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Articles

Volume 39, Number 1 (2014)

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

Submitted
March 25, 2015
Published
June 1, 2014

Abstract

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.