Live-blogging Laruelle’s TETRALOGOS (5): New Foundations for Science Fiction

Science fiction (SF) is a minor genre of literature entrusted to an arbitrary imaginary as well as to the talent of its authors, but it is possible to re-found it this time on more solid bases as a non-philosophical genre, on strictly generic bases, ones that are consolidated by a different usage of the quantic as model rather than as furnishing of the Universe (TETRALOGOS, 112, my translation.

In the terms explained in the previous post, science fiction as literary genre is an act, a sub-category of art as act. So it would seem to be doubly contingent on a philosophical understanding of the conceptual acts.

On a non-philosophical understanding science fiction is a non-philosophical act, not an artistic or literary act. In effect, science fiction is an act of « forced » philosophy, belonging to the new amplitude of philosophy. As a condition of attaining this new status it needs to be « re-founded ».

(Comment: there is a fair amount of pretension or « sufficiency » in this idea of Laruelle’s to re-found science fiction).

Science fiction finds itself in a similar position to philosophy. Philosophy, according to Laruelle’s analysis is a naive mixture of philosophy and science. Science fiction is then a naive mixture of fiction and science. This mixture of composed of science and fiction as it exists in literary SF  must be « dissolved » into its two elements, in order to

conceive them as indiscernible properties of a generic subject = X capable of bearing them. This is science fiction that is general because it is generic (SFG). (113).

This is a bold hypothesis, and has its merits as a heuristic device, but it should not be taken as exclusive and binding.

Laruelle’s gnostic re-foundation of science fiction is part of a strategy for re-founding philosophy. It is useful to examine his recommendations for science fiction on their own merits, before investigating how they transform philosophy.

1) « the introduction of contemporary science in the form of the quantic as model »

2) the object or resolution is « the destiny of humanity in transit between the Earth, the World, and the Universe

3) « the « World » as Bad-world or history is only an unplanned halting point on this voyage which leads it to the Just-world ».

One could summarise Laruelle’s complete formula for science fiction: hard science, space opera, human destiny from dystopia to utopia.

No doubt this general formula permits special cases as constituting particular solutions to this formula where one or more variables have a value close to or equal to zero, and so generating incomplete realisations and fragmentary sequences.

However, this formula is itself far from complete or adequate to the vast mega-text of science fiction, even if it captures the basic framework of some great texts of science fiction: DUNE, THE BOOK OF THE NEW SUN, ANATHEM come to mind.

Nonetheless, there are other great texts that use only relativistic physics, or classical physics; or that do not deal with the cosmic destiny of humanity; or that do not situate their action in dystopia or utopia or the transition between. For example the novels of Alastair Reynolds rely on relativistic physics, and the quantum effects are present mainly « furnishings ».

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