IMAGINING THE IMPOSSIBLE
The research network Imagining the Impossible brings together eleven researchers working with media fictions (television, film, games, literature), human play (real and virtual), and production design in games and films. We connect theories from the humanities with biocultural, evolutionary, and cognitive theories. We view fantastic fiction as offering imaginary play and cognitive meta-thinking. The network asks why the fantastic has exploded in contemporary entertainment, how and why we play with – create, design, use, engage with – the fantastic, and why the fantastic is adaptive and important for human existence. We use a broad definition of the fantastic as stories which create an ontological rupture, thus making possible the impossible and the inconceivable. We include all fantastic subgenres, such as supernatural horror, fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes.
Today, the fantastic reigns supreme in entertainment. But not long ago, fantastic fictions were scorned. However, film series Harry Potter (2001–2011) and The Hunger Games (2012–2016) prove the appeal they have for mainstream audiences; shows like The Walking Dead (2011–) and Game of Thrones (2011–2019) have broken audience viewing records, and films like The Shape of Water (2017), Wonder Woman (2017), and Black Panther (2017) did what the industry thought impossible: Winning Oscars and making women and African-Americans blockbuster material.
We are an interdisciplinary task force that aims to create a shared theoretical platform for a study of the fantastic, a platform where we join forces in pursuit of answers. We intend to produce an interdisciplinary theory of the fantastic and at the end of 2021 we plan to write a large collective project application.
“In this world only play, play as artists and children engage in it, exhibits coming-to-be and passing away, structuring and destroying, without any moral additive, in forever equal innocence. And as children and artists play, so plays the ever-living fire.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1873)