Friday, May 28, 2010

Schema Poetics and Speculative Cosmology - Peter Stockwell

"There is a difficulty, though, with the detailed analysis of schema poetics in science fiction. If schemas within the sf universe are newly constructed, how are they instantiated in the first place? How does the reader know that particular schema headers are indeed headers of a schema that has never been encountered before? Again, this is handled in hard sf by stylistic means. Here is a typical example from Permutation City:
‘There’s a cellular automaton called TVC. After Turing, von Neumann and Chiang. Chiang completed it around twenty-ten; it’s a souped-up, more elegant version of von Neumann’s work from the nineteen fifties.’
Maria nodded uncertainly; she’d heard of all this, but it wasn’t her field. She did know that John von Neumann and his students had developed a two-dimensional cellular automaton, a simple universe in which you could embed an elaborate pattern of cells – a rather lego-like ‘machine’ – which acted as both a universal constructor and a universal computer. Given the right program – a string of cells to be interpreted as coded instructions rather than part of the machine – it could carry out any computation, and build anything at all. Including another copy of itself – which could build another copy, and so on. Little self-replicating toy computers could blossom into existence without end."

'Speculative cosmology is a sub-genre of science fiction that particularly focuses on the difficulties for the deployment of existing knowledge in reading. This article assesses the usefulness of competing models of world-monitoring in order to arrive at a usable framework for discussing the particular issues in science fictional reading. It is suggested that schema theory, while containing many flaws in general, nevertheless offers an appropriate degree of delicacy for the exploration of sf. Schema poetics - the application of the theory to the literary context - is used to discuss speculative cosmology, with a focus on the work of the Australian sf writer Greg Egan. The analysis investigates the connection between stylistic form and schema operation, and proposes an explanation of 'plausibility'. Specifically, sf tends to provide a readerly counterpart in the text, and thereby dramatizes schema refreshment as if it were mere schema accretion."

Language and Literature - London

0963-9470 electronic: 1461-7293

SAGE Publications

year - volume - issue - page
2003 - 12 - 3 - 252

4.5 out of 5

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