Shaun Duke is a PhD. student at the University of Florida studying Caribbean literature, postcolonialism, and science fiction. His fiction and non-fiction publications can be found on his blog, The World in the Satin Bag, where he writes about SF/F and related topics (mostly, he just causes trouble nobody notices). He is also one of the hosts of The Skiffy and Fanty Show. He is also fundraising for travel expenses to attend Worldcon this August. He hopes to bring The Skiffy and Fanty Show and the World SF Tour there to expand the project’s scope. If you want to support the effort, head on over to the GoFundMe page, read about the milestone perks, donate, and spread the word.
by Shaun Duke
In Archaeologies of the Future (2005), Fredric Jameson proposes that we “think of our autonomous and non-communicating Utopias — which can range from wandering tribes and settled villages all the way to great city-states or regional ecologies — as so many islands: a Utopian archipelago, islands in the net, a constellation of discontinuous centers, themselves internally decentered” (221). While I won’t get into Jameson’s larger project here, I do want to take a moment to apply this idea of the archipelago to the world sf concept. To clarify, utopia here is perhaps a somewhat nebulous term, since Jameson’s use is certainly not the colloquial “perfect society” kind, but rather an “in the moment” utopianism whose primary concern isn’t an end result, but, as Ernst Bloch would suggest about utopia in The Principles of Hope (1954), a desire or drive. An intention, if you will.
World sf, I think, is a part of this tradition, though intention is, in most cases, not a necessary component. It is not utopian in a colloquial sense, but it is utopian in the sense of a desire. Of representation. Of imagination. Of possibilities. Imagine each literary tradition as a star in the sky and you’ll see why world sf is, as in the quote by Jameson above, that archipelago (of worlds): it’s a gateway into the myriad ways people can engage sf/f within their living spaces (nations, cities, states, etc. — i.e., worlds). They might be discontinuous, decentered, in conflict or isolated, but in them, there’s a renewed freshness waiting to be explored.