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The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

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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 t 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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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 t 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.

30 review for The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Simona B

    I've been studying a lot of SF criticism lately, and I find The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction one of the most profound, passionate, gripping, and intelligent books I have read on the subject. It was a huge help in my research for my Master's dissertation, and I'm sure I'll be returning to it time and again in the future. I owe to this work (and many others which I've been lucky enough to discover in this phase of my academic growth, but mostly, I think, this one) the realization/confirmation I've been studying a lot of SF criticism lately, and I find The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction one of the most profound, passionate, gripping, and intelligent books I have read on the subject. It was a huge help in my research for my Master's dissertation, and I'm sure I'll be returning to it time and again in the future. I owe to this work (and many others which I've been lucky enough to discover in this phase of my academic growth, but mostly, I think, this one) the realization/confirmation that non-mimetic literature is a field ripe for exploration, and that we need gifted academics to search for new ways of reading these underestimated genres more keenly, more fully, more deeply. Also, Csicsery-Ronay's writing is extremely engaging, which is why I recommend The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction to absolutely everyone, from the casual reader of SF to the veteran scholar.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Silvio Curtis

    This book identifies seven ways science fiction can be pleasant to read and gives a detailed, thoughtful analysis of each one. (They are fictive neology, novums, future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the "Technologiade" or basic cast of narrative roles that science fiction takes off from.) The author keeps justification and explanation to a minimum in order to make room for a rich density of ideas. Almost everything was relevant in This book identifies seven ways science fiction can be pleasant to read and gives a detailed, thoughtful analysis of each one. (They are fictive neology, novums, future history, imaginary science, the science-fictional sublime, the science-fictional grotesque, and the "Technologiade" or basic cast of narrative roles that science fiction takes off from.) The author keeps justification and explanation to a minimum in order to make room for a rich density of ideas. Almost everything was relevant in some way to my experience as a science fiction reader in some way or other and gave me a lot of new vocabulary for literary concepts that make sense to me but that up to now I haven't been able to articulate. The exception was the chapter on the grotesque, which clearly springs from a taste very foreign to mine, but even that was an informative insight. The book isn't completely free from vagueness, overinterpretation, and elitism, my typical complaints about my limited previous experience of literary criticism, but most of the time they are an order of magnitude less severe.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alexander Páez

    Lo he terminé ayer. Estoy muy orgulloso de haberlo terminado, la lectura en inglés más complicada a la que me he enfrentado antes. Le pongo un 3,5/5 por lo críptico y complicado de algunas explicaciones, pero la buena nota es por lo interesante de la obra, que sin duda me ha abierto mucho los ojos, además de las gratas explicaciones en los blogs donde se ha hecho la lectura conjunta.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Piña

    Aunque no es un libro particularmente extenso, está lleno de ideas y conceptos bastante complejos. Puede tomarse como un estudio bastante filosófico acerca de los diferentes escenarios en que la ciencia ficción es planteada, o simplemente como una reflexión acerca de cómo la ciencia ficción nos afecta. Al final, es un acercamiento elocuente y teórico al tema, pero creo que se reduce a darnos cuenta de que la ciencia ficción es principalmente un medio para asombrarnos/aterrarnos de manera simultán Aunque no es un libro particularmente extenso, está lleno de ideas y conceptos bastante complejos. Puede tomarse como un estudio bastante filosófico acerca de los diferentes escenarios en que la ciencia ficción es planteada, o simplemente como una reflexión acerca de cómo la ciencia ficción nos afecta. Al final, es un acercamiento elocuente y teórico al tema, pero creo que se reduce a darnos cuenta de que la ciencia ficción es principalmente un medio para asombrarnos/aterrarnos de manera simultánea, es una forma de confrontarnos individual y socialmente con nosotros mismos.

  5. 5 out of 5

    boocia

    a good reread. was almost suspiciously clear after the butler n harraway, so a weird thing to reacclimate to. some weaknesses: - the first two chapters use the idea of 'modern societies/cultures/countries' a little weirdly; he never gives a fully crisp definition of what he's talking about; it stinks of some firstworld/secondworld delineation. by the end of the book he gives this incredibly exultant takedown of SF as a direct consequence of a capitalistic, imperialistic, oppressive technoscienti a good reread. was almost suspiciously clear after the butler n harraway, so a weird thing to reacclimate to. some weaknesses: - the first two chapters use the idea of 'modern societies/cultures/countries' a little weirdly; he never gives a fully crisp definition of what he's talking about; it stinks of some firstworld/secondworld delineation. by the end of the book he gives this incredibly exultant takedown of SF as a direct consequence of a capitalistic, imperialistic, oppressive technoscientific regime so the uninvestigated 'modern' didn't feel ... quite as condescending as it could have. he does have the wild take that certain languages lack the flexibility of english and so are less suited for science fiction ?? which is ??? and that these languages would become more flexible as technoscience permeates them more i guess? idk. it was weird. - i did not really buy his take on 'the dynamic sublime' in movies; the idea of the sheer overwhelming action of movies being a form of sublime ? it just didn't resonate. idk. - i get the sense that most readers don't like the last beauty, the 'technologliade': the narrative structure of SF about the triumph of scientific over the everything. i think his breakdown of the 'robinsonade (crusoe)' into tropes like 'shadow mage' and 'handy man' was a little general; it did not feel specific to adventure fiction or to science fiction - fantasy has handy mans (magicians) and shadow mages (i guess, also, magicians) i guess it might be a helpful way to talk about science fiction regardless, and the general direction he's going - of this culturally imperialist spirit within SF being a direct descendent of imperialist/colonialist adventure fiction - was really solid. my favorite parts: - i think the idea of the grotesque being implicitly queer has ... Weird connotations, but i liked it generally. it really helps inform a lot of horror movies, probably. queer i think he means really just. non-heteropatriarchical. this book talks a lot about the history of subversion of imperialism/patriarchy within SF, a genre that is intrinsically tied to these ideas; grotesquery feels like the most concrete 'escape hatch' to turning the whole thing inside out; frankenstein, annihilation, lilith's brood. - writing-wise, Csicsery-Ronay isn't afraid to inject his own personal opinions on pop culture which makes for a nice read. he thinks the matrix sequels are a failure but really fucks with the alien sequels. he's *obsessed* with how Dune is weak because of the unexplained existence for arabic-speaking and french-speaking space people - is it extratextual? convergent evolution? some unexplored connection to our Earth? it's just amusing. - throughout csicsery-ronay really drives home how much of sci-fi pop culture is informed by and informs society. linking scifi with NASA initiatives, with capitalism, with especially hyperreality - this cultural expectation of the inevitability of scientific advancement, without any informed-scientific reason for this belief. in its soft form the 'we should have jetpacks by now!' thing; in its hard form uninformed but concrete expectations for miracle cures, martian colonies, cryogenics etc. would elon musk's whole deal be happening without science fiction's impact on reality? - just good argument building; pleasing re-purposing of for example kierkegaard's definition of the sublime for the purpose of SF studies. - i really like how in the post-script he discusses the myth of the Singularity embodying all of the beauties - new words, novums, future sciences, future history, the grotesque, the sublime, the takeover and eminence of technoscience - and how real scientific-minded Men believe that it's definitely coming. and he opposes it directly with haraway's cyborg as another myth-dream; one that is about fusion with nature and with tech for democracy and freedom, instead of monocultural eminence. that was a cool connection. solid gems in this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Horizon_Universe

    Lorsque l’on dit aimer la science-fiction, beaucoup s’exclament que ce n’est pas un genre sérieux, que c’est pour les enfants/pour se vider la tête, ou sortent une liste de clichés liés au genre pour le discréditer (les robots géants, les voitures qui volent, les vaisseaux, bla bla bla). Et pourtant, tous ceux qui lisent régulièrement de la SF savent qu’il y a ben plus dans le genre que les clichés grand publics qui lui sont accordés. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction fait parti de ces ouvrag Lorsque l’on dit aimer la science-fiction, beaucoup s’exclament que ce n’est pas un genre sérieux, que c’est pour les enfants/pour se vider la tête, ou sortent une liste de clichés liés au genre pour le discréditer (les robots géants, les voitures qui volent, les vaisseaux, bla bla bla). Et pourtant, tous ceux qui lisent régulièrement de la SF savent qu’il y a ben plus dans le genre que les clichés grand publics qui lui sont accordés. The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction fait parti de ces ouvrages qui, en analysant les oeuvres et thèmes majeurs, permet de lui rendre justice et dans un sens, le légitimiser. Le livre est composé de sept parties, suivant les septs « beautés » de la science fiction: Néologie Fictive, « Novums » Fictifs, Future Histoire, Science Imaginaire, Sublime de la SF, Grotesque de la SF, « Technologiade ». Chacune de ces parties explorent différents thèmes et sujets via différents auteurs, travaux et oeuvres. Certains reviennent souvent, comme la saga Alien, Neuromancer, la Trilogie de Mars ou Star Trek.

Même si je ne suis pas forcément toujours d’accord avec l’auteur (je ne trouve pas Star Wars particulièrement grotesque par exemple, ni Ripley soit une icône LGBT qui n’aime pas les hommes - quelqu’un a du manquer le début de romance dans Aliens), j’ai dans l’ensemble beaucoup apprécié The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, pour son point de vue très académique et le développement des différentes beautés associées à la science fiction. Sans pour autant le recommender nécessairement (je ne pense pas par exemple qu’il soit essentiel bien que souvent cité dans d’autres livres du genre, et il n’est pas vraiment accessible à ceux qui n’auraient pas déjà creusé un peu le sujet), sa lecture a été agréable et m’a permis d’approfondir mes connaissances et perspectives sur le genre.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kend

    Y’know, having hashed out these beauties IN DETAIL over about two years on a podcast, I just don’t have the fortitude to try and write a comprehensive review now. All I’ll say is that this is a work of serious pop culture analysis that leans on its academic underpinnings. I love the premise and approach and could easily see this in common classroom usage, but it’s not a light beach read. Now I want to see the “beauties” approach applied to fantasy, crime fiction, nonfiction, and all of the other Y’know, having hashed out these beauties IN DETAIL over about two years on a podcast, I just don’t have the fortitude to try and write a comprehensive review now. All I’ll say is that this is a work of serious pop culture analysis that leans on its academic underpinnings. I love the premise and approach and could easily see this in common classroom usage, but it’s not a light beach read. Now I want to see the “beauties” approach applied to fantasy, crime fiction, nonfiction, and all of the other genres. It seems like a way to celebrate trends and commonalities without choking out innovation in future thought by pinning EVERY LAST DETAIL down with a definition and boundaries on that definition.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Excellent book. Instead of discussing the genre historically, it focuses on its characteristics and analyses it in a clear, concise way that at the same time demonstrates the author's vast knowledge of the topic. Excellent book. Instead of discussing the genre historically, it focuses on its characteristics and analyses it in a clear, concise way that at the same time demonstrates the author's vast knowledge of the topic.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Dense and difficult, yet Csisery-Ronay's work goes a long way towards explaining the structures by which science fiction operates. I cannot now read a work of science fiction without noticing its novums, its wordplay, or its ludic quality, or other structures; and noticing these structures in a way that aids interpretation. Yet Csisery-Ronay's work buys into critical theories (including psychoanalysis and queer theory) heavily, relying not only on the mental models supplied by a theoretical appro Dense and difficult, yet Csisery-Ronay's work goes a long way towards explaining the structures by which science fiction operates. I cannot now read a work of science fiction without noticing its novums, its wordplay, or its ludic quality, or other structures; and noticing these structures in a way that aids interpretation. Yet Csisery-Ronay's work buys into critical theories (including psychoanalysis and queer theory) heavily, relying not only on the mental models supplied by a theoretical approach to literature but on the language as well. This is a problem for me for two reasons. One, given that critical theories only developed in the last hundred years or so of literary study, I find their value in interpretation limited; I am belong to the New Critical school myself, and prioritize close textual analysis above the sometimes-facile glosses which theory provides. Two, and more importantly, the extraordinary difficult language of critical theory made this a hard text to read, and remember. A few samples of this language: "Even lyrical and performative sf texts that reject the epic conventions of the genre depend on the vast megatextual background of completed futures established in sf's archive of constructed worlds." "Chaos and emergence theories provided the essential notions that the character of complex systems is profoundly sensitive to changes in initial conditions, and that their existence depends on a virtually incalculable number of contingent factors." "Many alternative histories are constructed by voiding a break that occurred in real history, using the conceit of removing a real novum, and modeling what happens when extrapolation continues without having to adapt to particular impediments of experience. A novum that is not detectable may no longer be a novum, but a point of alternative linear origin, with no trace-memory of its obliterated past." "The prosthetic concepts of sf are, like most prosthesis, prone to become fetishized in classically psychoanalytic fashion, taking on the energy and mana of the longed-for complete and satisfactory worldview, a utopian consummation that the real body of scientific concepts lacks - a fact continually marked by the generation of new fetish-supplements." Can I understand these? Sure, eventually. Yet the guesswork that goes into piecing together his meaning slows my reading down, and makes it difficult to follow the overall argument. I understand that this is a critical academic work, but I am myself an academic, and I have always held that academics should as much as possible speak like real people. I also felt as though Csisery-Ronay relied on the same few examples too often. Solaris comes up again and again. So does Dune, Alien, and the Martian Chronicles. If you're not familiar with these texts, Csisery-Ronay's points will be difficult to follow. Since Solaris, Dune, Alien, and the Martian Chronicles all loom large in critical studies of sf, Ronay's reliance on them is not a problem, except that he only briefly mentions other (and I think perhaps better-known) canonical texts: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Childhood's End, the Forever War, and Canticle for Leibowitz, to name a few. Casting his net wider for more examples would, I believe, have made this text more accessible. But I have started to fuss. As an academic who teaches at a tiny college in the Midwest, and often hungers for good critical talk about literature, reading such an in-depth and relevant study was a pleasure. Recommended. Just don't expect it to be a quick read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karl Bunker

    In chapter 5 of this book, author Csicsery-Ronay draws parallels between the "sense of wonder" in science fiction and the notion of "the sublime" in the philosophical writings of Emmanuel Kant and Edmund Burke. That one point of discussion is typical of the book, and I think it stands as a good way to encapsulate what the book is like and where it's coming from. "Seven Beauties" is a piece of scholarly academic writing, and therefor is dense in style, laced with jargon, sometimes convoluted in se In chapter 5 of this book, author Csicsery-Ronay draws parallels between the "sense of wonder" in science fiction and the notion of "the sublime" in the philosophical writings of Emmanuel Kant and Edmund Burke. That one point of discussion is typical of the book, and I think it stands as a good way to encapsulate what the book is like and where it's coming from. "Seven Beauties" is a piece of scholarly academic writing, and therefor is dense in style, laced with jargon, sometimes convoluted in sentence structure, and formidable in its vocabulary. While I wouldn't say that a graduate degree in philosophy or literary theory is a requirement to understanding this book, it sure would help. But on the other hand, with enough patience, enough willingness to read some sentences and paragraphs 2 or 3 times over, and perhaps with the help of a dictionary or two, any reasonably educated SF fan should be able to struggle through it. Personally, I often didn't have the patience to reread and re-reread the book's many difficult passages, so I'm afraid quite a few of Csicsery-Ronay's ideas went sailing over my head, their presentation too stratospheric to even ruffle my hair. But certainly not all of his ideas. At times I found Csicsery-Ronay's prose quite lucid, and at those times his ideas were usually interesting and enlightening. I remember in particular finding his discussion of the use of language in Dune quite intelligent and informative. So if you're interested in science fiction studies and you're undaunted by the prospect of a lot of viscous, scholar-ese writing, I think you'll find this book quite rewarding. For impatient plebeians like myself, the operative word might be more "frustrating" than "rewarding."

  11. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    Science fiction is a great, big, gaping hole in my life, as I discovered when I realized I'd not read any of the books or seen any of the movies referenced in this critical work. So there were a whole bunch of spoilers, but also a bunch of titles I am now interested in reading. Many of them are on my reading list for this class (c'mon--I'm crazy but I don't read sci fi lit crit for giggles). I'm far from up to snuff on literary criticism, but this strikes me as a really good roundup. It's dense, Science fiction is a great, big, gaping hole in my life, as I discovered when I realized I'd not read any of the books or seen any of the movies referenced in this critical work. So there were a whole bunch of spoilers, but also a bunch of titles I am now interested in reading. Many of them are on my reading list for this class (c'mon--I'm crazy but I don't read sci fi lit crit for giggles). I'm far from up to snuff on literary criticism, but this strikes me as a really good roundup. It's dense, but so well organized that I can actually remember some of what I read. The sheer number of texts he references--in philosophy, science, literary criticism, and of course sf--blows my mind. I can't even imagine how long it would take to write something like this.

  12. 5 out of 5

    R

    I decided lit-crit of SF would be an enlightening experience for me. Like eating bran for your brain. Not necessarily because it's a (wait for it) good read. Update: now done Book takes 7 major themes in SF, such as imaginary science and representations of the sublime, and traces them through SF history. Bottom line: glad I read it. Doesn't fit into my use of star-ratings, so I am leaving it unstarred. I decided lit-crit of SF would be an enlightening experience for me. Like eating bran for your brain. Not necessarily because it's a (wait for it) good read. Update: now done Book takes 7 major themes in SF, such as imaginary science and representations of the sublime, and traces them through SF history. Bottom line: glad I read it. Doesn't fit into my use of star-ratings, so I am leaving it unstarred.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Be sure that you have your phone fully charged when you start reading this. You are going to google more words than you ever have in your entire life, and likely kill your battery doing it. But despite its denseness in vocabulary it is a fully comprehensive guide to reading science fiction academically. I have met the author through my school and can also add that he is a very personable guy and can break down the density of these pages for. I don't know why academics are writing like this. Be sure that you have your phone fully charged when you start reading this. You are going to google more words than you ever have in your entire life, and likely kill your battery doing it. But despite its denseness in vocabulary it is a fully comprehensive guide to reading science fiction academically. I have met the author through my school and can also add that he is a very personable guy and can break down the density of these pages for. I don't know why academics are writing like this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mariusz

    Absolutely essential stuff. Love and passion. Deep understanding of the genre characteristics. Most of my misty insights are beautifully outwritten here. Maybe it's a Marxist approach to the genre, which usually attracts negative associations in Polish reception (no surprise), but so lovely energetic and powerful at the same time! Beauty. The 8th. Absolutely essential stuff. Love and passion. Deep understanding of the genre characteristics. Most of my misty insights are beautifully outwritten here. Maybe it's a Marxist approach to the genre, which usually attracts negative associations in Polish reception (no surprise), but so lovely energetic and powerful at the same time! Beauty. The 8th.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    While a very interesting subject, it was a very hard read. The introduction said that he was trying to write for a non-academic audience but then found that he couldn't, and it showed. A dictionary of a must for this book. While a very interesting subject, it was a very hard read. The introduction said that he was trying to write for a non-academic audience but then found that he couldn't, and it showed. A dictionary of a must for this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Moira Cohn

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A

  17. 5 out of 5

    First Second Books

    The strangest part so far was the digression into the importance of science fiction music – not something I’d even heard of before!

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    It's a majestic explanation of the genre's pleasures - and so well writ that it can only be consumed with concentrated focus. It's a majestic explanation of the genre's pleasures - and so well writ that it can only be consumed with concentrated focus.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Q

    I didn't read enough of this to really rate it. What I did read was unintelligible. Oh, academic writing. I had such high hopes for this book, too. I didn't read enough of this to really rate it. What I did read was unintelligible. Oh, academic writing. I had such high hopes for this book, too.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Keith Hendricks

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lidia

  22. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alysson Oliveira

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jason Bowden

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caner

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brittany

  27. 5 out of 5

    George

  28. 5 out of 5

    Raul

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

  30. 4 out of 5

    Zachary

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