Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture

By Fabio Parasecoli | Go to book overview

3
Tasty Utopias
Food and Politics in Science Fiction Novels

The alien is always constructed of the familiar.

Delany 1985: 143


The Challenges of Science Fiction

As we noticed when talking about cannibals and vampires, the desire for excessive eating and ingestion is often overlooked or even repressed by culture and society, only to re-emerge in imaginary creatures, legends, and myths. It is almost as if we were scared of facing our own unruly appetites, so we project them outside onto evil characters that deserve to be despised, fought, and destroyed. For these reason, fictional monsters can also come to represent the dynamics of power at both the personal and the social levels, stimulating further – and often involuntary – reflections about the mechanics of dominance and authority.

The terror of being cannibalized and the fear of menacing and mysterious powers, whose actions cannot be fully understood and foreseen, emerge also in science fiction. Novels, movies, and comic books that focus on alternative realities and possible futures have often been considered the realm of usually young, white males. Yet, this genre is increasingly getting recognition also by wider audiences, and even some movie and literary critics are not ashamed to voice a certain appreciation. In these works, imagination takes the lead, creating fictional worlds that, nevertheless, tell us a lot about the actual realities we inhabit.

The Man in the High Castle (1962) by Philip K. Dick provides an excellent example. The whole novel is set a hypothetical present, where the U.S. and its Allies have lost World War II. Only the central states of the former U.S. remain free. The Western states constitute a puppet country under Japanese influence, while the Eastern part is controlled by the Nazis, who are still hunting for Jews, have exterminated all black people from Africa, and have dried the Mediterranean Sea to get more arable land. Slavery is legal again.

Reality is simply described as “terribly, terribly disruptive” (Dick 1992: 258). The Western world seems to have lost its bearings: people have to choose between getting some sort of perspective or “perhaps retreat into the shadows of mental

-61-

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