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Abstract

This dissertation tracks the social construction of science fiction (SF) in Japan during the genre’s formative period of the 1960s. Looking primarily at science fiction magazines of the period, I track three separate but interconnected discourses of science fiction – text, community, and media – and examine how the genre comes into view at the overlap of these three discursive fields. In magazine columns, fan activities, and the texts themselves, a variety of agents contested the meaning and significance of science fiction within Japan as the genre came into being. In a Cold War context of elevated international consciousness, SF’s proponents saw it as both well-suited to describe the new material conditions of everyday life and also as a lingua franca by which Japan might participate in the high-tech “First World” international order. By examining discourses of science fiction across literary and visual media and across professional-amateur divides, I explore this example of the ways Japanese subcultural production was understood to interact with national and transnational negotiations of power. Through this analysis, I construct a theory of genre as a social force, functioning as a way to hold divergent discourses together in relation to one-another and thereby allow a variety of formations of subjectivity to crystallize. The specific definitions of SF shift depending on the discursive contexts in which the term in invoked, but in each case, SF is as much a model for contemporary identity as a taxonomic category for texts. The genre and the texts it encompasses become the language by which this identity was articulated, communicated, and reinscribed.

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