AHP readers may be interested in the most recent volume of Osiris edited by Amanda Rees and Iwan Rhys Morus and dedicated to “Presenting Futures Past.” Two contributions to the collection may be particularly relevant to readers:
“Thought Transfer and Mind Control between Science and Fiction: Fedor Il’in’s The Valley of New Life (1928),” by Nikolai Krementsov. Abstract:
This essay makes a detailed analysis of the contents and contexts of a science fiction novel published in Moscow in 1928, and written by gynecologist Fedor Il’in (1873–1959) under the title The Valley of New Life. The analysis illuminates the process of the transformation of the specialized, and often quite arcane, scientific knowledge generated by biomedical research into an influential cultural resource that embodied acute societal anxieties (both hopes and fears) about the powers unleashed by the rapid development of the biomedical sciences. It explores the future scientific advances—bio- and psychotechnologies—portrayed in Il’in’s novel in light of contemporary research, and especially focuses on studies of telepathy. The essay depicts the “translation” of available scientific descriptions and explanations of telepathy into a highly metaphorical language of science fiction, and the resulting formation of a particular cultural resource embedded in such popular notions as “mental energy,” “thought transfer,” “radio-brain,” “nervous waves,” “psychic rays,” and “mind control.” It examines how and for what purposes this cultural resource was utilized by scientists, their patrons, and literati (journalists and writers) in Bolshevik Russia, Britain, and the United States.
“Sleeping Science-Fictionally: Nineteenth-Century Utopian Fictions and Contemporary Sleep Research” by Martin Willis. Abstract:
In this article, I examine historical representations of sleep found in both medical and fictional narratives of the second half of the nineteenth century. I draw primarily on medical cases constructed as narratives for specialist medical periodicals, on the one hand, and on utopian fictions (or utopian science fictions, as they might also be called), on the other. I place these narratives in dialogue with my own ethnographic writing of experiences within a contemporary sleep laboratory. The aim of this unusual conflation of past and present, and of employing different methodological approaches to the study of a specific subject, is to understand sleep better, in the first instance, but also ultimately to examine how an interrogation of science fiction might be repurposed as an interrogation of the methodology of science fiction. Science fiction is a genre that draws upon the past to imagine a future. My article considers how reimagining such temporal disjunctions as critical practice might allow for new insights, both for future methodologies bridging the sciences and the humanities, and for specific objects of study, such as pathologies of sleep, or any other that has social, cultural, and scientific purchase.