Security and governance after modernity in Fireﬂy
The chapters in this book have not attempted to engage extensively with discussions of narrative genre, because these discussions have not been immediately pertinent to the arguments I have sought to construct. This chapter is diﬀerent, however, in that the analysis I present here relies in part on an understanding of the genre that deﬁnes the analytical vehicle: the vehicle is Fireﬂy, and the genre is science ﬁction (SF). Brieﬂy, ‘genre’ in literary theory is taken to designate the type or category of a work (‘from the Greek genus, meaning “kind” or “sort”’, Rosmarin 1985: 23), be it visual or written in form, and genre is also assumed to aﬀect or sometimes determine content (ibid.: 25; see also Frow 2005: 1-2). For example, ‘war ﬁlms and Westerns are identiﬁed by subject matter, the gangster ﬁlm by its protagonist(s), thrillers and horror ﬁlms by their eﬀects upon the viewer’ (Langford 2005: 4). Despite a necessary lack of unity or coherence within each genre, viewers and critics still use generic descriptors to delimit the boundaries of diﬀerent types of text, and I do the same here in my analysis of SF, oﬀering below a brief overview of the accepted indicators of the genre. There is, of course, no shortage of academic works on science ﬁction, and more
speciﬁcally on the intertextuality of science ﬁction and world politics (Weldes 1999, 2001, 2003). The imbrication of science, ﬁction and politics is illustrated perfectly in a letter written by renowned SF write Isaac Asimov, author of over ﬁve hundred SF stories. In the late 1980s, on behalf of the Americans for Democractic Action, Asimov wrote:
Dear Friend: There is a line between science and science ﬁction. I know. I’ve written on both sides of the line for forty-seven years. But I’m terribly afraid that Ronald Reagan doesn’t know where that line is. And his confusion could cost us billions of dollars. Or it could cost us our lives. Ronald Reagan is having a love aﬀair with a fantastic scheme called *STAR WARS* …
(cited in Gray 1994: 315).
In her introduction to To Seek Out New Worlds: Exploring Links Between Science Fiction and World Politics, Jutta Weldes alludes to ‘Star Wars’ (2003: 2), arguing that it was so labelled by critics of the Reagan administration in order to delegitimise the initiative through the association of what was originally known as the ‘Strategic Defence Initiative’ with the 1977 Hollywood movie. Detractors sought to link Reagan’s strategic initiative with popular ﬁction, and in doing so suggest that it was literally fantastic: beyond the bounds of reality and therefore in-credible. Weldes oﬀers a number of other examples of intertextual resonance; to her list I
would add the recent blogospheric amusement generated by the usage of footage from the 1986 cinematic blockbuster Top Gun in a broadcast from China Central Television (CCTV) that purported to show a training exercise undertaken by the People’s Liberation Army. One Chinese blogger noted that: