Call for Papers for a Special Issue on “Decolonial (Re)Visions of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror”

This special issue will address Black Canadian and Indigenous work in/with the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, both genre fiction proper and slipstream fiction. While there has been quite a bit of attention to African American SF and increasingly to the burgeoning of genre fiction on the African continent, and while Indigenous SF has been growing and attracting more attention, there has not been as much attention to the relationships between Indigenous and Black SF in Canada or to the particular ways Canada’s settler colonial past and present inform the ways Black Canadian and Indigenous writers engage with science fiction, fantasy, and horror. How do Black and Indigenous writers respond to the different positions colonialism historically imposed on those who were subjected to alien abduction versus alien invasion? How do these genres re-present histories of slavery, genocide, displacement, and dispossession? While the dynamic between Black and Indigenous histories is at play across the Americas, as Nalo Hopkinson’s work illustrates nicely, we ask whether there is something specific about the Canadian iteration of that hemispheric history. What does it mean to engage in a comparison of Black and Indigenous writing in the genres from this location, the settler-colonial formation called Canada? How else might we think of the relations and relays between blackness and indigeneity in modes other than the comparative? How do the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror attend to the historically triangulated relations among settler, Indigenous, and racialized immigrant peoples, including, for instance, Asian Canadians? What might be different about Asian Canadian engagement with this settler-colonial history? Whether in outer space, an alternate universe, a haunted house, or a mythic time, the worlds built in genre fiction seem to open up and provoke questions of how to both represent and transform the colonial conditions of our shared and still incommensurable world. How do Indigenous and Black Canadian writers working in or with these genres explore the possibilities for alternative kinds of social and political power—in other words, how do they take up the utopian impulses of conventional SF? This is the challenge of finding “new ways of doing things” that Nalo Hopkinson describes as the possibility in science fiction that is taken up by “the colonizee” as a form of critique.

Photo by Cassi Josh on Unsplash

We ask, further, how this comparative focus might allow for a critical engagement with Fredric Jameson’s claim that science fiction returns us to history by representing it as a speculative future, thus helping us to imagine ways past current political impasses. What does an Indigenous / Black novum look like? How do works of Afro- and Indigenous futurism also complicate the temporality of the novum by at times exploring what-could-have-been and what-always-has-been? In writing of recent African science fiction, Matthew Omelsky argues that it engages with a new form of biopolitics that he calls “neuropolitics,” by which he means the extension of power to “the control of memory and thought”; to what extent does Black / Indigenous SF exhibit a similar set of concerns?

Across these speculative, weird, and fantastic modes of storytelling, world-building and theorizing, how do Black and Indigenous authors grappling with the histories and the present of Canada find space to write within, persist within and demand the impossible?

For this special issue, we seek both scholarly essays on these questions and contributions from writers reflecting on their own work in/with these genres. In engaging with the questions outlined above, contributors might address, without feeling constrained by, the following specific themes:

  • Land and colonization
  • Contact and encounter
  • The postcolonial and the decolonial
  • Indigeneity and diaspora; sovereignty and belonging
  • Comparisons between Canadian decolonial and US / diasporic / African / antipodean (re)visions
  • Comparisons between Asian Canadian and Indigenous and/or Black-Canadian SF
  • Contemporary ‘race science,’ scientific studies of ‘race’ and Black / Indigenous SF
  • Speculative / racialized revisionings of gender and sexuality
  • Critical utopias
  • Temporality: how does Indigenous and Black Canadian SF do the ‘future’ differently?
  • Enlightenment critique: scientific rationalism vs. non-European epistemologies
  • Tensions between Indigenous design/technologies and those introduced from without
  • Publishing media for genre fiction
  • Film and graphica
  • Monstrosity
  • Haunting
  • Possession and/or dispossession
  • The different modalities of fantasy, SF, horror
  • The apocalyptic

Special Issue editors: Lou Cornum, Suzette Mayr, and Maureen Moynagh

The deadline for submissions is May 15, 2019. Please consult canlit.ca for instructions on how to submit via Open Journal System. All papers submitted will undergo a formal peer review process through Canadian Literature. Essays should follow current MLA bibliographic format (MLA Handbook, 8th ed.). Word length for articles is 6,500-7,000 words, which includes endnotes and works cited. All correspondence will go through the CanLit office.