2015 Science Fiction Research Association Conference Wrap-Up

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Stony Brook University, Charles Wang Center

The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) held its forty-sixth annual conference on June 25-28, 2015 at Stony Brook University in the Charles B. Wang Center. Our theme this year was, “The SF We Don’t (Usually) See: Suppressed Histories, Liminal Voices, Emerging Media.”

As I detailed in a previous blog post, I presented on the SF that we don’t see (any more) on the Apple Macintosh computing platform and Voyager’s Expanded Books of the early-1990s.

Other voices that stood out in my conference-going experience included keynotes by Vandana Singh on Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Tho Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and climate change, and M. Asli Dukan on “the white fantastic imagination” and “the invisible universe.” Jessica FitzPatrick and Steven Mollmann presented on postcolonial superheroes and SF. Lisa Yaszek, Isiah Lavender III, and Gerry Canavan gave excellent presentations on Afrofuturism. Keren Omry, Alan Lovegreen (my colleague from City Tech), and Hugh Charles O’Connell  questioned the relationship of capitalism and the future. Alexis Lothian (who tweeted much of the conference with me and others with the #sfra2015 hashtag) gave us a compelling view into “Queer World Building, Digital Media, and Speculative Critical Fandom.”Donald “Mack” Hassler chaired a session on gender with compelling papers by Marleen S. Barr and Rosalyn W. Berne.

Doug Davis gave what I thought was the best presentation of the conference on “The SF We (Usually Don’t Talk About but) Always See, or Can We Use Science Fiction Genre Theory to Read Canonical Literary Texts?: Reading Flannery O’Connor’s “The Displaced Person.” Doug’s co-panelist Brad Reina presented a different tact on approaching eBooks in his paper: “Electronic Literature in The Diamond Age: Neal Stephenson and the Present and Future of eBooks.” I learned a lot (and took a lot of pictures of slides/names) in the China SF session on Saturday afternoon featuring interesting papers by Hua Li, Cara Healy, Quiong Yang, and Nathaniel Isaacson.

The SFRA Awards Banquet on Saturday night ended what I consider to be a very successful conference. While some of us encountered challenges to reaching Stony Brook on Long Island (the Long Island Rail Road, Newark/JFK/La Guardia Airports, ferries, car rentals, traffic problems), I think that sharing of ideas and the valuable conversations made the difficulties recede far into the background. The warmth of the camaraderie and the welcoming inclusivity at SFRA overcomes any hurdle. Additionally, Stony Brook–a sprawling campus surrounded by trees and populated by bunny rabbits–has a surprisingly science fictional side in some of its buildings’ architectures, including the Charles Wang Center (pictured above) and the Stony Brook University Hospital (pictured below).

After the conference was over, I caught a ride back to Brooklyn with Mack and Sue Hassler and Adam Frisch. We had lunch together after Y joined us at Wilma Jean’s Restaurant. We all squeezed back into the rental car, dropped Adam off at the airport to fly back to Sioux City, and then, Mack, Sue, Y, and I drove to Coney Island to enjoy walking along the boardwalk and sharing each other’s company.

Next year, we will cross the Atlantic Ocean for the forty-seventh conference and meet to discuss “Systems and Knowledge.” Forming a joint event with the Current Research in Speculative Fictions at the University of Liverpool, we will meet on June 27-30, 2016 in Liverpool, England. For me, it will be like going home, and I can’t wait!

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Stony Brook University Hospital

Curating a Conference Backchannel with Storify: 2013 SFRA/Eaton Conference in Riverside, CA

SFRA-logoWhile I was unable to attend this year’s Science Fiction Research Association Conference, held in conjunction with the biannual Eaton Conference this year, in Riverside, California, I was able to follow along with the goings-on thanks to Facebook and Twitter. As you might know, I am a big fan of Storify as a digital curation tool, so I thought it would make it easier for me to catch up and create an archive of the tweets made during the conference with the hashtags #sfra or #SFRAton (thanks to Glyn Morgan for that one). Unfortunately, I found it too time consuming to try to incorporate #eaton posts, because it is a widely used hashtag by different communities. A word of advice to all future conference organizers: plan ahead by researching available hashtags by seeing what’s unique and unused in the Twitterverse (at least as long as Twitter is a viable backchannel tool–otherwise, go with what works best!).

If you have never used Storify before, you should check it out. Simply go to storify.com and either create a new account or login using your Facebook or Twitter account. Choose to “Create a new story,” and then search among the different social media and web options in the right column. In this case, I searched for #sfra and #sfraton under Twitter. I then loaded all of the publicly available tweets and choose to add them all to my Storify Story (in the left column). Finally, I reordered the tweets chronologically and added a title and description before choosing to publish the Storify Story. What I did is very basic. Storify’s power comes from the ability to intermix/remix tweets with links, photos, and your comments added within Storify. It would be great if other SFRA members who attended the conference to create their Storify Story that includes more comments or photos from the various events.

Follow the link below for my Storify curation of the conference and many thanks to all of the SFRA members who diligently reported on the awesomeness of this year’s conference!

[View the story “2013 Joint SFRA/Eaton Conference in Riverside, CA” on Storify]

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!

2013 SFRA/Eaton Conference Deadline for Abstracts is Sept 14!

I just sent Melissa Conway my paper abstract for the 2013 joint SFRA-Eaton Conference [the CFP is here].

Have you sent your abstract in yet? If you haven’t, you only have until September 14 to send your abstract. The earlier-than-normal SFRA deadline is due to the fact that the joint conference will be held in April instead of late-June, early-July. So, don’t hesitate. Take some time this Labor Day Weekend to send your abstract to the conference organizers.

I’m looking forward to returning to Riverside and to discussing Science Fiction Media with you there!

Philip K. Dick: Worlds Out of Joint Conference in Dortmund, Germany, 15-18 November, Call for Papers

The Philip K. Dick: Worlds Out of Joint conference in Dortmund, Germany later this year sounds awesome! There will be some outstanding guest speakers, and it will be in a country whose culture played an important role in Dick’s fiction. I am considering going–so should you! Read below for the call for papers and contact info. The deadline has been extended until the end of March!

Call for Papers
“Worlds Out of Joint: Re-Imagining Philip K. Dick” An International Conference
15-18 November, 2012
TU Dortmund University, Germany

2012 sees the thirtieth anniversary of the untimely death, at the age of 53, of Philip K. Dick – a figure whose cultural impact within and beyond science fiction remains difficult to overestimate. Dick’s academic and popular reputation continues to grow, as a number of recent monographs, several biographies and an unceasing flow of film adaptations testify. Yet while his status as “The Most Brilliant Sci-Fi Mind on Any Planet” (Paul Williams) is rarely questioned, scholarly criticism of Dick has not kept pace with recent developments in academia – from transnationalism to adaptation studies, from the cultural turn in historiography to the material turn in the humanities. Too often Dick remains shrouded in clichés and myth. Indeed, rarely since the seminal contributions of Fredric Jameson and Darko Suvin have our engagements with Dick proved equal to the complexity of his writing – an oeuvre indebted to the pulps and Goethe, Greek philosophy and the Beats – that calls for renewed attempts at a history of popular culture. The aim of this conference is to contribute to such an undertaking.

At a time when mass protest against irrational economic, political and cultural orders is once again erupting around the world, the Dortmund conference will return to one of the major figures of the long American Sixties: to an author whose prophetic analyses of biopolitical capitalism and the neo-authorian surveillance state remain as pertinent as they were 30 years ago.

Confirmed keynote speakers: Mark Bould (University of the West of England, Bristol), Roger Luckhurst (Birbeck, University of London), Umberto Rossi (Rome), Norman Spinrad (New York/Paris), Takayuki Tatsumi (Keio University, Japan). As part of the conference we will also host the premiere of The Owl in the Daylight a film by David Kleijwegt (Netherlands).

Possible topics for panels and papers include but are in no way limited to:

1. The Realist Novels: What do Dick’s early realist novels add to our understanding of his work? In what relation do they stand to late modernist and realist U.S. literature? Can they be understood as Beat writing?

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  1. Transnational Approaches: Dick drew on various European and non-European cultures, and his SF worlds are highly transnational in their hybridity: What cultural transfers and transformations are evident in his work?
  2. Dick’s Global Reception: Dick’s fiction has been widely translated – from Portuguese to Japanese, from Finnish to Hebrew. Yet we know little about his global reception. How has Dick’s work been read abroad, and transformed in translation? What has been his impact on SF outside America?
  3. Dick and the SF Tradition: Critics have rarely engaged in-depth with Dick’s contribution to SF. What is Dick’s debt to the pulp magazines, to Robert Heinlein, A.

E. van Vogt, or other SF authors? T o what extent did Dick influence his contemporaries, and what does today’s SF owe to him?

  1. Dick and Fandom: Long before his canonization as a literary figure, Dick was a cult author, and he retains a committed fan base. How has fandom shaped the way we read him? What role does Dick play in SF cultures of fandom today?
  2. Narrative Structures and Aesthetics: Dick’s short fiction and novels are linked by common motifs, tropes and fictional devices. How do they shape his writing? His status as a popular writer has also meant that the aesthetic dimension of Dick’s fiction has often been neglected. How can it help us understand his work?
  3. Dick and Mainstream Literature: Dick’s impact on ‘serious’ literature has often been posited but rarely analyzed. What do Thomas Pynchon, Kurt Vonnegut or David Foster Wallace owe to Dick? What role have his writings played in the integration of SF into mainstream literature?
  4. Adaptations: What makes Dick’s writing so attractive to filmmakers? How have these visual narratives changed our understanding of his work? Should we pay more attention to adaptations to other media – from opera to computer games?
  5. The Letters and Journals: How do Dick’s letters and journals, as well as interviews with him change our understanding of his fiction?

10. The Final Novels: Dick’s late novels are gaining increasing attention, but critical evaluations vary widely. Are they evidence of a spiritual turn in Dick’s writing? How do they allow us to look at his work of the 1960s anew?

11. Dick and the Sixties: Recent scholarship drastically has changed our understanding of the Sixties. Does this necessitate a re-writing of Dick? What can we learn from the contradictions and achievements that shaped this era and Dick’s writing?

12.Dick and Global Capitalism: How do Dick’s analyses of global capitalism, mediatized politics and individualized consumer culture correspond to our own present?

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Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short biographical sketch to Stefan.Schlensag@udo.edu before 29 February 2012. Presenters will be asked to submit a full version of their 20-minute presentation by 31 August, and an electronic reader will be distributed before the conference to all participants. A selection of the papers given at the conference will be published in book form.

Conference Organizers:

Walter Grünzweig, Randi Gunzenhäuser, Sybille Klemm, Stefan Schlensag, Florian Siedlarek, (TU Dortmund University); Alexander Dunst (University of Potsdam) and Damian Podleśny (Poland)

Conference Director and Contact:

Stefan Schlensag
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik TU Dortmund University Emil-Figge-Straße 50
D-44227 Dortmund, Germany Stefan.Schlensag@udo.edu

Early Registration Reminder for 2012 SFRA Conference in Detroit, Lower Rate Until Sept 15, 2011

I registered for the 2012 SFRA Conference in Detroit last night. You have only two more days to register and pay at the discounted rate of $140 for the conference and $25 for the awards banquet. Details and the link to the official conference website are below.

Welcome to the website for the 43rd annual conference of the Science Fiction Research Association. Following is a list of key dates: Early Registration: July 2011 -August 31st, 2011 $140.00:  Extended until September 15th, 2011!Regular Registration: September 1st, 2011-June 7th, 2012 $160.00Late Registration: June 7th-June 27th, 2012 $180.00Student Registration: July 2011-June 27th, 2012 140.00 Awards Banquet $25.00: This price will go up to $30.00 after September 15thAbstracts for the conference will be accepted through April 23rd, 2012 If there are any questions, please contact Steve Berman at sdberman1121 [at] gmail.com or Deborah Randolph at DARANDOL [at] oaklandcc.edu

via SFRA 2012 Conference in Detroit MI | June 28-July 1, 2012.

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.