History of Science Fiction in Italy

The history described in the brief history section directly ties itself to that of Italian science fiction.  Science fiction in Italy was a product of the culture as well as politics.

Cultural Nationalism:

Italian science fiction cinema has had trouble taking hold as a common genre in Italy due to the fact it was often denounced in its inception.  It was very much considered to be representative to  the Americanization of Italian Culture and ideals.  Italy has a strong cultural nationalism, which was noticeable, in particular, during the times of fascism.

Then there were also to some extent culture wars in the Cold War decades in regards to Neo-fascism and political violence.  In this period of time a single idea could very well be seen as antagonistic and corresponding to bourgeois or western ideas, even if this was not the intention.  This idea of a lavish future with highly advanced technology, again often present in American science fiction, was seen as contradicting and harmful to that of Italian ideals.  In this period of time it was not only science fiction that was rejected.  Literature and opinions of all sorts were being oppressed that were seen as harmful to Italian culture or represented western ideas.  In Salvatore Proietti’s essay on Italian science fiction title “The Field of Italian Science Fiction” he argues “Can there be sf(Science Fiction) in a cultural milieu overwhelmed by an aesthetic rejection of storytelling…”.

This is further articulated by the writing ban of the 1960’s.  Many books relating to science, and science fiction for that matter, were banned as it was argued that it could threaten the identity of Italian culture and which could directly go against the will of the church.  It is worth noting however that some science fiction material was imported into the country during this time.  While science fiction in this time period was certainly not made on a scale as that of other genres it was still being imported from the United States.  Science fiction films in particular during this time were limited to fairly low/middle budget productions and would never truly amass to critical acclaim.  The exception being director Mario Bava, however his films were leaning more towards science fiction horror.

The Catholic Church and Philosophy:

Italy is predominantly roman-catholic country in terms of religion and this plays directly into the acceptance of science fiction as a genre.  Conservative stances from the church were influencing on the country and it often attributed that of religion over science.  This idea was also present outside of religion in the realm of philosophy.  A philosopher named Benedetto Croce was fairly popular in Italy and he had a general distrust of science and is quoted to have said “Philosophy is the only true science”.  This acceptance of science was contrary, or at least it was felt to be, to that of the Church’s ideals.  This was particularly noteworthy as well because they controlled many aspects of the country including that of politics with the Christian Democrat party.

Politics and Society:

The appeal of science fiction is getting to look into a future that is bright and vibrant with advances in technology, medicine, and politics.  It is hard to imagine a future that is brighter and bolder with a past that is so troubled.  Fascism under Mussolini in the forties put the country behind both economically and politically.  Then after that was the Italian Unification which there  several different political parties that ranged across the spectrum.  Then in the cold war era there were conflicts that directly related to the deeds of varying communist and fascist groups in Italy.   Then also the government of that of Silvio Berlusconi brought much controversy.  The hopefulness for a better future was not a particularly enticing idea because of the past that had been so troubling.

Also another reason for the lack of science fiction material may have been to do with a general lack of technology.  This argument is presented again by Salvatore Proietti in which he articulates the fact the country had a general uneven possession of various material items.  Many facets of western culture were not available to the citizens of Italy until at least the early 1970’s.  For example it was not until the seventies that a nationwide heating network, fully equipped kitchens, and colored television became common place.  He further argues the point saying that science fiction has notoriously been present in places that are technologically advanced as it is.  Thus it may be easier to envision a future of technological advancement had one already been immersed in a growing world of technology as it was.