This book explores contemporary existential science fiction media, including film, television, and video games, and their influence on society’s conceptions of memory, identity, and humanity. Most poignantly, Ryan Lizardi argues, are the ways in which a recent cluster of science fiction media, including Gravity (2013), Interstellar (2014), Legion (2017-2019), Westworld (2016-present), Soma (2015), and Death Standing (2019), among others, present a vision of the future that is inextricably tied to an exploration of humanity that is more contemplative and comparative than traditional science fiction. The combination of the existential nature of this current trend in science fiction with the genre’s ability to manifest these abstract concepts in a generic environment that is historically focused on new frontiers and ideas creates a powerful set of media texts that ask audiences to contemplate what it means to exist, think, and connect as human beings. Scholars of media studies, film studies, television studies, genre studies, and philosophy will find this book particularly useful.
Ryan Lizardi is associate professor of digital media and humanities at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
Chapter 1: Early Existential Science Fiction
Chapter 2: Modern Existential Science Fiction
Chapter 3: Gravity, Ad Astra, and Generational Connections
Chapter 4: Interstellar, Arrival, and Continuity of Identity
Chapter 5: Annihilation and Refraction of Identity
Chapter 6: Legion and Fractured Identity
Chapter 7: Westworld and the Embellished Remake
Chapter 8: Assassin’s Creed, Bioshock, and Alternative Histories
Chapter 9: Interactive Existential Science Fiction
About the Author
A scholar of digital media and humanities, Lizardi distinguishes existential science fiction from existentialism in science fiction. Though he engages with existentialist philosophers, the emphasis is on narratives highlighting broad questions of human existence and identity rather than conflict with antagonists…. [T]he author is convincing in arguing that media have increasingly explored existential questions. Recommended… Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; graduate students.
While contemporary science fiction media is often criticized for privileging digital effects over story, Ryan Lizardi demonstrates that sublime images are not the enemy of complex ideas. The thoughtful analyses in Existential Science Fiction reveal a new Golden Age of films, shows, and games that explore both outer and inner space.