Science fiction often operates as either an extended metaphor for human relationships or as a genuine attempt to encounter the alien Other. Both types of stories tend to rehearse the processes of colonialism, in which a sympathetic protagonist encounters and tames the unknown. Despite this logic, Native American writers have claimed the genre as a productive space in which they can critique historical colonialism and reassert the value of Indigenous worldviews. Encountering the Sovereign Other proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding Indigenous science fiction, placing Native theorists like Vine Deloria Jr. and Gregory Cajete in conversation with science fiction theorists like Darko Suvin, David Higgins, and Michael Pinsky. In response to older colonial discourses, many contemporary Indigenous authors insist that readers acknowledge their humanity while recognizing them as distinct peoples who maintain their own cultures, beliefs, and nationhood. Here author Miriam C. Brown Spiers analyzes four novels: William Sanders’s The Ballad of Billy Badass and the Rose of Turkestan, Stephen Graham Jones’s It Came from Del Rio, D. L. Birchfield’s Field of Honor, and Blake M. Hausman’s Riding the Trail of Tears. Demonstrating how Indigenous science fiction expands the boundaries of the genre while reinforcing the relevance of Indigenous knowledge, Brown Spiers illustrates the use of science fiction as a critical compass for navigating and surviving the distinct challenges of the twenty-first century.
I am not aware of any current scholarship that is doing precisely what Encountering the Sovereign Other sets out to accomplish. In this clearly written monograph, Miriam C. Brown Spiers makes a valuable contribution to the emerging field of Indigenous futurism, providing both a useful overview of key scholarly conversations and incisive studies of individual authors. This book should immediately become an important foundational text for readers and critics of Indigenous speculative fiction.—David J. Carlson, professor and chair, Department of English, California State University, San Bernardino, and author of Imagining Sovereignty: Self-Determination in American Indian Law and Literature and founding coeditor of Transmotion
Encountering the Sovereign Other brings new clarity to science fiction theory by foregrounding the world-altering ways in which Indigenous authors imagine relationality through difference. In her careful engagement with key thinkers in both science fiction theory and Indigenous studies, Miriam C. Brown Spiers reveals how the same thinking that underwrites colonialism limits what is possible and necessary in contemporary analysis of speculative fiction. Brown Spiers’s ability to listen deeply to Indigenous authors, while re-scoping the borders of the speculative, makes this book a must-read for anyone interested in science fiction or Indigenous literature.—David Gaertner, assistant professor, First Nations and Indigenous studies, University of British Columbia, and author of The Theatre of Regret: Literature, Art, and the Politics of Reconciliation in Canada
Miriam C. Brown Spiers has done us all a favor in Encountering the Sovereign Other, drawing together an intriguing body of science fiction novels by a variety of Native authors and opening up a critical dialogue about what Native science fiction is and how it should be addressed. Brown Spiers examines how Native science fiction novels engage with, critique, and invert classic science fiction tropes like radiation monsters and alternate histories. By centering Indigenous knowledge and values in her analysis, Brown Spiers shows us both what Native science fiction is and what the broader field of the genre itself could be.—Carter Meland (Anishinaabe descendant), assistant professor, Department of American Indian Studies, University of Minnesota Duluth, and author of Stories for a Lost Child