Thursday, November 21, 2019

Six speculative fiction books about migration

Malka Older is a writer, aid worker, and sociologist. Her science-fiction political thriller Infomocracy was named one of the best books of 2016 by Kirkus, Book Riot, and the Washington Post. The Centenal Cycle trilogy, which also includes Null States (2017) and State Tectonics (2018), is a finalist for the Hugo Best Series Award of 2018. She is also the creator of the serial Ninth Step Station, currently running on Serial Box, and her short story collection ...And Other Disasters is now out. Her non-fiction writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, Foreign Policy, and NBC THINK. Named Senior Fellow for Technology and Risk at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs for 2015, she has more than a decade of field experience in humanitarian aid and development. Her doctoral work on the sociology of organizations at Sciences Po Paris explores the dynamics of post-disaster improvisation in governments.

At Older tagged six speculative fiction books "that illustrate different elements of immigration and the Othered status of the migrant," including:
The Star Beast by Robert Heinlein

There are probably a lot of Heinleins that would fit into this, but I’m particularly fond of The Star Beast. I haven’t read it since I was a teenager, so it’s likely more problematic than I remember, but my recollection is of a sweet story that flips a lot of assumptions about sentience, superiority, and who is in charge of whom. The book plays with a lot of assumptions about aliens, most obviously with the big and friendly beast variously seen as a threat or a prize or a pet. Another character has a phobia to an element of a different alien’s physiognomy, and struggles to control it in full knowledge that it is their own problem and not reflective of the alien at all.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue