Science Fiction Studies

#79 = Volume 26, Part 3 =November 1999

Editorial Introduction

Global SF

A founding goal of SFS was to adopt an international perspective, to contest the then-accepted truism that sf was as all-American as the western. In the early years, R.D. Mullen and Darko Suvin actively sought out European scholars who wrote about their own sf counter-traditions. During those heady days, an sf pipeline was built to England, Poland, Czechoslovakia, the USSR, West Germany, and France. And, in the decades since, SFS has kept that ideal of pluralism alive. We have published many pages on works that few North Americans have access to, written in languages that often only academics can read in the original. Our motivation has been a stubborn conviction that sf at its best is inherently international, a way of imagining that emerges from every society's experience of techno-social transformation.

But in recent years the situation has become more complex. The collapse of the Soviet system has meant the demolition, not only of state subsidies that supported a native tradition of socialist sf, but also of the artificial seawalls erected against the tidal wave of market forces. The development of high-tech communications has extended "American" commercial and aesthetic values throughout the world. Nation-states, deeply invested in the putative autonomy of their languages and traditions, nonetheless are increasingly interlocked with multinational corporations that have little interest in local values. And millions of people are moving in a gigantic momentum of diasporas and migrations from country to country, culture to culture. This worldwide intermingling, under the aegis of American-style market-capitalist hegemony, has created the conditions of what has come to be known, oxymoronically perhaps, as "global" culture.

This radically new present and future changes our sense of the past as well. We now recognize how many national traditions we have ignored; how many important writers, even in the heart of Europe, we have neither translated nor read; how many "classics" we have forgotten. This seems, thus, an appropriate moment to cast a glance backwards at the achievements of the many national cultures of sf, as well as forwards, to the emergent global paradigm. Roughly corresponding to this dual focus, our next two issues seek to assess the legacy of internationalism and the promise--and perils--of globalism. The current issue foregrounds European and South American science fiction, while our March 2000 issue will focus on sf of the Pacific Rim (Japan, China, Australia, and environs). While the current issue addresses significant authors, texts, and popular traditions that have been largely ignored in the scholarship on international sf, the coming issue will explore some new forms and configurations--anime films, postmodern cityscapes, cyborg culture--associated with global sf. Along with the articles, we have included specially commissioned short essays on national and regional sf cultures. Throughout, our goal is at once to extend and to reaffirm our longstanding commitment to broadening the horizons of sf scholarship.

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