Old and New Worlds in Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels and Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods

By Lois Eastburn

From the holding cell was it possible to see beyond the end of the world and to imagine living and breathing again? 

Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route[1]

It’s after the end of the world. Don’t you know that yet? 

  The Last Angel of History[2]

 

In science fiction writing, the future is both a territory for extraction and a site of resistance. Through what cultural theorists Kodwo Eshun and Mark Fisher have called ‘sf [science fiction] capital’, capitalism extracts value from futurity.[3] The financialisation of the economy is one way that sf capital colonises the future.[4] The hyper-commodities of the Star Wars franchise are another.[5] At the same time, the future of the planet — the future of the human species — is threatened by the rapacious extractivism that capital demands. Further, the futures of the peoples most subjugated and exploited under capitalism have always already been under threat. Kathryn Yusoff writes that the ‘Anthropocene might seem to offer a dystopic future that laments the end of the world, but imperialism and ongoing (settler) colonialisms have been ending worlds as long as they have been in existence’.[6] This dual vision — both proleptic and retrospective — is present in the novels Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998) by Octavia Butler and The Stone Gods (2007) by Jeanette Winterson. Both authors envision futures of the Anthopocene that are discursively (and recursively) engaged with colonial pasts, a conception of the future that finds it is, as Henriette Genkel argues in her anthology Futures and Fictions, ‘already implicated in the different dimensions of time’.[7] Both Butler and Winterson’s texts unsettle the narratives of empire and capital by orienting themselves in the alternative temporalities of speculative fiction.[8] They fiction futures to produce a ‘significant distortion of the present’, something that Samuel Delany considers a central technique of science fiction.[9] Their texts wonder at the possibility of other worlds and other futures, while grappling with the neoliberal fiction that such possibility is already foreclosed, that we are at the ‘end of history’.[10] 

In science fiction writing, the future is both a territory for extraction and a site of resistance.

        In John Akomfrah’s The Last Angel of History, his documentary-cum-science-fiction film about afrofuturism and the entanglements of ‘space, music, and the future’ in late-twentieth century black culture, the time-travelling narrator declares that the:

first touch with science fiction came when Africans began playing drums to cover distance. Water carried the sound of the drums, and sound covered the distance between the Old and the New World.[11] 

Butler, who features in the film, writes from a similar position of awareness that, since the violence and displacement of the Middle Passage, science fiction has been a black technology of resistance, of establishing relationships with the ‘Old and the New World’, and of sense-making beyond the end of the world.

        The trope of travelling to new worlds and leaving behind old ones is a familiar one in both colonial and science fictional discourses; it comprises part of the colonial narrative of ‘discovering’ and ‘civilising’, and at the same time offers the potential to revise and unsettle this narrative. Octavia Butler presses into this tension at the conclusion of her Parable duology, when an elderly Lauren, the protagonist of the novels, watches the take-off of the ‘Earth’s first starship, the Christopher Columbus’.[12] The Christopher Columbus carries, in suspended animation, members of Earthseed, a religion founded and propagated by Lauren. They are to fulfil the religion’s ‘Destiny’: ‘to take root among the stars’, to ‘scatter the Earth’s living essence — human, plant, and animal — to extrasolar worlds’ (Talents, p. 44). This is troubling because it grounds the future, the Destiny, that Butler imagines for the human species, that Lauren hopes for, in the violence of a colonial past. One implication of this is that the project of continuing collective human life on new worlds is unable to eschew the framework of empire that brought Christopher Columbus to the ‘New World’. The trope in science fiction literature of arriving at and colonising ‘new’ worlds (and peoples) is as old as the genre itself. As John Rieder writes in his monograph, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, ‘allusions to colonial history and situations are ubiquitous features of early science fiction motifs and plots.’[13] Lauren ‘object[s] to the name’ and insists that:

this ship is not about a shortcut to riches and empire. It’s not about snatching up slaves and gold and presenting them to some European monarch. […] The name is nothing.  (Talents, p. 388)                                                            

However, the evolution of Earthseed that leads up to this moment is an ambivalent process. The religion evolves from being an alternative, localised model of community, that Lauren cultivates around her as she journeys to and settles at the north of the country, to a quasi-colonial project, for which the only recourse is to take advantage of the financial and technological resources of neoliberalism in order to secure its Destiny. As Lauren earlier predicts, ‘[a] lot of people will find ways to make money from it’ (Talents, p. 343); Earthseed is only successfully disseminated because she enlists the help of a wealthy white couple, the Elfords, who give her access to their monetary resources and influential social network. The price for the fulfilment of Earthseed’s Destiny is a concession to the desires and motives of the ideologies that are built into the economy; such a concession is evident in the naming of the starship.

 Another reading of Earthseed’s voyage to new worlds is that it is a continuation of a story about the human species, one that Butler tells throughout the Parable novels. The flight of the Christopher Columbus resonates with a certain biological-determinist strand in her thinking that views the human species as having evolved needing to dominate to survive, that views survival as competition.[14] One of the Earthseed verses states that people will default to fighting ‘One against one, / Group against group, / For survival, position, power.’[15] Lauren concurs, she believes that there ‘seem to be solid biological reasons why we are the way we are’ (Talents, p. 342). As Jayna Brown writes, ‘[t]he biological exists as the medium through which Butler explores complex relationships of power and ethical ambiguity.’[16] Indeed, although the majority of Butler’s characters are not white, in the world of the Parable novels, oppression and inequality mostly do not occur along the axis of race but are a biologically innate behaviour of the human species. Lauren believes that

[w]hen we have no difficult, long-term purpose to strive toward, we fight each other. We destroy ourselves. (Talents, p. 172)                                                               

This ‘we’ would seem to signify the entire human species, and indeed an important part of Earthseed’s project is to define and redefine what humans can be, against their biological limits. Perhaps unknowingly, Lauren is contributing to a ‘biocentric origin story, anchored to the referent-we of homo oeconomicus [that] has unfolded into discourses of natural scarcity and neo-imperial territorialization’, discourses which the Destiny and the Christopher Columbus are in danger of reproducing.[17]

Jeanette Winterson’s novel, The Stone Gods, also frames interplanetary exploration as a colonial endeavour. There is a refrain paragraph that recurs four times in the novel that lists ‘[t]he new world – El Dorado, Atlantis, the Gold Coast, Newfoundland, Plymouth Rock, Rapanaui, Utopia, Planet Blue’.[18] This list juxtaposes lands both historical and fictional, ‘discovered’ and ‘lost’, as if to elide these distinctions. One interpretation of this is that the past is realised to us through the stories we tell about it, that fiction and history are in dialogue with each other, mutually produce each other. Science fiction has had this dual quality since its emergence: John Reider notes ‘how early science fiction lives and breathes in the atmosphere of colonial history and its discourses, how it reflects or contributes to ideological production of ideas about the shape of history, and how it might, in varying degrees, enact a struggle over humankind’s ability to reshape it.’[19] During the nascency of the British Empire, science fiction functioned as a sense-making exercise around the dramatic epistemological shift that colonialism incited, with its reassigning of boundaries around a new world, of which Europe was not the cultural or ontological centre.[20] Tropes of invasion and colonisation are of frequent concern throughout the entire body of science fiction media, from The War of the Worlds (1898) to Avatar (2009). The Stone Gods, then, has a meta-literary concern with the way that literature acts and has acted as an imaginative ground of cultivation for discourses that valorise or challenge colonial ideologies. References to moments of colonial arrival and settlement are present at all levels of the text, not the least of which is the fact that the protagonist of the novel is called Billie Crusoe, who eventually encounters another character called Friday. The Stone Gods, through its formal arrangement around the repeated trope of groups of humans discovering and settling on new planets, and through its omnipresent reference to Robinson Crusoe (1719), establishes a disconcerting parallel with Defoe’s text, a work, as Edward Said puts it, ‘whose protagonist is the founder of a new world, which he rules and reclaims for Christianity and England’.[21] Robinson Crusoe sees both Friday and the island as savage, uncivilised, and in need of domestication. Billie Crusoe, on a spaceship that represents a techno-capitalist bid for the survival of (some members of) the human species, is therefore rendered an ambivalent traveller by Winterson, her gaze over Planet Blue potentially colonial.

        Fragments of Captain Cook’s diaries make frequent appearances in The Stone Gods. One such fragment launches the reader into the section ‘Easter Island’, again blurring the distinction between historical document and fictional text. This narrative, set on the island of Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) is the fulcrum of The Stone Gods. The protagonist, this time ‘Billy’, is a fictional crew member on Captain Cook’s ship during his brief visit to Rapa Nui, who narrates his experience on the island after being left behind. Winterson’s choice of this particular island is pertinent because, in the context of recent discourse about the Anthropocene, it has been an instrumental case study for eco-pessimists who argue that the history of civilisation is a history of ecocide.[22] The narrative that the natives of Rapa Nui were responsible for the ‘downfall’ of their civilisation, because of their deforestation of the island, was popularised by the writer Jared Diamond, who claims that it is ‘the closest approximation that we have to an ecological disaster unfolding in complete isolation’.[23] Billy appears to confirm this narrative, learning that the ‘Palms that were so tight together that a man must walk sideways to pass through them were felled, one by one by one’ (TSG, p. 132), to enable the construction of statues, the ‘stone gods’.

        However, Winterson encodes an awareness into her text of the fundamental role that colonialism has played in the history of the Anthropocene, an awareness that ecocides and genocides such as the ones on Rapa Nui have unfolded in far from ‘complete isolation’. Further, through the biases of her narrator she demonstrates the centrality of storytelling to discussions such as Diamond’s that profess themselves as natural, or true. The ‘Easter Island’ chapter revolves around two European men, Billy and Spikkers. Their presence in the text and on the island is at all times a testament to the colonial presence on Rapa Nui throughout its history. Drawing on Edward Said’s work on the ‘Orient’, anthropologist Forrest Wade Young argues that ‘Diamond’s answer to the Rapa Nui question, though apparently geographical, is more critically discernable as imaginative’.[24] Diamond entirely omits the crucial role that colonisers played in destroying the island’s ecosystem and abducting and killing the indigenous people of the island.[25] Winterson has Billy voice the eco-pessimist view that ‘Mankind, I hazard, wherever found, Civilised or Savage, cannot keep to any purpose for much length of time, except the purpose of destroying himself’ (TSG, p. 132). He embodies, like Diamond, a ‘racial blindness of the Anthropocene [that is] a willful blindness that permeates its comfortable suppositions and its imaginaries of the planetary’, a blindness that Kathryn Yusoff argues must be challenged.[26] Certain overrepresented narratives about humanness — in this case a racially-blind, eco-pessimist narrative about ‘Mankind’ —  elide others, suggest themselves to be the only viable narrative, and so naturalise the institutions and relationships of colonialism.[27] There are also echoes in Billy’s language of Butler’s rendering of Earthseed as a ‘purpose’ for people to unite around, in spite of their apparently biological propensity for competition and domination.

        Winterson’s situating of this passage of historical fiction within a work of speculative fiction that is mostly proleptic underscores the potentially shared ideology sustained by narrative genres such as Victorian adventure stories and science fiction, and thus the importance of fiction in countering such ideologies. Emily Arvay writes that The Stone Gods is ‘peopled with virtual avatars who are both actors in and authors of an ecocidal fiction of Empire that remains vulnerable to narratological revision.’[28] This vulnerability is found at the seams of the text, with the people who it points to at the margins, such as the Rapa Nui islanders, whose voices are precluded by the voices of Billy and Spikkers, just as the voices of the contemporary indigenous community on Rapa Nui are never acknowledged by Diamond. Winterson, through the naming of her protagonists, their transhistorical position as colonisers, their espousal of narratives that present as given or self-evident, demonstrates a self-reflexivity about just who exactly have been the authors of the ‘ecocidal fiction of Empire’, and who will be the authors of its revision. Through her pressing into the cyclical motif of the past, present, and future all resembling each other, Winterson poses a question to the reader of how we might not only, in Wynter’s phrasing, ‘giv[e] humanness a different future by giving it new past’, but also how we might give humanness a new present by giving it a new future.[29] 

        In Butler’s Parable novels, there is a sense in which certain pasts impose themselves on the present, and invite certain futures. Lauren wonders if ‘[m]aybe Olivar is the future — one face of it.’ (Sower, p. 116) Olivar is a city controlled by a multinational corporation, KSF, ‘Kagimoto, Stamm, Frampton, and Company’, a trope that Lauren dismisses as ‘old hat in science fiction’ (Sower, p. 116). In the world that Lauren inhabits, what was until recently only imaginable in science fiction, is now a present — and future — reality. To another character, Olivar ‘sounds half antebellum revival and half science fiction’ (Sower, p. 115). There is an awareness that in the debt slavery manifested by Olivar and the company towns, ‘[s]omething new is beginning — or perhaps something old and nasty is reviving.’ (Sower, p. 111). The word ‘revival’ is stressed here, suggesting a non-linear temporality. Marlene Allen points out the applicability here of Ralph Ellison’s theory that ‘[f]irst something happens to us [African Americans]; and then, just wait, it happens to every other group in America’.[30] Butler’s comparison of antebellum slavery with this kind of debt bondage reveals how the mechanisms of capital rely on the colonisation of peoples and places. Photis Lysandrou finds that a debt-based economy ‘represents the extension of the commodity principle along the axis of time in the same way that globalisation represents its extension along the axis of geographical space.’[31] Olivar represents the logic of debt taken to its extreme — the complete foreclosure of the future. In other words, Olivar uses the tools of the economy to create the conditions of unfreedom. When Lauren concedes that ‘this is to be different’, that ‘[t]he people of Olivar aren’t frightened, impoverished victims’ (Sower, p. 112), her tone is ironic. She mimics the voices of the white middle class citizens of Olivar who believe that a slick, successful corporation could never resemble something like a slaveowner. After all, ‘[t]here’s nothing safe about slavery’ (Sower, p. 113). The narrative, almost a hype, about Olivar that reaches Lauren’s family frames it as something safe, with its stable jobs and expanded desalination plant, and as a solution to the area’s unsafe geography:

Parts of it sometimes crumble into the ocean, undercut or deeply saturated by salt water. Sea level keeps rising with the warming climate and there is the occasional earthquake.  (Sower, p. 111)                                                                  

Here again is the sense of something old reviving, or persisting. Just as, Kathryn Yusoff writes, the ‘motivation of colonialism was as an extraction project’, with Olivar, the company’s instrumentalisation of debt functions to extract value from the bodies and the futures of its citizen-employees.[32] Butler, then, gives an account of the way that, through its enclosing of bodies and territories as zones for extraction, capitalism colonises the future.

        Butler’s company town, foreshadowed by the company towns in the science fiction that Lauren finds so ‘old hat’, itself foreshadows the company, MORE, in The Stone Gods. MORE controls everything from parking metres to the MOREwhisky that Billie drinks, to the currency, creating an economy entirely out of credit-based consumerism. In Winterson’s dystopic vision, everything is subsumed by the corporation, becomes fodder for it, even one’s identity. Billie recounts that:

[i]n the long past, governments could destroy your papers and rescind your passport. Then they learned how to freeze your assets and steal your cash. Now that we have no cash, just credit accounts, those can be barred, but the tough measure is Identity Closure. Simply, you no longer exist. (TSG, pp. 30-31)

Billie works for its daughter company, MORE-Futures. The deep irony of its name, of course, is that it is the entity responsible for the novel’s techno-capitalist solution to the climate crisis unfolding on Earth: that is, fleeing the planet on a spaceship, to colonise a ‘new world’. Winterson is clear that this option does not open up possibilities for the future but forecloses them. A future on the terms of neoliberal techno-capitalism reproduces the conditions of eco-imperialism that were what jeopardised the possibility of any kind of future to begin with.

        Octavia Butler intended to write four more Parable novels, continuing the narrative of the flight of the Christopher Columbus.[33] Gerry Canavan, a researcher who has studied the archive of Butler’s notebooks in depth, has found ‘dozens upon dozens of false starts for the [subsequent Parable] novel, some petering out after twenty or thirty pages, others after just two or three; this cycle of narrative failure is recorded over hundreds of pages of discarded drafts’.[34] The fact that she was unable to fix the continuation of her novels, unable to determine their futures, despite trying for years and beginning many drafts, is significant. It could indicate internal contradictions in her work, that, as Jayna Brown argues, ‘Butler got stuck in a loop between her convictions about human nature and what radical evolution would look like’.[35] However I would argue that it is not a ‘narrative failure’  but an important and necessary feature of Butler’s narrative that the continuation of Earthseed is unable to be anything but open-ended and plural. The multiplicity of futures that proliferate in Butler’s plans for the progression of her novels is itself a counter-possibility to hegemonic narratives like the origin story of homo oeconomicus and like the future-oriented neoliberal promise of unlimited progress and growth.[36] The future, unwritten — or perhaps multiply-written — Parable texts challenge the idea of a unified, linear temporality that a completed text might invoke. Butler’s ‘sense [was] that she had no story for Trickster [the would-be third novel], only a “situation”’ exploring how a community of humans might find ways to live with each other on a new planet.[37] Another way, then, of understanding Earthseed’s mission of interplanetary exploration and settlement is as a process of indigenisation that occurs without reproducing a colonial framework. The novels resist narrative closure, in order to experiment in telling the story of growing new relationships with and within a new world.

        Indeed, exploring alternative processes of indigenisation is a thread throughout the Parable novels. Lauren grows up in a community that at first has relative stability because of their relationship to the land: they cultivate gardens, they make acorn bread from a recipe in a book of indigenous plant knowledge. The Earthseed community that Lauren founds and that exists for a few years in a state of prosperity is centred around tending to the land, they grow crops that can be eaten or traded, and even grow spiky plants as a form of perimeter fence around the commune. A lot of the language around Earthseed is taken from the language of sowing seeds, planting, growing; the first Earthseed community is called Acorn. Yusoff writes that, against the displacement and dehumanisation of enslavement, ‘planting roots through maroonage and cultivation established kinship with the earth, made in the context of natal alienation’.[38] In the drafts of the subsequent Parable novels, the humans’ acts of planting and growing on their new world, could be ways of establishing connection to the land. This is a connection made in resistance to the displacement and alienation undergone by the passengers of the Christopher Colombus, not just geographically, but also experientially. Lauren believes that:

[o]ur new worlds will remake us as we remake them. And some of the new people who emerge from all this will develop new ways to cope. They’ll have to. That will break the old cycle, even if it’s only to begin a new one, a different one. (Talents, p. 342)

        The Stone Gods also defies narrative closure, albeit perhaps more intentionally — Winterson builds cyclicality into her novel. Its narratological form is recursive: a group of humans arrive at a planet, plunder and hoard its materials to rebuild civilisation, they destabilise its climate and ecosystems, and develop technology that allows the most privileged to then travel to a new planet. More than that, within the novel, texts are constantly disintegrating and recombining themselves: the captain of the spaceship fleeing Earth glues the ‘loose lost pages’ of books from a ‘bookstorm’ (TSG, p. 59) to the walls of the spaceship, fragments of Captain Cook’s journal among them. Billie finds on the Tube a ‘pile of paper’ (TSG, p. 143), which turns out to be the unfinished manuscript of a text called The Stone Gods. This meta-fictional presence of the novel within itself invites the understanding that

[i]t is not a uni-verse — there is more than one reading. The story won’t stop, can’t stop, it goes on telling itself, waiting for an intervention that changes what will happen next. (TSG, p. 83)

 Winterson leaves open the possibility of narratological revision, of intervention and interruption in the fictions that shape the ongoing story of the Anthropocene.

        Imaginative work such as the kind involved in authoring works of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, is integral to liberatory movements and their ability to dream of alternatives. 

Imaginative work such as the kind involved in authoring works of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, is integral to liberatory movements and their ability to dream of alternatives. This is apparent in the way that many community organisers and social justice activists, such as Walida Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, have centred Butler’s fiction in their work. The premise behind their anthology of speculative short stories by other movement organisers, Octavia’s Brood, is that ‘all organizing is science fiction’, that ‘organizers and activists dedicate their lives to creating and envisioning another world, or many other worlds’.[39] This idea acts as a kind of counterforce to what the concept of sf capital highlights: the ‘fictioning aspect of the financial system’ and ‘the crossover from science fiction and the apparent future-oriented and speculative nature of capital itself.’[40] Similarly, as Donna Haraway proposes in her lecture, ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Cthulucene’,

it matters what stories tell stories, it matters what thoughts think thoughts, it matters what worlds world worlds. […] It matters to destabilize worlds of thinking with other worlds of thinking.[41] 

Her use of ‘world’ as a verb rather than a noun is useful for thinking about what Butler and Winterson’s fiction, and speculative fiction more generally, does in terms of work towards liberation. It takes worlding to be a kind of visionary praxis rather than the World as something static, objective, common-sense. These two authors interrogate how the idea of the ‘new world’ is constructed discursively, through both colonial and anti-colonial narratives: they neither solely condemn nor solely rehabilitate it as a concept, but provide experiments in how speculative fiction interferes with those narratives.

Primary Sources

Butler, Octavia E., Parable of the Sower (London: Headline Publishing Group, 2014)

— Parable of the Talents (London: Headline Publishing Group, 2019)

Winterson, Jeanette, The Stone Gods (London: Penguin Books, 2008)

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Arvay, Emily, ‘Ecocide and Empire in Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods’, Green Letters, 24.3 (2020), 277-290

Brown, Jayna, Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021)

Canavan, Gerry, ‘“There’s Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns”: Recovering Octavia E. Butler’s Lost Parables’, Los Angeles Review of Books (2014), <https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/theres-nothing-new-sun-new-suns-recovering-octavia-e-butlers-lost-parables/> [accessed 20 April 2022]

Decker, William Merrill, Geographies of Flight: Phillis Wheatley to Octavia Butler, (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2020)

Delany, Samuel R., Starboard Wine (Pleasantville, NY: Dragon Press, 1984)

Diamond, Jared, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2005)

Eshun, Kodwo, ‘Further Considerations on Afrofuturism’, The New Centennial Review, 3.2 (Summer 2003), 287-302 (p. 290)

Fabre, Geneviève and Robert O’Meally, ‘Introduction’, in Geneviève Fabre and Robert O’Meally, eds, History and Memory in African-American Culture (New York: Oxford, 1994), pp. 3-17

Fisher, Mark, ‘SF Capital’, k-punk (2001), <https://web.archive.org/web/20050417013207/http:/cinestatic.com/trans-mat/Fisher/sfcapital.htm&gt; [accessed 20 April 2022]

Fukuyama, Francis, ‘The End of History?’, The National Interest, 16 (1989), 3–18

Gunkel, Henriette, Ayesha Hameed, and Simon O’Sullivan, eds, Futures and Fictions (London: Repeater Books, 2017)

Haraway, Donna, ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Cthulucene: Staying with the Trouble’, Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (2014), <http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/&gt; [accessed on 20 April 2022]

Hartman, Saidiya, Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007)

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Morrison, Toni, ‘Living Memory: A Meeting with Toni Morrison’, in Paul Gilroy, ed., Small Acts: Thoughts on the Politics of Black Cultures (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1994), pp. 175-182

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Palwick, Susan, ‘Imagining a Sustainable Way of Life An Interview with Octavia Butler’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 6.2 (Summer 1999) 149–158

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— Orientalism, (New York: Vintage Books, 1994)

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[1] Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2007), p. 100.

[2] The Last Angel of History, dir. John Akomfrah (First Run/Icarus Films, 1995).

[3] Kodwo Eshun, ‘Further Considerations on Afrofuturism’, The New Centennial Review, 3.2 (Summer 2003), 287-302 (p. 290); Mark Fisher, ‘SF Capital’, k-punk (2001), <https://web.archive.org/web/20050417013207/http:/cinestatic.com/trans-mat/Fisher/sfcapital.htm&gt; [accessed 20 April 2022].

[4] Photis Lysandrou, ‘The Colonisation of the Future: An Alternative View of Financialisation and its Portents’, Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, 39.4 (2016), 444-472.

[5] Fisher, ‘SF Capital’, para. 7 of 24.

[6] Kathryn Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), p. xiii.

[7] Henriette Gunkel, ‘Futures and Fictions: A Conversation between Henriette Gunkel, Ayesha Hameed and Simon O’Sullivan’, in Futures and Fictions, ed. by Henriette Gunkel, Ayesha Hameed, and Simon O’Sullivan (London: Repeater Books, 2017), pp. 1-20 (p. 2).

[8] I use the terms speculative fiction and science fiction interchangeably throughout this essay. Both Butler’s and Winterson’s texts are science fiction, which I consider to be a sub-genre of speculative fiction.

[9] Samuel R. Delany, Starboard Wine (Pleasantville, NY: Dragon Press, 1984), p. 177.

[10] Francis Fukuyama, ‘The End of History?’, The National Interest, 16 (1989), 3–18.

[11] Akomfrah, The Last Angel of History.

[12] Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents (London: Headline Publishing Group, 2019), p. 388. Further references to this edition, abbreviated as ‘Talents’, are given after quotations in the text.

[13] John Rieder, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), p.3.

[14] Jayna Brown writes about this belief of Butler’s, drawing on her journal entries, in Jayna Brown, Black Utopias: Speculative Life and the Music of Other Worlds (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2021), p. 89.

[15] Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (London: Headline Publishing Group, 2014), p. 97. Further references to this edition, abbreviated as ‘Sower’, are given after quotations in the text.

[16] Brown, Black Utopias, p. 84.

[17] Sylvia Wynter, ‘Unparalleled Catastrophe for Our Species?: Or, to Give Humanness a Different Future: Conversations’, in Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, ed. by Katherine McKittrick (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015), pp. 9-89 (p. 70).

[18] Jeanette Winterson, The Stone Gods (London: Penguin Books, 2008), p. 8, 94, 150, 283. Further references to this edition, abbreviated as ‘TSG’, are given after quotations in the text.

[19] Reider, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, p. 3.

[20] Ibid, pp. 1-33.

[21] Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Knopf, 1993), p. 70. My italics.

[22] Paul Rainbird, ‘A Message for Our Future? The Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Ecodisaster and Pacific Island Environments’, World Archaeology, 33.3 (2002), 436-451; Terry L. Hunt and Carl P. Lipo, ‘Ecological Catastrophe, Collapse, and the Myth of “Ecocide” on Rapa Nui (Easter Island)’, in Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological “Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire, ed. by Patricia A. McAnany and Norman Yoffee (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 21-44.

[23] Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (London: Penguin Books Ltd, 2005), p. 82.

[24] Edward W. Said, Orientalism, (New York: Vintage Books, 1994), p. 5. Cited in Forrest Wade Young, ‘I Hē Koe? Placing Rapa Nui’, The Contemporary Pacific, 24.1 (2012), 1-30 (p. 5).

[25] As outlined in Benny Peiser, ‘From Genocide to Ecocide: The Rape of “Rapa Nui”’, Energy & Environment, 16.3 (2005), 513-539.

[26] Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, p. xiii.

[27] I am drawing upon Sylvia Wynter’s work on the overrepresentation of Man-as-human in Wynter, ‘Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom’.

[28] Emily Arvay, ‘Ecocide and Empire in Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods’, Green Letters, 24.3 (2020), 277-290 (p. 278).

[29] Wynter, ‘Unparalleled Catastrophe for Our Species?’, p. 70.

[30] Ralph Ellison, quoted in ‘Introduction’, in History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. by Geneviève Fabre and Robert O’Meally (New York: Oxford, 1994), pp. 3-17 (p. 4). Cited by Marlene D. Allen, ‘Octavia Butler’s Parable Novels and the “Boomerang” of African American History’, Callaloo, 32.4 (Fall 2009), 1353-1365 (p. 1356).

[31] Lysandrou, ‘The Colonisation of the Future’, p. 1356.

[32] Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, p. 83.

[33] Susan Palwick, ‘Imagining a Sustainable Way of Life An Interview with Octavia Butler’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 6.2 (Summer 1999), 149–158 (p. 157).

[34] Gerry Canavan, ‘“There’s Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns”: Recovering Octavia E. Butler’s Lost Parables’, Los Angeles Review of Books (2014), <https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/theres-nothing-new-sun-new-suns-recovering-octavia-e-butlers-lost-parables/> [accessed 20 April 2022] (para. 7 of 19).

[35] Brown, Black Utopias, p. 89.

[36] Here I draw upon Wynter’s work on the hegemony, or overrepresentation, of certain origin stories in Wynter, ‘Unparalleled Catastrophe for Our Species?’, p. 11.

[37] Canavan, ‘“There’s Nothing New / Under The Sun, / But There Are New Suns”’, para. 7 of 19.

[38] Yusoff, A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, p. 37.

[39] Walidah Imarisha, ‘Introduction’, in Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, ed. by Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown, (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2015), p. 4.

[40] Gunkel, Futures and Fictions, p. 2.

[41] Donna Haraway, ‘Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Cthulucene: Staying with the Trouble’, Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (2014), <http://opentranscripts.org/transcript/anthropocene-capitalocene-chthulucene/&gt; [accessed on 20 April 2022] (para. 6 of 29).

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