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Demand the Impossible

Science Fiction and the Utopian Imagination


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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Notes to the First Edition

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Critical Utopia


1.    This introductory essay is not intended to be a full history of utopian thought and writing but rather a lead-in to the critical utopias of the 1970s. For literary histories that are much more detailed than this schematic introduction, the reader is referred to Robert C. Elliott, The Shape of Utopia: Studies in a Literary Genre (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); Frank E. Manuel and Fritzie P. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the Western World (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1979); and A. L. Morton, The English Utopia (London: Oxford University Press, 1952). Good bibliographies of utopian literature include Glenn Negley, Utopian Literature: A Bibliography (Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977) and Lyman Tower Sargent, British and American Utopian Literature, 1516–1975, An Annotated Bibliography (New York: G. K. Hall, 1979).

2.    Morton, The English Utopia, 49.

3.    Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (London: Oxford University Press, 1964). For other useful studies of the connection between utopia and the new world see R. W. B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence, Tragedy, and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952); and Henry Nash Smith, The Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950). See also the recent collection of essays: Kenneth Roemer, ed., America as Utopia (New York: Burt Franklin and Co., 1981).

4.    Friedrich Engels, “Socialism: Utopian or Scientific,” in Lewis S....

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