Special Issue "Post-Utopia in Speculative Fiction: The End of the Future?"
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 November 2021) | Viewed by 10256
Until the current pandemic, it was widely believed that we had entered the period of paralysis in the collective historical imagination. This paralysis was reflected in the inability to imagine a future radically different from the present, which was the prerequisite for the traditional genres of utopia and dystopia. Utopia, a literary depiction of an ideal society, and dystopia, its dark double, postulated a historical teleology toward an extreme social and ontological transformation, whether perceived positively or negatively. But with the spread of globalism, both utopia and dystopia seemed to have faded away, supplanted by post-utopia, presentism, or nostalgia. As Zygmund Bauman described it in his book Retrotopia, contemporary narratives of history are located in “the lost/stolen/abandoned but yet undead past, instead of being tied” to the future (5).
Speculative fiction responded to the crisis of the historical imagination in different ways. The nostalgic epic fantasy rose in popularity, eclipsing science fiction. Science fiction, an inherently forward-looking genre, abandoned utopias in favor of post-apocalyptic narratives that presented the disaster as durational and never-ending rather than as a step toward a better (or at least different) future. Other responses included resurrecting Golden-Age space opera through imitation and pastiche; revisiting the future of the past through steampunk; and retreating into fantasy. The trend was even more pronounced in cinema, with its passion for remakes. Even in popular YA “dystopias”, the grim future was, more often than not, a disguised version of the present; and the very narrative form of these texts, with their numerous sequels, prequels, and additions, militated against a clear linearity of traditional utopias/dystopias.
Another factor that contributed to the abandonment of utopian/dystopian paradigm in science fiction was the Anthropocene and the rise of cli-fi. The “hyperobject” of climate change, as Timothy Morton described it, exists on a time scale vastly different from the time scale of human history and cannot be represented through the conventional narrative templates of speculative fiction.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the wave of social unrest in the US and elsewhere, the trend toward presentism—being “stuck” in the current historical moment—seems to have been upended. Or has it? As we emerge from this period, are we facing a discursive breakthrough in our narratives of future history, or are we going back to the post-utopian recycling of generic clichés?
We are soliciting articles and essays that address these questions. The subjects include, but are not limited to:
- Retro science fiction and the death of the future;
- Post-apocalypse ;
- Limbotopia or fictions of “being stuck”;
- Fantasy and nostalgia;
- Alternative history as utopia;
- The Anthropocene, cli-fi, and temporality of the long present;
- Narrative “recycling”, fan fiction, and poetics of escape;
- Dystopias past and present;
- Solar-punk, Afrofuturism, and hope-punk;
- After the pandemic?
Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words with biographical details by October 31. Full papers are due by March 31 2021. Please send abstracts to [email protected]
Prof. Elana Gomel
Manuscript Submission Information
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- utopia and dystopia
- speculative fiction