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What is the future of the future on stage, wonders Alasdair Stuart?

www.umich.edu

Why isn’t there more science fiction in modern theatre ? After all, the term “robot” was coined in Karel Capek’s 1920 play R.U.R . and since then there’s been a constant, slowly growing amount of science fiction productions. From Ken Campbell*’s frantically magnificent Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool to theatrical adaptations of Doctor Who and Wyndham’s The Chrysalids and arguably Little Shop Of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show , science fiction theatre keeps happening but never quite seems to get the proper recognition. That may be about to change as Stage The Future, an academic conference devoted to SF Theatre, aims to explore the genre's origins, potential and future.

Scheduled for April 26 2014 at the University of Royal Holloway, the conference is being organised by Christos Callow Jr and Susan Gray. Christos recently organised the New Genre Army conference on the science fiction of Adam Roberts, and Susan, an SF playwright herself, is researching science fiction theatre for her PhD. You can find the conference’s call for papers here .

Suggested topics include but are not limited to:

• Depictions of future times
• Utopia and Dystopia
• Ancient Speculative Theatre (Prophets, Monsters, Gods)
• Theatrical adaptations of science fiction novels and films
• Performing the Non-Human and the Post-Human
• Space Opera and Science Fiction Opera
• Other fantastical theatres (horror, fantasy, supernatural)

They’ll welcome papers on anything relevant, and anyone interested should submit a 300-word abstract for a 20-minute paper, along with their name, affiliation (the university or organisation they’re representing on the day) and a 100-word professional biography to stagethefuture@gmail.com They’re also welcoming suggestions for panels and performance pieces, so both theorists and practitioners may present their work. Deadline for proposals is 28 February 2014.

The keynote speakers are scheduled to be drama critic Jen Gunnels from the New York Review Of Science Fiction (also contributing editor in performance for the Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction ) and Dr Nick Lowe from Royal Holloway, best known in genre circles for his award-winning film criticism in Interzone . The event is also open to the public and registration will be open nearer the time.

Science Fiction theatre has been waiting in the wings for decades. In 2014, Stage the Future will finally give it a moment in the spotlight.

Alasdair Stuart

* Anyone who remembers Erasmus Microman? That was Ken Campbell. His work’s amazing. Learn more here .