Call for Papers: Bodies of Knowledge: Speculating about Libraries, Archives, and the Future of Information

31 Mar 2022 - 00:00


— Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation

Vector invites proposals for articles for a special issue on speculative fiction and libraries, as well as adjacent themes, e.g. speculative angles on archives, collections, repositories, simulations, antilibraries, catalogues, metadata, preservation, curation, media archaeology, literary publics, open access, search, big data, taxonomies, folksonomies, epistemes, architectures of knowledge, hypomnemata, the history and future of print, oral traditions, embodied knowledge, book stores, index cards, bibliographic management, scholarly apparatuses, indexes, performance archiving, back-ups, more-than-human knowledge systems, data futures, code libraries, toy libraries, tool libraries, etc.

We welcome submissions from all backgrounds, including academics within SFF Studies, Information Studies, Digital Humanities, and other disciplines across arts and humanities, social sciences, and STEM, librarians, library workers, archivists and curators, SFF authors, fans, and others. We especially welcome voices from marginalized groups. Collaborative and interdisciplinary work is encouraged. All contributions will automatically be considered for publication in a special issue of Vector (guest-edited by Phoenix Alexander and Stewart Baker) as well as Focus (edited by Dev Agarwal). 

Please submit your proposal by 31 March 2022 to, including:

  • a 150-500 word proposal, including estimated article length;

  • something about yourself, either a 50-100 word bio or a CV.

Final articles should be between 1,000 and 8,000 words (please provide an estimate). We seek articles that are intellectually ambitious and carefully grounded in scholarly research, while also being clear, engaging, and accessible to a broad audience (including non-academics). Articles will be due by 30 September 2022. 

Informal queries are welcome too.


We invite proposals for articles, as well as other formats such as reviews, interviews, roundtables, manifestoes, curated reading lists, or playful, innovative, and/or experimental formats, e.g. indexes, metadata standards. Potential angles include the following; for legibility, we refer mainly to libraries and librarians below, but contributors may also want to also consider these questions in relation to collections, archives, museums, and other existing or speculative cultural institutions, and all those who work in them.

  • Depictions of libraries in speculative fiction, from Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel and Terry Pratchett’s L-Space to more recent appearances like Samantha Mills’ ‘Anchorage’ and A.J. Hackwith’s Library of the Unwritten—and all points in between. What can we make of the interplay between libraries as “repositories of knowledge and power-houses of education” and their potential to serve as hoards guarded from the public? What does the job of an acquisition librarian look like in Rivendell? How would patron-driven acquisition work out in the world of Fifth Season? How do authors use libraries as metaphors, plot points, settings, etc., and what does this say about how we view libraries?

  • Studies of real world science fiction libraries, collections, archives, or museums, either focused on specific institutions or the field as a whole. For example, practice articles from the perspective of librarians and curators on collecting, displaying, or using SFF materials, especially those concerned with decolonising archives, museums, and libraries; using SFF to further DEI initiatives; establishing new SFF libraries, collections and archives in the Global South; or using SFF as a lens on decarbonization, sustainability, and resilience.

  • Alternative and future libraries. How might libraries transform in the future? What alternative, radical, and/or underrepresented forms of library exist today? How might decolonial praxis transform libraries? What might technologies like VR and AR, 3D printing, and deep learning language generators, as well as more speculative SFnal tech such as advanced nanotech, near-FTL travel, the ansible, neural interfacing or full brain emulation, programmable matter, or holodecks, do to libraries as we know them? How does one manage, sort, filter, and collect the sheer amount of information being produced today (1.7MB per second), which is likely to increase as more of the world’s population gains Internet access? Will, can, or should librarians be replaced by AI? (No doom-and-gloom takes about how G**gle is making libraries obsolete, please.) What will museums look like two hundred years in the future? How might open access publishing work if augmented reality was commonplace and everyone sees the world through its connected data?

  • Librarians and censorship in or of SFF, whether it’s Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Hiro Arikawa’s censorship-fighting librarians in Toshokan Sensō, or the regular appearance of SFF titles on banned book lists. What makes SFF such a draw for censors? What role do libraries play in the censorship of information and how might future technologies change that? How do SFF authors treat libraries and censorship as related in their works? 

  • Artists who explore libraries, archives, and adjacent themes in speculative ways, e.g. Katie Paterson, Julie Tolentino, Alejandro Cesarco.

  • Libraries and information studies as a lens on speculative fiction texts and tropes, e.g. hive minds, gestalt beings, uplifted more-than-human entities, collective intelligences, telepathy, neural interfacing, transhumanism, simulated realities.

  • Representations of libraries across different genres and subgenres, and the use of library-related tropes as genre coding. 

  • Libraries as speculative elements in the real world. Mythical libraries, myths about libraries, tall tales and urban legends, haunted libraries, libraries as enclaves of alterity, prototype information systems such as the Mundaneum and Project Cybersyn.

  • Case studies of librarians who are also SFF writers. This could be an exploration of someone else’s work, or a proposal from a librarian-author to examine their own practice. How does library work shape an author’s fictional output? Does being a writer change how you approach library, museum, and archives work?

  • Critical or theoretical articles on the intersection of libraries and SFF studies. Postcolonialist, Marxist, feminist, anarchist, queer, ecocritical, digital humanist, posthumanist, critical humanist, poststructuralist, new materialist, and other approaches welcome and encouraged. Articles might explore topics such as climate change and solastalgia; queer futurity; colonialism and decoloniality; reparative and abolitionist thought and activism; Indigenous knowledge and knowledge transmission; publics and counterpublics; canonicity; translation; libraries as work spaces; libraries as social and public spaces; libraries as fora for activism and social change; libraries as spaces of conflict and agonism; surveillance and classified data storage; critical data studies; cloud storage and cloud migration; anarchist archival practice; AI in information studies; AI readers and AI publics; new and speculative modes of cataloguing and description; new and speculative modes of search; humanizing large and complex data sets; media archaeology and data forensics; early computational science; and utopian / dystopian / heterotopian angles on libraries.


In no particular order or classification system …

  • Libraries & Librarians in Science Fiction & Fantasy a list from The Seattle Public Library 

  • The library in Buffy

  • Anchorage’ by Samantha Mills

  • Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Library of Babel’ (see also this cool website approximation of the library, as well as his essay “The Total Library” and honestly a lot of his other short stories)

  • The works and ideas of the Long Now Foundation. How might libraries, archives, and museums adapt this approach to long-term thinking?

  • Kelly Link, ‘Magic for Beginners’

  • C.L. Polk, The Midnight Bargain

  • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books (L-Space, the tension between the knowledge systems of the wizards and the witches, etc)

  • Genevieve Cogman, The Invisible Library

  • Connie Willis, I Met A Traveller in an Antique Land

  • A.J. Hackwith, The Library of the Unwritten

  • Aditi Khorana, The Library of Fates

  • Octavia Butler, Parable duology

  • Rian Hughes, xx 

  • Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish cycle stories (e.g. Five Ways to Forgiveness; The Telling)

  • Jo Walton, Among Others

  • Arkady Martine, A Memory Called Empire; A Desolation Called Peace

  • Nibedita Sen, ‘Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island’

  • Victoria Schwab, The Archive

  • Elizabeth Bear, 'In Libres'

  • Hao Jingfang, Vagabonds

  • Walter Moers, The City of Dreaming Books

  • Becky Chambers, Record of a Spaceborn Few

  • Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Club Dumas

  • Erika Swyler, The Book of Speculation

  • Robin McKinley, Beauty

  • Kurd Laßwitz, 'The Universal Library'

  • The Library of Dream in The Sandman

  • Michael Ende, The Neverending Story - the city of storytellers

  • Hiro Arikawa, Library Wars 

  • Blade

  • Murakami Haruki, The Strange Library

  • Christelle Dabos, A Winter's Promise

  • Clamp, Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles 

  • Gene Wolfe, Book of the New Sun

  • H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

  • Jonathan Holloway, The Time Machine

  • Richard Brautigan, The Abortion

  • Genevieve Valentine, ‘86, 87, 88, 89’

  • Italo Calvino, If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler

  • Xia Jia, ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler’

  • Robert Reed, ‘The Universal Museum of Sagacity’

  • Naomi Novik, A Deadly Education

  • Candlekeep in Dungeons & Dragons

  • Alix E. Harrow, ‘A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies’

  • Garth Nix, Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr

  • Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

  • Walter Michael Miller Jr., A Canticle for Leibowitz 

  • Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

  • George MacDonald, Phantastes

  • Jeff Noon, The Body Library

  • Samuel R Delany, The Einstein Intersection; Babel-17; the Nevèrÿon stories

  • Amy Bonnaffons, The Regrets

  • Mikhail Elizarov, The Librarian

  • Vina Jie-Min Prasad, ‘Fandom for Robots’

  • Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, The Ministry for the Future 

  • Scott Lynch, In the Stacks

  • Lauren Gunderson, Ada and the Engine

  • Margaret Killjoy, The Barrow Will Send What It May

  • Ishio Yamagata, the Armed Librarian series 

  • Erin Morgenstern, The Starless Sea

  • Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

  • Ken Liu, ‘50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know

  • Stephen King, The Library Policeman

  • Jenn Swann Downey, The Ninja Librarian series

  • Game of Thrones

  • Star Trek, e.g. “All Our Yesterdays” 

  • The Book of Eli 

  • The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids

  • Hideyuki Kurata, Read or Die

  • Doctor Who

  • “The Last Library” (Science fiction from Nature)

  • Tilda Swinton as libraries: a Twitter thread.