Hauntings in the Anthropocene – Jeff VanderMeer

environmental critique

An Initial Exploration

by Jeff VanderMeer

long exposure


Timothy Morton’s Hyperobjects, which sets out a series of thoughts about “dark ecologies,” has become central to thinking about storytelling in the modern era, in my opinion. Morton’s central idea of a hyperobject is in a sense a way of using a word as an anchor for something that would be otherwise hard to picture in its entirety–it is an all-encompassing metaphor that also has its own reality, both literal and figurative, here and there. The word therefore is a very important signifier for any fiction writer wishing to engage with the fragmented and diffuse issues related to the Anthropocene.

What is a hyperobject? Something viscous (they stick–to your mind, to the environment) and nonlocal (local versions are manifestations from afar). Their unique temporality renders them invisible to human beings for stretches of time and they exhibit effects in the interrelationship of objects. In…

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12 responses to “Hauntings in the Anthropocene – Jeff VanderMeer

  1. Pingback: hauntings in the anthropocene by Jeff VanderMeer — synthetic zero | Unlimited Dream Company ('Despairing at last, I decided to die' -J.G. Ballard)·

  2. In the article VanderMeer writes about the inspiration for his Southern Reach: “But for a long time I didn’t realize what irritant or issue or problem had lodged in my subconscious to force Area X out. Finally, though, I realized that the Gulf Oil Spill had created Area X.” I was reminded of something I read a couple of days ago about the polluted waters off Rio, infested by antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria traced to untreated sewage flushed into the ocean from the local hospitals: “”It’s a nice sailing area but every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your face,” German Paralympic sailor Heiko Kroger said during a recent visit to Rio. “I keep my nose and my lips closed.””

    Maybe it’s easier to tolerate the fully explicable corruptions of the everyday by fictionalizing them, even fetishizing them, becoming captivated by their uncanny alien weirdness. But of course the super-bacteria really are alien enemies entering your face.

  3. Think of the super-bacteria really not as “alien enemies” but as genomic collaborators modifying your/their genomes. Become one for all generations with the muck and slithery water inhabitants and world with them — you already have always done so.

  4. “Meanings” and “worlding” are the real forms of pollution/filters here, not bacteria. It would not be possible to have hauntings without meanings. I propose a flat universe with infinite possible meanings, all fictive

    • ““Meanings” and “worlding” are the real forms of pollution/filters here” doesn’t that make “pollution/filters” also fictions and if so how could they be more or less real (rightly or wrongly applied)? either way not interested in ontology but effects, but let a thousand flowers bloom…

  5. by tranche: Of course, does it not? Not ascribing valence. The denouement to ‘let 1000 flowers . . .’ is always a thousand heads falling, or, in our case, realities evanescing.

    anyway thanks for the discussion here

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