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Hacking the Future: The Space and Place of Earth in Postcolonial Science Fiction

FitzPatrick, Jessica (2017) Hacking the Future: The Space and Place of Earth in Postcolonial Science Fiction. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation offers a spatially attuned reading protocol to assist scholars engaging twenty-first century postcolonial science fiction. “Hacking the Future” first explores the boom in postcolonial SF since 2004, considering the instigations of digital publishing, community-building platforms, and the event RaceFail09. It then examines how spatial studies, particularly the concept of Edward Soja’s thirdspace, the geocriticical lens of Bertrand Westphal, and the political attentiveness of Doreen Massey, synchronize with the worldbuilding reading practices proposed by SF theorists Darko Suvin and Samuel Delany. “Hacking the Future” activates this newly spatialized reading practice in the arenas of inquiry highlighted by postcolonial studies to examine how physical, conceptual, and lived spaces function as types of critical revision.

Science fiction (SF) is a speculative genre capable of reaching ‘escape velocity’ from Earth and its histories of violence. Yet, when writing in this imaginative genre, contemporary postcolonial SF authors overwhelmingly produce Earthside stories. Utilizing this dissertation’s proposed combinative protocol allows us to access the interventions and innovations of this new subgenre of writing.

By creating SF, postcolonial writers reclaim their right to not only produce genre fiction, but imagine alternative futures for previously colonized people. ”Hacking the Future” contends that by challenging the ethnographic stare of traditional SF, SF authors of the Global South productively shift away from underlying ideologies of the inferior “Other.” Through close examination of Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn and “Amnesty,” Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s “Them Ships,” Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, and Samit Basu’s Turbulence, this dissertation demonstrates how postcolonial SF spatially revises societal hierarchies, corrupt politics, the Futures Industry, “third contact” narratives between sections of human society, Afropessimism, and citizenship scales. As an additional contribution to the archive surrounding postcolonial SF, “Hacking the Future” includes personal interviews with postcolonial SF writers Samit Basu, Lauren Beukes, Nalo Hopkinson, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Vandana Singh, and SF book cover illustrator Joey Hi-Fi. Using these interviews as critical sources encourages interdisciplinary considerations that bridge creative-critical divides. This project argues that these writers use Earth-spaces to “hack” into constructions of the future, establishing postcolonial SF as a type of literary activism.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
FitzPatrick, Jessicajlf115@pitt.eduJLF115
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairAndrade,
Committee CoChairSmith,
Committee MemberPuri,
Committee MemberBrylowe,
Committee MemberPurcell,
Date: 23 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 July 2017
Approval Date: 23 September 2017
Submission Date: 7 August 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 371
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: postcolonial science fiction, science fiction, postcolonial studies, world literature, genre studies
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2017 01:29
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2017 01:29


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