What has speculative fiction to do with environmentalism?
Ecocriticm is one of the fastest growing critical movements in the humanities, having come to encompasses everything from medieval and early modern literature to modernism, postcolonial literature, film and music. Yet popular literature is still relatively unexplored. Several ecocritics (Murphy 2000, Buell 2005), have suggested the relevance of science fiction to environmental concerns but there have been few book-length studies (Baratta 2012, Otto 2012, Canavan and Robinson 2014). Attention has focused on a few favoured authors, principally Margaret Atwood and Kim Stanley Robinson, and, with the exception of J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy has been almost entirely ignored. SF and fantasy, however, have been and continue to be fundamentally concerned with such ecological questions as what makes a world, the self/Other divide, nonhuman subjectivities, pastoralism, urbanism and the negotiation of trauma and crisis. Speculative fiction is the literature of both possibility and difference, making it ideal for ecological debate and extrapolation. This paper will briefly survey existing SF and fantasy ecocriticism and outline the contribution SF and fantasy may make to the environmental humanities though the test cases of China Miéville and Nnedi Okorafor.
Gerard Hynes studied English and History at Trinity College, receiving a BA in English in 2009. In 2014 he received a PhD from Trinity College for a thesis on ideas of creation in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His research and teaching interests focus on the Literature of the Fantastic, whether in contemporary Popular Literature (especially Fantasy and Science Fiction), Children’s Literature or Medieval Literature. He is senior editor of Vexillum: The Undergraduate Journal of Classical and Medieval Studies (www.vexillumjournal.org) and reviews books for Tolkien Studies and Children’s Books Ireland. He has taught modules on J.R.R. Tolkien and Fantasy Literature for the MPhil in Popular Literature and the MPhil in Children’s Literature as well as contributed to the core course of the MPhil in Popular Literature. At undergraduate level he has taught on the courses: Early English Language; Beginnings of English Poetry; Shakespeare: Text, Stage, Screen; and Irish Writing 1890-1945.