1st Edition

Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond Feminist Ecocriticism of Science Fiction

Edited By Douglas A. Vakoch Copyright 2021
    198 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    198 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Caught as we are in a grave climate crisis that seems more irreversible with every passing year, our literary portrayals of the future often feature the dystopian collapse of the world as we know it. Science fiction explores how we got here, while pointing toward a more hopeful path forward. From an ecofeminist perspective, a core cause of our current ecological catastrophe is the patriarchal domination of nature, playing out in parallel with the oppression of women. As an alternative to dystopian futures that seem increasingly inevitable, ecofeminist science fiction helps us conjure utopias that promote environmental sustainability based on more egalitarian human relationships.

    Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond: Feminist Ecocriticism of Science Fiction explores the fictional worlds of such canonical novelists as Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Doris Lessing, and Joan Slonczewski, as well as those of lesser-known science fiction writers, as they collectively probe humanity’s greatest existential threats. Contributors from five continents provide compelling analyses of far future dystopias on Earth that are all too easy to imagine becoming reality if humankind’s current trajectory continues, as well as provocative insights into science fiction utopias set on idyllic planets orbiting distant stars, which offer liberatory alternatives that might someday be actualized in the real world. By examining the links between the destruction of the environment and the domination of women, Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond provides the tools to counteract those intertwined oppressions, helping create a foundation for a truly habitable world.


    "Ecofeminism and Speculative Fiction: A Writer’s Reflection."

    Vandana Singh


    Douglas A. Vakoch


    Patrick D. Murphy

    I. Climate Change and Future Earth Dystopias

    Chapter 1. "An Ecofeminist Reading of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower and Parable of Talents."

    Hatice Övgü Tüzün

    Chapter 2. "An Ecofeminist Treatment of Nourishment and Feeding in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy."

    Debra Wain

    Chapter 3. "Margaret Atwood’s Ecodystopic SF: Approaching Ethics, Gender, and Ecology."

    Izabel F. O. Brandão and Ildney Cavalcanti

    Chapter 4. "Ecofeminist (Post) Ice-Age Ecotopia: Doris Lessing’s ’Mara and Dann’ Books."

    Julia Kuznetski

    Chapter 5. "Ecofeminist Climate Fiction: Merlinda Bobis’s Locust Girl."

    Iris Ralph

    II. Utopias on Earth and Beyond

    Chapter 6. "‘Extinction is Forever’: Ecofeminism and Apocalypse in Louise Lawrence’s Young Adult Short Fiction."

    Michelle Deininger and Gemma Scammell

    Chapter 7. "Ecofeminist Utopian Speculations in Henrietta Augusta Dugdale’s A Few Hours in a Far-Off Age (1883), Catherine Helen Spence’s A Week in the Future (1888), Mary Anne Moore-Bentley’s A Woman of Mars; Or, Australia’s Enfranchised Woman (1901), and Joyce Vincent’s The Celestial Hand: A Sensational Story."

    Nicole Anae

    Chapter 8. "Alien Ecofeminist Societies: Sharers in Joan Slonczewski’s A Door into Ocean."

    Irene Sanz Alonso

    Chapter 9. "Re-reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s SF: The Daoist Yin Principle in Ecofeminist Novels."

    Amy Chan Kit-sze

    Chapter 10. "Keeping Grows; Giving Flows: Reciprocal Relations and the Gift of Always Coming Home."

    Karl Zuelke

    Chapter 11. "‘The Revolt of the Mother’: Romanticizing Nature and Rejecting Science in Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground and Other Feminist Utopias."

    Christy Tidwell


    Douglas A. Vakoch is President of METI, dedicated to Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence and sustaining civilization on multigenerational timescales. As Director of Green Psychotherapy, PC, he helps alleviate environmental distress through ecotherapy. Dr. Vakoch is editor-in-chief of the book series Space and Society, as well as general editor of Ecocritical Theory and Practice. He has explored ecofeminism in six of his other books, including Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature.



    "In an era of planetary crisis, Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond: Feminist Ecocriticism of Science Fiction offers a smart, urgent alternative to our collective downward spiral, not only offering fiery critique of our selfish and self-destructive present but galvanizing, positive visions of ‘what futures we might hope for.’"

    --Gerry Canavan, Associate Professor of English, Marquette University and co-editor of Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction

    "Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond is a timely and welcome contribution to ecofeminist studies in the age of climate change and the Anthropocene, covering an impressive range of anglophone feminist speculative fictions. The spirited contributions provide powerful insights into both dystopian and utopian visions of our past, current, and future trajectories, urgently highlighting the intersection of patriarchal and anthropocentric domination of women and nature. These ecofeminist imaginaries compellingly provide us with much needed glimpses of hope."

    --Dunja M. Mohr, Professor of English, University of Erfurt and author of Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias

    "Ecofeminist writers have long used science fiction as a futuristic and sometimes other-worldly medium through which to imagine and energize social and ecological solutions in this world, the one we inhabit here and now. Doug Vakoch's latest collection encompasses a dazzling array of international scholarly voices, considering the work of eminent and less-well-known women science fiction writers from the 19th century to the present. This book is an exciting and timely contribution to the field of ecocriticism."

    --Scott Slovic, University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Humanities, University of Idaho and author of Seeking Awareness in American Nature Writing

    "With twelve distinctive chapters that explore various ecofeminist dimensions of both dystopic fictional worlds and science fiction utopias of distant planets, this impressive new collection makes us imagine the worst and the best of times here on Earth: a world in environmental turbulence or ecological equilibrium. Only when the oppression of women and the exploitation of the more-than-human environments vanish, is the second option more likely to be our reality."

    --Serpil Oppermann, Professor of Environmental Humanities, Cappadocia University and co-editor of International Perspectives in Feminist Ecocriticism.

    "I highly recommend this collection of insightful studies of imaginative fiction addressing human and nonhuman communities. The feminist perspective helps us envision ways to sustain our global ecosystem beyond the many threats of our present day."

    --Joan Slonczewski, Professor of Biology, Kenyon College and author of A Door into Ocean

    "Dystopias and Utopias on Earth and Beyond presents work by a diverse group of scholars whose analyses together demonstrate how feminist authors have mobilized the genre tools of science fiction both to caution and to hope. Especially at a time like ours—a time of great social and environmental distress—readers will come away from this book with a reinforced appreciation for the critical and creative insight of Octavia E. Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others in the canon of feminist and ecological science fiction. Too, readers will find adroit interpretations of works they have yet to encounter, no doubt inspiring an even deeper recognition of the historical intersections among feminism, environmentalism, and science fiction."

    --Eric C. Otto, Professor of Environmental Humanities, Florida Gulf Coast University and author of Green Speculations: Science Fiction and Transformative Environmentalism

    "Situated within the broad interdisciplinary context of the environmental humanities, Dystopias and Utopias of Earth and Beyond presents an eminently useful addition to ecofeminist studies of science fiction and dystopianism. Featuring contributions from an international cohort of scholars, the collection harnesses the increasing momentum of environmental literary studies at this crucial juncture in the history of the biosphere."

    --John Charles Ryan, Southern Cross University and co-editor of The Green Thread: Dialogues with the Vegetal World