The Alternate Realities of Life Sciences and Science Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
March 17, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Fran Cettl, Durham Centre for Academic Development, University of Durham, UK



Volume 6




From Dr Moreau’s ‘Island’ to ‘Area X’  


In recent decades, the genre of science fiction has increasingly turned to explorations of biology as the science of the future, and focused prominently on the issues of biotechnology, genetic engineering, or climate change, while biology itself has been undergoing a shift from the focus on individual genes to epigenetics and systems biology, and most recently quantum biology. Life sciences and science fiction have been productively crossing paths ever since their 19th century emergence and throughout the 20th century, as can be found in M. Shelley’s Frankenstein, A. Huxley’s Brave New World, or H. G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau. Contemporary science fiction articulates new reinterpretations of the familiar question of what constitutes life and how to design and manage it, for example in the TV series The Expanse, based on  James S. A. Corey's novels, with the so-called ‘protomolecule’, an extraterrestrial virus and a potential bio-weapon at its centre, or VanderMeer’s Annihilation, a story of alternative evolution that gives life to entities that blur the boundaries between life and death, organic and inorganic, biological and artificial, earthly and alien.

What are some of the more particular ways in which life sciences and science fiction productively intersect, mutually illuminate or even transform one another? One powerful intersecting thread is that of highlighting the dangers inherent in the discoveries and technologies of life sciences, and the anxieties at the prospect of irreversible evolutionary and environmental change. At the same time, the scientific horizon of discovery and change also opens up for visions of new, perhaps more democratic, potentialities, and alternate realities. How do these science / fictional utopias and dystopias narrate the developments in reproductive technologies, artificial intelligence, digital reality, or environmental change, and many more? How do science / fictions question the established boundaries and paradigms of life sciences? What are some of the political implications of the science / fictional construction and management of living beings, of the science / fictional alternate realities?

In the next issue of Pulse we aim to collect papers with a contemporary take on alternate realities, be it utopian, dystopian or otherwise, created by interventions and developments in the life sciences, and staged in both historical and contemporary sci-fi, including film, TV series and other formats besides literature. How do alternate realities of life sciences and science fiction intersect with and transform one another, and in the process both reactivate and redraw some of the genre conventions? We are especially interested in the explorations of animal life, plant life, evolution, environment, the human and the nonhuman, biotechnology, reproduction, digital reality and artificial intelligence which come out of the more recent critical theories and scholarly approaches. Perspectives ranging from literary and cultural studies to science studies, philosophy, sociology and history of science are welcome.


Possible topics include but are not limited to:

-        alternative evolution

-        bioweapons in 21st ct. warfare

-        biomedicine and biochemistry

-        scientific utopia and dystopia

-        science fiction and ecofeminism

-        technologies of gender and sexuality

-        reproductive technologies

-        science fiction and climate change

-        animal life, plant life

-        life and digital reality

-        artificial intelligence and neuroscience

-        shamanism and ecology

-        the human and the non- or post-human

-        life and the quantum field

-        biopolitics and bioethics


Slonczewski, Joan and Michael Levy: “Science fiction and the life sciences” In: The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction. Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2003.

-        Submission Deadline: 17 March 2019   -

We welcome the submission of full articles (5000-6000 words) on these and related themes. We also publish book reviews (800-1000 words); please get in touch if there is a book you would like to review.

All articles should be prepared for blind review including the removal of authorship from the document file information. Submissions should include a cover sheet in a separately attached document containing: the paper title and short abstract (ca. 250 words) author’s name, affiliation, word count (including footnotes & references), and contact information. Article and cover sheet should be submitted in a .doc, .docx, or .odt (or similar open-source) file format. PDF submissions are also accepted but previously stated file formats are preferred where possible.

All articles and related material should be submitted to:

For any inquires please feel free to contact us at Please do not submit articles to this email address. For general information and to access previous issues of Pulse you can visit:


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