Between fiction and society. Imagination and world building in the aftermath of a global pandemic


For the past two years, we have been living in an alienating reality reminiscent of the dystopian
narratives of several works of speculative fiction, due to a global pandemic. And in addition to Covid19, we are currently facing a barrage of related problems, including the spread of disinformation and
conspiracy theories, anti-scientism, growing environmental risks, the introduction of repressive
policies, the restriction of civil and human rights in several countries around the globe, international
crises, and the very possibility of a new world conflict. Traditionally, popular culture has been
instrumental in providing tools to make sense of an increasingly complex situation. Moreover, it
introduces the very possibility of resistance because even the darkest hour in the darkest story carries
an instigation to mobilise, fight back, and reject the status quo. After all, as Edoardo Galeano argued,
“utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten
steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I may walk, I'll never reach it. So what's
the point of utopia? The point is this: to keep walking”.
Between fiction and society. Imagination and world building in the aftermath of a global
pandemic urges a debate over speculative/science/fantasy fictions across different media, highlighting
their relationships to history, society and to the contingent moment. Moreover, it encourages us to pay
close attention to the influence that both utopian and dystopian narratives exert on everyday life, as
they provide possible frameworks to rethink the current conditions and imagine alternatives.
How do novels, short stories, movies, TV series, comics, and video games imagine the
apocalypse and what kind of scenarios do they envision? How do utopia and dystopia shape our culture
and collective imagination? How do speculative/science/fantasy narratives change in times of global
crisis? These are just some of the questions that this international conference, organised in the context
of the electricdreams International Film Festival (“sognielettrici - Festival dell’immaginario fantastico
e di fantascienza”), will try to answer.
Proposals may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Pandemic, sci-fi, and history: how to deal with diseases in the collective imagination;
- Utopia/Dystopia, popular culture and society: how speculative fiction reflects on reality
and history;
- Apocalypse and post-apocalypse: stories, fears, and solutions;
- Critiques of established/Western canons;
- Gender politics, queerness, ethnicity, disability, nationality, religious minorities,
immigrants/refugees: representation of otherness in speculative fiction;
- Post-colonial and neo-colonial perspectives;
- Popular culture as a vehicle of social transformation;
- Form of dissent, reform, rebellion, and conformity in the field;
- Breaching boundaries in speculative fiction (language or otherwise).