Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Brett M. Rogers, Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Brett M. Rogers, Benjamin Eldon Stevens

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Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Brett M. Rogers, Benjamin Eldon Stevens, Brett M. Rogers, Benjamin Eldon Stevens

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In 15 all-new essays, this volume explores how science fiction and fantasy draw on materials from ancient Greece and Rome, 'displacing' them from their original settings-in time and space, in points of origins and genre-and encouraging readers to consider similar 'displacements' in the modern world. Modern examples from a wide range of media and genres-including Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and the novels of Helen Oyeyemi, the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, and the role-playing games Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer 40K- are brought alongside episodes from ancient myth, important moments from history, and more. All together, these multifaceted studies add to our understanding of how science fiction and fantasy form important areas of classical reception, not only transmitting but also transmuting images of antiquity. The volume concludes with an inspiring personal reflection from the New York Times-bestselling author of speculative fiction, Catherynne M. Valente, offering her perspective on the limitless potential of the classical world to resonate with experience today.

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Tony Keen

The study of classical reception in science fiction (SF) has only been a coherent subject for about twenty years.1 There was some early work in the 1970s by Fredericks.2 But the first scholarly panel of which I am aware took place at the 1999 UK Classical Association conference in Liverpool.3 It was about this time that classical reception was starting to emerge as a distinct part of the scholarly landscape. Martindale’s Redeeming the Text was published in 1993; in 2003, reception was considered seriously enough to get a volume in the Greece and Rome New Surveys in the Classics series.4 At the same time, important studies on reception in popular culture, in particular in cinema, were being produced.5
In the twenty-first century there has been an increasing interest in the interaction of classics and SF and fantasy (SF&F). This has exploded in the six years between 2012 and 2018. Conferences have taken place in France (L’Antiquité gréco-latine aux sources de l’imaginaire contemporain: Fantastique, Fantasy & S-F, Rouen and Paris, 7–9 June 2012), the UK (Swords, Sorcery, Sandals and Space, Liverpool, 29 June–1 July 2013), the USA (The Once and Future Antiquity, Tacoma, WA, 27–28 March 2015), Germany (Antikenrezeption in der Science-Fiction-Literatur, Cologne, 9 May 2015), and Sweden (Reception Histories of the Future: A Conference on Byzantinisms, Speculative Fiction, and the Literary Heritage of Medieval Empire, Uppsala, 4–6 August 2017).6 There has also been a series of panels and roundtables at the Society for Classical Studies Annual Meeting. Two non-conference volumes of papers have also appeared.7 Other surveys of the field have appeared, by Brown, Bourke, Nisbet, Rogers and Stevens, and Gloyn.8
As both an SF fan and a Classicist since childhood, I began working in this area in 2002. In 2006 I posted a long, and in the event surprisingly significant, article on my weblog Memorabilia Antonina: “The ‘T’ stands for Tiberius: Models and Methodologies of Classical Reception in Science Fiction”.9 This was a revised and expanded version of a paper I had presented at that year’s UK Classical Association conference in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The paper was originally based on a structure I had developed in 2000 for a paper on classical reception in the television shows Doctor Who and Star Trek; this had been intended in the first instance for an SF convention.10
In this chapter I revisit the ideas and models advanced in 2006, in light of the following decade’s work. How far do the models proposed still stand up? What should a theoretical approach in 2018 look like? How can these models and theories be applied? What directions should future research follow? I first assess the post and its legacy, and how it has become embedded in scholarly study of the subject area. I then address what I now believe to be methodological challenges facing scholars working in this field.

Revisiting the original post

There was a degree of frivolity in how I wrote the original post. The terms were chosen with at least half an eye on a cheap laugh, but there remained a serious intent beneath it. Originally, I had only the central four categories, appropriation, interaction, borrowing, and stealing; I added the others (retellings, allusion, and ghosting) as I developed the ideas (for a summary of the meanings of these terms, see Fig. 1.1). I put the paper out quickly on my blog in the spirit of sharing discussion, and to put down a marker that this was a field I was interested in. I then proceeded to completely ignore this model in almost everything I have written since – it certainly does not appear in my own later methodological pieces.11 Nevertheless, without my realizing it, the post became widely cited, largely because no one else had even attempted to theorize in this area.12
As noted above, in the intervening period there have been a number of surveys of the field, with greater or lesser degrees of theorizing.13 What I learn most from these pieces is that the field is vast and can accommodate a number of different approaches, whether that be Brown’s genre-based study or Nisbet’s engagement with the idea that popular perceptions of antiquity are extremely difficult for scholars to get moved on in the light of new academic thinking. I have also contributed some generalist pieces.14
Coming back to my own schema twelve years later, how do I feel it stands up? It is evidently the product of someone who had read very little in the way of literary or reception theory. There is reference to Martindale, but this was written before I had read Redeeming the Text; Hardwick’s Reception Studies is only mentioned in a note.15 I would not write in quite such naïve terms now.16 I would certainly address more the ideas of Martindale (see below) and Hardwick, noting that the reception vocabulary she devises almost all relates to active and serious engagement with an ancient source.17 There is litt...

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Citation styles for Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy
APA 6 Citation
[author missing]. (2018). Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy (1st ed.; B. Rogers & B. E. Stevens, Eds.). Bloomsbury Publishing. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/858734/once-and-future-antiquities-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy-pdf (Original work published 2018)
Chicago Citation
[author missing]. (2018) 2018. Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Edited by Brett Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing. https://www.perlego.com/book/858734/once-and-future-antiquities-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy-pdf.
Harvard Citation
[author missing] (2018) Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy. 1st edn. Edited by B. Rogers and B. E. Stevens. Bloomsbury Publishing. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/858734/once-and-future-antiquities-in-science-fiction-and-fantasy-pdf (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
[author missing]. Once and Future Antiquities in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. Brett Rogers and Benjamin Eldon Stevens. 1st ed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.