Collected things with names like Mother Corn

Native North American speculative fiction and film

Authored by: Joni Adamson

The Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities

Print publication date:  January  2017
Online publication date:  January  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138786745
eBook ISBN: 9781315766355
Adobe ISBN: 9781317660194


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Many environmental humanists, seeking to prepare students for unfolding social and environmental crises, have embraced speculative fiction and film (Pérez-Peña). Margaret Atwood, author of the trilogy of novels MaddAddam (2013), and one of the best recognized authors of the genre, employs speculative fiction because it allows her to address not just climate change but a wide range of global ecological transformations she prefers to call “everything change” (Finn). Atwood playfully imagines genetically altered “bio-beings” living in a plausible near future. All of the biological entities in her novels “already exist, are under construction, or are possible in theory” (see the acknowledgments page for the last book of the trilogy, MaddAddam). Other writers of the genre explore the future of food in densely overpopulated, dystopian worlds. Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966) and its film adaption, Soylent Green (1973), imagine a New York City with forty million people. The wealthy still have access to fresh food, while the poor have never tasted a fruit or vegetable, and live on a green wafer mass-produced by the Soylent Corporation. In the iconic last scene, Charlton Heston, playing a detective investigating corruption in the corporation, learns, to his horror, that the wafer is not made from plankton but from recycled human flesh. Similar anxieties about the future are explored in Paolo Bacigalupi’s speculative fiction The Windup Girl (2009), in which “calorie companies” control the world’s food systems by “genehacking” existing seeds, as their agents comb the planet searching for seeds thought to be extinct. The future of food, as these examples show, plays a central role in much speculative fiction of the last fifty years.

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