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Dark Fantasy

One of the central topics in our discussion today was the juxtaposition of science fiction versus fantasy and how it relates to Butler’s text. Was Dana’s story a work of fantasy, or did it present a narrative based on imaginative extrapolation from science and discovery?

My wager would be that Kindred is irrefutably fantasy. The phenomenon that causes Dana to go back in time (or, perhaps, to perceive that she’s going back in time) is ultimately left unexplained, even unmentioned. Certainly there are patterns to her temporal voyages – Rufus’ presence, for one, but also an element of surprise and arbitrary timing. The latter is of particular interest, for it is a pattern of non-patterns, of randomness and mystery. Dana’s trips strike her with little warning and little cause, and only appear to cease when her lineage’s continuance is assured. Mechanically, this poses a number of possibilities as to the nature of the time traveling phenomenon – perhaps it is an anonymous and unsung being acting on Dana’s behalf, or perhaps it is the universe itself taking measures to ensure that history continues unchanged.

The true question, of course, is why Dana is beckoned to travel back in time. Is she there simply to safeguard her existence, or is she learning a lesson by living in a different time? Is there a lesson to be learned? If so, who is teaching who? Perhaps the protagonist is called back in time not for her own benefit, but merely for the instruction and safeguarding of Rufus – but if so, why?

These questions are concerned only with the existential implications of the text, and do not even brush the topics of slavery or women’s rights. That is to say that that the former is what confronted me most as I read the text, and very rarely the latter two.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I agree with you entirely, Sam — this is a fantastical work and not one of specifically science fiction. I also agree that, whether intentional or not, Dana’s failure to reflect on her actions (not necessarily in how they pertain to her person or identity, but in how the actions she is taking to ensure her survival make her feel, make her reconsider what “is”?) and Butler’s lack of “why?” troubled me all throughout the book.

  2. 4lillie5
    March 28, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I also agree, I was a little confused as to why the article brought up the question of fantasy vs. science fiction. The time travel instances in the book were not only not described scientifically- they were (somewhat annoyingly) not explained at all. Although I realize that aspect of the book isn’t integral to the plot or purpose, this really bugged me.

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