CFP: NANO Special Issue: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Narrative, Characters, Media, and Event

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I’m co-editing (with my colleagues Alan Lovegreen and Sean Scanlan) a special issue of NANO New American Notes Online that explores Star Wars: The Force Awakens as narrative, character, media, and event.

NANO is a badass journal that focuses on concise, rigorous, and multimodal arguments. It is dynamic in its writers’ approaches, and it is fast to publication with appropriate blind peer review. It is the perfect venue to approach something as big as Star Wars: A Force Awakens  with a critical and close lens before the next installment in the new trilogy appears! The CFP is included below, but you can find the original CFP and Submission Info page on NANO’s website. Please comment or email me with any questions.

Call for Papers: Issue 12

Deadline: February 1, 2017

Special Issue: Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Narrative, Characters, Media, and Event

Guest Editors: Jason W. Ellis, Alan Lovegreen, and Sean Scanlan



 

This thing [Star Wars] communicates. It is in a language that is talking to young people today, and that’s marvelous.

—Joseph Campbell in conversation with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth (1988)

There are certainly many more themes in The Force Awakens that speak to us, and help us to learn more about these characters and what makes them tick.

—Dan Zehr, “Studying Skywalkers” column on starwars.com (May 18, 2016)

 

It is the aim of this special issue of NANO to address the significance of the latest installment of Star Wars by exploring its narrative, characters, media, and event. Across nearly four decades, audiences spanning generations have experienced Star Wars through films, television programs, books, video games, special events such as the annual “celebrations,” and other storytelling media, including action figures and LEGO. Following Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, George Lucas’ production company, audiences experienced a new transmedia event and a continuation of the old stories with the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015. Joseph Campbell’s earlier observations about the first film raises new questions that deserve to be answered about the latest: How does this new film communicate? What language does it use? And, to whom is it speaking?

One way to approach these issues of communication and language is through the convergence of the film’s narrative and characters, especially how the transmission of this convergence gets revealed through a variety of media as an event. For example, how does the film’s narrative respond to, continue, and challenge those that it follows? And what about the cast of characters—some returning and some new? What do these characters and their performance of the narrative have to say about the here-and-now as well as the past? Of course, the narrative is told through media, which includes different film technologies, digital distribution, DVD and Blu-Ray discs, websites, video games, and apps. And stepping back for a larger perspective, the release of the film and its transmedia supporting elements inform The Force Awakens as an event, in part orchestrated by Disney/Lucasfilm, and in part connected to contemporary events, including #oscarssowhite, #womeninfilm, and #paygap. Furthermore, how does its event(s) relate to those of the past, including specifically those centered on the release of the earlier films and subsequent events awakening fans’ nostalgic enthusiasm. The Force Awakens’ considerable box office performance and tie-in successes signal how significant this film (and its progenitors) is, and it is the aim of this special issue to explore the promise and pitfalls of its cultural influence.

This issue welcomes multimodal essays up to 4,000 words (excluding works cited) exploring topics relating to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including but not limited to the following:

  • transmedia storytelling and The Force Awakens (including “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” publications, such as Chuck Wendig’s novel, Star Wars: Aftermath, and comic books Star Wars: Shattered Empire and Star Wars: Poe Dameron
  • media transformation and adaptation (e.g., comparing the film with Alan Dean Foster’s novelization)
  • materiality and The Force Awakens (e.g., LEGO, play, and collecting)
  • Star Wars fandom and cosplay
  • Star Wars reference materials and publications
  • starwars.com and the official Star Wars app
  • Star Wars videogames including LEGO Star Wars: The Force AwakensStar Wars Battlefront, and the now defunct Disney Infinity tie-ins
  • Jakku Spy VR experience
  • Star Wars Celebration and ComicCon special events
  • social and political movements’ coinciding/connecting with The Force Awakens
  • the hero’s journey and the heroes’ journeys
  • movement and storytelling
  • vehicles as characters
  • nostalgia and familiarity
  • inclusive casting/characters
  • droids and aliens
  • hidden bodies/cgi characters (e.g., Maz Kanata/ Lupita Nyong’o and Captain Phasma/Gwendoline Christie)
  • race and gender in The Force Awakens
  • terrorism, insurgency, war, and militarism
  • surveillance

Direct questions to the Special Issue co-editors: Jason W. Ellis [jellis@citytech.cuny.edu], Alan Lovegreen [alanlovegreen@yahoo.com], and Sean Scanlan [sscanlan@citytech.cuny.edu].

NANO is a multimodal journal. Therefore, we encourage submissions that include images, sound, or video in support of a written argument. These multimodal components may consist of objects and data sets that go beyond traditional media. The multimodal components of the essay must be owned or licensed by the author, come from the public domain, or fall within reasonable fair use (see Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright & Fair Use site, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/ and the U.S. Copyright Office’s Fair Use site, http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html for more information. NANO’s Fair Use Statement is available on its submission page, http://www.nanocrit.com/submissions-information/).

For questions about video, audio, or image usage, please contact NANO: editornano@citytech.cuny.edu.

NANO uses modified MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting and style.

Submission style guidelines: http://www.nanocrit.com/submissions-information/style-guide-nano/

Submission form: http://www.nanocrit.com/submissions-information/submission-form-page-nano1

Keywords and abstract: Each author is asked to submit 5 keywords and a 150-word abstract to accompany their submission.

Schedule: Deadlines concerning the special issue to be published in NANO:

  • Submission deadline: February 1, 2017
  • Complete comments and peer review June 2017
  • Pre-production begins August 2017

We look forward to receiving your contributions.

Science Fiction, LMC3214: Final Paper Topics Were On a Broad Spectrum of SF Media

I just finished grading my students’ final paper projects. Their task was to use several definitions of SF from a list that I had prepared for them (or others that they found on their own and properly cited) to evaluate whether a work that we had not discussed in class was SF or not. Through this analysis, they would come up with their own definition/litmus test for SF.

I was very happy to read papers on a variety of SFnal works, including:

  • Joseph Kosinski’s film, TRON: Legacy (which I had reviewed for the SFRA Review before)
  • AMC’s production of The Walking Dead
  • H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness
  • Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game
  • Tommaso Landolfi’s Cancerqueen (Cancroregina)
  • Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower
  • Halo: Combat Evolved (and its supplementary material in print)
  • David Brin’s Startide Rising
  • Marc Forster’s film, World War Z
  • Ridley Scott’s film, Blade Runner
  • Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
  • Richard Schenkman’s film, The Man from Earth
  • X-COM: UFO Defense

This list reveals that my students were interested in SF across a spectrum of media. There were papers on six literary works, four films, one television series, and two video games (this is further blurred by the video game/print crossover material).

For those students who talked with me about their papers, I am particularly happy with the way their papers turned out. Having had those conversations, I can see a snapshot along their paper’s developmental process, which gives me better insight into the work that they likely did to push their arguments further than what we had discussed in class. Reflecting on this, I will add conference time to my future SF classes that meet over a full semester, but I will do more to have these smaller conversations with students–perhaps before class or during our daily break time–to get a better sense of their research and developing argument.

The Apple iPad and Slate PCs, Promise and Peril as Content Production Machines

I have waited for a true tablet-sized PC for a long time. I have dreamed of having a way to easily operate a computer without a mouse and be able to seamlessly write without a keyboard. Perhaps this is rooted in my trouble learning to type in the seventh grade, or it could be from the images of handheld computing devices that litter science fiction stories and film.

I was reading on Liliputing today about Lenovo’s resistance to cutting the keyboard from their ThinkPad tablet PCs. The post’s author, Brad, wrote:

Sure, cutting the keyboard would let you make thinner and lighter devices that can be used with stylus input and/or on-screen keyboards. But ThinkPads are productivity machines first and foremost, whereas tablets like the upcoming iPad are designed for consuming media rather than creating it. [read the whole post here]

He’s absolutely right about the current importance of media consumption on the iPad. It’s something that I’ve given some thought to, particularly because of the limitations of the iPad in terms of ease of writing and the lack of a built-in camera. The lines of access, the ways in which we can get our ideas and work with them within the digital space of the computer are squeezed, not shut, but pushing the limits of anti-ergonomic torture. However, I don’t think that it should be this way.

I disagree with Brad’s idea that slate PCs are all about consumption. We are just beginning what I hope to be the emergence of cheap, lightweight, portable keyboard-less computing, but even in its infancy, we should (and I’m sure many of us will do so) push the limits of this new technology. We shouldn’t settle for just using these things for the consumption of entertainment that others make. We have to do the making, and we should find ways that we can use this new technology in ways it may not have been imagined by its creators. Furthermore, Window 7’s handwriting recognition has significantly improved over its earlier iterations, and Apple is pushing its iWorks suite on the iPad (with virtual keyboard and sans handwriting recognition). So, the possibilities for content creation are there.

If the iPad had a back facing camera, the first thing that I thought about was augmented reality, but it would be so much closer to what James Cameron used for ‘filming’ Avatar. Gripping the sides of the iPad like the stick of an airplane would have felt like flying a camera through space.

I had wished the iPad had handwriting recognition, but there are many other tablet and slate PCs out there and coming out soon that have this feature. Will someone develop an app that will provide this kind of feature, or will Apple bring this into the fold with an update to the planned iPad-based iWork?

Regardless, I believe that we have to rethink these new tools and I’m confident that many folks will do exactly that. Apple, as demonstrated by their recent moves with the app store, want to define what their products are used to do. Obviously, we, the people who use their products, can find our own uses for their products that challenge and disrupt the models proposed by corporations.

Why can’t tablet or slate PCs be productivity oriented computers? They can be, and will be, because we will make them serve our purposes despite the worst intentions of their corporate creators.

And a final note: K9, pictured above, would be a significantly giant leap forward over the iPad and any slate PC. Just saying . . .