Monthly Archives: August 2011

The SFRA Invades 2011 Dragon*Con in Atlanta on Labor Day Weekend

Actually, the Science Fiction Research Association isn’t really “invading” Dragon*Con with ray guns drawn, but we will host a panel titled, “What does Science Fiction Mean: A Conversation with the SFRA” on Sunday morning in the Hyatt’s Fairlie room at 11:30am. Thanks to the SFRA’s Publicity Director R. Nicole Smith, several SFRA EC members (Lisa Yaszek and myself) and SFRA Review editors (Doug Davis and Jason Embry) will hold a panel to let convention goers know a little bit about what we do in the SFRA. We will also invite attendees to join the SFRA and participate in the 43rd annual conference in Detroit next year. If you are attending Dragon*Con, stop by the panel and join the conversation. If you aren’t going to Dragon*Con but are in the Atlanta area and what to talk shop, drop me a line [dynamicsubspace now-what-goes-here gmailcom]–I will be in town from Friday until Sunday.

Find My Review of Eric Carl Link’s Understanding Philip K. Dick in the New JFA

I received my complimentary copy of the latest Journal for the Fantastic in the Arts yesterday, because I wrote a very favorable review of Eric Carl Link’s survey of Philip K. Dick titled: Understanding Philip K. Dick. You can find my review on pages 114-116.

Besides all of the other great content in this issue of JFA, there is a review of Muhammad Husain Jah’s Hoshruba: The Land and the Tilism (translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi) by Anna C. Oldfield. I was happy to see this review of Farooqi’s translation, because I made the layout for two serialized excerpts from this work in Masood Raja’s Pakistaniaat: A Journal of Pakistan Studies when I was the layout editor [read the excerpts in the first and second issues of the journal].

Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction CFP, Deadline Approaching

The proposal deadline for Canavan and Robinson’s Green Planets is in two days. I wish that I had the time to contribute something, but I am writing my diss as if the Devil were on my tail. Read below for the details on this important project:

*CFP for edited collection: /Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction/*
Editors: Gerry Canavan and Kim Stanley Robinson ( <>)
*Abstracts due August 31, 2011*
*Final essays due Summer 2012*

We are seeking proposals for an edited collection tentatively titled /Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction,/ with completed essays due in Summer 2012. We seek contributions that touch on any aspect of the relationship between ecological science, environmentalism, and SF, with particular attention to such topics as:

* ecological futurity and ecocriticism in SF
* visions of eco-disaster, eco-catastrophe, and eco-apocalypse
* strategies for ecotopia
* “the globe” and global thinking in SF
* science fictional critiques of global capitalism, consumerism, and ecological racism
* social justice as an ecological technology
* narratives of political resistance
* SF as it figures within current public debate about ecological science (climate change, Peak Oil, etc)
* philosophies and fantasies of Nature
* narratives of evolution, extinction, and extermination
* eco-feminist SF
* reproductive futurity
* ecology and Afrofuturism
* ecology, digitality, and techno-optimism
* terraforming and other narratives of space colonization
* aliens, alien worlds, xenobiology, and exo-ecology
* ecological thinking as a strategy for cognitive estrangement
* ecological critiques of particular unscientific or anti-ecological science fictions, or critiques of the history of the genre as a whole

We hope to produce a collection that speaks to the long history of ecological SF, ranging from the climate change that prompts the Martian invasion in /War of the Worlds/ to /Oryx and Crake, The Wind-Up Girl, Avatar,/ and /WALL-E/ (and everything else before, after, and between). We likewise intend “SF” in its broadest possible sense, to include fantasy and horror literature alongside “science fiction” more narrowly construed, and hope to receive submissions that properly reflect SF as a diverse and global genre.

Please direct all queries, questions, and submissions to <> Abstracts should be around 250-300 words; submissions should also include contact information and a short bio. Please plan for final essays to range between 4000-8000 words.

Gary Westfahl’s The Mechanics of Wonder

I just finished reading Gary Westfahl’s The Mechanics of Wonder as part of the research on my dissertation’s important theoretical chapter.

I wish that I had known about and read this book a long time ago. I have heard some of the things that he argues about Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell, Jr. in other places, but I see now that those other places likely based or were inspired by Westfahl’s book.

Having read The Mechanics of Wonder, I am persuaded by Westfahl’s arguments that science fiction came to be what it was from the work of Gernsback and Campbell. Their delayed influence on the writing taking place in the genre appears to have had profound implications. For the most part, Westfahl’s rigorous approach to evidence and his claims based on that evidence are very well received.

This is not to say that I am giving up my Aldiss or Suvin. I find their work equally stimulating even if their historical claims might not always be on target. I believe that we can find earlier examples of science fiction even if they are not part of the modern instantiation of the genre itself. Can we not say that a particular work is science fictional? Can we not go so far as to say that a given work is part of the science fiction genre, because it shares all of the characteristics of the work even if it was not yet part of the genre due to its chronological deficiencies?

Likewise, I believe that structuralist approaches such as that undertaken by Suvin are useful for understanding the mechanics of the science fiction genre. In fact, Suvin provides an advantageous link between two different spheres of knowledge in my theory chapter. Westfahl’s careful reading does knock a few sizable holes in Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, but I will gladly salvage the concept of cognitive estrangement.

The Mechanics of Wonder is a must-read for everyone studying science fiction. Westfahl not only presents compelling evidence, he also provides a demanding model for scholarly rigor and engagement of evidence.

End of Summer Updates

I completed my entry on “cyborgs” for the Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters, edited by Jeffrey Weinstock. I am excited to see this work published, because its entries will pack a research-powered punch!

I am reading Gary Westfahl’s work on Hugo Gernsback and John W. Campbell, Jr. I am also collecting old issues of Amazing Stories for my research. Many thanks to Lisa Yaszek for that after-session conversation in Poland. This is the turn that my chapter needed.

I had a wonderful time with my friends yesterday at Bert and Robin’s house. While Bert was busy running his catering business, Robin hosted a bunch of us graduate students for steaks and good cheer. Y made a delicious fruit pie (following a recipe that our friends in Switzerland gave us).

Y, M, and I enjoyed Japanese cuisine and sushi tonight at Sakura followed by a visit to Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart. I now find visiting bookstores a depressing affair, because I do not have time to read many books that I would like to read as a result of my studying and writing about books for my dissertation. I have to remind myself: This too shall pass.


The Resignations Continue: CmdrTaco Steps Down from Slashdot

Rob Malda (aka CmdrTaco), the founder of, resigned from Slashdot yesterday. Slashdot has been a go-to daily read for me for at least ten years. Many thanks to Rob for kickstarting such a wonderful blog about technology, science, online rights, and a bit more. Leave your thank yous and kind regards to Rob in this thread.

I Guess This Just About Sums Up Steve Jobs’ Life So Far

I don’t think Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson will be nearly as true to the facts as this high production value video (I kid!).