Call for papers

Imagining the Impossible: International Journal for the Fantastic in Contemporary Media CFP for Vol. 4.

This international, peer-reviewed journal is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of the fantastic in today’s entertainment media. The aim is to offer new and cutting-edge theories in response to the field of the fantastic. The fantastic is widely understood as stories and genres that break with natural laws. We use the fantastic as a super-genre and an umbrella term for all genres that have fantastic elements – science fiction, horror, fantasy, superheroes and more. The focus is on fantastic fiction in entertainment media, including film, popular literature, television, games, comic books, and animated films. Media forms such as haunted houses, theme parks, and online forums also fall within this scope. The journal aims to offer a forum for multiple theoretical approaches to the fantastic that respond to their diverse media forms. Approaches include: genre theory and aesthetic analysis; theories of world-building, design and production studies; transmedia developments; storytelling and narrative theory; and cognitive, biocultural and evolutionary theories. The journal is double blind peer-reviewed and has 1-3 issues per year. Articles will be available online when they have been peer-reviewed and edited. All issues have a theme section and an open section for articles outside the theme.


Volume 4: Imaginary Artifacts & Design (Fall 2024)

“In everyday usage, the word object denotes a solid, visible, tangible, and inanimate thing; the notion of a nonexistent or merely imaginary object must appear as a contradiction in terms” – Winfried Nöth.

The fantastic is replete with imaginary objects, often imbued with great power. Fantasy plots often revolve around possession of magical objects, such as the rings of power in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings or the infinity stones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In science fiction, a new technological object is often the novum that differentiates the universe from our own, such as the existence of a time travel machine in Back to the Future or an intelligent operating system in Her. In horror, occult objects are often the source of the uncanny, from “The Monkey’s Paw” to Hellraiser’s configuration puzzle box. Artifacts are frequently plot catalysts (as in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), totalizing concepts (as in Boye’s Kallocain) or sentient constructs with a symbiotic or prosthetic relation to the protagonist (Jarvis in Iron Man). Studies of the fantastic, however, often subordinate these objects to understanding their influence on characters and the fantastic universe. In light of new intellectual movements such as object-oriented ontology, with its insistence that objects are not defined solely by their relations with humans, perhaps it is time to re-examine fantastic objects in their own right?

Unlike imaginary beings, which often combine ontologically distinct categories, imaginary artifacts are harder to define. Some imaginary objects could theoretically be created, leading us into the world of design fiction. What happens to fantastic objects when they become real? Other fantastic objects are fundamentally impossible but essential to the plot, such as magical or demonically-possessed artifacts - can such objects be considered within intellectual frameworks such as object-oriented ontology? On screen, the creative work of art directors often plays a crucial role in imagining and developing the storyworld, with their designs often reshaping the narrative by suggesting new possibilities. In what ways has production design influenced the creation and development of different fantastic universes? How does sentient AI with the ability to communicate appear when approached as either imaginary being or object, as design fiction or fundamental impossibility?

This issue focuses on the role and design of imaginary artifacts in fantastic fiction and entertainment media and invites authors to consider these and other questions. Topics include but are not limited to:

· Cybernetic perspectives on artifacts.

· Diegetic prototypes and performative artifacts.

· The artifact as a plot device, novum or catalyst.

· Artifacts as comments on history or the present.

· Props, prop-making and design.

· The ontologies of artifacts and beings.

· Gear in games.

· Artifacts in cosplay, fan-fiction and fan-art.

· Artifacts and artificial intelligence.

· Imaginary Media.


5000-8000 words, Chicago style (in text), please keep notes to a minimum. Illustrations are welcome, 300 dpi at print size, .jpg. Authors are responsible for all illustration copyrights.

Deadline for Volume 4

Please submit a 500-800 word synopsis by November 15, 2023 through the submissions page on the journal website: Authors will receive a response from the editorial board in early December. A first draft article is due by April 1, 2024. Articles will then be double blind peer-reviewed and the issue will be published in Fall 2024.