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Alien Constructions

Science Fiction and Feminist Thought

By Patricia Melzer

Publication Year: 2006

Though set in other worlds populated by alien beings, science fiction is a site where humans can critique and re-imagine the paradigms that shape this world, from fundamentals such as the sex and gender of the body to global power relations among sexes, races, and nations. Feminist thinkers and writers are increasingly recognizing science fiction's potential to shatter patriarchal and heterosexual norms, while the creators of science fiction are bringing new depth and complexity to the genre by engaging with feminist theories and politics. This book maps the intersection of feminism and science fiction through close readings of science fiction literature by Octavia E. Butler, Richard Calder, and Melissa Scott and the movies The Matrix and the Alien series. Patricia Melzer analyzes how these authors and films represent debates and concepts in three areas of feminist thought: identity and difference, feminist critiques of science and technology, and the relationship among gender identity, body, and desire, including the new gender politics of queer desires, transgender, and intersexed bodies and identities. She demonstrates that key political elements shape these debates, including global capitalism and exploitative class relations within a growing international system; the impact of computer, industrial, and medical technologies on women's lives and reproductive rights; and posthuman embodiment as expressed through biotechnologies, the body/machine interface, and the commodification of desire. Melzer's investigation makes it clear that feminist writings and readings of science fiction are part of a feminist critique of existing power relations—and that the alien constructions (cyborgs, clones, androids, aliens, and hybrids) that populate postmodern science fiction are as potentially empowering as they are threatening.

Published by: University of Texas Press

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p. Cover-Cover

Alien Constructions

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

"Writing a book on feminist science fiction can be an outer-worldly experience. Thankfully, I had a supportive intellectual community and a tight network of friends who kept me grounded during the process. For their support in the early stages of the project, I owe gratitude to my advisors at Clark University—Eric Gordy, Maria Acosta-Cruz,..."

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Introduction Science Fiction's Alien Construction

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pp. 1-34

"Upon their release at the turn of the twenty-first century, the Matrix films had an immediate impact on popular imagination in the United States. The Hollywood-produced science fiction trilogy triggered questions about reality, self-determination, and resistance while setting new standards for film technology. With its clever plotline and breathtaking special effects, the trilogy became both a blockbuster hit surrounded by the usual media hype and an..."

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PART I

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pp. 35-42

"As gendered and racial subjects, black women speak/write in multiple voices—not all simultaneously or with equal weight, but with various and changing degrees of intensity, privileging one parole and then another. One discovers in these writers a kind of internal dialogue reflecting..."

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1. Cultural Chameleons

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pp. 43-66

"Octavia Butler’s work foregrounds the experiences of female characters and therefore can be understood as part of a feminist tradition in science fiction literature. However, her representations of black heroines differentiate her writing from much of feminist science fiction. In 1984, Ruth Salvaggio noted in her article..."

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2. The Alien in Us

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pp. 67-102

"If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself...you may hate it, or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality, and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished..."

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PART II

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pp. 103-107

"If, as...feminist critics of science have argued, there is a relation among the desire for mastery, an objectivist account of science, and the imperialist project of subduing nature, then the posthuman offers resources for the construction of another kind of account. In this account, emergence replaces teleology; reflexive epistemology replaces objectivism..."

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3. Technoscience's Stepdaughter

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pp. 108-148

"Every story that begins with original innocence and privileges the return to wholeness imagines the drama of life to be individuation, separation, the birth of the self, the tragedy of autonomy, the fall into writing alienation; that is, war, tempered by imaginary respite in the bosom of the Other. These plots are ruled by a reproductive politics—rebirth..."

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4. Our Bodies as Our Selves

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pp. 149-176

"When The Matrix was released by Warner Brothers in 1999, it was an immediate blockbuster hit. Sending its message packaged in a dazzling array of special effects and a superstar cast, the film questions established notions of body, identity, and reality. At the center of the film, in terms of both narrative and form, lie experiences...

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PART III

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pp. 177-182

"For it is a production, usually in response to a request, to come out or write in the name of an identity which, once produced, sometimes functions as a politically efficacious phantasm...[I]dentity categories tend to be instruments of regulatory regimes, whether as the normalizing categories of oppressive structures..."

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5. The Anatomy of Dystopia

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pp. 183-218

"[A]n apparatus of gender organizes the power relations manifest in the various engagements between bodies and technologies....Gender...is both a determining cultural condition and a social consequence of technological deployment"

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6. Beyond Binary Gender

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pp. 219-258

"It might seem natural to regard intersexuals and transgendered people as living midway between the poles of male and female. But male and female, masculine and feminine, cannot be parsed as some kind of continuum. Rather, sex and gender are best conceptualized as points in a multidimensional space."

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Conclusion

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pp. 259-264

"When people ask me what my book is about, the answer ‘intergalactic feminism’ usually evokes a puzzled look and a polite ‘How interesting?’ The explanation ‘I look at science fiction’s relationship to feminist theories’ earns me an ‘Ahh—how interesting!’ usually followed by the question ‘But why?' The theoretical and textual explorations ..."

Notes

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pp. 265-298

Bibliography

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pp. 299-316

Index

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pp. 317-325


E-ISBN-13: 9780292795822
E-ISBN-10: 0292795823
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292713062
Print-ISBN-10: 0292713061

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus., 2 tables
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Feminism in literature.
  • Science fiction, American -- History and criticism.
  • Matrix (Motion picture).
  • Alien resurrection (Motion picture).
  • Science fiction, English -- History and criticism.
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