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The Cross, the Plow and the Skyline

Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Ecological Imagination (Revised and Expanded 2nd Edition)

by Ernest J. Yanarella

Paperback eBook PDF

Publisher: BrownWalker Press
Pub date: 2022
Pages: 404
ISBN-10: 1599426285
ISBN-13: 9781599426280
Categories: Language, Literature & LinguisticsLanguage & LingusiticsPolitical Science


The apocalyptic, pastoral, and urban traditions have fundamentally shaped Western history and influenced American religion, culture, and politics. This book argues that these traditions have not only been decisive in giving form and substance to classic and modern American literature, but have been appropriated by contemporary science fiction. As a loosely connected set of cultural narratives, the Cross, the Plow, and the Skyline have through the medium of science fiction and fantasy provided a bold vista on the future grounded in an emergent ecological imagination.

In the expanded second edition of the original 2001 publication, the author argues that a significant shift has taken place in contemporary Anglo-American science fiction and fantasy (SF/F) from twentieth-century SF/F critically analyzed in the first edition’s critical inquiry. Avantgarde works in twenty-first century speculative fiction--extensively examined in representative works in interludes separating the slightly revised original chapters--have become: darker in their visions of the possible future; more focused on slowness over breakneck speed; more amenable to gender, racial, and global diversity in authorship, plot, and subgenre creation; less attached to anchor concepts like the city, wilderness, and the domesticated landscape in plot development; more prone to dystopian and critical dystopian tropes; simultaneously more open toward, but critical of, Young Adult fiction; and more supportive of the breakdown of borders and antagonisms between science fiction and fantasy and SF/F and literary fiction.

Ensconced in the cultural, social, and political zeitgeist of the New Millennium’s first two decades, these features of twenty-first century science fiction and fantasy may yet settle into and inform emergent and pluralistic varieties of ecological politics spreading across the globe and confronting the Earth’s social and environmental crises of our times and coming decades.


Yanarella’s innovative The Cross, the Plow and the Skyline: Contemporary Science Fiction and the Ecological Imagination powerfully presented in 2001 the intellectual merits for treating works of science fiction and fantasy as unique vantage points to understand the cultural and political challenges confronting the United States and the world. This revised and expanded second edition expertly amplifies that critical exploration of key discursive motifs, like the cross, the plow, and the skyline, to reassess the ecological imagination in science fiction and fantasy two decades later. Adding incisive updates to the Introduction and Conclusion plus four new fascinating Interludes, which accentuate how this original vision is affirmed by more recent twenty-first science fiction and fantasy works, Yanarella’s compelling remix of critical theory with American science fiction makes this revised and expanded edition remarkably important for lay readers as well as academic courses in the fields of cultural studies, literary analysis and social science today.
--Timothy W. Luke, University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

This new edition of The Cross, the Plow and the Skyline, which takes into account 21st century science fiction, continues its groundbreaking, multi-perspectival investigation of the ecological imagination. Once again, Yanarella demonstrates the benefits of treating science fiction as a medium of critical political theory. Highly recommended.
--Michael E. Zimmerman, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, University of Colorado at Boulder

About the Author

Ernest J. Yanarella is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. He is most recently co-author with Richard S. Levine of From Eco-Cities to Sustainable City-Regions: China’s Uncertain Quest for an Ecological Civilization (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020).