The Catastrophe of Science Fiction Since 1950: The Role Reversal of Science & the Supernatural in 20th-21st Century Narratives

Stories About Science
Manchester University
June 2015

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In 1945, post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki, science in fiction began to evolve into the monstrous, and magic into a comfort. Pre-1950s, science was a source of hope, capable of triumphing over time, space, and death. The threat of nuclear war, however, heralded decades of fiction portraying science as a source of destruction. Despite wondrous advances in technology and medicine, fiction continues to see the end of the world in artificial intelligence, alien contact, and influenza. And while evangelists continue to burn the Harry Potter books as blasphemy, fiction by and large has done an about face on the supernatural: wizards are heroes, vampires are love interests, and werewolves are people living bravely with disabilities. This paper explores this reversal between the portrayals of science and the supernatural in fiction of the 20th and 21st centuries, and how these portrayals influence public perception of science and its role in our lives.

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