Contemplating eco-catastrophe through Spanish science fiction lens

LAWRENCE – The “deep, existential malaise” stemming from fear of impending ecological catastrophe has permeated science fiction around the globe, a University of Kansas professor writes in a new scholarly journal article.

An article in the literary journal Alambique, by Miguel Ángel Albújar-Escuredo, assistant teaching professor in KU’s Department of Spanish & Portuguese, compares the 2018 Spanish-language novel “Fafner,” by Daniel Perez Navarro, to a 2014 English-language novel with a similar theme, “Annihilation,” by Jeff Vandermeer.

Both works, Albújar-Escuredo writes, “propose a different relationship between human beings and the ecosystem in which we live.” He writes that such futurist concepts as “post-human” and “coexistence” with the nonhuman are “byproducts of this new mindset on what it means to be human in a world in perpetual crisis.”

“Fafner” follows the titular “feral” hunter-gatherer through a post-apocalyptic landscape until he encounters and is transformed by a “New Nature.”

The protagonists of Vandermeer’s “Annihilation” are a team of four women exploring strange phenomena associated with “Area X.”

Albújar-Escuredo writes that whereas Vandermeer’s “open purpose is proselytizing his new iteration of ecocriticism” and that his novel “provide(s) humans with some hope of surviving,” Perez Navarro’s novel, “in the end ... reveals itself as an example of nihilistic and pessimistic cosmic horror.”

Albújar-Escuredo sees “profound ideological differences between both novels. ‘Annihilation’ rejects human supremacism, and ‘Fafner’ accepts it as the lesser evil until a greater one comes.”

Both, however, are bleak, the KU researcher concludes, and “offer very somber outcomes to the reader.”

Albújar-Escuredo, who joined the KU faculty in 2019, said he likes using science fiction to teach foreign language students and finds that they respond well to it.

“It can get very political,” he said. “It can lead to huge debate about moral and ethical issues. I think that's also one of the missions of a public university — to try to make your students reflect and think about things that maybe they are not forced to consider in their daily lives.”

Wed, 05/01/2024


Rick Hellman

Media Contacts

Rick Hellman

KU News Service