The Creolizing Genre of SF and the Nightmare of Whiteness in John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”

Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy 1:1-16 (2018)
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Abstract

The alien in science fiction has not often been seen as part of an imperial colonial discourse. By examining John W. Campbell’s founding golden age SF text, “Who Goes There?” (1938), this paper explores the ways in which the alien adheres to an invisible mythos of whiteness that has come to be seen through a colonizing logic as isomorphic with the human. Campbell’s alien-monster comes to disseminate and invade both self and world and as such serves as an interrogation of what whites have done through colonization. It is thus part and parcel of imperial domination and discourse and appears as the very nightmare of whiteness in the form of its liminal and estranged shadow side. Part of what has made Campbell’s text so influential is that it offers a new type of alien invasion in the figure of “contagion,” which speaks “to the transition from colonial to postcolonial visions of modernity and its attendant catastrophes” (Rieder, 124), and which can be further examined as a race metaphor in American SF—indeed, as the white man’s fear of racial mixing that has a long and dehumanizing history. Through its threat of mixture, I read the alien as a creolizing figure that both troubles and undoes the white/black, human/nonhuman binary in science fiction, which I also read as being a creolizing, i.e., hybrid and plastic, genre.

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