Food Futures: A Special Issue of SFS
This special issue of Science Fiction Studies examines food’s multiple registrations across the spectrum of historical and contemporary SF. As a core element of both the problems with and solutions to the climate crisis, the global food system is the nexus of an array of future-oriented concerns emerging around issues such as security, diet, foodways, technologies, population, habitats, consumer cultures, production techniques, energy regimes and much more. As a result of this focus the very concept of eating and food as baseline cultural material has arguably been placed under the sign of the future to a greater extent than hitherto experienced. With a climate-changed world on the horizon, the viability of the present food system is threatened, not least because it is one of the most significant contributors to global emissions. Per se it is under immense pressure to adapt and in places this is occurring. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of humanity depends on the development of alternative food cultures, systems and technologies. This has impacted in research agendas from genetics to horticulture, from architecture to anthropology. But the future of food is also a necessary and developing imaginary. So how does (and should) science fiction engage with it?
Despite the recent boom in environmentally engaged sf, an exploration of the relationship of humans and non-humans to different food ecosystems (and the cultural lifeworlds those systems produce and sustain) is an area without sufficiently acknowledgement or comprehensive coverage in science fiction studies. Speculative food imaginaries have, as we would expect, long been detectable in literary and cultural work and in much SF. The citation of illustrative examples from science fiction texts is also consistently discernible across the published volume of both academic and popular media material on food futures outside literary and cultural studies. There is therefore much opportunity to read and re-read science fiction texts in and against the wider scholarship, particularly with pressurized ecological contexts in mind. How and where, then, does ‘future food’ appear in sf? What is it and how is it made, grown, transported, reproduced, distributed, cultured? How might speculative work critique historical, contemporary (or indeed proposed futuristic) food cultures? Can such work offer potential solutions, counterfactuals and innovations to unfolding or anticipated modes of crisis in any area of the food system and its envisaged future worlds?
The special issue seeks to situate future food imaginaries as a significant topic in sf’s environmental turn. The guest editors invite submissions that explore a range of sf food imaginaries and of foodways in the broadest sense of the term. We welcome engagement with a variety of SF media, including written texts (novels, short stories, poetry), multimedia or interdisciplinary texts (graphic novels, bio-art) visual and televisual texts (television, film, fine art), and interactive media (videogames, art installations). Articles may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Speculative futures of growing, cooking, accessing and eating food
- Environmental/Climate-facing interpretations of future food
- Imagined technologies of future food and drink (from lab-grown food to food storage, harvesting to cookware)
- Alternative/transformed geographic, sociocultural, or economic foodworlds
- Imagined emergent / ‘alien’ food forms: (e.g. future types of protein, including meat, fish, eggs, insects, etc., and/or plant-based alternatives, algae/yeast-based and/or other imaginary organisms)
- Speculative futures of vegetarianism/veganism
- Speculative agricultural worlds/ infrastructures, including industrial agriculture and food transportation
- Alternative foodways (such as imaginaries of urban agriculture, vertical farms, aquaponics, food automation, mega-corporation production, etc.)
- Ethics of food sovereignty, distribution and resource management in sf
- Issues of intellectual property and ownership of future food and foodstuffs
- Speculative cookbooks and speculative restaurants
- Futuristic agroecology, from sustainable farming to (neo)indigenous or traditional foodways
- Food dystopias / utopias
- Imagined new spaces, sites and dispensaries of food
- Medical imaginaries of future food - nutrition/health technologies/modes of consumption/ethics/embodiment
- Multispecies assemblages and food/animal relations
- SF tropes such as the ‘food pill’ and replicator/insta-food
Please send proposals (300-500 words) by 1st March 2021 to Graeme Macdonald (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nora Castle (email@example.com). Completed papers (6000-8000 words) will be due by 1st July 2021.
 We acknowledge collections like Westfahl et al’s Food of the Gods: Eating and the Eaten in Fantasy and Science Fiction (University of Georgia Press, 1996), but this does not have much engagement with environmental or climate-oriented approaches.