The Shape of Things to Come


I will be posting a review of the last part of the BBC2 series Tomorrow’s World: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction, “Time Travel”, in the next few days, probably a little after Christmas.  This was very thin stuff.  Much as though I like Groundhog Day and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure neither is science fiction in any meaning sense, and Dominic Sandbrook’s further comments on Metropolis have convinced me that he has not bothered to watch the film.

This will be followed up sometime in January with a piece that will integrate the contents of all four reviews into one overall article that will draw out the patterns and delete the repetitions.  I will also take the chance to remove some of the too-hasty judgements and deepen some of the analysis and relationship to existing writing on science fiction in literature, TV and film.  Unless something remarkable crops up, its conclusion are likely to be:

  1. This is not a history, indeed it wilfully ignores the history of SF, particularly the importance of the pulps from the 1920s onwards and then the division of written SF into hard SF and the new wave from the late 1950s.
  2. In the place of history there is a narrative that focuses on the clips from a number of films and interviews with (largely second order) participants in the production of those films. This is overtly popularist, with the films chosen not form their impact or importance on the genre but their retrospectively understood popular appeal.
  3. On top this Dominic Sandbrook places an analysis that suggest that SF is a response to social and political changes in society. This makes SF appear as merely a reactive reflection, rather than (as it is in some cases) part of the cultural invention that redefines the way in which people see themselves, the world and their place in it.

I will be seeking to publish this piece (which might weigh in at around 12,000 words) so if anyone wants it for their publication, drop me a line.

About Matthew Cooper

This blog is written by Matthew Cooper.
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