Monthly Archives: August 2010

Jason W. Ellis for SFRA Vice President, 2011-2012

Now that the Science Fiction Research Association executive committee elections for 2011-2012 are now open, I, Jason W. Ellis, am calling on each of you to vote for me as the next SFRA Vice President.

Adam Frisch, the Immediate Past President of the SFRA, posted all of the election candidates’ statements on the organization’s website here. You may read my statement for Vice President below:

I am extremely honored to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate, and I hope to continue my service to the SFRA in this position if I am elected. I have been a member of the organization since 2006. Since then, I have won the 2007 Mary Kay Bray Award, served as the organization’s publicity director beginning in 2008, served on the MKB Award committee beginning in 2008, and promoted the organization, its meetings, and its members on my science fiction scholarship blog dynamicsubspace.net.

If I am elected as vice president, I will pledge myself to the maintenance and efficient running of the organization. As vice president, I will be specifically charged with member recruitment, to which I will dedicate myself in addition to the related functions of organizational promotion and member retention with these three plans:

1) I will work cooperatively with the EC, the SFRA Review editors, the publicity director, the web director, and the membership to promote, develop, and expand the SFRA. Significant growth of the organization will be a collective effort.

2) I will work hard to invite new scholars and graduate students to join SFRA using personal invitations via in-person meetings, traditional letters, and social media. Along with this, I will guide the development of sfra.org into a useful tool for members and a point of contact for non-members, the media, and the public for all matters related to the work that we do.

3) I will poll current members about their needs that can be met by the SFRA, elicit members’ ideas regarding the development of the organization, and advocate those findings with the organization.

Given the chance, I hope to serve the organization and its members as the next vice president of the SFRA. Thank you for your consideration, and see you all in Lublin!

I look forward to continuing to serve the SFRA, and I hope that you will help me do this as the next SFRA Vice President with your vote.

Following Our Mission, Improving SFRA.org with 101 Feature Articles

There is an exciting new addition to sfra.org beginning today! As part of the organization’s mission “to encourage and assist scholarship” and “improve classroom teaching,” the SFRA is adding the 101 Features from the SFRA Review directly to our website. As you may know, the 101 Features are instant immersion articles that introduce readers to the major arguments and concepts within a field of study. These articles are useful to scholars, graduate students, and survey course students alike, because they briefly present a thorough overview of a given topic. Some of the 101 Feature topics include: Postmodernism, Comic
Studies, Mundane SF, Slipstream, New Weird, Science Studies, and Fan Studies. Adding the 101 Features to sfra.org as a public resource will help circulate this important scholarship in an open and easily accessible way, which will get 101 Feature authors more attention while increasing the visibility of the work of the SFRA. This will better enable public discovery and searching of these materials, and allow members to directly link to the 101 Features rather than pointing to the original SFRA Review PDF (you may have read Neil’s email earlier today about Ritch Calvin in an Orion Magazine article about literary SF–Ritch won the 2009 Mary Kay Bray Award for his Mundane SF 101 article). Karen Hellekson initiated this new plan by donating her recent “Scholarly Research and Writing 101″ article from
SFRA Review #292, which is now available on our website at <http://www.sfra.org/node/101>. Michael Klein is in the process of requesting permissions from other 101 Feature authors to include their work on sfra.org. If you are a member of the SFRA and would like to contribute a new 101 Feature to the SFRA Review <http://www.sfra.org/review>, please contact the editors with your proposal.

Neuroscience, the Neuronovel, and Science Fiction

Several conversations with Tammy Clewell on the neuronovel rekindled my interest in the biology of the human brain. As a result, I have decided to do some research on the neuronovel and its relationship to science fiction. The neuronovel, with its emphasis on the hardware of the brain over the software of psychology, is arguably a hard science fiction topic (albeit most lacking an extrapolative element). Additionally, novels traditionally seen in terms of psychological explanation can be re-read with neuroscience in mind (pun intended).

I am building a list of science fiction novels and short stories that specifically addresses the neuronovel’s emphasis of brains over mind. What titles of novels or short stories from approximately 1950 to the present can you recommend that emphasize brains over mind, and the brain’s influence on one’s sense of self and understanding of the world. This would include brain trauma over psychological trauma, neuroscience over psychology, depictions of creating or developing brains and how that shapes one’s engagement with the world, introspection or internal dialog that might have a biological explanation rather than a psychological one, etc. Two sets of works that immediate come to mind are Asimov’s robots (they exhibit psychological problems, but there is an emphasis on those behaviors resulting from the way they are hardwired), and Dick’s VALIS novels (the author’s 2-3-74 events can be more simply diagnosed as the first in a series of unfortunate strokes).

This is a very rough sketch at this point, so please bear with me as a work through it. All suggestions are welcome and much appreciated.

Luke’s Lightsaber Cut from the Beginning of ROTJ

My buddy Mark just sent me a link [posted to Youtube by Theforcenet] to this deleted scene from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi shown at Celebration V. Above, you can see Luke tinkering with his new lightsaber after Vader makes one more attempt to telepathically lure him to the Dark Side. Then, Luke tests it before giving it to R2-D2 for his special mission to see Jabba the Hut:

Yeah, I think its a good idea that it was cut from the final film–it would have given too much away at the beginning. Nevertheless, it makes for a nice addition to the ROTJ totality.

R2-D2 Special Edition Droid Phone by Motorola (But R2 has been with me for years)

Apparently, Motorola, Google, and Verizon have teamed up to produce the Star Wars Empire Strikes Back Special Edition Phone. You can learn about it at the official site here (if you follow @droidlanding on Twitter), or see a picture of the phone here (it looks like a flat, rectangular R2-D2).

That’s cute and all, but I’ve been R2’s buddy since the first generation iPhone:

In all honesty, I’ve been thinking a lot about Star Wars merchandising lately. I’m troubled by it, by my participation in it (yes, I just mailed off my five UPCs for the vintage, rocket firing Boba Fett), and its lasting effect on life to the present (collecting, playing, maintaining interest in movie tie-in toys). I am going to write more on this in the future, but I want to scan some old Christmas and Birthday photos first, so that I can use them in my essay.

For the time being, consider Star Wars and ESB Producer Gary Kurtz’s interview here, in which he says: “The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse. . . . If it wasn’t for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder all the time.” Now, I’m off to Wal-Mart to see if they have any of the new vintage Star Wars action figures in stock.

Lego Launch Command Sets For Sale

I have decided to sell some of my Lego collection sets including these two from the Launch Command series. They are awesome builds, and I hope that I can find a good home for them. Links to my ebay Buy It Now or Best Offer listings are below each photo.

Lego System 6339 Shuttle Launch Pad. This is the largest of the early Lego Space Shuttle sets. It comes with four minifigures, the Space Shuttle complete with external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters, and an assembly tower with winch. The original box and instructions are also included.

Lego System 6544 Shuttle Transcom 2. The Transcom 2 transport jet is a fun build, because you get to assemble a large jet and the Space Shuttle orbiter. It includes three minifigures, jet, shuttle, and tow vehicle. The original boxes and instructions are also included.

Regulus For Now

I guess its the part of me that thinks fondly of installing the pre-release BeOS on my PowerMacintosh 8500/120 back in 1996 that always brings me back to the Regulus WordPress theme by Binary Moon. It will have to do for now.

Under Construction

I will be playing with themes and header images over the next few days before I settle on a new look for the site. However, the content will remain the same–science fiction, scholarship, Legos, and other fun things. Stay tuned.

Kent State College Writing II, Fall 2010, Humans, Technology, and Cyborgs

I just finished my syllabi for two sections of College Writing II at Kent State in Fall 2010 with the theme: Humans, Technology, and Cyborgs, and I have attached them here (section 002) and here (section 007). The classes are identical, but the meeting places and times have been changed in each syllabus.

This semester, I have designed the course around the image of the cyborg in fiction and our everyday lives. We will read C. L. Moore’s “No Woman Born” and James Tiptree, Jr.’s “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” to get things started. Then, we will segue into William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Grant Morrison’s We3, and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, “The Best of Both Worlds” part 1 and 2. This will be a lightly theoretical class for sophomores, but it will have a heavy independent research component for the second half of the semester. I still have to finalize the three major essay assignments, but I have penciled in the topics on the tentative schedule on the syllabus.

One important change about these classes as compared to my previous classes at Kent State is that I have decided against using classroom computers for all assignments. I found in my last two semesters that students weren’t revising as much, and they weren’t generally writing their assignments to meet the minimum word count (a tedious task at times with Blackboard). Writing in long hand in class and revising that on a computer later will encourage revision practices, and having a printout of a student’s work will quickly let me see if word counts are reached. Using paper will also eliminate problems with students’ digital files (corruption, fonts, version incompatibilities, etc.). Perhaps Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office is right and paper is still very important.

I am excited to get things started in a few weeks, and I am glad that I have the latitude at Kent State to devise a class theme on my own. I enjoy working with these texts, and I believe that I will demonstrate that in the classes. Also, it will be useful to think of these texts in relation to my dissertation, which I will be working on concurrently with these classes.

SFRA 2010 Conference Write-Up in August Issue of Locus

Pickup the August issue of Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field (Issue 595, Vol. 65 No. 2) to read my write-up of the SFRA 2010 Conference in Carefree, Arizona along with a photo of this year’s award winners (10, 55). I would like to thank the Locus editor-in-chief Liza Groen Trombi for running my article, which is also my first paid work!