What, in the end, would it mean to determine the voice in its self-identity? Could the voice, in its unsullied ‘pure speech’, stripped of obstacles and contaminations, ever be located? And could the voice of a genre, for instance science fiction, ever be isolated in its purity? Since, for a certain strand of philosophical inquiry, the voice is the locus of identity, essence, pure auto-affection, and since genre definitions seek to delineate the purest expressions of its rules, there would seem to be a structural similarity in these projects. It is a case, then, of isolating the voice in its proximity to itself; in genre terms, of scanning the ‘noise’ of communications traffic, before finally tuning in to that voice, which, alone, is speaking science fiction.
Almost immediately, though, problems surface in this aim. The ‘inward speech’ of the pure voice, speaking and listening intimately to itself, cannot be heard without being in some way ‘translated’: indeed, if it is to make sense, even to itself, it must partake of general language and thus be part of a signifying system which it could never, singly, own. The impurity of a general language, the unbelonging in its system, are in fact the conditions on which claims to purity, ‘pure speech’, are founded. That is why such claims are always so anxious. The voice is always already self-divided.
It is the dream of purity and the fact of impurity that makes speaking (about) science fiction, for example within the context of a conference entitled ‘Speaking Science Fiction’, such a fraught and contentious exercise. For as this body of texts, this ‘subjugated knowledge’, emerges onto academic stages, something like the ‘prudence organizations’ of Philip Dick's Ubik, those protectors from contamination, come into operation. Who has the right to speak (of/with/for) science fiction? Who holds the authentic, self-proximate voice of the genre? Is it the writers themselves? Or is it the phalanx of fans who surround the writers? One which is otherwise degraded, rendered impure, by the secondary, inauthentic speech of academia? Despite its academic locale, manoeuvres to proclaim authenticity recur, angry fans remarking on the re-functioning of the genre for academia, academics proclaiming dual citizenship, as it were, with fandom, and thus denouncing other academics for their limited or superficial knowledge of the genre.