Radical sci-fi by social activists 'decolonizes the imagination'



A quick wiki tells me that that the ‘crab bucket’ metaphor was well understood…

…and yet I owe my exposure to Sir Terry’s “Unseen Academicals”…

All literature can do that to us. I learned a lot more about Napoleon from reading “War & Peace” then I ever did from history lessons (in particular - why did they have to retreat from Moscow having entered as a victorious army?). But fantasy and sci-fi often seems free to do it better.

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Douglas Hofstadter’s “Person Paper on Purity in Language” did more to change my understanding of, well, pretty much everything, than almost anything else.

It’s moderately unusual in that it isn’t specifically couched in “fantasy” terms, but - depressingly, considering it was written more than 30 years ago - it still feels too much like a fantasy, or, rather, it feels appallingly real.


Can science fiction be a form of social activism? Walidah Imarisha thinks so, and she’s recruited everyone from LeVar Burton to Mumia Abu-Jamal to help her prove it.

“Whenever we try to envision a world without war, without violence, without prisons, without capitalism, we are engaging in an exercise of speculative fiction,” writes Imarisha in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, an anthology of short sci-fi stories co-edited by her and Adrienne Maree Brown. “Organizers and activists dedicate their lives to creating and envisioning another world, or many other worlds, so what better venue for organizers to explore their work than through writing science fiction stories?”

At first that rubbed me wrong, for some reason; after all, science fiction has been pushing the bounds for decades. More progressive authors worked somewhat radical views into their stories, knowing that their ideas would be read by young people who might just see it as an entertaining story, but the ideas might sit and simmer in their brains.

Then I realized that this is probably an introduction to the idea, for people who aren’t sci-fi fans.

As often as I see people critique the greats of decades past, I feel like it’s necessary to point out that they were products of their time, and we will likely be seen as barbaric by future generations for reasons we don’t yet understand (though I was taken aback by Asimov’s speech on bottom pinching.)

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