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New Worlds Collide: Science Fiction's Novela de la Selva in Gioconda Belli and Santiago Páez

Author(s): Vaughn Anderson

Journal: Ecozon@ : European Journal of Literature, Culture and Environment
ISSN 2171-9594

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 93;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Science Fiction | New World | Ecology | Postcolonial.

The science fiction form adopted by Santiago Páez, in "Uriel" (2006), and Giaconda Belli, in Waslala (1996), owes the rudiments of its literary structure to early colonial narratives of New World encounter. Such science fiction not only contains strong traces of what Mary Louise Pratt has famously called the “rhetoric of discovery,” but also employs tropes directly or indirectly inherited from colonial travel narratives. However, Páez and Belli associate this science fiction form with a legacy of United States neo-imperialism, in which colonial narratives have been invoked and repeated triumphantly in the construction of national imaginaries. In Central and South America, conversely, the novela de la selva—the other clear structural source for Páez and Belli, and a literary form equally indebted to colonial narratives of New World encounter—remains conscious of its enunciation as a postcolonial form critical of its colonial narrative sources. While the novela de la selva, then, shares a literary taproot with sci-fi narratives of futuristic exploration, Páez and Belli utilize the latter to renovate and reactivate the former’s critique of an imperialist legacy by exploiting tensions that arise between these two disparate literary forms whose central tropes so often coincide. I argue that by adapting the ecologically aware New World imaginary peculiar to the novela de la selva, in which positivist ambitions of national expansion are checked by a forest that nevertheless becomes part of a national imaginary, Páez and Belli fundamentally alter the New World imaginary that underwrites high science fiction narratives of exploration and expansion.
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