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Demand the Impossible

Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination

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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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Chapter 8: Conclusion

Extract

CHAPTER 8

We need to make the creation of prefigurative forms an explicit part of our movement against capitalism. I do not mean that we try to hold an imaginary future in the present, straining against the boundaries of the possible until we collapse in exhaustion and despair. This would be utopian. Instead such forms would seek both to consolidate existing practice and release the imagination of what could be.

— SHEILA ROWBOTHAM

No literary text can be read so as to achieve a full understanding of its unique place in the world, for the web of relations and forces in which text and reader are situated is complex and shifting and prevents a final and complete reduction. “The thing itself always escapes,” says Derrida. What we are left with is a reading of a certain group of novels done at a particular time with a particular analytical/interpretive grid from the perspective of a particular historical and personal sensibility. The utopian novels discussed in the previous pages could have been approached separately in terms of the oeuvre of each author; they could have been read generically in more limited terms as science fiction, or feminist, or fantasy; some would be tempted to read them as examples of the “commie-fag-braburning-hippie decadence” of the 1960s that threatens the moral majority of modern-day America. That I chose to look at them from within the changing tides of a literary genre which seemed to have gone out of business...

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