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Science Fiction Cinema

Between Fantasy and Reality

Christine Cornea

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This major new study offers a broad historical and theoretical reassessment of the science fiction film genre. The book explores the development of science fiction in cinema from its beginnings in early film through to recent examples of the genre. Each chapter sets analyses of chosen films within a wider historical/cultural context, while concentrating on a specific thematic issue. The book therefore presents vital and unique perspectives in its approach to the genre, which include discussion of the relevance of psychedelic imagery, the 'new woman of science', generic performance and the prevalence of 'techno-orientalism' in recent films. While American films will be one of the principle areas covered, the author also engages with a range of pertinent examples from other nations, as well as discussing the centrality of science fiction as a transnational film genre. Films discussed include The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Body Snatchers, Forbidden Planet, The Quatermass Experiment, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Demon Seed, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Wars, Altered States, Alien, Blade Runner, The Brother from Another Planet, Back to the Future, The Terminator, Predator, The One, Dark City, The Matrix, Fifth Element and eXistenZ.

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1. Introduction: The Formation of the Genre
Interview: Writer Brian Aldiss
Interview: Writer William Gibson
2. Science Fiction Films in the 1950s
Interview: Actor Billy Gray
3. Spaced Out: Between the 'Golden Years'
Interview: Director Ken Russell
4. The Masculine Subject of Science Fiction in the 1980's Blockbuster Era
Interview: Director Paul Verhoeven
5. Gender Blending and the Feminine Subject in Science Fiction Film
Interview: Director Paul Verhoeven (Part 2)
6. Alien Others: Race and the Science Fiction Film
Interview: Actor Joe Morton
7. Generic Performance and Science Fiction Cinema
Interview: Actor Dean Norris
Conclusion: The Technology of Science Fiction Cinema
Interview: Special Effects Technician Stan Winston
Interview: Director Roland Emmerich.

About the Author

Christine Cornea is Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, School of Film and Television Studies, University of East Anglia.


This is an important new survey of a body of film. It offers plenty of new insights in a refreshingly jargon-free language. It will become a necessary companion for any serious viewer of SF film.
- Professor David Seed, School of English, University of Liverpool
Well written and engaging, Science Fiction Cinema will become a staple text for cultural studies and film studies scholars who are interested in the larger historical contexts to the films as well as their formal analysis.
- Ximena Gallardo, European Journal of Cultural Studies
Christine Cornea's Science Fiction Cinema: between fantasy and reality takes its place in the list of rigorous studies of science fiction film that, if not foundational, are surely indispensable… All of Cornea's readings of science fiction films refine older readings and/or provide new insights, but Cornea is at her thought-provoking best when discussing lesser-studied films such as Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980), Hardware (Richard Stanley, 1990), and Nemesis 2: Nebula (Albert Pyun, 1995). What results is a work that is strikingly thorough, and it is hard for me to imagine the scholar or teacher who will not find this book an invaluable addition to the canon of science fiction film criticism.
- Brooks Landon, University of Iowa, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Cornea has managed to provide an informative overview of the development of American SF in terms of its historical and cultural context whilst never neglecting to include teh influence s of international film on the genre. Given the broad nature of the book, its primary funchtion will be as an introductory text, and here is succeeds with flying colours.
- James Curnow, Monash University, Australia, Screening the Past