Earlier this year, the Civic Imagination Project hosted a forum focused on diversity, science fiction, and the civic imagination. Here's how we framed the event:
Science fiction has long provided resources -- compelling narratives, rich metaphors -- through which we might explore alternative possible directions for technological and social change, especially at a time when profound and prolonged periods of change disrupt established ways of thinking. Throughout most of the 20th century, science fiction, however, was a genre by, for, and about white men and thus offered a narrow range of visions of tomorrow. In recent years, though, a range of groups have sought to speak their truths through speculative fiction and used its language to map past and future trajectories. In this session, we will explore a range of different movements within science fiction that reflect the perspectives of post-colonialist, Afrofuturist, Indigenous, and Muslim creators and audiences, each making claims for the future through their particular deployments of the genre’s core building blocks. This forum will engage the multiple strands of futurism in contemporary science fiction which have helped to diversify what voices can be heard and opened up new modes for thinking through contemporary issues and future aspirations in American society. Bringing these diverse and alternative conceptions of the future together allows us to debate more richly the directions we want to see our society take.
Here are the bios of our core speakers:
Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad is an Affiliate Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Washington, Visiting Research Scientist at the Indian Institute of Technology and Senior Data Scientist at Groupon. He is the founder and editor of the Islam and Science Fiction Project that focuses on Science Fiction from the Muslim world as well as depiction of Islam and Muslims in Science Fiction especially in the Anglo-American world. It is the most comprehensive resource on this subject. He has been running the project since 2005. He also edited the first ever anthology Science Fiction set in Muslim cultures in 2008. Recently he launch first in a series of such anthologies titled Islamicates.
Dr. Nalo Hopkinson is an Afro-Caribbean author and sometime editor of science fiction and fantasy (speculative fiction). A Canadian citizen, she moved to California in 2011 to become a professor of Creative Writing at the University of California Riverside, where she is a member of UCR's research cluster in science fiction. Recognition for her writing includes the John W. Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and the Andre Norton Award for young adult science fiction. She was recently the fiction co-editor of a special edition of Lightspeed Magazine, "People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction," and an invited guest at Princeton University's symposium "Ferguson is the Future — Incubating Alternative Worlds Through Arts, Activism, and Scholarship." Her current novel-in-progress, Blackheart Man, is historical speculative fiction which takes place in an imaginary Caribbean island nation founded by escaped enslaved people and defended successfully for over 200 years.
William Lempert is a PhD candidate in cultural anthropology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. With the support of Fulbright and the Wenner Gren Foundation he recently completed his fourth and primary research trip of 20-months to Northwestern Australia where he worked on the production teams of two Indigenous media organizations. He followed the biographical social life cycles of their films as they travelled between remote communities, regional towns, and national festivals. His dissertation aims to understand the paradoxical emergence of two contrasting national Aboriginal television networks amidst the mass defunding of Aboriginal Australian communities and organizations by articulating the tensions of contemporary indigeneity embedded within the daily practices of diverse film projects. Building on his previous work on the rise of the Native American sci-fi film genre, he is particularly interested in understanding how Indigenous filmmaking can imagine and generate alternative futures. More broadly, he argues for the temporal reorientation of anthropological projects toward futures, especially in relation to Indigenous peoples so associated with mythic pasts and fraught presents. To engage broader publics, he has published blogs, stories, videos, and podcasts through the Medium, Fulbright, Sapiens, Savage Minds, Cultural Anthropology, Visual Anthropology Review, and Australian Broadcasting Corporation websites.
Tok Thompson was born and raised in rural Alaska. At the age of 17, he began attending Harvard College, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. In 1999 he received a Master’s degree in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley, and three years later received a PhD in Anthropology from the same institution, all the while studying under the late great folklorist Alan Dundes. After receiving his PhD, Tok engaged in a two-year postdoctoral position with the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies at Trinity College, Dublin, where he helped launch a new M.Phil. in Translation Studies. He also researched Irish language traditions in County Fermanagh on behalf of the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland, and the District Council of Fermanagh. In the Fall of 2006, Tok came to USC, where he has been teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in folklore and related topics. Additionally, he has taught folklore as a visiting professor at universities in Northern Ireland, Iceland, and Ethiopia. While still in graduate school, he co-founded and co-edited the journal Cultural Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Folklore and Popular Culture, which he co-edited for 15 years. From 2013-2017 he was the editor for Western Folklore. He is currently working on a textbook for World Mythology (with Greg Schrempp), and a casebook entitled Posthuman Folklore.
Over the next two posts, I am going to share a transcript of this exchange. Enjoy!
Henry: Hi. I’m Henry Jenkins. I’m one of the two moderators for this event. The other one is Tok Thompson from USC Anthropology Department. This event is being put together by the Annenberg Innovation Lab and Civic Paths research group with funding from the USC Collaboration Grant.
Over the past few years, the Civic Paths group has been spending some time thinking about the concept of a civic imagination. Before you can change the world, you have to be able to envision what a better world looks like. And that’s led us to think very deeply about speculative fiction as a space for political change. What does speculative fiction offer us as activists and as citizens as events in the world are requiring us to think about social justice in new ways. Our group is also taking inspiration from the methodologies of speculative fiction -- particularly world building -- to think about how communities might work together to determine what a better world might look like, one which supported our shared goals and values.
Samantha Close, a PhD candidate, called my attention to the work of William Lempert, who is an anthropologist who has done interesting work on indigenous forms of science fiction. Zhan Li, an alum from our group, brought our attention to the work of Muhammad Ahmad, who has been doing interesting thinking, writing and curating around Islam and science fiction. And I have known Nalo Hopkinson off and on since I brought you to MIT at the beginning of both of our careers some 20-plus years ago. So, we thought this was a really interesting mix of people to think about the question, whose fiction does science fiction foretell.
So, with that, let me turn over to Tok who had a few things he wanted to say at the opening.
Tok: Sure. Well, thanks, first off, for pulling me into this project. It is a big interest of mine. And when I heard the idea for this, I was just really excited to be a part of it. We’ve also had an opportunity last couple of hours to kind of hang out at Professor Jenkins’ labs and had some very fascinating backward-forward discussions about some of the larger things that we’ve been looking at.
I think my introduction to this as a genre began a little while ago. I read a book by Ursula Le Guin, whom you probably all know for her work. She had a book called Always Coming Home. That was just a fabulous book. And it was a sort of a vision of California. And it was a vision of California where there is super high tech, so super that you really didn’t notice it. That’s how super the high tech was.
And people have these lives that were much more locally based. They were living locally. They were harvesting locally. When they needed to know some information, it was always there. Their lives, although there was, of course, plot drivers of problems in the book, it was a pretty nice lifestyle and became clear, gradually, that this was an indigenous lifestyle, although she never came out and said it. It became clear as you read it. It was all based on indigenous lifestyles pre-colonization, sort of almost an alternative present, or perhaps an alternative future: that, I think just has a lot of promise, when we’re thinking about this. Ursula Le Guin is the daughter of Alfred Kroeber who started anthropology in California, of UC Berkeley.
So, I’ve been thinking of her a little bit. She recently won a very major award for writing. And I just have a little quote from her here that she delivered. This is her quote. “I think hard times are coming when we’ll be wanting the voice of the writers who can see alternatives to how we live now. We can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom, poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art.
Profit motive is often conflict with the aims of art. And we live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begins in art, and very often, in our art, the art of words. I’ve had a long career on a good one, one in good company and here at the end of it I really don’t want to watch American literature gets sold down the river. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”
So, in this issue of freedom, freedom to imagine futures, freedom to compel each other to discuss what we like this world to be in a few years, these are some of the more compelling issues that -- and again, within a sense of hope, always a sense of hope-- that we can imagine what the future might be.
And so, with that, I’m very, very happy to be in the company of people who are working directly with artists, writers, who are imagining our potential futures.
Henry: So, each of the panelists are going to do about 10 minutes opening comments, reflections, on our core theme. Tok and I have some questions, framing questions to get the panelists talking amongst themselves. And then we’ll open up to the floor for questions . So, Nalo, you want to get us started?
Nalo: Oh, good. So, Henry asked us to do sort of an opening introduction to ourselves and why we’re drawn to this genre. I’m originally from the Caribbean. So, I was born in Jamaica, lived in Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, also briefly lived in Connecticut as a child of six when my dad was in a theater program at Yale University and my mother was pregnant with my brother. And the only play they could think of to put my actor father in was Othello.
I’ve always read and enjoyed the fantastic, be it Gulliver’s Travels or Homer’s Iliad because my dad was an English teacher and was teaching those. My first genre science fiction was Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House, which I found in the pages of a Playboy magazine I stumbled on to when I was eight years old. And being me what I concentrated on was the fiction.
In that same time period, I remember reading a children’s novel I’ve never been able to find since. It was a fantasy novel. A handful of young children from all walks of life have to power through various trials. And their reward is going to be that they get to a place where any wish they want will be granted.
So, they all succeed and they get to this magical place. The white children wish for things like castles and horses, in other words, wealth, property. Then the book revealed that there had been a black child who’d also won through to this magical place. He hadn’t been mentioned in the book earlier. He was quite poor. He wore torn, patched clothing. And what did he wish to have for all eternity? A watermelon patch of all the watermelon he could eat.
So, as the book closes, one of the last scenes we have the children riding their horses and, you know, examining their jewels. And this little boy with not even a roof over his head, sitting in a watermelon patch, eating slice after slice of watermelon.
Now, I love watermelon, I still do. But I suspect that that children’s book was a big part of the reason why when I moved to Canada from the Caribbean at age 16, it was a while before I would let a non-Caribbean white person see me eating watermelon.
So, some of my earliest connections to science fiction and fantasy and I love epic stories that have ghosts and monsters in them. On the one hand, you’ve got deep racism. On the other hand, you’ve got these adventure epics, Iliad, the Odyssey, you have the coded social critique of Gulliver’s Travels -- I don’t know what to Welcome to the Monkey House.
And I got to -- since, you know, Playboy was my initiation threw in the wide-eyed innocence of Little Annie Fanny. I don’t know if any of you are old enough to know that regular Playboy strip. It’s about a clueless ingénue who’s frequently surprised to find herself naked and sexually compromised. It was played for humor.
But being a kid, I read Little Annie Fanny as -- because I could tell that she was being made fun of, I understood her as the holy fool. You know, the guileless, naïve -- through her guilelessness shows up the creepiness of the more worldly people around you. So, this is my intro to science fiction and fantasy.
And I think people ask me what drew me to it and there’s no way to give an honest answer to that. But a large part of it was difference. Science fiction fantasy told different stories than the ones -- the real world around me with its pesky laws of physics and its systemic biases and systemic injustices did.
And as I grew older, I desperately needed models for different ways to do things. Science fiction fantasy provided me with some of those. It takes our unquestioned narrative and it calls them into question. It tells stories about how -- about and with those cherished narratives and it messes with them. A well chosen neologism, a coinage of a new word, can lay bare all the assumptions that are buried in the word that we would use in its place.
So, I find that people assume that’s why I like science fiction -- that it’s a political reason. And I find -- I kind of resist that. It’s partly true but that is buried in the fact that as a creator of it, as a reader of it, I want a story that works. I want a story that on a fictional level works. And in order to do that, it’s got to think about the underpinnings of the world. So, it’s not that -- I covered it first, I think, from the creative. And I think the creative needs to take all of this into context.
I have ended up a novelist, short story writer, sometimes a fiction editor. I now teach creative writing at the University of California Riverside. I am part of a science fiction research cluster. And one of the lovely things about it is that you see the student body is something like 77% non-white. For many of the undergrads, whatever their racial or ethnic background, it’s the first time anyone in the family has gone to university.
And to be able to bring this idea of science fiction as something that can help think about how the world could be different, and therefore, how to make it a very powerful place to be doing that.
William: First, I want to start by thanking you for bringing me to campus. It’s been wonderful trip from Colorado. To follow up on a question I was asked after my earlier talk related to how well-known indigenous science fiction actually is, and the short answer is it’s not very well-known. So, I’m always compelled, if I have captive audience, just to try to in very broad brushes to lay out some of the things that are happening in indigenous science fiction because it is quite amazing and expanding quickly.
I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado Boulder. I’ve been thinking about and writing along with indigenous science fiction for about six years now. I also just came back from two years of field work in Northwestern Australia working with Aboriginal filmmakers and media makers in the outback.
I am really pleased to be in this discussion. We shared some great chats in the office just before. I was struck when I saw my first couple of science fiction films made by indigenous producers. When most people think of indigenous peoples, they imagine an ideal past, a tragic history, and a troubled present. I come from the world of anthropology. I don’t know if there’s any anthropologist in the room, but continues to have legacies of the savage slot of the past and the suffering slot of the present. There’s not a lot about the future. This seemed especially clear to me when I started seeing some of these films.
So, more and more filmmakers have begun drawing explicitly on the science fiction genre while reimagining it in quite new ways. Relating to science fiction, native or western or anything else, today we’ve been talking about all sorts of certain sub-genres. It’s a very powerful format that creates an unusually effective cross cultural register and language, and it’s great to hear about some of your projects along those lines of the civic imagination as a way to discuss our deepest hopes and fears about technology, humanity, and climate change.
Film has it has the particular ability to demonstrate world making. David MacDougall makes the argument that there’s something different about creating a world that you see, hear, and can almost touch—and perhaps will in the future—that makes a different kind of argument, not just an intellectual argument but an emotional and visceral one as well.
And so, there are many types of alternative futurisms. A main difference in comparison to Afro and feminist futurisms—which have decades-long literatures and are very developed in ways that indigenous futurisms are not—is not an accident, but because they’ve been structurally silenced by the imperial imagination.
One point I like to make echoes Grace Dillon, the pioneer of indigenous science fiction studies, which is that another main difference in this genre in comparision with other alternative futurisms is that people want sovereignty from the settler state as a higher priority than they want equitable inclusion, justice, or equality as they are imagined in multi-cultural liberal discourse. So, that’s a very seemingly subtle, but important distinction that plays out in this genre.
As Gregory Benford notes, you cannot have a future you do not first imagine, and I often think about this. You can’t have a future you don’t imagine, but also, the futures you do imagine are consciously and unconsciously created based on what we assume to be possible, desirable, or inevitable. So while science fiction—especially if you’re not in a room of people inherently interested in it—might seem to be a sort of fringe interest, actually it’s incredibly relevant because it has to do with the sort of subconscious ideas about possibility through which politicians and bureaucrats enact policy.
So, what I think makes for a good reference is to think about the Western science fiction canon, which you might divide up into utopian and dystopian films. You have lots of self-destruction and alien encounter films, and the alien films perhaps makes this argument most succinctly. Virtually without exception they all replicate colonial encounters. Even in the buddy films like ET, the larger context is that the government that can’t find that extraterrestrial would torture them or do all sorts of horrible things to them if they could, even if it’s in the backdrop.
Where in opposition, native science fiction films are doing things that are very different. As far as utopian films go there’s The Sixth World, which is about the Navajo Nation as the leading partner in the trip to Mars, saving the mission with their sacred corn pollen over the GMO corn which fails. There’s also a film titled File Under Miscellaneous, which shows a dystopian future in which indigenous peoples surgically remove their skin and have it replaced with white skin in a 1984-like dystopia.
And films such as The Visit, a very short film we watched earlier, is a short animated story of a flying saucer visiting a remote reserve in Canada, asking why aliens would necessarily visit New York or some other western metropolis. The policemen don’t know what to do, but the father starts playing his drum and it pulses along with the beat. There is no colonial encounter. It’s an interaction.
There are many ways in which we project through science fiction. As much as there’s a diversity in all Western alien films, in a way, there’s very little ideological diversity. Even exeptions suc as Arrival, which we talked about earlier are only a tiny bit different but still have the same backdrop.
To conclude, I’ve been thinking a lot about what is happening today. We live in this global era defined by apocalyptic rhetoric around climate change, ISIS, Middle Eastern wars, specters of deregulation-induced financial global collapse, the political mobilization of populism and record-high first world income inequality.
With everything going on, something that I mentioned earlier that caught my attention is that the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently moved the minutes to midnight, from 3 minutes, 30 seconds forward to 2 and a half minutes to midnight, which is closer than we’ve been since 1953 when we were testing hydrogen bombs in the South Pacific on the Bikini Atoll.
And so, while the world looks opaque and potentially disastrous in the West, I would point out that indigenous futures today encompass Standing Rock, Lakota futures, climate change, planetary futures, and species futures. Increasingly, they’re all interconnected. And if anyone’s been to Standing Rock actions, I think that this is becoming increasingly clear. This is not just happening in science fiction; it’s happening in many ways, which are good in the sense that people are paying attention in a new and broader way.
The way that indigenous peoples see the future has never been more relevant not only for their communities, but also for everyone else. Really what could be more relevant than the imagined futures of people who have lived through the apocalypse and survived it, and who aren’t 2 minutes to midnight but 10 minutes after midnight. So, perhaps they have something really important to say and the medium of science fiction and film provides a really compelling and visceral way to get that point across. Thank you.
Muhammad: Thank you for organizing this, Henry. I’m from Seattle, so it’s good to be in a place where the sun actually comes out. I’m the founder and editor of the Islam and Science Fiction Project also at the University of Washington, and a senior data scientist at Groupon. So, I’ve been interested in science fiction as far back as I could remember. Must have been six or seven when The Next Generation came out, so I used to watch it and I got hooked into the original series.
But my real interest in the intersection of science fiction and Muslim cultures came, I would say, around 2004-2006. That was when I became really fascinated with intersection of science fiction and religion in general. It is my personal opinion that some of the best science fiction novels which are out there have just very strong religious themes. So, a few that comes to my mind are Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny and his work in general. Lord of Light has very strong Buddhist and Hindu themes. There’s a lot of really good Catholic sci-fi out there. The novel Canticle of Saint Leibowitz comes to mind that does have a strong religious, mainly Christian, presence. There’s also the Case of Conscience by James Blish.
So, that’s how it started -- it got me thinking about the intersection between science fiction with Muslim characters or Islamic themes in science fiction. I started digging around in books, libraries, different forums online, and I discovered that there was almost no material on this subject. I even found one article where the author, who I will not name for certain reasons, actually went to say that as far as our science fiction is concerned, it [Science Fiction in Islamic background] does not even exist.
And years later I came across an article by an African-American scholar, Yusuf Nuruddin, who diagnosed the problem with saying that just because something has not been covered in certain academic western scholarship that it should not be taken to mean that it does not exist. So, with that, I started collecting material on this subject and that’s how the Islam and Science Fiction Project was born.
So, if you look at history of fiction with fantastical elements that came out of the Islamic world, the most famous is, of course, the Arabian Nights, also known as the One Thousand and One Nights. A number of stories in that collection have what we now recognize as having broad science fiction elements. So, for example, you have invisibility cloaks, you have travel to other planets, you even have stories with time travel, so on and so forth. John Campbell, I believe he’s at University of Alabama is doing some scholarship on a project about -- which he describes as one of the first sci-fi novels which was written in Arabic in 14th century by Ibn Al-Nafis.
Ibn Al Nafis’ claim to fame was actually that he was one of the earlier discoverers of circulation of blood in the human body. And the other -- not just the fiction or fantastical elements but if you look at other parts of the Islamic worlds in South Asia actually have the largest epic fantasy ever written. And when I say that this is not an exaggeration I actually mean it. So, the whole collection is called TAilsm-Hoshruba or magic that takes your senses away or in other words, mind-blowing magic.
It’s a collection of -- it’s a novel or a collection which consists of -- literally of one hundred thousand pages. We can safely assume that nobody has read it or at least nobody alive has read it. And it takes a very liberal -- especially from contemporary times view of early Islamic history. So, it’s settled in this alternate world where the protagonist is actually the uncle of Prophet Muhammad, Hamza, who unlike real history did not die in a war but became this epic hero [in this story] and went on to fight demons and dragons and other creative creatures in Persia and China and other parts of the world.
The story has a very multicultural cast. Part of his entourage are people from India and China, Persia, a couple of his friends are even Romans. So, it also gives us a very interesting window into a past of the Middle East which was much more color and much more open-minded and much more diverse, one could even argue.
Lets talk about [fiction] closer to the modern era. It’s difficult to say that there’s -- it’s even impossible to say that there’s such a thing as the Islamic world, they have multiple cultures which have this belief system as a commonality. They have their own -- a lot of them have their own literatures which sometimes intersect. So, for example, a lot of recent literature with respect to sci-fi which is coming out of the Arab world has many dystopian themes which is in light of the events -- especially in the light of events which have been going on in the Arab world in the last years or so.
If you look at 19th and early 20th century sci-fi literature in the Arab world, we do have many more examples of utopias. More recently, there’s this award-winning novel which came out of Egypt. It’s called Utopia. It’s written by Ahmed Towfik. Although it’s set in the near future very dystopian Egyptian society bereft with class war and class distinctions.
There’s another novel that came out after the Arab Spring also from Egypt. I believe it’s called The Queue. And it’s set in an unnamed country where a people’s revolution has failed and the government is very authoritarian and controls each and every single thing that people -- that citizens are allowed to do or not allowed to do. And one of the more interesting recent novels that came out -- actually came out of -- from Iraq by this author whose name is evading my mind right now. It’s called Frankenstein in Baghdad.
The premise is that the Frankenstein monster is actually created from people who have died because of the -- first because of the invasion and then after because of the civil war. Once the Frankenstein monster, this monster gets animated, it sets itself as its goal to take revenge on people who constitute its body parts. It’s supposed to be a commentary on the invasion of Iraq and the sectarian and religious violence which is going on in Iraq right now.
And if you look at the other parts of the Arab world, so for example, there is this thing called Gulf futurism. Mainly centered around Qatar, Bahrain and Dubai and the other emirates, where the idea is that if you actually look at Gulf even now, it has a very cyberpunk/dystopian feel to it. So, we have -- we literally have the tallest buildings in the world and some of the biggest construction projects in the world which appear to be found right off a sci-fi novel. But at the same time, we have a very large underclass of people who are barely getting minimum wages and trying very hard to survive.
Crossing the water, if you look at places like Saudi Arabia, it’s interesting. So, there’s -- a couple of years ago there’s these two brothers who even started a publishing house centered around science fiction. They came up with this novel, its translation is actually available freely on the Internet. It’s called HWJN. So, part of the Islamic belief is belief in the supernatural creatures called djinns or in the west we call them genies.
The novel tries to give a naturalistic explanation for them that they live in this parallel universe. And one of the protagonists who is this creature falls in love with a human female who lives in our world. And then, it uses that as a launch pad to explore class divisions within the Saudi society and also religious extremism, religious tolerance. And not surprisingly it got banned within Saudi Arabia. And after the ban that they actually made the novel freely available on the Internet both in Arabic and in English.
And it was hugely popular -- I should say, at the underground level it was hugely popular a couple of years ago. So, if I were to make like one generalization about sci-fi coming out of the Islamic world, it’s that it’s the local conditions and the histories that inform what people are envisioning about the future. So, the future is -- so one could even argue that the future is actually about the present. We project our hopes, fears and aspirations about what future could be or what future cannot be.
Another place surprisingly where we actually have sci-fi inspired from Islamic cultures, they’re having Islamic influences is actually the United States. The most famous sci-fi novel ever is Frank Herbert’s Dune is inspired from the Middle Eastern culture. Many of the terms that Frank Herbert actually uses are directly lifted from the Islamic religious canon, for example. There are a couple of authors which are well-known, G. Willow Wilson, she’s actually a Muslim convert. So, her novel -- her graphic novel is called Alif the Unseen.
It’s set in this cyberpunk setting where the genies that I described, they actually have a way to interact with our modern technology. That’s a pretty interesting read. There’s another sci-fi fantasy author, Saladin Ahmed, is actually the first American Muslim to be nominated for the Hugo. So, he has this novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon, it’s part of trilogy that’s coming out. A lot of interesting work which has been done.
I would end with the note, as I described earlier, that it’s difficult to generalize about such a large mass people. But at the same time, there are certain things and commonalities that we see, basically hopes and aspirations of people which are projected about the present and the future.
And one thing that I would say is much needed is that as we are moving from a western or Euro-centric view of science fiction, we should also not get into the trap of when we are talking about, say, sci-fi from the Muslim world or from China or indigenous sci-fi or from Africa that these are not necessarily bubbles but there should be a cross communication across these different worlds. Because if we really think about it, that actually has been the rule throughout history that cultures have never been born by isolation. There’s always been cross fertilization.