Space Opera Beyond Space : Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata and the Politics of Subliming
Martín Alegre, Sara (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Departament de Filologia Anglesa i de Germanística)

Date: 2013
Abstract: The late 1980s saw a renovation of space opera that some critics labelled ‘postmodern’. I’ll focus here on the last novel by a most prominent author of this newer space opera: The Hydrogen Sonata (2012) by the late Scottish writer Iain M. Banks. Banks, whose SF career started with Consider Phlebas (1987), wrote high quality space opera. The Hydrogen Sonata, one of Banks’ novels on the hedonistic alliance of humanoid civilisations known as the Culture, narrates in his characteristic tongue-in-cheek tone the last days of the Gzilt civilisation before all of it moves onto the space of the Sublime to abandon the Real. Many other species have already sublimed but what concerns a faction of the Culture is whether the Gzilt are embracing this option freely since the Book of Truth guiding them seems to be a hoax, an experiment perpetrated by another civilisation. My concerns are twofold. First, how Banks manages to raise the sense of wonder that characterises SF in his description of space, including the Sublime, while, as Hardesty claims, subtly mocking the sub-genre. Second, whether the Gzilt’s accession onto the Sublime comments not only on the limits of utopia (the Culture shows no interest) but also indirectly, as it seems, on Scottish independence, considering a consensus was reached about the then oncoming September 2014 referendum as Banks wrote–in Scotland–the last adventure of the Gzilt. Space acquires, thus, not only physical and metaphysical dimensions but also and political overtones in Banks’ thrilling space opera.
Note: This is an extended version of the paper I presented at the 16th International Culture & Power Conference: Spaces, Universidad de Murcia, 2-4 October 2013, organized by IBACS and the Departamento de Filología Inglesa, Facultad de Letras, of the Universidad de Murcia.
Rights: Aquest document està subjecte a una llicència d'ús Creative Commons. Es permet la reproducció total o parcial i la comunicació pública de l'obra, sempre que no sigui amb finalitats comercials, i sempre que es reconegui l'autoria de l'obra original. No es permet la creació d'obres derivades. Creative Commons
Language: Anglès.
Document: conferenceObject
Subject: Science fiction ; Space opera ; Iain M. Banks ; Culture Novels ; The Hydrogen Sonata ; Subliming ; Scottish independence ; Banks, Iain M., 1954-2013
Published in: International Culture & Power Conference : Spaces. Murcia, Espanya, 16a : 2013

18 p, 591.8 KB

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 Record created 2015-09-15, last modified 2018-10-28

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