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Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction

John Rieder

Publication Year: 2012

This is the first full-length study of emerging Anglo-American science fiction's relation to the history, discourses, and ideologies of colonialism and imperialism. Nearly all scholars and critics of early science fiction acknowledge that colonialism is an important and relevant part of its historical context, and recent scholarship has emphasized imperialism's impact on late Victorian Gothic and adventure fiction and on Anglo-American popular and literary culture in general. John Rieder argues that colonial history and ideology are crucial components of science fiction's displaced references to history and its engagement in ideological production. He proposes that the profound ambivalence that pervades colonial accounts of the exotic "other" establishes the basic texture of much science fiction, in particular its vacillation between fantasies of discovery and visions of disaster. Combining original scholarship and theoretical sophistication with a clearly written presentation suitable for students as well as professional scholars, this study offers new and innovative readings of both acknowledged classics and rediscovered gems.

Includes discussion of works by Edwin A. Abbott, Edward Bellamy, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John W. Campbell, George Tomkyns Chesney, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Edmond Hamilton, W. H. Hudson, Richard Jefferies, Henry Kuttner, Alun Llewellyn, Jack London, A. Merritt, Catherine L. Moore, William Morris, Garrett P. Serviss, Mary Shelley, Olaf Stapledon, and H. G. Wells.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Early Classics of Science Fiction


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quote

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Several people have read entire drafts of this book and made comments and suggestions that helped me make it better. To my best writing ally and old friend Craig Howes, thanks yet again. A special acknowledgment is due to John Huntington, whose incisive reading of the manuscript as originally submitted to Wesleyan University Press ...

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Chapter 1. Introduction: The Colonial Gaze and the Frame of Science Fiction

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pp. 1-33

The question organizing this book concerns the connection between the early history of the genre of English-language science fiction and the history and discourses of colonialism. Consider first a brief example. Those searching out the origins of science fiction in English have often pointed to classical and European marvelous journeys to other worlds ...

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Chapter 2. Fantasies of Appropriation: Lost Races and Discovered Wealth

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pp. 34-60

The remarkable popularity of Jules Verne’s voyages extraordinaires in English translations from the late 1860s on is one of the publishing phenomena that began to rearrange the genre system of popular fiction so as eventually to create that niche within it that we now recognize as science fiction. ...

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Chapter 3. Dramas of Interpretation

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pp. 61-96

Haggard’s and Conan Doyle’s self-conscious delight in trumping up quasi-scientific evidence is typical enough of the emerging genre of science fiction that Hugo Gernsback, not someone who normally would be counted as a proponent of irony, included Edgar Allan Poe’s pseudojournalistic hoax, “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” ...

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Chapter 4. Artificial Humans and the Construction of Race

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pp. 97-122

If this study has succeeded at all in demonstrating how early science fiction articulates the structures of knowledge and power provided by colonialism, then it also will have indicated along the way—for example, in the discussion of lost-race fiction or of London’s “The Red One”—that some of the racism endemic to colonialist discourses ...

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Chapter 5. Visions of Catastrophe

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pp. 123-156

Representations of disaster establish themselves early on as one of science fiction’s most recurrent features. One can derive the collective, anonymous repetitiousness of early science fiction’s vocabulary of disaster from its deep roots in the Christian apocalyptic tradition, and the persistence of last-man fantasies, fantasies of inundation, ...


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pp. 157-164

Works Cited

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pp. 165-176


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pp. 177-184

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About the Author

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pp. 200-201

John Rieder is a professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and the author of Wordsworth’s Counterrevolutionary Turn: Community, Virtue, and Vision in the 1790s..

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819568731

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Early Classics of Science Fiction