SF and Catholicism on the New Books Network

I’m archiving the interview I did with the delightful, professional and highly astute Carrie Anne Evans for the New Books Network here.

Carrie Anne was an excellent interviewer, very well researched and informed, and asked some great questions. There are pro media interviewers who could learn a lot from how she goes about her work.

Interview conducted for New Books Network; aired first November 8th 2019.

Where can I publish my book on Science Fiction criticism?

I was asked this by a colleague who wanted to turn their doctoral thesis into a monograph. That in itself is not a straightforward task, and there are guides elsewhere on the web discussing that process. In short, a thesis is not a book (yet).

Anyhow, once a book is in sight, or at least in the planning, the next question arises as to where to publish it? SF criticism is not as marginalised as it once was, and there are now quite a few academic publishers with specialist series looking at the genre.

I collated the following list, which I emphasise is far from exhaustive, as potential starting points for my colleague. I’m sharing it here after a commenter on the ever excellent London SF research community Facebook page suggested it might be of use to others. If I encounter anything which looks relevant, I may return to edit this and add things later.

Do note that it really ISN’T exhaustive. There are many other options too, depending on the type of book you may have in mind. Biographies of major authors have traction beyond academic publishers for example. Books on popular TV or cinematic SF might do likewise. Even academic critical texts on SF may find a home outside these specialist series. A book on religious futurism for example may well find a home in a series on theology rather than on SF, for example.

Other publishers, such as Oxford UP, Cambridge UP, Bloomsbury and so on will often publish SF criticism without necessarily including it in a specific dedicated series. Bloomsbury for example list over 200 SF-themed texts on their website. So this resource really is just a starting point for someone looking for a place to publish their text.

As always, do your own due diligence, and remember that it’s better to find an editorial team who you like working with and who are supportive of your book than to go with the allegedly prestigious or prolific imprint which may process your book as in a sausage factory, or fail to promote it among a lengthy roster.

(For that very reason, I went with Gylphi for my book on SF and Catholicism, even though they may not be the most prestigious or established of academic publishers, because their small attentive team really prioritised and helped me produce the best possible iteration of my idea, and I felt really supported throughout the whole process.)

SFCatholicism

And on that note, don’t forget you’ll have to do a lot of promotion of your book yourself these days, including identifying potential review outlets. I believe the LSFRC might be looking at producing a resource on that too, which I for one would welcome.

Without further ado, in no particular order…

Series NamePublisherEditorsSample publication/ additional information
Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and StudiesLiverpool University PressDavid Seed, Sherryl VintA longstanding series – 69 publications to date, many by leading SF scholars – innovative but can take a conservative approach at times.
Wesleyan Science Fiction / Literary CriticismWesleyan University PressArthur B. EvansPublish anthologies and early classics editions as well as critical monographs. Closely connected to SF Studies journal.
Modern Masters of Science FictionUniversity of Illinois PressGary K. WolfeMonographs series focusing on individual SF authors. The press also publishes other SF-related texts, including a trilogy of Ray Bradbury biographies
Gylphi SF StoryworldsGylphi PressPaul March-RussellAn innovative and eclectic series of SF monographs and critical essay collections, spanning literature and other media.
World Science Fiction StudiesPeter LangSonja Fritzsche and Gerry CanavanRelatively new series of monographs focusing on postcolonial and decolonised topics. Be warned, the publisher may seek a payment contribution from the author.
Studies in Global Genre FictionRoutledgeTaryne Jade Taylor and Bodhisattva ChattopadhyayNew series which examines global iterations of genre fictions, open to receiving proposals relating to global SF
Studies in Global Science FictionPalgrave MacmillanAnindita Banerjee, Rachel Haywood Ferreira, and Mark BouldRapidly establishing series which focuses on localised iterations of global SF, publishing single author monographs and edited collections.
Ralahine Utopian StudiesPeter LangRaffaella Baccolini, Antonis Balasopoulos, Joachim Fischer, Michael J. Griffin, Naomi Jacobs, Michael G. Kelly, Tom Moylan and Phillip E. WegnerTwenty volumes to date, examining utopian studies in general and not solely in a SF context, though many are reprints of classic utopian studies texts.

Addendum:

Remiss of me to omit McFarland’s longstanding series on ‘Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy’, which has been going for over 15 years now and is one of the most prolific series out there, with over 70 books (most of which are SF.) They cast their net wide, and it inevitably contains a lot of things like mythology and Tolkien which are somewhat distant from SF. Notably open to monographs, edited collections, biographies and even critically edited reprint volumes of neglected works. Edited by Donald Palumbo.

New Dimensions in Science Fiction, eds. Pawel Frelik and Patrick B. Sharp, University of Wales Press, which has published six texts to date, including examinations of Indian SF, early SF feminism and, intriguingly, Plants in SF.

New Suns: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Speculative, eds. Susana M. Morris and Kinitra D. Brooks, Ohio State University Press, which to date has specialised in Afrofuturism criticism but has a remit to look at other forms of (marginalised) identity in SF and cognate fields.

Tentatively adding Routledge’s new series “Studies in Speculative Fiction” which to date has published two quite different texts with more forthcoming, and advertises a remit of “literatures from all around the word that fall within the speculative fiction umbrella, including but not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, horror, apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic, utopian/dystopian literatures, and supernatural fiction.” The editors for this series have not been identifiable.

For more options, see Jo Walton’s extensive comment below.

The multiplying tensions of religion(s) and the future

Just a quick observation on religious futurism(s).

With religions, we might term revelatory knowledge, which is deemed to be eternal, of divine or suprahuman provenance and therefore unchangeable wisdom. With the scientific method, we have a progressive, though unending, search for fundamental reality, generated via the attempts to disprove hypotheses empirically.

There is clearly a potential if not actual tension between the two, and we’ve seen this in the centuries since the Enlightenment period when the scientific method first came to the fore.

What happens when we add the temporal factor of futurism to the mix? Do we add tensions or multiply them? How do they manifest?

It’s going to be different for every religion, predicated on the nature of each faith’s own sense of revelatory knowledge of course. Some will be more malleable than others, and some more malleable on certain topics than others.

It’s also dependent on two other aspects which are perhaps less immediately obvious. The first of these is the future vision embedded within a particular religion. If a faith has a designated end point, in terms of apocalypse, apotheosis or otherwise, then obviously any world view based on that faith assumes that the world is moving inexorably towards that position, perhaps at varying speed, perhaps with occasional setbacks, but overall, invariably towards a set destination point.

The second aspect which may not be so obvious is a particular religion’s comfort zone in terms of adapting to scientific developments. A more fundamentalist faith is going to struggle with this more than a less rigid one, for example. In this sense, some religions may be somewhat surprising.

Catholicism is often perceived, from outside at least, as antipathetic to science due to anti-scientist positions it occasionally assumed during the Inquisition period. Nevertheless, Catholic clerics have played significant roles in the development of a number of scientific breakthroughs – genetics to name but one – and the Vatican observatory today is one of the leading institutions in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. In short, Catholicism has a strong sense of futurism even if elements of its dogma are not especially malleable or open to debate.

Islam likewise has been a strong supporter and fellow traveller of science at various geographic and historical points, and has no issue with futurist concepts such as alien intelligence, or space travel.

By contrast, Buddhism, which is often understood at least by non-practitioners as one of the more rational, or less revelatory, forms of faith, has a number of points where it finds scientific rationality tricky to engage with. There are reams of books attempting to square this particular circle, some of them inspired by or even co-authored by the Dalai Lama, who is well aware of just how hidebound his own particular variant of Buddhism is.

What is the disconnect here? The answer of course is adherence to the notion of a godhead. The Abrahamic monotheisms are unapologetically attached to the concept of a creator deity. It’s their core belief. Buddhism on the other hand manifests very differently. Some forms, inspired by Hinduism, have many supernatural beings in their pantheon. Tibetan Buddhisms in particular are prone to this. Others, and one thinks of some of the more austere Theravadan forms, do not espouse gods of any kind or form.

Because of the existence of the latter, Buddhism MAY not require belief in a godhead, and therefore it has tended to be perceived by atheists who practice science (or who practice futurism, in the form of science fiction or otherwise) as potentially more acceptable. The reality on the ground and across the entirety of the belief complex, is not as clearcut of course.

As always, I do not have any simple answers here, especially as answers would require the power of prophecy. It is unknowable how religions will develop in the future alongside further scientific insights and discoveries, because it depends on the nature of the discoveries, how they relate to existing revelatory dogma in various faith forms, and how faiths respond to apparent contradictions.

But it does seem to me that the simple tension between revelatory knowledge and empirically tested knowledge leads to a much more complex relationship when we try to project any of this into the future.

And based on the study I have personally done on Anglophone SF and its relationship with Catholicism, and now Buddhism, it seems to me that the futurists are to date struggling to encompass the complexities of that potential relationship.