|Presenting in the EcoTheory Stream at the 2021 ASLE Virtual Conference (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment)|
The monster embodies both breakdown and emergence. While it is traditionally read as a symptom of collapse and chaos, fulfilling its etymologically prescribed role as a dark omen, I am interested in the alternative root from which these hybrid, changeable creatures emanate. The monster not only evokes the Latin ‘monere,’ giving warnings, but also ‘monstratre;’ to speak with Donna Haraway, monsters ‘de-monstrate.’
In speculative fiction, this future-oriented thrust of the monstrous is often of an ecological nature. Given famous precursors such as Mary Shelley’s monster, whose proposals of a vegan lifestyle in harmony with his fellow creatures receive a rather hostile reception on the part of this human creator, such a re-evaluation has a long tradition, which writers including Larissa Lai or Rita Indiana re-work in the 21st century vein of a bio-punk posthumanism.
My paper proposes that hybrid biopunk bodies offer figurations not only of survival on a toxic and wounded planet, but of human life lived according to the principles of enmeshment and porosity rather than dominance and exploitation. On a narrative level, this points to a pathway beyond the dead-end of the hero-villain patterns which shape conventional science fiction. Yet on a political level, this also raises the possibility of a different kind of future-oriented imagination that is not based on the ‘no-place’ isles of conventional utopia but on the rhizomatic currents running through a ‘dia-topia,’ a literary and ecological space defined by transversal and border crossings.
You can access the video version of my paper here: https://youtu.be/4MDP7EZQ42g
Or read the transcript: