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Demand the Impossible

Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination


Edited By Tom Moylan

Although published in 1986, Demand the Impossible was written from inside the oppositional political culture of the 1970s. Reading works by Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin, Marge Piercy, and Samuel R. Delany as indicative texts in the intertext of utopian science fiction, Tom Moylan originated the concept of the «critical utopia» as both a periodizing and conceptual tool for capturing the creative and critical capabilities of the utopian imagination and utopian agency. This Ralahine Classics edition includes the original text along with a new essay by Moylan (on Aldous Huxley’s Island) and a set of reflections on the book by leading utopian and science fiction scholars.


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Part Two: Texts


PART TWO Texts Chapter 4 Joanna Russ, The Female Man Live merrily, little daughter-book, even if I can’t and we can’t; recite your- self to all who will listen; stay hopeful and wise. […] Do not complain when at last you become quaint and old-fashioned, when you grow as outworn as the crinolines of a generation ago and are classed with Spicy Western Stories, Elsie Dinsmore, and The Son of the Sheik; do not mutter angrily to yourself when young persons read you to hrooch and hrch and guffaw, wondering what the dickens you were all about. Do not get glum when you are no longer understood, little book. Do not curse your fate. Do not reach up from readers’ laps and punch the readers’ noses. Rejoice, little book! For on that day, we will be free. — Joanna (in The Female Man) Joanna Russ appreciates the use value of utopia. For her, the utopian prac- tice of imagining a better world is one means of transcending the barriers to concrete utopia, one way of rejecting and negating those aspects of our world which are not fulfilling for the great majority of humanity. In the forefront of the utopian revival of the 1970s, Russ uses the literary utopia in new and creative ways compared to what had become the model of that genre’s tradition. Not the static, reified object of a passively perfect society, but the engaged, open, critical utopia is found in the pages of The Female Man, and indeed in...

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