SFRA 2010, Saturday, Avatar and Empire

Saturday, June 26, was Yufang’s and my big day at SFRA 2010. We missed the first part of the conference, because we were called to the Cleveland branch of USCIS for Yufang’s green card interview. Luckily, we arrived in time for the last full day of the conference and Craig was nice to arrange the panels so that we were able to participate.

Our day began with the 11:00am paper session: Avatar and Empire. Mack Hassler expertly moderated the panel, which included presentations by me (“James Cameron’s Avatar and the Machine in the Garden: Reading Movie Narratives and Practices of Production”), Yufang (“A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema Concerning White Males, the Military, and the Alien Other: A Reading of Avatar Against Apocalypse Now”), and Jari Kakela (“Robots, Rationalism, and Endless Growth: The Role of Frontier Expansionism in Asimov’s Work”).

In terms of the theme of the conference, Jari’s presentation was right on the money. I enjoyed hearing his reading of Asimov with Turnerian manifest destiny. Before I made the switch to more contemporary science fictions, I cut my teeth with Asimov at Georgia Tech and in my first SFRA paper. Jari demonstrated that Asimov’s robot and Foundation stories still have much to offer us in thinking about the continuing American project of frontier expansion.

Yufang and I each had terrific responses to our essays. Janice Bogstad, Andrew Hageman, Richard Erlich, and this year’s Pilgrim Award winner Eric Rabkin, among others, provided some insightful comments and tough questions. In particular, Eric’s observations on the positive aspects of Avatar are important to keep in mind–even for us who made critical analyses of the film, but Janice was quick to point out the difference between our works, particularly Yufang’s, as analysis and readings versus attacks. We had a fantastic discussion during the panel, which carried over into the hallway afterwards.

I should also say that this was Yufang’s first SFRA, and it was the first time that we presented together at the same conference (though we have presented together before at the AGES Symposium before at Kent State).

After the panel, we went to lunch with Mack and Sue Hassler, Adam Frisch, William Sun, and Jari. Then, it was off to the 2:00pm roundtable on Immigration, Alienation, and Arizona SB 1070.

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Posted in Conference, Science Fiction, SFRA
4 comments on “SFRA 2010, Saturday, Avatar and Empire
  1. […] SFRA 2010, Saturday, Avatar and Empire […]

  2. […] Rabkin again (we first met Professor Rabkin at the SFRA 2010 meeting in Carefree, AZ, read about it here). He is the only member of the outside review committee who I happen to […]

  3. […] Yufang and I enjoyed seeing the film together, but I was haunted by the artificiality of the 3D effects. I think that the 3D re-processing of the film created with artificial dinosaurs makes the unreality of the dinosaurs that much more present. However, I do not mean that the 3D effects make the dinosaurs seem fake. In fact, there are several scenes–particularly involving T-Rex after Dennis Nedry (Wayne Knight) shuts down the security fences–that make the dinosaurs seem more real. What I mean is that the 3D’s cardboard-cutout-ness of layered scenes (foreground, midground (action usually), and background) makes the film feel more artificial than the original 2D film. The trick that our brains play on us as we see a 2D film is far more immersive to me than most 3D films–especially the ones that have 3D added as an afterthought and money making venture. Of course, Avatar is a different story altogether that I spoke about at the 2010 Science Fiction Research Association Conference [some details available here]. […]

  4. […] This example of Recovered Writing is an essay that I wrote for the 2010 Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) Conference in Arizona. I delivered the paper on June 26, 2010 on a panel moderated by my dissertation advisor Donald “Mack” Hassler and with my wife Yufang Lin (who presented a paper evaluating Avatar in terms of postcolonial theory). I wrote about our experience at the Arizona conference here. […]

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Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

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.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.


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