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Lost in space? Readers' constructions of science fiction worlds

Kneale, James Robert; (1996) Lost in space? Readers' constructions of science fiction worlds. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This thesis is an empirical investigation of readers' interpretations of the world of William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy. Science fiction provides readers with 'imaginative resources' with which they can map the new spaces of the Information Age, and the thesis explores the practices by which readers make sense of the geographies of science fiction. Unfortunately, both cultural geography and the field of science fiction studies privilege the text at the expense of the reader. Arguing that readers are active and creative producers of meaning, the thesis draws upon material from in- depth group interviews with readers of William Gibson's cyberpunk fictions to examine the relationships between texts and readers. As a result, the focus of the study is the practices used by readers to constitute experiences of fictional spaces. In particular, it is argued in Section One that readers of science fiction develop a contract with the genre which shapes their understanding of a particular text, and that in creating meaning they draw upon not only their generic knowledge but also their personal experiences. In this way two major factors influence their reading: the position of science fiction within the wider culture, and the reader's place in society. Having demonstrated the inadequacy of the textual model of interpretation, some alternative approaches are developed in Section Two to illustrate the ways in which readers construct meanings from some of the more important themes in William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy. These include representations of race, gender, and 'posthuman' identity, and the two most important spaces of cyberpunk, cyberspace and the Sprawl. The final section provides an even more grounded analysis of reading by outlining five of the most common practices used by the discussants to read the conventions of science fiction. The empirical and theoretical concerns of the thesis are then united through an examination of the strategies and tactics readers use to 'thicken' literary descriptions of space in science fiction.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Lost in space? Readers' constructions of science fiction worlds
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Gibson, William
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10099921
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