Toby Neilson

Research title

Ecological Imaginaries: Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema in the Anthropocene

Research summary

My research explores contemporary science fiction cinema through the context of the Anthropocene. It suggests that science fiction changes under the pressures of a warming climate, and that our understanding(s) of this epoch are in turn uniquely changed through science fiction. Through an in depth textual analysis of the genre’s representation of disaster, posthumans, time and planets this thesis explores a series of interdependent changes that all can be seen to speak to the demands of living and dying on a damaged planet. Through an analysis of films such as Annihilation, After Earth, Interstellar, Arrival, Gravity, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Star Wars: The Force Awakens this project seeks to provide instructive new ways of reading science fiction cinema and, in turn, the Anthropocene.


Neilson, T. (2019), Different Death Stars and Devastated Earths: Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema’s Imagination of Disaster in the Anthropocene, Science Fiction Film and Television (forthcoming)


  • UKRI Policy Internship Scheme with SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency), April-June 2019
  • SGSAH Visiting Doctoral Researcher Fund, visiting AURA (Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene) May 2018
  • AHRC Doctoral Training Studentship, 2016 – Present
  • AHRC MA Scholarship, 2011-2012


  • ‘Nonhuman Perspectives: Annihilation, Ecomonsters and Science Fiction Cinema’s Posthumanism in the Anthropocene’ Art in the Anthropocene, Dublin, 2019
  • ‘Living in a World-Without-Us: Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema and the (Dis)Appearance of the Human in the Anthropocene’ SCMS, Toronto, 2018
  • ‘Science Fiction’s Changing Imagination of Disaster’ Imagining the History of the Future, York, 2018
  • ‘Time Found & Felt in the Anthropocene: Glacial Time in Interstellar and Arrival’ Petrocultures, Glasgow, 2018


  • Advanced Topics in Film Studies (MA)
  • Key Moments in TV and Film (Level 1)
  • Spectatorship (Level 2)
  • Film Analysis (Level 3)