Changing the Voices of Science Fiction: The Progressive Fantastic in Germany
Part of Genre Beyond the Anglosphere panel discussion
Wednesday 22 June 2022, School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square (attendance is free, but booking required)
German science fiction has traditionally been a conservative genre, its main authors to this day mostly white, cis, hetero males of middle age. Until recently, diversity of genders, non-heteronormative sexuality, race or varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or representations of other marginalized groups (age, (dis)ability, etc.) has been sorely missing. But there has been a concerted effort by a younger, more diverse group of writers to change the approach to fantastic literature as a whole. Under the umbrella of the "progressive fantastic," they have called for the inclusion of other identities in speculative fiction, the strengthening of own-voices, and a keen-eyed reexamination of traditions and structures in fantastic texts. In this talk, I want to present the key features of this "progressive fantastic" by looking at exemplary texts of recent German SF production: Judith and Christian Vogts groundbreaking work in writing in a non-heteronormative language and presenting intersectionally diverse communities in Wasteland (2019) and Ace in Space (2020); James Sullivan’s investigation of belonging and self-positioning via Afrofuturist estrangement in Die Stadt der Symbionten (2019), Lena Richter’s subtle emphasis on (dis)abled and neurodivergent characters in her short stories "Feuer" (2020) and "3,78 Lifepoints" (2021), and Theresa Hannig’s reinvigoration of the hopeful narrative strategies of utopia as a genre in Pantopia (2022).
Dr Lars Schmeink is currently Leverhulme Professor of German Studies at the University of Leeds, visiting from his position as Research Fellow at the Europa-Universität Flensburg, where he just applied for funding for a larger research project on science fiction as a form of science communication. Before coming to Leeds, he concluded his work as principal investigator of the federally funded "Science Fiction" subproject for the "FutureWork" network, an interdisciplinary research group working on the development of work and society. In 2010, he inaugurated the first German academic organization dealing with research into the fantastic, the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung, and served as its president for ten years. He is the author of Biopunk Dystopias (2016), and the co-editor of Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (2018), The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (2020), Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture (2022) and New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (2022).
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Featured image by BroneArtUlm under a CC BY license.