When Betsy Huang, an English professor and Clark’s Andrea B. and Peter D. Klein ’64 Distinguished Professor, picked up J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” at age 12, Bilbo Baggins’ adventure to lands vastly different than his comfortable home in the Shire felt relatable. It was just two years after Huang immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan.
Huang began to study science fiction as a scholar, analyzing everything from the harmful racist tropes included in early works to the more progressive novels that arrived halfway through the 20th-century. Right now, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories are abundant, from the HBO series “The Last of Us” to AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Huang says these tales about immense loss are not as progressive as some may think.
“Whether we are aware of this or not, what we want when we watch those shows is a return to what we have now,” Huang says. “We want to see more nuanced science fiction that helps us think through what it is that we’re doing today and offers practical solutions for mitigating all of our bad behaviors.”
Huang recommends authors Ted Chiang, Ken Liu, and Octavia Butler to anyone interested in science fiction.
Challenge. Change. is produced by Andrew Hart and Melissa Hanson for Clark University. Listen and subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Find other episodes wherever you listen to podcasts.