chapter  7
17 Pages

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: