Parenting in Speculative Fiction, panel for NeMLA 2021
Parenting in Speculative Fiction
Speculative fiction can allow us to imagine radical forms of family structure, that depart from our contemporary focus on the white, straight, middle-class nuclear family. While the theme of family inheritance is often important in speculative fiction, it is usually emphasized from the perspective of the child, dealing with the mess or gifts left by their parents. In this panel, we invite essays that focus on the parents instead. In dystopian fiction such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road, in space opera such as The Expanse, in fantasy such as The Fifth Season, protagonists' status as parents help define them and contribute to their characterization, priorities and worldview. Parents in speculative fiction face the ordinary challenges of parenting, but are also confronted by extraordinary difficulties and, potentially, opportunities. When the protagonists are in parental roles, speculative fiction can gain richness and depth, and can open our eyes to new arrangements of family and society. We invite essays that analyze and interpret parent characters in a range of speculative fiction in a range of media and from a range of eras. We particularly welcome essays that focus on radical forms of family-building, and characters from (currently) marginalized groups including queer, non-white, and disabled characters.