Organic Systems: Environments, Bodies, Cultures (2017)

Image credit: Tristram Lansdowne, Hermetic Island, 2010


Though often understood in ecological terms, the word ‘environment’ can also be viewed more widely as the surroundings and conditions of a specific system—whether they be mechanical, biological, social or chemical. Culture arises from and then informs these systems, becoming itself a further component of environments. Science fictional texts have explored the interactions between culture, environments and bodies on a wide spectrum of scale: from the level of a planetary biosphere or climate system (e.g. terraforming) to a single body or organ (e.g. genetic engineering).

Annual Conference

On 16th September 2017, this conference gathered Science Fiction researchers, critics, authors and readers together to discuss intersections between cultural and organic systems in all forms of SF media. Potential topics for presentation mentioned in the Call for Papers included, but were not limited to:

  • Interactions between culture, ecosystems and organisms;
  • Rhetorics, stylistics and tropes common to ecological SF;
  • Ecological SF’s relationship to its context of production;
  • Living worlds (e.g. the Gaia hypothesis);
  • Analogical connections between smaller bodies (e.g. humans) and larger (e.g. cities, planets, universes);
  • Environmental utopian and dystopian themes;
  • The technological versus the natural in environmental systems;
  • The relationship between socio-political systems and the environment;
  • The impact of radically altered bodies and conceptions of the body on culture, and vice versa;
  • The aesthetic and conceptual significance of modes and subcategories such as Biopunk and Ribofunk;
  • Interrelations between posthuman theories and texts and different types of technological and environmental change;
  • Transhumanism, both as a movement and an ideology;
  • Connections between SF media and the geohumanities.

The conference featured a keynote session with environmental humanities researcher Chris Pak, author and researcher Adam Roberts, award-winning SF author Paul McAuley and award-winning SF and fantasy author Gwyneth Jones.

Conference Documentation

Conference Report (CCL) by Sarah Lohmann
Conference Report (Vector) by Lucas Boulding
Conference Report (SFRA Review) by Amy Butt
Conference Report (Foundation) by Paul March-Russell
Blog Post by Francis Gene-Rowe