Life Writing and Science Fiction
vol. 30, no. 1, Winter 2007
Guest Editor: John Rieder
Each essay in the issue grapples with problems attending the social and literary construction of personal identities. Juxtaposing life writing and science fiction also suggests that generic identities ought to be grasped as complex social practices that connect discourse and power in a variety of ways.
“For the Extended Family and the Universe: Judith Merril and Science Fiction Autobiography” by Dianne Newell, Jenéa Tallentire Gilley
This article, in exploring why so few SF writers produce compelling or innovative autobiographies, examines Judith Merril’s controversial memoir, Better to Have Loved, written in collaboration with her granddaughter, Emily Pohl-Weary. The memoir authorship and form have no equal in SF circles. Merril (1923–1997) was a central, socially radical powerhouse in the extraordinary “man’s world” of modern science fiction, tracing her career through New York City, London, Tokyo, and Toronto between the 1940s and 1990s. Her fractured, nonlinear, and collaborative memoir that “tells it like it was” reflects precisely how she interacted with science fiction all her life.
“Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nonfiction” by Lisa Hammond Rashley
Employing the same narrative techniques of experimentation and play that characterize her fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin has also created a substantial body of nonfiction. This article explores how her nonfiction continually challenges and questions the role of gender in literature and culture, but also in her own life as a woman writing.
“Discourses of Autobiographical Desires: Samuel Delany’s Nevèrÿon Series” by Georgia Johnston
Science fiction writer, intellectual, and memoirist Samuel Delany reconfigures cultural narratives of sexuality. His science fiction fantasy series Nevèrÿon and his cultural criticism Times Square Red/Times Square Blue create an intertextual echo. The autobiographical intertextuality helps Delany to foreground a desiring gay fetishistic sexual subject as acceptable and normal, a narrative speech act that changes the terms of narrative and sexuality.
“Begin Again: James Tiptree, Jr.’s Opossum Tricks” by Kim Kirkpatrick
This article analyzes how Tiptree taught her audience to question gender and age by planting in her readers the idea of the ephemeral nature of division into age groups and gender: it is the reader’s decision to see what he or she wants to see, rather than just accepting patriarchal definition.
“Days of Past Futures: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go as ʻSpeculative Memoirʻ” by Keith McDonald
This article considers Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel Never Let Me Go as a text which utilizes memoir as a means of presenting a possible future where human rights are decimated, but where human stories remain. The novel is considered as an example of an ongoing science-fictional model where life-writing acts as a window into a world where the individual’s experiences guide the reader through the speculative world.
“Of Neural Nets and Brains in Vats: Model Subjects in Galatea 2.2 and Plus” by Mark Bould and Sherryl Vint
Building on feminist critiques of autobiography, we argue that bringing together sf and life-writing theory can further critique the ideological connection between narrative mode and bourgeois, monadic subjectivity characteristic of much autobiography, as revealed by our reading of non-humans coming to consciousness in Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 and Joseph McElroy’s Plus.