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Finalist, 2019 Locus Award for Nonfiction, presented by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation Traverses the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s, interweaving speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media Old Futures explores the social, political, and cultural forces feminists, queer people, and people o Finalist, 2019 Locus Award for Nonfiction, presented by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation Traverses the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s, interweaving speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media Old Futures explores the social, political, and cultural forces 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 emerge when we practice the art of speculation: of imagining things otherwise than they are and creating stories from that impulse. Queer theory offers creative ways to think about time, breaking with straight and narrow paths toward the future laid out for the reproductive family, the law-abiding citizen, and the believer in markets. Yet so far it has rarely considered the possibility that, instead of a queer present reshaping the ways we relate to past and future, the futures imagined in the past can lead us to queer the present. Narratives of possible futures provide frameworks through which we understand our present, but 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; Old Futures offers a counterhistory of works that have sought-with varying degrees of success-to speculate otherwise. Examining speculative texts from the 1890s to the 2010s, from Samuel R. Delany to Sense8, Lothian considers the ways in which early feminist utopias and dystopias, Afrofuturist 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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Finalist, 2019 Locus Award for Nonfiction, presented by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation Traverses the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s, interweaving speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media Old Futures explores the social, political, and cultural forces feminists, queer people, and people o Finalist, 2019 Locus Award for Nonfiction, presented by the Locus Science Fiction Foundation Traverses the history of imagined futures from the 1890s to the 2010s, interweaving speculative visions of gender, race, and sexuality from literature, film, and digital media Old Futures explores the social, political, and cultural forces 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 emerge when we practice the art of speculation: of imagining things otherwise than they are and creating stories from that impulse. Queer theory offers creative ways to think about time, breaking with straight and narrow paths toward the future laid out for the reproductive family, the law-abiding citizen, and the believer in markets. Yet so far it has rarely considered the possibility that, instead of a queer present reshaping the ways we relate to past and future, the futures imagined in the past can lead us to queer the present. Narratives of possible futures provide frameworks through which we understand our present, but 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; Old Futures offers a counterhistory of works that have sought-with varying degrees of success-to speculate otherwise. Examining speculative texts from the 1890s to the 2010s, from Samuel R. Delany to Sense8, Lothian considers the ways in which early feminist utopias and dystopias, Afrofuturist 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.

42 review for Old Futures: Speculative Fiction and Queer Possibility

  1. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    This is a fascinating combination of an extremely academic book and (especially in the final section) an extremely personal book. Lothian (who is a friend of mine) is exploring queer futurity. She draws on a great deal of academic work I don't know, in particular the work of Scott Edelman, whose central thesis appears to be that the heteronormative focus on children as the future is both antithetical to queerness and also guarantees reproduction of the status quo--if we are always theoretically This is a fascinating combination of an extremely academic book and (especially in the final section) an extremely personal book. Lothian (who is a friend of mine) is exploring queer futurity. She draws on a great deal of academic work I don't know, in particular the work of Scott Edelman, whose central thesis appears to be that the heteronormative focus on children as the future is both antithetical to queerness and also guarantees reproduction of the status quo--if we are always theoretically fixing things for our children, and not ourselves, then real change is continually postponed to the next generation and doesn't happen. This leads to Edelman's extraordinarily evocative phrase "the fascism of the baby's face," which Lothian discusses. Another piece that I had to understand to begin with is what she calls "chrononormativity," or the expectation that everyone will fit into the socially accepted senses of time; some scholars have posited that refusing to be (or being unable to be) chrononormative is in itself a form of queerness--I find this fascinating. In this context, Lothian discusses three different kinds of works: some early 20th century feminist futures (Elizabeth Burgoyne Corbett, Charlotte Perkins Gilman), a few late 20th century science fiction and fantasy prose works (Jewelle Gomez, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany), two early 21st century films (Derek Jarman, Lizzie Borden), and then a section on queer "vidding" -- the production of videos which splice together various cuts from one or more film/TV works to music, to tell a different story. Lothian is a vidder herself; in one of the most fascinating sections, she discusses her process of vidding a film to understand it better. "Wormhole" sections between the chapters provide some connective tissue. The prose and language are difficult and demanding, and at the same time, the ideas are vibrant and compelling. I really appreciated her unflinching commitment to the ways in which every work she discusses treats issues of colonialism and racial oppression, and the ways in which the identified queer works may privilege some kinds of queerness over others. She never forgets to look for who is left out, who is marginalized, and who is stereotyped into simplicity, and yet she can appreciate the quality of the works she discusses without prettifying their limitations. This book is not for everyone; you have to either be fascinated with the subject, which I am, or committed to the author, which I also am.

  2. 4 out of 5

    M.

    Very much an academic's book, yet well worth reading if you have the wherewithal for dense intellectual sentence-smithing. The book is structured with spherical chapters and wormholes between them, which I enjoyed given its dwelling in temporality/moments in time. For those of us writing #afrofuturist and #queerscifi, reading this book may feel like a synthesis of the obvious – it speaks to how SF is constructed by our lived experiences and how science fiction can essentially be survivor memoir. Very much an academic's book, yet well worth reading if you have the wherewithal for dense intellectual sentence-smithing. The book is structured with spherical chapters and wormholes between them, which I enjoyed given its dwelling in temporality/moments in time. For those of us writing #afrofuturist and #queerscifi, reading this book may feel like a synthesis of the obvious – it speaks to how SF is constructed by our lived experiences and how science fiction can essentially be survivor memoir. (Let me pause to state the obvious – I am not Black – so please consider my ref of afrofuturism here a nod to those in my networks who are.) I haven't picked up an academic book in a minute now, mostly cause I'm so over the hard linear method required of academic writing. In contrast, I found Old Futures easy to read and furthermore kind of grounding – it made me feel like there was a bit of a history to position myself within as a storyteller. There's a chapter on the nightmarish dystopian fiction and its fixations on reproduction of the species/the category of 'female', by white women writers in the midst of World War I. There's a chapter on Black futurity, afrofuturism, and how the tropes of white supremacist dystopia/utopia lose their meaning & narrative use, given the ways Black people are rendered outside capitalist logic/'human'/subject-object modes of being. There's a chapter that reads heavily from Samuel Delany and other queer fag writings that aren't interested in reproducing heteronormative imperialist futures. There's a chapter on how hollywood/film scifi is so fucking straight white male imperial capitalist and how SF that isn't doesn't have the same access to production. There's a chapter on remixing and vidding culture. There's an epilogue. It's decent. I liked it. There were a lot of readings of texts that I was familiar with, and references to others that I ended up checking out. It's worth mentioning that the author is a white woman – I found the parts on Black futurity well cited, and the author herself positioned in a way that was careful (throughout the whole book actually) to remind the reader this was her mere interpretation/consideration of something she could not be an expert in or source of. There were a feww sentences that I found to be a little presumptive, but overall I took the writing to be an overview/introduction/connection than hijacking or appropriating for non-Black purposes. And yet I write this as a white mixed person so there's that, too. Overall I'm like damn this was a thorough book converging multiple marginalized areas of thought/media production, in a concise and interesting way, even for a mean critical bitch like me. I'm like not bad! Not bad for academia. The bibliography is hearty as shit, if you're looking for recommendations on what to read/watch/listen to. But if you're already dwelling in underground cultural production, you're probably already on to it all. "Old futures stands as a reminder that no matter how dystopian the future seems, somebody somewhere will be trying to remake it. There are always new ways to live in the old future." (With this review I'd like to note that I came across this book in Penn Book Center, which recently announced it's closing at the end of May 2019, much to mine and many other's dismay. I just want to take a moment to vent my anger/grief about closing bookstores, and remember a tweet by Mattilda B Sycamore where she asked what the point of an independent bookstore was if all their titles were the same from place to place? I believe she was on book tour when she tweeted this, and commenting on how all the bookstores she was in essentially carried the same titles from the same monolithic wholesalers, and where were the local authors and really underground shit?? I thought to myself, for a small or volunteer-run business/bookstore, you order from the wholesalers because you don't have the capacity to organize and run an independent system. Shout out to places that do consignment, that have people who work to call underground publishers and local authors and let them know they need more stock – it REALLY just comes down to that. I don't work in a bookstore but a boutique where we carry some books, and honestly, despite all these various presses being out there, these nationally distributed books all ship from the same Ingram/Penguin/Random House monolith. Ever since Metropolarity was a fledgling zine, I've long thought about how to access the motherfuckin means of production and distribution networks. That's how Amazon is able to ship people shit within an hour in dense cities anymore – distribution infrastructure. That's how empires function.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chase

    Alexis Lothian's Old Futures (2018) is a scholarly text that examines feminist utopias and dystopias, Afrofuturist fictions, queer science fiction, and contemporary film to explore how authors have imagined, and continue to imagine, queer futures. Lothian's book is filled with rich examples of future visions from the past to the present, cultural artefacts she calls "old futures". Essentially, she asserts that reflecting upon the racial, gendered, sexual, and class dynamics of these old futures Alexis Lothian's Old Futures (2018) is a scholarly text that examines feminist utopias and dystopias, Afrofuturist fictions, queer science fiction, and contemporary film to explore how authors have imagined, and continue to imagine, queer futures. Lothian's book is filled with rich examples of future visions from the past to the present, cultural artefacts she calls "old futures". Essentially, she asserts that reflecting upon the racial, gendered, sexual, and class dynamics of these old futures can enable us to search for and construct alternative societies and community configurations in the present. Lothian's text is a fine example of queer temporal theory. It remarkably accessible and uniquely engaging. The book is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, speculative fiction fans, and vidders interested in queer theory, literary studies, popular media studies, and utopian studies. Old Futures deserves its critical acclaim (see praise from J. Jack Halberstam and Elizabeth Freeman, for example) by virtue of its attention to detail, its academic rigour, and visions of pasts, presents, and futures. It is well worth the read. Note: I was commissioned to write an academic book review for Fantastika Journal (forthcoming 2019). The above passage is a briefing of the forthcoming review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    Unfortunately, I had to skim through a majority of this book due to time constraints, but I look forward to reading this book more thoroughly when I get the chance. Lothian discusses speculative fiction, focusing on things such as science fiction, Afrofuturism, and vidding. The parts I was able to read (due to my lack of time) I found interesting, engaging, and thoughtful.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Keaton

    since I'm not going back to school in the fall my library access gets cut off (including databases, evil!) so I have to return all the library books I brought back in march and it just hit me that this might be the last new theory book I get to read until a YEAR FROM NOW. I am glad that it was this, though: after months of being too depressed to properly read anything, this really pulled me out of the funk with it's insightful, compassionate analysis. all the parts about feeling the project beco since I'm not going back to school in the fall my library access gets cut off (including databases, evil!) so I have to return all the library books I brought back in march and it just hit me that this might be the last new theory book I get to read until a YEAR FROM NOW. I am glad that it was this, though: after months of being too depressed to properly read anything, this really pulled me out of the funk with it's insightful, compassionate analysis. all the parts about feeling the project become oddly prescient hit about 1000x harder than they would have even two years ago when this was published, but the frameworks and theories this book has given me are the tiniest balm In These Uncertain Times and for that I am grateful.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Chris Marcatili

    Review to come.

  7. 5 out of 5

    L Timmel

  8. 5 out of 5

    A. H. Reaume

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christy

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    Iain

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    candice

  12. 5 out of 5

    Maxine

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    Amelia

  14. 4 out of 5

    Robin H

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kevin McGee

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    Iain

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    Daniel

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andreas Clarence

  19. 4 out of 5

    Martine Gjermundsen Ræstad

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ameenah

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    Ashley Adler

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    Macartney

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    Matthew Hall

  24. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

  25. 5 out of 5

    David

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    Highlyeccentric

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

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    Camille

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liza

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    Dee

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    Meg

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    Cara Craig

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    Nat

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    Stephen Sipila

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    Brad

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    Casey

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    Jennifer Bradshaw

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    Forever_Rising

  39. 5 out of 5

    Eliot Colin

  40. 5 out of 5

    Alve

  41. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

  42. 5 out of 5

    Mike

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