Article ID: CBB001201409

Aleksei N. Tolstoi and the Enigmatic Engineer: A Case of Vicarious Revisionism (2013)


In this article, Muireann Maguire examines the cultural construction of the trope of the engineer-inventor in Russia during the 1920s and 1930s, focusing on the changing representation of this archetype in three science fiction novels by Aleksei Tolstoi: Aelita (1922--23), Soiuz piati (The Gang of Five, 1925), and Giperboloid inzhenera Garina (Engineer Garin's Death Ray, 1925--26). Tolstoi's fiction portrays engineers as misguided and self-centred at best and as amoral, megalomaniacal, and irredeemably un-Soviet at worst. This increasingly negative portrayal of the engineers in these novels, and in their later redactions and cinema versions, helped to prepare the way for the alienation of engineer and technical specialist within Soviet society, providing cultural justification for Iosif Stalin's show trials and purges of both categories in the 1930s. Tolstoi's alienation of the engineer-inventor, the traditional hero of early Soviet nauchnaia fantastika (science fiction), prefigured the occlusion of science fiction as a mainstream literary genre. As a trained engineer, former aristocrat, and returned émigré whose own status in Soviet Russia was deeply compromised, Tolstoi's literary demonization of engineers effectively purchased his own acceptance within the Stalinist literary hierarchy

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Authors & Contributors
Crossley, Robert
Schwartz, Matthias
Brown, Alistair
Cheng, John
Zabelin, K. I.
Ignatenko, Ye. S.
Science-Fiction Studies
Slavic Review
VIET: Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki
Journal of Asian Studies
Journal of Literature and Science
Research in the History of Technology
University of Pennsylvania Press
University of Minnesota Press
Wesleyan University Press
Science fiction
Science and literature
Science and culture
Popular culture
Science and politics
Science and ethics
Wells, Herbert George
Goddard, Robert Hutchings
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft
Darwin, Erasmus
Loutzky, Boris
Lem, Stanislaw
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
20th century, late
21st century
Soviet Union
United States
Great Britain
North Korea

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