Call for Papers: Masculinities and Science Fiction

Call for Papers: Masculinities and Science Fiction

Michael Pitts

In the introduction of Gender and Environment in Science Fiction (2018), Bridgitte Barclay and Christy
Tidwell note the suitability of sf texts for gender readings since such “texts often ask questions such
as where is nature, what is natural, and who is equated with nature” (ix). Sf calls into question traditional,
essentialist understandings of femininity and masculinity. Close analyses of gender in speculative
texts therefore illuminate how sf normalizes and in turn marginalizes divergent performances of

The intersection of masculinities and speculative fiction makes up an overlooked site at which
normative and alternative conceptions of gender may be analyzed. Since its inception, sf has played
host to the so-called crisis of masculinity. Fearing the loss of a mythologized, essentialized man,
adherents to traditional ideals of manhood have contributed speculative works that attempt to
stabilize essentialist, patriarchal views of manliness. A.E. van Vogt’s “The Changeling” (1944), E.E.
“Doc” Smith’s Lensman (1948-1954) novels, and Frank Robinson’s The Power (1956), for example,
vilify newly imagined forms of masculinity and frame patriarchal conceptions of manhood as both
natural and pivotal to the stability of society. Each narrative therefore contributes to the crisis within
sf concerning masculinity.

In contrast, other writers have contributed diverse works united by their socially-situated, radical
presentations of masculinity. Golden age texts such as Stanley G. Weinbaum’s The New Adam (1939)
and Jack Williamson’s Darker than You Think (1948) undermine the traits historically associated with
manliness. Carrying forward this project, contemporary novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s The
(1974), Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood
(1987-1989) trilogy, and N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth (2015-2017) series reimagine masculinities in
radical and promising ways. Analyses of this historic and ongoing conflict of masculinities within sf
illuminate the ways the genre shapes and is in turn shaped by divergent understandings of gender.

This symposium seeks papers that discuss topics at the intersection of masculinity studies and
science fiction studies. It seeks to understand how masculinity, presented as divorced entirely from
or inextricably linked to biological sex, is negotiated in speculative fiction. According to influential
masculinity studies scholar Michael Kimmel, analyses of manliness should consider both those
masculinities idealized by a culture and the alternative versions with which they compete (4).
Accordingly, articles should seek to complicate the history of science fiction and illuminate conflicts
between its competing portrayals of masculinity. Papers may focus upon a single text and its
encoded messages regarding masculinity. Papers may also analyze historical trends within the genre
or compare multiple texts and their presentations of manliness. Moving beyond simple descriptions
of such presentations of gender, these papers should make novel arguments about the centrality of
divergent masculinities to science fiction and the manner by which they shape and are shaped by the


SFRA Review seeks essays of c. 2,000–3,000 words for a special issue analyzing the intersection of
traditional and alternative masculinities and science fiction. Submissions may address, but are not
limited to, the following:

Race and Manhood
Female Masculinities
Afrofuturism and Conceptions of Manliness
Cyborg Masculinities
Manhood in Utopian and/or Dystopian Science Fiction
Cyberpunk Masculinities
Speculative Masculinities and Sexual Violence
The Super Men and other Golden Age Masculinities

Abstracts of c. 250 words and short author bios should be submitted by email to the symposium
editor Michael Pitts at using the subject line “Masculinity and Science Fiction” by
June 1, 2022.

Abstracts should specify the text(s) the author wishes to write about and how they will approach
masculinity within the chosen text(s). Prospective authors are encouraged to reach out to Michael if
they wish to discuss their essay concept; however, a discussion does not mean automatic acceptance. Authors will be notified of acceptance (or rejection) by June 15, 2022.

Accepted drafts of 2,000–3,000 words will be due at the beginning of August and should be
prepared in MLA style with a Works Cited list in MLA 8th edition. A full project timeline is listed


June 1, 2022 = Abstracts due

June 15, 2022 = Authors Notified of Acceptance

August 1, 2022 = First Drafts Due

August 15, 2022 = First Draft Edits Returned

September 1, 2022 = Second Drafts Due

September 15, 2022 = Second Drafts Edits Returned

October 15, 2022 = Final Drafts Due

Early November = Publication of symposium in SFRA Review 52.4