Modernism and Science Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
May 1, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
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In the wake of the New Modernist Studies, and in particular such pioneering works as Maria DiBattista and Lucy MacDiarmid’s High and Low Moderns (1996), there is increasing interest both in interdisciplinary approaches to modernism and the relationship between modernism and popular culture. Although various writers (Christine Brooke-Rose, Fredric Jameson, Fred Pfeil, Phillip Wegner) have speculated upon the affinities between modernism and science fiction, and have even postulated tentative literary histories, this relationship has been brought into focus by such works as Paul March-Russell’s Modernism and Science Fiction (2015). Since then, other related works have included Charles M. Tung’s Modernism and Time Machines (2019), James Gifford’s A Modernist Fantasy (2018) and March-Russell’s chapter on modernism and the avant-garde in The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (2019). In addition, specialist presses such as Kate Macdonald’s Handheld Press have begun the task of reprinting science fiction from the modernist period, whilst the 2019 MLA Convention featured a special session on ‘Modernism’s Science Fictions’, and Modernism/Modernity will be publishing a special section on the topic. At the same time, starting with the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction’s entry on ‘Modernism in SF’, there is interest from within the genre in terms of how sf writers, especially those associated with the New Wave, adapted and appropriated modernist and avant-garde techniques. This interest, both from within the genre and without, is further accentuated by the work of contemporary authors, such as Nicola Barker’s award-winning HAPPY (2017), which explicitly engages with the legacy of experimental science fiction from the 1970s and 1980s.

In the light of these developments, we would like to assemble a Special Issue of Humanities that explores the relationship between modernism and science fiction. Topics may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Science fiction elements in the work of modernist writers and artists
  • Utopian/dystopian fiction from the modernist period (c. 1880-c. 1940)
  • Technoculture and the avant-garde
  • Science fiction, modernism and cinema
  • Science fiction and modernist theatre
  • Modernism, science fiction and print culture
  • Feminist science fiction of the modernist period
  • Science fiction, modernism and empire
  • Science, science fiction and indigenous cultures
  • Modernism and scientific romance
  • Modernist elements in the work of pulp and Golden Age writers (c. 1920-c. 1960)
  • The sf New Wave in the context of late modernism/neo-avant-garde
  • Science fiction, modernism and postmodernism
  • Coteries and/or fandoms
  • Science fiction, modernism and contemporary fiction

We strongly encourage an international perspective so as to get beyond the Anglo-American dominance of both modernist and science fiction histories. The proposal complements existing work on the topic but goes beyond it by arguing for a re-evaluation of modernism and science fiction in the context of an expanding social and cultural field. This expansion calls into question how ‘modernism’ and ‘science fiction’ have been defined; an investigation into the interface between these two mutually undefined phenomena will touch upon areas fundamental to their academic analysis.