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Realities and Worl Building (Vienna)


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GFF 2017: Realities and World Building

University of Vienna, September20^th -23^rd 2017

       The creation and experience of “new” worlds is a central appeal 
of the fantastic. From Middle Earth to variations of the Final Frontier, 
the fantastic provides a seemingly infinite number of fantastic “worlds” 
and world concepts. It develops and varies social and cultural systems, 
ideologies, biological and climatic conditions, cosmologies and 
different time periods. Its potential and self-conception between the 
possible and the impossible offer perspectives to nearly every field of 

       The plurality and concurrent existence of different, even 
contradictory concepts of reality is an established topos in cultural 
and social sciences. In a similar fashion, scientific narratives can 
simultaneously coexist with fantastic ones within the cultural network 
of meaning – without creating an existential antagonism between them. 
The reason for that is not that one of these narratives is true while 
the other is not, but – following Hayden White, who assumed that 
scientific and literary narratives have more in common than not – 
because both of them are fictional. If a fantastic narrative is 
internally consistent, it is in a Wittgensteinian sense as true as 
Newton’s laws. This poses an existential problem for the fantastic: if 
it applies to every consistent narrative, what is the defining 
difference between fantastic and other narratives?

       In our everyday practice, however, we seem to easily distinguish 
the fantastic from other aspects of reality. How is that possible? How 
can fantastic worlds emerge within and besides other multiple 
world-conceptions? What are the functions of fantastic worlds in the 
construction of reality? In designating texts as fantastic, we 
explicitly assert their fictitious character. Which practices do we 
employ to facilitate this designation?

       We call narratives fantastic that violate our common reality 
consensus, thus establishing their own counter-reality consensus – in 
other words, a different world. This is done in different ways, thereby 
defining fantastic genres: for example, science fiction uses key motives 
like objects and cultural practices (interstellar travels, 
wormhole-generators, etc.) for world-building that belong to a realm of 
conceivable future possibility. While the modern scientific reality 
consensus does not categorically preclude beaming, it does deny the very 
possibility of a demon summoning.

       In order to serve as a foil to the real, the fantastic has to 
play an ambiguous role: key motives of its multiple worlds have to be 
recognizable as imaginary, but at the same time at least some of these 
elements have to be linked with common reality consensus. A typical 
strategy for achieving this ambiguity is the incorporation of cultural 
practices that remind us of established perceptions of history, most 
prominently perhaps the European Middle Ages. Thus, a perceptible 
distance between the narrative and the recipient’s common reality 
consensus gets established, while using parts of this very consensus to 
render the narrative comprehensible.

       Wolfgang Iser considers the “fictive” to be an intentional act, 
and the “imaginary” the recipient’s conception of the fictionalization’s 
effects. World Building is part of every narrative, but as a result of 
variable cultural contexts, every narrative is involved in different 
modes of production and perception. The conference aims to emphasize and 
reflect these very acts of fictionalizationused to build fantastic 
worlds – in different media, and on theoretical as well as 
methodological levels.

Accepted Keynotes:

Stefan Ekman (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

Farah Mendlesohn (University of Stafford, UK)

Possible Topics:

·Intermedia (and media-specific) features and indicators of fantastic 
worlds in film, TV, literature, (digital) games, etc.

·How does the extradiegetic constitute fantastic worlds and vice versa? 
Social and cultural systems, ideologies, biological and climatic 
conditions, cosmologies, etc.

·World-building methods and practices: reflections on economic and 
technical resources; transparent world-building (Making-ofs, 
exhibitions, interviews, etc.)

·Construction plans: sourcebooks, world editors, Table-Tops, miniatures, 
dioramas, LARPs

·We are of course open to further suggestions. The conference will also 
feature an “Open Track” for presentations beyond the scope of this CFP.

The GFF awards two stipends to students to help finance traveling costs 
(250 Euro each). Please indicate if you would like to be considered.

CALL HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO February 28th 2017: please send short bio & 
abstracts (500 words max.) to 


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