For Halloween, I’ve written a Checklist for Edge Effects presenting creature features that illustrate key elements of ecohorror. Lots of fun and scary movies to watch!
Horror and science fiction have long featured the return of the prehistoric, the monstrous past coming back to intrude upon the present and thereby shape the future. Jurassic Park is perhaps the most obvious instance of this return of the prehistoric (thanks to human meddling), but the prehistoric also rises up from the depths of the oceans, is triggered by radiation, or is revealed by the events of climate change.
In “How Death Became Natural” (1960), Loren Eiseley describes the human relationship to the geologic and evolutionary past, writing that “we are linked forever to lost beaches whose sands have long since hardened into stone” (164), and speculative narratives about returning prehistoric creatures emphasize this link, bringing the past into our present and possibly into our future. However, Eiseley also writes that there is “[o]ne thing alone life does not appear to do; it never brings back the past” (165). What then does our speculative, fictionalized insistence on bringing back the past say about our present concerns?
This roundtable seeks to explore the significance of such prehistoric returns during the Anthropocene. How are modern, Anthropocenic fears reflected in such prehistoric creatures? What does the return of the prehistoric indicate about our contemporary anxieties about extinction or about the role of the human in the global ecosystem? And, finally, how does this return – typically figured as a threat – potentially shape our steps into the future?
In recent years, there has been increasing attention within both ecocriticism and horror studies to the intersections between the two fields. The country/city split and the civilized person’s fear of the wilderness and rural spaces, key issues for ecocritics, also loom large over the horror genre.
Furthermore, there are entire horror subgenres dedicated to the revenge of wild nature and its denizens upon humanity. As Rust and Soles write, ecohorror studies “assumes that environmental disruption is haunting humanity’s relationship to the non-human world” as well as that ecohorror in some form can be found in all texts grappling with ecocritical matters (509-10).
There have been some critical examinations of this intersection – e.g., Ecogothic, edited by Andrew Smith and William Hughes (2013); an ecohorror special cluster in ISLE, edited by Stephen A. Rust and Carter Soles (2014); Monstrous Nature: Environment and Horror on the Big Screen by Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann (2016); and Plant Horror: Approaches to the Monstrous Vegetal in Fiction and Film, edited by Dawn Keetley and Angela Tenga (2017) – but we feel that it is time for a fuller examination of ecohorror as a genre. To that end, we invite submissions of approximately 6000-7000 words to be included in the first edited collection devoted exclusively to ecohorror. Because our interest is in the genre as a whole, there is no limit on time period or medium; we want this collection to explore the range of ecohorror texts and ideas.
Chapters may consider the following:
- How is human violence against the natural world represented in such texts? Or, vice-versa, how is violence against humanity by the natural world represented? What effect does this violence have on the relationship between human and nonhuman?
- How do ecohorror texts blur human/nonhuman distinctions in order to generate fear, horror, or dread?
- What fears of, about, or for nature are expressed in ecohorror? How do these expressions of fear influence environmental rhetoric and/or action more broadly?
- How are ecohorror texts and tropes used to promote ecological awareness or represent ecological crises?
Submit completed chapters to Christy Tidwell (email@example.com) and Carter Soles (firstname.lastname@example.org) by July 6, 2018. We are requesting submissions of completed chapter drafts (6000-7000 words) to be considered for this project rather than abstracts. Please feel free to reach out with questions and/or ideas before submitting a completed chapter, however; we would be happy to provide feedback or guidance.
Today, my usual co-conspirator (Bridgitte Barclay of Aurora University) and I got our acceptance for ASLE, the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. The conference will be held in Detroit this June and centers on the theme of Rust/Resistance. I am so excited to be going again! ASLE is my scholarly home, where I find the most interesting connections, meet the coolest people, and come away the most excited about new possibilities for scholarship and teaching.
Our roundtable is called “Resistant Discourses and Strategies of Recovery: Exploring Gender and Environment in Science Fiction.” Aside from Bridgitte and myself, it will feature Carter Soles (The College at Brockport, SUNY), Michelle Yates (Columbia College), Stina Attebery (University of California, Riverside), and Tyler Harper (New York University). It will include papers on sf texts ranging from the 1950s to the last year or two, including 1950s creature features (like The Wasp Woman), Soylent Green, WALL-E, the Mad Max franchise, Upstream Color, WALL-E, Her, Ex Machina, and – our lone novel – Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312.
Our paper titles given an even better sense of the roundtable’s specific topics and theoretical concerns:
- “Remixing Reproduction: Queer Intimacy and the Ecology of Sound in Upstream Color” – Stina Attebery
- “Saving Eden: Masculinity, Civilization, and Environmental Nostalgia in Soylent Green and WALL-E” – Michelle Yates
- “Mad Max: Beyond Petroleum?” – Carter Soles
- “‘Either you’re mine or you’re not mine’: Controlling Gender, Nature, and Technology in Her and Ex Machina” – me (Christy Tidwell)
- “(En)gendering Nature in Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2312” – Tyler Harper
- “Camp Resistance: Animal Avatars and Gender Exaggeration in 1950s Creature Features” – Bridgitte Barclay
I’m a particular fan of Carter’s paper title. I agonized over my own, on the other hand, and still don’t love it. Someday I’ll develop a knack for title-writing, I hope.
This should be a fun and productive conversation about gender, environment, and resistance across a range of sf texts. Any readers who may be at ASLE this year should come see us!
Bridgitte Barclay and I are currently working on a book proposal exploring gender in science fiction ecomedia. The following is the call for papers for the project. We hope to receive lots of exciting proposals! Please pass this along to anyone you know who might be interested.
CFP: Gender in Science Fiction Ecomedia
There are many important studies of gender in science fiction and a growing number of studies of environmental science fiction, but these fields rarely come together and are even more rarely specifically applied to science fiction film, television, and other media. We wish to fill this gap and invite contributions exploring gender in science fiction ecomedia. Projects might address the following questions:
- How do gender and environment intersect and/or influence each other in or across science fiction media?
- How do varying media forms influence representations of gender and environment in science fiction? Does television, for instance, provide different opportunities than film? Or video games than either of those? Etc.
- How might examining gender and environment together in non-print media influence ideas about or definitions of science fiction as a genre?
We are open to projects on any non-print science fiction, but we particularly wish to encourage projects exploring new media and forms outside of traditional film and television.
Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words and a brief CV by August 1, 2016, to Christy Tidwell (email@example.com) and/or Bridgitte Barclay (firstname.lastname@example.org). We have been strongly encouraged by the editor of the Ecocritical Theory and Practice series, published by Rowman & Littlefield’s imprint Lexington Books, to submit a proposal. For those asked to contribute, we anticipate completed essays of approximately 15-18 pages will be due by March 1, 2017.