Science Fiction Studies

#96 = Volume 32, Part 2 = July 2005

Carl Abbott 

Homesteading on the Extraterrestrial Frontier 

Abstract. -- Many sf writers depend on the multiple narratives of the American West as templates for framing their understandings of the future. This essay examines the ways in which the western homesteading story has been adapted in fictions about future planetary settlement. It argues that the increasing complexity of these treatments reflects the deepening awareness of the ambiguities of the American homesteading experience and parallels many of the insights of the “new western history.” Key texts discussed include Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Robert Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky, Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Blue Mars, Jonathan Lethem’s Girl in Landscape, and Molly Gloss’s The Dazzle of Day.

Andrew M. Butler

LSD, Lying Ink, and Lies, Inc.

Abstract. -- Philip K. Dick has a reputation in some circles as an acid-crazed visionary, which was more the result of his self-publicity than his particular drug habits. During the 1960s he repeatedly discussed his LSD use in fanzine articles and letters, and he incorporated it as a plot device in a novel that was to become Lies, Inc. (1983). The textual history of this novel, and its precursor version, The Unteleported Man, is a tangled one, as it exists in a number of variants. None of these versions can be considered Dick’s final preferred text, however, either because he persistently revised them, or because they were incomplete manuscripts when published. This extratextual history reflects the novel’s intratextual themes, in which characters discover various facts about their situations by reading a supposedly complete history book, one that includes events yet to happen and that exists in multiple versions. This essay explores how the intra- and extratextual variations play off each other, drawing readers into Dick’s hallucinatory hall of mirrors.

Elizabeth Leane 

Locating the Thing: The Antarctic as Alien Space in John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”

Abstract. -- Many pulp sf writers of the early- to mid-twentieth century seized upon Antarctica as an appropriately remote and unearthly site for their magazine stories. This article focuses on one of the most famous, John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”, first published in Astounding Science-Fiction in 1938, and adapted for film as The Thing in 1951 and 1982. In Campbell’s tale, an Antarctic expedition is devastated by a monstrous alien creature found frozen in the ice. While “Who Goes There?” has often been the subject of critical interest, the significance of its location has not been explored in any detail. In this article, I show how a reading focused on space and place can find new meanings in this often-examined text. Drawing on Julia Kristeva’s psychoanalytic theory of the abject, cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan’s notion of “alien space,” and a number of fictional and nonfictional Antarctic narratives, I argue that the Thing at the center of Campbell’s text serves as an embodiment of the continent itself.

Sherryl Vint

Becoming Other: Animals, Kinship, and Butler's Clay's Ark

Abstract. -- This paper explores Octavia Butler’s Clay’s Ark as it articulates a parallel between the category of animality and a failure to recognize other humans as kin. Butler’s work interrogates  the idea of  categorical exclusion implied by the human/animal boundary in order to challenge the very logic of discrimination rather than merely to challenge particular examples of discrimination as sexist, racist, etc., using Deleuze and Guattari’s model of subjectivity as becoming rather than being. I examine how Butler literalizes their example of becoming animal by imagining a virus that transforms humans into  seeming human/animal hybrids. In the novel, humans who resist the change cannot survive, while those who embrace their new subjectivity represent a more humane future. The paper concludes with a discussion of the new kind of subject described in Butler’s novel, one that recognizes boundaries of kinship usually disavowed by human culture, transforming not only what it means to be a subject but also our conception of ethics.

Paul Williams

Beyond Mad Max III: Race, Empire, and Heroism on Post-Apocalyptic Terrain

Abstract. -- The projection of empty space crucial to modern European colonial endeavors can be seen to be replayed in the post-apocalyptic future of the film Mad Max III (1985). This may mean the repetition of racial and gendered imperial power relations, seen in the victory of the white, male Max. However, the multicultural center of Bartertown suggests that the film’s representation of imperial attitudes is characterized by ambivalence. This ambivalence comes into conflict with the generic demands of Max’s development as a character. In  order to complete his trajectory across the trilogy, Max must fulfil the status of hero he has been repeatedly hailed as. To this end, the ambivalent postcolonial outpost of Bartertown must be destroyed so that the children Max reluctantly leads can make their way ‘home.’

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