Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sheeple Look Up

The world Brunner devises gives me an insight into race and space that I had never considered in quite so interesting a way. It never occurred to me that SF must cling to racialized paradigms, if the genre accepts or chooses, as Michael Stern sees it, "the subject matter historically available" (117). Although somewhat positivists in its plot trajectories, novels of this sort, as in The Sheep Look Up, develops protagonists that are sociologist or pessimistic marxians. And since SLU is the third installment to an unofficial SF trilogy, the reader arrives in a world where "thoughts of good coming out of corporate evil are out of the question" (Stern 120).

This is interesting in this time of economic downturn and the first African American presidency. This is especially true when one considers the fact that the first book, Stand on Zanzibar, in Brunner's irredemably capitalist and ecocidal world features an African American character who is excelling in corporate America. Actually, in the early to mid 70s when these books were first published, the notion of a black man "winning" the corporate game would have indeed been the stuff of science fiction.

Of course with all that's occurring today, I think we should not necessarily be overly-comforted by the fact that a black man is the chief executive of the entire United States system, which is ultimately corporate in nature. So in the eyes of Brunner, a black president is just another creative, method of coopting and observing what seems alternative just for the sake of keeping this global capitalistic mega-mechanism going on ad finitum.

Moreove, the fact of a black American head of state is paradigmatically startling only insofar as one subscribes to essentialist notions of race. I think Brunner and the scholars who wrote about his work fall into this category, and so do we as an audience as long as we are complicit to the behavioral and social procedures that give rice to the separations between race that have already, long ago been established.

Reading the trilogy in reverse order, in fact, it's likely that the books seem less and less SF and more and more realistic.
Sorry, Barack.