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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Caribbean, Science Fiction, and Space: Initial Thoughts

As many of you already know, I've been working on a paper on Caribbean science fiction--specifically the work of Tobias S. Buckell and Nalo Hopkinson, since my criteria is that the authors have to write about the Caribbean and be Caribbean themselves. The one thing that has stuck out to me so far--and I'll be honest in saying that this is mostly focused on Buckell, because I have yet to read the works by Hopkinson that might contribute to this theme--is the relationship between the Caribbean (people and place) and (outer) space.

I'm considering the notion that outer space for Caribbean people--particularly the colonization of other planets--is a kind of "escape" from the conditions of the postcolony. From what I'm learning about the racial, cultural, and economic conditions in many Caribbean countries, though not all, it becomes very clear that the Caribbean is never truly free from its various colonizers. The tourist industry, former colonizers, and so on have and continue to play a role in many Caribbean countries, and people within the countries themselves often fulfill the role that Frantz Fanon derided in his book Wretched of the Earth (a kind of clone-colonial, if you will).

This notion seems to work well within Tobias Buckell's work, because his three novels definitely play with space, planets, and other places in a way that, I think, defines them as implicitly "Caribbean." Other themes also play out in his work, such as that of the "out of place" Caribbean--both the colonial and "out of place" concepts function in his novels, from the controlling Satrapy to the foundations of Chilo and the various characters who "wander" from place to place. I suspect that there is a connection here to Buckell's "expat" status (if that's the right term), and I hope that when I read more of Hopkinson, I will find similar elements.

So, these are some things I'm playing around with. They're very rough at the moment, so if you have criticisms, please take that into account. I could very well be wrong, but so be it.

Interestingly enough, most of the above ideas, however rough they may be, are a testament to the value of libraries. While perusing Library West at the University of Florida, I discovered an interesting book of essays/discussions from a United Nations seminar/conference on international and national space law from the Latin and Caribbean perspective. Oddly enough, many Caribbean countries that have no space programs and no immediate connection to the space programs of other nations (some Latin countries do by providing materials that are used by the U.S. and other nations for space-based things, in case you didn't know) have participated in many of the signings and attempts to ratify various UN space legislation from the 60s on. Not something I think most people would know, even those that live in the Caribbean. I'm still looking into that, though. But that's for another time.

So, how are you?

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