SFRA 2010, Saturday, Awards Banquet

On Saturday evening as the temperature descended from 114 degrees, everyone converged on the Carefree Opera House pictured above for the prebanquet reception and awards banquet.

The reception inside the western themed (and air conditioned) opera house was a pleasant beginning to the evening. SFRA members mingled and chatted over drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Then, we all sat down for the banquet and awards presentation conducted by SFRA President Lisa Yaszek.

Dave Mead began the award presentations with the Graduate Student Paper Award (our last–hereafter known as the Best Student Paper Award), which Alfredo Suppia accepted on behalf of Andrew Ferguson, who is currently studying at the University of Liverpool.

Patrick Sharp awarded the Mary Kay Bray Award for best review or essay in the SFRA Review to Ritch Calvin (next year, I will be the chair of this committee) for his very informative article, “Mundane SF 101.”

Doug Davis presented the Clareson Award for Distinguished Service to Dave Mead (I was on Dave’s panel at my first SFRA conference in 2006–I quickly learned how friendly and helpful a guy he is).

Craig Jacobsen awarded the Pioneer Award to Allison de Fren for her Science Fiction Studies essay, “The Anatomical Gaze in Tomorrow’s Eve.” de Fren’s acceptance speech demonstrated how serendipity and hard work can lead to professional success.

And finally, Lisa Yaszek presented Eric Rabkin with this year’s Pilgrim Award, which honors lifetime contributions to the fields of science fiction and fantasy studies. Professor Rabkin’s acceptance speech demonstrated his gift as a writer and public speaker. He told us the story about his father’s desire to give his son a better chance in life through making a distinction between pulp science fiction and ‘classic science fiction.’ After surviving Robinson Crusoe, his father asked him at age 12 why he was reading something else: ‘that crap,’ meaning the hand-me-down SF pulps that his father had already read. Eric’s father told him that he should read classic science fiction, such as A. E. Van Vogt’s Slan (1946). It was at this point that he began to formulate the differences between literature and science fiction, but also the distinctions between different kinds of science fiction. Unfortunately, I cannot replicate Professor Rabkin’s moving speech here, but this standing ovation should help indicate how well it was received and how well respected Professor Rabkin is by scholars:

And here is a picture of the award winners in attendance at SFRA 2010. From left to right: Dave Mead, Eric Rabkin, Ritch Calvin, and Allison de Fren.

After the banquet, we walked out into a now very comfortable desert night to seek out the Conference Headquarters villa for the closing reception.

SFRA 2010, Saturday, SF and Colonialism Panel

My last official duty of SFRA 2010 was to moderate the SF and Colonialism panel. Gerry Canavan couldn’t make it to the conference, so the panel was made up of by friend Jason Embry (pictured above in center) and first time SFRAer Joshua Ramsey (pictured above on right). With fewer panelists and hearing the panelists talk about having to cut a lot of material, I told them to take a little longer with each of their papers. I made sure to prompt the audience about this as well so no one would send thought daggers or tap watches for long presentations.

Jason Embry presented another Dan Simmons related essay–a part of a larger project that he is developing on Simmons’ oeuvre–titled “Going Native: Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zones in Dam Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos.” His presentation was an interesting analysis of the Ousters as a welcoming group of humanity who have progressed through change and adaptation (not having read Simmons, they sound like the Lobsters of Bruce Sterling’s Shaper/Mechanist stories).

Joshua Ramsey, part of the large contingent from University of Texas, Pan American, presented the paper titled, “They Were Men: H. P. Lovecraft on the Frontier of Slave Race Narratives.” He presented an opposing view to what Jason talked about in Simmon’s novels. Instead of technology leading to progress and development of humanity, Ramsey argued that in Lovecraft and Caprica that technological advancement leads to decadence and decline.

Following the presentation, there was a delightful discussion of the presentations. Andrew Hageman, Ritch Calvin, and others contributed to the discussion.

With the panel successfully moderated, there was time enough for rest before going to the awards banquet.

SFRA 2010, Saturday, Roundtable on Immigration, Alienation, and Arizona SB 1070

The second session for Yufang and I was the roundtable on Immigration, Alienation, and Arizona SB 1070. We volunteered to be a part of the roundtable, because we had strong opinions about Arizona’s recent immigration and anti-ethnic studies legislations. Also as the SFRA Publicity Director, I had drafted the organization’s statement, in consultation and approval by the Executive Committee, in response to SB 1070 and our holding the conference in Arizona. You can read that statement on the official website here.

The Immigration Roundtable was initiated by SFRA President Lisa Yaszek and her husband Doug Davis as a way to discuss the effects of SB 1070, think about it as a science fictional text, and to talk about other works in SF that deal with immigration. The roundtable was moderated by Doug and included in order of initial statements: Patrick Sharp, Rob Latham, me, Yufang, and Mack Hassler.

Patrick expanded on his earlier work on the ‘Yellow Peril’ and Science Fiction and the irrational fear of immigration as a form of warfare. Rob talked about the root influences of alien and alienation from immigration law into science fiction, and the problems with 1) the ambiguity of immigration law (seen also in Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) and 2) bad faith is essential to the enforcement of the law (thinking of the V-K test in Do Androids). I talked about how the law was like the drug that Alys Buckman takes in Dick’s Flow My Tears the Policeman Said that also alters Jason Taverner’s reality–the drug someone else takes alters his reality. Yufang spoke about her own experiences as an immigrant to the United States and the unwelcoming aspects of what she calls the ‘shadow of racism’. Mack took a different stance in thinking about irony and tone in Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers, borders and citizenship, and how self-conscious comic tone can be useful and sinister/protects against the horror while reinforcing it. Doug tied the roundtable together by talking about immigration films and the tension between immigration and invasion (a reinscription of the earlier narratives that Patrick talked about), and in particular, he focused on Alien Nation, District 9, and Brother from Another Planet.

Some other films/television shows that got discussed in this context included Coneheads, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Sleep Dealer, Independence Day (Will Smith’s welcoming punch in the face for the crash landed alien), Solaris, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Men in Black (essentially an immigration service for extraterrestrials on Earth). Other issues discussed included the relationship between economic contraction and expansion and immigration, the racial and economic dimensions of immigration, illegal immigrant informants in the war on drugs, and Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild.

I believe that the roundtable did generate a lot of positive discussion, but there was not enough time to turn the conversation to the issue of holding the conference in Arizona. It could be that the audience and panel members accepted the pragmatics of the situation, and they may also have been glad that we did not turn away from meeting in such a beautiful place with many good people. The engagement of the issues of immigration and alienation through science fiction was wonderfully informative and engaging for many members of the audience.

After the roundtable, I prepared for moderating the next panel in the same room on SF and Colonialism with Jason Embry and Joshua Ramsey.

SFRA 2010, Carefree, AZ or Bust!

Yufang and I are about to head out of town for the annual SFRA conference, which is being held in Carefree, AZ this year. We’re going to have a busy Saturday (panel presentations + roundtable discussion + moderating a panel), but I hope that we can do some sightseeing on Sunday after the business meeting. I will report on the conference with my iPhone if I have the time; otherwise, I will do a write-up after we return to Kent.