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.

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

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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?