Terraforming: Ecopolitical Transformations and Environmentalism in Science Fiction

BookOpen AccessTerraforming: Ecopolitical Transformations and Environmentalism in Science Fiction

Terraforming: Ecopolitical Transformations and Environmentalism in Science Fiction

Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies, 55


June 1st, 2016


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library.
This book explores the emergence and development of terraforming in science fiction from H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds (1898) to James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar (2009). Terraforming is the process of making other worlds habitable for human life. Its counterpart on Earth – geoengineering – has begun to receive serious consideration as a way to address the effects of climate change. This book asks how science fiction has imagined the ways we shape both our world and other planets and how stories of terraforming reflect on science, society and environmentalism. It traces the growth of the motif of terraforming in stories by such writers as H.G. Wells and Olaf Stapledon in the UK, American pulp science fiction by Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, the counter cultural novels of Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and Ernest Callenbach, and Pamela Sargent’s Venus trilogy, Frederick Turner’s epic poem of terraforming, Genesis, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s acclaimed Mars trilogy. It explores terraforming as a nexus for environmental philosophy, the pastoral, ecology, the Gaia hypothesis, the politics of colonisation and habitation, tradition and memory. This book shows how contemporary environmental awareness and our understanding of climate change is influenced by science fiction, and how terraforming in particular has offered scientists, philosophers, and many other readers a motif to aid in thinking in complex ways about the human impact on planetary environments. Amidst contemporary anxieties about climate change, terraforming offers an important vantage from which to consider the ways humankind shapes and is shaped by their world.

'Terraforming: Ecopolitical Transformations and Environmentalism in Science Fiction is the first study to trace the historical development of environmental science fiction, and it convincingly frames this development within the genre’s representation of planetary adaptation...Pak’s is a very good book.'
Professor Eric Otto, Florida Gulf Coast University

'Pak’s magisterially complete history of the idea of terraforming marks an important milestone in science fiction studies. He rightly sees the terraforming concept as the ideal test-bed for an astonishingly wide range of crucial gedankenexperiments in many fields. His analysis of the social, political, philosophical, spiritual, and moral dilemmas that the terraforming genre offers—humanity’s place in nature only the most obvious--makes this a book of importance far beyond the science fiction community.'
Frederick Turner

'Terraforming is a solid contribution to exploring the global weirding elements of speculative fiction and ecological futures—catastrophic, wonderful, and mundane.'
Andrew Hageman, Paradoxa

'Terraforming is an eminently readable, enjoyable, and a well-informed criticism of selected science-fiction narratives.'
Andrew Rowcroft, The British Society for Literature and Science

'Pak’s volume is indispensable to the study of terraforming stories. Both science fiction scholars and environmental theorists will find in this book a broad history of a complex idea expressed clearly and cogently. Pak explores an impressive number of texts and traces the development of terraforming sf with a deep understanding of its complexities, its social origins, and its philosophical import. This is a timely study that will surely become seminal to future scholars of terraforming stories.'
James Hamby, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts

‘Pak's Terraforming certainly rises to the challenge, making a strong case for ecological science fiction not simply as an important subliterature worthy of attention by English specialists but also as a mode of creative mythopoesis.’
Gerry Canavan, Science Fiction Studies

‘This is an important book and will be essential reading for scholars of ecocriticism and of the development of ideas in SF.’
Anthony Nanson, The BSFA Review

‘Such a wide-ranging examination inevitably runs the risk of becoming unwieldy, or of collapsing under the weight of its own ambitious scope. Pak’s grasp of his material, however, is hugely impressive, and he moves with confidence through the whole of twentieth-century sf.’
Thomas Connolly, SFRA Review

‘Pak’s decades-spanning analysis of terraforming is an impressive work. It finds in sf an opportunity for a“disciplined thought experiment” (Pak 8)—a space for speculations about the future, yes, but also and especially for reflections on the present.’
Benjamin R. DeVries, Fafnir—Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research


Author Information

Chris Pak is Editor-in-Chief of the Science Fiction Research Association's SFRA Review.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Terraforming: Engineering Imaginary Environments11
Shaping Earth and the Solar System13
Sf as Environmental Literature15
A Disciplined Thought Experiment: Landscaping, Sf, and Terraforming18
The Lay of the Land22
1: Landscaping Nature’s Otherness in Pre-1960s Terraforming and Proto-Gaian Stories28
Terraforming as a Site for Environmental Philosophical Reflection29
The War on Nature in Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come and John Russell Fearn’s ‘Earth’s Mausoleum’31
Nature’s Otherness and Terraforming in Stapledon’s Last and First Men and Star Maker38
Deism and Teleology in Stapledon’s Essays of Myth Creation42
Pre-1940s Proto-Gaian Living Worlds48
Proto-Gaian Scientific Romance: M.P. Shiel’s The Purple Cloud and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘When the World Screamed’49
The Pulp Sf Proto-Gaian Cluster55
The Decline of the Living World Motif in 1950s American Pulp Sf63
2: The American Pastoral and the Conquest of Space66
The Garden of the World in Early 1950s Terraforming Stories71
The Burden of Hope in the Garden of the Chattel: 1950s Consensus Dystopias88
Moral Extensionism in Terraforming Stories of the Late 1950s and Early 1960s99
3: Ecology and Environmental Awareness in 1960s–1970s Terraforming Stories108
1960s–1970s Proto-Gaian Living Worlds112
Terragouging: Time and the Forest122
Terraforming in the 1960s–1970s126
Terraforming and Ecopolitics in the Dune Sequence127
The Garden in Dune132
Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress135
Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed138
Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia144
4: Edging Towards an Eco-cosmopolitan Vision147
Building Critical Spaces: Pamela Sargent’s Venus Trilogy153
Domes on Venus: Chronotopes of Enclosure156
The Pastoral in Pamela Sargent’s Venus Trilogy161
Frederick Turner’s Genesis: An Epic Poem169
5: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy178
Gardens on Mars182
‘Stepping Back’184
Visions Reflected Back to Earth192
Closed Life-Support Systems, Soil, and Cybernetics195
Eco-Economics and the Landscape as Mirror199
Science and Nature206
On Martian Myths210
Works Cited233
Primary Works Cited233
Secondary Works Cited237