Specfic 2021 is an international conference organized by the Swedish Network for Speculative Fiction.
Specfic 2020 has been resurrected as Specfic 2021: Time and History and will take place the 1–3 December 2021 at Karlstad University. We are now accepting new proposals. We fervently hope that, by December, we will all be able to meet in person again. However, we will also make plans for a virtual conference, should the situation require it.
Call for papers
Just like the Roman god Janus, speculative fiction looks into both the past and the future in its attempt to make sense of the bewildering clutter of events, phenomena, and ideas which constitute the present. Traditionally, science fiction has been the arena for speculating about the future, while the past has been the domain of the fantasy genre. However, fantasy may also take place in the present, as testified by the increasingly popular urban fantasy genre, and even the future can accommodate fantasies, such as Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring. Meanwhile, subgenres such as alternative history or steampunk may be said to constitute science fictions of the past. In the shape of “creation stories,” speculative works such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion and C. S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew narrate the beginning of history, whereas the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genres speculate about the end of history—and what comes after. And many forms of speculative fiction portray the evil that comes from the past to threaten the present, whether in the guise of an ancient vampire, a Dark Lord returning, or an alien roused from its aeons-long sleep.
The nature of time itself is also the focus of many speculative works. Adventurers into Faerie may find that years have passed after their one night away, and space travellers who go faster than the speed of light may experience the same. Normal temporal relations and principles are turned on end in time travel narratives such as H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, or BBC's Doctor Who; and in Michael Ende’s Momo, the pivotal struggle between good and evil does not concern the fate of the world, but that of time.
Speculative fiction as a mode of literature has deep historical roots, roots that are very much alive in contemporary texts. Whether they are ancient myths and epics, Gothic novels of the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, or pulp fiction from a century ago, the precursors and forerunners echo in the literature of today. On the other hand, as ecocritic Timothy Clark (2014) suggests, speculative fiction may be the literary mode best suited for dealing with “the collapse of distinctions between the trivial and the disastrous, nature and culture” which are likely to characterize our future in the Anthropocene epoch.
Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
- History of the speculative genres
- Future development of the speculative genres
- The representation of different historical epochs in speculative fiction (the middle ages; the 19th century etc.)
- Alternative histories
- Time travel
- Work and futurism
- Fantasy and modernity
- Fantasy with future settings
- Speculative fiction and the avant-garde
- Speculative fiction and the Anthropocene
- Speculative fiction and globalization
- Utopias/dystopias of the past and the future
- Post-scarcity futures
All proposed papers should connect, in some way, to the theme “Time and History.” Submissions should consist of a 300-word abstract and a tentative bibliography together with a short biographical note. They should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 16, 2021 at the latest. All submissions must be in English. If you had a paper accepted for Specfic 2020, you do not have to resubmit your proposal.
In case of a virtual conference, please note that it will take place during normal office hours CET (Central European Time).
Edward James, Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at University College Dublin.
Edward James read History at Oxford, and his Oxford DPhil was in early medieval archaeology. He taught early medieval history (and some archaeology) at various universities, including York and Reading, for 43 years, before ending up as Professor of Medieval History at University College Dublin. He has numerous publications in early medieval History, above all in Frankish history. He retired in 2012, although he continues to teach occasionally, in Cambridge. He currently has a contract with Oxford University Press for a study of a sixth-century Frankish queen.
He chose to specialise in early medieval history because he was bowled over by his reading of The Lord of the Rings, before going to university. At that stage he had already begun to attend science fiction conventions. In 1986 he became editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction, which he continued until 2000. In 1994 he published Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century (Oxford). He edited various books, notably with Farah Mendlesohn, on Babylon 5, on Terry Pratchett, and, eventually The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (which won a Hugo in 2005) and The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature. With Farah Mendlesohn he wrote A Short History of Fantasy (2009). The last book on science fiction he published was Lois McMaster Bujold (Illinois University Press, 2015). He was won the Eaton Award, the Pilgrim Award, and the IAFA’s Distinguished Scholar Award. In 2015 he won the British Science Fiction Association’s Non-Fiction Award for his website on science fiction and fantasy writers in the Great War (1914-1918), which is an ongoing project which he will never finish.
Merja Polvinen, Senior Lecturer in English and Docent in Comparative Literature at the University of Helsinki.
Merja Polvinen is a former board member of The Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research, and currently Chair of the Advisory Board of the journal Fafnir, as well as a PI in the research consortium Instrumental Narratives (2018–2022; https://instrumentalnarratives.wordpress.com/), where her team focuses on speculative fiction at the limits of narrative. Her current research focuses on cognitive literary studies, and recent publications on e.g. China Miéville, Christopher Priest and Catherynne Valente have appeared in The Cognitive Humanities (Palgrave), Cognitive Literary Science (Oxford UP) and The Edinburgh Companion to Contemporary Narrative Theories. For 2019–2020 she was a visiting fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, working on a monograph on self-reflection and contemporary speculative fiction.
Specfic 2020 is arranged with the financial support of Riksbankens Jubileumsfond.