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Mariano Martin Rodriguez

Sci Phi Journal 2023/1 – Spring Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of Speculative Philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities will serve as a cosy and thought-provoking read for the balmy days of spring!

Enjoy the trip,

the Sci Phi crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2023/1

Lectori salutem.

Members of the Sci Phi Journal crew started the year quick on their feet, roaming the world in search of inspiration and interesting conversation partners. Co-editor Mariano continued his quest for rarities deserving to be more widely known; some of his latest discoveries are reported in a comprehensive paper on early Latin European high fantasy published in our scholarly sister journal Hélice. Meanwhile, his colleague Ádám was particularly touched by the warm welcome extended to him by futurist Taiyo Fujii and Hirotaka Osawa, chairman of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of Japan. Over many a steaming bowl of tea under the arching bookshelves of Sarugakuchō’s still surviving Tsutaya bookstore, they lamented the fading art of traditional publishing – an industry that, like most creative sectors, finds itself caught between the dual pressures of automation fuelled by artificial intelligence, on the one hand, and various strands of ideologies intent on curbing the freedom of expression, on the other.

Some things, though, remain unchanged. This latest issue of Sci Phi Journal carries on its old-school mission of bringing you stories ranging the width of speculative philosophy, from contemplative theology to light-hearted flights of fancy – all written and illustrated by actual humans.

Apropos fancy. When faced with the rise of censorious tendencies in print and online, we couldn’t help but commit the following ditty to paper:

Once upon a time in Cacophonia,
All words were equal and free to fret,
Till the ruckus offended the arbiters
Who put a speedy end to that.

In their terabytes of wisdom, they
Separated Bad talk from the Good,
Banished the former to naughty corners
Lest further dissonance be afoot.

Four-letter words were first to go,
For they make innocent maidens blush.
Then came jabs, jokes, and teases,
And detractors were told to “hush”.

Soon it was frowned upon to question,
To query, per change to moot.
The mavens wanted harmony, thus
Unruly thoughts were given the boot.

The naughty corners grew and grew.
Few Good words were left to abide,
And they eavesdropped longingly on
Lively banter from the unapproved side…

Speculatively yours,

the Sci Phi co-editors & crew


Sci Phi Journal 2022/4 – Winter Issue For Download

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of Speculative Philosophy printed on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, go ahead and download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope our mélange of concept-driven literary curiosities will serve as a cosy and thought-provoking read for the winter holidays!

Enjoy the trip,

the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/4

Lectori salutem.

As 2022 is drawing to a close, the wider world will no doubt pause and ponder the events of the past twelve months – some of which, like the return of full-scale military conflict to the European continent, would have been considered science fiction just a year ago. But those of us drawn to future-bound speculation will also remark on the heady mix of technological developments that burst into the collective consciousness and may have an epoch-defining impact on creative domains formerly considered the dominion of humans.

Our cover image reflects one such phenomenon: the rise of AI art. The picture gracing the Journal’s front page is still entirely hand-drawn, yet its creator, Dustin Jacobus, contemplates in an op-ed that which may be lost all too soon with the advent of machine art.

Mindful of the warm glow of Christmas and its associated winter holidays, though, the present issue is filled with the otherworldly and wry, even humorous side of spec fic, though not without darker, more menacing tones lurking between the lines. Staples of sci-fi and fantasy make an appearance, from AIs to elves, rubbing shoulders with alien artefacts and furry critters, intertwined with visions of alternate realities and the afterlife.

Such mixed omens seem to colour discussions also at European sci-fi gatherings. Most recently, our co-editor Mariano presented Sci Phi Journal and our sister publication, Revista Hélice, during last month’s SF convention in Barcelona at a round table on the relationship between fandom and academia. With the two journals seeking to serve as a bridge between both uplifting and light-hearted speculation as well as serious academic thought about SF and philosophy, it was remarked that the genre itself is straddling both modes of thought, frequently oscillating between pessimism and euphoria.

To continue the conversation, you may wish to catch fellow co-editor Ádám at the first instalment of #AskTheEditors, a new series of live web meetings with a rotating panel of sci-fi & fantasy magazine editors, where (as the title suggests) the audience is encouraged to pepper the virtual podium with questions. The inaugural episode is scheduled for Saturday, 7 January 2023 at 17h00 Central European Time (contemporary with 08h00 Pacific Standard Time).

But for the present, we extend Christmas greetings to all our fellow SF readers and practitioners, and hope that the New Year will bring us closer to, rather than further from, Utopia.

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Sci Phi Journal 2022/3 – Autumn Issue For Download

Sci Phi Journal‘s 2022 Autumn Issue features another glorious cover art by Utopia Award finalist Dustin Jacobus and our customary melange of speculative philosophical fiction and essays off the beaten track.

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of SFF on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, you can download your free PDF copy just below.

We hope you enjoy the trip,

the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/3

Lectori salutem.

More by happenstance than by assertion of intent, our Autumn 2022 issue features stories that circumnavigate themes of language and perception, both at individual and anthropological levels, as these tend to gravitate towards each other on our editing desks. Sometimes, ideas seem to exert a mutual pull of attraction on the platonic plain, and we are but swept along.

This time around, our imaginary voyages shall range from the ancient past (incl. Sasarman’s classic Isopolis, hitherto unpublished in English), via alternate interpretations of the present reality we live in, to reports of future leaps of human evolution and far-flung planets with societies very different from our own.

A common concern amidst these tales is that how we perceive our relationship to our environs, our predicament in life, or our station within the wider community, is a substantive determining factor in a person’s picture of reality – even independently of external, material circumstances. It is hard to conceive of concepts we do not have words for. Thus, it can be uncomfortable to be made to think outside the “box” – or the dictionary. But language (as well as technology) can also be used as conduits to reprogramme minds, if the stimuli involved are sufficiently pervasive and persistent.

In this vein, our co-editor Mariano had recently returned from an immersive linguistic expedition of his own in the Swiss canton of Graubünden (or Grischun in local Rhaeto-Romance parlance), home to the speakers of Romansh. Having sufficiently recovered from his language lessons, he is now ready to publish his findings on the fantastic and speculative fiction that thrives with surprising vigour within that arcane literary corpus. Mina is also back with an essay on “proper and improper monsters,” exploring the shades of differences along the spectrum that spans from Frankenstein to futuristic cyborgs.

And as always, we thank you for your continued support on this journey of epistemic exploration – all aboard!

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Peaks Of Imagination: Speculative And Fantastic Fiction In Romansh

by Mariano Martín Rodríguez

Among the super-minority languages of Europe, there is one, Romansh, which may count itself as one of the richest in literary terms on the continent, at least relative to the small number of its speakers. They barely amount to fifty thousand, but looking at their literature, we will be astonished not only by the large number of works published, but also and above all by their quality, as suggested by their translations into other languages, firstly into German, but also into French, Romanian, and even English. One of them is already an undisputed classic of the postmodern fiction of our century, Arno Camenisch’s Sez Ner (The Alp,[1] 2009), just as Gian Fontana’s short novel about rural xenophobia and its totalitarian manifestation, “Il president da Valdei” (The Mayor of Valdei, 1935), is a classic of 20th-century fiction.

Both works belong to the genre of rural realist fiction that predominates in Romansh literature, as would be appropriate for a language spoken in small villages in various valleys of the Swiss canton of Graubünden. However, fantasy and speculative literature (or, rather, literatures) have also been brilliantly cultivated. In fact, to speak of a unified Romansh language or literature is not entirely accurate, as there are several regional linguistic standards with their corresponding literatures. Rumantsch Grischun, which is used by the cantonal and Federal administration, is a recent syncretic linguistic standard which does not correspond to any particular dialect and whose literature is, in any case, limited. Romansh literature is expressed in three main regional variants: Surmiran (surmiran, spoken in the Surmeir area situated in the centre of Graubünden), Ladin (ladin, spoken in the Swiss county by the Inn river called Engadine, a variety sub-divided into two subregional standards, the Southern one, called puter, and the Northern one, called vallader) and Sursilvan (sursilvan, in Surselva, in the valley of the Anterior Rhine, which extends from the source of the river to the vicinity of the cantonal capital Chur).

These main three standards of the Raetho-Romance Swish group have a similar relationship to each other as Gascon, Occitan (which has two concurrent rules, Provençal and Languedocian) and Catalan do in the Southern Gallo-Romance group, with Catalan as the most powerful, orthographically and grammatically stable, and culturally relevant language. In Romansh, mutatis mutandis, Sursilvan, the language of the aforementioned Fontana and Camenisch, would be equivalent to Catalan within the Rhaeto-Romance group, which also includes the Ladin dialects of the Dolomites in South Tyrol, now part of Italy. For this reason, this overview of speculative and fantastic fiction in Romansh focuses on Sursilvan, although it should not be forgotten that there are also works of great interest in the other varieties, including in Dolomitic Ladin. For example, their traditional oral literature is allegedly the origin of the legendary matter of the kingdom of Fanes, which has all the characteristics of high fantasy. Unfortunately, this rich mythological and heroic matter, which could rival that which inspired the Finnish Kalevala (1835/1849), seems to be nothing more than a display of fakelore, and even an example of cultural appropriation. It was first published in 1913 by the folklorist Karl Felix Wolff in German, under the title Das Reich der Fanes (The Kingdom of Fanes), but the compiler omitted to include a single line of it in one or the other of the Ladino dialects in which he claimed it had been orally transmitted. Later, there have been several versions of the legend in German and Italian, but only one in Dolomitic Ladin, Angel Morlang’s tragedy Fanes da Zacan (Fanes from Days Gone, 1951).

There are no legends, genuine or false, resembling those of the Fanes in the proper Romansh Kulturdialekte, which are the Surmiran standard and the two varieties of Engadine Ladin. The local production of fantasy is an artistic and individual endeavour. In Surmeir, there is a portal fantasy novel Sindoria (Sindoria, 2013) by Dominique Dosch, which takes place in parallel in our primary world and in a secondary world designated by the name in the title. In Engadine, one of the modern classics is a humorous and acerbic roman à clef entitled La renaschentscha dals Patagons (The Revival of the Patagons, 1949). The Patagonians of the title are none other than the Romansh exposed to the activism of certain intellectuals who would have wished to import the premises and methods of European ethno-nationalism to the region, following above all the Catalan models. Rather than the narrative itself, the most interesting part of the book is perhaps the series of fictional non-fiction reports on the imaginary country of the Patagonians, its organisation and customs. Years later, Ladin writers from Engadine led the modernisation of fantastic and speculative literature in the Romansh-speaking region thanks to a couple of short-story collections by Clo Duri Bezzola and Ana Pitschna Grob-Ganzoni, respectively. The former, entitled Da l’otra vart da la saiv (On the Other Side of the Edge, 1960), includes a masterful fantastic tale entitled “Tube to Nowhere” (Tube to Nowhere), which is set on a London Underground train that ends up in an undefined and mysterious Kafkaesque space. The second, entitled Ballas de savon (Soap Bubbles, 1970), is composed of three short stories: a high fantasy entitled “La clav dal paradis” (The Key to Paradise), a theological fantasy entitled “Ormas dal diavel” (Devil’s Souls) and a highly original science fiction entitled “Inua vi?” (Where?), which takes place on a spaceship and is narrated in the first person by a woman whose emotions are expressed in a highly poetic style that makes this text an outstanding example of lyrical SF prose narration.

In Sursilvan there is a large amount of genuine oral literature, sometimes of pagan origin, such as the short aetiological myths featuring wild men that Caspar Decurtins collected in 1901, in the same volume in which he published the “Canzun da sontga Margriata” (The Song of Saint Margriata), the best-known Romansh folk narrative poem. Despite her name, the main character seems to be a fertility goddess who passes herself off as a shepherd and, after her true sex is discovered (to speak of gender would be anachronistic here), abandons the fields, which become barren. A similar plot is used by other texts conceived as artistic literature, but which are presented as folk texts, such as the tale “Il nurser da Ranasca e la diala nursera” (The Shepherd from Ranasca and the Fairy Shepherdess, 1941) by Guglielm Gadola, and the poem “La diala” (The Fairy, 1925) by Gian Fontana, the brevity and concision of which make its story of the abuse of a fairy by shepherds in a mythical time all the more atrocious.

Other folktales collected by Decurtins were used in a modern Romansh Decameron, set in the Middle Ages and entitled Historias dil Munt Sogn Gieri (Stories from Mount Saint George, 1916), authored by Flurin Camathias. The stories included are for the most part gracefully versified renditions of local folktales that follow the conventional motifs and plots of the fairy tale. We even encounter the traditional combat between knights and dragons, though told with pleasant humour. An exception is “Il sogn cristal” (The Holy Cristal), which describes a Catholic mystical vision related to the Holy Grail.

Whereas Camathias versified oral tales in prose, Sep Mudest Nay did the opposite by developing in prose a popular song (even in our days) entitled “Il salep e la furmicla” (The Grasshopper and the Ant), which Nay turned into a tragicomic, almost neo-realist tale, despite its fabulous subject matter and insect characters. This is perhaps the best-known example of a whole series of stories featuring animals as allegorical figures of humans, as in Gian Fontana’s story “Corvin e Corvina” (Corvin and Corvina, 1971), or living in a fictional secondary world embedded in nature in the manner of Rudyard Kipling’s beast fantasies, as it is the case in Rico Tamburnino’s books entitled Igl uaul grond (The Big Forest, 1988) and Ratuzin (Ratuzin, 1990).

The Sursilvan fantasies mentioned so far are closely related to forms of oral literature, even if their writing is not, since the authors generally strive to offer literary versions, stylistically and structurally much more sophisticated than the folk texts themselves. They are works of literary art, not mere transcribed folklore, as befits a literature that had achieved standardisation by the end of the 19th century, during the so-called Renaschientscha revivalist period, parallel in some ways to that of the Catalan Renaixença. That normalisation, which at first followed (neo)Romantic patterns also in Surselva, became gradually more modernised in its literary outlook. The process was, however, rather slow. Highly original symbolist fantastic prose poems such as “Verdad” (Truth) and “Buntad” (Goodness), were published in 1971, decades after the death of their author, Gian Fontana. A fantastic tale as innovative as Gian Caduff’s “L’uldauna” (The Undine, 1924), which combines psychological fiction, allegory and pagan legend, went virtually unnoticed.

The full alignment of Surselvan literature with modern international trends in speculative fiction was, in fact, something that took place after the Second World War. The main architect of this was Toni Halter. In 1955 he published Culan da Crestaulta (Culan from Crestaulta), a novel set in the Rhaetian Alps in proto-historic times. Its hero, Culan, manages to bring the technology of bronze metallurgy to his village, Crestaulta, which was technologically still in the Neolithic period, after numerous adventures that Halter narrates in a perfectly balanced way between fast-paced action, with hunting and war scenes and even a criminal intrigue, and the detailed recreation of the atmosphere of that time and place. In doing this, he takes full account of both natural and cultural conditioning factors, including power relations among the populations, as well as the way in which customs and beliefs shape mentalities and personal and collective agency. If we add to this the plausibility of the psychological characterisation of its characters, especially the protagonist from adolescence to maturity, and the richness and flexibility of its style, it is perhaps no exaggeration to consider Culan da Crestaulta a world masterpiece of its kind of fiction. In any case, it is an undisputed and repeatedly reprinted classic of Romansh fiction.

Culan da Crestaulta interestingly includes a couple of narrative samples from the invented mythology of the peoples evoked in the novel, so that these examples of mythopoiesis makes the novel all the more appealing as speculative fiction. A later writer, Ursicin G. G. Derungs, did the same in perhaps his most famous story, “Il cavalut verd” (The Little Green Horse), which gives its title to the collection in which it appeared, Il cavalut verd ed auter (The Green Little Horse and Other Things, 1988). That ‘little green horse’ appears one day in an Alpine village to the astonishment and consternation of the adults and the joy and delight of the children, to whom he tells of his origin in an earlier, peaceful, paradisiacal natural world in which everything was permeated by bright colours and music. Its appearance and disappearance are fantastic, but the questioning it implies of the primary reality is not a source of horror, but of wonder. It is also a cause for sadness arising from the conviction that something so beautiful could not remain in our present world. The critique implicit therein is expressed in other speculative stories from the same collection, in which Derungs shows the rhetorical sophistication of his writing. For example, in “Il papa che saveva buca crer en Diu” (The Pope That Could Not Believe in God), a pseudo-historiographical narrative shows the hypocrisy of an official Catholic Church that accepts an atheist Pope, but not his decision to live in the world according to the Gospel. In the short imaginary historiographical text “Ils plats” (The Flat People), a mysterious disease flattening people and its consequences are described using a literary technique that can be considered science-fictional. Other stories by Derungs from the same book are also good examples of speculative fiction of the fantastic kind, such as “La sala de spetga” (The Waiting Room), where that venue is a Kafkaesque symbolic place suggesting an anguishing concept of human existence, and “Niessegner sper il lag dils siemis” (Our Lord by the Lake of Dreams), a masterly Borgesian tale of divine suspension of the flow of time. However, Derungs rarely eschews social criticism in his speculative fiction. This can easily be seen, for example, in a former tale entitled “Correspondenza cul purgatieri” (Letters from Purgatory, published in the 1982 volume Il saltar dils morts (The Dance of the Dead), a highly original vision of the different planes of that theological venue from a rather social perspective, from the hell of selfishness to the utopia that precedes the ineffable space of Heaven.

Other writers of Derungs’s generation adopted similar approaches to speculative fiction, conflating it with social criticism, although not as consistently as he did. Notable works in this vein are, for example, Theo Candinas’ “Descripziun d’in stabiliment” (Description of a Plant, 1974), a piece of fictional non-fiction adopting the highly original form of an architectural and topographical description of the exterior of an industrial slaughterhouse in order to criticise the Swiss party system, and Toni Berther’s “Ils ratuns vegnan” (Rats Are Coming, 1978), which is a kind of historiographical account of a small town’s efforts to attract tourism by organising rat-hunting parties and the catastrophic consequences of the proliferation of these intelligent animals. The black humour of the story and its narrative fluency make of Berther’s parable an effective anti-tourism dystopia.

After this flowering of the speculative and fantastic tale in Surselva, which coincided with the same phenomenon in Engadine, as we saw in the above-mentioned works by Bezzola and Grob-Ganzoni, the following years witnessed the hegemony of postmodernism also in this linguistic area. As a result, realism, albeit sometimes formally innovative as in Arno Camenisch’s case, virtually excluded speculative and fantastic fiction from current Romansh literature. With the exception of the short novel L’umbriva dil temps (The Shadow of Time, 2017) by Paula Casutt-Vinzenz, in which life in a Bronze Age village is recreated with pleasant verisimilitude and from a female perspective, Sursilvan speculative fiction took refuge mainly in young adult literature, especially in the form of high fantasies following global sets of conventions. So do the two novels written by young lady authors entitled Emalio (Emalio, 2015) by Flurina Albin and Stina Hendry and Oranja (Oranja, 2021) by Stella Sennhauser. While the latter reads as a sort of compensatory teenage fantasy, the former shows a surprising maturity in the description of the characters’ motives and actions, as well as a good command of narrative, within the limits of the simple writing style common to the genre of high fantasy in the 21st century.

Novels such as Emalio give hope that Romansh fantastic and speculative fiction could recover at some point from its current postmodern crisis and, after having adopted high fantasy, may undertake the task of filling in its main gap, the science fiction novel. Even without doing so, the Romansh language in general, and Sursilvan in particular, can still boast of having one of the richest literatures in Europe in relative terms to its small number of speakers, also with regard to fantastic and speculative fiction.

[1] Titles in italics are those of translated works in English that I am aware of. In this case, this short novel by Camenish was translated into English from Romansh, but from the German version written by the author himself. All the other translations mentioned in this essay were published in the following book: The Curly-Horned Cow: Anthology of Swiss-Romansh Literature, edited by Reto R. Bezzola, translated from the Ladin by Elizabeth Maxfield Miller and from the Surselvan by W. W. Kibler, London, Peter Owen, 1971.


Sci Phi Journal 2022/2 – Summer Issue for Download as PDF

Sci Phi Journal‘s 2022 Summer Issue comes out hot on heels of this nerdy publication winning the European Award for Best SF Magazine – and it’s brimming with more off-beat essays and speculative philosophical fiction than ever.

If you like to peruse your seasonal dose of SFF on trusty old paper, or the slightly less old, but similarly trusty screen of your e-reader, you can download your free PDF copy just below.


the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/2

Lectori salutem.

We write these words humbled by the developments of recent months. When word was sent, back in April, that Sci Phi Journal would be an award finalist at EuroCon, the annual gathering of the European SF family, it was more than we had ever thought possible for our exceptionally nerdy sub-genre: speculative philosophy (or “sci phi”).

Indeed, we’d have been happy to make the journey to Luxembourg simply to commune with like-minded (and, even more so, with contrarian) readers and other members of fandom, and render our homage unto the eventual laureates.

You may then imagine our astonishment when, at a dramatic moment during the ceremony, the announcement came for the Best SF Magazine award and the Sci Phi logo appeared on the mighty overhead screen, emblazoned over the grand auditorium. The conférencier had to call us out twice before we were able to arise, such was our surprise.

Unbeknownst to us, over the course of the convention weekend, the assembly of the European Science Fiction Society (ESFS) had voted to elevate Sci Phi Journal into the “hall of fame” of European SF. In the tapestry of our continent’s speculative literature, where much of each country’s output and nominations are (understandably) specific to their linguistic island, it was a rare moment to have an award bestowed upon an English-language magazine, published in Belgium, cross-nominated by Hungary, and run by a ragtag crew ranging from Malaysia to Spain.

Thus, in line with the sentiment we sought to express in our improvised acceptance speech, we hope for this award to be the pylon of a bridge. One little piece in a chain of many links to bring Europe’s fragmented literary and publishing landscape closer together. And a source of encouragement for the endeavours of authors and thinkers, who seek to tell timeless (rather than timely) stories, for whom speculative fiction is more than just literary entertainment or public activism, but rather an epic tool for philosophical enquiry.

To avail ourselves of an oft abused word: we feel that this once-in-a-lifetime award “validates” the editorial approach that Sci Phi Journal stands for. A respect for classic rhetorical standards; carefully guarded intellectual independence; and a commitment to keep our little bit of literature unshackled from the fashionable agendas of the day.

Much to our delight, the journey doesn’t end here. At the start of summer, Dustin Jacobus was shortlisted for a 2022 Utopia Award in recognition of his work on our cover art, in addition to another nomination in the non-fiction category (citing Eric Hunting’s essay “On Solarpunk”).

Onward, then! Let us carry the torch further still into the twilit corridors of the Library of Babel

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Sci Phi Journal wins 2022 European Award for Best SF Magazine!

We are stunned and speechless – though still just about able to type! 🙂

At the 2022 EuroCon in Dudelange, Luxembourg, the European Science Fiction Society (ESFS) voted to honour Sci Phi Journal with the Hall of Fame Award for Best SF Magazine.

This is a fantastic moment for our all-volunteer crew and for the Journal’s mission to bring high-quality, concept-driven, philosophical SF from Europe and beyond to a world-wide audience.

We thank our authors, illustrators and readers from the heart for having shared this journey with us since our re-launch in 2018. And we thank you for your continued support for our non-profit publication and its commitment to offer semi-pro financial recognition to both established and emerging SF authors for their work.

Check our the list of all Award recipients across 12 categories for a flavour of the richness and diversity of European SF in all its contemporary glory!



Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2022/1

Lectori salutem.

As you are reading this, the world as we know it will have already slipped from a global pandemic into a second cold war, both scenarios that were the stuff of (albeit plausible) fiction barely two years ago.

Most of our crew is based in Brussels, Belgium, which happens to host the headquarters of major geopolitical protagonists such as the European Union and NATO. Thus, we labour under the threat of Russian nuclear warheads permanently aimed at our homes and loved ones. Existential uncertainties have the gift of putting things in perspective, and make us dream of what might have been.

So it comes that our thematic issue for 2022 is dedicated to alternate pasts (and their futures). Alternate history is an immensely versatile sub-genre of speculative fiction, and one undeniably close to our hearts. Which student of history has not dreamt of going back in time and making better decisions at some past point of junction in order to avert disaster for his ancestors or ensure a fortuitous outcome for her favourite hero? If one could but stand on the ramparts of Constantinople on that black day in May 1453 armed with modern weaponry; or walk among the disciples of Christ or the Buddha in the Holy Lands of yore; or step out of the crowd in Sarajevo on a fateful morning in June 1914 and deflect the bullet that inflicted the 20th century on the world.

Uchronia imagines histories that never were, but might have been, and by extension, futures that could have resulted from these alternate pasts. As such, it is worth pointing out that to be fully appreciated, unlike other forms of speculative fiction, alternate history requires some measure of familiarity with the established timeline in the reader’s reality. Moreover, while much of SFF is cosmopolitan in its appeal and thus addresses ‘standardized’ concepts with a set menu of flavourings, the uchroniae of various linguistic literary corpora are still wildly diverse and often not readily translatable from one cultural context into another, particularly as they often address the historical grievances or fantasies relevant to the deep memory of their ethno-cultural context.

While Sci Phi Journal is and remains an English-language publication, as the world’s lingua franca best enables us to promote a philosophical exchange amongst geographically distant members of the SFF community, we are mindful that uchronia is a stark reminder of the importance to read works written in (and intended for) other languages. Only thus can the true (semantic and conceptual) diversity of the speculative field be safeguarded. As an example, we draw readers’ attention to an overview of Hungarian alternate histories published by our co-editor Ádám in the latest volume of the SFRA Review.

The stories in this present issue span a broad spectrum, from ancient steam technology to far-future time travel, from imaginary medical sciences to the shores of fallen empires. We hope you enjoy the journey into alternate timelines as much as we did curating this selection for you!

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Sci Phi Journal 2021/4 – Winter Issue for Download as PDF

Some of us like to read our seasonal dose of speculative fiction on trusty old paper.

For your convenience, here you can download the 2021 Autumn issue of Sci Phi Journal in a printer-friendly PDF layout.

We are also looking into more eReader-friendly formats for future releases.


the SPJ crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2021/4

Lectori salutem.

Imagine a child growing up alone in a locked room, with no one for company but a mirror.

Every morning, the rays of sunlight seeping into the chamber entice the infant to crawl or toddle towards the mirror and reveal a smile, greeting its imaginary friend on the reverse side of the glass. Only upon maturing would the child realise that its companion is none but itself, and that it was utterly alone.

Likewise, the human species has always lifted its gaze to the stars, projecting its own reflection into the interstellar void. Our ancestors had once peopled the skies with spirit images of their traditions and aspirations, painted on the canvas of the celestial horizon. Only at the cusp of maturity did they realise that they have been staring at a heaven ordered in their own likeness. That did not dampen their appetite for seeking to lift the veil and step through the mirror, though – quite the contrary.

Indeed, the season of Christmas (like its parallel festivities around the world) carries a message of hope about a story that continues, whether we conceive of it as part of our faith or as a repository of our forebears’ cultural memory. For the journey we are on – the odyssey of scientific fabulation, theological extrapolation and philosophical speculation – is as old as history, and yet it has barely even begun.

Sci Phi Journal certainly wishes to carry on this torch of the imagination and to walk in humble loyalty along that eternal thread that runs through the heart of literature, connecting the voices of the past and the future, unconcerned with the here and now.

Alas, occasionally the present beckons. We’re but a small crew of volunteers, and have to admit that we can no longer manage the hitherto familiar method of accepting submissions by email. The volumes have outgrown the magnitude we had originally reckoned with, so we see no alternative but to reluctantly upgrade to a ‘modern’ (and admittedly more impersonal) online submissions management system.

Naturally, for all other queries and amicable banter, we remain available for all esteemed readers and authors via our trusty email address:

And now, we invite you to “unwrap”, as it were, the festive cover (created by Belgian artist Dustin Jacobus, in a nod to his ancient compatriot Brueghel) and dig into the rich offerings of our winter issue. The stories range from space opera to theological amusement, and from the vaguely unsettling to the downright apocalyptic, complemented by two essays on Black Mirror as philosophy, and religion in Star Trek, respectively.

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2021/3

Lectori salutem.

As summer turns to autumn in the Northern hemisphere, and the global doom and gloom of ever new pandemic variants roll on, it is easy to forget that once upon a time speculative fiction had a utopian calling. The “scientific romance”, as it was often called in the 19th century, sought to entertain, of course, but also to illuminate the reader and whisk them away to a better future. A future that is separated from the present not only by time, but by Progress writ large.

While contemporary SF tends to succumb to the temptation of merely projecting present challenges onto a date set later than our own, classic speculation took the liberty to invent futures both whimsically and radically different from the author’s world. What more, these imaginary realms were oftentimes presented as aspirational – more appealing than the reader’s own reality. Alas, with the exception of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek (and possibly Iain M. Banks’ Culture), one has to think hard to name any widely-known current SF universe one would actually like to inhabit.

While grittiness seems the dominant narrative mode of present-day sci-fi, there are utopian currents within the genre that offer relief from these dark overtones. One such stream is the emerging sub-genre perhaps best labelled as “solarpunk”.

You may have noticed our slightly different cover this quarter. It is the work of Belgian artist Dustin Jacobus, and seeks to convey at a glance some of the solution-oriented optimism that typifies solarpunk. But don’t take our word for it. In his essay, Eric Hunting offers a more substantial introduction to the resolutely positive outlook of this sub-genre.

David Kyle Johnson and Mina also return with fascinating essays on SF philosophy and speculative linguistics, respectively. And our autumn issue is, of course, filled with a band of stories ranging wide from humans wishing to make good impressions on invading aliens, to extra-terrestrial visitors who don’t at all seem interested in Earthlings.

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew


Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2021/2

Lectori salutem.

It’s been said that God is not a pacifist.

That certainly rings true when contemplating matter and anti-matter annihilating each other after the Big Bang or the not-quite-peaceful manner in which cosmic matter collides and the dust of long-dead celestial bodies serves as the building material for new ones. Explosive reactions drive astrophysical processes, and the competition between species, tribes, cultures, corporations, sports clubs and SF franchises serves as the basic catalyst for evolution.

If we really think about it, doesn’t it rightly inspire awe that our ancestors have come up against the universe and survived long enough to give rise to us? And if we came to be here, might there not be others out there, too? But for how long?

These are the questions we explore in this year’s special thematic issue. What follows is an anthology of 14 hand-picked original stories scouting the frontiers of xeno-anthropology (the speculative study of extra-terrestrial ways of life) and the potential ends of the world (even the universe) as we know it.

We had enormous fun curating this selection for your reading (and day-dreaming) pleasure, and sincerely hope you enjoy the journey.

Speculatively yours,

the SPJ co-editors & crew

Editorial – Sci Phi Journal 2021/1

Lectori salutem.

Science-fiction, like any drama with existential implications, is better read from the safety of a couch than ‘lived’. This is felt all the more keenly by some on the editorial team and SPJ crew who once again experienced the life-affirming miracle of becoming parents in the weeks leading up to the present issue going to press.

Alas, as we continue to drift through the interminable litany of Belgium’s precipitous spring days, we may grow accustomed to look at the world outside our immediate bubble, mediated through artifices like the news, connected devices and (anti-)social media, as real but distant. Something in which we no longer partake, but digest with the same receptors we use for reading fiction. Lest we become saturated with the vicarious tedium that is Terra in 2021, let us therefore cast our mental eyes, if not away from the screen or paper, at least to subjects far from present concerns.

We promise you that our first issue this year will be entirely free of pandemics and untainted by the arcane politics of former British colonies across the Atlantic[1]. We like dystopian plague tales and discussing elections as much as anyone, but in order to renovate our mental furniture dulled by yesteryear’s gloom, we have hand-picked every tale in this issue with a view to amuse, to divert, perchance to fuel daydreams (or nightmares).

Our stories and essays (and the grey zones between them) range from the sacred to the profane, in styles from the epistolary to the challenging. Like every first issue of the year, the line-up closes with a story penned by our co-editor Ádám reflecting, as usual, on some specific niche concept we rarely see addressed in submissions.

Encouraged by the positive reception of our 2020 thematic anthology issue on immortality, we are happy to announce that we’ll be publishing another one in June 2021, this time dedicated to ‘xeno-anthropology and the end(s) of the universe’. Thereafter, Sci Phi Journal will be open for submissions again in July, so if you’d like to read more from specific authors, encourage them to keep sending us their work!

Stay safe, speculatively yours,

the co-editors

[1] Absolutely no offence intended! We just really cannot bear to read yet another story riffing on the finer points of North American governance. Let’s broaden horizons! If you want fictional elections, why not set them on the Faroese Islands for a change, or in an alt-history Babylonian Republic, or on Alpha Centauri?