Goori Futurism

Envisioning the sovereignty of country, community and culture in the Tweed

Mykaela Saunders

Thesis abstract

Goori Futurism is a new genre of speculative fiction that envisions Goori sovereignty in various futures in the Tweed (Minjungbal-Nganduwal land, Bundjalung country/far northern New South Wales), using Blackfella Futurism themes and tropes. This thesis has two components: creative and critical. ALWAYS WILL BE: stories of Goori sovereignty, from the future(s) of the Tweed, the creative component of this project, is a short story collection comprised of ten short Goori Futurism stories. The critical component is an exegesis in three parts. The overarching question that the whole thesis asks is: what might our country, community and culture look like in a Future Tweed, given the reassertion of Goori sovereignty? ALWAYS WILL BE offers ten different answers to this question, and the exegesis considers the research and writing that led to the answers.

The stories in ALWAYS WILL BE are tied together by politics, setting and genre: each of the stories in this collection explore different expressions of Goori Sovereignty; all of the stories are set in the Tweed, in different versions of the Future, with various climate scenarios, population dynamics and political structures; and each story responds to the prevailing themes and tropes within the Blackfella Futurism genre. ALWAYS WILL BE is a forward-thinking collection that refuses cynicism or despair, and instead offers original, entertaining stories that imagine more liberating paradigms, and that celebrate Goori ways of being, knowing and doing – and becoming.[1]

To imagine the variety of ways that Gooris might live after reasserting sovereignty, the short story collection is epic in scope and features a diverse cast of Goori characters, and explores their complex relationships inside and across country, community and culture. Many of these worlds are truly post-colonial, and the local Goori community has reasserted sovereignty in different ways in each story – sometimes reclaiming country, or exerting full self-determination over our affairs, or by incorporating non-Indigenous people into our social networks – all while practising creative, sustainable and ancestrally-approved ways of living with climate change. Some of the stories envision the lifeways of thriving, autonomous characters who embody sovereignty as a utopian ideal. Some stories also comment on community politics, such as lateral violence, belonging and exclusion, and notions of authenticity tied into relational politics, by exploring these present tensions in the future tense.

The exegesis first defines Goori Futurism as a politics of Goori Sovereignty, a setting of Future Tweed and a genre of Blackfella Futurism, then it traces Goori Futurism’s origins, lineage and goals, situating Goori Futurism as a place-based offspring of Blackfella Futurism, and a localised descendent of its ancestor Indigenous Futurism. Next, the exegesis introduces The Goori Futurism Research Framework as made up of three reading and writing frames: Politics – Goori Sovereignty, Setting – Future Tweed and Genre – Blackfella Futurism. These frames are both examples of research-led practice and practice-led research. Finally, the exegesis reflects on the ways that each of the stories are products of The Goori Futurism Research Framework.

This thesis, comprised of the stories in ALWAYS WILL BE and the scholarly writing in the exegesis combined, initiates the genre of Goori Futurism, articulates a philosophy and aesthetics of the genre and delineates its boundaries while resisting prescriptive genre protocols.

[1] This framework adapted from the work of Veronica Arbon, Arlathirnda Ngurkarnda Ityirnda: Being-Knowing-Doing: De-Colonising Indigenous Tertiary Education (Teneriffe: Post Pressed, 2008).

I undertook this project for a Doctor of Arts degree at the University of Sydney, in the Department of English’s creative writing program. My supervisors were Dr Peter Minter and Dr Vanessa Berry. I submitted my thesis in December 2021 and am awaiting my results. I intend to develop Goori Futurism further in ongoing creative and critical work, and I hope that it continues to expand through the contributions of other blackfellas, particularly Goori writers and artists.

I’m grateful for support for this project through the Grace Marion Wilson Glenfern Fellowship in 2019, and the Varuna Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship in 2020.

Read & listen

Short stories:
  • Fire Bug, National Indigenous Story Awards, 2020
  • Terranora, Collisions: Fictions of the Future, Liminal x Pantera Press, 2020
  • Buried time, Overland 234: Autumn, 2019 (editorial by Evelyn Araluen and Jonathan Dunk)

Research profile:
  • Goori Futurism, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Sydney, 2021

Conference paper outlining my creative practise, research and writing frameworks, and aims for the project:
  • Goori-futurism: envisioning the sovereignty of Minjungbal-Nganduwal country, community, and culture through speculative fiction, SFRA Review 330: Fall, 2019

Podcast of panel discussion, describing world-building process for the stories:
  • World-Building 101 with Catherine McKinnon and Mitchell Hogan, moderated by Keith Stevenson, Writing NSW Speculative Fiction Festival, Sydney, 2019

© Mykaela Saunders, 2021