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Science Fiction Futures and the Ocean as History: Literature, Diaspora, and the Pacific War

  • Author(s): Yamamura, Tim
  • Advisor(s): Wilson, Rob
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

This dissertation traces a kind of literary "origin" to the Pacific War by analyzing the mass circulation of emergent science fiction -- written in both the United States and Japan -- that prophesied the perils of war in the Pacific from the late-nineteenth century on. Through an analysis of both canonical and minoritized works by writers including Ursula Le Guin, Kobo Abe, Lafcadio Hearn, Percival Lowell, Toshio Mori, Alfred Mahan, Hector Bywater, Juliet Kono, E. Lily Yu, Robert Heinlein, John Okada, Hiroshi Kashiwagi, and in dialogue with the growing field of science fiction cultural studies, I develop a problematic that has been implicit within the representation of "aliens" within literature and cultural theory. I show how science fiction, since its emergence, has actively negotiated with the conditions of diaspora as a modern formation, here seen in a particular context of the Nikkei in America, deemed "enemy-alien" by science fiction and Executive Order alike.

Through an analysis of the dialogues between future war writers on both sides of the Pacific, I trace a pre-history to the language of the Japanese American incarceration, specifically the designation of "enemy-alien" deployed against communities across the western hemisphere to justify military targeting, "internment," and subsequent diasporizations as "test subjects" for the U.S. war-effort. Thus, I show how early representations of the "alien from another world" can be read as foreshadowing the impossible conditions imposed upon Japanese American communities upon the start of the Pacific War.

Yet an analysis of the historic intersections between science fiction and Asian American representation also helps us to recognize the ways in which Japanese American and Chinese American writers in diaspora, however ambivalently, have also experimented with the tropes and themes of science fiction as a means to contest, and reimagine, the historic conditions of alienation. While pre-war science fiction reveals the mystifications of print capitalist circulation across the Pacific, post-war science fiction by Asian American writers can help us imagine the possibilities of a future no longer contained by the contradictions of diaspora in a globalizing universe.

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