Black Speculations/Black Futures

deadline for submissions: 
November 17, 2023
full name / name of organization: 

Call for Papers, MELUS Themed Issue:

“Black Speculations / Black Futures”

Guested Edited by Justin L. Mann and Samantha Pinto

Deadline for Abstracts: November 17, 2023 


In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the blockbuster cinematic world of

Wakanda, Black futures proliferate—hypervisible in sci-fi casting, in reading lists for liberal

audiences, in political discourses of anti-racism and their backlash. But imagining Black futures

is not, in fact, a new (pre)occupation in Black literature and expressive culture. World-building,

utopic and prophetic aesthetic strategies, investments in speculative genres, and fantastic

formulations of Black being abound in the history and present of African American literature.

This guest-edited issue seeks to engage and trouble the contemporary boom in Black futures while also renarrating the archive of African American literary and cultural expression through its lens.


We start from the contention that speculation is central to Black literary culture, politics, and

critical thought. Speculative work, usually defined in literary studies as a genre which departs

from reality, challenges long-standing attachments to reading African American literature and

culture as sociological. Contemporary critical work has looked to the generative moment of the

1970s, during which Octavia E. Butler and Samuel Delany transgressed the genre fiction

color-line, as an inaugural epoch for Black speculative writing and cultural production. But

expressive speculation has a long history in Black culture and theorizing, from the invention of

an African American poetic voice by Phillis Wheatley to the fiery visions of a future nation from

David Walker’s Appeal to Pauline Hopkins’ proto-Wakanda in 1902’s Of One Blood. In both

expressive culture and critical theorization, Black futurity is and has been an important vector for

realizing the historic and present conditions of Black life. Rather than see Black literary and

cultural speculations as dispositive of a set of worldly conditions, we aim to understand the

manifold worlds such speculations incline us towards. The figures and works mentioned above,

and the countless others who participate in and produce such imaginings, invite us, through

speculation, to reframe the possibilities of the Black future.


We invite pieces that elaborate on Black speculation and futurity in African American expressive

culture. We seek essays that elaborate on the speculative and its relationship to the history of

Black freedom struggles and political thought. Speculation can be engaged broadly as a critical

political method, as a key generic mode, and/or as a mode of political praxis that thinks through,

with, and beyond systems of racialized violence and oppression. What visions and versions of

Black futures have African American expressive culture charted? How has Black political thought offered us new ways to speculate on African American literary and cultural tradition? How has Black feminist, disabled, and queer expressive culture imagined futures outside of normative embodiment and social reproduction? How might the speculative reanimate discussions of key literary periods and social movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights, and Black Arts? What is the relationship between speculation and the Black Diaspora in terms of literary and cultural production?


Possible topics (including, but not limited to):

● Speculative fiction and film

● Horror

● Comics/graphic novels

● Finance and racial Capitalism

● Feminist, Queer, and Queer of Color futures

● YA fantasy and sci-fi

● Anti-racist self-help books/reading lists

● Apocalypse/Dystopian fiction, film, & television

● Social Death and Black Futures

● Speculation and Afterlives of Slavery


Please send us abstracts of no more than 500 words by November 17, 2023 via email to and Final essays will be due by April 15, 2024. 


Please keep in mind that (1) final essays must be 7,000 to 10,000 words (including notes and works cited), (2) all submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process, and (3) papers under consideration at other journals or published in any form will not be considered.