My new book Imagining the Future of Climate Change: World-Making through Science Fiction and Activism is now available from the University of California Press!

From the 1960s to the present, activists, artists, and science fiction writers have imagined the consequences of climate change and its impacts on our future. Authors such as Octavia Butler and Leslie Marmon Silko, movie directors such as Bong Joon-Ho, and creators of digital media such as the makers of the Maori web series Anamata Future News have all envisioned future worlds during and after environmental collapse, engaging audiences to think about the earth’s sustainability. As public awareness of climate change has grown, so has the popularity of works of climate fiction that connect science with activism.

Today, real-world social movements helmed by Indigenous people and people of color are leading the way against the greatest threat to our environment: the fossil fuel industry. Their stories and movements—in the real world and through science fiction—help us all better understand the relationship between activism and culture, and how both can be valuable tools in creating our future. Imagining the Future of Climate Change introduces readers to the history and most significant flashpoints in climate justice through speculative fictions and social movements, exploring post-disaster possibilities and the art of world-making.

Our climate—political, cultural, natural—is indeed changing. In this brilliant volume, Shelley Streeby takes us into a storm system where scientists, activists, and radical storytellers conspire to envision a new world. This is an original and powerful book that makes the case that the scientifically documented crisis of climate change must also be addressed through outsider imaginations.
— Alex Rivera, Director of Sleep Dealer
Shelley Streeby continues a lifelong project of anti-racist archive building in Imagining the Future of Climate Change. She offers readers a beautifully researched argument for how and why Indigenous peoples and peoples of color offer the most powerful imaginative responses to global climate collapse. The chapter on Octavia Butler alone—which gives evidence for Butler’s brilliant, longstanding engagement with climate politics—makes the book a must-read for climate-change scholars and activists.
— Stephanie LeMenager, author of Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century
The age of extinction(s) is seeping out from the permafrost every night. It is coming toward us fast from the future, and we find ourselves every morning selling off our planet from under us. This state of un-making the world is almost unstoppable, or so it seems, as Shelley Streeby’s incisive new work points out—new earths are being created and have been created by the speculative fictions of Octavia E. Butler, indigenous futurism, and direct-action movements that are now fighting the ruins yet to come. Imagining the Future of Climate Change is a blossom of hope that emerges from deep intergalactic roots that call on us to save our water, our lands, and our air, and to stop selling away what little future we have left.
— Ricardo Dominguez, Electronic Disturbance Theater


Introduction: Imagining the Future of Climate Change

Indigenous people and people of color use science fiction and futurisms to make movements at the forefront of imagining the future of climate change.

Snowpiercer • Geo-engineering • Global Warming • Cli-fi •Science Fiction • Speculative Fiction • Visionary Fiction • Social Movements

Chapter 1. #NoDAPL: Native American and Indigenous Science, Fiction, and Futurisms

Indigenous science, fiction, and futurisms shaped the #NoDAPL struggle led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, as well as other worldwide struggles over oil, water, and resource extraction, including in Māori contexts. Indigenous-helmed movements practice world-making through taking direct action, working in indigenous science and technologies, and imagining decolonized futures in the wake of climate change disaster in many different kinds of speculative fiction across multiple media platforms.

“Let Our Indigenous Voices Be Heard” • Indigenous Futurisms • Direct Action • #NoDAPL • Standing Rock • Mni Wiconi (Lakota for “Water Is Life”) • Native Slipstream • Indigenous Environmental Network • Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead • Anamata Future News

Chapter 2. Climate Refugees in the Greenhouse World: Archiving Global Warming with Octavia E. Butler

The great science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler was a major climate change intellectual whose extrapolations from her present, theorizing of climate refugees, and archival memory-work illuminate blind spots in 1970s to early 2000s climate change conversations. Butler imagined symbiotic possibilities for shaping change in a world transformed by the greenhouse effect.

Climate Refugees • Archive • HistoFuturist • Neoliberalism • Symbiosis • Extrapolation • Greenhouse Effect • Disaster • Critical Dystopia • Parable of the Sower

Chapter 3. Climate Change as a World Problem: Shaping Change in the Wake of Disaster

From the early 2000s to the present, Detroit organizer, theorist, and fiction writer adrienne maree brown has created generative intersectional connections among Octavia E. Butler’s work, science fiction, social movements, and direct action. Brown’s theorizing of emergent strategy, crafting of visionary fiction, and learning from and connecting to Indigenous people are especially significant contributions to imagining the future of climate justice as a world problem.

U.S. Social Forum • Allied Media Conference • Detroit • Bali Principles of Climate Justice • Inuit Circumpolar Council • UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples • Arctic Indigenous Youth Alliance • Direct Action • Grace Lee Boggs • Ruckus Society • Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements


Radical Sensations: World Movements, Violence, and Visual Culture.

Duke University Press, 2013. 

The significant anarchist, black, and socialist world-movements that emerged in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth adapted discourses of sentiment and sensation and used the era's new forms of visual culture to move people to participate in projects of social, political, and economic transformation. Drawing attention to the vast archive of images and texts created by radicals prior to the 1930s, Shelley Streeby analyzes representations of violence and of abuses of state power in response to the Haymarket police riot, of the trial and execution of the Chicago anarchists, and of the mistreatment and imprisonment of Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón and other members of the Partido Liberal Mexicano. She considers radicals' reactions to and depictions of U.S. imperialism, state violence against the Yaqui Indians in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the failure of the United States to enact laws against lynching, and the harsh repression of radicals that accelerated after the United States entered the First World War. By focusing on the adaptation and critique of sentiment, sensation, and visual culture by radical world-movements in the period between the Haymarket riots of 1886 and the deportation of Marcus Garvey in 1927, Streeby sheds new light on the ways that these movements reached across national boundaries, criticized state power, and envisioned alternative worlds.

Provocative and insightful. . . .
— Paul Buhle, Journal of American History
Radical Sensations is a work of astonishing complexity, a cultural history that gives us a portrait into a bridge period of Hemispheric eras, one that must piece together nineteenth-century physical expansion to later twentieth-century articulations….
— Samantha Pinto, American Literature
[Streeby’s] unique approach and nuanced use of visual and print sources make this book a must-read for all labor historians.
— David M. Struthers, Labor
Radical Sensations is superb scholarship in every way. It engages many emerging currents in contemporary scholarship but has the field of transnational radicalism between 1886 and 1927 all to itself. Among its many contributions, a singularly important one is Shelley Streeby’s explanation of why culture counts and how history happens. Part of politics is the production and management of affect. Streeby shows how sentiment and sensation became the lingua franca of American politics in the nineteenth century, with mixed results for radical social movements. The very discourses of sentiment and sensationalism that enabled some radical critiques to gain traction with the masses hobbled others by letting sympathy substitute for social justice.
— George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place
This is a brilliantly conceived book, filled with novel insights into the ways that new media and visual technologies intersected with and enabled what Shelley Streeby aptly terms ‘the proliferation of rival world visions and internationalisms’ of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth. Radical Sensations is the book that I have been waiting to teach in courses on U.S. history or transnational methodology.
— Penny M. Von Eschen, author of Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957

American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture

University of California Press, 2002

This innovative cultural history investigates an intriguing, thrilling, and often lurid assortment of sensational literature that was extremely popular in the United States in 1848--including dime novels, cheap story paper literature, and journalism for working-class Americans. Shelley Streeby uncovers themes and images in this "literature of sensation" that reveal the profound influence that the U.S.-Mexican War and other nineteenth-century imperial ventures throughout the Americas had on U.S. politics and culture. Streeby's analysis of this fascinating body of popular literature and mass culture broadens into a sweeping demonstration of the importance of the concept of empire for understanding U.S. history and literature. 

This accessible, interdisciplinary book brilliantly analyzes the sensational literature of George Lippard, A.J.H Duganne, Ned Buntline, Metta Victor, Mary Denison, John Rollin Ridge, Louisa May Alcott, and many other writers. Streeby also discusses antiwar articles in the labor and land reform press; ideas about Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua in popular culture; and much more. Although the Civil War has traditionally been a major period marker in U.S. history and literature, Streeby proposes a major paradigm shift by using mass culture to show that the U.S.-Mexican War and other conflicts with Mexicans and Native Americans in the borderlands were fundamental in forming the complex nexus of race, gender, and class in the United States.

American Sensations is an erudite and sweeping cultural history of the sensationalist literatures and mass cultures of the American 1848. It is the finest book yet written on the U.S.-Mexican War, and how it was central to the making and unmaking of U.S. mass culture, class, and racial formation.
— José David Saldívar, author of Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies
A major work that will challenge current paradigms of nineteenth-century literature and culture. American Sensations brilliantly succeeds in remapping the volatile and shifting terrain of both national identity and literary history in the mid-nineteenth century.
— Amy Kaplan, co-editor of Cultures of United States Imperialism

Empire and the Literature of Sensation: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Popular Fiction

Rutgers University Press, 2007

Mid-nineteenth-century American literature teems with the energy and excitement characteristic of the nation's era of expansion. It also reveals the intense anxiety and conflict of a country struggling with what it will mean, socially and culturally, to incorporate previously held Spanish territories. Empire and the Literature of Sensation is a critical anthology of some of the most popular and sensational writings published before the Civil War. It is a collection of transvestite adventures, forbidden love, class conflict, and terrifying encounters with racial "others."

Most of the accounts, although widely distributed in nineteenth-century newspapers, pamphlets, or dime store novels, have long been out of print. Reprinted here for the first time are novelettes by two superstars of the cheap fiction industry, Ned Buntline and George Lippard. Also included are selections from one of the first dime novels as well as the narratives of Leonora Siddons and Sophia Delaplain, both who claim in their autobiographical pamphlets to have cross-dressed as men and participated in the Texas rebellion and Cuban filibustering.

Originally written for entertainment and enormously popular in their day, these sensational thrillers reveal for today's audiences how the rhetoric of empire was circulated for mass consumption and how imperialism generated domestic and cultural instability during the period of the American literary renaissance.

Table of Contents


     (pp. IX-XII)


     (pp. XIII-XXX)

    The narrator of Ned Buntline’s novelette,Magdalena, The Beautiful Mexican Maid, captures the impulse of Empire and the Literature of Sensation: it is a collection of nineteenth-century popular fiction that reminds us of the early history of U.S. empire-building in the Americas before 1898. Although conventional wisdom often locates the beginning of imperialism in the Spanish-Cuban-American War at the end of the nineteenth century, the pieces collected here—most republished for the first time—document the intimate, ambivalent relationships between popular literature and the cultures of imperialism from the 1830s through the early 1860s.¹ 

  3. The Female Warrior

     (pp. 1-20)

    Published in New York in 1843 by E.E. & G. Barclay,The Female Warrior is an example of a popular literary genre—the first-person account of a cross-dressed female soldier—that circulated in the United States as early as the Revolutionary War and continued through the Civil War. These accounts often balanced patriotism with sensationalism. Transgressive women were standard fare for the Barclay publishing house, which circulated pamphlet novels of similar length, style, and form that recounted the criminal adventures of female murderers, prostitutes, or insane housewives.

  4. Magdalena, The Beautiful Mexican Maid

     (pp. 21-106)


    Ned Buntline is one of Edward Zane Carroll Judson’s (1821–1886) pseudonyms. Judson was one of the most prolific writers of popular literature in the nineteenth century, and his life reflects those turbulent times. Judson served in the navy as a mid-shipman, fought in the Second Seminole War and for the Union in the Civil War, and, following his trek west in 1869, he made Buffalo Bill Cody a popular literary figure. He also penned over a hundred novels, countless tales, sketches, and articles, and several plays.

  5. ’Bel of Prairie Eden

     (pp. 107-200)


    George Lippard was one of the most popular writers of the 1840s and 1850s. During the early 1840s, he worked as a journalist and fiction writer for the Philadelphia Spirit of the Timesand the Citizen Soldier, but after his first novelThe Quaker City; or The Monks of Monk Hallbecame a phenomenal best-seller he was able to support himself as an author without writing for other papers. As a result, he devoted his energies to using literature to promote the interests of the white working class and the cause of land reform in his weekly story paper, the..

  6. A Thrilling and Exciting Account of the Sufferings and Horrible Tortures Inflicted on Mortimer Bowers and Miss Sophia Delaplain

     (pp. 201-228)

    In 1851, E. E. Barclay, along with M. B. Crosson, publishedA Thrilling and Exciting Account of the Sufferings and Horrible Tortures Inflicted on Mortimer Bowers and Miss Sophia Delaplain. The author remains unknown. The story is set in New York but ostensibly published in Charleston, South Carolina, suggesting that Barclay understood the Narciso López campaigns were popular with both Northerners and Southerners. A career military man, López appeared in New York in 1847 after his plot to overthrow Spanish rule in Cuba was discovered. He organized several clandestine campaigns to invade, liberate, and annex Cuba to the United States,...

  7. The Prisoner of La Vintresse

  8.  (pp. 229-286)


    Mary Andrews Denison’s (1826–1911)The Prisoner of La Vintresse; or, the Fortunes of a Cuban Heiress was published in 1860 and was one of the first of Beadle’s dime novels. Denison was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a center of antislavery sentiments, and she married the Reverend Charles Wheeler Denison, who edited a New York antislavery journal called the Emancipator. She traveled to British Guiana with her husband in 1853 after he was named consul general and this may have contributed to her decision to write a novel about Cuba. Early in her career, Denison contributed to Boston-based story papers...