There is an academic stream running throughout the convention, with an amazing variety of papers being presented. Each paper will be around 20 minutes with 10 minutes of question time. My paper, on the generation starship trope in science fiction, will be presented on the last day of the con, Monday 6 September, at 12:30pm. The title and abstract of my paper is below, along with the mini-bio that will be published in the full program. My wife will be giving a paper on the use of science fiction in bioethical debates on Sunday 5 September at 2:30pm.
Adrift: The Generation Starship in Science Fiction
The generation starship, an interstellar space habitat that travels at sub-light speeds, is a common science fiction trope. This paper will trace the development of the trope from Robert A. Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky (1941; 1963) and Brian Aldiss’s Non-Stop (aka Starship) (1958), through to more recent stories such as Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun (1993-1996) and Elizabeth Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder Trilogy (ongoing). Particular attention will be paid to the treatment of religion, where a loss of social memory has led the ship’s inhabitants to ritualise and mythologise its creators or governing artificial intelligences, which are revered like gods. I will argue that generation starship stories have often been used to argue for the superiority of “science” over “religion,” insofar as scientific enlightenment liberates the ship’s inhabitants from subservience to false religion. However, more recent renditions of the trope, such as Wolfe’s, have overturned these conventions and offered fresh approaches to idea of the generation starship.
Zachary Kendal is currently completing his Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree at Monash University. He is writing a thesis in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies on the subject of religion in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun, and has been in receipt of a CLCS Honours Scholarship. He lives in Melbourne and works at the Monash University Library.