From Predictive Product to Polyphonic Practices: Techniques of Futuring Beyond Business-as-Usual

In this essay I outline the origins of the feeling that the future has been stolen, by showing that rather than having been taken away, it is more the case that we have been peddled a singular, monolithic future—a future of business-as-usual, both literally and figuratively—whose contradictions have become impossible to ignore. I illustrate this hegemony by reference to the development of positivist models and methods of futurity in the corporate sector; to the traducement of social-scientific approaches to futuring and utopianism, in the academy and beyond; and to the emergence and mainstreaming of environmental issues.

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Procedural Futurism in Climate Change Videogames

Videogames enjoy a privileged relationship with futurity. No other media formats ‘have the same kind of relationship [with] pure, speculative desire that games do’ writes Cameron Kunzelman in Vice. Their affinity with science fiction technologies. Other arguments about the relationship between futurity and videogames argue that something more fundamental is at play, owing specifically to the kind of reversible, branching temporality engendered in videogames. I call this temporality procedural futurism, using a term modelled after Ian Bogost’s notion of procedural rhetoric, to highlight a kind of if/then thinking that is at work in videogames. For Bogost, the constraints and pathways of videogame procedures contain arguments about how the world is, or should, work.

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Archived Futures: Digging In The Crates Of Always

In a recent short story/essay, Anarchic Artificial Intelligence, Louis Chude-Sokei considers the role of memory and history in formulating conceptions of futurity. Through the lens of emerging artificial intelligence (AI), Chude-Sokei illustrates how representations of potential futures remain tethered to our interactions with the past, retaining the power to reproduce and reinforce existing inequalities and power structures. In previous work, Chude-Sokei has drawn on depictions of robots and automata in cultural works to illustrate the gendered and racialized understandings of artificial life within Western conceptions of modernity. Using Caribbean sound cultures as a central reference, he charts the complex inter-relationship between machinic innovation and human power relations, illuminating porous borders between the human and non/in-human. Cultural production, and more specifically the production of sound, is centred as a vital (but not exclusive) sign of both humanity and intelligence. “They communicated in codes so powerful that their masters heard something like intelligence in the music they made” (Chude-Sokei n.pag.).

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‘The Future Starts With An Image’: Wanuri Kahiu’s Pumzi (2009)

Using Wanuri Kahiu’s film Pumzi (2009), I will demonstrate how fiction has become an increasingly important tool for mobilising different political imaginaries beyond the predatory futurist projections of neoliberal capitalism. At a time when many contemporary commentators remain critical of Afrofuturism’s sustained diasporic parochialism (Okorafor “Africanfuturism Defined”; and, “African Science Fiction is Still Alien”), there is good reason to investigate how African filmmakers, such as Kahiu, are producing alternate image-worlds in order to disrupt, reimagine, and reconfigure the confines of what appears possible in the space-time of the future. By thinking in, with, and through the image-world that Kahiu constructs, this paper amplifies the generative capacity of Afrofuturist fiction, that is: the way in which their imagined spatialities mobilise a capacity for alternate modes of being and becoming beyond the parameters of their textual form.

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Aristocratic Realism: Within and Against Feudalism in English Future Fiction

After forty years of neoliberalism, it might be expected that dystopian imaginaries of future Englands would be determined by capitalist realism. If, as Mark Fisher notes, the dominant economic coordinates of actually existing society have ‘colonized the dreaming life of the population’ (8), then the future promises more of the same: commodification, inequality, precarity. However, in this article, I argue that visions of turbocharged neoliberalism in the English context are often accompanied by the rejuvenation of an older, feudal tendency. The peculiar form of gentlemanly capitalism that has developed in England, where the rising bourgeoisie never toppled the old aristocracy, is registered in speculative images of the country’s future. Feudalism and neoliberalism jostle together, each reforming and changing the other.

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Education, a Monstrous Thief of the Future

Long has it been known that the future is cancelled. This doomed fate claimed by Fisher, and indeed others, has only solidified amidst climate crises, right-wing political control, and post-pandemic uncertainty. More and more, it seems that both metaphorically and literally there is no future to come, at least not in the dominant imagination of western politics and culture.1 This is troubling, of course, but not simply because the future has been stolen. It is troubling because something ‘out there’ in the abyss of reality has the agency to steal our futurity. Someone, something, an it, is a thief of time. Temporality has been infected, seized upon and warped; only a monstrous being could do such a thing.

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Lay Down And Rot: Incels and Lost Futures

In this essay, we examine an alternative contemporary narrative of foreclosed futures that is shared by members of the Incel (involuntary celibate) community. Incel is one node in the Manosphere, a loosely affiliated online network of groups who share concerns about men and masculinity. Deeply fatalistic, Incel consists of a community of largely young men who share a belief that all but the most attractive men have no chance of future happiness or romantic love, due to the skewing of “dating markets” in favour of women (Price 247).

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Alluvium Editorial 9.1: Twenty-First Century Irish Women’s Writing

In the first two decades of the twenty-first century, Irish literature has been marked by a seemingly unprecedented proliferation of writing by women. From Sally Rooney’s global domination on bestseller lists to Anna Burns’ Booker Prize win, Irish women’s writing is flourishing within and without the borders of the island. This special issue focusing on twenty-first century Irish women’s writing emerges out of a desire to survey and interrogate this literary fecundity.

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Trauma, Disremembering and Postmemory in Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s “The Fifty Minute Mermaid”

The widely acclaimed contemporary Irish-language poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill first published her long sequence of poems about mermaids as the closing section of her 1998 collection Cead Aighnis. The sequence was later transformed into the bilingual volume, entitled The Fifty Minute Mermaid (2007), with translations by Paul Muldoon, one of Ní Dhomhnaill’s most prolific translators.

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Uncertain Existences: Crime and Identity in Tana French’s “The Witch Elm”

Crime fiction narrates inquests into the past, interrogations of place and memory undertaken in order to construct narratives of history—stories about what took place, who was involved, and why. The protagonist, most frequently a detective, exhumes evidence and analyses it in order to construct a chain of causality that attempts to uncover the truth about the present by re-examining the knowledge of the past. This epistemological orientation of the genre amplifies its ability, as popular literature, to provide cultural reflection.

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From the Ashes: The Celtic Phoenix, Anna Burns’ “Milkman” and Sally Rooney’s “Normal People”

Paul Howard’s 2014 play Breaking Dad did not invent the phrase ‘the Celtic Phoenix’. American writer Dennis Frantsve self-published a thriller novel of the same title in 2004 (Amazon.com); in September 2008, The Irish Independent printed a gossip article entitled “Celtic Phoenix emerges… in lipstick and heels” (Egan); in 2010, a Bulgarian Irish dance troupe launched their website celtic-phoenix.com; and in 2011, Wicklow sculptor Thomas Flynn entitled a bog-oak sculpture “The Celtic Phoenix” (Stafford). “The Celtic Phoenix” was a phrase well-suited to post-crash discourse surrounding Irishness.

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‘Complicating Things with Fancy Footwork’: The Ethics of Difficulty in Anna Burns’ “Milkman”

Since its publication in 2018, critics have noted the many challenges posed by Anna Burns’ Milkman, either celebrating or condemning the award-winning novel for its perceived difficulty. Milkman offers a digressive first-person recounting of a young woman being stalked by an older republican paramilitary during the Northern Irish Troubles. The novel documents shocking instances of political violence and sexual abuse, and its complex prose is immersive and unrelenting: details and observations are piled together, and the narrative pacing risks burying even the most harrowing details in a rush of knotty prose, a risk heightened by the lack of tonal complexity.

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‘At war with her body’: the threat of pregnancy in the novels of Anna Burns

Before Amelia, the protagonist of Anna Burns’ debut novel, No Bones, is raped by her brother and his girlfriend, she is described from the perspective of the latter, who deems her “outrageously, sexually thin,” with the “arm-swinging vigour all six-stone hunger-strikers are very keen on” (123). In 1970s North Belfast, Amelia’s eating disorder is seen as vain compared to the sacrifices of political prisoners. This prioritisation of male suffering reflected in much scholarship on the Troubles. Alan Feldman’s Formations of Violence, for example, analyses the Northern Irish body under state and paramilitary power—imprisoned, beaten, starving or killed—but that body is exclusively male.

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The Pen is Mightier: Narrative power in contemporary Irish women’s writing

The contemporary moment in Irish women’s writing has been recognised as a space of “extraordinary dynamism” for women negotiating the changing landscape of gender in Ireland (Bracken and Harney-Mahajan 3). On the heels of the 2018 repeal of the Eighth Amendment, bodily autonomy and, as pertains to this discussion, narrative autonomy are significantly prevalent in both the public consciousness and contemporary writing. This article is concerned with the way autonomy and power are wielded in the use of narrative, taking as examples Emilie Pine’s personal essay collection, Notes to Self (2018), and Nicole Flattery’s “Abortion, A Love Story” from short story collection Show Them A Good Time (2019).

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Eimear McBride’s “Gob”

Early in her novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (2013), Eimear McBride’s unnamed narrator Girl describes her first pint, “a Guinness for want of not knowing what else,” after moving to Dublin for college (83). She is egged on by a new friend, a chatty type with “big red gums” who is fond of talking about her famous father’s globetrotting. As in the rest of the work, the scene moves back and forth in Girl’s consciousness between thought and speech, the words of one and the words of another.

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‘Where are you from originally’: The cruel optimism of the precarious Irish public sphere in Melatu Uche Okorie’s “Under the Awning”

In “Dual Citizenship” Denise Chaila declares that “there are some people who will spend their whole lives, looking for a definition of home.” Since the citizenship referendum of 2004, many of those born in Ireland are no longer entitled to call the country of their birth their home. Melatu Okorie’s debut collection This Hostel Life (2018) gives voice to this precarious public sphere of contemporary Ireland.

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Alluvium General Call for Papers 2021

We are delighted to share a call for submissions for Alluvium, a partner journal of the British Association of Contemporary Literary Studies. Alluvium is an open access journal featuring short essays of around 2000-3000 words on key issues and emerging trends in 21st century writing and criticism. The journal publishes six issues a year, employing a system of post-publication by the engaged commentariat on the message boards of the journal’s website, enabling vital current ideas to find a rapid readership.

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Alluvium Editorial 9.4

Though not originally intended as such, this issue unites its articles under a thematic umbrella of highlighting underrepresented voices and genres. These articles discuss works of writing that are not widely represented within our received canon, whether such under-representation pertains to the kinds of stories they tell, social groups they foreground, or genres they occupy.

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The ‘Other’ Women of Canada: Is the Canadian Rainbow a Myth?

The question of what it means to be ‘Canadian’ is contextualized in our époque by widespread economic and political globalization, including major migration patterns whose proportions have been unseen in Canada since the turn of the twentieth century. Minority and cultural rights are legally recognized within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988). The question of national identification is not new but has become distinctive and even more pertinent in the context of postmodernity.

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Challenging Cis-Heteronormativity in The Night Brother

Neo-Victorianism features contemporary twentieth- and twenty-first-century depictions of nineteenth-century settings, events, and characters. Specifically, literary and visual works utilise this historical environment (and often, real historical events) to reflect and address contemporary issues. Mark Llewellyn notes how neo-Victorian works often represent “marginalised voices, new histories of sexuality … and other generally ‘different’ versions of the Victorian” (165).

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Imagining Homelessness: Ethnofiction in Marc Augé’s No Fixed Abode and Mahsuda Snaith’s How To Find Home

What place does literary fiction have in addressing homelessness? French anthropologist Marc Augé and British-Bangladeshi writer Mahsuda Snaith prompt this question through their respective texts No Fixed Abode (2011) and How to Find Home (2019). Augé’s novellais about a retired tax inspector called Henri Cariou who sleeps in his car on the streets of Paris. With some savings and intent on maintaining hygiene and respectability, Henri calls himself a “top-of-the-range”, “clean-cut” homeless person initially (Augé 14, 34), but is a “living corpse, waking mummy” (54) before long.

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Neoliberal Façades, Concrete Utopias: The Infrastructure of Weird Fiction

Infrastructures are technologies which facilitate fundamental operations and systems within a society (Cambridge Dictionary n.p.). Infrastructures often appear mundane, with examples including roads, public transport systems and government buildings. However, their pervasiveness, alongside the roles they play in the structuring of everyday existence, make infrastructures political objects. Anand, Gupta, and Appel (2018) describe infrastructures as “social, material, aesthetic, and political formations that are critical both to differentiated experiences of everyday life and to expectations of the future” (3). This understanding informs Infrastructure Studies, a critical field which examines how experience with infrastructure informs the material conditions and political imaginations of citizens.

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