Tag Archives: unions

SF: so many corporate dystopias, so few unions.

A couple of years ago, during a break in a faculty association meeting, my Athabasca U colleague Bob Barnetson and I got to talking science fiction, and he casually observed that for all its depictions of big business, the genre’s oddly lacking in corresponding images of unions. I told Bob there was a paper in his idea, and voilà, in the current issue of TOPIA, Canada’s journal of cultural studies, you can read the interdisciplinary article we co-wrote on the subject: “Resistance is futile: on the under-representation of unions in science fiction.” Here’s the abstract:

“This article surveys science fiction (SF) since 1980, and queries the conspicuous under-representation of recognizable images of unions in popular SF, which includes, in contrast, numerous images and narratives of corporate business. According to theories of unionism, science fiction studies and Mark Fisher’s theory of ‘capitalist realism,’ the co-authors theorize this pattern of under-representation, and, in the process, identify and analyze a very small but diverse body of SF works from this period that do include images of unions, in ways that range from the symptomatic to the radically suggestive.”

We gave 1980 as a start date for our study because that was about when corporate elite rule (a.k.a. neoliberalism) started to take off, and because that’s why tweets like this make sense:

Research is integrally intertwined with teaching, but it’s not as often that we in academia get to link research as closely with service. This collaboration has been one such welcome opportunity. (And it’s involved our students, too: we’re specifically indebted to the insights and references shared by AU alumna and SF author Heather Clitheroe, who’s reminded me I need check out The Expanse for more evidence of unions in SF.)

On a point unrelated to our subject matter, I also like that our article appears in an issue that both a) marks the debut of Dr. Rinaldo Walcott as TOPIA‘s new editor, and b) pays tribute to the great, late Canadian writer Austin Clarke.

Lastly, if you’re interested in the article, but you or your institution don’t subscribe to TOPIA, you can e-mail me at academicalism[at]gmail[dot]com to request a single copy (because Canada’s educational fair dealing provision in copyright law allows for individual sharing like this).

Alberta Diary blog quotes Frankenstein re: labour legislation

Well, the Alberta Diary blog is quoting Young Frankenstein, in this case.

Blogger David Climenhaga captions a screen shot of Mel Brooks’ version of the iconic “creation scene” as follows: “Premier Alison Redford, in lab coat, centre, and her Progressive Conservative cabinet get ready to bring Consolidated Bargaining to life.”

The reference to Brooks’ parody is itself significant: it signals the blogger’s critical assessment of Consolidated Bargaining as farcical.

It’s for samplings like this that I like my research subject: it turns up in lots of places, in unexpected ways, if often to tell a certain specific story (“the machines designed to serve mankind instead became the executioners of civilization…”). Historically, Frankenstein has tended more to figure labour, especially the working class, than government or business, but of course that’s because the traditional, corporate news media serve and revere the latter, and dismiss and revile the former. Perhaps the rise of “citizen journalism,” as a more diversified supplement to traditional corporate news, is likewise diversifying the possibilities for how journalism makes and spins intertextual references like this one.