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Reimagining climate futures: reading Annihilation

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Miranda IossifidisORCiD, Dr Lisa Garforth



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


In this paper we explore how reading speculative fiction (SF) can be understood as a generative way to participate in a wider reckoning with the idea, and increasingly, the experience of climate crisis. Focusing on Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel Annihilation as an example of New Weird fiction, we examine how the uncanny atmospheres brought to life by the text, and the affective responses of some of its readers, create new ways of imagining climate futures. SF critics and other cultural commentators have focused on what novels, authors and genres can do to reconfigure cultural narratives of a climate-changed world, and their impact or effect on the imaginations of readers. But they rarely explore empirically how non-professional readers are engaging with speculative climate fiction. Our contribution to assessments of the power of the fictional imagination in the age of the Anthropocene focuses in a detailed and qualitative way on what SF readers can make with SF texts rather than on what texts are said to do to readers. We centre the social and affective experiences of fiction reading and sense-making and foreground how readers discuss the pleasures of fiction that dwells on these themes and affects. Drawing on Verlie’s (2021) work on affective adaptation, we suggest that the medium of SF reading can constitute a rich and generative way that people are learning to understand and live with climate crisis.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Iossifidis M, Garforth L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Geoforum

Year: 2021

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 26/12/2021

Acceptance date: 02/12/2021

Date deposited: 03/12/2021

ISSN (print): 0016-7185

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2021.12.001


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Funder referenceFunder name
AH/M005534/1Arts & Humanities Research Council-AHRC (formerly AHRB)