Science Fiction Studies

#97 = Volume 32, Part 3 = November 2005

ARTICLE ABSTRACTS:                                              

Brian Attebery

Aboriginality in Science Fiction

Abstract. -- Science fiction in colonial societies such as Australia can function as what Mary Louise Pratt calls an “art of the contact zone”—an imaginative space within which groups define themselves and negotiate their cultural differences. Australian sf falls into three periods with regard to its treatment of Aboriginal characters and traditions. In the first, from the 1890s to at least the 1960s, native characters are treated as subhuman and Aboriginal beliefs and traditions compare unfavorably with European-derived science and social organization. The second period overlaps the first, but a new perspective becomes dominant in the 1970s; the emphasis is on positive qualities of Aboriginal culture and on common ground between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. After the 1970s, increased awareness of political injustice and fears of impinging on Aboriginal experience and intellectual property cause most European-Australians to avoid the topic altogether. In the same period, however, non-white writers begin to explore the possibilities of using science-fictional discourse to redefine their own history, identity, and traditions. Novels such as Sam Watson’s The Kaidatcha Sung and Archie Weller’s Land of the Golden Cloud open the genre up to new voices and points of view. These novels may be read as commentaries upon, and responses to, earlier sf. Some of this new fiction benefits from being read as part of a cross-cultural dialogue, most notably Terry Dowling’s series of stories about a high-tech, Aboriginal-controlled, re-mythologized future Australia.

M. Elizabeth Ginway

A Working Model for Analyzing Third World Science Fiction: The Case of Brazil

Abstract. -- This article offers a working model for analyzing Third World (or non-Western) science fiction. It examines specific works of Brazilian sf published during a limited time period, dividing them into discrete generations or eras based on historical events, then analyzing them in conjunction with a variety of Brazilian cultural myths. Each period requires a specific critical approach. While Brazilian texts of the 1960s transform traditional sf icons, demonstrating an idealization of Brazilian identity and cultural myths, the dystopian and fantastic literature of the 1970s does the same in its political and environmental protest, and may be effectively analyzed by ecofeminist theory. Finally, works in a variety of subgenres, along with contemporary examples of alien and cyborg stories, provide rich material for postcolonial analysis and theories of globalization. Other contemporary trends include the overlap of science fiction, horror, and fantasy as a means to garner new audiences, new “globalized” or national varieties of fantasy literature, and an influx of women authors into the genre.

Susana S. Martins

Revising the Future in The Female Man

Abstract. -- In its deployment of both utopian and dystopian narratives, Joanna Russ’s 1975 novel, The Female Man, avoids the familiar traps of determinism embedded in narratives of inevitable progress or decline; instead, it affords its characters the technological ability to move laterally through time, to encounter alternate versions of themselves and their worlds. In its depiction of technology, the novel emphasizes mediations and interdependencies between the categories of the natural and the artificial over the ideals of purity or essence. The Female Man models a process of re-figuration, and especially sets out to complicate our notions of time, most obviously by creating simultaneous chronotopes as a narrative device, but also by suggesting that by historicizing the present, by revisiting and re-interpreting the past, we can learn to revise forward. I argue that, in The Female Man, technology as an activity of re-invention and revision becomes a model for anticipating the future, precisely by introducing differences from what we already know. In this context, technology becomes a discourse for the political potential of the unnatural, and this discourse is one of the reasons science fiction can be said to offer a counter-argument to deterministic conceptions of history.

Dianne Newell and Victoria Lamont

Rugged Domesticity: Frontier Mythology in Post-Armageddon Science Fiction by Women

Abstract. -- In the four science fiction novels explored here, the post-atomic frontier is represented as a modern version of American civilization’s ongoing cyclical encounter with savagery, as identified by Rickard Slotkin. Although normalcy assumed critical importance as a means by which postwar American culture could regenerate from its encounter with savagery after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idealization of normalcy conflicted with other ideologies long associated with frontier mythology, including those of individualism and progress. Women science fiction writers worked through these tensions in their novels about post-Armageddon futures in imaginative ways that belie the reputation of the 1950s as a period of conformity in women’s literary and social history. Judith Merril’s narrative of the nuclear frontier, Shadow on the Hearth (1950), represents women in a variety of interesting ways at the same time as it presents the domestic sphere conventionally, as the primary site for the production of normalcy. Phyllis Gotleib’s Sunburst (1964) is a fantasy of ideological regeneration whereby nuclear disaster produces humans who are “super” and “normal” at the same time. On the other hand, Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955) and C.L. Moore’s Doomsday Morning (1957) depict normalcy itself as a primitive state that must be overcome in order for American society to progress—but at the expense of their female characters. We argue that the works of these speculative women, while understandably not entirely free of the ideological constraints of 1950s normalcy, test these constraints in innovative ways and are rich with intelligent and critical analyses of the relationship between savagery and civilization—the very basis upon which American domestic ideology depends.

Juan C. Toledano Redondo

From Socialist Realism to Anarchist Capitalism: Cuban Cyberpunk.

Abstract. -- Cuban cyberpunk developed during the Special Period in Time of Peace of the 1990s. After the fall of the USSR, Cuba went through its worst economic and social crisis since 1959. The Revolution seemed to be falling apart. At the same time, capitalism became the economic credo for the new globalized economy. Cuba was completely isolated. Among its youngest generation of sf writers, some adapted the cyberpunk style of the US in the 1980s to express their new reality. Yoss, Vladimir Hernández, and Michel Encinosa created a new hero, defiant of the late capitalist world and impregnated with a traditional anarchist view against the state. The new socialist man was replaced by the new anarchist hero/ine.

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