Bodily Autonomy and Reproduction in Speculative Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association 2023
contact email: 

Call for Papers: ACLA 2023 seminar

A July 2022 op-ed in Scientific American issued this warning: "We must not become the dystopian future so much science fiction has warned us about." The editors were responding to the Supreme Court decisions of June 24, 2022: the gutting of environmental regulations and the overturning of Roe v. Wade. As Palmer Rampell points out in "The Science Fiction of Roe v. Wade," fantastic literature has long been an arena for the circulation of "cultural analogies that justified or denied fetal personhood." It is no wonder, then, that the Dobbs decision was immediately processed in science-fictional terms, first of all via the ubiquitous Handmaid uniforms at protests. The decision indeed raised questions such as: isn't our present increasingly morphing into the dystopias we are familiar with from literature and film? What timeline are we in, what 'now' is this? What is the meaning of human embodiment, particularly for women, trans men, and nonbinary people, now that the right to bodily autonomy in the United States, tenuous at best, is all but a memory? We would like to dedicate some thought to the implications of Dobbs for the fantastic in all its forms, from horror to fantasy to science fiction.

Some possible topics include: the imbrication of white supremacy and cishetero-patriarchy and representations of this intersection in fiction; the uses and racial (and other) limits of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale; the connections between ecology, reproductive rights, and trans rights as imagined through speculative fiction; questions surrounding "reproductive futurity" (Spivak) in Afrofuturist fiction (e.g. Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild" and Xenogenesis) or Indigenous futurism (e.g., Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God); the intersection of settler colonial domination and the control of Indigenous women's bodies and lands; and feminist and anarchist experiments in alternative reproductive arrangements in New Wave science fiction.

Abstracts can be submitted via the ACLA 2023 portal:

Smaran Dayal, Stevens Institute of Technology
Jesse Cohn, Purdue University Northwest