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Futuristic Worlds in Australian Aboriginal Fiction


Iva Polak

This is the first study that brings together the theory of the fantastic with the vibrant corpus of Australian Aboriginal fiction on futurities. Selected works by Ellen van Neerven, Sam Watson, Archie Weller, Eric Willmot and Alexis Wright are analysed as fictional prose texts that construct alternative future worlds. They offer a distinctive contribution to the relatively new field of non-mainstream science fiction that has entered the critical domain of late, often under the title of postcolonial science fiction. The structures of these alternative worlds reveal a relationship – sometimes straightforward, sometimes more complex – with the established paradigms of the genre. The novelty of their stories comes from the authors’ cultural memory and experience of having survived the «end of the world» brought about by colonisation. Their answers to our futurity contain different novums that debunk the myth of progress in order to raise the issue of a future without a human face.


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This study brings together the huge and versatile corpus of the theory of the fantastic on the one hand, and the growingly vibrant corpus of futurity- expressing Australian Aboriginal1 fiction on the other. Its primary interest is to discuss those Aboriginal works that boldly embark on the construction of futuristic worlds, and offer a distinctive contribution to a relatively recent field of the non-mainstream, in particular native writers’ science fiction, a field that has only entered the critical domain in the twenty-first century, often under the title of postcolonial science fiction. This is indeed an off-the- beaten-track journey, since no book-length study simultaneously evoking science fiction and Aboriginal fiction has yet been published. This is why this study starts with wider problems, which are gradually narrowed down to explore selected fictional prose works by Eric Willmot, Sam Watson, Archie Weller, Alexis Wright and Ellen van Neerven. The introductory chapter is divided into three subheadings to intro- duce the complexities accompanying Aboriginal fiction and science fiction. Since the emphasis is on the general reception of literary works, Gérard Genette’s “epitext” used in the three subheadings denotes everything outside the book. The first section of the introduction, “The Australian Non-Aboriginal Fantastic and its Epitext: A Short Survey”, focuses on the general ambiguity of discussing Australian literary works that depart 1 The term “Australian Aboriginal” or “Aboriginal” is used here to indicate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The term “Indigenous Australian” is not used, to avoid the greater of two evils...

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