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Reviewed by:
  • New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction
  • Edward K. Chan
Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox, eds. New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2008. xii + 362 pp. Cloth, $44.95, ISBN: 9781570037368.

This volume continues the exploration of politics and science fiction that began in Hassler and Wilcox's previous collection, Political Science Fiction (1997), which itself began as a special issue of Extrapolation in 1993. Some of the same issues have carried over into New Boundaries, including essays devoted to the Star Trek megatext, cyberpunk, feminist science fiction, Latin American science fiction, and of course utopia and dystopia. Although humanities scholars predominate in the newer book, there are significant contributions from those in the social sciences—political science, government, law—as well as one neuroscientist. In the preface to the previous collection, Hassler and Wilcox had noted the historic anniversaries that attended the preparation of that volume in 1995: fifty years after Victory-in-Europe Day, twenty-five years [End Page 174] after the "Kent State massacre" as well as the less frequently remembered shootings at Jackson State. The obvious historic event that overshadows the current collection is 9/11, which, of course, is only intelligible within the context of ever-increasing technologies of global interconnectivity, of solidifying neoconservative/neoliberal states and economies in the West, of transnational networks aligned against those same Western states, and of reconfigured racial and gender formations. The "new" terrorized/terrorist/ terrorizing state of affairs that attends to the early twenty-first century shapes, to a large degree, what the editors identify as the core issue around which the essays in New Boundaries congregate: "whether identity and meaning in human affairs stem from the results of changing linear, even digital, developments that resemble evolution and 'progress' or from the 'eternal return' of realities such as war, death, and competitive survival" (xiii).

Traversing this pattern are the twenty-two essays, which Hassler and Wilcox group into three categories. Part 1, "On the Personal 'New Man,'" might have also been titled "On New Identities," exploring as it does the social and political implications both of what it means, or might mean, to be human and of how the Other is figured and incorporated into the community. Part 2, "On Power and the 'Nation,'" deals with science fiction and militarism, the Bush regime's science fictional politics, and several ideological readings of science fiction television shows and includes two essays on Brazilian science fiction. Part 3 focuses on individual authors, including Iain M. Banks, China Miéville (two essays), Stephen Donaldson, Philip K. Dick, and Walter Mosley. Although it is clear why the editors chose to end the collection with Marleen S. Barr's punchy character sketch of Condoleezza Rice as a cyborg, her contribution would have also fit nicely next to Davis's take on Bush regime rhetoric in part 2.

Several essays deal directly and substantively with utopia and dystopia. "Politicized Dystopia and Biomedical Imaginaries: The Case of 'The Machine Stops'" (Decker) historicizes Forster's short story and its embrace of the "incorrect science" of the time by looking at the British fear of degenerating humanity and the ideas of the German physician, popular social critic, and Zionist Max Nordau as expressed in his 1892-93 work Degeneration. "Science Fiction and Politics: Cyberpunk Science Fiction as Political Philosophy" (Michaud) builds off Robert Nozick's theories in the 1970s to make a case for the anarcho-technological utopianism in cyberpunk writing. "A Brazilian Metafiction: Paulo de Sousa Ramos's Dystopian Novella" (Sousa Causo) provides a useful history of the utopian/dystopian tradition in Brazilian literature and situates [End Page 175] the novella's metafictional strategies within that tradition. "Outside Context Problems: Liberalism and the Other in the Work of Iain M. Banks" (Jackson and Heilman) discusses Banks's "Culture" novels as constructing "a perfect liberal utopia" (242) that plays out the confrontation with the alien Other on three levels: "less powerful Others," "Others of equal power," and "Others of superior power." "To the Perdido Street Station: The Representation of Revolution in China Miéville's Iron Council" (Freedman) reads that novel, a la Bloch, as an attempt to "keep...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2154-9648
Print ISSN
1045-991X
Pages
pp. 174-177
Launched on MUSE
2011-04-17
Open Access
No
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