The science-fiction field was about to undergo radical change, as was its reception. A new subgenre, cyberpunk, was to emerge from the typewriters of William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, among others, not only in their fiction, but also in the fanzines edited by Sterling. Like many new movements, they disparaged and dismissed their predecessors; Sterling looked back to the New Wave of the 1960s, rather than the 1970s, in a typical generational act of anxiety of influence: ‘SF in the late Seventies was confused, self-involved, and stale’ (1986: 9). The work of John Brunner might be acknowledged, but not much else from the decade. In an era of home computers – PCs – and home entertainment – VCRs – technology was transforming the domestic space, and cyberpunk represented one version of this world.
The descriptions of postmodernism advanced by Jean Baudrillard and Jean-François Lyotard were joined by Fredric Jameson's, in ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’ (1983), first delivered as a lecture in 1983, and then in ‘Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ (1984). Meanwhile, Donna Haraway developed her version of the cyborg as a new feminist identity which questions notions of sex, race and class by drawing upon existing sf – especially the works of Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Vonda McIntyre, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree Jr, John Varley and Monique Wittig, all active during the 1970s. Collectively, these theoreticians brought a new academic audience to sf, and the genre gained critical credibility. Marleen Barr did much to map out the genre from a feminist perspective, with Future Females: A Critical Anthology (1981), and Tom Moylan coined the term ‘critical utopia’ in Demand the Impossible (1986), a study of The Dispossessed (1975), The Female Man (1975), Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) and Triton (1976), which drew on articles first published in Extrapolation and Science Fiction Studies, among other places. The works of the 1970s were often unacknowledged springboards for the ideas of the 1980s.
Brian Stableford, in his account of the 1970s, saw 1970 as a moment of optimism: ‘From the viewpoint of 1970, it looked as if the last barriers to the progress of the genre had been removed’ (1998: 21). It was a time of economic optimism, of authors finally being paid decent amounts of money for their work, and there were more professional sf writers than ever before.
There was a moment in October 1977 when I watched Doctor Who at my grandparents’ flat. The particular episode was part of ‘The Invisible Enemy’ (1–22 October 1977), in which the alien-infected Doctor was cloned and then miniaturised in order to be injected into himself. I bring this up in part to demonstrate the pitfalls of historical accounts, but also because the notion of the invisible enemy is an almost perfect description of one recurring trope within this book. The same episode dates the events of Paul Magrs's extraordinary Young Adult novel, Strange Boy (2002); an appendix to that novel explains what Doctor Who (23 November 1963–) is, along with Spangles, Battlestar Galactica (17 September 1978–29 April 1979) and other aspects of late 1970s popular culture. Anyone who lived through the period may find it hard to avoid feeling nostalgic, but also to resist a sense of camp. After a period of being shunned, the 1970s has returned with added post-modern irony, as popular culture draws upon the period with varying degrees of love and ridicule. In tracing this era, I do not want to indulge in nostalgia, to find my own foundation myth in my own autobiography or to be overly guided by where sf ended up in subsequent years.
I have adopted the metaphor of the Invisible Enemy to describe the ideological battlegrounds of the 1970s. The 1960s had seen the emergence in the West of parallel movements for civil rights and women's and gay liberation, and some of the sf of the 1970s reflected these movements with varying degrees of subtlety, solidarity and anxiety. As Fredric Jameson notes, ‘in the 60s, for a time, everything was possible […] this period, in other words, was a moment of a universal liberation, a global unbinding of energies’ (1984a: 207). Any advances occurred in spite of the opposition of specific individuals, as well as institutional racism, sexism and homophobia in forms such as white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, multinational capitalism and so on. Members of the dominant class of the period felt under attack, with the campaigns against the Vietnam War and the unfolding scandal of the Watergate break-in offering further evidence of the shifting balances of public opinion.
Gray Watson writes of Jubilee (Derek Jarman, 1978) that ‘[if] England, this sceptred isle, has fallen into chaos and disarray, and needs to be redeemed, this is the manifestation at a national, political and historical level of an archetypal pattern of fall and redemption which embraces each individual psyche as well as the whole cosmos’ (1996: 44). Just as William Blake's poetic vision of Albion had embraced personal, nationalistic and cosmic mythologies, and had tried to steal them back from the usurping church and state, so Jarman wished to reclaim patriotism from those who had sullied it. In the late 1960s it had seemed that Swinging London was the cultural capital of the world, with Carnaby Street, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and Judith Merril had titled an anthology England Swings SF (1968). But it was a struggle to publish New Worlds – which moved from a monthly schedule to a supposed quarterly to an occasional paperback – and the British film industry went into one of its periodic retreats.
Harold Wilson had been the Labour Prime Minister since 16 October 1964, but was unexpectedly defeated by the Conservative Edward Heath on 18 June 1970, as inflation began to grow and unemployment increased. The union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was in danger of breaking up – there was a bombing campaign in Ireland and England by the IRA, and on 8 March 1973 a referendum over Northern Ireland joining the Republic of Ireland, which was defeated. The British economy shrank under Heath, as industrial unrest led to three-day weeks and frequent power cuts to conserve coal stocks for the first three months of 1974. Heath called a general election for 28 February 1974, under the slogan ‘Who Governs Britain?’, failing to gain a working majority even after negotiations with the Liberal Party. After Heath resigned on 4 March, Wilson formed a minority government, holding a further election on 10 October that returned a majority of three seats for Labour. The government began a programme of social reform and Britain voted to stay in the European Economic Community with a 5 June 1975 referendum. But unemployment was still rising when Wilson resigned on 16 March 1976, with James Callaghan voted in by the party to replace him from 5 April.
There is a moment in Michel Foucault's The Will to Knowledge (1976) that describes the creation of the homosexual in 1869:
The nineteenth-century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history, and a childhood, in addition to being a type of life, a life form, and a morphology, with an indiscreet anatomy and a possibly mysterious physiology. […] Homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul. The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species. (1978: 43)
This is not to say that men had not had sex with men prior to the late nineteenth century, but Foucault argued that such acts were not then seen as defining an individual's personal identity as homosexual, a term coined by Karl Maria Kertbeny in 1869. A number of sexual identities were described, defined and pathologised in the psychological, scientific and sociological press of the last third of the nineteenth century: a third sex (Karl Heinrich Ulrichs); an inborn constitutional abnormality (Henry Havelock Ellis); an inherited degeneracy, or a degeneracy caused by debauchery (Richard Krafft-Ebing); an intermediate sex (Magnus Hirschfeld and Edward Carpenter); a female psyche in a male body (Ulrichs); the next stage of evolution (Carpenter); or a failure to successfully navigate the Oedipus complex (Sigmund Freud).
The word ‘homosexual’ is rarely used in 1970s sf, so the reader or viewer either might fail to see it or might imagine it. What should be made of the peculiarly efficient hitmen, Mr Wint (Bruce Glover) and Mr Kidd (Putter Smith), in Diamonds are Forever (Guy Hamilton, 1971), who hold hands as part of what is clearly a deep attachment between the two? In 1975, Thomas Disch offers a homoerotic reading of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (‘Starship Soldier’ F&SF October–November 1959; 1959): ‘The hero is a homosexual of a very identifiable breed. By his own self-caressing descriptions one recognizes the swaggering leather boy in his most flamboyant form. There is even a skull-and-crossbones earring in his left ear’ (1976: 154). Disch notes that on a number of occasions the protagonist has a fight with a man instead of being attracted to women and notes his general pleasure in pain and violence – sexuality is violence and vice versa.
Technology, with its potential to be misused, had long been distrusted – the threat of the Bomb and the war machine in Vietnam being merely the latest sources of anxiety. In his survey of the representation of technology in popular film, Steven L. Goldman notes that the films’ ‘messages, deliberately crafted to appeal to what were believed to be widely prevalent attitudes, values, and fears, have remained pretty much the same’ (1989: 289), which is to say, broadly anti-technological. Even highly technologised films, such as the Star Wars trilogy, ‘opposed technology to virtue’ (Goldman 1989: 288) and pitted the purity of Jedi hearts and spirits against the technology of the evil Empire. But, equally, some distrusted the escapism of pure fantasy. Arthur C. Clarke's dictum about the indistinguishability of advanced technology and magic might be dramatised in a novel by the discovery of sophisticated machinery as evidence for forgotten knowledge – as Pratchett shows in The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981). Besides, the discovery would allow for a kind of conceptual breakthrough that might justify fantasy in terms of ‘cognitive estrangement’ (Suvin 1979: 7), although Suvin was to dismiss fantasy for another two decades (2000). The possible scientific explanation for magic puts such texts into the genre outlined by Tzvetan Todorov in The Fantastic (1970; translated into English 1973), hesitating between the marvellous and the uncanny. The 1970s featured the publication of much science fantasy and, especially in the second half of the decade, a boom in fantasy.
Just as some of the sf of the period looked back to Shelley, Wells and Verne, sword and planet fiction recalled Robert E. Howard's Conan stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs's Barsoom books, which could be located on the fantasy side of science fiction. This chapter will begin with an examination of such science fantasy, including films inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs's novels and Zardoz (John Boorman, 1973), before going on to consider the Tolkienesque tradition and the response to it, as well as bestselling works by Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and Robert Silverberg. It will end with an examination of fantasy in music and role-playing games.
Human endeavour has clearly had an impact upon the environment, especially in the creation of towns and cities, and, less obviously, in the consequent shaping of the landscape for leisure. Perhaps the most visible impact is in the form of architecture, which often has a sense of the utopian about the aspiration of the built environment. Architects work in the future and future conditional tenses – when or if this is built then this will happen. On the other hand, buildings can be monuments to the ego of the architect, planner, funder or location, or to human ambition in general, and make a signature on a landscape. The story in Genesis of the Tower of Babel, where God destroyed the tower and scattered its makers, remains a cautionary tale about overreaching and hubris, alongside the flight of Icarus and Promethean/Frankensteinian narratives. In the 1970s, fiction was more pessimistic than architectural practice, which could still imagine the marvellous city. This chapter will analyse the representation of architecture in Robert Silverberg's Tower of Glass (1970) and The World Inside (1971), the films The Towering Inferno (John Guillermin, 1974) and King Kong (John Guillermin, 1976), in J.G. Ballard's novels Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975) and the film Shivers (aka Orgy of the Blood Parasites, They Came From Within, The Parasite Murders and Frissons, David Cronenberg, 1975); and the representation of theme parks and hyperreality, especially in the films Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973) and Futureworld (Richard T. Heffron, 1976), Kit Reed's novel Magic Time (1980) and the adaptation of a bestselling novel, The Stepford Wives (Bryan Forbes, 1975). Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975), Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975) and Logan's Run (Michael Anderson, 1976) feature characters in post-apocalyptic, human-made landscapes, whereas the films The Big Bus (James Frawley, 1976), The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 1979), The Chain Reaction (Ian Barry, 1980) and Colossus: The Forbin Project (Joseph Sargent, 1970) feature landscapes on the brink of radioactive disaster, and Robert Merle's Malevil (1972, trans. 1973) and Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker (1980) depict the aftermath of nuclear apocalypse.
Thomas M. Disch argues that ‘science fiction is a branch of children's literature’ (1976: 142), in the sense that, like children's literature (as he perceived it), sf was limited in intellectual, emotional and moral terms. Magazine sf and the chapter serials had both teenaged and adult audiences, even before the invention of the category of the teenager in the 1950s. Robert A. Heinlein's early novels were published as juveniles as books, but Scribner's felt that Starship Troopers (‘Starship Soldier’ F&SF October– November 1959; 1959) had too much strong material for child readers. The perception that sf avoided sexuality and romance may have facilitated a wide age-range among readers, and it is arguably the shift to more adult themes in the 1960s and 1970s that created a space for more genre fiction explicitly aimed at children. In addition to Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury also wrote for children and adults – the latter's The Halloween Tree (1972) and some of his story collections were marketed for children. At the same time, children's literature also changed, with the emergence in the mid- to late 1960s of the Young Adult novel. This chapter will consider novelisations for children of sf film and television, stop-motion animations, animated and live-action Disney films, novels for children by Roald Dahl and Andre Norton and for teenagers and young adults by Alan Garner, Ursula Le Guin, Robert C. O'Brien, H.M. Hoover and Jan Mark.
But children's science fiction remains a problematic term – for a start, the possessive apostrophe of the first term suggests a misleading degree of ownership, given that editors, bookshops, librarians, teachers and parents all act as gatekeepers controlling a child's access to books (Zipes 2001: 39–60), and similar mechanisms are in play for film, television and games. The notion of the child – effectively conceived during the Enlightenment by authors such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau – is also problematic, and in practice marketing of books is based on clusters of age groups.
Some of the sf of the 1970s had turned in on itself, partly in an attempt to find a way past the internecine warfare of the successors to First sf and the New Wave and partly to find a renewed sense of purpose, post-Apollo 11. The ‘big dumb object’ trope pastiched hard sf and authors drew on the works of (Mary) Shelley, Verne, Wells and Burroughs, allowing a post-imperial commentary on colonial narratives. New readers were the third generation to have grown up reading sf. Sometimes science fiction was referenced in sf texts as part of the verisimilitude – the captain kirks watched by characters in Philip K. Dick's Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) – on the principle that people in the future will still consume sf, or as in-joke – the Master (Roger Delgado) watching The Clangers (16 November 1969–10 October 1974) in ‘The Sea Devils’ (26 February–1 April 1972) or reading War of the Worlds (1898) in ‘Frontier in Space’ (24 February–31 March 1973) – but this could equally draw attention to the artificiality of the text. This could be sf about sf – the more explicit acknowledgment of any genre's conversation with its own rules and methods. In 1970, the critic and novelist William Gass coined the term ‘metafiction’ to refer to fiction that demonstrated knowledge of its own fictionality. William Shakespeare's Henry V (1599) draws attention to the fact that it is being performed, and Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759–67) played games with the novel; now metafictional awareness was central to works by writers such as John Barth, Donald Barthelme, Christine Brook-Rose, E.L. Doctorow, John Fowles, B.S. Johnson, Muriel Spark and D.M. Thomas. Some of these writers also wrote sf, or something that looked like it, and will be discussed in this chapter among other postmodern sf writers: Robert Sheckley, Barry N. Malzberg, Richard Cowper, Christopher Priest, Kurt Vonnegut (and the film of Slaughterhouse-5 (George Roy Hill, 1972)), Philip José Farmer, Richard Brautigan, Tom Robbins, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, Doris Lessing, Kingsley Amis, Emma Tennant, Angela Carter, John Sladek, Frederik Pohl, the television programme Welt am Draht (World on a Wire/World on Wires, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1973) and the early work of the cyberpunks.
Michael Bond's ‘A Spoonful of Paddington’ (1974) begins with Paddington Bear conducting an experiment to see if he can bend spoons. An episode of the BBC children's programme Blue Peter had featured Uri Geller, then famous for dowsing, for starting or stopping timepieces using psycho kinetic powers (which he claimed derived from aliens) and for bending spoons by lightly rubbing them with his thumb. Paddington, typically, is a mix of copycat and sceptic, so conducts experiments with various substances to see if these will soften metal to allow it to bend. Scientists and magicians alike were disputing Geller's claims; Paddington copies Geller's feat only to discover that he is using a set of spoons with trick hinges. There was still an appetite for belief in pseudoscience and the paranormal over the rational explanation, and much sf of the 1970s catered for this audience's sense of wonder, from the belief that humanity had been uplifted by aliens to sf that had much in common with supernatural horror and expressed anxiety about paternal, maternal and filial feelings. This can be seen in the pseudoarchaeology books by Erich von Däniken, Robin Collyns and Charles Berlitz, which were disputed by authors such as John Sladek, but fed into the blockbuster Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977), novels by Richard Cowper and television series such as The Omega Factor (13 June–15 August 1979) and Quatermass (24 October–14 November 1979), sometimes with a degree of scepticism. In the same period, horror films expressed anxieties about the state of the family within the modern technological world, sometimes expressing a conservative ideology, at other times questioning the nature of scientific progress – for example in the films Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979), It's Alive (Larry Cohen, 1974), It Lives Again (Larry Cohen, 1978), Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977), Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980), and Terry Carr's novel, Cirque (1978).
The belief in pseudoscience and parapsychology might reflect the ongoing suspicion about science in an age increasingly controlled by unaccountable corporations, with technology reaching into every corner of life. The Conseil des Universités du Québec commissioned the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard to investigate the impact of technology on knowledge, and he produced The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979). He argued that scientific knowledge was becoming too expensive or complicated to verify by more than a handful of experts.
The stories of the early sf genre melded adventure with scientific marvels. Characters and themes were usually subservient to ideas. John Clute argues that ‘[the] result was an SF universe written in the shape of Man. Women and other aliens had visiting rights only’ (1995: 130), and – to overgeneralise – this sf believed in the possibility of progress, whereby each new invention would work to liberate mankind (sic), and, even if engineering problems might occur, further technology would resolve them. The isolated genius could change the world and an individual hero could bring down a tyranny. This was the genre formulated by Hugo Gernsback in Amazing Stories, further refined by John W. Campbell at Astounding. The Gernsback-Campbell continuum was challenged within the genre by the editors of magazines such as Galaxy, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and If, and writers such as Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick and Robert Sheckley, who had more literary sensibilities and often a radical agenda. Clute suggests that what he refers to as First or Agenda science fiction was further challenged by the launch of Sputnik in 1956, as Soviet technology trumped American. The New Waves of the 1960s then pushed the boundaries of the genre beyond recognition. After the death of Campbell on 11 July 1971 and as genre sf approached its fiftieth birthday in 1976 – which would coincide with the US bicentennial – some of the First sf generation writers were given large, much publicised advances. But some of them retrod old ground, albeit at novel length. This chapter will consider the works of Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Clifford D. Simak, Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester and Leigh Brackett, who had all started publishing by 1941.
Asimov remained known for his 1940s and 1950s work, the Foundation and the robot stories, and had not written an sf novel since Fantastic Voyage (1966), a novelisation of the Richard Fleischer film. The Hugo and Nebula Awards given to The Gods Themselves (1972) acknowledge his return; it would be his only adult sf novel of the 1970s.
The sf community frequently sees itself as a ghetto, a term which has racial connotations, especially in respect to Jewish people. There has been a significant contribution to the field by Jewish-American writers – Jack Dann's anthology Wandering Stars (1974), with contributions by Isaac Asimov, Carol Carr, Avram Davidson, George Alec Effinger, Harlan Ellison, Horace L. Gold, Bernard Malamud, Pamela Sargent, Robert Sheckley, Robert Silverberg, Isaac Bashevis Singer and William Tenn, demonstrates their diversity – but their ethnic or racial identity is not necessarily identifiable within the presumed socio-economic location of most sf readers, editors and writers. Nor have critics sufficiently examined the notions of whiteness as an ethnic identity and white privilege that underpin the assumption that the majority of science fiction's audience is Caucasian. One group perceived to be largely absent from American sf is African Americans, a demographic of immigrants who were brought to America against their will. Mark Dery suggests that ‘African Americans […] are the descendants of alien abductees; they inhabit a sci-fi nightmare in which unseen but no less impassable force fields of intolerance frustrate their movements’ (1994: 180). It might be that if their everyday experience is science-fictional, African Americans have comparatively little need to write sf. More likely is that the cultural productions of African Americans are not recognised as being sf by the readers and critics of the field. Some of the novels by the two most significant African American sf writers from the 1970s, Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler, will be discussed in this chapter, as will some of the African American sf music and film of the period. But first I will explore sf's attempt to map race relations through metaphor or indirectly in novels by Robert Silverberg, Gardner Dozois and Philip K. Dick, and in the Planet of the Apes movies.
Complex notions of race arose from the fifteenth century onwards, at about the time that European exploration came into contact with the Americas. Race had come to define a lineage, often expressed in terms of blood, tracing individual ancestry back to the children of Noah or Adam. During the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, Carl Linnaeus had classified living things into kingdoms, orders, classes, genera and species, but the physical and geographic differences within, for example, finches, led to further subdivision by biologists into distinct races or bifurcating species.
Science fiction often depicts the interaction between the environment and its inhabitants. There are correlations between individuals, their physical setting and the surrounding flora and fauna; an ecosystem of greater or lesser consistency is depicted. The environment itself may become a character in the narrative, especially as an antagonist to the hero, an often unstoppable and sometimes invisible set of forces. The continued rise of consumerism and the post-industrialised West in the 1970s, as represented in an increasingly global and globalised media, put a growing strain on raw materials, fuel and labour. Earth was imagined as a single unit, for example as the Spaceship Earth of a speech by Adlai Stevenson in 1965, in Kenneth E. Boulding's ‘The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth’ (1966), which contrasted open and closed systems, and in Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968). Harry Harrison adopted the phrase to refer to the moral he perceived behind Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973), a loose adaptation of his Make Room! Make Room! (SF Impulse August–October 1966; 1966): it ‘shows what the world will be like if we continue in our insane manner to pollute and overpopulate Spaceship Earth’ (1984: 146), an idea he had already advanced in his short story ‘Commando Raid’ (1970): ‘The richest countries better help the poorest ones, because it's all the same spaceship’ (1977: 122). Barry Commoner argued that there was only one ecosystem, and that everything came from somewhere and went somewhere, with resources likely to be turned from useful to useless. Natural systems kept resources generally renewable. James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis suggested that the systems of the Earth maintained the balance of the environment through homeostasis, but human action pushed this beyond natural limits. Earth Day was first marked in 1970, raising awareness of the threats to biodiversity, and the following year Greenpeace started campaigning, as the back-to-nature imperatives of 1960s counterculture spread. Denis Cosgrove notes how two photographs from space in particular, Earthrise (December 1968) and AS17-148-22727 (7 December 1972), one taken of the Earth from space, the other from the moon, captured the popular imagination, the latter in particular gaining a ‘quasi-mantric status […] among Whole-earth enthusiasts’ (1994: 276). The Earth, isolated in the blackness of space, becomes an entire, contained system.
Thomas Schatz's assertion that the blockbuster film was apolitical is misleading. At best, such films appealed to a range of audiences of varying opinions and offered various readings; at worst, they upheld the dominant ideology's status quo. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) performed a political role of recuperating the American Dream in the aftermath of Vietnam and the realignment of the Cold War from one proxy campaign to another. Later, Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative was to be nicknamed Star Wars, and Vietnam veteran Colonel Oliver North called himself a Jedi knight during the Iran-Contra affair that broke in 1986. The blockbuster films had their political uses. They also often centred upon broken or dispersed families, with the narrative pointing towards the creation or recreation of a social unit, and they especially explored father–son relations. With the exception of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980), which ends with a cliffhanger, the endings were upbeat and reassuring, rather than amphicatastrophic. This chapter will consider the films THX 1138 (1971) and the Star Wars trilogy, the first two Superman films and Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980).
The blockbuster movie had emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, as part of Hollywood's fightback against the haemorrhaging of audiences to television, but took a new form in the mid-1970s as producers targeted youth and family audiences. The blockbuster ‘will excite you, expose you to something never before experienced, […] prick up your ears and make your eyes bulge out in awe’ (Stringer 2003: 5). Awe and the sublime are central to the experience of blockbuster cinema, as the audience is taken on a rollercoaster ride of action-adventure, punctuated with stunts and special effects. The discourse around the films is as much of processed shots and new production technology as it is of actors and gossip – the use of blue and green screens, matte work, rotoscope, computer-controlled camera movements and beyond became part of the publicity materials. The special effect, paradoxically, is not just there to represent the unfilmable, but to announce its own status as effect, to undermine its invisibility.
Grand claims have been made for the centrality of the Vietnam War to American science fiction; H. Bruce Franklin argues that ‘America's war in Indochina cannot be dissociated from American SF, which shaped and was reshaped by the nation's encounter with Vietnam’ (1990: 341). America was attempting to make the world safe for its own interests, but this just seemed to raise more doubts, both at home and abroad. Invisible enemies who supposedly threatened the American Dream on an ideological level were also to be confronted, in a series of proxy wars against communism. Vietnam was the site for one such campaign, and it was necessary to introduce a draft to supply the US armed forces. However, the supposedly technologically superior force was unable to achieve victory. In 1975, after years of street protests in America and outside American embassies, the troops made a humiliating withdrawal from the territory. Susan Sontag suggests that the media's coverage of the war did much to turn public opinion against it – not so much the television news as the newspaper photography, especially Nick Ut's famous photograph of Kim Phúc, ‘a naked South Vietnamese child just sprayed by American napalm, running down a highway toward the camera, her arms open, screaming in pain’ (1977: 18).
Alasdair Spark asserts that ‘SF certainly did not split into overt camps’ (1990: 114) over Vietnam, but perhaps the division lines had been drawn already, broadly speaking between New Waves and old guards. Kate Wilhelm and Judith Merril had been drawing up a petition against American involvement in 1968, and this sparked Poul Anderson to collect names for a petition supporting the war. Both lists were published as adverts, first in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (March 1968) and then on facing pages in Galaxy (June 1968) (Franklin 1990: 341, 354). Of the hawks, only three of them published in Dangerous Visions (1967), Harlan Ellison's groundbreaking anthology, whereas sixteen of the doves did (Spark 1990: 115), and there was an old guard/new wave division.
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