The Stuff of Science Fiction

An Experiment in Literary History.

The Stuff of Science Fiction

The University of Calgary’s Bob Gibson Collection of Speculative Fiction is amongst the world’s top science fiction research archives. It offers researchers the tantalizing possibility of a more rigorous account of the history of science fiction while also challenging them to develop new methodologies adequate to the task of accurately assessing a mass-market genre.

The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History is an interdisciplinary pilot project that studied a subset of the Gibson anthologies. This pilot project was conducted by Stefania Forlini (Associate Professor of English, University of Calgary), Uta Hinrichs (Lecturer and co-director of the SACHI group at the University of St Andrews) and Bridget Moynihan (then MA Student of English, University of Calgary, now PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh). The project ran from 2013-2016 and was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

With the support of the University of Calgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources we digitized a subset of 50 Gibson anthologies containing the earliest published works and gathered detailed information about their contents. Based on this set of data, we designed and implemented an interactive visualization prototype - The Speculative W@nderverse - that allows the exploration of the anthologies and their little-known contents. We studied this visualization in-use and explored how it can make this unknown and unique collection accessible to general-interest readers while facilitating the investigation of academic research questions raised by the collection and Gibson's collection practices.

Explore the Gibson Anthologies

Anthology Explorer

Speculative W@nderverse

Stefania Forlini

Stefania Forlini is Associate Professor of English at the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on late Victorian literature and culture, especially the early evolution of science fiction, and fin-de-siècle science, aesthetics, and material culture. Her work has appeared in Digital Humanities Quarterly, IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, Like Clockwork: Essays on Steampunk (Minnesota), Neo-Victorian Studies, English Literature and Transition, 1880-1920, and Bodies and Things in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture (Palgrave).

Uta Hinrichs

Uta Hinrichs is a Lecturer at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK with the SACHI research group. She holds a PhD in Computational Media Design from the University of Calgary. Uta's research is at the intersection of visualization, HCI, design, the humanities, and art. Her work focuses on designing and studying the use and experience of interactive systems that facilitate the exploration and analysis of (cultural) data collections from academic, leisurely, and artistic perspectives.

Bridget Moynihan

Bridget Moynihan earned her MA from the University of Calgary and is currently a PhD candidate in English at the University of Edinburgh. She has a passion for printed texts that push the boundaries of what it means to “be” a book, whether in the context of artists books, experimental texts, or archives of ephemera, and is fascinated by the role of digital media in both cultural institutions and imaginations. Her dissertation research focuses on the material, cultural, and digital interpretation of the scrapbooks of Scottish poet Edwin Morgan.

John Brosz

John Brosz is the Research Data and Visualization Coordinator at the University of Calgary’s Taylor Family Digital Library. As part of this role he provides data visualization and research data management support, consultation, and training to scholars from a variety of areas across campus. John's research expertise lies in information visualization, computer graphics, 3d modeling, and human-computer interfaces.


Uta Hinrichs, Mennatallah El-Assady, Adam James Bradely, Christopher Collins and Stefania Forlini. Risk the Drift: Stretching Disciplinary Boundaries Through Critical Collaborations between the Humanities and Visualization. In Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Visualization for the Digital Humanities (Vis4DH'17), 2017.

Uta Hinrichs and Stefania Forlini. In Defense of Sandcastles: Research Thinking through Visualization in DH. In Proceedings of Digital Humanities 2017 (DH'17), 2017.

Stefania Forlini and Uta Hinrichs. Synesthetic Visualization: Balancing Sensate Experience and Sense Making in Digitized Print Collections. In Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Digital Preservation for Social Sciences and Humanities (DPASSH'17), 2017.

Uta Hinrichs, Stefania Forlini and Bridget Moynihan. Speculative Practices: Utilizing InfoVis to Explore Untapped Literary Collections. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (Proceedings Visualization / Information Visualization, Oct. 2015), 22(1):429-438, 2016.

Stefania Forlini, Uta Hinrichs, and Bridget Moynihan. The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History. Digital Humanities Quarterly (DHQ); DHSI Colloquium 2014 Special Issue, 10(1), 2015.


Data Visualization and the Gibson Anthologies. Conference Presentation at the MLA Panel on Artefactual Interpretation: MLA, Vancouver, BC. January 8, 2015.

Literary Mutations: Varieties of Science-Fictional Discourses, 1840-1899. Conference presentation at NAVSA, Western University. November 15, 2014.

Visions of the Future: Data Visualization and the Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction. Conference Presentation at Designing Libraries III, Calgary, AB. September 28, 2014

The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History. Colloquium presentation at Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), University of Victoria. June 2014.

The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History. Presentation for DASH Talks (Digital Arts / Social Sciences / Humanities Lab). University of Calgary. January 2014.

The Gibson Visualization Project. Invited presentation for Liberact: Interactive Technologies in Libraries Workshop. Calgary, AB. March 2014.

The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History. Invited lecture for Simon Fraser University Print Culture Speakers Series. SFU. February 28, 2014.


Cracking the Gibson Code. Calgary Public Library. September 27, 2014

Visualizing the Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction. Open House Event and Visualization Prototype Launch. Taylor Family Digital Library's Visualization Studio, University of Calgary. September 25-26, 2014

The Stuff of Science Fiction is a research collaboration between the University of Calgary, Canada and the University of St Andrews, UK. It was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Calgary's Libraries and Cultural Resources. Images of the Gibson Anthologies reproduced with the kind permission of the University of Calgary's Archives and Special Collections.

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