Science Fiction and Imperial History – Call for Blog Posts

Science fiction is the most important literature in the history of the world, because it’s the history of ideas, the history of our civilization birthing itself …. Science fiction is central to everything we’ve ever done.

– Ray Bradbury

I don’t think humanity just replays history, but we are the same people our ancestors were, and our descendants are going to face a lot of the same situations we do. It’s instructive to imagine how they would react, with different technologies on different worlds.

– Kage Baker

This is the call for blog post submissions for an Imperial & Global Forum roundtable on science fiction and imperial history. We are looking for submissions exploring the ways in which the imperial and anti-colonial past manifests itself in, and intersects with, the classics (and the obscurities) of science fiction. After all, as Patricia Kerslake has recently argued, much can be gleaned by examining “one of the most important and revealing foundations of SF, that of the function and manipulation of political power, of empire and its abuses within the genre, and to explore the great houses of fiction built upon such an informative substructure.”[1]

  • Have some thoughts about sovereignty and cylons?
  • Slavery and colonialism among Octavia Butler’s Oankali?
  • Interested in the relationship between Belter patois and the formation of the Outer Planets Alliance?
  • The “civilizing mission” of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End?
  • British imperialism and H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds?
  • Is time travel into Britain’s colonial past getting you feeling a bit wibbly wobbly, timey wimey?
  • What about the application of Marxist theories of imperialism to the interstellar world of The Expanse? Or perhaps anti-colonial theories and Avatar?
  • How does thinking about space—an often land- and water-less expanse—help us refine our definitions of formal and informal imperialism? Borderlands? Frontiers? Globalization?
  • What does a trade deal look like when it moves beyond the geographical boundaries of a single planet or even a single solar system?
  • Does the idea of a place with “final” frontiers push back against evolving notions of borders, and the people who crossed them?
  • In what ways does Star Wars’s Trade Federation or the Galactic Empire’s imperialism reflect that of modern empires?
  • How does possessing advanced technologies—sonic screwdrivers, Death Stars, protomolecules—change the state of power relations among colonized planets and rogue states?
  • Do universal human rights take on new meanings and implications when they are defended by Star Trek‘s Federation across a universe divvied up by rival empires?

These are just a handful of questions among many more to get the ball rolling. Novels, television shows, movies, boardgames, and video games are all fair game. The bottom line is that science fiction – from the written word, to the silver screen, to your favorite Netflix show – is replete with historical analogies, ideas, concepts, geographies, and theories rooted in the imperial past.

The co-editors of this series, Dr Rachel Herrmann and Dr Marc-William Palen, welcome blog posts of between approximately 700 and 1,500 words. Accepted posts will begin running here at the Imperial & Global Forum in the Spring.

Please send posts for consideration as Word documents to cigh.exeter@gmail.com by March 18, 2018. The editors plan to contact all submitters with a decision by early April.

So what’re you fracking waiting for?

Dr Rachel Herrmann, Cardiff University 

Dr Marc Palen, University of Exeter (Editor, The Imperial & Global Forum)

———-

[1] Patricia Kerslake, Science Fiction and Empire (Liverpool University Press, 2010), 1.

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