Imagining the History of the Future

27th - 29th March 2018

Imagining the History of the Future: Unsettling Scientific Stories

27-29th March, 2018 | Ron Cooke Hub, University of York, UK


The future just isn’t what it used to be… not least because people keep changing it. Recent years have seen a significant growth of academic and public interest in the role of the sciences in creating and sustaining both imagined and enacted futures. Technological innovations and emergent theoretical paradigms gel and jolt against abiding ecological, social, medical or economic concerns: researchers, novelists, cartoonists, civil servants, business leaders and politicians assess and estimate the costs of planning for or mitigating likely consequences. The trouble is that thinking about the future is a matter of perspective: where you decide to stand constrains what you can see


With confirmed plenary speakers Professor Sherryl Vint (University of California, Riverside, USA) and Professor Charlotte Sleigh (British Society for the History of Science) this three-day conference will bring together scholars, practitioners, and activists to explore ways in which different visions of the future and its history can be brought into productive dialogue.


Registration is now closed

Please contact with any queries. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible!


Tuesday 27th March



11:00-12:00 The Past in the Present - Chair: Amy Chambers Social Science Futures - Chair: Lisa Garforth
 Dinosaurs of Futures Past: History, Prehistory, and Historicism
Will Tattersdill, University of Birmingham, UK
An Unsettling Future Realised? Michael Young and Meritocracy in Post-War Britain
David Civil, University of Nottingham, UK
Haunted by the past, dismantling the future: nostalgia as public history
Malcolm Noble, University of Hertfordshire, UK
Gabriel Tarde’s Fragment d’histoire future and the metaphysics of sociology
Phillip Conway, Aberystwyth University, UK


13:00-14:30 Designing the Future - Chair: Iwan Morus  SF and Futurology - Chair: Amanda Rees
The electronic computer: fantasies and future visions
James Sumner, University of Manchester, UK
The Soft Side of the Future: The History of the Future Present in U.S. Popular Non-Fiction Books from 1970 to 1989
Torsten Kathke, Obama Institute, JGU Mainz, Germany
Mr Shore’s Downfall and the Future of the Honey Bee: Making Design Fictions
Toby Pillatt, University of Sheffield, UK; Deborah Maxwell, University of York, UK; Liz Edwards, Lancaster University, UK
Parallel Prophecies: Science Fiction and Futurology in the Twentieth Century
Peter Bowler, Queens University Belfast, UK
Popular knowledge and visions of the New Woman: ‘Science fiction’ in Chinese women’s magazines, 1912-1919
Hsiang-Fu Huang, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
Science Fiction Literature and Scenario Thinking Science Fiction Prototyping, Design Fiction and Scientific Novels
Julia Grillmayr, University of Vienna, Austria


15:00-17:00 Future War - Chair: Sam Robinson Urban Futures - Chair: Mat Paskins
Learning to Interrogate the Future of War, 1894-1914
David Bangert, University of Portsmouth, UK
Dreams of an Interstate
Amanda K. Phillips, Virginia Tech, USA
The Seacoast of the Universe͟ - Historical Analogy, Cold War Fear and Visions of a Spacefaring Future in Reagan’s America
Thomas Ellis, University of Southampton, UK
Two Futures Past: EPCOT and the Post-War American Imagination
Sabrina Mittermeier, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Germany
Imagining the history of the technological future with nineteenth-century French fictions of machine rebellion
Madeleine Chalmers, University of Oxford, UK
'Wonders Sure will Never Cease': Victorian Street Ballads as Sites of Future-Making
Karl Bell, University of Portsmouth, UK
17:00-18:30 Plenary Lecture: Professor Charlotte Sleigh (BSHS)
Looking Backward/Things to Come: Tenses and tensions in literature and history 

End of Day One

19:00-22:00 Speakers Dinner, Walmgate Ale House



Wednesday 28th March



09:00-10:30 Futures Past - Chair: Sam Robinson
Rhetorics of retro-futures
Jon Turney, UK
‘Powerfully seductive forms of mass public entertainment and education’: narratives of the future at scientific soirées
Sandra Kemp, Imperial College London & Victoria and Albert Museum, UK
The Shape of Things to Come: recovering the future past of the Royal Air Force
Sophy Gardner, University of Exeter, UK


11:00-13:00 Evolution – Chair: Amanda Rees Playing in the Margins – Chair: Amy C Chambers
Homo Deus and Totalitopia: Historiographical and Fictional Futures.
John Christie, UK
Resisting the Future, Reclaiming the Past. Neocolonialist Technocracies and Strategies of Resistance in Larissa Lai’s Salt Fish Girl
Agnieszka Podruczna, University of Silesia, Poland
Evolution on TV: documentary, science fiction, and the spaces in-between
Alexander Hall, Newman University, UK
Exploring Future by Means of Transmedia: Multiple Frames of Westworld
Hanna-Riikka Roine, University of Helsinki, Finland
Darwin on the Cutting Room Floor: Evolution, Religion and Film Censorship
David Kirby, University of Manchester, UK
The revolutionary potential of collaborative roleplaying games
Felix Kawitzky, Artist, South Africa
Controlling Destiny. Julian Huxley's Transhumanism 1930-1960
Ingrid Wallgren, Lund University, Sweden
“How not to build the Terminator: Science, Fiction, and the future in Robotics Media Discourse
Lisa Meinecke, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Germany


13:45-15:45 Reproduction and the Post-Human – Chair: Mat Paskins Creative Practices: Authors and Audiences – Chair: Lisa Garforth
Lysenko’s Triffids: Two Mid-Twentieth Century Visions of the Biological Future
Matthew Holmes, University of Leeds, UK
Lure of the Past: The Influence of Twentieth Century Science Fiction on my Creative Practice Film Terminal.
Maxine Gee, Bournemouth University
‘They’re Rather Efficient, The Inhibitors’: Precarious Bodies, Un-Inhibited Lives, and Alastair Reynolds’ Posthuman
Tom Kewin, University of Liverpool, UK
The Future is a Fanzine: Utilizing fan produced works in contemporary science fiction research
Katie Heffner, University of Iowa
Reproductive Futures in Science Fiction and Medical Literature
Anna McFarlane, University of Glasgow, UK
Prescient or Historically Conscious? Octavia Butler’s Dystopian Preparation and Starhawk’s Utopian Struggle
Joan Haran, University of Oregon & Cardiff University
"The Valley of a New Life": Science and Literature in Bolshevik Russia, 1917-1930
Nikolai Krementsov, University of Toronto, Canada
Future histories: the museum as a time machine.
Leno Veras, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


16:00-17:30 Postwar futures of welfare and justice – Chair: Iwan Morus Playing the Histories and Future of Science
Medicine 2000: The Future of Medicine in Cold-War Germany
David Freis, University of Münster, Germany
Panel - Playing the Histories and Futures of Science - Colin Milburn, University of California, Davis, USA; Will Slocombe, University of Liverpool, UK; Lorenzo Servitje, Lehigh University, USA.
Excluded from Society’s Future? The Humanities in Post-war Narratives of the Swedish Welfare State
Hampus Östh Gustafsson, Uppsala University, Sweden
The horizons of Carl Schmitt’s katechontism. Eschatology and the end of history in mid-20th century German thought
Hjalmar Falk, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

End of Day Two

18:30-23:30 Conference Dinner w/Plenary Lecture by Professor Sherryl Vint (UC Riverside) at the National Centre for Early Music



Thursday 29th March



09:00-10:30 Fact, Fiction and STS - Chair: Amy C Chambers Narratives that Shape the Future of AI – Chair: Stephen Cave
What AI Researchers Read: On the Influence of Literature on AI Researchers
Sarah Dillon, University of Cambridge, UK; Jennifer Schaffer-Goddard, University of Cambridge, UK
Futures: Between Science and Literature
Natalie Riley, Durham University, UK
“Reality is not – and will not be anytime soon – a William Gibson Novel”: The Formation, Repetition, and Renewal of Narratives Around the Technological Singularity, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Humanity
Beth Singler, University of Cambridge, UK
Using fictional futures to prompt political confrontations
Deborah Scott, University of Edinburgh, UK
Asimov’s Laws of Robotics: How Intentionally Imperfect Plot Devices Shape Our Understanding of Robot Ethics
Kanta Dihal, University of Cambridge, UK


11:00-13:00 Governance, Futures, Scenarios - Chair: Sam Robinson Imagining (after) the end – Chair: Amy C. Chambers
Getting a grip on desirable futures
Laurent Bontoux, European Commission, Joint Research Centre, EU Policy Lab.
Begin, End, Repeat: Poe’s Cosmology in Its Apocalyptic Contexts
John Tresch, Warburg Institute, UK
Forecasting vs the Long Range: Competing Approaches to the Future in British Government
Jacob Ward, University College London, UK
The Tribe (1999-2003): the post-apocalyptic community, youth, science and nostalgia
Alison Tedman, Buckinghamshire New University, UK
The Possibility Cannot be Ignored͛: An Introduction to Economic Histories of Climate Futures
Vladimir Jankovic, University of Manchester, UK 
Different Death Stars and Devastated Earths: Science Fiction Cinema’s Changing Imagination of Disaster in the Anthropocene
Toby Neilson, University of Glasgow, UK
The Future of Tear Gas
Brian Balmer, University College London, UK
A Corridor on the Nostromo: Retrofuturistic Design in Alien and Alien: Isolation
Patrycja Sokołowska, University of Silesia, Poland