Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century

The next session of our seminar (April 30th) will focus on how science fiction literature and film address technology and therefore create “media fantasies.” The text chosen is an essay written by Vivian Sobchack, a scholar who is doing some excellent work in the fields of media history and film studies. As always, you can download it through Ilias.

After discussing this text, we will focus on different examples of science fiction authors who particularly relied on media technologies in their work. In particular, I would like to bring to your attention the work of Albert Robida, a French writer who was the author in the 1880s of a trilogy of novels who promised to show the reader how the world would have looked like in the twentieth century.

Although less famous than his contemporary Jules Verne, Robida is a particularly interesting example because he was not only a writer, but also a gifted illustrator and caricaturist. His explorations into the future of technology and society was thus accompanied by some inspiring, visionary illustrations. You can give a look to some of these works here. The visualization of Robida’s futurist fiction is particularly interesting if we think it in reference to the impressive visual contents which would have been provided, some years after Robida’s books, by science fiction movies.

Another science fiction writer whose works are very relevant to our discourse is Philip Dick, who is most certainly known to many of you as the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which was adapted into a cult film, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. But Dick also wrote beautiful novels such as Ubik and Radio Free Albemuth, in which he merged radio waves and other media technologies with beliefs in telepathy and the occult. In this sense, he was certainly one of the most influential authors of “media fiction” in the twentieth century.


2 thoughts on “Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century”

  1. Maybe too late to make it into the seminar (ok, WAY too late), but a relatively prominent example of a SF writer that still to this day is referred as influential in real applied sciences would be Isaac Asimov. His three Rules of Robotics seem to be a mainstay in the robotics without the real need for implementation (at least until any sufficient AI that is even remotely alike human convention of ‘conscious’).

    1. That’s a good idea, this is s definitely a good example of how science fiction is taken for serious in contemporary technoculture. Let’s talk more about it later in class!

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