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World Weavers

World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution

Wong Kin Yuen
Gary Westfahl
Amy Kit-sze Chan
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    World Weavers
    Book Description:

    World Weavers is the first ever study on the relationship between globalization and science fiction. Scientific innovations provide citizens of different nations with a unique common ground and the means to establish new connections with distant lands. This study attempts to investigate how our world has grown more and more interconnected not only due to technological advances, but also to a shared interest in those advances and to what they might lead to in the future. Science fiction has long been both literally and metaphorically linked to the emerging global village. It now takes on the task of exploring how the cybernetic revolution might transform the world and keep it one step ahead of the real world, despite ever-accelerating developments. As residents of a world that is undeniably globalized, science-fictional and virtual, it is incumbent on us to fully understand just how we came to live in such a world, and to envisage where this world may be heading next. World Weavers represents one small but significant step toward achieving such knowledge.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-312-9
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction From Semaphores and Steamships to Servers and Spaceships: The Saga of Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution
    (pp. 1-4)
    Gary Westfahl

    In January 2001, a scholarly conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It was a genuinely global gathering, attracting speakers and guests from five continents and twelve countries. As is usually the case nowadays, virtually all of the arrangements for the conference — including the submission of paper proposals, acceptance letters, planning, scheduling, and hotel reservations — were handled over the Internet. What the speakers generally focused on in their presentations was science fiction — the science fiction of the past and the present, the science fiction of literature and film, the science fiction of America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and...

  5. Part I Global Perspectives

    • 1 Going Mobile: Tradition, Technology, and the Cultural Monad
      (pp. 7-24)
      George Slusser

      “No man is an island, entire of himself,” John Donne once said, standing on the firm soil of British nation and culture. Ralph Waldo Emerson, two centuries later, tells us, to the contrary, not only that all men are islands but that all institutions are only “lengthened shadows” of single men: “A man Caesar is born, and for ages after we have a Roman Empire.”¹ Emerson’s monadic man, however, does not want to found an empire in the classic, landed way. Instead, his power lies in extreme mobility, the ability of rendering oneself insubstantial in cultural ties, rootless: “Standing on...

    • 2 Urbe et Orbe: A Prehistory of the Postmodern World City
      (pp. 25-40)
      Howard V. Hendrix

      We humans have been enchanted with the building of cities for at least 8,000 years, making cities arguably the most persistent complex human social artifacts. Yet the value of past patterns as predictors of future activity is limited. In 1968, when 2001: A Space Odyssey was released, the end of the Cold War by the turn of the millennium was generally considered improbable and thus that East-West conflict still plays a role in that film. So let us at least consider the obsolescence, both planned and unplanned, of the city as a social form. Can the ancient spell of cities...

    • 3 2001, or A Cyberpalace Odyssey: Toward the Ideographic Imagination
      (pp. 41-54)
      Takayuki Tatsumi

      When the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey was first shown in 1968, most of the audience responded along the following lines:

      “What the hell is this?”

      Even after thirty-four years, at a recent panel, “2001: The Year vs. Stanley Kubrick” (held on 29 August 2002 as part of the 60th World Science Fiction Convention, “Conjose,” in San José, California), every speaker started his or her talk by recalling the initial shock of the movie.

      Yes, I still remember very well how mystifying that strange object the “monolith” looked at first glance, and how inconsistent the narrative seemed. In Japan, MGM...

    • 4 The Genealogy of the Cyborg in Japanese Popular Culture
      (pp. 55-72)
      Sharalyn Orbaugh

      N. Katherine Hayles has resonantly written that already we are all posthuman.² The word “cyborg” (from “cybernetic organism”) is the most common way of referring to this next evolutionary step, simply described as the “melding of the organic and the machinic, or the [technologically negotiated] engineering of a union between separate organic systems.”³ Examples of commonly occurring cyborgs include anyone with an artificial limb or organ, such as a pacemaker; anyone who has had a skin graft, organ transplant, or blood transfusion; anyone who has used the techniques of artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization to reproduce; anyone reprogrammed to...

    • 5 Hermeneutics and Taiwan Science Fiction
      (pp. 73-94)
      Wong Kin Yuen

      In a paper, “Urbanity, Cyberpunk and the Posthuman in Taiwan SF,”¹ I mentioned the possibility of using modern hermeneutics to analyze Chinese SF texts, particularly in relation to N. Katherine Hayles’s theories of informatics, embodiment, emergent, and the process from hyphenation to splicing within the cybernetics feedback loop. After hearing the paper, Wlad Godzich suggested that I should further develop the theme of hermeneutics along this direction.

      Here, after establishing a relationship between a Taiwan SF text from the 1970s and the Heideggerian ontological hermeneutics, I argue that this relationship entails a discussion of the Gadamerian hermeneutics of suspicion, reading...

    • 6 Is Utopia Obsolete? Imploding Boundaries in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age
      (pp. 95-110)
      N. Katherine Hayles

      In Achieving Our Country, Richard Rorty observes that our contemporary novelists no longer take pride in our nation.² To illustrate his case, he mentions, along with Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991), Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992). Perhaps a better example, or at least a more curious one, is the book that followed Stephenson’s Snow Crash blockbuster, The Diamond Age: or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer.³ The Diamond Age would seem to have the elements of a Utopia. Nanotechnology provides material abundance virtually without cost; the text explicitly states that some cultures work better than others and provides...

  6. Part II: History Lessons

    • 7 Tales of Futures Passed: The Kipling Continuum and Other Lost Worlds of Science Fiction
      (pp. 113-134)
      Andy Sawyer

      In 2001, over thirty years after my last visit, I again flew into Hong Kong. This time I landed at Chek Lap Kok International Airport, not Kai Tak, to find a strange mixture of familiarity and dislocation. My journey to this region was superficially similar — a cramped economy-class airliner — though the food was slightly better and there was video entertainment. (After thirty years, you would have thought so, even though the entertainment turned out to be Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled.) The country I left, the United Kingdom, was undergoing one of its masochistic phases of self-examination: a crisis on the...

    • 8 Globalization in Japanese Science Fiction, 1900 and 1963: The Seabed Warship and Its Re-Interpretation
      (pp. 135-142)
      Thomas Schnellbächer

      The term “globalization,” one theme of this volume, is a fairly new one. But the process that it implies, the formation of a set of cultural and/or economic norms valid for all regions of the planet, can be said to have begun along with the age we call modernity. In addition, this world order can be said to be based on cultural norms that developed in Europe. In the logic of that order, the East-West dichotomy, geographically meaningless given that the earth is a sphere rather than a disc, took on enormous ideological weight. The scales were weighted on the...

    • 9 The Limits of “Humanity” in Comparative Perspective: Cordwainer Smith and the Soushenji
      (pp. 143-156)
      Lisa Raphals

      In marked contrast to the eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and early twentieth-century narratives of such figures as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, a polarity emerged in Anglophone US-centered science fiction between “hard science” stories and “speculative fiction,” roughly corresponding with the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and its aftermath. On one end were such works as I, Robot and Issac Asimov’s Foundation series. On the other we see the growth of a self-conscious genre of “speculative fiction,” pioneered by Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthologies. Speculative fiction took its themes not from the...

    • 10 The Idea of the Asian in Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle
      (pp. 157-166)
      Jake Jakaitis

      The Man in the High Castle is perhaps Philip K. Dick’s most highly regarded novel and, along with Blade Runner, remains one of his most often discussed works, seemingly leaving little room for new or original commentary. However, this volume, with its emphasis on Asia and identity, has inspired me to review previous commentary on Dick’s 1962 novel and to consider opportunities to link Dick’s conception of Asia and his application of Asian philosophy in The Man in the High Castle to my own work on race and gender in Dick’s novels. Writing about The Cosmic Puppets¹ for a paper...

    • 11 Godzilla’s Travels: The Evolution of a Globalized Gargantuan
      (pp. 167-188)
      Gary Westfahl

      If the topic under consideration is the role played by science fiction in an ongoing process of globalization, there is one iconic figure who literally and figuratively towers above them all. The Japanese monster Gojira, better known by his Americanized moniker Godzilla, burst into international cinema with a series of well-received films of the 1950s and 1960s that played to packed houses in the United States and inspired many imitators there and in other nations. After several films of declining quality drove Godzilla into temporary retirement in the 1970s, he stormed back during the 1980s with a new series of...

  7. Part III: Contemporary Case Studies

    • 12 Black Secret Technology: African Technological Subjects
      (pp. 191-204)
      Gerald Gaylard

      What is the color of technology? This apparently rather rhetorical question arises because chromatism and technology have a long history of mutuality. In particular, technology can create race. For instance, technology’s ability to overdetermine race might be found in the pseudoscientific social Darwinism of craniology and phrenology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Thus technology can not only enable a race but can also be a tool for the oppression of a race. For people oppressed by a technocratic imperialism, technology is a symbol of this history, and hence something to be feared and shunned. However, it is...

    • 13 The Teeth of the New Cockatoo: Mutation and Trauma in Greg Egan’s Teranesia
      (pp. 205-214)
      Chris Palmer

      The toothed cockatoo of my title makes an obstreperous first appearance in Greg Egan’s 1999 novel Teranesia. The scene is a bar in Ambon, mostly filled with the contemporary equivalent of the seedy expatriates and exploiters of earlier tropical fictions — in this case, self-indulgent postmodern theorizers who have been attracted to the area by news of the phenomenon the new kind of cockatoo represents: a series of very strange mutations in a variety of plants, insects, and birds. Birds haven’t had teeth since the very early days of their evolution from dinosaurs, but this one is no simple throwback, as...

    • 14 When Cyberfeminism Meets Chinese Philosophy: Computer, Weaving and Women
      (pp. 215-232)
      Amy Kit-sze Chan

      This chapter is a theoretical discussion of cyberfeminism, especially focused on Donna Haraway’s and Sadie Plant’s texts on the subject. It traces the inter-relationship of women, weaving, computer, and technology from the point of constructing a “herstory” of technology. This “herstory” is weaved together by threads of small stories, such as Ada Lovelace’s biography, Charles Babbage’s creation of the Difference Engine, the fables of weaving in mythologies, tales of weavers in poetry, etc. I try to overcome the dualist framework implicit in Sadie Plant’s work by contrasting the vision of cyberfeminism on the representation of the digits with that of...

    • 15 Hollywood Enters the Dragon
      (pp. 233-244)
      Véronique Flambard-Weisbart

      It is a hurricane, a tidal wave, and an earthquake as well. We call it globalization. In the cultural context, it sweeps away every medium it comes across. The success of cyberspace and its flourishing technology has largely contributed to transforming all the rules of communication, by creating informal tools of communication that help open frontiers. Global communication partly succeeds at eluding borders and making information accessible to all.

      By the same token, globalization also makes the role of culture — the marker of diversity and difference among people — seem obsolete, to the extent that it is legitimate to wonder whether...

    • 16 Romeo Must Die: Action and Agency in Hollywood and Hong Kong Action Films
      (pp. 245-254)
      Susanne Rieser and Susanne Lummerding

      The objective of our collaboration is to develop new perspectives on action film by bringing together the respective concepts of action and agency with reference to Hollywood and Hong Kong action cinema. As poststructuralist film theories of the past decades have elaborated, cinematic technologies (together with narrative) construct identities. “Violent Visuals and Wo/Men Warriors,” by Susanne Rieser, deals with issues of identity construction as a technological effect, in particular with the identity politics of the violent visuality in action film iconography. “The Dislocation of Identity and the Preconditions of Agency,” by Susanne Lummerding, analyzes the way those moments that “bar...

  8. Afterword
    (pp. 255-258)
    Wong Kin Yuen and Amy Kit-sze Chan

    Traditionally, an afterword is supposed to serve as an editorial summing-up or postscript after all the time and effort of assembling a collection of essays such as this one. It should also provide the last word on how such efforts might lead to future directions and collaborations among editors and contributors such as one finds in this volume. Gary Westfahl has done some of this work in the “Introduction,” but we can add a few words regarding the arrangement of these essays into three sections.

    First we would like to remind our readers that contributors in the “Global Perspectives” are...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 259-286)
  10. Bibliography of Works Related to Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution
    (pp. 287-300)
  11. Index
    (pp. 301-308)