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‘Crowding the stoop’: climbing the mega-structures of science fiction

Butt, A. ORCID: (2021) ‘Crowding the stoop’: climbing the mega-structures of science fiction. In: Beattie, M., Kakalis, C. and Ozga-Lawn, M. (eds.) Mountains and Megastructures - Neo-Geologic Landscapes of Human Endeavour. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9789811571091

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/978-981-15-7110-7


I sit curled up on my sofa, the familiar weight of a science fiction novel balanced on my knees, the bible-thin pages crinkling at the edges from the heat of my fingers. As I read, the dense set lines of text are transformed into an image of our urban future, the stratified floor levels of a science fiction megacity. Line by line, level by level, I scale the cities caught in these pages. This chapter draws on three urban megastructure science fictions to explore the significance of the struggle to ascend: Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! (1966), J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise (1975) and Scott Russell Sanders’ Terrarium (1985). Written a decade apart, these stories chart the possible paths of development of the megastructure city; from the gradual agglomeration of contemporary urbanism, through the intentional construction of individual megastructure buildings, to the wholesale remaking of a homogenous future. In each, the stairwell operates as a critical site of awareness of the city, a space where the complexities of urban living can be simultaneously enacted and understood. Through these imaginary worlds, this chapter discusses the pervasive hopes and fears which underpin the social experience of place, to acknowledge the overlapping symbolic, affective and emotional implications of vertical living. In the megastructures of science fiction, the emotional, embodied and symbolic interpretations of vertical urbanism are made material, and the embodied act of climbing is empathetically experienced as an act of resistance against the stratified world constructed on an inhuman scale.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Architecture
Science > School of the Built Environment > Urban Living group
ID Code:94581
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan

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