Science fiction presents a fiction genre where the story focuses on technology and science with a futuristic twist. Evidently, science fiction maintains a relationship with scientific principles considering that the stories include scientific theories or laws that are partially fictitious- partially true. Science fiction stories need to be believable to a certain extent or else they would be relegated to the fantasy genre. The plot consists of situations that are contrary to existing known past and present realities. The stories also invoke a human element by trying to explain the impact that some of the scientific developments, discoveries and happenings will have on people. The setting in the stories is usually in a different dimension or universe, different world, in space or in the future. This excerpt will provide an analysis of two science fiction stories in relation to the phase of nanotech science they belong in. this includes Lafferty’s “McGruber’s Marvels” written in 1960 and Hasse Henre’s “He Who Shrank” which was written in 1936. As such the phases that will be considered include the 1940-1960 phase which is characterized by engineering in/of miniaturized worlds and the 1840-1940 phase, which is characterized by the exploration of worlds that are miniaturized.
HE WHO SHRANK
The early phase of nanotechnology science fiction literature between 1840 and 1940 demonstrates a fascination with the sub-atomic, the microscopic and the miniature. The story begins with the professor in the story who is portrayed as being ruthless announcing to his assistant that he has made his greatest discovery. He now has proof that we live in macroscopic universe the world is an electron (Hasse 2). This world also comprises of an atomic structure below it which comprises of its own entire planetary systems. This apparently continues down infinitely.
This phase of science fiction story telling provides an exploration of miniaturized worlds meant to answer questions about the universe. In the story, the professor seeks to explore the structures of molecules beneath the atomic level in the world depicted in the story. To start with, the professor is said to have prepared an injection, Shrinx, which has the capability of condensing the atomic structure of the person who consumes it. This concoction is meant to shrink a person to molecular size down infinitely through progressively microscopic levels of universes. The professor also has constructed a thought helmet which is said to transmit back impressions of the traveler back to him as he continually shrinks (Hasse 17). This is the most unbelievable part of the story. However, it is used by the author as a basis on which the explanations of the miniature worlds are based. The shrinking man in essence will convey the information of what he experiences and sees through his narrations allowing the various concepts to be more relatable and believable to the reader. After a detailed explanation about the shrinkage process, the professor manages to overpower his assistant, inoculating him and hence starts the traveler on his way into the atoms as he becoming smaller and smaller.
An attempt at exploring other alien forms in other universes, an encounter with aliens, also present in this phase is witnessed as the assistant journeys down through entire universes recounting the thing he experience in the first person. He eventually realizes that the atomic parallel indefinitely continues downward, perhaps an exploration into just how vast the universe must be. His journey takes him through adventures in many universes and their bizarre inhabitants. Eventually, the traveler shrinks into our solar system. He eventually shrinks and descends into Cleveland. On nearing the size of a human he seeks out a writer scientist, hypnotizes him and proceeds to tell his journey stories. The traveler is still shrinking and eventually the scientist snaps form the hypnosis only to find the traveler shrink and disappear into the paper where he is writing the wonderful stories. This scientist in turn reveals the traveler’s story to our world. This is used perhaps to explain how mankind might be able to come to learn about other universes bigger than ours or beneath us. As it is, the story implies that we are not physically capable of communicating with these universes since we are cut-off. This is typical of this phase of storytelling when the story focuses on grandiose tales of space exploration and adventures of universes far away (Hasse 30).
The story is able to explore the notion that our universe, our galaxy and our world is just a mere molecule among many on a tabletop located in a larger, faraway galaxy without even addressing the subject directly. It goes farther to explain that even the sands contain entire universes of their own. In the meantime, the assistant scientist continues to shrink down through layer upon layer of entire universes, each continually tinier that the previous but each made up of its own cosmos.
Although the story is simply put, it brings to mind the existence of multiple worlds. The story just gives a plausible scenario of how humans might be able to communicate with other words, an insight to how another world probably looks like. Exploration of the subject can be termed as metaphysical but providing such an explanation as found in this text goes a long way in trying to answer questions about humans’ circumscribed existence. This is an objective of this phase of story telling. The question of whether there is a single world or if they are multiple. As far as the writer of the text is concerned and the world at the time it written, this question was still a significant realm in Nature’s study. As such, the story provides a plausible answer to the question although a strange one it is.
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“McGruder’s Marvels’” is a text that was written in 1960 by Lafferty, R.A. this period was characterized by a phase in science fiction story telling when writers were focused on engineering in miniaturized worlds, 1940-1960. It is a story characteristic of the golden age, when most of the authors had a background in engineering. They were as such able to link aspects of engineering with story telling to present advanced engineering structures to the reader. The miniaturized world and the engineering world is explained in the text’s exploration of the flee circus and in particular the specifics of the flee coach and its occupants (Lafferty 75). The writer painstakingly provides even the minutest detail that goes into explaining the marvels of the miniature structures and how finely they have been put together. This text presents what one would term as a new wave of science fiction story telling where superhuman abilities and space travel is no longer a focus issue but rather more believable aspects of manipulative science that engineering is. This is characteristic of the classic age of science fiction storytelling.
The engineering that is focused in the story is on a subatomic level. The text describes how there are several levels of engineers, seven in number. Each level is progressively of minute sizes than the previous one. It further indicates that the orders can only see probably two order levels larger or smaller than themselves by using strong microscope. This microscopic order of builders is the author’s way of exploring the construction of such intricate devices whereas the technological advancement at that time could not have accomplished the feats described. They provide a scheme of how such small scale engineering is possible. The mysterious microscopic orders construct the miniature defense system for the country in forty eight hours while the known technology is viewed as capable of constructing the miniature technology in not less than two years (Lafferty 85).
The focus on military application for the miniature defense system is probably in exploration of the fear that most of the world hard during the Cold War Era. This was a period lasting almost 50 years after the Second World War. Nuclear warfare was very much in the mind of everyone as Russia and the United States already had powerful nuclear weapons. A device which could ensure the prevention of a foreign attack so devastating that it would possibly annihilate the entire nation (Lafferty 84). In the story, Lafferty explores some of the military pressures and endeavors that were underway during this time in history. The fear expressed by the military panel is probably the expression of the anxiety experienced by society regarding technological advancements so far made. As such, the text under analysis provides the same theme found in the 1940-1960 phase when the stories were more centered actions of humans and their consequences.
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The text ending shows the pessimistic view of the writers in this period. This is because the story ends with the contract between man and the sub-atomic engineers who construct the miniature defense devices and as such leaving the nation virtually defenseless from the external attack the military panel was aiming to prevent all along (Lafferty 85).
The text analyzed indicates that science fiction storytelling is actually grounded in the assumptions and concerns of the era in which a story was authored. The authors of these stories tell the story of technology its origins and how it shapes histories directions. The text also proves that science fiction is not literature of science, prediction or even of futuristic extrapolation that is of a serious. It rather a form of answering some of the questions that mankind has had over years by giving some sort of plausible explanation that may not be entirely true but one which is to a certain degree believable.