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Visionary medicine: speculative fiction, racial justice and Octavia Butler's ‘Bloodchild’
  1. John Carlo Pasco1,2,
  2. Camille Anderson2,
  3. Sayantani DasGupta3
  1. 1Medical Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Graduate Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
  3. 3Graduate Program in Narrative Medicine, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, Columbia University, New York, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to John Carlo Pasco, 1038 Beacon Street, Apt. 302, Brookline, MA 02446, USA; jcarlopasco{at}


Medical students across the USA have increasingly made the medical institution a place for speculating racially just futures. From die-ins in Fall 2014 to silent protests in response to racially motivated police brutality, medical schools have responded to the public health crisis that is racial injustice in the USA. Reading science fiction may benefit healthcare practitioners who are already invested in imagining a more just, healthier futurity. Fiction that rewrites the future in ways that undermine contemporary power regimes has been termed ‘visionary fiction’. In this paper, the authors introduce ‘visionary medicine’ as a tool for teaching medical students to imagine and produce futures that preserve health and racial justice for all. This essay establishes the connections between racial justice, medicine and speculative fiction by examining medicine's racially unjust past practices, and the intersections of racial justice and traditional science and speculative fiction. It then examines speculative fiction author Octavia Butler's short story ‘Bloodchild’ as a text that can introduce students of the medical humanities to a liberatory imagining of health and embodiment, one that does not reify and reinscribe boundaries of difference, but reimagines the nature of Self and Other, power and collaboration, agency and justice.

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  • Contributors JCP proofread and edited the manuscript, as well as prepared the manuscript for submission. He is the guarantor. SD convened the authors and revised the manuscript with analysis of outside texts. CA edited the manuscript and wrote the abstract and cover letter. All three authors contributed significantly to the textual analysis over several iterations of this article.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.