Fantasy and Science Fiction Assessment

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Chadbourn (2008) believes that "the more rational the world gets, the more we demand the irrational in our fiction." Although fantasy has been the mainstay of most of the world's literary traditions -- from the mythologies in sacred texts to the eerie universe of the European folktale -- the 20th century has witnessed an incredible flourishing of both science fiction and fantasy. Chadbourn (2008) calls it an "unprecedented fantasy boom." Granted, books in general are more widely available and distributed now than they were before the industrial revolution. Still, the popularity of science fiction and fantasy do reflect general social trends. For one, science fiction is a product of the post-industrial world, one in which science is viewed as both a blessing and a curse. The roots of gothic and horror literature such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein weave in the natural mistrust of scientific advancement with fantasy motifs and imagery. Moreover, both science fiction and fantasy allow authors to explore themes that might not be possible in a realistic literary setting. As Chadbourn (2008) puts it, "The genre starts at the point where science ends." Finally, fantasy and science fiction do offer arousing alternatives to the predictable, materialistic mindsets of hard science.

A seminal work of science fiction, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea uses the sciences of marine biology and ocean navigation as a jumping-off point. The giant squid, massive shipwrecks, and the ruins of Atlantis portray the seas as a frightening and formidable place. The fantasy threats that Verne creates in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea are technically unnecessary given that traversing the ocean presents very realistic problems, evidenced by the narratives of historical sailors. What makes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and similar novels so captivating is that they border on the real so closely that the line between fact and fantasy becomes blurred. In this sense, the Nautilus and its adventures become hyperbole for an ever-increasingly complex world.

Moreover, Verne understands the potency of the fantasy and science fiction genres for exploring universal themes. Like Homer's Odyssey, Verne uses the seafaring journey as a springboard to discuss broader issues such as the search for self-fulfillment and independence. The impossible elements that Captain Nemo encounters are those that develop his character. Nemo's adventures illuminate his motivations, which are squarely human.

Verne also presents exploration itself as inherently treacherous. This is a theme far more present in modern fantasy than the fantasy of Homer's age because of the role exploration played in the course of human history. Exploration is linked with greed and self-aggrandizement, as Nemo is not necessarily concerned with making the world a better place. Furthermore, novels like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea show that the knowledge that science brings is not necessarily a sign of social progress. Scientific exploration can reveal dangers that would have been better off remaining in the depths of the sea.

When Verne published 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, giant and powerful submarines like the Nautilus were objects of fantasy. It would not be for several decades that U-boats would become household words. The Nautilus was itself an object of the impossible, even if Captain Nemo's journey was not given that Verne wrote the novel during the throws of the colonial era. The giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was the stuff of seafaring legends until… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (2010, May 13).  Retrieved January 19, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/fantasy-science-fiction/2689

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"Fantasy and Science Fiction."  Essaytown.com.  May 13, 2010.  Accessed January 19, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/fantasy-science-fiction/2689.