Science Fiction in the Present
- May 24, 2011
On Thursday I’m one of the participants in a workshop organized by the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University on the subject of Science Fiction in the Present: Military Technology and Contemporary Culture. I’ll be speaking about dystopian military futures – a subject I wrote about last year in an article for Race & Class. It promises to be a really interesting day. Here’s a summary of the main themes:
This workshop will explore the relations of military research and techno-science with broader patterns and tendencies in contemporary culture. It will be concerned, in particular, with how speculative and science-fiction traditions in novels, films, video games and other media cross-fertilise with military futures research and development. Participants will discuss the long history of interaction between cultural and military spheres and will address how predictions and fears of future social, ecological, technological and political threats are constructed, explored, exploited and propagated.
The temporal extent of such future imaginaries stretches from the near-immediate (anticipatory surveillance of people’s bodies and behaviours in city streets) to the longer range predictions of societal, technological or urban doom, climate change apocalypse, urban meltdown and ecological collapse, which characterise both science fiction and military futurism.
In addition, the workshop will address a range of more specific issues that emerge at the interface between military activities and diverse areas of cultural production. These will include the role of military agencies in producing their own popular cultural outputs (especially video games and films); the deepening links between entertainment industries and the military complex; the growth of robotic weaponry and its fictional precursors; the militarisation and weaponisation of natural and weather systems; and the proliferation of conspiratorial cultures invoking high-tech military power as a precursor to theological or political revolution.