Two science fiction writers display a sophistication and thoughtfulness that put them head-and-shoulders above anyone else I can think of – Samuel Delany and Stanislaw Lem. Aside from both being intelligent, highly literary, and philosophically rich, the two have little in common. Lem addresses himself to questions in the cyberneticist tradition; he has a weathered and considered faith in the cultivation of knowledge and the scientific project – his works address the possibilities of artificial intelligence and symbolic processing, the conflicts between knowledge/science and political power, the limits of knowledge, and the powers of memory.

Delany writes about language and power; he has a Foucaultian stance towards the creation of knowledge by and through power. Knowledge and representation are never pure or ideal – he is consistently anti-teleological. He casts an insightful eye at questions of race, sexuality and sexual dominance, and economics. His sense of the utopian and dystopian is illuminated by heterogenic notions – he describes the optima expressed in “Triton” as a heterotopia (which inspired my own understanding of the goal of progressive politics, namely the creation of a free society as a society which pursues the proliferation of a wide array of viable options for living to as broad a number of its members as possible.)

Again from Delany, I see science fiction as the literature of the episteme (he described it as literature – or, while rejecting any devalorizing connotations, a para-literature – in which the episteme is the secondary hero, just as the landscape is the primary hero.) That is what science is, after all – a range of episteme, and technology (which is the sign of science fiction for many) is the material and social consequence of certain types of knowledge in the context of human needs and desires.

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