SFRA 2007 Conference

The SFRA 2007 Conference is right around the corner! My panel presentation is on Saturday, 7 July at 10:30am. You can read the full schedule here.

I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces and meeting new people too. Lisa and Doug will be there, and Ed Carmien will too (I was going to read on his reviews panel, but it’s running concurrently with my panel). Most importantly, I can’t wait to see my girlfriend, Laura in Kansas City.

Now, I need to write my paper on identity in BSG!

Neil Gaiman’s “Goliath”

I’ve been considering writing a paper to submit to the 2007 Short Story Conference at Edge Hill University. This year’s theme is, “‘The Story Shall Be Changed’: Tales and Re-tellings in the Short Story.” I knew that Neil Gaiman had done this sort of thing with some of his novels such as American Gods and Anansi Boys, but I wasn’t sure where to start with his short stories. Luckily, Gaiman provides ‘liner notes’ in the introduction for each story and poem in his collections Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. One story grabbed my attention in Fragile Things, called “Goliath.”

He originally wrote it after reading the script to The Matrix for inclusion on the movie’s official website (read it here). The story is set in the machine world future of The Matrix, and it’s about one human being selected to protect Earth from an alien intruder in nearby space. What makes this story special is that Gaiman inverts the David and Goliath story in his retelling of the tale. I’ve only just begun my research on this, but I think it will lead to a promising essay.

If you haven’t read this cyberpunk story, I recommend you check it out. Even though SF isn’t Gaiman’s modus operandi, it’s a well developed story that evokes the feel and detailed imagery of The Matrix.

Back from Cambridge

I just made it back from Cambridge and the SF and the Canon Conference at Anglia Ruskin University. I had a great time in Cambridge, and I’ve already planned out everything that I’m going to do there as soon as I can get back! One day is not enough to see everything.

I arrived in Cambridge on Thursday afternoon. Immediately, I began to figure some things out about this university town. First, there are nearly as many bicycles as there are people. In fact, I believe that I saw some bicycles perversely riding other bicycles in order to go about their bicycle affairs. Second, Cambridge is the de facto spring break location for French young people. I would need Vishnu’s fingers to count the number of French invaders that I encountered about the city. One observation that I made about the French young adults is that they are more rude and loud than British youth. Third and final characteristic of the people that I met in this town is that couples and groups of people maintain a constant and unbreakable SEP field. A SEP or Somebody Else’s Problem Field allows one to disregard and not consciously register external stimuli that is too much for their minds to deal with at that time, or as I append, stimuli that run counter to their inflated sense of self importance. There were numerous times that I would either stop dead still or barrel through a crowd on the narrow sidewalks, because those persons apparently expected me to walk in the busy streets (full of bicycle and motor congestion) or magically fly over them on a Nimbus 2000 (which unfortunately I left at home). In any event, I spread good cheer amongst these dimwits by glaring, telling them what I thought of their mothers, and using my psychokinetic powers to explode their heads.

With my rant out of the way, let’s go on to the good stuff…

On Thursday, I began exploring the city between the Travelodge and Anglia Ruskin University on East Road. Feeling a grumble in my tummy, I went to Chili’s for supper where I had a juicy burger, a Budweiser, and a slice of pecan pie. After dinner, I went for a stroll down some of the (well lit) side streets, and then headed back to the hotel after my hiking boots suffered a enigmatic malfunction.

Friday was my day to enjoy the city. It was overcast and cold, but I was able to see most of the colleges that make up Cambridge University. However, I didn’t actually go into all of the colleges, because they charge admission to let you walk around in certain areas. I did pay to go into Kings College, which was very impressive. The church and the grounds adjacent to the River Cam are amazing and very impressive to see in person. I can’t imagine what it would be like to actually attend school there or at one of the other colleges. I know that I would relish walking on the well manicured lawns that off limits to tourists, and I would be lost in the corridors of the buildings letting history osmotically permeate my body. I headed back to the hotel at sundown, because I was tired after all of the walking (I understand why there are so many bicycles in Cambridge now). I went back out that evening for a thin crust Dominos pizza (Americana–noticing a trend here?) and I checked my email at a cybercafe. Before going to sleep, I discovered an important piece of information about the hotel that their website didn’t indicate–there was a bumper car ride beneath my window. Luckily, I was so tired that I eventually drifted off to sleep.

Saturday–the big day! I got up bright and early and donned my J. Crew suit for the conference, and I walked the approximately two miles to Anglia Ruskin University. After navigating the labyrinthine halls of the main building, I found our room where Professor Brown was already setting everything up. Other conference members began showing up shortly thereafter. The only people that I already knew there were Andy and Sandor, but I quickly met many of the others. In the afternoon, I presented my paper on H.G. Wells’ “A Story of the Days to Come” and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. Chris Beckett and others had some great comments on my paper that got the discussion going. I was very pleased with my presentation and the discussion that followed. Of the papers that I hadn’t heard prior to the conference, my favorites were Keverne Smith’s “The Tempest and Frankenstein: Forerunners of SF,” Genevieve Liveley’s “A Cyborg Geneaology: Science, Fiction, and the Classics,” and Michael Bywater’s “Zorking Hell: How the PC Made Hobbits of Us All.” Congratulations to Professor Sarah Annes Brown for hosting a superb conference!

After the conference, about ten of us adjourned to Cafe Adriatic, a local Italian restaurant for good food, fine wine, and lively talk. Lyndsey and I talked about Battlestar Galactica and Will Ferrell, Andy tried to exorcise my inner Darth Vader, and I overheard Tony Keen say something about Blake’s 7. Folks began leaving around 9:00pm, so Andy and I talked shop over bitters at The Cambridge Blue. When I eventually made it back to my room, I discovered that there was a bumper car ride directly beneath my window. I thought–huh. I was so tired that the screams, shouts, and collisions really didn’t hinder my ability to quickly attain unconsciousness.

All good things…On Sunday morning, I woke up at 8:00am, but I decided to drift in and out of sleep until about 9:00am. However, the fire alarm expedited my getting out of bed, dressed, and hobbling down the stairs with Coke in hand. I took a seat on the bumper car ride and waited for the alarm to go off. After twenty minutes, it ceased, so all of us waiting in the cold began to shuffle back inside. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go up the stairs, because there was a commotion making its way down the stairs. A cop had a black 30-something lady in an arm lock and she was yelling and cussing incoherences (though, I just finished reading Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, so I feel a bit of consternation about this). She was taken outside, and most of the guests stayed near a window downstairs or in the stairwell watching the drama unfold. I walked past them to go back to my room and get ready to catch the train back to Liverpool.

I dropped my keys off after a shower, and I walked to the train station. I considered hanging out there, but I decided to get a little more sightseeing in before I had to leave. I walked up to St. John’s College and took some pictures of the gondolas on the River Cam, and I walked down some unfamiliar streets. Feeling tourist satiated, I made my way back to the train station and I caught my train to Nuneaton, and then the next train to Liverpool. I arrived back in Liverpool after being on the rails for about four hours, and I walked up Edge Hill to Melville Grove.

I had a wonderful time at the SF and the Canon Conference, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Cambridge. There is a lot more that I’d like to see there, such as touring all of the Cambridge colleges and the Duxford Imperial War Museum (an enormous air power museum that has an impressive Cold War and American aircraft selection). Hopefully, I can make my way back there soon!

I have tons of pictures to upload to Flickr, but I need to clean them up first. I’ll let you know as soon as they’re available.

Off to Cambridge

I’ll be off for Cambridge tomorrow afternoon. I’m looking forward to the conference, and I’m glad that I am prepared for it despite suffering a debilitating bout with the flu over the past week.

While I was at the city centre today, I saw these nanotechnology cleaning wipes that are apropos to the topic of my SF and the Canon paper, “Projecting Victorians into the Future Through the Works of H.G. Wells and Steampunk.” The steampunk example that I’m using is Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, which is all about nanotechnology.

When I get back from Cambridge, I’ll turn my attention to the two twenty page papers that I need to write for my course modules and the dissertation presentation that I need to prepare for May.

I’ll fill you in on everything when I get back to Liverpool in a few days!

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!

Cambridge Bookings

Today, I finalized my train and hotel accommodation bookings for the Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge SF and the Canon Conference on 24 March. I’ll take the train down to Cambridge (about a four hour ride) on 22 March and I’ll return to Liverpool on 25 March. I ended up finding accommodation at Travelodge, because all of the Bed and Breakfast places were booked. I plan on doing some sightseeing while I’m in Cambridge. I can’t wait to check out the University of Cambridge and I plan on raiding the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics!

Tonight, Christian and I went to the Kenneth Allot Chair of English Inaugural Lecture given by Professor Marcus Walsh on “Telling Tales & Gathering Fragments: Jonathan Swift’s Tale of a Tub.” It was an entertaining presentation, and the reception afterwards was very nice. Jonathan, Christian, and I spoke to Professor Walsh afterwards.

On the way back to Melville Grove, Christian and I ran into Sunshine and Jean on an after dinner walk. We joined them for a stroll around the Metropolitan Cathedral, and then we continued on our way to the campus residences. Jean treated Sunshine and I to her first stab at a lemon cake, which wasn’t that bad. It’s better than I would have done, so I can’t complain!

An Interesting Story–I found out something interesting today regarding my degree from the University of Liverpool. During our Utopias Module today, Sunshine, Andy, and I were debating what actually goes on our degree. Andy couldn’t remember for sure, Sunshine assumed it would be an MA in English, and I assumed it would be an MA in SF Studies. In order to resolve the question without any dispute, I emailed D. Harlan Wilson, a 1998 MA in SF Studies alumnus and author of the upcoming Dr. Identity, to ask him what was on his degree. He quickly replied that:

| I’m looking at my ULiverpool M.A. on my wall right now. It reads:
| Degree of Master of Arts
| Nothing, curiously, about science fiction — I never noticed that!

There you go! I was expecting something more than that, but that’s all there is to it. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to have that piece of paper in hand (hopefully I’ll actually frame it, unlike my Georgia Tech degree that’s still in the mailing tube).

Picture above: The 86 double decker bus for Smithdown Road and Penny Lane obscures one of the local comic shops I frequent in Liverpool.


I got an email from Professor Sarah Annes Brown that I’ve been accepted to present at the SF and the Canon Conference at Anglia Ruskin University on March 24 in Cambridge. I’ll be presenting my paper on Steampunk and H.G. Wells. I’m really excited!

This afternoon, I met Andrea at The Foundation Building for coffee at Costa. Luckily it wasn’t busy, and we were able to get a nice table at the back. We had a good talk, and she filled me in on all of the drama that she’s been witness to lately (those Russians sure are nuts). I’ll be going over to her flat on Wednesday to make my world-famous American burgers for her, Anja, and Ardy. That should be good fun, but she’ll be leaving for Germany next Monday.

Also today, I finished all of my application materials for LSU. Now, I have two more schools (Kansas and Kent State) to take care of immediately, and one (Liverpool) that can stew for awhile.

In other news: If you’ve been to Texas recently and you have headaches, you might consider getting checked for brain worms!