Ecocriticism and Terraforming: Building Critical Spaces

  • CHris Pak University of Liverpool


Science fiction employs a distinctive language to engage speculatively yet critically with our contemporary world. Space, with its discrete planetary bodies and other cosmic objects, functions both as an emblem of science fiction and operates in a more general sense as a space in which to map social, ideological and ontological boundaries between cultures and between humanity and the universe. This is especially evident in narratives of terraforming. They engage with climate change and environmental philosophy and bring these discourses into contact with a postcolonial geopolitics that is reflected upon through the colonisation of other worlds. Science fiction makes use of plausible representations of science to build spaces on separate worlds where these issues can be confronted and alternative socio-political configurations entertained. This dynamic can be seen at the intersections between ecocritical and postcolonial theory in Kim Stanley Robinson's acclaimed Mars trilogy, comprising Red MarsGreen Mars and Blue Mars. In order to highlight the critical spaces put into play and the distinctive contribution science fiction makes to these issues, my point of entry will be the language of science fiction. I examine the megatextual trope of terraforming and the significance of Robinson's development of this motif before analysing specific chronotopes and the values connected to them. I then consider Edward Said's discussion of space and the Other to ask how Robinson's Mars trilogy operates as an exploration of dialogised spaces concerned with imagining socio-economic issues from ecocritical and postcolonial perspectives. First, however, I begin by considering M.M. Bakhtin's concepts of the chronotope and dialogism alongside Damien Broderick's notion of the science fiction megatext.

How to Cite
Pak, CHris. 2010. “Ecocriticism and Terraforming: Building Critical Spaces”. FORUM: University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture & The Arts, no. 10 (June), 1 - 14.