Strategies of Speculation in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction (NeMLA 2023)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 

Strategies of Speculation in Post-Apocalyptic Fiction (panel)

NeMLA Annual Convention (Niagara Falls, NY; 23-26 March 2023)

Post-apocalyptic fiction projects visions of societal collapse within the comforting and comprehensible conventions of literature. The ability of this social fiction to retain structural integrity regardless of its chaotic content gives readers a protected space within which to imagine the worst that, nevertheless, remains within the bounds of the imaginable. Speculative fiction often secures this imaginary by inserting resistant perspectives, subaltern voices, and visions of hope. For example, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006) contains the horrors of a cannibalistic, post-apocalyptic America within a dialogue between father and son, with the latter’s more hopeful voice opening a way to a restored future and the former’s receding into the rejected authority of cynical survivalism. In Future Home of the Living God (2017), Louise Erdrich’s protagonist puts her faith in Christian mysticism as the subtextual context for identifying points of light in a world devolving into a state of human extinction and theocratic oppression. Works like these perpetuate a trace of positivism from early science fiction’s techno-futurism, while reframing its terms as those of moral argument and spiritual dialogism. Papers are welcome on speculative fiction that explores conceptual and rhetorical strategies for imagining human survival and resilience within and beyond narratives of social collapse. Other possible approaches may include a rejection of such inspirited worldviews, reconceptualization of social ends and endings, or reconsideration of the aesthetic and political structures conveyed by literary texts and other media.

The 2023 NeMLA conference theme is RESILIENCE, an anchor term for critical and creative work that explores how we bear up under trauma, counter ableism, redress social and racial marginalization, environmental destruction, and how we celebrate bodily, cognitive, and neurological difference, access silenced voices, recover from the pandemic, and struggle to save the humanities, and humanity itself from the maw of neoliberalism.

Submit your abstract to NeMLA at by September 30. Send questions to the panel chair at