Working Toward a Critical Analytical Theory of Psi in SF/F

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anti-oppression, critical analysis, critical psi theory, critical theory, deconstructing privilege, disability, esoteric minorities, fantasy, gatekeeping, gender, horror, identity, identity formation, identity theory, intersecting identities, invisible minorities, media representation, minorities, mis-representation, movies, omission, oppression, prejudice, privilege, psi, race, science fiction, sf/f, stereotypes, stories, television, tropes, under-representation

This is the public journal of spacehawk. In this journal, I respond to representations of psi and psi people in speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc.), as well as in select mainstream lit and real life contexts, analyzing each example through a critical analytical lens.

Why this blog? Currently, the social master-narrative that we and our life experiences do not exist renders the voices of psi readers and viewers unheard, unwelcome and "irrelevant" in discussions about psi and psi characters. Sadly, much American SF, including even some "classic" works, effectively amount to relentless streams of negative, false messages about people like us, if we "were" to exist. Even attempts at "positive" messages often mask problematic assumptions.

We do exist. And we are not "phenomena," we are people. These messages have an impact.

What is a critical theory of psi? A critical analytical theory of psi investigates psi narratives (especially in spec fic, where such narratives are most prevalent), their origins, and the cultural and political contexts in which these narratives have taken root and flourished. It investigates dynamics of power at work in the construction and promotion of these narratives: who writes the stories, whose purposes are served, what biases do the authors hold, whose stories are told, whose stories are not told, and what the impact of these representations (or mis-representations) is on psi readers and viewers, directly and indirectly.

Hasn't this been done already? No. I have personally conducted a thorough literature review of English language articles on psi in SF, and found the above conversation to be entirely and completely absent. Although psi and psi people frequently appear in works of spec fic, and psi has been a very common theme in spec fic for decades, very little analysis has been written on the subject (at least in English), and I have been able to find absolutely no papers or blogs that approach the subject from the angle described above. What little has been written examines psi as a literary device, or as an extended metaphor for something else (gender, race, religion, class, politics, etc.), and none of it acknowledges that we are real people who are impacted by our omission and distortion.

Does this critical analysis of psi have anything do to with other critical theories? Sometimes, yes. However, this blog is not an attempt to "copy" any theory currently existing, but an attempt to make something new, embedded in and arising out of its own social and historical context.

Each critical theory that has been developed is unique to its own history and circumstances, and they are not interchangeable. They all arise out of their own unique and complex histories, and they all have their own individual authors and proponents.

For more information about critical theories which are already in development, and in which a substantial amount of work has already been done (in some cases, for decades), and for information on the historical contexts for these theories, and links to work that has already been done, please see:

Critical Race Theory
Gender Theory
Queer Theory
Disability Studies

Intersectionality is also a real issue, here as much as anywhere else. Sometimes problematic narratives about psi are interwoven with problematic narratives of race, gender, disability, sexuality, class, politics, colonialism, and other things. In order to examine these issues in depth, it is necessary to step outside of the world of spec fic (or fiction in general) and examine at how problematic narratives of psi are supported by prevailing beliefs and ideologies in science, religion, medicine and law. This blog will also investigate these connections.

How can I find other work you've done combating under-representation and mis-representation in spec fic? You can visit Expanded Horizons, an online spec fic magazine I founded in 2008. I'm the editor. That project is very broad in scope. This project is narrower and more specific.