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You are here: Home > Writing in Education > Writing at University > Writing in Practice > Current Issue > Vol. 7 > x16 - Hideous Progeny by Paul Taylor-McCartney
x16 - Hideous Progeny by Paul Taylor-McCartney
Author: Paul Taylor-McCartney
Examining how the failings of science and technology have informed a range of dystopian texts, including the author’s own work, The Recollector
Attachments: WiP 2021 16 PT.pdf


This paper argues that a number of authors in the dystopian genre have explored the failings of science and technology as a means of generating original literary novums (Bloch, 1954), bringing about “a radical change of a whole world” (Suvin 1979), whilst setting their fiction apart from ‘the perceived world’ (James 2001). In turn, this appears to have created a number of key tropes in the genre, including, but not exclusively, the inter-connectedness of memory and identity and how more primitive technologies, such as reading and writing, offer a means of resistance (De Certeau 2009) for a text’s protagonists - both of which are explored in this paper.

The opening section provides a critical context, referencing the aforementioned Ernst Bloch (1954) on literary novums and Suvin (1979) on cognitive estrangement, amongst others. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) helps present an original notion that the doctor and monster are actually useful analogies for describing utopian and dystopian modes of expression, respectively – hence the paper’s title.

The remaining sections highlight a wide-range of examples drawn from the genre in order to ascertain whether the close alignment of actual and fictive representations of science’s failings implies dystopian literature should never be considered in purely speculative terms, particularly as so many texts require readers to come equipped with advanced contextual knowledge of the times in which each text was written and published. At various points, comparisons are made with my own original piece, The Recollector, (which forms the central part of my PhD thesis), as a method of highlighting how critical engagement with the genre is generating some interesting outcomes in my creative practice.  

Keywords: sci-fi, dystopia, cognitive estrangement, novums, hideous progeny, technology, memory, identity, tropes, reflective practice.