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Speculative Realism and Science Fiction

Brian Willems

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Imagines the end of anthropocentrism through contemporary science fiction and speculative realism

A human-centred approach to the environment is leading to ecological collapse. One of the ways that speculative realism challenges anthropomorphism is by taking non-human things to be as valid objects of investivation as humans, allowing a more responsible and truthful view of the world to take place. Brian Willems uses a range of science fiction literature that questions anthropomorphism both to develop and challenge this philosophical position. He looks at how nonsense and sense exist together in science fiction, the way in which language is not a guarantee of personhood, the role of vision in relation to identity formation, the difference between metamorphosis and modulation, representations of non-human deaths and the function of plasticity within the Anthropocene.

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1. The Zug Effect
2. Divine Paraphrase: Cormac McCarthy
3. Double-Vision: Neil Gaiman
4. Subtraction and Contradiction: China Miéville
5. Tension and Phase: Doris Lessing
6. Animal Death: Paolo Bacigalupi
7. Transcription: Kim Stanley Robinson

About the Author

Brian Willems is Assistant Professor of literature and film at the University of Split, Croatia. He is the author of Hopkins and Heidegger (Continuum, 2009), Facticity, Poverty and Clones: On Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (Atropos Press, 2010) and Shooting the Moon (Zero Books, 2015). He is co-editor of The First Ten Years of English Studies in Split (Split University, 2011).


Speculative Realism and Science Fiction is an exhilarating intellectual adventure. Moving deftly between philosophical and science-fictional modes of speculation, Brian Willems uncovers a landscape of beauty and strangeness, in which we find ourselves lost, and yet touched and moved by the unknown.

- Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor of English, Wayne State University

"Brian Willems’s recent monograph serves as a much-needed addition to studies of both sf and the evolving strand of philosophical thought known as speculative realism."

- Lance Conley, Foundation Vol. 47.2 No. 130, 2018

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