(For Authors’ Guidelines on style and content, scroll farther down.
Where to send your manuscript
Submit manuscripts, queries and general questions directly to the Editor, Alfredo Mac Laughlin, at email@example.com. For manuscripts, check the Submission Preparation Checklist, below.
We like answering to queries! (Just know that our focus is specifically on academic articles; that is, we do not publish fiction, even if it is very rich in philosophical content.) Our aim is to respond to queries within the week, and to determine whether a manuscript would be a good fit for the Journal within two weeks. If we have not responded within that timeframe, please feel free to write to us asking for an update or a reminder.
When sending a manuscript, please include in the body of the e-mail your name and academic affiliation (if any), and an abstract. Please make sure that this information does not appear in the manuscript itself (see “Ensuring a Blind Review“). If the article is accepted for publication, we will ask for a short bio to be included in the article page.
Submission Preparation Checklist
Before submitting your manuscript, please check that it complies with the following items:
- The submission has not been previously published, and is not being currently considered for publication in another journal.
- If submitting to a peer-reviewed section of the journal, follow the instructions for Ensuring a Blind Review, that is, remove all personal identifiable information from the manuscript.
- Include an abstract, in the file or in a separate document. This will be use in the call for reviewers.
- The submission file must be in a format directly readable in Microsoft Word (either .doc, .docx, or RTF). If working on Google Docs or Apple’s .pages, export or convert to one of the above before submitting. See “Formatting Your Manuscript,” below, for more detailed information.
Adobe PDF is not an acceptable format. We will give it a preliminary read, but it does not allow for complex feedback or in-text comments, and we like to provide those. If the article is accepted for review you will need to provide a Word-compatible file.
- The text should use an 11- or 12-point font; employs italics, rather than underlining (except with URL addresses); and all illustrations, figures, and tables are placed within the text at the appropriate points, rather than at the end. (Unless, of course, they form part of an appendix).
- In-text references should be parenthetical, rather than in footnotes. For their format, we use the Chicago Manual of Style. (See the Journal’s Style Sheet).
- Where available, provide URLs for the references.
- The text must adhere sufficiently to the stylistic and bibliographic requirements outlined in the Style Sheet. (Note: don’t lose sleep over this. It is enough that the article is prepared and polished up to academic standards. There will be time to adjust the style and formatting later.)
- Proofread, double-proofread, triple-proofread! Nothing hurts more a manuscript during review that the impression that the author did a half-hearted job.
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 authors publishing in the Journal.
Ensuring a Blind Review
General and Yearly Theme articles are peer-reviewed in a double-blind manner (authors don’t know who is reviewing, and reviewers do not know who is the author). To make this is possible, authors should make sure that their name or other identifying information do not appear in the manuscript.
- Do not include the author’s name or affiliation in the manuscript itself.
- If you are referencing a previous publication of yours, replace both your name and the name of your work by “[Author].” You may include other information such as year or page number, to make it easier to restore this information after acceptance of the manuscript. You may, for example, include parenthetical references such as “([Author], 2001, 314).” In the Works Cited area the relevant work would be entered as “[Author], 2001.” without including other information yet.
- Finally, if using Word, go to the “File” tab, select “Info” and click on the “Inspect Document/ Check for Issues” button. Run “Inspect,” and if the inspection finds “Document Properties and Personal Information” (you will see a red exclamation mark next to this field) click on “Remove All.” This will clean file metadata that could include identifying information. (Other word-processing applications will require a slightly different procedure.)
Naturally, your submission will not be rejected on the grounds of accidentally leaving identifying information, but it may slow down the process a little if the file is not originally review-ready.
Guidelines for Authors
This section discusses in some length the kind of articles we are looking for, and provides some guidelines on style.
For specific information on how to send your work to the Journal, go to the beginning of this page.
For specific information on formatting and how to cite, go to the Journal’s Style Sheet.
- Content and Scope of Articles
1.1. What kind of article are we looking for?
1.2. Keep your argument focused!
- Style (General Considerations)
- Suggested Length
- Formatting your manuscript
- Choosing a title for your article
- What is an SF story?
- What is a philosophical theme?
- Tips for non-U.S. contributors
1. Content and Scope of Articles
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 (SF) story. Any platform/format for the story is acceptable (written short stories, novels, TV shows, movies, games), as long as the story is clearly recognizable as SF. (For more detailed information, see below: “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.
1.1. 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 on 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. (If you have an idea for such an introductory article, though, let us know, as we may have room for it in the Education Station section of the Journal.)
Authors do not need to go out of their way to be “entertaining.” When writing, consider an audience that is genuinely interested in what you have to say, and will follow and cross-examine carefully your technically intricate arguments; not one that needs to be kept awake with sly comments and bad puns.
1.2. Keep your argument focused!
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, or use as their basis a fantasy rather than a science fiction story), 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 your argument, with side comments and detours, like feints, used only to draw the opponent out.
2. General Considerations on Style
( For specific information on how to cite, and other technical aspects of style and formatting, go to the Journal’s Style Sheet.)
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 an 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. Less is more, though: the Journal is aiming at an audience that does not need to be entertained in order to be interested in your argument, so if you are going to use humor, keep it subtle.
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, as these are easily fixable at the proper stage of publication. It does save time if you format your references according to our Style Sheet, though, so we recommend that you consult it at the beginning of your writing. (Click here to go to our Style Sheet.)
3. Suggested Length
There is no required length for articles; 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 the details of that work, 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 your devoted readers are willing 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.
4. 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). 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. 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 an Abstract, either in the manuscript or as a separate document.
The two most important instructions to keep in mind are these:
(1) Citations should be in-text and complete, including author and page number when available (see Style Sheet). 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. (References that are obviously redundant can be shortened; again, see Style Sheet.)
(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.” See “Ensuring a Blind Review” for more details.
5. 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 in a straightforward manner 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, including the author or works considered, and the particular area the article discusses.
While we do not necessarily encourage to this (somewhat hackneyed) practice, we do insist that the title should contain: (a) a straightforward statement 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. A very clever title that tells you nothing about the article will most likely be skipped over.
If you use a particular philosopher as framework for your analysis, you should try to mention this in the title too.
For example, the title above could be turned into “Automation anxiety in Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun.” This narrows even further both the aspect of automation being considered, and the specific SF stories used primarily in the article. “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.
6. 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.” Other forms (e.g. “speculative fiction”) should only be used if the author is willing to explain their choice of usage in the manuscript. “Scyfi” and similar are not our favorites, but we yield here to author’s preference after some nudging. As to hyphenation, it is not required, but if you are going to use it just be consistent. (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 its 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 laser guns, 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.
7. 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 Authors’ 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 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 to “treat everyone equally”? And what is justice? And do we want it? Why? It is easy to see that 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 question that (again) SF asks very often. These are the kinds of questions the journal is interested in exploring.
8. 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, “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 exception to this, of course, is when you quote older texts verbatim.)
– 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.
– A somewhat strange convention is the use of periods and commas with closing quotation marks. For some reason, periods and commas are normally enclosed by the quotation marks. Thus, the proper form is: “I think this period goes inside.” And not “I think this period goes inside”. This is the same with commas, but not with any other punctuation signs. Don’t ask. I don’t understand it myself.
– For the Journal’s preferred way of citing, and other technical considerations on style, go to the Journal’s Style Sheet.