Imagining a De-industrial Future

2017 Short Summer Seminar (registration May 30-June 12)

The purpose of the seminar is to discuss the merits (or otherwise) and messages in the sub-genre of speculative fiction.

Moderator:               Katherine Campbell, ksmithcamp@post.harvard.edu
Day and Time:         Tuesday 10:00 AM- Noon,  August  15, 22
Format:                      Seminar
Location:                   Smith College, Dewey Hall Common

Description:   The genre of speculative fiction is exploding these days. Here we will consider and discuss not the type of science fiction that imagines that technological breakthroughs and intergalactic travel will save us from ourselves, but rather stories that look our current predicament in the face and attempt to imagine humanity’s future within the constraints of what Earth can provide. They run the gamut from amateur construction to well-plotted and well-written, from didactic to pure entertainment, from grim to hopeful.

Some examples (I have not read most of these, and this is far from an exhaustive list):

  • John Michael Greer, Retrotopia (quite hopeful) and Star’s Reach
  • Paolo Bacigalupi, The Water Knife (definitely on the grim end of the spectrum)
  • Dale Pendell, The Great Bay: Chronicles of the Collapse
  • Edgar Pangborn, Davy
  • James Howard Kunstler, A World Made by Hand (series of four novels)
  • Lionel Shriver, The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047
  • A. Glaspy, When the Power Is Gone (first of a series)
  • There is also a quarterly magazine Into the Ruins with short stories and book reviews; four issues have appeared to date (available to loan to participants)

Can these stories help us, at least mentally, prepare ourselves for the future that many of us believe is waiting for our children, if not for ourselves? Do they shed any light on the question of how the future will arrive? Do they offer any glimmer of hope for humanity?

Role of participants:  Share one or more of works of this genre with the group, summarizing the plot(s) and characters sufficiently so that participants can go on to explore and discuss common themes, similarities with other works, etc. The number of books discussed during each session will depend in large part on the number of people who take the seminar.

Resources:  See above.

About the Moderator:  I have moderated two LIR seminars.  I hope this one will be entertaining.

Maximum number of participants:            15 (not counting Emeritus/a.)

Emeritus/a accepted:  Yes.