The Final Frontier: Space, Race, and Survival in Speculative Fiction (MLA 2021)
This panel will investigate space exploration in speculative literatures. It looks at the myriad ways in which works of speculative fiction have imagined, challenged, or otherwise engaged with outer space as a site for new colonialisms, the extension of racial supremacies, and/or environmental violence. We are especially interested in scholarship which explores the growing body of criticism situated at the intersection of black studies and speculative fiction. How has space functioned as a stand-in for the geographical expanse of the planet before its mapping and conquest by European colonialism? What is the specific role of images, narratives, and other representations of settlement, outward expansion, and civilizing missions in the construction of science-fictional worlds set in outer space? How do humanity and other agential entities in sci-fi interact with their environments in destructive, conservative, harmonious and/or symbiotic ways? And finally, what is the particular political work carried out by SF writers of color (e.g. Octavia Butler, Samuel Delany, N.K. Jemisin) and SF writers from the Global South (e.g. Tade Thompson, Masande Ntshanga) in imagining alternatives to the status quo? We welcome papers that consider rhetorics of survivalism, racial supremacy, colonization, and/or ecocide that have informed speculative imaginations of space travel and planetary conquest.