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Fabius Mayland

PhD Candidate

Lansstraße 5-9
14195 Berlin

Education and Academic Employment

10/2019 – present: research associate and PhD candidate at the Cluster of Excellence Temporal Communities and the Graduate School of North American Studies, Free University of Berlin

03/2017 – 03/2018: student assistant at the Disaster Research Unit, Free University of Berlin

10/2015 – 01/2018: M.A. in American Studies (Literature and Culture) at the John-F.-Kennedy Institute, Free University of Berlin

03/2015 – 12/2017: Scholarship by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

02/2015 – 06/2015: Studies at the University of New South Wales, Australia

10/2012 – 09/2015 B.A. in English Studies and Psychology (minor) at the University of Bonn, Germany

American Science Fiction from Overpopulation to Climate Change: Environment, Crisis, Temporalities (dissertation project)

Dissertation in Culture

Mentoring team:
First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Frank Kelleter
Second supervisor: Prof. James Dorson
Third supervisor: Prof. Anita Traninger

Since 1945, science fiction has produced a significant amount of narratives concerned fundamentally with global crisis: nuclear war, environmental catastrophe, alien invasion. In this project I will read such crisis narratives specifically as ecologically-minded crisis narratives, which trace the post-war history of „the environment“ and „ecology“ as cultural concepts more generally. At the same time, such narratives participate in science fiction as part of what I will call a genre-community: genre is here understood to be something that responds (mirrors, traces, foreshadows) not only to external cultural factors, but also to itself; genre is thus fundamentally a process of self-observation, self-theorization, and self-writing.

One can thus read ecological sf in parallel with histories of the environment as concept generally – the rise and fall of the concern of „overpopulation“ after the war, the increasing dominance of climate change in our notion of the environment in recent decades – but one should do so with an eye as well towards internal genre processes. Critical to conceptualizations of crisis, ecology, and climate change within the genre is the fact that sf is (almost) inherently about the future, which is to say, about logics and regimes of time and temporality. Different crises come with their own temporal orders. Where nuclear war is a virtual but instantenous threat, the climate catastrophe of today is the result of fossil fuels burned decades ago, while any fossil fuels burned in the present worsen the catastrophes of the decades to come. The temporality of sf as eco-political narrative, meanwhile, is most commonly that of a story set in an already-accomplished future that is to reflect back upon our present, whether positively or negatively.

In this dissertation I will trace the emergence of an ecological sf across three strands: first, the long history an ecological sf that, through imaginations of utopian or dystopian futures, is assumed to activate the political imagination in the present; this kind of narrative precedes climate change as a specific ecological issue (as in sf stories concerned with overpopulation fears in the 1960s) and continues into the present as a kind of „orthodox“ ecological narrative. Second, I read a certain group of texts from the 1980s until the present associated with the subgenre of cyberpunk as not just non-ecological, but rather as pointedly anti-ecological sf, whose stance must be seen in large part as a genre-internal reaction. Third, I read a few selected narratives from the past decade – specifically Liu Cixin‘s Three-Body Trilogy and Kim Stanley Robinson‘s Ministry for the Future – as texts which are concerned not only with ecology, but also with sf‘s relation with ecology, and with the strategies of writing politically which sf has engaged in. I am trying to understand, then, ecological sf as a field in which the competing notions of „science fiction“ are as important as the competing notions of „the environment“ and „crisis“.


„Das Unabwendbare schreiben – Vom Erzählen der Klimakatastrophe“. Beitrag für 54books: https://www.54books.de/das-unabwendbare-schreiben-vom-erzaehlen-der-klimakatastrophe/

„Institutions and Personal Conceptions of Reality in HBO's The Wire: Spatial Transgressions and Their Consequences“. In: Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series.Ed. Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen. Heidelberg: Winter, 2015, pp 145-164.


Roundtable discussion „Climate Change in Science and Science Fiction: Is There Evidence for Hope?“ with Grace Dillon, Donald Hassler, Bruce Rockwood and Peter Sands at the annual Science Fiction Research Association conference The Future of/as Inequality, 18-21 June 2021.

„Attached You Find My Proposal: The Forms of Serial Scholarship“. Presentation at the Conference The Revolution Will Not Be Peer-Reviewed at the Graduate School for North American Studies, FU Berlin, 5-6 May 2017

„Show, Don't Tell: What the Aesthetic Choices of HBO's The Wire Tell Us about Negative Liberty”. Presentation at the Conference Transgressive Television: Politics, Crime, and Citizenship in 21st-Century American TV Series at the University of Vienna, 1-3 October 2014.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft