Ugh! I just spent over an hour typing my response and then tried to post it. The system told me I needed to log in again and so I did, and then I lost the post I had been working on. So, what follows is a much shorter and more hurried approximation of that original lost post (because now I have lost patience).
In The Creation of the World, or Globalization, Nancy distinguishes between what we might call in English globalization, which he aligns with understanding the world via a worldview or attempting to make sense of the world using representations, and world-becoming or the creation of the world, which has to do with taking the world as totality, not as something that has meaning but instead as the place where meaning happens, as that which happens. For Nancy the world is at once the space of all possible happenings and the space where the possible happens. Globalization has allowed the world to be thought, but now globalization has exhausted itself and is destroying the world (or the sense of the world as worldview). What is needed, Nancy claims, is a rethinking of the creation of the world: the world creates itself (grows) out of nothing (ex nihilo, is given by nothing, stands on nothing but itself. World-becoming is this creation out of nothing.
It could be interesting to think this contrast in relation to Red Mars, which, to me at least, is about the many failures of different systems of globalization. What we are given in Red Mars is something approximating - what? - the planetary instead of the global. What I mean is that no matter what different worldviews or understandings the first 100 try to bring to Mars, Mars continually escapes them. What we are given instead is a sense of Mars as a planet: the dramatic landscape, massive planetary weather systems, the constant attention to the planet's atmosphere and gravitational pull. This is not to say that Mars somehow escapes or thwarts human intervention or even globalization; certainly things like terraforming and the international/planetary flows of capital, people, and goods increase in scale as the novel goes on. However, it is to say that what the novel somehow offers up is the sense of the planetary, of the totality of the planet, which seems, to me, to be different somehow from the global.
Beginning with Robert Sawyer's article published in Slate magazine's "Future Tense" series, I am beginning to consider the role science fiction plays in the fictional landscape, and how SF literature can be a means to address the large scale challenges facing the planet. Sawyer argues that SF teaches people to understand the future of technology, facilitating discussions about potential technological innovations which aren't possible outside of fiction for a variety of reasons. These reasons include the fact that fiction is liberated from the ethical limitations imposed on "real world" scientists, and that a lack of responsibility to funding bodies means authors are free to speculate about the full range of impact of new technologies. Sawyer also posits that SF can provide cautionary tales on the possible dangers that await us should we follow a path the author has envisioned. I would argue that not only does SF provide cautionary tales, but it can also imagine a hopeful future for humanity from which contemporary society can draw inspiration, allowing a means to contemplate solutions to major crises which we currently lack the wherewithal to explore. SF can allow us to start from scratch developing solutions and overcoming problems in a way that the real world rarely allows, and perhaps these hypothetical new beginnings can inspire innovation which can be utilized outside the text.
In envisioning these better worlds there is a direct link to David Gauntlett's discussion of William Morris' vision in Making is Connecting, in which he describes Morris' mission with "instead of telling people how dumb their lives are, he offers stories, manifestos, songs and objects from a better future"--this "better future" is the realm of SF. Gauntlett's consideration of creativity seems relevant to the potential role of SF as well: he summarizes his definition as "everyday creativity refers to a process which brings together at least one active human mind, and the material or digital world, in the activity of making something which is novel in that context." If we can expand this definition beyond the creation of material objects and into the creation of ideas, then both the SF author in creating a potential future and the reader in responding to the text through the act of reading (at this point Reception Theory may provide a way to explore the potential responses elicited in the reader which can lead to creativity and innovation separate from that which the text explicitly defines. This assumes that we can we define a personal response as a form of creativity--that a unique thought is indeed an object of creation) are engaged in creation. This expands to a consideration of if SF allows more freedom in speculative response than traditional fiction, and if this additional freedom means it can increase our potential to innovate in a way which can provide solutions to overcome the crises facing us.
In The Inoperative Community, Jean-Luc Nancy frees community from the tautological paradigm of community as communion, or fusion into one being, that has led to some of the more dangerous totalitarian regimes in history. Instead, Nancy figures a “being-in-common,” a space for community rather than one confined to the limits of doctrine. For Nancy, being-in-common has no form in an empirical or idea place; rather, it derives its essence from finitude. The founding of community lies in myth, whose essence is always one of communion, whether in the act of speech or gesture. In this way, myth has been seen as a source of innovation and imagination, the inauguration of communities. However, the desire to found these mythic communities has been carried to the extreme in modernity (the horrors of Aryan myth). Consequently, we live in a state of the absence of myth. And where myth is interrupted, so is community.
The question Nancy poses is how to define community and myth beyond a national, ethnic, fatalistic, or biologic essence. Literature emerges as the interruption of myth and the transcription of “being-in-common” that isn’t founded upon a single essence. The search for this literary “being-in-common” engulfs the often fractured trajectories of the novels of Egan, Bolano, and Murakami, within which characters find themselves confronted and subjugated by tautologically defined communities (perhaps “Schumpeterian” systems consummate in the figures of the record industry, the maquiladora, and a pop culture branded economics for the masses), out of which they must eke their own collective narratives. This resistance comes in the form of narrative, what Nancy deems an open circuit of meaning, literature that interrupts the closed circuit of myth. The fractured, heterogeneous nature of these narratives resist classification into any one genre, what can be called a narrative community defined by its formal essence. The works of Murakami and Bolano encompass multiple narrative communities: spanning the genres of novel, poetry, police reports, song lyrics, instant messages, letters, journals, etc. And while Egan’s book appears more formally homogenous, the disruption of linear time, a construct of myth and community as communion, remains a constant throughout the works of these three authors.
Kay Redfield Jamison’s “Touched With Fire” explores how manic depression influences the artist. What I found innovative about her work was not the correlation between suffering from manic depression and being an artist (a link Jamison herself points out is not causal), but her examination of the role of manic depression in creating art that resonates with others who might not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Therefore, the manic depressive mood that leads many to believe they are isolated and abnormal is actually the same (albeit a stronger) mood that the average person possesses; and when this tendency toward pronounced shifts in mood is combined with a creative mentality, the result is often a work of art that speaks to many different people.
Bolano’s 2666 also depicts those who feel isolated but have the potential to be drawn together. The novel circles around and later plunges into Santa Teresa, a city that we are told is successful but is also home to violence and horror. The city embodies Nussbaum’s idea of a nation that is economically successful by traditional terms (high GDP, low unemployment), but is built on inequality. Santa Teresa is described as a city of people “on the outskirts,” but this may be what draws many of the novel’s characters to it from across the globe (Oscar Fate, Amalfitano, the critics, etc). As part of a nation referred to as “an homage to everything in the world, even the things that haven’t happened yet,” it is clear that the issues and trauma that mark Santa Teresa aren’t unique to the city or its residents, but instead reflect and magnify problems the whole world grapples with. Bolano’s novel depicts a world where most people see themselves as outsiders, but it also enacts the idea that they are connected through descriptions of dream states, a horrific yet beautiful landscape, etc. In a sense, the city of Santa Teresa may do for the world (and the characters of 2666) what manic depression and the artists that are affected by it do for society.