In the nineteenth century, time travel fiction often imagined exciting, utopian futures. However, these stories were often told from the perspective of a middle-class, white, male protagonist who doesn’t really need a better life. Later in the twentieth century, writers would use science fiction genre to imagine alternative realities for those who genuinely need it.
In this podcast, Sarah Lohmann explains how in the 1960s and 1970s, with the rise of second-wave feminism, science fiction writers like Marge Piercy started to use science fiction to conceptualise alternative realities for women. Today, if we risk becoming complacent about advances in social equality, these fictional thought experiments remind us that things always have the potential to get better or worse depending on how we act in the present.
Jennifer Terry thinks about the racial dimensions of time travel fiction. Time travel doesn’t always take place through an explicit scientific device, but through the act of storytelling; African American writers like Toni Morrison, in her novel Beloved, feature protagonists who keep being sucked back into the traumatic past of slavery. Other writers and artists have worked within the field of Afro-Futurism, and sought to construct visions that were more inclusive than predominantly white futures.
Podcast produced by Andrea Rangecroft. Book extracts read by Neil Armstrong, Sarah Boulter, Paul Dunn, and Samantha Morris. Photography by Colin Davison and Sarah Lohmann.