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Changing the Voices of Science Fiction: The Progressive Fantastic in Germany

Tuesday 26 April 2022, 16:00-17:30
TBC (In person)

Leverhulme Visiting Professor Dr Lars Schmeink from the Europa-Universität Flensburg will give his official Leverhulme Lecture on the "Progressive Fantastic" at the University of Leeds.

The event will be held in person with enough space for social distancing. We are currently looking into available rooms and will announce the venue closer to the event. The event is open for students, staff, and interested public and entrance is free.

Please register via the Eventbrite page

Event Abstract

German science fiction has traditionally been a conservative genre, its main authors to this day mostly white, cis, hetero males of middle age. Until recently, diversity of genders, non-heteronormative sexuality, race or varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, or representations of other marginalized groups (age, (dis)ability, etc.) has been sorely missing. But there has been a concerted effort by a younger, more diverse group of writers to change the approach to fantastic literature. Under the umbrella of the "progressive fantastic", they have called for the inclusion of other identities in speculative fiction, the strengthening of own-voices, and a keen-eyed re-examination of traditions and structures in fantastic texts.

In this talk, I want to present the key features of this "progressive fantastic" by looking at exemplary texts of recent German SF production: Judith and Christian Vogt’s ground-breaking work in writing in a non-heteronormative language and presenting intersectionally diverse communities in Wasteland (2019) and Ace in Space (2020); James Sullivan’s investigation of belonging and self-positioning via Afrofuturist estrangement in Die Stadt der Symbionten (2019), Lena Richter’s subtle emphasis on (dis)abled and neurodivergent characters in her short stories "Feuer" (2020) and "3,78 Lifepoints" (2021), and Theresa Hannig’s reinvigoration of the hopeful narrative strategies of utopia as a genre in Pantopia (2022).


Dr Lars Schmeink is currently Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the School of Modern Languages, Cultures and Societies at the University of Leeds, visiting from his position as Research Fellow at the Europa-Universität Flensburg, where he just applied for funding for a larger research project on science fiction as a form of science communication. While at Leeds, Dr Schmeink is working with Professor Ingo Cornils on the Transcultural Fantastic project.

Before coming to Leeds, he concluded his work as principal investigator of the federally funded "Science Fiction" subproject within the FutureWork network, an interdisciplinary research group working on the development of work and society.

In 2010, he founded the first German academic organization dedicated to research into the fantastic, the Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung, and served as its president for ten years. He is the author of Biopunk Dystopias (2016), and the co-editor of Cyberpunk and Visual Culture (2018), The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture (2020), Fifty Key Figures in Cyberpunk Culture (2022) and New Perspectives on Contemporary German Science Fiction (2022).