Fiction, gender and science: A bilingual critical anthology of science-fiction, utopias and dystopias by women
Ildney Cavalcanti and Joan Haran
Visiting researcher, (Federal University of Alagoas, Brazil) and Joan Haran are collaborating on the project entitled fiction, gender and science: a bilingual critical anthology of science-fiction, utopias and dystopias by women, which , which involves surveying the field and translating and analyzing a selection of stories for publication of a bilingual (English and Portuguese) critical anthology comprising the fictions and related critical commentaries.
The initial step involved surveying and reading anthologies and collections of short stories in circulation in English. Thirty-eight anthologies published in the UK, the USA, Australia and Canada have been consulted, and over a hundred and twenty twentieth-century women sci-fi authors listed so far. This mapping has enabled visualizing the massive community formed by producers/editors in these speculative genres, as well as the most anthologized authors/texts. During this stage, there were visits to special collections and archives to trace and copy stories which are out of print, especially the ones published in pulp magazines in the first half of the twentieth century. This was accompanied by the drawing of the initial criteria for selection, which included both very instrumental details (the story length and year of original publication, for instance) and others less so, such as identifying the gender/science intersections; pursuing an encompassing definition of science; finding a balance between well-known and less known works; considering both ‘sci-fi’ and ‘mainstream’ authors; being aware of previous anthologies so as not to duplicate selections without a compelling reason, while, at the same time, acknowledging their importance and trying to incorporate their positive structural qualities.
An initial analysis and cross-reading were carried out for the definition of an overall conceptual framework that will give the volume a shape. This stage has led to thinking in terms of the scientific practices and discourses incorporated in/by the fictions in three major ways: concepts, ethics, pragmatics. These broad ‘trends’ are metaphorically stylized by means of recurring narrative tropes, motifs or figures relating to essentialism/anti-essentialism (biology as destiny, eugenics, genetic engineering and genetic mutation); reproduction and NRB (New Reproductive Biotechnologies); post-human subjectivities (artificial intelligence, cyborgs); the political ‘grammar’ of scientific practice and experimentation; women as subjects X women as objects of science; journeys of scientific exploration; the reutilization of scientific concepts and metaphors (evolution and evolutionary theory, parallel universes and alternate worlds, entropy, chaos theory).
This was followed by a fourth step, the final selection of fourteen short stories based on the previous stages. Networking with potential collaborators and translators has been in progress, and so have the bureaucratic activities of tracking authors and publishers for permissions and rights. Work on the analyses and on the translations themselves has also been in progress; and the final editing and the publication of the volume itself is planned to be complete next year.