Breaking Open Utopia: Science Fiction as Critique in the GDR

Carl Gelderloos


In this article I offer a reading of Angela and Karlheinz Steinmüller’s novel Andymon (1982) in order to show how science fiction was able to function as critique in the German Democratic Republic. Andymon, a popular novel in a popular genre, establishes an extended analogy between spatial closure and temporal foreclosure to challenge the restrictive epistemological fixity the authors associated with both classical utopian texts and the cultural-political framework of socialist realism. By modeling competing dynamics of closure in its two primary spaces—aboard a vast spaceship and on the eponymous newly-settled planet—Andymon is able to offer a challenge from within a cognitive structure that links perfect knowledge of the past to the total determination of a future horizon. This destabilization of the past as an object of cognition thereby opens possibilities for the utopian reimagination of the future. Science fiction is thus able to critique both the official policy of socialist realism and the normative closure of classical utopian literature; the fact that Andymon enacts a critique of formal dimensions (closure, openings) on the level of plot can in turn contribute to our understanding of the relationship between the mass genre of science fiction and key legacies of critical theory. (CG)

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