Speculative memory, the planetary and genre fiction

Crownshaw, Richard. 2017. Speculative memory, the planetary and genre fiction. Textual Practice, 31(5), pp. 887-910. ISSN 0950-236X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Our new geological epoch of the Anthropocene is characterised by the primacy of humanity’s catastrophic agency in shaping the planet and is evident in the record left behind by that agency’s inscriptions in the Earth’s strata. Recent literary criticism and theory, its sense of temporality and spatiality recalibrated, has sought an interpretive methodology for reading the planetary and the geological in literature. Of particular issue is scale and whether the humanist imaginaries of the literary are sufficiently multi-scalar to apprehend the unfolding Anthropocene. This essay argues that in the emphasis on scale, issues of mediation are overlooked. Turning to genre fiction, particularly that of Paulo Bacigalupi, this essay argues that its future scenarios of climate change, ecological collapse, and near-extinction – a more fully realised Anthropocene – stage cultural memories of the unfolding aetiologies of the conditions imagined in the future but often subject to dissociation in our present. Conceptualising this fiction as the work of speculative memory, this essay finds in such acts of recall a self-reflexiveness as to the mediations of environmental remembrance. That is, in this futural work of cultural memory, the localisation of the planetary particularises the Anthropocene and foregrounds the ways that it is framed.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



Genre fiction, resource scarcity, speculative memory, the Anthropocene, climate change fiction, scale, Paulo Bacigalupi

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


7 December 2016Accepted
14 June 2017Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

10 May 2017 10:38

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2021 15:38

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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