Biography, vol. 30, no. 1 (2007): Life Writing and Science Fiction

Special Issue: Life Writing and Science Fiction


John Rieder
Biography 30.1 cover imageLife Writing and Science Fiction: Constructing Identities and Constructing Genres, p. v
Each essay in the issue grapples with problems attending the social and literary construction of personal identities. Juxtaposing life writing and science fiction also suggests that generic identities ought to be grasped as complex social practices that connect discourse and power in a variety of ways.


Dianne Newell and Jenéa Tallentire
For the Extended Family and the Universe: Judith Merril and Science Fiction Autobiography, p. 1
This article, in exploring why so few SF writers produce compelling or innovative autobiographies, examines Judith Merril’s controversial memoir, Better to Have Loved, written in collaboration with her granddaughter, Emily Pohl-Weary. The memoir authorship and form have no equal in SF circles. Merril (1923–1997) was a central, socially radical powerhouse in the extraordinary “man’s world” of modern science fiction, tracing her career through NewYork City, London, Tokyo, and Toronto between the 1940s and 1990s. Her fractured, nonlinear, and collaborative memoir that “tells it like it was” reflects precisely how she interacted with science fiction all her life.

Lisa Hammond Rashley
Revisioning Gender: Inventing Women in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nonfiction, p. 22
Employing the same narrative techniques of experimentation and play that characterize her fiction, Ursula K. Le Guin has also created a substantial body of nonfiction. This article explores how her nonfiction continually challenges and questions the role of gender in literature and culture, but also in her own life as a woman writing.

Georgia Johnston
Discourses of Autobiographical Desires: Samuel Delany’s Nevèrÿon Series, p. 48
Science fiction writer, intellectual, and memoirist Samuel Delany reconfigures cultural narratives of sexuality. His science fiction fantasy series Nevèrÿon and his cultural criticism Times Square Red/Times Square Blue create an intertextual echo. The autobiographical intertextuality helps Delany to foreground a desiring gay fetishistic sexual subject as acceptable and normal, a narrative speech act that changes the terms of narrative and sexuality.

Kim Kirkpatrick
Begin Again: James Tiptree, Jr.’s Opossum Tricks, p. 61
This article analyzes how Tiptree taught her audience to question gender and age by planting in her readers the idea of the ephemeral nature of division into age groups and gender: it is the reader’s decision to see what he or she wants to see, rather than just accepting patriarchal definition.

Keith McDonald
Days of Past Futures: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go as “Speculative Memoir”, p. 74
This article considers Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel Never Let Me Go as a text which utilizes memoir as a means of presenting a possible future where human rights are decimated, but where human stories remain. The novel is considered as an example of an ongoing science-fictional model where life-writing acts as a window into a world where the individual’s experiences guide the reader through the speculative world.

Mark Bould and Sherryl Vint
Of Neural Nets and Brains in Vats: Model Subjects in Galatea 2.2 and Plus, p. 84
Building on feminist critiques of autobiography, we argue that bringing together sf and life-writing theory can further critique the ideological connection between narrative mode and bourgeois, monadic subjectivity characteristic of much autobiography, as revealed by our reading of non-humans coming to consciousness in Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 and Joseph McElroy’s Plus.


Life Writing and Victorian Culture, by Joseph Wiesenfarth, p. 105
Reviewed by Francis O’Gorman

The True Story of Alice B. Toklas: A Study of Three Autobiographies, by Anna Linzie, p. 108
Reviewed by Margot Norris

Reading Charlotte Salomon, edited by Michael P. Steinberg and Monica Bohm-Duchen, p. 112
Reviewed by Brent Ashley Kaplan

The Afterlife of John Brown, edited by Andrew Taylor and Eldrid Herrington, p. 114
Reviewed by Robert Blakeslee Gilpin

Excerpts from recent reviews of biographies, autobiographies, and other works of interest