This book explores the post-apocalyptic novel in American literature from the 1940s to the present as reflections of a growing anxiety about the decline of US hegemony. Post-apocalyptic novels imagine human responses to the aftermath of catastrophe. The shape of the future they imagine is defined by "the remainder," when what is left behind expresses itself in storytelling tropes. Since 1945 the portentous fate of the United States has shifted from the irradiated future of nuclear holocaust to the saltwater wash of global warming. Theorist Brent Ryan Bellamy illuminates the political unconscious of post-apocalyptic writing, drawing on a range of disciplinary fields, including science fiction studies, American studies, energy humanities research, and critical race theory. From George R. Stewart's Earth Abides to N.K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season, Remainders of the American Century describes the tension between a reactionary impulse and the progressive impetus for a new world.
"Bellamy's analysis of post-apocalyptic fiction is insightful and necessary. As apocalyptic rhetoric dominates politics and culture, we must be mindful of what it does—and does not—target for change; as Bellamy expertly shows, both categories demand our attention."—Jason Haslam, author of Gender, Race, and American Science Fiction: Reflections on Fantastic Identities
"This is a gripping and timely history, appropriately narrated in the post-apocalyptic mode, that weaves together the decline of American geopolitical hegemony, the upheavals of the publishing industry, and transformations in post-apocalyptic fiction from 1945 to the 'remaindered' present."—Veronica Hollinger, Editor of Science Fiction Studies
"Conceptualizing post-apocalyptic fiction as a subtractive mode—who is missing, what is salvaged, how remnants are repurposed—this book offers a powerful theorization of how such narratives help us live in the wake of the ongoing apocalypse left by colonialism and capitalism."—Sherryl Vint, author of Biopolitical Futures in Twenty-First Century Speculative Fiction
"Brent Ryan Bellamy weaves a rich and diverse tapestry of fictions, all of which navigate the changing valences of apocalypse, survival, and remainders during the rise and fall of the post-Second World War 'American Century.' Given the global post-apocalyptic reality we all currently inhabit, this is a timely and significant study."—Phillip E. Wegner, author of Invoking Hope: Reading and Theory in Dark Times
"In an era of economic, ecological, and virological catastrophe, Remainders of the American Century provides an urgent, bracing explanation of how the stories we tell about the future reveal the fears and fractures of our anxious present."—Gerry Canavan, author of Octavia E. Butler
About the Author:
Brent Ryan Bellamy (Toronto, ON, CA) is an instructor in the English and cultural studies departments at Trent University and is co-editor of An Ecotopian Lexicon and Materialism and the Critique of Energy. He teaches courses in science fiction, graphic fiction, American literature and culture, and critical worldbuilding. He currently studies narrative, US literature and culture, science fiction, and the cultures of energy.