I am thrilled to announce that I have signed another contract with McFarland for a companion collection to Essays on Memory in Popular Culture, this one focusing just on the way memory works in post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories. The tentative title is Recovering What We’ve Lost: Essays on Memory in Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Tales. See the below for details and please consider submitting an abstract, or sharing the CFP with anyone you know who might be interested.
Upcoming collection on memory in post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories, under contract with McFarland and Company, seeks proposals for academic essays on the complex role of rhetorical and social memory in science fiction/fantasy, fandom, and online gaming. Abstracts due 1/5/15 with final essays due 6/1/15.
For the upcoming collection Recovering What We’ve Lost: Essays on Memory in Post-Apocalyptic and Dystopian Tales, I am seeking abstracts for essays to be included in a collection designed to blend the classical rhetorical concepts of memory with more post-modern approaches to the notion of social and public memory as a lens for examining stories set in post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian settings across many media. Essays analyzing films, television shows, online games, and graphic novels are being requested along with those focusing on traditional print fiction.
This collection looks to directly connect two overlapping cultural trends of the early 21st century: the popularity of post-apocalyptic/dystopian speculative fiction and concerns over the ways we remember and memorialize the world around us. Fears regarding the “outsourcing” of memory in the 21st century (to smartphones and other digital devices) are echoes of past panics about loss of memory (such as Plato’s famous complaint about writing). But the current panic is as ahistorical as the previous ones in that much of recorded history relies on memory objects that foster and celebrate shared cultural memories. These might be the ballads of old heroes and monsters or the monuments commemorating great battles or simply a family Bible keeping track of the generations. The power of such memory objects is one reason that post-apocalyptic and dystopian tales resonate so strongly across the generations.
As genre and cultural studies scholars have argued before, the post-apocalyptic and dystopian strains of speculative fiction more often than not carry a message of hope. This optimism takes several forms such as recovery of freedom/civilization, resilience of the survivors to carry on, and successful prevention of the dystopia on the part of readers. David Brin has called this tendency the “self-preventing prophecy” and while not all tales in this category fit that mold, many do.
A key part of that recovery and resilience is the collective social memory of the characters within the story. At times, the history has been lost and must be reconstructed (see Canticle for Leibowitz) while other stories focus on the characters’ attempts in the immediate aftermath to preserve the cultural memory (as in the show Falling Skies). Much of the power of post-apocalyptic stories lies in the ruins of the familiar: the decaying monuments in Logan’s Run, the traces of familiar English in the dialects of Canticle, the brief mention of the “ancient” form of self-governance known as democracy in Mockingjay. Meanwhile, the power of the state, or other controlling entity, in dystopian tales very often relies on their ability to control information not only about the present, but especially about the past as well.
I am particularly interested in receiving abstracts for essays by and about texts from under-represented groups across the spectrum and the globe. In addition, graduate students and junior faculty are especially encouraged to submit abstracts. Anticipated themes of this collection include, but are not limited to,
- Ancient Memory: Allusions to Shared Myths and Legends
- Memories of Domestic Life: Hearth and Home
- Memorials and Landmarks: Visual Symbols of Loss
- Stolen, not Lost: Authoritarian Control over Information and Memory
- Entertainments of the Past (Music, Novels, Theater)
- The immediate past (such as V for Vendetta) compared to long-lost past (such as Hunger Games and Canticle)
While the underlying premise of this collection is rhetorically based, interdisciplinary approaches are most desirable. In particular, my goal is to collect perspectives that cover the intersection of contemporary interpretations and explorations of the ancient rhetorical canon of memory, narrative theory, and cultural studies. Please also keep in mind, however, that the primary audience includes both fans and academics so the approach should be accessible to interested, but not expert, readers.
Abstracts (250-500 words) proposing essays of 5-7,000 words each will be accepted until January 5, 2015, with completed essays due June 2015. Please send the abstracts as attached Word files to Heather Urbanski at memoryinsf_book @ icloud.com.