Friday, January 03, 2020

New Anthology: Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories

I have been working for several years to build bridges between science fiction and philosophy. Science fiction can, I think, be a way of doing philosophy -- a way of doing philosophy that draws more on imagination, the emotions, and intuitive social cognition than does the typical expository philosophy essay. I've argued that we should see philosophers' paragraph-long thought experiments as intermediate cases in a spectrum from purely abstract propositions on the one end to full-length fictions on the other, and that we ought to utilize the full spectrum in our philosophical thinking.

After almost three years of pitching anthology ideas to presses, finding a taker in Bloomsbury, recruiting authors, then waiting for and editing their submissions, on December 30, Helen De Cruz, Johan De Smedt and I submitted the manuscript of an anthology of mostly new philosophical science fiction stories. We expect the volume to appear in late 2020.

We are delighted by our contributor list! Half are pro or neo-pro science fiction writers and half are professional philosophers with track records of published fiction. All of the stories have philosophical themes and are followed by authors' notes of about 500-1000 words that further explore the themes. And the stories are terrific! I think there might be a Nebula or Hugo nominee or two in here. We've also written a (hopefully) fun introductory dialogue in which fictional versions of Helen, Johan, and I argue about the merits, or not, of science fiction as philosophy.

Below is the full Table of Contents. All the stories are new except for one classic story by Ted Chiang and the Schoenberg story, which won an APA award in a contest run by Helen, Mark Silcox, Meghan Sullivan, and me.

Philosophy Through Science Fiction Stories

Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming

Helen De Cruz, Johan De Smedt, and Eric Schwitzgebel — Introductory Dispute Concerning Science Fiction, Philosophy, and the Nutritional Content of Maraschino Cherries

Part I: Expanding the Human

- Eric Schwitzgebel — Introduction to Part I

- Ken Liu — Excerpt from Theuth, an Oral History of Work in the Age of Machine-Assisted Cognition

- Lisa Schoenberg — Adjoiners

- David John Baker — The Intended

- Sofia Samatar — The New Book of the Dead

Part II: What We Owe to Ourselves and Others

- Johan De Smedt — Introduction to Part II

- Aliette de Bodard — Out of the Dragon's Womb

- Wendy Nikel — Whale Fall

- Mark Silcox — Monsters and Soldiers

Part III: Gods and Families

- Helen De Cruz — Introduction to Part III

- Hud Hudson — I, Player in a Demon Tale

- Frances Howard-Snyder — The Eye of the Needle

- Christopher Mark Rose — God on a Bad Night

- Ted Chiang — Hell Is the Absence of God

We can't release the stories in advance -- fiction is different in that way than philosophy. But if you like philosophy and you like science fiction, I predict that you're going to really dig this anthology when it comes out. Stay tuned!

[The image isn't our cover art -- just something fun from Creative Commons]


Mikel J. Wisler said...

This is amazing. I have written about how sci-fi is the most naturally philosophical genre. I love that you've put this together. Where can I pre-order a copy?

Anonymous said...

Agree, and a springboard for sci-fiers to jump into Philosophy.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Mikel: No pre-orders available yet, but hopefully this summer!

Mikel J. Wisler said...

Excellent. I'll keep my eye out. My whole thing is writing meaningful sci-fi that helps us explore life's deepest questions. So I'm very excited to check this out.

Charles H said...

Excited for this! Do you have a list of philosophical stories that you recommend?

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Charles H: Here's a list you might enjoy, of about 500 works of SF recommended by philosophers, organized by author and recommender (not alphabetical):