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Science Fiction, Fact & Forecast

The manifold Relationships between Science Fiction Literature and Scenario Thinking

Listen to an audio essay about the research project here:


Scenarios are a crucial tool in philosophy and the sciences, in technology assessment, design and engineering as well as in management. Fictional texts that sketch alternate societies and possible future developments are systematically written and interpreted in order to anticipate change and discover possible courses of action. For such purposes, these texts are based on scientific paradigms and start their exploration from real-world conditions. The research project Science Fiction, Fact & Forecast will highlight the history and the fuzzy definition of scenarios as well as their different understandings and applications. The focus, however, lies on their contemporary forms and how they interact with Science Fiction literature and  increasingly assume literary shapes.

Set in the general milieu of literary theory, philosophy of science, and cultural history, the main part of the project consists of a comparative analysis of scenario thinking texts and Science Fiction literature regarding motifs, narrative strategies, and methods of extrapolation. In this framework the project addresses the question, what can literature express when mere functional ‘thought experiments’ fall short.

As will be pointed out, there is a growing trend for bringing together science and literature – especially Science Fiction – for purposes of futurology. Against this background, literary theory gains in importance for the understanding of contemporary scenario thinking. The contemporary forms of scenario thinking will be examined, focusing on several case studies, e.g. Science Fiction Prototyping, Design Fiction and contemporary ‘Scientific Novels’.

“It matters what worlds make stories, what stories make worlds.” (Donna Haraway) Committed to a socio-critical framework, this study concludes with suggestions for how we can develop criteria for the stories we want to see in the world. 

This 3-year-project is funded by a Hertha-Firnberg-grant of the Austrian Research Fund FWF. [project  T-954]