Term Paper: Science Fiction a Definition

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[. . .] Bernard Marx of Brave New World is as close to a hero as Huxley's novel is willing to have, and Marx is callous, clever, and mainly interested in bedding the main female protagonist, even though he occasionally questions his society's values. In Slaughterhouse Five, the novel's initial setting depicts the main protagonist in 1968, where he is married and has two children. Although it gradually becomes clear that he is injured, and that his wife is dead, the reader does not care so much as merely appreciate the irony that, despite all that Billy has gone through, he may die by accident, even after having survived Dresden. Billy is also a highly unreliable narrator, but unlike a fantasy, his unreliable dreams and visions do have real world connections and parallels that make the warnings of the dangers of war have implications beyond the created universe of the novel's framework.

One of the most horrific and funny scenes in Huxley, is when John's mother Linda dies, and children dance around her bed, as they are taught in Brave New World, not to fear death, or even respect it, despite Linda's son's John's evident grief. Science fiction often causes the reader to think, rather than to feel emotionally moved or connected to the characters. But if it were not so satirical, perhaps the genre would seem unbearable, given the tragedies that often ensue -- unlike the children, the reader is affected, but on an intellectual rather than on a feeling level -- he or she appreciates the author's point.

Of course, there are exceptions to the emotional disconnection that is usually true of the parallel universe or possible reality created by the Science fiction genre. One of these exceptions is undoubtedly found in the example of the difficult plot Solaris, although the intensity of the novel could cause the reader to argue that the book is best classified as philosophical or fantastical rather than scientific in its orientation. However, Solaris does contain elements of science fiction, such as the projected use of present day technology into a probable future, and a wrestling with its possible moral implications for humanity. Solaris' world is set longer into the imagined future than Vonnegut or even Huxley's assumed and created worlds. In the novel, people from the planet earth, including a man called Kelvin, come to a space station that appears to be deserted. Then, Kelvin a woman who looks like the man's dead wife visits him in the middle of the night. The novel attempts to suggest that conventional notions of identity, past, and present are false. Its vision of the future questions our present way of viewing the terminality of life, but not so much to question technical advances, but to question the way we assume that death is the end and that life proceeds on a linear path, despite the presence of memory and the persistent influence of the dead.

Of course, one could say that it is equally true that Huxley critiques not genetics so much as human fears of unhappiness and the fear of not being able to experience perfect pleasure, at all times, and Vonnegut satirizes not so much the technology of modern war, but the institutions that human beings have developed around the new technology, such as the military industrial complex. The mind and time bending nature of space travel, the dehumanizing use of bombs in war, and the mind and morally stifling implications psychotropic drugs -- all of these three science fiction novels thus wrestle with the problems that these technologies can pose for the human future. But because human nature and society is always a character as well in these novels, albeit often a satirized character, in these works, human morality is never far from being critiqued along with the technology humans have developed. Human morality and technology in a dialogue -- projected into the human future. This is perhaps the best definition of the distinct genre of science fiction.

Works Cited

Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998

Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse Five. New York: Harper Perennial, 1991

Lem, Stanislaw. Solaris.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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