Subterranean Steampunk Blues

I have eleven days before I leave for Cambridge and the SF and the Canon Conference, but I’m having a devil of a time rewriting my Steampunk and H.G. Wells paper. I’m scrapping my original paper, which had an introductory tone, and writing a new version that looks more at the pastiche of H.G. Wells in particular steampunk works. I just returned from the Sydney Jones Library where I checked out Patrick Parrinder’s Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction, and Prophecy, which sounds like it has some useful material that I saw referenced in an article on Wells and language.

During the past week:

On Wednesday, we had a marathon day of class. It began in the morning with Le Guin’s three Hainish novels, and we concluded in the afternoon with Joanna Russ’ The Female Man. I think our discussion of the latter established that I’m the feminist of the group!

Wednesday evening, Linda and I went to a public debate over the question, “Is God a Delusion?” It is best summed up as a surreal experience. Let me begin by describing the David Lynch inspired panel. The moderator looked like Jack Nance from Eraserhead. Dr. Mike Begon, Professor of Ecology, looked like Special Agent Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) from Twin Peaks, and Dr. William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in California, looked just like Leland Palmer from Twin Peaks. It was very weird hearing these guys talk and react to what each other were saying, but it was interesting seeing how the two structured the arguments. I was let down that Craig aligned his argument that God is not a delusion by connecting it to “historical facts” related to Jesus. Begon did an admiral job by not letting Craig’s snide remarks get to him, and he had a well prepared case based around the difference between axioms and assertions. This was the first debate I’ve attended, and I’m already chomping at the bit for more!

I met with David Seed on Thursday morning to discuss my PhD Dissertation Proposal to the School of English at the University of Liverpool, which is tentatively titled, “Cyborgs and the Reconfiguration of the Technologized Other During the Global War on Terrorism.” We had a very good discussion and he suggested some works that I had not yet considered. Also, he was very positive about my topic and the questions that I want to investigate. He pointed out that it’s new ground and that I should go for it before someone else does!

On Friday, Sunshine, Philippa, and I went to the Unity Theatre to see Hazmat and Me. It wasn’t the comedy that it was billed as, but it was a Cold War cattle-prod of technocratic guilt and redemption through confrontation of one’s suppressed memories. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece, but I can understand why it wasn’t for everyone. Afterwards, the chitchat over wine was a less jarring, but equally rewarding experience.

If you haven’t already checked it out, you should listen to Dylan Hears a Who–a collection of Dr. Seuss rhymes sung in the style of Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues.

I’m going to call my folks and then get back to work on my paper. Later tonight, Ardy and I are going to attempt to fry some unidentified vegetables to go with spaghetti. If I don’t post any more updates, you’ll know that the results were disastrous!

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.