Shades of an urban frontier : historical resonances in the cities of Black and Anglophone SF SHADES OF AN URBAN FRONTIER: HISTORICAL RESONANCES IN THE CITIES OF BLACK AND ANGLOPHONE SF

Robert Gillespie, Robert Gillespie, Miriam Thaggert, Michael Hill, David Wittenberg, Andre Brock
2015 unpublished
ii To my dear friends and family, and of course Mr. Aberg (the Elder). iii ABSTRACT The purpose of the study was to compare the portrayal of cities in science fiction by African American authors to the portrayal of cities in science fiction by Anglo-European authors and determine the connection between the emergent similarities and dissimilarities and the urban history of each ethnic group. Two city typologies were used to provide a common basis for comparison: the 'imperial cities' at the
more » ... r of sf empires and the 'ghost cities' or 'dead cities' wherein the metropolis has undergone collapse, desolation and mass depopulation. The study found that all the urban sf narratives shared a focus on interrogating crises of political and environmental sustainability in urban history, but that the dead cities of black sf authors also tended to focus on crises unique to African American urban history-in particular, that of neighborhood dereliction and disintegration at the hands of racially targeted urban redevelopment policies, and that of the role of imperialism and black anti-imperial politics in shaping neighborhood formation in urban African American communities. iv PUBLIC ABSTRACT Cities have a paradoxical relationship with science fiction literature. On the one hand, critics like Brian Aldiss have called sf a 'literature of cities', citing them as the dominant context for speculative fiction. On the other, critics like Gary Wolfe have noted how sf has an "anti-urban frontier mentality" and how sf narratives involving cities often tend to view them as a trap from which the protagonist must escape. This relationship is even more complex in sf works by African American authors, as contemporary African American fiction in general takes the city as the dominant social context for black life and has turned to interrogate "issues of urban community" in the post-Civil Rights era. This dissertation explores the connections between the heterogeneous urban histories of Anglo-European and African American sf authors and the cities they construct. It does so by comparing the portrayal of cities by each group and relating the commonalities and contrasts that emerge from these portrayals to the differences and similarities between African American urban history and Anglo-European urban history.