Science Fiction Studies

#72 = Volume 24, Part 2 = July 1997




Daniel Bernardi

Star Trek in the 1960s: Liberal-Humanism and the Production of Race

Abstract.--. This essay uncovers and critiques the relationship between the meaning of race and the liberal-humanist project in Star Trek. While there are no doubt many factors informing this relationship, it concentrates on the activities of institutions and decision-makers responsible for the making of the series. This includes NBC, the network on which the series aired, Gene Roddenberry, the creator and executive producer, as well as various writers, directors, and actors. These "authors" were consciously and thus intentionally involved in a liberal-humanist project very much mindful of such 1960s experiences as the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and the Cold War. Contrary to what is commonly said about this sf series, the essay argues that Star Trek's liberal-humanist project is exceedingly inconsistent and at times disturbingly contradictory: it often participates in and facilitates racist practice in attempting to imagine what Gene Roddenberry called "infinite diversity in infinite combinations." 

Anne Cranny-Francis

Different Identities, Different Voices: Possibilities and Pleasures in Some of Jean Lorrah's Star Trek Novels

Abstract.-- Fan writer Jean Lorrah has published a number of novels based on the series, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. This article explores several of Lorrah's novels, tracing within them both conservative and non-mainstream voices and discourses. Alongside patriarchal representations of gender relationships, Lorrah offers an exploration of interpersonal intimacy which is fundamentally subversive of patriarchal strategies. Her female characters are both feminine and autonomous, victimized but not victims. And in her representation of Vulcan society Lorrah articulates values which are alien indeed to bourgeois society: solidarity, cohesion, loyalty, kinship. These novels do not have the shock value of the sexually-explicit "slash" writings, and yet they voice values and attitudes which may be equally challenging to mainstream opinion.

Lee E. Heller

The Persistence of Difference: Postfeminism, Popular Discourse, and Heterosexuality in Star Trek: The Next Generation

Abstract.--. This discussion examines Star Trek: The Next Generation's recurring interest in heterosexual desire and its frustration. In several key episodes of the series, heterosexuality is simultaneously reinscribed as the essential locus of desire, and disrupted by repeated assertions of the inescapable differences between men and women. The essay offers a lengthy discussion of two key episodes, "The Perfect Mate," and "In Theory," in terms of their constructions of the ideal romantic Other, and their conclusions about the ultimate inaccessibility of that ideal. It situates this disruption of desire against the backdrop of both current popular culture discourse about heterosexual romance, and the postfeminist backlash against changing gender roles. 

Sylvia Kelso

"Across Never": Postmodern Theory and Narrative Praxis in Samuel R. Delany's Nevèrÿon Cycle

Abstract.--. Since the 1960s Samuel Delany's work has frequently been at the speculative edge of "soft" science, feminism, and post-humanist thought. Its equally ongoing concern with mythology moves from '60s resistance of white patriarchal heterosexual myths to their denial, deconstruction, and, with Dhalgren, demolition of myths and their generating system together. In the Nevèrÿon cycle postmodern theory informs the construction of a new (form of) mythology. Derridean theory supplies the "Symbolic Order" of the cycle's blurred margins and centerless structure, while Foucault's use of S/M experience is paralleled in the series' "homoerotic Imaginary." Its eroticizing and mythicizing fantasies transgress generic and cultural boundaries in a manner characteristic of Delany's earlier sf, but here they also demonstrate the crucial interventions of postmodern theory in a work about Foucauldian "limit-experiences" that becomes a "limit-experience" in itself.

Patrick A. McCarthy

Allusions in Ballard's The Drowned World

Abstract.--J.G. Ballard's fiction has received substantial critical attention, much of it focusing on the postmodern qualities of such works as The Atrocity Exhibition, Crash, and Hello America. Ballard's professed disdain for "the alienated and introverted fantasies of James Joyce, Eliot and the writers of the so-called Modernist Movement" might also suggest that his work has little in common with modernist fiction. Yet the line of demarcation between modernism and postmodernism is not always so easily discernible. Ballard's reliance on one technique associated with modernism, the use of allusions to suggest parallels between his work and that of earlier writers, is particularly evident in The Drowned World (1962). Although several critics have referred in passing to Ballard's use of allusions in this work and others, no study has yet examined these allusions in detail. The present set of annotations is offered as a starting point for investigations of Ballard's allusive technique during the early stages of his career.

David Seed

Deconstructing the Body Politic in Bernard Wolfe's Limbo

Abstract.-- Bernard Wolfe's Limbo (1952) remains an unjustifiably neglected novel despite some signs of growing interest in recent years. It draws on contemporary cultural criticism to burlesque the development of technology in a number of important aspects: the use of supercomputers to wage an atomic war particularly and also to depict a mass movement dedicated to the removal of human aggression by amputating limbs. The latter movement explains the black joke of the novel's title and emerges as an exercise in self-mystification since the new prosthetic limbs turn out to be vastly more powerful than their originals. Like Vonnegut in Player Piano, Wolfe shows cybernetics to involve a dangerous series of substitutions for the human, dangerous because they obscure the divided and ambivalent nature of humanity. In order to bring out such ambivalence Wolfe implicates his surgeon-protagonist Dr. Martine in the novel's power structures and also uses a series of puns and other word play to alert the reader to a duplicity not just in Cold War political statements but in expressions of human purpose more generally. Limbo anticipates later fiction by Pynchon and the cyberpunk group in its ironic examination of humanity's technological constructs. 

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