[ilds] The Firm in today's imagination

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Wed May 18 13:43:49 PDT 2016

Hi Brewster and Gulshan,

The comparison with "Person of Interest" is intriguing -- they have very 
different aims and intended audiences, but a first element might be the 
intention to create a quasi-scientific plausibility for "the machine" in 
the television series in order to make a polemical critique of our 
modern surveillance culture.  While "the machine" is not real, it 
pretends to reality in the science fictional sense characterized by 
Darko Suvin as embodying a cognitive estrangement between reality in 
cognition and estrangement in the creative fiction.  The real and the 
unreal blend, giving us a discomfort with our contemporary world.  In 
this, Suvin saw an intrinsically political operation for the genre (and 
hence, we was very eager to set works like "Star Wars" as fantastic 
rather than SF).

Durrell, perhaps as we should expect, wanders between the science 
fictional and the fantastical in /Tunc/ and /Nunquam/.  As Ken notes, 
the Dactyl isn't far off in concept from our transcription devices (I 
use my phone for this all the time, actually, and isn't it really Star 
Trek technology in a sense, just used for looking at pictures of cats 
and arguing with people at a distance?).  Yet, the pogonometry isn't 
really a pretense to realism or the novum in Suvin's sense (reaching to 
Auerbach and Lukács).  For that matter, is the Quartet a work of realism 

So, is this science fiction?  Or are the technological elements still 
rooted in fantasy?  There are contemporary authors, like China Miéville, 
who see this as often an illegitimate distinction.


On 2016-05-18 10:31 AM, G. R. Taneja wrote:
> I am glad Brewster has drawn attention to "Person of Interest".  Gulshan
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Date: Wed, 18 May 2016 10:21:05 -0400
> From: chamberlinkw at gmail.com
> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
> Subject: [ilds] The Firm in today's imagination
> With reference to the discussion about the role and nature of The Firm,
> Able, etc., members might be interested in a contemporary variant on the
> subject of machines created by humans who behave occasionally like their
> creators, and the increasing surveillance systems operating all over the
> planet.
> To wit: the series available on Netflix in the USA called "Person of
> Interest". This is entertainment, to be sure, but could be of interest
> with regard to the discussion.
> Brewster

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