Displaying items by tag: SF
Sunday, 14 August 2011 16:16

My SF Crit Lit List

I was wanting to post something SF-related before I head off to Renovations (WorldCon) in Reno on Tuesday, but I didn't know exactly what to do since my ideas are many and time too short. Karen Burnham, at Spiral Galaxy Reviewing Laboratory, posted her SF crit list recently (lots of great reads there) and that motivated me to put up my own list. My "Read List" is substantially longer than my "To Read" list at the moment because I've been spending most of my time over the past year working through disability studies criticism and reading "for fun" SF novels. My lists only contain books, but I have also read a good deal of articles relating to SF (usually on the works of specific writers). I will cover academic journal sources for SF/F in another post once I get back home. Please feel free to leave recommendations of other SF crit lit texts in the comments!

Read List:

Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture. Eds. Mary Flanagan and Austin Booth. Cambridge (2002)

Decoding Gender in Science Fiction. Brian Attebery (2002)

Future  Females, The Next Generation: New Voices and Velocities in Feminist Science Fiction Criticism. Ed. Marleen S. Barr (2000)

Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture. Ed. Mark Dery (1994)

Cyberspace, Cyberbodies, Cyberpunk: Cultures of Technological Embodiment. Eds. Mike Featherstone and Roger Burrows (1996)

Technologies of the Gendered Body: Reading Cyborg Women. Mark Dery (1996)

Cybersexualities: A Reader on Feminist Theory, Cyborgs and Cyberspace. Ed. Jenny Wolmark (1999)

Lost in Space: Probing Feminist Science Fiction and Beyond. Marlene Barr (1993)

Learning From Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia. Ed. Patrick Parrinder (2001)

Into Darkness Peering: Race and Color in the Fantastic. Ed. Elisabeth Anne Leonard (1997)

Close Encounters: Film, Feminism and Science Fiction. Eds. Constance Penley, Elisabeth Lyon, Lynn Spigel, and Janet Bergstrom (1991)

Envisioning the Future: Science Fiction and the Next Millennium. Ed. Marleen Barr (2003)

Speaking Science Fiction: Dialogues and Interpretations. Ed. Andy Sawyer and David Seed (2000)

Social and Virtual Space: Science Fiction, Transnationalism, and the American New Right. Laura Cherniak (2005)

To Seek Out New Worlds: Science Fiction and World Politics. Ed. Jutta Weldes (2003)

Storming the Reality Studio: A Case Book of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Fiction. Ed. Larry McCafferty (1991)

Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and Contemporary Cultural Transformation. Eds. Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon (2002)

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora. Ed. Sheree R. Thomas (2000)

The Subject of Race in American Science Fiction Sharon De Graw (2007)

Technophobia!: Science Fiction Visions of Posthuman Technology. Daniel Dinello (2005)

Afro-Future Females: Black Writers Chart Science Fiction’s Newest New-Wave Trajectory. Ed. Marleen S. Barr (2008)

The Souls of Cyberfolks: Posthumanism as Vernacular Theory. Thomas Foster (2005)

Representations of the Post/Human: Monsters, Aliens, and Others in Popular Culture. Elaine Graham (2002)

Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Donna Haraway (1991)

How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics. N. Katherine Hayles (1999)

Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization and the Academy. Eds. Gary Westfahl and George Slusser (2002)

Virtual Geographies: Cyberpunk at the Intersection of the Postmodern and Science Fiction. Sabine Heuser (2003)

Astrofuturism: Science, Race, and Visions of Utopia in Space. De Witt Douglas Kilgore (2003)

The Gendered Cyborg: A Reader. Eds. Gill Kirkup, Gill, Linda Janes, Kath Woodward, and Fiona Hovenden (2000)

The Cybercultures Reader. Eds. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy (2000)

Virtual Worlds: Culture and Politics in the Age of Cybertechnology. Pramod Nayar (2004)

Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Postindustrial Age. Claudia Springer (1996)

Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine. Susan Squier (2004)

Bodies of Tomorrow: Technology, Subjectivity, Science Fiction. Sherryl Vint (2007)

Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. Priscilla Wald (2008)

Aliens and Others: Science Fiction, Feminism and Postmodernism. Jenny Wolmark (1994)

A Companion to Science Fiction. Ed. David Seed (2005) .

The Self Wired: Technology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Narrative. Lisa Yaszek (2002)

Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature. Gary K. Wolfe (2011)

The Prosthetic Impulse: From a Posthuman Present to a Biocultural Future. Eds. Marquard Smith and Joanne Morra (2006)

To Read List:

The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction. Justine Larbalestier (2002)

World Weavers: Globalization, Science Fiction, and the Cybernetic Revolution. Eds. Wong Kin Yuen, Gary Westfahl, and Amy Kitsze Chan (2005)

Biotechnology and Culture. Paul Brodwin (2000)

Bodies in Technology. Don Ihde (2002)

My Mother was a Computer. N. Katherine Hayles (2005)

Feminist Narrative and the Supernatural. Eds. Katherine Weese, Donald Palumbo, C. W. Sullivan, III (2008)

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Monday, 27 June 2011 16:22

Reading Race in SF

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


Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
Monday, 20 June 2011 12:24

Marginalization of SF in the Academy

When I changed my PhD project to feminist SF, I knew that I was effectively saying "I'm not planning on getting hired in a tenure-track job any time in the near future." This is not to say that everyone who studies feminist SF cannot find a university position, but it is a pretty hard sell.  When we discussed the attractiveness of my project to a potential hiring committee, my supervisor did mention that it was "probably a good thing" that I was leaving the academy. From dismissive conversations with male colleagues who wondered why I wasn't reading Asimov to failed grant proposals, it was always obvious to me that I was engaged with literature of a questionable nature.

In the "Introduction" of my thesis, I addressed the issue of the marginalization of SF in the academy [excerpt follows]:

Working in the field of science fiction, I have discovered, is often an isolating and lonely task. When considering my interests in (post-)cyberpunk and feminist SF, the critical community to which I belong is notably small. When I explain to my peers that I am working with current feminist SF writers – Larissa Lai, Nalo Hopkinson, Tricia Sullivan, and Laura Mixon – I usually lose their attention as these names are largely unfamiliar. I try to recapture their interest by mentioning the cyberpunk angle of my project, but, unfortunately, many people have never heard of William Gibson either! Many critics within the SF community have taken up the issue of the marginalization of science fiction in the academy, and Gary Westfahl, in his book, Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization and the Academy, does an admirable job of identifying the field’s major hurdles. Westfahl argues that science fiction, unlike other “once-neglected” literature, still attracts the “most academic resistance” (2) and that:  "Within the field of science fiction criticism, there are debates about the canon of science fiction that run parallel to larger disputes about the canon of literature. Some prefer to focus attention on a few writers of undeniable talents, like Philip K. Dick, Stanislaw Lem, Ursula K. Le Guin, and [William] Gibson, but others have publicly protested about the over attention to these writers and have called for more study of “neglected” authors" (2). Westfahl, observing that SF is unlike other fields of academic study, notes that SF is “subject to another strong influence: the industrious science fiction community consisting of dedicated readers who embody and maintain the traditions of the genre, carry on their own painstaking research, and express their own views concerning the quality and stature of its authors” (2). From my own academic research and experience with the SF community at large, I wholeheartedly agree with Westfahl’s explanations of its marginalization. SF is fun to read and watch as a fan, but making an academic career out of it is risky at best.

In her excellent study of the cyberpunk movement and postmodernism, Virtual Geographies, Sabine Heuser adds another difficulty facing SF scholars to Westfahl’s list. Heuser argues that “science fiction takes place in a double field of tension: between high and low culture, as well as between the ‘two cultures’ of the natural sciences and the humanities” (xii). This tension creates further problems for defining science fiction: how much science is necessary for a novel to be considered science fiction and not something else? In Decoding Gender in Science Fiction, Brian Attebery notes that “hard” SF is written for the largest audience possible and that it often iterates conservative gender values, whereas “soft” SF, written for “experienced and venturesome SF readers,” is more likely to “challenge rather than to uphold gender norms” (5). With Attebery’s tentative distinction in mind then, the feminist post-cyberpunk texts of my project fall (unfairly so in my opinion) into the further marginalized genre of “soft SF,” long deemed unworthy of sustained academic attention. Also contributing to the difficulty of working with SF are the myriad distinctions among its subgenres. As Heuser correctly observes: “One problem with science fiction criticism has been the lack of attention paid to genre science fiction, which accounts for the vast majority of works published in the field” (xvii). This lack of attention to “genre science fiction,” a category in which the texts of my study are arguably situated, is a definite loss for both the particular field of SF criticism and for literary studies in general. I firmly believe that one of the strengths of SF lies in its multitude of subgenres, which exemplify the culturally-intuitive creativity of its writers and the enthusiastic critical engagement of its readers.

Despite its continued marginalization in the academy, SF criticism manages to attract some excellent scholars who are eager to spread their enthusiasm for the field. Veteran SF critic Jenny Wolmark argues that “SF is increasingly recognized for its ability to articulate complex and multifaceted responses to contemporary uncertainties and anxieties, and metaphors drawn from SF have acquired considerable cultural resonance” (“Time and Identity” 156). Austin Booth and Mary Flanagan, editors of the comprehensive collection Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture, simply state: “Science fiction is a vital source of narratives through which we understand and represent our relationships to technology” (2). In my opinion, no other literary genre comes close to articulating the anxieties and preoccupations of the present day as clearly and critically as SF, as it is a vital source for understanding newly emerging embodiments and subjectivities.

Published in Kathryn Allan's Blog
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