Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East

by Anindita Banerjee (Volume editor) Sonja Fritzsche (Volume editor)
©2018 Edited Collection X, 250 Pages
Series: World Science Fiction Studies, Volume 2


The first collection of its kind, this anthology documents a radically different geography and history of science fiction in the world. Western, specifically Anglo-American, SF is not the only hub of the global trade of alternative realities and futures. Rather it is but only one of several competing flows and circuits of distribution, contacts, influence, translation, adaptation, and collaboration, across space and time. The essays collected here focus on arguably the biggest and most influential of those competing hubs: the socialist world and its extensive cultural networks across the global South and East. Written by scholars from around the world, the chapters address the «other» transatlantic of the Caribbean, Latin America, African America, and the Soviet Union; the surprising multitude of transnational networks behind the Iron Curtain; and asymptotic and subterranean discourses across Russia, India, and China. Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East is intended for scholars, students, and fans interested in science fiction, popular culture, comparative literature, film studies, postcolonialism, techno-science, translation studies, and the literature and cultures of China, Cuba, Germany, India, Mexico, Poland, and Russia.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Beyond the West and the Rest: Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East (Anindita Banerjee / Sonja Fritzsche)
  • Organization
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part I: An Other Transatlantic
  • 1 T/Racing Revolution between Red October and the Black Atlantic (Anindita Banerjee)
  • Bodies as Languages, or the Kinship of R/Evolution
  • Alien Invasions, or Pushkin Beyond Poetry
  • Russia’s Afrofuturism, or Double-Tonguing Revolution
  • Bibliography
  • 2 Eugenia: Engineering New Citizens in Mexico’s Laboratory of Socialism (Miguel García)
  • Introduction: Mexican Science Fiction
  • The Novel
  • Eugenics and Science Fiction
  • Urzaiz and Eugenics
  • Socialism in the Yucatán
  • Eugenic Revolution
  • Socialism, Democracy, and Communism
  • The Voice of Communism
  • Race: The Fear of Miscegenation
  • Eugenia and Biopolitics
  • Bibliography
  • 3 Between Moscow and Santa Clara: The Soviet-Cuban Imaginary in Agustín de Rojas’ Espiral (1980) (Antonio Cordoba)
  • East to South Circuits
  • Espiral and Circuits in the Global South
  • Bibliography
  • Part II: Transnationalism behind the Iron Curtain
  • 4 Alien Evolution and Dialectical Materialism in Eastern European Science Fiction (Carl Gelderloos)
  • Evolution as Beautiful Convergence in Andromeda Nebula (1957)
  • Knowledge, Evolution, and Alterity in Solaris (1961)
  • Labor, Terraforming, and a “New Cosmic Genus” in Andymon (1982)
  • Conclusion: SF, Evolution, and Two Evaluations of Dialectical Materialism
  • Bibliography
  • 5 A Natural and Artificial Homeland: East German Science Fiction Film Responds to Kubrick and Tarkovsky (Sonja Fritzsche)
  • 6 Naming the Future in Translations of Russian and East European Science Fiction (Sibelan Forrester)
  • Background: Socialism in Space
  • Naming the Alternative Present
  • Naming the Near Future
  • Naming the Distant Future
  • More on Names: Conveying Gender in SF
  • Bibliography
  • Part III: Asymptotic Easts and Subterranean Souths
  • 7 Ghana-da in Bandung: Race, Science, and Non-Alignment in Premendra Mitra’s Fiction (Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee)
  • Bandung Colors
  • The “World” and the “Post-Colonial”
  • “Non-Aligned” Science
  • 72 Banamali Naskar Lane
  • Bibliography
  • 8 The Afterlife of the Post-Apocalypse: Dmitry Glukhovsky in China (Jinyi Chu)
  • When Utopia Becomes Nostalgia
  • Translating the Post-Apocalypse in the Age of Globalization and Transmediality
  • Vicarious Creation
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Bibliography
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


Figure 1. Signals – A Space Adventure (1970). Reproduced with permission from DEFA-Stiftung/Manfred Damm.

Figure 2. Uncanny signals from space, in Eolomea (1972). Reproduced with permission from DEFA-Stiftung/Alexander Kühl.

Figure 3. Trurl. Reproduced with permission from/Copyright © Daniel Mróz, 1972.

Figure 4. Klapaucjusz. Reproduced with permission from/Copyright © Daniel Mróz, 1972.

Figure 5. Li, Zongjin. Learn from Soviet advanced experience for production and strive for the industrialization of our motherland. []. 1953. XX343.944. Poster collection. Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA.

Figure 6. Wu, Dezu. Learn from our Soviet brothers. []. 1951. XX343.946. Poster collection. Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, CA.

Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions in the above list and would be grateful for notification of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book.

| ix →


We wish to thank our authors for their inspiration and expert contributions to this project, and for their time, patience, and dedication. A number of colleagues helped us out along the way. In particular, we wish to thank Mark Bould, Lisa Yazsek and Tom Moylan for their encouragement and support. Many thanks to Julie Lind and Isaac Versey-White for their help preparing the manuscript and the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University and the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University for supporting the work needed to put the book together. In addition, thanks should go to Laurel Plapp at Peter Lang Oxford for her continual support and guidance and to the two anonymous reviewers of the manuscript who made such valuable suggestions. Finally, we wish to thank our families for their patience and support when this project took time away from them.

“T/Racing Revolution between Red October and the Black Atlantic” by Anindita Banerjee was first published as “Russia’s Afrofuturism: T/Racing Revolution between the Avant-Garde and the Harlem Renaissance” in Slavic and East European Journal 61.3 (Fall 2017), pp. 467–88. The author gratefully acknowledges the permission of the journal to reprint it under the slightly modified title here.

“A Natural and Artificial Homeland: East German Science Fiction Film Responds to Kubrick and Tarkovsky” by Sonja Fritzsche first appeared in Film & History 40.2 (2010), pp. 80–101. She is appreciative that she is able to have it reprinted in this collection with the journal’s permission. The author was not able to secure the digital rights to include this chapter in the e-book.

| 1 →


Introduction Beyond the West and the Rest: Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East

The Universe (which others call a Library), is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite, number of hexagonal galleries. … Like all the men of the Library, in my younger days I traveled; I have journeyed in quest of a book, perhaps the catalog of catalogs. (112)

JORGE LUIS BORGES, “The Library of Babel,” 1949

Did you know there were three moons in the sky?

The first is the old one, the other two are Russian,

Look up, and you’ll see all three speeding by.

— Bengali children’s rhyme from the 1960s

For one of us, growing up in a remote coal-mining town in eastern India provided the first intimations of being deeply embedded in the circuits of science fiction (SF) examined in this book. From playground chants about three moons inherited from parents who came of age under Sputnik I and II, the circuits pointed towards a small collection of books on a neighbor’s shelf that was as far a cry from the canon of English literature taught at school as one could possibly imagine. Unlike utterly alien daffodils waving in the breeze and the unfathomable enigmas of cold country manors, these other “foreign” texts, translated into Bengali, spoke of places, times, things, and beings that were somehow more familiar in their radical otherness: romances carried out deep underwater and revolutions waged in outer space, marvelous machines and mutant creatures who could easily populate the moonscapes of open-pit extraction at our doorstep. The first of these adventures – clad in a black-and-white jacket emblazoned with a beautiful ← 1 | 2 → art-nouveau-inspired design – in fact led to the polluted waters of a real estuary, the Rio de la Plata, of Borges’ native Argentina, where a curious half-man, half-fish created in a mad scientist’s laboratory struggled to find the poor fisherman’s daughter he had encountered on the open shores of the Atlantic.

Watching Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water in a New York theater at the centenary of the October Revolution, the fantastical journey across three continents from over three decades ago comes back into sharp relief as a tiny slice of a vast SF universe, or library as Borges put it, that has proved to be surprisingly expansive and enduring but remains woefully unexplored. Why this should be the case is at least partially attributable to the dizzying arcs of migration between geographies, histories, languages, and media that constitute this universe. Even the small sub-circuit of amphibian men encountering hardworking terrestrial women somewhere at the peak of the Space Age presents the researcher with an open-ended catalog, an ever metamorphosing “code” (Borges 114), which is exceedingly difficult to schematize in conventional terms of cartography and chronology. The Shape of Water looks like a surprisingly retrofuturist version of a Soviet blockbuster whose release, in 1962, coincided with the setting of del Toro’s film – and whose source is the same as the book circulating in the backwaters of Indian postcolonial industrialization in Bengali translation. Whether the celebrated Hollywood filmmaker has ever read or heard of The Amphibian Man, Alexander Belyaev’s bestselling Russian novel published ten years after the 1917 Revolution – or, for that matter, watched Vladimir Chebotarev’s 1962 adaptation shot in Baku, the oil city on the Caspian Sea that served as the Russian empire and Soviet Union’s own southeastern energy frontier – may still be confirmed. In the credits, del Toro did name his creature “amphibian man.” But Adrish Bardhan, a prolific author of Bengali SF who was listed as the translator in the 1968 edition, is unfortunately no longer available to trace the path that led him from his home city on the Ganges to the estuary where the Paraná River falls into the South Atlantic.

Ricocheting between deliberately defamiliarized visions of Buenos Aires, Baku, and Baltimore – and remediated on the way in Moscow and Calcutta, Los Angeles and New York – the “indefinite and perhaps infinite” ← 2 | 3 → (Borges 112) itinerary of the amphibian man under the sign of the three moons beckons toward a new approach to the ways in which SF operates in and in relation to the world. Following analogous movements of texts, images, and ideas across and between the peripheries of what used to be the traditional focus of SF studies, this volume seeks to both expand and reorient the recent turn of the field towards globality and alterity. Looking at a multitude of texts and traditions has yielded an incredibly rich body of scholarship in the last two decades. A quick survey of the flagship journal Science Fiction Studies reveals that the genre’s inherent capacity of interrogating consensual views of reality has served it well in opening up borders: two forums on global SF (1999, 2000) were followed by no less than eight special issues on Japan (2002), the Soviet Thaw (2004), Afrofuturism (2007), Latin America (2007), China (2013), Italy (2014), India (2016), and Spain (2017). In keeping with recent trends in literary and cultural studies as a whole, the study of SF has now expanded to an array of languages and locations beyond Western Europe and North America (Bolton, Csicsery-Ronay, and Tatsumi; Fritzsche, East German SF Literature and Liverpool Companion; Ferreira; Banerjee, We Modern People and Russian SF Literature; Hoagland and Sarwal; Langer; Raja, Ellis, and Nandi; Bould, Afrika SF), even as the contours of its Anglo-American tradition undergo a profound transformation. In addition to path-breaking scholarship that illuminates the constitutive role played by geographical, ethno-racial, gendered, and religious others at the very foundations of the genre (Rieder; Sharp; Yaszek and Sharp), an array of recent monographs and anthologies on minority and indigenous science fictions have fostered dynamic interrogations of the historical and methodological assumptions of the field (Dillon; Polak; Lavender; Carrington; Roh).


X, 250
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (November)
Science fiction comparative literature socialism popular culture translation techno-science
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2018. X, 258 pp., 6 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Anindita Banerjee (Volume editor) Sonja Fritzsche (Volume editor)

Anindita Banerjee is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and a faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University. Sonja Fritzsche is Professor of German and Associate Dean of Personnel, Administration, and Undergraduate Education in the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University.


Title: Science Fiction Circuits of the South and East
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
262 pages