2013 SFRA/Eaton Conference Schedule is Available Online

The 2013 SFRA/Eaton Conference at the University of California at Riverside will take place from April 11 to April 13, 2013. The conference schedule is now online here.

If you are not committed to going for a presentation or panel, you should check out the awesome lineup of papers, panels, and author readings. If all of the special guests can attend, the awards banquet on Saturday night should be a blast, too. The SFRA/Eaton Conference is well worth your time and money, because it brings together the best SF scholars and fosters the best conversation, collaboration, and collegiality.

I really wanted to attend this year to revisit Riverside (a wonderful city with a great university and library collection) and see my many SFRA friends and colleagues. Unfortunately, I had to withdraw my paper prior to the deadline for personal reasons. Sadly, this will be the first meeting that I have missed since my first SFRA conference in White Plains, New York in 2006.

For everyone going to the SFRA/Eaton Conference, I wish you all a fantastic and energizing meeting, and I hope to see you all down the trail!

Dragon*Con 2011 or Bust, via Security Theater

Y dropped me off at CLE and I accepted the TSA’s mandated security theater and body scan. My odds for future cancer potentially ticked up thanks to a lack of transparency. John W. Campbell Jr wrote about a similar problem with transparency related to the development of the atomic bomb. He wrote that it was ludicrous of the government to restrict free speech and education at the beginning of the Cold War. Open discussion, he argued, will yield results while no discuss simply impairs our ability to develop plans, countermeasures, and new technologies. Burying our heads in the sand of authority and not openly discussing how to effectively oppose terrorism without trampling privacy and personal health will continue to lead us down a dark path.

Boarding for Atlanta begins soon.

Beware Institutions and Their Androids

Science fiction author Philip K. Dick wrote an important essay that I return to often titled “The Android and the Human.” In this essay, Dick warns us against the modern tendency of humans becoming androids. Instead of this human-to-android taking place as a result of some kind of technoscientific subversion of the flesh by the mechanical, he sees a far darker tendency of human beings replacing their humanity with computer code. What he means by this is that humans are increasingly falling back on laws and rules put in place by institutions and governments as a way to act and relate to other humans. Like androids, which execute code to regulate their bodies and navigate the world, humans are likewise executing code in concrete and invariable ways that can result in dire results for the human-android and much more so for the recipient of the human-android’s actions. Dick celebrates human flexibility over the android’s inflexibility. Human beings can make exceptions while androids cannot. I find myself in a situation dealing with androids, now.

Y and I missed the Kent State GSS International Travel Grant deadline for this Summer. This was, admittedly, our fault, because we thought that there was only one kind of travel reimbursement for graduate students. GSS actually offers a non-competitive travel reimbursement for domestic travel and a competitive travel grant for international travel. We have received the domestic travel reimbursement before, and it is relatively easy to apply for. As we learned too late, the international travel grant is much more involved: it requires several pages of writing, letters of recommendation, and additional documentation. We could not get these things together before we left for the SFRA 2011 meeting in Lublin, Poland, but we figured that we would take a chance and apply once we returned thinking that if there were still moneys available, we may be able to receive some funding for our trip. We were wrong.

We learned today that GSS follows their rules as precisely as an android, and their deadlines are as immutably inscribed as the pathways on a circuit. To use a Monopoly game analogy, there is no pass-go and there is no collecting $200. Our applications will not even be considered, because we missed the deadline for this grant. Also, we cannot even apply for less funding through the non-competitive domestic reimbursement. This is an extreme let down for us not only because we spent time putting together our applications, but also because we asked our recommendation letter writers to spend their time, energy, and consideration on our behalf.

Institutions and bureaucracies develop their own logic in order to produce some result. They are in effect computers: accepting an input, doing work on that input, and producing a result based on the input and the operation on that input. GSS is an institution that supports Kent State’s graduate students, and I certainly don’t want to disparage the good work that GSS does. However, I worry about the inflexibility of these institutions and the persons who work in these institutions as much as Dick does in “The Android and the Human.” Do the humans in these institutions willing give over their human inflexibility in exchange for the android-power that they derive from their position? Or, do the institutions impose androidness on the humans that continue the operations of the institution-computer? Do the humans, in effect, become the transistors within the circuits of institutional power?

I’m not advocating that we ditch these institutions, because we certainly couldn’t get a lot of the work that we do get done without them. However, I, like Dick, believe that we need to assert our humanity when confronted with the inflexibility of the android. Institutions cannot by themselves do anything–it is the human beings acting as the nodes of power emanating from the institution that do things for, on, or by others. Similarly, the human beings at the mercy of institutions and their androids can certainly assert their humanity, too, but this may not sit well with institutional androids at various nodes within the greater networks of power.

I suppose even if institutional androids cannot or will not inject a little humanity into the institutions that they inhabit, I wonder if instead we can add a little fuzzy logic to the institutions to make them less concretely computerized. Of course, any operation working its way through a set of instructions is still android-like. However, adding some kind of flexibility to the system might make it more appealing (personable?) to those on the outside who are at the institution’s and by extension the institutional androids’ mercy.

My wallet could certainly use some fuzzy logic right about now.

SLSA 2011 Registration Reminder

Unfortunately, I can’t make it to SLSA this year in Ontario. However, I hope that those of you who are going remember to pay your registrations (and have a great time)!

Carol Colatrella, SLSA Executive Director, sent out the following reminder by email this morning:

PLEASE NOTE: Conference participants should note the early date of the 2011 meeting and should observe the registration deadline. Making travel arrangements in a timely way is also recommended.

From DECODINGS
Newsletter of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts
Summer 2011, Vol. 20, No.4

SLSA 2011, Kitchener-Waterloo—CONFERENCE UPDATE
25th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts
PLACE: Kitchener, Ontario
VENUES: Delta Hotel Kitchener, THEMUSEUM, Critical Media Lab (all within three short city blocks)
DATES: September 22-25, 2011
SITE COORDINATOR: Marcel O’Gorman, University of Waterloo
PROGRAM CHAIRS: Melissa Littlefield and Robert Markley, U. of Illinois; Susan Squier, Penn State University

The program committee has sent out responses to those who proposed papers or panels. Please contact Melissa Littlefield (mml@illinois.edu), Susan Squier (sxs62@psu.edu), or Robert Markley (rmarkley@illinois.edu) with questions.

This year’s conference in Kitchener/Waterloo, Ontario, is promising to be quite an extravaganza. In addition to our usual array of exciting panels and celebrity plenary speakers (Bernard Stiegler and Isabelle Stengers), the conference will also host an exhibition at the Critical Media Lab, following our theme of Pharmakon. The work in this show will range from bronze cast pharmaceuticals, to antique syringes filled with red dye from Bible covers, to an interactive conversation with Wittgenstein designed to be played with the left hand. Delegates will also have a chance to experience CAFKA, Kitchener’s biennial of public art, including locative interventions by the geo-art group Spurse and architectural mutations by west coast artist Reece Terris. Finally, THEMUSEUM will be hosting an exhibition of computational art, including classic work by Manfred Mohr, Alan Rath, and Peter Vogel, in addition to a major new digital installation by David Rokeby.

For additional details, including online registration and hotel booking, please visit the blog-style conference web site, which evolves as new information becomes available: http://litsciarts.org/slsa11/ .

Delta Hotel Discount Deadline: August 22, 2011
Conference Registration Deadlines/Fees:

By September 15: Faculty $190, Students $100

After September 15: Faculty $210, Students $115

At the Conference: Faculty $225, Students $125

SLSA MEMBERSHIP: Participants in the 2011 conference must be 2011 members of the Society for Literature Science and the Arts. For more information about SLSA, please visit the organization website at http://www.litsciarts.org.

BOOK + ART PANELS: The SLSA Publications Committee has solicited proposals from published authors, artists, and curators who wish to discuss their RECENT work in a longer format than a regular panel presentation. The panel will consist of the author/artist/curator and two respondents/commentators. Thanks to the Publications Committee–Ron Broglio, Elizabeth Wilson, and Rob Mitchell for organizing panels that will discuss books including Susan Squier’s Poultry Science, Chicken Culture (2011); Brendon Larson’s Metaphors for Environmental Sustainability: Redefining our Relationship with Nature (2011); Rich Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy (2011); and Thierry Bardini’s Junkware (2011). Panels that involve artists and curators will be arranged in a special conference stream to be held at THEMUSEUM.

Masculinities Conference at Kent State Wrap-Up, Photos, and Links

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dynamicsubspace/6020509501/in/set-72157627382578932

I didn’t get to attend the final day of the Masculinities Conference, but I did share an unofficial conference wrap-up with Seth, Dave, Doug, Lauren, Mary, and Tony on Sunday evening.

I think that Kevin and Stefan did a superb job putting together the second of their trilogy of conferences as part of their larger project on transatlantic masculinities.

Although I didn’t attend every session, I was impressed by the sessions that I did attend. There were a variety of disciplines and theoretical approaches represented by the presenters and their work.

Even though I do not specifically work on masculinities studies, it was an enlightening experience to see how others work and think about the topics of the conference.

You can click the photo above or here to see more pictures from the conference, and you can read my conference notes on the links below.

Masculinities Conference, Session 6, Manning the Nation

Masculinities Conference, Session 5, Drama Queens

Masculinities Conference, Session 3, Gendered Inversions

Masculinities Conference, Session 2, Scripting Manliness

Masculinities Conference at Kent State, Session 1, Handle with Care

Where to Be in Kent This Weekend: MASCULINITIES BETWEEN THE NATIONAL AND THE TRANSNATIONAL, 1980 TO THE PRESENT AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE

Masculinities Conference, Session 6, Manning the Nation

After the break (amazing brownie and peanut butter cookie), the final session of the day began for the Masculinities Conference.

The first speaker, Davinia Thornley, presented on “Out of the Blue: A Case of ‘National Genre Confusion’?” Pressures to enforce generic conventions on non-US film making that represent stereotypes about those nations. “Man alone” >> “Domestic life”  films. “Out of the Blue” stars Karl Urban. Two mass shootings in the history of New Zealand. Wandering camera perspective. “Man alone” films + Critical Suggestions by Art Cinema? Man Alone is social problem. Importance of community. Importance of authorial vision. Aramoana.

Ed Madden presented his paper, “Intimacy, Affect, and Masculinity in Ireland, 1998-2001.” Cultural specificity. Ireland went from poorest to richest nation. Liberalization. Secularization. Celtic tiger. Positivity of homoeroticism/homosocial > disrupt the social and the sexual. Ed showed us a short film titled “Chicken.”

Unease and discomfort. Forms of masculinity that allows for broader emotional responses. Edelman. Deviant sexual potential. Quar (Irish word for queer). Private versus public. Affect. Semiotically linked. Visual echo or chiming. “I don’t know why I brought you up here”–similarity to Brokeback Mountain.

Merri Lisa Johnson presented, “The Other Protest Psychosis: Borderline Personality Disorder and Black Masculinity in Mainstream US Hip Hop.” Her presentation was rescheduled from yesterday. Instead of schizophrenia, she argues that it is BPD. Crip feminist analysis. Crip theory? Gendering of supposed mental diseases–why are those persons diagnosed with BPD primarily female?  Criticisms against the DSM. Why are hip hop videos considered not art when supposed art house films depict similar imagery? Kanye’s public embarrassments and humiliations–turning the monstrous from outside to in. Lil Wayne. Monstrosity. Compulsive Able Mindedness. Not saying these guys have BPD (Narcissism). BPD can be turned into an “optic of analysis” in feminist studies for reading stereotyped groups. She mentioned this cool blog: Racialicious.

Q&A:

Argentinian gay films.

Irish film: The Long Falling. Less and less coalition building after decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland.

Bill on the film Chicken: how you hold your beer to drink it. One man teaching another man to do what you do. The gay man who takes his own sperm/load into himself. Centralizing view that takes it into yourself and produce difference. Narcisitic image, holding one’s self, hands on top of one another. Redirect the energy into himself. “Spew!” He blows his load. How would you struggle with the term homosexual and queer? Does homo mean the same? Obsessed with his own image, looks for another man hoping to find that other man within himself. “I’m just shooting stuff in your direction.”

Homosexuality has a pathological background.

Chicken shown to adolescent men and women in Ireland. Men interested in the film until they hold hands, and then they viscerally push back. Women uninterested UNTIL they boys hold hands. Marketing has framed it as a gay film. Director says it was not a gay film. Queer film?

Problems of terminology.

David Gray. No talk about his sexuality. Collected guns–highly unusual behavior that the community kind of allowed, which set an unfortunate precedent according to Davinia. Outsider within the community. Small disagreements over the rocks Gray was putting around his crib/patch. Davinia hadn’t seen a gun until she first come to the US when she was 25.

Heavenly Creatures.

New Zealand film industry. Before the Gray film, the director did a popular film, Scarfies. Some resistance to Out of the Blue from community at first. Sarkies argued to them that he was from that community, too. Community involvement.

Kanye: “GWB doesn’t care about black people.” Crazy person vs. the political core of that statement. Crip theory allows you to see both at the same time.

Psychosocial–cluster of mental disabilities, social contexts create or exacerbate those conditions, mental conditions that break with reality.

Man alone is the problem. No single man alone solves the problem created by Gray. Several main characters responding to the trouble. The community responds and the community is the center of the story. Does not reify the man alone. Staring girl doesn’t buy Davinia’s explanation.

Monstrous black male. Co-opting the word ‘monster’ as the black community had previously co-opted the word ‘nigger’?

Madness and hiphop–Lauryn Hill. Removal of her from the public of hiphop? “Mad with motherhood.” Other controversies?

Masculinities Conference, Session 5, Drama Queens

Back at the Masculinities Conference for day two. Unfortunately, I missed the earlier Pater Familias session. Now, it session five: Drama Queens.

Wieland Schwanebeck studies Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels and film adaptations in his presentation, “Mr. Ripley’s Renaissance: Adaptable Masculinities for the New Millennium.” I wasn’t aware of the many film adaptations of the different Ripley novels.

Charity Fox presented, “At Home in the Battlefield: Mercenaries and paramilitary Patriotism in The A-Team, 1983-87.” This is the first of two presentations on a television show (and its novelizations). I had not heard of James William Gibson’s Warrior Dreams. Susan Jeffords’ Hard Bodies, too. Charity’s presentation was perhaps the most interesting so far for me, because I grew up watching The A-Team in the early-mid 1980s.

E. Anna Claydon continues her work in an earlier book in her presentation, “Masculinity and the Crime Drama in Britain and the U.S.: The Transnationality of the Detective and His Nemesis.” Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Monk, and Sherlock Holmes. Alternative Sherlock characters. There was a question about age-focus for The A-Team. I added that I grew up watching The A-Team and that there was a line of A-Team action figures. Final note: the Supreme Court said recently that the US govt can regulate sex but violence is a free-for-all.

Why is the conference attendee sitting in front of me continually turning around to look at me taking notes on my laptop? This is the year 2011 and laptop computers are rather ubiquitous now, correct? I can safely report that I returned her dirty look with a Gorgon-like stare.

Q&A: What day of the week is masculinity scheduled for television? Other Vietnam vet starring character shows from the 1980s: Magnum PI, Airwolf, MacGyver, others?

Masculinities Conference, Session 3, Gendered Inversions

The third session of the Masculinities Conference on Gendered Inversions features two presentations on upended gendered expectations of heteronormativity. Nadyne Stritzke’s “The Manly Art of Pregnancy: Male Pregnancy as a Narartiv, Socio-Culture, and Subversive Phenomenon” was the only presentation so far to explicitly evoke feminist science fiction including Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time. However, she distinguishes between non-female pregnancy (e.g., alien intervention) and male pregnancy. Nadyne posed a final research question about whether there really is an m-preg genre. I believe that she already knew the answer to this as yes (in part at least). Another question might be to what extent this is a more widely accepted narrative device?  There is a fair amount of fanfic and a notable collection of science fiction stories, TV episodes (Star Trek Enterprise), and films (Junior) [more here]. Mirjam M. Frotscher explores the novels Stone Butch Blues, Sacred Country, Trumpet, and Middlesex in her presentation, “Gaining Visibility/Undoing Maleness: Non-Normative Masculinities since the 1990s.”

This session is sustaining the strongest among strong today’s q&a sessions. There’s something to be said for two paper sessions on complementary themes. Thoughts on psychoanalysis and narratology. Other examples–beginning of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms features Italian soldiers walking over the hill with their ammo belts appear pregnant. Is there a difference between telling about male pregnancy and showing male pregnancy? In books, moves close to the character without having to define the character in a singular term. Some books provide more descriptions of the character/body while others do not. Ian M. Banks’ has characters in his novels who can swap at will between male and female bodies–what titles? Two categorical considerations: Morphological anxiety over what goes where–Will Self’s book. Voice and passing, voice of self determination.

Masculinities Conference, Session 2, Scripting Manliness

We are now into the question and answer portion of the Masculinities Conference second session, Scripting Manliness. Erik Pietschmann presented on The Beach and American Psycho, Raili Marling presented on Blue Valentine, and Keisha Lindsay presented on black men’s crisis narratives. This was a very integrated session even though the papers were independently conceived. Besides the theoretical connections between the papers, each presenter seems to take a very careful and nuanced approach to their respective subjects.

Lots of energized commenting and questions . . . Professor Babacar M’Baye is raising issues of multiplicities of masculinities and how that relates to black men on both sides of the Atlantic . . . Professor Stefan Horlacher raises significant questions about the panelists’ definitions of violence and masculinity, because the definitions employed could radically change the framework of the respective papers.

Masculinities Conference at Kent State, Session 1, Handle with Care

The Masculinities Conference at Kent State is already off to a great start. We are in the Q&A of the first session after Seth Friedman and Kerry Luckett gave their respective presentations on The Usual Suspects/Unbreakable and Zombie/Silence of the Lambs.

In particular, Kerry’s presentation got me thinking about my monstrous cyborgs encyclopedia article that I am currently writing. Skins and surfaces are important elements to consider when it comes to defining the cyborg as a monstrous hybrid being, because there are subversive cyborgs that hide their hybridity (and can be revealed).

Even though this isn’t a science fiction conference, we just went into Luke Skywalker’s asexual behavior save the relationship/flirtation with his sister. I knew that this would be a good conference!