Making the Fantastic Real

From Design Fiction to Engineering Fandom




Media studies, Audience studies, Fanfiction studies, Design fiction studies, Star Wars, The Hacksmith


This study - Making the Fantastic Real - provides research into the subject of design fiction, science fiction fandom, sharable digital media content on the one hand, and the design of real-life engineering artifacts on the other. This study has selected the case of The Hacksmith to understand the space of meaning (science, fiction, co-creation, and design) created by the production of “the fantastic” by this specific acknowledged Canadian Youtuber.


The Hacksmith Industries is the trademark name of the YouTube channel The Hacksmith ( created by Canadian engineer James Hobson in 2006. One of the signature elements of Hobson’s interests is the lightsaber and the Star Wars franchise. But Hobson explores many other dimensions of popular culture, ranging from nerf wars shooters to superhero artifacts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His focus is on how to make elements or objects of the fantastic real, as his slogan goes, not to change any storyline, story arc or franchise world, but to see how far the innate human capability of play and creation can be taken from the fictional realm to reality.



Abercrombie, Nicholas & Brian Longhurst. 1998. Audiences. A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination. London: SAGE Publications.

Andersen, Tem Frank. 2019. “Fencing without the Force: Understanding lightsaber fencing as both traditional and performative martial arts, serious fandom fun, and cultural heritage.” Aalborg University: Unpublished working paper.

Andersen, Tem Frank. 2017. “Browsing the Origins of Comic Book Superheroes. Exploring as producers of video channel content.” In Nordisk Tidsskrift for Informationsvidenskab og Kulturformidling. Copenhagen University.

Andersen, Tem Frank. 1996. I’ve seen that one! Media ethnographic study of children's communication on tv. Aalborg University: Department of Communication (master’s thesis).

Andersen, Tem Frank & Jørgen Riber Christensen. 2020. “We don’t need another hero, do we? Researching heroism from a cultural perspective.” In Academic Quarter Vol. 20. Aalborg University Press.

Andersen, Tem Frank & Thessa Jensen. 2020. “Tintin and the adventure of transformative and critical fandom.” In Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies Vol. 17 (2).

Andersen, Tem Frank & Peter Vistisen. 2020. “What is so super about motion comics?” In Academic Quarter Vol. 20. Aalborg University Press.

Bowman, Paul. 2019. Deconstructing Martial Arts. Cardiff University Press.

Brown, Alan S. 2020. “Rocket-Hammer Man. Hacksmith James Hobson has made a career turning fiction into reality.” In Mechanical Engineering (New York, N.Y. 1919) Vol. 142 (5), p. 42-47.

Eco, Umberto (1983). The Name of the Rose. New York: HarperVia.

Eco, Umberto (1989). Foucault’s Pendulum. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers.

Eco, Umberto (1979). A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Fischer-Lichte, Erika. 1992. The semiotics of theater. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Godwin, Victoria. 2015. “Mimetic fandom and one-sixth-scale action figures.” In Transformative Works and Cultures No. 20. DOI:

Hansson, K., Forlano, L., Choi, J. H., DiSalvo, C., Pargman, T. C., Bardzell, S., Lindtner, S., & Joshi, S. 2018. “Provocation, Conflict, and Appropriation: The Role of the Designer in Making Publics.” In Design Issues.

Heljakka, K. 2017. “Toy Fandom, Adulthood, and the Ludic Age.” In Gray, J., C. Sandvoss & C. L. Harrington (eds.), Fandom. Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, second edition, New York: New York University Press.

Hills, Matt. 2014. “From Dalek half balls to Daft Punk helmets: Mimetic fandom and the crafting of replicas.” In Bob Rehak: Transformative Works and Cultures special issue: Materiality and Object-Oriented Fandom. DOI:

Hills, Matt. 2002. Fan Cultures. Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group.

Jenkins, Henry. 2006. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York University Press.

Jensen, Thessa & Peter Vistisen. 2018. “Strategic Design Fiction: A Plausible Reality & its implications.” In Academic Quarter Vol. 17, p. 53-68. Aalborg University Press.

Jensen, Thessa & Peter Vistisen. 2013. “Tent-Poles of the Bestseller: How Cross-media Storytelling can spin off a Mainstream Bestseller.” In Academic Quarter vol. 7, p. 237-248.

Judkins, Benjamin N. 2016. “The Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat: Hyper-reality and the Invention of the Martial arts.” In Martial Arts Studies 2. Cardiff University Press.

Kakalios, James. 2005. The Physics of Superheroes. New York: Gotham Books (Penguin Publishing Group).

Keidl, Philipp Dominik. 2018. “Between Textuality and Materiality: Fandom and the Mediation of Action Figures.” In Film Criticism. DOI:

Kirby, David. 2010. “The Future is Now: Diegetic Prototypes and the Role of Popular Films in Generating Real-World Technological Development.” In Social Studies of Science Vol. 40 (1). Sage Publications.

Sandvoss, Cornel. 2003. A Game of Two Halves: Football, Television and Globalization. London and New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Shedroff, N., & Noessel, C. 2012. Make it So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction. Rosenfeld Media.

Sturdee, M., Coulton, P., Lindley, J. G., Stead, M., Ali, H., & Hudson-Smith, A. 2016. “Design Fiction: How to Build a Voight-Kampff Machine.” Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 375–386.

Vistisen, Peter. 2020. “Design Fiction.” Agger, Gundhild et al. eds: Medie- og Kommunikationsleksikon. Frederiksberg: Samfundslitteratur.

Vistisen, Peter & Thessa Jensen. 2018. “Designers as fans: Bottom-up online explorations of new technology concepts as a genre of design fan fictions.” In First Monday 23 (12).

Zavrel, Erik & Eric Sharpsteen. 2016. “How the Television Show ‘Mythbusters’ Communicates the Scientific Method.” In The Physics Teacher Vol. 54 DOI:

Video resources on lightsabers (in both English and Danish)

DFF’s B&U Sommerlejr i Kalundborg (2019)

LED Sabre – Is the Force strong with this one (2018)

Leon Paul: LED Sabre – Rules and principles of a new combat sport (2019)

Lightsaber Fencing Is Now a Thing in France (2019)

Mandeting: Fægtning med lyssværd er nu en officiel sport

NRK: Håper dette kan få barn opp av sofaen (2019)

Silver Sabres LED Sabre Combat Academy (UK)

Wielding a Lightsaber with the Indy Lightsaber Academy




How to Cite

Andersen, Tem Frank, Thessa Jensen, and Peter Vistisen. 2023. “Making the Fantastic Real: From Design Fiction to Engineering Fandom”. Imagining the Impossible: International Journal for the Fantastic in Contemporary Media 2 (1).