Series Books and Science Fiction (National PCA Conference)

deadline for submissions: 
November 24, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
National PCA Conference
contact email: 

Call for Papers: Series Books and Science Fiction (National PCA Conference)


This call for papers for the national PCA Conference looks to interrogate the intersection of two distinct genres: juvenile series books and science fiction.

Scholars of children’s literature note important generic, structural, and cultural definitions in regards to series books. Series books are dominated by static natures. The central character—usually a flat, unchanging trope more than a fully realized, fleshed out, dynamic figure—is likewise a static creation. Often, these characters do not even age, let alone change. Typified by series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, “a Dixon or a Keene promised a reliably pat formula, a single general story in which only the details of the mystery differed from book to book” (Karell 37). These generic conventions have been simply described as, “Good mystery and lots of action, with some educational material” (Herz 8). While the “educational material” could be information about the places the characters visited or the objects encountered during the story—apt for any mystery set in an exotic clime—the “action” was always to be “tension without violence” (Herz 12). In the series, “tension is created through the possibility that something catastrophic may happen” (Herz 12, italics original). It was considered vital that

the books contained nothing prurient or off-color, and even the sanitized ‘violence’ involved no blood. It is true that the boys and the villains repeatedly got tied up, hit on the head, or nearly drowned, and that they tumbled down cliffs or fell through trapdoors, but they never died brutal deaths…by the standards of the late twentieth century, the series books were remarkably tame and included no tobacco and not the slightest hint of sex, even on the part of the villains. (Greenwald 36)

Reflecting strict dictates regarding violence, sexuality, patriarchy, and social hierarchy, these books were ultimately intended to reflect “good, wholesome adventure and suspense” that did not, in any way, disrupt the status quo (Herz 13).

Science fiction is another distinct genre. At its core, the nomenclature of “science fiction” itself is something of a paradox. “Fiction” denotes fantasy, fancy, that which is divorced from “reality.” Certainly fiction has always spoke to and explored what is considered to be real or reality, but in its very construction one sees the seeds for a departure from the tangible and into realms that exist beyond this real world. “Science,” however, suggests a specific discipline grounded in reality, based on predictable principles of action and inaction. Science is the study of the physical world in all its varied manifestations; it relies on observation, experimentation, and the judicious recording and interpretation of reality and fact. The two together, then, create that aforementioned oxymoron: “science fiction,” which, for all intents and purposes, could be translated into “real unreality.” Science fiction constructs its possibilities from what is real, from what is possible, or conceivably so. The fact that science fiction and its most common manifestations—space flight, technology, alien realms—are so connected to the future, and to our visions and re-visions of the future, suggests that the genre is concerned not with what is unreal, but rather with what may be real, or may soon be real. The flights of fancy that govern science fiction are grounded in the tangible, in the realm of what is possible, real, hoped for, and feared.

These two divergent genres do interact. Certain volumes in series like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys contain distinctly science fiction elements; other series like Tom Swift and Rick Brant have elements of science fiction throughout the series. Modern children’s sci fi series like Masterminds, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising books and Scott Westerfield’s Horizon series also bring the two genres together. The papers in this panel will explore that interactivity, to examine how two very divergent genres both work together and clash in the creation of story.


Submission Guidelines: In Word (.doc/.docx), Rich Text Format (.rtf), or PDF, 250-word proposals for individual papers should be submitted through the PCA website and only through the PCA website. Please submit to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Area (the panels will be coordinated between the Science Fiction and Fantasy area and the Children’s/Young Adult Series Books and DimeNovels area). Instructions for submission can be found at and submissions made at


Submissions can be made on the site after 1 August 2019.


The abstract document should contain the following information, in this order:

  • Name of presenter—indicate main contact person if submitting a multi-authored paper

  • Institutional affiliation—if applicable

  • Name and contact information of Supervising professor—for undergraduate students only

  • Address(es), telephone number(s), and current email address(es) of presenter(s)

  • Title of paper

  • Indicate that it is for the “Series Books and Science Fiction” panels

 Followed by the 250-word proposal(s)


The proposal will be acknowledged within 2 days of its receipt, and the sender will be notified of the submission’s status shortly after the submission deadline (if not sooner). Please be aware that acknowledgment of receipt does not automatically denote acceptance. Deadlines for submission are firm, and we cannot accept any papers made after the deadline. Earlier submission is appreciated.

Please, do not simultaneously submit proposals to multiple areas. Doing so is a discourtesy to area chairs and will result in your paper being refused. Per PCA/ACA guidelines, a person may present only one paper at the annual meeting, regardless of subject area. If you try to submit to two areas, the master program will not accept your proposals (which may result in your paper not being accepted in either area).


Send content questions to Michael Cornelius at


Submission Deadline: 24 November 2019