In Susan Stryker’s essay ‘My Words to Victor Frankenstein Above the Village of Chamounix’ she likens her own experience as a trans woman to that of Frankenstein’s creature. Both she and the creature are continually made aware of the contingency of their existence: of the fact that their bodies are the product of, often hostile, violent and patriarchal, medical experimentation. However, despite their embattled position, Stryker sees their shared creaturely status as an invitation to rethink the politics of embodiment as such. Her awareness of the ways in which her own body has been made and re-made does not separate her from the world of supposedly “natural” beings. Rather, it reveals the labour, the technology, the effort which goes into creating all life. As Stryker puts it:

“The Nature you bedevil me with is a lie. Do not trust it to protect you from what I represent, for it is a fabrication that cloaks the groundlessness of the privilege you seek to maintain for yourself at my expense. You are as constructed as me; the same anarchic womb has birthed us both.”

In this paper I read Fantastic feminist texts – from Frankenstein to the short stories of James Tiptree Jr. – alongside writing such as Stryker’s, in which constructed, technologically supplemented, consciously crafted bodies are the stuff of material reality. I examine, for example, how Sophie Lewis’ theorisation of commercial surrogacy as a practice which lays bare the usually invisible technologies and labor practices of reproduction, speaks to the monstrous birthing of Octavia Butler’s ‘Bloodchild’. Donna Haraway – with whom the term “cyborg feminism” originated – has argued that “the line between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion,” and I intend demonstrate that the porous, mutable, creaturely bodies imagined and inhabited here continually transgress that line. 

About the speaker

Katie Stone is a PhD student at Birkbeck, University of London. Her thesis explores childhood and utopianism as imagined in science fiction. Katie is co-director of the London Science Fiction Research Community and co-editor of a forthcoming special issue of Studies in Arts and Humanities Journal titled ‘Utopian Acts’.

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