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Glaspärlespelaren: Nya världar, etik och androcentrism i Peter Nilsons science fiction-romaner
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2013 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The glass bead player : New worlds, ethics and androcentrism in Peter Nilson’s science fiction novels (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

This thesis focuses on Peter Nilson’s (1937-1998) science fiction texts, and particularly on how narrative themes and structures in these texts are related to science as well as to the literary tradition of science fiction (SF). The primary texts are the novels Arken (The Ark, 1982), Äventyret (The Adventure, 1989), Rymdväktaren (The Space Guard, 1995), Nyaga (1996) as well as the short story “Kvinnan som ville ha barn med döden” (The Woman Who Wanted a Child With Death, 1987). Nilson was an established astronomer before publishing fiction, and in both novels and essays he joins “the two worlds” of the natural sciences and the humanities. My study of the reception of his work shows that his symbolic capital, his authority as a scientist, was transferred from one field of knowledge to another, thus increasing the value of his SF texts in critics’ eyes. Central to my analyses are the authorial strategies Nilson used when building bridges between natural science and the humanities, in a move evoking the Glass Bead Players in Herman Hesse’s novel The Glass Bead Game. My study shows that, unlike Hesse’s protagonists, the Glass Bead Players in Nilson’s texts accept, or even welcome, extreme consequences of scientific developments, such as the extinction of life as we know it.SF texts are traditionally categorized as either dystopic or utopic depending on the level of pessimism or optimism in their depictions of technology. I suggest instead that dystopic or utopic outcomes in modern SF novels depend on whether the texts build on an aleatoric or a teleological worldview. In aleatoric narratives, humankind is depicted as alone in the universe and thereby responsible for its own destiny. Teleological narratives feature superior, god-like forces from other worlds, which interfere with life on Earth and may elevate humans to higher levels of consciousness. The latter perspective, which is favoured in Nilson’s SF texts, entails that responsibility is removed from humankind since what happens is presented as meant to be. The tropes of the void and of creatio ex nihilo are recurrent in the examined texts, for instance through the use of myths and archetypes containing images of emptiness such as the “creation out of nothing”. Further, Nilson’s characters are often situated in a mental or physical “void” where their knowledge is of no use to them. My readings show that these voids are not empty but contain mythical and archetypal elements which activate obsolete religious ideas and gender models, such as the Logos vision: the creative power of words. This conservative tendency seems all the more surprising and problematic considering that the SF-genre is based on explorations of possible new worlds and beings.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2013. , 385 p.
Keyword [en]
Science Fiction, Ethics, Androcentrism, The Glass Bead Gamer, Aleatoric, Teleological, Archetypes, Gendermodels, Logosvision
Keyword [sv]
Science fiction, etik, androcentrism, glaspärlespelare, aleatorisk, teleologisk, arketyper, genusteori, logosvision
National Category
General Literature Studies
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-67524ISBN: 978-91-7459-568-0OAI: diva2:612572
Public defence
2013-04-26, Humanisthuset, Hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-03-26 Created: 2013-03-22 Last updated: 2013-03-26Bibliographically approved

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Farstad, Britt Johanne
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