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Visionary Futures: Exploring Utopia in Queer Speculative Fiction (2022-)

Pauline Westerbarkey, Research Area 3: "Future Perfect"
Doctoral Research Project

Speculative fiction is often called escapist, as if that somehow diminished its value. But escaping the set ways in which we usually construct, read, and think about this world has a very useful subversive potential: it can allow us to think differently, to question, critique, resist and revise divisive and normative discourses, and to imagine alternative ways of living together outside of capitalist, cisheteropatriarchal, and colonialist power structures and temporalities. Queer speculative fiction can portray worlds in which queer people are embraced as the heroes of the story and welcomed members of their communities in hopeful alternative universes that don’t have to adhere to realpolitik’s averseness to societal change. It thereby offers hope, and important counternarratives to queer fatalism and antiutopian thought.

This project focuses on radical, visionary, and utopian forms in queer speculative fiction. It specifically looks at anglophone short stories published in multi-author thematized queer speculative fiction anthologies since 2015. Bringing together genre conventions, utopian aesthetics, short story studies and queer theory, I analyze the politics and aesthetics of utopia constructed in these stories and how they multiply possibilities and potentialities of queerness. I argue that queer speculative fiction breaks with the straight time of reproductive futurity and suggests new ways of creating and performing queer utopia and utopia as a queer practice.

The project is part of Research Area 3 "Future Perfect" and explores how literature imagines and participates in diverse and multiple temporalities.