Training for Catastrophe: Fictions of National Security after 9/11 (Paperback)

Training for Catastrophe: Fictions of National Security after 9/11  By Lindsay Thomas Cover Image

Training for Catastrophe: Fictions of National Security after 9/11 (Paperback)


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A timely, politically savvy examination of how impossible disasters shape the very real possibilities of our world

Why would the normally buttoned-down national security state imagine lurid future scenarios like a zombie apocalypse? In Training for Catastrophe, author Lindsay Thomas shows how our security regime reimagines plausibility to focus on unlikely and even unreal events rather than probable ones. With an in-depth focus on preparedness (a pivotal, emergent national security paradigm since 9/11) she explores how fiction shapes national security.

Thomas finds fiction at work in unexpected settings, from policy documents and workplace training manuals to comics and video games. Through these texts—as well as plenty of science fiction—she examines the philosophy of preparedness, interrogating the roots of why it asks us to treat explicitly fictional events as real. Thomas connects this philosophical underpinning to how preparedness plays out in contemporary politics, emphasizing how it uses aesthetic elements like realism, genre, character, and plot to train people both to regard some disasters as normal and to ignore others.

Training for Catastrophe makes an important case for how these documents elicit consent and compliance. Thomas draws from a huge archive of texts—including a Centers for Disease Control comic about a zombie apocalypse, the work of Audre Lorde, and the political thrillers of former national security advisor Richard Clarke—to ask difficult questions about the uses and values of fiction. A major statement on how national security intrudes into questions of art and life, Training for Catastrophe is a timely intervention into how we confront disasters.

Lindsay Thomas is assistant professor of English at the University of Miami. She is also a principal investigator for WhatEvery1Says, a large-scale digital humanities project that explores public discourse about the humanities. 

Product Details ISBN: 9781517909864
ISBN-10: 1517909864
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: March 16th, 2021
Pages: 336
Language: English

"Training for Catastrophe reveals how science fictional narratives habitually assume that, no matter what happens, the further expansion of the security state in the name of ‘preparedness’ and safety is the first, last, and only possible response to crisis. Lindsay Thomas calls on us to think outside the fantasies of total surveillance and maximum control that dominate contemporary visions of the future—and the apocalypse will never be the same."—Gerry Canavan, president, Science Fiction Research Association

"In Training for Catastrophe, Lindsay Thomas chronicles how the national security state uses fiction to shape public perception about risk, security, preparedness, and the future and with what consequences. This timely and important work shows how preparedness documents at once produce a false sense of security and reproduce the inequities of structural racism. It is a must read for the contemporary moment."—Priscilla Wald, author of Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative