This Unit connects the study of religion to the limitless possibilities for world-making, soul-saving, god-imagining, community-forming, and human-being posed by science fiction (and broadly, “speculative” fictions). Science Fiction (SF) is a literary and visual medium addressing the most basic existential and teleological questions human beings can pose. As the genre of infinite possible worlds and human and superhuman becoming, SF has a unique ability to ask, examine, and suggest answers to the most profound questions and to envision transcendence beyond traditional realist literature or religious interpretations of the world.
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Religion and Science Fiction Unit
Call for Proposals
Religion and Science Fiction invites proposals exploring the intersections of religion and speculative fictions in ways that illuminate theoretical, methodological, and substantive issues in the study of religion. We are especially interested in proposals that invite audience conversation, make use of new media, and consider alternative "sciences" and worlds. We seek proposals on the following topics and invite proposals from a commensurate range of disciplinary and methodological approaches.
Of particular interest will be papers that sit at the intersection between science fiction, religion-and-science, technology, and public policy. Possibilities include superheroes, socially participatory AIs, technological interventions to end scarcity, intergalactic travel, human enhancement, and bioengineering. Other possible topics or panel proposals would be considered addressing issues such as: Religion and A.I. & Monsters; The work of NK Jemisin; Boston/New England in SF: HP Lovecraft’s Mythos to Stephen King's Cell and beyond.
Metaphors for colonization, such as invasion, infection, and contagion, expose fears that often underlie religious violence, societal division, and racial conflict. We seek papers that engage both alternative histories and futures, including both theories of science fiction and the science fictionalization of history, colonialism, disease, infections and/or revolutions. Other possible connected topics include aboriginal, Native American traditions; relatedly, decolonizing narratives and theories present in Science fiction.
We seek proposals for a co-sponsored session with Religion and Popular Culture and Religion, Literature and Arts that engages the work of Ted Chiang in tandem with theories or tropes of religion and/or science fiction. We are receptive to a wide range of critical approaches that engage any of Chiang’s novels, short stories or collections .
The AAR Theme this year is Religion, Poverty, Inequality: Contemplating our Collective Futures. Contemplating, engineering, and envisioning the future is the very foundation of science fiction. Indeed, science fiction writers are often credited with the ability to predict the future, although as Octavia Butler wrote, “writing novels about the future doesn’t give me any special ability to foretell the future. But it does encourage me to use our past and present behaviors as guides to the kind of world we seem to be creating.” We invite paper proposals that engage these pressing contemporary issues through the lens of speculative fiction. Related to this theme is prediction and prophetic writing, such as but not limited to the work of Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Octavia Butler, Nnedi Okorafor, and Kim Stanley Robinson.
Statement of Purpose
Steering Committee Members
Rudy V. Busto, University of California, Santa Barbara1/1/2018 - 12/31/2023
Douglas E. Cowan, University of Waterloo1/1/2016 - 12/31/2021
Nathan Fredrickson, University of California, Santa Barbara1/1/2020 - 12/31/2025
Zhange Ni, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University1/1/2021 - 12/31/2026