Papers, SFF

The Impoverished Landscape

I have a new paper out! My first 2023 paper, and it’s called “The Impoverished Landscape: Navigating Absence and Ecological Resilience in Speculative Fiction.” You can find it in issue 33 of Hélice: Critical Thinking on Speculative Fiction, which is a special issue on speculative landscapes.

I focus on two texts in the paper: Locust Girl: A Lovesong by Merlinda Bobis, and Sweet Fruit, Sour Land by Rebecca Ley. Both books are set in what are increasingly impoverished landscapes, as ongoing biodiversity loss produces an environment that is ever more difficult for humans to survive in. As texts, they are both extremely different. Sweet Fruit is a dystopian realistic piece set in the near-future UK, whereas Locust Girl is a dreamy, magical realist fantasy that is no country in particular, being set in an ambiguous and unrecognisable location that is mostly wasteland. They both, however, engage with landscape in complex and interesting ways, and it’s often interesting to approach the same element from very different directions.

Impoverished landscapes like these often can’t provide sufficient resources for the people living in them to have sustainable and reliable food supplies, for instance. The distribution and allocation of these resources is controlled in unfair and exploitative ways, and the landscapes are often associated, therefore, with deprivation. My paper argues that they can also be interpreted as sites of resistance, and of re-imagined relationships between the human and the non-human.

If you’re not very interested in the paper, or in academic writing, please consider reading the books. They’re fantastic!