Welcome to Speculative Rhetoric.
So, over Christmas break I read this book that I couldn’t get out of my head. It hung around and insisted that I think about, write about it, read it again and again. This book is China Mieville’s most recent novel Embassytown. It has caused me to think about the possibilities of speculative fiction as a genre in new ways.
At the same time as all this thinking and writing was happening (I ended up giving two conference presentations on the novel), I was taking a seminar in Gender and Science Fiction, reading and thinking a lot about what science fiction can do. And I was thinking about a paper I wrote the previous semester for a seminar in critical theory, trying to look at the ways that narrative functions in works of critical theory, trying to figure out where the narrative ends and the theory begins. And the work I was doing on Embassytown had made me wonder about the ability of narrative to work as theory.
So here’s a working hypothesis: (1) Narratives can create theory; rather than using a theory to interpret a literary work, one may create a theory out of a literary work just as easily. (2) Because of the ways that speculative fiction texts are positioned to explicitly deal with competing cultures and ideologies (think every alien encounter story ever), they are also positioned to offer theories of how language and rhetoric operate in these spaces of competition.
So, that’s the project of Speculative Fiction. The List is really an ongoing project, so feel free to offer suggestions.