Grants | 20 November 2023

CFA: The Coha-Gunderson Prize in Speculative Futures, 2023-2024


Call for Submissions: The Coha-Gunderson Prize in Speculative Futures


DEADLINE EXTENDED: February 1st, 2024

The Coha-Gunderson Prize
The Speculatively Scientific Fictions of the Future THI project announces its fifth campus-wide competition, open to undergraduate and graduate students, for a creative piece of (social or scientific) speculative fiction, which can be in any medium or genre but must be available for review and assessment by selection committee members and ultimately shared with the public, whether through an exhibition, a performance, a proposed course, or future publication. Submissions may be individual or collaborative. It is preferred that submissions be based in actually existing worldly conditions, discernible in the submission itself.

About the Award

The Coha-Gunderson prize in Speculative Futures, is an annual competition made possible by UCSC alumni Peter Coha (Kresge ’78, Mathematics) and James Gunderson (Rachel Carson ’77, Philosophy, and UCSC Foundation Board Trustee). Previous prizewinning submissions have ranged from poetry to film to interactive science projects and a virtual reality experience. In Spring 2023, all thirteen prior winners of the Coha-Gunderson prize presented their creative work in a variety of mediums at the exhibition Futurescapes: Projects from the Coha-Gunderson Collective. The exhibition was the culmination of a series of workshops throughout the academic year. The thirteen participants met biweekly for ten weeks to dialogue with campus experts, brainstorm their projects, plan the exhibit, and discuss some of the greater existential questions that arose: how can we think of the future without idealism but also without apocalyptic pessimism? What is the purpose of socially or scientifically relevant art, and can it intervene in the precarious present? How might thinking speculatively about the past impact the present and possible futures?

The next exhibition will be held in Spring 2025. This year’s prizewinners will have the opportunity to more fully develop their projects through expert faculty guidance and peer review. They should be prepared (though it is not required) to participate in Winter 2025 (next academic year) Creativity Workshops that meet for approximately three hours every two weeks, including one logistical meeting before the quarter begins, to develop their submission for the exhibition. If prizewinners decide to participate in the workshops and exhibition in 2024-2025, they will be awarded an additional $1000 and given a supplies and materials budget.

To participate and receive this additional funding, prizewinners must reside in Santa Cruz in 2024-2025 and either be a continuing student or provide evidence that they have access to the necessary equipment. Students may wish to have a faculty advisor who works with them on their project by supervising an independent study or tutorial. 

Please note that this is a two year project: Awards will be made during the 2023-2024 academic year and the workshops and exhibition will be held during the 2024-2025 academic year. Winners are expected to participate in the Humanities Awards ceremony in Spring 2024. 

UC Santa Cruz undergraduates and graduate students from any department in good academic standing may apply. Works may be collaborative. You must be an enrolled student at time of application. Students are ineligible to apply while on leave or in absentia. Depending on the number of applications, preference may be given to students able to participate in the 2024-2025 workshop and exhibition, although it is not required.

Up to five awards will be made of $1000 each in 2023-2024. Prizewinners who participate in the workshops and exhibition will receive a second $1000 award in 2024-2025. 

To Apply:  Applications should include the following: 

1) A brief 1-2 page description of the entry, including plans for further development if still in progress.

2) Your resume or CV 

3) The entry itself 

4) Your availability to participate in the 2024-2025 Creativity Workshops and Exhibition.


Make sure you use the “Login for University of California, Santa Cruz Users.” Please follow the steps in our InfoReady Guide if this is your first time using InfoReady. We encourage you to start your application as soon as possible to familiarize yourself with the InfoReady platform. 

Questions? Please contact Carla Freccero and cc

About the Project

The Speculatively Scientific Fictions of the Future THI project focuses on “fictions” of the future: creative “worldings” that take, as their premise, the outcome of particular technological/scientific conditions or social situations in the present day, projected outward in their social, ethical, philosophical and imaginative implications toward the future. As with many speculative fictions popular today, we also hope to explore ways to imagine aspects of past scientific/technological findings and conditions/situations that might—or might have—effected alternative social/planetary futures to the one that now constitutes the present (however defined). Thus, the project explores and develops its visions from a range of temporalities, with two consistent dimensions: that whatever worlds are imagined and created, they develop some aspect of the social, physical and/or biological sciences as they were or are understood; and that they are fictions, that is, crafted imaginings of a world or worlds, in all their richness. The research project proposes to foster and enhance the creative capacities of students, faculty and the public alike to concretely and creatively imagine lifeworlds in the near to farther future. To join the project’s Google group, email PI, Carla Freccero, Distinguished Professor of Literature and History of Consciousness,

Pictured: Aaron Samuel Mulenga’s project, “Tenga Tenga, Can I Help You Carry Your Load?at the 2023 Futurescapes: Projects from the Coha-Gunderson Collective Exhibition