Skip navigation

Imagining Alternatives – Speculative Fiction and the Political

11th Annual Conference of the Gesellschaft fuer Fantastikforschung (GFF) in cooperation with the German Popular Culture Studies Association (GPCA)

September 10-12, 2020, University of Augsburg, Germany

Author Ian McEwan’s recent claims that Science Fiction is not political enough are not only elitist, but also could not be farther from the truth. After all, any Speculative Fiction, no matter if it is Science Fiction, Fantasy, the Gothic, Horror, or any other variation of the fantastic, has always been political in that they make it possible for us to imagine alternatives to the lives we live – whether it is the warnings of dystopian works such as George Orwell’s 1984 or more recently, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale and its adaptation into a TV series that have resonated at times of #metoo and Trump. Alternate histories such as Man in the High Castle continue to keep audiences similarly engaged, while Harry Potter’s allegory on fascism has served as inspiration for political protest against right-wing voices, particularly for the millennial generation that has grown up with it. Star Trek’s humanist utopia is still going strong after 50 years, and its most recent installment, Star Trek: Discovery may in many ways be its most political yet – particularly given the controversies its spiked for its strive for diversity, bringing to the forefront larger issues surrounding certain sections of SF fans that want to claim the genre(s) as mere escapism without political ideology.

SF has also been used for political (Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged) or religious (scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s works or Tim La Haye’s Left Behind series) propaganda, further showing the cultural capital of speculative fiction. Jurassic Park has warned us of the ills of consumerism driving science, Tolkien’s works are not just ecocritical but also anti-fascist, and Doctor Who’s titular character continues to not only fight the Daleks, a thinly-veiled Nazi allegory, but has also recently visited Rosa Parks. Additionally, the recent surge in Climate Fiction, a genre originally advanced by hard SF writers, has built up optimism about the ability of popular culture to not only portray but also ignite eco-political engagement.

This conference thus calls for papers on all forms and genres of speculative fiction and their engagement with the political, be it novels, film, television series, or immersive media such as games or theme parks.

There is generally an open track to submit papers on any SF-related topic, however, we specifically welcome discussions of such issues as:

political ideology in works of SF, incl. fan-produced content based on them
the relevance of works of SF for resistance movements
utopia, dystopia, and the continued project to imagine the future
depictions of minorities in SF and their political implications
general debates surrounding the politics of SF, transnational differences/similarities

Please send abstracts (in English or German) of 300 words plus bio blurbs of 150 words to by January 15, 2020.

The GFF will offer travel grants of 250 Euros each for two (graduate) students attending the conference. Please let us know if you want to be considered when applying.

A conference homepage with more information will follow over the coming months. The conference Twitter handle is @GFF_11th.