R.D. Mullen Research Fellowship Deadline on April 1 (no joke)

If you want to get funding to research in the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature at UC-Riverside, then you have until April 1 to get in your application. See below for all of the details.

JUST A REMINDER: The R.D. Mullen Reseach Fellowship Committee has extended the deadline for receipt of applications for awards in 2010-11 until April 1. Please spread the word to any eligible students in MA and Ph.D. programs and urge them to apply. There is one month to go and we’d like to have a reasonable pool of candidates from which to select winners.

Call for Applications: R.D. Mullen Fellowship Science Fiction Studies announces the second annual R.D. Mullen Fellowship supporting research in the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Utopian Literature at the University of California at Riverside. Awards of up to $1500 are available to fund research in the archive during the 2010-11 academic year. Students in good standing in graduate degree-granting programs are eligible to apply. We welcome applications from international students. The Mullen Fellowship, named in honor of SFS’s founding editor, promotes archival work in the Eaton’s extensive holdings, which include over 100,000 hardcover and paperback books, over 250,000 fanzines, full runs of all major pulp and digest magazines, and the manuscripts of prominent sf writers such as Gregory Benford, David Brin, and Anne McCaffrey. Other noteworthy parts of the Collection are: 500 shooting scripts of science fiction films; 3500 volumes of proto-sf “boy’s books” of the Tom Swift variety; works of sf in numerous foreign languages, including Chinese, Czech, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish; a large collection of taped fan conventions and taped interviews with American, British, and French writers; reference materials on topics such as applied science, magic, witchcraft, UFOs, and Star Trek; an extensive collection of anime and manga; and the largest holdings of critical materials on science fiction and fantasy in the United States. Further information about the Eaton Collection can be found online at: <http://eaton-collection.ucr.edu/>. Applications should include a cover letter explaining the candidate’s academic experience and preparation, a CV, a 2-3 page proposal outlining a specific and well-developed agenda for research in the Eaton archive, a prospective budget detailing expenses, and two letters of recommendation from individuals familiar with the candidate’s academic work. Applications should be mailed to: Professor Rob Latham, Department of English, UC-Riverside, Riverside, CA 92521-0323. Electronic submission (as RTF or PDF files) to <rob.latham [at] ucr.edu> would also be welcome.
The deadline for submission is April 1, 2010. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of sf scholars, and successful applicants will be notified by May 1, 2010. Any questions should be addressed to Rob Latham at: <rob.latham [at] ucr.edu>.

Fandom, Otaku, and Home Guys in Taiwan

Last week in Taipei, Taiwan, 朱學恒 (Xuei-Hen Ju) recently hosted a big get-together for fans and readers of his blog, 朱學恒的阿宅萬事通事務所 (Xuei-Hen Ju’s Home Guy’s Guide to Everything–I’m not sure about this translation–it could also mean “everything is good”) called 725阿宅反抗軍千人誓師大會 (July 25 Home Guy’s Resistance Army–1000s Show Your Commitment).

You may be wondering why I’m writing about this event. You may also be wondering what the heck is a ‘home guy.’

Xuei-Hen Ju is a Taiwanese blogger and translator of English language SF and fantasy novels including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, but he originally majored in electrical engineering. He is considered a ‘home guy’, originally because of his education, and later because of his passion for what we in the States would consider geekdom.

Home guy (阿宅) is a term that was originally reserved for folks who majored in computer science in school, but now the term has an expanded meaning that encompasses someone who is shy, plays video games, and reads comic books (girls are a marginalized minority in this group but there are definitely some out there). Home guys are aligned with geekdom, fandom, otaku, and other marginal groups who are passionate about some aspect of pop culture, SF, fantasy, etc. Due to these cross cultural connections, I wanted to mention the Xuei-Hen Ju’s work and the home guy phenomenon to an English language audience.

Xuei-Hen Ju uses his blog to promote his own kind of ‘homeness.’ In many ways, he encourages other home guys to break out of the reductionist and stereotypical boxes that have in the past confined and stifled social acceptance of home guys. Through his blog, books, and the 725 event, he promotes a socially aware and proactive sense of what it means to be a home guy.

Like an otaku Tony Robbins, Xuei-Hen Ju inspires other home guys to follow their passion and tap into their enthusiasms, not as a cross to bear but as a marker for their sense of self. Also, he tells others that anyone, despite their educational background or personal condition, can achieve personal happiness–that it is up to each home guy to achieve what it is that he wants. He connects masculinity to his vision of the home guy by rallying others to maintain social justice (e.g., if you see someone abusing a dog, it is the home guy’s duty to call that person out) and do something with passion. The subtitle of his site is 熱情從來不是被找到的,而是奮戰努力才能獲得的!(Passion is never to be found, but gained by fighting!).

His idea about what it means to be a home guy may be skewed toward men more so than women. During his posts, he does occasionally insert pictures of attractive girls during an otherwise non-girl related post just to pause or breakup the flow of what he may be talking about.

However, he is conscious of respect for women when he threw the 725 event, because he warned the other home guys to not hit on girls in attendance (but they could do what they wanted to outside the event). If you click through to the 725 event post with pictures of the event, you will see a number of girls in the audience, and some of the Star Wars cosplayers were women, so there are home girls/gals, too.

More about the 725 event: I definitely recommend you clicking here to read (if you know Chinese) and see the pictures of the extremely successful event. There was music, Star Wars cosplay and demonstrations, presentations, and video game play on the 400″ screen. There are men, women, and children in the audience. And, the audience beat out an earlier torrential rain storm that killed power to the adjacent movie theater and shopping mall. Folks from all over Taiwan converged on Taipei to go to the free event, and they were determined to go come hell or high water (literally).

I liked the idea of the event being free, and I don’t exactly know how it was pulled off. Perhaps there was corporate sponsorship, or Xuei-Hen Ju used his own money to pay for the space and the setup. Directly, he didn’t get any money by hosting the home guy get-together, but he did sells some copies of his popular book, which he would personalize for attendees (and those not there–but by saying “loser, why didn’t you come out?!”). Also, there are the Home Guy Army t-shirts that are in some of the pictures. Oh, and the event itself wasn’t advertised anywhere else, except on Xuei-Hen Ju’s blog. Essentially, he told his blog following, home guy friends to “Come here on this particular day and let’s show everyone what we can do.”

You should definitely check out Xuei-Hen Ju’s blog, and if you know Chinese, you should find out more about home guys and Taiwan fandom. From talking with Yufang (who was sweet to tell me about the 725 event, and who I asked to help me with the translating and descriptions), Taiwanese popular culture is an amalgamation of cultures from surrounding countries. It seems that much of the culture consumed in Taiwan comes from other places, but I suspect that there must be a local flavor to the way that other cultures are interpreted, consumed, and enjoyed by home guys and every other Taiwanese person. I think that more work should be done on SF fandom in Taiwan, because that country and its people are more unique than many due to their position as a cultural crossroads.

David Eddings, 1931-2009

On Tuesday, the fantasy author David Eddings passed away.  His works are definitely important and well-regarded in the field.  Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to find my way into his imagined worlds, which my friend A.P. Canavan is writing about in his dissertation at the University of Liverpool.  

Some of Eddings’ obituaries can be found here, here, and here.

ICFA 2009, Final Session–East Meets West: Colonialisms, Cultures, and Identities

During the Saturday, 4:00pm-5:30pm session, the last presentations of the conference, I went to hear Janice M. Bogstad’s paper on Jules Verne and China, and introduce myself and The Postnational Fantasy:  Nationalism, Cosmopolitics, and Science Fiction project to the other two presenters:  Mayurika Chakravorty and Suparno Banerjee.  The attendence was light, but pretty good for the last session on the last day.  And, I can say that I’m glad that I made it to the panel to hear all the presenters’ interesting ideas.

Mayurika Chakravorty from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London read her essay, “The ‘Other’ Science:  A Study of Amitav Ghosh’s Calcutta Chromosome.”  In her paper, she talked about the theme of estrangement from others by technology, the subversion of colonial science, and the way in which the novel challenges the genre definition of SF. 

Janice M. Bogstad from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire presented her paper, “Colonialist/Postcolonial Perspectives in Jules Verne’s Tribulations D’un Chinois en Chine (and other works).”  This is her sixth paper in a series on the writing of China by SF authors.  She thinks of Verne’s work as “humanist vision in a racist and sexist time,” and a case of “colonialist and postcolonialist double vision.”  However, she admits that there is still much work and re-reading of Verne’s work to what extent and magnitude Verne apparently supports colonized peoples. 

Suparno Banerjee from Louisiana State University closed out the session with his reading of “Alternative Dystopias:  Science, Power, and Fundamentalism in Rimi Chatterjee’s Signal Red.”  Banerjee’s dissertation is on Indian Science Fiction (which I suspect will be something very publishable when he’s completed it), and his work on Chatterjee’s novel is very interesting in the ways SF is employed to critique the extrapolative growth of religious fundamentalism in India’s future.  Instead of oppression coming from without, oppression arrives from within by Hindu fundamentalists appropriating colonial/Western sciences for their own scientific narratives. 

ICFA 2009, When Time is Out of Joint: Alternative Times in Fantasy Panel

The first panel that I attended on Saturday morning was titled, “When Time is Out of Joint: Alternative Times in Fantasy,” and moderated by Elizabeth Whittingham.  I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation between the panelists during this session.  The discussion went vibrantly back and forth between panelists Brian Attebery, Aidan-Paul (A.P.) Canavan, John Clute, Guy Gavriel Kay, Maria Nikolajeva, and W.A. Senior.  Below is a summary of my notes on the panel exchanges.

Brian Attebery talked about, “the power of magical narrative to map different kinds of time on others.”  He outlined a number of these other kinds of time, of which “each is a universe of time, a chronotope.”  

Guy Gavriel Kay approached the topic from what he termed a utilitarian perspective of the author who uses time as one of many tools in the authorial toolbox for providing narrative solutions.  This raises the question–is the novelist avoiding the problem of explaining where did a character go from their normal or mundane place and time?

Maria Nikolajeva brought Fred Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late (1966) into the conversation, because the central musician and scientist characters, both friends, are presented with the same temporal choice, but each chooses to do something completely different with that temporal choice.

John Clute problematized the conversation by reminding us that humans have difficulty imagining what time really is, and as a result, we haphazardly play with representations of time.  He went on to talk about the centrality of anxiety to our human understanding of time.  He said that SF is “time as anxiety toward the future,” horror is “anxiety toward something that may come true,” and fantasy is “time of the narrative would be rediscovered.”  

W. A. Senior brought the conversation back to what Guy Gavriel Kay said about the toolbox, or what Senior thinks of as the common library.  He mapped time into three elements:  1) time as plot and plot device, 2) time as restorative (time out before the next stage of a character’s journey), and 3) fantasy is the restoration and the discovery of truth, or the place “outside of time,” allows for restoration of the world (e.g., the first Narnia book).  

A.P., following after everyone else, interestingly used select quotes to frame the narrative uses of time that Brian initially alluded to.  He began by reading from a fortune cookie, “The best prophet of the future is the past.”  Others included, “his face was ravaged by time” (time as process, body as record), “how long will this panel last,” and “how long is this guy’s paper going to run on?”  He then segued into the core idea from his previous presentation that there is a conflict between irrational fantasyland time and rational time of the here-and-now.  

John Clute followed A.P.’s statement by commenting that it is an ethnocentric version of time that A.P. terms rational time.  Additionally, the lack of change in fantasy stories in David Edding’s The Belgariad has some historical grounding in paleolithic cave paintings that reveal little change terms of a magnitude of thousands of years.  Also, there are those who deliberately refuse the history of the 20th century (e.g., Holocaust deniers).

Guy Gavriel Kay then engaged Clute’s formulation of time with anxiety by saying that we try to alleviate anxiety by exerting control.  So, fantasy writing is the exertion of control over time/anxiety.  Fantasy writing tries to ameliorate or assuage that anxiety in fantasy writing.  Also, the mythic world may intrude on the rational world (e.g., Grendel in Beowulf), which reverses the assumed function of fantasy to push back against time anxiety.  Another example of this is the loss of the mythic (e.g., the elves leave humanity in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), which may generate anxiety.

Brian then added that the reader has control over what he or she reads.  He went on to say that the act of reading causes a confrontation between the time we are living and the time we encounter in texts.

John Clute brought things back around by offering that the fantastic has the potential to create solace or some kind of truth.

Guy Gavriel Kay shifted to the idea of temporality of the book artifact by commenting on what he called “the hunger for the classic.”  Book covers (and other artifacts) are often labeled as “an instant classic.”  However, something must have been around awhile to be truly considered classic, and as he said, “fame doesn’t work that fast except on Twitter.”

John Clute commented on the intensification of narratives that have moved away from the either/or moral or truth formulation into a spectrum.  He finds this shift to have led to crisis in the fantastic.

W.A. Senior, returning to the idea of other media, said that time is a very significant reason why book to film translations have problems.  The flow and representation of time in books versus movies is not directly correlated.

A.P. got into the fray returning to the idea of book covers by talking about the datedness of covers while the text within the story may not be so dating.

Guy Gavriel Kay mentioned that at a recent Harvard conference there was a session on “How to Grab Your Reader at ‘Hello.’”  He takes issue with this, because he feels that you need to engage in world building initially in order to fully develop the narrative to come (e.g., Tolkien’s first 125 pages in The Lord of the Rings).  He identifies a tension in culture between the instant now and “fantasy’s benign congress.”

Brian rejoined the commentary by asking can realistic literature really allow a reader to feel the sacred-private time (which Maria mentioned earlier).  Brian gave the anecdote of his Friday routine–office-bound and computer-based work until he leaves for the Music Building where he teaches cello lessons and enters his own sacred-private time.  He doesn’t believe that the affect of that time is translatable into text beyond mere observation–removing the context strips the affective experience.  Also, he said that he thinks of books as musical scores–each time you read something it is new.

A.P. asked the panel about their thoughts on whether different cultures perceive the passage of time differently or the same way?  Do older cultures that live in their own history (he mentioned globs of history strewn all about in Ireland and England) perceive it differently than say Americans?  I would add to this how does time figure into the postcolonial experience?

Maria Nikolajeva stated emphatically that time is cultural.

From the audience, Elizabeth Hoiem asked the panel about the relationship of time and memory.  What can we make of the phrase, “the United States of Amnesia?”  She went on to describe David Hume’s grappling with the understanding of time and presence through the act of writing a letter and receiving a response.  How do we know that the letter received really came from who we believe it came from?  How do we make sense of the deferment of time in letter conversations?

John Clute, taking up the term ‘amnesia,’ said that memory enables our stories, but that we inhabit an irony of sorts, because those things are divested of malice.  Furthermore, he refered to earlier work of his in which he uses the cenotaph as an emblem for describing the way in which the world is a series of monuments.

Closing quote:  John Clute stated that, “we have to cheat to understand anything.”

ICFA 2009, Teaching Fantasy and Science Fiction: Audience, Approaches, and Challenges

I overlooked my notes on this panel discussion from Friday, but luckily they found and here is the lowdown from The Teaching Fantasy and Science Fiction panel, moderated by Sydney Duncan.  It brought together some very different approaches in higher education through the work of F. Brett Cox, Andy Duncan, Amy Branam, and Jim Casey.  Below, I engage each professor’s use of SF in their classes, how they engage theory, and their use of SF definitions in the classroom.

F. Brett Cox carries a 4/4 load at Norwich University and incorporates some SF into his classes such as Harlan Ellison’s “Repent Harlequin, Said the Tick Tock Man,” Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star,” and Ursula K. LeGuin’s “Those Who Walk Away from Omelas.”  Also, he teaches special topics classes on SF identities, gothic literature, and SF.  Regarding a question about theory in the classroom, he doesn’t have his students read hard theory, but he does incorporate the terminology and theoretical ideas into his class in order to help his students make sense of their readings.  As far as SF definitions are concerned, he prefers to use Samuel R. Delany’s concept of describing the function of SF rather than setting a definition prone to exceptions and dissolution.

Andy Duncan now teaches with a 4/4 load at Frostberg State University in Maryland, which has no SF offerings.  However, he maintains a connection to his previous institution, the University of Alabama where he used to teach SF live, but now offers it as an online course with video presentations and blogging.  In this course, he and his students cover about a book a week.  Concerning the theory question he said, “if I knew more theory, I would use it.”  His classes are primarily composed of majors other than English, so merely writing about books is a novelty for them.  He does bring in Rationalizing Genius, Rhetorics of Fantasy, and the Cambridge Companion of SF.  Rationalizing Genius in particular colors his own readings and the way he guides his discussions on the works his students read.  Andy does a fun exercise with his students on the definition of SF.  Early in the class, he has them write on:  1) what experience with SF and fantasy have you had, 2) how do you define SF and fantasy, and 3) list examples of each.  After this writing exercise, he maps their responses on a continuum on the board, which generates discussion in the classroom. 

Amy Branam incorporates SF and fantasy into her women’s literature classes through the more broadly based category of magical realism.  In particular, she uses Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary for women’s literature, and Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden in her pornography unit.  Another work in her classes is Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.  Since she is coming from a women’s studies background, theory is integral to her courses.  In fact, on the first day she runs through the “feminist lexicon” on a Powerpoint presentation, and her students’ first reading is “The Politics of the Novel.”  Instead of teaching her students’ definitions, she teaches them deconstruction.  Also, genre definitions aren’t necessary for her women’s study course.

Jim Casey teaches at a small, private college that features free ice cream truck service and valet parking for students–his is obviously a very special place of higher education.  He doesn’t specifically teach an SF course, but introduces his students to genre fiction after having them read “canonical” works.  It is only later or outside of class that his students discover that they were reading genre fiction.  Throughout his courses, he teaches them the theoretical vocabulary for joining scholarly conversations and to more critically engage the works that they read.  Also, his students do have to read theory for their final papers.  He noted that his students want definitions in the same way that they want to know how to take a test–just tell us the answer.  So, he prefaces definitions with, “Everything that I’m about to tell you is a lie.”  His meaning is that his students will learn exceptions and arguments with the things that he is going to present them with in class.  He likes challenging his students to learn definitions and then to bust them up. 

The panel rounded out with a discussion of hiring and tenure.  One thing that I learned was that you need to consider where you’re applying for jobs, because some institutions will only consider your publishing and presenting in your major field for tenure consideration, anything else is disregarded.  

Nebula Awards Finalists Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America recently announced the finalists for this year’s Nebula Awards:

Novel: Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, Odyssey by Jack McDevitt

Novella: “Awakening” by Judith Berman, “The Helper and His Hero” by Matthew Hughes, “Fountain of Age” by Nancy Kress, “Stars Seen Through Stone” by Lucius Shepard, “Kiosk” by Bruce Sterling, “Memorare” by Gene Wolfe

Novelette: “The Children’s Crusade” by Robin Wayne Bailey; “Child, Maiden, Woman, Crone” by Terry Bramlett; “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang; “The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change” by Kij Johnson; “Safeguard” by Nancy Kress; “Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter” by Geoff Ryman; “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman

Short Story: “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” by Andy Duncan, “Always” by Karen Joy Fowler, “Titanium Mike Saves the Day” by David D. Levine, “The Story of Love” by Vera Nazarian, “Captive Girl” by Jennifer Pelland, “Pride” by Mary Turzillo

Script: Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby; Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro; Dr. Who, “Blink,” by Steven Moffat; The Prestige by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan; V for Vendetta by Larry Wachowski and Andy Wachowski; Star Trek: New Voyages, “World Enough and Time,” by Marc Scott Zicree and Michael Reaves

Awards always indicate how far behind I am on my reading!  Best of luck to all the contenders. Check out the full news release on SCI Fi Wire here.