Call for Papers: Interrogating Our History

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 1

Interrogating Our History

Call for Papers: Interrogating Our History

The Editorial Collective

The SFRA Review requests papers centering on texts, broadly defined, that were considered influential fifty years ago in 1971. As a jumping-off point, we suggest consideration of one or more of the Hugo and Nebula nominees for Best Novel, listed here:

Hugo Award nominees:

Ringworld • Larry Niven (winner)
Star Light • Hal Clement
Tau Zero • Poul Anderson
Tower of Glass • Robert Silverberg
The Year of the Quiet Sun • Wilson Tucker

Nebula Award nominees:

A Time of Changes • Robert Silverberg (winner)
The Byworlder • Poul Anderson
The Devil is Dead • RA Lafferty
Half Past Human • TJ Bass
The Lathe of Heaven • Ursula K. Le Guin
Margaret and I • Kate Wilhelm

While we view as questionable and often problematic the concept of a “canon,” and note that the groups of fans and critics that nominated and awarded the following texts were demographically unrepresentative by the standards of 2021 (as were their authors), these works were, nevertheless, considered worthy of attention and esteem at the time, though most have fallen into comparative obscurity by now. You are free to choose a novel that wasn’t nominated, or a shorter work, or film, television, comics, etc., or a work from 1970 or 1972, if that is where your interests lie. We suggest, but do not demand, one of the following approaches:

For younger scholars, critics or fans: Choose one of the listed texts, read it carefully, and write a paper detailing your experience of this work of “classic” SF. This could take any number of formats, including but not limited to a personal memoir, an academic examination, an examination in light of previous reviews or academic work on the text. If you are a graduate student, or even an undergraduate student, this could be a great opportunity for a first publication.

For more-established scholars, critics or fans: Choose one of the texts you have not read and write a paper on it following the above instructions. Give us the benefit of your experience living through times that have changed in terms of literary elements such as plot, style, characterization, etc., as well as in terms of society and politics. Or, alternatively, choose one of the texts that you remember reading and reread it with an eye toward interrogating the nostalgia or memories you have of your previous experience with the text.

For anyone: Choose a text not on this list, something more obscure: something you believe was ahead of its time or otherwise worthy of our collective attention. Write a paper arguing why it ought to be included in a “canon” of influential texts. What is it doing or saying that stands out as exemplary, and what might have prevented it from gaining the attention you believe it deserves?

For EVERYONE: These papers should include a cogent summary of the novel’s plot as a courtesy to readers; they must include close readings of the text of the novel as support for the argument you make. The style guidelines (MLA 8th edition) can be found on the SFRA Review website. Because this call for papers is intended to spark a conversation, we ask that the papers be kept relatively brief, with a maximum of 4,000 words. You are welcome to send the paper itself or a brief abstract to Please use “The Review at 50” as the subject header for the email. While the Review is not a peer-reviewed publication, your abstract or paper will be evaluated by at least two members of the Editorial Collective, and you may be asked to make revisions.

We very much welcome participation in this project by creators, critics, scholars and fans of SF from all parts of the world and all walks of life.

The SFRA Review at Fifty: Interrogating Our History

SFRA Review, vol. 51, no. 1

Interrogating Our History

The SFRA Review at Fifty: Interrogating Our History

The Editorial Collective

The SFRA Review has published continuously for fifty years now. SF has grown through this period, accumulating a broad, deep, complex and sometimes problematic history of texts and films, creators, critics, scholars and fans. We here at the Editorial Collective would like to invite the creators, critics, scholars and fans of 2021 to examine, reflect upon, and interrogate the concerns and preoccupations of the year 1971, which was a very different time, especially in SF. The creators, critics and scholars who have been canonized were almost without exception white or male, and usually both. The Internet did not exist: discourse and publishing were in the hands of a few gatekeepers, who were diverse neither in demographics nor opinion on what was worthy of publication. Things we view as necessary or even take for granted today, were still unthought-of, or inchoate, or sometimes actively suppressed.

Yet the texts and discourse of 1971 are one stratum among many of our accumulated history as creators, critics, scholars and fans of SF: we ought not to dismiss them simply because they’re often unrepresentative by our own standards. The texts and discourse of that year influenced those of later years, and thus still influence, though indirectly, the texts and discourse of today. In 1971, Larry Niven’s Ringworld was the Hugo award winner. In 1971, John W. Campbell passed away while he was still the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, but as recently as two years ago, his name was still on major awards, despite his extensively documented history of problematic beliefs, statements and editorial decisions. In 1971, the SFRA and the Review were brand-new: SF as the subject of and respondent to serious scholarly criticism was in its infancy, and most theories of how we might understand works of SF yet unformed.

It is in the spirit of interrogating our history as creators, critics, scholars, and fans of SF that we at the Review invite scholars and fans of all generations to consider the history that was laid down for us fifty years ago in 1971: to critique that which deserves critique; to acknowledge that which stands the test of time, even though it may still deserve critique; to bring to light that which was ignored—or suppressed. The call for papers below encourages a wide variety of writers and a wide variety of topics, on purpose, because we wish to expand rather than limit our understanding of our own history as people who love SF. Ultimately, our goal is to create an ongoing conversation about our history: to place different generations and different perspectives at the same metaphorical roundtable, in order better to comprehend the forces and discourses that shaped and continue to shape the much broader, deeper and more complex understanding(s) of SF that we have today.

We urge creators, critics, scholars and fans of all backgrounds to visit the call for papers for this initiative and to submit a paper or abstract. We look forward to an ongoing, frank and fruitful conversation about our history.