The Seventh Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on the Archive and SF was held on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 as a Zoom Webinar. You can read the full program here.
I started organizing these symposia with my colleagues at City Tech after we received the original 160 box donation that became the City Tech Science Fiction Collection. We’ve covered a lot of important topics at each symposium over the past seven years, but there’s still much to examine and discuss.
I’ve been so busy this semester that I didn’t announce the event here on dynamicsubspace.net. In case you missed the event, you can watch all of the sessions in the videos below.
Many thanks again to everyone who participated and contributed to this year’s event!
Opening Jason W. Ellis Justin Vazquez-Poritz
Paper Session 1: Archival Research Jill Belli – Moderator Jessica Aaron – “Preventing Planetary Patriarchy: Subversions of the White Man’s Ideal World in Early SF Pulps” Chris Leslie – “The Republic of (Interstellar) Letters: From the Archives of Asimov and Merril” Gillian Polack – “Story as Archive: How Speculative Fiction Novels Both Preserve and Interpret Cultural Material”
Panel Discussion: A Tale of Two Archives Jason Ellis (City Tech) Matthew Frizzell (Georgia Tech) Kel Karpinski (City Tech) Alison Reynolds (Georgia Tech) Lisa Yaszek (Georgia Tech)
Panel Discussion: Georgia Tech’s Sci Fi Lab: Archival Research, Octavia’s Ancestor’s Project, and Radio Play Lisa Yaszek – Moderator Panelists: Val Barnhart Laurence Copeland Killian Vetter Edeliz Zuleta
Analog Writers Panel and the Analog Emerging Black Voices Award Emily Hockaday – Moderator Kedrick Brown Meghan Hyland Kelsey Hutton Douglas Dluzen Trevor Quachri and Emily Hockaday – Award Presentation
Paper Session 2: Archives in SF Lucas Kwong – Moderator Jacob Adler – “Summit of Knowledge: Archiving the Fantastical” Rhonda Knight – “A Data Thief in the Archive: Reading Sofia Samatar’s ‘An Account of the Land of Witches’” Adam McLain – “‘Only an Echo’: The Memory of the Archive and the Archive of Memory in Lois Lowry’s The Giver“ Kenrick H. Kamiya Yoshida and Ida Yoshinaga – “An Okinawan Speculative Arts Archive”
Paper Session 3: Latinx SF in the Archive Leigh Gold – Moderator Matthew David Goodwin – “The Latinx Multiverse and the Fictional Recovery of Latinx Science Fiction” Dolores González Ortega and Valeria Seminario – “Inside the Latin American Science Fiction Archive: Challenges and Contributions to a Growing Academic Field”
Keynote Jeremy Brett – “Making Space: Science Fiction Archives and the Archival Citizen” Jason Ellis – Introduction and Moderator
Following the destruction of the Mandoralorian’s Razorcrest, one of the happy surprises in The Book of Boba Fett was Mando’s new ship–a heavily modified Naboo N-1 Starfighter featured in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. So, when the LEGO version of Mando’s new ride debuted as set 75325, I picked it up at the local Costco for about 20% off MSRP.
The Naboo Starfighter is one of the redeeming elements for me from the Star Wars prequels.
Years ago, I had the original LEGO 7141 Naboo Fighter from 1999, and I built set 10026 Special Edition Naboo Starfighter in 2002 as seen in the photo of my bookcase from that era above. The chromed parts made this an excellent build. If only it had been designed for minifigures!
Later, I got to see a life-size Naboo fighter at the Star Wars Exhibition in London in 2007. It was the exhibit’s centerpiece in the display space adjacent to the London Aquarium and the London Eye. Being in the same space made the starfighter seem real. It’s design detail evoked the craftsmanship of a Howard Hughes hand-built race plane. It was extraordinary to behold!
When I first assembled Mando’s modified N-1 LEGO set, I was impressed with its greebling details to the engine nacells and overall design. While there are limitations to the overall smoothness at the scale used for this set, it captures important details that mark it as an inspired model based on what we see on the screen.
The thing about the Naboo Fighter is that it deserves to be swooshed. It’s design implies motion and speed. It was that feeling about what the design inspires that pushed me to design and build a stand for it.
This presented some challenges, because Mando’s N-1 is larger than the 10026 set, which came with a display stand. The 75325 set is bigger than that set, which also implies that it is heavier. Using a rotational click ring supported by Technic beams does not provide enough friction to maintain the model in the orientation desired. I devised a secondary support arm with a 2×2 turntable plate to prevent the weight of the model from changing the desired orientation of the model.
In the photos above, you can get a sense of how to build a similar model display using Technic and other LEGO bricks.
I think the displayed version of the set brings the excitement and joy that Mando and Grogru feel when they open up the sublight thrusters!
While I have enjoyed reading Marvel comics for as long as I can remember, I have loved the Marvel Cinematic Universe films that brought together Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man to ultimately battle (two temporal versions) of Thanos with the gravitas and realism of live-action, moving pictures. This is probably because my deep love of Science Fiction is rooted in film and my memory of seeing the Millennium Falcon swoop and dive among the asteroids in a televised trailer for The Empire Strikes Back while watching television on my family’s console TV in Hortense, Georgia.
After visiting my parents in Georgia over the summer, one of the first things that I did when I was back in Brooklyn was to begin constructing this My Own Creation (MOC). Perhaps it was because I had rewatched some of the MCU films or because I picked up LEGO’s 76192 Avengers End Game Final Battle set.
I built this MOC to capture the essence of the End Game battle but not as an accurate rendition of the beginning of that fight. Instead, I wanted to depict the essence of the confrontation akin to a movie poster or comic book cover.
As with most of my MOCs, I built one version that I put aside for some months and returned to later.
In the photos below, you can see that it began with a tan/light wood simulated base beneath a dark gray dais with curved corners. I positioned the heroes in a sweeping action with the villain facing them from the corner. The configuration implied action and energy. But, the positioning placed the heroes’ backs toward the viewer and the clear support rods cut through the scene.
In the photo at the top of the post and in the photos below, you can see the second iteration of my MOC. About a week ago, I decided to return to the MOC after letting it rest on a bookshelf opposite my work area in our living room. My first concern was flipping the scene so that the villain’s back faces the audience and the heroes faces can be seen clearly from the front. This required a re-engineering of the Technic pin with ball joint assembly. Instead of having them project from bricks, I embedded the pins in the floor of the scene and I used Thanos’ body to obscure where the pins protrude from the ground. This also allowed for a more dramatic triangular positioning of the heroes so that they are focused toward a single point terminating at the figure of Thanos. Another reevaluation was with Thanos’ minifigure and weapon. In the first iteration, I used the newer Thanos minifigure from the 76192 set and a scaled down double sword weapon. In the revised version, I opted to use the minifigure from 76107 Thanos: Ultimate Battle equipped with the jewel-encrusted Infinity Gauntlet. Finally, I constructed a broken wall in the back of the scene to provide a backdrop and I built it with a tapering and cupped shape to envelop the scene and draw the eye back to the colorful figures of action in the scene.
While I have more ideas about how to further iterate this MOC, I’m happy with its current configuration. I’ll sit it on the bookshelf to look at it and let its presence feed into the percolating design ideas that might lead to a future revision.
The following list of books, anthologies, and articles have been helpful to me as I work to better understand program administration, development, assessment, and internships.
Bridgeford, Tracy, Karla Saari Kitalong, and Bill Williamson, editors. Sharing Our Intellectual Traces: Narrative Reflections from Administrators of Professional, Technical, and Scientific Communication Programs. Baywood Publishing Company, 2014.
Elliot, Norbert and Margaret Kilduff. “Technical Writing in a Technological University: Attitudes of Department Chairs.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, vol. 21, no. 4, 1991, pp. 411-424.
Franke, David, Alex Reid, and Anthony DiRenzo, editors. Design Discourse: Composing and Revising Programs in Professional and Technical Writing. WAC Clearinghouse, 2010.
Huot, Brian. (Re) Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Utah State UP, 2002.
O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment. Utah State UP, 2009.
Sapp, David Alan. “The Lone Ranger as Technical Writing Program Administrator.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 20, no. 2, April 2006, pp. 200-219.
Selting, Bonita R. “Conversations with Technical Writing Teachers: Defining a Problem.” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 3, 2002, pp. 251-266.
Sides, Charles H. and Ann Mrvica, editors. Internships: Theory and Practice. Baywood Publishing Company, 2007.
Continuing the work that I started in 2014 when I wrote about the rediscovery of a set of isometric Macintosh icons that I had created and shared in 1997, I wanted to share another rediscovery from February and March 1997 that spans a defunct Macintosh-focused blog called the Power Macintosh Resource Page and Usenet that involves BeOS, winning a magazine, and writing about a hard drive partioning trick that I developed using free BeOS and MacOS applications.
This rediscovery came about after I sent a postcard to another computer enthusiast via Postcrossing.com. I wrote in my postcard about how great I thought BeOS was. She replied that she hadn’t used BeOS before but was interested in it.
I remembered that the way that I came to use BeOS for a time was thanks to a now-defunct technology blog called The Power Macintosh Resource Page. It was operated by Steve Tannehill.
Trevor Inkpen wrote to mention that the Complete Conflict Compendium is about to have its 500,000th visitor. That visitor will win an Apple watch and an Apple hat.
Not to be outdone… ;-)
In the next 2-3 weeks, the Power Macintosh Resource Page will hit the half-million mark. If you send me a legitimate screen shot of the 500,000th hit, I’ll send you a copy of the January MacTech magazine, complete with the BeOS for the Power Mac demo CD-ROM!
There are a few things to unpack here. First, Tannehill mentions Trevor Inkpen’s site visitor context for “an Apple watch and an Apple hat.” That Apple watch prize was not for what we think of as an Apple Watch today. It was an Apple-branded watch that Apple sold through their campus gift shop in Cupertino.
Second, website operators used to pride themselves on how many site visitors they had. This was usually calculated with a public-facing counter enabled by a bit of code offered by a provider that logged page loads containing the code and presented a gif-based numerical counter of the number of page loads. Many of these counters only provided a simple calculation of page loads rather than the more granular information provided by webserver logs and the more advanced metrics of unique visitors, engagement, etc. used today.
Before Tannehill offered this prize, I had heard about BeOS from articles in Mac magazines like MacUser, Macworld, and MacAddict. With the burgeoning world of online reporting and news, I had gleaned even more information about it. It sounded like the next big thing, especially in light of Apple’s financial troubles of that era.
Also, I had gotten my PowerMacintosh 8500/120 only a year before, so I had a computer that was capable of running the PowerPC-based BeOS Preview Edition that came with the MacTech Magazine.
After learning about Tannehill’s contest, I first thought that there is no way that I would be lucky enough to be the 500,000th visitor to his site. So, the practical solution was to find a copy of the magazine. I was attending Georgia Tech in Atlanta at the time, so I had access to bookstores with nice magazine selections–the best being Tower Records next Lenox Square Mall in Buckhead.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find a copy of the magazine anywhere. Stores that sold MacTech said that they were sold out. Therefore, my only alternative to obtain a copy of BeOS was to be a super visitor to the Power Macintosh Resource Page. Thankfully, my efforts paid off on 13 Feb. 1997 after I revisited the page late that night and took the required screenshot of my browser window:
13 February 1997:
Jason Woodrow Ellis is the official 500,000th visitor to the Power Macintosh Resource Page! Jason sent the screen shot, so he gets the January MacTech magazine. Congratulations Jason, and thanks to everyone for making this page a success!
Tannehill mailed the magazine to my campus address at Georgia Tech, and after receiving it, I promptly began partitioning my PowerMac’s 2GB SCSI hard drive so that I could boot into Mac OS or BeOS (more on this further below).
And, I would be remiss not to remark on how grateful that I am to Tannehill for offering that magazine as a prize on his website. It was a touchstone in my memories of that era of my life and an important moment in my learning more about computers in general and Macs in particular. I owe him a debt of thanks!
While reading the February 1997 archive page of the Power Macintosh Resource Page, I discovered that I had sent in a report about a presentation by an Apple Representative at the Georgia Tech campus:
25 February 1997:
Jason Woodrow Ellis wrote an interesting note regarding a recent presentation at Georgia Tech on the future of Mac OS:
“Apple Computer, Inc.’s Higher Education Account Executive Steve VanBrackle” gave us a very good outlook for the upcoming Rhapsody and MacOS releases. Mr. VanBrackle told us about the NeXT engineers and how “cocky” they were. He explained that these guys say that they could get the NeXT OS to run on a cellular phone! The point was that they are able to port their OS to anything. …if Mr. VanBrackle is correct the engineers will have an easy time of creating it. First, NeXT had ported their OS to PowerPC several years ago to run on 601’s. Second, the Apple AU/X team had already figured out how to run System 7 apps on top of UNIX. Third, 80% of Copland’s old code will be used with Rhapsody, so Apple did not “totally” scrap those several years of research. Now their task lies in combining these things together which in effect is the “easy” part. …I asked him about Jobs and Wozniak’s role at Apple in respect to all of the rumors about Jobs “taking over.” According to Mr. VanBrackle, they are “10 hour per week advisors to Amelio.” They have no managerial responsibilities and no “code time.”
I vaguely remember this presentation only because I recall receiving a copy of the first Mac Advocate CD-ROM, which contained useful software updates, Apple information, and Apple-related media, and Apple rainbow logo stickers, which I later applied to the rear window of my dad’s Toyota pickup truck that I often drove when I was back home (and earned me vulgar responses from homophobic locals who were not only bigoted but also apparently lived under a rock during the first 20 years of Apple Computer’s existence).
It was exciting to me to find this email excerpt that I had taken the time to write and send to Tannehill. I have no memory of what I reported Steve VanBrackle talking about during his presentation, but the points about what would eventually become MacOS X are very intriguing. Behind these points there were a number of important developments. Apple scrapped Copland, the code-named operating system originally intended to become System 8, Apple’s consideration of purchasing Jean-Louis Gassée’s BeOS as the basis of its next-generation operating system, and Apple’s ultimate decision to purchase NeXT and bring Steve Jobs back to the company.
As a side note, I often signed my online posts using my full name at that time, because I had discovered that there are a lot of Jason Ellis’s in the world. Even in my youth, I had to fight accusations of not having had all of my vaccines or needing additional dental work–things that applied to another guy who shared my first and last names and happened to be a patient at my doctor and dentist. When I got online, I found even more people with my name, and I tried to create an identity distinct from others. Eventually, I settled on Jason W. Ellis.
Returning to an earlier point about multi-booting MacOS and BeOS, I found an old Usenet post (thanks to the remnants of Google Groups, which is unfortunately a poor instance of its former glory) that I had made on 13 Mar. 1997–a month to the day after I had won the MacTech Magazine with the BeOS Developer Preview CD-ROM. I cross-posted this short write-up called “Slick Disk Tricks” to comp.sys.mac.hardware.storage and comp.sys.mac.systems (I just didn’t know any better).
Slick Disk Tricks
Mar 13, 1997, 3:00:00 AM
I was a crazy risk taker. I loaded up the BeOS for Power Macintosh on my 8500/120 with only one hard disk drive. Luckily I already had partitioned it when I first bought the computer. I created three partitions: HD1=340MB, HD2= 830, HD3= 830, and an allotment of 33MB of free space.
When I installed the BeOS, I repartitioned HD1 as a BeOS˛ partition. Because I quickly found that I did not find enlightenment from using Be, I wanted to get rid of it. I just as quickly noticed that Apple’s DriveSetup application would not let me repartition without reformatting. This was not an option. Luckily Be came through.
In order to reclaim my first partition I used Be’s included Mac application called BeOS Partition Utility˛ to rename the BeOS˛ partition to an Apple_HFS partition. Then I restarted my computer and a dialogue comes up at the desktop for me to choose to initialize the new partition or eject it. I opted to initialize it (which took all of five seconds) and suddenly I have my first partition back! No special programs or extra drivers necessary. Just as a precaution, I did use Norton’s Wipe Info application to do a nice government˛ sweep of all previously stored data. (OK, so I cheated a little bit!)
I am about to loose my internet connection at Georgia Tech, so I have been trying to download everything under the sun to play with when I go back home this month. This need of space reminded me of my 33MB of free space. This takes a little bit more time and effort than regaining a BeOS˛ partition (but it is exactly the same procedure, almost). These are the steps that I used. First, I used the BeOS Partition Utility˛ to rename the Apple_Free to BeOS. Next I launched the BeOS from the CD-ROM and initialized this the free˛ partition for use by the BeOS (this gives the partition a name). Next I rebooted my computer after _not_ installing the BeOS and again used BeOS Partition Utility˛ to rename the BeOS˛ partition to Apple_HFS.˛ Now one can see that this is similar to the previous instructions. However when I restarted nothing happened! Well, undaunted, I used Apple’s DriveSetup app to update the disk driver. I rebooted and now my free space is a new partition asking to be initialized. I now have my full hard disk drive available for storage purposes.
One should realize that what I did was very perilous and down right horrific. I don’t have any kind of backup solution or another disk drive to keep files on. Please use caution if you try this technique to reclaim disk space! And, remember, I am loosing my email address shortly so you have no ability for flames or other such nonsense.
While I wrote this with the intent of sharing a neat way to use the BeOS Partition Utility and Apple’s DriveSetup programs to resize and reclaim hard drive space without the need of paid partitioning software, it is an embarrassing piece of writing. However, I try to remind myself that it was something that I wrote about 25 years ago, which puts it in its proper context.
Also, I’m saddened to read that I wrote, “I quickly found that I did not find enlightenment from using Be.” I don’t recall exactly why I didn’t find it enlightening. From my viewpoint now, BeOS was exciting to use and had an excellent user interface (UI). But, I can imagine how it might not have been a daily driver OS due to its development stage and a fewer application options than MacOS. Also, hard drive space cost a premium, so I probably wanted to have the drive space back for other projects that I was working on at the time. So, while my 1997-self might have not found enlightenment from BeOS, my present self recognizes BeOS as something that had the potential to be insanely great (Steve Jobs would probably not appreciate my borrowing his phrase for this case, but I think it applies nevertheless). And I do know that despite my not keeping BeOS installed on my PowerMacintosh, I enjoyed using Greg Landwebber’s BeView to reskin MacOS as BeOS (and, I alternated between BeView and Aaron, for a Copland look–later, I switched to Kaleidoscope). And, I am certain that BeOS left an indelible imprint on my mind for me to think of it to this day, including its incredible design choices–isometric interface icons, tabbed windows, the application dock, and the finger pointer, as well as its amazing under-the-hood developments with its microkernel, preemptive multitasking, multithreading, etc.
I am curious about the phrase that I used: “did not find enlightenment.” It makes me wonder if an advertisement or article about BeOS used that kind of language to describe using it. When I have some time, I’ll look into that with what’s available on archive.org, Google Books, and other places online that might have digital copies of mid-to-late 1990s Macintosh magazines.
A few final notes: Haiku OS is trying to build something new that captures what BeOS once was and could have been. I haven’t had a chance to try it out yet, but I certainly intend to! And, I owe a great deal of thanks to the Internet Archive for the Internet Wayback Machine and Google Groups (despite Google’s mishandling of this invaluable resource), both of which made this personal exploration possible. While many of our digital traces seem to linger, others disappear without the dedicated and important work of digital preservationists.
I originally posted this on the Science Fiction at City Tech website here. I used Shotcut to edit the Zoom Webinar recording into these session-length videos with video fade-in and -out, and audio gain adjustments as needed. I used GIMP to create the title cards for each video.
The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on the topic of Access and SF was held on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021 as a Zoom Webinar. You can read the full program here.
Included below are videos of each session as well as links to expanded presentations .
Many thanks again to everyone who participated and contributed to this year’s event!
Jason W. Ellis Justin Vazquez-Poritz
Paper Session 1: Access to International SF
Jill Belli – Moderator Emrah Atasoy – “Access to SF in Turkey and Turkish SF Abroad” Shanky Chandra – “Chinese Science Fiction: A Literary Genre, A Tool of Teaching Science or A Secret Weapon of China’s Soft Power?” Gillian Polack – “The Problem of Susan Australia, or, The Tyranny of Distance” | Watch Expanded Presentation
Paper Session 2: Access to Science/Fiction/World
A. Lavelle Porter – Moderator Chris Leslie – “Reevaluating the Inclusiveness of the Interstellar Republic of Letters” Katherine Buse and Anastasia Klimchynskaya – “Science Fiction and Citizen Science” Aaron Zwintscher – “Star Wars Biomes: Simulacra, Nature, and Passivity in No Dialogue Nature Shows”
Discussion Panel: “Accessing the Feminist Science Fiction Archive, Or, Young Women Read Old Feminist SF”
Lisa Yaszek – Moderator Panelists: Josie Benner Olivia Kiklica Jessica Taetle Edeliz Zuleta
Paper Session 3: Access, Inclusion, and Representation in SF
Joy Sanchez-Taylor – Moderator Leigh Gold – “Confronting Language in the Science Fiction Text: Language, Access, and Trauma in Octavia Butler and Ursula K Le Guin” Katherine Pradt – “Shipping Supergirl: Discovering and Defending Lesbian Identity Through a DC Fandom” Sean Scanlan – “Cool Access and Access to Cool: Gibson’s Gun Moll, Dorotea Benedetti” Ida Yoshinaga – “Corporate Employment Practices Towards Greater Diversity of Story Development for SFF Screen Stories”
Paper Session 4: Access, Accessibility, Bodies, and Minds in SF
Lucas Kwong – Moderator Jacob Adler – “‘Everything Herein is Fantastic’: Accessibility and Inclusivity in Dungeons & Dragons” Ryan Collis – “Autistic Speculative Imaginings: Accessing and Creating Minor Literatures” Annette Koh – “Urban Planning for Cyborg Cities: Thinking about disabilities and mobilities in sci-fi as an urban planner”
Analog Writers Panel and the Analog Emerging Black Voices Award
Emily Hockaday – Moderator Panelists Alec Nevala-Lee Marie Vibbert Chelsea Obodoechina Trevor Quachri and Emily Hockaday – Award Presentation
Keynote: “Writing Ourselves In: Teaching Writing and Science Fiction with Wikipedia”
Ximena Gallardo C. and Ann Matsuuchi Wanett Clyde – Introduction and Moderator
Ximena and Ann’s book chapter, “My Books Will Be Read By Millions of People!”: The LaGuardia Community College Octavia E. Butler Wikipedia Project,” that appears in Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia Butler, edited by Tarshia Stanley (Modern Language Association, 2019), has been made accessible via the CUNY institutional repository, Academic Works: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/lg_pubs/141/. This book was awarded Idaho State University’s 2021 Teaching Literature Award.
The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and Science Fiction will be held on Thursday, December 9, 2021 from 9:00am-5:00pm EST (GMT/UTC -5 hours) online via Zoom Webinar.
To participate in this free event, attendees will need to (1) Signup for a free Zoom account here (if you don’t already have one), and (2) Register here to receive access instructions to the Zoom Webinar. Participants may register any time before or during the event!
In addition to the Zoom Webinar Chat and YouTube Live Chat, join the event conversation with the event hashtag #CityTechSF and follow us on Twitter @CityTechSF.
As indicated below in the program, some symposium content is pre-recorded to offer more time for discussion on the day of the event. Pre-recorded content includes author readings and full paper presentations. Some of this content is in production and will be posted soon.
9:00am-9:15am Opening Jason W. Ellis Justin Vazquez-Poritz
9:15am-10:05am Paper Session 1: Access to International SF Jill Belli – Moderator Emrah Atasoy – “Access to SF in Turkey and Turkish SF Abroad” Shanky Chandra – “Chinese Science Fiction: A Literary Genre, A Tool of Teaching Science or A Secret Weapon of China’s Soft Power?” Gillian Polack – “The Problem of Susan Australia, or, The Tyranny of Distance” | Watch Expanded Presentation
10:10am-11:00am Paper Session 2: Access to Science/Fiction/World A. Lavelle Porter – Moderator Chris Leslie – “Reevaluating the Inclusiveness of the Interstellar Republic of Letters” Katherine Buse and Anastasia Klimchynskaya – “Science Fiction and Citizen Science” Aaron Zwintscher – “Star Wars Biomes: Simulacra, Nature, and Passivity in No Dialogue Nature Shows”
11:05am-11:45am Discussion Panel: “Accessing the Feminist Science Fiction Archive, Or, Young Women Read Old Feminist SF” Lisa Yaszek – Moderator Panelists: Josie Benner Olivia Kiklica Jessica Taetle Edeliz Zuleta
11:50am-1:10pm Paper Session 3: Access, Inclusion, and Representation in SF Joy Sanchez-Taylor – Moderator Leigh Gold – “Confronting Language in the Science Fiction Text: Language, Access, and Trauma in Octavia Butler and Ursula K Le Guin” Katherine Pradt – “Shipping Supergirl: Discovering and Defending Lesbian Identity Through a DC Fandom” Sean Scanlan – “Cool Access and Access to Cool: Gibson’s Gun Moll, Dorotea Benedetti” Ida Yoshinaga – “Corporate Employment Practices Towards Greater Diversity of Story Development for SFF Screen Stories”
1:15pm-2:25pm Access, Accessibility, Bodies, and Minds in SF Lucas Kwong – Moderator Jacob Adler – “‘Everything Herein is Fantastic’: Accessibility and Inclusivity in Dungeons & Dragons” Ryan Collis – “Autistic Speculative Imaginings: Accessing and Creating Minor Literatures” Annette Koh – “Urban Planning for Cyborg Cities: Thinking about disabilities and mobilities in sci-fi as an urban planner”
2:30pm-3:55pm Analog Writers Panel and the Analog Emerging Black Voices Award Emily Hockaday – Moderator Panelists Alec Nevala-Lee Marie Vibbert Chelsea Obodoechina Trevor Quachri and Emily Hockaday – Award Presentation
4:00pm-5:00pm Keynote “Writing Ourselves In: Teaching Writing and Science Fiction with Wikipedia” Ximena Gallardo C. and Ann Matsuuchi Wanett Clyde – Introduction and Moderator
Ximena and Ann’s book chapter, “My Books Will Be Read By Millions of People!”: The LaGuardia Community College Octavia E. Butler Wikipedia Project,” that appears in Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia Butler, edited by Tarshia Stanley (Modern Language Association, 2019), has been made accessible via the CUNY institutional repository, Academic Works: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/lg_pubs/141/. This book was awarded Idaho State University’s 2021 Teaching Literature Award.
Jacob Adler has worked as the Metadata and Cataloging Librarian at the Bronx Community College Library since 2017. Before that he performed various other cataloging work, most notably at The Paley Center for Media from 2010 to 2016. In addition to his professional work he wrote a fantasy novel for the 2018 National Novel Writing Month contest; he continues to work on the novel and seek to get it published. He is especially interested in early television history, particularly the original 1959-1964 Twilight Zone television series. He is also currently pursuing a master’s degree in Museum Studies, which he is on track to receive in January 2022.
Emrah Atasoy, PhD, serves as a visiting postdoctoral scholar at University of Oxford’s Faculty of English between September 2021 and September 2022 as a recipient of the TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) 2219 International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Grant. His research interests include speculative fiction, futuristic narratives, critical future studies, utopian and dystopian studies, critical dystopia, science fiction, apocalyptic fiction, ecocriticism, posthumanism, Turkish speculative fiction, twentieth-century literature, and comparative literature. He was a visiting scholar at Penn State University under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor in the academic year 2015-16. His work has appeared in journals such as Studies in the Novel (2022, collaborative article with Prof. Dr. Thomas Horan), Utopian Studies, Librosdelacorte.es, Literary Voice, and Methis. Studia Humaniora Estonica. His monograph Epistemological Warfare and Hope in Critical Dystopia has been published by Nobel in 2021. His most recent publications include “Speculative Fiction Studies in Turkey: A Preliminary Survey” (2021), in Utopian Studies, “Dys/utopian Narratives on the Screen: Beyond the Binaries in Children of Men and Lobster” (2021), in The Postworld In-Between Utopia and Dystopia: Intersectional, Feminist, and Non-Binary Approaches in 21st Century Speculative Literature and Culture (2021, Routledge), edited by Tomasz Fisiak and Katarzyna Ostalska, and “Epistemological Warfare(s) in Dystopian Narrative: Zülfü Livaneli’s Son Ada and Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed” in Speculations of War: Essays on Conflict in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Utopian Literature (2021, McFarland), edited by Annette M. Magid. He is a member of both Utopian Studies Society-Europe and the Society for Utopian Studies (SUS). His research at the University of Oxford is supported by TUBITAK BIDEB (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey) under Grant 2219-International Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program.
Jill Belli is Associate Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, where she happily teaches science fiction and utopian studies often. She’s working on long-standing projects on well-being & happiness in education and writing & revising in dystopian texts. Newer interests include looping as composing practice, tarot and astrology as storytelling and knowing, William Reynolds, and grief. Learn more about Jill and her interdisciplinary research and teaching: jillbelli.org.
Josie Benner is a Biomechanical Engineering Major and Science Fiction Minor at Georgia Tech. She works in Professor Lisa Yaszek’s Sci Fi Lab, with funding from Georgia Tech’s Center for Women, Science, and Technology and the Ivan Allen College for the Liberal Arts.
Shanky Chandra is a Ph.D. scholar from the Centre for Chinese and Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, in New Delhi. His research interests include modern and contemporary Chinese Science Fiction. The title of his Ph.D. thesis is “Socio-Political and Cultural Factors in the Making of Chinese Science Fiction Writer Liu Cixin: Understanding The Three-Body Problem.” Chandra took his B.A. (2011) and M.A. (2013) in Chinese language and literature, and M.Phil. (2016) from Jawaharlal Nehru University at New Delhi, India. In 2013, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) awarded the Chinese Government Scholarship to Shanky Chandra for Post Graduate Diploma at Beijing Language & Culture University (Higher level 1 & 2) 2013-2014. Chandra taught Chinese language and literature at St. Stephen’s College (2014-2019), Delhi University. He completed the Advance Mandarin Teacher Training Program from the National Taipei University of Education Chinese Language Education Center, Taipei, Taiwan, in July 2018. Recently, he spent one year at the Department of Modern and Contemporary Chinese Language and Literature at the School of Chinese Language and Literature of Beijing Normal University (BNU) as a senior visiting scholar under the supervision of Prof. Wu Yan (HYI fellowship). He is also a member of the International Forum of Chinese Language Teachers (国际汉语教师微信群) and its official Account e-journal (国际汉语教师500强公众号). Currently, he is a visiting fellow at Harvard Yenching Institute, Harvard University.
Ryan Collis is a second year PhD student in Education at York University in Ontario, Canada who researches the creation of learning spaces for autistic students. He holds degrees in English (BA, Queen’s ‘99), Computer Science (BScH, Queen’s ‘00), Education (BEd, OISE ‘05), and Science and Technology Studies (BScH, York ’19; MA, York ‘20). Ryan has been a high school teacher in the York Region District School Board since 2006 and is a founding member of the editorial board of the Canadian Journal of Autism Equity. Ryan lives with his wife and son in Ajax, Ontario.
Jason W. Ellis is an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY, where he coordinates the City Tech Science Fiction Collection. He coedited The Postnational Fantasy: Postcolonialism, Cosmopolitics and Science Fiction (McFarland, 2011) and a special issue on Star Wars: The Force Awakens of New American Notes Online, and talked with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson about the relationship between SF and society on StarTalk Radio. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.
Ximena Gallardo C. is a professor of English at LaGuardia Community College-CUNY. She has been a Wikipedia editor since 2012 and a WikiEducation instructor since 2014. Among her current Wikimedia projects are The LaGuardia WikiProject Octavia E. Butler and the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives GLAM initiative, as well as the Wikibooks projects Perspectives in Digital Literacy and Themes in Literature.
Leigh Dara Gold received her doctorate in German Literature in 2011 from New York University. She teaches Introduction to Poetry and English 1121 at New York City College of Technology, and Ancient Literature and Composition at Borough of Manhattan Community College. Her current research interests include science fiction’s role in the classroom, research on Ursula K. Le Guin, and connections between dance, literature, and philosophy.
Emily Hockaday is the managing editor and poetry editor for Asimov’s Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Her first full-length poetry collection, Naming the Ghost, will be out in November 2022 with Cornerstone Press. You can find her online at www.emilyhockaday.com or @E_Hockaday.
Olivia Kiklica is a Computational Media Major and Science Fiction Fellow at Georgia Tech. She works in Professor Lisa Yaszek’s Sci Fi Lab, with funding from Georgia Tech’s Center for Women, Science, and Technology and the Ivan Allen College for the Liberal Arts.
Anastasia Klimchynskaya’s research brings together literary theory, sociology, and neuroscience to study how storytelling and narrative shape what (we believe) we know about the world. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on the way science fiction emerged as a literary form in the nineteenth century to express a new social and technoscientific paradigm. Her book project extends this work into the twenty-first century, using the two periods as foils for each other to examine how our fictions shape the innovation, use, and understanding of technoscientific advancements – and, in turn, how these advancements shape the very form of the stories we tell.
Lucas Kwong is an assistant professor of English at New York City College of Technology. His scholarship on fantastic fiction, religion, and colonialism has been published in Victorian Literature and Culture, Religion and Literature, and Journal of Narrative Theory. He also serves as the assistant editor for New American Notes Online, an online interdisciplinary scholarly journal, and as editor for City Tech Writer, a journal of student writing. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
Chris Leslie (he/him) is a visiting professor at the South China University of Technology whose research investigates the interactions among science, technology, and society. This paper is based on the research for his book From Hyperspace to Hypertext: Masculinity, Globalization, and Their Discontents, which will be published by Palgrave in 2022. Dr. Leslie is chair of the IFIP working group on the history of computing and a creative consultant for Zhejiang Hexin Toy Group in Yunhe, China.
Ann Matsuuchi is an instructional technology librarian and professor at LaGuardia Community College-CUNY. Past writing projects include those that focus on Samuel R. Delany and Wonder Woman, sf tv shows such as Doctor Who, and Asian American comic books. Ann teaches digital literacy, online cultures, and the fundamentals of internet studies. Current projects include one that focuses on Melvin Van Peebles, and a reference guide to Delany’s works.
Alec Nevala-Lee was a 2019 Hugo and Locus Award finalist for Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (Dey Street Books / HarperCollins), which was named one of the best nonfiction books of the year by The Economist. He is the author of three suspense novels from Penguin, including The Icon Thief, and his work has appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Daily Beast, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and two editions of The Year’s Best Science Fiction. His next book, Inventor of the Future: The Visionary Life of Buckminster Fuller, will be published by HarperCollins on August 2, 2022.
Evelyn Ng is a City Tech Communication Design student with a focus on illustration. She’s designed and illustrated the poster for “The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and Science Fiction”. When she isn’t working, she spends her time looking through art publications to elevate her design techniques. See more of her work on Instagram and on her online portfolio.
Chelsea Obodoechina is a graduate student and teaching assistant. In her spare time, she writes short speculative fiction inspired by her academic background in sociology. Her works have been featured in Cast of Wonders, the Unfettered Hexes anthology, and Anathema: Spec from the Margins. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her family.
Gillian Polack, Ph.D. is an Australian speculative fiction writer based in Canberra, Australia. She was the 2020 recipient of the Ditmar (best novel, for her 2019 novel The Year of the Fruit Cake) and the Bertram A. Chandler (lifetime achievement in science fiction) awards. She is an ethnohistorian with a special interest in how story transmits culture, both Medieval and modern. Her current research examines how contemporary speculative fiction novels serve as vectors for cultural transmission. A study of this will be released in 2022 (Story Matrices: Cultural Encoding and Cultural Baggage in the Worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Academic Lunare). Her research at Deakin University furthers this work. Dr Polack’s publications include ten novels, short stories, a monograph (History and Fiction, shortlisted for the William Atheling Jr Award for Criticism or Review) and various works of non-fiction. A list of her books can be found at https://gillianpolack.com/my-books/.
Katherine Pradt is a librarian at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. In addition to supporting academic research and answering citation style questions (and troubleshooting the printers), she works to connect scholars to open-source tools and open access resources. She holds an MFA in addition to her library degree and is writing a novel set in occupied New York during the Revolutionary War.
Trevor Quachri, who took the reins of Analog Science Fiction and Fact as editor in 2012, started off as an editorial assistant in 1999 and worked his way up the ladder at Analog and Asimov’s Science Fiction, under Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, and Gardner Dozois, respectively. On top of that, he’s also been a Broadway stagehand, collected data for museums, and executive produced a science fiction pilot for a basic cable channel. He lives in New Jersey with his fiancée, daughter, and way, way too many comic books.
Joy Sanchez-Taylor is a Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College (CUNY) whose research specialty is intersections between science fiction, fantasy, and critical race theory. Her book Diverse Futures: Science Fiction and Authors of Color (2021) examines the contributions of late twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. and Canadian science fiction authors of color to the genre. Dr. Sanchez-Taylor is currently working on a monograph project on diverse fantasy representations.
Sean Scanlan is Associate Professor of English at New York City College of Technology—CUNY where he specializes in literary technologies and American and global literature. He published “Global Homesickness in William Gibson’s Blue Ant Trilogy,” for the collection The City after 9/11: Literature, Film, Television (2016), and he is the founder and editor of NANO: New American Notes Online.
Jessica Taetle is a Computational Media Major and Science Fiction Fellow at Georgia Tech. She works in Professor Lisa Yaszek’s Sci Fi Lab, with funding from Georgia Tech’s Center for Women, Science, and Technology and the Ivan Allen College for the Liberal Arts.
Justin Vazquez-Poritz is the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at New York College of Technology, CUNY.
Marie Vibberthas sold over 70 short stories to professional publications such as Analog Science Fiction & Fact, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nature, Vice’s Motherboard, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, and more. Her works have been translated into Chinese and Vietnamese. Her debut novel, Galactic Hellcats, came out in 2021. Publisher’s Weekly called it “A rip-roaring space heist.” By day she is a computer programmer at Case Western Reserve University.
Lisa Yaszek is Regents’ Professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication, where she explores science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures. Yaszek’s books include Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction (Ohio State, 2008); Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction (Wesleyan 2016); The Future is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women (Library of America, 2018); and Literary Afrofuturism in the Twenty-FirstCentury (co-edited with Isiah Lavender III, Ohio State, 2020). Her ideas have been featured in The Washington Post, Food and Wine Magazine, and USA Today, and she has been an expert commentator for the BBC4’s Stranger Than Sci Fi, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the AMC miniseries James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction. A past president of the Science Fiction Research Association, Yaszek currently serves as a juror for the John W. Campbell and Eugie Foster Science Fiction Awards.
Ida Yoshinaga is an Assistant Professor of Science Fiction Film at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and her screen-studies research centers on the production relations between creative labor from racial/gender/class minority groups and majority-dominated management, within corporate transmedia. Along with workplace allyship between these two unequal statuses, she studies the global stratification of SFF-genre scriptwriting within the story development process, as well as produces and facilitates the development of cultural screenplays for Indigenous or 4th cinema and TV.the development of cultural screenplays for Indigenous or 4th cinema and TV.
Edeliz Zuleta is a Biomechanical Engineering Major and Science Fiction Minor at Georgia Tech. She works in Professor Lisa Yaszek’s Sci Fi Lab, with funding from Georgia Tech’s Center for Women, Science, and Technology and the Ivan Allen College for the Liberal Arts.
Aaron Zwintscher is an adjunct professor of English at the New York City College of Technology. He is also an ambient musician and noise artist.
UPDATE: Thank you for the interest and proposals received so far for the upcoming 6th Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium on Access and SF! We want to extend the deadline until Friday, October 29 to give folks an extended window to submit a proposal, especially considering the personal and professional challenges we all continue to face during the on-going pandemic. Details on submitting a proposal are included below in the original CFP. This year’s program will be announced shortly after the new deadline. If you have any questions, please reach out to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) on behalf of the organizing committee.
This year’s call for papers deadline is Oct. 15, 2021. Details about this year’s symposium and how to submit a proposal are below. The event will be online again this year, so we hope that you can make it regardless of wherever you are!
Call for Papers: Access and Science Fiction: The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium
Date and Time: Thursday, December 9, 2021, 9:00AM-5:00PM EST
Location: Online, Sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.
Organizers: Jill Belli, Wanett Clyde, Jason W. Ellis, Lucas Kwong, and A. Lavelle Porter
One of the pressing issues that came up during last year’s symposium on Race and Science Fiction (SF) concerned access to the genre in terms of opportunities to create, enjoy, celebrate, identify with, and connect with others. Access, of course, is a shared concern of many historically marginalized and oppressed groups, including women, the disabled, LGBTQ+ persons, and the working class. While it’s obvious that issues of access were an important concern before the pandemic, problems with access were amplified and intensified in startling ways, including: bookstore and library closings expanded and created new book deserts; lockdowns closed off easy access for social interaction, community participation, and mentorship; and reduced access to computers, Internet access, and quiet spaces derailed education and business opportunities for many.
These issues with access before and during the pandemic extend to SF. William Gibson’s aphorism, “The future has arrived–it’s just not evenly distributed yet,” offers a conceptual lens for this. While Gibson’s use of the term “future” equates to the technoscientific, we can substitute SF as representing many imagined futures, and those futures represented by SF are not yet evenly distributed in terms of access to the genre for creators, readers, fans, and critics. Lack of access isn’t only a problem for those who might find enjoyment, meaning, and community through SF in the present; it’s also a potentially long term problem that might affect the types of stories that are produced, what characters get created, and who gets to make them. These different aspects of access and SF were of importance when we met last year, but they are even more so now for all affected SF creators, fans, and scholars concerned about what the shape of things to come will be for access and SF.
The Sixth Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium aims to explore the broad theme of “Access and SF” as a way to understand the relationship between access and SF, identify what’s at stake and for whom, foster alliances between those fighting for access, and discuss how improving access for some improves access for all.
We invite proposals for 10-20 minute scholarly paper presentations or 40-60 minute panel discussions related to the topic of Access and SF. Please send a 250-word abstract with title, brief 100-150-word professional bio, and contact information to Jason Ellis (jellis at citytech.cuny.edu) by October 15, 2021. Topics with a connection to Access and SF might include but certainly are not limited to:
Access to Science Fiction for an Audience (reading text, watching films, playing video games, listening to music, etc.)
Access to Science Fiction as a Fan (fandom, community, blogging, vlogging, cons, online, etc.)
Access to Science Fiction as a Creator (writing, directing, developing, composing, etc.)
Access to Science Fiction as a Scholar (special collections, research, teaching with distance learning)
Access to Science Fiction where Roles Collide (navigating access through different relationships to the genre)
Barriers to Access of Science Fiction for an Audience (knowledge, technology, sources, mentors, etc.)
Barriers to Access to Science Fiction as a Creator (biases, racism, sexism, traditional gatekeepers, etc.)
Accessibility, Disability, and Science Fiction (direct access, indirect access, etc.)
Technologies of Access and Accessibility that Relate to SF (applied to creation, consumption, community, criticism, etc.)
Access, Openness, and SF (Digital Humanities, Wikipedia, open source and free software, Fair Use and Copyright, open pedagogy, etc.)
Affinity Politics and Intersectionality Between and Among Groups Working Toward Improved Access to SF
The event is sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.
The Annual City Tech Symposium on Science Fiction is held in celebration of the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, an archival holding of over 600-linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and scholarship. It is in the Archives and Special Collections of the Ursula C. Schwerin Library (Library Building, L543C, New York City College of Technology, 300 Jay Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201). More information about the collection and how to access it is available here: https://openlab.citytech.cuny.edu/sciencefictionatcitytech/librarycollection/.
This is a 2,312-word essay on Chris Columbus’ Bicentennial Man (1999) for a cancelled companion titled When Worlds Collide: The Critical Companion to Science Fiction Film Adaptations for Liverpool University Press. I wrote my first draft and submitted it on May 30, 2009 (discussed here). A year-and-a-half later, the editors sent me suggestions and feedback on Jan. 31, 2011 (discussed here). I returned my substantially revised final draft (included below) on Mar. 1, 2011. My enjoyment of Isaac Asimov’s original novelette and novel-length-expansion with Robert Silverberg as The Positronic Man led me to write for this project when I first saw the call for contributors (even though I had not yet seen Columbus’ film!). I was thick in my PhD work when I wrote the first draft and nearing the end of that phase of my career when I submitted my revised copy. It is, unfortunately, a reminder that sometimes projects don’t work out for any number of reasons. I didn’t want my writing on these stories and its film adaptation to disappear, so I’m sharing it here. I am presenting it as-is based on the original document, which followed the house style provided by the editors–with only changes from British to American English spellings and punctuation use.
Bicentennial Man (1492 Pictures, 1999)
Adapted from Isaac Asimov, ‘Bicentennial Man’ (1976) and Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man (1993)
(Dir. Chris Columbus; Sc. Nicholas Kazan; Pr. Wolfgang Petersen, Gail Katz, Laurence Mark, Neal Miller, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan; Cin. Phil Meheux; P.D. Norman Reynolds; SFX. Dream Quest Images; starring Robin Williams (Andrew); Sam Neill (Sir); Embeth Davidtz (Amanda Martin/Portia Charney); Wendy Crewson (Ma’am); Oliver Platt (Rupert Burns))
Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” (1976) won the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novelette in 1976 and 1977 respectively, and it has appeared continuously in print in various anthologies over the past three decades. Later, Asimov and Silverberg co-wrote a novel-length expansion of the original novelette which appeared in 1993 as The Positronic Man. These two works share a nearly identical plot, and the only additions in the novel include elaborate descriptive language, ancillary dialogue, and notable chapter expansions relating to the history of robotic development and the robot-protagonist Andrew’s trip to the Moon. These expansions are largely insignificant and did not influence Columbus’ critically derided and commercially unsuccessful adaptation.
Asimov and Columbus use their respective media to tell a similar civil rights allegory about a robot with human-like qualities who aspires to a human identity and the rights that accompany it. In Asimov’s original novelette, the robot named Andrew overcomes real threats to his existence and he re-engineers his body in order to convince his society and government to grant him the legal status and rights of a human being, because he desires full self-determination. In this telling, Andrew seeks the legal authority to marry from his government. Both the film and the novelette carry an important message about equality and human dignity, but Asimov’s original story carries the burden much more confidently than the more recent film interpretation of that message.
“The Bicentennial Man” is a unique Bildungsroman about Andrew, a robot who desires and ultimately achieves his humanity by freeing himself from the bonds of robotic servitude through his creative works and personal biology-machine negotiations. Andrew begins his life as a purchased NDR robot by the Martin family and he is assigned domestic duties in their household. Soon after, he is named Andrew by his youngest charge, Little Miss. However, he quickly displays an unexpectedly preternatural creativity at woodworking, carving, and original thought. Andrew’s abilities allow him to obtain his freedom, write a history of robots from a robot’s perspective, develop a new science of biological prosthetics, and transform his machine body into one that is organic. On his 200th birthday, and after orchestrating his own mortality, he achieves recognition from the World Government that he is indeed human. Humanity however besets Andrew’s development from robot to virtual human being, which positions the story as a veiled social critique. A significant scene early in the story establishes why Andrew desires a human identity despite his robotic physicality and grounds the story in the American civil rights era: Lost in the countryside, Andrew is confronted by two men who agree that, “If it doesn’t belong to anyone, he could be ours as much as someone else’s” (Asimov, 1991: 262). At this point, Andrew’s situation connotes the predicament of former American slaves prior to the Civil War who traveled with manumission papers fearing they might be enslaved once again. The men’s disregard for Andrew’s freedom and personhood constitutes a powerful episode in the novelette, because it demonstrates a threat to Andrew’s personhood and a reason for his continuing work toward becoming human. Its absence from the film adaptation is symptomatic of the mishandling of the source material, which will be elaborated below.
Columbus’ Bicentennial Man follows the narrative arc of the original, but it departs from Asimov’s novelette in a number of significant ways with the most consequential being Andrew falls in love with a human woman. It is Andrew’s desire to marry that provides the film a different allegorical message while maintaining a focus on Civil Rights. However, it is important to first note that in the original and adaptation, Andrew attempts to purchase himself from Sir, his human master. However, in the novelette, Sir initially refuses to grant Andrew’s freedom in exchange for money. It is only after Andrew wins a suit brought against robot freedom in the courts that Sir concedes to give Andrew his liberty in exchange for money. In the film, Sir immediately liberates Andrew with the caveat that Andrew vacate the Martin home immediately, and Sir says, ‘You wanted freedom. You must accept the consequences.’ In this regard, Andrew’s initial taste of freedom reflects how African-Americans were evicted from plantations following the Civil War with nowhere to go, but Andrew easily overcomes even this situation. It is on this point that the film fails where Asimov’s novelette endures. Andrew in the film never encounters a potentially hazardous circumstance on his journey to be human, and his battles are not convincingly hard-won. Then, finding himself alone in a world dominated by human beings, he serendipitously meets the cyberneticist Rupert Burns who helps his transition to a mortal human body so that he can romantically pursue Little Miss’ great-granddaughter Portia Charney. Instead of wanting the protections and rights of a human being due to his ambiguously defined legal status as in the original story, Andrew’s motivation for human identity comes from his desire to marry Portia. The film’s approach to a civil rights allegory is significantly different than Asimov’s story, but it is of significant importance to contemporary civil rights, which is addressed in the conclusion. Unfortunately, the film is marred by questionable issues in its handling of its source material and an unusual casting considering its subject matter. The first issue has to do with Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. In the important closing scene moments after Andrew’s death, Portia orders the android Galatea to unplug the machine keeping her alive after Andrew’s death, which is a gross violation of Asimov’s First Law of Robotics: “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” (Asimov, 1991: 126) More importantly, the film’s cast is overwhelmingly white except for the only two prominent characters of color: an unidentified jazz singer (Paula West), and President Marjorie Bota (Lynne Thigpen). Each of these African-American actresses plays an influential role at key moments in Andrew’s transformation from robot to human being. The singer presides over the dance where Andrew begins to understand his feelings for Portia and the President grants Andrew’s request to be recognized as a human being. However, it is surprising that more persons of color were not cast as principles in the film, despite Hollywood’s long history of whitewashing ethnic roles or embracing diversity in its films’ casts considering the allegorical subject matter of the original and its adaptation.
The presentation of the narrative in the original and film also greatly differs. Asimov builds momentum in the novelette through flashback and twenty-three short chapters. These chapters are snapshots in the long life of Andrew Martin as he attempts to transform from robot to human being. Additionally, these episodic chapters rise and fall with dramatic impact from event-to-event until the reader learns Andrew’s ultimate choice and his fate. On the other hand, the film is generally divided between Andrew’s life with the Martins, his search for robots like himself, and his transformation into a human being as he falls in love with Portia. The narrative is slow and plodding, and Robin William’s humor is lost behind the film’s script and special effects veneer. Through its narrative, the film presents a brighter and less dangerous narrative that follows Andrew’s human friendships and ultimately his courtship of a human woman. Besides its relaxed narrative that keeps Andrew out of harm’s way, the film has generally well lit and immaculately clean settings within the home and in the world-at-large, which conveys a sense of safety for Andrew as well as humanity. Furthermore, Columbus avoids dramatic tension by evading conflict or quickly diffusing stress between characters, such as between Andrew and Portia. The director also regularly employs wide shots, which lessens the emotional significance of many scenes. Despite its cinematographic deficiencies, the film endeavors to present a Civil Rights allegory that is closely aligned with its source.
The novelette and film respond to issues of equality and Civil Rights found in many of Asimov’s stories in which robots have to deal with demanding human ‘masters’ spouting slurs, which in other contexts would be considered racist (the use of “boy,” for example: Asimov, 1941: 124). For Asimov and Columbus, Andrew is a bonded servant on two levels – as a thing purchased, owned, and controlled, and as a robot bound by the Three Laws of Robotics first enumerated in Asimov’s short story “Runaround” (1942). Andrew transcends these restrictions on his being and his behavior in order to achieve personhood just as some former African-American slaves overcame their status as property in order to register themselves as persons deserving freedom and equality. In Asimov’s original novelette, Andrew overcomes the threat to his right of self-determination by convincing his society and its government to grant him identical status as a human being, a “Bicentennial Man” (Asimov, 1991: 290). On the other hand, Columbus’ film places its emphasis on a threat to Andrew’s and Portia’s family by calling into question the right of a robot to choose to marry a human being and vice versa. Both are momentous civil rights issues, but the film’s execution of its message appears weighted more toward Andrew’s socialization as Portia’s mate rather than the harsh realities of a society against the marriage of a particular group.
“The Bicentennial Man” deals with ontological concerns and identity politics as is true of many of Asimov’s robot stories. However, Andrew’s story more fully explores one robot’s path from robotic slavery to human freedom, and it does so by closely following models of American slave narratives that emphasize emancipation and personal development. These include Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1798), Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), and Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery (1901). These authors demonstrate their subjecthood as equals of all human beings through their lives and writings, and furthermore, they prevail over Thomas Jefferson’s comments on American slaves in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784): “that in imagination they are dull, tasteless, and anomalous,” and he “never [saw] even an elementary trait of painting or sculpture” (Jefferson, 1984, 267). Likewise, Andrew overcomes society’s expectations by demonstrating that he is artistically creative and an independent thinker who desires freedom. Asimov mirrors slave narratives in his futuristic story: Andrew obtains a personal awareness of his oppressive situation as a robotic slave, he attempts to purchase himself from his master with money saved from his creative labour, he experiences a different way of interacting with humans and robots on the Moon, and he spends his life proving himself an equal of other humans. Andrew, like former American slaves, also demands to know why he is not considered an enfranchised human. He challenges his society’s beliefs about robots, and he ultimately convinces his society and government to grant him equal status with human beings. However, Andrew’s successes in the novelette and film are an oversimplification of the past and present difficulties of people of color to achieve the full benefits of civil rights and wider societal acceptance, but it could be Andrew’s desire to marry a human being in the film adaptation that gives the film more contemporary, perhaps even prophetic importance.
Despite Bicentennial Man’s problems, it may signify the future of civil rights issues in its handling of an individual’s right to marry. Asimov’s novelette appeared a few years after the landmark ruling of the United States Supreme Court in ‘Loving v. Virginia’ (1967), which made all anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional thus legalizing all mixed-race marriages. However, this issue was not explored in the original story. On the other hand, the film relies on the right to marry as the motivation for Andrew’s development in the last half of the film. In order to marry the human woman Portia, Andrew must transcend his robotic body and convince his society and government to allow him the right that human beings take for granted. This civil rights issue raised in the film is prophetic of the growing call for gay men and lesbians to share the legal right to marry. The film appeared three years after the passage of the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which broke the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It dictates that the States must respect the laws of other States. Without DOMA, all States would have had to respect the marriages of gays and lesbians if any one State had made those marriages legal. Civil rights are and will continue to be a struggle for minority groups in the United States, and it is in this light that Bicentennial Man succeeds as a film veiling a message on an on-going civil rights debate.
Isaac Asimov, ‘Bicentennial Man’ in I. Asimov, Robot Visions (New York: ROC, 1991), pp. 245-290. Originally published in Stellar #2 (1976).
Isaac Asimov, ‘Runaround’ in I. Asimov, Robot Visions (New York: ROC, 1991), pp. 113-134. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction (April 1941).
Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, The Positronic Man (New York: Doubleday, 1993).
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1845).
Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (London, 1793).
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (New York: Library of America, 1984), pp. 266. Originally published in 1784.
Booker T. Washington, Up from Slavery: an autobiography (New York: Doubleday, Page & Co., 1901).
For the most part, I have been happy with the AR11’s cooling performance in most of my workflow. However, there were occasional temperature spikes as high as 80C, especially when running software that utilizes all eight cores. And, when higher temperatures were reached after a sustained workload, it took some time before a lower idle temperature in the 30-40C range was reached.
I hypothesized that the AR11 could perform better if it had more airflow (the AR11 comes with a Silverstone-branded 92mm x 92mm x 15mm fan that has straight blades and is nearly silent) and if it had better thermal conductivity (I had used the included disposable packet of thermal grease) between the CPU lid and the AR11’s four heat pipes.
However, I had some limitations to consider. As you can see below, there is only about 15mm of space between the stock AR11 fan and my 3.5″ Western Digital hard disk.
This amount of space would permit me to replace the 15mm tall Silverstone fan with a larger 25mm tall fan. I chose the Noctua NF-A9 PWM after reading so many people sing their praises for Noctua’s products and considering how this fan’s maximum airflow of 78.9 m³/h and static pressure of 2.28 mm H₂O, which make it a good fan for moving air over a heatsink.
After removing the four screws holding the Silverstone fan to the top of the AR11 heatsink, I attached the Noctua NF-A9 with four fine-thread 3/8″ screws that I had on-hand. I attached the fan so that it would push air down and through the fins of the heatsink.
When I had first removed the stock AR11, I had to clean the Silverstone thermal compound off. First, I wiped off the excess with a paper towel, and then, I used cotton swabs dipped in isopropyl alcohol to clean off any residue. I continued cleaning until the swabs remained clean and the metal surfaces of the Ryzen 7 lid and AR11 heatpipes were immaculately clean. With these contact surfaces clean, I applied a very small pea sized amount of Arctic MX-4 thermal compound, which I had read performed very well and was on sale at the time, to the top of the Ryzen 7 lid. I painted the top of the lid with the thermal compound using an old credit card so that there was a very, very thin layer of compound across the top. Finally, I placed the AR11 on top of the Ryzen 7 CPU and affixed the nuts under the motherboard to pull the two together. As you can see in the image above, there is no excess thermal compound extruding out and absolutely no space left between the cooler and the CPU.
After reassembling the Ideacentre, there is about 5mm of space between the Noctua fan on the AR11 and the 3.5″ hard drive (see image above).
After rebooting, I ran Cinebench r23‘s multicore benchmark to max out the CPU. Before replacing the fan and thermal compound, Open Hardware Monitor reported a max temperature of 80C and the Cinebench score was 11,352. After replacing the fan and thermal compound, the max temperature was 69.8C and the Cinebench score was 11,446!
Needless to say, I am happy about the results of this inexpensive upgrade to my computer’s cooling system.
There are three caveats that I should mention in closing.
First, Lenovo’s BIOS has only two fan control settings for its PWM fan headers on the motherboard. These are “Performance,” which I have been using since I first got it–on the stock cooler and the AR11, and “Experience,” which should adjust system fan speeds according to rising or lowering temperatures. Since I want maximum cooling, I am leaving it on the “Performance” setting, but this has the side effect of an audible difference between the Silverstone (virtually silent) and Noctua (noticeable fan noise).
Second, some folks online recommend applying the thermal compound to the AR11’s heatpipes instead of the CPU lid. I didn’t do this, because the heatpipes extend across the Ryzen 7 CPU on two sides. Also, the milled fins between the heatpipes should make contact with the CPU lid, too. I wanted to make sure there was as much heat transfer as possible over the entire face of the Ryzen 7’s lid. Therefore, I applied the thin layer of thermal compound to the entire lid before installing the AR11.
Third, and finally, the AR11 is made for Intel 115x applications. I’m only using it with my Ryzen 7, because Lenovo seems to use the Intel 115x cooling solution hole pattern on both their Intel and AMD motherboards. Also, Lenovo’s chassis-integrated CPU backplate limits what kinds of headsinks that I can easily install. The AR11 uses bolts that don’t require a backplate. When I purchased it, I was unsure if another impressive cooler, the ID-Cooling IS-60, would fit (I think it would not). However, other low profile coolers that might fit within the IdeaCentre 5’s tight interior, such as the Noctua NH-L9x65 and Scythe Big Shuriken 3, use a backplate for installation. The built-in chassis backplate can be removed–the top part is glued down but removable, and the chassis ‘bump’ that hold it in place potentially could be cut out with a Dremel-type tool (but this might not be necessary depending on the thickness of the backplate used.