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Science fiction and socialism have always had a close relationship. Many science fiction novelists and filmmakers have used the genre to examine explicit or implicit Marxist concerns. Red Planets is an accessible and lively account, which makes an ideal introduction to anyone interested in the politics of science fiction. The volume covers a rich variety of examples from W Science fiction and socialism have always had a close relationship. Many science fiction novelists and filmmakers have used the genre to examine explicit or implicit Marxist concerns. Red Planets is an accessible and lively account, which makes an ideal introduction to anyone interested in the politics of science fiction. The volume covers a rich variety of examples from Weimar cinema to mainstream Hollywood films, and novelists from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, and Thomas Disch to Ursula K. Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, and Charles Stross. Contributors include Matthew Beaumont, William J. Burling, Carl Freedman, Darren Jorgensen, Rob Latham, Iris Luppa, Andrew Milner, John Rieder, Steven Shaviro, Sherryl Vint, and Phillip Wegner.


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Science fiction and socialism have always had a close relationship. Many science fiction novelists and filmmakers have used the genre to examine explicit or implicit Marxist concerns. Red Planets is an accessible and lively account, which makes an ideal introduction to anyone interested in the politics of science fiction. The volume covers a rich variety of examples from W Science fiction and socialism have always had a close relationship. Many science fiction novelists and filmmakers have used the genre to examine explicit or implicit Marxist concerns. Red Planets is an accessible and lively account, which makes an ideal introduction to anyone interested in the politics of science fiction. The volume covers a rich variety of examples from Weimar cinema to mainstream Hollywood films, and novelists from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, and Thomas Disch to Ursula K. Le Guin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, and Charles Stross. Contributors include Matthew Beaumont, William J. Burling, Carl Freedman, Darren Jorgensen, Rob Latham, Iris Luppa, Andrew Milner, John Rieder, Steven Shaviro, Sherryl Vint, and Phillip Wegner.

30 review for Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    sologdin

    Thirteen essays about Marxism & science fiction. Duh. Comprehensive reading list in appendices. Much reference to Suvin’s Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, Freedman’s Science Fiction and Critical Theory, and Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future, which are the major Marxist touchstones for the theoretical consideration of the genre, apparently. Bould’s introduction reads Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and The Matrix as more or less substantially identical texts through the perspective of t Thirteen essays about Marxism & science fiction. Duh. Comprehensive reading list in appendices. Much reference to Suvin’s Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, Freedman’s Science Fiction and Critical Theory, and Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future, which are the major Marxist touchstones for the theoretical consideration of the genre, apparently. Bould’s introduction reads Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea and The Matrix as more or less substantially identical texts through the perspective of the world market. The protagonist of the latter is said to have “achieved the impossible, gaining perfect knowledge of the system while situated inside it” (16), a reference to Godel’s incompleteness or Mannheim’s paradox or whatever. Although not tendered as definition, this is likely a decent enough description of the genre. Beaumont: excellent paper that reads the genre through Holbein’s Ambassadors, regarding the distinction between anamorphosis (secondary world setting, say) and the anamorph (realistic setting with the intrusion of some weird), which function to decompose compositions, to defamiliarize & radicalize. These items constitute an “immanent critique of perspective” (34), which is kinda Marxism from the ground floor. Overall, a great essay. Burling: brechtian reading of Leguin’s The Dispossessed and KSR’s Blue Mars. Freedman: reads science fiction film through the binary of inflationary/deflationary, as contrasted with the conventions of film noir. Construes Marxism itself as possessing, dialectically, both deflationary and inflationary bits: “The deflationary dimension is represented by the attempt to destroy all illusions necessary or useful to the preservation of class society” (72). However, “Marxism ultimately aims at the positive project of human liberation and self-realization, rather than only at the negative task of destroying capitalism and other forms of class (and other) oppression” (id.). Considers Blade Runner, Dark City, 2001, Metropolis, and The Day the Earth Stood Still in detail. (Has a soft spot for Shelley’s Frankenstein, so difficult not to get aboard.) Principle is that science fiction is by definition inflationary, whereas noir is essentially deflationary. Rieder: a consideration of Until the End of the World, but also some other films. Shaviro: interpretation, with mockery, of ‘singularity’ theory, plus detailed critique of Kurzweil as cappy ideologue (singularity means everything is different now, man, and that we can't understand it before it happens--but the theory strangely keeps capitalist relations in place despite passage through the singularity--very 'end-of-history' a la Fukuyama!), but also in-depth consideration of Stross’ Accelerando. Very cool. Vint: reading of inter alia Cordwainer Smith on the issue of humanity/animality—very interesting stuff here, which wants to theorize “animals as alienated labour-power” (130). Wegner: reading MacLeod’s ‘Fall Revolution’ series via Lukacs. Kinda kickass, though I think Lukacs’ augenblick doctrine is philistine. Luppa: very intensely localized reading of Weimar film criticism from a Marxist perspective on science fiction films—which makes it the most historically rigorous essay in the anthology. Focuses on two films: Metropolis (no surprise) and Frau in Mond. References Herf’s Reactionary Modernism, so that’s cool. Latham: reading the New Wave via the perspective of Harvey on urbanity, with attention to Thomas Disch, Silverberg, Delany. Jorgensen: impressive essay on Althusser, which makes use of Dick, Simak, and Leguin. Affirms that “revolution is, within itself, an absolute difference” (207). Science fiction “is not so much a Suvinian cognitive estrangement as an identification with revolutionary possibility, producing the consciousness of the absolute difference that creates it” (208). Ok. I just got a little aroused over that. Milner: a critique of Suvin’s definition of ‘science fiction.’ Works with Bloch, Williams, Brecht. Mieville: a critique of the sundering of ‘science fiction’ from ‘fantasy’ by Suvin and others. Works either as Marxist immanent critique of doctrine or as derridean deconstruction. Either way, very slick. Best line: “To the extent that SF claims to be based on ‘science,’ and indeed on what is deemed ‘rationality,’ it is based on capitalist modernity’s ideologically projected self-justification: not some abstract/ideal ‘science,’ but capitalist science’s bullshit about itself. This is not, of course, to argue in favour of some (perhaps lumpen-postmodernist) irrationalism, but that the ‘rationalism’ that capitalism has traditionally had on offer is highly partial and ideological” (240-41) (emphasis added – how awesome is that? Are postmodernists just lumpenized greasers?). Great little collection. Go read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    convincingly suggests that sf and its store of works and concepts are useful for pursuing marxian lines of inquiry, whether directly or as the implicit horizon, and without some of the tedium involved in more remote objects of literary study. a lot of these essays are exciting firstly on the level of the formula, the linking of two seemingly disparate canons of thought. the dominant suvin/sfstudies tradition is set up in the intro along with its 'critical utopian' author relations like le guin an convincingly suggests that sf and its store of works and concepts are useful for pursuing marxian lines of inquiry, whether directly or as the implicit horizon, and without some of the tedium involved in more remote objects of literary study. a lot of these essays are exciting firstly on the level of the formula, the linking of two seemingly disparate canons of thought. the dominant suvin/sfstudies tradition is set up in the intro along with its 'critical utopian' author relations like le guin and russ, but lots of the essayists bypass this tradition (ie. in using cordwainer smith's stories to discuss animal labour power), and the final and best section's broad theme is the critique of suvin's concepts. (mieville's afterword logically dismantles suvin's original separation of sf and fantasy.) although it is not the book's chief purpose, i think it made me want to read/watch pretty much every work under discussion, and there is also a long and useful list of left-sf books and films in the back.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Dan Sharber

    a fun and interesting book. recommended for fans of the more literary and social critique aspects of marxism as well, obviously, as sci fi in general. i wasn't familiar with a lot of the debates and referents but still very much enjoyed many of these essays. a fun and interesting book. recommended for fans of the more literary and social critique aspects of marxism as well, obviously, as sci fi in general. i wasn't familiar with a lot of the debates and referents but still very much enjoyed many of these essays.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    I'm just going to steal the beginning of bill fletcher's review: Red Planets is a collection of essays that offers an intricate analysis of the development of science fiction as a genre. This collection also unpacks many of the key themes in science fiction and relates them to broader struggles on the ideological plane. As such, Red Planets must be read less as an analysis of the hidden (and not so hidden) messages contained in much science fiction literature, cinema, and television, and more as I'm just going to steal the beginning of bill fletcher's review: Red Planets is a collection of essays that offers an intricate analysis of the development of science fiction as a genre. This collection also unpacks many of the key themes in science fiction and relates them to broader struggles on the ideological plane. As such, Red Planets must be read less as an analysis of the hidden (and not so hidden) messages contained in much science fiction literature, cinema, and television, and more as an examination of how various issues of theory are struggled out within the realm of what we have come to know as science fiction. I really liked carl freedman's article on noir and science fiction, and will try to get around to reading his book soon. likewise andrew millner's work on raymond williams and sf (and I actually received an email about the release of a collection of williams' relevant writings edited by millner like the day after I finished this). steven shaviro, rob latham, and phillip wegner also had very strong contributions. sherryl vint's essay lost me immediately by focusing on speciesism. don't care, sorry. then there's darren jorgensen, whose essay is a call to arms in defense of... althusser? and who later reveals himself to be some sort of stalinist/ussr apologist? no thanks, guy. also, only two woman contributors to the volume? for shame.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Augusto Delgado

    While this collection of essays about what has been written or filmed dealing with the societies of the future, and how those developments are intertwined with the Marxist method of scientific approach to analysis, at the same time is a compelling order to get back to the sources. Thus your humble and unemployed reader has been thrown back to a few books already read decades ago, to fewer films watched not so long ago and, mostly, to a great deal of books never read and films never watched. So, y While this collection of essays about what has been written or filmed dealing with the societies of the future, and how those developments are intertwined with the Marxist method of scientific approach to analysis, at the same time is a compelling order to get back to the sources. Thus your humble and unemployed reader has been thrown back to a few books already read decades ago, to fewer films watched not so long ago and, mostly, to a great deal of books never read and films never watched. So, yours truly is now overwhelmed with the very difficult time-consuming task of catching up from Poe, Shelley and Verne, through Wells, Zamyatin, Gernsback reaching Le Guin and Dick and Gibson, up to Banks, Miéville, Robinson, among many others. Added to that several movies that passed by when watching or not plenty of others. Finally, there are some references on the discussion about the blurred borders between Science Fiction and Fantasy to be dealt with, especially Darko Suvin, whom argues that their limits are based on the cognitive estrangements and the cognitive intentions of SF as opposed to the impossible fantasy escapes, while at the same time plenty of the science in SF is also rendered impossible by the actual one. This philosophical discussion of literature could be solved by blurring those borders. Or, as it is brilliantly put in the closing essay by China Miéville: Red Planets we have. We should not neglect the red dragons.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wakinglife

    "O kadar simülatif varlıklarmışız ki bunu anlamamız için orta çağ teolojisini okumamız yeterli." Ulus Baker Distopik bir evrenin, bilimden de kurgudan da daha düşsel bir boyutu olduğunu söyleyemeyiz. Evrenin başlıca kendisinin bir yalnızlaştırma/ötekileştirme/tekil halleştirme/sınıflaştırma durumuna sokma eyleminin bilincindeyiz. Buna çözüm olarak sunulan teknoloji, aslında biz yüzümüze -bam diye doğrulmaya yönelecek olan karşı bir silah değil mi? Boyutların kavramların salgın gibi bizi peşindne "O kadar simülatif varlıklarmışız ki bunu anlamamız için orta çağ teolojisini okumamız yeterli." Ulus Baker Distopik bir evrenin, bilimden de kurgudan da daha düşsel bir boyutu olduğunu söyleyemeyiz. Evrenin başlıca kendisinin bir yalnızlaştırma/ötekileştirme/tekil halleştirme/sınıflaştırma durumuna sokma eyleminin bilincindeyiz. Buna çözüm olarak sunulan teknoloji, aslında biz yüzümüze -bam diye doğrulmaya yönelecek olan karşı bir silah değil mi? Boyutların kavramların salgın gibi bizi peşindne koşturduğu... Biyolojik ya da matematiksel bir matrix evreni ve bu evrende takip edilen beyaz tavşanın doğal haliyle doğum/yaşam/ölüm üçgeniyle varlığı var mıdır? Büyük bilbordlar, sunulan reklamlar, yeni yeni yeni teknolojik telefonlar ve über gelecek nesiller robotlar. Neredeler? Kurguna ne kadarı yatkın: Rüyalar ve Ursula K. Le Guin veya distopyadan kırma kısa bir anlatı için Bilge Karasu'nun post-apokaliptik evrenini okuyalım; "Bir sabah kalktığımda, yağmur yağıyordu. Kar artıkları vardı setteki evin duvarın dibinde. Birden, insanların, bana haber vermeden, beni çağırmadan çekilip gittiği, topluca bu şehri bıraktığı duygusuna kapıldım. Çoğu arabalarını bırakmıştı. Başka araçlara binip gitmiş olsalar gerekti. Eşya taşıma şirketinin koca kamyonu mavi kapalılığıyla başka mahalleye göçecek birinin kapısı önünde kalakalmıştı. Yalnızdım bu koca mahallede. Çıt çıkmadığı için de şehrin öbür taraflarında birileri var mı yok mu karar veremiyordum. Sonra kedim pencerenin kenarına oturdu. Ben varken onda herhangi bir yalnızlık duygusu oluşmazdı. Benim için de o var yalnız. Çok sonra, uzaklarda bir araba gürültüsü.. Sona kalan mı gidiyordu?" Bana göre bilimkurgu dediğimiz hadise bu -sona kalan mı gidiyordu'dan sonra başlıyor. Bu durumun son aşamasında da insan ve insani olama durumlarını durumlarını arıyoruz. Bazı hassas bünyeler olarak kahve yapma makinesine -günaydın, diyoruz, uyanmış şeklimizle.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mikael Cerbing

    As these type of books tends to be, this is a mixed bag. First of, if you are better at litterature theory then me, I think you might get more out of this. Second, I read this as a pleasure read, I think it would have worked better as part of some kind of study, as I found myself in dire need of something to write on to collect my thoughts while reading it. So, it might be a four star book with a bit of a different context. And it made me think quite a bit while readiing it, mostly on why I disa As these type of books tends to be, this is a mixed bag. First of, if you are better at litterature theory then me, I think you might get more out of this. Second, I read this as a pleasure read, I think it would have worked better as part of some kind of study, as I found myself in dire need of something to write on to collect my thoughts while reading it. So, it might be a four star book with a bit of a different context. And it made me think quite a bit while readiing it, mostly on why I disagree with the authors on different points. And not on the marxist points, as a tend to agree with quite a bit of marxism, more on how it was used and the view on Marx himself. Way to many marxists have a tendency to read Marx as christians read the bible, as a revelation not as a (big) piece of theoretical work. And by that, they need to put in somthing that Marxs said about something as that in itself proves a point they are making. That is not who we progress any type of study. Secondly, as many people who study the "less fine arts", like sci-fi, fantasy, comics or whatever, many of these writers had a tendency to come out as defenders of why sci-fi is good litterature/film. Why? Why be on the defence? Sci-fi is great litterature to use to talk about a great many things, why be on the defence? Its not Shakespeare. So what? We have way to many Shakespeare scholars as we have and way to few that study popular culture of different types. And there is really no other genre where you can write utopian fiction and really discuss the how/why/what of it. There is plenty more to say about this book and the essays in it, but that would take more time than I have.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vesper M

    I knew Mark Bould IRL and he's a horrible person... so a typical Marxist, really. I knew Mark Bould IRL and he's a horrible person... so a typical Marxist, really.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Javier Avilés

    Este libro flota cómodamente entre el texto académico y el texto de interés popular. Es una aportación significativa al anaquel de lecturas críticas sobre la ciencia ficción; se debe colocar al lado de "Archeologies of the Future" y "Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction". Este libro flota cómodamente entre el texto académico y el texto de interés popular. Es una aportación significativa al anaquel de lecturas críticas sobre la ciencia ficción; se debe colocar al lado de "Archeologies of the Future" y "Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction".

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Every year or so, I pull this off the shelf to reference a particular essay and then somehow end up re-reading pretty much all of it. Long live edited collections with brisk, well-written chapters!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Umut Erdoğan (Kareler ve Sayfalar)

    Bilimkurgunun alt türlerine, bilimkurgunun önemli yazarlarına da kısaca da olsa yer veren Kızıl Dünyalar, nedense ülkemizde bende hala "dışlanıyor" hissini yaratan, benim pek sevdiğim bilimkurgunun Marksizm ile olan ilişkisini, belki çoğu insan için bilimkurguya bakış açılarını bile değiştirebilecek şekilde sunuyor. "Geek işi" denilip kenara atılan bu tarzın üzerine yazan siyaset, tarih, edebiyat, felsefe gibi dallarda önemli akademik yerlerde bulunan bir çok ismin imzasını barındıran bu kitabı, Bilimkurgunun alt türlerine, bilimkurgunun önemli yazarlarına da kısaca da olsa yer veren Kızıl Dünyalar, nedense ülkemizde bende hala "dışlanıyor" hissini yaratan, benim pek sevdiğim bilimkurgunun Marksizm ile olan ilişkisini, belki çoğu insan için bilimkurguya bakış açılarını bile değiştirebilecek şekilde sunuyor. "Geek işi" denilip kenara atılan bu tarzın üzerine yazan siyaset, tarih, edebiyat, felsefe gibi dallarda önemli akademik yerlerde bulunan bir çok ismin imzasını barındıran bu kitabı, okuyun, okutun derim. Kitap hakkındaki yazımın tamamı için blog'umu ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    I should not have read this book in tandem with "Between Equal Rights". I found here the less rigorous analysis somewhat disappointing, but on the whole the essays did engage. Particularly the last two. As part of a series, I am not sure I would recommend this to SF fans as it generally presents arguments SF readers will already be familiar with. Non-SF readers who are interested in Marxism may find the book more enjoyable. I should not have read this book in tandem with "Between Equal Rights". I found here the less rigorous analysis somewhat disappointing, but on the whole the essays did engage. Particularly the last two. As part of a series, I am not sure I would recommend this to SF fans as it generally presents arguments SF readers will already be familiar with. Non-SF readers who are interested in Marxism may find the book more enjoyable.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brian Donnelly

    Presumes considerable understanding of theorists as diverse as Jameson, Zizek and Althusser, using somewhat cursory, even offhand references to "theory" without a lot of deep analysis. On the whole quite smart if somewhat typical lit crit. pieces. I was a little disappointed in China's end piece, worrying over the division between sci fi and fantasy -- red dragons or red planets, it all matters to him, and I guess it should to us, too. Presumes considerable understanding of theorists as diverse as Jameson, Zizek and Althusser, using somewhat cursory, even offhand references to "theory" without a lot of deep analysis. On the whole quite smart if somewhat typical lit crit. pieces. I was a little disappointed in China's end piece, worrying over the division between sci fi and fantasy -- red dragons or red planets, it all matters to him, and I guess it should to us, too.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Siemann

    Overall very strong collection of sf criticism from a Marxist perspective. Standouts for me included Bould's introduction, Sherryl Vint's piece on the treatment of animals in sf, Andrew Milner's "Utopia and Science Fiction Revisited," and China Mieville's conclusion on definitional boundaries in sf and fantasy. Overall very strong collection of sf criticism from a Marxist perspective. Standouts for me included Bould's introduction, Sherryl Vint's piece on the treatment of animals in sf, Andrew Milner's "Utopia and Science Fiction Revisited," and China Mieville's conclusion on definitional boundaries in sf and fantasy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott Neigh

    Reviewed here. Reviewed here.

  16. 4 out of 5

    ael

    i really, really enjoyed the last two essays. the rest of it was often boring in the ways that marxist literary critique usually are. worth it just for those two though.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paulgtr234

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

  21. 5 out of 5

    Joaquin Macedo

  22. 4 out of 5

    B.R. Sanders

  23. 5 out of 5

    Inasirimavo

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alex Waters

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris Cook

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gulcan Kilic

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