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Modern myth creation in the science fiction of Wells, Clarke, Dick and Herbert

posted on 2022-03-28, 18:45 authored by Jennifer Simkins
Science fiction (SF) produces living myths that offer statements about humanity's place in the universe and represent the intersection of science, religion and philosophy in modern society. While the blending of these discourses in SF has been noted by scholars, there has been little consideration of the thematic significance of the coexistence of discordant philosophies in a literary genre that has become so pervasive in contemporary culture. The present study seeks to address this issue through an examination of the myths produced in the works of four of the most influential SF writers : H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert. Furthermore, this study will provide a much needed examination of the specific cultural discourses that influence the writings of these key authors. Chapter 1 will examine the intersection of traditional religion and evolutionary science in the early works of H.G. Wells. Wells's SF denigrates traditional Christanity. However, in responding to debates in science and philosophy over the future of human society, his works tend to reinscribe spiritual myths. Chapter 2 will illustrate that conflicting vitalist and materialist discourses in the writings of biologist J.B.S. Haldane inform the mixed myths produced in Arthur C. Clarke's early novels, particularly Childhood's end and the Space odyssey series. In contrast to the scientifically motivated perpetuation of spiritual myths in the early works of Clarke, Chapter 3 will examine the deliberate engagement in religious myth-making in Philip K. Dick's SF. It will be argued that Dick's SF draws explicitly from a vast range of philosophical and religious works, ranging from the Presocratics to Herbert Marcuse, to resist capital ideologies and construct myths of divine intervention. Finally, Chapter 4 will examine the extirpation of the messiah myth in Frank Herbert's Dune series, which draws on the works of Martin Heidegger and Karl Jaspers to advocate an authentic understanding of being-in-the-world and promote democratic co-operation. In examining the myths produced in the works of these pivotal SF authors, this study will engage with a range of the scientific, religious and philosophical discourses that have contributed to the construction of human reality since the Presocratics. The mythic narratives of contemporary SF will thus be revealed to reflect the contemporary blending of the myriad discourses that inform human society.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Evolution, morality and religion in H.G. Wells -- Chapter 2. Materialism and mystery : mixed myths in Arthur C. Clarke -- Chapter 3. Science fiction as truth : sociology, philosophy and theology in Philip K. Dick -- Chapter 4. Resisting tradition : the messiah myth and authentic Dasein in Herbert's Dune series -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: pages 238-260 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Paul Sheehan


Copyright Jennifer Simkins 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (260 pages)

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