Breath has a realist function in most artistic media. It serves to remind the reader, the viewer or the spectator of the exigencies of the body. In science fiction (SF) literature and films, breath is often a plot device for human encounters with otherness, either with alien peoples, who may not breathe oxygen, or environments, where there may not be oxygen to breathe. But while there is a technoscientific quality to breath in SF, especially in its attention to physiological systems, concentrating on the technoscientific threatens to occlude other, more affective aspects raised by the literature. In order to supplement the tendency to read SF as a succession of technoscientific accounts of bodily experience, this paper recalls how SF texts draw attention to the affective, non-scientific qualities of breath, both as a metonym for life and as a metaphor for anticipation. Through an engagement with diverse examples from SF literature and films, this article considers the tension between technoscientific and affective responses to breath in order to demonstrate breath's co-determinacy in SF's blending of scientific and artistic discourses.
- Respiratory medicine
This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
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Funding This work was supported by the Wellcome Trust (grant no. 103339) as part of its project, ‘Life of Breath: Breathing in Cultural, Clinical and Lived Experience’.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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