Special Issue "Post-Utopia in Speculative Fiction: The End of the Future?"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Elana Gomel
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Languages, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 6997801, Israel
Interests: narrative theory; posthumanism; science fiction; Dickens; and Victorian culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Until the current pandemic, it was widely believed that we had entered the period of paralysis in the collective historical imagination. This paralysis was reflected in the inability to imagine a future radically different from the present, which was the prerequisite for the traditional genres of utopia and dystopia. Utopia, a literary depiction of an ideal society, and dystopia, its dark double, postulated a historical teleology toward an extreme social and ontological transformation, whether perceived positively or negatively. But with the spread of globalism, both utopia and dystopia seemed to have faded away, supplanted by post-utopia, presentism, or nostalgia. As Zygmund Bauman described it in his book Retrotopia, contemporary narratives of history are located in “the lost/stolen/abandoned but yet undead past, instead of being tied” to the future (5).

Speculative fiction responded to the crisis of the historical imagination in different ways. The nostalgic epic fantasy rose in popularity, eclipsing science fiction. Science fiction, an inherently forward-looking genre, abandoned utopias in favor of post-apocalyptic narratives that presented the disaster as durational and never-ending rather than as a step toward a better (or at least different) future. Other responses included resurrecting Golden-Age space opera through imitation and pastiche; revisiting the future of the past through steampunk; and retreating into fantasy. The trend was even more pronounced in cinema, with its passion for remakes. Even in popular YA “dystopias”, the grim future was, more often than not, a disguised version of the present; and the very narrative form of these texts, with their numerous sequels, prequels, and additions, militated against a clear linearity of traditional utopias/dystopias.

Another factor that contributed to the abandonment of utopian/dystopian paradigm in science fiction was the Anthropocene and the rise of cli-fi. The “hyperobject” of climate change, as Timothy Morton described it, exists on a time scale vastly different from the time scale of human history and cannot be represented through the conventional narrative templates of speculative fiction.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the wave of social unrest in the US and elsewhere, the trend toward presentism—being “stuck” in the current historical moment—seems to have been upended. Or has it? As we emerge from this period, are we facing a discursive breakthrough in our narratives of future history, or are we going back to the post-utopian recycling of generic clichés?

We are soliciting articles and essays that address these questions. The subjects include, but are not limited to:

  • Retro science fiction and the death of the future;
  • Post-apocalypse ;
  • Limbotopia or fictions of “being stuck”;
  • Fantasy and nostalgia;
  • Alternative history as utopia;
  • The Anthropocene, cli-fi, and temporality of the long present;
  • Narrative “recycling”, fan fiction, and poetics of escape;
  • Dystopias past and present;
  • Solar-punk, Afrofuturism, and hope-punk;
  • After the pandemic?

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words with biographical details by October 31. Full papers are due by March 31 2021. Please send abstracts to [email protected]

Prof. Elana Gomel
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • utopia and dystopia
  • post-utopia
  • speculative fiction
  • Anthropocene

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Post-Utopia: The Long View
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020065 - 08 Apr 2021
Viewed by 356
The present article is divided into three parts. The first discusses the nature of utopias and their hypothetical anti-type, dystopias, and also disaster scenarios that are sometimes assimilated to dystopias, with reference also to the idea of post-utopia. An argument is made for [...] Read more.
The present article is divided into three parts. The first discusses the nature of utopias and their hypothetical anti-type, dystopias, and also disaster scenarios that are sometimes assimilated to dystopias, with reference also to the idea of post-utopia. An argument is made for the continuity of the utopian impulse, even in an age when brutal wars and forms of oppression have caused many to lose faith in any form of collectivity. Representations of social breakdown and its apparent opposite, totalitarian rigidity, tend to privilege the very individualism that the utopian vision aspires to overcome. The second part looks at examples of each of these types drawn from classical Greek and Roman literature, with a view to seeing how utopias were conceived at a time before the emergence of the modern ideology of the pre-social self. Finally, the third part examines several stories from the collection A People’s Future of the United States which imagine life in the near future. While most illustrate the failure of confidence in the social that has encouraged the intuition that a utopian future is passé, one, it is suggested, reconceives the relation between the individual and the social in a way that points to the renewed possibility of the utopian. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Post-Utopia in Speculative Fiction: The End of the Future?)
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