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Reading Science: SF and the Uses of Literature

Chambers, Amy and Garforth, Lisa (2020) Reading Science: SF and the Uses of Literature. In: The Palgrave Handbook of Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Literature and Science. Palgrave Handbooks in Literature and Science, 5 . Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-030-48244-2

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Abstract

Science has opened up new hopes and fears for the future, and science fiction (SF) articulates those hopes and fears by imagining the social and human consequences of scientific developments. SF also acts back on science by critically responding to its confident pronouncements. ‘Unsettling Scientific Stories: Expertise, Narrative, and Future Histories’ is an AHRC- funded project exploring how people have thought about and envisioned their futures at different points over the course of the long technological twentieth-century. Our project frames science/fiction as a partner in the imagination and exploration of alternative futures, and explores new ways of using fiction as a relevant mode of socio-historical analysis. As part of our fieldwork, under the title ‘Prospecting Futures’, we will be working with texts, readers and reading groups to explore how contemporary science futures are being created, interpreted and navigated by SF writers and their audiences. In particular we are interested in collaborating with active SF readers as lay experts in envisioning and exploring social-scientific alternatives and in exploring how fictional narratives shape their engagement with collective futures. In anticipation of focus groups with readers to be held across 2017, we will work through some of the theoretical and epistemological resources that can help us understand SF readers as lay futurologists and asks how thinking about practices of reading and writing fiction might contribute a much-needed speculative strand to contemporary sociological analysis.

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