“Indigenous Futurisms: The Transformative Potential of Science Fiction’s ‘What If’ Appeal”
Science Fiction is an intellectual genre (comprised of multiple subgenres) that asks the question, “what if?”; this is the core of its appeal (Rosenberg, 1982, p.173). Science Fiction, or “SF”, “posits worlds and technologies which could exist. Science rather than magic, drives these speculative tales, and the science must be accurate and true…” (Saricks, 2009, p.245). Also known as Speculative and Visionary Fiction, despite its history of male dominated creators and audiences, and it’s “saturation” with “race thinking” of its particular time, the genre is “fertile” terrain for creators who question the status quo (Carrington,2016, p.2, Ertung, 2011, p.77, Saricks, 2009, p.246). From Feminist Science Fiction writers in the 1970s, to Cyberpunk in the 1980s and early ‘90s (Pat Cadigan, Synners) to Afrofuturism, this “flexible genre” … “provides a most suitable medium for writers to speculate on social, political, linguistic and cultural issues and to invent new worlds, new universes from where they can examine the present-day concerns and experiment with new alternatives” (Ertung, 2011, p.77). The latest iteration of this revolutionary and radical genre facet is the recent explosion in Native American Science Fiction, also known under the broader term Indigenous Futurisms. Works produced by First Nations Peoples, and globally by Indigenous authors and artists, center narratives around Indigenous characters, creating a space for Indigenous voices to speak without the mediation or filter of colonialism. (The genre is related not only to Feminist Science Fiction and Afrofuturism, but to Postcolonial SF as well.) Narratives frequently take typical SF story elements, such as first contact, utopias/dystopias, alternate history and time travel, and slipstream (originated by Native American storytellers) to express contemporary concerns, unique perspectives on the past, and to envision the future, while at the same time incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing, Indigenous science and traditional Indigenous tales and cultural elements.