Thursday, February 25, 2010

Science Fiction/Fantasy and the Left

A friend just drew my attention to this review by long-time labour activist and executive editor of Black Commentator Bill Fletcher, of Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction, a new collection edited by Mark Bould and China Mieville.

I definitely need to read the book, and I think the review itself is interesting and worth reading. I nodded with particular vigour at this paragraph:

Science fiction has been a critical element in the imagination of much of the Left. However, among many left-wing activists and theorists, it is something that is often approached sheepishly, with a certain degree of embarrassment. It is almost as if one's interest in science fiction is an engagement in a childhood game, such as "freeze tag." Oddly, when leftists actually begin to engage in a dialogue about science fiction, myriad themes generally emerge that demonstrate that it is anything but childish. For many people, science fiction and fantasy are nevertheless signs of immaturity rather than an engagement with ideological and political issues in another dimension.

Now I just need to decide whether to order the book immediately, or to be patient and keep to my pledge to significantly reduce the size of my owned-but-not-read pile before buying any new books.


Benjamin Solah said...

I want to read this book now. I'm a big fan of Mieville both as a writer and as a socialist and had the pleasure of hearing him speak at the Melbourne Writers Festival last year.

thwap said...

There's a lotta sci-fi that is childish drivel.

But one of the ways that pre-1789 radicals envisioned utopian societies (as models for their own) was in "travel monologues" where they described the way cultures in exotic, remote parts of the world governed themselves.

Sci-fi is the way that radicals can envision better societies.

Scott said...

Hi Benjamin...I've never heard Mieville speak, and would definitely jump at the opportunity!

Hi thwap...sure, there's lots of all sorts of writing that is drivel. That's life.

Interesting that you draw the connection with travel writing in an earlier feels like kind of an ominous connection to me, given the role that travellers' tales played in developing imperial and colonial commonsense in European and Euro-settler populations. I suppose it connects to the ways in which, as much as sci fi can be a site for imagining a better tomorrow, it can also be a site for playing out oppressive fantasies as well, as anti-racist analyses of the genre have pointed out in the past.