Publication Details

Morris, R. L. 2004, 'What does it mean to be human?: Racing Monsters, Clones and Replicants', Foundation: the international review of science fiction, vol. 33, no. 91 (Summer), pp. 81-96.


In her first novel When Fox is a Thousand (1995), Calgary-based author Larissa Lai incorporated into her narrative selected scenes from the movie Blade Runner (Director’s Cut 1992) to interrogate a contemporary filmic definition of humanness that is premised on racialised, sexualised and gendered hierarchies. Lai’s intertextual engagement with Blade Runner articulates an awareness of the power of the Hollywood viewing apparatus to colour the look (white) and perpetuate dichotomies of racial difference. In the opening pages of Fox, however, the protagonist Artemis Wong watches and contemplates pivotal scenes from the movie in a way that suggests the novel’s vision(w)ary renegotiation of power relations based on domination and subordination. The dialectic between Fox and Blade Runner is continued in Lai’s second novel Salt Fish Girl (2002), which will be the primary focus of this paper. Characterised by intertextual layering, Salt Fish Girl interrogates the construction of identity through allusion to an older iconic sf western text, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lai’s fiction functions as a contestation and complication of the literary and filmic perpetuation of an ideology o f a pure, originary and unmarked “humanness”, a definition which has historically accorded the white, western, heterosexual male a universal and centred subject positioning.

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