Carl Death, University of Manchester
This open access article on radically different imagined futures is a contribution to thinking differently about climate change. I intend to use it as part of a class on “climate fiction” within a Masters-level course on Critical Environmental Politics, but it could also be used in courses on cultural politics and political economy, climate culture and petrofiction, African literature, and Black Studies. The article uses the work of Africanfuturist novelist Nnedi Okorafor to show how racialised and gendered climate narratives can be unsettled and re-imagined through literature.
My class on climate fiction is intended to consider the role of the artistic imagination in helping with the critical challenge of imagining the world differently. Challenging mainstream assumptions about economic growth, consumption, nature, activism, reproduction, and so on is often one of the central demands of critical perspectives. This article explores how Africanfuturist fiction can challenge dominant temporalities and subjectivities, with a particular focus on the novel Who Fears Death (2010) and the motifs of change, violence, wilderness and narration. It suggests that by reading fiction as theory it is possible to explore new ways of being and becoming human, in the spirit of artists/theorists such as Frantz Fanon, Sylvia Wynter, Octavia Butler, Achille Mbembe, Donna Haraway, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, and Alexander Weheliye.
The following questions could be used to guide student discussions:
- What role do artistic texts have in either challenging or reinforcing dominant worldviews?
- Do novels and short stories have a different political role or function to academic texts?
- What is the critical potential of dystopian or apocalyptic fiction, compared to more ambiguous or even utopian stories?
- How important are issues of authenticity, plausibility, realism, and diversity in climate fiction?
- What are the silences, gaps and limits of the emerging genre of climate fiction?
Nnedi Okorafor’s TED Talk – The author of Who Fears Death talks about the role of science fiction and African traditions of story-telling.
“When facts fail to convince, storytelling may do the trick” – A piece by Kate Yoder published by Grist, a media organisation “dedicated to telling stories of climate solutions and a just future”, on how feelings and narratives have potential to change minds on climate change.
Burning Worlds – A cli-fi column curated by Amy Brady for the Chicago Review of Books.
The Weight of Light – A free collection of science fiction stories, art, and essays about “solar futures”, edited by Joey Eschrich and Clark A. Miller for Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.
Climate Fiction – a special issue of the global art and politics magazine Guernica containing climate fiction/cli-fi short stories.
Everything Change – Three free collections of climate fiction short stories, published by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative. The pieces won the Initiative’s writing competitions, which are open to writers from around the world.