D19: The Science Fiction in Education Toolkit - page 10

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Cognitive estrangement
is the third most important characteristic of SciFi.
C
ognitive estrangement
is “the process through which certain works of literature, by
imaginatively placing readers in an unaccustomed situation or environment, cause
those readers to ponder the differences between this environment and their own,
thus potentially causing them to view their own world differently”(Booker & Thomas,
2009, Glossary, para. 11). Imaginative insights into the past and future of our world
produce an estranged, more critical and reflective, perspective on our current
situation. Having mentioned all of the above regarding SciFi’s critical exploration of
the past, present and future as well as the role of science and technology in them, we
should not understate its particular fascination with the future.
SciFi is distinctly different from fantasy.
Both SciFi and fantasy are
speculative
fiction
: imaginative fiction which constructs worlds that differ fundamentally from our
own. The difference between the two is that SciFi is “always outlined by the barely
possible”; the reader needs to be convinced that what the SciFi story describes
could
, under certain circumstances, actually take place. The two genres may share
common ground but they have important differences and include distinct kinds of
texts. Fantasy clearly functions within the world of imagination, where only the
metaphysical rules of the fantastic apply.
Which are the major SciFi subgenres?
The following definitions come from the Glossary of
The Science Fiction Handbook
,
by Booker & Thomas (2009), which is very useful in giving you an extended
introduction to the field.
Utopian Fiction
A utopia is an imagined society, in which the social, economic, and political problems
of our own world have been essentially solved, producing an optimum life for all of
the citizens of the society. The term “utopia” is also sometimes used to describe a
work of utopian fiction, that is, a fictional work whose principal goal is the description
of such an ideal society. While utopias often literally dramatize the author’s idea of
what would constitute an ideal society, they often also serve a satirical function that is
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