Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The space of Japanese science fiction: Illustration, subculture, and the body in "SF Magazine"
by Page-Lippsmeyer, Kathryn, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2016, 225; 10160154
Abstract (Summary)

This is a study of the rise of science fiction as a subculture in the 1960s through an analysis of the first and longest-running commercial science fiction magazine in Japan: SF Magazine. Much of the research on science fiction in Japan focuses on the boom in the 1980s or on the very first science fictional texts created in the early years of the twentieth century, glossing over this pivotal decade. From 1959-1969, SF Magazine ’s covers created a visual legacy of the relationship of the human body to space that reveals larger concerns about technology, science, and humanity. This legacy centers around the mediation of human existence through technology (called the posthuman), which also transforms our understanding of gender and space in contemporary works. I examine the constellation of Japanese conceptions of the body in science fiction, its manifestations and limits, exploring how the representation of this Japanese, posthuman, and often cyborgian body is figured as an absence in the space of science fiction landscapes. SF Magazine was used by consumers to construct meanings of self, social identity, and social relations. Science fiction illustration complemented and supported the centrality of SF Magazine, making these illustrations integral to the production the of science fiction subculture and to the place of the body within Japanese science fiction. Their representation of space, and then in the later part of the 1960s the return of the body to these covers, mirrors the theoretical and emotional concerns of not just science fiction writers and readers in the 1960s, but the larger social and historical concerns present in the country at large.

The horrifying and painful mutability of bodies that came to light after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki manifests, in the latter years of the 1960s in science fiction, as the fantastically powerful mutating bodies of super heroes and cyborgs within the science fictional world. The bombed spaces of the postwar (largely ignored in mainstream 1960s media) were reimagined in productive ways on the covers of SF Magazine, mirroring the fiction and nonfictional contents. It is through this publication that a recognizable community emerges, a particular type of identity becomes associated with the science fiction fan that coalesced when the magazine began to offer different points of articulation, both through the covers and through the magazine’s contents. That notion of the science fiction fan as a particular subjectivity, as a particular way to navigate the world, created a space to articulate trauma and to investigate ways out of that trauma not available in mainstream works.

My work seeks to build on literary scholarship that considers the role commercial and pulp genres fiction play in negotiating and constructing community. I contribute to recent scholarship in art history that investigates the close relationship of Surrealism to mass culture movements in postwar Japan, although these art historians largely center their work on advertising in the pre-war context. Furthermore, my project reconsiders the importance of the visual to a definition of science fiction: it is only when the visual and textual are blended that a recognizable version of science fiction emerges – in the same way the magazine featuring the work of fans blurred the boundary between professional and fan. Hence, although the context of my study is 1960s Japan, my research is inseparable from larger investigations of the visual and the textual, the global understanding of science fiction, the relationship between high art and commercial culture, and contemporary media studies. This work is therefore of interest not only to literary science fiction scholars, but also to researchers in critical theory, visual studies, fan studies, and contemporary Japanese culture.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lippit, Akira
Commitee: Jenkins, Henry, Shimazaki, Satoko
School: University of Southern California
Department: East Asian Languages and Cultures
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 78/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Comparative literature, Asian literature, Asian Studies
Keywords: Illustration, Japan, Magazines, Pulp, Science fiction
Publication Number: 10160154
ISBN: 9781369150728
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