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Speculative Fiction & Political Thougt... and that is?

Ten years ago, while still a college student majoring in literature (mostly Hispanic-American literature) I came across a course called "Parallel Worlds - Science Fiction" and decided that since I was seeing some courses into very dense writers and literary periods (such as the French poets of the late 19th century) I could do with some "light" reading to ease off things... I couldn't have been more mistaken.

One of the first notions I was disabused of was that science fiction was a genre for teenagers or young adults, comprised mainly of a variant sort of action novel set in spaceships and where the cowboy is armed with laser pistols (even though said kinds of stories do exists in large quantities). Science fiction, it turns out, is a much broader genre, one where the impossible can be brought to bear, as long as it is dutifully explained and is believable within its own framework.

This was a doorway into a realm where, as Ursula K. Leguin said in the prologue to The Left Hand of Darkness, "Thought Experiments" are possible. The stories I found in this course were just the beginning, and noticeably lacking in terms of the laser pistol wielding cowboy, they were closer to psychological thrillers, where issues such as gender, race, otherness and other often uncomfortable issues could be liberally explored, and from every conceivable angle, in any setting you could imagine, and some you could not.

However, I have found that the bad image I had of Science Fiction is still the predominant one in most of academia, as well as among many readers of traditional fiction,who consider it to be a sort of contagious disease that need to be avoided. This has led me to undertake a research project into some of the aspects that have made the deepest impact on me from my reading experience with science fiction. This research has taken up a good part of those last ten years, and has been a long and difficult process, mainly because a lack of institutional backing, and therefore zero funding.

This hasn't deterred me from my studies though, and I have recently come across a post about Dystopian Lit and in the comments section to that post ran across several statements which prompted me to start this blog. I might not keep it updated too often, due to a lack of time, but I'll try to do a post at least once a week.

I intend to address the issues which I have come across in my research, and they deal mainly with the idea that there is within science fiction a fascination with social and political organization, and the possible difficulties it might come across. So my main question is: What if we could use science fiction as a tool to analyze our own contemporary political and social fears, as well as an aid in understanding the fears of those who have come before us, like those of Orwell in his book 1984, or even further back, the fear of Mary Shelley that science could lead to something like Frankenstein's Monster, or Jules Verne's belief in the indomitable will of human beings such as Captain Nemo.

Are these ideas born out of a "loony's imagination" as some have said, or are they the result of a thought experiment dealing with a society's deepest fears and current problems and concerns? I personally believe the latter is the case, and have devoted a good part of my time over the last years to look into the matter.

I hope to hear from people who can contribute to this effort, either in support or in refutation, for only then will I be able to move forward on my research.

Daniel

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