Science Fiction as Mode of Action

Roger Luckhurst

Los Angeles Review of Books


UNEVEN FUTURES: Strategies for Community Survival from Speculative Fiction (2022), a large-scale communal project of a book, is a fascinating snapshot of what the science fiction community has become in the 2020s”

“a multimedia genre, an area of academic study, a set of tropes to be made and remade by makers, or a form of political praxis”

“SF as an active doing, a form of activism, rather than as a passive body of texts consumed in quarantined isolation, behind shuttered doors, away from the emptied-out public sphere”

“the genre across its now myriad forms has the potential to be a kind of toolkit not just for imagining utopian alternatives but also for implementing them”

“the emphasis tends to be on small flickers of hope, the temporary or fugitive communities that come together in the margins, or the always thoroughly compromised utopias that might flower only on the page or screen”

“The essay by Fábio Fernandes on Kim Stanley Robinson’s novel New York 2140 (2017) suggests it is a “breakthrough” work in the author’s writing career because it aims for a “logistic utopia” after the sea level rises and sinks Manhattan, a political pragmatics that leaves behind large-scale revolutionary visions for temporary communities and improvised solutions that offer the promise of “stepwise reform.””

Commentator’s Note: “Logistic utopia”—this is a great term. It’s what compels me, and many others, in Robinson’s imaginary.

“the editors have also bagged Kim Stanley Robinson’s reflections on the anarchist and feminist stances of one of his key models for his own work, Ursula K. Le Guin”

“Yoshinaga suggests that SFS has gone through a first generation, largely focused on legitimating the academic study of SF and principally associated with Darko Suvin and his followers”

“In 1968, Suvin encapsulated the political and aesthetic value of the genre in the term “cognitive estrangement”—a pithy formulation that was both highly useful and severely restricting (the Marxist Suvin often rails against the majority of SF texts failing to meet his definition’s elevated standard, accusing the genre of too often backsliding into the “mystifications” of fantasy or the gothic)”

“Hence SFS 2.0 followed, which had a slightly more relaxed sense of genre borders and felt less need to legitimate itself in terms of traditional cultural value”

“The grand claim that Yoshinaga makes for the collection is that it should be considered the calling card of SFS 3.0. This is SF less as text and more as a form of activity and activism”

“It is a move from SF as noun to SF as verb, a set of actions”

“It is also a move from static textual study to motivated activity that follows on from the reading of texts”

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