The OF Blog: Colonialism, thoughts on "the other," and Science Fiction

Monday, June 09, 2008

Colonialism, thoughts on "the other," and Science Fiction


Received a copy of a just-released book by John Rieder, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, in the mail today. Read through a little over half of this 183 page book during breaks at work today and I hope to have a review written in the next few days. Promising, so far, although there certainly will be a few places where I'll have questions.

Premise is pretty good, according to the book blurb: Rieder "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."

Or to put it another way, how did these so-called "discoverers" come to view themselves in light of their "discoveries?" That is a question that has occupied my thoughts every now and then. I'll try to explore this later, but if any want to add their 2¢, feel free to do so.

12 comments:

S.M.D. said...

Where the heck do you keep getting these amazing books? Who are you talking to?

Totally unfair, but totally awesome. I'm glad someone is reviewing these kinds of things in the blog world. It's great!

Larry said...

Well, as I think I said before, I received the Kincaid and Mendlesohn books from Jeff VanderMeer as part of our arrangement when I wrote that review for him to post in his Amazon Omnivoracious article on Carlos Ruiz Zafón's just-released book last month. Well, he received an email about the Rieder book, knew I would be all over it like white on rice, so he forwarded it to me, urging me to request a review copy. I did, listing my qualifications as a history MA graduate, and they agreed to send me a copy. And that's how it goes.

And I'm serious - use your studies and your blog to get review copies of books like this. Of course, this means my upcoming review might be a bit too "academic" for many people's likings, but oh well ;)

S.M.D. said...

You know what, I will! I'll put in review requests to some of these places because I would have a great perspective on them. Some of these books aren't in the college library and I'm not rich enough to be buying every book I want. The trials of being a poor college student!

Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it!

Larry said...

No problem! :D

Jonah said...

S.M.D. - Also look into Inter-Library Loan . . . that's my plan for trying to find copies of these books :)

Larry, thanks for reviewing these - it's nice to see people taking the theory of sci-fi/fantasy seriously (even if I suspect that I'll disagree with some of it).

Fish Monkey said...

I think I agree that much of the othering that occurs in SF is an inheritance of the colonial past -- and the very term of 'discoverer' is problematic in a way it is used to frame the basic relationship and the discussion. Did I ever send you the MS of The House of Discarded Dreams?

Larry said...

Kathy, yes you did - I'm planning on reading it in a week or two, after I get a few pending reviews written and posted here and elsewhere. And as for the "discoverer" bit, that tarnished legacy is something that has interested me for over a decade now.

Jonah,

Thanks! And yes, there are bound to be some disagreements. I liked Rieder's approach, but I recall there being a few weak areas when I gave the book a cursory read yesterday, so probably by the time I thoroughly read it this weekend or next, I'll have more to say on it.

Fábio said...

I must DEFINITELY read this book.

Larry said...

It's well worth reading, although I will throw in the caveat that while Rieder's writing is quite clear and concise, there are some underlying theoretical elements that might make it a bit more challenging for those unfamiliar with Marxist critiques of colonialism/imperialism.

Omar said...

Well that definitely brings to mind Elizabeth Bear's Carnival, which was so colonialistic (which isn't a word?) that I kept hearing my American Literature professor's voice in my head.....well, that could have been because I skipped my prozac but STILL.

And thanks for a new book to add to my freakishly long to read list

Larry said...

You're welcome, Omar, and thanks for reminding me of that Bear book that I've yet to read!

Fábio said...

Larry, I just got Rieder´s book today. After Denvention (no, I´m not there, but I´m doing a special Hugo Week in Post-Weird reviewing all the finalists until Sunday), I´ll read it and post a review there.

 
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