Creature Features & the Environment
A special issue of Science Fiction Film & Television
Edited by Bridgitte Barclay and Christy Tidwell
Creature Features & the Environment, a special issue of Science Fiction Film and Television (SFFTV), seeks essays that engage with creature features as a specific subset of environmental science fiction. Popularized in the mid-20th century as sf/horror, creature features are films with creatures of various sorts attacking, whether awakened from dormancy by radiation, discovered in distant locales, or accidentally created in labs.
While some creature features, like George McCowan’s Frogs (1972), may be intentionally commenting on environmental issues, many are simply ripe for environmental readings. In fact, many creature features mushroomed from midcentury atomic fears but played more on the science-gone-awry aspects than on environmental devastation or human-nonhuman relationships. Analyzing these films with an ecocritical focus may unearth fears of science damaging the natural world, of the natural world as something we do not fully understand, or of the natural world seeking justice for environmental damage.
Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)
Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954)
Additionally, the campiness of many creature features is useful to ecocritical readings and offers alternatives to solemn environmental discourse. Creature features, in fact, illustrate “bad environmentalism,” Nicole Seymour’s term for irreverent texts that provide an alternative to stereotypically sanctimonious environmental narratives. Drawing on Stacy Alaimo’s claim that “if we cannot laugh, we will not desire the revolution” (Exposed 3), Bridgitte Barclay argues in Gender and Environment in Science Fiction that creature features can be “pleasurably resistant texts” for delving into environmental issues with laughter and playful scares (“Female Beasties” 5). After all, while the science, horror, and environmental crises of some creature features may have real-world resonance, one of the stylistic components of the genre is also a great deal of fun – radioactive mollusks, jet-propelled turtles, colossal bunnies, and justice-seeking frog armies. Imagining how creature features can be framed as ecomedia therefore offers us new ways of reckoning with the Anthropocene – as well as the Capitalocene, Plantationocene, and/or Chthulucene.
We seek proposals for articles examining the relationship between creature features and the environment. Proposals engaging with global texts (outside the U.S. and U.K.) and with film and television from outside blockbuster cinema are especially welcome.
Proposed articles may consider the following questions (among others):
- What do creature features contribute to conversations about environmental science fiction as a subgenre?
- What do creature features contribute to conversations about climate change, nonhumans, and/or the Anthropocene?
- What do creature features contribute to conversations about ecomedia?
- How do viewers engage with creature features?
- What social, political, or personal effects might creature features have?
- How are the texts intentionally or unintentionally campy, and how does that campiness engage with or contribute to environmental discourse?
- How does the cultural context of creature feature films impact their engagement with environmental issues?
- How do creature features function as science fiction and as ecohorror?
Please send proposals of approximately 250 words and a brief bio to the special issue editors, Bridgitte Barclay (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Christy Tidwell (email@example.com), by February 17, 2020. Notifications of accepted proposals will be sent in early March, and drafts of selected articles will be due by September 1, 2020.
If you have any questions about the fit of a topic for the special issue, please feel free to contact the special issue editors.