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Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe

The word ‘utopia’ was famously coined by Thomas More in 1516. However, ideas of utopia have been common throughout literature and philosophy ever since ancient times.

Throughout history, there has been a continuing tension about the ideal utopian society: the domination of nature on one hand, and the desire for reconciliation on the other. By the middle decades of the twentieth century both versions of utopia had fallen into disrepute, displaced by ‘science’ on the political left or by ‘dystopia’ on the political right. From the 1960s, utopian politics in new social movements re-emerged. It found expression in literature and the arts, including architecture, but also in popular culture as science fiction.

The University of Tasmania hosted the first Australian conference on Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction in 2001, organised around the theme of Antipodean Utopias. Since then, the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (CLCS) has convened a series of conferences as part of its’ research strength in the areas of utopian and science fiction studies.


30 August–1 September 2010


Monash Conference Centre
Level 7, 30 Collins Street
Melbourne Victoria


Conference abstracts

Opening address

The opening address will be given by Kate Rigby, Founding President of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, Australia-New Zealand, and author of Topographies of the Sacred: The Poetics of Place in European Romanticism (2004).

Keynote speakers

Kim Stanley Robinson
Distinguished science fiction writer, winner of two Hugo Awards and author of the Orange Country Trilogy, the Mars Trilogy, Antarctica, The Years of Rice and Salt, the Science in the Capital Trilogy and Galileo's Dream.

John Clute
Science fiction writer, Director of the Department of Story Future in the Centre for the Future at Slavonice and co-author of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993) and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997).

Tom Moylan
Emeritus Professor and Founding Director of the Ralahine Center for Utopian Studies, University of Limerick, author of Demand the Impossible (1986) and Scraps of the Untainted Sky (2000) and co-editor of Dark Horizons (2003).

Deborah Bird Rose
Professor of Social Inclusion, Macquarie University, author of Dingo Makes Us Human (2000), Reports from a Wild Country (2004) and Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction (in press).

Linda Williams
Associate Professor in Art History at RMIT University, curator of The Idea of the Animal exhibition (2004) and the HEAT: Art and Climate Change exhibition (2008).

Invited speakers


Titles of papers link directly to mp3 files. If you require a transcription please contact the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies.

Speaker Title of paper mp3 file size
Kate Rigby Opening address: ‘Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe Podcast icon24.8 mb
Peter Marks Shelters from the Storm: Utopian Spaces in Dystopian Worlds Podcast icon12.3 mb
Andrew Chrystall The Nature of the Medium: McLuhan’s Notes on William Burroughs Podcast icon11.4 mb
Sean McMullen “The Precedent”: criminalising growth economics Podcast icon27.6 mb
Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor Doomed by Hope: Environmental Disaster and the “Structured Ignorance” of Risk in Atwood’s Speculative Fiction Podcast icon27.7 mb
Zita Joyce Broadcasting the (zombie) apocalypse Podcast icon15.6 mb
Susan Pyke (W)riting the Eco-Divine into Everyday Practice: Bearing or Plucking the Fruit? Podcast icon20.8 mb
Lauren Bliss Figures of Extraterrestrials in Film: A Threat to Utopia Podcast icon17.1 mb
Joseph Gelfer 2012: Fantasy Futures in Australia and New Zealand Podcast icon15.5 mb
Verity Burgmann The ecologically perfect utopian model-building of Australian climate change intellectuals Podcast icon14 mb
Katherine Cutts Destabilising the Ordinary: The Depiction of Reality as Fiction in the Parallel Universes of the Films of Werner Herzog Podcast icon20.2 mb
Adam Brown “Our World is ending, but Life Must Go On.”..: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopias in Contemporary Children’s Films Podcast icon19.6 mb
Ian Buchanan Deleuze and Utopia Podcast icon16.5 mb
Emma Nicoletti Virtual Catastrophe: Games, Play and Environmental Disaster in Online Games and Cyberpunk Fiction Podcast icon20.3 mb
Deborah Rose
Marshall Bell
RUtopia Podcast icon20.5 mb
Anne Melano Utopias of Balance Podcast icon15.7 mb
Tom Moylan ‘N-H-N’: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Dialectics of Ecology Podcast icon23.6 mb
Adeline Johns-Putra Bringing Utopia Down to Earth: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy Podcast icon16.4 mb
Rebecca Garcia Lucas Australian Meeting Places: Aboriginal and Western Ecological Philosophies Podcast icon10 mb
Anne Maxwell "Remember the voices of the trees”: The turn from technology in Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang Podcast icon9.9 mb
Jenn Martin Geographies of Hope: The Desire for Place in Californian Science Fiction Podcast icon13.9 mb
Laurie Ormond The Dark: Cultural Imagery of Environmental Catastrophe in Australian Fantasy Fiction Podcast icon10 mb
Paul Sheehan Road, fire, trees: Cormac McCarthy’s Post-America Podcast icon11.6 mb
Kim Stanley Robinson ‘Utopia In the Age of Climate Change Podcast icon24.9 mb
Chris Palmer Sociability, Superblacks and Stone Axes: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Science in the Capital Trilogy Podcast icon14.9 mb
Bradley Wells Eucatastrophe and Co-inherence in the Utopian Vision of Charles Williams Podcast icon21.9 mb
Josiane Smith Are We There Yet?: The catastrophe of polar deceleration in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road' Podcast icon19.5 mb
Hans A. Baer Toward Democratic Eco-Socialism in Australia as Part of a Global Climate Change Mitigation Strategy: A Utopian Vision Podcast icon14.1 mb
David Holmes Learning from Venus: The Dystopian Humanism of James Hansen’s Climate Science Podcast icon16.5 mb
David Farnell Unlikely Utopians: Ecotopian Dreaming in H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shadow over Innsmouth” and Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood’ Podcast icon12.4 mb
Zachary Kendal The Victorian Crisis of Faith in Australian Utopian Literature, 1870–1900 Podcast icon14.8 mb
John Lenarcic The Book of Genesis 2.0: Kurzweil’s utopian vision of the Singularity Podcast icon16.6 mb
Ellen Greenham I Flourish While the World around Me Burns Podcast icon24.7 mb
Andrew Milner From the Beach to the Sea: Two Paradigmatic Australian Dystopias Podcast icon17 mb
Gord Sellar Politics, Ecology on the Korean Left: Anti-Americanism and Environmental Dystopia in The Host Podcast icon16.8 mb
Nathaniel Avery Dystopian Representations of Urban Space: A Dialectical Reading of Assassin’s Creed and Mirror’s Edge Podcast icon15.3 mb
Thomas Ford Atmosphere as medium Podcast icon13 mb
Kim Stanley Robinson Utopia In the Age of Climate Change Podcast icon24.9 mb
Jo Russell-Clarke Climate Change: Utopian Opportunity and Design Problems Podcast icon15.5 mb
Laura McLean Futurism Now: Structure and Process in Contemporary Art Podcast icon17.8 mb
Linda Williams Shadows of the Holocene: transformed creatures and the dystopian animals of the future Podcast icon25.4 mb
Jacqueline Dutton We'll always have Paris: post-apocalyptic projections of the City of Light Podcast icon15.2 mb
Matthew Chrulew Tracking the Mammoth from Extinction to Resurrection Podcast icon18.5 mb
David Blencowe Catastrophic Intentions: Benjamin and Bloch on the Nature of Revolution Podcast icon15.4 mb
Andrew Frost The Colour of Nothing: contemporary video art, SF and the postmodern sublime Podcast icon15.7 mb
Virginia Lowe Barbapapa’s Ark: an environmental dystopia and its influence Podcast icon19.4 mb
Robyn Walton Environmental Exploitation, Plutocratic Empire and the End of Our Planet Podcast icon19.8 mb
Tyson Namow Nature and Absurd Freedom in Werner Herzog’s Science-Fiction Fantasies Podcast icon12.5 mb
Pia Ednie-Brown Where Monstrosity Dovetails Delight: using design fictions to transform fear into plastic potential Podcast icon10.9 mb
Catherine Hannon Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”: Unearthing the barriers between environmental criticism and utopian studies Podcast icon9.3 mb
Anne Elvey New possibilities for collective life” (Santner): Counter-apocalypse, the Peaceable Kingdom and an ethics of survival Podcast icon13.8 mb
Lindy Orthia Paradise is a little too green for me”: Discourses of environmental disaster in Doctor Who, 1963–present Podcast icon17.6 mb
Jondi Keane Utopia in the realm of thought Podcast icon6.7 mb
Tamara Prosic Of Bodies and Souls: Ecology and Orthodox Christianity Podcast icon13.9 mb
Simon Sellars Affirmative architectural dystopias: experimental relations between humans and the built environment Podcast icon16.9 mb
Rupert Read Care, love and our responsibility to the future Podcast icon11.5 mb
Annette M Schneider Flight to the stars vs. coming to grips with Gaia: The Earthbound Utopian Fantasy of a Cultural Feminist Podcast icon16.3 mb
John Clute Truth Is Consequence Podcast icon18.6 mb

Travel and accommodation

Monash Conference Centre

Location, public transport, parking and disability access

Travel from Tullamarine airport

Tullamarine is the main Melbourne airport, 20 km northwest of the central business district. Travel by taxi takes about 20 minutes.

Accommodation recommendations


Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe enquires


This conference has been organised by Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies and the journal Colloquy, under the auspices of the Schools of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics (LCL) and English, Communications and Performance Studies (ECPS) at Monash University.

The Centre wishes to thank the Australian Research Council, the CLCS Research Unit and the Monash Literature Research Unit, which generously provided funding for the conference.

Previous Utopias conferences

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