Graeme Macdonald

The Icpathua Connection – Terminal Landscapes in 21st Century Speculative Fiction

The climate crisis has exposed the contradictions of late Scottish petroculture. Visions of clean transitions and renewable futures are compromised by the refusal to relent on the social and technological infrastructures of high carbon life: from home to fossil frontier. The refusal is driven in part by a powerful energy imaginary consistent with the petromodern age of extractivism. This paper reads selected speculative Scottish fiction – in particular, Michel Faber’s Under the Skin and The Book of Strange New Things – as providing a critique and extrapolation of the unsustainable scenarios projected by late fossil capital. This itself constitutes an ecological regime, subject to messy entanglements between scarcity and surplus. Its refusal of limits affords ongoing ideas of cheap nature amid competing visions of potential restoration: terminal landscapes of depletion and endless accumulation. These figures are traced and registered in speculative fiction, interpreted through the emergent protocols of petrofiction and the environmental lens of the energy humanities. Such work, I argue, offers a means to conceive and debate the – often environmentally fraught – projections of an alternative ‘resource space’ that fictions of decommissioning and post-oil present.

Graeme Macdonald, University of Warwick, UK