Annotation: Mike Davis’ “Fortress L.A.” (1992)

Peer-Review: 0

This annotation is for a paper I am currently writing for my ENGL 391W course at Queens College on Science Fiction. I will be conducting an analysis of the science fictional and magical realist elements in Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange and the novel’s implications on contemporary discourses about globalization. See my prospectus here.

Davis, Mike. “Fortress L.A.” City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. Print.

In “Fortress L.A.” Davis examines the “destruction of accessible public space” in Los Angeles, asserting that traditional Olmstedian views of parks and open areas as essential for social and cultural mixing have been replaced by violent efforts towards privatization (226). Analyzing various architectural structures, from libraries and malls to new bus benches, he claims that “democratic space is all but extinct” (227). Instead, what we witness in LA and other major cities is a militarization of the streets that seeks to confine racial minorities and members of the working class to dilapidated neighborhoods, thereby protecting the privileged upper classes from mingling with the “unsavory” masses of urban poor. Davis’ essay provides an important glimpse into LA’s intensely hierarchical and divided society and therefore allows me to better picture the complex cultural and political environment from which Yamashita writes Tropic of Orange. However, in addition to offering significant background information about the city, the language Davis employs throughout “Fortress L.A.” evokes science fictional imagery, which becomes most evident in headings such as “From Rentacop to Robocop” or “The L.A.P.D. as Space Police” (244, 250). In the opening to his essay, Davis even explicitly remarks that “Hollywood’s pop apocalypse and pulp science fiction have been more realistic, and politically perceptive” in portraying the violent destruction of LA’s public spaces than “contemporary urban theory” (224). This article therefore provides another important link between science fiction and “reality” that I hope to explore further in my analysis of Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange.