Rebecca Jones is a PhD researcher in English at the University of Strathclyde. Her thesis, Consuming Men: Masculinity, Meat and Myth in Literary Fictions from Mary Shelley to Ursula K. Le Guin, uses ecofeminist animal studies to analyse masculinity, species and the meaning of ‘meat’ in literary retellings of the Prometheus myth, from Frankenstein to the present day. She is a freelance workshop facilitator and tutor with a background in feminist activist facilitation and group reading as activist practice. She is the coordinator of the Glasgow Women’s Library Book Group and founder and coordinator of the Feminist Reading Group.
Speculations on Species: Ecofeminist Science Fiction as Academia and Activism
Storytelling is a powerful means both of reflecting the world in which we live, and of suggesting how it might be created in a different image and with alternative agency.
Science fiction, speculative, utopian and dystopian narratives in particular have long proven effective ways of radically reimagining reality, and of amplifying historically unheard and ignored voices, providing a genre space for the silent (human) majority. Since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), the authors of these narratives have conjured with the question of species, helping their readers to interrogate oppression and otherness, and the role of the hegemony and patriarchy in structuring our co-existences.
In the context of growing collective awareness of climate crises and mass extinction, and in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, science fiction has an increasingly important role to play in fictional storytelling as a means both of forewarning, and of helping us to explore, shift perspectives, and think radically and creatively about human relationships with the more-than-human world. Where these narratives are written and/or read through an ecofeminist lens, the interconnections between human and more-than-human oppressions are thrown into sharp relief, rendering the urgent need for connected anti-oppression in both academia and activism ever more visible.
In this paper I offer ecofeminist readings of a selection of science fiction texts from the past 200 years, demonstrating the trajectory of how such texts have both foreshadowed changes in human/more-than-human relations, and suggested possible outcomes of the ongoing evolution of that relationship. This analysis will show the power that science fiction has to help us to unite academia and activism in a positive vision of animal futures in a post-COVID world, and that ‘the limits of current human-animal relations can be transcended by imagining the world otherwise’ (Vint, 2014, p.16).
Vint, S. (2014) Animal Alterity: Science Fiction and the Question of the Animal. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.