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The apocalyptic, pastoral, and urban traditions have fundamentally shaped Western history and influenced American religion, culture, and politics. This book argues that these traditions have not only been decisive in giving form and substance to classic and modern American literature, but have been appropriated by contemporary science fiction. As a loosely connected set of cultural narratives, the Cross, the Plow, and the Skyline have through the medium of science fiction and fantasy provided a bold vista on the future grounded in an emergent ecological imagination.
In the expanded second edition of the original 2001 publication, the author argues that a significant shift has taken place in contemporary Anglo-American science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) from twentieth-century SF/F critically analyzed in the first edition's critical inquiry. Avantgarde works in twenty-first century speculative fiction--extensively examined in representative works in interludes separating the slightly revised original chapters--have become: darker in their visions of the possible future; more focused on slowness over breakneck speed; more amenable to gender, racial, and global diversity in authorship, plot, and subgenre creation; less attached to anchor concepts like the city, wilderness, and the domesticated landscape in plot development; more prone to dystopian and critical dystopian tropes; simultaneously more open toward, but critical of, Young Adult fiction; and more supportive of the breakdown of borders and antagonisms between science fiction and fantasy and SF/F and literary fiction.
Ensconced in the cultural, social, and political zeitgeist of the New Millennium's first two decades, these features of twenty-first century science fiction and fantasy may yet settle into and inform emergent and pluralistic varieties of ecological politics spreading across the globe and confronting the Earth's social and environmental crises of our times and coming decades.