SF & Extraction: Framing LSFRC’s 2021-2022 Theme

Operations at the Yanacocha Mine, Peru. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As our world burns, capital continues to plunder it for more and more material with which to fuel its own destructive growth. ‘Extraction’ entails the removal – usually forcible – of resources both human and inhuman from their home so that they can enter the space of the world market. In so doing, the landscape and nature as such become implicated in human politics across a variety of tangled, exploitative confluences. Extraction is an imperialist, (neo)colonialist practice that has been wreaking havoc on life for over five hundred years, as resources and people are extracted from the Global South and profit accumulated in the Global North. It undergirds capitalism’s model of success-through-progress, occupying and controlling the horizons of past history, present conditions and future possibility. Extraction, then, insists that alternative ways of being-in-the-world do not matter, excluding, exploiting and destroying lives in order to keep the engines of eternal growth burning brightly. For the past two centuries, extraction has built a world petroculture, a global energy system that has caused disastrous damage to the planet’s climate and circumscribed social and cultural imaginaries. It is imperative that we find ways to conceive of futures free of extractive hegemony and the technofix solutions it proposes to the problems it causes.

Sf builds new worlds, sometimes from the same components that constitute our present reality, sometimes with alternative ingredients and values toward more just and equitable ways of being. Its origins as a genre are colonialist and imperial, and its close affinity for the dominant technoculture remains ongoing. In spite of this – or, rather, precisely because of this – sf is uniquely effective as a mode of imagining capable of destabilising the binaristic divisions (nature/culture, first nature/second nature, centre/periphery) that underscore extractive thinking and practice. Sf has often been a genre of technical and personal mastery, but is increasingly a space for vulnerability, inclusion and change, of finding ways out of the historical nightmare that is being forced upon us. This year, LSFRC is interested in thinking with, through and about extraction in all its forms – as extraction of human and animal subjects; appropriation of knowledge and indigenous practices; instrumentalisation of landscapes beneath, upon and beyond the Earth; parasitism; pollution as colonialism; imposed emotional labour; trauma and more – and its relationship with sf both as an extractive form of fiction and as a corrective/counter to extraction. From asteroid mining to dream harvesting, we invite and welcome suggestions of sf texts across all media that explore, unravel and seek to push beyond extraction’s mastery of the past, present and future.

LSFRC would like to thank outgoing director Josephine Taylor for her assistance in assembling the framing of this theme.

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