Yoon Ha Lee’s MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE: an incomplete subversion

I have defended the idea that Yoon Ha Lee’s NINEFOX GAMBIT was a genre-subverting military space opera that criticised the premises of military sf. This is why I opposed the Shadow Clarke Jury’s verdict that there was something wrong with the novel merely for belonging to that genre.

However, I agree with the Shadow Clarke verdict in that it is not subversive enough to undercut the familiar reductive stereotypes and authoritarian hierarchies by means of a pluralism of calendars and an advocacy of democracy.

Inversion is incomplete subversion.

This pluralism of calendrical laws of social organisation and of physics and the pluralism of genders and sex roles is not enough to subvert the genre but constitutes its updating to the regime of democratic materialism. The result is just as ideological as the militaristic totalitarian fantasy it tries to subvert.

Thus the real contribution of the MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE trilogy is to align military sf to contemporary ideology. Badiou describes “democratic materialism” as the idea that all that exists is bodies (and their pleasures) and language games (and worlds of appearing). Underneath the hierarchies of empire lie the political and sexual machineries that make it possible.

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2 Responses to Yoon Ha Lee’s MACHINERIES OF EMPIRE: an incomplete subversion

  1. bormgans says:

    What would be a move beyond that? How to write beyond bodies?


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