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Luckhurst, Roger

Entry updated 10 April 2023. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1967-    ) UK academic and author who brings a wide armamentarium of lucidly deposed critical and cultural theory to the study of sf, which he defines – or restricts for his purposes – as becoming a cluster of modalities of strong interest toward the end of the nineteenth century, when "discourses" of modernism and sf begin inchoately to take shape and shape each other (see Identity; Modernism in SF). Science Fiction (2005), his cogently argumentative (and contestable) historical study of the genre, conspicuously begins around 1880, almost the exact point at which Adam Roberts's equally argumentative (and contestable) The History of Science Fiction (2006) becomes dismissively telegraphic.

Luckhurst's visible mastery of the study (and genre) of cultural history is perhaps more definitively on show in The Invention of Telepathy: 1870-1901 (2002), which focuses on a period when a confusion of narratives – from the occult through theatrical spiritualism to scientific speculations later to be dismissed – shaped the Occult Detective tales [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] characteristic of the era, and gave some sanction to the widespread sf use of Telepathy as a narrative device or shortcut through much of the twentieth century. The Trauma Question (2008) rather ruthlessly tests assumptions and arguments that a cultural Amnesia pervades the history of the West over the past century, suggesting an unwarranted dependence on various forms of trauma theory dating back to Sigmund Freud and earlier. Corridors, in Corridors: Passages of Modernity (2019), are conceived variously: as articulations of how to reach and maintain Utopias, especially those attempting to fructify complex human relations; onward to the office-haunted Kafka. Corridors can be frozen gospels that come to life when negotiated; or not.

A sense of not infrequently transgressive exposure has marked Luckhurst's work from the first. By digging sometimes deeper than the soil extends, he exposes himself to a sense that his insights are too good to be true; but more often than not, his multi-disciplinary plummets into unexplored generic material makes that material glow as though it had only now been properly discovered. He received the IAFA Award for distinguished scholarship in 2008 and the SFRA Award for Lifetime Contributions to SF Scholarship (formerly the Pilgrim Award) in 2022. [JC]

see also: Jules Verne.

Roger Luckhurst

born Sidcup, Kent: 26 March 1967



works as editor (selected)


previous versions of this entry

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