Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 2014

Thesis Advisor

Brian Spooner


This thesis analyzes the relationship between science fiction worlds and the worlds in which they are imagined. While this study is interdisciplinary, the central concept employed is Victor Turner’s theory of liminality. Science fiction worlds are liminal spaces; though they are cognitively or existentially linked to objective reality, the points of divergence reveal the boundaries of dominant cultural paradigms. The liminal worlds of science fiction are particularly hospitable to marginalized groups, such as racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities. Engaging with other worlds is method for theorizing alternate structures of reality. Drawing from Darko Suvin’s work on science fiction and utopia, I argue that imagining other worlds through science fiction world-building is a powerful tool for world-making. The thesis contains three case studies of 21st century American science fiction authors, all of whom reflect trends in postmodern writing. John Scalzi’s critically acclaimed novels parody common science fiction tropes, simultaneously revealing and revising our understanding of the genre. His theory of Narrative in Redshirts is a powerful allegory for Bourdieu’s theory of doxa. In her popular romantic science fiction novels, Gail Carriger creates a textured steampunk world in which vampires and werewolves are fully integrated in society; their presence enables an exploration of other forms of marginality. The final case study discusses fanfiction of large science fiction franchises. A product of convergence culture, fanfiction is a liminal medium that allows consumers to critique dominant media. Fanfiction allows greater agency for marginalized individuals to imagine their own futures. Together, these case studies demonstrate the social relevance of recent postmodern science fiction. The worlds contained in these stories have radical, transformative potential, so long as we are unafraid to use it.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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