User:Cavaliergirl96/Journal for HUMN 4472

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August 18, 2019 - What is science fiction?

Although I cannot come up with my own streamlined definition of science fiction, I have read and watched enough of the genre to know some general themes. technology always plays a large role in science fiction (especially if the government is controlling technology), as well as scientific advancement. Humans, aliens, and machines are usually examined to figure out what it means to be human or "alive". Other planets in other worlds are common settings, as well as any time in the present or future. Time travel is also common.

Essentially, science fiction is a combination of characteristics. No single characteristic is strong enough to make any story with that characteristic science fiction. Usually, many of the previously mentioned themes and ideas are explored together to create a science fiction story.

@Cavaliergirl96: Check your links. They must be formatted a bit differently here, like aliens. —Grlucas (talk) 07:25, 10 September 2019 (EDT)

August 25, 2019 - Building on a patchy foundation

Many of the characteristics I mentioned in my first post are similar to what w:Ursula K. Le Guin attributes to the common reader in her introduction for The Norton Book of Science Fiction.[1] I had a few facts but I didn’t have any theory by which to organize those facts.

Science: progenitor of science fiction

One obvious point I missed is that science fiction uses science as the primary launching point. It doesn’t just include scientific advancement, the genre exists because of scientific advancement. w:L. Sprague de Camp mentions in  “Science Fiction Handbook” that “we might try to define science fiction in this broader sense as fiction based upon scientific or pseudo-scientific assumptions (space-travel, robots, telepathy, earthly immortality, and so forth) or laid in any patently unreal though non-supernatural setting (the future, or another world, and so forth).”[2] The same ingenuity that leads to scientific discovery also leads to science fiction.

Scared in the 1960s

Another thing I learned came from Le Guin when she mentions that the 1960s were a turning point in science fiction, which truly surprised me.[3] I would have assumed World War II would have been the turning point (like it was with the shift from w:modernism to w:postmodernism,) but the looming threat of the cold war actually makes more sense. People had more time to understand w:nuclear warfare and grow to fear destruction worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Prevention, not prediction

Finally, the documentary Brave New Worlds: The Science Fiction Phenomenon makes an interesting point about science fiction and the future. In a soundbite from w:Arthur C. Clarke, he mentions a quote from w:Ray Bradbury: "I don't try to predict the future. I try to prevent it." He then builds on that sentiment, saying “science fiction can prepare the reader for unpleasant surprises, but the surprise is going to come all the same.”[4] The future in many science fiction stories is horrible. If people read about potential problems in the future, people then have the opportunity to possibly stop that specific problem. They usually don’t, but they still know what’s probably going to happen.

September 9, 2019 - "The Swimmer" and science fiction

I do not think that this story is science fiction, but the perspective and the way the story is told certainly give credence to the thought that it is science fiction. It reads like an episode of The Twilight Zone, which is commonly considered a science fiction show. Like The Twilight Zone, “The Swimmer” includes time-travel. Neddy’s swim down the line of pools in his neighborhood is eccentric, but it does not seem like a conduit for time-travel until near the end of the story when he returns to his abandoned house years later. The river itself seems to transport Neddy into the future, though it is clear that he himself is growing older as he swims.

@Cavaliergirl96: A bit more analysis and research is necessary here. —Grlucas (talk) 07:26, 10 September 2019 (EDT)

September 9, 2019 - "The Swimmer" and Le Jetée

When the two narratives are analyzed together, “The Swimmer” and Le Jetée are grounded in mundane situations. Both “The Swimmer” and Le Jetée begin on seemingly normal days in a reality the audience can recognize: a backyard pool and a jetty. Because of this, the audience has an easier time following the path away from the familiar and toward the fantastic. As the reader follows Neddy through the Lucinda “river,” time travel slowly seeps into the narrative and shifts the story into science fiction territory. Le Jetée introduces a survivor of an apocalyptic event with a memory of a beautiful woman at a jetty right before the takeover of Paris during World War II. Scientists use the man and his memory to travel through time, but the man continues to return to an event in his past involving a woman. Both Neddy and the man return to situations and places the audience might recognize, which can make the strange circumstances believable and even more unnerving: if some part is recognizable, how far could it all be from reality?

September 15, 2019 - Wobbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff

Although Doctor Who is a well-known science-fiction television show, "Blink" has a horror vibe. Sally enters an old house to take pictures and discovers creepy statues that move. As the episode progresses, Sally loses both Kathy and Billy to the Weeping Angels and must rely on Larry (why do these names all rhyme?) to defeat the Weeping Angels and return the TARDIS to the Doctor. The horror turns into suspense which then turns to understanding as the audience realizes time travel has been moving the plot the entire time. It is clear by the end of the episode that "Blink" is still in the science fiction genre because of its use of time.

Kathy and time

Kathy is the first character that introduce the audience to time travel. When she looks at the Weeping Angel, she is taken back to 1920. She is not brutally murdered, which is what one would expect from an episode that's exclusively in the horror genre, but given the chance to live a life in another time. Kathy herself dies before she is born but her letters to Sally influence Sally's actions in 2007. Without the letter, Sally would have wondered what happened to her friend for the rest of her life and probably would not have understood the connection between the disappearance and the Weeping Angels.

Sally and time

Sally is the catalyst for the situations in "Blink." In his article on Weeping Angels, Peter Sutton explains the idea of time travel how this happens: "Sally's actions, in 2007, cause events in 1969, that cause events in both the 1990s and 200s that cause events in 2006 that cause Sally's actions in 2007."[5] Essentially, Sally's actions make her friends travel to the past and also help her in the present. She herself does not travel back in time, but she benefits from those who do.

The Doctor and time

The Doctor has the most interesting relationship with time of all the characters: his actions in the past influence the distant future which in turn influences his present. Sutton simplifies this explanation when he says "the Doctor gets himself into a pickle and manages to get himself out of that pickle by influencing the future."[6] When Sally finally meets the Doctor at the end of the episode, this version of the Doctor is younger than the version that helped her. He lives his life until he is stuck in 1969. He then uses the tools Sally gave him from her future to help him escape in his present and her present (which is his past and her future). This, friends, is the clearest example of science fiction I have seen thus far in this class.

@Cavaliergirl96: In your analysis of "Blink" I think the main theme of time is the same as it is in "The Gernsback Continuum". When I think of time as the past, present, or future. I already bring a preconceived idea of what to expect. In both of the sources, time is not predictable. We have to separate what we think and how we think everything should go. After all, everything is eventual. MarinChristina (talk) 20:45, 15 September 2019 (EDT)

September 15, 2019 - Haunted: the presence of the past in "Blink" and "The Gernsback Continuum"

At first glance, I had trouble seeing any similarities in these two narratives. Upon closer inspection, both "Blink" and "The Gernsback Continuum" specifically include architecture from the past as part of the setting. In her article on how science fiction intersects with history, Janice Liedl writes that "Works of science fiction follow historical practice by grounding stories in notational details of the past (or other temporal alternatives to the present) while emphasizing the power of historically informed interpretation to engage the reader."[7] Both "Blink" and "The Gernsback Continuum" use architecture to help the audience see that the past influences the present, even in science fiction stories. Even if time travel is not possible, reviewing the past can help people see the present for what it is and what it is not.

The old house in "Blink"

Sally kicks off episode by scaling an iron gate and breaking into an abandoned Victorian mansion. Chandeliers are broken on the floor, glass windows are broken, and wallpaper is peeling away from the walls (which directly influences the plot) She encounters the Weeping Angels when they take the form of statues. These statues look old-fashioned, like what one would expect to see on a Victorian property, but not so old that they are unrecognizable to Sally or the audience. In fact, similar statues are seen at the end of the show on top of buildings, in parks, and in various other public places as the Doctor warns Sally (or possibly the audience) to not blink. The effect is unsettling and leaves the audience seeing statues differently.

Haunting architecture in "The Gernsback Continuum"

The photographer also sees old houses and encounters old technology as he takes pictures of older architecture. The architecture is of a more hopeful time, when utopia was possible in the minds of many like Dialta Downers: "She was talking about those odds and ends of "futuristic" Thirties and Forties architecture you pass daily in American cities without noticing; the movie marquees ribbed to radiate some mysterious energy, the dime stores faced with fluted aluminum, the chrome-tube chairs gathering dust in the lobbies of transient hotels."[8] As the photographer works on his assignment, he is too caught up in the idealized, alternate present. He sees the idealized world and it frightens him. After he finishes the assignment, he struggles to ignore echoes of the past in his present. He sees the shark-fin roadsters and the flying wing-liners as he travels the United States.[9]

Brief final thoughts

What we might believe is in the past may not necessarily be gone. Weeping Angels are not real, but connecting them to statues might lead someone to wonder what else is not as it seems. The future that people predicted in the past, as the American photographer realizes, is worse than the present he lives in. When the proprietor states "Hell of a world we live in [...] but it could be worse" at the end of the story, the photographer's response is appreciation: "That's right, or even worse, it could be perfect."(465).

@Cavaliergirl96:: It was very interesting to see what direction you were going to take comparing the two because your introduction is similar to mine as I also had a hard time trying to compare the two. I had not noticed, but both stories do refer to architecture. However, I think the “Blink” episode was tied to old architecture and “The Gernsback Continuum” was tied to architecture of the future, or at least what it should have been.--Daisja30 (talk) 23:09, 15 September 2019 (EDT)
@Daisja30: That is a good distinction to make! I wonder how that would affect the interpretation of the stories... Definitely something fun to think about! --SaraKathryn


  1. The Norton book of science fiction : North American science fiction, 1960-1990 (First edition ed.). New York. 1993. p. 22. ISBN 0393035468. OCLC 27382749.CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
  2. De Camp, L. Sprague (1953). Science Fiction Handbook.
  3. The Norton book of science fiction : North American science fiction, 1960-1990 (First edition ed.). New York. 1993. p. 18. ISBN 0393035468. OCLC 27382749.CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
  4. Films for the Humanities & Sciences (Firm) Infobase. NBD Television Ltd. (1992), Brave new worlds science fiction phenomenon, Infobase, OCLC 1098658511, retrieved 2019-08-25
  5. Lewis, Courtland (2015). More Doctor Who and Philosophy:Regeneration and Time. Open Court. p. 70.
  6. Lewis, Courtland (2015). More Doctor Who and Philosophy:Regeneration and Time. Open Court. p. 69.
  7. Liedl, Janice (2015). Tales of Futures Past: Science Fiction as a Historical Genre. Rethinking History. p. 285.
  8. Gibson, William (1993). The Gernsback Continuum. W.W. Norton and Co. p. 458.
  9. Gibson, William (1993). The Gernsback Continuum. W.W. Norton and Co. p. 457.