Moving Beyond Survival in Twentieth-Century Canadian Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction 1948-1989

  • Author / Creator
    Kroon, Ariel Petra
  • This thesis examines settler-Canadian post-apocalyptic science fiction (SF) by English-language and Francophone Québécois authors published between 1948 and 1989, in order to investigate how historical settler imaginations of disaster are articulated. This study is in service of several ends: first, to disrupt and interrogate the Canadian literary canon through the study of SF as a legitimate genre with important insights; second, to take a good, hard look at the development of what theorists have called a neoconservative and regressive genre in settler Canada and Québec; and third, to look to the past for strategies to live in an imagined future where worldwide disaster (“apocalypse”) has already transpired. I argue that the visions of the post-apocalyptic future that were prevalent in SF produced in Canada during the latter half of the twentieth century correspond to a singular narrative in SF that is based on and around tropes established by earlier SF and literary writing published in the US.
    In the course of my research, I found that while most of the forty-four texts in this genre adhere to a specifically Canadian settler-colonial and ultimately instrumentalist worldview, there are several texts that demonstrate divergent attitudes and sociopolitical alternatives to dominant cultural imaginings of the methods of survival in the post-apocalypse. I focus my study on these few texts that I argue depart in significant ways from a dominant post-apocalyptic narrative, subverting the genre and taking it to new places. While doing so, I reference and make note of other texts and use them to illustrate my arguments, comparing and contrasting them with the main texts and tropes under discussion. In chapter order, the main theoretical lenses I employed are: 1. Canadian SF theory and environmental criticism, 2. ecofeminism and feminist posthumanism, 3. post-colonial and decolonial thought specifically focusing on Quebec and Indigenous issues, and 4. affect and queer theory.
    This dissertation contributes to excavating and highlighting the colonial survival mindset that colours the stories we tell ourselves, and shines a light on the philosophies underpinning our actions as we move forward into the Anthropocene. It is a project that seeks to build imaginative capacity for writers, critics, theorists, and readers of SF. I argue that these scripts both cleave to and depart from reality, and that dominant settler assumptions based on individualism and garrison mentality as a way to survive crises ignore the crucial role of care and healthy community in encouraging human flourishing in its diverse forms.
    My research shows that, in the post-apocalypse, which more often than not is marked by ongoing crises, people who are able to move beyond disaster survival narratives are the ones that in the end are able to create a life for themselves and others worth living—in non-hierarchical community, in relations of care, and in an acknowledgement of their posthuman entanglement with the non-human world and their environment. My findings from this study are that the imaginary of the post-apocalypse necessarily must incorporate community, connection, and post-anthropocentrism as key facets in order to truly move beyond the fear-driven regressive, exclusionary, and violent impulses of survival. Unsubscribing from the single version of the post-apocalyptic narrative that anticipates the garrison mentality as a necessary corollary of worldwide devastation can allow for a critical appraisal of the present in order to consciously move beyond survival and into the future.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2021
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.