“Perhaps the crispest definition is that science fiction is a literature of ‘what if?'”
(Evans, Christopher. Writing Science Fiction. London, A & C Black, 1988.)
I know many of you are anxiously watching the presidential election unfold (and that many of you–hopefully all who are eligible to do so!–are voting in it as well). Elections for public office are steeped in both utopian and dystopian rhetoric, about the state of our communities and our country, about how our lives and world are, how they should be, how they could be.
In short, these debates and these elections traffic heavily in what if? These elections and the candidates’ words and policies are, in a very real way, about world-building: they are about reality but also about imagination grounded in possibility. What will our communities, our country, and the world (not to mention our individual lives) look like if certain people are elected to serve us? What kinds of worlds do these candidates think is possible and desirable? How will they enact these visions? In whose interests?
All elections matter, but this one is particularly consequential, as we are in the midst of a global pandemic, economic instability, social unrest, and a continued struggle to expose and dismantle structural racism.
This is an open forum for class discussion, in the lead-up to Election day, and beyond, to share your thoughts on how political rhetoric and platforms shape what is possible in our world. This is a space to consider what candidates’ visions of well-being for our communities and our country mean, what they do. The current elections (and the campaigning and political battles that have been accompanying them, for months now) is about “extrapolation,” a tool central to the genre of science fiction. The candidates are starting from our present circumstances and extrapolating to what might happen if we continue down our current path undeterred, or what alternatives exist, and how things might be different if we change our course. Though there is much obsession with facts, this extrapolation depends on assumptions, perspectives, and values. This extrapolation is grounded in competing needs and desires about how people should live and how societies should structure themselves (think of hierarchies, treatment of the “other,” about all the questions on the Science Fiction Framework).
Together, let’s close (and actively) read these texts of the Election (our own experiences/thoughts/emotions/fears/dreams; the candidates’ words, their policies, media coverage surrounding them, etc.) and critically examine what is being explicitly or implicitly stated in these visions. As always, textual evidence (with citations/links) will help to support your claims about what the candidates’ believe America does, could, and should look like one possible future; the future in which they are elected public servants of our communities and of the country where we live and work and dream, the United States of America.
At least one comment due by the start of class on Election Day (Tuesday, 11/3), but I hope we can get into a rich discussion here, so comment early and as often as you feel so inclined.