The Future is Unwritten: Representations of Political Resistance and Emancipation in Science Fiction
“Happy are those ages when the starry sky is the map of all possible paths—ages whose paths are illuminated by the light of the stars. Everything in such ages is new and yet familiar, full of adventure and yet their own.” Georg Lukács wrote those words in his Theory of the Novel in developing the point that art is no longer merely a copy of the world, but rather, an imagined totality. Though he favored realism, we can, perhaps borrow his point to explain the value of science fiction in today’s world. Few other genres exceed science fiction’s ability to portray the expansive space of the imaginary. Science fiction has the virtue of pushing hard against the limits of reality, while, as Frederic Jameson has argued, always taking the very real problematic of modernity as its starting point. In this, Jameson argues, it differs from the genre of fantasy, which deals with ahistorical, mythical concepts of good and evil often offering magical resolutions. In contrast, science fiction novels, short stories, films and even music have provided venues for reflection and discussion about some of the most pressing issues raised by modernity, tending to turn to science as the source of both crises and the solutions. At various times prescient, disturbing and exhilarating, the genre provides an opportunity for the examination and development of new worlds wherein contemporary problems can be thoughtfully represented and examined. In effect, science fiction offers a venue for the exploration of contemporary political, sociological, philosophic, and cultural tensions in society. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, often considered to be the first science fiction novel, is a case in point. The work forces the reader and theorist to explore core questions such as: What is life? What is human? What is the relationship between science and society? How does ethical responsibility function within a world of increasingly advancing science?
In this volume, we are interested in the genre’s ability to develop spaces that portray specific political questions that are central to our contemporary life. Often, the political imaginary presented in science fiction is a bleak vision full of destruction, pain, imprisonment, fear, death, or even, annihilation. Indeed, dystopian visions far outweigh utopian ones in science fiction, so much so that one is hard pressed to think of a truly great work of utopian science fiction. Part of the focus on dystopia might be, because, as Fredric Jameson said “…it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Since political science fiction is largely a reflection of cultural anxieties about politics and power, the genre takes the problems and crisis in modern capitalism to their logical and political conclusions. A truly great science fiction novel like 1984, for instance, certainly paints a harrowing picture of totalitarianism even seeming to suggest that, as Star Trek’s Borg would later put it, resistance is futile. In the end Winston Smith is betrayed and broken, and truth itself is destroyed. While dystopian novels such as 1984, Brave New World, Oryx And Crake, Fahrenheit 451, Neuromancer, Parable of the Sower, Snow Crash and countless others have traditionally been used to illustrate the evils of political power and the end of freedom, truth and justice, we would like to ask for different readings in this volume.
Is it possible to read messages of political resistance and hope in the genre? Does political science fiction provide insights into political agency and strategy in contemporary political life? Do these insights exist on their own in certain works? Can we, as Terry Eagleton wrote, read “against the grain” to find hope in despair even in those works that are dystopian? Does Afrofuturism suggest meaningful re-readings of history, creations of parallel histories, or new worlds that respond to issues of race in our time? Do Steampunk readings of the future as imagined from the point of view of the past, provide alternative paths for imagining better political futures? We welcome contributions that explore ideas of political resistance and hope across the spectrum of science fiction. Contributions may focus on one author, sub-genre, or theme in discussing the larger theme we propose as a focus.
Creation of new worlds
Crime and criminality
Humanism and post-humanism
Sci Fi in popular music
Target Audience: This book will be useful to scholars as well as for course adoption in both undergraduate and graduate courses. Given the book’s focus on political resistance in popular genre fiction, we anticipate broad interdisciplinary appeal in such disciplines as Political Science, Sociology, English, Film Studies, Women’s Studies, African American Studies, American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Legal Studies, and others.
Length of Contributions – 8000-10,000 words
Review Process – We anticipate publication with an academic trade press or a university press. Chapters will be reviewed by the editors and then the full manuscript will be subjected to an external peer review process as per the publication venue’s normal process.
Submit title and abstract to editors by April 27
Completed Chapter due to book editors by September 30
Request for revisions returned to authors by October 30
Final manuscript goal due date November 15th
Submission and Formatting:
Please use the Harvard referencing system (citation in the text, parenthesized, abbreviated details of sources quoted or referred to, e.g. (Jones, 1993, p.10), with a corresponding bibliography.