Fafnir 2/2022

Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research 2/2022

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Essi Varis, Hanna-Riikka Roine, Michael Godhe, Elizabeth Oakes & Dennis Wilson Wise
Editorial 2/2022

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Theme Section 1: Speculation Tool Kit

Prefatory

Malka Older
Predictive Fictions and Speculative Futures

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Interview

Essi Varis
Kuinka kirjailija spekuloi?

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Article

Elise Kraatila
World-Building as Grand-Scale Speculation: Planetary, Cosmic and Conceptual Thought Experiments in Emmi Itäranta’s The Moonday Letters

Abstract: Speculative fiction is commonly associated with highly involved artistic world-building. Indeed, speculation itself as an artistic practice often involves creation of detailed, grand-scale imaginary scenarios that come across as worlds the reader is invited to interpret as coherent systems. By analysing such grand-scale speculation in mmi Itäranta’s The Moonday Letters (2020/2022), I demonstrate how such focus on modelling an imaginary world makes the novel a vehicle for various kinds of grand-scale thought experiments ranging from exploration of global ethics and meditations on cosmic order to conceptual reflection on speculative world-building itself as a manner of engaging with reality. This analysis offers a view to world-building in speculative fiction as a means for going beyond the everyday scale of human life, viewing the imaginary world as a heuristic model for interpreting our own reality.

Keywords: speculation, world-building, modelling, scale, Anthropocene

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Comic

Essi Varis
The Skeleton is Already Inside You: A Metaphoric Comic on Speculation

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Theme Section 2: Specfic 2021: Time and History

Prefatory

Michael Godhe
Some Notes on the Conceptions of Time and History in Speculative Fiction

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Articles

Anna Bark Persson
Notes Towards Gritty Fantasy Medievalism, Temporality, and Worldbuilding

Abstract: This article discusses gritty fantasy, a fantasy subgenre, which was established in the early 2000s and has since gained a lot of traction. In previous research, gritty fantasy has often been understood as a deconstructive form of fantasy that draws on the barbaric Middle Ages and subverts fantasy tropes as a reaction against earlier forms of popular fantasy. I examine, rather, the genre’s relation to the medieval and its depictions of power. Drawing on queer temporality and theories on fantasy literature and worldbuilding (Mendlsohn; Roine), I approach gritty fantasy first and foremost as a form of fantasy literature, placing it within the context of speculative fiction and asking what it does as a fantastic literature.

Keywords: gritty fantasy, medievalism, queer temporality, speculative fiction

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Erik Mo Welin
Time Travel, Alternate History, and Chronopolitics in the “The New Wave” of Chinese Science Fiction

Abstract: The focus of this article is a small body of texts within “The New Wave” of Chinese science fiction, which emerged in the 1990s and 2000s. More specifically, I discuss two texts which can be regarded as variations of time travel and alternate history, and which challenge the still hegemonic, unilinear, teleological time of the Chinese nation through time travel and the construction of multiple historical timelines. Through analysing the alternate histories and time travel stories “Watching the Boat at the South Lake Together” and “Shanghai 1938 – a Memory” by contemporary writers Baoshu and Han Song respectively, I explore how fictional texts can challenge the homogenous unidirectional temporality of national teleological time by introducing a contingent temporality into historical metanarratives.

Keywords: alternate history, chronopolitics, Chinese science fiction, time travel, Han Song, Baoshu

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Sarah Lohmann
“Wheels turning in opposite directions”: the Utopian Dynamics of Individual and Collective Temporality in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country

Abstract: Einstein may deem objective temporality an illusion, but temporal relations of self and other still strongly shape our lived experience. I explore how individual and communal temporality function in two apparently “ideal” societies, Anarres in Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974) and Women’s Country in Sheri S. Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country (1988). While both quasi-utopias are founded on long-term egalitarian communality, I argue that anarcho-communist Anarres successfully combines progress-orientation with holistic cyclicity to pursue sustainable inclusivity against the odds while Women’s Country fails to do the same through separatist feminism and performative group identity: it succumbs to the tragic temporal trajectory at its core. However, I ultimately suggest that the novels still serve as complementary testimonials to the utopian potential of sustainably integrative temporality if we consider the utopianism negatively encoded in Gate’s performativity.

Keywords: utopia, feminism, community, individuality, sustainability, temporality, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sheri S. Tepper, The Dispossessed, The Gate to Women’s Country

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Maria Lindgren Leavenworth & Van Leavenworth
Human-Other Entanglements in Speculative Future Arctics

Abstract: Migrating from the periphery into the global consciousness, the vast Arctic is central to discussions about anthropogenic climate change. The spatio-temporal scope of environmental changes poses complexities for scientific and cultural debates but also allows for imaginative responses in fiction. Speculative climate fiction is generated by real-world anxieties and aspirations but imaginatively and productively explores the effects of accelerated change. In this article, we apply Stacy Alaimo’s and Donna Haraway’s theoretical concepts, which assert entanglements between humans and others in the more-than-human environment, in our analyses of Laline Paull’s The Ice, Sam J. Miller’s Blackfish City, and Vicki Jarrett’s Always North, three novels that engage with climate change and its effects in the Arctic. Entanglements find different forms depending on the level of speculation in the works examined, but they all demonstrate the detrimental centrality of the human in past and future paradigms.

Keywords: Arctic, speculative fiction, entanglement, polar bear, more-than-human, climate change

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Articles

Martijn J. Loos
The Story of Intrusion: Time, Life/Death, Affirmation, and Representation in Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” and Jean-Luc Nancy’s L’Intrus

Abstract: Bringing Ted Chiang’s SF novella “Story of Your Life” (1998) into conversation with Jean-Luc Nancy’s autobiographical philosophical text L’Intrus (2002) sheds new light on both of these texts’ central concerns. This enables three arguments: 1) Nancy’s central notion of “intrusion” can be critically expanded by considering Chiang’s simultaneous time perception, 2) this expanded notion can help to reevaluate Nancy’s original sombre conceptualisation of life/death, as instantiated in some scenes of “Story of Your Life”, and 3) “Story of Your Life” is therefore a literary representation of intrusion, something that Nancy believed to be impossible. These three points show how speculative philosophy and science fiction can inform, enhance, and represent each other, going beyond what these fields can do separately.

Keywords: Ted Chiang, Jean-Luc Nancy, time perception, affirmation, representation, posthumanism

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Caylee Tierney & Lisa Fletcher
The Ancient Roots of Children’s Fantasy Fiction: From the Odyssey to Artemis Fowl and The Laws of Magic

Abstract: Critics of fantasy fiction stress that its roots lie in ancient mythology. This article offers a case study that tests the currency of this assumption for children’s fantasy. It investigates how the contemporary subgenre recycles characters and narratives from ancient tales through two series and the Odyssey. We demonstrate striking parallels between the series and the Odyssey and reveal how key features of contemporary children’s fantasy – including quest structures, the character trait of cunning intelligence, and particular patterns in father/child relationships – have their roots in and continue to follow the logic of this fundamental ancient text. The article concludes that reading contemporary children’s fantasy through its classical antecedents reveals the persistence of ancient narratives in the subgenre. Children’s fantasy fiction is not impoverished or limited by its ongoing dependence on ancient tales. Rather, the deeply adaptive sensibility of fantasy is generative of new opportunities for storytelling.

Keywords: Children’s fantasy fiction, popular fiction, Odyssey, ancient mythology, Artemis Fowl, Laws of Magic

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Interview

John Kendall Hawkins
An Interview with Bob Crossley

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Conference Reports

Markus Laukkanen
Conference Report: Finncon 2022 Academic Track

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Amy Bouwer
Conference Report: London Science Fiction Research Community Annual Conference

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Book Reviews

Brent Ryan Bellamy
Book Review: Diverse Futures: Science Fiction and Authors of Color

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Reba K. Dickson
Book Review: Afrofuturism Rising: The Literary Prehistory of a Movement

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Steven Mollmann
Book Review: Star Warriors of the British Raj: Materiality, Mythology and Technology of Indian Science Fiction

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Joel Evans
Book Review: Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21st Century Dystopian Fiction

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John McLoughlin
Book Review: Science Fiction Rebels: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1981 to 1990

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Paul Williams
Book Review: Images of the Anthropocene in Speculative Fiction: Narrating the Future

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Shelby Brewster
Book Review: Stages of Transmutation: Science Fiction, Biology, and Environmental Posthumanism

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C. W. Sullivan III
Book Review: The Metamorphoses of Myth in Fiction since 1960

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Daniel A. Rabuzzi
Book Review: A Sense of Tales Untold: Exploring the Edges of Tolkien’s Literary Canvas

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Adam McLain
Book Review: Remainders of the American Century: Post-Apocalyptic Novels in the Age of US Decline

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Michael Godhe
Book Review: Annorstädes [Elsewhere]

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Call for Papers: Fafnir 2/2023

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