Conference on the Aesthetics of Science Fiction
Posted on 19 December, 2017
Carlos Guevara Meza
Read at Aula Magna, Cenart, Mexico City, on November 23, 2017.
On behalf of the National Center for Research, Documentation and Information on the Visual Arts, I warmly welcome you to this Conference on the Aesthetics of Science Fiction, whose purpose it is to think in earnest the depths of something which, regrettably in my opinion, is regarded by many (and even if it were by just one it would still be too much) as mere entertainment, both ordinary and superficial, except for a handful of established masterworks.
I want to thank the authorities of INBA and Cenart, particularly Ricardo Calderón and Sergio Rommel Alfonso, for their support in the organization of this event; the fantastic Canal 23 team, which allows us to broadcast this conference and “go where nobody has gone before”; Cenidiap’s Public Communications team, headed by the truly amazing Vicky García; our administrator Abraham Briseño and his team, who made this happen in spite of all difficulties. I also want to thank all of the members of the Aesthetics of Science Fiction Seminar, which meets regularly at Cenidiap, Loreto Alonso and Amadís Ross in particular, who came up with this idea and took on the responsibility of organizing this event from the academic standpoint. For me, this conference is significant not just in intellectual terms, but in an affective sense as well.
Allow me a brief personal anecdote. The same year I was born,Star Trek began broadcasting in the USA. It was known in Mexico as Viaje a las estrellas. I started watching it while I was in elementary school, in the early afternoon, dubbed in Spanish, and on a black and white TV set. I’m not given to nostalgia (if I ever dreamed of going back in time, it was in order to change history, not out of a longing for a ‘paradise lost’ of imaginary harmony); I mention this to explain why this event is affectively meaningful to me, not because of my memories of that past, but because the adventures of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scottie, Sulu, Chekov, and I must admit, the stunning beauty of Lieutenant Uhura, immediately caught my imagination in a way I’ve hardly experienced again in my life. Strengthened by other TV series from that time ( The Time Tunnel, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants), which nonetheless never equalled it, Star Trek shaped me in many significant ways, even playing a part in my decision to study Philosophy, because it meant studying Mathematical Logic (and thus I’ve told you my age, and who my favorite Star Trek character is). And although life led me to other destinations (or perhaps not), Star Trek opened up for me a path that includes hundreds, or maybe thousands, of TV shows, movies, novels, comics, and animations, that I still enjoy and feel passionate about.
The thing is that by one of life’s happy coincidences, I was pondering if I should do something to join in the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which also happened to be my own, because of the importance it had and still has for me, and perhaps for my generation and for others, when Loreto and Amadís came to see me about organizing an Aesthetics of Science Fiction Seminar. I don’t recall if I actually let them argue their project; they had convinced me within the first ten seconds.
What Star Trek awakend in me (along with everything I have seen and read afterwards) was a feeling I only found expressed as an idea and in words many years later, and they were not my words but Frederic Jameson’s, who wrote in his Archeologies of the Future: “I would argue, however, that the most representative science fiction does not attempt to imagine the ‘real’ future of our social system. On the contrary, its multiple false futures perform the very different function of transforming our own present into the past determined by something that is yet to occur […] Science fiction represents and makes possible a structurally unique ‘method’ to apprehend the present as history, irrespective of the ‘pessimism’ or ‘optimism’ of the imaginary future world which constitutes the pretext for said defamiliarization”.
It is indeed about making it so that the present is not natural, but strange; not “it has always been like this”, but rather “it could be otherwise”; to become time travellers, living in a remote past that can be changed in order to create a different future, that may be better but is always unpredictable; to wrest from the irrationality and injustice of today the certainty of their continuous (and depressing) perpetuation.
Live long and prosper.
Thank you very much.