By J. P. Telotte
Technological know-how fiction motion pictures have fun and critique the effect of a burgeoning know-how at the world's cultural, political, and social milieu.
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Extra info for A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film and the Machine Age
G. Wells's singular participation in the project. The rest of those mentioned above, since they are generally difficult to locate today and appeared at a time when film was in transition between the full flowering of the silent aesthetic and the awkward emergence of sound narrative, tend to be ignored and are practically absent from all standard histories of film. 10 Of course, one reason for this relative neglect is that these are all essentially border films, and as such create difficulties for historians, who, because of the very requirements of their task, tend to focus on more definitive works.
Yet Sontag also reminds us how often that effort fails, how typically calamity or "disaster" follows from the application of this triad, as we see in the numerous alien invasion films of the 1950s, the atomic mutation movies of the same period, the post-apocalyptic works of more recent times, and the rather questionable portrayal of the scientist throughout the genre's history. Following her lead, yet arriving at a different end, Bruce Kawin has described the genre, in its best incarnations, as intent on vanquishing the unknown, overcoming limits "it opens the field of inquiry, the range of possible subjects, and leaves us open" to wonder as well (321), he says.
Thus he describes the technological in a rather conventional way as ''a work of reason," but reminds us that it is "reason lined with desire" (10). That description not only invites us to do a bit of dream analysis examining the dream of technology according to its own logic, searching for any "repressed" significances it may have, while trying to access a kind of cultural unconscious but also implicates the movies themselves as products of a "dream factory," as we still commonly describe the film industry.