A press release from Stephanie Elliott of Wesleyan University Press:
Science fiction is often associated with the scientific and technological revolutions of the West. But, the genre also blossomed with the rise of mass media in Russia, opening up discourse about the possibilities that electricity, aviation, and relativity provide. There have been many scholarly works investigating pre-Soviet Russia’s place into the modern world, but none have made the link between the advent of Russian science fiction and the rise of Russian modernity. This link is examined in We Modern People, the first study of the emergence of Russian science fiction.
Using previously unexamined texts and archival material, the book examines science fiction in early twentieth century Russia, contextualizing it in relation to the popular culture, social and political thought, aesthetics, and techno-scientific research of the era. Banerjee explains the tumultuous decades between the end of the nineteenth century and the early Bolshevik period, a time when science fiction became a common topic of discussion. The genre’s popularity expanded beyond literary circles, finding readership among scientists, engineers, philosophers, and political visionaries. The work offered alternatives to capitalist models of progress and even claimed that Russia was more advanced than Western Europe or North America. An important, and politicized, relationship was forged between science fiction and modernity.
The author, Anindita Banerjee, explores the surprising influence of science fiction on actual scientific research and development, public opinion, and public policy in Russia. Leon Trotsky famously described the people of Russia as living under conditions of “combined and uneven development.” Banerjee gives readers a fresh look at pre-Soviet Russia’s development and its concept of modernity, distinct from Western models. Students and scholars of science fiction studies, modernism, and Slavic studies will embrace this pioneering volume.
Anindita Banerjee is an associate professor of comparative literature at Cornell University.
Table of Contents:
• Introduction: Science Fiction and the Making of Russian Modernity
• CONQUERING SPACE
• a) Beyond East and West on the Tracks of Modernity: Science Fiction Goes to Siberia
• b) From Air Dramas to Mystical Wars: The Ascending Plane of Science Fiction
• c) From Siberia to the Planet Mars: The Cosmic Limits of Science Fiction
• TRANSCENDING TIME
• a) Telos and Chronos: The Two Time Scales of Science Fiction
• b) A Poetics of Excess: The Clashing Regimes of Science Fiction
• c) Kings of Time: Science Fiction’s Intimations of the Future
• GENERATING POWER
• a) Electric Origins: The Anode and Cathode of Ethical Modernity
• b) Virtual Electrification: Science Fiction in the Age of Edison
• c) Electrifying Modernism: The Vitalist Alchemy of Science Fiction
• d) GOELRO Electrifiction: Science Fiction’s Synthesis of Salvation
• CREATING THE HUMAN
• a) Evolving beyond Darwin: Body Mind, and Matter in Science Fiction
• b) From Man-Machines to Plant-Humans: The Cosmic Bodies of Science Fiction
• c) Healing Darwin and Marx: The Hemostatic Universe of Science Fiction
• AFTERWOR(L)D: RUSSIAN SCIENCE FICTION AND THE UN-MAKING OF MODERNITY