Reading Race in SF

Monday, 27 June 2011 16:22

A few weeks back, Adriel Luis’ article, “The Ultimate 21st Century People of Color Sci-Fi List” caught my eye (scroll through the comments for many more suggestions of works to read/watch). While a short list of fiction and film, Luis’ article draws attention the fact that people of colour do in fact create excellent SF. Unfortunately, the SF community still has much work to do in creating a more inclusive space for non-white writers and fans. Academic readings of race in SF are relatively rare as well, as the bulk of SF criticism is directed towards the identity issues of gender and sexuality and notions of posthumanity and technophilia/phobia.

I addressed the gap in scholarship in the “Conclusion” to my thesis [brief excerpt]:

In terms of the academic study of SF, in particular emerging genres of feminist SF (including feminist post-cyberpunk), the issue of race still remains on the sidelines. While there is a growing interest in post-colonial readings of SF, much discussion of race and the racialized body remains regulated to asides in larger works that focus on gender and sexuality. If I had been fully aware of the extent of this gap in SF critical literature, I would have deepened my research into postcolonial readings of feminist SF and taken my thesis in another direction at the outset. As it was, I did continue to search for postcolonial readings of SF throughout my writing process, but still was only able to discover a handful of relevant critical texts. I would strongly encourage existing and future academics working in the field of SF to consider rectifying this lack in the scholarship. More works by non-white SF writers are being published, but academic attention to their contributions to the discussion of technology, the body, and the future of the human still lags behind.


If you are interested in doing some research into race in SF yourself, here are some academic books (most are essay collections) on race in SF to consider (not an exhaustive list):

  • Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic (1997) Edited by Elisabeth Anne Leonard
  • Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000) Edited by Sheree R. Thomas
  • The Subject of Race in American Science Fiction (2007) by Sharon DeGraw
  • Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory (2008) Edited by Marleen S. Barr
  • Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization and the Academy (2002) Edited by Gary Westfahl and George Slusser.
  • Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space (2003) by Kilgore De Witt Douglas
  • Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (2002) by Lisa Nakamura


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