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Volume 39, Number 1 (2014)

“You Are Turning into a Hive Mind”: Storytelling, Ecological Thought, and the Problem of Form in Generation A

March 25, 2015


This article discusses the relationship between literary form and contemporary ecological anxiety in Douglas Coupland’s novel Generation A. Coupland’s speculative fiction envisions a possible future in the wake of Colony Collapse Disorder, but the more generalized eco-anxiety the novel explores is applicable to a number of contemporary environmental issues ranging from climate change to ocean acidification. I argue that Coupland’s novel invites readers to consider the problem of representing ecological problems characterized by global scale, temporal uncertainty, and multiple origins. I then explore how Coupland responds to these challenges by stretching form in two directions. First, he juxtaposes and recycles a series of stories in a manner that capitalizes on lateral, shortened forms of attention, leading readers to detect larger patterns of significance within a database of what might initially seem like insignificant or banal details. Second, he cultivates the development of a form of “hive mind” among characters and readers that stretches ideas of personhood beyond the corporeal boundaries of the individual subject. The latter opens new possibilities for conceiving of a collective, networked mode of political agency in the era of social media and global scale effects.