CfP: The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy, University of California, Irvine, on April 26–29, 2018


The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy,
to be held at the University of California, Irvine, on April 26–29, 2018

Coordinators: Jonathan Alexander (University of California, Irvine)
Gregory Benford (University of California, Irvine)
Howard V. Hendrix (California State University, Fresno)
Gary Westfahl (University of La Verne)

Although the late George Slusser (1939–2014) was best known for coordinating academic conferences on science fiction and editing volumes of essays on science fiction, he was also a prolific scholar in his own right, publishing several books about major science fiction writers and numerous articles in scholarly journals and anthologies. His vast body of work touched upon virtually all aspects of science fiction and fantasy. In articles like “The Origins of Science Fiction” (2005), he explored how the conditions necessary for the emergence of science fiction first materialized in France and later in England and elsewhere. Seeking early texts that influenced and illuminate science fiction, he focused not only on major writers like Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells but also on usually overlooked figures like E. T. A. Hoffmann, Benjamin Constant, Thomas De Quincey, Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, J.-H. Rosny aîné, and J. D. Bernal. His examinations of twentieth-century science fiction regularly established connections between a wide range of international authors, as suggested by the title of his 1989 essay “Structures of Apprehension: Lem, Heinlein, and the Strugatskys,” and he fruitfully scrutinized both classic novels by writers like Arthur C. Clarke and Ursula K. Le Guin and the formulaic ephemera of the contemporary science fiction marketplace. A few specific topics repeatedly drew his interest, such as the mechanisms of time travel in science fiction and the “Frankenstein barrier” that writers encounter when they face the seemingly impossible task of describing beings that are more advanced than humanity. And he aroused controversies by criticizing other scholars in provocative essays like “Who’s Afraid of Science Fiction?” (1988) and “The Politically Correct Book of Science Fiction” (1994). No single paragraph can possibly summarize the full extent of his remarkably adventurous scholarship.

The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy seeks to pay tribute to his remarkable career by inviting science fiction scholars, commentators, and writers to contribute papers that employ, and build upon, some of his many groundbreaking ideas; we also welcome suggestions for panels that would address Slusser and his legacy. To assist potential participants in locating and studying Slusser’s works, a conference website will include a comprehensive bibliography of his books, essays, reviews, and introductions. This selective conference will follow the format that Slusser preferred, a single track that allows all attendees to listen to every paper and participate in lively discussions about them. It is hoped that the best conference papers can be assembled in one volume and published as a formal or informal festschrift to George Slusser.

Potential contributors are asked to submit by email a 250-word paper abstract and a brief curriculum vitae to any of the four conference coordinators: Jon Alexander (, Gregory Benford ( ), Howard V. Hendrix (, or Gary Westfahl ( ). The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2017, and decisions will be provided by mid-January, 2018. Further information about the conference schedule, fee, location, accommodations, and distinguished guests will be provided at the conference website.

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