Two especially effective illustrations of this dynamic may be found in Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956) and Ken MacLeod’s The Sky Road (1999).

Keywords: utopia, science fiction, Darko Suvin, cognitive estrangement, novum, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Mark Rose, Alain Badiou, Alfred Bester, Ken MacLeod

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