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Race in American Science Fiction

Isiah Lavender III

Publication Year: 2011

Noting that science fiction is characterized by an investment in the proliferation of racial difference, Isiah Lavender III argues that racial alterity is fundamental to the genre's narrative strategy. Race in American Science Fiction offers a systematic classification of ways that race appears and how it is silenced in science fiction, while developing a critical vocabulary designed to focus attention on often-overlooked racial implications. These focused readings of science fiction contextualize race within the genre's better-known master narratives and agendas. Authors discussed include Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and Ursula K. Le Guin, among many others.

Published by: Indiana University Press

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pp. xi-xiii

The completion of a decade-long project is a miraculous feat, and I could not have done it without God. Excitements and frustrations coupled with my own tenacity to see this book through to completion mean nothing without the support and influence of family, friends, colleagues, and institutions. I have missed a number of family functions to ...

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Introduction: Mapping the Blackground

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pp. 1-20

Recently, I decided to gain a better appreciation of our country’s struggle with racism by visiting Central High School, a National Historic Site in Little Rock, Arkansas.1 I wanted to better understand the histories of our desegregation efforts by seeing for myself one place where the civil rights movement triumphed during the month of September ...

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1 Racing Science Fiction

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pp. 21-53

Science fiction produces alien and divergent neighborhoods, with strange and dissimilar signs, shifting identities, and distorted realities of existence. For example, Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) is a dystopian novel set in the not too distant future around the city of Los Angeles, where downward spiraling middle-class people live in ...

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2 Meta-slavery

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pp. 54-88

Read as a labor-based technology, race has been used to code black human beings in the New World as natural machines essential for the cultivation of the physical landscape and capable of producing wealth. From this standpoint, Ben Williams realizes that “the mechanical metaphors” used for blacks “embody a history that began with slavery” ...

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3 Jim Crow Extrapolations

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pp. 89-117

Imagine that green-skinned humanoids representing a galactic federation of civilized worlds set down on Earth to explore the possibility of shaping humanity into a refined society despite problems of human aggression. A husband and wife team, Flin and Ruvi, advanced beyond seeing other beings in terms of color, are driving through the Mississippi countryside when they stop in the town of Grand Falls. While ...

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4 Ailments of Race

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pp. 118-156

A meteor swarm blasts the Earth’s atmosphere, causing a strange new contagious illness called “neuroderm” to spread and infect humanity (Miller, “Dark Benediction,” 256). The disease turns people gray, heightens their senses, sharpens their intelligence, and causes them to hunt down healthy people as it spreads through contact, a simple touch. Consequently, the infected “dermies” are regarded as lepers ...

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5 Ethnoscapes

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pp. 157-185

It could be that science fiction’s frequent assumption of a color-blind future—whether an unintentional or deliberate privileging of whiteness— has blinded critics to matters of race. This is a paradox that Richard Dyer makes note of, stating that “whites are not of a certain race, they’re just the human race” (3). Certainly, one solution to polarizing racial ...

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6 Technologically Derived Ethnicities

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pp. 186-210

The deliberate intersection of man and machine raises issues of identity that are somewhat similar to questions of race and ethnicity. The human body as it is transformed by technoscience becomes a simulacrum of itself. The dissolution of human identity results from the flesh-metal interface and introduces posthuman technicities; artificial persons and ...

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Epilogue: Science Fictioning Race

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pp. 211-231

Science fiction has become historical fact with the election of President Barack Obama the first African American president. Much as Arthur C. Clarke imagined satellite technology in Childhood’s End (1953) a few years before Sputnik I was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, imagination has been transformed into reality with Obama’s election. ...


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pp. 233-241


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pp. 243-260


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pp. 261-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780253005137
E-ISBN-10: 0253005132
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355539

Page Count: 286
Publication Year: 2011