“Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility” by Alexis Lothian— Imagined Futures

Lothian, Alexis. “Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility”, (Postmillennial Pop), NYU Press, 2018.

Imagined Futures

Amos Lassen

In “Old Futures”, Alexis Lothian looks at the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s and brings together speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media.

We explore the social, political, and cultural forces that “feminists, queer people, and people of color invoke when they dream up alternative futures as a way to imagine transforming the present.” Lothian shows how queer possibilities tend to come out when we practice the art of speculation: of imagining things otherwise than they are and creating stories based on that impulse. With queer theory we get creative ways to think about time, breaking with the straight and narrow paths toward the future that are laid out for the reproductive family, etc. Up until now, it has rarely been thought that, instead of a queer present reshaping the ways we relate to past and future, the futures imagined in the past can lead to queer the present. 

These narratives of possible futures provide frameworks through which we understand our present. The discourse of “the” future has never been a singular one. “Imagined futures have often been central to the creation and maintenance of imperial domination and technological modernity”; Lothian offers a counter history of works that have sought to speculate otherwise. Examining speculative texts from the 1890s to the 2010s, from Samuel R. Delany to Sense8, Lothian looks at the ways in which early feminist utopias and dystopias, Afro-futurist fiction, and queer science fiction media “have insisted that the future can and must deviate from dominant narratives of global annihilation or highly restrictive hopes for redemption.”

Each chapter chronicles some of the means by which the production and destruction of futures both real and imagined takes place: through eugenics, utopia, empire, fascism, dystopia, race, capitalism, femininity, masculinity, and many kinds of queerness, reproduction, and sex. Gathering stories of and by populations who have been marked as futureless or left out by dominant imaginaries, Lothian offers new insights into what we can learn from efforts to imaginatively redistribute the future.

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