Guide to Week One Readings

Guide to Week One Readings
Earl Jackson, Jr.
Winter 1997
LTMO 115

Out There: Science Fiction Practice and Theory

Week One – Two Readings

BE SURE TO check out the update page at least weekly – it
s called Chaos and can be reached by pointing your browser at, by clicking on the word Chaos either here or one occurrence farther back.

First Assignment: Note that I deliberately did not order copies of The Time Machine. You have several options:
You can find a copy at used bookstores, new bookstores, libraries, friends, etc.
You can read chapter two of College Connections on websearches. There will be a wide variety of Web exercises assigned. You must do at least five of them (with documentation) as part of the course. If you choose to find the online text of The Time Machine, submit your documentation (I. e. how you conducted the search and the URL that gave you the text) to your section leader this week (by email) and that will count as one of the five exercises. It’s good to get one out of the way, especially since the Web assignments will increase in complexity

H. G. Wells, The Time Machine
Robert A. Heinlein, „All You Zombies . . .“

Louis Padgett, „All Mimsy Were the Borogoves“

Greg Egan, „The Extras“ and „Closer“

John Varley, „The Phantom of Kansas“

Ursula Le Guin, „Nine Lives „

Reference Aids on H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells Page (Gloria McMillan)

  • The Time Machine

    Virginia Woolf on H.G. Wells

    Major Concerns: Paradigm Shifts and Epistemological Crises

    Major Concepts: ideology, paradigm, and episteme
    Important Thinkers: Thomas A. Kuhn; Louis Althusser; Lewis Carroll; Michel Foucault; Samuel R. Delany

    Reference Aids

    Scientific Revolutions

    Piaget vs. Kuhn

    Philosophy of Science and Mathematics Events in Britain

    Ellen Datlow’s Weird and Not-So-Weird Science Sites

    The Science of ‚The Time Machine‘ – Stephen Baxter

    A Greg Egan Bibliography


    Ideology, Paradigm, and Episteme


    The word „ideology“ was first coined in France by a rationalist philosopher de Terry, 1796 – adapted into English immediately. Ideology, or the science of ideas, in order to distinguish it frm the ancient metaphysics.“ This meaning subverted by Napoleon who saw it as a way of discrediting democracy – its proponents „misled the people by elevating them to a sovereignty which they were incapable of exercising.“ – principles of the Enlightenment were „ideologues“ – this is first beginning of conservative use of „ideology“ – the perjorative use of ideology also taken over by Marx, however. Marx and Engels in The German Ideology (1845-47): Ideas „are nothing more than the ideal expression of the domimnant material relationships grasped as ideas.“ Failure to realize this produced ideology: an upside-down verison of reality: „If in all ideology men and thier circumstances appear upside down as in a camera obscure, this phenonmenon arises just as much from their historical life process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life process.“ [Adapted from Raymond Williams, Keywords].


    Thomas A. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962; revised expanded edition, 1970). Kuhn discusses the history of „normal science,“ by which he means „research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.“ The achievements shared two characteristics:

    • [1] they were „sufficiently unprecedented to attract and enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity;“
    • [2] they were „sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve“ (Kuhn 10).

    These achievements form „paradigms,“ for example: „Ptolemaic astronomy,“ „Aristotelean dynamics,“ „Newtonian physics,“ „wave optics;“ „Euclidean geometry,“ etc. An historian of science looking over the advances at certain time period will consider the „relation between rules, paradigms, and normal science“ to „isolate the particular loci of commitment that“ are manifest as „accepted rules“ (Kuhn 43). One can then trace „scientific revolutions“ in terms of crises that bring down the dominant paradigm, replacing it with a new, apparently more „accurate“ one (Kuhn 67-91). At any given period in history, the accepted paradigm becomes „a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. . . . Other problems . . . are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time. A paradigm can . . . even insulate the community from those socially important problems that are not reducible to puzzle form, because they cannot be stated in terms of the conceptual and instrumental tools the paradigm supplies“ (Kuhn 37).

    Let’s consider another example – Newton’s equation of motion explained the earth’s orbit perfectly, if the moon did not complicate it. The moon’s attraction changed the earth’s distance to the sun, whcih also affected the moon’s orbit around the earth. The King Sweden offered a prize to a physicist who could solve the problem of computing the orbit taking this into consideration. In 1890 Henri Poincare» proved that Newtonian equations could not provide a solution to the problem, and with this won the prize (N Kathleen Hayles, Chaos Bound 1-2). Similarly, Euclidean geometry accurately models a third dimensional world mapped onto abstract, two-dimensional space. But what Poincar» proves in physics, and Godel (in 1931) proves in mathematics is that „Euclidean geometry is not true, merely convenient“ (Hayles 78).


    The episteme is an abstraction of the epistemological field „in which knowledge . . . grounds its positivity and thereby manifests a history which is not that of its growing perfection, but rather that of its conditions of possibility“ (Foucault The Order of Things xxii). Objects appear as constituted by the operative discourses and the relations among those discourses peculiar to that „age“ (Foucault, Archeology of Knowledge 44). The object „exists under the positive conditions of a complex group of relations“ which „are established between institutions, economic and social processes, behavioural patterns, systems of norms, techniques, types of classification, modes of characterization,“ however these relations „do not define its internal constitution, but what enables it to appear, to juxtapose itself with other objects, to situate itself in relation to them, to define its difference, its irreducibility, and even perhaps its heterogeneity“ (Archeology of Knowledge 45).

    A given episteme is determined by its specific „distribution of the visible and the articulable which acts upon itself,“ the former being the mode of „self-evidence“ and the latter the discursive practices of that period. Foucault’s historiography thus focuses on „that determination of the visible and articulable features unique to each age which goes beyond any behaviour, mentality or set of ideas, since it makes these things possible“i. Foucault divided „the articulable“ and „the visible“ into „discursive“ and „non-discursive“ formations, respectively, stipulating that „discursive relations exist between the discursive and the non-discursive,“ these relations marked as „the primacy of the systems of a statement over the different ways of seeing or perceiving,“ because this „primacy . . . will never impede the historical irreducibility of the visible – quite the contrary, in fact . . . .It is because the articulable has primacy that the visible contests it with its own form, which allows itself to be determined without being reduced. . . . The places of visibility will never have the same . . . history or form as the fields of statements, and the primacy of the statement will be valuable only . . . to the extent that it brings itself to bear on something irreducible.“

    What does Samuel R. Delany have to say about the episteme?

    Click HERE to find out.

    How about a little Lewis Carroll?

    What did Lewis Carroll have to do with Science Fiction? Well, where does the title „All Mimsy Were the Borogoves“ come from?
    Click HERE to continue on to „Louis Padgett“ who is not a person, but another si