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  1. Publication: Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought
  2. Alien constructions: science fiction and feminist thought
  3. Reward Yourself
  4. Publication: Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought

Methodology of the Oppressed. Chela Sandoval. Feminist Film Studies. Janet McCabe. Beyond the Cyborg. Margret Grebowicz. Pramod K. Cyberpunk Women, Feminism and Science Fiction. Carlen Lavigne. The Cambridge History of Postmodern Literature. Brian McHale. Nomadic Subjects. Uncommon Cultures. Jim Collins.

Publication: Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought

Dark Horizons. Tom Moylan. Baudrillard Now. Ryan Bishop. Judy Wajcman. Feminist Utopian Novels of the s. Tatiana Teslenko. Liquid Metal. Sean Redmond. The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Postfeminism. Sarah Gamble. Time Binds. Elizabeth Freeman. A Dictionary of Postmodernism. Niall Lucy. Science Fiction Criticism. Professor Rob Latham. The Machine Question. David J. Body Drift. Arthur Kroker.

The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism.

Alien constructions: science fiction and feminist thought

Steven Connor. Critical Terms for the Study of Gender. Catharine R. The Microeconomic Mode. Jane Elliott. General Intellects. McKenzie Wark. Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy. Jude Roberts. Ecologies of the Moving Image. Adrian J.

Afrofuturism 2. Charles E. Demigods and Monsters. Rick Riordan. Shadowhunters and Downworlders. Cassandra Clare. The Self Wired. Lisa Yaszek. Contemporary Children's Literature and Film. Professor Kerry Mallan.

Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. Immanuel Kant. Mary Shelley. Dr Stefan Herbrechter. Beyond Cyberpunk. Graham J. Wheel of Time Reread: Books Leigh Butler. Postcolonial Theory and Avatar. Gautam Basu Thakur. Noga Applebaum. Mapping the World of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Mercedes Lackey.

Contemporary Feminist Utopianism. Lucy Sargisson. Ethnographies of the Videogame. Helen Thornham. Dire Cartographies. Margaret Atwood. Life between Two Deaths, Philip E. Vampires, A Very Peculiar History. Fiona Macdonald.


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The Shape of the Signifier. Walter Benn Michaels. The Medium Is the Monster. Mark A. Difficult Diasporas. Samantha Pinto. Internet Culture. David Porter. The Wisdom of the Shire. Noble Smith.

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More Issues at Hand. James Blish. They also have "unnatural" female bodies often technologically enhanced or genetically engineered and do "unfeminine" things. Significantly, it is within science fiction—film and literature—a genre usually understood to be predominantly male, that we seem to reimagine gender relations most radically. Here the controversial female cyborg challenges conventional ideas of gender, race, and nation, often at the same time as she reinforces them. Through figures like the female cyborg, Alien Constructions explores the relationship between science fiction and a feminist discourse that is attempting to conceptualize issues of difference, globalization, and technoscience.

Science fiction is valuable to feminists because of its particular narrative mode. Spatial and temporal displacement as well as absent paradigms that structure the reading process are typical for science fiction. Also characteristic for science fiction are "worlds," or systems of representation that create the freedom to voice assumptions otherwise restricted by a realist narrative frame, and the geographic displacement of identity formations. All of these elements shape the reading process, which in turn defines the genre. In addition to structural and narrative devices, there are recurrent themes and approaches in science fiction: the exploration of socioeconomic relations, the conflicting elements of modernity and postmodernity played out in urban science fiction, the construction of nature and culture, and the implications of technology—one of the most recognizable heuristic markers of science fiction—on human relations and life in general.

Science fiction writer and critic Joanna Russ defines science fiction as "a mode rather than a form a form would be something like the sonnet, the short story, etc. It is, basically, anything that is about conditions of life or existence different from either what typically is, or what typically was, or whatever was or is. Science fiction is about the possible-but-not-real" "Reflections on Science Fiction" Science fiction stories can create "blueprints" of social theories. Only within genres of the fantastic is it possible to imagine completely new social orders and ways of being that differ radically from human existence as we know it.

Alien Constructions is a recent intervention in the ongoing debate that examines the relationship of theory to science fiction. It explores how some science fiction engages with feminist thought in a way that enables us to understand oppression and to envision resistance beyond the limits set by much of feminist discourse. Alien Constructions is aimed at readers interested in feminist discourses as well as genre readers.

While either audience at times might encounter familiar intellectual and narrative territories, some of the connections between science fiction and feminist thought made in the textual analyses within these pages will be new and hopefully will inspire further explorations. The success of The Matrix and its status as one of the primary cultural points of reference in the United States at the turn of the twenty-first century stands in the long tradition of science fiction texts that have provided blueprints for our imagination.

Since the late s, the success of films such as the Alien series, the Terminator trilogy, and, of course, the Star Wars saga, whose narrative continues to span several decades, is mirrored in the success of primetime television shows. Although the public's fascination with popular genres extends to mystery and romance novels, TV sitcoms, and horror movies, there is something persistent and unique in our use of science fiction imagery, not only to speculate about the future, but to explain the present. The obsession of United States culture with futuristic explorations and alien life-forms also manifests itself in the popularity of science fiction literature, which is still one of the most pervasively read genres.

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Science fiction is a stage on which we imagine humanity's fate, and it is in its fantastic extrapolations that we develop the terminology to describe our future. What exactly makes us turn to a fantastic genre to imagine not only social and political change but new understandings of who we are in the present and what our future will look like? Popular culture's fascination with science fiction is rooted in the combination of strangeness and familiarity that make up the particularities of the genre. This tension between the "known" and the "unknown" is at the heart of science fiction.

It creates a reading process based on estrangement, which places familiar issues into strange territory: even when we are not familiar with a new planet and its corresponding new technology being described, the social and personal issues within the narrative speak to our experiences. This estrangement also creates spaces of abstraction for theorizing. In his classic essay on science fiction literature, "On the Poetics of the Science Fiction Genre," published in , Darko Suvin refers to the genre as a "literature of cognitive estrangement" At the same time, science fiction creates personal narratives of identification: we grow to know the protagonists and their world intimately.

Science fiction's concept of theorizing grows from both the strategy of estrangement and the power of storytelling. Different forms of storytelling—such as myths, legends, and spiritual and creation narratives, all of which are found in popular culture—are crucial tools for shaping cultural identities. As in other types of fiction, the "realness" of science fiction narratives enables individuals and groups to relate to and recognize the debates as relevant to their own lives. As a genre defined by its relationship to technology as well as by its futuristic framework, science fiction is understood as a cultural arena that explores the anxieties of what Frederic Jameson termed the "postmodern condition.

While science fiction criticism still inhabits a marginalized position within academic discourse—which mainly treats it as a pulp or popular genre outside of "serious" theoretical frameworks—in the past 20 years, works by critics such as Darko Suvin and Carl Freedman have placed the genre in relation to critical theory and literary theory. In Critical Theory and Science Fiction Freedman, instead of simply applying critical theory to science fiction, emphasizes " structural affinities between the two modes of discourse" xix, emphasis his , such as their dialectical thinking.

Feminists in particular recognize the political implications of the genre and increasingly employ science fiction narratives to explore social relations. Donna Haraway was one of the first critics to emphasize feminist science fiction as a form of feminist theorizing not simply as a reflection of feminist politics. In Terminal Identity , Scott Bukatman observes the attraction the genre holds for feminist writers, readers, and viewers: "Given a thematics profoundly engaged with social structures and sexual difference and potentially heterotopic discursive practices, the relevance of SF to a feminist politics should not be mysterious" Alien Constructions points to the dialogic relationship between science fiction and contemporary feminist thought.

Thus feminist writings and readings of science fiction can be understood as part of a feminist criticism of existing power relations. In order to establish a shared context for genre readers as well as readers familiar with feminist thought, what follows is a brief summary of science fiction since the "New Wave," which introduced radically new literary elements to the genre, and a review of relevant concepts within science fiction and feminist thought.

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Publication: Alien Constructions: Science Fiction and Feminist Thought

Science fiction's alien settings on distant planets, revolutionary technology, and futuristic time frame potentially allow the genre to explore power relations in ways different from realistic fiction—here we can credibly create completely novel societies and cultures. Yet the genre also has a tradition of conceptualizing themes of colonialism and social orders in conservative, and at times reactionary, ways. Beginning with the New Wave in the s, Western science fiction texts and criticism have developed from a mainly white, male, heterosexual genre into a more diverse body of texts with the potential to radically reconceptualize power relations.

This development coincided with radical feminist interventions into male-defined liberation movements and theories. Authors such as Samuel Delany, Brian Aldiss, Thomas Disch, Ursula Le Guin, and Philip Dick transformed science fiction by dramatically improving literary quality through narrative experimentation and the crossing of genre lines inspired by a growing postmodern influence in mainstream literature. In , science fiction writer and critic Joanna Russ criticized the conservative content of mainstream science fiction in the United States and Great Britain, which she referred to as "Intergalactic Suburbia.

Mummy and Daddy may live inside a huge amoeba and Daddy's job may be to test psychedelic drugs or cultivate yeast-vats, but the world inside their heads is the world of [suburban] Westport and Rahway and that world is never questioned " "Image of Women" 81, emphasis hers. Science fiction—both literature and film—produced since Russ's criticism that reflects the influence of New Wave literary inventions is of the greatest interest to this study. The new literary styles in science fiction were accompanied by shifts in narrative content as well.

For example, the extrapolation of the classical space opera, with its formulaic focus on human outer space expansion and technology, was countered by the psychological dimension of "inner" space and cultural identities as well as complex character formations. The introduction of formerly taboo subjects, such as depictions of sexuality, violence, and race relations, accompanied a growing appreciation of the "soft" sciences social sciences such as anthropology and linguistics , formerly positioned as either irrelevant, ineffective, or dangerous in contrast to the traditional "hard" sciences chemistry, physics, and biology.

Both literary innovations and narrative explorations beyond the traditional science fiction adventure story, which had dominated popular science fiction, added a complexity to science fiction that transformed the boundaries of the genre. These changes were also reflected in technological, stylistic, and narrative innovations in science fiction films, such as Stanley Kubrick's A Space Odyssey , while technological special effects in films such as Star Wars revolutionized the genre on the silver screen.

The growing literary quality and narrative complexity of New Wave science fiction literature resulted in an expansion in readership from mainly young, white, technologically inclined men to include readers interested in mainstream literature. Although changes in the genre were mainly stylistic, there was also increasingly more emphasis on sex and violence, as reflected in publications such as Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions , collections of short stories formerly rejected by mainstream science fiction magazines because of their new, controversial focus.

Yet it was the influence of writers of color and female authors that expanded the New Wave's innovations. Social criticism, including criticism of racism and class exploitation in a neocolonial framework, enriched the narratives and became one of the central features of contemporary science fiction.

Thomas Moylan observed the connections between the growing number of women and authors of color who were writing science fiction and the increased literary and intellectual quality of the genre when he stated in that "the most aesthetically interesting and socially significant contemporary science fiction is being produced by women and non-white writers, as well as by a few alienated and critical white males" "Beyond Negation," Even though science fiction since the s has increasingly engaged with issues of race and class, many narratives insist on employing non-Western cultures as representing the ultimate "other.

In the late s, science fiction experienced further fundamental innovations through the influence of cyberpunk fiction, with its focus on communication technology and consumer culture.


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In Neuromancer , William Gibson set the stylistic markers of cyberpunk's narrative conventions, which are dominated by the interface of computers and humans. Gibson's exploration of technology's influence on subjectivity and its potential for alienation is also seen in Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner , where it manifests in a film noir quality, and culminates in the special effects of the Matrix film trilogy twenty years later.

In much of cyberpunk literature, the narrow focus on the angst-ridden subjectivity of the technologically savvy antihero grew from a synthesis of cross-media influences of punk music, street anarchy, and hacker culture. This aspect has been further developed by women and writers of color who have again complicated the stylistic novelties with more substantial social and political elements. Even though science fiction has the reputation of being a male-dominated genre, it has always included women writers, and as a narrative style it is open to feminist appropriation.

In In the Chinks of the World Machine: Feminism and Science Fiction , Sarah Lefanu writes: "[Science fiction literature] makes possible, and encourages despite its colonisation by male writers , the inscription of women as subjects free from the constraints of mundane fiction; and it also offers the possibility of interrogating that very inscription, questioning the basis of gendered subjectivity" Lefanu 9.

In early science fiction, women often wrote under gender-neutral pseudonyms such as C. Moore, who wrote pulp science fiction in the s , and in general the number of women writers was considerably lower than that of their male counterparts. Since the early s, the number of women who write science fiction has increased dramatically, with popular authors such as Octavia E.

Butler, C. Feminist science fiction irreversibly shaped the genre, first in the s with its criticism of gender roles, racism, and class exploitation, and later in the s with a growing use of postmodern elements such as the exploration of linguistics and disrupted narrative structures.

The presence and influence of women writers were made visible in the s with publications like Pamela Sargent's edited Women of Wonder series, which were collections of stories by women science fiction writers. While feminist science fiction in the s and s explored feminist resistance to women's oppression mainly through separatist societies e. One central narrative theme is the effect of science and technology on our future, the fictitious manifestations of which have become the major metaphors in science fiction. Feminist science fiction, especially in the early s, undermined the ideological separation of "soft" and "hard" sciences within traditional science fiction, which portrayed technology as good and the sciences as progressive, rational, and predictable i.

Feminist science fiction has instead emphasized cultural and social "soft" sciences, such as anthropology, linguistics, and social theories. At the same time, authors have explored the ambiguous relationship of women and technology. On one hand, feminist writers reclaim the figures of witch and healer within a science fiction setting and develop alternative sciences.

On the other, feminist science fiction writers explore the liberating potential of the hard sciences in particular, reproductive technologies that promise elimination of traditional gender roles that link women to maternity. Postmodern science fiction mirrors ideas of fragmented cultural experiences and new linguistic forms of expression as they question the ontological basis for realities and offer subversive point of views.