Science Fiction Studies

#149 = Volume 50, Part 1 = March 2023

Joseph Ren

“An End to Our Iron and Coal”: Resource Anxiety in Late Victorian Science Fiction

Abstract. -- As global social and environmental conditions deteriorate, growing ranks of scientists, environmentalists, and writers have pointed toward population growth and resource scarcity as primary conditions of ecological catastrophe. Studying the “Future War” subgenre of Late Victorian science fiction, I search for the origins of this contemporary concern with so-called “overpopulation” and resource scarcity. By examining George Chesney’s The Battle of Dorking (1871) and H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1889), this paper explores how late Victorian anxieties about the relative decline of the British Empire, constellated around scarcity, continue to frame contemporary understandings of social and environmental crisis today.

Leah Faye Norris

The Ambivalence of Memory in Naomi Mitchison’s Speculative Fiction

Abstract. -- Naomi Mitchison’s speculative fiction portrays learning as a process of unlearning. Travel Light (1952), Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), and Solution Three (1975) animate radical relational possibilities, favoring protagonists who let go of their prior knowledge to let in the unknown. In each text, the otherworldly illuminates inner worlds, inciting change. Mitchison posits an epistemics of contact, a way of knowing that hinges on adaptation. Her characters make a craft of forgetting the narratives that condition their perception and intentionally recondition themselves, re-membering their histories.

Milan M. Ćirković

“Not Welcome Here”: Biological versus Postbiological in Lem’s Space Operas

Abstract. -- This essay offers a technocentric perspective on two space operas by Stanisław Lem, The Invincible (1966) and Fiasco (1987), novels that span much of his creative career. As an evolutionary philosopher, Lem was decades ahead of his time in recognizing the idea of postbiological evolution and how technology shapes it. Pivoting around this central theory, Lem shows how our understanding of mind in the universe is narrow and anthropocentric, while engineering and the design space of evolution act as fixed Archimedean points.

Donna T. Tong

Oriental Ornaments: Yellowface and Painful Object(ification)s in Sanders’s Ghost in the Shell

Abstract. --Rupert Sanders’s live-action adaptation Ghost in the Shell (2017) is singular within the franchise for manifestly bringing into focus the sociocultural and political dimensions of subjectivation and interpellation through casting. This film crystalizes entanglements of race, gender, and sexuality in both narrative and production. This article argues that the red-robed geisha illuminates the méconnaissance of surface and embodiment, thereby providing a lens through which we can interrogate not just the re-presentation of race but also its spectrality and paradoxical dis/embodiment. Actor Rila Fukushima’s performance serves as a double projection: as a performer, her enactment is a projection on film; as the red-robed geisha, the film re-presents her as a “yellow” woman, literally masked as a “perfected” version of herself. Her Asianness is ornamental and made infinitely wearable, pinpointing her imbrication not only in objectification, but also in the convoluted symbiosis between ornamentation as racialization (and vice versa) and racial melancholia. By focusing on the film’s production and re-presentation of Fukushima, this article posits that her double projection shows how the shifting surfaces of racial formation and the pathology of racial melancholia are clearly intertwined.

Julia Gatermann

Bodies of Knowledge: Discredited Sciences and Technologies of Resistance in Larissa Lai’s The Tiger Flu

Abstract. -- This article analyzes how Larissa Lai’s novel The Tiger Flu (2018) critically engages with (neo-) colonial oppression and a science discourse instrumentalized to aid in this process. In her dystopian world, the reign of Western science, blinded by the conviction of its own exceptionalism and superiority and fraught with neoliberal capitalist interests, has come to an end. In order to survive in a world rendered inhospitable by pollution, climate change, resource scarcity, and overwhelming inequality, adaptability becomes key. New solutions, the novel suggests, can be found in alternative, indigenous knowledge traditions that, by creatively adapting Western science and technology to their own more holistic approaches, can make life sustainable again. Lai unsettles the pervasive trope of techno-Orientalism in her novel and employs it to suggest creative postcolonial processes of syncretism, of different knowledge traditions and transgressive ways to rethink (human) identity as the way towards a more equal and egalitarian future.

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