Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Vietnam War as American Science Fiction and Fantasy

In 1990, H. Bruce Franklin wrote an interesting paper, "The Vietnam War as American Science Fiction and Fantasy" which appeared in Science Fiction Studies #52, Volume 17, Part 3. It won the Pioneer Award in 1991. I think there are very interesting points made within it that any of us who are composing Lao American science fiction can and should take into consideration. Franklin argues there was an "overt interplay between SF and the war. For American SF very explicitly defined the war, which unalterably redefined American SF."

As a little background, H. Bruce Franklin has written over 19 books. He is a pioneering figure in the serious academic study of science fiction, particularly his texts Future Perfect: American Science Fiction of the Nineteenth Century, and War Stars: The Superweapon and the American Imagination. Franklin also has books addressing the Vietnam war: M.I.A., or Mythmaking in AmericaVietnam and America: A Documented History as well as Vietnam and Other American Fantasies may be of interest. An interesting connection to Laos exists with Franklin. He was fired while a tenured professor by Stanford in 1972, for his role in a student occupation of their computer center in protest against the Lao invasion the university's connections to the Vietnam War. He later went on to teach as a tenured professor at Rutgers.

One of the interesting footnotes in Franklin's work reads:
"In British SF, the Vietnam War has generated similar images of American troops as alien invaders, dating at least from J.G. Ballard's 1966 "The Killing Ground'' through Brian Aldiss's 1987 "My Country 'Tis Not Only of Thee,'' each of which imagines England as another Vietnam. Ballard's story is told from the point of view of an officer of the British National Liberation Army, whose ragged half-starved guerrilla band, "living for months in holes in the ground,'' desperately resists an overwhelming army of American invaders, armed with a technology "so sophisticated that even the wrist-watches stripped off dead prisoners were too complicated to read'' (pp. 140, 142). Despite a US "puppet regime in London,'' the British insurgents can maintain their struggle because "thirty years after the original conflict in south-east Asia, the globe was now a huge insurrectionary torch, a world Vietnam'' in which England is merely a "remote backwater'' for the Americans' "global war against dozens of national liberation armies'' (pp. 139-40). Aldiss's story projects a British civil war between a communist north and a capitalist south, which US intervention degrades to a puppet nation of "slimeys,'' the GIs' equivalent of "gooks.''
There's a lot to go through that I'm still processing, but I consider it an interesting find and one I want to keep in mind as our other Lao writers and I continue exploring the limits and possibilities within speculative literature.

What are some other interesting essays and ideas you've found?

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