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‘It was quiet’: the radical architectures of understatement in feminist science fiction

Butt, A. ORCID: (2022) ‘It was quiet’: the radical architectures of understatement in feminist science fiction. Cultural Geographies. 147447402211269. ISSN 1474-4740

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1177/14744740221126986


“Poisonless : a bare city, bright, the colours light and hard, the air pure. It was quiet.” The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin (1974) This is how Ursula K. Le Guin describes the city of Abbenay in The Dispossessed. It is modest and unassuming. It is quiet. This architectural restraint is jarringly at odds with predominant portrayals of the science fiction city. As noted by Graham (2016) and Hurley (2008) the future city has become synonymous with rapid vertical urbanisation, closing off alternative urban visions and the possible futures they contain. While there is a growing call for the study of sf by scholars in the spatial disciplines such as Abbott (2016), Collie (2011), Hewitt and Graham (2015) and Kitchin and Kneale (2002), the unassuming, everyday spaces of feminist sf are often lost in the shadows cast by the dystopian high rise. As Le Guin argues, these passive and participatory utopias become visible only when we ‘adjust to a dimmer light’ (1989). In response, this paper lingers in shared spaces of sf which are possible examples of what Washida Imarisha terms ‘visionary fiction’ which is sf that ‘has a relevance towards building new, freer worlds’ (2015: 4) including; N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy (2015–2017), Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground (1979) and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976). By imaginatively inhabiting the utopian enclaves within these feminist texts it is possible to explore geographies of alterity – to adjust to the dim light and learn to cherish the quiet.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Architecture
ID Code:108363
Publisher:SAGE Publications

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