“New Ways of Doing Things”: SF, Identity, and World-Making

deadline for submissions: 
September 22, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Maia Gil'Adí, The George Washington University
contact email: 

Annual convention of the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Los Angeles, March 29-April 1, 2018.



In her introduction to So Long Been Dreaming, Nalo Hopkinson describes the works of speculative fiction in the anthology as “stories that take the meme of colonizing the natives and, from the experience of the colonizee, critique it, pervert it, fuck with it, with irony, with anger, with humour, and also, with love and respect for the genre of science fiction that makes it possible to think about new ways of doing things.” As Hopkinson illustrates, the literary tropes of speculative fiction (SF) provide a unique opportunity for authors of color around the globe to bend, and indeed break, structures of power within and outside the literary canon. Writing in the speculative mode, then, necessarily challenges the presumptions of power, inciting new ways of thinking and being in the world.

This seminar aims to examine how and in what ways speculative fictions achieves these ends. We invite submissions that interrogate SF written by and for people of color and, specifically, work that examines how speculative fiction imagines human identity and difference. Moreover, this seminar is interested in exploring work that considers how particular lived experiences, such as colonial occupation, genocide, and chattel slavery, necessitate the radical narrative capacities found only in speculative works. We welcome papers from diverse historical, ethno-national, and social contexts that explore how authors employ SF and its themes and conventions to create spaces in which to imagine the breaking and re-making of the very foundations of the social order.

Diverse and capacious in scope, SF challenges its readers to think differently about diversity. As such, this seminar intends to explore the importance of reading SF by authors of color across ethno-racial and transnational lines. What common literary patterns can be discerned across SF by authors of color and how does the examination of SF across ethno-racial and national boundaries expand our analytical and comparative methodologies? How does SF by authors of color “critique,” “pervert,” and “fuck with” the Eurocentric literary tradition? How do the literary tropes of SF enable a greater understanding of human identity and difference? How does the exploration of racial identity and politics inflect or challenge narrative forms and literary expectations in SF? How does speculative fiction enable authors of color to explore the silences produced and reproduced by the historical archive and the literary canon?

Queries can be directed to Justin Mann (justinmann5@gmail.com) and Maia Gil’Adí (mgiladi@email.gwu.edu). Please submit abstracts through the ACLA portal between Sept 1 and Sept 23, 2017 (https://www.acla.org/annual-meeting).