Call for Papers:
Science Fiction and Social Activism. Panel: 32nd European Association for American Studies and 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference
What most forms of science fiction have in common is an interest in world-building as a limitless and continuously expanding narrative environment. Highly detailed and immersive narrative environments were developed as early as the late nineteenth century by authors such as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs and have been extremely popular ever since. In a Paris Review interview, Ray Bradbury even proclaims that "Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out, Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world." While Burroughs influence might not be so all-encompassing, Bradbury is right when pointing out that science fiction, the genre he was writing in, is extremely useful for both, investigating habits of thought and creating them.
It is not by coincidence that Robert Heinlein’s SF classic about a human raised on Mars, Stranger in a Strange Land, boasts a title that could easily be mistaken for postcolonial literature. SF tropes of bug-eyed aliens attempting the take-over of the earth and breath-taking but completely devoid of humans worlds ready for colonization can easily be applied to (formally) existing political structures. This is one of the reasons why science fiction narratives are often used as political allegories, be it with a rather conservative or a rather liberal focus. While the use of science fiction as a forum for totalitarian phantasies has been repeatedly pointed out and analyzed, its use as a forum for social activism is only partially explored. In the meantime, a growing body of work has been and is being published which explores the connection between imagining alternative worlds and either exposing the limitations of the world we live in or proposing new social constellations. Ursula K. Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Octavia E. Butler, Nalo Hopkins, Nnedi Okorafor, Jo Walton and Samuel R. Delany are only some of the names of the writers who come to mind in this context. Some possible topics that can be explored in relation to social activism are postcolonial science fiction, utopia, black speculative fiction, afrofuturism, afrocyberpunk, to name only a few.
I am looking for 3-4 panelists for the 32nd European Association for American Studies and 63rd British Association for American Studies Conference to take place at King’s College London, University College London and the British Library, 4-7 April 2018.
Paper proposals should be 300 words maximum, including a title.
Please submit proposals, along with a brief CV and email address, to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline of September 24, 2017.