MELUS Themed Issue: Black Speculations / Black Futures

Due Date: 11-17-2023

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the blockbuster cinematic world of Wakanda, Black futures proliferate—hypervisible in sci-fi casting, reading lists for liberal audiences, political discourses of anti-racism and their backlash. But imagining Black futures is not, in fact, a new (pre)occupation in Black literature and expressive culture. World-building, utopic and prophetic aesthetic strategies, investments in speculative genres, and fantastic formulations of Black being abound in the history and present of African American literature. This guest-edited issue seeks to engage and trouble the contemporary boom in Black futures while also renarrating the archive of African American literary and cultural expression through its lens.

We invite pieces that elaborate on Black speculation and futurity in African American expressive culture. We seek essays that elaborate on the speculative and its relationship to the history of Black freedom struggles and political thought. Speculation can be engaged broadly as a critical political method, as a key generic mode, or as a mode of political praxis that thinks through, with, and beyond systems of racialized violence and oppression. What visions and versions of Black futures have African American expressive culture charted? How has Black political thought offered us new ways to speculate on African American literary and cultural tradition? How has Black feminist, disabled, and queer expressive culture imagined futures outside normative embodiment and social reproduction? How might the speculative reanimate discussions of key literary periods and social movements, such as the Harlem Renaissance, civil rights movement, and Black Arts Movement? What is the relationship between speculation and the Black Diaspora in terms of literary and cultural production?

Possible topics include
● Speculative fiction and film
● Horror
● Comics and graphic novels
● Finance and racial capitalism
● Feminist, queer, and queer of color futures
● YA fantasy and sci-fi
● Anti-racist self-help books and reading lists
● Apocalypse or dystopian fiction, film, and television
● Social death and Black futures
● Speculation and afterlives of slavery

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words by 17 November 2023 to and Final essays will be due by 15 April 2024. For more information, see this Google Doc.

Please keep in mind that (1) final essays must be 7,000–10,000 words (including notes and works cited), (2) all submissions will go through MELUS’s normal refereeing process, and (3) papers under consideration at other journals or published in any form will not be considered.