Critical essays are requested for Wars We Never Fought: Armed Conflict in Speculative Fiction. This collection will examine the use and function of war as a central thematic or formal element in science / speculative fiction and fantasy texts in a variety of popular culture media, from narrative fiction to film and television to video games and new media.
Wars We Never Fought will seek to offer accessible and wide-ranging critical insight into how and why creators in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and related genres use “war” as a device within the diegetic worlds of their stories; what the depictions of war and warriors within these texts suggest regarding notions such as race, class, gender, sexuality, difference, sociopolitical power, and other cultural values; and how the textual dramatization of entirely fictitious wars might reflect, interrogate, and even structure understanding of warfare in the “real world.”
The collection has drawn interest from a major academic publisher.
Length and Style
Essays submitted for Wars We Never Fought should be between 7,000 and 10,000 words. The goal length for the final manuscript is 90,000-95,000 words.
Essays should use the Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition; footnotes and bibliography citation style), and should be written in prose accessible to an educated lay or undergraduate audience.
Submission and Contact
Scholars interested in submitting an essay for consideration for Wars We Never Fought should submit a 300-400 word proposal and a CV to the editors, Dr. Matthew B. Hill and Dr. Leigha H. McReynolds at email@example.com.
Deadline for Essay Proposals June 1, 2023
Deadline for Essay Drafts: March 1, 2024
Possible / Suggested Topics
As the project seeks to be a wide survey of war in science / speculative fiction and fantasy narratives, papers that address any of the forms below will be considered:
- Short- and long-form narrative fiction;
- Video Games;
- Tabletop Gaming / Role Playing Games
- New / Internet Media.
Below are some topics that essays selected for Wars We Never Fought might address. Please consider this list a starting point for possible topics rather than a checklist of desired coverage.
- War as setting / dramatic backdrop in SFF texts (as in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Star Wars universe, El-Akkad’s American War, or the endemic warfare of the Wheel of Time or Witcher franchises).
- War as distant or recent historical event in SFF worlds, such as in Tolkien’s historical War of the Ring, world-shaping wars such as the nuclear war in the Fallout series or A Canticle for Leibowitz, or Max Brooks’ World War Z.
- Studies of SFF protagonist(s) as warrior / warfighter (adaptation of epic / mythic / messianic hero tropes; war as trial and catalyst for character development)
- Wars against “the other,” such as alien species or other non-humans; the construction of the non-human “enemy” (e.g., Tolkien’s orcs / forces of Mordor, Jordan’s trollocs, Orson Scott Card’s Formics, the “bugs” in Starship Troopers, Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons, etc.)
- Racial identities (real and imagined) and war;
- Trauma and war; the psychological cost of war / warfighting (as in The Hunger Games series);
- Veteran characters in SFF (such as Mal Reynolds and Zoe Washburne from Firefly)
- Leadership and military structure in fictional armies;
- Refugee characters in SFF;
- Imprisonment / captivity narratives in SFF (Star Trek’s Picard and the Borg; “Chain of Command” / torture episode)
- War and / in dystopian worlds, including post-apocalyptic ones; (Mad Max, the Fallout series, The Terminator series)
- War and social class (officer / professional & enlisted / conscripted), “noble” in comparison to “common” people’s experience of war;
- War crimes such as genocide and torture;
- Messianic warfighters and transformational conflicts (Luke Skywalker, Rand al’Thor, Mu’ad Dib)
- Alternate histories of warfare (such as C.S.A. Confederate States of America, or the work of Harry Turtledove)
- War in video games (Halo, Destiny, Fallout, Middle Earth - Shadows of War, Wolfenstein series, Half-Life)
- Sci-fi technology and war
- War and religion / mysticism / prophecy
- Warrior as aspect of identity
- War / warriors in fantasy / sci-fi role playing games (tabletop or videogames)
- Gender and /or sexualities SFF wars / warfighters
- War and factionalism / nationalism
- War as symbolic or allegorical conflict (as in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories)
- “Realistic” war and speculative fiction (Red Dawn, On The Beach, Red Storm Rising / The Tom Clancy-verse)
- Nuclear war / nuclear weapons
About the Editors
Dr. Leigha McReynolds teaches and researches at the intersection of disability and science fiction, with a focus on eugenics and genetics. She is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor at University of Maryland and teaches literature classes for the local D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose. Her most recent publication is the chapter “Locations of Deviance: A Eugenics Reading of Dune” in Discovering Dune (McFarland 2022).
Dr. Matthew B. Hill is Professor of English at Coppin State University. His work focuses on 20th and 21st century warfare in literature, film, and popular culture. His previous books include Dystopian States of America: Apocalyptic Visions and Warnings in Literature and Film (2022) and Unconventional Warriors: The Fantasy of the American Resistance Fighter in Film and Television (2018). His essays have appeared in War, Literature, and the Arts, The Mid-Atlantic Almanack, The Journal of Popular Culture, Extrapolation, and The Journal of American Culture. He also co-edited The War on Terror and American Popular Culture (2009) with Dr. Andrew Schopp
Dr. Matthew B. Hill
Professor, Coppin State University
Dr. Leigha H. McReynolds
University of Maryland College Park