Conference 2021

Illustration by Miguel Santos, design by Sara Henriques.

Science Fiction and Fantasy International Conference

Messengers from the Stars: Episode VI

Online Conference

School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon

November 25-26, 2021

Nature and Overnature in SF and Fantasy Discourses

Science Fiction and Fantasy are lasting fields of inquiring into today’s world. They have become privileged means to question issues of aesthetic, ethical, political, social, economic, environmental and historical nature with high impact on contemporary societies. They have promoted hot-button issues and rich critical debates in literature as well as in cinema, TV, and videogames among other media.

The University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (ULICES) invites you to take part in the 6th International Conference Messengers from the Stars: On Science Fiction and Fantasy to be held at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, on November 25-26, 2021. This year Episode VI will focus on the theme “Nature and Overnature in SF and Fantasy Discourses”.

Since humankind’s early days, our relationship with nature has undergone different stages and attitudes. From fear and antagonism to deep integration or attempt at subjugation, we humans have tried both to understand our environment and make the most of it. “What is our bond with Nature? Are we part of it or are we its destroyers?”; “What will be the consequences of our former and current actions towards Nature?”; “Are we the dominant species or is this just a human delusion?”; “What is the connection between Nature and social environment?”.

Also, under scrutiny is our inner nature, either as an immaterial everlasting sector or as a mutable human feature: “In distancing ourselves from Nature are we losing our natural humanity?”; “Are we more or less naturally human than our ancestors?”; “How has technology challenged the nature of our humanity?”; “Are we becoming over-natural?”; “Is there a universal human nature or do we embrace plural human natures?”

These are ever-present themes in Fantasy narratives, as masterly explored in Tolkien’s legendarium and C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles, as well as in many other 20th and 21st century authors, namely Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea cycle. They are also at the core of many SF visions, since the very beginning of the genre with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, H. G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, to name just a few.

Inspired by these pioneering texts and fed by advances in technology, such issues have become more and more complex in Fantasy and SF literature, cinema, TV series, comics and graphic novels, music, and other art forms. Moreover, we are witnessing a turning point in our relationship with nature, the most dramatic since our existence, which clearly has raised new doubts and anxieties but also new forms of self-awareness about our role in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has alerted us to the dangers of our current ways of living as well as to our vulnerabilities. This is the time to find responsible solutions able to open up, for us and for the next generations, a healthier future.

We welcome papers of 20 minutes as well as joint proposals for thematic panels consisting of 3 to 4 participants. Postgraduate and undergraduate students are also welcome to participate.

Topics may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Artificial Intelligence;
  • Ecocriticism;
  • Fantasy, SF and ethics;
  • Human nature and natural environment;
  • Nature/over-nature and the human body;
  • Natural and social environment;
  • Utopias/Dystopias.

Call for pitches 5MP (five-minute pitches)

This year we are also interested in hearing from you if you are an undergraduate student (MA or PhD) and have a great project still in its early stages. The Five-Minute Pitch Call is inspired in the international competition Three-Minute Thesis (3MT). This is a great opportunity to showcase the innovative nature of your proposal even if there are no results yet. Break down your topic and tell us why everyone should be paying attention to your research.

Please, communicate your ideas effectively. Pitches will need to include (though not restricted to) the following: Name, Affiliation and Contact Information; Overview and Aim; Research Question; Material and Methods; and So what? (originality and relevance).

Your pre-recorded pitch should be no longer than 5 minutes and will be available on the conference website.


Proposals for individual papers, as well as for thematic panels, should have 250 words maximum and be sent to along with a short biographical note (100 words maximum) by May 28, 2021.

Notification of acceptance will be sent by July 5, 2021.

Working Languages: Portuguese and English 

Registration fees:

Early bird registration:  July 6 – September 17

30 € / Students: 10 €

Late bird registration: September 18 – October 19

60 € / Students: 20 €


  • Only after proof of payment is registration effectively considered.
  • Undergraduate and post-graduate students must send proof of student status with their registration.
  • The registration fee includes attendance of all sessions, digital conference material, and a certificate of participation.
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Conference 2020

Science Fiction and Fantasy International Conference

Messengers from the Stars: Episode VI – “Fragments of Humanity”

School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon


Regrettably, due to the current pandemic, this year’s conference will have to be postponed to 2021. In the meantime, we urge you to submit any proposed papers you may have to be published in our peer-reviewed journal, which is still scheduled to come out this year. For further details, please see here.

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Call For Papers

Journal Messengers from the Stars:
On Science Fiction and Fantasy
No. 4, 2019

Edited by: Danièle André & Christopher Becker
Co-edited by: Angélica Varandas & José Duarte

Messengers from the Stars is an international, peer-reviewed journal, offering
academic articles, reviews, and providing an outlet for a wide range of creative work
inspired by science fiction and fantasy. The 2019 issue will be dedicated to the theme

LIES, Inc. lies and “alternative facts” in Science Fiction

For our 2019 Messengers from the Stars issue we will focus on how lies and
“alternative facts”—as coined by Kellyanne Conway—can be both the basis for some
to overthrow governments or remain in power, and for others a way to protect a
society that would be torn by war or disaster if truth was to come out. Thus, the
interest rests in seeing how lies and alternative facts are used to deprive people of
their power to decide for themselves for good or bad—the question of lifting the
burden of moral condemnation on cannibalism is central to Richard Fleisher’s Soylent Green (1973) and leads us to wonder whether or not falsification can ever be
justified. In our societies, in which lies in some forms or others are part and parcel of
our daily lives, the question of truth and facts is to be questioned and we can wonder
to what extent they could jeopardize our contemporary so-called democracies. We
will study the tools used by fabricators and falsifiers in order to twist reality and
minimize the truth (propaganda, political manipulation, storytelling and information
warfare) as well as the effect an unmitigated resort to lies has on social
structures. Papers will cover all formats.

Possible topics:
– Communities and lies (ex: Philip K. Dick’s Clans of the Alphane Moon, 1964);
– Falsification as institution/tearing the veil of illusion (ex: The Illuminatus! Trilogy;
John Carpenter’s They Live, 1988);
– The limits of truth. Lies as second-best choice or stopgap solution (ex: Alan Moore
and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, 1986; Utopia, Channel 4, 2013);
– Propaganda vs Anti-Propaganda (ex: BrainDead, CBS, 2015);
– Truth as a revolutionary act (ex: George Orwell);
– Rewriting history (ex: John Wyndham’s Plan for Chaos published posthumously in
– The role of conspiracy theorists (ex: Chris Carter’s X-Files);
– Information warfare and New Wars (ex: William Gibson’s Neuromancer, 1984);
– Lies and mise en abyme (ex: narratives within narratives);
– The morality of lies vs the immorality of truth. The text as falsification: real books
and fictional authors (ex: Kilgore Trout as imagined by Kurt Vonnegut) / fictional books and real authors (ex: J. L. Borges and the use of mock quotations);
– Other.

Submissions, between 4000 and 6000 words in English, must be sent to by June 15, 2018. The authors will be notified by the end of
In addition, you can propose a book or film review. We welcome book and film
reviews on current science fiction and fantasy research and PhD dissertations.
Reviews should be between 500 to 1,000 words. Longer reviews, e.g. dealing with
more than one book, should be agreed upon with the Editorial Board.
All submissions must follow the journal’s guidelines available at:

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