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From R.U.R. to Mr. Burns: Science Fiction Takes the Stage

deadline for submissions:
November 26, 2016

full name / name of organization:
Panel Call for Comparative Drama Conference

contact email:

Science Fiction as a genre is ubiquitous in our culture, dominating popular novels and summer blockbuster movies. Teachers have been quick to note how this pop culture force can draw students into the classroom to discuss ‘high culture’ themes. I have taught a course on futuristic literature spanning 1984 through The Hunger Games. My peers are teaching courses on slipstream and video games as literature. The courses fill fast with excited learners ready to engage in high-level debates on topics as diverse as the environment, government surveillance, cloning, and consumerism. Yet, as I have looked over the course reading lists, I have noted that none of them, not even my own, included a play. It’s not that there aren’t science fiction plays, or that they all deserve a ‘low culture,’ ‘pulp’ categorization. The 1920 Czech play R.U.R., which introduced the term ‘robot,’ critiqued Fordism and post-war culture, much like Brave New World. The Rocky Horror Show premiered first as a stage play at the Royal Court Theatre, later becoming the LGBTQIA iconic film. Ayckbourn and Churchill have penned sci-fi plays that surely cannot be dismissed as purely pop culture action pulp. And the current boom in science fiction plays provides excellent examples of theatre with pop-culture appeal and ‘high’ culture thematic content; Jennifer Haley’s The Nether and Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play, are two notable examples. Both have won critical accolades as well as large audiences. Clearly, the genre deserves greater critical attention than it has so far received.

This panel is interested in papers that explore any facet of the development of the genre of science fiction plays, plays within and/or playwrights that write within the genre (Ayckbourn, Churchill, Nguyen, Adams, George, Washburn, Haley, et al.), companies that stage sci-fi plays (e.g. Vampire Cowboys Theatre Co., Otherworld Theatre), major contemporary themes being developed in the genre, or teaching strategies that involve science fiction plays. The panel is being proposed for the 2017 Comparative Drama Conference, April 6-8, in Orlando, FL. (For more information visit

To be considered for the panel, send a 250 word abstract with paper title, author’s name, institutional affiliation, status, postal address and email address at top left, to Dr. Laura Snyder at . Proposals should arrive no later than November 26. I will acknowledge receipt of the abstract within three days and will inform submitters of the status of their submission by Dec. 2.