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Published: 2023-06-03 Updated: 2023-06-16, 10:05

What if...the polar ice melts a little faster?

NEWS Speculative fiction as a form of writing has a long history and often depict a general contemporary issue and its state in the near future. Maria Lindgren Leavenworth, professor of modern English literature, researches how speculative fiction approaches and presents environmental challenges.

Text: Sandra Lundström

– Speculative fiction plays with reality. Based on the premise 'what if...', speculative fiction literature can create alternative versions of reality. In such a world, for example, the polar ice may melt a little faster than predicted in our world, says Maria Lindgren Leavenworth.

Speculative fiction as a form of writing has a long history and often deals with a general contemporary issue and its state in the near future.

– In the nineteenth century, for example, it was believed that the polar ice caps were growing rather than melting, which was reflected in the fiction of the time. Writers in Africa writing climate fiction often imagine a future with more drought, while writers in India imagine a future with more flooding. Speculative fiction as a genre helps to understand contemporary social and cultural issues and debates and can inspire initiative and action in relation to real-life challenges

Changing the image of the Arctic through speculative fiction

In a forthcoming monograph, The Imagined Arctic in Speculative Fiction, Maria examines how Arctic speculative elements work and how the image of the Arctic changes through speculative fiction, from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to the present day. Both traditional representations of the Arctic as empty and alien, and contemporary (and future) images of, among other things, climate change are part of the analysis material.

– The Arctic has moved into our consciousness as a central part of the Earth's machinery. It has always been a productive area for writers' imaginations, but in the 21st century we have seen an increase in interest. Where nineteenth-century writers described forgotten civilisations in an isolated Arctic, today's writers take climate change as the starting point for stories about how the Arctic becomes a last outpost, a place where society collapses or builds up, or where humanity comes to an end or a new beginning.

About Maria Lindgren Leavenworth

Maria Lindgren Leavenworth is a Professor of Modern English Literature at the Department of Language Studies. Her research interests are speculative fiction, travelogues, fan fiction and the Arctic. She mainly teaches literature courses at both undergraduate and advanced level.