Serial Repetitions: Retheorizing Fantasy in TV and Other Media

Elif Sendur Discussion

deadline for submissions: 

July 1, 2023

full name / name of organization: 

Special Issue -- Science Fiction Film and Television

contact email:

Serial Repetitions: Retheorizing Fantasy in TV and Other Media

Special Issue -- Science Fiction Film and Television

Guest editors: Michelle Anya Anjirbag ( and Timothy S. Miller


Abstracts of 500 words due by July 1, with indicative bibliography

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by July 15, with complete drafts of 6000 words due by

November 1

We invite essay submissions for an upcoming special issue of the journal Science Fiction Film

and Television dedicated to retheorizing recent televisual fantasy and other fantasy media of the

“post-TV” era. Fantasy media, especially televisual media, has proliferated in the contemporary

moment. Having grown both in popularity and in a multitude of directions, it has also developed

its own specific visual and auditory modes of communication, distinct from those characteristic

of fantasy feature-length films or other genre films. As this mode of entertainment and narrative

transmission continues to develop and change, we find it necessary to ask such questions as:

what is fantasy media today? And who is fantasizing about what, and why?


To theorize the televisual fantastic as a distinct form leads us to recognize an implicit

relationship between the serialized or episodic format of such media and the tendency of fantasy

itself towards repetition, with its gestures to the past and past narratives: we invite contributors to

consider how this relationship might be made more explicit. Particularly, we are interested in

how, with box sets and on-demand streaming, audiences always have the option to revisit

familiar fantasy narratives from TV or other new media, but also seem to hunger for the implicit

repetition of old narratives and familiar characters in the new contexts and forms provided by

assorted remakes, adaptations, prequels, spinoffs, and other revisitations of prior works and

worlds. In essence, repetition has become a defining way of experiencing fantasy media, whether

the literal repetition that is binge-watching and re-experiencing old stories; the repetition

represented by “new” stories tied to them; or the remixing and repetition of tropes, motifs, and

narrative units in play spaces and fan works. If there is a comfort or nostalgia in repetition, how

“old” does something have to be to be repeated? If new works reiterate not only those from fifty

years ago, or twenty years ago, but even more recently still, how should we understand the

resulting compression effect? We challenge contributors to think about the ways in which

television adaptation has been and continues to be a process of not only translation, but rewriting

and/or re-memorying, and are especially interested in essays that will address what new

media practices and platforms tell us about the nature of televisual fantasy of this decade and the



Fantasy’s extension into mass media has never been more pronounced than today. Tremendous

productions such as Amazon’s The Rings of Power and HBO’s House of the Dragon have bet on

the continuing power of big-budget fantasy -- and specifically the prequel form -- to attract

subscribers to streaming platforms, and a number of other landmark fantasy sagas have received

recent adaptations due to the insatiable demands of such platforms for fantasy content, including

The Wheel of Time and The Witcher. Alongside such secondary-world fantasies, a parallel

tradition of fantasy with folkloric and fairytale inspirations continues to thrive on the small

screen (from The 10th Kingdom to Once Upon a Time and many others). But, in recent years,

fantasy narratives have also expanded into very different media spaces, including the streaming

and video sharing platforms that now host so many play sessions of Dungeons & Dragons and

other tabletop roleplaying games. If David Butler considers fantasy in film as “an impulse rather

than a single coherent genre,” and Brian Attebery positions literary fantasy as a “fuzzy set”

definable only by family resemblances, does the fantasy impulse become clearer or fuzzier as it

is translated onto the screen? What perhaps most unites fantasy media today is this very drive

towards repetition, but how might we retheorize repetition itself in fantasy and media studies?


In order to pursue what is distinctive about fantasy TV and related media as forms, this special

issue will exclude traditional feature-length fantasy films and conventional digital games.

Nevertheless, the range of fantasy media platforms to be considered could include: “linear TV”

series on traditional network television and recent cable shows; made-for-streaming serial

narratives; and various other late 20th and early 21st century evolutions of short- or longform

fantastic narrative across digital platforms such as YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, and others

(including web series, “actual play” of TTRPGS, and more).


Essays might approach such topics as the following:

● Fantasy theory as applied to televisual media: what might be the utility and/or the

limitations of the body of fantasy scholarship that has arisen in response to the literature

of the fantastic when applied to screen narratives (for example Farah Mendlesohn’s

Rhetorics of Fantasy, Brian Attebery’s extensive work, or earlier psychoanalytic,

structural, or historical materialist approaches)? How, also, might we theorize recent

fantasy media with or against existing treatments of fantasy cinema emphasizing the

feature film, such as David Butler’s Fantasy Cinema: Impossible Worlds on Screen?;

● How fantasy animation has developed not only in terms of style but also more broadly in

terms of the varied audiences addressed; this medium is perhaps, thanks to Disney and

Dreamworks, most associated with childhood and childhood texts, but fantasy animation

is also created for both dual audiences and specifically adult audiences. How does this

unique form affect the interpretation and creation of the fantasy space today?;

● Fantasy adaptation(s) in the 21st century: a number of fantasy properties have appeared

on screen recently in longform format, such as His Dark Materials, American Gods, The

Magicians, The Sandman, Shadow and Bone, and many more, including recent “prestige”

adaptations of literary works that border the fantastic such as Kindred (2022), The

Underground Railroad (2021), and others. Do such acts of expansion, repetition, and

revisitation bear a unique relationship to fantasy media and the way it conceptualizes

history, or part of larger cultural tendencies towards nostalgia?;

● Relationships and distinctions to be traced among such overlapping subgenres as fairytale

fantasy, dark fantasy, and supernatural horror;

● The global or non-Anglophone fantastic on TV;

● Gendered dimensions of the framing of audiovisual fantasy;

● Issues related to race, representation, and casting in bringing fantasy worlds to screen,

including online fan backlashes;

● Comparing franchise strategies that inadvertently define audiovisual fantasy, and fantasy

in and as mass media;

● Fantasy’s promised potential for imagining radical different social and cultural

conditions, poised against the simultaneous corporate movement to exploit and monetize

the fantasy impulse.

Questions and submissions can be directed to Michelle Anya Anjirbag (

and Timothy S. Miller (