Lisa Yaszek received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and worked as a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Tech for a year before she was hired as an assistant professor. Now a full professor at Tech, Dr. Yaszek is an internationally recognized expert in cultural studies of science, technology, and science fiction. Whether she is exploring military fiction by nineteenth-century abolitionists, Hollywood films by twentieth-century artists, or science and technology policy by twenty-first century legislators, Dr. Yaszek’s research is driven by the premise that science fiction functions as a global language enabling people to communicate their experiences of science, technology, and society across centuries, continents, and cultures.
Dr. Yaszek initiated this line of inquiry with her first book, The Self Wired: Technology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Narrative (Routledge 2002; re-released in 2014). Based on her dissertation, The Self Wired argues for the development of “cyborg writing” as a new narrative form representing the impact of post-World War II technologies on American identity. Looking at authors and filmmakers including Thomas Pynchon, Joanna Russ and Steven Spielberg, Professor Yaszek shows how artists in diverse narrative traditions use the figure of the cyborg to interrogate social relations valorized by global communication and biomedical industries. By putting characters that embody these relations to work in conventional generic forms, narrative artists show how industrial and imaginative writing practices inform one another and how they might be combined to generate new stories about life in a technologically mediated world.
In her second book, Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction (Ohio State University Press 2008), Professor Yaszek considers how another group of technocultural stakeholders—postwar women—used science fiction to shape representations of science, society and gender that are still very much with us today. She argues that authors including Judith Merril, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey and a host of lesser-known writers staked claims for women in the American future imaginary of the 1940s, 50s and 60s by making the gender issues that preoccupied postwar Americans—such as marriage, motherhood and domesticity—central to the narrative scenarios of modern science fiction. In doing so, they paved the way for the creation of feminist science fiction in the 1970s and 1980s and men’s domestic fiction in the 1990s and 2000s.
Professor Yaszek’s latest book, Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction, (Wesleyan 2016) explores how women helped shape science fiction as the premiere popular genre of twentieth- and twenty-first centuries through fiction writing and a range of other creative activities including editing, illustration, poetry writing, and science journalism. With each chapter devoted to a different aspect of science fiction production, Sisters of Tomorrow offers readers selections by genre luminaries such as author C.L. Moore and artist Margaret Brundage alongside texts by women who were well-known in their day and then all but lost to science fiction history, including poet Julia Boynton Green, science journalist L. Taylor Hansen, and editor Mary Gnaedinger. With headnotes written by Dr. Yaszek and co-editor Dr. Patrick Sharp of Cal State LA and a concluding essay by award-winning science fiction author and LMC faculty member Kathleen Ann Goonan, Sisters of Tomorrow connects early twentieth-century women’s science fiction with larger patterns of feminine literary, scientific, and cultural production and with recent sex- and gender-based scandals in the contemporary science fiction community.
Sisters of Tomorrow is winner of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association’s 2017 Susan Koppelman Award for Best Anthology in Feminist Studies. You can hear Dr. Yaszek talk about the book here and here; read an interview with her about the book here; and read an excerpt from Sisters here!
Professor Yaszek is also a pioneering scholar in the field of Afrofuturism, a transmedia aesthetic movement that uses the tropes and themes of science fiction explore the relations of science, technology, and race in entertaining and innovative ways. In the mid-2000s Professor Yaszek became one of the first scholars recognized for her sustained interest in the deep history of Afrofuturism as it relates to the development of science fiction as a modern popular genre (see, in particular, her articles “Afrofuturism and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man” in Rethinking History and “Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, and the History of the Future” in Socialism and Democracy). Recently Dr. Yaszek has returned to Afrofuturist studies, writing two essays on the history of North American Afrofuturism for inclusion in The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction and the critical anthology Black and Brown Planets. Her essay “Rethinking Apocalypse in African SF” (Paradoxa Special Issue: Africa SF) deploys the critical insights of Afrofuturism to show how scientists, filmmakers, and authors from across Africa repurpose the tropes of Western science fiction in general and Afrofuturism in particular to combat the overwhelmingly negative representations of their home continent in the global media. Professor Yaszek also works closely with Atlanta-based Afrofuturist practitioners and fans on events including podcasts, literary symposia, and convention panels. She is currently associate producer for the independent Afrofuturist film Rite of Passage and is co-editing a book on Afrofuturist criticism with Dr. Isiah Lavender III of Louisiana State University.
You can reach Professor Yaszek’s essay “Afrofuturism, Science Fiction, and the History of the Future” here; listen to Professor Yaszek speak about race in science fiction here and here; and watch clips from Rite of Passage here.
Elsewhere, Yaszek explores the relations of science, technology, and science fiction more generally. In 2010 she co-edited the critical anthology Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading, and Teaching the Genre (with colleagues Dr. Karen Hellekson, Dr. Craig B. Jaconbsen, and Dr. Patrick B. Sharp). In 2012 she co-edited a special double issue on “The Science and Science Fiction of Kim Stanley Robinson” with (Dr. Doug Davis of Gordon College) for the tier-one science studies journal Configurations. This issue featured essays from scholars working in both science fiction and science studies as well as an interview with Robinson conducted by Yaszek and Davis. More recently, Dr. Yaszek has co-authored a book chapter on posthumanism in science and science fiction with Georgia Tech alum Dr. Jason Ellis (CUNY City Tech) and written an essay exploring how digital tools transform both the science fiction archive and science fiction studies as a discipline. This last essay, “Narrative, Archive, Database: The Digital Humanities and Science Fiction Scholarship,” was published simultaneously in the premiere issue of the Eaton Journal of Archival Research in Science Fiction and the SFRA Review (the flagship publication of the Science Fiction Research Association), earning Yaszek the 2014 Mary Kay Bray Writing Award. Yaszek also provides cultural commentary of scientific and science fiction events of interest for Georgia Tech and other interested institutions.