Welcome to Speculative Fictions and Cultures of Science!
The Speculative Fiction and Cultures of Science (SFCS) program, founded in 2013, has its origins in then-Dean Dean Steven Cullenberg's decision to create an academic unit to complement the strength of the Eaton Science Fiction Collection in the UCR library. New faculty members whose research focuses on speculative fiction were hired as part of this initiative, and they were joined by existing CHASS faculty working in related research to found the program.
The SFCS program explores intersections among speculative fiction, science and technology studies (STS), and traditions of speculative thought. We study the pervasive role of speculative discourses in public culture, investigating the complex and reciprocal exchanges among futuristic discourses, research agendas, public policy decisions, media texts, and daily life in technologically saturated societies. Using the combined perspectives of cultural studies and STS helps students develop critical literacy about their media-dominated landscape through which to understand its discourses of science and the future. Bringing speculative fictions and STS into dialogue, our scholars focus on understanding technological change in specific contexts by analyzing the texts and practices that have responded to, critiqued, and build upon the ways science shapes our cultural, material, and economic milieu. Speculative thinking and speculative fictions are central to many of the most compelling contemporary research concerns, such as the Anthropocene, climate change, genetic engineering, and discourses of the posthuman. The power to depict and thus shape the future is similarly key to urgent social justice movements, such as the Black Lives Matter, ongoing struggles for economic equity, and movements for sustainability.
Consistent with other STS programs, we examine the histories and cultures of science, technology, and medicine to understand the role culture plays in the production of science and the reciprocal way changes in science and technology shape culture. Our program uniquely emphasizes the role of popular culture and the genres of speculative fiction, in particular, for serving as an imaginative testing ground for technological innovation, articulating hopes and anxieties regarding technological change, and mediating public understandings of science and its applications.
The program offers a Designated Emphasis (DE) at the PhD level and an undergraduate minor (currently called Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies) at the undergraduate level. Our curriculum encompasses courses in the social study and history of science and medicine, in the history of technology, in speculative thought, in creative expression across media, in new digital cultures, in cultural analysis of texts and contexts shaped by scientific change, and in cultural differences among scientific practices. The DE and minor offer a rich interdisciplinary study of cultural ways of responding to changes in science and technology, and complements program majors in departments such as Anthropology; Comparative Literature; Creative Writing; English; Ethnic Studies; History; Media and Cultural Studies; Philosophy; Theatre, Film and Digital Production, and Gender and Sexuality Studies.