According to Susan Sontag’s well-known formulation, the definitive motif of science fiction films is the imagination of disaster: “Science fiction films

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are not about science. They are about disaster. . . . In science fiction films disaster is rarely viewed intensively; it is always extensive. It is a matter of quantity and ingenuity. If you will, it is a question of scale” (1966: 13). However, one might add that science is never absent from science fiction films either: science is always implicated somehow in the imagined disaster. More precisely, science fiction films challenge and threaten to subvert Enlightenment assumptions about scientific and technological advancement, moral progress, and the growth of rational agency, which modern societies and self-understandings (however naively) have taken for granted. At the time that Sontag wrote “The Imagination of Disaster” (1965), and for a time thereafter, this threatened subversion of Enlightenment assumptions still relied heavily upon the imagination of an extensive disaster, most obviously the notion of a disturbing outer, alien space invading settled and orderly public and private spaces, even in the case of the most thoughtful science fiction films (e.g., Things to Come, 1936; The Day the Earth Stood Still, 1951; Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956; Forbidden Planet, 1956; Planet of the Apes, 1968). But in the postmodern era (which Sontag helped to define) the language of outer space appears to have become less potentially disturbing and the language of inner space more disoriented and disturbed in some of the more notable films. The imagination of disaster has become less problematically extensive and more problematically intensive as notions of a coherent, centered self, human authenticity, and effective human agency have been thrown into doubt.