Authors’ Guidelines

Guidelines for Authors:

  1. Copyright Notice
  2. Content and Scope of Papers
    2.1. What kind of article are we looking for?
    2.2. Stay on Target…
  3. Style
  4. Suggested Length
  5. Formatting your manuscript
  6. Choosing a title for your article
  7. How to cite
  8. What is an SF story?
  9. What is a philosophical theme?
  10. Tips for non-U.S. contributors

Copyright for articles published in this journal is retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the journal. By submitting to this journal, you acknowledge that the work you submit has not been published before.

Articles and any other work submitted to this journal are published under an Attribution / Non-Commercial Creative Commons license; that is, by virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use – with proper attribution – in educational and other non-commercial settings.

There are no fees for publishing in the Journal. No fees are charged for submitting, reviewing, processing or publishing an article.

2. Content and Scope of Papers

The Journal of Science Fiction and Philosophy accepts papers in all areas of philosophical reflection in which a philosophical theme or idea is developed within the context of the discussion of a published science fiction (or SF) story. Any platform/format for the story is acceptable (written short story, novel, TV show, movie, or interactive, i.e., games), as long as the story is clearly recognizable as SF. (For more detailed information, see “What is an SF story?” and “What is a philosophical theme?”)

Every volume of the journal features a “Yearly Theme” section, and a “General Articles” section. The Yearly Theme will be announced at the beginning of each volume’s publication cycle. Authors are also encouraged to submit articles that do not specifically conform to the yearly theme, if they think it fits the Scope and Aim of this journal.

Because even academically informed readers will come from many different quarters (and also because it is hoped that the journal will attract the attention of non-professional philosophers), it is recommended that the author, when dealing with highly technical aspects of their argument, take the time to introduce these technicalities. Do not assume that your reviewers and readers will be familiar with either your line of inquiry or your technical tools.

2.1. What kind of article are we looking for?

What we look for in an article is an original development of a philosophical argument or idea, carried out within the context of a science fiction story. The idea should be developed in an original direction. The SF story should not simply illustrate or exemplify, but be somewhat instrumental in the development of the argument. (Discussions of craft, composition, or the context in which the story was written may be included, but should not constitute the core of the discussion.) Manuscripts that focus on an aspect of literary analysis (e.g. the cultural views prevalent at the time a text was composed), and manuscripts that demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the world, species and characters of an SF series or franchise, but that do not investigate in more than passing detail the philosophical issue proposed, will not fit the Scope and Aim of the Journal.

We are looking for articles that examine a philosophical issue with the depth expected of current scholarly articles, grounded in and demonstrating an awareness of current scholarship. That is, explanations of an introductory nature, that might be adequate for, say, a volume on SF and pop-culture, may fall short of this expectation if they don’t push the idea further into original thought. (We do want to prepare a place for such introductory articles, since it is part of our vision to make philosophy more accessible with the use of science fiction, but that section will be a different one from the ones dedicated to scholarly, peer-reviewed articles.)

2.2. Stay on Target…

The two most common reasons why we’ve had to reject articles are: (1) an article does not fit the Scope and Aim (because they focus more on a literary analysis, or an encyclopedic account of a fictional world), and (2) an article addresses an issue in an introductory, light or passing manner, without pushing further into a scholarly/original analysis.

The third most common reason is a waving focus: The author proposes a thesis, and then gets sidetracked one or many times during the writing of the article, so that they end discussing an issue that is very different from what was promised. The discussion may be interesting, but the paper has lost its way.

An image comes from fencing, more specifically from foil, the blade allowed the narrowest valid target during competitions. Proper form when using foil allows for a very strong guard to be maintained with very subtle motions, but the point must always be centered on the opponent. The slightest deviation, even for a quick feint, will give the opponent an opening and cost you a point. The same degree of control should be kept over the argument, with side comments and detours, like feints, used only to draw the opponent out. 

 3. Style

As a general rule, the writing should follow academic conventions for clarity and formality of speech (e.g. avoid contracting forms of verbs, and overly familiar expressions). Argumentation must be up to scholarly standards, which means that references and factual statements must be properly documented and referenced, personal opinions must be phrased as such, and the writer must express in their writing awareness of the “degrees of probability” of their statements. Ambiguous pronouns should be replaced with the exact expression they are referring to, even if this makes the writing somewhat inelegant.

The journal is atypical, however, by reason of the (sometimes literally) outlandish material it discusses. We invite authors to acknowledge this outlandishness, allowing their writing not to be overly “dry.” It is our editorial belief that there is room for “voice,” beauty and humor in academic writing, and that such qualities may improve an article that is academically solid. It is also our hope that the Journal will attract a non-academic public too, and introduce them to philosophical discussions; thus (if the topic allows this without sacrificing technical rigor) authors are encouraged to make their writing accessible to non-professional philosophers. 

For the subtle points of grammar, punctuation, and citations, the Journal follows the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition. Authors are encouraged not to lose sleep over formatting issues, though, as these are easily fixable. See below for notes on formatting and citations.

4. Suggested Length

There is no required length for articles; that is, papers can be as short or as long as they need to be. Papers from the analytic tradition tend to be shorter than those from the continental tradition; papers dealing with a more obscure SF title may require a more detailed explanation of its subject matter, and we don’t want the quality of the papers to be hampered by this. The online format of the Journal allows us this latitude. Reviewers are instructed to comment on whether a paper could be bettered by shortening it, or whether a section or a point requires further elaboration. As an author, you should still ask yourself what length is needed for your argument to be clear — and how much are your readers going to put up with! In particular, if you think of your article as something that could be used in class discussions in conjunction with a story, the recommended length would be somewhere between 15 and 20 printed pages (that is, something in the vicinity of 7,500 words, plus references). But articles will not be turned away because of their length. 

5. Formatting Your Manuscript

Your work must be submitted as a file that is readable in MS Word, such as “.doc,” “.docx” or “rtf” (rich-text format) are preferred. If you use a different program, make sure that you “save as” or “export” your file into one of these formats. PDF files are not acceptable, because they cannot be easily reformatted or proofed for publication (and their rigid structure makes them less adaptable to the reviewers’ preferred way of reading them).

There are a number of conventions regarding style and format, that scholars trained in the humanities in the U.S. are very familiar with, but non-U.S. researchers may not be. If you are a non-U.S. scholar you are encouraged to look at our Advice for Non-U.S. Contributors.

It is recommended that you send your manuscript single-spaced, flushed left (i.e., not justified), in a widely-used font (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial or Calibri) size 11 or 12. These settings can easily be modified by the reader, but keeping to these settings makes it easier to prepare the document for publication without encountering glitches.

Include the Abstract in the manuscript, and paste the abstract in the relevant field when completing the submission form.

The two most important instructions to keep in mind are these (your manuscript will be returned to you without reviewing it if these are not followed):

(1) Citations should be in-text and complete, including author and page numbers (see below). Ideally your document should not contain footnotes. Footnotes do not translate well into a running html document. All references should be included parenthetically within the text, in a way that makes the reference clearly identifiable among the works cited without the need to constantly jump back and forth through the document. (Thus, a reference should include at least the author and page). Endnotes are acceptable, but not encouraged, and should be kept to a minimum.

(2) No author information should be included in the manuscript itself. Do not include your name in the title, and if you are referencing your own work, substitute your name with “Author.”

6. Choosing a Title For Your Article

The current tradition in English-speaking academia is to use some quotable phrase for a title (sometimes turned into a pun), and then, after a colon, to tell the reader what the article is really about. (Example: “Robots at the Gates: Automation in the Early Works of Isaac Asimov.” The first part is an obvious play on “Barbarians at the Gates,” and the second part tells you what the article really is about.)

While we do not entirely object to this (somewhat hackneyed) practice, we do insist that the title should contain: (a) an explicit summary of what your article is about, and (b) the mention of the main SF work and/or author your article will focus on. This will make it much more easy for readers to find out, by looking at the table of contents, whether your article may be relevant to their interests.

For example, the title above could be turned into “Automation anxiety in Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.” “Robots at the Gates” does not need to be included, and omitting it here makes it possible to specify the source works without making the title too bulky.

7. Citations and References

In choosing a specific style for citations, we want to make it possible for the readers to easily locate the reference when needed, without the cumbersome need to be scrolling back and forth through the text. For this reason:

  • Your manuscript must contain no footnotes.
  • References must be “parenthetical,” i.e., included in summary form between parenthesis, following a citation. The full bibliographical details are listed under “Works Cited” at the end of the manuscript.
  • Whenever possible, references must contain author’s name and page numbers, so the reader is not forced to hunt through long documents to corroborate a citation. E.g. (Herbert, 143)
  • When convenient (e.g. when citing for the first time a work that is of great importance for your argument), provide some context for the uninformed reader, mentioning for example the year in which a novel or article was published or naming (in your text) the specific work from which you are quoting.

If your article uses more than one text by the same author, then the parenthetical reference must include sufficient information to distinguish them. The easiest way to do this (though it does require some scrolling to the end of the paper) is by adding the publication year to the author’s name, as in:

“[Quotation]” (Herbert 1965, 143)

At the end of the manuscript, you must list the full bibliography, prefaced by the subtitles “Works Cited.” These are the basic rules. There is not an established format in philosophy, as there is with other disciplines, but the Journal follows the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. Try to follow it to the best of your ability, but there is no point in agonizing over whether a period goes before or after a parenthesis.

Here are some examples for the Works Cited section: 

Citing a book:Author/s (last, first). Year. Title (in italics). [Optional: City where published, followed by semicolon:] Publisher.Herbert, Frank. 1965. Dune. [New York:] Berkley.
Citing a book chapter in an edited book:Author/s (last, first). Year. “Article Name” (between quotation marks, no italics). In Book title (in italics), edited by [Editor’s name/s], [pages]. [Optional: City where published, followed by semicolon:] Publisher.Doe, Jane. 1990. “Environmental Ethics in Dune.” In The Philosophy of Dune, edited by John Writesomething, 230-256. Boston: Harvard University Press.
Citing an article in a journal:Author/s (last, first). Year. “Article Name” (between quotation marks, no italics). Journal Title (in italics), Volume number. Issue number (if available). (Date, between parenthesis): Page numbers.Wayne, John. 2011. “The Myths of the Sandpeople.” Journal of Made-Up Mythologies, 14.2 (March 2011): 303-306.[Note that the date is repeated here. It’s all right.]
 Note: it is becoming more common to add at the end of the reference “Print” or “Web,” depending on whether the source used was printed or online.Herbert, Frank. 1965. Dune. [New York:] Berkley. Print. Wayne, John. 2011. “The Myths of the Sandpeople.” Journal of Made-Up Mythologies, 14.2 (March 2011): 303-306. Web.
Citing an online article.If the online article belongs to an established journal or a periodical publication, follow the format for “Citing an article in a journal.” If the source is more of a blog, occasional essay, review, etc. Then: Author/s (last, first). Year. “Article Name” (between quotation marks, no italics). Website name (not url.) Publication date (Day, month, year). “Web.” Retrieval date (day, month, year). Add the url between “< >” only if a simple search would not be enough to find that publication. (Url’s tend to change. It is becoming more the norm to cite using the title and publication’s name). Dylan, Marcia. 2017. “How My Life Changed After Reading Science Fiction.” The Bored Muse. 25 May 2008. Web. 20 June 2017. <>
Citing an online encyclopedia or wiki.Search Term. Website (in italics).  Publication date (Day, month, year). “Web.” Retrieval date (day, month, year).  Add the url between “< >” only if a simple search would not be enough to find that publication. (Url’s tend to change. It is becoming more the norm to cite using the title and publication’s name).“Sandcrawlers.” DuneWiki. 17 April 2009. Web. 30 May 2017.
Citing a movie.Title (in italics). Year. Dir. [Director’s name, First M. Last]. Perf. First M. Last. [Main actors; may be omitted.] Distributor. Media Type.Dune. Dir. David Linch. [Perf. Kyle MacLachlan]. Universal. Film.
Citing a serial / TV show.TV series name (in italics). “Episode Title.” (No italics; between quotation marks.) “Season #, Episode #.” [This is not standard, but it is quite simply the easiest, non-technical way of finding an episode in present-day streaming services.] (#Episode number (if available)). Dir[ected by] First name Last name. Written by First name Last name. Name of network, Month Date, Year of original air date.Star Trek. “Journey to Babel.” Season 2, Episode 10 (#44). Dir. Joseph Pevney. Written by Gene Roddenberry, D.C. Fontana. NBC, 16 November 1967.

8. What is a Science Fiction Story?

Regarding the name of the genre, there has been some controversy. As mentioned in the Editorial Notes of Vol. 1 (2018), we generally subscribe to the dictum that the wise do not quarrel over names, and hold as acceptable both “science fiction” and the shorthand “SF,” but other forms (e.g. “speculative fiction”) should only be used if the author is willing to explain their choice of usage in the manuscript. (The name of the journal has been chosen for the practical reason that “science fiction” is an immediately recognizable expression for everyone, whereas “SF” still requires some immersion in the genre to recognize it as an alternative).

For a definition of the science fiction genre, we propose the following: At the broadest, science fiction is a literary genre characterized by the presence of scientific and technological developments to which we do not have current access, but that keep in continuity with our current understanding of the laws of nature.

That “we do not have current access” distinguishes these stories from those that take place in a “present day” reality, even a high-tech one. That they “keep in continuity” with our current understanding of science means that they do not completely depart from it (or at least there is some narrative effort to establish this continuity). Science fiction stories stay always grounded on our current scientific understanding of the world (and, if not on the science itself, at least on our understanding of what science is.) The more grounded on current science, the closer it is to what is known as “hard” SF. The more informed SF authors will make this continuity with current scientific concepts more explicit, while elaborating on fictional details.

Note that, if the relevant differences with our current state of affairs is due to alternative metaphysical (or even theological) conditions (e.g., magic, supernatural beings), the story will then belong more properly to the fantasy genre. Which is also a great source for philosophical reflection, but already beginning to be covered by other journals, and not included in our focus and scope. (Again, refer to our Editorial on Vol. 1 for a slightly more detailed discussion of this topic).

Entering perhaps into more debatable territory, note that in a “proper” SF story, the technology and scientific concepts introduced in the story are not merely the “setting” (or the “dressing”) but are essential to the plot, or, as is often put, to the “conflict.” SF is not just a matter of replacing revolvers with lasers, and human baddies with green baddies. The story emerges, so to speak, from the possibilities brought up by new technologies, new beings, new science; without them there would be no story.

9. What is a Philosophical Theme?

This is a really big question, the subject of, literally, millennia-long discussions, and it is perhaps pretentious to try to address it in these Author’s Guidelines. Yet anticipating that contributions may come from authors in other disciplines, without an academic training in philosophy, it is best to sketch out in a few words what kind of contribution is expected. And possibly the best way to approach the matter is by describing the type of questions that are considered “philosophical” (a “theme” being, of course, a topic of discussion, neither too broad, nor too narrow).

By “philosophical” questions we understand those that “dig deeper”: (1) deeper than the day-to-day assumptions of practical life; (2) deeper than the cultural assumptions of customs and morality; and (3) deeper than the established methodological confines of a science or discipline.

(1) Deeper than the day-to-day assumptions of practical life: Philosophical inquiry interrupts the regular proceedings of practical life, bringing up such questions as “why am I doing this?” “Is this kind of life worthwhile?” “Is life worthwhile?” “What is the point of it all? What’s the meaning?” and so forth.

(2) Deeper than the cultural assumptions of customs and morality: Philosophical questioning systematically challenges moral and cultural assumptions, by pointing out internal contradictions, and asking the further questions about the rational grounding for such assumptions. Are our laws moral/legal/just, if they don’t treat everyone equally? And what does it mean ‘treat everyone equally’? And what is justice? And do we want it? Why? It is easy to see how SF stories, with their presentation of other-worldly and other-temporally civilizations are bursting with these kinds of questions.

(3) Deeper than the established methodological confines of a science or discipline: Sciences operate very well within their methodological confines; but when a question is asked that goes beyond them, this question is philosophical. Biology may elucidate the mechanisms that make life possible, but the question about the meaning of life is philosophical. Medicine may develop new procedures that are effective but costly; the knowledge to develop those procedures is medical, but the question about whether they are worth the cost is philosophical. Likewise, engineers have the knowledge to develop and improve technological tools, but whether the technology itself is an improvement on human life or its opposite is a philosophical questions that (again) SF asks very often. These are the kinds of questions the journal is interested in exploring.

10. Tips for Non-U.S. Contributors

This advice may be useful for contributors who have not been trained in a U.S. (or more broadly, Anglo-American) academic environment. Some of the conventions for academic writing may differ.

– When referring to the author’s own intentions and opinions, use the first person singular, and not plural (unless expressing the views of more than one author, or inviting the reader into the argument). Thus, do not write, e.g. “In the following paper we will examine so-and-so,” but “In the following paper I will examine so-and-so.”

– Use non-gender-specific terminology and pronouns (“he/she,” “she or he,” or “they”), even if this renders the writing somewhat inelegant. Don’t talk about “man” but “humanity” or “human beings” and so forth.

– The Anglo-American academic writing style is very polite and charitable, and regards excessive confrontation (especially ad hominem) with suspicion. There is a willingness to see the good point in another’s contributions before criticizing them. Criticism of other views should be framed within these scholarly standards of respect for the adversary’s opinions, and an assumption of good will on their part (i.e., no sarcasm, and avoid the implication that the person you are criticizing is incompetent or worse). As a general rule, criticize the arguments, but be amiable to the person.