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"I read Peter Y. Paik’s lucid, graceful, ruthless book in one single astonished sitting. I scarred it all over with arrows and exclamation points, so I can read it again as soon as possible." —Bruce Sterling  Revolutionary narratives in recent science fiction graphic novels and films compel audiences to reflect on the politics and societal ills of the day. Through character "I read Peter Y. Paik’s lucid, graceful, ruthless book in one single astonished sitting. I scarred it all over with arrows and exclamation points, so I can read it again as soon as possible." —Bruce Sterling  Revolutionary narratives in recent science fiction graphic novels and films compel audiences to reflect on the politics and societal ills of the day. Through character and story, science fiction brings theory to life, giving shape to the motivations behind the action as well as to the consequences they produce. In From Utopia to Apocalypse, Peter Y. Paik shows how science fiction generates intriguing and profound insights into politics. He reveals that the fantasy of putting annihilating omnipotence to beneficial effect underlies the revolutionary projects that have defined the collective upheavals of the modern age. Paik traces how this political theology is expressed, and indeed literalized, in popular superhero fiction, examining works including Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel Watchmen, the science fiction cinema of Jang Joon-Hwan, the manga of Hayao Miyazaki, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and the Matrix trilogy. Superhero fantasies are usually seen as compensations for individual feelings of weakness, victimization, and vulnerability. But Paik presents these fantasies as social constructions concerned with questions of political will and the disintegration of democracy rather than with the psychology of the personal. What is urgently at stake, Paik argues, is a critique of the limitations and deadlocks of the political imagination. The utopias dreamed of by totalitarianism, which must be imposed through torture, oppression, and mass imprisonment, nevertheless persist in liberal political systems. With this reality looming throughout, Paik demonstrates the uneasy juxtaposition of saintliness and cynically manipulative realpolitik, of torture and the assertion of human dignity, of cruelty and benevolence.


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"I read Peter Y. Paik’s lucid, graceful, ruthless book in one single astonished sitting. I scarred it all over with arrows and exclamation points, so I can read it again as soon as possible." —Bruce Sterling  Revolutionary narratives in recent science fiction graphic novels and films compel audiences to reflect on the politics and societal ills of the day. Through character "I read Peter Y. Paik’s lucid, graceful, ruthless book in one single astonished sitting. I scarred it all over with arrows and exclamation points, so I can read it again as soon as possible." —Bruce Sterling  Revolutionary narratives in recent science fiction graphic novels and films compel audiences to reflect on the politics and societal ills of the day. Through character and story, science fiction brings theory to life, giving shape to the motivations behind the action as well as to the consequences they produce. In From Utopia to Apocalypse, Peter Y. Paik shows how science fiction generates intriguing and profound insights into politics. He reveals that the fantasy of putting annihilating omnipotence to beneficial effect underlies the revolutionary projects that have defined the collective upheavals of the modern age. Paik traces how this political theology is expressed, and indeed literalized, in popular superhero fiction, examining works including Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel Watchmen, the science fiction cinema of Jang Joon-Hwan, the manga of Hayao Miyazaki, Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and the Matrix trilogy. Superhero fantasies are usually seen as compensations for individual feelings of weakness, victimization, and vulnerability. But Paik presents these fantasies as social constructions concerned with questions of political will and the disintegration of democracy rather than with the psychology of the personal. What is urgently at stake, Paik argues, is a critique of the limitations and deadlocks of the political imagination. The utopias dreamed of by totalitarianism, which must be imposed through torture, oppression, and mass imprisonment, nevertheless persist in liberal political systems. With this reality looming throughout, Paik demonstrates the uneasy juxtaposition of saintliness and cynically manipulative realpolitik, of torture and the assertion of human dignity, of cruelty and benevolence.

30 review for From Utopia to Apocalypse: Science Fiction and the Politics of Catastrophe

  1. 5 out of 5

    F

    quite a few chapters in this book were useful for the white whale that is Thesis. good to have read, I would recommend if you're also writing something on dystopia and politics. quite a few chapters in this book were useful for the white whale that is Thesis. good to have read, I would recommend if you're also writing something on dystopia and politics.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mjhancock

    This is one of those books where a small part of me wonders if I'm grossly misinterpreting the author's argument, but here goes. Paik's From Utopia to Apocalypse rejects the fictional utopia, and by extension, any liberal politics that would call for reform yet shy away from the radical transformations necessary to deviate from the modern capitalist society. And at the same time, Paik is also rejecting ruthless pragmatism that would deny any alternatives but nihilism or fascism. Rather, he wants This is one of those books where a small part of me wonders if I'm grossly misinterpreting the author's argument, but here goes. Paik's From Utopia to Apocalypse rejects the fictional utopia, and by extension, any liberal politics that would call for reform yet shy away from the radical transformations necessary to deviate from the modern capitalist society. And at the same time, Paik is also rejecting ruthless pragmatism that would deny any alternatives but nihilism or fascism. Rather, he wants to examine the upheaval that precedes a massive societal shift (the catastrophe of the subtitle in other words) through examine of a series of sci-fi texts. Most of these texts are by Alan Moore; the introduction contains an extended look at Moore's Miracleman, a series which contains the creation of a utopian society, but in a way that also frames it as very ambiguous. The first chapter looks at the Watchmen, contrasting the Ozymandias' moral pragmatism with Rorschach's unflinching refusal to accept peace at that price, or the mass deception it requires. And the final chapter looks at both the Matrix in terms of the tragic tone of its prequels and the comparative failings of its conclusion and at Moore's V for Vendetta, in terms of the comparatively flaccid film and the complicity of the populace in reaching V for Vendetta's state. The middle chapters look at Jang Joon-Hwan's Save the Green Planet, and the decision to become a monstrous subject or complacent tyrant; and Miyazaki's Naussicaa of the Valley of the Wind, in terms of considering Nausicaa as a saintly figure--not one who is naive, but who perseveres despite knowing human nature and terrible truths. Paik's subject matter more or less precludes this book being a "fun" read but it is engrossing. Knowledge of any of the major works he's talking about isn't essential; Paik's great at describing them in sufficient detail that the reader doesn't feel lost. On the other hand, there is a *lot* of political theory here, and knowing a bit of, say, Agamben or Steve Shaviro or Hardt and Negri won't go amiss. I'll admit, even after reading the book, I would hesitate to say that I could sum up Paik's main point--there's a choice aside from annihilation, fascism, and tacitly endorsing either through inaction, I think. But if I was doing work on any of the main texts he used, I'd absolutely recommend the book as a starting point. And at 182 pages, it's one of the more readable 182 pages of theory I've read in a while.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karl Bunker

    As author Peter Paik says in his introduction, "This book is a study of revolutionary change." Specifically, the book looks at revolutionary change as it occurs in a small but interesting group of fictional works. In order of their appearance in his book, Paik focusses primarily on five works of fiction, analyzing each one in terms of the theme of revolutionary change: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel The Watchmen, the South Korean film Save the Green Planet, the Japanese manga Nausica As author Peter Paik says in his introduction, "This book is a study of revolutionary change." Specifically, the book looks at revolutionary change as it occurs in a small but interesting group of fictional works. In order of their appearance in his book, Paik focusses primarily on five works of fiction, analyzing each one in terms of the theme of revolutionary change: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's graphic novel The Watchmen, the South Korean film Save the Green Planet, the Japanese manga Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind, the Matrix film trilogy, and V for Vendetta. An interesting selection for scholarly examination, but one that -- I think any reader will agree -- pays off well. To quote the introduction again, "the underlying contention of this work is that [...] narratives drawn from media often dismissed as unserious and trivial, such as the comic book and the science fiction film, are capable of achieving profound and probing insights into the principal dilemmas of political life." Personally I found the discussion of The Watchmen most interesting. This section takes up at least a quarter of the book, and may well be the most detailed and scholarly analysis of Moore's graphic novel available. The "utopia" and "apocalypse" of Paik's title are clear in the story depicted in The Watchman: By killing millions in a hoax alien attack, the character Ozymandias pulls the world back from the brink of nuclear holocaust, and (perhaps?) brings about a utopia of world peace. Is such a sacrifice justified? What are the implications if we say that it is, or that it isn't? These and many other questions make for some highly intriguing reading. In discussing V for Vendetta, Paik does a cutting compare-and-contrast of the film versus the graphic novel version, arguing that the film is an "ethically and ideologically facile adaptation" of the comic that shies away from criticism of American politics, ignores the graphic novel's insights into the origins of fascism, and generally prettifies the ruined and desperate post-apocalyptic world of the graphic novel. At times this book delves into the obscure jargon and difficult concepts of critical theory, and readers who aren't versed in that field will find those sections heavy-going -- perhaps even opaque. But these parts are the exception rather than the rule, and speaking as a reader who's definitely not well-versed in critical theory, the book as a whole was fascinating and deeply rewarding.

  4. 4 out of 5

    LSC-University Park SLRC

    Read it through Lone Star College's EBSCO Ebook Collection. Read it through Lone Star College's EBSCO Ebook Collection.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emmylovesyou

    really enjoyable piece of cultural theory about the political potential of SFF

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jun

    Combining science fiction/fantasy with political philosophy, Peter Paik makes a serious step forward in cultural criticism. This book is arresting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dave

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cleo

  9. 4 out of 5

    Enya

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erin Mairin

  11. 4 out of 5

    Benito Jr.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Monica Delarosa

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sezen Türkmen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sammy M.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Niven

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Sutherland

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elise

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chad Brock

  21. 5 out of 5

    Á

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brian Miller

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Sanderson

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Ngo

  25. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Hemmann

  27. 5 out of 5

    M.k. Yost

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Pistelli

  29. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christy

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