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Worlding SF
December 6-8, 2018
University Of Graz, Austria

Call For Papers

Everything is (in) a world.

“To be a work [of art] means: to set up a world,” Martin Heidegger remarked in his 1950 essay “The Origin of the Work of Art” (2002, 22). Tellingly, some four decades later, Carl Malmgren suggested that “the generic distinctiveness of sf lies not in its story but in its world” (1991, 7). Both Malmgren and Heidegger have a point—fiction, and more specifically science fiction, is generally more interested in creating plausible worlds than telling convincing stories. In response to the effects and challenges of transmedia convergence, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay has more recently remarked that world-building “determine[s] the relationships in the narrative, even when the action is full of dramatic movement” (2008, 82). Accordingly, everything is (happening) in a world; a (more or less) coherent and cohesive world.

Following Heidegger’s elaborations in Being and Time (1927), one may argue that entering such a fantastic world means being thrown into it, as the reader/viewer/player must learn to navigate the fictional world and to understand its underlying rules. This “thrownness” defines the subject and its relation to the world (2010, 169–73). As such, Heidegger’s approach opens up ways to begin to understand the ways in which we become immersed in—and engaged with—sf universes.

In the aforementioned essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Heidegger stresses that “[w]orld is not a mere collection of the things […] that are present at hand. Neither is world a merely imaginary framework.” “Worlds world,” he concludes, meaning that we are subject to worlding “as long as the paths of birth and death […] keep us transported into being” (2002, 23; italics in original). Similar to the ways in which the previous paragraph condenses Heidegger’s concepts, Gayatri Spivak has “vulgariz[ed …]” (1985, 260) Heidegger’s notion of “worlding,” suggesting that the “worlding” of any text carries ideological baggage—political messages that simultaneously naturalize specific concepts and always-already seek to erase themselves. Heidegger himself, for example, denied nonhuman agents the capability of worlding, stating that “plants and animals have no world; they belong […] to the […] environment into which they have been put” (2002, 23). As a result, building worlds seems to necessitate creating hierarchies, which lead to processes of oppression and marginalization—from the colonial subtexts of canonical texts Spivak uncovered and the feminist sf of Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, and Octavia Butler to afrofuturism and visions of the future in which Earth liberates itself from human dominance.

The conference “Worlding SF: Building, Inhabiting, and Understanding Science Fiction Universes” seeks to explore these three thematic clusters—(a) world-building, (b) processes and practices of being in fictional worlds (both from the characters’ and readers’/viewers’/players’/fans’ points of view), and (c) the seemingly naturalized subtextual messages these fantastic visions communicate (or sometimes even self-consciously address). Accordingly, we would like to invite interested scholars to submit panel proposals and/or abstracts for individual papers on topics that may include, but are by no means limited to:

* (transmedia) storytelling and world-building (establishing coherence, explaining contradictions, embracing contradictions, world-building beyond storytelling, etc.),
* the (im)mutability of sf worlds (retconning the operating principles of established universes),
* world-building and philosophy,
* human and nonhuman agents’ being-in-the-(fictional) world,
* worlds as characters in their own right,
* engaging with sf storyworlds/universes (e.g. fan culture, but also popular culture representations of specific sf worlds and their fans),
* movement (and/or the lack thereof) in/of sf worlds,
* (overcoming) marginalization/cultural hierarchies in sf worlds (race, class, gender, sexuality, species),
* non-western conceptualizations of sf worlds (e.g. indigenous cosmologies), and
* sf worlds and the “real” world.

We have two separate deadlines for panel and paper proposals. For the first deadline, please submit only your panel proposals (i.e., 300–500-word pitches for your panels). You may, of course, already recruit scholars for your panels and include a tentative list of speakers; however, individual paper abstracts (no matter whether submitted for the open track or for a specific panel/track) will be due at a later point.

panel proposals: January 31, 2018

acceptance of panel proposals: February 16, 2018
paper abstracts: April 15, 2018

Submission Procedure:
Panel proposals should be emailed to; for individual paper abstracts, please use the submission form, which will be online from February 20 to April 15 at

Additional Information:
Limited funding for independent scholars and graduate students may be available. In order to create a more inclusive environment for international scholars who may have funding, scheduling, and/or travel issues, the conference will feature a Skype track. We expect papers to be presented live (and not to be pre-recorded), however.

A volume based on selected conference papers will be published with the University of Wales Press’ New Dimensions in Science Fiction series, edited by Paweł Frelik and Patrick B. Sharp. (FYI: UWP is distributed by the University of Chicago Press in North America.)

If you have any questions, please drop us an email at