Seeking Chapters for Fantastic Cities: American Urban Spaces in Science Fiction & Fantasy (Abstract Deadline = July 15, 2015)

full name / name of organization: 
Stefan Brandt, Michael Fuchs, and Stefan Rabitsch

Basin City, Caprica City, Coruscant, Gotham City, Mega-City One, Metropolis, Nos Astra, the Sprawl, and so on—SFF teems with iconic urban environments. These cities serve as geographical backdrops, but also provide, as Vivian Sobchack has argued, the "premises for the possibilities and trajectory of narrative action." Yet while Sobchack claims that representations of fantastic urban spaces depict "the failure of modernism's aspirations in images that speak of urban exhaustion, postmodern exhilaration, and millennial vertigo," in SFF, cities also embody unlimited possibilities, transcultural ideals, and utopian dreams. Cities thus function both as beacons of progress and freedom and as harbingers of decay and destruction.

In the American context, this duality has repeatedly been expressed in diverse cultural artifacts. After all, John Winthrop famously imagined the New World as a 'city upon the hill' and William James, Sr., praised American cities for their "courage, the heaven-scalding audacity … and the great pulses and bounds of progress," while Thomas Jefferson feared that cities were "pestilential to the morals, the health and the liberties of men." More recently, texts as different as Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day and Steven Spielberg's blockbuster adaptation Minority Report have tapped into the ambiguous feelings and meanings connected to the American city.

Our collection seeks to discuss American urban spaces in science fiction & fantasy. We want to embrace SFF's diversity and welcome chapter proposals on science fiction per se, alternate history, cosmological horror, supernatural and/or paranormal fiction, just to name a few possible (sub-)genres. Likewise, our notion of 'American' urban spaces is rather expansive and includes (a) representations (or simulations) of 'real' American cities (note: we are especially interested in explorations of cities other than New York City and Los Angeles), (b) fictional cities located in the United States, and (c) cities whose geographical location is unclear or even outside the sovereign territory of the United States, but whose representations are enmeshed in the (trans)American urban imaginary (e.g. Buenos Aires in Starship Troopers).

Chapters may explore different media (literature, movies, video games, comics, visual arts, television, etc.) and address topics including, but by no means limited to:

  • futuristic cities and the American past (and the present)
  • (virtual) embodiment in (futuristic) urban spaces
  • speculative history and the city
  • (post-)apocalyptic urban spaces
  • space stations and star cruisers as urban spaces
  • (invisible) walls in and around the fantastic city

If you are interested in proposing a chapter, please email an abstract of 500–800. Your abstract should outline your working thesis and briefly sketch the theoretical framework(s) within which your chapter will be situated. If you propose a chapter on a primary text frequently discussed within the context of urbanity (e.g. Blade Runner), please submit a longer abstract in order to clarify what your interpretation will add to the existing literature. All submissions will be acknowledged. If you do not receive a confirmation of receipt within 48 hours, you may assume that your email was lost in the depths of cyberspace. In that case, please re-submit. Please note that we will not include previously published essays in the collection.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you might have at the email indicated above and/or Michael and/or Steve.

July 15, 2015: abstract deadline
July 31, 2015: notification of acceptance/rejection (Please note: Acceptance of your abstract does not automatically guarantee your chapter's inclusion in the collection.)
December 15, 2015: first drafts due
February 29, 2016: feedback on first drafts
publication expected in 2017