[UPDATE] Worlding SF: Building, Inhabiting, and Understanding Science Fiction Universes (December 6-8, 2018)

deadline for submissions: 
April 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
University of Graz
contact email: 

Call for Papers


"Worlding SF: Building, Inhabiting, and Understanding Science Fiction Universes"

University of Graz, Austria

December 6–8, 2018


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" 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).

Based on the panel proposals we received in phase 1 of our call for papers, we would like to invite interested scholars to propose individual papers to the following thematic clusters:

  • A and Gray: Non-Heteronormative Sexualities in Imagined Worlds
  • Afro-Futurist Worlds
  • Asian SF Worlds
  • Between Scarcity and Abundance in SF Worlds
  • Between Transmedia Storytelling and Money-Making: Franchising SF Worlds
  • Beyond Petromodernity: Alternative Energy Futures
  • “By the time you read this, you’ll be older than you remember”: Age and Aging in SF Worlds (fan cultures included)
  • Celebrating Brian Aldriss’s SF Worlds
  • Celebrating Ursula K. Le Guin’s SF Worlds
  • “Constants and variables”: Building the Multiverse
  • Eastern-European SF Worlds
  • Feel, Perform, and Picture the World: World-Building beyond Storytelling
  • Gaia in Outer Space: SF Worlds as Sentient and/or Feeling Entities
  • “How do we know that 2 and 2 make 4?” Ontologies (and Epistemologies) of SF Worlds
  • Indigenous Cosmologies
  • “Infinite diversity in infinite combinations”: World-Building in Star Trek
  • “It’s a trap!” Exploring the Star Wars Universe
  • LatinX SF
  • Movement is Key: Moving in/through SF Gameworlds (not restricted to digital games!)
  • Muslim SF Worlds
  • Performing Fandom: Inhabiting SF Worlds in the “Real” World
  • “The planet has survived everything […]. It will certainly survive us”: Imagining and Building Non-/Post-/Transhuman Worlds
  • The “Real” World Feeding Off of SF Worlds
  • Regenerative Play in Utopia: Exploring Playful Counter-Discourses in Eco-SF Games
  • There and Back Again: The Shared World-Building Experiences of Video Gamers and Game Designers
  • Trans* Worlds: Imagining Non-Binary Futures


Confirmed keynote speakers (in alphabetical order):

Mark Bould: "The Great Clomping Food of Nerdism Stamping on the Human Face--Forever: World-Building and Contradiction"

Gerry Canavan: "Worlding Crisis, Crisising Worlds"

Cheryl Morgan: "Systems of Sex and Gender"


Of course, there is also an open track for proposals that do not quite fit into these (rather broad) thematic clusters.

Please submit your paper proposals via the online submission form at http://www.worlding-sf.com.

The deadline for paper abstracts is April 15, 2018.


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.



Stefan "Steve" Rabitsch, Michael Fuchs, and Stefan Brandt (University of Graz)

We plan to publish a volume based on selected conference papers in the New Dimensions in Science Fiction series, which is published by the University of Wales Press. The series is co-edited by Paweł Frelik (Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin) and Patrick B. Sharp (California State University, Los Angeles). UWP is distributed by the University of Chicago Press in North America.

If you have any questions, please drop us an email at contact@worlding-sf.com.