Speculative Souths
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Review Begins: 
Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Speculative Souths

Ed. Amy Clukey, Erich Nunn, & Jon Smith

Edited Collection CFP

In the early years of science fiction, space frequently figured as the American West writ large—the final frontier. In the genre’s darker, grittier reboot era, however, it often looks more like the final plantation, from Blade Runner’s updated slavecatchers to the transnationally and transtemporally exploited Appalachians of William Gibson’s The Peripheral to Atlanta architect John Portman’s abstracted plantation-house columns looming over the Hunger Games films.  And even as some white writers, in the twilight of American empire, set their dystopian survivalist fantasies in the region (The Road, The Walking Dead), self-consciously “southern” varieties of Afrofuturism and speculative blackness, ranging from OutKast to novels such as Kiese Laymon’s Long Division and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing, represent it as a site of vibrant black futurity contesting and sometimes transcending both the nation’s plantation past and its carceral present. Meanwhile, cli-fi and ecofiction set in the South, from Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior to Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, is on the rise as the region’s coasts begin to sink. 

This collection seeks to make sense of these and other“southern turns” in speculative fiction, broadly defined across multiple media and subgenres, and of earlier southern turns that, because they didn’t fit with dominant models, earlier scholarship may have missed or misread. What happens when speculative fiction goes from western to southern, for example, and/or when our understanding of “the South” shifts its gaze from past to future? How does the speculative allow writers to conceive of the South in ways that transcend the black/white binary that has long shaped how the region is imagined?

Send abstracts by January 1st, 2019 to Amy.Clukey@gmail.com. Final papers of 4000-5000 words will be due by January 1st, 2020.

Possible topics might include

  • Southern Afrofuturisms in literature and music from Sun Ra to Outkast and beyond

  • Speculative Souths in comic and graphic narratives: Swamp Thing, Black Panther, Bitch Planet, Kindred

  • Nineteenth-century literature and speculative Souths: Edgar Allan Poe and lesser known southern innovators/imitators of the genre

  • Southern iconographies that serve as sci-fi prop, backdrop, mood enhancers: architect John Portman

  •  Southern retro-futurism, futurity, and future’s futures

  • Transnational, transtemporal, weird, queer, fantastic, or dystopian speculative Appalachias: The Hunger Games, The Peripheral

  • The South and the (Old and/or New) Weird (e.g., Southern Reach)

  • The presence or weird absence of “the South” in theorizations of science fiction, such as the work of Darko Suvin or North Carolinian Fredric Jameson

  • Octavia Butler and the South, beyond Kindred

  •  Speculative fictions (e.g., Laymon’s Long Division) as counter-politics

  •  Alt-histories: Henry Turtledove’s white nationalist rehashes of the Civil War, more recent treatments like Omar El Akkad’s American War

  •  Cli-fi of or in the South

  •  Speculative poetry of or in the South

  •  Voodoo/hoodoo fantasy

  •  Time-traveling revisions of southern temporalities from Kiese Laymon’s Long Division to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series

  •  Native southern speculative reclamations of space and time

  •  Even more Undead Souths

  •  Speculative southern modernisms

  • NASA’s ties to Southern cultures or locales (Huntsville, Houston, Cape Canaveral)

  •  Southerners in space (e.g., Edgar Rice Burroughs’s A Princess of Mars)

  • The construct of U.S./Global/Planetary “Souths” on Mars, Venus, and beyond (such as the appearance of the Jim Crow South in golden age SF like Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein’s work, or the icy southern polar settlements of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, the agricultural terrains of The Expanse)

  • Treatments of plantation agriculture, slavery, and incarceration in space

  •  Speculative southern camp in 60s and 70s sci-fi television

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