A Theory-Fiction Reading List

What even is theory-fiction? In short, it is the intersection of theory and fiction, and also the “dissolution of the opposition itself” (Fisher 1999, p 156). In this hybrid style, theory is torn down from its pedestal, the real power of fiction is affirmed, and both are released from the high forms of the academy.

Whatever theory-fiction may be, the works listed here emerged from disparate locations for manifold reasons: some are motivated by frustration with toothless academic theory, others by the prophetic powers of fiction, and still others by an aggressive disregard for any established form. Recently, Simon Sellars spelled out the issue quite nicely: “I don’t think theory-fiction is a genre, [it] is more like an attitude […] The world is so chaotic that no overarching theory can ever hope to explain it. So, the form itself leaks and cracks.”

The goal here is to locate these leakages, and to give an overview of the interzone between two established forms. The first half of the list deals with theoretical titles which utilise fictional forms, while the second half is fiction with theoretical content. The middle sections occupy a space between these two, including the texts out of which “theory-fiction” emerged as a concept. The sub-divisions are of course tentative, and many of the titles could have been placed elsewhere.

The original threads may be found here: [1]  [2]  [3]

Poetic Theory (Theory which foregrounds its artifice)
Søren Kierkegaard — Fear and Trembling (1843)
Georges Bataille — Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939 (1985)
Theodor Adorno — Minima Moralia (1951)
Paul Virilio — Speed and Politics (1977)
Maurice Blanchot — The Writing of the Disaster  (1980)
Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari — A Thousand Plateaus (1980)
Jacques Derrida — The Post Card (1980)
Simone Weil — An Anthology (1986)
Jean Baudrillard — The Ecstasy of Communication (1987)
Lawrence Rainey, et al. — Futurism: An Anthology (2009)
Thomas Ligotti — The Conspiracy Against the Human Race (2010)
Villem Flusser & Louis Bec — Vampyroteuthis Infernalis (2012)
Claudia Rankine — Citizen: An American Lyric (2014)
Dawn Ades, et al. — The Surrealism Reader (2015)
Donna Haraway — Manifestly Haraway (2016)

Narrative Theory (Theory told through narrative form)
Lucretius — On The Nature of the Universe (55 BC)
Kamo no Chōmei — An Account of My Hut (1212)
Moses de León — The Zohar (1305)
Friedrich Nietzsche — Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1891)
Pierre Klossowski — Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle (1969)
Walter Benjamin — One-Way Street and Other Writings (1970)
Hélène Cixous — The Third Body (1970)
Klaus Theweleit — Male Fantasies (1977)
Luce Irigaray — Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche (1980)
Manuel De Landa — A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (1997)
Catherine Keller — The Face of the Deep (2003)
Michel Serres — Biogea (2012)
Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing — The Mushroom at the End of the World (2015)

Cybernetic Theory-Fiction (Theory-fiction as cultural hype)
J D Bernal — The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (1929)
Stanisław Lem — Summa Technologiae (1964)
Nick Land —Fanged Noumena: Collected Writings 1987-2007 (2011)
Arthur Kroker — SPASM (1993)
Orphan Drift — Cyberpositive (1995)
CCRU — Writings 1997-2003 (2015)
Kodwo Eshun — More Brilliant Than The Sun (1998)
Sadie Plant — Zeros + Ones (1998)
Mark Fisher — Flatline Constructs (1999)
Reza Negarestani — Cyclonopedia (2008)
Edward Keller, et al. — Leper Creativity: Cyclonopedia Symposium (2012)
Robin Mackay & Armen Avanessian — #ACCELERATE (2014)
Baylee Brits, et al. — Aesthetics After Finitude (2016)
Benjamin H Bratton — Dispute Plan to Prevent Future Luxury Constitution (2016)
Cergat — Earthmare (2017)
Nicola Masciandaro — Sacer (2017)
Elizabeth Sandifer — Neoreaction: A Basilisk (2017)

Sci-Phi (Low fiction, high theory)
Ueda Akinari — Tales of Moonlight and Rain (1776)
William Burroughs — The Soft Machine (1961)
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky — Hard to Be a God (1964)
Ursula K Le Guin — The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)
Monique Wittig — Les Guérillères (1969)
J G Ballard — The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)
Angela Carter — The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972)
Thomas Pynchon — Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
Samuel R Delany — Triton (1976)
Giorgio De Maria — The Twenty Days of Turin (1977)
Philip K Dick — VALIS (1981)
William Gibson — Neuromancer (1984)
Kathy Acker — Empire of the Senseless (1988)
Umberto Eco — Foucault’s Pendulum (1988)
Octavia Butler — Xenogenesis (1989)
Christine Brooke-Rose — Amalgamemnon (1994)
Alexis Pauline Gumbs — M-Archive: After the End of the World (2018)

Theoretical Fiction (1: Fiction as theory)
Margaret Cavendish — The Blazing World (1666)
Laurence Sterne — The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1767)
Denis Diderot — Jacques the Fatalist (1796)
Thomas Carlyle — Sartor Resartus (1836)
Samuel Butler — Erewhon (1872)
Alfred Jarry — Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician (1911)
Franz Kafka —The Great Wall of China (1931)
Virginia Woolf — The Waves (1931)
James Joyce — Finnegan’s Wake (1939)
Robert Musil — The Man Without Qualities (1943)
Samuel Beckett — The Unnamable (1953)
Jorge Luis Borges — Labyrinths (1962)
Italo Calvino — Invisible Cities (1972)
Eva Figes — Light (1983)
William Gaddis — Agapē Agape (2002)
Olga Tokarczuk — Flights (2007)
Eimear McBride — A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing (2013)
Laurent Binet — The 7th Function of Language (2015)
Anne Garreta — Sphinx (2015)
Joanna Walsh — Worlds from the Word’s End (2017)

Theoretical Fiction (2: Self-writing as theory)
Augustine — Confessions (400)
Michel de Montaigne — Essays (1580)
Clarice Lispector — Agua Viva (1973)
Georges Perec — W, or the Memory of Childhood (1975)
Roland Barthes — A Lover’s Discourse (1977)
Fernando Pessoa  — Book of Disquiet (1982)
W G Sebald — The Rings of Saturn (1995)
Svetlana Alexievich — Voices from Chernobyl (1997)
Chris Kraus — I Love Dick (1997)
Sara Ahmed — Queer Phenomenology (2006)
Virginie Despentes — King Kong Theory (2006)
Paul B Preciado — Testo Junkie (2008)
Laura Oldfield Ford — Savage Messiah (2011)
Maggie Nelson — The Argonauts (2015)
Simon Sellars — Applied Ballardianism (2018)

Theoretical Fiction (3: Poetry & plays as theory)
William Blake — The Book of Urizen (1794)
Sarah Kane — Complete Plays (2001)
Jena Osman — The Network (2010)
Keston Sutherland — The Odes to TL61P (2013)

17 thoughts on “A Theory-Fiction Reading List”

  1. This is great, thanks for publishing it! I would stick Primo Levi’s ‘The Periodic Table’ and possibly my favourite work by Joanna Russ, ‘We Who Are About To…’ on the list myself. Have you read those?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It might be a sin to omit Camus here. Like him or hate him– and regardless of what he himself might have said it about it– L’Etranger definitely takes a particular perspective on alienation.

    As long as we’re going to have Kierkegaard on this list, Siddharta by Herman Hesse might also be suitable.

    Those thoughts aside, I really liked the list and I intend to read through it. It’s a really valuable resource. Thank you.


  3. I’m excited that I found this list! I started reading Cyclonopedia after watching the cover pick up dust for over a year. It’s an intimidating piece of work. But, my god, is it engrossing. Never has a book made me want to pick it apart as much as this one. Really looking forward to reading more works like it.


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