A Utopian Historical Imperative
De Witt Douglas Kilgore
Must any future order, whether on Mars or elsewhere, recapitulate a racialized heteronormativity? Can we imagine a peaceful and just society only as the outcome of a reproductive order that requires a firmly rooted hierarchy of racial and sexual identities? Are we to assume that an ideology combining white supremacy with patriarchy must serve as the limit condition of any viable future? Do the new races imagined in science fiction simply recreate the habits of dominance and submission that structure current social realities? These are my guiding questions as I consider whether it is possible to 'queer' the utopian subgenre of a coming race.
Over the past two centuries, science fiction has persistently asked us to imagine futures inhabited by human beings radically different from ourselves. For a literature that claims Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and H. G. Wells's The Time Machine (1895) as its founding documents, this persistence is determined by tradition. The task of imaging a queer futurity, therefore, requires that we confront closely held generic assumptions about human nature and destiny. From sf's utopian and dystopian roots we inherit our evolutionary speculations about the advent of a new human race. In the history of the genre race is both a corporate term including all humanity and an exclusionary rhetoric that naturalizes possessive investments in heteronormative whiteness. My interest here is in whether narratives of new human species can resist extending the political logic of this tradition.
I take my title from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's The Coming Race (1871), a utopian novel that distilled mid-nineteenth-century beliefs about race and gender into the conventions that subsequent sf writers have either reinforced or resisted. In the following pages I briefly account for the