Less organic intellectuals than morbid symptoms

Skip to content

L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. K. Jones
    November 27, 2013 @ 9:48 am

    The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast recently had Chris Hadfield on, and his perspective is very well developed and made clear in the interview; well worth a listen.



  2. BerserkRL
    December 22, 2013 @ 11:48 am

    when it came to outer space, science fact didn't really look like science fiction

    Well, depends which science fiction you're taking about. Verne's moon novels from the 1860s-70s, Heinlein's early moon stories from the 1940s, and Clarke's 1955 Earthlight are precisely the kind of moon-based science fiction that science fact looks like. Ditto for the 1929 film Frau im Mond and 1950 film Destination Moon.


  3. Josh Marsfelder
    December 22, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    I'm thinking here more in terms of Phil's notion that science fiction depicted outer space as a place where weird and fantastic adventures took place.

    Certainly I think it has a stark beauty of its own, as I mentioned IRT the graphic novel Destination Moon.


  4. BerserkRL
    December 22, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    See again the extremely not-Golden Age “The Tholian Web” and “Wink of an Eye”, which hint at uncanny mystical spaces and Otherworlds.

    Again, I think you're caricaturing the Golden Age, or focusing on an unduly narrow sample. Look at the ending of Cities in Flight. Look at the Kuttner/Moore collaborations. Look at Bradbury and Fredric Brown.


  5. Josh Marsfelder
    December 22, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

    Again, I'm thinking more along the lines of an expressly Fortean approach to science fiction. Gene Roddenberry wanted Star Trek to be "believable" and thought the supernatural was hogwash. Under D.C. Fontana, we're roughly five episodes away from "The Magicks of Megas-Tu".

    Golden Age science fiction seems to me mostly the domain of "hard" science fiction, even the more fantastic stuff. Forteanism and mythology are not the domain of hard anything (unless you happen to be in it, but that's a different story).


  6. BerserkRL
    December 22, 2013 @ 12:12 pm

    Sure, but my point is that the existing realm of science fiction prior to the moon landing was extremely diverse. It had action-and-BEM-filled space opera, yes; but it also had realistic, scientifically grounded stories (my point in the comment above), as well as surreal stories bordering on fantasy (my point in the comment below). There's no one thing that it was.


  7. BerserkRL
    December 22, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

    Golden Age science fiction seems to me mostly the domain of "hard" science fiction

    That's what I'm disputing. There's lots of hard sf, but there's also lots of stuff that's completely different. Just like today, really.


  8. Josh Marsfelder
    December 22, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

    Certainly. And I admit I'm simplifying things a bit by focusing on one aspect of the science fiction made during this period, but the reason I do that is because that's overtly the kind of science fiction Star Trek came out of and the sort its earliest creative figures were manifestly indebted to.

    When I say "Golden Age Science Fiction" I'm not trying to generalize all the science fiction written during the period from 1930 to 1964, I'm talking about a very specific sort of very hard, very futuristic and technologistic kind of science fiction that is considered iconic and symbolic of the era and that people have consistently read Star Trek as an extension of (which is problematic, I argue).

    Regardless of how fair it is, when most people hear the term "Golden Age Science Fiction" I think it conjures up for them images of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, and in particular stuff like Foundation and Rendezvous with Rama (which is why I looked at Foundation first). If they're a serious fan, maybe they'll think of Ray Bradbury too. But I don't think, sadly, they're going to necessarily think of Kuttner and Moore or either of the Destination Moons.

    There are still many people to this day who insist this is all science fiction is and all it ever should be: Clearly this is a widely-held belief worth parsing out. From a cultural capital perspective then, and from a Star Trek one, unfortunately, I think it makes more sense for me to focus on this Hard, futuristic branch of the genre at the moment, even as we're leaving the period of history where it was the dominant one (or assumed to be the dominant one). Not only that, but if I tried to cover every single work of science fiction made between 1930 and 2013 I'd be here forever (I mean, longer than I'm already going to be anyway).

    So yeah, I apologise for simplifying my rhetoric in this case, but given the scope of what I'm trying to do here I felt it was necessary for me to cut some corners somewhere.


  9. Daru
    January 28, 2014 @ 2:17 am

    Bringing in David Bowie at this stage is a perfect alignment with Star Trek. Wonderful. We have The Man Who Fell to Earth coming up from him in a few years, which is one of my favourite films. A film so mysterious in its execution that it not only takes us into a vision of the earth through the Otherworld, but invites us to insert our own understanding of the narrative into it.

    And david Bowie is a shapeshifter to boot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.