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Crisis and Transformation: The Aftermath of First Contact in Three Mid-20th Century Science Fiction ...

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VELESKI, Stefan. Crisis and Transformation: The Aftermath of First Contact in Three Mid-20th Century Science Fiction Novels. Aigne. Cork: University College Cork, 2020, vol. 8, No 1, p. 84-106. ISSN 2009-4523.
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Original name Crisis and Transformation: The Aftermath of First Contact in Three Mid-20th Century Science Fiction Novels
Authors VELESKI, Stefan.
Edition Aigne, Cork, University College Cork, 2020, 2009-4523.
Other information
Original language English
Type of outcome Article in a journal
Country of publisher Ireland
Confidentiality degree is not subject to a state or trade secret
Organization Filozofická fakulta - Repository
Keywords in English Cultural Evolution; Biocultural Criticism; Science Fiction; Robert Heinlein; Arthur C. Clarke; Isaac Asimov; Syuzhet; Post humanism; Tropes
Links MUNI/A/1204/2019.
Changed by Changed by: RNDr. Daniel Jakubík, učo 139797. Changed: 14/1/2021 01:39.
Despite being a hallmark of science fiction since the inception of the genre, narratives that feature first contact scenarios between humans and alien civilizations became particularly popular in the middle of the twentieth century. Critical analyses have long neglected the uniqueness of first contact narratives in this period, especially their clear ‘mentorship-like’ rather than ‘invasionlike’ nature and the invariable transformation of humanity that follows the event. This article attempts to fill this gap in the research by comparing how the aftermath of first contact is treated in novels by the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction: Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood's End, 1953), Robert A. Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land, 1961), and Isaac Asimov (The Gods Themselves, 1972). The article argues that the structure of first contact in these narratives is deliberately crafted to appeal to both contemporary cultural (mainly Cold War related) anxieties, and to hard-wired biological biases. In each of the novels discussed, this transformation sees humanity, through various means, become more like the aliens. This change results in a type of hyper-sociality, which can be viewed in a positive or negative light depending on the narrative context, the conflicting attitudes towards communality and individualism, and the contemporary zeitgeist of the Cold War. In addition to a close reading of the three texts, the article also employs a sentiment analysis, with the help of Matthew Jockers’ ‘syuzhet’ package, in order to uncover the emotional valence of the transformation underlying the trope.
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