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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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Introduction to the Classics Edition


The original cover illustration for Demand the Impossible was a photograph of Oscar Niemeyer’s cathedral in Brasilia. Chosen by my Methuen editor, the image captured an elegant sense of utopian spatiality – with the additional inflection of the postcolonial and, unbeknownst to the editor, an expression of a materialist spirituality that I later came to value. The image for this Ralahine Classics edition could not be more different. Chosen by me this time, this well-known photo of the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City more closely captures the direction of my thoughts on the dynamics of the utopian quality of the self-reflexive and self-critical work for a total social transformation that was so central to the politics (and critical utopias) of the late 1960s and 1970s.

The radical action of Smith and Carlos (supported by the silver medal winner, Australian Peter Norman) on the winners’ stand was, for me and many others, a powerful contribution to the social and political opening that was taking place at the time. Carried around the world in that intense image, their act was defiant and hopeful. It signified (theoretically, but also in the sense of witness that term carries in African American culture) and produced a denunciation of the old order of capitalism and imperialism and an annunciation of a new world of justice, equality, and freedom. Grounded in a long history of oppression and reaching out of and beyond that history, Smith...

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