Science Fiction Studies

#151 = Volume 50, Part 3 = November 2023


Pursuing Education Yet to Come.

Diane Conrad and Sean Wiebe, eds. Educational Fabulations: Teaching and Learning for a World Yet to Come. Palgrave Macmillan, 2022. xxi+399 pp. $169.99 hc, $129.99 ebk.

Diane Conrad and Sean Wiebe’s edited volume Educational Fabulations: Teaching and Learning for a World Yet to Come (2022) is at once a collection of speculative pedagogical imaginings by scholar-educators as they envision educational possibility, and a methodological exploration of “speculative fiction as fiction-based research” (1). In their introduction, the editors frame this work within contemporary challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the ever-expanding capacities of artificial intelligence, and the increasingly “wired” nature of interpersonal relations. They situate these challenges and others against the backdrop of a pervasive anthropocentric orientation toward climate change and offer a contrasting turn towards humanity’s more-than- human relations and responsibilities. Central to this framing is the view that education alone is not, as jan jagodzinksi notes in the Forward, “up to the task that awaits” (xi). Viewing speculative fiction and the act of speculative storytelling as a means through which education can be imagined otherwise, the editors effectively situate speculative modes as valuable catalysts for posing the types of questions necessary to critique, interrogate, and disrupt present normative educational practices, and accordingly carve out a convincing path toward new educational theorizing within the imaginative possibility of the “not yet” (7; emphasis in original). Building on research at the intersections of education and sf, the editors do not seek to argue for space within education for speculative genres; rather they argue that education should be thought anew through the act of speculation, to “intervene in the business-as-usual perspectives that currently shape our systems of education” (10) by envisioning the futures we hope to shape.

The stories that comprise this volume accordingly come from the kinds of questions that characterize educators’ experiences, since educators often wonder about how education might shift and evolve in practice. Resistant to making distinctions among speculative genres, the editors instead consider “speculative social fiction” (3) as an umbrella term conceptualizing stories that use the turns of speculation to imagine the “elsewhere” of education as a kind of theory. Bringing together thirty-eight storytellers across twenty-eight stories, the rest of this text is divided into six thematic and conceptual sections containing imaginaries that explore different elements of educational possibility.

In Part I, “The Future of Technology in Education,” authors examine some of the wide-ranging implications of technological change for education, from android teachers programmed to understand children, to time-travel education and relational responsibility to other times, to the timely topic of educator frustration in an era of artificial intelligence-enhanced learning and what might be impossible to automate—that is, what is fundamentally human—in learning. The stories in Part II, “Corporate Interventions in ducation,” similarly explore how corporatization of education threatens the fundamental essence of education as a human, relational enterprise by pushing current trends to new extremes, including access to basic in-school needs linked to academic achievement in for-profit educational contexts, privatization of public services, and epidemics of suicide. In Part III, “Speculations on Social Issues,” a myriad social issues such as the interwoven complexities of technology and the anthropocene, racial difference, feminism, and climate justice activism are examined at the intersections of social change, technological innovation, and educational response. Establishing new contexts in which one might imagine education fundamentally changed, some stories in Parts II and III access educational issues from the periphery, while others directly engage with how educational institutions might respond to possible futures.

Part IV and Part V, “Visions for Curricular Futures” and “The Role of Spirit in Education,” examine educational change more directly. The former speculatively imagines specific curricular change, while the latter envisions the way story acts as a catalyst for deeper learning. In Part IV, stories are told across school subjects but also explore the pedagogical implications of various social, scientific, and technological changes as well as ways in which curricular change might occur as the role of the “teacher” is unpacked and speculatively questioned. Central to these stories, common across the collection, are the following questions: what is at the core of who a teacher is, and how might they find themselves in relation with their students? How might that change? How might we expand what we consider a “teacher” to be? Part V continues this thread of inquiry, as stories speculatively explore expansive views of teaching and learning beyond Western notions of what teaching and learning ought to do, be, and look like. Taking on the form of speculative myth, the stories in Part V reach across time and generations, mapping out complex familial relations that trace deeper, embodied, and spiritual ways of knowing. While other sections explore and unsettle what is human about education, in the final section, “Teaching and Learning with Our More-Than-Human Relations,” stories move toward exploring the farthest reaches of our educational relations, ending this text with speculative imaginaries detailing what we might learn from the other beings with whom we co-exist, and what it might mean to nourish and/or to lose those connections.

While the stories contained in this collection vary in style, form, and immersive quality, taken together they offer something unique: a methodological offering grounded in the goal of shifting educational research beyond the “now” and what is, toward a much-needed view of what could be. This is especially critical at a time when educational institutions—which are always representative more of the past than the future—are failing to address the myriad systemic and catastrophic issues for which they are presumably preparing young people. Accordingly, Conrad and Wiebe’s collection makes an important contribution as a perfectly timed bridge between two fields (education and speculative fiction) in a temporal context in which their coming ogether is an ethical imperative. If educational institutions claim responsibility for young people in preparing them for the future, speculative fiction as a conceptual and methodological paradigm offers a critical path whereby educational researchers and institutions can begin to complicate the future as futures that are plural, contested, and open to possibility.

Given its methodological and theoretical novelty, this text would benefit from additional commentary to connect each story to the overall argument laid out in the introduction; it would also benefit from a fuller conclusion drawing on the stories as examples of speculative storytelling as educational theory. That said, this text is valuable for educational researchers learning about sf and speculative genres, those seeking new paths forward in their practice, and any scholars interested in using speculative theorizing to imagine education anew. Additionally, each story is accompanied by study questions and suggested readings located in the appendix, making this text particularly useful as a teaching tool for educators open to exploring the generative, disruptive capacity of speculation to unsettle education as we know it.—Brittany Tomin, University of Regina

Into a Real World.

Rachel S. Cordasco. Out of this World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium. U of Illinois P, 2021. 277 pp. $60 hc, $19.95 ebk.

As Rachel S. Cordasco writes in her introduction, “The early twenty-first century has witnessed an explosion of speculative fiction in English translation (SFT).” Out of this World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium comes at the right time to provide a panoramic overview and abundant details of this explosion.
This study is well written and precise, and includes many examples and an organized and comprehensive framework, making it user-friendly for both academic and non-academic readers. It is divided into fourteen chapters focusing on SFT in fourteen different languages, with an introduction and a list of resources and an index at the end. Such an arrangement allows readers to navigate through the book easily and directs them to related resources for those who want to explore more. It is suitable for scholars who are interested in SFT as a global cultural phenomenon, researchers who are focusing on speculative fiction from a particular language, and readers who are looking to learn more about books in translation.

Cordasco identifies the research objective of her study clearly in its title: speculative fiction in translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium. In her introduction, she sets boundaries on what she includes and excludes. She focuses only on works that have been translated into English from other languages and published in print (either novels, collections, or anthologies). She looks at adult-level speculative fiction, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more. By clarifying her range, she limits the scale of the book in a practical manner and opens doors to future research with different emphases, such as short stories or young-adult books. She also provides a brief introduction to the larger historical context of SFT, acknowledging both earlier attempts in the 1970s and recent efforts in the twenty-first century to enhance the communication among speculative fictions written in different languages all over the world and to promote SFT. She also points out two important facts in the genre’s history: its Anglophone domination and its gender imbalance. According to the data she provides, both are improving, or can be expected to improve with the publication of this book. Cardasco’s short yet informative introduction lays the foundation for a thorough analysis of SFT in each selected language in the chapters that follow.

The fourteen chapters of the book examine SFT from Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish sf in alphabetical order. Cordasco chooses those languages that have had more than ten books translated into English, with the exception of Korean sf (nine), given its recent boom. Each chapter begins with a short introduction by an expert from that particular language on the general context of speculative fiction in its original language, though Cordasco contributes the Russian one herself. These experts are the scholars, writers, editors, translators, and more who are working at the frontier to bring about more SFT. Their introductions serve as good entry points to speculative fiction in these particular languages before moving to the details of what has been translated. Cordasco further divides each chapter into sections on subgenres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, dystopia, and more. Some also include a particular section on anthologies, while others have more detailed subsections based on themes. For languages that are used in multiple countries such as French, German, and Spanish, she divides the sections by countries first before diving into subgenres. In each section, works are listed chronologically according to the years that they were published in English. At the end of each chapter, Cordasco lists all her primary and secondary sources. This makes the book similar to a well-coded electronic map: readers can zoom into a particular language, region, or subgenre to quickly locate the information they are looking for, and jump to other related content with those sources as hyperlinks.

With such a deliberately organized structure, Cordasco guides the reader through the vibrant scenes of SFT. She provides an additional short intro on “The Texts” after each chapter’s Introduction, and then discusses the translated works one by one. Usually she provides a brief summary of the contents of each book. For important authors who have multiple works translated into English, she also tends to offer a concise description of the author and gather their books together before moving on. The information she lists here is to a great extent neutral, which makes the book a good encyclopedia of SFT. Yet readers are able to grasp a lot after reading the entire book, and below are just a few examples.

Although the SFT works included in this book are highly diverse, they do share some commonalities. The first and most important thing we learn is that the translation situation is not always representative of the status of speculative fiction in the original language. In Arabic, most of the translated works are “bleak dystopias” due to the western interest in the region’s politics, especially after the Arab Spring (3-4). In Czech, the personal tastes and practices of “the people who do the selection and translation” influence what is translated (25). There is a broad fantastic tradition in literatures from various languages, including “Fantastic Voyages and Utopian Landscapes” in Italian (118), “elements of fantastyka” in Polish (178–79), and “local myths, legends, and folktales” in Korean (167). Furthermore, the differences among languages adds to the difficulty of translation between English and other languages, whether it is the gendered language system of Czech or the distinct language structures and grammars of Finnish and Hebrew. The translation of speculative fiction, however—especially of science fiction—from English to other languages has a long history. So it is exciting for us to read about SFT from other languages translated into English, both from languages that have already absorbed a lot of influence from English speculative fiction, such as French, German, and Spanish, and also from languages that have recently begun to be appreciated by Anglophone readers, such as Arabic, Chinese, and Korean. It is even more uplifting for me to read that women have taken the lead in SFT in Finnish and Korean, with an increasing number in Spanish, too.

Cordasco has done a brilliant job of collecting a large volume of material from such a broad linguistic and temporal landscape into a single book, although a table or chart listing the numbers of books translated from different languages chronologically would have been helpful. Charts can be a more intuitive way to lay out changes over these years and comparisons among different languages. A stronger focus on factual checks in order to avoid mistakes would also be appreciated. For example, Ken Liu did not translate the whole of Liu Cixin’s THREE-BODY trilogy (2006-2010) (19, 21), but only the first and third books (Joel Martinsen translated the second book, The Dark Forest [2008]); Emmi Itäranta did not translate her own novel from Finnish to English (40, 44), but wrote the book in two parallel languages. These imperfections do not obscure the value of the book, but nevertheless might point readers in the wrong direction.

Overall, Out of this World: Speculative Fiction in Translation from the Cold War to the New Millennium establishes an essential element of the genre’s infrastructure. It presents an encyclopedic introduction to SFT from the 1960s to today, and presents the information as both overviews and in detail. As the first of its kind, it pioneers a new direction in the study of SFT and paves the way for further related research. It leads us into a real world where literature from various languages exists coevally and compatibly, instead of one of unquestioned Anglophone domination. I would definitely recommend it to all readers who are interested in speculative fiction from languages other than English.—Regina Kanyu Wang, University of Oslo

Excellent Short-form Scholarship.

David M. Higgins. Anne Leckie’s ANCILLARY JUSTICE: A Critical Companion. Palgrave Macmillan, PALGRAVE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY: A NEW CANON, 2023. vii+92 pp. $44.99 hc, $34.99 ebk.

Palgrave’s “A NEW CANON” is one of a growing number of very good scholarly series devoted to short critical studies. Examples include University of Minnesota Press’s “Forerunners” (e.g., Steven Shaviro’s No Speed Limit: Three Essays on Accelerationism [2015]), the Association for Asian Studies’ “Asia Shorts” (e.g., Jing Jiang’s Found in Translation: “New People” in Twentieth-Century Chinese Science Fiction [2021]), and MIT’s “Essential Knowledge” series (e.g., Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction [2021]). Think of them as the novellas of critical scholarship.

David Higgins’s “critical companion” to the first novel of Anne Leckie’s immensely popular IMPERIAL RADCH trilogy is the latest in Palgrave’s “New Canon” series. In the words of series editors Keren Omry and Sean Guynes, it “aims to offer ‘go-to’ books for thinking about, writing on, and teaching major works of SFF” (viii). In spite of its title, however, the diversity of offerings so far would seem to discourage conventional canon-building. It is difficult to cram (among others titles) Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (1996), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), BioWare’s media franchise Mass Effect (2007- ), Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood (1984), Janelle Monáe’s Afrofuturist album project Dirty Computer (2018), and Jeff Noon’s Vurt (1993) into a single “type” of sf/f worthy of canonization. On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore the series’ subtitle: if nothing else and in very different ways, each of these can lay claim to being a “major work.” As the only novel ever to win the trifecta of major sf awards—the Arthur C. Clarke, the Hugo, and the Nebula—Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (2013) is both very well known and well worth the extended focus of Higgins’s Companion. Equally, this Companion more than does justice to Leckie’s novel.

The title of one section in Higgins’s introduction, “The Problem of Empire,” is at the core of this astute and entertaining reading; it also extends the post-colonial work of his award-winning Reverse Colonization: Science Fiction, Imperial Fantasy, and Alt-Victimhood (2021). Each of the chapters following the introduction circles back to this “problem”: chapter 2 on “Gender and Coloniality,” chapter 3 on “Empire, Economics, and Addiction,” chapter 4 on “Race, Citizenship, and Imperial Personhood,” and chapter 5 on “Cynical Reason and Revolutionary Agency.” Higgins’s “central argument ... is that Ancillary Justice offers a multitude of critical interventions that culminate in a devastating rebuke to the political, social, cultural, and economic injustices of American imperialism during the post-9/11 era and beyond” (10). For this reason, his Companion emphasizes the novel’s allegorical features, as both an estranged mirror and a critical reassessment of the historical and contemporary conditions of US imperialism.

Higgins opens by examining the novel’s “speculative defamiliarization of gender” (13), focusing on Leckie’s contentious use of “she” and “her” as universal pronouns in the Radch Empire. Higgins notes how this one small change serves to unlink sexed bodies from the performances of gender, recalling Judith Butler’s analysis in her Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990). As he explains, “Radchaai enjoy a profound reedom from the endless restrictive categorizations that gender creates in countless real-world contexts” (21). At the same time, however, he emphasizes the imperial arrogance behind the Radch empire’s failure to recognize the importance of gender differences in so many of the other cultures that they have so violently absorbed. Higgins shows how even Breq, the novel’s first-person point-of-view protagonist, “can get away with misgendering people” because she is a representative of empire (25). In this discussion of “the coloniality of gender” (26), he concludes that “even though gender is one of the novel’s central themes, Leckie’s approach to gender is also fundamentally informed by her larger investigation of imperial violence and inequity” (28). (One of the rare “typos” in Higgins’s text is his occasional inadvertent reference to the Radch officer Lieutenant Skaaiat as “he”(58)—this is an excellent demonstration of how easy it is to slip back into taken-for-granted gendered language).

Higgins’s next chapter, on “Empire, Economics, and Addiction,” opens with a section titled “Imperial Allegories,” underlining the links between the critique of empire in Leckie’s novel and the real world of twenty-first-century American politics and culture. The focus here is on the Radch empire’s need for constant expansion, both to create a cordon to safeguard its heartland and to generate the wealth and luxury on which it so desperately depends. But much like the US, the Radch empire is a house divided against itself. Cloned versions of Anaander Mianaai, the Lord of the Radch, have turned against each other and espouse radically different ideas, both reactionary and progressive, about the empire’s future development.

“Ultimately,” Higgins argues, “one way or another, racialization always serves to justify and perpetuate the ongoing economic unevenness that sustains imperial wealth and luxury” (44). His next chapter, on “Race, Citizenship, and Imperial Personhood,” examines the workings of “culture-oriented racism” (54) in Ancillary Justice as it models the post-9/11 American world order. While skin color is irrelevant in the storyworld of Ancillary Justice, the empire’s policies nevertheless deny legal rights to those not recognized as Radchaai citizens. One of Higgins’s most useful insights is that, in Ancillary Justice as in our social realities, “it’s not so much that race determines citizenship, but rather that citizenship is a technology of imperial power that produces race” (61).

Higgins’s final chapter examines the possibilities for political agency under the conditions of empire. Key here is his reading of the tension between “cynical reason” and “revolutionary agency” that shapes the narrative arc of Leckie’s novel. “Cynical reason” is Slavoj Žižek’s term for a kind of political disengagement that “actively enables injustices to continue to occur” (66). “Revolutionary agency” (72) is Higgins’s term for “our ability to take a stand against paralyzing systemic injustice” (69). He borrows Sara Ahmed’s idea of the “feminist snap” (Living a Feminist Life [2017]) as it applies to a broad range of situations demanding action, such as when the reactionary Anaander forces the AI Justice of Toren to execute Lieutenant Awn—the AI snaps and this moment drives most of the subsequent events in the trilogy. As Higgins describes it, “revolutionary action can be more the result of powerful affect moving through us rather than the careful and deliberate consequence of rational choice” (69). Less positively, Higgins also recognizes moments of “reactionary snap” (75) such as mass shootings, also driven by powerful affect but too often feeding on propaganda and mis/disinformation. With this in mind, he examines not only the structures of communication built into Leckie’s storyworld, but also the figures that control them. Parallels to our own dismal media-scapes are inescapable.

While Higgins ranges widely over the research fields that inform his study, he wears his critical theory lightly, given that the “New Canon” series is aimed at undergraduate readers and fans of sf/f. His reading, however, rests on solid theoretical foundations, from Butler’s work on gender and sexuality to Giorgio Agamben’s concept of “bare life” (60) and Slavoj Žižek’s “cynical reason” (66) to Zakiyyah Iman Jackson’s critique in Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (2020) (56). I am a huge fan of Leckie’s IMPERIAL RADCH trilogy and I found Higgins’s Companion an excellent read, not only for its insights into Leckie’s novel but also for its parallel introduction to critical postcolonial questions about the workings of empire in the twenty-first century.—Veronica Hollinger, SFS

Making the Best of All Possible Worlds.

Sebastian Mitchell. Utopia and Its Discontents: Plato to Atwood. Bloomsbury, 2020. 215 pp. $156.95 hc.

The attractions of living in a perfect world seem obvious, yet utopias are often invoked as cautionary tales of the “be careful what you wish for” variety. In Utopia and Its Discontents, Sebastian Mitchell tasks himself with discovering what all this wishing is about and what it leads to, through what he terms “a transhistorical study” spanning two and a half millennia (6). If “Utopianism often suggests a hopelessly impractical scheme or set of measures,” it may be because the very idea of utopia contains a central paradox (1). In a perfect world, there would be no need to imagine a perfect world; by extension, any perfect worlds we construct in response to the imperfections of the world we live in are bound to have imperfections of their own. As far as Mitchell is concerned, these imperfections are the inevitable by-product of reflections on society that have been distorted by less-than- perfect self-reflection: “utopian authors invariably constructed ideal states in their own image” (144). Utopias tend not to be “you-topias” but “me-topias”: casual travellers to any of these fabled lands would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with the author of the guide book and plan their trip by reading between the lines.

This is precisely what Mitchell has done in Utopia and Its Discontents, by sidestepping the proselytizing and polemics in the fictionally perfect worlds he surveys. Instead, he continually sounds the refrain that any utopia is just as much a private aesthetic statement as it is a public political program. The degree to which the beautiful, the useful, and the good are equated in the eyes of the creator of a utopian scheme is the key to understanding whether its overall goals tend more towards making better citizens or merely making better-controlled ones. Regardless of the form of governance chosen for an imagined earthly paradise, “the aesthetic is the central means of utopian expression” (5).

Although Mitchell successfully reconciles divergent schools of thought concerning the role of aesthetics in utopias, in his view their creators have generally adopted Platonic ideals of form. Where they differ is in their acceptance of the restrictions Plato places on artistic expression, as put forth in the Republic (c.375 BCE) and the Symposium (c.385-370 BCE). As a student of fictional ideal states, Mitchell is honor-bound to conclude that Plato has little to offer any utopian writer who sees a place for art and artists in the grand scheme of things. “The shadow of Plato’s condemnation of aesthetic social function” has certainly spread far and wide across social theory, but it is also worth remembering that Plato’s own writings have a decidedly creative component (22). Constructed as extended dialogical romans à these, they leave ample room for speculation as to which voice in the dialogue is meant to be the definitive one.

Utopia is always by necessity a dialogue, a discussion between what is and what might be, an impressionistic exercise in contrasts whose distinguishing features often emerge in the empty space of what is not explicitly spelled out. Before coming to grips with Plato, Mitchell spells out the central discontent that readers encounter when looking for easy solutions from speculative worlds: “A literalist definition of ‘utopia’ ... does not exist” (1). The corollary to this is no less important for understanding how utopias work: if utopia cannot be taken literally, how literally can we take what a fictional character says about it? This question concerning the reliability of literary characters’ accounts of the utopias they visit lies at the heart of one of Mitchell’s most striking insights. No matter how detailed or compelling a portrait of an imagined polis may be, the reader is under no obligation to take it at face value: indeed, speculations about better worlds often come across as jokes told to shock the reader out of a complacent acceptance of the status quo. Utopianism as a tool for ridicule is most easily identified in works with openly satirical or parodic intent, such as Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) or Aristophanes’s The Clouds (first performed in 423 BCE), but that does not mean that it is absent everywhere else. Seen in this light, the lurid bread-and- circuses veneer that Aldous Huxley created for Brave New World (1932) was not so much the product of an author on his way to becoming a “pessimistic utopian” as an exercise in “sardonic élan” by a “cosmopolitan English intellectual who was both repelled [by] and attracted to the glitzy sensual allure of Southern California” (148, 141, 144).

Huxley was not the only one to direct utopian mockery inward as well asoutward: the observation that “Swiftian satire tests the limits of idealistic projection” anchors the middle chapters of Mitchell’s book, which cover the period from the Age of Enlightenment to the middle of the twentieth century (66). The stress that Mitchell lays on irony is part of an overall strategy to situate utopias in a context that allows them to be viewed as more than plaintively aspirational flights of fancy. In common usage, the word “utopian” stresses the simplistic and the unidimensional, but Mitchell sees the literary utopias he studies as complex, often messy creations as full of inherent contradictions as the contemporary real-world cultural conditions that spawned them. Unlike the perfect worlds put forth in manifestos and other political tracts, literary utopias are inherently self-problematizing: “the very state which is being evoked is being subjected to various kinds of aesthetic pressures in the moment of its articulation” (4).

Even the gravitas of English literature’s original utopian author conceals a fair degree of aesthetic pressure and complex, messy playfulness. Mitchell serves up a satisfyingly compelling sketch of Sir Thomas More as a multifaceted private, public, and literary figure: although life on the island of Utopia is every bit as “earnest and active” as its creator’s, “the shifting, appositional nature of More’s text” allows for a multitude of contradictory interpretations (52, 58). Utopia (1516) has equal force as a serious social program, a “straw man” caricature of social programs, and a debate between competing social programs that set each other up as straw men. This is very much in keeping with the dialogical and frequently improvisational nature of the intellectual tradition in which More was steeped. If Plato is the anchor for all utopian writings, More supplies the line which tethers these writings to principles that are firmly embedded in the foundations of Western political thought.

Using Platonic ideals as a measuring stick leads Mitchell to discover that some utopias are more equal than others. As the Industrial Age clattered on into the post-industrial era, the question of who benefits most in a utopia came under ever sharper scrutiny. Previously unquestioned assumptions about citizenship rights and the social order began to be dismantled in increasingly divergent ways: the “dislike of machines and clock time” of Samuel Butler’s Erewhon (1872) and the “anarchic principles” of William Morris’s News From Nowhere (1890) stand in stark contrast to the “monopoly technologized society” of Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward (1888) and the politically and genetically stratified polities of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty- Four (1949) (114, 117, 115). What emerged from this clash of proposed perfect futures was a growing sense that a utopia is the demesne of a favored few. This sense has, sadly, been borne out by history: utopian programs favored by twentieth- and twenty-first-century regimes have tended more toward monopoly and stratification than anarchic principles. Small wonder, then, that Mitchell concedes that “it was possible early in the twentieth century to write about the transformative possibilities of utopianism with more confidence” than it has been since then (218).

Utopia and Its Discontents undergoes its own crisis of confidence soon after that. Like many of the social projects he analyzes, Mitchell’s scholarly project begins to fray at the edges as it approaches the realities of the present day. His admission that “the nineteenth century represents the high watermark [sic] of utopian projection ” comes too late to prepare the reader for the loss of focus, critical distance, and connection to Platonic thought that starts with his investigation of selected literary utopias of the 1970s (220). While Mitchell’s analyses of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) are on the mark, they are also very much on the nose: they come across as dutiful by-the-book responses to set exercises from a reading list of key authors rather than engaged and deeply felt pieces of personal scholarship.

There is a hint at the end of this chapter that the entire final section of Utopia and Its Discontents may be the result of editorial suggestion rather than scholarly passion. A hyperbolic description of Margaret Atwood as “the pre- eminent author to combine the real with the fantastic from the late twentieth century onwards” reads rather more like a book jacket blurb for a fellow member of Bloomsbury’s stable of authors than a sober and sincere assessment (184). The quotation serves as a prelude to a thirty-page panegyric to Atwood that sedulously rings every bell a publisher’s sales department could ever ask for. This is where Mitchell most keenly feels the loss of his anchoring to Plato—and with it, the analytical rigor that he has exercised so productively on others whose works have outlived them. After the acid tests that he has applied to More, Swift, Huxley, Morris, and others, it is a little jarring to find Mitchell crediting Atwood with his study’s defining “eureka moment” in the form of an offhand remark that “in certain circumstances the utopian and the dystopian should be understood as being the same thing” (195; emphasis in original). In truth, this bromide is identical in its essentials to a credo that he has attributed to practically every other author he has already mentioned.

To borrow a reference more from Plato’s time than ours, Mitchell spends this last full chapter as Penelope, unravelling a great deal of carefully woven, lovingly crafted work. A brief concluding section does little to reconnect the loosened threads. A cursory attempt to remind the reader of a central thesis that has long since become a Ship of Theseus is quickly abandoned in favor of a digression into the work of Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. While illuminating, it seems ill-timed and incomplete—a fragment of something truly promising that would have worked better as a chapter—or an entire book—all on its own.

Despite its long limp to the finish line, Utopia and its Discontents is well worth the time it takes to read its first five chapters. Mitchell’s analyses of earlier utopian writings are sharp, committed, and compelling, making any of them a welcome addition to the syllabus of a course on utopian fiction. What emerges as Utopia and its Discontents peters out, however, is a portrait of a scholar who has become like many a protagonist in the works he studies: trapped in a world that works perfectly for others, he finds himself at a loss for a plausible means of escape. Like the Savage at the end of Brave New World, Mitchell and his readers are left to twist in the wind.—Rick Cousins, Trent University

When Lukács Advocates for SF.

David Roberts, Andrew Milner, and Peter Murphy. Science Fiction and Narrative Form. Bloomsbury Academic, 2023. 231 pp. $159.95 hc, $115.16 ebk.

For fifty years intellectuals and scholars have grappled with the question of science fiction as form (including its component parts of genre and definition). The earliest significant scholarly intervention was Darko Suvin’s 1972 definition of sf as a literature of “cognitive estrangement.” Since then, each critic of sf has had in some way to define the genre, if only implicitly to distinguish the boundaries of their subject. Following Suvin, significant reflections on sf’s formal components and definition have been offered by Samuel R. Delany, Robert Scholes, Brian Aldiss, Carl Freedman, Frederic Jameson, and many others. Science Fiction and Narrative Form enters this field as an original, idiosyncratic, and essential intervention. As David Roberts states in the Introduction, “The aim of this book is to situate science fiction among the great narrative forms” (1). Divided into three parts by the individual authors, the book makes an argument for situating sf in Georg Lukács’s typology of the “epic” and the “novel” (The Theory of the Novel [1920]. In this model, the epic is an organic and collective form in which meaning is immanent. In contrast, the modern novel, which chronologically follows the epic and is bound closely to the concerns of modernity, conventionally focuses on problematic individuals and their “alienation from society and nature” (Roberts 1); meaning is the very thing in question in the “godforsaken world” (3). Sf, the authors assert, is a companion form to the novel but transcends it by returning to the existential questions familiar to the epic, including those of humanity and history, technology and ontology, collectivity and destiny. This approach results in a more organic conception of the world, in “comprehensive world pictures” (1).

Roberts’s Introduction and opening section establish many of the theoretical foundations of the book. As might be expected from an argument based in Lukács’s Hegelianism and specifically his The Theory of the Novel (1916), it is made in a literary-philosophical register that cleaves to the kind of German romanticist heritage that it is deploying. Roberts makes the compelling argument that sf has returned to the theological concerns of the epic, later abandoned by the novel for illusions of the free-floating individual. Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised (Les Particules élémentaires [1998]) is a pertinent example of the transcendence of individualism through the symbol of the clone and in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (1818) through the usurpation of divine powers, most particularly that of creating life. In sf, technology provides the metaphors for the “perennial problems of human nature and humanity’s destiny” (58).

In the book’s second part, Andrew Milner develops the argument using Lukács’s The Historical Novel (1937) which, though it left romanticism behind, held fast to the Hegelian conceptual structure and methodology, and might be read as more positive in its judgment of the novel form (in this historical subcategory at least). Making an argument that recalls Brian Aldiss’s from Billion Year Spree (1973), Milner dates the emergence of sf to the modern attitude toward science as “cognitive logic” and finds its fictional founders in Mary Shelley and Jules Verne. Its historical conditions of emergence are thus the scientific and industrial revolutions shortly before and following the turn of the nineteenth century. As with any discussion of sf’s temporality, debates about utopia and dystopia must be engaged. Milner takes a relatively ecumenical approach: sf can be utopian or dystopian and thus he challenges (with reference to Kim Stanley Robinson as both commentator and practitioner) Fredric Jameson’s argument that it is congenitally incapable of imagining “utopia.” Milner traces sf’s commonalities with the historical novel: they each “take human historicity as their central subject matter” (97). Houellebecq’s novels stand as examples, but Milner’s chief evidence for his argument is climate fiction and its “future histories.” Here Milner focusses especially on the work of Kim Stanley Robinson and his relationship to Isaac Asimov.

The third part of Science Fiction and Narrative Form is by Peter Murphy, who begins with science fiction as “cyclical-epic,” in which each protagonist’s problems are subordinated to civilization’s “pattern of all-consuming and repeating rhythms of expansion and contraction, rise and fall, challenge and response” (123). Murphy takes us back briefly to Lukács’s positive view of the epic, whose extensive totality allows its subject to be “life itself” in comparison to the “closed within itself” psychological novel. For Murphy, epic sf has five structural laws: Distance (expanse); Scale (involving the interaction of multiple civilizations or cultures); World-building; Connections (of interrelated social groups); and Necessity/destiny (as in the sense of an unfolding logic to the epic events). Murphy’s principal example of the cyclical-epic is Isaac Asimov’s FOUNDATION series (1951-1953), which focuses on the theme of humanity and civilization’s destiny. Murphy suggests that Asimov’s narrative pattern here is one of “mystery-revelation” (142) as successive protagonists discover that nothing is what it seems: the first Foundation is shadowed by a secret Second Foundation, and so on. As this pattern recurs, ironies follow on ironies, so much so that the “hidden God” is “epic irony” (145). In what proves to be the most extended textual reading in the book, Murphy analyzes Asimov’s epic cycle as a “dialectic of balance and unbalance” (178); there is less direct reference to Lukács here although Murphy’s preceding arguments are shadowed by his unspoken presence.

As one might expect from three writers with three different specializations, Science Fiction and Narrative Form is occasionally an eclectic book that shifts now and then though slightly different modes. It is less an organic totality than a series of compelling arguments held together by the organizing principle of Lukács’s work. As a result, this compressed review can do little justice to the richness or diversity of the text. What I hope is evident, however, is that Science Fiction and Narrative Form is innovative, provocative, and at a level of intellectual seriousness far too rare. In his final chapter, Milner draws out the implications of the argument: Science Fiction and Narrative Form is both a criticism of the limitations of the modern novel, whose potential has been exhausted, and an argument for sf’s critical social role. Sf and fantasy, he states, have become “the primary locus” for our culture’s speculations about its possible futures” (194). These fictional modes engage with the pressing issues of our time: plagues, climate change, nuclear war, artificial intelligence, and so on. (It turns out, ironically, that Lukács is an sf advocate—so works the dialectic of history!). As with any innovative work, objections can be made. There are the customary criticisms of Lukács himself: his overarching Hegelianism with its concept of “totality” that runs so counter to the structuralist and post-structuralist approaches that have dominated the field more recently (and perhaps for too long). More specifically, can a theory of literary “longues durées” or foundational forms such as the “epic,” the “novel,” and “science fiction” really illuminate or contain the fragmented diversity of the field? In the same vein, the book’s claims for sf continue the scholarly tendency to focus on literary works but to sideline or ignore both sf’s paraliterary origins and the fundamental split—and ongoing culture war at least since the New Wave of the 1960s—between its commercial and literary sides (Murphy’s brief discussion of Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME series (1990-2013) is the outlier, though the series is fantasy rather than sf). Does the bulk of science fiction really live up to the standards that Roberts, Milner, and Murphy claim for it? Whatever weight we give to such objections—and I am sure the authors would have various ripostes—Science Fiction and Narrative Form reads like a fusion of curiosity and classic. It should stand as a striking and essential contribution to the long-running debate about sf and form.—Rjurik Davidson, Writer and Independent Scholar, St. Kilda (Australia)

Buy It for the Pictures, Read It for the Knowledge.

Kevin M. Strait and Kinshasha Holman Conwill, eds. Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures. Smithsonian, 2023. 216 pp. $29.95 hc.

When I first learned about this project, a companion book for an exhibit of the same name currently on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I was intrigued. Would this book be simply a record of the exhibit, a souvenir for the gift shop, or would it include additional information? Would it be useful for students? Once I saw the list of contributors, which includes Reynaldo Anderson, N.K. Jemisin, John Jennings, Alondra Nelson, Ytasha L.Womack, and Alisha B. Wormsley, among others, I knew I had to get a copy.
In short, this book does not disappoint. Kevin M. Strait and Kinshasha Holman Conwill have curated a collection of essays from some of the leading creative and academic minds in the field of Afrofuturist studies. The essays are varied and accessibly written, and the accompanying color pictures make this book a must-have for students and anyone else interested in learning about Afrofuturism. Another benefit of museum collaboration is that this large hardcover text is affordably priced, which will be a huge benefit to educators who want to use the book in classes.

The text is organized into four main sections: “Space is the Place,” “Speculative Worlds,” “Visualizing Afrofuturism,” and “Musical Futures.” Each section contains five or six mini-essays written by Afrofuturist scholars and creators with accompanying visuals. The format of the book is much like a textbook; although the essays do not include in-text citations, there is a bibliography section at the end of the book with sources for each of the sections and recommended reading lists. The main theme of the book is Afrofuturism’s ability to bridge discussions of past, present, and future cultural histories to depict potential futures for African-American and Black diasporic peoples. Kevin M. Strait explains in the introduction that “As a conceptual framework, Afrofuturism enables authors, thinkers, artists, and activists to interpret the history of race and the nuances of Black cultural identity on their own terms. Reimagining the Black experience of the past provides new templates for reimagining Black futures to come—while also informing Black life in the present” (12). Most of the essays in the book address similar ideas, essentially teaching readers that Afrofuturist depictions of the future are intrinsically linked both to the ways that history has depicted Black peoples in the past and to the present-day social conditions of Black peoples. By pointing to an often under-recognized history of Black peoples creating alternate histories and futuristic narratives, as well as the history of contributions of Black peoples to speculative narratives and the study of space, the text educates readers on the many contributions Black people have made and continue to make towards creating a more egalitarian future society.

The standout section of the book for Afrofuturist scholars is the “Visualizing Afrofuturism” section. Many Afrofuturism scholars are well- versed in the literary history of the genre and know some facts about the history of Afrofuturist music, but it is much rarer to see scholars engaging with the study of Afrofuturism in art, fashion, and architecture. “Visualizing Afrofuturism” is a helpful introduction to the study of the visual aspects of Afrofuturism and will be an invaluable resource for scholars and classes. Eve L. Ewing argues in “Dreams Rush to Meet Me: Afrofuturist Looks and Looking” that Afrofuturist art has an advantage over other creative forms:

Afrofuturist visual art has a way of inviting the viewer instantaneously into a world of questions, possibilities, wonderments, and contradictions, and doing so quickly, with the sudden rush you might experience if you fell through a trans-dimensional portal. Afrofuturism is about the future, sure, but it’s also about fuzzifying (that’s a technical term) our relationship with the Western construct of linear time altogether. (115)

Ewing refers to a variety of visuals that combine the shiny, metallic technologies expected of Western futuristic work with Black cultural references to achieve this “fuzzifying” effect. Works such as Wanuri Kahiu’s short film Pumzi (2009), Cauleen Smith’s immersive Space Station: Two Rebeccas installation (2018), and Wayne Hodge’s Android /Negroid collage series (2012-2021); one of these pieces is also the cover art for the book) are brought into conversation to demonstrate how each of these visual works blur past, present, and future timelines through a combination of Black cultural elements and futuristic technologies or materials. I also appreciated the inclusion of Shani Crowe’s photography series Conversations with God (2016) in Ewing’s essay, which draws attention to the practice of hair braiding as a technology, an idea that also features heavily in Nnedi Okorafor’s BINTI trilogy 2015-2018). Ewing notes that “[Crowe’s] works invite us to see that most quotidian of materials—braided hair—as a technology equal parts delicate, sophisticated, and magical, a raw material enabling us to literally build something new” (119). Ewing’s article and the entire visuals section of the book allow readers to immediately understand how Afrofuturist creators juxtapose past, present, and future in their work. This section is also helpful for introducing readers to works such as Crowe’s photography series, which might otherwise be overlooked in conversations about Afrofuturism that discuss it as linked to Western notions of technology. Since it is rare for Afrofuturist classes to have access to an in-person Afrofuturism exhibit, professors often rely on publicly available images and museum websites for visuals. Having such a varied amount of Afrofuturist visuals with accessible text explaining their significance makes this work a must for any class that plans to discuss themes of Afrofuturism.

Other notable essays include Ytasha L. Womack’s “Afrofuturism as Space and Being” and “I Came to Africa on a Spaceship,” which are great overview essays on Afrofuturistic epistemology that also refer to African and Haitian cultural practices related to time, space, and chi. John Jennings’s “We Are the Stars: Black Speculative Narratives and the History of the Future” combines references to early African-American speculative literary narratives with discussions of current comic, graphic novel, and other visual representations. Angela Tate’s “The Gendered Contours of Afrofuturism” discusses female Afrofuturist musicians Betty Davis, Beyoncé, and Janelle Monáe in terms of Black female dissemblance and is a must-read. Ariana Curtis’s “Black Joy as Resistance” is an important reminder that Afrofuturism, like many Black resistance movements, is more than a series of dire warnings. Tuliza Fleming’s “Afro-Futuristic Art” and its discussion of Aaron Douglas’s Harlem Renaissance mural Song of the Towers (1934) alongside contemporary activist art instillations is another interesting and informative piece.

No book that tries to take on the entire Afrofuturist movement from the late nineteenth century to today is going to be perfect. The major drawback of this collection is similar to many academic collections: the mini-essays do not necessarily speak to one another and yet many of the essays repeat similar historical and cultural facts; this can get repetitive for a reader who is reading through the whole book. I imagine, however, that most readers and educators will pick and choose essays from the book for classes and to enhance their knowledge of Afrofuturism as a whole, and those readers will be very pleased with the short, accessible essays and the repeating themes. Another critique of this collection is that it ignores current conversations about the distinction between Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism that are happening in academic and creative circles. The contributors are all African American (one is also Afro- Latinx), and while they do allude to African creators and their works, I would have liked to see a few essays from African and Caribbean scholars and authors. N.K. Jemisin and Ytasha L. Womack are the only Afrofuturist author-contributors, and the further Afrofuturist short story and fiction sections lack many of the contemporary Afrofuturist authors that make up this ovement. While the omission makes sense for a collection written and edited mainly by visual experts, the invited scholars could easily have provided further literary reading suggestions.

Overall, Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures is quite the achievement—an accessible text that educates readers on the past, present, and future of the Afrofuturist movement. Although my title is intended to be cheeky, the amazing visuals in this book alone make it worth the $29.95 price tag. This collection could have been created as a nice coffee table book for the museum’s gift shop; instead, it is a much-needed educational resource and a rallying cry for the public to recognize Afrofuturism as both an aesthetic movement and a way of seeing the world.—Joy Sanchez-Taylor, LaGuardia Community College (CUNY)

International Voices on Ecofeminist SF.

Douglas A. Vakoch, ed. Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender and Ecology in Literature. Routledge, 2021. 232 pp. $128 hc, $39.16 ebk.

In the first book-length approach to its subject, Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature comprises fourteen chapters by voices in ecocriticism spanning five continents. The editor, Douglas A. Vakoch, outlines the project’s scope in his Preface as international scholars “scrutiniz[ing] science fiction for insights into the fundamental changes we need to make to survive and thrive as a species” at a time of ecological despair (20). The scope of this work is expansive, as scholars interrogate ecocriticism’s intersections with the Anthropocene in film, television, and both canonical and lesser known but equally important literatures that “trace the origins of human-caused environmental change in the twin oppressions of women and nature driven by patriarchal power and ideologies,” while also providing alternative ways of seeing and being in the world (19). Patrick D. Murphy offers the Introduction, creating a brief timeline of the historical interactions among women, science fiction, and the environment. Though the beginning of the introduction does not seem immediately clear as a framing mechanism for the anthology that follows, Murphy’s critique of the state of ecocritical anthologies up to this point is a salient one: “feminist and ecofeminist analyses of science fiction [by now should have] simply become part and parcel of any collection of essays on such literature [and] ... any ecocritical anthology should have to include a substantial body of ecofeminist critique” (25). But it has been limited even among noted critics and authors in the field, which Murphy cites as justification for this anthology’s intervention.

The book’s chapters are arranged in four parts. “Part 1: Female Bodies: Plants and Animals, Cyborgs and Robots” includes Melissa Etzler’s “Mothered by Arid Sand”: Hanns Heinz Ewers’s “Alraune with an Ecofeminist Twist,” followed by “The Runa and Female Otherness in Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow” by Leslie Kordecki. Etzler argues that the titular character Alraune can be read as a proto-ecofeminist femme fatale who redresses male manipulation and dominance in a novel where “the equation of women, animals, and the earth and the argument for their subservience is so extreme it comes across as absurd” (47). Etzler takes care to trace the lineage of such pairing of the earth and woman from Plato to the novel and beyond, noting that the characters Baum and ten Brinken use language that suggests “woman equals earth” which “establishes the earth as desirous (wanton) of its own exploitation (wench), that [both] woman and earth equal a lustful body desiring its own subjugation [enabling] them to act violently toward women with no qualms” (43). Kordecki’s chapter also links women, animals, and earth and their relative subjugation through a gendered description of the Runa and Jaa’nataa that parallels typical ecocritical distinctions about women, land, and patriarchy through the lens of critical animal studies. Kordecki’s emphasis on reproduction and speciesism, too, looks ahead towards chapter 3, though the analysis of so many interesting claims, especially regarding cannibalism and Catholicism, seems limited. Chapter 3 is “Reproduction, Utilitarianism, and Speciesism in Sleep Dealer and Westworld” by Imelda Martín Junquera. The most promising framework in this chapter is Martín Junquera’s attention to how capitalism and the male domination granted through its access have both recreated and challenged that power and control by creating the female technological Other. “Both kinship and ethical accountability,” she says, “need to be redefined in such a way as to rethink links of affectivity and responsibility, not only for non-anthropomorphic organic others, but also for those technologically mediated, newly patented creatures we are sharing our planet with” (81). This argument is paralleled in her analysis of Rudy’s experience of firing the drone under orders in Alex Rivera’s film Sleep Dealer (2008), where technology serves to disrupt empathy by eliminating any real interaction between the drone user and its victim (82). This serves as a nice transition to the next chapter by Katja Plemenitaš, “The Living Spaces of Robots: An Ecofeminist Reading of The Stepford Wives.” This excellent analysis situates the 1975 film in the context of emerging second-wave feminist thought and reflects the period’s anxieties about technological advancement and increasing attention to gender divisions and disparities. Like previous contributors, Plemenitaš connects science fiction with ecofeminism through a discussion of the parallels in subjugating land and women in literature, film, and television, but this chapter especially shines in its observations of women being manipulated into their own subjugation by men who use idyllic nature, clean air, and the promise of a clean environment that will keep them and their children safe as an antidote to the toxicity of the city, with its factories and fumes. In this way, the men create and control the living conditions whereby they become the owners of women and of the environment through the use of technology, coded as male. Plemenitaš explores further, acknowledging the double bind of Black women (in particular, the first Black family to arrive in Stepford) and other People of Color who have historically been restricted access to natural spaces through racialized violence, and linking questions of “belonging, freedom, and identity” to the modern ecological crises that have “given rise to a critical new awareness of limited access and contribution of people with marginalized identities to the relationship with nature and conservation” (95).

Section II’s “Queer Ecologies” leads with Asli Degirmenci Altin’s “Anthropocentric and Androcentric Ideologies in Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods: An Ecofeminist Reading.” Altin posits that the novel (published in 2007) “indicates and advocates for a posthuman and queer future for our planet” as an antidote to colonialist and capitalist projects of the Anthropocene
(117). As with the preceding chapters, Alt1n draws on Gaard, Plumwood, and Le Guin, but so far the chapters do not seem to really explore these critics in depth. Likewise, all the chapters refer to at least one other chapter in this collection, but they do not truly engage in cross-dialogue. In chapter 6, however, Sarah Bezan’s “Speculative Sex: Queering Aqueous Natures and Biotechnological Futures in Larissa Lai’s The Salt Fish Girl” richly maps Astrida Neimanis’s “posthumanist and feminist approach to aqueous natures [to] enable us to rethink spatial, temporal, and corporeal boundaries” to “queer kinship” in The Salt Fish Girl (120). This is the stand-out chapter of the collection. Bezan makes clear the shift towards an “affirmative ecofeminist politics,” reading Lai’s work as a way to “emblematize the slipperiness and fluidity of queer women’s writing” and as a response to the “protracted future of environmental violence imagined in the novel’s concluding pages” (121). It is a smart, well-organized piece that traces and converses with early queer and ecofeminist thought to more recent watery and materialist posthuman ecocritique, from Vandana Shiva to Greta Gaard and Val Plumwood to Catriona Sandilands and Stacy Alaimo. I particularly appreciated the appeal to “advancing an ethos of disruption” by situating Lai’s work in the Chthulucene, and the playfulness with which Bezan approaches her analysis, even when demonstrating how the novel works to upend tropes of white Western superiority by bringing the “outside in—and the inside out—by reflecting the fluid and multiplicitous variations between bodies and beings” (131). This truly excellent scholarship was a pleasure to read and think about beyond this volume, though I should note the use of overwhelmingly white critical theorists detracts from the central tenet to decenter white Western thought. Next, Meghna Mudaliar takes on beloved television series in chapter 7’s “Queering Doctor Who and Supernatural: An Ecofeminist Response to Bill Potts and Charlie Bradbury.” Mudaliar interrogates the opposing and often essentializing dichotomies of natural/unnatural as they relate to queer women in the series. A short chapter, it does a good job of engaging with and interrogating “our developing notions of hybrid and heterogeneous forms of identity” (151).

Section III on “War and Ecoterrorism” includes Patrick Murphy’s “No Easy Answers: Karen Traviss’s The Wess’har Wars Series” in chapter 8, emphasizing Traviss’s use of invitational rhetoric, in part to raise the question “how long should a dialogue be carried on with those who champion a self- destructive industrialism and resource consumption that will exhaust their own, our own planet” (157). Murphy makes a case for the use of relationality, a critique of commodification and consumption in terms of bioprospecting, nuances in the ethics of veganism in ecofeminist thought, and the ethical implications of balancing complex ecological needs and desires from the individual to the global. In chapter 9, Baºak Aðin examines ecofeminism in popular culture and film in “‘The Force Is Strong with This One’: A Material Feminist Approach to STAR WARS,” arguing that the turn of STAR WARS (1977-) toward inclusion and representation in recent years has coincided with the materialist turn in ecofeminism and that the Force literally matters in shaping agentic change both for the films and for sf and ecofeminism as metaphors. Relying on Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter (2009) as a through-line, Aðin deftly compares the vibrant material of the Force to that of dirt, which creates possibilities for change through a “coalescent agency of all things bound together,” in a way that can shape our redefinition of the relationality between humans and the more-than-human (183). In chapter 10, Peter I-min Huang’s “Chinese Science Fiction and Representations of Ecofeminists: Women Warriors and Madwomen” closes out this section with a discussion of Cixin Liu’s The Three Body Problem (2008) and Chen Quifan’s The Waste Tide (2013). Here, I-min Huang presents a summary of Cixin Liu’s novel to underscore how ecofeminist principles and practices are misrepresented in the novel by its three main characters, alluding to the novel’s failure to understand the environmental thinking and activism, and placing the novel within a long history of techno-utopias. In contrast, he says, The Waste Tide belongs to an emerging new wave of Chinese sf that critiques the technological sublime and “confronts the heavy moral masculinist baggage of humans’ uses of technology to control the planet” (197) and “has the ability to critically address, more than to escape from, masculinist projects of eco-domination” (202).

The scholars in section IV argue the effects of “Capitalism and Colonization” on anthropogenic climate change. Lydia Rose and Teresa M. Bartoli begin this section with “Hegemonic Masculinity and Tropes of Domination: An Ecofeminist Analysis of James Cameron’s 2009 Film Avatar.” Explained as a “hypothetical case study of idealized ecofeminism,” the authors argue that Avatar (2009), the second highest-grossing film of all time, has had a powerful global psychosocial and cultural impact that can be linked to the perceived loss of an unattainable ecological ideal and/or depression caused by the “historical, unresolved grief of colonized traumatized peoples” (208) reflected in the film’s depiction of the colonization of the Na’vi. The chapter outlines the ways in which typical environmental sf tropes of colonialism, exploitation, militarism, and the nature/culture divide are reflected in the film, as well as its employment of the white superhero (I would argue “savior” is more appropriate here) trope. It is the conclusion, though, that was the highlight of this chapter. I would have liked to see more of the parallels described here among the Trump administration’s authorization of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the motifs of Indigenous exploitation and domination in the film, especially considering Indigenous critiques of Cameron’s own perspectives surrounding his writing of the film. Zahra Jannessari Ladani provides an account of “Eco-Heroines and Saviors in Iraj Fazel Bakhsheshi’s Men and Supertowers and The Sun’s Sons” in chapter 12.

Bakhsheshi’s work is not globally well known, and Ladani makes excellent use of this chapter to connect the two novels as a critical intervention in Anthropocene writing. She posits that Bakhsheshi’s heroines are the initiators of a new version of heroism, one that “collates social responsibilities with ethical mandates and an egalitarian outlook [that] make it possible for us to reevaluate” issues in ecofeminism and to counter patriarchal hegemony (245). Benay Blend’s “Rethinking Resistance: An Ecofeminist Approach to Anti- Colonialism in Louise Erdrich’s Future Home of the Living God and Oreet Ashery and Larissa Sansour’s The Novel of Nonel and Vovel” skillfully pairs the reading of these works to show how an ecofeminist analysis creates a “multilayered approach to claim, interpret, and create viable understandings of sovereignty” and decolonized futures (251). This chapter converses more thoroughly than others with the preceding texts in the volume, noting how Bezan’s and Plemenitaš’s arguments align with Blend’s ideas about men’s use of technology to control women’s bodies and sf’s complicity in many instances of reifying structures of racism, colonialism, and sexism that lead to the romanticization of technology. Finally, Chapter 14 closes this section and the collection with “The Road to Sinshan: Ecophilia in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Early Hainish Novels” by Deirdre Byrne. Byrne reads the novels in terms of new materialism and science studies to “ascertain whether there are ecofeminist impulses in the early texts [and] to rescue these early texts from the comparative obscurity to which they have been relegated by critics who are (in my view) unresponsive to their complexity and creative vision” (278). In doing so, she traces Le Guin’s treatment of non-human nature throughout the cycle, offering keen insights on ecofeminist assemblages and the urgency of ethical partnership with the Other in the face of the Anthropocene.

In all, this collection offers a good introduction to the landscape of ecofeminist science fiction, especially for scholars new to the field. At times it can seem repetitive, given that several of the chapters reference the same or similar scholarship to trace terminologies. The book also suffers a bit from a lack of uniform identity, with some chapters working together to provide a structured reading list, and some other standout chapters adding rich insight and analysis to a burgeoning field. Ultimately, it is an important contribution to the intersections of ecofeminism and science fiction.—Megan Stowe, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The Tortuous yet Extraordinary Development of Chinese SF in the Twentieth Century.

Wu Yan, Er Shi Shi Ji Zhong Guo Ke Huan Xiao Shuo Shi [History of Chinese Science Fiction in the 20th Century]. Beijing UP, 2022. 235 pp. ¥68.00 pbk.

To date, studies of Chinese sf have tended to maintain a local focus—that is, an author selects a short period of time and then summarizes and evaluates the science fiction of that period. Representative works include Jia Liyuan’s Modern and Unknown: A Study of Science Fiction in the Late Qing Dynasty (2021), Zhan Ling’s Research on the Transformation of Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction (2022), and Hua Li’s Chinese Science Fiction during the Post-Mao Cultural Thaw (2021). Unlike these earlier studies, Wu Yan, China’s foremost sf scholar, summarizes and analyzes the development of sf in China over the past 100 years from a macro perspective, so that readers can accurately and comprehensively understand its tortuous yet extraordinary development. Wu divides the history of Chinese sf in the twentieth century into five periods: its development in the late Qing Dynasty, sf during the Republic of China, sf in the early People’s Republic of China, sf after the Cultural Revolution, and sf in “the new era.”

In his preface, “The Rise and Fall of Chinese SF,” Wu sums up these several periods of the development of sf in China with the words “prosperity, evolution, marginalization, transformation, and maturity.” There was no such category as sf in the ancient Chinese literary tradition; it first appeared in the late Qing. At the end of the ninteenth century, intellectuals in the late Qing introduced this type of Western literature into China with the mission of enlightenment and national salvation. In 1872, the Chinese translation of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” (1819) was published in Shanghai Shen daily, opening up the exploration of sf in the Chinese literary field. After the New Culture Movement (1915-1919), realism became the dominant literary genre for the next seventy years. Realistic literature was praised and promoted by the majority of the population because it reflected their suffering and exposed social corruption. During the period of the Republic of China (1911-1949), sf was a marginalized genre. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), Mao Zedong accused writers of being representatives of the bourgeoisie and their novels of being poisonous weeds poised against the Party and socialism. To the Chinese people, sf was a symbol of Western culture and for ten years the creation of science fiction was completely at a standstill. In the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping regarded sf as “spiritual pollution literature.” Once again sf was severely criticized.

Wu’s first chapter is “The Development of SF in the Late Qing Dynasty (1900-1911).” In the late Qing, sf was a way for intellectuals to explore the world, truth, and fate (5). To these writers, the exploration and conquest of unknown islands or planets was the basis for China’s rejuvenation. Wu focuses mainly on Wu Jianren’s The New Story of the Stone (1905). From the perspective of ideology, artistry, and integrity, The New Story of the Stone represents for Wu the highest level of sf in the late Qing (34). Its excessive didactic emphasis, however, weakened the aesthetic value of The New Story of the Stone. Wu also points out the common problems of sf in the late Qing. Due to the lack of basic scientific knowledge, the depiction of scientific phenomena by sf novelists of the late Qing lacked the most basic scientific and logical supports, leading to scenarios that were absurd and ridiculous.

Wu’s second chapter is “The Development of SF during the Republic of China (1912-1949).” Science fiction during the late Qing had a very clear political character, but when the Qing Dynasty perished in 1912, sf also declined. It was replaced by the new realist literature of the May 4th movement. Wu points out that the sf of the Republic of China was in essence a continuation of the sf of the late Qing (58), although it also had its own haracteristics. First of all, the New Culture Movement in 1915 advocated “science and democracy” and opposed “ignorance and autocracy.” Because of this cultural movement, “Science” received unprecedented attention. Secondly, the number of foreign sf texts translated into Chinese during this period greatly increased compared with the late Qing (55). H.G. Wells’s science fiction was particularly popular during the period of the Republic of China, because it was believed to be highly scientific and predictive. Finally, the period of the Republic of China saw the emergence of sf research publications. The Shanghai Book Company founded the academic journal Weekly in 1922.

Wu’s third chapter is entitled “The Development of SF in the Early People’s Republic of China (1949-1966).” From 1949 to 1966, the Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted the policy of “leaning to one side,” that is, everything in China followed the Soviet model. In the 1930s, the novelists of the Soviet Union regarded sf as an artistic extension of scientific production, and its most urgent goal was to popularize scientific knowledge. In the early People’s Republic of China, sf texts were generally regarded as popular science books for children. Sf writers used simple language to explain profound scientific principles. Wu focuses in this chapter on Zheng Wenguang’s From Earth to Mars (1955), the first original sf published since the founding of the People’s Republic. In this novel the protagonist Zhen Zhen flies to Mars in her father’s rocket. During her travels to Mars, Zhen Zhen teaches readers about features of space science, such as atmospheres, meteors, and gravity. Zhen Zhen finally returns to earth after one week traveling around Mars. She is forced to return after encountering difficulties (such as meteors and lack of fuel) during her travels. Zhen Zhen’s failure to land on Mars is the source of great regret. The writing strategy of “imperfect ending” increased readers’ interest in reading. But Wu also criticizes the lack of imagination in many sf plots during this period. Many sf depictions were simple imitations of everyday things. For example, the operation of the aircraft in From Earth to Mars is actually similar to that of the tractor. This is the epitome of the underdevelopment of sf at this time (87).

Wu’s fourth chapter is “The Development of SF after the Cultural Revolution (1976-1990).” After experiencing the havoc of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Central Committee of the CPC decided to shift the focus of its work from “class struggle” to “economic construction.” Chinese sf developed rapidly between 1978 and 1983. Its major theme was “to explore the unknown.” Wu focuses here on Ye Yonglie’s Oil Protein (1983), a short sf story written for young readers. The reporter in the story visits the Jiangsu Binhai oil factory, where the factory director introduces oil dewaxing processes to the reporter. Because Ye had no professional knowledge of oil, the oil dewaxing processes described in the story were the product of Ye’s own imagination. Its publication made sf the target of criticism. Qian Xuesen, a famous scientist, published an article entitled “The Phenomenon of Pseudoscience in Current Chinese Society” in the People’s Daily in 1983, accusing then-current sf of being a specimen of pseudoscience and misleading teenagers, stressing that fantasy must be based on science (147). Qian’s article attracted Deng Xiaoping’s attention. In 1983 Deng announced that science fiction was a pollution of science (149). Deng called on the judiciary and propaganda departments at all levels to eliminate “unhealthy” thoughts, works, and performances in society. The CPC called it the “anti-spiritual pollution campaign.” As a type of Western literature, science fiction was severely criticized in this campaign. This lasted for three years and about 24,000 people were executed for “mental impurity.” This campaign greatly dampened the creative enthusiasm of sf writers.

Wu’s fifth chapter is entitled “The Development of SF in the New Era (1991-2000).” In the 1990s, Chinese society underwent earthshaking changes. High technology in various fields had a profound impact on people’s lives. During this period, science fiction that emphasized high-tech elements quickly occupied the market. Wu chooses several representative high-tech features to explain this period to his readers. These include virtual worlds, post- humanism, alien civilizations, historical sf (combining Chinese history or fairy tales and sf elements), and modern physics. Wu focuses here mainly on Liu Cixin’s The Wandering Earth (2000). This is a tragic story about humanity fleeing the solar system to find a new home. The story is set in 2075, and the entire solar system is threatened with destruction from a helium explosion in the sun. Humans must try to build a super-spacecraft to fly to Proxima Centauri, 4.3 light-years from Earth. Compared with From Earth to Mars, The Wandering Earth does not introduce readers to the principles of solar helium fusion and the structure of the solar system, but instead uses high-tech ideas to depict humanity’s confusion and pain when facing the end of the world. Wu also notes that sf writers in the 1990s feared that the “anti-spiritual pollution campaign” would reappear. Therefore their works do not address sensitive issues such as “national inferiority” or “why China cannot achieve democratic modernization” (194).

Wu’s conclusion is entitled “the ‘Chineseness’ of Chinese SF.” First of all, Wu briefly reviews the history of Chinese sf in the twenty-first century. He speaks highly of Liu Cixin’s novel The Three-Body Problem (2008). This won the Hugo Award in 2015, demonstrating that Chinese sf writers have become ranked among the best writers in the world (234). Secondly, Wu praises the contributions of the new generation of sf writers. Young writers such as Chen Qiufan, Hao Jingfang, Jia Liyuan, and Xiao Xinghan have repeatedly won Chinese sf awards, promoting the development of Chinese sf in the twenty- first century. Finally, Wu evaluates the literary value of sf from a macro perspective. Wu argues that “Science fiction can better reflect the changes of national spirit, national culture, and national literature than any other type of literature” (234). Chinese sf has demonstrated “Chineseness” since its birth. In the late Qing and the Republic of China, this “Chineseness” was manifested as “seeking the way to save the country and achieving national prosperity.” During the early period of the People’s Republic, this “Chineseness” was manifested as “spreading scientific knowledge.” In the twenty-first century, this “Chineseness” is manifested as “showing the excellence of Chinese culture” (235).
Looking back on the development of sf in China over the course of the twentieth century, we can see how Chinese sf simultaneously both absorbed Chinese culture and demonstrated the influence of Western sf (234). China’s rapid changes and social unrest over the course of the century were paralleled by sf’s rise and fall and rise again. When we review the development of Chinese sf in the twentieth century, we find the amazing history of social change in China recorded in and disseminated through its science fiction.—Shaoming Duan, Goethe University of Frankfurt am Main

Changing Our Dreams and Visions.

Ida Yoshinaga, Sean Guynes, and Gerry Canavan, eds. Uneven Futures: Strategies for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction. MIT Press, 2022. 356+xv pp. $30.00 pbk.

Uneven Futures: Strategies for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction assembles thirty-nine chapters that explore how sf can help us to identify and critique the structures that create and reinforce unevenness across multiple dimensions while developing approaches to community building to tackle their repercussions. The collection seeks to demonstrate how we might consider sf with due recognition of the diversity of approaches to the explication of strategies for community survival. As the editors ask in the introduction, “where has sf anticipated emergent futures and given us strategies to survive the present” (vii)? The chapters focus on a range of sf media with contributors who hail from several global and professional contexts, thus broadening the approaches to and uses of sf for reflecting on and helping to create the conditions for inclusive, sustainable futures. This ambitious project sketches key strategies that signal further extensions into speculating about emergent possibilities and place emphasis on the person as community member for actualizing these strategies.
Uneven Futures experiments with foregrounding contributor positionalities to help us relate these fictions to the ongoing project of imagining and working toward new and diverse futures. The chapters’ styles reflect this aspect of the project: contributors offer a situated interpretation of a work of sf that speaks to our contemporary moment. While these readings connect sf to globally distributed locales, they converge on the project of connecting modes of community resilience and engagement and seek to address the collection’s core themes of the unevenness of our presents and futures and the collection of strategies to address this unevenness.

The collection is organized into four sections with a brief “Interlude” comprising Ida Yoshinaga’s summary of the trajectory of sf studies in “Science Fiction Studies 3.0: Re-Networking Our Hive Mind.” Yoshinaga provides one way of situating each contribution within academic sf scholarship, but also considers the unevenness of sf scholarship and its future direction. Taking a cue from William Merrin’s Media Studies 2.0 (2014), Yoshinaga characterizes sf scholarship as progressing through three phases. First is the generation of “SF theory through professional creative and academic practice” (168), which is keyed to the dual development of an industrial design for print sf aesthetics and thematics represented by the efforts of The Futurians, editors such as Damon Knight and Judith Merril, and the reading, writing, and editing communities of the 1950s–1960s; and an academic sf scholarship that develops from the 1970s following Darko Suvin’s theorization of cognitive estrangement. Second, SF Studies 2.0 is tracked to the diversification of sf and genre debates from the 1990s, which offered a convergence of experimental artistic feminist writing, and technocultural, intersectional, and global thinkers alongside a recovery of sf’s sociohistorical specificities. This period of diversification involved a decentering of literary print sf as the primary sf medium to encompass audio-visual, social, digital, and performative modes of sf. Third is a contemporary orientation for sf studies that privileges makers and practitioners as opposed to the decontextualized sf text. Yoshinaga’s championing of this emergent direction for sf studies sees those involved in the creation, distribution, and circulation of sf as “aimed at creating a sophisticated knowledge infrastructure to help diverse communities in the future withstand and survive the talons of capital and empire” (172). Yoshinaga’s call to forge a new phase of sf neatly encapsulates an essential goal of Uneven Futures: each chapter contributes to the work of creating a structure of knowledge, but the work itself, and the institutions and practices that make up the creative nodes of this sophisticated mode of knowledge generation, are the key organizing structures for SF Studies 3.0. Yoshinaga’s vision of the new orientation for sf connects the work of creators, scholars, and participants in sf cultures to activism but is not intended as an exclusive or prescriptive account of sf. Rather, it provides a textured portrayal of overlapping approaches to sf that are tied to specific historical moments but that all exert an influence on conceptions of sf’s future. Yoshinaga’s view of sf reflects this turmoil within sf studies and positions sf criticism as activist and a key part of sf conceived of as a knowledge infrastructure—a critical infrastructure for addressing the economic, political, and climate challenges of our presents and futures. In this sense the elaboration of the development of sf studies highlights how sf criticism has itself been uneven, privileging as it has historically narrow sf media and creators and commentators in the global north.

The collection invites readers to approach the book in non-linear ways. Chapters are organized according to four approaches to imagining our presents and futures, though, as the editors note, such strategies are not mutually exclusive. The first section, “Emergence,” centers pieces that highlight “affective dimensions of empathy, affinity, and solidarity” that are framed as key agents for driving responses to conflict and change (xiv). “Rupture” considers works of sf that “symbolically (or actually) interrogate and challenge normative orders” (xiv). “Transformation” offers reflections on sf that provide or “model community solutions within crisis-ridden systems,” while the final section, “Revolution,” “highlights the ideological and material revolutions of speculative fiction” (xiv). This structure should not imply that chapters work narrowly within the conceptual boundaries ascribed to each section, but rather that they speak to one another and draw connections to the broad themes of the other sections.

“Emergence” includes ten pieces: four on novels, one on a novella, three on television, and one on comics. “Rupture” features nine chapters: five on novels, one on short film, one on television, one on film, and one on the collaboratively written digital media enterprise The SCP Foundation. “Transformation” contains eight chapters, four of which consider novels, three analogue and digital games, and a closing chapter on the theatrical adaptation, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (2023). The final section, “Revolution,” comprises eleven chapters, seven on novels, one on music, one on film, and one on comics, with a final chapter on a specific site as an exemplar for how speculation, resistance, and the creation of new futures intersect in lived experience. As this overview indicates, much of the collection is devoted to examinations of literary print fiction, with twenty chapters dedicated to reflections on novels, one chapter on a novella, and one on a short story. The three chapters on analogue and digital games are all collected under the third section “Transformation.” Given that the collection is an experiment with sf scholarship as reflection and praxis, however, and that it is working within the context of the historical dominance of print sf in sf scholarship, it is important to resist drawing conclusions about the status of different sf mediums based on the structure of this collection.

One of the most inspiring aspects of these pieces is the reflective approach to interpreting and writing about works of sf in relation to each contributor’s positionality and to broader contexts around the globe. Many of these pieces re-evaluate sf in relation to contemporary events such as COVID-19, climate change, racial, ethnic, gender, and other social inequalities, the repercussions and effects of imperialism and capitalism, or to specific political and land-use contexts. Several contributions, such as Kirin Wachter-Grene’s opening chapter on Samuel R. Delany’s “The Star Pit” (1968; “Emergence”), Karen Lord’s examination of Edwin A. Abbott’s Flatland (1884; “Rupture”), Ayama Jamieson’s inspiring reflection on Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon’s Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower (2023; “Transformation”), and Nicola Hunte’s piece on Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose (2008; “Revolution”) are not only informed by how the COVID lockdown textures thinking, interpretation, and writing about sf but also how the global response to COVID-19, in Lord’s words, “painfully highlighted many old flaws of human civilization and governance” (91). As Wachter-Grene acknowledges, the pandemic cuts across multiple dimensions of unevenness to reveal how economic racism and “anti-blackness is a precondition for COVID-19”(4). This intersection signals the presence of a broader organizing principle that Wachter-Grene identifies as racial capitalism (4). A key project of this collection is to draw connections among multiple forms of unevenness that condition our presents and to show how sf can help us to think about the entanglements and complementarities among these different modes of unevenness. Works such as Flatland, “The Star Pit,” and John Rieder’s reflection on Karel Èapek’s War with the Newts (1936; “Rupture”) highlight how familiar works become freshly relevant in the present context. The authors’ approaches to positioning themselves in relation to these works and to broader institutions, structures, and events enact this call for reciprocity and acknowledgment. As Wachter-Grene explains, “Accountability to one another means recognizing our relationality, dismantling unjust horizons so as to restructure reciprocal horizontality” (5). The collection enacts this relationality and offers strategies for how we might read, teach, and write about sf in ways that do not foreclose these possibilities.

Some of the most compelling reflections include Brent Ryan Bellamy’s discussion of Buried Without Ceremony’s role-playing games The Quiet Year (2013) and The Deep Forest (2014; “Transformation”), two collaborative resource and community management games that unfold within the space between apocalypses and that “meaningfully places the players in negotiation over what exists, what happens, and, crucially, how the community feels about it” (212). Bellamy’s reflection on how using the games to introduce university students to ideas about collaboration, governance, the individual, and community underscores how collaborative worldbuilding and negotiation through games enact many strategies relevant for addressing our uneven futures. Darshana Jayemanne, Brendan Keogh, and Ben Abraham’s consideration of Hideo Kojima’s digital game Death Stranding (2019; “Transformation”) likewise invites players to confront apocalypse but also offers opportunities to collaborate with others to make the near impassable landscape traversable. As the authors note, “Death Stranding teaches us, by working through its own conditions of possibility, the importance of the contemporary ‘banality’ of infrastructure in the face of our quilted apocalypses” (223). Andrew Ferguson’s article on the SCP Foundation (2020-; “Rupture”), originally a 4Chan board hosting creepypastas, focuses on the digital opportunities for community development in unlikely contexts. As Ferguson writes, “SCP was an overture, an invitation to exit a toxic community (though not forget about it; still the anomaly must be monitored) and instead build something lasting” (125). These examples identify exciting possibilities that sf gaming and digital media offer for generating transformative strategies for reciprocity and community deliberation.

Other notable chapters include Ouissal Harize’s reflection on Boualem Sansal’s 2084: The End of the World (2015; “Revolution”), which the contributor frames in relation to personal lived experience in Algeria during the 1990s and with higher education in that country. This context helps to frame the readings of Sansal’s novel and underscores how urgent sf is for opening spaces of reflection and resistance to ideological closure. The closing chapter of the collection, Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada’s “Na Kia‘I Mauna, Ka Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu at the Mauna Kea Access Road (2019) / An SF Sovereignty Story” (“Revolution”), reads the protests and forms of community building that attended resistance to the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope at Maunakea as sf. Reflecting on the dearth and narrowness of indigeneity in sf, Kuwada contends that “those of us who consume SF need to change our dreams, change our visions. It is not only novel to understand Ka Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu as a science fiction text written into reality, but absolutely vital to do so” (326). Kuwada reframes sf in relation to môhihi‘o, a Hawaiian-language word for science fiction that draws attention to perspectival shifts informed by ancestral knowledge that is tied to place. This understanding of sf grounds the identification of the activists’ sanctuary, Ka Pu‘uhonua o Pu‘uhuluhulu, as a space where “a science fiction story cowritten by thousands of people” could unfold (330).

Uneven Futures demonstrates how sf as media, worldview, and praxis is crucially relevant to the forms of community building and activism essential to addressing the unevenness of our present and the shaping of our shared futures. The contributors’ reflections and analyses highlight how sf dynamically shifts in relation to new contexts. The chapters identify some of the urgent developments that are required to make these engagements possible and offer not only strategies for such community reconstruction but also inspiration for doing so. The collection broadens understanding of what sf is and what it can do and challenges those invested in the mode to reflect on their own orientation to developments in sf. These short explorations foreground how sf works to establish new forms of community identity while offering critiques of ideologies and structures that reproduce uneven futures. Where these articles are most important, however, is in how they make these works personal, reflecting on the impact each offers in relation to each contributor’s experience. The collection offers a refreshing orientation to sf that helps to make its relevance to our own experience that much easier to relate to and appreciate, and thus to fit into new contexts and new experiences.—Chris Pak, Swansea University

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