Science Fiction, Utopian Studies

New publication: Shockwaves of Possibility

Wegner (Shockwaves of Possibility) coverShockwaves of Possibility explores the deep utopianism of one of the most significant modern cultural practices: science fiction. The author contends that utopianism is not simply a motif in SF, but rather is fundamental to its narrative dynamics. Drawing upon a rich array of theory and criticism in SF and utopian studies, the book opens with a global periodizing history that shows the inseparability of SF from developments in other cultural fields. It goes on to examine literature, film, television, comics, and animation in order to demonstrate SF’s unique effectiveness for grappling with the upheavals brought about by globalization. Shockwaves of Possibility proves SF’s vitality in the brave new world of the twenty-first century, as it illuminates the contours of the present and educates our desire for a radically other future.

«‘Shockwaves of Possibility’ is a passionate assertion of science fiction’s necessary relationship to utopian thinking. Engaging a range of media, Wegner makes a compelling case for understanding SF, via Alain Badiou, as an «evental genre.» Following Žižek, who contends that to repeat Lenin is to accept that although Lenin’s solution failed it sparked possibilities for new futures, ‘Shockwaves of Possibility’ repeats SF. Wegner shows us how SF can re-educate our desire and demonstrate – contra neoliberal rhetoric or cynical exhaustion – that options for another kind of world endure. Attentive to theme and form, Wegner looks beyond current portents of the end of the world and focuses our desire on the end of a world – the unquestioned hegemony of global capitalism.»
(Sherryl Vint, Professor of Science Fiction Media Studies, University of California, Riverside)
«This remarkable study begins with the premise that ‘Utopianism is fundamental to the very narrative dynamic of SF.’ With the warning that the success of science fiction studies ‘risks transforming its original radical and Utopian project into one more narrowly defined and policed disciplinary site,’ Wegner delivers insightful readings of significant SF works in different media from recent decades. In his readings he draws out the utopian dimension of these works while showing that recent SF is in fact a response to the emerging realities of globalization.»
(Peter Fitting, Professor Emeritus, French and Cinema Studies, University of Toronto)
«Phil Wegner’s new book is at once a gripping theoretical essay on the practice of periodization in cultural and historical analysis, a highly original intervention into genre theory, and an impassioned plea for the importance of utopian thinking in the face of neoliberalism’s darkening and constriction of the horizons of the foreseeable future. Wegner’s rich synthesis of Jameson, Badiou, and Lacan bolsters as astute a cognitive mapping of post-Cold-War culture as there is to be found in contemporary cultural studies.»
(John Reider, Professor of English, University of Hawaii)

Available for purchase here.

Phillip E. Wegner is the Marston-Milbauer Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida. He is the author of Imaginary Communities: Utopia, the Nation, and the Spatial Histories of Modernity; Life Between Two Deaths, 1989–2001: U.S. Culture in the Long Nineties; and Periodizing Jameson: Dialectics, the University, and the Desire for Narrative.


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