- science fiction
- ---- by Catherine ConstableIn a short chapter entitled 'Simulacra and Science Fiction' Baudrillard sets out three orders of simulacra which generate three modes of writing. The first order of 'natural' simulacra generates the 'imaginary of the utopia' (SS, 121), which sets up an absolute division between reality and fiction: 'the island of utopia stands opposed to the continent of the real' (SS, 122). The second order of 'productive' simulacra is the realm of science fiction, whose imaginary worlds are not 'qualitatively different' from the world of production, energy and machines, but rather a projection and 'multiplication of its own possibilities' (SS, 122). The third order obliterates the distinction between reality/fiction and the critical distance that distinguishes the real from its projected, fictional futures. The 'simulacra of simulation' (SS, 121) created through information systems and cybernetics marks a shift to the era of models. The model's capacity for infinite manipulation serves to anticipate and nullify the formulation of possible futures, because all possibilities are already contained within the model: 'it is not about a parallel universe, . . . or even a possible universe - neither possible, impossible, neither real nor unreal: hyperreal' (SS, 125). Contemporary science fiction, specifically J. G. Ballard's short stories and novels, captures and plays out the hyper-real erasure of all oppositional distinctions.Baudrillard's argument concerning science fiction has a characteristically paradoxical formulation. Science fiction is writing that fictionalises the possibilities presented by science and new technologies. In undermining the opposition reality/fiction, the third order of simulacra brings about the end of reality, metaphysics and science fiction; however, the erasure of the opposition also marks the science fictionalisation of reality. Thus 'science fiction . . . is no longer anywhere, and it is everywhere, in the circulation of models . . . in the very principle of the surrounding simulation' (SS, 126). The disappearance of reality creates two different roles for science fiction. In the first, writers such as Phillip K. Dick are said to 'revitalize, reactualize, requotidianize fragments of simulation' in order 'to reinvent the real' (SS, 124). The second role is exemplified by Ballard's Crash, which reﬂects the hyper-real destruction of reality and fiction.For Baudrillard, 'Crash is our world, nothing in it is "invented"' (SS, 125). Crash is both hyper-real and 'hyper-functional' - beyond 'the old (mechanical and mechanistic) couple function/dysfunction' (SS, 125). The latter occurs through the presentation of automobile accidents throughout Crash in which bodies are 'confused with technology in its violating and violent dimension' (SS, 111). In this way the body is reconfigured as 'a semiurgy of contusions, scars, mutilations, wounds that are so many new sexual organs', thereby dispersing the traditional erogenous zones (SS, 112). At the same time, the psychoanalytic zoning of the body into surface versus depth, the latter taking the form of instincts and drives, is also obliterated. The body as a pure surface of wounding/scarification becomes a sign. While 'the anagrammatization of sex on the whole length of the body' (SS, 114) reconfigures sexuality as 'carnal abstraction' (SS, 112), it also abolishes traditional conceptions of sex and desire and the concomitant designations of sexual perversion and dysfunction. For Baudrillard, the obliteration of the binary functional/dysfunctional in Crash is crucial to its fascination. The moral and 'critical judgment that is still part of the functionality of the old world' is entirely absent from the text, which leads Baudrillard to laud Crash as an exemplary instance of 'hypercriticism' (SS, 119).Baudrillard's reading of Crash is highly controversial. Numerous critics argue Ballard's work is a cautionary moral tale that therefore does not constitute a form of hypercriticism (Hayles, 1991; Sobchack 1991). Baudrillard is also said to misread Ballard's critique of a death-orientated male sexuality (Sobchack, 1991; Ruddick, 1992). More interestingly, such critics occasionally praise Baudrillard for being 'as skilled a fiction writer as Ballard, Dick, or Stanislaw Lem. More than describe the implosion into simulation, his works enact it' (Hayles, 1991: 323). Baudrillard's writing on science fiction takes up the tropes and terms utilised within the novels (Butler, 2003), blurring the boundary between theory and fiction, and thereby instantiating the breakdown between genres characteristic of the third order of simulacra (SS, 121). It is perhaps unsurprising that the theory/fiction of Simulacra and Simulation (1994a ) should inspire The Matrix trilogy, a popular science fiction film series. While Baudrillard (2004a) and other commentators (for example, Merrin, 2005; Smith, 2005) argue that the trilogy simply misrepresents his position, other critics (for example, Rovira, 2005; Constable, 2009) have argued that The Matrix trilogy adapts and transforms Baudrillard's work in interesting ways.Passwords§ model§ sign§ utopia
The Baudrillard dictionary. Richard G. Smith. 2015.