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Henry Hilt

Blog Post #4

Part of the special appeal of the genre of science fiction is that almost anything is
possible. The genre itself invites the outlandish and the unexpected. But in addition to a
reimagining of what fiction is, science fiction can also reimagine what society is. By constructing
new societies, none of which by necessity need to be bound to present mores and customs,
science fiction writers can criticize present society and highlight what they believe are areas
where change is needed. As Walidah Imarsha argues, we often forget to envision what could
be when advocating for social justicei. Writers of critical science fiction construct this vision of
what could be according to Imarsha.
Many authors of critical science fiction address racism, arguing that we as a society can
do a better job of providing social justice for people of different races. Merino defines social
justice as the concept of society ensuring each person is given what he or she is dueii. In the
context of race, most science fiction writers believe that means that there should be acceptance
and understanding between the different races. Dawn by Octavia Butler is a good example of
science fiction embodying this view of social justice.
In Revolution Shuffle, Bao Phi argues that social justice looks different by constructing a
society where there is a different sort of warped racial social justice. Phis dystopic society is
divided between the white people governing post-apocalyptic America and the other races that
they have subjugated and exploited for labor. All the nonwhites have been herded up and put into
camps in the midwest, akin to the concentration camps that the Nazis used. The white
government had come up with the camps as a way to provide a version of social justice in their
The government had traded working for eventual equal treatment of the races in favor of
providing stability by making a scapegoat out of minority peoples and then subsequently
protecting those people with the camps. Phi views this solution as fundamentally flawed, but
also argues that the situation could be worse than having an autocracy provide security in an
apocalyptic world. The male protagonist acknowledges that youre getting three square meals a
day and youre living in a camp protected from zombies by the U.S. military.iii Despite the
benefits of security, the camps are rife with abuse and a general poor quality of life for people
who did nothing to deserve it.
Writers like Butler understanding and equality as social justice with regards to race. The
White politicans believed security of racial groups, of minorities but mostly of the majority, was
socially just. Phi argued that autonomy of the racial groups and ability to govern and choose for
themselves was important. Key in the characters decision to rebel was the uncertainty that they
would be living with by trying to establish a society in enemy territory. The possible benefit of a
society where their marginalized people could be accepted was worth likely death.
Although each society has benefits, most modern philosophers would agree that Phis
society provides more justice for its citizens. Thomas Rawls would approve because Phis future

offers equality of opportunity for people of different racial groups, whereas the camps dont
allow non-white people meaningful life choicesiv. Although Rawls was referring to equality of
opportunity for economic choices, Phis story shows that providing social justice means
providing freedom of economic choices as well as freedom to make other choices in life without
fear of reprecussions.
Bao Phis Revolution Shuffle shows how equality of meaningful life choices and
opportunity can constitute a form of racial equity. It also offers a good example of speculative
fiction, a subgenre of science fiction where writers envision possible worlds and inspire social
justice movements. If the future of racial equity lies in the equality of freedom of life choices,
then Revolution Shuffle provides an argument for a future where this is possible.
Imarsha, Walidah. Rewriting the Future, (Bitch Magazine, 2015) Issue #66, Spring
Merino. Social Justice, (Greenhaven: 2014)
Phi, Bao. Octavias Brood, (Oakland: AK Press, 2015)

i Walidah Imarsha, Rewriting the Future, (Bitch Magazine, 2015) Issue #66, Spring
ii Merino, Social Justice (Greenhaven: 2014), 14.
iii Bao Phi, Octavias Brood, (Oakland: AK Press, 2015), 12.
iv Merino, Social Justice, 16.