by Kong Dehao, Megan Huang, Yong Chun San, Zheng Jieru
Planet-hungry aliens. Mindless zombies. Robots who seem innately predisposed to hating humanity. Something about science fiction lends itself to the dystopia and the apocalypse. Perhaps it is in the speculative DNA they all share. Much has been said about their larger cultural and ideological purposes: they critique society from a distance; they summon nightmarish worlds that enchant and terrify; they, in Tom Moylan’s words, “map, warn, and hope.”
No wonder then, that so much of these speculative tales are also stories of power and oppression—they are simply mapping this world we live in, one that is overrun by power structures surrounding, for starters, gender, sexuality, race, income, age, physical ability. These inequalities have become so prevalent as to become normalised into our everyday reality. Consider: what was the last science fiction film you watched that featured queer characters? Forget that: how about the last time you saw a female scientist save the day?
These absences are the result of power inequalities.
Even in the sci-fi apocalypse where our anxieties are blown to their greatest proportions, power and oppression, as we see it, are always lurking in the vicinity. Indeed, in this special issue, we gaze into the genre’s crystal ball that contains a grim vision of our last days, but also lift it before the light to examine its shape and search for the tell-tale scratches of power, dominance, oppression.
Megan Huang opens our special issue with an introduction to the mechanisms of dominance and oppression while looking at Resident Evil (2002). As her article will reveal, a dystopian and post-apocalyptic world will involve humans being “oppressed, enslaved, and trapped by dominant overarching power structures in society”. Following this, Zheng Jieru visits the same film from a feminist lens to uncover its lukewarm female empowerment despite apparent intentions to present a strong female hero. Yong Chun San shifts gears from oppression within human society to examine the tendency for modern A.I. apocalypse fiction to present humans as the dominant species. Extending this idea, Kong Dehao looks to the future of inter-species conflicts, studying Arrival (2016) and The Three-Body Problem (2006) to suggest that communication technology may be the way to negotiate power with aliens.
As the science fiction writer William Gibson once remarked, “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” In this issue, we bring you various presents and various futures, none truly equal or egalitarian. But they map. They warn. With luck, there may yet be hope.