From the SFRA 2021 Conference
Remarks on the SFRA Book Award 2020
I’m particularly excited to be presenting this award this year since it’s only the second year in existence and we all know that last year we weren’t able to properly present the award (again my regrets to last year’s recipients).
I want to start by extending my huge appreciation and gratitude to my fellow jurors on the committee: Graham Murphy, Ida Yoshinaga, and Pawel Frelik. This has been an incredibly complicated year for each of us for professional and/or personal reasons and yet we managed to pull together and select what I feel is a very worthy winner for the prize.
The SFRA Book Award is given to the author of the best first scholarly monograph in SF, in each calendar year (had some very impressive candidates, each good for different reasons, so we end up having to compare the apples to the oranges. And yet, above these stood one text that managed to both push our understanding of the familiar and to introduce us to realms of speculation that many of us knew less about.
Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee’s Final Frontiers: Science Fiction and Techno-Science in Non-Aligned India (studies the relationship between science fiction, the techno-scientific policies of independent India, and the global non-aligned movement that emerged as a response to the Cold War and decolonization.
The book is a major contribution to world sf studies that intervenes in current discussions on postcolonial science fiction and on the emergence of sf as a global genre and in this way it is part of a larger engine of creation evident in the expansion of contemporary critical interest in Indigenous futurisms, alternate futurisms, and a general pushback at ideas on canonicity and what that means today. What is especially remarkable about Final Frontiers, however, is that in its perambulations through a variety of localized media it remains in steadfast dialogue with the kind of sf material and scholarship many of us will be more familiar with. In this way, Mukherjee’s book not only shifts our attention on what we read but shows us fundamentally new ways of reading science fiction in the world, that will likely shape the very future of science fiction studies.