Science Fiction And Imagination: The Martian Chronicles Essays Examples
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Science fiction is concurrently an escape from reality while also remaining a “way of looking to see what’s behind” (Barlow 110). As such, it blends reality with the human imagination in order to articulate a narrative that conveys the very essence of modernity. Aaron Barlow, an English professor and New York College of Technology, underscores this binary between reality and human imagination as an intrinsic feature of science fiction as a literary genre, thereby rendering realism the antithesis to the imagination (105). Moreover, Barlow contends that Ray Bradbury, a seminal American author in science fiction, mystery and horror who penned the critically acclaimed dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, was the product of an epoch that rendered romance and hope obsolete. Rather, Bradbury embraced modernist epistemologies that trumpeted wonder and imagination while concurrently condemning the New Critics as portents of a mechanistic criticism of science fiction as a genre. Indeed, the genre of science fiction blends fantasy, or the realm of the impossible, and fiction, that claims to reproduce reality rather than what is possible. As such, the territory of science fiction ranges from earthly limitations to what is possible within the human imagination past, present, and future. Science fiction thus proffers an alternative time-space continuum that provides a vacuum for human imagination and explores human lives and contextualizes them within a cosmic and otherworldly context. Ray Bradbury opined that science fiction remains “the one field that reached out and embraced every sector of the human imagination, every endeavor, every idea, every technological development, and every dream” (Bradbury). The human faculty of imagination within the fictional genre of science fiction negotiates the imaginative dimensions of futuristic and dystopian settings, space travel, evolved technology and science, and extraterrestrial life that inquire about the ramifications of advanced technology and scientific innovations.
Ray Bradbury’s Martial Chronicles elucidates the exceptional power and imagination that never wavers despite the passage of time. He proffers a series of stories regarding the colonization of the planet Mars by humans who flee from Earth, a planet doomed to be destroyed by nuclear and atomic power, a signifier of the destructive nature of technology on modern society. Bradbury further chronicles the conflict between the new colonists from Earth and the indigenous Martians in an episodic fashion. He structures these chronicles in a futuristic narrative structure that recounts the astonishing visions and imagination and poignant images of a man’s experiences on the planet Mars. Although disjointed and fragmentary in nature, The Martian Chronicles is a quintessential science fiction narrative that expounds on issues related to technology and modernity with regards to the surreal, nostalgia, and sense of imagination that underscores the failure of the American Dream and the need to explore new frontiers of the human imagination. Such sentiments are echoed when Spender—one of the characters in Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles—asserts that “we earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things” (Bradbury 54). Such assertions underscore how Bradbury critiques modern society for prioritizing glib desires over more noble values.
Bradbury imagines in his Martian Chronicles a dystopia where dreams, hopes, and metaphors of fossil seas and crystal pillars intertwine, and scenes of a devastated civilization devoid of great cities and vanished peoples. During the 1990s, analyzing contemporary culture, society, art, and literature appropriated the notion of globalization rather postmodernism as a paradigm as the primary organizational categories and concepts. Such a shift had indeed transpired in the social science decades earlier, as questions about discourse, aesthetics, and knowledge construction figured largely in public and intellectual debates concerning modernism and postmodernism as well as a constellation of a litany of debates. Denizens from Earth had conquered Mars, but they themselves were vanquished by Mars because they become far too comfortable by is illusory familiarity and comfort. Moreover, the new Martians become enchanted and enthralled by the beauty and glamour of the mysterious, ancient indigenous peoples whose glamour lingers on Mars. Bradbury appeals to the human imagination by exposing the flaws, ignorance, and ambitions once the human race is transplanted into and unusual and breathtaking world where Earthly humans unequivocally do not belong. As such, Bradbury grafted the human imagination into this work by dexterously constructing novel maps and structures for the human mind peripheral to the conformist and oppressive hell that wracked American society and culture during the 1940s and 1950s. Coded discourses woven into the narrative tread lightly across dyad of science/fiction that is endemic to the genre itself while navigating the tensions between the destruction of home and romance that defined the past and the mechanistic rhythms o f a modern and postmodern vision of the world.
As both science fiction literature and novels have demonstrate, the genre of science fiction has brought to the fore the notion of the virtual world and how virtual worlds in relation to the human imagination that incites and cultivates fear that, in the Digital Age, technology will eventually strip humans of their agency and capacity for imagination in the near future. Aaron Barlow underscored the aforementioned binary endemic to science fiction in order to frame Bradbury as one of the last trumpeters and saviors of wonder, hope, and human imagination. In doing so, Barlow chides the New Critics as the portents of its mechanistic and sanitized modes of literary criticism that eliminates human imagination. This notion of the “virtual world” predates the current computerized age in which the "computerization of culture" has translated into "the spatialization of all information, narrative, and even time" (Kish). The term "virtual world" lacks a clear-cut definition because academics, artists, scholars, graphic designers, and the news media use it in idiosyncratic ways that nonetheless underscore how reality is more straightforward, unadulterated picture of reality. Scholars have proffered both formal and information definitions of a virtual world as a concept. Mark Bell synthesizes elements of previous definitions articulated by academics to define it as such: "A synchronous, persistent network of people, represented as avatars, facilitated by networked computers" (Bell 2). As conveyed in The Matrix, virtual worlds have infiltrated the everyday lives of people in the modern world mainly in the form of virtual video and computer games that constitute the most lucrative components of the entertainment industry today. Technology indeed has caused a paradigm shift in the genre of science fiction by buttressing the discourses proffered by the New Critics while debunking science fiction as a genre that enables individuals to escape from reality while also functioning as a “way of looking ahead to see what’s behind” (Barlow 110). As such, Barlow unequivocally discursively framed Bradbury as the savior of wonder and imagination
In the same vein, the Wachowski Brothers' seminal science fiction film series The Matrix has earned a wide swatch of praise and criticism both for its cyberpunk imagery that deploys superficial computer animation while ignoring the mental projections that inhere the computerized net as well as for the use of the human imagination within the genre of science fiction in order to critique contemporary culture and society in which technology was gaining power over humanity itself (Haslam 92). This film series, like its literary counterparts, explore the contemporary mythology regarding what makes a human true human, thereby examining the core of humans' sentient life when transplanted onto another environment define by novel contingencies. Filled with high-powered action and scenes of explosions that weave in esoteric diatribes to amplify the tensions between life on Earth and life in an alternative world, this film intersects the world of philosophy and religion with entertainment that encourages viewers to cogently examine the state of the human race in relation to technology and science from a dystopia perspective. However, unlike Bradbury’s futuristic narratives, this film proffers a postmodern narrative that nihilistically eschews the technological path that has propelled society one step further towards the adoption of a post-human identity in which imagination is rendered obsolete. As such, the film, which takes Bradbury’s semiotics and discourses one step further, articulates coded discourses about technology and human agency in unconventional ways that address the themes of agency, communication, and identity within a post-human framework (93). Technological and post-human indeterminacy unequivocally depend on traditional science fiction plots and modes of analysis regarding the existence of an alternate world in which the characters become cognizant that the world around them is wholly fake, which forces them to subvert appearances in order to live in a reality that is tenable to them. Such an ontological approach critiques mode of expression in including written literature and cinema for reproducing hegemonic ideologies as well as social constructs related to class, gender, sex, and race rather than merely considering an criticizing notions related to enlightened subjectivity (93-96). As a cinematic text, The Matrix adds nuance to the “imagination” in the world portrayed within science fiction epistemologies that Ray Bradbury had popularized in his corpus of published work prior to his recent death.
As such, Bradbury expresses the transformation of the human experiences under the aegis of memory, which, in Bradbury’s stories, are often evocative of his own personal experiences. As such, The Martian Chronicles demonstrate how humans in this dystopic world often hide and find themselves. The human self, after being transposed onto a strange and unusual environment, constantly are in search of their selves, a self that perpetually changes, intrigues, and frightens them. As such, Bradbury portrayed the human being as constituted by time. Bradbury thus often grafts in this dialectic between th future and the past. In the Martian Chronicles, Bradbury portrays how the Red Planet invaders accepted the fact that they have transformed into Martians because the alien world could only survive if the earthly invaders fused with the alien race. The choice between death or survival emerges as the determining factor for Bradbury’s representation of this governing dialectic despite the fact that initially the tension between submission and aggression was quite prominent.
The encroachment of technology and modern science on the human consciousness has time and again displayed the inevitable Armageddon or development of an otherworldly and unearthly society. Such a dialectic undergirds the sustenance of human imagination despite the fact that metamorphosis and the acceptance of the strange and unusually is required. Technology in the modern day threatens to completely destroy human imagination, which has permeated science fiction discourses, novels and the genre itself within the context of modernity. Such narratives convey the fear of technology and the eventual face-off that will result in the demise of the human race or the reduction of humanity to mere cogs in the lives of machines. Despite the fact that technology functions as a substrate of expanding societies and communities, the predominance of anxiety over technological lifestyles persist. The Matrix underscores the notion that the human relationship with technology--which has hitherto merely functioned as a tool that enhances the quality of human life--that has resulted in people heralded technology within the social arena as a savior. As a result, knowledge of the self has become elusive, as the conjured image of the human self thrown into a world of digitized connectivity has negated the traditional concepts of the human being embarking on the quest for individuation to achieve totemic wholeness. The characters in ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles demonstrate how experiences profoundly change by their experiences on Mars, yet Bradbury nonetheless does accentuate some positive aspects of the meaning of human life in a post-earth world. Such sentimentality and life-affirming narratives inspire in readers the belief that human hopes and dreams can still come true and be fulfilled. As such, Bradbury demonstrates that the human imagination will not perish in the face of unrestrained technological and scientific progress. Rather, imaginative visions, poetically described scenery al underscore how Bradbury conveyed his view of science fiction as a convergence point of technologically advanced society and the sustenance of the human imagination.
Balkin, J.M. "Virtual Liberty: Freedom to Design and Freedom to Play in Virtual Worlds", Virginia Law Review, 90.8 (2004): 2043-2098. Print.
Barlow, Aaron. “Loss in the Language of Tomorrow: Journeying Through Tucson on the Way to ‘Usher II.’” Print.
Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1958. Print.
Haslam, Jason. “Coded Discourse: Romancing the (Electronic) Shadow in The Matrix. College Literature 32.3(2005): 92-115. Print.
Kish, S. "Virtual Worlds: Second Life and the Enterprise", Susan Kish. N.d. Web. Accessed 30 Mar. 2015 from http://www.susankish.com/susan_kish/vw_secondlife.html
Rice, Stephen P. Minding the Machine Languages of Class in Early Industrial America. Berkeley, Calif.: U of California, 2004. Print.
Taylor, J. "The Emerging Geographies of Virtual Worlds." Geographical Review, 87.2(1997):172-192. Web.
Wachowski Brothers. The Matrix. Perf. Keanu Reeves. Warner Bros, 1999. DVD.
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