Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure

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Allan, Kathryn, editor. Disability in Science Fiction: Representations of Technology as Cure. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Reviewed by Jamie L. McDaniel, SFRA Review #310 (Fall 2014): pp. 43-45.[1]

The collection features a variety of scholars from literature, film, history, classics, anthropology, information sciences, and philosophy. [* * * ¶]

Allan reminds readers that “SF narratives involving people with disabilities inevitably also feature technology as either curing or attempting to contain their unruly bodies” ([Allan] 2). Therein lies the focus of the books’ twelve essays. This attention to treatment pervades SF to the extent that cure takes on a double meaning. Not only does cure indicate the tendency of the medical establishment to try to restore the supposed disabled body to the norm (a fully functioning healthy citizen) or to improve upon the body’s natural state through technology, but it also forces us to examine “how the cure narrative is performing in that text." (McDaniel p. 44). [***]

The final two sections turn to portrayals of prosthetics and cures in SF. For example, Netty Mattar argues that prosthetics can become tools of capitalism by creating a “superhuman” body to exploit for monetary purposes. Additionally, Leigha McReynolds coins the phrase “prosthetic relationship” to describe films, such as Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon, that join human bodies with those of animals or aliens “in order for one or both of the bodies to perform a specific task, where both bodies share agency in the performance,” thereby problematizing the typical body-subject/prosthesis-object division ([Allan p.] 116). (McDaniel p. 44)

RDE, finishing, 4Aug21