“What’s A Story Like You Doing In A Place Like This?”: Cyberspace, New Media and Indigenous Speculative Fiction

Indigenous Speculative Fiction

For many uninformed readers, Indigenous Science Fiction (sf) is an oxymoron. It isn’t simply that these readers balk at the thought of an Indigenous person in outer space (although these representations are few and far between in mainstream media); when it comes to intersections of indigeneity and techne, the stumbling block often comes much earlier.

As Cherokee author and critic Daniel Justice writes, most readers still have trouble accepting Indigenous literature, let alone Indigenous sf. Recalling the many encounters during which he is asked what he does for a living, Justice writes:

The encounters are so similar, and so frequent, that they’ve taken on a predictable pattern: I meet a stranger at a dinner party, on an airplane, or in some other neutral setting, and in the course of introductory small talk the stranger asks what I do for a living. When I respond that I teach Indigenous… literature, the response is almost invariably something along the lines of, “Really? I didn’t know Indigenous people had literature” (note the past tense) or “So, you mean the oral traditions/folklore/storytelling? (291)

As Justice helps bring to light here, the literary air remains replete with fallacious assumptions that Indigenous culture is not written and must remain fixed within pre-contact (i.e. “oral”) traditions. Don’t mistake this attitude as an innocent error of the uneducated. Adam Kuper notes, for instance, that for many settlers Indigenous identity is defined by that which “exists outside of the modern. It is [an identity] that must remain temporally fixed in an ahistorical past and geographically within non-urban locations” (qtd. in Johnson 220-21).

In Justice’s critique of settler understandings of Indigenous literature, writing is the urban location and uninformed readers assume that indigeneity is somehow forfeited when Indigenous authors cross the border from history to modernity. For Justice, this reaction is amplified in settlers in the reception of Indigenous speculative fiction, which sets stories immersed in magic, science, and technology and therefore disrupts preconceived (and static) notions of “traditional.”  

Boiled down to its essence, when settler scholars encounter Indigenous sf, the question that frames these encounters is “What’s a story like you doing in a genre like this”?

Despite settler readers’ surprise about Indigenous sf, Indigenous knowledges are neither static, nor historical. They are dynamic, future-oriented ways of knowing that dynamically link past-present, and future. In this sense, Indigenous speculative fiction is a logical extension of Indigenous storytelling that have often long been part of a community’s storytelling repertoire.

In this sense, Jason Lewis writes that Indigenous speculative fiction “allows us [Indigenous peoples] to dream, concretely, about what the future might hold for our children, communities, and our species” (“A Brief (Media) History of the Indigenous Future“). Darcy Little Badger goes a step further, arguing that Indigenous speculative fiction can be linked to survivance and resurgence: “That act of existing, in a science fiction story, in a futuristic setting, is a triumph of endurance to me and it does go against the narrative of colonialism that we really don’t exist.”

Better understanding the contributions that Indigenous sf authors are making is a means for all readers to better understand our relationship to this world and the human and non-human relations we share it with. The Black science fiction author Samuel Delany makes a case for sf as a socio-political tool:  

Science fiction isn’t just thinking about the world out there. It’s also thinking about how that world might be – a particularly important exercise for those who are oppressed because if they’re going to change the world we live in, they – and all of us – have to be able to think about a world that works differently.

Similarly, Michael Lujan Bevacqua and Isa Kelly Bowman suggest, that Indigenous speculative fiction lays out a “new cartography of futures of wonder, activism, and literary criticism” (quoted in Justice 154). Jas Morgan argues that Indigenous Futurism represents “the possibilities of love and kinship as resurgence in the face of ecological disaster.”

Working in reciprocity with these authors, this blog post attempts to make Indigenous contributions to sf even more visible to a wider readership. I try to do so by pointing to the ways in which Indigenous critics and creators, like Grace Dillon and Skawennati, are reading Indigenous principles into canonistic sf texts and reframing how audiences think about sf and geopolitics, particularly in their relation to land and new worlds.

Indigenous Speculative Fiction

Anishinaabe sf critic Grace Dillon coined Indigenous Futurism (the term that brings together Critical Indigenous studies in sf), in 2003.[1] Indigenous futurism itself draws on draws heavily on Afrofuturism. According to Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism is “an intersection of imagination, technology, the future, and liberation.”[i] Bringing together futuristic landscapes, tools, and ideologies, Afrofuturism is a powerful means of manifesting people of African descent into the future tense, against, a present tense replete with white supremacy and violence against people of colour. Elizabeth Hamilton writes that “Afrofuturism is very much about finding safe spaces for black life. It is about exploring, protecting, and preparing the body for hostile environments.”[ii]

In many ways, Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurism are pragmatic antidotes to contemporary reconciliation narratives because they look toward the future of Black and Indigenous peoples within a system that, reconciled or not, continues to inflict violence against racialized bodies. In opposition to the colonial narratives that augment stolen Indigenous territories, Indigenous speculative fiction, of Indigenous wonderworks, as Daniel Justice puts it reminds us “that other worlds exist; other realities abide alongside and within our own” (153).

Dillon is a leading figure in Indigenous sf scholarship, both in her critical attention to core texts and in the publication of her edited collection Walking the Clouds: Indigenous Science Fiction, the first-ever anthology of Indigenous science fiction.

Dillon refined her theory of Indigenous Futurism in her analysis of both indie and canonical sf, including the work of Ray Bradbury, largely viewed as one of the central figures in commercial science fiction. In “Ray Bradbury’s Survivance Stories,” Dillon (re)reads Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles (1950) via prominent tropes in Critical Indigenous Studies (heretofore CIS), most notably Gerald Vizenor’s notion of “survivance”—a neologism that combines “survival” and “resistance” to grammatically illustrate the dynamic, resilient nature of indigeneity in its relation to settler colonialism.

For Dillon “survivance” helps to illustrate the ways in which Indigenous sf resists historical categorization, creating epistemological spaces for Indigenous futures and the Indigenous peoples to populate those futures:

Most importantly, survivance establishes Native identity in the present, as opposed to viewing Native experience as a relic of the past, consigned to museum exhibits and the nostalgic longing for a return to the noble, savage fictional contact narratives in the guise of an alien race: from the Na’vi that inhabit James Cameron’s Pandora, for example, back to the red Martians of Helium in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom books.

Viewed through this lens, Bradbury’s Martian-indians no longer suffer erasure as a “lost civilization” while privileging invading Earthmen (even sad and guilty ones) as conquers or colonizers. (60, original emphasis)

Via Vizenor, Dillon’s analysis of Bradbury recuperates canonical sf into an Indigenous Literary studies framework that restructures how readers think about colonizer/colonized binaries. Indigenous presence on Bradbury’s Mars is not erased during the colonization that provides for the bulk of the story’s plot; in Dillon’s reading, it survives to Indigenize the colonizer: physically and mentally altering the guests until they become of the land and of the culture of the original inhabitants: “by imagining racialized becoming in place of racialized othering” (Dillon 65, original emphasis).

Dillon reads Bradbury as an antidote to a system structured on colonial dialectics: savage/civilized, us/them, and tradition/progress. Opposed to the settler colonial model in which settlers appropriate Indigenous identity to erase and displace the original inhabitants, for Dillon, settlers are overtaken by their new environment.  Place subsumes them, not the other way around.

What’s a story like you doing in a genre like this?” According to Dillon, radically blurring colonial binaries makes science fiction a far less alien place for Indigenous storytelling (pun intended). Reading authors like Bradbury from Indigenous worldviews unsettles the colonial death grip on sf making the genre more hospitable for Indigenous authors.   

Cyberspace and the Metaverse

Cyberpunk, a science fiction sub-genre well known for its focus on “high-tech and low-life” (Ketterer), often plays into the fish out of water narrative in its representation of Indigenous peoples. With significant contributions from authors such as Misha Nogha (Métis), Skawennati (Mohawk), and Blake Hausman (Cherokee) Indigenous Indigenous cyberpunk is a compelling part of the contemporary sf landscape. It also provides provocative sites though which indigeneity is imagined into technology and the future.

From cyberpunk we get the phrase “cyberspace” and with it new possibilities for creating worlds, establishing sovereignty and defining geopolitical realities. Loosely described, cyberspace is defined as “the notional environment in which communication over computer networks occurs” (OED) including cellphones, virtual and augmented realities, and digital media. Building out of his short story “Burning Chrome,” in which the word first found its way into print, William Gibson developed and made popular “cyberspace” in his 1984 novel Neuromancer.

While slightly out of favour now, it has remains a key term in conceptualizing the ways in which individuals share information and ideas, play, do business, and engage in politics on a global digital network. The below description is taken from Neuromancer:

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. (69)


As the social media and literature critic Steven Jones notes, Gibson’s cyberspace is a world of numbers and bureaucracy: “a vision of monolithic corporate control” (264) in which data is spatialized, but in which movement in that space is uncomfortable at best, deathly at worst. Out of Gibson’s cyberspace Hollywood gets visualizations of the “Net” such as represented in cyberpunk films like Hackers (1995), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), and, of course, The Matrix (1999). These films render graphical the “space” imagined by Gibson: brightly coloured, quickly moving constellations of data that carry an uncanny trace of a city or a world, populated by “console cowboys” with an affinity for Asian culture.

There are no residents in Gibson’s cyberspace, just tourists and hackers. But in 1992 Neal Stephenson’s significantly altered the way in which readers and, significantly, programmers, think about cyberspace as a environment. Like Tolkien’s Middle-earth or Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish universe, Stephenson’s cyberspace, aptly names the “meta verse” is a setting for characters to wage wars, fall in love, or even build a home.

In Snow Crash, where this work begins for Stephenson,[2] the author builds from Gibson’s cyberspace (inasmuch as he is still working with a communication system that operates via computer networks), renaming it “the metaverse” and removing the abstract notion of “space” from the designation. In doing so he connects it instead with a sphere of activity, interest, and experience: not just a world, a universe, with its own geopolitics and vested human interests. Unlike Gibson’s bureaucratic constellations of light, the metaverse is as a social terrain, complete with bars, hotels, businesses and all the comforts of both high and low culture:

The sky and the ground are black, like a computer screen that hasn’t had anything drawn on it yet; it is always nighttime in the Metaverse, and the street is always garish and brilliant; like Las Vegas freed from constraints of physics and finance. But people in Hiro’s neighbourhood are good programmers, so its very tasteful. There are a couple of Frank Lloyd Wright reproductions and some fancy Victoriana. (Snow Crash 24, my emphasis)

Stephenson’s metaverse is simultaneously presented as an ostentatious social space (note the direct comparison to Las Vegas above) and as a cooperative, community and neighbourhood. While fugitive hackers can only fleetingly occupy Gibson’s cyberspace, the metaverse is a place where visitors can hang out, relax, chat with friends, get high, and even put down roots.

Indigenous Territories in Cyberspace

Since at least the 1990s, Indigenous artists and programmers have populated cyberspace and the metaverse with sovereign content. Loretta Todd, Skawennati, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Archer Pechawis, Jolene Rickard, and Âhasiw Maskêgon-Iskwêw, amongst many other Indigenous storytellers, illustrated the power of Indigenous voices in the digital medium. For those on the inside, the ability to negotiate Gibson’s cyberspace was hardly a surprise. As Rickard expressed, Indigenous peoples online were “doing what people in our communities have always done. They are transforming our cultures into the language of the future.”

According to Angela Haas, the West’s claim to “technology” is, true to the genre of settler colonialism, a “frontier story” (Haas 82), which erases and displaces Indigenous presence and knowledges. Skawennati and Jason Lewis highlight the frontier narrative implicit to Gibson and Stephenson’s cyberspaces (or metaverses) in the 2005 article,”Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace“:

Since its beginning, cyberspace has been imagined as a free and open space, much like the New World was imagined by the Europeans. In Neal Stephenson’s novel Snowcrash, the as-yet-unclaimed areas of his cyberspace are portrayed as an ink-black nothingness awaiting the code that will turn them into useful virtual habitations. But if Aboriginal peoples learned one thing from contact, it is the danger of seeing any place as terra nullius, even cyberspace. Its foundations were designed with a specific logic, built on a specific form of technology, and first used for specific purposes (allowing military units to remain in contact after a nuclear attack). The ghosts of these designers, builders, and prime users continue to haunt the blank spaces.

In the frontier narrative, exemplified in both Gibson and Stephenson’s depiction of cyberspace, the colonial code embedded in the language of terra nullius and the Doctrine of Discovery elide the complex digital systems that have been deployed by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.

As in any frontier story, the one who controls the narrative controls the power. In regulating the ways in which technology is defined, namely in relation to industry and applied science, the settler state lays the foundation from which “progress,” and “civilization” are co-determined. If progress represents the “1”s in colonial binary, then the “0”s are colonially programmed Indigenous deficit. In other words, asking “what’s a story like you doing in a place like this” is a disavowal of who lays claim to “this” place and the gatekeeping processes they use to determine it.

Of course, Indigenous peoples were making their own spaces online, often hacking the colonial infrastructure to do so. Skawennati built CyberPowWow out of a graphical chatroom platform called the Palace, developed by Programmer Jim Baumgardner using an in-house programming language called Idaho, and later purchased by Time Warner Entertainment.

The Palace capitalized on chatroom popularity and increased bandwidth capacity, to create one of the first online community spaces in which users could represent themselves graphically, using avatars and rooms they built with their own software and images.

Given the semiotics of Empire that surrounded the software (which, I should add are not anomalous to the Palace, but rather an integral part of how the web is imagined) Skawennati’s intervention into the Palace was decolonial in intent, putting its tools in the hands of Indigenous artists, storytellers, and programmers. The “rooms” and avatars in CyberPowWow became canvases for artists to create art and the Palace itself a space to host Indigenous and allied artists and thinkers.

CyberPowWow started off as a virtual exhibition and chat space that would dispel the myth that Native artists didn’t (or couldn’t!?) use technology in their work. In addition to that, we wanted to claim for ourselves a little corner of cyberspace that we could nurture and grow in the way we wanted.


You can see in that last line quoted above, how sovereignty is being drawn out—that notion of demarcating an Indigenous space in a colonial landscape. But Skawennati also challenges settler colonial myths of the “vanishing Indian” in this short paragraph and handily dismantles the notion that indigeneity and modernity are mutually exclusive terms.

Under her leadership and support from a large community of Indigenous and allied artists and scholars, a multitude of artists from across Canada, the U.S. and Australia, joined CyberPowWow, including Archer Pechawis, Jason Lewis, Jolene Rickard, Lee Crowchild, Michelle Nahanee and Lori Blondeau , just to name a few.

For Skawennati part of “indigenizing” cyberspace was to give artists and guests an online space that enabled them to interact with art and share knowledge as a community. By allowing participants to gather in real time in spaces designed by the community, using avatars designed and mobilized by indigenous artists, The Palace offered dynamic interaction that built on and extended existing traditions, which she would go on to extend into her work in Second Life.

Second Life and Metaverse

As a “world,” universe, or even neighbourhood—as opposed to “space”—Stephenson’s metaverse shaped and continues to shape the social environment of the Internet as we know it in real life (IRL). In 2003 Linden Lab launched Second Life, a massive 3D virtual world built and inhabited by its users, with the expressed goal of creating “a user-defined world like the Metaverse in which people could interact, play, do business, and otherwise communicate” (Maney, my emphasis).


Via Second Life, the metaverse has had an incisive effect on real and digital economies and it continues to influence the ways in which tech companies, including, of course Facebook, construct and market cyberspaces. Second Life hosts five embassies (Maldives, Sweden, Estonia, Macedonia and the Philippines) and has its own economy based on a currency referred to as Linden dollars. Second Life also has a reported GDP of $500 million (Guardian; based on 2007 numbers), placing its economy slightly above Taiwan and Argentina.

What “land” and “geopolitics” mean in this space is thus being radically reconfigured. As founder Philip Rosendale states, “what we are really selling you is computation. We are selling you CPU core. If you buy a 16-acre piece of land, which is about four city blocks, what you are renting is one processor” (Guardian). What platforms like Second Life mean for economists, geographers, cultural theorists and politicians has only begun to be theorized—but these worlds are creating change.

Yet, returning specifically to Indigenous Studies and its representation in the sf canon, while Snow Crash is well regarded as the mould for cyberspace as it was translated IRL, the complex ways in which Stephenson structures the metaverse around race and (non-European) culture, has traditionally been elided in its translation to “literal” digital spaces, such as graphical chat rooms, Multi User Dungeons (MUDs) and Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs). Despite Stephenson’s influence on the market, according to Internet scholar Lisa Nakamura, cyberspace remains a space of “default whiteness” (33) more akin to Gibson’s Neuromancer (in which characters are racialized in relation to a white protagonist) than the much more racially complex Snow Crash.

Indeed, while “Asian” signifiers are well theorized in this novel—Nakamura, makes a compelling argument for “techno-Orientalism” as one of the key semiotic devices in the literary and filmic articulation of futurity—indigeneity is notably not. This omission is significant simply because the primary antagonist, Raven, is an Aleut man—the Aleuts being the IRL Indigenous people of the Aleutian islands in Alaska. In order to adequately theorize this novel, critics need to more deeply contend with this crucial character as an Indigenous man—which includes thinking through his omission from the critical literature, which I will attempt to do below.

Raven and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash

As Paul Youngquist notes, “speed and mobility are the values best suited to life in this [cyber]space” (48), so it is significant that the movement of the protagonist of Snow Crash, satirically named Hiro Protagonist, is persistently impeded by Raven—one of the only users to match his speed and mobility in the metaverse. Inasmuch as Raven impedes Hiro’s movement, thus calling into question the entitlement of the non-Indigenous protagonist in the “new world,” it is also notable how the Indigenous man’s own speed and mobility is represented:

Raven gets turned toward Downtown and twists his throttle just as Hiro is pulling in behind him on the street, doing the same. Within a couple of seconds, they’re both headed for Downtown at something like fifty thousand miles an hour. Hiro’s half a mile behind Raven, but can see him clearly: the streetlights have merged into a smooth twin streak of yellow, and Raven blazes in the middle, a storm of cheap colour and big pixels. (439)

Opposed to Hiro, who is written as a complex and fully realized (albeit problematically racialized) character, Raven’s primary characteristics seem to be futuristic representations of the classic Hollywood stereotypes of the “angry Indian” his three defining characteristics are: 1) his enormous size, 2) his volatility ( “poor impulse control” (128) is tattooed on his head, and 3) his thirst for revenge for the destruction brought to his people by colonialism particularly via Cold War politics.

While Raven brushes problematically against stereotype, writing the character off as stock racism elides the potential of reading indigeneity with and against Western models of sf in a canonical text. Close reading of this problematic character provides new insight into his depth and his potential to be repurposed into Indigenous Futurism—as per Dillon’s reading of Bradbury. In one of the fleeting moments of dialogue the Raven is afforded in Snow Crash (another stereotype: the stoic, deadly Indian) he tells, Y.T., Hiro’s sidekick and Raven’s love interest, a little bit about himself. Y.T. asks,

“What culture are you oriented to?”
“I am an Aleut”
“Oh, I’ve never heard of that”
“That’s because we’ve been fucked over,” the big, scary Aleut says, “worse
than any other people in history” (342)


Here, Stephenson references the real world decimation of Aleut land during the Cold War. In 1969 and 1971 the United States Army detonated the largest underground nuclear explosion in U.S. history on Amchitka Island, the midway point of the Aleutian Islands, which were previously protected under the National Wildlife Act. The explosions rendered water sources in the area undrinkable, fish and game unfit for consumption, and led to the death of dozens of Aleutians as a result of radiation-linked cancers (Kohlhoff). The deputy assistant secretary of the Department of Energy, Dr. Paul Seligman, justified the damage as a price of War: “These were hazardous operations… The hazards were well understood, but the priorities at the time were weapons production and the defense of the nation” (qtd. In Clair).

Raven’s assertion that Y.T. has never heard of the Aleut’s because “they’ve been fucked over” thus demonstrates not only the ways in which Western ideology and technology has destroyed Indigenous land and traditional life under the pretence of national defence, but also how these devastating histories are repressed from the public imaginary, rendering Indigenous peoples and the violent histories of colonialism invisible.

What’s a story like you doing in a genre like this? Well, Indigenous peoples and land are deeply encoded into the ways in which readers interpret adventures into a new world. The elision of Indigenous peoples and histories IRL in Snow Crash thus translates directly into Stephenson’s cyberspace, contributing to how we understand that space geopolitically.

As the above chase scene illustrates, Raven’s presence in the metaverse is crucially less defined than his protagonist counterpart; he is captured in that space only as “a storm of cheap colour and big pixels”—a pixel being the basic unit of a digital picture and a pixilated image being one that is “captured, reproduced, or displayed as pixels, usually with a grainy or low-resolution result… for purposes of censorship or to maintain the anonymity of the subject” (OED).

Read as the upshot of settler colonialism, Raven is afforded none of the clarity of his protagonist counterpart inasmuch as his translation into cyberspace reflects the “censorship” of Indigenous histories within the repressive ideology of the settler state. It is against this “negative” presence that Stephenson establishes Hiro’s claim to cyberspace and the insistence of colonial presence (albeit a radicalize colonial presence) in this new digital territory.

But, like Hiro, Raven’s presence in the metaverse is more complicated than a one-to-one representation of racism IRL. His representation in that space is in fact a double elision, both in his relation to the repressive ideology of settler colonialism, and in the fact that his particular brand of “futurism” does not line-up with Western models of progress of sf—which, as Dillon argues, often assume that non-European cultures will disappear or assimilate (CFP). Raven’s malevolence (which reads as one-dimensional, bad guy “evilness” if not given the proper historical context) is structured around his hatred for the Western technology which that wreaked havoc on his people and land, as well as his drive to find revenge for the damage that technology caused.

In this sense, Snow Crash generates a productive future space in which Indigenous resentment [3] remains a resonant part of the political landscape—as opposed to something that the colonial government has recuperated, reconciled or otherwise “dealt with.” In this sense Raven is, as N. Katherine Hayles identifies him, the uncanny “repressed of [America’s] cultural imaginary,” returned to haunt the future and the “new worlds” that attempt to elide Indigenous presence.

Read within the framework of settler colonialism, and in spite of the novel’s sometimes uncritical recapitulation of colonial ideology, Raven’s resentment is a productive glimmer a literary turn away from the privileging of Western technology towards alter-native futures. A turn away from a certainty of “progress,” in which Indigenous bodies have been assimilated, towards a space of revenge, resurgence, or even healing for those bodies. The Navajo critic Lou Cornum argues:

Indigenous futurism seeks to challenge notions of what constitutes advanced technology and consequently advanced civilizations. As settler colonial governments continue to demand more and more from the Earth, Indigenous peoples seek the sovereign space and freedom to heal from these apocalyptic processes.

Read in opposition to “progress” Raven can be recuperated into an Indigenous model of futurism that seek to find healing and/or restitution for the damage inflicted by those same models of progress. While he embraces Western technology, Raven does so as a means to also rally against it—seeking revenge against and refuge from the colonial technology that, “[came] this close to killing me” (368).

It is no coincidence that Raven and Snow Crash also play a foundational role in Skawennati’s work in Second Life. In her short article, “OMG the bad guy is native!?” the creator AbTeC Island speaks to the ways in which science fiction and digital technologies can imagine and even facilitate the actualization of Indigenous futures, Skawennati points to the formative role that Indigenous characters, like Raven and Chacotay, of Star Trek: Voyager, played in her creative development. Of Raven in particular, she writes that

here was this… Aleut guy who had all of this traditional knowledge—he kayaks, carries ultra-sharp knives, makes his own deadly harpoons—but at the same time he logs in the “Metaverse”, Stephenson’s imagining of a super-deluxe 3D online chatroom, to deliver bad guy messages. He’s so *with it*.

30 years out of the original pressing of Snow Crash, it’s difficult to imagine a white guy, like Stephenson, do much beneficial in terms of Indigenous representation, but given the state of Indigenous sf in 1992, Raven is one building block in the ongoing design and development of sovereign Indigenous futurisms. Skawennati went on to build Indigenous territory in Second Life, the digital space fashioned out of Stephenson’s conceptualization of the Metaverse.

Further to that, in a methodology that resonates deeply with Dillon’s reclamation of Bradbury, she integrated Raven in the first machinma produced in that space, Timetraveller, re-homing the bad guy in a story about decolonizing history via new media.

As I argue in the forthcoming introduction of a new collection of Indigenous genre fiction, to “’indigenize’ genre is not only to read Indigenous literature alongside genre-specific tropes, but also to identify the ways in which indigeneity contributes to and shapes these tropes” (Read, Listen, Tell). Read out of Critical Indigenous Studies and the politics of settler colonialism, Skawennati’s Raven opens up a space to reconsider and reframe sf and reclaim the frontier narrative and project Indigenous presence into the future.

“What’s a story like you doing in a genre like this?” Well, the story was here before the genre. The question is what are you going to do with it?

For more reading on on Indigenous contributions to new media and speculative fiction see

20 Books in New Media and Social Justice

Works Cited

Alba, Davey. “Sci-Fi Author Neal Stephenson Joins Mystery Startup Magic Leap As ‘Chief Futurist.’” Wired. December 16, 2014. http://www.wired.com/2014/12/neal-


Clair, Jeffery. “30 YEARS AFTER; The legacy of America’s largest nuclear test.” In

These Times. 2001. Web.


Coulthard, Glen. Red Skin, White Masks. Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2014.

Cornum, Lyndsay. “The Space NDN’s Star Map.” The New Inquiry. January 26, 2015.

Web. http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/the-space-ndns-star-map/

Dillon, Grace. “Ray Bradbury’s Survivance Stories.” Orbiting Ray Bradbury’s Mars

Biographical, Anthropological, Literary, Scientific and Other Perspectives. Ed. Gloria McMillan. Jefferson, North Carolina: Mcfarland & Co Inc. Pub, 2013. 57-69.

—. Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction. Tuscan: Arizona

UP, 2012.

—. Call for Papers: Extrapolation special issue on Indigenous Futurism. Web.


Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Penguin, 2000.

—. “Burning Chrome.” Burning Chrome. New York: Harper Collins, 2014.

Guardian, the. “Today Second Life, Tomorrow the World.” May 17, 2007.


Hayles, N. Katherine. “The Posthuman Body: Inscription and Incorporation in

Galatea 2.2 and Snow Crash. Configurations 5.2 (Spring 1997). Web. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/journals/configurations/v005/5.2hayles.html

Heinlein, Robert. “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction.” Of Worlds Beyond 2nd ed.

Lloyd Arthur Eshbach, ed. Chicago: Advent, 1964. 13.

Johnson, Jay T. “Dancing into Place: The Role of the Powwow within Urban

Indigenous Communities.” Indigenous in the City: Contemporary Identities and Cultural Innovation. Eds. Evelyn Peters and Chris Anderson. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013. 216-230.

Justice, Daniel. “Indigenous Literature.” The World of Indigenous North America. Ed.

Robert Warrior. New York: Routledge, 2015. 291-307.

Ketterer, David. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Bloomington: Indiana

University Press, 1992.

Kohlhoff, Dean. Amchitka and the bomb : nuclear testing in Alaska. Seattle: University

of Washington UP, 2002.

Maney, Kevin. “The king of alter egos is surprisingly humble guy”. USA Today.



McCall, Sophie. Deanna Reder. David Gaertner, eds. Stories Are All We Are: An

Anthology of Indigenous Short Fiction. Wilfred Laurier UP (forthcoming).

Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York,

Routledge, 2002.

Stephenson, Neal. Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

Sturgis, Amy H. Interview by Randy Hoyt. “Native America & Speculative Fiction:

Interview with Amy H. Sturgis.” Journey to the Sea. August 15, 2009. http://journeytothesea.com/native-america-speculative-fiction/

Youngquist, Paul. CyberFiction: After the Future. New York: Palgrave MacMillan,


[1] The genre arguably extends well back into Indigenous literature (Sturgis).

[2] Stephenson would go onto making a number of contributions to how the Western world imagines cyberspace (for instance in his conception of the “wet-net” in Diamond Age). However, I argue that Snow Crash is the beginning of world building in Cyberspace, which, along with its representations of Indigenous peoples, is why I focus on it here.

[3] I am borrowing here from Dene scholar Glen Coulthard’s definition of the term.

[i] Ytasha L. Womack, Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture, 9.

[ii] Elizabeth Hamilton, “Afrofuturism and the Technologies of Survival,” African Arts 15.4 (2017): 18.

One comment

  1. Jace Weaver · · Reply

    Really a terrific article. Jace

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