The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

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Overview

As the world undergoes daily transformations through the application of technoscience to every aspect of life, science fiction has become an essential mode of imagining the horizons of possibility. However much science fiction texts vary in artistic quality and intellectual sophistication, they share in a mass social energy and a desire to imagine a collective future for the human species and the world. At this moment, a strikingly high proportion of films, commercial art, popular music, video and computer games, and non-genre fiction have become what Csicsery-Ronay calls science fictional, stimulating science-fictional habits of mind. We no longer treat science fiction as merely a genre-engine producing formulaic effects, but as a mode of awareness, which frames experiences as if they were aspects of science fiction. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction describes science fiction as a constellation of seven diverse cognitive attractions that are particularly formative of science-fictionality. These are the “seven beauties” of the title: fictive neology, fictive novums, future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the Technologiade, or the epic of technsocience’s development into a global regime.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The book overflows with insights, striking readings, provocative stances, productive ambiguities, and eminently quotable phrases..."—Roger Luckhurst, Science Fiction Studies

“Csicsery-Ronay writes clearly and usefully…. (He) provides a readable synthesis, mixing explication with advocacy, and providing examples from almost every domain in SF: it is a synthesis that almost anybody who teaches or writes about SF—or any critic who reads it for pleasure—may need.” —Stephen Burt, Contemporary Literature

"…after reading Seven Beauties, it is difficult to conceive of that which is not sf…Csiscery-Ronay offers a means of thinking about the appearance of sf elsewhere. For the readers, spectators and subjectiles of the twenty-first century, such an attempt to bridge the generic gulf could not be more timely. That this is a paradoxical bridge, one that folds into a mobius strip of returns, makes Seven Beauties only the more exciting, as it offers new tricks to the old dogs of genre theory."—Darran Jorgensen, Science Fiction film and Television

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819568892
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

ISTVAN CSICSERY-RONAY, JR. is a professor of English at DePauw University, where he teaches courses in world literature and science fiction. He is coeditor of the journal Science Fiction Studies and the book Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams (2007).
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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Science Fiction and This Moment
First Beauty: Fictive Neology
Second Beauty: Fictive Novums
Third Beauty: Future History
Fourth Beauty: Imaginary Science
Fifth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Sublime
Sixth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Grotesque
Seventh Beauty: The Technologiade
Concluding Unscientific Postscript: The Singularity and Beyond
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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Customer Reviews

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  • Posted January 28, 2009

    unconventional, illuminating study of science fiction literature

    Csicsery-Ronay's epigraph for his Preface, "I wanted to have a bird's view; I ended up in outer space," encapsulates how he came to write this work on science fiction--or rather how he tumbled into it, might be more apropos. A professor of science fiction at DePauw University, editor of the periodical Science Fiction Studies, and author of previous books on science fiction, he started out to write a book on the philosophical and historical aspects of the literary field he had devoted most of his professional life to which would be in the style of and the broad, diverse category of academic literary criticism of interest to both specialists and general readers. Instead, with no guidance from major literary theorists and critics such as Georg Lukacs and Northrop Frye and others who had little or nothing to say about science fiction; deepening insights and novel perspectives; clarification of his own, singular grasp of science fiction; and the increasing merger of the mentality inherent in science fiction and the culture dominated by technology and media, the author produced (in his words) a "work of steampunk criticism."<BR/><BR/>The title is also that of a medieval Persian poem in which a king discovers a secret room in his palace where there are portraits of seven beauties. The portraits are allegories for seven cosmic principles. The king falls in love with each portrait/allegory, searches the seven areas of the known world for them, and builds a palace with seven domes on honor of the beauties. Csicsery-Ronay's seven "beauties" of science fiction are: fictive neology (words), fictive novums (new thing), future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the technologiade. These "beauties," cognitive attractions or perhaps tools for thought or however they might be regarded, "compose a constellation of thoughts that sf helps us to become conscious of." For Csicsery-Ronay, sf is not just entertainment in popular culture, but a trailblazing, inventive attempt, and often successful one, to disclose the principles and the basics and realities of modern life and a picture of the future rooted in these.<BR/><BR/>Csicsery-Ronay extrapolates from science more than than analyzes it. The book is not conventional literary criticism. It is as if the author was affected by science fiction, not simply probing it for insights or satisfied with an explanatory perspective. His goal is to "understand science fictionality [phrase in italics in original] as a way of thinking about the world, made concrete in many different media and styles, rather than as a particular market nice or genre category." Not quite sure what he ended up with, Csicsery-Ronay says the main purpose of this book is "to inspire better ones, not have the last word." It remains to be seen if anyone will or can follow the unusual, idiosyncratic, yet germane and illuminating path he has gone down. But whether or not, science fiction readers will find their own understandings and in some cases, convictions affirmed here.

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